Mencken, H.L.

Mencken, H.L.

▪ American writer
in full  Henry Louis Mencken  
born Sept. 12, 1880, Baltimore, Md., U.S.
died Jan. 29, 1956, Baltimore
 controversialist, humorous journalist, and pungent critic of American life who powerfully influenced U.S. fiction through the 1920s. Mencken's article on Americanism appeared in the 13th edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica (see the Britannica Classic: ).

      Mencken attended a Baltimore private school and the Baltimore Polytechnic. He became a reporter for the Baltimore Morning Herald in 1899 and in 1906 joined the staff of the Baltimore Sun, where he worked at intervals throughout most of his life. From 1914 to 1923 he coedited (with George Jean Nathan) The Smart Set, a witty, urban magazine influential in the growth of American literature, and in 1924 he and Nathan founded the American Mercury, which Mencken edited until 1933.

      Mencken was probably the most influential American literary critic in the 1920s, and he often used his criticism as a point of departure to jab at various American social and cultural weaknesses. His reviews and miscellaneous essays filled six volumes aptly titled Prejudices (1919–27). In literature he fought against what he regarded as fraudulently successful writers and worked for the recognition of such outstanding newcomers as Theodore Dreiser and Sinclair Lewis. He jeered at American sham, pretension, provincialism, and prudery, and he ridiculed the nation's organized religion, business, and middle class (or “booboisie”).

      Mencken's caustic view of life remained with him throughout his career, and in the 1930s and '40s he altered considerably less than the world around him, with the result that his influence almost disappeared. Few people found the Great Depression a subject for satire of any sort, yet he was as satirical about President Franklin D. Roosevelt and the New Deal as he had been about President Herbert Hoover and Prohibition. Similarly, when the German culture that he had enjoyed was marred by Adolf Hitler and Nazism, Mencken was slower than some of his public to recognize it and to take the fact seriously.

      Mencken made still another contribution to American culture. In 1919 he had published a solid volume, The American Language, an attempt to bring together examples of American, rather than English, expressions and idioms. The book at once attracted attention. It grew with each reissue through the years, and in 1945 and 1948 Mencken published substantial supplements. By the time of his death, he was perhaps the leading authority on the language of his country.

      Mencken's autobiographical trilogy, Happy Days (1940), Newspaper Days (1941), and Heathen Days (1943), is devoted to his experiences in journalism.

Additional Reading
Carl Bode, Mencken (1969, reprinted 1986); Douglas C. Stenerson, H.L. Mencken (1971); Charles A. Fecher, Mencken (1978); and William Raymond Manchester, Disturber of the Peace: The Life of H.L. Mencken, 2nd ed. (1986), are biographies. Criticism includes George H. Douglas, H.L. Mencken, Critic of American Life (1978); and Douglas C. Stenerson (ed.), Critical Essays on H.L. Mencken (1987).

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Universalium. 2010.

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • MENCKEN (H. L.) — MENCKEN HENRY LOUIS (1880 1956) L’écrivain germano américain Henry Louis Mencken vécut toute son existence à Baltimore, où il se tailla rapidement une réputation d’humoriste iconoclaste grâce à ses articles des Sunpapers entre 1906 et 1948. Il… …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • Mencken — ist der Name folgender Personen: Anastasius Ludwig Mencken (1752–1801), preußischer Verwaltungsreformer H. L. Mencken (1880–1956), US amerikanischer Publizist und Schriftsteller Diese Seite ist eine Begriffsklärung zur Unters …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Mencken —   [ meȖkɪn], H. L. (Henry Louis), amerikanischer Journalist und Schriftsteller, * Baltimore (Maryland) 12. 9. 1880, ✝ ebenda 29. 1. 1956; ab 1908 Literaturkritiker und 1914 23 Mitherausgeber des Kulturmagazins »The smart set«; 1924 Mitbegründer… …   Universal-Lexikon

  • Mencken — [meŋ′kən] H(enry) L(ouis) 1880 1956; U.S. writer, editor, & critic …   English World dictionary

  • Mencken — H. L. Mencken H. L. Mencken Henry Louis Mencken Activité(s) Écrivain, Naissance 12 septembre 1880 Décès …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Mencken, H. L. — (1880 1956)    Henry Louis Mencken was born in Baltimore, son of a cigar manufacturer. Remembered as a journalist whose cynical style epitomized intellectual attitudes of the first quarter of the 20th century, Mencken and his friend, dramatic… …   The Historical Dictionary of the American Theater

  • Mencken — noun United States journalist and literary critic (1880 1956) • Syn: ↑H. L. Mencken, ↑Henry Louis Mencken • Instance Hypernyms: ↑journalist, ↑literary critic …   Useful english dictionary

  • Mencken — H. L. (Henry Louis) Mencken (23 de septiembre de 1880 29 de enero de 1956) fue un periodista y crítico social, cínico y librepensador, se le conoció como el Sabio de Baltimore . A menudo se le considera uno de los escritores más influyentes de… …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • Mencken (surname) — Mencken is a surname, and may refer to: Anastasius Ludwig Mencken (de) (1752, Helmstedt  – 1801, Potsdam), Prussian administrative reformer August Mencken, Sr. (1854  – 1899), German American cigar maker August Mencken, Jr. (1889… …   Wikipedia

  • Mencken, H(enry) L(ouis) — Menck·en (mĕngʹkən), H(enry) L(ouis). 1880 1956. American editor and critic. A founder and editor (1924 1933) of the American Mercury, he wrote socially critical essays, often directed toward the complacent middle class.   Menck·eʹni·an (mĕng… …   Universalium

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