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Dennie, Joseph (30 August 1768–07 January 1812), essayist, critic, and editor, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of Joseph Dennie, a merchant, and Mary Green. To avoid the hostilities that threatened Boston, the family moved in 1775 to Lexington, Massachusetts, where they remained. In 1783 Dennie was sent back to Boston to prepare for a commercial career. After working for James Swan, Dennie went to live and study with the Reverend Samuel West of Needham, who prepared him for college. Dennie entered Harvard in 1787 as a sophomore; although suspended for the spring term in 1790 for insubordination to the tutors, he managed to graduate on time by continuing his studies with another minister in Groton. Soured by his collegiate experience, Dennie frequently denounced Harvard in both public and private writings....

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H. L. Mencken Photograph by Carl Van Vechten, 1932. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-42489).

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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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Christopher Morley Photograph by Arnold Genthe, 1930. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-G412-T-5716-017).

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Morley, Christopher Darlington (05 May 1890–28 March 1957), man of letters and editor, was born in Haverford, Pennsylvania, the son of Frank Morley, a mathematics professor at Haverford College, and Lilian Janet Bird, a musician and poet. She taught him to read, and he soon became a voracious reader. The family moved in 1900 to Baltimore, Maryland, where Morley’s father taught at Johns Hopkins University and Morley attended school and frequented the Enoch Pratt Library. He enrolled at Haverford College in 1906, published in the school’s ...

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Morris, Willie (29 November 1934–02 August 1999), writer and editor, was born William Weaks Morris in Jackson, Mississippi, the son of Henry Rae Morris, a gas station owner, and Marion Weaks Morris, a part-time piano teacher from a long line of Deep South gentility. Morris counted among his ancestors governors, senators, and the founders of Harpers Ferry, Virginia (now W.Va.). Born into the “old, impoverished, whipped-down South” ( ...

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Whitaker, Daniel Kimball (13 April 1801–24 March 1881), editor and essayist, was born in Sharon, Massachusetts, the son of the Reverend Jonathan Whitaker and Mary Kimball. He was the grandson of the Reverend Nathaniel Whitaker (1732–1795), a prominent theologian who had helped found Dartmouth College. His early education came from his father, a noted Congregationalist minister and eminent scholar. He later entered Harvard College, where he was awarded a B.A. degree in 1820 and an M.A. in 1823. His thesis, “The Literary Character of Dr. Samuel Johnson,” won him academic honors, as did his skills at oratory. He later studied theology and was licensed to preach, but his interests were already inclining toward journalism, and, while working on his master’s degree, he edited the ...