A Saturnalia of Bunk
Selections from The Free Lance, 1911–1915

By H. L. Mencken
Edited by S. T. Joshi

“This is the latest of Joshi’s important contributions to the broadening of Mencken’s general audience, at a time when the Sage of Baltimore’s star is once again on the rise. Thanks to collections like this, he is reclaiming his position as America’s greatest journalist and (next only to his idol Twain) its greatest humorist and satirist.”

Richard J. Schrader, author of H.L. Mencken: A Documentary Volume

“In this collection … we get a sense of the issues that defined Mencken’s voice—freedom from censorship and battling against temperance and other moral reform movements among them—and the passion behind a man hellbent on ridding his community of, as he writes, ‘stupidity, flapdoodle, and buncombe.’”

Baltimore Magazine

“This book fills a significant gap in the republication of Mencken’s newspaper work and criticism, and with Joshi’s judicious selection and substantial critical introduction, makes an important and useful contribution to Mencken scholarship.”

Frederick Betz, editor of Menckeniana

H. L. Mencken’s reputation as a journalist and cultural critic of the twentieth century has endured well into the twenty-first. His early contributions as a writer, however, are not very well known. He began his journalistic career as early as 1899 and in 1910 cofounded the Baltimore Evening Sun. The next year he initiated a column—The Free Lance—that ran six days a week for four and a half years, until the Sun discontinued it, partially in response to Mencken’s controversial defense of Germany during World War One.

In this early forum for his renowned wit, Mencken broached many of the issues to which he would return again and again over his career, establishing himself as a fearless iconoclast willing to tackle the most divisive subjects and apply a heady mix of observation, satire, and repartee to clear away what he regarded as the “saturnalia of bunk” that clouded American thinking. The Free Lance reveals Mencken at his scintillating best as a journalist, polemicist, and satirist.

These columns are collected here for the first time, edited and annotated by Mencken expert and critic S. T. Joshi. This extraordinary collection is an invaluable resource for Mencken scholars and fans and provides an entertaining immersion into the early twentieth-century American zeitgeist.

S. T. Joshi has edited several collections of Mencken’s writings, including H. L. Mencken on American Literature, Mencken’s America, and Mencken on Mencken: A New Collection of Autobiographical Writings. He is also an authority on literature of the supernatural and author of The Weird Tale, Unutterable Horror: A History of Supernatural Fiction, and other critical and biographical studies.

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Essays · American Literature · Journalism



Retail price: $49.95, S.
Release date: Jul. 2017
284 pages · 6 × 9 in.
Rights: World


Release date: Jul. 2017
≅ 284 pages
Rights: World