H. L. Mencken presents master styling in A Book of Prefaces (1917), Damn! (1918), and The American Credo (1920). Prefaces is a book of literary criticism containing the essays Joseph Conrad, Theodore Dreiser, James Huneker, and Puritanism as a Literary Force. He hoped that "they may at least blow a wind through the prevailing fogs, and reveal what is sound and important in some first-rate books." The ensuing intellectual battle energized a generation. Damn! A Book of Calumny contains some of Mencken's wittier turns in its forty-nine short essays. It has been mined for anthologies, but has never before been reprinted as a whole. The American Credo: A Contribution Toward the Interpretation of the National Mind contains four hundred and eighty-eight articles, co-written by drama critic George Jean Nathan, about American popular belief.
H. L. Mencken (1880-1956) lived his whole life in Baltimore, and as a newspaperman he was primarily associated with the Baltimore Sun. His columns reached a national audience through syndication, making him a well-known critic of war fever, every president from "Roosevelt I" to "Roosevelt II," censorship, the Ku Klux Klan and rampant lynching in the South, Prohibition, and the residual Puritanism which, in his definition, underlay most of America's problems. He directed his writing to what he called the "civilized minority."