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I have a hunch that Mr. Mencken will like this irreverent treatment of the Sage of Baltimore. His biographer certainly paints him in realistic colors, exposing his legend through ""thirty years of outraging his fellow countrymen until such time as his heresies became obsolete"" or worse still ""conventional"". And yet through all the exposures there runs a sincere thread of admiration for a man who delighted in fighting America's Puritanism, in destroying sacred cows, in posing as critic, sophist, philistine- and achieving a degree of eminence in each role. An odd mixture of affectionate appreciation of the contributions Mencken made to sweeping the cobwebs out of our brains -- and annoyance that he seemed always more interested in seeking a more exciting goal, once the earlier mission was in hand. His was often a lone voice- he stood back of Dreiser in his difficult years; he ""discovered"" James Joyce; he renovated Smart Set, along with the ""suave Nathan"", the ""bra Willard Huntington Wright""- and for a time they ran a ""literary vaudewille"". With the approach of war, his German partisanship all but cost him his post in American letters. And in the later war- he espoused much that Hitler stood for, flirting with- then discarding-Fascism, Nazism. The years between had seen him- through the American Mercury, achieve power as a force in politics, fight boldly against the reaction at the Scopes trial, bra the Watch and Ward society in the Hatrack case. Today his American Language, which he hself belittles, is the only enduring monument to his literary achievements....A chapter America's literary history, as well as a unique profile of a unique personality.

Pub Date: April 17th, 1949
Publisher: Little Brown- A.M.P.