Letter to H. P. Lovecraft

From Clark Ashton Smith

[5] [9 January 1930]

Dear H.P.L.:

You should have heard from me long before this; but I fell into a round of holiday dissipation, and am only just now beginning to recuperate, and resume my normal routine.

I enjoyed your last letter hugely — also, F.B.L,'s improvisation, his design for "Satampra Zeiros", and your two poems, As to the latter, I am inclined to agree with Wright in preferring "The Ancient Track", which is a fine mixture of eerie fantasy and realism. I might be inclined to reverse the judgement, however, if all of "The Outpost" were equal in quality to the first stanza. These poems obviously give you a high place on Parnassus.

[. . .]

I was delighted by your additions to the Tsathoggua myth, Too bad you aren't publishing the story under your own name. It sounds most fascinating![1] By the way, here is a clipping about the Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico. I'd certainly like to be in that expedition which is planning to plumb the nether depths!

Thanks for the nice things you say about "The Monster". I am inclined to think well of it myself, and look upon it as the result of a definite inspiration. At present, I am wondering at the energy which enabled me to do the thing at all. I haven't completed any more stories, though I am dragging on at present with "The Metamorphosis of the World", [2] and am now engaged in killing off an odious bunch of scientists. I wrote 8 or 10 prose-poems just before Christmas, and will try to enclose some of them for you. And I ended the year by making half a dozen new pictures. At present, I am still torn by the desire to paint, which I don't feel that I should indulge, for financial reasons. My best pictures seem so amazingly good, that I am rendered morose and sorrowful by such an exigency, I'd like nothing better than to fare forth on a debauch of form and color for the next few weeks.

Your idea for an interplanetary story is great — of course, transportation to an alien world would be an experience of the utmost terror and strangeness for human nerves, and the probable result would be madness. I hinted at this in "The Monster", where Vizaphmal had to keep Alvor under the influence of a drug so that he wouldn't break down. I hope you will soon find time to work out your superb idea. I shall begin my "Planet of the Dead" before long; and I agree with you that there is little danger of parallelism, I think you underestimate the element of sheer fantasy in your own work, though I agree with you that your best things show evidence of the closest literal observation. The blending of qualities is simply marvellous in its effect. I, too, am capable of observation; but I am far happier when I can create everything in a story, including the milieu. This is why I do my best in work like "Satampra Zeiros". Maybe I haven't enough love for, or interest in, real places, to invest them with the atmosphere that I achieve in something purely imaginary.

[. . .]

There is six inches of snow on the ground this morning, and I am revelling in the aesthetic spectacle, which is rare at this altitude. But I abominate the cold, and suffer from it, even though it never drops more than a few degrees below the freezing point.

I'd appreciate a re-reading of "Hypnos" and "Randolph Carter", if you have copies that you can loan me. Later, I'll name some others. You can keep the enclosed poems in prose.

As ever, your friend,


  1. 1. The story being referred to is "The Mound", a revision work for Zealia Bishop.
  2. 2. Early title for "The Metamorphosis of Earth" (Other Dimension (1970)).

From: Clark Ashton Smith: LETTERS TO H. P. LOVECRAFT, edited by and footnotes by Steve Behrends (July 1987) Necronomicon Press.

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