Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Mencken's Tessie

We recently acquired a small, but rich collection of letters by H.L Mencken. While Ambrose Bierce is the 19th-century's greatest curmudgeon, surely Mencken deserves consideration for the the title in the 20th century. He is known for his harsh criticism, cutting wit, and general intolerance for the American middle class (the "booboisie," as he famously called them). But in this letter from May 21, 1921, we see mourning and emotion cloaked in his typically urbane prose:
Our old dog Tessie died on Sunday. A tooth abcess [sic] developed gangrene and the horse-doctor gave her a sniff of prussis acid. She went out instantly. Tessie was 16 years old, a great age for a dog. She never married. We miss her enormously. Sunday afternoon my brothers and I buried her in the garden, and today I ordered a small tablet to be set in the wall, thus "1905 - Tessie - 1921". Tessie was a Presbyterian.

Twain could hardly have done better. The letters will join our existing Mencken Collection, ML 693, which will be the subject of another posting.

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