H. L. Mencken Additional Biography


(Critical Guide to Censorship and Literature)

0111206380-Mencken.jpg H. L. Mencken (Library of Congress) Published by Salem Press, Inc.

Mencken was a lifelong resident of Baltimore. His formal education ended in 1896, when he graduated as the valedictorian from Baltimore Polytechnic Institute. Three years later he became a cub reporter for the Baltimore Morning Herald and Sunpapers. He was named city editor in 1903 and managing editor in 1905. In 1914 he began coediting The Smart Set with his friend George Jean Nathan, with whom he also founded and coedited The American Mercury, beginning in 1924. Mencken became the latter journal’s sole editor in 1925, the same year that he covered the Scopes trial for Sunpapers.

Along with satirical novelist Sinclair Lewis, Mencken dominated the American literary world of the 1920’s. His essays took two forms: literary criticism and social and political criticism. His ideas appealed to the younger generation because he railed against religious fundamentalism. Particularly opposed to Southern conservatism, he coined the term “Bible Belt” to describe the South. Mencken was a complete religious skeptic, whose primary targets were the Puritan traditions that influenced literary conservatism, censorship, and prohibition. His satire was not subtle, and critics labeled his style “Menckenese.”

Mencken championed such writers as Joseph Conrad and Theodore Dreiser, and praised daring new publishers such as Boni and Liveright. He intentionally antagonized censorship groups, including the Boston...

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(Nonfiction Classics for Students)

H. L. Mencken was born in Baltimore, Maryland, on September 12,1880, the eldest of Anna Margaret and August Mencken's four children. August...

(The entire section is 440 words.)


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

ph_0111206380-Mencken.jpg H. L. Mencken Published by Salem Press, Inc.

“The Gaseous Vertebrata who own, operate and afflict the universe have treated me with excessive politeness,” Henry Louis Mencken (MEHNG-kuhn) wrote in his autobiography, as he recalled how satisfactory his life had been, so that he would not wish one detail of it changed. He was born into a Baltimore family of the “comfortable and complacent bourgeoisie,” largely of German descent, and was educated in his native city, where he lived all of his life. For many years he was on the staff of The Baltimore Sun; in 1914 he became editor of The Smart Set, and from 1924 to 1933 he edited The American Mercury, the liveliest magazine of that decade. In 1930 he married Sara Powell Haardt, who died in 1935....

(The entire section is 912 words.)


(Critical Guide to Censorship and Literature)

Angoff, Charles. H. L. Mencken. New York: T. Yoseloff, 1956. A memoir.

Harrison, S. L. Mencken Revisited: Author, Editor, and Newspaperman. Lanham, Md.: University Press of America, 1999. Each of these ten essays sheds new light on Mencken’s character. The author clarifies Mencken’s reputation as a bigot, noting that he was tolerant and an advocate for minority rights. Concludes with an overview of Mencken’s lasting effects, his books, and the books about him.

Hobson, Fred C. Mencken: A Life. New York: Random House, 1994. The first biography to incorporate material from the posthumous books. For a review of this work see Magill’s Literary Annual review.

Manchester, William. Disturber of the Peace: The Life of H. L. Mencken. New York: Harper and Brothers, 1951. This engaging biography has the advantage of having been written with Mencken’s cooperation, by a man who knew Mencken personally. Manchester has a lively, anecdotal style, and his book is only slightly limited by its date of publication, which was five years before Mencken’s death.

Mayfield, Sara. The Constant Circle. New York: Delacorte Press, 1968. Covers Mencken’s friendships with other literary and newspaper people.

Mencken, H. L., and George Sterling. From Baltimore to Bohemia: The Letters of H. L. Mencken and George Sterling. Edited by S. T. Joshi. Madison, N.J.: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2001. Correspondence is complemented by bibliographical references and index.

Rodgers, Marion Elizabeth. Mencken: The American Iconoclast. New York: Oxford University Press, 2005. Scholarly and at the same time compelling and readable, Rodgers offers an extensively researched, well-documented biography and study of Mencken.

Scruggs, Charles. The Sage in Harlem. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1989. Describes Mencken’s relationship with James Weldon Johnson, and the Harlem Renaissance in general.

Stenerson, Douglas C., ed. Critical Essays on H. L. Mencken. Boston: G. K. Hall, 1987. This useful collection includes George Jean Nathan’s memoir of Mencken; contemporary looks at his work and influence; and more recent studies, such as Fred Hobson’s “This Hellawful South: Mencken and the Late Confederacy.”

Teachout, Terry.The Skeptic: A Life of H. L. Mencken. New York: HarperCollins, 2002. For a review of this work which focuses on Mencken’s literary and intellectual development see Magill’s Literary Annual review.