Indian Summer Christmas

H. L. Mencken comes with a reminder that some Americans may need a little more familiarity with those beverages that make the heart glad:

The free use of alcohol at the Christmas season, whatever its drawbacks otherwise, has at least this one great merit: that it induces in mankind a degree of sentimentality unattainable by any other means. By sentimentality I mean the inbibition of prejudices, and particularly of those prejudices which are founded upon sound considerations. For instance, the prejudice against the personal habits of children, that against the Czerny* piano exercises and that against sentimentality itself.

A sentimental man is simply one who believes (or, at all events, maintains) that the unpleasant thing is pleasant. If you point out to him that his mother-in-law constantly invades his dignity, he will reply that she has a kind and solicitous heart. If you point out to him that his wife overdoes the “brightening” of her hair, he will tell you that he likes ber as she is. And if you point out to him (and prove with abundant logic) that Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” is maudlin balderdash, he will answer that it makes him cry, and that crying is exquisite.

Such is the sentimental man. The same definition, it quickly appears, will also serve for the boozy man—not the downright drunken man, remember, but the man gently mellowed and etherized by the fumes. The two are brothers. The sole difference between them is that the congenitally sentimental man is sentimental always, while the artificially—i. e., the alcoholically—sentimental man is sentimental only so long as the stuff he has swallowed is in his veins. Give him 10 hours’ sleep or plunge him into ice water, or let him drink a gallon of black coffee, and he will see things once more in their true aspect. His liquorish geniality, his unintelligent toleration will vanish and he will be again the cold critic, the alert foe.

*Carl Czerny was the father of modern piano techniques.

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