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.


A Fat, Shock-Headed Gentleman Named Morton

Naturally I did not omit the town of Paterson from my itinerary, but was very congenially entertain’d by the head of the local Musaeum there; a fat, shock-headed gentleman named Morton, with whom I had had considerable previous acquaintance. James Ferdinand, I may remark, is an ideal host; and his establishment is a marvel of accomplishment and effective administration. A building all too small is utilis’d with the greatest ingenuity conceivable, and the system of arrangement and labelling wou’d do credit to the most veteran practitioner of the curatorial art. The mineral collection, which covers the entire exhibition part of the second floor, is one of the most ample and well-classify’d in these colonies; and is due entirely to the keen skill and unremitting vigilance and activity of our genial colleague. Mortonius also shew’d me as much of the local scenery as limited time wou’d permit; taking me to the top of Garrett Mountain, whence is observable as fine a prospect of Paterson [as] one cou’d ask—a prospect which removes much of the grimy sordidness habitual to the town as seen closely.

DESCRIPTION: In his essay “Observations on Several Parts of America,” Lovecraft describes his visit to Paterson, New Jersey, during which he was entertained by his longtime friend and fellow amateur James F. Morton.

CITATION: Lovecraft, H. P. “Observations on Several Parts of America.” Collected Essays. Edited by S. T. Joshi, vol. 4, Hippocampus Press, 2005, pp. 16-30.

The Iridescent Past

There had been no decay, nor even vandalism. Tables stood about as of yore, pictures we knew still adorned the walls with unbroken glass. Not an inch of tar paper was ripped off, & in the cement hearth we found still embedded the small pebbles we stamped in when it was new & wet—pebbles arranged to form the initials G.M.C.C. Nothing was lacking—save the fire, the ambition, the ebulliency of youth in ourselves; & that can never be replaced. Thus two stolid middle-aged men caught for a moment a vision of the aureate & iridescent past—caught it, & sighed for days that are no more.

DESCRIPTION: In a letter to his aunt, Annie E. P. Gamwell, Lovecraft describes the sense of nostalgia he felt when, as an adult, he found his childhood clubhouse unchanged by time.

CITATION: Lovecraft, H. P. “To Annie E. P. Gamwell.” 19 Aug. 1921. Selected Letters. Edited by August Derleth and Donald Wandrei, vol. 1, Arkham House, 1965, pp. 144-7.

Your Task Henceforth to Sing

You haunt the lonely strand where herons hide,
And palm-framed sunsets open gates of flame;
Where marble moonbeams bridge the lapping tide
To westward shores of dream without a name.

Here, in a haze of half-remembering,
You catch faint sounds from that far, fabled beach.
The world is changed—your task henceforth to sing
Dim, beckoning wonders you could never reach.

DESCRIPTION: In his poem “To a Young Poet in Dunedin,” Lovecraft disparages the modern world, which he considers devoid of magic, and encourages his friend Allan Brownell Grayson, whom he met while visiting Henry S. Whitehead in 1931, to celebrate the “dim, beckoning wonders” that exist only in dreams.

CITATION: Lovecraft, H. P. “To a Young Poet in Dunedin.” The Ancient Track: The Complete Poetical Works of H. P. Lovecraft. Edited by S. T. Joshi, Hippocampus Press, 2013, p. 191.

To Live is to Dream

Now, of course, I do not have frequent chances for the special literary conversation I then had—but after all, that formed but a small part of life. It is more important to live—to dream and to write—than to talk, and in New York I could not live. Everything I saw became unreal and two-dimensional, and everything I thought and did became trivial and devoid of meaning through lack of any points of reference belonging to any fabric of which I could conceivably form a part. I was stifled—poisoned—imprisoned in a nightmare—and now not even the threat of damnation could induce me to dwell in the accursed place again.

DESCRIPTION: In a letter to his friend Donald Wandrei, Lovecraft describes the sense of cultural isolation he experienced while living in New York City.

CITATION: Lovecraft, H. P. “To Donald Wandrei.” 10 Feb. 1927. Lord of a Visible World: An Autobiography in Letters. Edited by S. T. Joshi and David E. Schultz, Ohio University Press, 2000, pp. 197-201.

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.

Clark Ashton Smith

He is very kindly and likeable, and incredibly brave in his lifelong struggle against illness, poverty, and misunderstanding. He has at times helped out his revenues by fruit-picking, but is always forced to struggle hard. His home is a very small one, with no running water—just a primitive well outside. He writes in the open a great deal—at a table in his front yard—and takes many walking trips in the picturesque mountains of his region. The responsibility of his aged parents (who are inclined to domineer a bit) has kept him chained rather closely at home—if it were not for them, he would probably manage to see more of the world. Perhaps, though, his localism has been a blessing in disguise—his limited acquaintance with this world (San Francisco being the only metropolis he knows) giving his imagination all the keener force in depicting other worlds and other universes!

DESCRIPTION: In a letter to his friend F. Lee Baldwin, Lovecraft describes his friend and fellow writer Clark Ashton Smith.

CITATION: Lovecraft, H. P. “To F. Lee Baldwin.” 27 Mar. 1934. Lord of a Visible World: An Autobiography in Letters. Edited by S. T. Joshi and David E. Schultz, Ohio University Press, 2000, pp. 254-6.

Young August Derleth

Derleth impressed me tremendously favourably from the moment I began to hear from him personally. I saw that he had a prodigious fund of activity and reserve mental energy, and that it would only be a question of time before he began to correlate it to real aesthetic advantage. There was a bit of callow egotism also—but that was only to be expected; and indeed, a boy of his age would scarcely have been normal if he hadn’t had it. And surely enough, as the years passed, I saw that the kid was truly growing. The delicate reminiscent sketches begun a couple of years ago were the final proof—for there, indeed, he had reached what was unmistakably sincere and serious self-expression of a high order. Nor did it take long to see that this was the real stuff, and not any mere flash in the pan. He kept it up—naturally, spontaneously, and without effort—and the various fragments began to fit splendidly into a larger organic unity. There was no disputing that he really had something to say—which is true of woefully few prolific and often cultivated aspirants—and that he was trying to say it honestly and effectively, with a minimum of the jaunty hack devices and stylistic tricks which went into his printed pot-boiling material.

DESCRIPTION: In a letter to his friend Donald Wandrei, Lovecraft describes his impression of August Derleth and his writing.

CITATION: Lovecraft, H. P. “To Donald Wandrei.” 2 Nov. 1930. Lord of a Visible World: An Autobiography in Letters. Edited by S. T. Joshi and David E. Schultz, Ohio University Press, 2000, pp. 252-3.