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June 1963

H. L. Mencken, A Portrait From Memory

Arch Intern Med. 1963;111(6):843-844. doi:10.1001/archinte.1963.03620300163034

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H. L. Mencken cut a pretty wide swath through the community of college students and young people generally in the days of my youth in the 1920's and early 1930's. I was lucky, when I interned at Johns Hopkins, to meet Mencken on several occasions. Twice I saw him at the annual ceremony of excoriation of the Johns Hopkins medical faculty where the relaxed wits of one of the traditional societies, the Pithotomy Club, had cheerfully sardonic parties all awash with beer. Some of the founding fathers (lads) of this society had named it as a reminder of the ceremonial opening of a keg. At other times Mencken could be found in the little nook tucked in behind the Peabody Bookstore. There conversation was an advanced and treasured art; and youth did well to sit attentively listening to the words of putative wisdom, disdain, and destruction delivered by their elders,

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