Sarnath Press is a micro-imprint that I have established to issue some of my writings that I do not wish to burden other presses with, and also to issue some multi-volume projects (e.g., the Collected Essays and Journalism of H. L. Mencken) that would be impractical to publish by ordinary means. All books are published by CreateSpace (print) and Kindle (ebook). I present here a list of books issued by Sarnath Press, with brief descriptions of them and links to their page on Amazon.
Current titles include:
For more than 30 years, S. T. Joshi has been a pioneering critic of fantasy, horror, and supernatural fiction. This new collection of his essays and reviews covers the entire range of weird fiction, from Romantic poetry to the work of Ambrose Bierce, Ray Bradbury, and Shirley Jackson. Particularly insightful are Joshi’s assessments of such contemporary writers as Ramsey Campbell, Caitlin R. Kiernan, Thomas Ligotti, and Reggie Oliver. Joshi, the leading authority on H. P. Lovecraft, also provides pungent analyses of recent works of Lovecraftian fiction by such figures as W. H. Pugmire and Darrell Schweitzer, as well as incisive reviews of recent works of Lovecraft scholarship. This expanded edition now includes reviews of such writers as Richard Gavin, Mark Samuels, and Joel Lane, as well as reviews of several new anthologies of Lovecraftian fiction. All in all, this book will engage, entertain, and inform all devotees of weird fiction.
For the past two decades, S. T. Joshi has emerged as one of the sharpest commentators on the follies of religion and politics. Combining keen analytical skills with pungent satire, Joshi is a modern-day Ambrose Bierce or H. L. Mencken in skewering religious fanatics, right-wing politicians, and others who have exhibited their stupidity and ineptitude for all to see. In this book, Joshi assembles the essays and reviews he has written for The American Rationalist, a journal he :edited from 2011 to 2017. He lambastes the work of Alister E. McGrath, Robert P. George, Todd Burpo, David Skeel, Rice Broocks, and others who blunderingly seek to defend Christian doctrine, and he also dissects the hollow and superficial work of Joe Scarborough and other conservative commentators. Other reviews address such issues as the Bible’s attitude toward gays and lesbians, the Second Amendment, and other key issues. Joshi’s column, “The Stupidity Watch,” is a wide-ranging lampoon of the myriad forms of stupidity exhibited by politicians, clerics, and the general public. Here we see the buffooneries of Republican politicians, fundamentalist preachers, and average citizens held up to impolite ridicule. Our “president,” Donald J. Trump, is not spared.
Note: the revised third edition (2021) is listed below.
The little-known American writer Eleanor M. Ingram (1886–1921) published eight novels (one of them filmed by Cecil B. DeMille) between 1909 and 1921, but only one—The Thing from the Lake (1921)—is of interest today. This is largely because H. P. Lovecraft read the book in 1927, remarking: “Eleanor M. Ingram’s ‘Thing from the Lake’ is a really good story—with a genuine thread of horror despite best-seller form.” Although it would be an exaggeration to say that Ingram’s book inspired Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos (which Lovecraft had already outlined in “The Call of Cthulhu” ), the novel could have inspired “The Dunwich Horror” (1928), which echoes The Thing from the Lake in suggesting the presence of monsters from another dimension. But the novel is a fine piece of ghostly fiction in its own right. This edition contains a detailed introduction and annotations by leading Lovecraft scholar S. T. Joshi.
Robert Hichens (1864-1950) was a popular British novelist of the turn of the twentieth century. Early in his career he exhibited considerable interest in the weird, producing the poignant ghost story “How Love Came to Professor Guildea” (1900) and numerous other tales of horror and the supernatural. In 1911 he published the short novel The Dweller on the Threshold, an exhaustive treatment of psychic possession. The story outlines how the weak-willed curate Henry Chichester is psychically dominated by the Rev. Marcus Harding, the rector of a fashionable London parish. Harding wants to “communicate with the spirit world” and ultimately to take over Chichester, body and soul. It is unclear whether H. P. Lovecraft ever read this work, but it bears striking similarities to his own tales of psychic possession, ranging from “The Thing on the Doorstep” to “The Shadow out of Time.” But The Dweller on the Threshold is worth reading in its own right, as an exemplary tale of weird fiction whose polished and elegant prose is no barrier to the conveyance of terror and strangeness.
For the past decade, S. T. Joshi has been a prolific and controversial figure in the blogosphere. A leading authority on H. P. Lovecraft and weird fiction, Joshi has been at the centre of many developments in the field, aside from writing several landmark works of his own. In this book, Joshi reprints selections from his blog posts, arranging them thematically so that readers can focus on the numerous issues in which Joshi has been involved. See how his history of supernatural fiction, Unutterable Horror (2012), progressed over the years, and how he came to edit the Black Wings anthologies of neo-Lovecraftian fiction. Joshi’s contributions to work on such writers as Lord Dunsany, Arthur Machen, Clark Ashton Smith, Ramsey Campbell, Ambrose Bierce, and H. L. Mencken are also chronicled. Joshi has been a vigorous defender of Lovecraft against those who seek to tear him down, and he has written pungent rebuttals of the tendentious writings of such figures as Daniel José Older, Laura Miller, Charles Baxter, Scott Nicolay, and others. Joshi has also defended himself against scurrilous attacks by Brian Keene, Laird Barron, and others. Author of more than 250 books, S. T. Joshi is one of the liveliest commentators in weird fiction, and this book offers a treasure-trove of some of his most vibrant and penetrating writings.
For close to two decades, S. T. Joshi has been one of the leading authorities on H. L. Mencken, the fiery journalist and critic whose vibrant writings—books, magazine articles, and thousands of newspaper pieces—continue to engage readers and critics of American literature. Because he has read the entirety of Mencken’s bountiful output, he is in a unique position to study those aspects of Mencken’s work that others have ignored. In particular, Joshi has shown how Mencken, in addition to bring a brilliant social and literary critic, also wrote dozens of poems, short stories, and plays (including the full-length farce Heliogabalus); and in several essays in this book he displays the value of this material. Other essays discuss Mencken as a longtime book reviewer, as a scourge of religious obscurantism, as an autobiographer, and other topics. Throughout these essays, Joshi displays his familiarity with Mencken’s life, writings, and the intellectual and cultural era in which he wrote.
H. P. Lovecraft has been the source of unending fascination since his death in 1937. He himself chronicled many aspects of his life in thousands of letters, and they reveal every aspect of his actions and beliefs. Born in 1890 in Providence, R.I., he was a precocious reader and writer, and also developed an early interest in science. Unable to finish high school, he became one of the greatest autodidacts of his time. Discovering the world of amateur journalism in 1914, he began writing essays, poetry, and fiction. The founding of the pulp magazine Weird Tales provided him with the opportunity to find a devoted readership for his weird tales, and he became a titan in the realm of pulp fiction as his tales of the “Cthulhu Mythos” attracted a wider audience. But he failed to find commercial success in his lifetime, and his work had to be rescued from oblivion by the devoted work of his friends. S. T. Joshi, long regarded as the leading authority on Lovecraft, has now written a succinct biography that focuses on the main events of Lovecraft’s life as well as the central features of his work and his associations with such colleagues as August Derleth, Frank Belknap Long, Robert Bloch, and others.
H. L. Mencken (1880–1956) was an enormously prolific author and journalist, and the great majority of his work remains uncollected. This first volume of his Collected Essays and Journalism contains the first of eight volumes of his writings for the Smart Set, a highbrow periodical for which he wrote extensively during the years 1908–1923. Hired as a book reviewer late in 1908, Mencken began writing 5000-word reviews that covered the entire range of American, English, and European literature. He was particularly interested in the novel, championing the work of Theodore Dreiser, H. G. Wells, Joseph Conrad, Arnold Bennett, and others. Among playwrights he looked with favor on George Bernard Shaw and John Galsworthy. But some of Mencken’s most pungent reviews are his condemnations of “trade goods”—the hack writing of now-forgotten popular writers such as Robert W. Chambers and Marie Corelli. Throughout these reviews, Mencken’s vibrant prose, lively wit, and keen analytical skills are on display. The book has been edited and annotated by S. T. Joshi, a leading authority on Mencken.
In this second volume of Mencken’s writings in the Smart Set, we see Mencken begin his championing of the work of Joseph Conrad, as well as continuing his promotion of Theodore Dreiser as a leading American novelist. European writers such as Hermann Sudermann and August Strindberg also come in for extensive discussion. And Mencken writes a hilarious column poking fun at several books expressing fears about white slavery. He also initiates a column of miscellaneous humorous sketches, “Pertinent and Impertinent.” More significantly, Mencken writes a six-part series, “The American,” studying conventional Americans’ attitudes on art, literature, politics, and the “new Puritanism.” In all, this volume features a rich treasure-trove of material highlighting Mencken’s critical acuteness, satirical skill, and cultural awareness.
The literature of terror and the supernatural has been experiencing a renaissance over the past several decades, and with the advent of the new millennium a diverse cadre of writers have expanded the bounds of weird fiction and enriched it with their penetrating vision. This book is the first to present a broad analysis of contemporary horror fiction as written by writers born in the 1960s and 1970s. S. T. Joshi, one of the leading authorities on weird fiction, divides his book into three categories, based on his judgment of the varying merits of the authors in question. Among the “Elite” are such writers as Michael Aronovitz, a master of metafictional narratives that intensely treat the emotional traumas of his characters; Adam Nevill, author of expansive novels that use the classic work of M. R. James, Arthur Machen, and others as a springboard; and Jonathan Thomas, who has found in the work of H. P. Lovecraft a touchstone for his cynical view of human foibles. Among the “Worthies” are the grimly pessimistic writer Nicole Cushing; Reggie Oliver, who has revivified the ghost story; and Clint Smith, whose tales are distinguished by his lyrical prose. Controversially, Joshi has established a category of “Pretenders”—authors whose work, in his opinion, is not commensurate with their reputations. Here we find Laird Barron, whose distinguished early writing is now confounded by mediocrity and preciosity; Joe Hill, author of bloated potboilers all too reminiscent of the unimaginative work of his father, Stephen King; Brian Keene, the prototypical hack writer; and Jeff VanderMeer, author of a trilogy whose confused premises and tiresome length try the patience of the most indulgent reader. Whatever one may think of Joshi’s views, his writing remains lively, provocative, and sure to promote discussion.
In this third volume of his writings in the Smart Set, H. L. Mencken expands his range considerably beyond merely the writing of monthly book reviews. Having taken over as co-editor (with George Jean Nathan) of the magazine in late 1914, Mencken found that there was a serious dearth of material for upcoming issues; therefore, he wrote numerous pieces—stories, poetry, essays, sketches, many written under pseudonyms—to fill up the magazine with the type of work he felt it ought to have. Accordingly, we find such short stories as “The Barbarous Bradley,” “Neapolitan Nights,” and others; prose poems on Beethoven, the flapper, and the cockroach; the short plays Death: A Discussion and The Wedding: A Stage Direction; and numerous other whimsies. Among his book reviews, we find Mencken championing the work of Theodore Dreiser, John Galsworthy, Anatole France, Joseph Conrad, and others; but there are also some devastating reviews of the hackwork of Marie Corelli and Marjorie Benton Cooke (author of the sentimental novel Bambi). All in all, a rich feast for the Mencken devotee.
In this fourth volume of his writings in the Smart Set, H. L. Mencken continues his monthly book review columns, discussing such writers as Willa Cather, George Bernard Shaw, Oscar Wilde (by way of Frank Harris’s biography), Theodore Dreiser, William Dean Howells, Mark Twain’s posthumously published The Mysterious Stranger, and others. Two columns on the work of leading Irish writers focus on the pioneering work of J. M. Synge and Lord Dunsany. In spite of his professed insensitivity to poetry, Mencken devotes three columns to the work of such contemporary poets as Sara Teasdale, Edgar Lee Masters, and Rupert Brooke. This volume also includes Mencken’s increasingly numerous works of fiction, including his longest story, “The Charmed Circle” (16,000 words), a striking anticipation of the work of F. Scott Fitzgerald. There is even a horror tale, “The Window of Horrors.” Several pungent articles about women (“A Footnote on the Duel of Sex,” “The Infernal Feminine,” “Woman, Lovely Woman!”) show how Mencken remains the master of political incorrectness.
In this fifth volume of his writings from the Smart Set, H. L. Mencken uses his monthly review column to address broader issues in literature and society, such as “The National Letters,” on American literary history; “Rattling the Subconscious,” on the work of Sigmund Freud and other psychologists; and “The Infernal Mystery,” on religion. We also find pungent review-articles focusing on Mark Twain, Arnold Bennett, H. G. Wells, and others, and Mencken’s polemical skills reach their apogee in “Prof. Veblen and the Cow,” a scathing attack on political theorist Thorstein Veblen. Articles on poetry discuss Ezra Pound, Sara Teasdale, and other poets. This volume also shows Mencken and his co-editor, George Jean Nathan, initiating a monthly column of humor and miscellany, “Répétition Générale.” In addition, there is a bountiful array of short fiction, ranging from satirical tales of married life (“The Homeric Sex,” “Wives”) to poignant accounts of religious belief (“The Man of God”). In all, this volume fully displays the wide scope of Mencken’s literary gifts.
In this sixth volume his writings from the Smart Set, H. L. Mencken praises James Branch Cabell’s novel Jurgen, which was the focus of a subsequent trial for obscenity. In other review columns, Mencken discusses such writers as Upton Sinclair, Joseph Conrad, F. Scott Fitzgerald (This Side of Paradise), Mark Twain (by way of Van Wyck Brooks’s study of him), Sherwood Anderson, Sinclair Lewis (Main Street), H. G. Wells (The Outline of History), and other important figures. Two columns on poetry focus on the work of Amy Lowell, Edgar Lee Masters, Carl Sandburg, and others. Mencken and his co-editor, George Jean Nathan, continue their “Répétition Générale” column, initiating a series of aphorisms that were later published as The American Credo. They also engage in a series of lively “conversations” on women, politics, and other subjects. Some of the most distinctive items in this volume are a series of brief, pungent prose poems, ranging from “A Panorama of Idiots” to “The Cat and His Shadow.” In all, another feast of critical acumen, satire, polemic, and literary virtuosity.
In this wide-ranging collection of his essays on weird fiction, S. T. Joshi spans two centuries of work in the field of supernatural horror. Beginning with the work of Mary Shelley (Frankenstein) and Théophile Gautier (“One of Cleopatra’s Nights”), Joshi moves on to study the life and work of such prominent writers as W. W. Jacobs (author of “The Monkey’s Paw”), Algernon Blackwood, Thomas Burke, and D. H. Lawrence. Weird poetry has been a particular interest of Joshi’s, and he supplies extensive discussions of the verse of George Sterling, Samuel Loveman, Clark Ashton Smith, and Donald Wandrei. Moving to the work of the past half-century, Joshi studies Shirley Jackson’s The Sundial (1958), three novels of the unjustly forgotten writer L. P. Davies, and the fusion of Lovecraftian elements and atheism in the films of Guillermo del Toro. The book concludes with an analysis of nine novels of the supernatural that were appreciated by H. P. Lovecraft. In all, Joshi again demonstrates the richness, variety, and aesthetic significance of the weird tale.
In this seventh volume of his writings in the Smart Set, H. L. Mencken continues his lively book review column, covering the novels of F. Scott Fitzgerald, W. L. George, Joseph Hergesheimer, and others. But increasingly, his reviews focus on important works on politics, history, and society by Walter Lippmann, Frank Harris, James Trunslow Adams, Upton Sinclair, and others. He and his co-editor, George Jean Nathan, continue their monthly “Répétition Générale” column of iconoclastic commentary, including a notable passage on the “graveyard of dead gods.” There are also several “conversations” between Mencken and Nathan on controversial subjects ranging from clothing to marriage. This volume is also enlivened by a series of piquant prose-poems ranging from “A Panorama of Holy Clerks” (on various types of clergymen) to “Dianthus Caryophyllus” (on red-headed women). Throughout, Mencken displays his penchant for wit, satire, and rollicking humor.
Throughout his life, H. L. Mencken published all manner of work in a wide range of magazines, both before and after he was associated with the Smart Set (1908–23). In the earliest stages of his literary career, Mencken was determined to be both a poet and a fiction writer, and this volume features some of the poems and stories he wrote for well-known magazines of the day, including Short Stories and Frank Leslie’s Popular Monthly. Among these are stirring narratives of war (“The Crime of McSwane”), a humorous story about anarchists (“The Bend in the Tube”), and other engaging tales. In addition, Mencken wrote biographical sketches of a number of prominent individuals in his native Baltimore (Senator Arthur Pue Gorman; James, Cardinal Gibbons). Most entertainingly, the lifelong bachelor Mencken teamed up with a physician, Leonard Keene Hirshberg, to ghostwrite a series of articles on “What You Ought to Know about Your Baby,” later published as a book. Throughout this volume, Mencken’s lively wit and scintillating prose are in abundant evidence.
Although best known as a biographer, critic, and editor, S. T. Joshi has devoted a portion of his career to the writing of mystery and horror fiction. As a teenager he became an enthusiast of the mystery story, especially the work of puzzlemeister John Dickson Carr, and wrote many detective tales as well as tales of supernatural menace. One early tale in this book, “The Recurring Doom,” was written at the age of 17. In the first decade of this century Joshi wrote two hard-boiled crime novels, The Removal Company (a radical reworking of a story by W. C. Morrow) and Conspiracy of Silence, featuring his private investigator, Joe Scintilla, living in Depression-era New York. “Tragedy at Sarsfield Manor” is a novella featuring Scintilla. Joshi has gone on to write numerous tales inspired by H. P. Lovecraft (“Incident at Ferney,” “Some Kind of Mistake”), along with other works that fuse mystery and weirdness. This omnibus sheds new light on the diverse and wide-ranging output of S. T. Joshi.
In this second volume of Mencken’s miscellaneous magazine contributions, we find several substantial articles on the drama of Henrik Ibsen, notably A Doll’s House. In addition, Mencken wrote a sheaf of reviews for the New York society paper Town Topics, covering such authors as Rabindranath Tagore, George Bernard Shaw, Lord Dunsany, and others. Later reviews or articles for other magazines cover the work of Havelock Ellis, Theodore Dreiser, Frank Harris, and Aldous Huxley. Mencken gave thought to broader literary issues (“The National Literature,” “The American Novel”), as well as to the art of literary criticism (“The Motive of the Critic”). Venturing into the political sphere, Mencken wrote several send-ups of the loquacious President Warren G. Harding, including the celebrated satire “A Short View of Gamalielese.” He wrote several pungent articles while attending the Washington Disarmament Conference of 1921, as well as several pieces condemning Prohibition. In all, this volume provides a vivid glimpse of the distinctive outlook of America’s leading literary and social critic of the time.
Arkham House, based in Sauk City, Wisconsin, is the most famous small press in the field of weird fiction. Since 1939, it has been a pioneering publisher of the work of H. P. Lovecraft, Clark Ashton Smith, Robert E. Howard, Ray Bradbury, Fritz Leiber, Ramsey Campbell, and many other titans of horror, fantasy, and supernatural fiction. In 1999, S. T. Joshi, a leading authority on weird fiction (and the author or editor of six Arkham House books), published Sixty Years of Arkham House. In this new and expanded edition, Joshi charts Arkham House’s publications right down to the present day. In this definitive compilation, Joshi lists the entire contents of all Arkham House publications (as well as those of its sub-imprints, Mycroft & Moran and Stanton & Lee). He provides an illuminating history of the firm’s eight decades of publishing, and also includes three rare essays by August Derleth—co-founder (with Donald Wandrei) of Arkham House—that discuss the status of the firm. In addition, there is a thorough index of names and titles. No devotee of Arkham House will want to be without this invaluable reference work.
Over the past several centuries, an increasing number of philosophers, scientists, and other writers have been making a strong case for the validity of atheism as a worldview. In addition, these and other thinkers have been making trenchant criticisms of the deficiencies of religion (especially Christianity) as a metaphysical, ethical, and social system. This volume seeks to present some of the noteworthy documents of atheism, agnosticism, and freethought during the last 300 years. Voltaire, Edward Gibbon, and Thomas Paine in the 18th century; a wide array of thinkers in the 19th century, including W. E. H. Lecky, Leslie Stephen, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Herbert Spencer, Thomas Henry Huxley, and Robert G. Ingersoll; and 20th-century writer such as Bertrand Russell, George Santayana, Anatole France, Emma Goldman, and H. L. Mencken have all put forward vital arguments in support of a secular worldview. This volume features a sampling of some of the greatest minds in Western thought as they advocate an outlook shorn of religious dogma.
Throughout his career, H. L. Mencken wrote prefaces and introductions to numerous volumes, and this book gathers many of those pieces, which reflect his consuming interest in issues relating to literature, politics, society, and culture. Among the most interesting are two long introductions to plays by Henrik Ibsen in 1909, which exhibit Mencken’s admiration for this revolutionary playwright. Later he wrote an introduction to a pair of plays by the French author Eugène Brieux. Introductions to books by Oscar Wilde, Edwin Muir, and Arthur Morrison further reveal Mencken’s tastes in literature, while in his introduction to James Nelson Wood’s Democracy and the Will to Power (1921) he exhibits his disdain of the very principle of democracy. This book also contains two full-length works: George Bernard Shaw: His Plays (1905), Mencken’s first critical treatise and the first book about the English playwright; and his translation of Friedrich Nietzsche’s iconcolastic work The Antichrist (1920). Once again, Mencken’s distinctive views and his pungent manner of expressing them are on full display.
H. L. Mencken was, first and foremost, a newspaperman. At the age of 19 he joined the staff of the Baltimore Herald, writing all manner of articles for the morning, evening, and Sunday editions for the next seven years. This volume presents the earliest of these articles, most of which have never been reprinted. Amidst engaging pieces on the inveterate disputes between Baltimore’s mayor, Thomas G. Hayes, and the City Council, we find articles exhibiting Mencken’s love of music and other subjects. In late 1900 he began writing two separate columns of humor, poetry, and miscellany, “Rhyme and Reason” and “Knocks and Jollies.” Also notable is his first published short story, “A Matter of Ethnology.” Early 1901 saw the appearance of another occasional column, “Terse and Terrible Texts.” Throughout these articles, Mencken displays his customary shrewdness in reporting on the controversies of the day and his infectious humor, satire, and wit.
H. L. Mencken published a wide array of articles in the Baltimore Herald (morning, evening, and Sunday editions). These articles ranged from coverage of local politics to several stirring accounts of a fire in Jacksonville, Florida, to an immense article on the British general Herbert Kitchener. Mencken engaged in his penchant for wit and humor with various columns of miscellany (“Terse and Terrible Texts,” “Baltimore and the Rest of the World,” “Knocks and Jollies”); in particular, he wrote 33 installments of a pungent column, “Untold Tales,” which purported to discuss ancient Roman politicians but were in fact satires on local figures. Ill health forced Mencken to take a break from journalism in 1903–04, but in June 1904 he issued a series of reports of the Republican and Democratic national conventions, a practice he would continue for decades. We also find theatre reviews and reviews of books by Kipling, Shaw, and other notable writers. In all, this volume is a rich storehouse of Mencken’s early newspaper writing.
The literature of horror and supernatural fiction experienced a tremendous revival in the final three decades of the 20th century, becoming a best-selling phenomenon for the first time since the Gothic novels of the later 18th and early 19th centuries. But the groundwork for this revival was laid by the powerful work for Shirley Jackson, whose novels and tales explored ghosts and haunted houses along with keen insights into human psychology. The British writer Ramsey Campbell revolutionized the field with the story collection Demons by Daylight (1973) and numerous other works. Best-selling writers such as William Peter Blatty, Stephen King, Clive Barker, and Anne Rice generally used standard horror themes in conventional ways, and their work is far excelled by such dynamic writers as T.E.D. Klein, Thomas Ligotti, and David J. Schow. In this pioneering study of weird fiction after the death of Lovecraft, S. T. Joshi provides perspicacious analyses of more than a dozen leading writers of weird fiction in the later 20th century, pungently exposing King and others as hacks and tyros while championing the aesthetically sincere work of lesser-known writers. The result is a landmark study that reshapes our view of the development of this popular literary genre.
In this volume of Mencken’s early journalism, mostly for the Baltimore Herald, we find him coming into his own as a drama critic, with trenchant reviews of plays by Shakespeare, Shaw, and other playwrights. In addition, he writes articles on Sarah Bernhardt, Adelaide Keim, and other leading actresses of the day. We also find penetrating reviews of books by O. Henry, James Huneker, and other authors. And Mencken continues his several columns of humor, poetry, and miscellany—“Notes in the Margin,” “Mere Opinion,” and others. Beginning in 1905, Mencken wrote anonymous editorials theoretically articulating the official policy of the newspaper, but his editorials are frequently satirical, covering such topics as baldness, marriage (to which he remained unalterably opposed), and national and international politics. In all, this volume displays the fusion of perspicacy, linguistic virtuosity, and satirical flourish that would make Mencken one of the leading journalists of the 20th century.
https://www.amazon.com/dp/1071242962 (trade paperback)
When H. L. Mencken joined the staff of the Baltimore Sun in the fall of 1906, he was probably unaware that he would be working for the paper off and on for more than forty years. Mencken began his career at the paper by writing numerous drama reviews—not only of significant plays by Shakespeare, Shaw, Ibsen, and others, but also of light comedies, comic operas, and even vaudeville. Mencken was also tasked with writing editorials articulating the paper’s official editorial policy on issues of the day; but as he had done with previous stints on other newspapers, many of his editorials were humorous, flippant, and satirical. They cover a wide range of topics, from local, national, and international politics to the pleasures of eating (especially sauerkraut, scrapple,
“planked shad,” and other local delicacies) to literary and musical matters. In particular, Mencken continues his cynical attacks on the institution of marriage with such editorials as “Are Married Women Slaves?” and “A Man Who Hated Babies.” Throughout these pieces, we are continually reminded why H. L. Mencken became one of the leading journalists and wits of his day.
This volume of H. L. Mencken’s newspaper work is enlivened by his controvesial writings during World War I. As the son of German immigrants, Mencken unabashedly defended Germany during the conflict. He was with a group of reporters in Germany in the spring of 1917, and in a succession of articles he tells of their perilous efforts to get out of the country just as the United States is about to enter the war. Mencken boarded a boat that went to Cuba, where he reported on an unsuccessful rebellion against the government. In other papers Mencken writes of the distinction between American and British English, and also gives a stirring account of the boxing match between Jack Dempsey and Georges Carpentier. As the author of numerous unsigned editorials, Mencken expatiates on familiar subjects—the institution of marriage, the pleasures of eating, the peccadilloes of local politicians, and the like. In sum, this volume again reveals why Mencken was the most distinctive journalist of his generation.
In the spring of 1910, H. L. Mencken helped to found the Baltimore Evening Sun, since he believed that the evening newspaper—which could report on events that had occurred earlier that day, and could be read by people coming home from work—was the wave of the future. In the first several months of the paper’s publication, he devoted an enormous amount of effort in establishing the general thrust of the paper, writing many articles and columns on a variety of subjects. These included discussions of writers such as Joseph Conrad, William Shakepeare, and contemporary dramatists; articles on politics, law, and society, including a provocative discussion of the possibility of setting up a “Negro state”; and whimsies such as a short play, The Vestry Room, arguing against marriage. Mencken also wrote an immense article on the character and political career of Theodore Roosevelt. As the author of numerous unsigned editorials that articulated the paper’s policy, Mencken wrote on such subjects as the presidency of William Howard Taft, the peccadilloes of local politicians, and the new industry of aviation. In all, Mencken reveals his customary wit, perspicacity, and outspokenness in this diverse array of journalism.
Plunging into work in the newly founded Baltimore Evening Sun, H. L. Mencken contributed an array of articles, reviews, and commentary on a wide range of subjects during the summer and fall of 1910. His philosophical mentor, Friedrich Nietzsche, comes under scrutiny. Several articles on the theatre, including a piece on George Bernard Shaw, display Mencken’s continuing interest in the drama. Discussions on the issue of health include a disquisition on cholera and a denial that cigarette smoking is harmful. In “The Two Englishes,” Mencken outlines the distinctions between British and American English. Mencken also takes a stand in support of woman suffrage. In his voluminous unsigned editorials for this period, Mencken also spans the spectrum of subjects, from the political fortunes of Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson to his customary satirical attacks on the institution of marriage. In all, this volume once again demonstrates why H. L. Mencken was the most scintillating and perspicacious journalist of his era.
In this volume of his writings in the Baltimore Evening Sun, H. L. Mencken writes a series of important papers stressing the differences between American and British English, especially as it is spoken by the inhabitants of the two countries. These papers set the stage for Mencken’s pioneering treatise, The American Language (1919). Other articles reveal Mencken’s continuing fascination for the drama, with pieces on Henrik Ibsen, August Strindberg, Henri Bataille, Jerome K. Jerome, Percy Mackaye, and Clyde Fitch. Political affairs also engage Mencken’s attention, with essays on the campaign for direct election of senators and the British Parliament’s attempts to reform the House of Commons. In a flurry of unsigned editorials, Mencken ranges widely in tone and subject matter, from political turmoil in Russia and China to the “fraud” of pumpkin pie. Once again, Mencken displays his virtuosity as a sharp-witted, controversial, and eminently readable commentator.
In this volume of his writings in the Baltimore Evening Sun, H. L. Mencken devotes three separate articles to the Baltimore poet Lizette Woodworth Reese, whose work he admired. Several essays on the drama, ranging from Shakespeare to such contemporary playwrights as Edmond Rostand, Arthur Wing Pinero, and James Forbes, exhibit Mencken’s continuing fascination with the stage. His devotion to music is displayed in articles on Richard Strauss and on the balalaika. In the realm of politics, Mencken spends considerable time on the proposed 16th Amendment (the direct election of senators), as well as on the “Oregon plan”—a proposal for “direct election of all officers who have to do with framing and execution of the laws.” An article on the follies of the anti-vaccination movement proves to be very timely today. In an array of unsigned editorials, Mencken ranges widely from lampooning local politicians to the Mexican civil war to home rule for Ireland. In all, another rich feast of criticism, humor, and satire from America’s leading journalist.
In this volume of his writings from the Baltimore Evening Sun, H. L. Mencken continues to display his fascination with the drama, writing articles on Shakespeare, the history of drama in India, Rachel Crothers, Mary Austin, and other playwrights. He also writes articles on minstrelsy and vaudeville, demonstrating his interest in dramatic entertainment for the masses. A pungent review-article on contemporary poetry shows Mencken poking fun at poetasters of all sorts. The bulk of this volume consists of unsigned editorials, as Mencken’s signed articles were abruptly curtailed once he began writing the “Free Lance” column in May. These unsigned editorials run the gamut in subject-matter, from sendups of local politicians to discussions of the pleasures of eating to political and military events around the world. Once again, Mencken displays the breadth of his interests and his unfailing wit and pungency.
The Anglo-Irish writer Lord Dunsany (1878-1957) was a pioneering author of fantasy fiction. In his first book, The Gods of Pegana (1905), he introduced an entire cosmogony of gods, demigods, and worshippers in an imaginary land. Subsequent volumes, such as A Dreamer’s Tales (1910) and The Book of Wonder (1912), made Dunsany one of the most acclaimed writers of his time. He also attained celebrity for his plays, staged both at the Abbey Theatre in Dublin and in London and New York. In the 1920s he began writing novels, including The King of Elfland’s Daughter (1924). In the 1930s he wrote several poignant novels about Ireland, including The Curse of the Wise Woman (1933) and The Story of Mona Sheehy (1939). Dunsany continued to write prolifically for decades, and his output includes short stories, novels, plays, essays, and poetry. S. T. Joshi, one of the leading authorities on weird fiction, has written a comprehensive study of Dunsany’s entire work, identifying reunification with the natural world as the central theme that shapes nearly the totality of his writing. Joshi’s analysis reveals the depth and richness of an author whose work has influenced J. R. R. Tolkien, Ursula K. Le Guin, and many other writers of fantasy fiction.
This volume of H. L. Mencken’s writings consists almost entirely of unsigned editorials, although there is a long and detailed signed article on the Democratic National Convention of 1912, when Woodrow Wilson was nominated. But as Mencken had begun writing his “Free Lance” columns in May 1911, he had little time to write other work aside from these occasional articles on the editorial page. They continue to focus on Mencken’s pet subjects: the preeminence of Maryland over other states in the art of cuisine; political shenanigans, both locally and nationally; the urgent need to rid the world of typhoid, cholera, tuberculosis, and other serious diseases; and world affairs, ranging from Canada and Mexico to England, Germany, and China. Other articles exhibit Mencken’s continuing interest in drama, the opera, and music in general. Throughout, H. L. Mencken displays the wit, perspicacity, and satirical instincts characteristic of all his writing.
On May 8, 1911, H. L. Mencken began a column in the Baltimore Evening Sun entitled “The World in Review.” The next day he retitled it “The Free Lance”—and continued writing the column six days a week for the next four and a half years. This enormous body of work, totalling about 1200 columns and amounting to 1.5 million words, is an incredibly rich storehouse of Mencken’s opinions on a wide array of topics. In some columns he addresses serious issues: the distressing prevalence of typhoid in the larger American cities, including Baltimore; the pestiferious influence of the Anti-Saloon League in promoting prohibition of alcoholic beverages; and all manner of political malfeasance both locally and nationally. But in most of his columns he displays his pungent satirical wit, lampooning poetasters, self-righteous moralists, and political and literary hacks of every description. In several columns Mencken begins outlining his views of the “American language,” the distinctive slang that Americans have adopted as a departure from formal English; Mencken later wrote a landmark treatise on the subject. Throughout these columns, H. L. Mencken displays the perspicacity and penchant for humor and satire that made him the greatest journalist of his day.
During his more than four decades as a critic, editor, and reviewer in the field of weird fiction, S. T. Joshi has repeatedly been the subject of a wide range of interviews. As the leading authority on H. P. Lovecraft, Joshi has given dozens of interviews in which he recounts his work on this controversial author—restoring the texts of Lovecraft’s works, assessing the major themes and motifs in his writings, gauging his wide influence on subsequent literature and on popular culture. In addition, Joshi’s all-encompassing study of weird fiction has led to interviews on Ambrose Bierce, Arthur Machen, Lord Dunsany, and other leading writers. As an anthologist, Joshi has recounted his compilation of the Black Wings series and other volumes of weird fiction. Beyond this field, Joshi has made lasting contributions in the study of atheism, politics, and the work of H. L. Mencken. This volume reprints for the first time forty interviews that Joshi has given from 1989 to 2019. In addition, there are a handful of autobiographical essays in which Joshi tells of his early fascination with Lovecraft and his life as an atheist and critic. For anyone interested in the life and work of S. T. Joshi, this is an invaluable volume.
For more than four decades, S. T. Joshi has been a prominent figure in the field of weird fiction—as author, editor, scholar, and reviewer. He is chiefly known for his work on H. P. Lovecraft, and he has prepared corrected and annotated editions of Lovecraft’s fiction, poetry, essays, and letters, along with such critical and biographical studies as H. P. Lovecraft: The Decline of the West (1990) and I Am Providence: The Life and Times of H. P. Lovecraft (2010). Joshi has also written pioneering criticism of the entire range of weird fiction, in such books as The Weird Tale (1990) and Unutterable Horror: A History of Supernatural Fiction (2012). He has compiled editions of such leading authors of weird fiction as Lord Dunsany, Algernon Blackwood, Ambrose Bierce, and Arthur Machen. In addition, he has written some of the most incisive reviews in the field, as well as a small but choice array of detective and horror fiction. This compilation presents a full bibliography of Joshi’s 300 books, along with lists of his articles, reviews, fiction, and poetry, along with an introduction that provides an overview of Joshi’s work. This is the essential guide to one of the most prolific and influential authors in the field.
H. L. Mencken’s “Free Lance” columns during the final quarter of 1911 continue to range over a wide array of subjects. He criticizes the extreme measures advocated by the Maryland Anti-Vivisection Society; he attacks local politicians, from the mayor on down, for sundry instances of malfeasance; he repeatedly censures the city of Baltimore for failing to curtail outbreaks of typhoid; he ridicules various organizations promoting medical quackery. Along the way, Mencken finds occasion to discuss poetry and fiction (including Theodore Dreiser’s novel Jennie Gerhardt), and he also presents a pungent letter from “Nicholas Satan” on the city’s Sunday laws. A moving column on Baltimore’s poor treatment of its African American citizens, leading to unacceptably high instances of disease among its population, points to Mencken’s devotion to the cause of “common decency” and the vital role of journalists in fostering it.
In this volume of his “Free Lance” column, H. L. Mencken devotes several segments to a robust defense of woman suffrage, destroying with relentless logic every argument put forth by those who opposed women’s right to vote. Elsewhere, he takes potshots at his usual targets—malfeasance by politicians, quack doctors, corporate shills, religious and social moralists, and others. Vice crusaders (especially those who rail against liquor and prostitution) come in for pungent rebuttal. He continues to expose the poor efforts of Baltimore to control outbreaks of typhoid, satirically presenting the standings of the “National Typhoid League” to indicate how badly his native city lags behind other metropolises in combating the disease. Literature, drama, and music are not ignored. In his last column in this volume, Mencken announces a six-week holiday (to be spent in Europe), with his column resuming in early June.
As a boy, R. H. Barlow (1918–1937) became fascinated with the genres of fantasy, horror, and science fiction. Striking up an early friendship with H. P. Lovecraft, Barlow got in touch with a number of other leading figures in the field, including Clark Ashton Smith, A. Merritt, Donald Wandrei, and C. L. Moore. Joining the National Amateur Press Association, Barlow issued two fine issues of a paper called The Dragon-Fly in 1935 and 1936, using his own printing press and including the work of some of the authors he had corresponded with. In 1937 and 1938, he published two large issues of a mimeographed magazine, Leaves, that included previously unpublished work by Lovecraft, Moore, and many other writers, including some of his own fine stories. These issues are fabulously rare, but they have now been reprinted in a reset edition that displays Barlow’s precocity and his keen editorial skills. A bountiful mix of fiction, poetry, essays, and commentary, these issues of The Dragon-Fly and Leaves constitute some of the most substantial contributions to the imaginative literature of their time.
After returning from an extended vacation in Europe, H. L. Mencken resumed his “Free Lance” column with his customary perspicacity and irreverence. He weighs in on the battle between Theodore Roosevelt and the incumbent president, William Howard Taft, in the election campaign of 1912. He ridicules the fruitless attempts of longtime Baltimore political boss “Sonny” Mahon to be selected as vice-president at the Democratic National Convention. He continues to rail against temperance activism, Sunday laws, medical quackery, and the stubbornly high rate of typhoid infections in Baltimore as compared to other American cities. Throughout his columns, Mencken’s sprightly wit, his willingness to take on the most powerful forces—political, legal, and religious—in Baltimore and the entire United States, and his deftness in skewering individuals guilty of malfeasance and stupidity are on display. It is no surprise that Mencken is regarded as America’s leading journalist and one of its greatest satirists.
In this volume of his “Free Lance” columns, H. L. Mencken continues to address political, social, and literary issues confronting his native city, his country, and the world. He takes aim at the “vice crusade,” boldly recommending quasi-legalization of prostitution as a safety measure. He once again criticizes many American cities, including Baltimore, for failing to stem outbreaks of typhoid. He finds much merit in Theodore Dreiser’s new novel, The Financier. And he relentlessly attacks the preachers, do-gooders, and other “moral crusaders” who think that a utopia will be ushered in if only we banish cigarettes, liquor, and other objects of their wrath. Throughout these columns, Mencken uses the sharp weapons of humor, satire, and parody to score his points—and to amuse his readers.
William Waldorf Astor (1848–1919) was a member of one of the wealthiest families in the English-speaking world, a family that had major branches in both the United States and England. Astor was born in New York City but emigrated to England in 1891. There, he engaged in politics, the acquisition of real estate (the estate of Cliveden, among others), and other activities. Among these was the establishment of a magazine, the Pall Mall Magazine, that published many of his own short stories. Astor, who had been the United States Minister to Italy in the 1880s, formed a great love of Europe and the classical world, and his writings reflect these interests. Several of his stories broach the supernatural, featuring characters who are reincarnations of figures from remote antiquity. Others recount the continued existence of the Greco-Roman gods. A whole series of tales are set in ancient Egypt; others are set in the Italy of the medieval and Renaissance eras. Astor enlivens his narratives with touching accounts of unrequited love, the terror of supernatural incursion, and the general ambiance of classical antiquity and myth. This volume features 16 of Astor’s best stories, several of them reprinted here for the first time.
As he approached his second full year of writing “The Free Lance&lrquo; for the Baltimore Evening Sun, H. L. Mencken continued to expatiate on an array of topics in the realms of politics, society, and culture. He advocates the liberalization of laws against prostitution; he defends the mispronunciation of foreign words as a feature of the “American language&lrquo;; he condemns the quackery associated with such movements as Christian Science and the “New Thought&lrquo;; he continues to argue in support of woman suffrage; he rails against attempts to ban alcohol, cigarettes, and other products, and attacks moral crusaders generally. Elsewhere, he broaches other subjects, as in his grim description of the hanging of an African American felon, as well as a forceful assertion of the citizen's right to defy unjust and immoral laws. Throughout, Mencken displays the perspicacity, pungency, and irreverence that made him the most celebrated journalist of his era.
For decades, S. T. Joshi has been a leading critic of horror and supernatural fiction. In this new collection of his miscellaneous essays, Joshi addresses not only the broader issues relating to weird fiction but also many of the key writers in the field over the past century or more. Joshi uses his expertise in classical literature to trace the supernatural in Greek and Latin literature, and also presents overviews of such central motifs as the ghost story and the haunted house. Among the writers of weird fiction’s “golden age” (c. 1880–1940), Joshi probes the work of Ambrose Bierce, Arthur Machen, Algernon Blackwood, and others. H. P. Lovecraft has long been a central focus of Joshi’s scholarship, and he presents several trenchant articles here: Lovecraft’s relations to Gothic fiction and to Edgar Allan Poe; his landmark essay, “Supernatural Horror in Literature”; and his influence on Fritz Leiber, August Derleth, and others. Joshi is also well versed in contemporary weird fiction, as his essays on Ramsey Campbell, W. H. Pugmire, Caitlín R. Kiernan, and others demonstrate. In all, this volume displays Joshi’s critical acuity in the entire realm of the weird in literature.
As he began his third year of his controversial “Free Lance” column, H. L. Mencken felt ever free to speak boldly and pungently on the follies of the day. He continues to lampoon the ludicrous arguments of those who opposed woman suffrage; he continues to criticize Baltimore for its laxity in the treatment of tuberculosis, typhoid, and other diseases; he continues to protest the hounding of sex workers, as if that will solve the problem of which they are only the symptom; he ridicules increasing attempts to ban liquor, cigarettes, and other supposed “vices. Mencken was battling an array of “moral legislation” being proposed throughout the nation, recognizing that one person’s immorality is another person’s rational pleasure. As he states in a column, “the most ignorant man is always the most sure that his right is the right, and that all other rights are bogus.” And he understood that the best weapons against such fanaticism and quackery were reasoned argument wrapped in a patina of satire and ridicule. It was a technique that he honed in these columns and carried on throughout his long career.
The history of American racism begins with the initial white settlement of the continent in the early 17th century and continues up to the present day. Recent events have brought renewed attention to this long and painful history, but few Americans are aware of the degree to which racist sentiments infiltrated the highest levels of American culture and thought. This volume brings together dozens of writings from leading writers (Walt Whitman, Mark Twain, Henry James), thinkers (Madison Grant, William Graham Sumner, Henry George), and even presidents (Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson, Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt), who all expressed prejudicial opinions in varying degrees. The book contains specific sections on African Americans, Jews, Latinos, Asians, and other minorities, and concludes with a lengthy section on the debate over immigration. All told, these writings display how pervasive racism has been in our society; but it will be impossible to overcome it unless we face the history of prejudicial thought unflinchingly.
In this volume of his “Free Lance” columns for the Baltimore Evening Sun, H. L. Mencken continues his satirical look at the follies of his native city, the nation, and the world. Once again he attacks “vice crusaders” (opponents of liquor, prostitution, and other purported “sins”) for trying to enforce their own disapproval upon free citizens. Such pressure groups as the Anti-Saloon League, the Lord’s Day Alliance (which was lobbying for the banning of nearly all leisure activities on Sundays), and the Maryland Anti-Vivisection Society were, in Mencken’s opinion, merely nuisances whose attempts to enforce “moral legislation” were bound to have unintended consequences. As he wrote in the column of November 25, 1913: “At the bottom of all the current agitation lies the pernicious theory, now so lamentably prevalent, that the way to cure all ills is by furious and ferocious suppression.” At the same time, Mencken believed that genuine social ills—the prevalence of dangerous patent medicines, political corruption at all levels, the general ignorance of the voting public—were being ignored. He spent a lifetime in seeking to cure them.
As he closed in on his fourth full year of his “Free Lance” column in the Baltimore Evening Sun, H. L. Mencken continued to engage with both his readers and with the public at large on issues that were vital to him. He continues to rail against the “New Puritanism” that sought to prohibit the sale or consumption of alcohol and to inflict heavy penalties upon sex workers. He writes numerous columns hilariously lambasting medical quacks of all sorts (including anti-vaccinationists), as well as the hysterical fears of “white slavery” (white women being kidnapped for sexual purposes), the proposal of restrictive “Sunday laws” that sought to ban a wide array of harmless activities on the Sabbath, and other absurdities, including the flamboyant revival meetings of Billy Sunday. His celebrated column of March 12 is an exhaustive chart of “The Uplift”—a catalogue of pie-in-the-sky reforms ranging from theosophy to Esperanto. Toward the end of this period, Mencken is preparing to head off for a several-week jaunt to Europe, undeterred by the rumblings of war in that troubled region.
The revolutionary findings of science in the 19th century created a furor in the realms of philosophy, religion, and general culture. Many intellectuals began doubting that the earth was only a few thousand years old or that God had created Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. The upholders of conventional religion were, however, not prepared to go down without a fight. And so former British prime minister William Ewart Gladstone ignited a controversy in the 1880s when he asserted that modern science actually confirmed the account of the creation of man and animal life as found in the Book of Genesis. His article led to a forceful rebuttal by Thomas Henry Huxley, one of the leading scientists of the day and a strong proponent of Darwin’s theory of evolution. Over the next several years the controversy continued to play out, shifting focus to the so-called “miracle” of the Gadarene swine (the Gospels’ account of how Jesus cured an insane person by expelling demons from his mind and thrusting them into the bodies of swine, who promptly killed themselves). The upshot of the controversy—here reprinted for the first time—shows how the defenders of religion were ill-matched to battle with the proponents of scientific truth.
H. L. Mencken returned from a six-week trip to Europe in late May 1914, immediately resuming his “Free Lance” column for the Baltimore Evening Sun. He continued his attacks on the customary array of follies and injustices that had animated his column for the past three years. Sunday laws in Baltimore (one of which prohibited the playing of baseball on that day) evoked his ire, as did the persistently high rate of death from typhoid in Baltimore as compared with other American cities. Mencken ruminates on the possibility of a national Prohibition amendment in the United States, which he regarded as a severe curtailment of civil liberties and one more instance of the Puritanism afflicting American society and politics. Patent medicines and other instances of medical quackery were always sure to provoke Mencken’s satirical pen. With the outbreak of World War I in early August, Mencken undertook a controversial defense of Germany’s actions (an understandable stance from this scion of German immigrants) that ultimately led to the termination of his column in a year’s time.
As H. L. Mencken’s “Free Lance” column in the Baltimore Evening Sun progressed into the fall and winter of 1914, the war was the chief topic of discussion. Mencken, continuing to take the German side in the conflict, rails at American newspapers’ siding with the Allies and their accounts of German “atrocities,” which Mencken disputes. In a remarkable column on October 28, Mencken presents extensive evidence of atrocities committed during the Civil War, suggesting that such events are endemic to war. He ridicules the idea that England and the Allies are fighting for democracy (“Hypocrisy is at the very heart of England”). In other columns, Mencken continues to lament the growing fervor for prohibition of alcoholic beverages—a movement he sees as part of a trend of “moral legislation” that is doomed to failure. In December Mencken resumes his discussion of the “American language”—the racy vernacular spoken by the common people in defiance of schoolmarms and grammarians.
The progress of the war was in the forefront of H. L. Mencken’s mind during most of the “Free Lance” columns included in this volume. His inveterate support of the German side was creating problems with readers of the Baltimore Evening Sun, and Mencken was repeatedly compelled to rebut their criticisms of him. He sorely tested his readers’ patience by a defense of German U-boats’ sinking of neutral vessels in the Atlantic—and went so far as to defend even the sinking of the Lusitania in early May. But other issues did engage Mencken’s attention. He enjoyed poking fun at the itinerant evangelist Billy Sunday, whom Mencken sees as just one more example of the rampant Puritanism overrunning the country—a tendency at the heart of the “vice crusade,” Prohibition, and other evils. And we can hardly overlook the column for February 3, which features a wide array of cynical aphorisms worthy of Ambrose Bierce (“Suicide: a belated acquiescence in the opinion of one’s wife’s relatives”).
In this final volume of H. L. Mencken’s “Free Lance” column in the Baltimore Evening Sun, the war in Europe is an ever-present reality. He denigrates English and Russian victories over Germany and vigorously opposes the United States’ entry into the war on the side of the Allies, condemning the “bogus neutrality” whereby the U.S. clearly sides with England but refuses to admit it openly. But Mencken also devotes time to attacking the restrictive “Blue Laws” that ban all manner of harmless activities on Sundays, and he continues to combat the increasing push toward prohibition of the sale and consumption of alcohol. In his second-to-last column, he presents an updated “chart of the uplift,” outlining the many movements for moral or social reform that he believes will amount to nothing. But it was Mencken’s relentless support of Germany in the war—a highly unpopular stance in Baltimore—that led to the abrupt termination of his column on October 23.
Leslie Stephen (1832–1904) was one of the towering intellectual figures of the Victorian age. Author of such celebrated works as History of English Thought in the Eighteenth Century and The English Utilitarians, he wrote literary criticism, philosophy, and much other work. This volume includes Stephen’s provocative essays on religion. In many of his essays he not only expounded his own agnostic beliefs, but maintained that many avowed Christians were also unwitting agnostics in their inability or unwillingness to define the precise nature and attributes of the god they believed in. In several essays Stephen discusses the intellectual ferment caused by Darwin’s theory of evolution, and he engages in a long rumination on the morality and effiacy of suppressing “poisonous” beliefs. This volume—which includes essays that have never been reprinted from their original appearances in magazines of the later 19th century—is the first of a multi-volume series that will reprint Stephen’s collected shorter essays on a wide variety of topics.
In the two years after H. L. Mencken gave up his “Free Lance” column in the Baltimore Evening Sun, he largely avoided discussing the course of World War I, since it was his vigorous support of Germany that had led to the cessation of his column. Instead, he focused on broader issues of literature, politics, and morality. A four-part article on the work of Joseph Conrad and several articles on Theodore Dreiser showed how Mencken valued these “masculine” writers’ approach to literature and life. Music remained a constant interest, as articles on Haydn, Tchaikovsky, and Dvorak’s “New World Symphony” attest. An article on the “American language” points to his groundbreaking 1919 book on the subject. His satirical edge remained keen, as demonstrated by a pungent article on Christian Science. In February 1917, Mencken made a perilous visit to Berlin, and over the next month he wrote numerous reports of how he and other Americans had difficulty leaving the country in the wake of the United States’ breaking off of diplomatic relations with that nation. He had to be evacuated by way of Cuba, where he witnessed a revolution and wrote several vibrant articles about it. After his final piece, he would not write again for the Evening Sun for nearly three years.
Throughout his long life, Leslie Stephen addressed the religious views of a number of intellectuals from the seventeenth century to his own day. He keenly pointed out weaknesses in their defenses of religious orthodoxy, maintaining that several figures were actually unwitting skeptics. In an early paper he dissects Matthew Arnold's clumsy advocacy on behalf of the Anglican church; and in two hard-hitting essays he skewers the obscurantism and poor reasoning in the work of John Henry Newman, who began as a proponent of the Oxford Movement of High Church Anglicans and then migrated to the Roman Catholic church. Stephen expressed surprising sympathy for the American firebrand Jonathan Edwards, chiefly because Edwards had the courage of his convictions. Essays on Pascal, Voltaire, and Spinoza display Stephen's sophistication in dealing with these complex thinkers, while his essays on the atheist Charles Bradlaugh and the agnostic scientist Thomas Henry Huxley show his closely he identified with these figures. In all, Stephen's essays are invariably perspicacious and written with grace and elegance.
When H L. Mencken resumed writing for the Baltimore Evening Sun in early 1920, after a nearly three-year hiatus, he plunged immediately into the political, social, and cultural issues of the dawning Jazz Age. Much of his focus was on the manifold absurdities and injustices of Prohibition, which he vigorously opposed and mercilessly lampooned as a violation of civil liberties. The impending presidential election, in which the Republican Warren G. Harding would face the Democrat James M. Cox, led to hilarious articles on the buffooneries at the Republican and Democratic national conventions. Harding won in a landslide, and Mencken wrote pungent pieces on Harding’s inauguration in March 1921. Along the way, Mencken found time to write articles on subjects ranging from Albert Einstein to the Dempsey-Carpentier boxing match of July 2, 1921, along with reviews of books by H. G. Wells, Joseph Conrad, James Branch Cabell, and others.
As H L. Mencken got into the swing of his “Monday articles” in the Baltimore Evening Sun, he focused on several key issues: the ongoing buffooneries of Prohibition, the increasing corruption in the Harding administration, and the naïve optimism of those who hope for international peace and disarmament. But he also devoted several pungent articles to a condemnation of the Ku Klux Klan, one of several “imbecile organizations” that, in Mencken’s view, propounded a “Know Nothing” outlook. He also wrote keenly on the unjust imprisonment of the communists Sacco and Vanzetti. A hilarious rewriting of the Declaration of Independence into American slang highlights Mencken’s enthusiasm for the “American language.” His annoyance with the telephone seems highly prescient in our era of overconnectivity. Along the way, Mencken takes detours to address issues relating to literature, art, and general culture. These articles testify to how H. L. Mencken uses the entire world as fodder for his trenchant commentary.
This volume of Leslie Stephen’s collected essays contains more than a dozen substantial articles he wrote on philosophy and philosophers from 1869 to 1901. Among his earlier pieces is a keen essay dissecting the philosophical system of Auguste Comte. He also addresses the attempt by Henry Sidgwick to reconcile philosophy and religion. (Stephen, who was acquainted with Sidgwick, wrote a summary of his life and work upon Sidgwick’s death.) A long piece on “What Is Materialism?” refutes the misconceptions that many religious thinkers had made regarding the principles of materialism. As an authority on ethics, Stephen devotes attention to such issues as the “moral sanction” and the aims of ethical societies. A trenchant criticism of William James’s theory of the “will to believe” is one of Stephen’s notable later papers. Throughout these essays, Leslie Stephen regards the very act of philosophizing with a substantial degree of skepticism.
S. T. Joshi’s latest volume of his critical essays and reviews of weird fiction features dozens of short articles on many of the leading figures in the realm of supernatural fiction, from Lord Dunsany to Robert Aickman to Robert W. Chambers, Lengthier articles chronicle the life and important weird writings of such figures as Sir Walter Scott, Clemence Housman, and Algernon Blackwood. A section on H. P. Lovecraft and his circle features pieces on Lovecraft as essayist and poet; his devotion to cats; and assessments of the work of R. H. Barlow and Frank Belknap Long. Among the essays on contemporary writers, we find evaluations of Nicole Cushing, Ramsey Campbell, and several weird poets. A final section of personal essays contains Joshi’s tributes to the recently deceased writers W. H. Pugmire and Sam Gafford. Throughout, Joshi’s perspicacity, clarity of expression, and sensitivity to philosophical and aesthetic nuance are plainly evident.
For the past two decades, S. T. Joshi has emerged as one of the sharpest commentators on the follies of religion and politics. Combining keen analytical skills with pungent satire, Joshi is a modern-day Ambrose Bierce or H. L. Mencken in skewering religious fanatics, right-wing politicians, and others who have exhibited their stupidity and ineptitude for all to see. In this book, Joshi assembles the essays and reviews he has written for The American Rationalist, a journal he edited from 2011 to 2017. He lambastes the work of Alister E. McGrath, Robert P. George, Todd Burpo, David Skeel, Rice Broocks, and others who blunderingly seek to defend Christian doctrine, and he also dissects the hollow and superficial work of Joe Scarborough and other conservative commentators. Other reviews address such issues as the Bible’s attitude toward gays and lesbians, the Second Amendment, and other key issues. Joshi’s column, “The Stupidity Watch,” is a wide-ranging lampoon of the myriad forms of stupidity exhibited by politicians, clerics, and the general public. Here we see the buffooneries of Republican politicians, fundamentalist preachers, and average citizens held up to impolite ridicule. The former president Donald J. Trump is not spared. In this third revised edition, several substantial essays on the history of atheism have been added, lending a valuable historical perspective on the contemporary battle between freethinkers and the devout.
S. T. Joshi’s literary career has spanned nearly five decades. Among the earliest of his writings were stories and poems he wrote while attending Burris Laboratory School in Muncie, Indiana, which appeared in the literary magazine he established there, the Forum (1974–76). These tales, crude as they are, reveal his developing interest in weird fiction, running the gamut from pure supernaturalism to psychological terror to satire and parody. The influence of H. P. Lovecraft is evident in such tales as “The Recurring Doom” and “The Wells Manuscript.” A detective novella written in 1979, Tragedy at Sarsfield Manor, is a somewhat more polished work. Joshi also wrote many poems in high school. These are not weird but instead are philosophical, exhibiting the depths of his cynicism, pessimism, and misanthropy. An appendix contains some book reviews he wrote in 1973–74, including his first writings on Lovecraft.
Leslie Stephen was best known to his contemporaries as a literary critic. Essays on literature and literary figures dominate his two best-known series of books, Hours in a Library and Studies of a Biographer. But in an array of essays on general literary topics, most of which have remained uncollected until this volume, Stephen discusses the broad outlines of his view of the art and craft of literature. He addresses the notion that authors write too much; the purpose of criticism; the relation between art and morality; and such topics as humor, autobiography, and the interrelation of science and romance. In these bracing essays, Stephen brings his characteristic clarity of thought, pungency of expression, and keen insight into literature from both an aesthetic and sociopolitical perspective. The result is a series of essays written over more than thirty years that vividly capture the state of literature and criticism in the waning years of the Victorian age in England.