The Irreverent Mr. Mencken

The Irreverent Mr. Mencken

The Irreverent Mr. Mencken

The Irreverent Mr. Mencken

Excerpt

As I see him, Mr. Mencken is a skeptic of the first rank--an American Rabelais, Swift or Shaw--who has somehow abused his gifts. As an artist, he might have written a Gargantua or a Gulliver's Travels. Instead he devoted himself almost wholly to the passing scene, and except for The American Language, the Days books, and a few selections from the others, has produced no works likely to endure. As a journalist, he had the power to reshape the minds of a whole generation of Americans. But here, too, his achievement has been qualified. For after having assaulted and demolished the delusions of one era, he became a spokesman of the delusions of another. As a result, I have been hard put to collect the odd pieces of his life and fit them into a plausible portrait.

Mr. Mencken has rarely, if ever, acknowledged these failings. Yet in the spring of 1946, after having written all that he cared to write about his own career, he consented to let me have a fling at it, and thereafter proved to be a model subject. He placed his papers at my disposal, entertained me at weekly luncheons in the Baltimore restaurants, wrote long autobiographical memoranda, and in numerous other ways put himself out to make my work easier. No points of information were . . .

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