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Prejudices - First Series

H. L. Mencken

Book Overview: 

Mencken sharpens his pen and in a collection of short essays delivers acerbic opinions on issues and persons of the time. Among his targets in this volume (the first of six) are critics, H.G. Wells Thorstein Veblen, Arnold Bennett, William Dean Howells, Irvin S. Cobb. Mencken's critiques are delivered against a background of his own well known ethnic, racial, religious, and sectional prejudices. (It is said that the only thing Mencken loved about the Southern United States was his wife, who hailed from Alabama.) Not for the faint of heart, Mencken's prickly, yet unapologetic, prose reveals a window into American attitudes at the time they were written and their influences on the larger American culture.

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Book Excerpt: 
. . .’s stature as a novelist in the conventional sense is converted into a valuable possession. Better than any other man of his time he has got upon paper the social anatomy and physiology of the masses of average, everyday, unimaginative Englishmen. One leaves the long series of Five Towns books with a sense of having looked down the tube of a microscope upon a huge swarm of infinitely little but incessantly struggling organisms—creatures engaged furiously in the pursuit of grotesque and unintelligible ends—helpless participants in and victims of a struggle that takes on, to their eyes, a thousand lofty purposes, all of them puerile to the observer above its turmoil. Here, he seems to say, is the middle, the average, the typical Englishman. Here is the fellow as he appears to himself—virtuous, laborious, 40important, intelligent, made in God’s image. And here he is in fact—swinish, ineffective, inconsequential, stupid, a feeble parody. . . Read More

Community Reviews

Mencken's views on the police in several of his essays show he knew they were a threat to liberty, or at the very least, a rude awakening for people who think we have liberty. He notes that if they come to your house in error, you tell them so, and then flee their obviously mean intent, they will ch

3 3/4 stars

Been dipping into this book for 10 to 15 years, and finally finished it. Very hit and miss. His prose is often entertaining, but the essays themselves will depend upon where the reader's viewpoint stands to begin with in determining the level of appreciation he/she has for the content. I doubt Menck

The great thing about reading Mencken's essays in 2018 is to understand how little has changed in our political landscape. By changing a few names and references Mencken's work could easily be offered as current political and social commentary on our unwieldy, but hopefully resilient, system.


I don't share all of H. L. Mencken's prejudices - how could I, over a century later and half a world away? But I loved his crisp way of executing his victims, relished his irony and enjoyed being taken by surprise and obliged to laugh out loud.

Four stars not because I agree with Mencken's politics - generally, I don't, although the idea that "democracy is the idea that the common people know what they want and deserve to get it good and hard" sometimes sounds pretty accurate - but because he speaks his mind even, and especially, when most



Published, October, 1922

I read this book about mid 1960s and was not that impressed with it. Oh, it made sense and was relevant but at 16 your mind is in other places. Now that I am more aged and my priority is not going out on Friday night, I can find new t

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