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Why did he work so obsessively? Why did he party so hard, or struggle so assiduously to keep his friendships green? Why did he fall so quickly and completely into the pattern of the happy bourgeois husband during the brief five years of his marriage to Sara Haardt? I think it was another felicitous stylist,.

It may help, in assessing these charges, to remember that Garry Wills has been perfectly happy to use, indeed celebrate, Mencken when it suited his political purposes. Some will regard this as an utterly quixotic gesture. I think Mencken would have appreciated it as an act of authentic familial piety, and perhaps as something more.

And this Menckenian, who believes that the old man did meet the twelve apostles in the early hours of January 29, , would like to think that they-understanding the tragedy full well, honoring his frank acknowledgment of an invincible ignorance, and knowing his history-invited him in for a beer. His most recent book is Idealism Without Illusions: U. Close Login. Web Exclusives First Thoughts. Intellectual Retreats Erasmus Lectures.

Video Podcasts. God, Man, and H. Mencken by George Weigel May The Jay Treaty of gave notice that there was still some life left in the British lion, and during the following years, the troubles of the Americans, both at home and abroad, mounted at so appalling a rate that their confidence and elation gradually oozed out of them. Simultaneously, their pretensions began to be attacked with pious vigor by patriotic Britishers, and in no field was the fervor of these brethren more marked than in those of literature and language. I remember, of course, some griefs and alarms, but they were all trivial, and vanished quickly.

He was always the center of his small world, and in my eyes a man of illimitable puissance and resourcefulness. I never heard of him being ill-treated by a wicked sweat shop owner, or underpaid, or pursued by rent-collectors, or exploited by the Interests, or badgered by the police.

My mother, like any normal woman, formulated a large program of desirable improvements in him, and not infrequently labored it at the family hearth, but on the whole their marriage, which had been a love match, was a marked and durable success, and neither of them ever neglected for an instant their duties to their children.

We were encapsulated in affection, and kept fat, saucy, and contented.


I was a larva of the comfortable and complacent bourgeoisie, though I was quite unaware of the fact until I was along in my teens, and had begun to read indignant books. To belong to that great order of mankind is vaguely discreditable today, but I still maintain my dues-paying membership in it, and continue to believe that it was and is authentically human, and therefore worthy of the attention of philosophers, at least to the extent that the Mayans, Hittites, Kallikuks, and so forth are worthy of it. Thus qualified professionally, I rise to pay my small tribute to Dr. Setting aside a college professor or two and half a dozen dipsomaniacal newspaper reporters, he takes the first place in my Valhalla of literati.

That is, he writes the worst English that I have ever encountered. It reminds me of a string of wet sponges; it reminds me of tattered washing on the line; it reminds me of stale bean soup, of college yells, of dogs barking idiotically through endless nights. It is so bad that a sort of grandeur creeps into it. It drags itself out of the dark abysm. It is rumble and bumble. It is flap and doodle. It is balder and dash. He represents as a man almost everything Maryland represents as a State.

There is something singularly and refreshingly free, spacious, amiable, hearty, and decent about him. Brought up in poverty, and educated, in so far as he got any education at all, in the harsh school of the city streets, he has yet managed somehow to acquire what is essentially an aristocratic point of view, the habit and color of a gentleman.

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He is enlightened, he is high-minded, he is upright and trustworthy. What Frederick the Great said of his officers might well be said of him: he will not lie, and he cannot be bought. Not much more could be said of any man. Or Mencken on the sorry life of Presidents: All day long the right hon. Anon a secretary rushes in with the news that some eminent movie actor or football coach has died, and the President must seize a pen and write a telegram of condolence to the widow.

Once a year he is repaid by receiving a cable on his birthday from King George V. There comes a day of public ceremonial, and a chance to make a speech. Alas, it must be made at the annual banquet of some organization that is discovered, at the last minute, to be made up mainly of gentlemen under indictment, or at the tomb of some statesman who escaped impeachment by a hair. A million voters with IQs below 60 have their ears glued to the radio: it takes four days hard work to concoct a speech without a sensible word in it.

Four dry Senators get drunk and make a painful scene. The presidential automobile runs over a dog. It rains. Landon tomorrow. To a lifelong Democrat, of course, it will be something of a wrench.

A Second Mencken Chrestomathy

But it seems to me that the choice is one that genuine Democrats are almost bound to make. On the one side are all the basic principles of their party, handed down from its first days and tried over and over again in the fires of experience; on the other side is a gallimaufry of transparent quackeries, puerile in theory and dangerous in practice. To vote Democratic this year it is necessary, by an unhappy irony, to vote for a Republican. But to vote with the party is to vote for a gang of mountebanks who are no more Democrats than a turkey buzzard is an archangel. No doubt they now adorn the parlor mantelpiece of some humble but public-spirited Salisbury home, between the engrossed seashell from Ocean City and the family Peruna bottle.

I can only hope that they are not deposited eventually with the Maryland Historical Society. It ran the keyboard from the softest sobs and gurgles to the most ear-splitting whoops and howls, and when it was over the 9, delegates simply lay back in their pews and yelled. Down in Maryland, where the dish originated among the Negro slaves, it is to be had only in cheap lunchrooms and at what are called oyster-suppers, usually held in the cellars of bankrupt churches.

The first-class hotels would no more serve it than they would serve pig liver. In New York, however, there is no such refinement of palate and dignity of feeling. Imagine a Christian eating a fried oyster in the summer! Well, the people of New York do even worse; they eat Chesapeake soft crabs fried in batter! What is cannibalism after that?

The chase began thirteen hours earlier, when the resolutions committee of the convention retired to the voluptuous splendors of the Rose Room at the Congress Hotel. For four hours nothing came out of its stronghold save the moaning of converts in mighty travail.

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Then the Hon. Michael L. Igoe, a round-faced Chicago politician, burst forth with the news that the wet wets of the committee had beaten the damp wets by a vote of There ensued a hiatus, while the quarry panted and the bloodhounds bayed.

Top 20 H. L. Mencken Quotes (Author of A Mencken Chrestomathy)

So the flight to the fastnesses of Zion began. But even down there where Genesis has the police behind it, and an unbaptized man is as rare as a metaphysician, the fugitive is yet harried and oppressed. Only two States, Georgia and Mississippi, showed a solid dry front on the poll, and in Georgia there were plenty of wets lurking behind the unit rule. All the other great commonwealths of the late confederacy cast votes for the immediate repeal of the Eighteenth Amendment and the Volstead Act, led by Texas with its solid forty-six, and South Carolina with its solid eighteen.

Even Tennessee, the Baptist Holy Land, went eighteen dripping wet to six not so wet. Taking all the Confederate States together, with Kentucky thrown in, they cast votes for the forthright and uncompromising plank of the majority and only for the pussyfooting plank of the minority. In the Middle West the carnage was even more appalling. Kansas voted for the minority straddle, but Iowa went the whole hog with loud hosannas, and so did North Dakota, and so did Indiana and Illinois.


Even Ohio, the citadel of the Anti-Saloon League, went over to the enemy by , and Nebraska, the old home of William Jennings Bryan, voted nearly two to one for rum and rebellion. There remains the Wisconsin Red, with his pockets stuffed with Soviet gold. I shall vote for him unhesitatingly and for a plain reason: he is the best man in the running, as a man. Suppose all Americans were like LaFollette?

What a country it would be!

A Second Mencken Chrestomathy, First Edition

No more depressing goosestepping. No more gorillas in hysterical herds. No more trimming and trembling. Does it matter what his ideas are? Personally, I am against four-fifths of them, but what are the odds? They are, at worst, better than the ignominious platitudes of Coolidge. The older I grow the less I esteem mere ideas.