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H.L. Mencken

klind65

One of the Regulars
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Looking for information on H.L. Mencken. I was reading ...of course I don't remember in what book !.... where someone described Mencken as "embodying" the ethos of the Golden Era. Now in as much as any one person can do this, would anyone care to comment on how and in what ways Mencken was this embodiment? I got a book of his and read some of his essays, but would appreciate hearing from others who are more versed in his works.
 

Fletch

I'll Lock Up
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It should be noted, tho, that Mencken has been harnessed to new wagons in recent years by pundits and bloggers who are, shall we say, less sanguine in their cynicism than he was. Putting a modern-day label on him, like libertarian or conservative or small-government guy, doesn't work.

To me he was particularly outspoken about our individual right to be thinking, discerning, self-determined individuals - people of taste, dignity, and when needed, outrage. (I admit he reserved a lot of that right for White Protestant males, but that wasn't unusual at the time, and it doesn't really touch on those qualities he admired in the individual.)
 

Gutshot

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"Every normal man must be tempted at times to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin to slit throats.'

-H. L. Mencken


I love that quote... I put it on a shirt.
 

Carlisle Blues

My Mail is Forwarded Here
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OK then let's shift gears here:

Let's see what he had for breakfast:

9999004171-l.jpg


Fletch don't beat me up...:eek:
 

Viggen

New in Town
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Arizona, North Sonoran Desert
What I wrote was not intended as political idology. If it was interpreted that way it is my fault, my failure to convey the idea.
But it is safe to say that he did dress in a reasonable manner for breakfast.
I removed the post other than mentioning that he was a writer.
 

Foofoogal

Banned
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In support of the OP. Sometimes we run across a tidbit about a person on the internet and it seems innocent enough. Then we innocently post on a board and sometimes find out like opening up a dynamite bag. Been there and done that before.

Carlisle, that is pretty funny. :)
 

Tiller

Practically Family
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Upstate, New York
http://www.americanwriters.org/classroom/videolesson/vlp26_mencken.asp#1

You want to know who Mencken really was watch him, and read what he has to say. Mencken was a small government, libertarian style guy. The reason he never called himself as such was that term was never used back then the way it is today. He was an elitist, despised fundamentalist Christians, hated FDR, and was a great admire of Friedrich Nietzsche (in fact he was the first English writer to do scholarly work on Nietzsche). He believed it was the great men and women in the world who are truly oppressed, being dragged down in the mud by the Booboisie (his word). Furthermore in a 1934 letter Ayn Rand called Mencken "the greatest representative of a philosophy", which she later emulated in her "objectivism".

Mencken was a satirist, and one of the best in the history of the art. He was the co founder of the American Mercury on 1924, which was one of the most famous "right wing" papers of it's age.

So although it maybe bad to talk about politics here, I think it would be good to understand the history of a person if your actually going to talk about him or her.
 

LizzieMaine

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Where The Tourists Meet The Sea
Diamondback said:
Let's put it this way: Mencken was the original Equal Opportunity Offender--he hated everybody.

The curmudgeon's curmudgeon, you might say...

If he was any kind of an "ist," he was a nihilist. In public, anyway, he had absolutely no use for any kind of ideology. But having said that, I would also suspect that a good bit of his published bile was a put-on. He knew what would sell newspapers and magazines, and when it was fashionable to scorn the "booboisie" in print he was happy to do so. But he was just as contemptuous of the trend-followers and would-be bright young things who walked around campuses with the American Mercury under their arm. I wish he were alive today, if only to hear him give the rough side of his tongue to the blogosphere.

The same Mencken, though, was one of the finest and most thorough sociolinguists of his day. His writings on the evolution of American English are still required reading for anyone interested in the topic, and you'd never guess this was the same guy who made a good living as a spleen-venter.
 

Carlisle Blues

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Mencken's Creed

I believe that religion, generally speaking, has been a curse to mankind - that its modest and greatly overestimated services on the ethical side have been more than overcome by the damage it has done to clear and honest thinking.
I believe that no discovery of fact, however trivial, can be wholly useless to the race, and that no trumpeting of falsehood, however virtuous in intent, can be anything but vicious.
I believe that all government is evil, in that all government must necessarily make war upon liberty...
I believe that the evidence for immortality is no better than the evidence of witches, and deserves no more respect.
I believe in the complete freedom of thought and speech...
I believe in the capacity of man to conquer his world, and to find out what it is made of, and how it is run.
I believe in the reality of progress.
I - But the whole thing, after all, may be put very simply. I believe that it is better to tell the truth than to lie. I believe that it is better to be free than to be a slave. And I believe that it is better to know than be ignorant.

http://www.io.com/gibbonsb/mencken/
 

LizzieMaine

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Speaking of which, does anyone know of an original published source for "Mencken's Creed?" It's been making the rounds online for years, but the only attribution ever given is George Seldes' philospohical collection "Great Thoughts," where no source is cited. I've yet to come across it in any published collection of Mencken's own writings, though, and the whole idea of a formal "creed" seems very un-Menckenlike to me.
 
Nathan Dodge said:
I've always liked this quote from Mencken:

"Puritanism: The haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy."
A favorite quote of mine as well, although most -ism's drop in at the front end just as well from what I've seen. (For the record, that's neither politics nor religion, but psychology of movements and power and groupthink.)
 

Geesie

Practically Family
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San Diego
LizzieMaine said:
If he was any kind of an "ist," he was a nihilist. In public, anyway, he had absolutely no use for any kind of ideology. But having said that, I would also suspect that a good bit of his published bile was a put-on. He knew what would sell newspapers and magazines, and when it was fashionable to scorn the "booboisie" in print he was happy to do so. But he was just as contemptuous of the trend-followers and would-be bright young things who walked around campuses with the American Mercury under their arm. I wish he were alive today, if only to hear him give the rough side of his tongue to the blogosphere.

The same Mencken, though, was one of the finest and most thorough sociolinguists of his day. His writings on the evolution of American English are still required reading for anyone interested in the topic, and you'd never guess this was the same guy who made a good living as a spleen-venter.

I rather hope that Mencken was not the embodiment of the Golden Era. If so, I may have to find another era to admire.

He could only be called a nihilist in the sense that most nihilists can be - believing in nothing so much as oneself.

A man never says "we cannot have democracy, for I cannot bear the burden of governance." One only hears "we cannot have democracy because all those people are incapable of it." His contempt for democracy is based on the deep anger that all those inferior beings can have a say in his world.

This, of course, is not to say that there is nothing to be gained from any of his writing. After all, George Bernard Shaw was philosophically much the same but I still enjoy his plays more than almost any other.
 

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