Letter to August Derleth

From Clark Ashton Smith


Auburn, Calif.
April 6th, 1937

Dear August:

I am very glad to hear that matters are progressing satisfactorily, and hope you will get in personal touch with Barlow. Re manuscripts: I have "Nemesis" and the complete Fungi from Yuggoth somewhere in the blasted litter of this cabin, and will eventually unearth them in my search through scores of boxes for HPL's letters. My copy of the Recluse is on hand and could be loaned if you need it. Let me know.

Re the letters I have. Apparently, from what I have found so far, the longest and most important ones have mainly been written since 1930. The earlier ones, though frequent, are not so self-revelatory; showing, I think, I that intimacy and mutual interest began to deepen at the time of my intensive entry into weird fiction. Most of the earlier ones are dated; the later ones can be dated only in mundane chronology by the postmarks of envelopes (not always retained, damn it) or by references to current magazines, etc., in the body of the letter. A typical heading (Dec. 13, 1933, by postmark) is: "From the ruined Brick Tower with the Sealed Door. Hour of the Black Beating of Wings," This particular letter (running to 7000 words at rough estimate) is one of the most extraordinary; and a large part of it is given to detailed exposition and analysis of the remarkable fascination held for him by the old Roman world; his sense of identification with it, of pseudo-memory, Roman patriotism, etc., and the tracing of all this to childhood psychology. I'd be glad to ship you a batch of these letters for examination; but think that time and labour could be saved for all concerned if you or Don gave me some general estimate of the amount of material required, the paging, margins, etc., and left selection and typing wholly to me. With full instructions, I could begin preparation of a typescript with carbons, perhaps for direct insertion in the body of the book. The chief difficulty will be an embarrassment of riches; but I'd try to make the selection as varied and significant as possible within space-limits. I suppose it will be advisable to omit some of the more unflattering references to Wright.

It is obvious that the contents of many possible volumes are buried in HPL's correspondence. I imagine that the letters to R. E. Howard, Whitehead, and Price would be highly valuable. My friends the Sullys here in Auburn have some very interesting ones which, if desired, could be placed at your disposal. There seems to be no doubt whatever that he merits a place among the great letter-writers of all time.

[. . .]

Thanks for the tip about William M. Sloane III. I have had it in mind to get together my Hyperborean yarns, "The Testament of Athammaus", etc., and try them on some book publisher. These tales, on account of their marked ironic element, might form an entering wedge. It doesn't seem likely that I can do anything of novel length at a very early date. Under the circumstances here (which remain unaltered) I am finding it hard enough to finish an occasional short. With luck, industry, the favour of Allah, and Yogi breathing, I may somehow turn out enough salable stuff to keep the wolf from getting more than one paw over the threshold.

[. . .]

As ever,
Clark Ashton

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

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