Work of the Fellows: Biographies; Monographs

Mencken: A Life

Hobson, Fred (Fellow, 1991-92)

New York: Random House, 1994

From the publisher's description:

When H. L. Mencken died in 1956, he left behind well-ordered diaries, letters, and personal papers that biographer Fred Hobson has collected in the definitive portrait of a complex and colorful life. In Mencken: A Life, Hobson quotes liberally from Mencken's writings on every subject, from Americans ("the most timorous, sniveling, poltroonish, ignominious mob of serfs and goose-steppers ever gathered under one flag") to the English ("England gave us Puritanism, Germany gave us Pilsner"), from his thoughts on Jews (both "the most unpleasant race ever heard of" and "the chief dreamers of the human race, and beyond all comparison its greatest poets") to Puritanism ("that haunting fear that someone, somewhere may be happy"). Along with Mencken's well-known literary slashings at the "boobsoisie" -- with his trademark political "incorrectitude" -- Hobson's access to thousands of pages of personal manuscripts allows a broad and thoughtful look at the demons and affections of the personal life of the Sage of Baltimore. The result is a picture that would satisfy even its subject's critical eye.

Subjects: Literature;; American Literature; Authors; Journalists; Social Criticism