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The Clarence Darrow Letters

Algernon Sidney Crapsey to Clarence Darrow, May 17, 1925

Crapsey's remarks about Johnny Smith are in reference to Darrow's semi-autobiographical novel "Farmington." His statement about wishing to be with Darrow and Malone in Tennessee refers to Dudley Field Malone, one of Darrow's co-counsel in the Scopes trial.

Click on the image to view as a PDF. A transcription of the letter is on the right.

678 Averil Avenue

Rochester, N.Y.

May 17th


My Very Dear Darrow,

In spite of your attempt of defamation Johnny Smith was a very nice boy. He went to school when he was told and when in school he learned his lessons. Where else but in school did he get that simple style that makes the story of his life so charming..? Was it not in his primer and his first reader that he found the short words which are now the beauty of his pages. And is not his history the outcome of his teaching. Did not this goody-goody youth become a great lawyer known the world over? Did he not deliver youth from the gallows and is he not on his way to save heretics from the lions? How ungrateful some men are!

Let me contrast with this glamorous career the story of a bad boy who would not go to school. Who would not learn his letters. This boy when he was sent to school—ran away and got a job and when he did like his job he ran to the

Wars. As a consequence of these his way ward ways?this boy— his name was Algie—came to a frightful end. He became a preacher and from a preacher he became a heretic and he was cast-out and became a fugitive and a vagabond on the face of the earth: the [?] of Cain was on his brow and men shunned him as a curse. Now if this Algie had only been a good boy as Johnny Smith was a good boy, he might have been a great lawyer or a Big Business man. And instead of living-in a state of disgraceful impecuniosity he might have now a billion to his credit and all the world bowing down to his greatness.

Shame on you Darrow. Shame on you. I would give the last hair on my head to be with you and Malone in Tennessee. What fun. But here I am bound head and foot by my criminal record. O had I my life to live over again be sure I would be a Johnny Smith! Even my wife, who has only heard your voice, asks me why are you not like Clarence Darrow. I can only hang my head and say. Because I was not a good boy as Clarence was—and now we suffer. I hope you will get the goat of the fellows in Tennessee and that you will enjoy the Last of the Heretics as much as I am enjoying Farmington.


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