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H.L. Mencken (1880–1956). The American Language. 1921.

Page 80

Smith and the poet Southey became specialists in this business; it almost took on the character of a holy war; even such mild men as Wordsworth had a hand in it. It was argued that the Americans were rogues and swindlers, that they lived in filth and squalor, that they were boors in social intercourse, that they were poltroons and savages in war, that they were depraved and criminal, that they were wholly devoid of the remotest notion of decency or honor. “See what it is,” said Southey in 1812, “to have a nation to take its place among civilized states before it has either gentlemen or scholars! They [the Americans] have in the course of twenty years acquired a distinct national character for low and lying knavery; and so well do they deserve it that no man ever had any dealings with them without having proofs of its truth.” The Quarterly, summing up in January, 1814, accused them of a multitude of strange and hair-raising offenses: employing naked colored women to wait upon their tables; kidnapping Scotchmen, Irishmen, Welshmen and Hollanders and selling them into slavery; fighting one another incessantly under rules which made it “allowable to peel the skull, tear out the eyes, and smooth away the nose”; and so on, and so on. Various Americans, after a decade of this snorting, went to the defense of their countrymen, among them Irving, Cooper, Timothy Dwight, J. K. Paulding, John Neal, Edward Everett and Robert Walsh. Paulding, in “John Bull in America, or, the New Munchausen,” published in 1825, attempted satire. Even a Briton, James Sterling, warned his fellow-Britons that, if they continued their intolerant abuse, they would “turn into bitterness the last drops of good-will toward England that exist in the United States.” But the denunciation kept up year after year, and there was, indeed, no genuine relief until 1914, when the sudden prospect of disaster caused the English to change their tune, and even to find all their own great virtues in the degraded and disgusting Yankee, now so useful as a rescuer. This new enthusiasm for him was tried very severely by his slowness to come into the war, but in the main there was politeness for him so long as the emergency lasted, and all the British talent for horror and invective was concentrated, down to 1919 or thereabout, upon the Prussian.
  How American-English appeared to an educated English visitor of