Letter to Clark Ashton Smith

From H. P. Lovecraft

598 Angell St.
March 25, 1923

My dear Smith:--

My card sent from Salem last month attempted in a feeble way to express the delirious delight & unboundedly enthusiastic admiration which Ebony & Crystal around in me....It is genius, if genius ever existed! As I have said before, there is no author but yourself who seems to have glimpsed fully those tenebrous wastes, immensurable gulfs, grey topless pinnacles, crumbling corpses of forgotten cities, slimy, stagnant, cypress-bordered rivers, & alien, indefinable, antiquity-ridden gardens of strange decay, with which my own dreams have been crowded since earliest childhood. I read your work as the record of the only other human eye which has seen the things I have seen in far planets. And the Lurking Fear illustrations! I have already told you how the gryphon gazing on the gulf impressed me, & now I have seen the third set—with that eldritch funereal forest of nameless vegetation. That drawing is wonderful—not only in the staggering conception, but in the almost diabolic technical skill—I can't say how much I envy you your pictorial as well as literary genius! I have not seen the fourth & final set, but await it with the keenest expectancy. Meanwhile I was delighted to see your portrait in the March Home Brew, & to gain an idea of the outward aspect of that Emperor of Dreams to whom I so gladly bow down. Certainly you look every inch the poet—which is not true of any poet I know except Frank B. Long, Jr....

* * * * *

.....Cabell's work represents one of three distinct currents which I seem to discern in modern literature—i.e., the ironic juggling of the traditional images & language in a manner conformable to comtemporary psychology. The other two currents are symbolic chaos, as in T.S. Eliot & the imagists, & stark, dreary realism as in Sherwood Anderson & Ben Hecht. I am fond of none of these things, though I recognise their purely intellectual superiority to Victorian mush.

* * * * *

The magnificence of The Hashish-Eater is beyond description—how I wish the local printers had been able to include the bizzare illustrations which Loveman shewed me last summer! I delight in your use of the cosmos instead of merely the world as a background; you can't imagine—or then again, you probably can—the pictures that flit through my mind at lines like

". . .I know the blooms
Of bluish fungus, freak'd with mercury
That bloat within the craters of the moon,
And in one still selenic hour have shrunk
To pools of slime & foetor;& I know
What clammy blossoms, blanch's & cavern-grown,
Are proffer'd in Uranus* to their gods
By mole-eyed peoples...."

* but isn't it U'-ra-nus?
"...The blind
And worm-shape'd monsters of a sunless world,
With krakens of the ultimate abyss,
And demogorgons of the outer dark...."

These images have a double appeal to me because astronomy has always been my favorite science, followed assiduously since I was twelve years old. I have seen the ringed Saturn through my own telescope, (a Bardon instrument with 3" object-glass & eyepieces up to 150 diameters) & have gazed upon the moon's frightful abysses where no diffusing air softens the nighted blackness of distorted shadows. I wrote monthly astronomical articles for a Providence daily from the time I was 15 to a period only 5 years ago—when the paper was sold to the Democrats. i'll enclose one of the later articles, of which some duplicates encumber the rubbish-heaps hereabouts. You needn't return it. It has always been my intention to write a set of tales involving other planets—both of this system & of other stars—but I keep deferring the project because of its magnitude. I want the things to be the fruit of a mind stored with all the primordial, colorful, morbid, & grotesque lore of literature--& hitherto my reading has had some lamentable lacunae. I never got hold of Vathek till 1921, & all of Hoffman is still ahead of me.

The prose-poems in E & C are Cyclopean! I am especially fond of this literary form, & you have proved yourself its master. The Flower Devil drugs me to strange dreams, & The Memnons of the Night will never depart 'from the crypts of my memory.' Some of the images haunt me--"bat-like lilies that open their ribbed petals by night, & fasten with tiny yellow teeth on the bodies of sleeping dragon-flies." And then the verse...Nightmare....

With Gothic wings enormous arch'd the night."

But I could cover sheet after sheet with ebullient praise & yet fail to convey the extent of my admiration & appreciation. I read some of the pieces aloud to my aunt; & despite her general lenaing toward the realists she could not escape the breathless spell of your cacodaemoniacal incantationsm, but ended up by becoming an admirer!

Most cordially & sincerely yours,
H P Lovecraft

Selected Letters (Arkham House) 123

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