H. L. Mencken Biography
(One of the Greatest and Most Influential American Literary Critic in the 1920s)
Birthday: September 12, 1880 (Virgo)
Born In: Baltimore, Maryland, United States
Mencken, known as the ‘Sage of Baltimore’ was a journalist, critic, satirist and editor and was the role model for renowned twentieth century writers like Fitzgerald, James Joyce, Sinclair Lewis, Eugene O’Neill and F. Scott. He was highly critical of the American way of life, culture and the weakness of American democracy. His master-piece, ‘The American Language’ that came out in multi-volume, traced the evolution of American English. The way Bernard Shaw was popular in England, Mencken was popular in America not only for his writings, but also for the influence he had over Harlem and Southern areas in awakening the literary genre. He was highly critical of the politicians, other journalists, chiropractors and the Ku Klux Klan. His criticism against Puritans was very severe. He attacked Puritanism as ‘the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy’. He was greatly impressed by the writings of German philosopher Nietzsche and French critic, Remy de Gourmont. Influenced by Nietzsche, he expressed his hatred for democracy and Christianity in his works like ‘Notes on Democracy’, ‘A Treatise on the Gods’ and ‘A Treatise on Right and Wrong’. When his journal, ‘The American Mercury’ was banned, Mencken raised his objection by demanding freedom of press and speech that resulted in his imprisonment. In his contempt for the American society, he was highly individualistic and outspoken. New York Times regarded his ‘caustic wit and bludgeon-like style’, which could either instill admiration or complete hatred, made him ‘the most powerful private citizen in America’.