Friday, August 21, 2009

Smith to Finlay on Lovecraft

Smith, Clark Ashton. TYPED LETTER SIGNED (TLS), ribbon copy with a few corrections and emendations in the author's hand, one and a half pages, dated 15 May 1937, to Virgil Finlay ("Dear Virgil Finlay"), signed "Clark Ashton Smith," on two sheets of plain letter-size paper. Thanks Finlay for writing to him, adding that he had been thinking of writing him, especially after Lovecraft, in his very last letter to him, shortly before his death in March of that year, urged him to do so. Thanks him for the compliments on his stories and reciprocates with a paragraph of generous praise for Finlay's illustrations. "Your work, it seems to me, can take its place with that of the best modern illustrators, such as Sime, Rackham, Harry Clarke, Alastair, etc." Explains that he has written little recently because of the death of his mother and illness of his father. Laments that "Lovecraft's death leaves an abysmal void for the survivors," then complains that "more appreciation and a proper financial recompense" might have kept him alive. "It is damnable to reflect that America has either killed her finest artists or driven them into exile. Poe certainly died from hardship rather than drink; and Bierce and Hearn were impelled to flee the country." Closes with some discussion of his experiments in sculpture using local (fairly soft) materials. Published in KLARKASH-TON AND MONSTRO LIGRIV (1974). Old mailing folds, fine on paper that is browning just a little. (#103865)

Smith, Clark Ashton. TYPED LETTER SIGNED (TLS), three pages, ribbon copy with a few corrections in the author's hand, dated 27 September 1937, to Virgil Finlay ("Dear Virgil"), signed "With cordial best wishes, Klarkash-Ton," on three sheets of plain letter-size paper. Apologizes for his delay in writing, saying he'd been working from 6:00 AM to 10:00 PM during July and August, which left little time for letter-writing. Discusses some recent work of his submitted to or accepted by WEIRD TALES and his hopes that Finlay will be assigned to illustrate it. In connection with the rejection of one of his tales there, he writes, "I doubt if any of my work will ever have a wide public appeal, since the ideation and esthetics of my tales and poems are too remote from the psychology of the average reader. It is reassuring, however, that my work should appeal so strongly to a few." Responds to comments by Finlay about the challenges of illustrating weird fiction, as well as different techniques for writing it. Contrasts Lovecraft's habit of minutely building realistic settings for his fantastic tales versus his own tendency to "weave the entire web on the loom of fantasy…. No doubt my own preference is motivated by a certain amount of distaste for the local and the modern, and a sort of nostalgia for impossible and unattainable dreamlands." Says a bit about his environment in Auburn. Applauds Finlay's admiration of the Pre-Raphaelites and recommends that he look at the work of Gustave Moreau and Odilon Redon. "I believe the modern prejudice against literary ideas in art springs from the fact that many modern artists are incapable of ideas of any kind." In offering encouragement to Finlay, he writes about his main competitor, Margaret Brundage, who painted many covers for WEIRD TALES and specialized in beautiful seminude women menaced by various monsters. "Brundage is a curio, and I can't help wondering how or whence she derives her weird ideas of anatomy." Sympathizes with Finlay's statement of alienation from the spirit of the times, which he characterizes as materialistic. "Some day there will be a return toward mysticism, a recovery of spiritual values. The question is, will it come before - or after - Armageddon?" Fine content. Old mailing folds, fine. (#103867)

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