Letter to Robert Barlow

From Clark Ashton Smith

Auburn, Calif.,
July 5th, 1938.

Dear Bob:

Finally, though with some doubt as to their suitability for your purpose, I am mailing you a few of my smaller landscape paintings and drawings. Perhaps you have enough anyway, for the illustrating (or should one say illuminating?) of Sandalwood. I should have mailed these weeks ago; but, as usual, have suffered from the infernal dilatoriness consequent on several and sundry kinds of exhaustion. The crayon drawings are the most recent, having been done since I began my sculptures; and I am sending them along because they may interest you rather than with any idea to reproduction. I am also including, in a separate envelope, some of the photographs of aquarelles and drawings by John Allan which he has sent to me in folios of typed verse of his own composition. The verse does not quite show the technical mastery and imaginative genius of the pictures, though it is highly interesting, romantic and with many fine lines and phrases. I believe you will agree with me that the Italian monograph In appreciation of Allan's work (typed translation enclosed with the pictures) is thoroughly deserved and even somewhat moderately phrased. I copy hereunder the. sonnet in which Allan describes "L'Evocation de Scorphae", which seems to be his supreme pictorial masterpiece:

The Spirit's profanation who would know:-
Behold, eclipsed are heaven's last rays, that light
Its sculptured fane, and in Cimmerian night
It shall lie desolate, a Mystery of Woe;
Archdemons of abandonment shall haunt
Its holiest shrine; nor death nor dread shall daunt
Their blood-wrought ritual, evoking so
A strange creation, shaped In Heaven's despite.

Convened by Death, who knows no exorcism,
Shall come the adepts of Abaddon and Baal,-
Ecstaticii whose trance unlocks the Abysm;
Then pale, resplendent, from the accursed travail,
Shall crawl Hate's sublimate, Hell's fairest microcosm,-
The Scorpion-seraph, demoness Scorphael!

Allan and his nephew, A. Scott (also an artist) were very appreciative of Leaves and I believe you have heard from J. A. before now. I must remember to pay you for those numbers, and shall put aside for that purpose the next paper dollar that falls, flutters, or otherwise comes within reach of my Satampran digits.

I have recently enjoyed a visit from Claire P. Beck, who stopped here overnight on his way to Reno. His brother, as you doubtless know, will continue the printing press In Lakeport. The copy of HPL's notebook, which reached me the other day, seems a worthy job and rather attractively bound. As to Sandalwood, it seems to me that we should by all means retain the original title. Add the poem entitled "Sandalwood", and the fragment of The Fugitives if you like. As to The Jasmine Girdle, or other material from Incantations, it seems to me that there Is no hurry whatever. Perhaps, with indefinite delay, I could do some special illustrations for these later and uncollected poems. Horace (or was it Virgil?) said that poetry should be kept for at least 9 years before publication. Personally, I feel like naming an astronomical figure for the period which most modern verse should be retained in cold storage.

Thanks for the photo of the beautiful Khmer head. This sort of thing makes most modern Occidental sculpture look like the Indian on a 5c piece.

I have done a little work (science fiction) but continue to loaf abominably. Thanks for the suggestion about historical fiction. This might offer possibilities but would require research. Egypt has been overworked: but there seem to be many fields of ancient history and archaeology that have been little touched in fiction.

I am glad your eye-trouble has been somewhat mitigated. John Allan, by the way, seems to have quite ruined his eyes by drawing and painting late at night and tells me he has had to give up art work. This is a tragedy. His best pictures, in my opinion, deserve a place beside the highest imaginative art of any land or time. Pictures such as "L'Evocation de Scorphael" and "The Sorceress" seem to render (as the art of no other artist quite does) the very essence of black magic and Satanry.

I am hoping to strengthen my own eyes (the left is the weakest) by persistent exercise and massage of the surrounding muscles; this being part of a general plan of physical improvement. I don't expect to become a Sandow or a John L. Sullivan; but believe that I can correct a few defects and ward off the encroachments of middle age. I spring from a tough and long-lived stock, and therefore should have some material to work on. My height is close to 5 feet eleven; weight at present somewhere around 140 lbs; chest measurement 37 inches; waist 30. I am neither physical nor obese by tendency, but should like to gain about 10 lbs of permanent muscle together with renewed nervous vitality and driving-power. The last five years have been hard on me, both emotionally and physically; and much of the time I have consumed habitually an amount of alcohol (some of it of rather poor quality) which most authorities on the subject would consider dangerous. Recently, for a while, I have abstained entirely; but find now that the continuance of a moderate amount of table wine is desirable.

Charles D. Hornig, of Fantasy Fan renown, expects to stop in Auburn this month on his way East from a vacation in Hollywood. I certainly look forward to seeing him. E. H. Price and his mother may run up during the summer, and perhaps bring with them a girl friend of mine whom I have corresponded with regularly, but have not seen, for more than twenty years.

As ever,

P.S. Take your time about returning the pictures. No hurry whatever.

From: The Dark Eidolon: The Journal of Smith Studies #2, 1989, Necronomicon Press.

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