Letter to H. P. Lovecraft

From Clark Ashton Smith

[36] [c. early November 1933]

Tower of black jade in
lost Carcosa. Hour
when the twin suns are
both at nadir,

Dear E'ch-Pi-El:

This letter would have been written sometime ago if it were not for my program of nursing, doctoring, general housework, etc. My mother's burn is healing slowly, and she is still in bed. On the whole, I suspect that the enforced rest will be beneficial to her; but otherwise it is all pretty tedious and exasperating; and with my time so broken up, it is hard to concentrate on story-writing, or even letters.

I await "The Thing on the Doorstep" with tremendous eagerness. Hope you received "The Witchcraft of Ulua" from Ar-E'ch-Bei, Phlegethonian Envoy to Phlo-Ri-Dah. [1] Wright, by the way, has finally taken this tale. I submitted a version in which the temptation scene was a little less flamboyant and more subtle.

Thanks for the fine views of 66 College St. The fan carving certainly does remind me of your bookplate. I'd like to keep these pictures and shall prize them highly. I return the newspaper cuttings. That sunset effect with the rainbow must indeed have been striking. Rainbows are frequent here in the winter and spring, and I have seen immense double arches of the most extraordinary brilliance and perfection. Our weather has been clear again since the storm I mentioned on my card; but stray clouds and fog-banks over the Sacramento valley have given us gorgeous sunsets of gold, orange, crimson and salmon. "The moon-tints of purple and pearl" have been noticed on several evenings, too. [. . .]

Your drawing of the Lincoln woods region conveys a genuine charm, with its leisurely winding road and foreground of trees and background of steepled roofs. Together with your descriptions, it increases and confirms my desire to visit New England at some date not too far in the future.

Glad you liked the portrait of Lord Tsathoggua. Of course, I could only depict an aspect that was renderable in terms of terrestrial form and dimension. Wright hasn' t returned my drawing for "The Weaver" so I suppose he will use it. Thanks for your advocacy of my pictures. Bloch, I believe, had also mentioned them to Pharnabosus.

[. . .]

I didn't imagine that the plot Robot would be of much use to you. I've never seen the contraption, but have read accounts of it, and judge that it works by a sort of lottery combination and recombination of certain stock elements. Few of my stories, I fear, exhibit what is known in pulpdom as a "plot". Perhaps my current W.T. yarn, "The Holiness of Az├ęderac", comes as near to it as any.

[. . .]

Of course it would seem that the arguments of material science are pretty cogent. Perhaps it is only my innate romanticism that makes me at least hopeful that the Jeans and Einsteins have overlooked something. If ever I have the leisure and opportunity, I intend some first-hand investigation of obscure phenomena. Enough inexplicable things have happened in my own experience to make me wonder, I am pretty sure that I saw apparitions in my childhood; one instance remaining especially vivid in memory. The phantasm was that of a bowed and muffled woman, weeping or at least sorrow-stricken, which appeared one night in a corner of my bedroom in an old house which my parents had rented for several months. It certainly left an eerie impression. Another queer happening, of a totally different kind, occurred four or five years ago. A woman-friend and I were out walking one night in a lane near Auburn, when a dark, lightless and silent object passed over us against the stars with projectile-like speed. The thing was too large and swift for any bird, and gave precisely the effect of a black meteor. I have often wondered what it was. [2] Charles Fort, no doubt, would have made a substantial item out of it: for one of his volumes.

[. . .]

Re levitation (as allegedly performed by yogis) I have seen it explained as a matter of controlled breathing. A certain rhythmic mode of respiration is supposed to fill the body with positive electricity, which temporarily counteracts the negative electric force of gravity. It sounds interesting, even if pseudo-scientific.

The modern explanation of the growth of myths and superstitions is certainly well worked out. Yet, after all, it is possible that brand new psychological theories may in time supersede much that is now regarded self-evident. Also, there is the fascinating possibility that human beings may in time develop new senses or faculties that will take them a little further into the cosmic penetralia; though, of course, never approaching ultimates or near-ultimates. It may then be suspected that the sources of human thought lie deeper and remoter than has been supposed. We are not insulated from the myriad unknown forces of the cosmos that play upon us; and, after all who knows what the real effect of these forces may be? Lacking the effect of some unconsidered radiation, the whole trend of human mentation might be totally different from what it is.

[. . .]

Yours for the resurgence of the Old Ones,


  1. Robert H. Barlow, then living in De Land, Florida.
  2. One of the stories outlined in The Black Book of Clark Ashton Smith (1979) bears the title "The Dark Meteor" (see Item 64, p. 28).

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

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