Principal Facts of Biography

Donald Sidney-Fryer

The following has been compiled principally from An Autobiography of Clark Ashton Smith (first published in The Science-Fiction Fan for August 1936); from the write-up by Smith himself About Clark Ashton Smith (first published in The Auburn Journal for Monday, November 3, 1941); from the biographico-critical essay by Donald S. Fryer The Sorcerer Departs (published in the mimeographed chapbook IN MEMORIAM: CLARK ASHTON SMITH, August 1963); from Clark Ashton Smith: A Chronology, compiled by Donald S. Fryer (published in Mirage for Summer 1966); and from Smith's two long letters to S. J. Sackett, dated "June 30th, 1949" and "July llth, 1950," respectively. Smith's own summary of the formative influences on him derives in particular from these two long letters to S. J. Sackett, and from the statement by Smith (that it was not Lord Dunsany but Ambrose Bierce and Robert W. Chambers — among others — who influenced Smith in his fiction) included in the letter from Carol Smith to L. Sprague de Camp, written sometime shortly before Smith's death in August 1961 (this statement was published in the amateur magazine Amra, in the issue for January 1963).

Friday, January 13th, 1893: Clark Ashton Smith is born to Fanny and Timeus Smith, in Long Valley, California, some 2-1/2 miles from old Auburn, in the house of his maternal grandparents, Mr. and Mrs. Hiram Gaylord. Smith passes a happy childhood, apart from frequent illnesses. His school attendance is intermittent. The first 5 grammar grades he attends at the old red school-house some 4 miles out of old Auburn (about a mile and a half west of the Gaylord ranch-house). Of these first 5 grades Smith later estimates he had attended only about 4 full school years. The last 3 grammar grades he attends at the old grammar-school on Lincoln Way in Auburn (since replaced by a new structure), from which he graduates. He attends only one or two days at the old wooden Placer Union High School just off High Street (this building has since been leveled and then replaced by a handsome modern Structure in stone) and then he and his parents decide he should withdraw. Together they take his own higher education in hand. On his own, Smith learns Latin, well enough to read the Latin poets with ease and enjoyment, no mean feat. Also on his own, he goes through Webster's Unabridged Dictionary, from end to end, studying every word and its etymology. Later, Smith refuses a Guggenheim scholarship to the University of California, at Berkeley, on the premise he can do better on his own.

1902: The Smith family moves from the Gaylord house to Indian Ridge, usually called Boulder Ridge, about a mile or so out of old Auburn. Here Timeus Smith, with the help of his 9-year-old son, had built a cabin; an old abandoned mine-shaft becomes the Smith well.

1904: At the age of 11, Smith undertakes "his first literary efforts . . . fairy tales and imitations of THE ARABIAN NIGHTS." The frequent illnesses of his childhood had permitted Smith to develop "an early taste for reading": now in 1904 he writes fairy tales modeled on those of the Countess D'Aulnoy and of Hans Christian Anderson. Somewhat later he writes long and complicated stories derived from THE ARABIAN NIGHTS, Beckford's VATHEK (one of the chief literary enthusiasms of his adolescence), and Rudyard Kipling's tales of India.

Circa 1905-1910: Composes "long adventure novels of Oriental life, and much mediocre verse." 1906; At the age of 13, Smith discovers in a grammar-school library the poetry of Edgar Allan Poe, and begins to write verse, including not only the expected imitations of Poe but also imitations of the RUBAIYAT of Omar Khayyam (in the standard translation of Edward Fitzgerald). He gradually acquires a feeling for metre and rhythm. September 1907: At the age of 14, about 4 months before his 15th birthday, Smith discovers the poetry of George Sterling: A WINE OF WIZARDRY, first published in The Cosmopolitan for September 1907. 1908: At the age of 15, Smith discovers William Beckford's Oriental fantasy VATHEK, which he rereads many times, and which exerts a considerable influence on both his early and later fiction.

1910: Sells his first poems to magazines. 1910-1912: Has his first 4 professional short stories published, "contes cruels with Oriental themes." 3 of these derive directly from 3 juvenile tales included in an early notebook used by Smith under the title TALES OF INDIA. Despite such encouragement, Smith abandons fiction until the middle and late 1920's; and devotes most of his creative energies to verse during the period 1911-1926.

January 1911: Receives his first letter from George Sterling, the poet of the west, the unofficial poet laureate of the west coast. Smith's first letter to Sterling had been written for him by Edith J. Hamilton, teacher of English literature at Placer Union High School, and friend to both Smith and Sterling. The Smith-Sterling correspondence is to last until shortly before Sterling's death in November 1926. They meet many times in person, and become great friends. Sterling acts as mentor to Smith, and as a helpful critic of Smith's poetry, the cause of which he does much to promote. 1911: Smith creates Nero, Ode to the Abyss, and other remarkable poems. 1911-1912: Creates most of the poems included in THE STAR-TREADER AND OTHER POEMS.

April 1911: A. M. Robertson publishes Sterling's best single collection THE HOUSE OF ORCHIDS AND OTHER POEMS (apart from his later SELECTED POEMS, published in 1923). In a letter to Sterling dated April 28, 1911, Bierce expresses his delight with this book; judging from his remarks, there can be little doubt but that he would have been similarly delighted with Smith's third published volume EBONY AND CRYSTAL, POEMS IN VERSE AND PROSE. Circa July 1911: Sterling introduces Bierce to the poetry of his protégé. Bierce reads in ms. the Ode to the Abyss, and expresses his admiration and appreciation of this poem in his letter to Sterling dated Tuesday, August 8, 1911.

June-July 1912: Smith spends a month or so at Sterling's place in Carmel. He experiences for the first time the works of Baudelaire (in translation). Summer & Autumn 1912: Bierce visits California for the last time. He and Smith almost meet face to face.

Early August 1912 (the 2nd, 3rd, and 5th): The 4 major daily newspapers of San Francisco, together with the leading weekly, officially discover Smith and acclaim him in extravagant terms: Clark Ashton Smith, the Boy Poet ... Boy is Poetic Genius.. Lonely Sierras Inspire Muse ... California Youth Is Hailed by Critics as Poetical Genius ... Writes Poems Pronounced by Literati as Ranking with Best of Keats and Byron ... Sierra Teaches Poetry to Boy of Its Peaks. 19-Year-Old Lad from a Ranch in Mountains Is Singer That Amazes. New Shelley, Say Critics. Predict Book of Verse by Grammar School Graduate Will Show Genius ... Auburn's Precocious Genius ... Genius Flashes from the Sierra. Auburn Boy Is Called Keats' Equal ... Wealth of Language and Beauty of Imagery Amaze the Critics, Boutwell Dunlap is acclaimed as the official discoverer of Smith; but the real discoverer of Smith, if anyone, had been George Sterling. The truth is revealed a week later.

August 10, 1912: Town Talk, the Pacific Weekly, publishes a letter from Ambrose Bierce, who writes on behalf of Smith, defending him against the extravagant acclamation accorded Smith by the San Francisco press, and against the inevitable "lions of reaction," and revealing Sterling as the true discoverer of Smith. Bierce's letter is dated "Oakland, August 6, 1912."

October 1912: Echoes of the San Francisco press's discovery and extravagant acclamation of Smith, reach the east coast: Current Literature for October 1912, in the dept. Recent Poetry, makes a report and quotes from Smith's poetry.

November 1912: A. M. Robertson publishes THE STAR-TREADER AND OTHER POEMS, Smith's first collection of verse and his first book. (Sterling had helped Smith select the contents.) The over-all critical reaction — mostly from the California, i.e., San Francisco, press proves quite favorable. The book is dedicated by Smith "To My Mother."

1912-1922: Smith creates the poems included in EBONY AND CRYSTAL, POEMS IN VERSE AND PROSE. 1912-1914: Creates his first poems in prose. 1913-1921: Suffers 8 years of ill health, including a "nervous breakdown" and "incipient t.b." (according to Smith's letter to August Derleth dated "Nov. 6th, 1941"). This is a highly crucial time in Smith's life.<

1914 (?): Ambrose Bierce dies somewhere in northern Mexico. If he had lived, Bierce doubtlessly would have played a pivotal role in achieving national and international recognition for Smith. Circa Midsummer 1914: Smith appears on the stage, in the Grove Play of the Bohemian Club for 1914, Nec-Natama (Comradeship), A Forest Play, the text by J. Wilson Shields; Smith appears in the chorus as one of the group of Love-Longing Indians. October 1914: A. M. Robertson publishes Sterling's collection BEYOND THE BREAKERS AND OTHER POEMS, which contains the sonnet The Coming Singer dedicated by Sterling to Smith, although this is not officially noted in any printing; in this sonnet Sterling pays high and prophetic tribute to Smith.

January 1915: By this date reportedly more than a thousand copies of THE STAR-TREADER have been sold (probable number of copies originally printed, 2000, the usual edition of Sterling's collections printed by A. M. Robertson). This is a remarkable sale for a volume of verse, especially for a first collection by a comparatively "unknown singer." 1915-1921: Smith creates the POEMS IN PROSE included in EBONY AND CRYSTAL. Smith's principal models are the PETITS POEMS EN PROSE (also called LE SPLEEN DE PARIS) of Baudelaire (which Smith first experiences in translation, most likely the one by Arthur Symons); and especially that rare and quintessential collection PASTELS IN PROSE (published in 1890), translated from the French of 23 authors by Stuart Merrill. November 1915: Smith goes to San Francisco to see the Panama-Pacific International Exposition (1915), as the guest of George Sterling.

1918-1928: Smith makes numerous drawings and paintings, ranging from the weird and grotesque to the decorative and semi-naturalistic. Some are exhibited in New York and in cities on the west coast. He sells a few and gives many away.

June 1918: The Book Club of California, San Francisco, publishes ODES AND SONNETS, an édition de luxe. Town Talk, the Pacific Weekly, gives the book its one and only review, quite favorable. Autumn 1919: Smith meets Mrs. Genevieve K. Sully, with whom he becomes a close friend; their friendship lasts for over 40 years.

February 20th, 1920: Smith completes the first draft of The Hashish-Eater; or The Apocalypse of Evil, the longest and the greatest of his poems. Over-all time for completing the first draft: ten days.

Circa 1920: Creates the following fragment of a poem which with its characteristic Smithian music and imagery, may serve as a convenient index to the unique appeal of Smith's art whether in verse or in prose:

Where the brazen griffins guard
From the satin-footed pard,
And the lion of the sands,
All the wealth of elder lands —
Rich and unremembered things, —
Tombs and crowns of crumbled kings,
Ebon lutes with silver strings,
Pearls, and ivory, and nard.

1921-1925: Creates the poems included in SANDALWOOD. August 1922: Receives his first letter from H. P. Lovecraft. Smith answers, and thus begins a friendship through correspondence that is to last until Lovecraft's death in March 1937. They never meet in person. October 1922: Smith is honored by the X Literary Club of Sacramento. December 1922: Publishes himself his 2nd major poetry collection EBONY AND CRYSTAL, POEMS IN VERSE AND PROSE. The over-all critical reaction (mostly from the California press), like that accorded THE STAR-TREADER, proves quite favorable. "Dedication to Samuel Loveman."

April 1923-January 1926: Smith becomes a "journalist" and contributes both poems and epigrams to The Auburn Journal, to discharge part of his indebtedness to B. A. Cassidy, the proprietor and editor, for the expenses incurred in the printing of EBONY AND CRYSTAL by The Auburn Journal Press. A typical installment of Clark Ashton Smith's Column contains a highly romantic and imaginative lyric preceded or followed by a set of rather cynical and flippant epigrams, the very embodiment of anti-romanticism. Occasionally the epigrams, apothegms, etc., include a few serious and often profoundly beautiful pensées which are one with the expansive lyricism of the poems.

1924: Smith writes the very short story Something New, quite unlike Smith's later fiction; published in 10 Story Book for August 1924. February 26th, 1925: Creates the longsome poem in prose The Passing of Aphrodite. Also, in 1925, incited by his friend and correspondent H. P. Lovecraft, Smith writes what he considers his "first weird story" The Abominations of Yondo. Later in the same year he writes the story Sadastor.

1925: Starting in about March, Smith learns French on his own, and shortly thereafter, makes his first Verse translations of poems originally in verse by Baudelaire. September 1925: Receives a letter from Edwin Markham dated "September 20, 1925" in which Markham expresses his esteem for Smith's poetry. October 1925: Publishes himself his 3rd major poetry collection SANDALWOOD, including 19 translations from the French of Charles Pierre Baudelaire. Critical reaction, although paltry, proves favorable. (Only 3 reviews were accorded this volume; evidently very few copies were sent out for review.) Smith dedicates the volume "To George Sterling with Affection and Admiration." 1925-1929: Smith makes many prose translations of poems originally in verse by Baudelaire.

Circa early November 1926: A few weeks before his death, Sterling states to David Warren Ryder, "Clark Ashton Smith is undoubtedly our finest living poet. He is in the great tradition of Shakespeare, Keats and Shelley; and yet, to our everlasting shame, he is entirely neglected and almost completely unknown." Wednesday, November 17, 1926: George Sterling, Smith's great friend and mentor, dies at the Bohemian Club in San Francisco, presumably by suicide. December 1926: Donald A. Wandrei in his essay on Smith and his poetry The Emperor of Dreams, published in The Overland Monthly for December 1926, acclaims him in highly enthusiastic terms. (Sterling had been instrumental in having this essay accepted and published by The Overland Monthly.) December 1926: Smith creates the magnificent threnody To George Sterling: A Valediction; first published in The Overland Monthly for November 1927.

1926-1929: Creates a considerable number of poems in French and — hypothesis — prepares in his imagination the divers backgrounds for his fiction of 1929-1938: Hyperborea, Atlantis, Averoigne, Zothique, etc. 1927: With the death of Sterling, Smith deepens his friendship with Genevieve K. Sully. In July 1927, under her aegis, Smith visits the Donner-Pass-and-Summit region, in the Sierras, for the first time, as well as Crater Ridge nearby, the future scene of certain portions of the fantasies The City of the Singing Flame (finished January 15th, 1931) and Beyond the Singing Flame (finished June 30th, 1931). Smith has a profound imaginative experience during his first visit on Crater Ridge, and also on this occasion Mrs. Sully urges Smith to write fiction rather than poetry as a source of income. All these factors lead to Smith's writing fiction during 1929-1938; especially the one of economic necessity: the partial failure of a small income, a quarterly allowance from former U.S. Senator Phelan, makes it necessary for him to earn some sort of steady wages. Thus, the visit to Crater Ridge has a decisive influence on Smith's creative evolution into a fictionwriter.

Before September 1928: Smith writes the short story The Ninth Skeleton. 1928-1929: Resumes the creation of original verse in English, in some quantity, with the cycle of love poems THE JASMINE GIRDLE, included in Smith's SELECTED POEMS; this cycle grows out of his great friendship with Genevieve K. Sully. Beginning of the Depression, 1929: Smith commences writing his later fiction, and during 1929-1938 he creates over 100 short stories (many of them virtually condensed novels) stylistically and imaginatively growing out of his poems in verse and prose of 1911-1926.

A word or two as to Smith's method in writing a story. First he would sketch the plot in longhand on some piece of note-paper, or in his notebook, THE BLACK BOOK, which Smith used circa 1929-1961. He would then write the first draft, usually in longhand but occasionally directly on the typewriter. He would then rewrite the story some 3 or 4 times (Smith's own estimate); this he usually did directly on the typewriter. Also, he would subject each draft to considerable alteration and correction in longhand, taking the ms. with him on a stroll and reading aloud to himself in some secluded spot on or near Boulder Ridge. Thus, this careful rewriting in a manner not dissimilar to that of Gustave Flaubert (all proportions guarded), accounts, at least in part, for the extraordinarily polished style characteristic of Smith's finest prose fictions. Also during this period, Smith illustrates some of his own stories with black and white line-drawings; these are not characteristic of his best pictorial work as his real forte lies in color. December 1929: Creates about 10 poems in prose later designated as PROSE PASTELS. P September 16th, 1932: Smith pays a fitting and beautiful homage to William Beckford and his HISTORY OF THE CALIPH VATHEK by writing a conclusion (about 4000 words) for THE THIRD EPISODE OF VATHEK, THE STORY OF THE PRINCESS ZULKAIS AND THE PRINCE KALILAH, deliberately left unfinished by Beckford. Smith once tentatively planned to write a 4th and a 5th Episode.

April 27, 1933 (The Auburn Journal): "Clark Ashton Smith Declared Greatest American Poet." George Work, author of WHITE MAN'S HARVEST, during a newspaper interview gives high praise to Smith. Work "with the late George Sterling and David Starr Jordan, considers Clark Ashton Smith the greatest American poet of today." His "poems do not compare unfavorably with those of Byron, Shelley, Keats or Swinburne." June 1933: Smith publishes himself a pamphlet of 6 of his finest short stories under the title THE DOUBLE SHADOW AND OTHER FANTASIES.

1934: Resumes the production of verse in comparative quantity. August 1934: Successfully fights a severe wood and grass fire on the Smith ranch. December 1934: David Warren Ryder in his brief essay The Price of Poetry, published in Controversy for December 1934, acclaims Smith as "a great poet" and as being "in our generation ... the fittest to wear the mantle of Shakespeare and Keats."

Circa April 1935: Almost by accident, Smith begins making small sculptures from California rock. In April 1934, autoing up from Oakland, E. Hoffmann Price had visited the Smiths for the first time. Price wanted mineral specimens for a museum curator in the east. Smith took Price on a visit to an old copper mine of which Smith's uncle, Ed Gaylord, a former Assemblyman, was part owner at the time. From the resultant automobile-full of divers rocks, ores and minerals, Smith kept a few specimens for himself. One year later it occurred to him he might carve something from a characteristic specimen: the resultant first carving was "the head of a hybrid grotesque, something between a hyena and a horned toad." By Summer 1949, Smith had carved almost 200 sculptures; and he had shipped some of them as far afield as Hawaii, England, and South Africa. Smith ordinarily made his carvings from native rocks and minerals, usually soft stones workable with a pen-knife.

Monday, September 9, 1935: Fanny Smith, née Mary Francis Gaylord, Smith's mother, dies at the age of 85. (Dates: 1850-1935.) November 1935: Smith begins putting together INCANTATIONS, a collection of miscellaneous poems (created and mostly published during the 1920's and the first half of the 1930's) rather than a connected cycle. It is originally to be published by R. H. Barlow; this project falls through, and Smith includes the collection in his SELECTED POEMS.

December 1936: Lovecraft writes his last poem, the sonnet To Klarkash-Ton, Lord of Averoigne; first published in Weird Tales for April 1938 under the title To Clark Ashton Smith. March 15, 1937: Smith's great friend, confrère, and correspondent, dies at the age of 47. March 31st, 1937: Smith creates the beautiful threnody To Howard Phillips Lovecraft; first published in Weird Tales for July 1937.

May 1937: The Futile Press of Lakeport, California, publishes the slender collection NERO AND OTHER POEMS (a small selection of reprints, with some alterations, from THE STAR-TREADER AND OTHER POEMS). Circa August 1937: Benjamin De Casseres, in the brief appreciation Clark Ashton Smith, Emperor of Shadows, writes: "He is brother prince to Poe, Baudelaire, Shelley, Rimbaud, Laforgue, Leconte de Lisle, Keats, Chopin, Blake and El Greco." (First published by The Futile Press circa November 1937.) Sunday, December 26, 1937: Smith's father, Timeus, dies at the age of 82. He had been born in England. (Dates: 1855-1937.)

1938: Smith's last regular year as a fictioneer. Numerous factors have led to Smith's cessation of fiction-writing. The chief reason is Smith's growing disgust with pulp fantasy and with the restrictions imposed upon its writers. The death of his mother in 1935, that of his great friend Lovecraft in 1937, and that of his father later in the same year, had taken from him some of his chief sources of immediate encouragement, Also, Smith finds the production of sculptures much easier and more enjoyable than that of fiction. After staying so close to Auburn and his fictioneering for so long, he needs to do more living than writing, and once he has done so, he returns to the full-time creation of poetry. From 1939 until his death, Smith once again is first and foremost the lyric poet: during this time he writes little more than a dozen stories. Another factor, an important physical one, prevents Smith from returning to the full-time production of prose fiction, at least during the 1940's. During this decade, he experiences much eye-strain, making arduous or next to impossible the long sessions of typing required by the composition of short stories. The typing of his SELECTED POEMS, limited to short sessions, he is able to do but finds even this comparatively little amount difficult. Smith could never have afforded, due to his minimum income, the services of a professional typist.

1938-1941: Smith is largely living and not writing, according to his letter dated "July 13th, 1941" to August Derleth. "I've been away from Auburn much of the time during the past 2 and 2/3 years, and have done more living than writing. Had got to the point where it was absolutely necessary. Now I'm trying to settle down to literary production again." Early in 1938, Smith receives a visit from the poet Eric Barker and the dancer Madelynne Greene (Mrs. Eric Barker), at that time living in San Rafael. They exchange many visits and become the best of friends. Until 1955, the three remain very close. 1939-1947: Smith creates the remarkable cycle of love poems THE HILL OF DIONYSUS (included in his SELECTED POEMS), growing out of his great friendship with the Barkers.

Circa 1939: Exhibition of Smith's pictures and sculptures at Gump's in San Francisco. Alfred Frankenstein, the distinguished art critic, compares the sculptures to preColumbian art. This is the earliest exhibit of sculptures by Smith. Also about this time, Smith revisits the site of George Sterling's place in Carmel — "our old Theleme" — which Smith had first visited in June-July 1912. This revisit inspires the lovely sonnet To George Sterling, a moving tribute to the elder bard.

1940: The Sisters of Mercy of Sacramento erect a Catholic Novitiate on the site of the former Nelson property (contiguous to the Smith ranch 1908-1919); formally called Our Lady of Mercy Convent of Auburn. Smith often refers to it as "The Nunnery of Averoigne." Either in 1940 or shortly thereafter, Smith digs a well for the nunnery.

January 1942: Exhibition of Smith's paintings and sculptures and mss. at the Crocker Art Gallery, Sacramento. This is the second exhibit of sculptures by Smith. August 1942: Arkham House publishes Smith's first book of short stories OUT OF SPACE AND TIME. Smith dedicates his first major prose collection "To Genevieve K. Sully" in gratitude to her for first urging him to write fiction on the occasion of their first visit to Crater Ridge, and for her subsequent encouragement over many years. September 23, 1942: Benjamin De Casseres hails Smith not only as a great poet and a great story-teller but as "a great prose writer" as well.

September 1944-December 1949: Smith produces his SELECTED POEMS. He dedicates this collection of collections to his great and good friends, the poet Eric Barker and the dancer Madelynne Greene. Of the over 700 poems by Smith known to be extant at the time of his death, over 500 are included in this collection. Delivered by mail to Arkham House in December 1949, it is published in November 1971.

October 1944: Arkham House publishes Smith's second book of short stories LOST WORLDS, dedicated "To August Derleth and Donald Wandrei." Circa the late 1940's, Smith assists Kenneth Yasuda with the "Englishing" of haiku from the Japanese. He becomes fascinated with the form's possibilities in English and creates over 100 haiku, many of which he includes in his SELECTED POEMS, in the section EXPERIMENTS IN HAIKU.

October 1948: Arkham House publishes Smith's third book of short stories GENIUS LOCI AND OTHER TALES. Late 1948 and early 1949: On his own, Smith learns Spanish, makes his first translations of Spanish poetry, and writes his first poems in Spanish. Spring 1949: Dr. Edward Wagenknecht, the distinguished man-of-letters, in his review of GENIUS LOCI AND OTHER TALES (published in The Arkham Sampler for Spring 1949), writes: " . . . We had better allow some place in our enjoyment for the considerable art of Mr. Clark Ashton Smith who ... must be, now that Lovecraft is dead, at the very least the premier American master in his particular genre." Summer 1949: Smith resumes his painting and begins by retouching some old pictures; he experiments with making pigments from local earths and minerals.

July l1th, 1950: In explanation of the elaborate style characteristic of most of his poems in prose and of his tales and/or extended poems in prose — as well as in explanation of his use of rare and exotic words and of wordcoinages — Smith comments as follows, in his letter to S. J. Sackett dated "July 11th, 1950":

"As to my employment of an ornate style, using many words of classic origin and exotic color, I can only say that it is designed to produce effects of language and rhythm which could not possibly be achieved by a vocabulary restricted to what is known as "basic English." As [Lytton] Strachey points out [in his essay on Sir Thomas Browne], a style composed largely of words of Anglo-Saxon origin tends to a spondaic rhythm, "which by some mysterious law, reproduces the atmosphere of ordinary life." [In Strachey's essay, the original wording reads: "which seems to produce (by some mysterious rhythmic law) an atmosphere of ordinary life."] An atmosphere of remoteness, vastness, mystery and exoticism is more naturally evoked by a style with an admixture of Latinity, lending itself to more varied and sonorous rhythms, as well as to subtler shades, tints and nuances of meaning — all of which, of course, are wasted or worse than wasted on the average reader, even if presumably literate.

"As to coinages, I have really made few such, apart from proper names of personages, cities, countries, deities, etc., in realms lying "east of the sun and west of the moon." I have used a few words, names of fabulous monsters, etc., drawn from Herodotus, Maundeville, and Flaubert which I have not been able to find in dictionaries or other works of reference. Some of these occur in The Hashish-Eater, a much-misunderstood poem, which was intended as a study in the possibilities of cosmic consciousness, drawing heavily on myth and fable for its imagery. It is my own theory that if the infinite worlds of the cosmos were opened to human vision, the visionary would be overwhelmed by horror in the end, like the hero of this poem.

"I hope I have made it plain that my use of rare and exotic words has been solely in accord with an esthetic theory, or, one might say, a technical theory."

(Note: The first paragraph quoted above first appeared — in part — in the amateur magazine Fantasy Sampler for June 1956, in Mr. Sackett's essay on Smith, The Last Romantic, It reappeared in the introductory essay by Donald S. Fryer, Clark Ashton Smith, Poet in Prose, in Smith's collection POEMS IN PROSE, June 1965.)

1950-1951: Smith continues to create new poems both in English and in Spanish. December 1951: Arkham House publishes Smith's sixth volume of verse THE DARK CHATEAU. 18 of its 40 poems are taken from the SELECTED POEMS. Many of the other 22 pieces, most of them created after the SELECTED POEMS, are outstanding. Smith significantly dedicates this collection "To the Memory of Edgar Allan Poe."

1952-1961: Smith still sculpts but creates only a little verse and prose. Sometime shortly after the publication of THE DARK CHATEAU, he has the first of a series of strokes which gradually lead to his death in 1961. Circa the end of August 1953: Receives a personal visit from his correspondent, publisher and friend, August Derleth. Late 1954: While visiting his poet-friend Eric Barker at Little Sur, Smith meets Carol Jones Dorman, of Pacific Grove. They fall in love, and are married in Auburn on Wednesday, November 10, 1954. They honeymoon on the Monterey Peninsula.

1954-1961: Smith maintains his residence alternately in Pacific Grove and near Auburn. Sometime after 1954: Smith creates the beautiful sonnet to his wife which begins: "From this my heart, a haunted Elsinore, / I send the phantoms packing for thy sake:" September 1957: The old Smith cabin, in which Smith has lived for more than half a century, burns to the ground. Circa 1957-1958: The New York Public Library purchases for the Berg Collection the Sterling-Smith correspondence, together with related mss. and typescripts by both Sterling and Smith.

March 1958: Arkham House publishes Smith's seventh volume of verse SPELLS AND PHILTRES with the "Dedication to Carol." 52 of its 60 poems are taken from the SELECTED POEMS. Evidently only 7 of the other 8 pieces have been written since THE DARK CHATEAU. Sunday, May 11, 1958: Smith appears on television. He is interviewed about his new book SPELLS AND PHILTRES; Sacramento, Channel 3, KCRA, 11 a.m.; program Reading for Pleasure.

February 1960: Arkham House publishes Smith's fourth book of short stories THE ABOMINATIONS OF YONDO. June 4th, 1961: Smith creates his last poem, the sonnet in alexandrines Cycles. July 1961: Writes his last story The Dart of Rasasfa around a future cover for Fantastic Stories of Imagination. The story proves unpublishable. Late July 1961: Receives a visit from fantasy and science-fiction writer L. Sprague de Camp and his wife Catherine. Monday, August 14, 1961: Clark Ashton Smith dies at the age of 68. Dates: 1893-1961.

November 1962: Roy A. Squires, Glendale, California, publishes a major portion of the cycle of love poems THE HILL OF DIONYSUS under the title THE HILL OF DIONYSUS — A SELECTION. August 1963: Jack L. Chalker and Associates, Baltimore, Maryland, publish the first full-scale memorial to Smith, the mimeographed chapbook IN MEMORIAM: CLARK ASHTON SMITH. July 1964: Roy A. Squires publishes a small selection of Smith's poems in Spanish under the title ¿DONDE DUERMES, ELDORADO? Y OTROS POEMAS. November 1964: Arkham House publishes Smith's fifth collection of short stories TALES OF SCIENCE AND SORCERY. June 1965: Arkham House publishes, under the title POEMS IN PROSE, a complete collection of all prose-poems by Smith known to exist, with 12 illustrations by Frank Utpatel. April 1970: Arkham House publishes Smith's sixth book of short stories OTHER DIMENSIONS (his last collection of stories previously published in magazines but not gathered beforetime in book form). November 1971: Arkham House publishes (at long last) Smith's monumental collection of SELECTED POEMS.

During his lifetime, in addition to his four arts of versifying, fictioneering, painting, and sculpting; Smith held various workaday jobs for a few days or a few weeks or a few months. Some of these jobs constituted very hard manual labor. He picked and packed fruit on fruit-ranches during the first years of World War II, which labor counted for warwork at the time. He split and sawed and chopped wood; witnesses attest to his expert wood-chopping. He was a hard-rock miner, mucker, and windlasser. The hardest labor he ever did, according to his own account, was mixing and pouring cement, and digging wells. The "nastiest" work he ever did, was spraying fruit trees with such chemicals as arsenic, bluestone and sulphur. Once, for a week, he typed bills in the office of a water company. During the 1920's, as we have seen, he was a "journalist." Off and on, for many years, he did gardening and the rag-picker at the Auburn City Dump once offered Smith a job as his assistant!

Smith's family background may help to explain something of his lifelong record as an individualist. He was descended from titled lineage, from Norman-French counts and barons (some of whom were Crusaders) and from Lancashire baronets. His mother's family, the Gaylords, claim descent from an armigerous Norman house going back to the Crusades, and have a published genealogy. The Gaylords, or Gaillards, were Huguenots who fled from France at the time of the revocation of the Edict of Nantes, and settled for one or two generations in Somerset and Devonshire where their name was Anglicized to Gaylord. They came to New England in 1630. Smith's maternal grandmother was of Scottish and French Canadian extraction. Many of his mother's family were Congregational ministers. His father's father was a rich Lancashire iron-master who married into the local gentry, to wit, the old and noted Ashton family, one of whom had been beheaded for implication in the Gunpowder Plot. Smith's father, Timeus, squandered a large patrimony through gambling while world-traveling as a young man (according to Eric Barker), but finally settled in California where he suffered long years of ill health. Both Smith's first and middle names were originally surnames; his paternal grandmother's maiden name became his second name; and his maternal grandmother's maiden name became his first name. The first name of "Clark" was a happy and prophetic choice for one born a poet: "clark" is the British pronunciation of "clerk," one who is a reader, a writer, a scholar, id est, one who can read and write.

The formative influences on Smith as a writer are many and varied. First and foremost stands the figure of Edgar Allan Poe who exercised a profound influence on Smith both in his verse and in his prose. Other influences on Smith's poetry were Charles Pierre Baudelaire, George Sterling, and Oscar Wilde's masterpiece of fantasy in verse The Sphinx, which influence may be seen in much of EBONY AND CRYSTAL. After Poe, Baudelaire, and Sterling, Smith especially identified with Algernon Charles Swinburne (according to Genevieve K. Sully), and above all with the Swinburne of the memorial verses to Baudelaire, the Ave Atque Vale, of which Smith knew many passages by heart. Two of Smith's favorite poets were John Keats and that dark Romantic, Thomas Lovell Beddoes, the author of DEATH'S JEST BOOK; OR, THE FOOL'S TRAGEDY. Another important poetic influence was Ambrose Bierce: through his best poems, through his esthetico-poetic theories (as formulated in his essays, especially the two relative to Sterling's fantastic masterpiece A WINE OF WIZARDRY), and above all through his influence on Sterling, Smith's immediate poetic mentor. As Bierce had given Sterling encouragement and technical advice and assistance, so did Sterling in his turn do similarly for the young Smith: the figurative Cloak of Elijah that Bierce had bequeathed to Sterling, Sterling in his turn bequeathed to Smith.

The influences on Smith's prose are even more varied. Germinal to his later short stories were some of his earliest readings and imitations thereof, all manner of fairy tales and especially THE ARABIAN NIGHTS (which Smith probably knew in the unexpurgated and annotated translation by Richard Francis Burton). According to Henry James, there are two types of fairy tales, and hence of ghostly or supernatural tales: those that are "short, sharp, single" such as LITTLE RED RIDING PUSS-IN-BOOTS, CINDERELLA, HOOD, and BLUEBEARD; those that are "long, loose, copious" such as the stories in THE ARABIAN NIGHTS. Here we have the genesis of Smith's fictional art: to the characteristic Mid-Eastern narrative Smith has applied the method of the (comparatively) tightly organized conte de fées, or of the modern short story as established by Poe both in theory and in practice. Poe, we must not forget, had created the modern short story by applying to the traditional short fiction the tension and compression of poetry. Other influences on Smith's fictional art and on his prose style were: Lafcadio Hearn, Théophile Gautier (first read in translation); Gustave Flaubert (especially THE TEMPTATION OF SAINT ANTHONY in the magisterial translation by Lafcadio Hearn); the William Beckford of THE HISTORY OF THE CALIPH VATHEK; Joris Karl Huysmans; Ambrose Bierce; Robert W. Chambers; the Sir Thomas Browne of the URNE-BURIALL and THE GARDEN OF CYRUS (according to Eric Barker, Smith was fond of quoting long passages from Browne by heart); the French poet Baudelaire (just prior to his fiction of 1929-1938, Smith had made, during the period 1925-1929, many prose translations of poems originally in verse from LES FLEURS DU MAL); H. P. Lovecraft; and Lord Dunsany. Smith was also a great admirer of the fictional art and the prose style of the great, even though neglected, Anglo-Welsh writer Arlhur Machen. Yet, in spite of these divers influences, and while closest in some respects to Edgar Allan Poe or Sir Thomas Browne, Smith's characteristic product whether in verse or in prose is not quite like that of any other author, and evinces a powerful and quintessential originality.

Although little known and largely unchronicled, Smith has had some influence on other writers, in some instances a decisive one. First, he seems to have exercised some influence on other poets in the genre of fantasy and the macabre: Frank Belknap Long (in his collection A MAN FROM GENOA AND OTHER POEMS, 1925); Robert Ervin Howard (in his collection ALWAYS COMES EVENING, 1957, posthumously compiled by Glenn Lord); and Leah Bodine Drake (in her collection A HORNBOOK FOR WITCHES, 1950). He may have influenced his confrère and correspondent H. P. Lovecraft to some minor extent, largely in the latter's poems in prose. He encouraged and, to some extent, influenced the Auburn poetess Susan Myra Gregory (in her collection SHADOWS OF WINGS, 1930). He appears to have been a considerable influence on the early poetry of Lin Carter, presently of Long Island (especially as gathered in his first two volumes of verse SANDALWOOD AND JADE and GALLEON OF DREAM). Along with Park Barnitz (the author of THE BOOK OF JADE), Smith appears to have been the chief influence on the Minnesota poet and fantaisiste Donald A. Wandrei (as evidenced in his collection POEMS FOR MIDNIGHT, 1964). He exercised a considerable influence on the early work of the fine and now well-known poet Eric Barker, formerly of Big Sur, California, and he did much to encourage him in his poetic career. However, Eric Barker's mature and most characteristic poetry is notably unlike the same of Smith. Along with George Sterling, Smith seems to have had some influence on the Texas poet Lilith Lorraine; certainly they both contributed to her sense of the cosmic, id est, her cosmic consciousness.

Smith's greatest influence has been on the fantasy and science-fiction writers, the true poets of the twentieth century. His early science fantasy, as first published in Wonder Stories in the first half of the 1930's, appears to have influenced the same of Donald Wandrei. Two of his best science-fiction stories, Master of the Asteroid and The City of the Singing Flame, had everything to do with Ray Bradbury's decision at the age of 11 to become a writer. The latter of the above-mentioned stories, The City of the Singing Flame (combining as it does The City of the Singing Flame and Beyond the Singing Flame), so important in Smith's own creative and spiritual evolution, uniquely decided Harlan Ellison to become a science-fiction writer. To paraphrase Fritz Leiber, the influence of Smith on other writers, and not just those of fantasy and science fiction, may be deeper and more extensive than anyone has guessed. However, his influence on future generations, of readers as well as of writers, may prove much greater than it has proven so far.

There can be no doubt that Smith is one of the great originals, like William Blake, Edgar Allan Poe, or Charles Pierre Baudelaire. Apparently more concerned with the distant past as well as the distant future, Smith seems to have regarded the present largely as a fulcrum on which to balance between the two, or a magic glass through which to see the entire cosmos, or hypercosmos, — past, present, and future. Much of the deeper meaning in Smith, so remarkably and prophetically akin to some of the present-day developments in theoretical science, may perhaps be best understood in the light of two quotations from a book Smith would thoroughly have understood and appreciated, THE DAWN OF MAGIC, by Louis Pauwels and Jacques Bergier (Editions Gallimard, Paris, 1960; English translation by Rollo Myers, published by Anthony Gibbs and Philips Limited, Great Britain, 1963). "A vision from the distant past may enable us to throw some light upon the future." And again: "Maybe we are living at a time when the near future speaks the same language as the distant past." It is possible that posterity may yet accord Smith his rightful place as a great thinker and a great poet.

From: Emperor of Dreams: A Clark Ashton Smith Bibliography, Donald Sidney-Fryer. Donald M. Grant, 1978.

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