The Skeptic by Terry Teachout
H.L.MENCKEN’s historical sig- nificance is beyond dis- pute. As the scourge of the Ameri- can “booboisie”-a target pursued relentlessly in his voluminous news- paper columns and in the six col- lected volumes of his journalism, Prejudices (1919-27)–he has a per- manent place in the mythology of the 1920′s. As the champion (for a time) of significant new writing both at the Smart Set and then as editor of the American Mercury (1925-1933), and as a prime dis- rupter of the Genteel Tradition, he helped to institute a major revolu- tion in literary taste. In The Ameri- can Language (first edition 1919), he made a lasting contribution to philology, and in three volumes of memoirs, Happy Days (1940), News- paper Days (1941), and Heathen Days (1943), he proved himself a master of autobiography.
About the Author
John Gross is the editor most recently of The New Oxford Book of Literary Anecdotes. His “Mr. Virginia Woolf” appeared in the December 2006 COMMENTARY.