Friday, January 25, 2008

Pen Afficianados: Alert! Letter of HP to CAS

{Note that this is on George Kirk stationary and discusses his ink pen. Some of you have told me you are ink pen fans. So here's more to add to the legend and lore of HPL's search for the best ink pen.}

Text by auction house:

"I couldn't compose on a typewriter to save my life - the very sight of the damn thing empties my mind of all connected ideas & images!"

H. P. Lovecraft. Autograph Letter Signed "E'ch-Pi-El" [HPL]. Two pages, 5.75" x 9", Providence, Rhode Island, March 21, 1932, to Clark Ashton Smith, plain paper, ink. Includes original mailing envelope in Lovecraft's hand, addressed to "Clark Ashton Smith, Esq., Box 385, Auburn, California." On the verso of the envelope, the author has included his return address, again in his own hand: "From HP Lovecraft 10 Barnes St. Providence R.I."

The text of the letter reads, in full:

"Necropolis of Leth-yoddim:
before the impact of the moon-rays
on the bronze door in the hillside.
Dear Klarkash-Ton:-

I'll start off with some bad news which you'll probably have received simultaneously from the same source...i.e., the sombre tho' not cataclysmically unexpected news that Swanson's poor Galaxy has died a-borning! This morning I received the more or less dismal announcement. He can't make typographical arrangements, & the subscriptions haven't come in as he expected- so that's that! However, if granted permission he will hold onto contributor's mss. for a little while - in the hope that he may be able to swing a mimeographed magazine or series of booklets. Getting down close to the amateur class! And some day, of course, he hopes to publish a real, printed magazine &c. &c. - Well, Brother Farnsworth will doubtless rejoice!

As for pens - right now I'm using a thing that came from Woolworth's. I'm dipping it in the ancient way, though it's supposed to be a fountain. Brobst & W. Paul Cook have bought similar pens at FWW's which really function! The point of this contraption - as a plain dip pen - is admirable so far. What's more, I see by a microscopic inscription that it's made in Providence! But I think I shall do most composing with a pencil. I couldn't compose on a typewriter to save my life - the very sight of the damn thing empties my mind of all connected ideas & images!

As soon as I can get the nerve to type the "Witch House" I'll start a copy in circulation. Later I hope I can get at some others - though various duties have so far denied me further creative leisure. Hope Clayton takes the S from S. Long holding is a favourable sign. He's had Belknap's latest tale for 8 weeks without rendering a report. Glad that Wonder Stories continues to be a good market. I hope to see the Invisible & Immortals in due course of time.

But the Double Shadow excites my greatest expectations. Uggrrll...I tremulously anticipate it. Hope to see the Plutonian Drug later on. Heaven only knows when I'll get at the development of my own time-juggling idea.

One thing I must do is fix up a new note book of daemoniac plots. I've lent my old one - used since 1919 - to various brother-fantaisistes from time to time, & it's just about worn to pieces. Beside which, I've made lots of loose notes during the book's many absences. I ought to get the whole bunch copied into a new & stoutly bound book.

I'll transmit your compliments to young Brobst - who always sends his regards to you. That reminds me - last week we were doing the geological section of a local museum, & came upon a black, gleaming specimen which certainly cannot be other than an eikon of Tsathoggua! It was a semi-shapeless congeries of nighted curves - squat & swollen, & with a curious suggestion of flabby viscosity despite the superficially petrific composition. Its outlines - semi-organic & darkly suggestive - left little room for doubt that it once stood in some curtained niche in immemorial Commorion. Not a temple - it was too small for that - but rather in the household shrine of some such arcane delver as Atthepharos, who dwelt in the street of the Alembics & vanished suddenly shortly before the desertion of the city. There is a timidly reticent sketch of something like it in one of [the] least decipherable fragments of the mouldy Pnakotic manuscripts.

I read Merritt's new serial the other day, & thought it passable in spots despite a woeful adherence to the popular magazine tradition. M. has a certain distinctive magic which would be tremendous if he would forget commercialism & really use it.

Best wishes - & greetings in the brotherhood of Y'aug-Kthah -


Here, Lovecraft is writing to Clark Ashton Smith, a prolific writer, sculptor, and painter of great renown, especially considered so by Lovecraft. Smith was published in numerous amateur publications and pulp magazines, at first mostly for his poetry. Lovecraft convinced Smith to start writing weird fiction, a decision Smith dove into with gusto, and continues to be remembered for today. The two writers shared a deep and abiding friendship that lasted from 1922 until Lovecraft's death in 1937. Apparently, Lovecraft was working on an appreciative piece on Smith at the time of his death, the manuscript of which was found on Lovecraft's desk after his passing.

Lovecraft and Smith were even collaborators of a sort. Smith wrote a good number of stories that can be definitively included in Lovecraft's Cthulhu Mythos. In fact, a story mentioned by Lovecraft in this very letter, "The Double Shadow", is one of Smith's numerous entries in the vast Cthulhu universe. As a side note, Smith sculpted the figures that appear in the photographs on the dust jacket of Arkham House's first edition of Lovecraft's Beyond the Wall of Sleep. The two men, the two writers, artists, friends, are inextricably linked in the world of weird fiction for all time.

Lovecraft wrote this letter at a strange time in his life, when he was seeking out a second avenue for his work in a pulp magazine other than Weird Tales. He begins the epistle by writing of "Swanson's poor Galaxy," which was the short-lived (in fact, never-realized) pulp periodical Galaxy edited by Carl Swanson of Washburn, North Dakota. Swanson's idea for a magazine would include a mixture of both original stories and reprints from Weird Tales, but the idea never materialized. Lovecraft was forced to keep sending his stories to Farnsworth Wright, the editor of Weird Tales (who Lovecraft refers to as "Brother Farnsworth" in this letter), a professional relationship that remained almost solely responsible for Lovecraft's continued publication. In fact, in this very letter, Lovecraft mentions his fledgling story "Dreams in the Witch House," a story he sold to Wright's Weird Tales the year after this very letter was written.

The "sage of Providence" also writes here of Harry K. Brobst, a Providence friend and psychiatric nurse, and frequent visitor to Lovecraft at the Barnes St. address listed on the envelope that accompanies this letter. Interestingly, Brobst was one of the few attendants at Lovecraft's funeral services. Lovecraft also mentions W. Paul Cook, Frank Belknap Long, and "Merritt" in the course of this correspondence. The latter is none other than Abraham Merritt, legendary author of The Moon Pool, and many other tales of early science fiction. Lovecraft and Merritt were mutual admirers of the other's work.

The letter is in very fine condition, with the usual mailing folds. The envelope is torn at the stamp, but the flaw does not affect any of Lovecraft's writing on the envelope. A rare letter to one of Lovecraft's closest friends, collaborators, and raconteurs with a rare, original mailing envelope in Lovecraft's hand. From the Robert and Diane Yaspan Collection.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for posting information like this. I enjoyed your comments on Clark Ashton Smith and Lovecraft's relationship; it's great that people like you are out there doing this sort of research. Thanks again!


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