ROBERT E. HOWARD to
dated May 9, 1936
Dear Mr. August:
I am indeed sorry to learn of the deaths in your family. Death to the old is inevitable, and yet somehow I often feel that it is a greater tragedy than death to the young. When a man dies young he misses much suffering, but the old have only life as a possession and somehow to me the tearing of a pitiful remnant from weak old fingers is more tragic than the looting of a life in its full rich prime. I don't want to live to be old. I want to die when my time comes, quickly and suddenly, in the full tide of my strength and health.
Thanks very much for "Retreat to Nature". You've put into words, vividly and powerfully, what I've tried to say in my stumbling way several times--to derision of various would-be sophisticates. I'm going to keep your article handy and brandish it in their faces next time instead of busting them over the head with a branding iron as I had contemplated. It always gave me hydrophobia to see some smart-aleck gibing: "Defeatism!" whenever he sees something that
You have built a world of paper and wood.
Culture and cult and lies;
Has the cobra altered beneath its hood,
Or the fire in the tiger's eyes?
You have turned from valley and hill and flood,
You have set yourselves apart,
Forgetting the earth that feeds the blood
And the talon that finds the heart.
You boast you have stilled the lustful call
Of the black ancestral ape,
But life, the tigress that born you all
Has never changed her shape.
And a strange shape comes to your faery mead,
With a fixed black simian frown,
But you will not know and you will not heed
Till your towers come tumbling down.
I've forgotten the rest of it, which is doubtless as well. Glad to hear of all your sales, and book publishings. I haven't written a weird story for nearly a year, though I've been contemplating one dealing with Coronado's expedition on the Staked Plains in 1541. A good theme if I can develop it.
I enjoyed your "Lesandro's Familiar" a lot. It was the best yarn in a issue otherwise not remarkable. I did like Smith's poem, and Kramer's. Ignore my forthcoming "Black Canaan". It started out as a good yarn, laid in the real Canaan, which lies between Tulip Creek and the Ouachita River in southwestern Arkansas, the homeland of the Howards, but I cut so much of the guts out of it, in response to editorial requirements, that in its published form it won't resemble the original theme, woven about the mysterious form of Kelly the Conjureman, who was a real character, back in the seventies--an ebon giant with copper rings in his ears and a gift of magic who came from and vanished into nowhere one dark night when the owls hooted in the cypresses and the wind moaned among the negro cabins.
Thanks for the photograph. I like it. You wear a sort of grimly humorous fighting smile, as if you had just knocked a critic through a brick wall. I'm retaliating by enclosing my latest snapshot.
P.S. You ought to see the mint bed just west of the kitchen window, I believe it makes the best juleps in the world. My method of making mint juleps is unconventional, but they satisfy me, and I'm not trying to please anybody else, as I once profanely told a Kentuckian who criticized my technique. I find a bit of crushed mint in whiskey sours and certain kinds of high-balls adds a great deal to the taste.