Thursday, August 18, 2016

Howard, Lovecraft, & “The Sin-Eater” by Bobby Derie

The story of how H. P. Lovecraft and Robert E. Howard came to write to one another has been told many times. It is in essence a very simple story, and the bare facts could scarce fill a paragraph. Yet there is more to the story than is generally recounted, and it may benefit even those long familiar with it to go over it again.

In August-September 1923, H. P. Lovecraft was in Providence, writing “The Rats in the Walls.” Near the end of the story, the narrator Delapore undergoes an atavistic fit, reverting mentally back through his ancestors, his English changing first to older diction, then to Middle English, archaic Latin, then Gaelic, and finally to inhuman vocalizations:
Curse you, Thornton, I’ll teach you to faint at what my family do! ... ’Sblood, thou stinkard, I’ll learn ye how to gust ... wolde ye swynke me thilke wys? ... Magna Mater! Magna Mater! ... Atys ... Dia ad aghaidh ’s ad aodaun ... agus bas dunach ort! Dhonas ’s dholas ort, agus leat-sa! ... Ungl ... ungl ... rrrlh ... chchch …. (“The Rats in the Walls”)
Lovecraft sent the finished story to his friend Frank Belknap Long, responded with several questions and comments, to which the Providence gentleman replied:
What the intermediate jargon is, is perfectly good Celtic—a bit of venomously vituperative phraseology which a certain small boy out to know; because his grandpa, instead of consulting a professor to get a Celtic phrase, found a ready-made one so apt that he lifted it bodily from The Sin-Eater, by Fiona MacLeod, in the volume of Best Psychic Stories which Sonny himself generously sent! I thought you’d note that at once—but youth hath a crowded memory. Anyhow, the only objection to the phrase is that it’s Gaelic instead of Cymric as the south-of-England locale demands. But as—with anthropology—details don’t count. Nobody will ever stop to note the difference. (SL1.258)
Lovecraft was right; no one did, or at least no one that cared to comment. The Best Psychic Stories (1920) was edited by Joseph Lewis French, with an introduction by Dorothy Scarborough, whose treatise “The Supernatural in English Literature” preceded Lovecraft’s own “Supernatural Horror in Literature.” It contains various favorites of Lovecraft, such as Algernon Blackwood, Edgar Allan Poe, and Lafcadio Hearn, which may be why Long forwarded it to his friend, but it was Macleod’s “The Sin-Eater” which has garnered the most attention, because of Lovecraft’s borrowing. The passage reads:
“But, Andrew Blair, I will say this: when you fair abroad, Droch caoidh ort! and when you go upon the water, Gaoth gun direadh ort! Ay, ay, Anndra-mhic-Adam, Dia ad aghaidh ’s ad aodann … agus bas dunach ort! Dhonas ’s dholas ort, agus leat-sa!”† 
† Droch caoidh ort! “May a fatal accident happen to you” (lit. “bad moan on you”). Gaoth gun direadh ort! “May you drift to your drowning” (lit. “wind without direction on you”). Dia ad aghaidh, etc., “God against thee and in thy face … and may a death of woe be yours … Evil and sorrow to the and thine!” (Best Psychic Stories 146)
The story was accepted, and published in the March 1924 issue of Weird Tales. Lovecraft—or possibly WT editor Edwin Baird—erred in the quotation, writing aodaun in “Rats” instead of aodann, an error that was continued when the story was reprinted, though it has been corrected in more recent editions edited by S. T. Joshi. Farnsworth Wright, who had succeeded Baird as editor of WT, perhaps inspired by a suggestion in a letter to the editor by H. P. Stiller, reprinted “The Rats in the Walls” in the June 1930 issue. (LE 33) This time, however, someone did notice Lovecraft’s Gaelic gaff, and wrote to Farnsworth Wright about it: a Texan contributor to Weird Tales named Robert E. Howard.
As to the climax, the maunderings of the maddened victim is like a sweep of horror down the eons, dwindling back and back to be finally lost in those grisly mists of world-birth where the mind of man refuses to follow. And I note from the fact that Mr. Lovecraft has his character speaking Gaelic instead of Cymric, in denoting the Age of the Druids, that he holds to Lhuyd’s theory as to the settling of Britain by the Celts. This theory is not generally agreed to, but I scarcely think that it has ever been disproved, and it was upon this that my story “The Lost Race” was based — that the Gaelic tribes preceded the Cymric peoples into Britain, by way of Ireland, and were later driven out by them. Baxter, the highly learned author of Glossario Antiquae Britanniae upholds this theory on the grounds that the Brigantes, supposed to be the first Celtic settlers in Britain, were unacquainted with the “p” sound, which was not used in Britain until the advent of the Brythonic or Cymric peoples. According to this, the Brigantes were a Goidhelic tribe, and Lhuyd’s point seems proven. Personally, I hold to the theory of Cymric precedence, and believe that Brythonic tribes inhabited, not only Britain and Scotland before the coming of the Gaels, but Ireland as well. The blond Britons appear to me to be a closer branch of the ancient Aryan stock, the Gaels arriving later, and being mixed with some Turanian or Mediterranean blood. But every man is entitled to his own view and a writer has the right to use any and all theories, no matter how conflicting, in his stories. I may write a story one day upholding a certain theory of science, letters, anthropology or what-not, and the next day, a story upholding a theory directly opposite. A fiction writer, whose job is to amuse and entertain, should give all theories equal scope and justice. But I’m taking up too much of your time. (CL2.42-43)
The Celts

Howard’s letters show that in 1929 and early 1930 his reading was turning increasingly to Irish history, with long letters to Harold Preece and Tevis Clyde Smith on Celtic history and language. It was perhaps this focus which made Howard so sensitive to Lovecraft’s use of language in “The Rats in the Walls”—that, and O’Donovan and O’Reilly’s Irish-English Dictionary, which appears to be the source of Howard’s specific argument in his letter to Wright:
Mr. Baxter (in Glossario Antiquæ Birtanniæ, p. 90) remarks, that the oldest Brigantes, whom he esteems the first inhabitants of Britain, never used in their language the sound of the letter p, which was afterwards introduced by the Belgic Britains. If the old Brigantes were really of the first inhabitants of Britain, it would follow, that they were a part of the Guidelian, or Gaulish colony, which went over to Ireland, and whom Mr. Lhuyd evidently proves to have been the first inhabitants of all that part of Great Britain which now comprehends England and Wales. (IED 352)
We know Howard had this volume, as he cites in a subsequent letter to Lovecraft (CL2.70), and it seems to be the source for some of his Irish language comments in prior letters (cf. CL2.7, 20-21, 22-23). Wright forwarded this letter to Lovecraft (ES 1.268, CL2.xi), who responded to Howard’s query—and while Lovecraft’s first letter to Robert E. Howard does not survive, we do have two accounts of the matter from Lovecraft. The first was in reply to Catherine L. Moore, in a letter dated 2 July 1935:
As for the languages represented in the atavistic passage—I don’t recall including Sanscrit, though I did lift a sentence of Celtic (of which I know not a single word) from another story, The Sin-Eater, by “Fiona Macleod” (William Sharp). This sentence, incidentally, was what brought me into correspondence with Robert E. Howard. It was—since I swiped it from a Scottish story—a Gaelic specimen, whereas of course the Celtic language of southern Britain was Cymric. R.E.H.—as an expert Celtic antiquarian—noticed the discrepancy, and thought I had adopted a minority theory that a Gaelic wave had preceded the coming of the Cymri to Britannia. He wrote Wright on the subject and Wright forwarded the letter to me—whereupon I felt obliged to drop a line to the mighty Conan exposing my own ignorance and confessing to my rather inept borrowing. (SL5.181)
The second, essentially identical account was given in a letter to E. Hoffmann Price dated 5 July 1936—shortly after Howard’s death.
Much as I admired him, I had no correspondence with him till 1930—for I was never a guy to butt in on people. In that year he read the reprint of my Rats in the Walls and instantly spotted the bit of harmless fakery whereby I lifted a Celtic phrae (for use as an atavistic exclamation) from a footnote to an old classic—The Sin-Eater, by Fiona Macleod (William Sharp). He didn’t realise the source of the phrase, but his sharp eye for Celtic antiquities told him it didn’t quite fit—being a Gaelic (not Cymric) expression assigned to a South British locale. I myself don’t know a word of any Celtic tongue, and never fancied anybody could spot the incongruity. Too charitable to suspect me of ignorant appropriation, he came to the conclusion that I followed a now-discredited theory whereby the Gaels were supposed to have preceded the Cymri in England—and wrote Satrap Pharnabazus a long and scholarly letter on the subject. Farny passed this on to me—and I couldn’t rest easy until I had set the author right. Hence I dropped REH a line confessing my ignorance and telling him that I had merely picked a phrase with the right meaning from a note to a Scottish story while perfectly well aware that the language of Celtic South-Britain was really somewhat different. (SL5.277)
From those humble beginnings, Howard and Lovecraft’s correspondence bloomed. No surviving letters between Howard and Lovecraft give any further mention of “The Rats in the Walls” or “The Sin-Eater”—but that is not quite the end of the story, for there is still the matter of Fiona Macleod.

William Sharp 1894
William Sharp (1855-1905) was a Scottish writer, biographer, poet, and editor associated with the Celtic Twilight movement; Fiona Macleod was a feminine alter ego that he had created for the publication of some of his weirder and more fantastic works, including The Sin-Eater and Other Stories (1895), and inspired by a chance encounter with a muse in Italy in 1890, which resulted in his poetry collection Sopsiri di Roma (1891). Macleod’s true identity was carefully concealed during his life, though it emerged after his death, particularly in his wife’s William Sharp (Fiona Macleod): A Memoir (1910).

To most, this revelation was little more than a pseudonym, as Lovecraft would write under the name Lewis Theobald, Jr. or Howard as Patrick Ervin. A closer inspection of Sharp’s life and surviving letters and writings, such as Terry L. Meyer’s The Sexual Tensions of William Sharp (1996), suggests that the identity was an expression of Sharp’s anima, a way to express feminine aspects of his personality, or perhaps non-heteronormative sexual desires, though it is not clear if Sharp ever practiced homosexuality. As Meyer put it: “Sharp had created Fiona Macleod [...] to explore feelings in himself long nascent but long suppressed.” (18) In contemporary times, Sharp might have identified as genderqueer.

It is not clear if Lovecraft was familiar with Macleod’s identity in 1923, when he wrote “The Rats in the Walls,” but by 1929 at least he must have been aware of it, since he wrote to Elizabeth Toldridge:
The lines of William Sharp (who, by the way, has written some remarkable weird material under the pseudonym “Fiona MacLeod”) are highly potent despite their simplicity. I have followed the draining of Lacus Nemorensis with great interest, though without much hope that anything valuable will be discovered on Caligula’s galleys. (LETAR 57)
This is an apparent reference to two separate, though related elements: the draining of Lake Nemi (Lacus Nemorensis in Latin) in Italy by Mussolini’s government, in a bid to recover the sunken Roman galleys, and Sharp’s poem “The Swimmer of Nemi,” written during a trip to Italy and included in his volume Sospiri di Roma (1891), as well as subsequent collections. Probably Toldridge brought it up, in reference to a clipping on the lake draining, or the republication of Sharp’s works, so far it is the only other reference I have found to Sharp or Macleod in Lovecraft’s published letters. Much of Sharp’s work was republished after his death, including the multivolume collections of The Selected Writings of William Sharp (1912), published uniformly with The Collected Works of Fiona Macleod, so there are too many possible sources for Lovecraft’s information to determine what he read, or where and when he read it. It is not apparent that Robert E. Howard read anything of Sharp/Macleod at all.

It is a very simple story, and probably familiar to many who are fans or scholars of H. P. Lovecraft and Robert E. Howard—yet for anyone that has pored over their correspondence, it is perhaps exceptional to reflect on the circumstances that brought these two great writers together: a fan-letter, a reprinted short story, an Irish-English dictionary, and a borrowed phrase from a long-dead Scottish writer. Without any one of these elements, Howard and Lovecraft might never have gotten in touch.

“And that is all.”
(Best Psychic Stories 161)

Works Cited

CL          Collected Letters of Robert E. Howard (REH Foundation Press, 3                                  vols. + Index and Addenda)
ES         Essential Solitude: The Letters of H. P. Lovecraft and August Derleth                           (Hippocampus Press, 2 vols.)
IED         Irish-English Dictionary (Hodges and Smith)
LE         H. P. Lovecraft in “The Eyrie” (Necronomicon Press)
LETAR Letters to Elizabeth Toldridge & Anne Tillery Renshaw (Hippocampus                         Press)
SL         Selected Letters of H. P. Lovecraft (Arkham House, 5 vols.)

Friday, August 12, 2016

The Ships of Hy-Brasil Part 3 by Barbara Barrett

[In his poem, the “Isle of Hy-Brasil,” REH brings to life the fabled isle that existed even when the pre-historical islands of Atlantis and Lemuria were still afloat in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. According to Wikipedia, the isle, also known as Brazil, Hy-Brazil, and several other variants, is steeped in Irish myth. It is a legendary phantom island cloaked in mist, except for one day each seven years when it becomes visible but still unreachable. Similar in myth to that of St. Brendan’s Island (var. Brandon) it is shown as being circular, often with a central strait or river running east-west across its diameter. Despite failure in the attempts to find Hy-Brasil/St. Brendan’s Island, it appeared regularly on maps lying southwest of Galway Bay from 1325 until 1865.]

And there’s a sturdy bireme that sailed to the Holy Land.

The Bireme is a galley type ship with two bank of oars that was especially used by the Greeks and Phoenicians. The ship had a hull of wood and was used for both shipping and naval warfare possibly as early as 350 BC. The two banks of oars provided man-powered propulsion in case of calm waters or for better control in battles. The bronze armored ram on the bow of the ship was designed to be driven deep into an enemy ship. In addition to the small number of crew required, they could hold as many as 45 sailors during combat as well as additional fighting men on the main deck who were ready to board enemy vessels that had been rammed. Top speed was approximately seven knots.[1]

Main masts lifting like a forest of the south,
Beaked prows looming and the scarlet courses furled,
Dim decks heel-marked, warped by rain and drouth,
Rift in the cross-trees, drift of the southern seas;
Dim ships, strong ships, from all about the world.

High ships, proud ships, towering at their poops,
Galleons flaunting their pinnacles of pride,

[See image and full description of the Galleon above]

Battleships and merchantmen and long, lean sloops,

British Ships: Nelson's Division: HMS Victory (Flagship), Temeraire, Neptune, Conqueror, Leviathan, Ajax, Orion, Agamemnon, Minotaur, Spartiate, Euryalus, Britannia, Africa, Naiad, Phoebe, Entreprenante, Sirius and Pickle. Collingwood's Division: HMS Royal Sovereign (Flagship), Belleisle, Mars, Tonnant, Bellerophon, Colossus, Achilles, Polyphemus, Revenge, Swiftsure, Defiance, Thunderer, Prince of Wales, Dreadnought and Defence.
French Ships: Bucentaure (Flagship), Formidable (Flagship), Scipion, Intrepide, Cornelie, Duguay Truin, Mont Blanc, Heros, Furet, Hortense, Neptune, Redoubtable, Indomitable, Fougueux, Pluton, Aigle, Swiftsure, Argonaute, Berwick, Hermione, Themis, Achille and Argus. (It was a musket shot from French ship Redoubtable that mortally wounded Nelson.)
Spanish Ships: Santa Anna (Flagship), Santissima Trinidad (Flagship), Neptuno, Rayo, Santo Augustino, S. Francisco d’Assisi, S. Leandro, S. Juste, Monarca, Algeciras, Bahama, Montanes, S. Juan Nepomucano, Argonauta and Prince de Asturias.

Sailing warships of the 18th and 19th Century carried their main armaments in broadside batteries along the sides. Ships were classified according to the number of guns carried or the number of decks carrying batteries. Nelson’s main force comprised 8 three decker battleships carrying more than 90 guns each. The enormous Spanish ship Santissima Trinidad carried 120 guns and the Santa Anna 112 guns.

The size of gun on the line of battle ships was up to 24 pounder, firing heavy iron balls or chain and link shot designed to wreck rigging. Trafalgar was a close fleet action. Ships maneuvered up to the enemy and delivered broadsides at a range of a few yards. To take full advantage of the close range guns were “double shotted" with grape shot on top of ball. The ultimate aim in battle was to
lock ships together and capture the enemy by boarding. Savage hand to hand fighting took place at Trafalgar on several ships. The crew of the French Redoubtable, living up to the name of their ship, boarded Nelson’s flagship Victory but were annihilated in the brutal struggle on Victory’s top deck.

Ships’ crews of all nations were a tough bunch. The British with continual blockade service against the French and Spanish were particularly well drilled. British gun crews could fire three broadsides or more to every two fired by the French and Spanish. The British officers were hard bitten and experienced.

A merchantmen ship carried primarily cargo rather than the armaments although some carried guns for defense.

Flagships floating with the schooners on the tide.

The purpose of a flagship is to carry a fleet or squadron commander and it bears the commander's flag. It is the lead ship in a fleet of vessels, a designation given on account of being either the largest, fastest, newest, most heavily armed or, for publicity purposes, the best known. In military terms, it is a ship used by the commanding officer of a group of naval ships. The term originates from the custom of the commanding officer (usually, but not always, a flag officer) to fly a distinguishing flag. (Wikipedia)

A schooner is a vessel with two or more masts, with fore and aft sails on both masts, normally less than 150 tons but some of the triple masted schooners built on Prince Edward Island in the 1800s exceeded 700 tons. 

In the Caribbean, the USS Enterprise captured eight privateers and freed eleven American ships from captivity. At Malta, with six twelve-pounders she captured the Tripoli with its fourteen six-pounders. Three times, during the action, the Tripolitan crew attempted to board the Enterprise, and was as often repulsed with great slaughter, which was greatly increased by the effective aid afforded by the Marines. Three times, the Tripolitan struck her colors, hoping to disable the crew, and twice it renewed the action when the Enterprise crew came on deck to celebrate. The third treacherous attack, the Enterprise captain gave orders to sink the Tripoli and the enemy cried for mercy. [2] (Wikipedia)

And there’s a Viking Serpent that sailed the northern seas,

The Viking ship was perhaps the greatest technical and artistic achievement of the European dark ages. These fast ships had the strength to survive ocean crossings while having a draft of as little as 50cm (20 inches), allowing navigation in very shallow water. Two different classes of Viking era ships were found: warships called langskip and merchant ships called knörr. Typically, a warship is narrower, longer, and shallower than a knörr, and is powered by oars, supplanted by sail. The warship is completely open and is built for speed and maneuverability. In contrast, a knörr is partially enclosed and powered primarily by sail. Cargo carrying capability is the primary concern. The single square rigged sail allowed sailing close to the wind. This ability, combined with the capability to row during adverse wind conditions, allowed Norse sailors to run in to shore, engage the enemy on land, and escape retribution at will. The shallow draft of Norse war ships had several advantages.[4]

The Norse could raid well inland by sailing far up rivers that were too shallow for typical sea-going vessels of the day. The Frankish kingdoms in present day France were shocked by Norse raids in unthinkable locations hundreds of kilometers (100+ miles) inland on rivers not thought to be navigable. "In general, the Norse raided only those locations to which they could sail. Overland marches were avoided. In addition, the shallow draft made for fast and easy disembarkation during a raid. When the ship was beached, a Viking could be certain that if he jumped out near the stem, the water would scarcely be over his knees. The crew could leave the ship and join the raid quickly and confidently."[5]

That knew the stride of giants, ferocious gods of brawn,
And there’s a lateened rover that billowed to the breeze,
There a ship that sailed from Tyre when the waves were tinged with fire
And the first skies of history were rosying to dawn.

A rover is a pirate ship or vessel. Lateened refers to the type of sails [see definition on p. 7 above.]

The Good St. Brandon knew it when he turned him to the West
When he left the world behind him as he ventured far away,
And his fearless keel went plowing the ocean’s sapphire crest
Till he won unto Hy-Brasil which no other mortal may.

St. Brendan of Clonfert (484-577) aka “the Navigator,” “the Voyager,” “the Bold.” (Wikipedia)

For the island is Hy-Brasil, the paradise of ships,
Where the dim ghost crafts lie anchored and at rest,
Where the sea wind never rages and the sea rain never drips,
There they dream away the days in the mystic, sapphire haze
About the isle of Hy-Brasil, far off amid the West.

Howard wrote of other ships in his poetry but none of those poems list so many. What a spectacle it would have been to see ships from so many different centuries anchored side by side around Hy-Brasil’s beautiful and ancient shores.

Works Cited:

[5] There are several references for this citation. Each one seems to be using the other in the same reference/information. The origin of this information is unknown. Here are the citations:

Thursday, August 4, 2016

The Ships of Hy-Brasil Part 2 by Barbara Barrett

[In his poem, the “Isle of Hy-Brasil,” REH brings to life the fabled isle that existed even when the pre-historical islands of Atlantis and Lemuria were still afloat in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. According to Wikipedia, the isle, also known as Brazil, Hy-Brazil, and several other variants, is steeped in Irish myth. It is a legendary phantom island cloaked in mist, except for one day each seven years when it becomes visible but still unreachable. Similar in myth to that of St. Brendan’s Island (var. Brandon) it is shown as being circular, often with a central strait or river running east-west across its diameter. Despite failure in the attempts to find Hy-Brasil/St. Brendan’s Island, it appeared regularly on maps lying southwest of Galway Bay from 1325 until 1865.]

And there’s a Roman galley with its seven banks of oars,
Iain Spence’s Historical Dictionary of Ancient Greek Warfare gives this definition of a galley with seven banks of oars:
Seven (hepteres) [septireme]. A large warship, developed from the six, probably by adding extra (standing) oarsmen at the lowest level. It had a clear advantage over smaller craft in heavy weather. Sevens (and larger ships) were probably equipped with towers, carried catapults and considerable numbers of troops and used firepower and boarding rather than ramming. The seven was a large ship and most navies possessed only a few, so they were often used as flagships (Historical Dictionary of Ancient Greek Warfare by Iain Spence.) [NOTE: the six (hexeres) was around 145 feet (45 meters) long. It probably had three rows of oars on each side, like a trireme or a five (penteres) but with the oars on all three of the levels on each side worked by two men.]

And there’s a golden barge-boat that knew the Caesar’s hand,

A barge-boat is any of various boats with roomy, usually flat-bottoms and used chiefly for the transport of goods on inland waterways or as luxurious passenger boats. Caesar’s would have been as well appointed as that of Cleopatra’s.[1]
And there’s a sombre pirate craft with shattered cabin doors,

Pirate Ship

The subject of pirate ships is more complex as there were many different types in use by buccaneers. Among the most popular were the Brigantine, the Caravel, the Carrack and the Galleon. Although the Brigantine, the Caravel and the Carrack do not appear REH’s poetry, they are very much part of the lore of the “somber pirate” craft mentioned by him in “Hy-Brasil.”

While the Brigantine was often the ship of choice for pirates, it was also very popular as both a merchant and naval ship. It could carry 10-16 guns and was rigged for speed, having two masts with both top gallant sails and royals rigged to each mast. World-wide it was often used by navies for scouting and reconnaissance duties. Many brigantines in the late 1800s carried sweeps for maneuvering in still weather. In 1814, the British Navy had 71 of the Brigantine’s in active service. Length: 110 feet; Beam: 28 feet; Depth: 16 feet; Crew: 110-120 men. [NOTE: By the first half of the 18th century the word brigantine had evolved to refer not to a ship type, but to a particular type of rigging: squared rigged on the foremast and fore and aft rigged on the mainmast.] [2]

According to the information on’s “Who Was Christopher Columbus,” for his journey, Columbus obtained three "caravels" or small ships, 50-100 feet long, with no sleeping quarters. They were named the Niña, the Pinta and the Santa Maria. However, Wikipedia states that the Santa Maria was a type of carrack (see below) and was Columbus’ flagship although he preferred the Niña because of its better ocean performance. What these caravels looked like exactly is unknown at this time…but it is thought the above images resembles them.

The caravel was also popular with pirates and was used from the 14th to the 17th centuries primarily as a cargo ship; the Mediterranean version was lateen rigged on two masts, while the Spanish and Portuguese versions were three masted with the first two masts square rigged and the mizzen lateen rigged. [NOTE: both the masts have lateen sails which are triangular in shape.]

The unusual design of the Carrack also made it a favorite of pirates.

Frigate was a name used for a variety of ships from small oared boats to three masted sailing ships. The name was formalized by the English in the late 17th century to mean a vessel smaller than a ship of the line, carrying 24-38 guns on a single deck with three fully rigged masts. Their speed made them better suited to convoy duty and hunting pirates. [3]

Part 1

Works Cited


Thursday, July 28, 2016

The Ships of Hy-Brasil Part 1 by Barbara Barrett

In his poem, the “Isle of Hy-Brasil,” REH brings to life the fabled isle that existed even when the pre-historical islands of Atlantis and Lemuria were still afloat in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. According to Wikipedia, the isle, also known as Brazil, Hy-Brazil, and several other variants, is steeped in Irish myth. It is a legendary phantom island cloaked in mist, except for one day each seven years when it becomes visible but still unreachable. Similar in myth to that of St. Brendan’s Island (var. Brandon) it is shown as being circular, often with a central strait or river running east-west across its diameter. Despite failure in the attempts to find Hy-Brasil/St. Brendan’s Island, it appeared regularly on maps lying southwest of Galway Bay from 1325 until 1865.

Howard’s “The Isle of Hy-Brasil” is more than a historical description of this island and its myth. It is essentially about the many different types of ships that are anchored along its shores as seen through Howard’s eyes.

To see how awesomely beautiful the shoreline of this ancient island would have appeared when lined with these ships, images of each ship type as well as a description have been added below.

There’s a far, lone island in the dim red West
Where the sea-waves are crimson with the red of burnished gold,
(Sapphire in the billows, gold upon the crest)
An island that is older than the continents are old. 
For when in dim Atlantis a thousand jeweled spires
Burned through the twilight in the ocean’s dusky smile,
And when mystic Lemuria glowed with myriad gemming fires
Strange ships went sailing to seek the wondrous isle. 
And when the land of Britain was a forest for the deer
And the mammoth roamed the mountains and the plains were veiled in snow, When the dawn had swept the ocean and the air was crystal clear
The ape-man looking sea-ward caught the distant topaz glow. 
When Drake went down to Darien and Cortez sailed the Main
And the wide blue Pacific lay like a summer dream,
From the gold-decked bridges of the galleons of Spain
Far upon the skyline they saw the island gleam.

"A galleon was a large, multi-decked sailing ship used primarily by the European nations from the 16th to the 18th centuries." [1] "The galleon was 100-150 feet long, 40-50 feet wide, carrying about 600 tons (although some were bigger)." [2] "Whether used for war or commerce, they were generally armed with a medium sized cannon. A lowering of the forecastle and elongation of the hull gave an unprecedented level of stability in the water, and reduced wind resistance at the front, leading to a faster, more maneuverable vessel. The galleon was powered entirely by sail, carried three to five masts, with a lateen sail on the last (usually third) mast. The Galleon ship was favored by pirates because it was sturdy in battle and able to carry large loads of supplies and loot.[3]
"It flashes in the Baltic, dimly glimpsed through driving snow,
And it lights the Indian Ocean when the waves are lying still,
It dreams along the sea-rim in the twilight’s golden glow,
And mariners have named it The Isle of Hy-Brasil."

"For sailing ships are anchored close, about that ancient isle,
Ships that roamed the oceans in the dim dawn days,
Coracles from Britain, triremes from the Nile,
Anchored round the harbors, mile on countless mile,
Ships and ships and shades of ships, fading in the haze."

A coracle is oval in shape and very similar to half a walnut shell, the structure was made of a framework of split and interwoven willow rods, tied with willow bark. The outer layer was originally an animal skin such as horse or bullock hide, with a thin layer of tar to make it fully water proof. Today, it is made of tarred calico or canvas, or simple fiberglass. The structure has a keel-less, flat bottom to evenly spread the weight of the boat and its load across the structure and to reduce the required depth of water — often to only a few inches, making it ideal for use on rivers.
"In its day, the trireme was a 'state of the art' fighting ship designed to cover long distances quickly under oar and sail and in battle to ram enemy ships with devastating effect."[4] It was a class of warship used by the ancient civilizations of the Mediterranean, especially the Phoenicians, ancient Greeks and Romans. It derives its name from its three rows of oars on each side, manned with one man per oar. As a ship it was fast and agile, and became the dominant warship in the Mediterranean from the seventh to the fourth centuries BC. Triremes played a vital role in the Persian Wars, the creation of the Athenian maritime empire, and its downfall in the Peloponnesian War.(Wikipedia)
Works Cited


Thursday, July 21, 2016

On the Trail of Grotz: A Lone Scout, A Picture, and a Road Trip by Todd Vick

If you've heard of Herbert C. Klatt then you might have a decent grasp of Robert E. Howard (hereafter REH) history. Klatt is one of REH's lesser known friends, which is unfortunate given the amount of information REH scholars can draw from Klatt's life to aid them in gaining a better understanding of REH. Here's what I mean.

Herbert C. Klatt
Herbert C. Klatt was born in Bosque County, Texas and with his family moved to the next county over—Hamilton—with the idea of cultivating a bit of land they had purchased near the town of Hamilton, in Aleman, Texas. Klatt lived his entire short life in Aleman, TX. As a boy he joined the Lone Scouts of American organization. Founded by William Dickson "W. D." Boyce, The Lone Scouts were organized for boys who, more or less, lived in rural areas where a Boy Scout troop was not available in their area. [Note: There were boys who had joined the Lone Scouts who lived in areas where the Boy Scouts were established. Yet, for various reasons these boys decided to join the Lone Scouts. In 1924, the Lone Scouts of America joined with the Boy Scouts of America.]

It was through the Lone Scouts that Klatt became acquainted with another of REH's friends, Truett Vinson. Klatt and Vinson began corresponding with one another in early 1923, and a friendship ensued. The correspondence between Klatt and Vinson can not be understated because it was through this early correspondence that both Vinson and Howard (and eventually Tevis Clyde Smith) ultimately met and befriended not only Klatt but Harold Preece.

Klatt was a year younger than both Vinson and Howard, and attended school in nearby Hamilton, TX (just up the road from Aleman, TX). Like Cross Plains, Hamilton's school progressed to the tenth grade, so Klatt had to go one county over to Ireland High School to complete his high school education. Even though Klatt's family found success cultivating the land they purchased in Aleman, Klatt was quite poor as a teen. The only job he ever had was working on the family's land for room and board at his own home. Even so, like Howard, Vinson, Smith, and Preece, Klatt had aspirations to be a professional writer. And for a brief stretch he received a small sum of money from various newspapers/journals to which he would submit.

Through several years of correspondence, Klatt became well acquainted with Howard, Vinson, and Smith, whom he later dubbed "The Rollo Boys." The week after Christmas in 1925, Klatt was able to take a train to a town "40 miles" outside Brownwood, TX (according to the semi-autobiographical work by Howard titled Post Oaks and Sand Roughs (POSR)). Traveling back toward Brownwood, the group stayed the night on a ranch owned by Smith's family. You can read about the evening in REH's correspondence as well as the fictional semi-autobiographical POSR (Hubert Grotz was the fictional name given to Klatt in POSR).

For several years, Klatt contributed articles to Southland Farmer, Lone Scout (the organization's official organ), Dixie Eagle, Hamilton Herald-Record, among others. Unfortunately, Klatt died at the young age of 21. He suffered the last few months of his life from complications due to pernicious anemia.

A few years back, Rob Roehm published a book through the Robert E. Howard Foundation titled Lone Scout of Letters. The book is a collection of various writings from Herbert C. Klatt, with historical information about Klatt, his family, etc. It also features some writings by Truett Vinson. In fact, this book is one of the very few places a researcher can turn to get the writings of Vinson and Klatt.

Klatt's picture of the Brazos river from
Lone Scout of Letters (p. 98)
For my current research, I recently read Lone Scout of Letters from cover to cover. Throughout the book Roehm placed pictures of Klatt, his home, Klatt and his friends, and several pics of places Klatt visited. One such place was the Brazos river. The Brazos is one of the more famous rivers in Texas that runs through a large portion of the state. It is also the 11th longest river in the U.S. As I was reading through Rob's book, on page 98, there was a picture of the Brazos river taken by Klatt (according to the back of the photo). The backside of the photo indicated that the picture was taken near Walnut Springs, Texas.

So, like a good researcher, I got on my computer, pulled up Google Maps and typed into the search engine "Walnut Springs, Texas." I used the map to see if a portion of the Brazos rivers was close to Walnut Springs. Sure enough, just north east of Walnut Springs, about 24 or so miles, is the Brazos river. I clicked on the Google Earth portion of the map to get the exact satellite image, zoomed in on the river and followed it for a stretch until I found a crossing just Northeast of Brazos Point, TX & Eulogy, TX. Zooming in on that crossing I saw two bridges, side by side. One is the newer, paved highway (Farm Market Road 1175 which connects with Farm Market Road 1118 just the other side of the Brazos). The second bridge is older, and almost looks like a railroad bridge across the river. I zoomed in as close as Google allowed, then hit the street level and voilà, an older street bridge.

So what does this mean? Well, the cover of Rob Roehm's book is a photo of Herbert C. Klatt on a bridge. And if you take a close look at the structure of the bridge, you can see some distinctive features in the steel work (grid patterns, etc.). Additionally, the picture (see above) of the Brazos river is a picture that would have been taken from a bridge; the view in the picture is such that the photograph is out over the middle of the river. What little of the steel work that can be seen in the photo cover of Rob's book matches quite nicely with the street image of the second Brazos river bridge from Google maps at the street level (see picture below).

After comparing the two (Google's street level picture & the picture of Rob's book) I did what any sane REH nerd would do and google mapped my home address (I live in Texas, the D/FW area) with the bridge. It was only one hour away from my house. Time for a road trip. Dragging my wife into the matter—I had to have someone take a picture of me on the bridge, right?—I convince her to drive with me to the bridge. This past Sunday morning (7/17/2016) we did just that.

Google street level pic of the bridge
After an hour of travel down various back roads, we finally arrived at the location of the bridge. We parked the car and walked out onto the bridge. It was quite worn out. In fact, just prior to walking onto the bridge, tied to two opposite trees were yellow warning tape with ends that had been clipped and left hanging. Once out on the bridge, I wondered if law enforcement (or the Texas Highway Department) had placed the tape across the road in order to warn people to stay off the bridge, and someone had clipped the tape at both ends. I could see why that might have been the case once we were on the bridge.

Me in the presumed spot where
Herbert Klatt stood in his pic
The bridge itself had been paved, and re-paved over the years. At several connecting points between one portion of the pavement to the next, several holes had been worn through the road and the bridge itself. Undeterred, my wife and I, with Rob's book in hand, ventured farther out on the bridge. The steel structure certainly matched that of the bridge in the front cover photograph of Herbert Klatt.

Naturally, the shrubs and trees with years of growing freely were much thicker than they were in Klatt's photograph. But, here we were standing on a bridge near Walnut Springs, TX that looked exactly like the bridge in Klatt's photograph. I am convinced that this is the location (and bridge) where Herbert C. Klatt stood and had his photograph taken. I took another photograph similar to the view of Herbert's picture (above) of the Brazo's river. Obviously, the river waters were substantially higher the day Klatt took his photograph. Additionally, this is the only crossing over the Brazos river that is remotely close to Walnut Springs, TX. All this certainly seems to substantiate that this is, in fact, the bridge Klatt was standing upon in the cover photograph, and is more than likely the bridge from which he took the Brazos river picture.

A picture from the bridge similar to Klatt's above
as seen in Lone Scout of Letters

Now, here's a little bit of history I managed to find online about the bridge:
In the late 1850s business partners Charles W. Smith and Tom Willingham saw the Brazos River and saw opportunity. They built a gin, mill and store for their own interests and in 1860 a school was built followed by the Brazos Point Community Church nearby. The community was granted a post office in 1873 and the 1880s seems to have been the town's high-water mark. The population reached 200 and besides the gin, store and gristmill, they gained their very own physician. But a few years later (1896) the population had declined to 75 and the post office had closed its doors. 
The community moved to FM 56 and in 1914 the county contracted with the Austin Bridge Company to erect a bridge across the Brazos (which still stands alongside a modern bridge). The population was estimated at only 50 from 1933 through WWII. No figures were available after 1947.

View on the bridge

The closest towns to the bridge are Walnut Springs, Glen Rose, and somewhat farther than the first two, Waco, TX. If you are interested in a little more history about Robert E. Howard and his friends, then I highly recommend Rob's book, Lone Scout of Letters. I have used his book in the research for my upcoming book project for The University of Texas Press. It provides great insight into REH's circles of friends, how they interacted with each other, and how they influenced each other. And, of course, it helps REH nerds like myself to find wonderful places like this bridge!

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Conan and the Dweller, Part 3 by Bobby Derie

We hear nothing from Howard about Lumley for some time, though this is to be understood as they only shared the venue of The Fantasy Fan. Howard and Lumley seem not to have written directly to one another, Howard’s correspondence with Clark Ashton Smith was sporadic and marked by long gaps, and Lovecraft’s scarce mentions Lumley at all in his letters to Howard.

Late in 1935, Lovecraft broke his rule against collaboration to revise and rewrite a manuscript by William Lumley. The story that resulted was “The Diary of Alonzo Typer,” which Lovecraft hoped to sell to Farnsworth Wright of Weird Tales or William Crawford of Marvel Tales. (OFF 296, 299; ES 2.711-2, 719) The story was accepted by Wright, with Lovecraft sending his congratulations:
Just received yours of the 12th telling of Alonzo’s (The Diary of Alonzo Typer) acceptance. Congratulations!! Your reply to Wright’s letter seems to me exactly right. I suppose he was curious about getting stories from several authors—Heald, de Castro, Reed, &c (besides parts of mss. From Barlow, Bloch, Rimel, &c)—which contained earmarks of my style. I have no objection at all to Wright’s knowing of my share in polishing off the MS. And I think that what you said was admirable. (SL5.207)
Lovecraft insisted Lumley accept full payment ($70) for the story; and considering the nearly illiterate state of Lumley’s draft (published in Crypt #10, 1982), this was true philanthropy. (HPLE 68) In gratitude, Lumley sent Lovecraft a copy of E. Wallis Budge’s translation of the Egyptian Book of the Dead. (OFF 301, 308; SL5.208) However, for whatever reason the story was not actually published in Weird Tales until February 1938, long after both Howard and Lovecraft were dead—and credited solely to Lumley. E. Hoffmann Price, on reading the story, immediately detected Lovecraft’s hand in it, and wrote a letter to the Eyrie affirming as much, and adding:
If William Lumley wrote that yarn without consultation with HPL, he has succeeded in a feat I had deemed utterly impossibly: writing a story that is more like Lovecraft than Lovecraft himself! Whatever its history, I was glad to see it in print. The references to Shamballah reminded me of many a letter HPL and I exchanged, and of our own collaboration, a few years ago. Now here is a challenge to one or more of Lovecraft’s followers: The Old Master had pondered, for some time before his death, on this matter of a weird story whose locale was to be the Valley of Teotihuacan—‘the dwelling of the gods’—in the now bleak and desolate expanse of country somewhat north of Lake Texcoco, nearly forty minutes’ drive from Mexico City. I had sent HPL photos, data, personal impressions and reactions to the pyramids and crypts of the valley. We had even planned, whimsically of course, to have Robert E. Howard join us in one expedition to Teotihuacan: I to be chauffeur, R. E. H. swordsman and gunner, and HPL to be necromancer for the party. And whenever I see their names it reminds me of a plan that was really not impossible, up until that tragic day in June of 1936 when R. E. H. went on an exploration unaccompanied by any of his friends. This whole issue, I might say, reminds me of the dead that have no equals among the survivors: Lovecraft, Howard, Whitehead. Like the Valley of Teotihuacan, the February issue is a memento of dead giants. Well, what valiant acolyte of HPL will fictionalize the mysterious Valley of Teotihuacan? Me, I am not equal to the task [...] (WT Apr 1938)

Works Cited

AMtF       A Means to Freedom (Hippocampus Press, 2 vols.)
CL            Collected Letters of Robert E. Howard (Robert E. Howard                                                Foundation, 3 vols. + Index and Addenda)
ES            Essential Solitude (Hippocampus Press, 2 vols.)
HPLE       The H. P. Lovecraft Encyclopedia (Hippocampus Press)
LRBO      Letters to Robert Bloch and Others (Hippocampus Press)
MTS        Mysteries of Time and Spirit (Night Shade Books)
OFF         O Fortunate Floridian (University of Tampa Press)
SL            Selected Letters of H. P. Lovecraft (Arkham House, 5 vols.)
SLCAS    Selected Letters of Clark Ashton Smith (Arkham House)
TFF         The Fantasy Fan (Lance Thingmaker)
UL           H. P. Lovecraft: Uncollected Letters (Necronomicon Press)

Part 1, Part 2