DR. I. M. HOWARD to
H. P. LOVECRAFT,
dated June 29, 1936
Mr. H. P. Lovecraft
66 College Street
It is barely possible through some other source that you may have heard of the death of Robert E. Howard, my son. If not, I will say that after three weeks of vigilant watching at his mother's bedside, on the morning of June 11, 1936, at eight o'clock, he slipped out of the house, entered his car which was standing in front of the garage, raised the windows and fired a shot through his brain. The cook standing at the window at the back part of the house, saw him go get in his car. She thought he was fixing to drive to town as he usually did. When she heard the muffled sound of the gun, she saw him fall over the steering wheel. She ran in the house and called the physician who was in the house. The doctor was taking a cup of coffee in the dining room and I was talking with him. We rushed to the car and found him. We thought at first that it was a death shot but the bullet has passed through the brain. He shot himself just above the temple. It came out on the opposite side, just above and behind the left ear. He lived eight hours and never regained consciousness.
I was watching Howard as this was premeditated, and I knew it, but I did not think that he would kill himself before his mother went. His mother was in coma and had been for many hours when this occurred. There were two trained nurses in the house and doctors there all the time. He did not ask a doctor, neither did he ask me, but he asked a nurse if she thought his mother would ever regain consciousness enough to know him, and the nurse told him she feared not. This was unknown to me. Had I known, I might have prevented this, because I know now that he fully made up his mind not to see his mother die.
Last March a year ago, again when his mother was very low in the King's Daughters Hospital in Temple, Texas, Dr. McCelvey expressed a fear that she would not recover; he began to talk to me about his business, and I at once understood what it meant. I began to talk to him, trying to dissuade him from such a course, but his mother began to improve. Immediately she began to improve, he became cheerful and no more was said. Again this year, in February, while his mother was very sick and not expected to live but a few days, at that time she was in Shannon Hospital in San Angelo, Texas. San Angelo is something like one hundred miles from here. He was driving back and forth daily from San Angelo to home. One evening he told me I would find his business, what little there was to it, all carefully written up and in a large envelope in his desk. Again I begged him not to do it, but he positively did not intend to live after his mother was gone.
As the months grew on, his mother showed some improvement. He accepted her condition as one of permanent improvement and one that would continue. I knew well that it would not, but kept it from him. Two weeks before she died, she began to decline rapidly. I saw the awful worry that came over him. I was following him and watching him closely, but did not think he would do anything until his mother was gone.
In that I was mistaken, because he never intended to see his mother die. The night before his death, he assumed an almost cheerful attitude, seemed very much interested about me, as if he intended to take the lead and take care of me. He came to me in the night, put his arm around me and said, "Buck up, you are equal to it, you will go through it all right." He completely disarmed me of the intention of his death, but I well knew what to expect afterwards. He died without ever showing the least return of consciousness at four o'clock, June 11, 1936. His mother lingered thirty-one hours, never regaining consciousness.
I buried them both in the Greenleaf Cemetery at Brownwood, Texas. I selected caskets exactly alike. He had purchased a burial lot a week before this happened. It was in the restricted portion of the cemetery. The purchase carried with it a perpetual up-keep.
When he bought the lot, he went to the sexton and wanted to know if it was a bonafide contract and if it would be taken care of. He said to the sexton, "I want to know if the lot will be kept in order. My father and I will go away and never come again." Mr. Bass, the sexton, was under the impression that he contemplated something in which we would all go, but he did not expect to kill me, but knew the shock would kill me. He was careful to keep nurses and doctors around me, but no doubt thought I would die from shock, and which I think the last few lines her ever typed would indicate. These lines were found on a strip of paper in his bill fold in his hip pocket after he shot himself. The lines follow:
All fled--all done, so lift my on the pyre--
The Feast is over, and the lamps expire.
I do not know whether these words were a quotation or original, but they were typed no doubt shortly before his death.
I do not know what was in his mind. I have tried to interpret this as being the last of all the family, The Feast the thirty years of love in our home. Robert loved me with a love that was beautiful. He loved my companionship above that of anyone else and every time opportunity afforded, he spent his time with me in preference to anyone else; but being a country doctor and practicing medicine in a country comparatively thinly settled, I was away from home most of the time, but when I was permitted to be at home, our hours were spent pleasantly on discussion of men, women, animals, out-door life, adventure, history of long-lived frontiersmen, and such like. He was a great reader. It made me so happy to sit and listen. He acquired a knowledge, by reading, of history that I never knew. Lest I worry you with this I will close, but I will say in conclusion, Mr. Lovecraft, that Robert was a great admirer of you. I have often heard him say that you were the best weird writer in the world, and he keenly enjoyed corresponding with you. Often expressed hope that you might visit in our home some day, so that he, his mother and I might see and know you personally. Robert greatly admired all weird writers, often heard him speak of each separately and express the highest admiration of all. He said they were a bunch of great men and he admired all of them very much.
The Howard Payne College of Brownwood has asked for letters from correspondents. If it is agreeable with you, I will furnish them with some of your correspondence to him as he has some in his files and they are interested in letters.
His books were given to the Howard Payne College and will be known as the Robert E. Howard Memorial Collection. It is so arranged that it is possible to add to it as friends see fit. If you have a book that you would like to add to it with an autograph, it will be greatly appreciated.
Yours very truly,
Dr. I. M. Howard
I am mailing you a bundle of papers that contains the full of it all.