The Days TrilogyBook - 2014
In 1936, at the age of fifty-five, H. L. Mencken published a reminiscence of his Baltimore boyhood in The New Yorker . With this modest beginning, Mencken embarked on what would become the Days trilogy, a long and magnificent adventure in autobiography by America's greatest journalist. Finding it 'always agreeable to ponder upon the adventures of childhood' (as he wrote in his diary), Mencken created more of these masterful novelistic evocations of a bygone era, eventually collected in Happy Days (1940). The book was an immediate critical and popular success, surprising many of its readers with its glimpses of a less curmudgeonly Mencken.
Urged by New Yorker editor Harold Ross to send yet more pieces, Mencken moved on from his childhood to revisit the beginnings of his legendary career. Newspaper Days (1941) charts the rise of the brilliant, ambitious young newspaperman, in an astonishingly short time, from cub reporter to managing editor of the Baltimore Herald. Among the book's memorable episodes are the display of Mencken's 'talent for faking' in his invented dispatches of the Battle of Tsushima in the Russo-Japanese War - accounts that largely turned out to be accurate - and his riveting narrative of the Great Baltimore Fire of 1904. 'In my day a reporter who took an assignment was wholly on his own until he got back to the office, . . . today he tends to become only a homunculus at the end of a telephone wire.'
The final volume of the published trilogy, Heathen Days (1943), recounts his varied excursions as one of America's most famous men, and one who, by his own account, 'enjoyed himself immensely,' including his bibulous adventures during Prohibition and his reporting of the 1925 Scopes trial over the teaching of evolution.
Until now, however, the story told in Mencken's beloved Days books has been incomplete. In the 1940s, Mencken began making extensive notes about the published books, commenting on what he had written and adding new material - but stipulating that these writings were not to be made public until twenty-five years after his death. Days Revisited presents more than two hundred pages of this material for the first time. Commentaries are keyed to the main text they gloss with subtle marks in the margin, and they are supplemented by rare photographs, many taken by Mencken himself. Here is Mencken's classic autobiography as it has never been seen before.