From Baltimore to Bohemia: The Letters of H.L. Mencken and George Sterling

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Fairleigh Dickinson Univ Press, 2001 - Biography & Autobiography - 284 pages
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Some of Mencken's most interesting letters were written to George Sterling, a pupil of Ambrose Bierce. The correspondence -- which survives nearly intact on both sides -- covers a wealth of subjects, including Mencken's editorship of the Smart Set (1914-23) and American Mercury (1924-26), mutual colleagues (Bierce, Theodore Dreiser, Jack London, Sinclair Lewis), and most entertainingly, each author's flagrant flouting of Prohibition as well as Sterling's carnal adventures with a variety of women in California. These letters shed a vivid light on the literary, political, social, and cultural temper of the Jazz Age.

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Undated Letters
Mencken on Sterlings Death


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Page 8 - The truth is, this sort of pomposity has died the death. If the imagists have done nothing else, they have punctured the gas bag — English poetry will be henceforth more compact and stern — "as simple as prose," perhaps. . . . When Mr. Sterling learns to avoid the "luscious tongue...
Page 17 - The titles of the works referred to will be found in the Bibliography at the end of the volume. In this list the authors' names are arranged alphabetically and the papers of each author are in chronological order.
Page 13 - Sterling is a low libeller. I drank alcohol each and every day I was in San Francisco, whereas he had to go on the water wagon and remained there six days running. It is true that I consorted with a virgin and that she is a virgin still, but that is simply because I was very tired and she was very amiable. Sterling announced months in advance that he had a boudoir companion for me — that all I'd have to do would be to go to her place and hang up my hat. But when I arrived she was non est, and so...

About the author (2001)

H. L. Mencken 1880-1956 H. L. (Henry Louis) Mencken was born in Baltimore, Maryland, on September 12, 1880. He considered Maryland to be his home despite his many years in New York. As a child he attended Professor Friedrich Knapp's Institute, a private school for children of German descent. He completed his secondary education at Baltimore Polytechnic Institute, from which he graduated at the age of 16. Mencken wanted to be a writer but was obligated to work in his father's cigar factory. When his father died suddenly in 1899, Mencken immediately sought a job at the Baltimore Herald. Through he began with no experience in journalism, he quickly learned every job at the newspaper and at age 25 became its editor. Mencken went on to build himself a reputation as one of America's most brilliant writers and literary critics. His basic approach was to question everything and to accept no limits on personal freedom. He attacked organized religion, American cultural and literary standards, and every aspect of American life that he found shallow, ignorant, or false - which was almost everything. From the 1920's until his death, Mencken's sharp wit and penetrating social commentary made him one of the most highly regarded - and fiercely hated - of American social critics. He was later memorialized in the dramatic portrait of the cynical journalist in the play and film Inherit the Wind. Shortly after World War I, Mencken began a project that was to fascinate him for the rest of his life: a study of American language and how it had evolved from British English. In 1919 he published The American Language: A Preliminary Inquiry into the Development of English in the United States. To this and his publisher's surprise, the book sold out quickly; its wit and nonscholarly approach attracted many readers who would not normally buy a book on such a subject. In 1936, a revised and enlarged edition was published, and in 1945 and 1948, supplements were added. The work shows not only how American English differs from British English but how the 300 year American experience shaped American dialect. Thus the book, still considered a classic in its field, is both a linguistic and social history of the United States. Mencken died in his sleep on January 29, 1956. He was interred in Baltimore's Loudon Park Cemetery.

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