Mencken No. 3

Terry Teachout reviews Marion Elizabeth Rodger’s Mencken: The American Iconoclast, in The New Criterion:

Mencken You don’t pour years of your life into writing a biography unless you feel an initial bond of sympathy with the subject, and, though many a biographer has grown disillusioned along the way, it’s obvious from reading Mencken: The American Iconoclast that Rodgers still admires and, just as important, likes the man about whom she has written. But how closely does that man resemble the real H. L. Mencken? Have Rodgers’s sympathies led her to smooth his rough edges, or downplay less palatable aspects of Mencken’s work that might not sit well alongside her frank admiration? The answer, I suspect, will depend on how much you yourself like Mencken. Rodgers has been honest enough about his unattractive aspects. The coldness, the opportunism, even the anti-Semitism (though she never goes quite so far as to call it that) are all amply documented in her book. Nevertheless, she clearly feels the bad to be vastly outweighed by the good…

More here.