This lady is knitting a sock on her dp needles. I decided to do mine on a sleeve needle (a 10″ circular) with help from dps of the same size. I knew you were wondering.
Mencken, having dealt with the origin and growth of religion, has moved on to Christianity. He has some unuusal points of view. For example, he suggests that Jesus “preached a scheme of conduct that was bearable only on the assumption that it would not have to be borne very long — that is…that the kingdom of God was at hand.” He is referring to chastity and humility, here, as well as concern for others and repudiation of materialism. In reading him, I cannot help thinking — often — that he is very smart and very well-read. Since I spend most of my time with smart, well-read people, I rarely notice this in a writer. So I figure I can say with assurance that Mencken was a very smart and knowledgeable guy.
He is aware of this. His writing is filled with distinctions between the civilized and enlightened person — himself — and the “savages,” the ones not “worth knowing.” His scorn for the ordinary person, and his satisfaction in being one of the “small minority” of worthwhile people, is a bitter wash flowing through his otherwise entertaining works. If you have only read isolated remarks of his on Jews, Southerners, or some other group, you might think of him as a man filled with prejudices. Instead, he is a man filled with bitter disdain for nearly everyone in the world.
I think he must also have been miserable. You hear sometimes about geniuses who, although they were so obnoxious that most people avoided them, had families who shielded them and cared for them in spite of how awful they were. As an undergraduate, I had a prof who once said to me and another student, “Of course, my husband is a very unpleasant man.” There is nothing she could have said that would have shocked us more. Maybe Mencken was in this position. Or perhaps he was the center of a social set composed entirely of nasty old curmudgeons who all enjoyed one another’s company.
Until I find out, though, I have to think of him as a smart, well-read, but miserable old coot, his bitterness ameliorated by his pleasure in writing barbed comments about all the pleasant, happy people around him. Indeed, he calls happiness itself a “boozy delusion of well-being.”
Mencken, writing in 1930, expected religion to be done away with entirely by science fairly shortly thereafter. Already, he said, “no one worth knowing,” “no man of dignity,” “no reasonable person” held religious beliefs. He died in 1956, and I suppose the fact that religion lived on beyond him would be for him another “argument against the human race.”