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A Book of Prefaces   By: (1880-1956)

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A BOOK OF PREFACES

By H. L. MENCKEN

PUBLISHED AT THE BORZOI · NEW YORK · BY

ALFRED · A · KNOPF

COPYRIGHT, 1917, BY ALFRED A. KNOPF, INC.

Published September, 1917 Second edition, 1918 Third edition, August, 1920 Reprinted, January, 1922

Set up, electrotyped and printed by Vail Ballou Co., Binghamton, N. Y. Paper (Warren's) furnished by Henry Lindenmeyr & Sons, New York, N. Y. Bound by the Plimpton Press, Norwood, Mass.

MANUFACTURED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

BY H. L. MENCKEN

VENTURES INTO VERSE GEORGE BERNARD SHAW: HIS PLAYS MEN VERSUS THE MAN With R. R. La Monte A LITTLE BOOK IN C MAJOR A BOOK OF CALUMNY [ The above books are out of print ] THE PHILOSOPHY OF FRIEDRICH NIETZSCHE A BOOK OF BURLESQUES IN DEFENSE OF WOMEN A BOOK OF PREFACES PREJUDICES: FIRST SERIES PREJUDICES: SECOND SERIES THE AMERICAN LANGUAGE

New York: Alfred A Knopf

PREFACE TO THE FOURTH EDITION

This fourth printing of "A Book of Prefaces" offers me temptation, as the third did, to revise the whole book, and particularly the chapters on Conrad, Dreiser and Huneker, all of whom have printed important new books since the text was completed. In addition, Huneker has died. But the changes that I'd make, after all, would be very slight, and so it seems better not to make them at all. From Conrad have come "The Arrow of Gold" and "The Rescue," not to mention a large number of sumptuous reprints of old magazine articles, evidently put between covers for the sole purpose of entertaining collectors. From Dreiser have come "Free," "Twelve Men," "Hey, Rub a Dub Dub" and some chapters of autobiography. From Huneker, before and after his death, have come "Unicorns," "Bedouins," "Steeple Jack," "Painted Veils" and "Variations." But not one of these books materially modifies the position of its author. "The Arrow of Gold," I suppose, has puzzled a good many of Conrad's admirers, but certainly "The Rescue" has offered ample proof that his old powers are not diminished. The Dreiser books, like their predecessors that I discuss here, reveal the curious unevenness of the author. Parts of "Free" are hollow and irritating, and nearly all of "Hey, Rub a Dub Dub" is feeble, but in "Twelve Men" there are some chapters that rank with the very best of "The Titan" and "Jennie Gerhardt." The place of Dreiser in our literature is frequently challenged, and often violently, but never successfully. As the years pass his solid dignity as an artist becomes more and more evident. Huneker's last five works changed his position very little. "Bedouins," "Unicorns" and "Variations" belong mainly to his journalism, but into "Steeple Jack," and above all into "Painted Veils" he put his genuine self. I have discussed all of these books in other places, and paid my small tribute to the man himself, a light burning brightly through a dark night, and snuffed out only at the dawn.

I should add that the prices of Conrad first editions given on page 56 have been greatly exceeded during the past year or two. I should add also that the Comstockian imbecilities described in Chapter IV are still going on, and that the general trend of American legislation and jurisprudence is toward their indefinite continuance.

H. L. M. Baltimore, January 1, 1922.

CONTENTS

I. Joseph Conrad 11

II. Theodore Dreiser 67

III. James Huneker 151

IV. Puritanism as a Literary Force 197

Index 285

A BOOK OF PREFACES

I

JOSEPH CONRAD

§ 1

"Under all his stories there ebbs and flows a kind of tempered melancholy, a sense of seeking and not finding...." I take the words from a little book on Joseph Conrad by Wilson Follett, privately printed, and now, I believe, out of print... Continue reading book >>




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