Back H. L. Mencken

H. L. Mencken

H. L. Mencken testifying at the Senate Judiciary sub-committee hearing on the anti-lynching bill in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 14, 1935. (Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division)

Major works:
The American LanguagePrejudices • The Days Trilogy

Read an excerpt from

On Being an American

H. L. Mencken

All the while I have been forgetting the third of my reasons for remaining so faithful a citizen of the Federation, despite all the lascivious inducements from expatriates to follow them beyond the seas, and all the surly suggestions from patriots that I succumb. It is the reason which grows out of my medieval but unashamed taste for the bizarre and indelicate, my congenital weakness for comedy of the grosser varieties. The United States, to my eye, is incomparably the greatest show on earth. It is a show which avoids diligently all the kinds of clowning which tire me most quickly—for example, royal ceremonials, the tedious hocus-pocus of haut politique, the taking of politics seriously—and lays chief stress upon the kinds which delight me unceasingly—for example, the ribald combats of demagogues, the exquisitely ingenious operations of master rogues, the pursuit of witches and heretics, the desperate struggles of inferior men to claw their way into Heaven.

Read a passage from On Being an American by H. L. Mencken
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