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H. L. (Henry Louis) Mencken Letters

Identifier: Midwest-MS-140

Scope and Content of the Collection

One hundred short letters mainly to Professor Raven McDavid, Thomas Pyle, and several other linguists regarding the editing of supplements to The American Language. The last twenty letters are written for him by his secretary.


  • Creation: 1938-1955



Materials are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

The H. L. (Henry Louis) Mencken Letters are open for research in the Special Collections Reading Room (Priority III).

Ownership and Literary Rights

The H. L. (Henry Louis) Mencken Letters are the physical property of the Newberry Library. Copyright may belong to the authors or their legal heirs or assigns. For permission to publish or reproduce any materials from this collection, contact the Roger and Julie Baskes Department of Special Collections.

Biography of H.L. (Henry Louis) Mencken

American journalist, essayist, editor and critic.

Born in 1880, the son of a cigar factory owner of German extraction, Henry Louis Mencken lived his whole life in Baltimore, Maryland. Instead of attending college, Mencken became a reporter for the Baltimore Morning Herald in 1899, and then moved to the Baltimore Sun in 1906, where he continued to contribute until he stopped writing following a stroke in 1948. He was literary critic for the magazine The Smart Set, and from 1924 to 1933 he was editor of the American Mercury.

Mencken wrote editorials and opinion pieces, literary criticism, short stories, a novel, but is best remembered for The American Language, a study of how the English language is spoken in the United States, and for his satirical reporting on the Scopes trial.

Individualistic, contentious, even pugnacious, Mencken was outspoken in his contempt for many aspects of American society. As a nationally syndicated columnist and book editor, he had a strong influence on the literate and articulate young writers of the 1910s and early 1920s.

Mencken married Sara Haardt in 1930; they had no children. He died in 1956.


0.1 Linear Feet (2 folders)


Correspondence from Baltimore journalist, critic, essayist and author H.L. Mencken, largely concerning supplements to his book The American Language. Eighty short letters are mainly addressed to Raven McDavid and several other linguists, while the last twenty, written after his stroke in November 1948, are written by his secretary.


Arranged chronologically in two folders.

Collection Stack Location

1 1 2


Gift, Professor Raven McDavid, 1976, and Thomas Pyle, 1978.

Processed by

Virginia Hay Smith, 2008.

Inventory of the H. L. (Henry Louis) Mencken Letters, 1938-1955
Virginia Hay Smith
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the The Newberry Library - Modern Manuscripts and Archives Repository

60 West Walton Street
Chicago Illinois 60610 United States