ABOUT THIS BOOK
What started as a correspondence between an illustrious personage and an ardent fan developed into a friendship between two individuals with congenial temperaments, interests, and tastes
“Ich Kuss Die Hand”: The Letters of H. L. Mencken to Gretchen Hood relates an episode in Mencken's life that has received only passing mention from his biographers. Gretchen Hood's acquaintance with the journalistic life of Washington formed a bond with Mencken, who thought of himself, first and foremost, as an inveterate newspaperman (they playfully entertained the idea of starting their own Washington newspaper), and she had a ready appreciation for his performances as a connoisseur of the Washington political spectacle. Mencken, the amateur musician and music buff, respected her talent and professional background.
His letters indicate that he found in her an intelligent, witty, and charming respondent to his characteristic traits of personality and style. She both flattered his ego and challenged him to exhibit his celebrated manner at its best. On her part, Hood was not simply awestruck by Mencken's attentions but met them with her independent verve. “Nothing scared me,” she later said of her attitude; “ready to take on all comers.” Mencken liked to refer to her as “a licensed outlaw,” a designation that captures his impression of her and describes as well the fashionable unconventionality, which fueled the Mencken vogue.
Mencken wrote Hood over two hundred letters, and she must have written him about the same number. For much of the time they corresponded, they exchanged several letters every month, sometimes as many as four or five a week. As their communications blossomed into a four-year friendship, personal meetings soon supplemented the flow of letters.