Joseph M. Lalley, 83, an editorial writer and literary editor on The Washington Post from 1937 until his retirement in 1961, died of arteriosclerotic heart disease Saturday at his home in Baltimore.

For several years during his career at The Post, Mr. Lalley wrote a column that appeared on the editorial page Monday mornings called "Posting the Books." It was about books that had appeared that Mr. Lalley found particularly interesting.

For several years after leaving the Post. He contributed occasional articles to the newspaper on such wideranging subjects as the visit of Pope Paul VI to the United States and the fall of the Bastille in 1789 at the beginning of the French Revolution. Mr. Lalley contended that while the latter event most often is recounted as a milestone towards freedom, it also was a step toward the tyranny of terror and anarchy.

Mr. Lalley was known among his colleagues on this newspaper as a man who would take on such chores as producing an annual editorial on Christmas. He continued this until 1970, when the custom was discontinued.

A native of Philadelphia, Mr. Lalley began his newspaper career on the old Philadelphia Press. He served in the Army in World War I and then became the Washington correspondent of the old Phidelphia North American. He later worked on the old Philadelphia Public Ledger and the Baltimore Sun.

From 1925 to 1931, he was in the advertising business, first in Baltimore and then in New York City. He returned to Baltimore and was on the Baltimore News-American before joining The Washington Post. He continued to live in Baltimore and comuted to work in Washington.

Mr. Lalley contributed book reviews to The New Yorker magazine in the 1940s and also was the book review editor of the Human Events Newsletter. From 1963 until his death, he was the associate editor for book reviews of Modern Age, a conservative magazine.

His other publications included "Our Jungle Diplomacy," a memoir of William Franklin Sands, an American diplomat, and "Faith and Force: An Inquiry Into the Nature of Authority," which was published by Human Events in 1946.

Mr. Lalley's survivors include his wife, the former Spalding Parker, of Baltimore; five sons, Joseph Michale Jr. of Ashville, N.C., John Spalding of Baltimore, Thomas Lea of Washington, Stephan Fenwick of Baltimore and Richard Plowden of Birmingham, Mich.; one daughter, Anne Lalley de Alvear of Quito, Ecuador; 18 grandchildren, and one great-grandson.