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"Ich Kuss Die Hand", "Ich Kuss Die Hand", 0817350152, 0-8173-5015-2, 978-0-8173-5015-4, 9780817350154,

"Ich Kuss Die Hand"
The Letters of H. L. Mencken To Gretchen Hood

Quality Paper
2003. 168 pp.
978-0-8173-5015-4
Price:  $29.95 s

What started as a correspondence between an illustrious personage and an ardent fan developed into a friendship between two individuals with congenial temperaments, interests, and tastes
 
“Ich Kuss Die Hand”: The Letters of H. L. Mencken to Gretchen Hood relates an episode in Mencken's life that has received only passing mention from his biographers. Gretchen Hood's acquaintance with the journalistic life of Washington formed a bond with Mencken, who thought of himself, first and foremost, as an inveterate newspaper­man (they playfully entertained the idea of starting their own Wash­ington newspaper), and she had a ready appreciation for his per­formances as a connoisseur of the Washington political spectacle. Mencken, the amateur musician and music buff, respected her talent and professional background.
 
His letters indicate that he found in her an intelligent, witty, and charming respondent to his characteristic traits of personality and style. She both flattered his ego and challenged him to exhibit his celebrated manner at its best. On her part, Hood was not simply awestruck by Mencken's attentions but met them with her independent verve. “Nothing scared me,” she later said of her attitude; “ready to take on all comers.” Mencken liked to refer to her as “a licensed outlaw,” a designation that captures his impression of her and describes as well the fashionable unconventionality, which fueled the Mencken vogue.
 
Mencken wrote Hood over two hundred letters, and she must have written him about the same number. For much of the time they corresponded, they exchanged several letters every month, sometimes as many as four or five a week. As their communications blossomed into a four-year friendship, personal meetings soon supplemented the flow of letters.
 
Henry Louis "H. L." Mencken was an American journalist, essayist, magazine editor, satirist, acerbic critic of American life and culture, and a student of American English. Mencken, known as the “Sage of Baltimore;&rdquo, is regarded as one of the most influential American writers and prose stylists of the first half of the 20th century.

Peter W. Dowell teaches English and American Studies at Emory University. He received his B.A. from Princeton University and his M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota.

“Dowell has edited the collection skillfully: with an enlightening introduction, thorough annotation of the letters, and quotation from Mencken’s published writing pertinent to the correspondences . . . it shows the Baltimorean cavorting at the height of his notoriety, his endless fascination with this ‘republic of go-getters’ that provided such a wealth of material and so much delight.”
American Literature

“As Peter Dowell observes in his informative introduction, the constant joking, the callow invective about friends and enemies, and the incessant monitoring of his own health masked the private Mencken. . . . [S]till he could be generous and brave and even conscious of the slightly ridiculous figure he cut.”
Times Literary Supplement

“Mencken wrote nearly 250 letters, postcards, and telegrams to Hood. In this bright little volume, Peter Dowell includes slightly more than half of those missives. . . . [His] editing of the letters is in every way admirable, as is his introduction.”
American Spectator

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