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Tuesday, September 11, 2012

H.L Mencken

H.L. Mencken was born on September 12, 1880 in Baltimore, Maryland.

Named Henry Louis, Mencken was an American journalist, essayist, magazine editor, satirist, critic of American life and culture, and a scholar of American English. Known as the "Sage of Baltimore", he is regarded as one of the most influential American writers and prose stylists of the first half of the twentieth century. Many of his books still remain in print.

Mencken is known for writing The American Language, and for his satirical reporting on the Scopes trial, which he dubbed the "Monkey Trial". He commented widely on the social scene, literature, music, prominent politicians, pseudo-experts, the temperance movement, and uplifters. A keen cheerleader of scientific progress, he was very skeptical of economic theories and particularly critical of anti-intellectualism, bigotry, populism, Fundamentalist Christianity, creationism, organized religion, the existence of God, and osteopathic/chiropractic medicine.

In a word, he was not likely to belong to the Republican Party.

However, he wasn't liable to be labeled a Democrat, either. A frank admirer of Nietzsche, he believed that representative democracy was a system in which inferior men dominated their superiors. During and after World War One, he was sympathetic to the Germans, and was very distrustful of British "propaganda." However, he labeled Hitler and his followers as "ignorant thugs." 

Always controversial, he wrote critically of Jews, yet when he learned of Hitler's persecution of Jews, he attacked President Franklin D. Roosevelt for refusing to admit Jewish refugees into the United States and called for their wholesale admission, writing:
There is only one way to help the fugitives, and that is to find places for them in a country in which they can really live. Why shouldn't the United States take in a couple hundred thousand of them, or even all of them?
In 1948, he suffered a stroke, and spent the following years putting his affairs in order, organizing all his papers (except personal letters, which were destroyed) for the use of scholars.

He died in his sleep January 29, 1956.

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