Letter to August Derleth

From Clark Ashton Smith


Auburn, Calif.
March 30th, 1937

Dear August:

I am very glad to hear of the project for an omnibus volume of HPL's work, and am particularly pleased that the task of arrangement, etc., is in hands so capable and thoroughly qualified as yours and Donald's.[1] The general plan of contents, as outlined, seems all right to me. Certainly HPL's own written selection of titles should be followed as much as possible. Among the poems, I trust that "Nemesis" and the Fungi will be included. An appendix containing specimens of revisory work would be interesting. Somehow, I missed "The Curse of Yig", but understand that it was mainly if not entirely Lovecraft. From a close perusal of the Hazel Heald stories, such as "Out of the Eons" and "The Horror in the Museum", I am persuaded that they are about 99 1/2 percent pure Lovecraft. It is really a pity that they can't be included as simonpure originals. If I can be of the least help at any time, in any way, do not hesitate to call upon me. I have kept all of Lovecraft's letters to me (covering a period of about 17 years) and will try to get them together before long. I'll be happy to type such specimens and passages as Don may want to include in the privately printed volume. Some of the longer letters are marvels of fancy, literary criticism, scenic description, erudition, etc., all mingled in that inimitable epistolary flow which, it is safe to say, will never be duplicated or approached in these latter days, The letters are perfect models of a virtually extinct courtesy, since everything that I had touched upon or mentioned, however briefly, was noted and enlarged upon in the answering letter. His very last letter to me was a particularly fine one, and contained several vivid and highly atmospheric pages describing a totally new region of woodland walks and vistas (in fact, two such regions) which he had only recently discovered in close vicinage to Providence, One thinks of him as still wandering in those beloved woodlands, still accompanied by the familiar felidae, the chance-met members of the Kappa Alpha Tau.

Your elegy [2]] is beautiful and touching, and I shall prize the copy you sent me. I too intend to write some memorial verses which will evoke something of his daily life and surroundings together with the imagery and atmosphere of his literary work. It seems better, however, to wait a little for the required energy and inspiration which the Daemon will supply presently. [. . .]

I'll mail you a couple of my casts in a day or two. These casts, I must explain, reproduce with perfect exactness the form of the original carvings; but I have tinted them as fancy dictated and have not tried to reproduce the original coloring of minerals. The carvings themselves are purely inspirational, and sometimes, in beginning one, I have not the least idea what form it will take under my hand. I feel as if they were prompted by forces outside myself -- forces perhaps identical with those which have inspired archaic and primitive art. It can no doubt be argued that they are the product of a certain "psychology", but perhaps the psychology is merely a channel. Sometimes I wonder if the real motivations of art, as well as of all human thought, emotion, action, etc., are not hidden beyond all fathoming or suspicion of modern psychologists. Anyway, they are beyond Freud, who is hopelessly lopsided. But enough of this — I had no intention of starting a dissertation, or discussion, for which neither of us has the time at present. What I have said is partly prompted by the queer feeling of personal detachment from the sculptures which I have: the feeling that they are not really mine but might as well have been dug up in Yucatan or Cambodia.

As ever,
Clark Ashton

* * *

  1. Donald Wandrei, co-founder of Arkham House and co-editor of The Outsider and Others.
  2. "Elegy: In Providence the Spring. . .", included in Marginalia (1944)

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

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