You Got Style
· Pointed Takes on Style Delineated ·
March 14, 2004
« Write, Right, Wright, Rite | Main | On Figuring Tropical Turns »
· Twain, James, Mencken, and the Colloquial Style ·
Since I have abused Mencken's prose — in Conservative Soul Substance: H. L. Mencken on Style — I've thought to modify my claim by noting here (quite plainly in the interest of fairness) that Mencken might also have chosen as his secondary model Henry James.
Now don't get me wrong; I understand that Mencken once sneered at James's writing:
Of course, since I too have scoffed at Jamesian style — in Indirection in the King's Road: Edith Wharton on Henry James — I thought maybe to split the difference by also claiming that James's work no less than Twain's was indeed itself "colloquial" — an odd claim, but defensible.
My clue comes from chapter three of Richard Bridgman's book, The Colloquial Style in America (1966), "Henry James and Mark Twain." Bridgman rightly defends the view that, in its dialogue at least, James's prose shines with stresses, repetitions, and fragmentations commonly characteristic of American colloquial speech. The difference between Twain and James, of course, remains Twain's substantive reference to things, and Henry James's to consciousness, but stylistically, as Bridgman himself notes,
It is perhaps interesting to claim that H. L. Mencken, author of The American Language (1921), might himself have been merely half-inspired. For as Teachout himself admits (p. 75), "Mencken's inability to find anything but hot air in Henry James indicates the limits of his education as exactly as it does the breadth of his ambition."
But again, as hinted above, Mencken didn't really care for the cool, airy reflections of "bucolic college professors."Permalink
Happily, some of us do care for such comments. An interesting post! Would you care to enlarge upon this theme? The subject and thesis merit further consideration in a lengthy paper for formal publication.
No, alas, though I could happily consider some serious scholar for the job. Length and formality, I'm afraid, just aren't my style.
On Aging — De Facto and De Jure Style
Scholarly, Critical, Theoretical Academic Librarianship, Leon Howard Style
Figures & Tropes
Grammar & Syntax