Final collection of Mencken papers will be opened

January 28, 1991|By Sujata Banerjee | Sujata Banerjee,Evening Sun Staff

THE FINAL collection of sealed papers of H.L. Mencken, Baltimore's sage, is scheduled for opening tomorrow morning at the Pratt Central Library.

Seven 16-by-19 inch boxes are expected to contain two works: "My Life as Author and Editor" and "Thirty-five Years of Newspaper Work." Mencken bequeathed the works to the library with express directions that they not be opened until the 35th anniversary of his death. The author's diary also was sealed to all for 25 years past his death. When "The Diary of H.L. Mencken" was edited by Charles A. Fecher and published by Knopf in 1990, it caused a minor scandal among Mencken enthusiasts because of the writer's controversial opinions about former colleagues, politics and race.

Because of the diary's popularity, the new works have sent Mencken scholars running to the Pratt with requests to edit the works -- a rare occurrence, says Averil Kadis, public relations director for the Pratt, because no publisher has committed to publishing the unread work.

Approximately 12 Mencken scholars and a few of the author's last living colleagues will be present to enjoy champagne, tea and coffee at the 10:30 a.m. opening.

Celebrating along with the Pratt at 10:30 a.m. will be the Dartmouth College Library in Hanover, N.H. Mencken donated another set of the same works to that library, which decided to open them at the same time as the Pratt. Kadis says that Mencken may have donated the papers to the Pratt because the college had already begun to extensively catalog his writings while he was still alive. He is also rumored to have believed New Hampshire would escape any nuclear attack, and his writings would be safely preserved there.

An additional set of the Mencken writings lies at the New York Public Library.

Once the crates are opened, it will be a while before anyone can read the works. Kadis says it will take several months for the Pratt staff to photo-copy all the pages and read them before sharing them with scholars, who will be the only ones to have access to the works.

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