In Which Our Hero Performs a Boy Scout Act

January 30, 1991

. . . wife to that effect. When news of this transaction reached Patterson he told me that I had performed the most meritorious Boy Scout act of my whole career. Everyone liked Nelson, but everyone concerned was glad to see him go. I suggested that he be given a farewell dinner, and this was done on Good Friday evening, April 3. Wagner presided, and Patterson and I made the only speeches, both very brief. The scene was the Elkridge Foxhunting Club, and the fourteen diners all went home sober. Nothing of the sort was ever seen in Murphy's time.

Patterson made several efforts of his own, during 1928 and 1929, to improve the Sun's editorial page. Some of them, such as the lightening of its typography and the removal of the Bentztown Bard's countrified column of prose and verse, were excellent, but their effect was largely vitiated by the heavy plodding of Owens and his editorial writers. The page simply lacked life. In its point of view it was opportunistic and irresolute, and in its execution it showed both a lack of sound information and a woeful want of forensic capacity. Early in July, 1929, Patterson RTC asked me to undertake a survey of it as it stood, to be followed by a report and recommendations. My report, which went to him on July 21, was a reaffirmation of the principles set forth in his White Paper of 1920, with glosses suggested by the current political situation. It is given in full in Appendix X, and is followed in Appendix XI by John Owens's reply. The two documents well set forth the vast gap separating his notion of the function . . .

Yesterday on the 35th anniversary of his death and i accordance with his will, H. L. Mencken's multi-volume autobio- graphical works were unsealed. One is ''My Life as Author and Editor'' and the other is ''Thirty-Five Years of Newspaper Work.'' The above is Page 536 from the latter. It was selected at random and read at the Enoch Pratt Free Library ceremonies accompanying the unsealing.

By coincidence, the reader was the Wagner referred to -- Philip M. Wagner, editorial-page editor of first The Evening Sun and then The Sun during Mencken's years. The event occurred in the or 1940s. Frederic Nelson was an editorial writer whose work had fallen into disfavor. Paul Patterson was president of the A.S. Abell Co., publisher of The Sunpapers. J. Edwin Murphy was a managing editor of The Evening Sun and later a vice president of the company. John Owens was editor of the editorial page of The Sun and later editor-in-chief. An editorial on Mencken's autobiography appears on the page opposite.

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