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Mencken Could Write!

December 3, 2010

Three volumes of H L Mencken’s work on American English sit on my shelves, as yet unread. Now the acerbic journalism of this master commentator, mostly written in the period 1914 to the late 20s, has been republished by the Library of America. He said he wrote to find out what he was thinking, “a katharsis for my own thoughts.”

I love his demolition of that rabid, war-mongering, over-compensating sissy Theodore Roosevelt (President, 1901 to 1909). Mencken compared him to the Kaiser. He wrote, the America of Roosevelt’s dreams “was always a sort of swollen Prussia, truculent without and regimented within.”

He said, “Both delighted in the armed pursuit of the lower fauna….Both were intimates of God and announced His desires with authority.”

Of Woodrow Wilson, the worst president in US history ( 1913 to 1921 )Mencken said: “the self-bamboozled Presbyterian, the right-thinker, the great moral statesman, the perfect model of the Christian cad.”

He saw the racist, imperialist, interfering Wilson as a cold and treacherous moraliser.
Pity none of the blow-hards on Fox have one percent of Mencken’s gift.


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