Henry Louis Mencken was born in Baltimore on 12th September, 1880. He worked as a reporter for the Baltimore Herald and rose quickly to become the newspaper's city editor. In 1908 Mencken became co-editor of the Smart Set. During his time at the journal (1908-23) Mencken wrote Ventures into Verse (1903), The Philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche (1908), The Artist (1912), Damn: A Book of Calumny (1918) and In Defence of Women (1918).
Mencken's most important book as a literary critic was A Book of Prefaces (1917). He used this book and his articles in the Smart Set to promote the work of Theodore Dreiser, Willa Cather and Sinclair Lewis. In The American Language (1921), Mencken explored the English language as developed and used in the United States.
In 1924 Mencken and George J. Nathan established the American Mercury. Mencken edited the journal for the next nine years. Mencken was a fierce critic of the American political and literary establishment. Nor was he afraid of attacking traditional religious views and upset many people with his caustic comments. Influenced by the negative aspects of Nietzsche's philosophy, Mencken wrote several books where he questioned the leveling tendencies of democracy including: Notes on Democracy (1926), A Treatise on the Gods (1930) and A Treatise on Right and Wrong (1934).