|Irving Dilliard Letters
(Southern Illinois University Edwardsville)
The Digital Project
Words of Advice to a Young Author: The Irving Dilliard Letters
This digital collection contains 123 letters, including three postcards, written by 109 different authors. The letters are addressed to a young man named Irving Dilliard (see "About Irving L. Dilliard" below). Dilliard himself explains how he came to receive them in his foreword to Advice to a Young Writer: Letters to Irving Dilliard, a pamphlet published by the Friends of Lovejoy Library in 1996 comprised of a small selection of the letters:
My high school years were 1921-1923. I was thinking about a career in writing, perhaps on a newspaper, as my favorite subject was English and I liked my duties on the local weekly, the Collinsville (Illinois) Herald. I had heard of schools of Journalism but knew little about them. So I decided to get some advice. I began to write to the authors of the time and ask them what they thought would be the best training for a writing career.
The early replies were varied and the more varied they were the more interesting I found them. I kept on reading books and magazines and newspapers and putting my question to more and more writers. In time they included novelists, short story tellers, poets, essayists, journalists, columnists. These generous men and women, probably intrigued at hearing from a teenager with that request for adult counsel, responded with the letters that make up this collection.
Taken as a whole, some written longhand, others typed out, they read as well now as they did more than seventy years ago.
Dilliard received the bulk (117) of the letters in this collection in the time period 1920-1923, before he enrolled in college at the University of Illinois in Champaign in the fall of 1923. Five of the correspondences occurred during Dilliard's last three years at the university, 1924-1927. Some of these are addressed to him in Champaign and some to his childhood home in Collinsville (505 East Church Street, pictured at right).
Dilliard received the last letter in this digital collection eight years later, in 1935, while he was a journalist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Read a letter by a particular author by selecting from the author list below. Or browse the letters from a particular country, state, or city using the list of postmarks; Dilliard received letters from authors from all over the world.
Select by author last name:
Browse by postmark:
Irving Lee Dilliard (1899-2002) was a respected writer, editor and expert on the Constitution and the Supreme Court. Mr. Dilliard grew up in Collinsville, Illinois. In 1923, he became a local correspondent for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. He graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1927, followed by a year of graduate work at Harvard University. Mr. Dilliard became a reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in 1927.
In 1938, Mr. Dilliard briefly left the Post-Dispatch to become one of the first Nieman Fellows at Harvard, a yearlong program for journalists. He returned only to take leave again in 1943 to enter the army in World War II. He earned the rank of lieutenant colonel and served as a psychological warfare specialist on Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower’s staff.
After the war, Mr. Dilliard returned to the Post-Dispatch as an editorial writer, specializing in the Supreme Court and Constitution; he became editorial page editor in 1949. In 1954, Mr. Dilliard wrote “A War to Stay Out Of,” a series of editorials warning against any American involvement in the conflict that later became the Vietnam War. Mr. Dilliard’s defense of his convictions sometimes caused ripples with his superiors, including the late Joseph Pulitzer Jr., his publisher. Mr. Dilliard retired from the Post-Dispatch in 1960.
After a stint as a lecturing faculty member at the Salzburg Seminar in American Studies in Austria, he taught for 10 years as a Ferris Professor of Journalism at Princeton University. Mr. Dilliard left Princeton in 1973 and served as the first director of the Illinois Department of Aging. In 1995, he was an Illinois delegate to the White House Conference on Aging.
He received honorary degrees from MacMurray College, Colby College, New School for Social Research, Brandeis University, Southern Illinois University Carbondale, Washington University, University of Missouri St. Louis and Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. His published works include several books, including Building the Constitution (1937), The Development of a Free Press in Germany: An Aspect of American Military Government (1949), The Spirit of Liberty (1952) and more than 10,000 editorials and articles for national magazines and other newspapers.
Source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch obituary