Letter to H. P. Lovecraft

From Clark Ashton Smith

[32] [1 March 1933]

Vaults of Chaon Gacca —
Hour of the Weaving in
the sepulcher of King

Dear E'ch-Pi-El:

I am glad you are going to let Wright use "The Dreams in the Witch House"[1] and I look forward tremendously to the tale's appearance in print. I wish you would write about a hundred more. It is utterly beyond me why you should be dampened in the least by the criticism of time-serving termites, such as Putnams. Personally (such is my confidence, conceit or what you will) I wouldn't permit a thousand rejections to make me think that my own best tales are anything but first-rate. Contemporary judgement, in 49,999 cases out of 50,000 is almost wholly meaningless. As I told Derleth in a letter to-day, I doubt if any of the popular josses of the present will be heard of at all in fifty years. But I am willing to gamble that you and your writing will be known: perhaps not to a very large audience, but certainly to a select and faithful one.

What you tell me (via Bates) about Whitehead's end is very affecting and makes one feel like echoing some of the sentiments about human fate in "The City of Dreadful Night". I am sorry indeed to hear of his father's condition. . . . "Our life's a cheat, our death a black abyss". But no doubt, Whitehead died in another faith than that — which is just as well.

I think I wrote about my projected pamphlet of tales.[1] It looks as if there are going to be the usual delays with the Auburn Journal crowd, who are slower than government mules. But I guess it will be ready before next Yulemas.

I am doing some more short tales at present — "The Weaver in the Vault" and "The Flower-Women", "The Infernal Star" will have to wait, since there is no prospect of landing it as a serial even if completed. Wright is so heavily loaded down with long tales (all of them tripe, I dare say) that he can't even consider anything over 15,000 words till next year. [2]

You can keep "The Dweller in the Gulf". I have had a letter of apology from David Lasser, managing editor of W.S., saying that he made the alterations only at Gernsback's express order. Gernsback must be loco to have a story spoiled in that fashion. I judge that the idiotic revision has cooked it with readers who might have liked it otherwise. Oh, phooey[3]

The Book of Dzyan is new to me — I haven't read any great amount of theosophical literature. I'll be vastly interested in any dope you or Price can pass on to me. Theosophy, as far as I can gather, is a version of esoteric Yoga prepared for western consumption, so I dare say its legendry must have some sort of basis in ancient Oriental records. One can disregard the theosophy, and make good use of the stuff about elder continents, etc. I got my own ideas about Hyperborea, Poseidonis, etc., from such sources, and then turned my imagination loose.

[. . .] Lasser said he would try to get some action on my arrears from the accounting dept. But I fear that the whole outfit has developed a well-organized system of "passing the buck". I have, by the way, just recently received my check for "The Second Interment", which appeared last October in the concluding issue of Strange Tales. And I got it only in response to a polite note to Clayton, asking if the matter had been overlooked. I must say that the depression is "the biggest and best" of its kind — if you'll pardon a lapse into the lingo of American promoters.

[. . .] I am, by the way, submitting "The Third Episode" to The Golden Book, which has published some mildly fantastic material of late; but, of course, I am thoroughly cynical about the chances of acceptance. I know too much about the gutless emmets and pismires who edit magazines — particularly of the "quality(?)" type.

The weather is clear and balmy — first intimation of spring that we've had. If it keeps up, I'll take some of my scribbling out of doors.

Yours, under the sign of the Black
Seal, or Sixtystone,


  1. The Double Shadow and Other Fantasies, published at Smith's expense in June 1933, in an edition of 1000 copies.
  2. In February 1933 Smith composed roughly half of the novelette "The Infernal Star" (Strange Shadows: The Uncollected Fiction of Clark Ashton Smith (1989)). He never completed it.
  3. Upon publication of "The Dweller in the Gulf" in the March 1933 issue of Wonder Stories, Smith discovered that his conclusion for the tale had been severely and inexpertly edited. As a result of this episode Smith wrote no further tales for Wonder Stories. A significant market was thereby closed to him, and this incident contributed to his withdrawal from fiction in the mid-to-late 1930s.

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

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