Letter to H. P. Lovecraft

From Clark Ashton Smith

[39] [c. late February-early March 1934]

In deep Dendo — hour
of the spiral dawning.

Dear E'ch-Pi-El:

[. . .]

[. . .] I have, by the way, received the new Machen book, The Green Round, and have read it with mixed reactions. It is well written, and the mystery and suggestion are well handled. It does not, however, have the powerful climax of his earlier horror tales; and conventional poltergeist phenomena, smashing of windows, crockery, etc., by an unknown force, are repeated overmuch in the latter part. [. . .]

[. . .]

Truly, matters don't look very hopeful for Crawford's venture. [1] seems to be having worse luck with the printing than I did with my disastrous and ill-omened one-shot, The Double Shadow. I still owe the printer [2] and have been stalling him off because of the continued fifty pazoors, delay in magazine payments. I am, by the way, giving the Gernsback outfit a broad hint that some legal action will be forthcoming unless they pay up a good installment of their arrears at an early date.[3] [. . .]

So Sultan Malik [4] has gone into the Garage business! Shades of the Silver Peacock and the Hashishins! Well, perhaps he is displaying a modicum of wisdom at that. No matter how serious the depression becomes, the U.S. population will go on running its chariots till the last tire blows out and the ultimate half-pint of gas is exhausted.

However, I am sorry that the Malik's Occidental progress will be delayed. I hope he can hit Auburn either in the late spring or early autumn-the best seasons here. The winters are too wet and the summers are not only hot but arid. [. . .]

[. . .]

I am fascinated by your account of Roman Britain. The period has been passed over so briefly by most historians, that I hadn't realized the length and thoroughness of Roman tenure. [. . .] I'd certainly like to think that I have a little of the old Latin blood. Certainly some of my forbears, on the paternal side, must have been in Lancashire at the time of the occupation, when Lancaster, Ribchester and other places were Roman camps. My father remembers the Roman roads, and the walls at Chester in Cheshire.

[. . .]

When one comes to realize it, the power and shadow of Rome survives in myriad ways; and there are many trains of association which, if one follows them, connect us with the Latin past. For instance, the California sherry that I drink (my favorite kind of wine) is a legitimate descendent of the wines of Xeres that were imported to Rome in the days when Andalusia was part of Hispania Ulterior. I imagine that the process of making is similar, apart from the modern practice of fortifying the wine with more or less distilled grape-spirit. Distillation, which seems to have originated with the Chinese, was brought into Europe by the Arabs and was little known before the 13th century. At least, this is my impression.

I enjoyed your account of the K. A. T. fraternity in Providence. Simaetha and Tabasco are certainly full of feline originality and character. Simaetha, I notice, still keeps her Maltese offspring in order by an occasional razor-keen and lightning-swift slash of her ivory claws. She has all the look of an enraged witch's familiar on such occasions; and her slitted yellow eyes are demoniacal enough at times. [. . .] I really think that Simaetha must be connected with the guardian felines of the fane of Sadoqua: her incredible age and undiminished vigour are more than suggestive of such lineage. [. . .]

I hope to finish my new Zothique story, "Xeethra", before long. This infernal cold has knocked me out lately. I believe I must have caught it by a three days' abstinence from anything vinous. (This isn't altogether a joke, since I believe that wine has a distinct prophylactic value.)

Yours for the Cauldron of Abundance,


  1. William Crawford, editor of the proposed weird-fiction magazine, Unusual Stories, and publisher of Lovecraft's The Shadow over Innsmouth (1936).
  2. Monetary unit used in Hyperborea.
  3. In May 1934 Smith hired an attorney to secure $769 in back payments from Wonder Stories.
  4. E. Hoffmann Price, also referred to as "the Peacock Sultan".

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

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