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MENCKEN Henry Louis  (1880-1956)

American journalist, critic, and essayist, whose perceptive and often controversial analyses of American life and letters made him one of the most influential critics of the 1920s and '30s. Mencken, born in Baltimore, Md., on Sept. 12, 1880, began his career as a journalist with the Baltimore Morning Herald and in 1906 switched to the Baltimore Sun, where he remained in various editorial capacities for most of his life. With the American drama critic George Jean Nathan (1882-1958) he coedited The Smart Set, a satirical monthly magazine, from 1914 to 1923. Again with Nathan, in 1924, Mencken founded the American Mercury, the literary heir to their previous joint endeavor; Mencken remained as its editor until 1933. The shortcomings of democracy and middle-class American culture were the targets of Mencken's wit and criticism. A six-volume collection of his essays and reviews, entitled Prejudices, was published between 1919 and 1927. Mencken's most important piece of scholarship was The American Language (3 vol., 1936-48), which traced the development and established the importance of AMERICAN ENGLISH (q.v.) . Mencken died in Baltimore on Jan. 29, 1956. Happy Days (1940), Newspaper Days (1941), and Heathen Days (1943) are his autobiographies.

a cynic is a man who, when he smells flowers, looks around for a coffin - H.L. Mencken
a philosopher is a blind man in a dark room looking for a black cat which isn\'t there. A theologian is the one who finds it - H.L. Mencken
conscience is the inner voice which warns us that someone may be looking - H.L. Mencken
democracy is a pathetic belief in the collective wisdom of individual ignorance - H.L. Mencken
for every complex problem, there is always a simple solution - that is wrong - H.L. Mencken
it is hard to believe that a man is telling the truth when you know that you would lie if you were in his place - H.L. Mencken
lawyer - one who protects us from robbers by taking away the temptation - H.L. Mencken
the whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed - and hence clamorous to be led to safety - by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary ­- H.L. Mencken
when I hear a man applauded by the mob I always feel a pang of pity for him. All he has to do to be hissed is to live long enough (H.L. Mencken)