H.L. Mencken: Prejudices: First, Second, and Third Series

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Library of America, Sep 2, 2010 - Biography & Autobiography - 610 pages
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Review: Prejudices: The Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Series

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One thing I've been wondering is how different Mencken would have been if he had been born in Germany, rather than America. Would being part of the ethnocultural majority have made him more contrarian and more destructive, or less so? Read full review

Review: Prejudices: The Complete Series

User Review  - Goodreads

Modern political discourse -- the bad kind -- inherited its all from this man. A fascinating collection, with a number of misses. --- Ranges from whiny to brilliant. The essay "On Education" (XIII in Volume 3) was the most reasonable position on that complex subject I've ever read. Read full review


Criticism of Criticism of Criticism
The Late Mr Wells
The Dean

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About the author (2010)

H.L. Mencken was born in Baltimore, Maryland, a city he considered 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.

Marion Elizabeth Rodgers has edited Mencken and Sara: A Life in Letters and The Impossible H.L. Mencken, a popular collection of his best journalism. She lives in Washington, DC.