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

[1] http://www.thepirateking.com/ships/ship_types.htm
[2] http://piratehold.com/pirate_ships.html
[3] http://www.thepirateking.com/ships/ship_types.htm
[4] http://www.thepirateking.com/ships/ship_types.htm



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

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Conan and the Dweller, Part 2 by Bobby Derie

By 1933, William Lumley was a fixture among Lovecraft’s correspondents, and on the circulation list for manuscripts (SLCAS 226; MTS 364, 372; OFF 205) Few other details were forthcoming, that Lovecraft expanded on Lumley’s claims, saying that the aged mystic claimed to see ghosts and “Talks sometimes of being persecuted by enemies” (LRBO 55), as well to have:
[W]itnessed monstrous rites in deserted cities, has slept in pre-human ruins and awaked 20 years older, has seen strange elemental spirits in all lands (including Buffalo, N. Y.—where he frequently visits a haunted valley and sees a white, misty Presence), has written and collaborated on powerful dramas, has conversed with incredibly wise and monstrously ancient wizards in remote Asiatic fastnesses [...] His own sorceries, I judge, are of a somewhat modest kind; though he has had very strange and marvelous results from clay images and from certain cryptical incantations. (SL4.270-1)
Clark Ashton Smith
With regard to the various and interlocking myth-cycles of Robert E. Howard, Clark Ashton Smith, Lovecraft et al., the Gent from Providence assured Smith in one letter:
He is firmly convinced that all our gang—you, Two-Gun Bob, Sony Belknap, Grandpa E’ch-Pi-El, and the rest—are genuine agents of unseen Powers in distributing hints too dark and profound for human conception or comprehension. We may think we’re writing fiction, and may even (absurd thought!) disbelieve what we write, but at bottom we are telling the truth in spite of ourselves—serving unwittingly as mouthpieces of Tsathoggua, Crom, Cthulhu, and other pleasant Outside gentry. Indeed—Bill tells me that he has fully identified my Cthulhu and Nyarlathotep ……. So that he can tell me more about ‘em that I know myself. With a little encouragement, good old Bill would unfold limitless chronicles from beyond the border—but I liked the old boy so well that I never make fun of him. (SL4.270-271)
In this belief, Lumley was several decades ahead of the occultist Kenneth Grant, who made the hidden occult reality of the Mythos crafted by Lovecraft & co. a crucial part of his Typhonian Trilogies, beginning with Dreaming Out of Space (1971) and The Magical Revival (1972).

At this point in 1933, Lumley was corresponding with both Lovecraft and Clark Ashton Smith—as was Robert E. Howard. As a consequence, Howard began to hear of Lumley from both men. While none of Smith’s letters to Howard survive, from references in Howard’s letters to Smith we know they spoke of Lumley, who is presumably “the correspondent who maintains that reptile-men once existed.” (CL3.137) In a November 1933 letter to Lovecraft, Smith wrote of Lumley: “The idea of a primeval serpent-race seems to be a favourite one with him, since he refers to it in his last letter as well as in one or two previous epistles.” (SLCAS 236)

WT Oct. 1934
Likely the reference to serpent-men arose because Smith was at that point working on “The Seven Geases” (WT Oct 1934), which contains a section referring to a race of Serpent-Men, or else perhaps because he made comment or reference to Howard’s own serpent-folk in “The Shadow Kingdom” (WT Aug 1929). There is an outside possibility that Lumley was familiar with Maurice Doreal (sometimes given as Morris Doreal, real name apparently Claude Doggins), the founder of the Brotherhood of the White Temple. Doreal’s poem “The Emerald Tablets of Thoth the Atlantean” appeared in mimeographed form in the 1930s, and describes the secret history of a shape-changing Serpent Race which have strong parallels to Howard’s story “The Shadow Kingdom.” Another reference to Lumley from Smith’s letters to Howard mentions a “seven-headed goddess of hate,” which intrigued the Texan. (CL3.151)

The story William Lumley was working on, “The City of Dim Faces” was never published—possibly never completed—but Lovecraft continued to encourage Lumley’s creative efforts, telling Robert Bloch: “Probably has a strong latent literary gift—thwarted by ignorance. Some of his weird verses are really good—even if misspelt & mis-capitalised.” (LRBO 55) Lumley had better luck with his verses, which were published in issues of The Fantasy Fan, alongside the work of Howard, Lovecraft, Smith, Derleth and others.

The Fantasy Fan Feb. 1934
“The Dweller” (“Dread and potent broods a Dweller”) appeared in the February 1934 issue The Fantasy Fan, which Lovecraft described to editor Charles D. Hornig as “haunting and excellent” (UL 13), Fantasy Fan regulars Bob Tucker and Duane W. Rimel described it as “a masterpiece” and “certainly have a touch of the bizarre that grips one,” (TFF 97, 114) and Clark Ashton Smith as “a fine thing” (SLCAS 250). Robert E. Howard wrote to Smith:
I read Lumley’s “Dweller” in the Fantasy Fan and liked it very much; it certainly reflects a depth of profound imagination seldom encountered. I hope the Fan will use more of his verse. (CL3.197)
Howard repeated the sentiment in a letter to the Fantasy Fan in a subsequent letter (CL3.203). Hornig obliged with Lumley’s “Shadows” (“There’s a city wrought of shadows”) in the May 1934 number. Clark Ashton Smith wrote to the Fantasy Fan:
I wish to commend Mr. Lumley’s remarkable poem, ‘Shadows,’ in the May TFF. The poem seems to have in it all the mystic immemorial anguish and melancholy of China. (TFF 162)
Apparently, Lumley at some point lost a statue of the Hindu god Ganesha, and Lovecraft endeavored to help replace it. (SLCAS 253) The solution came in the form of Lovecraft’s young friend and correspondent R. H. Barlow, who had recently begun doing some amateur sculpting (including a bas-relief of Cthulhu), who endeavored to make an image of Ganesha for Lumley. (ES 2.636, SL4.411, SLCAS 259, AMtF 2.801; cf. TFF 164) Lumley also received a Cthulhu print that Barlow had made. (OFF 153)

Lumley’s success at publication in the Fantasy Fan was due largely to Lovecraft’s editing of his verses, which the man from Providence freely admitted to Barlow:
Incidentally—old Bill Lumley is getting ahead of me …. Sending more verse than I can possibly attend to. Unless he can find one or more supplementary “angels” I fear his reputation—either for fecundity or for quality—is going to encounter a downward curve! (OFF 180)
Lumley’s final verse publication was “The Elder Thing” (“Oh, have you seen the Elder Thing”) in January 1935—an issue he shared with Robert E. Howard’s “Voices of the Night 2. Babel” (“Now in the gloom the pulsing drums repeat”). This was the penultimate issue of The Fantasy Fan, and though Lovecraft recommended Lumley to Donald Wollheim of The Phantagraph (which would later publish Howard’s The Hyborian Age), nothing came of it. (LRBO 313)

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 3



Sunday, July 3, 2016

Conan and the Dweller, Part 1 by Bobby Derie

The idea of a land of darkness is excellent, and one footnote telling of ancient MSS. Which even the Egyptian priests could not read excited my imagination tremendously. That kind of thing resembles my own (purely mythical) “Pnakotic Manuscripts”; which are supposed to be the work of “Elder Ones” preceding the human race on this planet, and handed down through an early human civilization which once existed around the north pole.—H. P. Lovecraft to William Lumley, 12 May 1931, SL3.372-3

Farnsworth Wright
     A few months before Farnsworth Wright forwarded a letter from Robert E.Weird Tales put Lovecraft in touch with another fan: William Lumley (1880-1960) of Buffalo, New York, a watchman for the Agrico Chemical Company. (HPLE 159) According to Lovecraft, Lumley was a firm believer in the occult, having studied Albertus Magnus (Grand Albert and Petit Albert), Cornelius Agrippa (De Occulta Philosophia libri tres), Hermes Trismegistus (Corpus Hermeticum), Martin Delrio (Disquisitionum Magicarum Libri Sex), Paracelsus (probably the Archidoxes of Magic), and Remigius (Nicholas Rémy, Daemonolatreiae libri tres); references to Appolonius of Tyana, Geber, and Pythagorus were likely taken from Éliphas Lévi’s History of Magic—although Lovecraft goes on to add “Eibon, von Junzt , and Abdul Alhazred,” so HPL could have been exaggerating for effect, drawing on his own reading in the history of medieval grimoires. Like Howard and many of Lovecraft’s others correspondents, Lumley inquired into the reality of Cthulhu, Yog-Sothoth, and the rest of the artificial mythology. (AMtF 1.287-8, ES 1.339, SL4.270-1)

     Lumley and Lovecraft’s correspondence developed in parallel with Lovecraft and Howard’s. The Buffalo occultist was grateful enough to Lovecraft to gift him a copy of William Bradford’s Vathek in 1931 (ES 1.339) and Edward Lucas White’s Lukundoo & Other Stories in 1933 (LRBO 32), and Lovecraft in return planned to send Lumley a copy of an occult catalogue (ES 1.345). Despite being described by Lovecraft as “semi-illiterate” and “very crude in some ways,” he also claimed Lumley was “amazingly erudite in the lore of mediaeval magic, & possessed of a keen & genuine sense of the fantastic” (ES 1.448-9), “& with a streak of genuine weird sensitiveness not very far removed from a certain sort of blind, rhapsodic genius.” (ES 2.486)


H.P. Lovecraft
Lovecraft continued to answer his letters, including Lumley in his regular circle of correspondence. In a letter dated 7 May 1932, Lovecraft first describes Lumley to Robert E. Howard:
He claims to have traveled to all the secret places of the world—India, China, Nepal, Egypt, Thibet, etc.—and to have picked up all sorts of forbidden elder lore; also to have read Paracelsus, Remigius, Cornelius Agrippa, and all the other esoteric authors whom most of us merely talk about and refer to as we do to the Necronomicon and Black Book. He believes in occult mysteries, and is always telling about “manifestations” he sees in haunted houses and shunned valleys. He also speaks often of a mysterious friend of his—“The Oriental Ancient”—who is going to get him a forbidden book (as a loan, and not to be touched without certain ceremonies of mystical purification) from some hidden and unnamed monastery in India. Lumley is semi-illiterate—with no command of spelling or capitalisation—yet has a marvelously active and poetic imagination. He is going to write a story called “The City of Dim Faces”, and from what he says of it I honestly believe it will be excellent in a strange, mystical, atmospheric way. The fellow has a remarkable sort of natural eloquence—a chanting, imageful style which almost triumphs over its illiteracies. If he finishes this tale I think I’ll help him knock it into shape for submission to Wright. There is real charm—as well as real pathos—about this wistful old boy, who seems to be well long in years and in rather uncertain health. He obviously has a higher-grade mind than Olson could ever have had—for even now there is a certain wild beauty and consistency, with not the least touch of incoherence, in his epistolary extravagances. Young Brobst (as I told you, nurse in a mental hospital) thinks a touch of real insanity is present, but I regard the case as a borderline one. I always answer his letters in as kindly a fashion as possible. (AMtF 1.287-8; cf. ES 1.448-9)
Henry S. Whitehead
     The “Olson” in question is another semi-literate Weird Tales fan that believed in the occult, but in contrast to Lovecraft’s description of Lumley as a “good old soul,” Olson wrote harassing, nonsensical letters to Henry S. Whitehead, Clark Ashton Smith, and Robert E. Howard. (ES 339) Lumley apparently received the book from the “Oriental ancient” which was “not to be touched without certain ceremonies of mystical purification” is reflective of the European grimoire tradition with works like the Lesser Key of Solomon or the Book of the Sacred Magic of Abra-Melin the Mage; in a letter to Clark Ashton Smith, Lovecraft expanded that these ceremonies included “the donning of a white robe,” which is characteristic for purification rituals in both works. (SL4.270)

     The Texan was intrigued enough by Lovecraft’s description to inquire further about Lumley in his answering letter:
I was much interested in what you said of the man Lumley, of Buffalo. He must be indeed an interesting study; possibly of such a sensitive and delicate nature that he has, more or less unconsciously, taken refuge from reality in misty imaginings and occult dreams. I hope he completes his story, and that it is published. Do you believe the “Oriental Ancient” has any existence outside his imagination? There is to me a terrible pathos in a man’s vain wanderings on occult paths, and clutching at non-existent things, as a refuge from the soul-crushing stark realities of life. (AMtF 1.292, CL2.354)
     Howard’s sentiment echoes the theme of his King Kull story “The Mirrors of Tuzun Thune” (WT Sep 1929), but he found it interesting enough to pass along an abridged version of Lovecraft’s account to Tevis Clyde Smith:
Lovecraft tells me about an old fellow who writes him all sorts of phantasies about esoteric subjects, and relates spectral manifestations glimpsed in haunted houses and the like; he professes to have pried into all the mysterious corners of the world, and to be hand-in-glove with a cryptic being he calls “the Oriental ancient” who apparently bobs up unexpectedly from behind sofas and well-curbs, gives vent to philosophic gems and utterances, and vanishes again. Lovecraft thinks the old gentleman is on the border-line of sanity, but one Brobst, a brain student, thinks he is nuts. (CL2.369)

Robert E. Howard
Lovecraft replied to Howard at length:
This fellow Lumley, on the other hand, is a really fascinating character—in a way, a sort of thwarted poet. It is very hard to tell where his sense of fact begins to give way to imaginative embroidery—but I think he usually enlarges on some actual nucleus. He has, I imagine, really knocked about the world quite a bit—hence his dreams of visiting Nepal, darkest Africa, the interior of China, and so on. I fancy there is some old fellow corresponding to his idealised figure of “The Oriental Ancient”—perhaps an aged and talkative Chinese laundryman, or perhaps even some “Swami” of the sort now found in increasing numbers wherever the field for faddist-cult organisation seems promising. Providence, for example, has several of these swarthy Eastern ascetics nowadays. Lumley is naturally in touch with all sorts of freak cults from Rosicrucians to Theosophists. I surely hope he will finish his “City of Dim Faces”, for anything written uncommercially—from the pure self-expression motive—is a welcome rarity nowadays. There is surely, as you say, a tremendous pathos in the case of those who clutch at unreality as a compensation for inadequate or uncongenial realities. (AMtF 1.307)
     Lovecraft and Howard were both generally unversed in the details of the occult, though each worked to expand their knowledge through reading and correspondence, aided in part by a collection of materials on theosophy supplied by E. Hoffmann Price and circulated among the group. The influence of theosophy in particular on both authors has been examined in essays like HPL and HPB: Lovecraft’s Use of Theosophy by Robert M. Price and Theosophy and the Thurian Age by Jeffrey Shanks.

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)