Lengthy, Dense Autograph Letter to Clark Ashton Smith Signed with initials, 2 pp on one folio sheet, with fully signed transmittal envelope, Providence, R.I., Octr. 15, 1927
by LOVECRAFT, H.P.
Lovecraft was a voluminous letter writer, especially to fellow writers of fantasy, horror, and weird tales. In particular, he had a lengthy period of correspondence with Clark Ashton Smith. They became friends in 1922 when Lovecraft sent Smith fan letter after his "The Hashish Eater, or The Apocalypse of Evil" was published in "Ebony and Crystal." Smith (1893-1961), the poet, painter and fellow fantasy and horror writer, along with Robert E. Howard and H.P. Lovecraft became known as the Triumvirate of "Weird Tales." This letter was written after Lovecraft had spent a couple of years in New York City and had returned home to Providence. It is a revealing letter in how Lovecraft sees himself through his upbringing in New England and also a letter that refers to many of his friends and colleagues in the world of fantasy and horror fiction. Lovecraft begins by commenting on Smith's paintings which Smith had sent him. "I certainly did enjoy that shipment of paintings" and further comments on their "distorted shapes of lush, unwholesome, extra-terrestrial vegetation." He mentions that he had not yet sent them on to Dwyer, but wishes that he "had Wandrei's financial resources, so that I might invest in one or two!" He refers here to Donald Wandrei, a writer whose work also appeared in "Weird Tales." Wandrei, a friend and protégé of Lovecraft, was a member of the "Lovecraft Circle," along with Clark Ashton Smith and Frank Belknap Long. Wandrei is also one of the editors of the Selected Letters of Lovecraft. Commenting on "futility & work," Lovecraft informs his correspondent, "I have come to the comfortably elderly condition of not caring a rap whether I do anything or not! I had really much rather read than write things." Regarding writing, he says, "What I absolutely must have… is a general atmosphere exactly like that of my youth… I did not realise my dependence on these things till I tried living in New York… I discovered that the cosmic & cosmopolitan element in me is the thinnest of veneers, & that I am actually - so far as all the deeper emotions… are concerned - an extremely localized New Englander of the most pronounced type…." He continues, "My ideal is to be an absolutely passive & non-participating spectator to the pageant of meaningless existence…." Continuing further, he discusses his family. "I simply don't care whether or not I see & talk to anybody except my family. My family don't care for the weird, but they don't object to my caring for it - hence provide an atmosphere of friendly harmony even though they aren't likely to share my ravings anent [sic] Algernon Blackwood or Arthur Machen…." He then presents his upbringing in a "certain kind of old town" in great detail. He comments that these things are "all that spell reality in life to me" and that when he is apart from them, "everything becomes spurious & two-dimensional - vague fragments of a dream…." He concludes this discussion by saying, "That ethereal sense of identity with my own native & hereditary soil & institutions is the one essential condition of intellectual life… which I cannot do without. Like Antaeus of old, my strength depends on repeated contact with the soul of the Mother Earth that bore me." Lovecraft then mentions "Weird Tales" publisher Farnsworth Wright saying, "Glad you've sent E&C [Ebony & Crystal] to Wright. He is by no means uncultivated or unappreciative personally, despite the bonehead policy he is forced to follow…." When Wright took over publication of "Weird Tales" in 1924, he did not publish many of Lovecraft's stories as Lovecraft had criticized Wright's own writing previously. Also mentioned is Hugh Rankin who was an illustrator for "Weird Tales," his first illustration having been published in 1927. "Glad Rankin has done something… like justice… he is really the best, by far of all the artists whom W.T. [Weird Tales] has ever had…." The letter ends with a very Lovecraft type rant about a "devilish dental siege" Lovecraft is experiencing and then tells Smith that he will "show you any weird tales of mine as soon as they're written… You have probably received "The Recluse" containing my article. And tells him that "Cook is here…he likes your "Passing of Aphrodite" immensely. It is the first contribution to be accepted for the second issue of The Recluse…" W. Paul Cook was a printer from Athol, Massachusetts and a publisher of amateur magazines. He published "The Vagrant" which ran from 1918 to 1927 and was a big encourager of Lovecraft submitting stories. His later magazine, "The Recluse," was published in only one issue, in 1927. Lovecraft's "Supernatural Horror in Literature" was published in this issue, along with stories by Smith, Wandrei and others. [See: "The Gernsback Days: A Study of the Evolution of Modern Science Fiction…, by Mike Ashley et al, pp. 115-116.] Before he signs his initials, he thanks his correspondent for "that nameless head from the black planet, Yadoth." And, in a postscript on the top of the first page, in very Lovecraftian terms, he writes, "that new head has a particular & specific horror. It makes one feel uneasy… when inexplicable occurrences happen…". Paper is darkened with age, with one small hole visible in image slightly affecting text but all words are able to be read. The letter is partially published in Selected Letters (Arkham House) 301.
(Inventory #: 4190)
You can be confident that when you make a purchase through ABAA.org, the item is sold by an ABAA member in full compliance with our Code of Ethics. Our sellers guarantee your order will be shipped promptly and that all items are as described. Buy with confidence through ABAA.org.