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American Writers: a journey through history is a permanent archive for educators, researchers and every one interested in the writers featured in the  C‑SPAN series.


Born: September 12, 1880 - Baltimore, Maryland
Died: January 29, 1956 - Baltimore, Maryland

Mencken became a reporter for the Baltimore Morning Herald and later joined the staff of the Baltimore Sun, for which he would work most of his life. From 1914 to 1923 he and George Jean Nathan edited the Smart Set, then the
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H.L. Mencken, The American Language
C-SPAN's Video Library: H.L. Mencken
magazine most influential in the growth of American literature. In 1924 the two founded the American Mercury, and Mencken edited it until 1933.

Mencken was the most influential American literary critic in the 1920s, and often used literary criticism as a point of departure to jab at American weaknesses. His reviews and miscellaneous essays filled six volumes, aptly titled Prejudices (1919-27). He fulminated against writers he regarded as fraudulently successful and proselytized for such outstanding newcomers as Theodore Dreiser and Sinclair Lewis. He jeered at American sham, pretension, provincialism, and prudery, and ridiculed organized religion, business, and the middle class (the "booboisie"). In the 1930s his opinions became increasingly conservative and sometimes reactionary.

In The American Language (1919), he attempted to bring together examples of American expressions and idioms. The book grew with each reissue through the years, and in 1945 and 1948 he published substantial supplements. By the time of his death, Mencken was perhaps the leading authority on the language of his country.

Works by H.L. Mencken
The American Language (1919)
Prejudices (1919-27)
Happy Days (1940)
Newspaper Days (1941)
Heathen Days (1943)
My Life as Author and Editor (1993)
His autobiographical trilogy, Happy Days (1940), Newspaper Days (1941), and Heathen Days (1943), is devoted to his experiences in journalism. The manuscript for My Life as Author and Editor (1993) had been sealed, at Mencken's request, until 35 years after his death.

Web sites about H.L. Mencken

The Mencken Society Home Page

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