A New Acquaintance

—Extra! Special! The postman just arrived with the latest bunch of forwarded mail, and guess who that Auburn, Cal. letter was from? CLARK ASHTON SMITH, the author of “The Star-Treader”, “Odes and Sonnets”, “The Hasheesh-Eater”, etc., and the artist who drew the unutterably hideous pictures I sent you! I had written him at Loveman’s suggestion, but never thought he would answer. He’s a good fellow—he has seen one of my stories (“Beyond the Wall of Sleep”, which Loveman sent him), praises it effusively, and wants to see more. I shall accommodate him, you can bet! Did I tell you—or A. E. P. G.—that I have both of his already published works? Galpin (generous little divvle!) gave me “The Star-Treader”, whilst George Kirk (benevolent soul!) gave me “Odes and Sonnets” (deluxe edition, price $6.00) out of his regular stock. As you know, Kirk is a bookseller . . . Smith is a genius. As a poet he is on par with Loveman, and as an artist he is alone in his field. He is going to give me his new book when it is out. I have lent “Odes and Sonnets” to little Longlet, and the child is transported with Smith’s devastating horror.

DESCRIPTION: In a letter to his aunt Lillian D. Clark, Lovecraft describes his reaction upon receiving a letter from Clark Ashton Smith, a poet who would, in time, become one of his closest friends.

CITATION: Lovecraft, H. P. “To Lillian D. Clark.” 1 Sept. 1922. H. P. Lovecraft: Letters from New York. Edited by S. T. Joshi and David E. Schultz, Night Shade Books, 2005, pp. 18-9.

Fair (?) Hecatissa

Young Strephon for his Chloë sigh’d
In accents warm but vain;
Th’ Hibernian nymph his suit deny’d,
Nor melted at his pain.

But one day from an Eastern scene
Fair (?) Hecatissa came;
She ey’d the swain with fav’ring mien,
And felt the Paphian flame.

No answ’ring flame the youth display’d;
He scorn’d her doubtful charms,
And still implor’d th’ Hibernian maid
To seek his outstretch’d arms.

Thus Strephon, both unlov’d and lov’d,
Both pleading and refusing,
Plann’d, that to passion might be mov’d
The maiden of his choosing.

With seeming scorn he ceas’d his sighs,
And careless turn’d away;
Then courted with dissembling eyes
The maid from Boston Bay.

The willing fair (?) his wooing heard;
With bliss his suit receiv’d;
Bright Chloë, list’ning, notes each word,
With jealous longing griev’d.

DESCRIPTION: In his poem “A Pastoral Tragedy of Appleton, Wisconsin,” Lovecraft affectionately mocks the romantic entanglements of his friend Alfred Galpin.

CITATION: Lovecraft, H. P. “A Pastoral Tragedy of Appleton, Wisconsin.” The Ancient Track: The Complete Poetical Works of H. P. Lovecraft. Edited by S. T. Joshi, Hippocampus Press, 2013, pp. 131-2.

A “Spoiled Child”

The science of chemistry, in which I am glad to find you interested, first captivated me in the Year of Our Lord 1898—in a rather peculiar way. With the insatiable curiosity of early childhood, I used to spend hours poring over the pictures in the back of Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary—absorbing a miscellaneous variety of ideas. After familiarising myself with antiquities, medieval dress and armour, birds, animals, reptiles, fishes, flag of all nations, heraldry, etc., etc., I lit upon the section devoted to “Philosophical and Scientific Instruments”, I was veritably hypnotised with it. Chemical apparatus especially attracted me, & I resolved (before knowing a thing about the science!) to have a laboratory. Being a “spoiled child” I had but to ask, & it was mine. I was given a cellar room of good size, & provided by my elder aunt (who had studied chemistry at boarding school) with some simple apparatus & a copy of The Young Chemist—a beginner’s manual by Prof. John Howard Appleton of Brown—a personal acquaintance. The Young Chemist was just the book for me—devoted to easy and instructive experiments—and I was soon deep in its pages. The laboratory “work”—or play—seemed delightful, & despite a few mishaps, explosions, & broken instruments, I got along splendidly. Soon I acquired other books, and began (March 4, 1899) to issue a chemical magazine called The Scientific Gazette, which I maintained for eight years. This was, I suppose, my entry to amateur journalism! By 1901 or thereabouts I had a fair knowledge of the principles of chemistry and the details of the inorganic part—about the equivalent of a high-school course, and not including analysis of any kind.

DESCRIPTION: In a letter to his friend Alfred Galpin, Lovecraft describes his discovery of chemistry at the age of eight years old and the laboratory his family created for him in the basement of their home.

CITATION: Lovecraft, H. P. “To Alfred Galpin.” 29 Aug. 1918. Selected Letters. Edited by August Derleth and Donald Wandrei, vol. 1, Arkham House, 1965, pp. 74-6.

A Tripartite Nature

Were I to grow sober and introspective like you and the Galpin Kidlet, I should describe mine own nature as tripartite, my interests consisting of three parallel and dissociated groups—(a) Love of the strange and the fantastic. (b) Love of the abstract truth and of scientific logick. (c) Love of the ancient and the permanent. Sundry combinations of these three strains will probably account for all my odd tastes and eccentricities.

DESCRIPTION: In a letter to his friend Rheinhart Kleiner, Lovecraft describes his nature as being composed of three contradictory parts.

CITATION: Lovecraft, H. P. “To Rheinhart Kleiner.” 7 Mar. 1920. Selected Letters. Edited by August Derleth and Donald Wandrei, vol. 1, Arkham House, 1965, pp. 109-12.