Charles Angoff

Charles Angoff
Born April 22, 1902
Died May 3, 1979(1979-05-03) (aged 77)
New York City
Era 20th Century
Spouse(s) Sara Freedman
Children Nancy Angoff
Parent(s) John Jacob Angoff, Anna Pollack
Awards Honorary Doctor of Letters (Fairleigh Dickinson University), Charles Angoff Award (The Literary Review)

Charles Angoff (April 22, 1902 May 3, 1979) was a managing editor of the American Mercury magazine as well as a professor of English of Fairleigh Dickinson University. H. L. Mencken called him "the best managing editor in America."[1] He was also a prolific writer and editor.



Angoff was born on April 22, 1902 in Minsk, then Russia (now Belarus). His father was a tailor named John Jacob Angoff; his mother was named Anna Pollack. In 1908, the Angoffs left Russia and settled near Boston, Massachusetts. By age 12, he began writing poetry. He became a naturalized citizen in 1923.[1]

He studied Harvard University from 1919 to 1923 on a scholarship and majored in philosophy.[1]


In 1923, Angoff began his career in journalism at a local weekly. He answered an advertisement by H. L. Mencken, who hired him as an assistant in 1925. He worked on the editorial staff of Mencken's American Mercury magazine until 1931, when he became managing editor. He wrote articles for the magazine, either signing them with pseudonyms or publishing them anonymously. Mencken and publisher Alfred Knopf felt Angoff was too leftist and sold the magazine privately in January 1935. Angoff joined the editorial board of The Nation magazine and then became editor of American Spectator until it folded in 1937. From 1943 to 1951, he served as managing editor of the American Mercury.[1]


During his final years at the American Mercury, Angoff began publishing more books. When the magazine closed in 1951, he began publishing a series about the Polonskys, a family of assimilating, immigrant Jews. It started with Journey to the Dawn (1951). The trilogy grew to eleven volumes and unfinished twelfth. He wrote a rather controversial biography, H. L. Mencken: A Portrait from Memory (1956) about the subject's anti-Semitism. He wrote several books of poetry.[1]


In the mid-1950s, Angoff became an English professor at Fairleigh Dickinson University. He co-founded the quarterly The Literary Review and helped found the Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, launched in 1967.[1]

He retired in 1976 to the Upper West Side of New York City.[1]

Awards received

Angoff was appointed to the Board of Trustees of New York City Community College. He received an honorary Doctor of Letters from Fairleigh Dickinson University (June 1966) and "various other awards (1954-1977)."[1]

Charles Angoff Award

The Literary Review offers an annual Charles Angoff Award for outstanding contributions to the magazine during his tenure as editor from 1957 to 1976.[2]

Communist leanings

According to Whittaker Chambers in his 1952 memoir, Angoff worked closely with him, Maxim Lieber, and John Loomis Sherman after they formed the American Feature Writers Syndicate, a front for communist underground agents as overseas cover. Chambers wrote:

Among Lieber's friends was an editor of the American Mercury (not Eugene Lyons, who was still a U .P. correspondent in Moscow) . He gladly furnished a letter telling all whom it might concern that Charles F. Chase was a news gatherer for the Mercury.[3]

During testimony, members of HUAC identified Angoff as the Mercury person by asking:

Personal life

Angoff married Sara Freedman in June 1943. They had a daughter, Nancy Angoff.[1] In 1967, his daughter published Marxism and the English Peasants of 1381: a Dream Deferred.[5]

He died on May 3, 1979, aged 77, survived by his wife and daughter.[1]


In his writings, Angoff may have become best known for his non-fiction and fiction works concerning his former boss, H. L. Mencken, and associate George Jean Nathan. As Time magazine wrote in 1961, "Having fanged his ex-idol non-fictionally in H. L. Mencken: A Portrait from Memory, Angoff releases some fictional venom in The Bitter Spring. Mencken is portrayed as a loud-mouthed vulgarian and an intellectual fraud with but a single saving grace, his love of music..." by the name of "Harry P. Brandt."[6] Regarding his editing of the writings of Nathan, Time wrote, "Mercury associate, Charles Angoff, has reached back over 34 years, dusted off Nathan's personal Five-Foot Shelf of writings (some 39 books) and pieced together a Nathan sampler. Sipped, The World of George Jean Nathan is a delight; swallowed, it leaves a faintly rusty taste on the palate, like water too long in the taps. With malice toward some, Nathan has his say on every subject under his sun."[7]

The following books appear in the Library of Congress.


Edited works

Books in Angoff's honor


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 "Angoff, Charles". Boston University - Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center. Retrieved 19 May 2013.
  2. "New Fiction by Percival Everett-2010 CHARLES ANGOFF AWARD IN FICTION-Percival Everett: "Confluence"". The Literary Review. 26 October 2010. Retrieved 19 May 2013.
  3. Chambers, Whittaker (1952). Witness. New York: Random House. p. 367.
  4. "Hearings Regarding Communist Espionage: Hearings before the Committee on Un-American Activities, House of Representatives, Eighty-First Congress, First and Second Sessions, November 8 and December 2, 1949, and February 27 and March 1, 1950". Washington: (originally, Government Printing Office). 1951. Retrieved 19 May 2013.
  5. Angoff, Nancy (1967). Marxism and the English Peasants of 1381: a Dream Deferred. [unknown]: [unknown]. p. 35.
  6. "Books: Summa Contra Mencken". Time. 5 May 1961. Retrieved 21 May 2013.
  7. "Books: The Fabulous Imp". Time. 12 May 1952. Retrieved 21 May 2013.
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