Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Mencken Uncrated

A wooden box printed with "Papers of Henry L. Mencken do not open until January 29, 1991." H. L. Mencken rarely spared anyone's feelings in his writing during his life, so it was with great anticipation that his autobiographical writings were unsealed 35 years after his death. What could be so inflammatory that it had to wait for a generation to pass? Mencken deposited manuscript copies of his two autobiographies, My Life as Author and Editor, and Thirty-Five Years of Newspaper Work, with three libraries:  the Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore (where the bulk of his papers are held), the New York Public Library, and the Dartmouth College Library. Dartmouth was honored with a copy because of Mencken's close relationship with Dartmouth alumnus Richard Mandel '26 and professor Herb West.

A photograph of three men opening a wooden box.
With tools in hand, Dartmouth President James O. Freedman, Special Collections Librarian Phil Cronenwett, and Special Collections Library Assistant John Schwoerke, cut the metal bands sealing the wooden crates and unleashed Mencken's final critical look at the America he loved and feared.  They used them to complete an exhibition "Mencken Uncrated" that opened two weeks earlier. The two autobiographies were published in 1993 and 1994.

Along with the typescripts, we preserved one of the crates. You can see them by asking for Realia 218 and ML 693.