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Mencken, H. L. (12 September 1880–29 January 1956), author, editor, and journalist, was born Henry Louis Mencken in Baltimore, Maryland, the son of August Mencken, a cigar manufacturer, and Anna Abhau. Having emigrated from Germany during the mid-nineteenth century, the Menckens and Abhaus had quickly adapted to life in the United States, and they provided a home more Victorian than German-American for their four children. Henry Mencken, the eldest, did attend a private German school for his earliest education, but he completed his formal education at Baltimore Polytechnic, a high school primarily responsible for producing engineers and technicians....

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Wilson, Edmund (08 May 1895–12 June 1972), writer and critic, was born in Red Bank, New Jersey, the only child of Edmund Wilson, a lawyer who served as state attorney general, and Helen Mather Kimball; both parents came from families with roots in upstate New York. Although the younger Edmund was influenced by his father’s moral standards and Lincolnesque prose style, both parents were remote—his father absenting himself during long intervals of depression, his mother having lost her hearing....