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October 28, 1923 - Image 1

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Mencken and the Academics
A Critique In Perspective
O NOT speak of him," EDWIN J. PATTEE dignity of dramatic critic, took coun-
said Kingsley of Heine; sel of a cortain Nestor of the craft,
he was a wicked man!" who told his, above alt things else, to
H. L. Mencken, also, was In his chauvinistic overtones we ature" (Century), by Fred Lewis Pat- he terestim, antt thices way to
once taboo; but not so (atch broken strains of 1917. We hear tee, is to be found a somewhat longer ie nteresting. And the surest way to
of a "Loyal Independent Order Of Un- be interesting, the Ancient counseled,
many years ago, in fact, fad"Loyal In-Gemn -enti rdErgofsh-!contriution to Mlenckeniana: one is to gie the public a god show-
there were very few read- ited Hiberto - German - Anti - English- wbich attempts to explain and classi- tnok sonebod y in tie head every
ers who gave him serious; Americans", and, by innuendo, of se- fy this phenonemon of American let- ,y
attention. Graecum est, cret affiliations with the Wilhelm- ters. Professor Pattee begins his day.
-crtss "This (advice) is illuminating," the
non legitur! Those who s .e ' , study (I hasten to say that he and I . professor goes ot to say, "but it x-
were not horrified by the pertinence In this boisterious and belabored have no connection except in name)-;plains only in part. The later Mec-
and daring of his ideas were shocked buncombe there is humor of a sort, begins his study with comments on ken unquestionably lays about him as
by his style, which was vigorous and and occasionally a brilliant, telling Mencken's first volume, "Ventures In- ferociously as even his ancient friend
untrammeled. phrase; but as criticism it is far too to Verse." Here he finds delight and could have desired, bt the reader of
But "afflictions induce calosities", puerile and impassioned for serious charm on every page he finds the gra- all of him is impressed with the fact
and time, in many cases, has softened consideration. It is extremely signi- cile little book brimming with lightly tIhat his onslaughts are not yellow-
the bitterness of first judgments: to- ficant, however, as a manifestation of fingered rondeaux and gurgling love journalistic, not indiscriminate and
day many of Mencken's ideas have be- Mencken-phobia. This is a disease lyrics. He quotes lavishly. In short, made for nere sensational advertise-
conme commonplace, and his plangent wdely prevalent-and not without he is so beguiled by Mencken's juve- ment. . . . His blasts are all in
prose falls less harshly on ears deaf- reason. A man of Mencken's stamp- nalla that loud are his lamentations the same direction, . . . To read
ened by war, jazz and vers libre. fearless, keen, and skeptical-is a ne- when he discover the poet forsakng him is to discover that after he had
Probably no man attracts more atten- mesis to the greet and stupidity of re- the Muse fur journalisnt finished with Shaw . . he next dis-
tion in literary circles than lie; sure- actionaries. And on the other hand, Mencken's next important work was covered . . . the prophet Nietz
ly none is more extravagantly praised, the man's flippancy, brusquesness, the book on Shaw. This Dr. Patteet sche . . . and then in two diverse
or more unjustly maligned. Each sea- and vulgarity frighten well-meaning characterizes as "brilliant work for a volumes he translated Nietzsche and
son calls forth a larger number of but timid souls. For coarse at times youngster," but "mild of tone"-and explained him and rhapsodized him
articles pertaining to I. L. Mencken. Mencken certainly is. To the casual "mildly received its neglect," he goes . . . . Ans le dis it brilliantly,
Even the professors of English Liter- reader, the buffoon is quite as much on to say, "set its author to thinking comsprehentdingly-I know of no
ature, who have hitherto cocked a in evidence as the critic and psychol- and the final result was revolutionary. treatment more illuminating. But no
bloodshot wary eye in his direction, ogist. But are there no extenuating Henry Louis Mlencken became I. L. man in the twenties ever plunges into
have dipped their pens and begin to features in this make-up; fatures, Menckei. In a moment of confession, that maelstrom of dogma . . . to
vent their feelings which, with deeper insight, are seen rare indeed for the man, he had told emerge the man he was. After
I sto counterbalance overwhetuingly the us of the evolution." According to Nietzsche, no longer was Mencken
Tci os h oie h vimore superficial ones? Of Mencken's this confession - si- which appeared poet, no longer was he critic: he was
tories of criticismOvertuionpla its, htooi-, sort' u. ytears ago in an "Atlantic Monthly" prophet like his miaster, a prophet
c Is e III article-the young Mottken, as'tti with an evangel that the '11ot,' the
Marncken is fast, i a r c-nt iser~ In "i lirihts On Amferican Liter- toward thw end of his non,,e to th rabble' 'the poeait'te'li
oth"Cnu Mgzn" ms r- yeople' s~l ever understand, hall
of III(,'"C-l'oojtt So,''.lIto. r('i~otfir
-l'ot l0 le< l ys t.t
wis' 'ithe L'glowingFe ;OEO t' l to ' to st.: o h lom,
t5itroil i 0 i.ar.t',e ii Oit re ju di t s, " D r. Ps g ttee S a s :
ken's chief interes f is not int'e ;sNEWELLBEBOUT'teifll n e r :mly
tthm n r s f i t t t i ii t e is t ii i t t i t s a ' r t 'pri t l t hin A e ri c n t ar e n -
bu ti assnlia s tiofh ietnsintlarsen ihillto adapt thesa tics itsdura Preitttns to randolie hotserlabolisclhubs
countrymentAcoidingly, he treats
liemansattrutitraekens n ritt hie chaton pope rausin lrid t ofBbIpartngesc l thgs cradheadsly to thrown by an enemy of the re ubie-
a-run acelrs ne as a hair and sharp nature; and then to lrtingish that, they are prophet blasts irritatine
he shows us Mencken the liberalist,
ast fsword's edge, wsich has long of things some are in our power, bu addenino arousin the thou htful
valiant combatant of intolerance and
rihti hs urrl adeobrn i Opgtrtimi 3h asotsmpion Int brrors that thnepatars of pueAmrita-
owppression, as well as Uencken the ra-sg iha a bendefiledobythi os
tionalist, arch-enemy of all the cur- medans and Parsees. tills pie with Edgar Poe ca to be. The very too-iuciness of
rentsenimetalty Ed eotinalsm.wonder. W hat a sense oft humor God I could more easily conceive of Tom; his protesting classifies him....
gisanttimbeilitesens totuogrist t y bust have to make a ight-rope-walkers Paine shriven and counting beads, orl Those who in .rage reply to him from
his enthusiasm, impudence, and saga- fs he o c s e of Bob Ingersoll with a shaved head sheltered corners of his continent-
Sand cm is i o o strut across the fiery yasm with and with his collar on backwards, broad battle-field miss his whole
ity isatn'sie t r his countr for hio mouths gaping and eyes popping outJ than I could admit Edgar Poe to be meaning. To rush excitedly to the aid
eewhe"ileh is vsein e wor e'a- with curiosity, like tourists visiting a irreligious. The very supernatural of Roosevelt assaulted by this most
dsIou ith hismex s tofie smt-nen t blast furnace. fervour of his mind precludes such an honest of Rooseveltians, to cry out
right i h t quarrels and to bring m Optimism assumption. In horror that the altars of puritan-
down with his merry bullets so many If you see everything as essential- Hell ism have been defiled by this most
giant imbecilities, even though with ly bad, you are always looking for the If Hell is a furious fire and if Hell jealous of all Puritans, to shriek 'An-
his barrage e not seldom slays some worst. If the worst comes, you are is subjective, then Hell is a hot-head- tichrist' at one who sneers only at un-
honest and charming idealism; so also not disappointed; because you ex- ed man. Christlikeness. . . to stone him as
it is a service to his country for him,peted it: and if it does not come, you l eSc sentences a ad A n he s othitd
seehimxgyhare agreeably surprised. Thus any- Aw elastic sentence is one which. sepulchres and discloses corruption
Butn wieMeuck engathewolof the;clepeso ftetocnrligI h vlteef. ri h ogAfotro rhdxCrsinth
judcios wth is xces o smrt-thing that happens will satisfy you1 stretches the truth. It is one which in the heart that had vaunted itself
ness, to enrich the nation with such and you will have an optimism. twists a commonplace thought into ai holy-rebuttal like this is really con-
hohgobfin oft e m id, h or the hth- balncd or wht Pwerl " h W i trad of; scaret" w Anothern I fon d Appres ntl ih u tic i oie
powefAlstramcan hmoras on0h- illtayoweng istotio;toeewiAhwhysgienntsersson.terAmeicatismowblayng pontheI-Abysandrda aautmobie aci-frkdom fleshackon he dindwhih I
times." dent recently was heard to remark "I reads it and either stings or makes a From first to last Mencken is a par-
c f c I hate to see a man cut up. I want to loud noise. Such a sentence is in Mat- adox. Anti-Puritan, he is nothing i
Bu~fMnkni h dlo h see him, yet I don't". This is a typi-1 thew 6:34: "Sufficient unto the day not the product of a Puritan culture.
"Am iceans c re ibns he id h e In cal expression of the two controlling is the evil thereof." or in The Song A flouter of orthodox Christianity, e
cynicb an cithwit mole.sFsr the ++t-Instincts in man which when counter-t of Solomon 4:3: "Thy lips are like a is himself the most Christian of men.
hobgblin ort hertmid, ord tdhe lt- balanced form what we tal "The Will thread of scarlet". Another is found Apparently without ethics his motives
to Power". There is first the feeling, in Tertullian: "et sepults resurrexit, are all ethical Is he against morals?
coe, comes forward as champion. Inj
"Ameicas" Scrbne's) hehasin-of repulsion, of fear, of nausea, the cerum est -quia impossible et!" (sad Then it is 1bcause morality is oney-
clueda sppsely cachng atretendency to eelf preservation. Second- .he was buried and rose again: it is combed withhycrs.Iheai-
ly is the feeling of attraction, of cur- certain because it is impossible). veterate railer of things Christian?
irsity, heetendncyitorelf furher-CTriChain?

em e'iosity, the tendency to self further- The Chain Then it is because the religion of
sees this black beast of crit'cism stab- ante. Neither of these tendencies Suddenly he loved girls. Suddenly Christ is virtually extinct. Is he hard
hong his horse in the church, hanging alone is sufficient for the existence of he had a passion for their hair- for in the abstract? Then, like most Nietz-
theĀ¢ priest, shooting the professors, the organism; but together they made their long, fine, luxurious tresses. But scheans, he is kind and gentle in the
routing the academy, and burning the the paradox named "life"-The more he would not say why he loved them. particular,
library. I accurately they operate, the more He would not say why he craved their Well, indeed, may Carl Van Doren
Professor Sherman out-Menckens life, the more power. Thus educations IIhair. Nevertheless he was discovered speak of him as "a gadfly for democ-
Mencken. Not content to rest his case is simply a refining of thn instincts so I one day delicately tying auburn and racy," for, as Fred Lewis Pattee sug-
solely on the dicta of the library dis- that they oppose each other with suc- golden hairs into a chain. All he said geats, Meucken's voice is by far the
cipline, he supplements the latter with cess. Epictetus explains it when he was: "I might use them to lasso most arresting that has been raised
ctriteria of a more emotional nature. deines education as "the learning how ghosts". (Continued snmPagoFour)


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