Quotation by H.L. Mencken

The essence of a sound style is that it cannot be reduced to rules—that it is a living and breathing thing with something of the devilish in it—that it fits its proprietor tightly yet ever so loosely, as his skin fits him. It is, in fact, quite as seriously an integral part of him as that skin is. It hardens as his arteries harden. It has Katzenjammer on the days succeeding his indiscretions. It is gaudy when he is young and gathers decorum as he grows old. On the day after he makes a mash on a new girl it glows and glitters. If he has fed well, it is mellow. If he has gastritis it is bitter. In brief, a style is always the outward and visible symbol of a man, and cannot be anything else. To attempt to teach it is as silly as to set up courses in making love. The man who makes love out of a book is not making love at all; he is simply imitating someone else making love. God help him if, in love or literary composition, his preceptor be a pedagogue!
H.L. (Henry Lewis) Mencken (1880–1956), U.S. journalist, critic. "Literature and the Schoolma'm," Prejudices: Fifth Series, Knopf (1926).
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