[Ads-l] Quotation: Puritanism.--The haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy

ADSGarson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Fri Jun 26 21:30:45 UTC 2020

The QI website now has an entry about the saying in the subject line
which is attributed to H. L. Mencken.


Some references, e.g., "Bloomsbury Dictionary of Quotations" (1991),
"The Cynic's Lexicon" (1984), and "The Columbia Dictionary of
Quotations" (1993) list the following supporting citation: "A Book of
Burlesques" (1920) by H. L Mencken.

I obtained scans of the 1928 third printing of “A Book of Burlesques”
with a copyright date of 1920, and I was unable to find the quotation
within the book. So I find this claim confusing, and it might be
incorrect. I have been searching the book digitally, so maybe the OCR
is bad in a crucial spot, but the OCR seems to be ok everywhere I
checked. It is also possible that the saying appears in some other

I did find the saying in the January 1925 issue of “The American
Mercury” under the byline of  H. L. Mencken and George Jean Nathan. In
addition, it appears within Mencken's 1949 collection “A Mencken
Chrestomathy”. This combination provides substantive support for the
ascription to Mencken.

Interestingly, Fred's "The Yale Book of Quotations" lists “A Mencken
Chrestomathy” as the supporting citation for the quotation and not “A
Book of Burlesques”.

Garson O'Toole

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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