Letter to H. P. Lovecraft

From Clark Ashton Smith

[25] [c. early November 1931]

From the ghoul-haunted
vaults of Tremoth,
after the breaking of
the iron chain and lock.

Dear E'ch-Pi-El:

Your letter, the card received from Newburyport, and the art clippings, were all duly received.

The card, like the others you have sent from time to time, was very alluring; and I'd certainly like to see some of those antique towns. Indeed, I hope — and believe — that I shall, sooner or later.

[. . . Re modern painting:] My frank opinion of the new stuff is that nine-tenths of it is plain, colossal humbug, which the critics and public have been hypnotized or bulldozed into thinking, or pretending, that they like. Of course, there is a residuum of honest and worthy effort. But I simply can't swallow most of the post-Cezannean garbage.

I would have told Wright to go chase himself in regard to "The Vaults of Yoh-Vombis", if I didn't have the support of my parents, and debts to pay off. For this reason it's important for me to place as many stories as possible and have them coming out at a tolerably early date. However, I did not reduce the tale by as much as Wright suggested, and I refused to sacrifice the essential details and incidents of the preliminary section. What I did do, mainly, was to condense the descriptive matter, some of which had a slight suspicion of prolixity anyhow. But I shall restore most of it, if the tale is ever brought out In book form.[1] W. accepted the revised version by return mail.

[. . .] Another revised tale was the little Orientale, "The Kiss of Zoraida", which Wright thought was not sufficiently Oriental. The insertion of a few thees and thous in the dialogue seemed to change his opinion, since he snapped it up very promptly on re-submission. [. . .]

[. . .]

I'm glad you have some revisory work that is more to your taste than the overhauling of amateur efforts. I've done enough of the latter myself to know what it is like. As to remunerative fiction, I really think there is room for considerable literary art even within the limitations imposed by editors — notwithstanding the lack of it in the usual magazine story. Of course, the problem is to develop adequate atmosphere in connection with fairly rapid action. It can be done; and infinite skill can be lavished on it. Of course, the average writer wouldn't take the trouble, even if he had the capacity. I think you are mistaken about yourself in this regard, and believe that you could readily write stuff that would be both excellent and salable.

Give my profound obeisances to the unknown eidolon. I am curious to know if there were some fresh alterations in its periphery, following the October Sabbat, I am not surprised by what you tell me about Walpurgis-Night. These festivals ape undoubtedly of pre-anthropologic origin, and were celebrated amid the primal fires and mists of Earth, by beings coeval with, older than, the nebula of our solar system.

Yours in the Dark Faith,


  1. The 1500 words of descriptive material excised by Smith have never been restored to the text of this story.

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

Top of Page