—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.
The hours of night unheeded fly,
And in the grate the embers fade;
Vast shadows one by one pass by
In silent daemon cavalcade.
But still the magic volume holds
The raptur’d eye in realms apart,
And fulgent sorcery enfolds
The willing mind and eager heart.
The lonely room no more is there—
For to the sight in pomp appear
Temples and cities pois’d in air,
And blazing glories—sphere on sphere.
DESCRIPTION: In his poem “On Reading Lord Dunsany’s Book of Wonder,” Lovecraft describes the sense of awe he experiences when reading Lord Dunsany’s works.
CITATION: Lovecraft, H. P. “On Reading Lord Dunsany’s Book of Wonder.” The Ancient Track: The Complete Poetical Works of H. P. Lovecraft. Edited by S. T. Joshi, Hippocampus Press, 2013, pp. 70-1.
I had turned to a neighbouring shelf and was examining its meagre literary contents—an eighteenth-century Bible, a Pilgrim’s Progress of like period, illustrated with grotesque woodcuts and printed by the almanack-maker Isaiah Thomas, the rotting bulk of Cotton Mather’s Magnalia Christi Americana, and a few other books of evidently equal age—when my attention was aroused by the unmistakable sound of walking in the room overhead.
DESCRIPTION: In this passage from the short story “The Picture in the House” (1920), the narrator describes the books he discovers when, during a storm, he takes refuge in a seemingly abandoned house.
CITATION: Lovecraft, H. P. “The Picture in the House.” The Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Stories. Edited by S. T. Joshi, Penguin Books, 1999, pp. 34-42.
The place was dark and dusty and half-lost
In tangles of old alleys near the quays,
Reeking of strange things brought in from the seas,
And with queer curls of fog that west winds tossed.
Small lozenge panes, obscured by smoke and frost,
Just shewed the books, in piles like twisted trees,
Rotting from floor to roof—congeries
Of crumbling elder lore at little cost.
I entered, charmed, and from a cobwebbed heap
Took up the nearest tome and thumbed it through,
Trembling at curious words that seemed to keep
Some secret, monstrous if one only knew.
Then, looking for some seller old in craft,
I could find nothing but a voice that laughed.
DESCRIPTION: In his poem “The Book,” Lovecraft describes a curious bookstore and its ghostly owner.
CITATION: Lovecraft, H. P. “The Book.” The Ancient Track: The Complete Poetical Works of H. P. Lovecraft. Edited by S. T. Joshi, Hippocampus Press, 2013, pp. 80-1.
I do not know what windings in the waste
Of those strange sea-lanes brought me home once more,
But on my porch I trembled, white with haste
To get inside and bolt the heavy door.
I had the book that told the hidden way
Across the void and through the space-hung screens
That hold the undimensioned worlds at bay,
And keep lost aeons to their own demesnes.
At last the key was mine to those vague visions
Of sunset spires and twilight woods that brood
Dim in the gulfs beyond this earth’s precisions,
Lurking as memories of infinitude.
The key was mine, but as I sat there mumbling,
The attic window shook with a faint fumbling.
DESCRIPTION: In his poem “The Key,” Lovecraft describes his speaker’s sense of triumph when he learns, with the help of a stolen grimoire, how to transcend space and time.
CITATION: Lovecraft, H. P. “The Key.” The Ancient Track: The Complete Poetical Works of H. P. Lovecraft. Edited by S. T. Joshi, Hippocampus Press, 2013, p. 81.
John Whateley lived about a mile from town,
Up where the hills began to huddle thick;
We never thought his wits were very quick,
Seeing the way he let his farm run down.
He used to waste his time on some queer books
He’d found around the attic of his place,
Till funny lines got creased into his face,
And folks all said they didn’t like his looks.
When he began those night-howls we declared
He’d better be locked up away from harm,
So three men from the Aylesbury town farm
Went for him—but came back alone and scared.
They’d found him talking to two crouching things
That at their step flew off on great black wings.
DESCRIPTION: In his poem “The Familiars,” Lovecraft describes the fiendish practices of John Whateley, an eccentric farmer who dabbles in black magic.
CITATION: Lovecraft, H. P. “The Familiars.” The Ancient Track: The Complete Poetical Works of H. P. Lovecraft. Edited by S. T. Joshi, Hippocampus Press, 2013, pp. 90-1.