a segment of the general
public composed of uneducated, uncultured persons.
coined by H.L. Mencken in 1922]
House Webster's Unabridged).
To the nineteen-twenties H. L. Mencken was a dangerous
iconoclast, the relentless and often
ribald derider of what he called the
booboisie; a man who consorted nightly with the works of Nietzsche and
spent the day tracking down Americana for the inside pages of his
"anti-American" Mercury. To the forties, on the contrary, he appears
simply as a voluminous lexicographer; and this, as everyone knows from Dr.
Johnson's definition, is to be "a maker of dictionaries, a harmless drudge."
—— Jacques Barzun;
Mencken's America Speaking;
a literature on Mr. Mencken, as we know, defends the
American vernacular and at the same time is ever ready to laugh at the follies
of its makers; The Atlantic; Jan 1946
As mentioned, Teachout says Mencken has regained relevance today as a libertarian conservative. Labels ill apply to Mencken, who said, "I am my own party," although he certainly was against big government and for laissez-faire capitalism. But in the 1920s, scarred by the crackdown on German Americans and socialists during World War I, he was a radical freethinker who noisily waged war against the
booboisie (his term for the stupid and the gullible), religion and the business-dominated status quo, who ridiculed Warren Harding and supported Sacco and Vanzetti. And so he will be best remembered as an impassioned advocate of free speech and critical journalism who insisted that "it was the business of a journalist . . . to stand in a permanent Opposition". He was an early multiculturalist
who challenged British dominance of American letters by publishing Jews and
blacks in the Mercury. Finally, he endures because of the pleasure and elation
his prose still gives us. He was America talking: "As noisy as a tornado: witty
and abrasive, self-confident and self-contradictory, sometimes maddening, often
engaging, always inimitable. —— Richard
Disturber of the Peace;
The Skeptic: A Life of H.L. Mencken by Terry Teachout,
Washington Post and the Guardian,
Dec 5, 2002
Until then, he'd dismissed Hollywood as a purveyor of machine-made fodder for
the booboisie, but he found, much to his surprise, that the
movies weren't nearly as bad as he'd claimed.
—— Terry Teachout, quoted in "Writing Mencken," by Kathryn Jean
Online; November 15, 2002
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