Thursday, December 14, 2017

The Two Bobs: Robert E. Howard and Robert H. Barlow by Bobby Derie

[...] & I will ask you to pass it along—after as long a reading as you care to give it—to Robert E. Howard, Lock Box 313, Cross Plains, Texas. When many people want to see the same story, it is most convenient to start it circulating in this way.
— H. P. Lovecraft to R. H. Barlow, 17 Sep 1931 (OFF 8)

The two tales safely arrived, & I am glad the “Mts. of Madness” duly reached you. When you are entirely through with the latter, I would appreciate your sending it on to Robert E. Howard, Lock Box 313, Cross Plains, Texas.
— H. P. Lovecraft to R. H. Barlow, 25 Sep 1931 (OFF 10)

R.H. Barlow
By the time Robert Hayward Barlow first wrote to H. P. Lovecraft in June 1931, Lovecraft had already been corresponding with Robert E. Howard for a year. Barlow was 13, the precocious younger son of a retired army lieutenant colonel who lived with his family at Fort Benning, Georgia. A devoted fan of Weird Tales, Barlow had written to Lovecraft looking for an autograph and more of his stories (OFF 3)—a correspondence which soon brought the young fan into contact with Robert E. Howard:

This morning I took out a big registered envelope with a “War Department” letter-head. I had visions of me shouldering a Springfield already, but it was from a gentleman named Barlow, at Fort Benning, Georgia, asking me for my autograph, for which purpose he enclosed a blank sheet of paper and a stamped self-addressed envelope. He also enclosed a 115 page ms. which he said Lovecraft had instructed him to forward me. It’s the Antarctic story which Farnsworth rejected, and which Lovecraft promised to let me read in the original.
— Robert E. Howard to Tevis Clyde Smith, Oct 1931 (CL2.273)

Which was followed shortly after by the first mention of Barlow in Howard’s letters:

When Mr. Barlow sent me the ms. he did not mention whether it should be returned to him, or to you, so I am sending it to you, as I suppose it was intended that I should.
— Robert E. Howard to H. P. Lovecraft, Oct 1931 (CL2.274, MF1.231)

No mention is made of the autograph, and this initial contact was not followed up immediately by either party, though, as was common in his letters, Lovecraft would make occasional comments on Howard’s fiction in Weird Tales to his young correspondent. (OFF 29) Around mid-December 1932, Barlow began to write to Lovecraft and Howard’s mutual correspondent and fellow pulpster E. Hoffmann Price (OFF 45, cf. BOD 52-53); where Barlow had initially asked Lovecraft and Howard for autographs, now he was becoming more ambitious in his collecting:

Dear Mr. Barlow:
Price tells me that you are interested in the collection of first drafts of Weird stories. I am sending by express, the first writings — or rather the first typings, since I do all my work on the typewriter — of “The Phoenix on the Sword”, “The Scarlet Citadel”, “Black Colossus”, and “Iron Shadows in the Moon”. Some of the pages seem to be missing from the first named story, but the others are complete. Hoping you will find them of interest, I remain,

[Robert E. Howard.]

P.S. “The Phoenix on the Sword” and “The Scarlet Citadel” have appeared in Weird Tales. “Black Colossus” is scheduled for the June issue, and “Iron Shadows in the Moon” has been accepted, but not scheduled.
— Robert E. Howard to R. H. Barlow, Dec 1932 (CL2.519)

Barlow was appreciative, and asked Howard to sign the title pages of the stories, which the Texan consented to do. (CL2.519) Lovecraft, meanwhile, continued to sing Howard’s occasional praises in his letters to Barlow:

Some of the long argumentative & descriptive letters of our group really approach literature—the most remarkable ones coming from Robert E. Howard, whose reminiscences & historical sketches of his native Texas country are literature in the truest sense of the word, far more so than any save the very best of his stories.
— H. P. Lovecraft to R. H. Barlow, 14 Mar 1933 (OFF 56)

The next letter from Howard to Barlow is the most substantial in their correspondence:

Dear Mr. Barlow:

Here are some notes of Price’s which I am instructed to forward to you. They were sent by Price to Clark Ashton Smith, who sent them to me, requesting that I, in turn, forward them to you. I suppose Price will — or perhaps already has — let you know where they are to go next.

[Robert E. Howard.]

P.S. I just received your letter. I had no regular correspondence with Whitehead, beyond a few brief notes exchanged in a business way. The enclosed missile is the nearest thing to a regular letter I ever got from him, and I doubt if you can use it for your purpose. However, I’m sending it along; you may return it at your convenience; no hurry. There may be some delay about my returning the signed title pages, as I expect to leave tomorrow for the state capital. However, they will be forwarded to me from Cross Plains as soon as they arrive, and I’ll sign them and send them at once to you.
— Robert E. Howard to R. H. Barlow, 2 Apr 1933 (CL3.47)

The notes referred to consisted of a manuscript of materials related to Theosophy and the Book of Dyzan that Price had copied, and which were passed around the circle of Lovecraft’s correspondents in early 1933. (OFF 60) The Reverend Henry S. Whitehead was an Episcopal priest and weird fiction writer who was living in Dunedin, FL when H. P. Lovecraft was visiting him in 1931, best known for his occult investigator Gerald Canevin, but had died on 23 Nov 1932. Lt. Col. Barlow retired from the army and moved his family down to DeLand, Florida in early 1933, and R. H. Barlow conceived the idea of collecting Whitehead’s letters with the aim of publishing them in a limited edition, hence the request to Howard. (cf. OFF 56, 61, 65) Lovecraft noted:

Trust the Canevin letters will not prove too exacting a job—at least, there’s no hurry about them. If you print enough copies you can get a highly appreciative audience for this opus—for Dwyer, Price, Klarkash-Ton, Wright, Howard, & many more will certainly be eager to see it.
—H. P. Lovecraft to R. H. Barlow, 13 Nov 1933 (OFF 85, cf. 101)

The collection never came off, although it led to the publication of The Letters of Henry S. Whitehead (1942, FAFA). Lovecraft was also in the habit of lending out photographs of his correspondents, including one of Robert E. Howard:

Speaking of snaps—would you care to see any of some of the other W.T. hacks? I can lend you Long, Talman, Price, Howard, Wandrei, Klarkash-Ton, & Derleth.
— H. P. Lovecraft to R. H. Barlow, Sep 1933 (OFF 78)

I’ll wager that Robert E. Howard looks exactly like what his sanguinary tales have led you to expect… Two-Gun Bob, The Terror of the Plains!
— H. P. Lovecraft to R. H. Barlow, 21 Oct 1933 (OFF 81)

Robert E. Howard with "hat in hand."
This was probably the “hat in hand” snapshot that Lovecraft mentions in a later letter. (OFF 352-353)

Beginning in late 1933, the two Bobs shared a mutual interest in the fanzine The Fantasy Fan, which ran Barlow’s “Annals of the Jinns” fiction series and various short essays and letters, and Howard’s “Gods of the North,” poems, and brief letters. Barlow’s letter published in the April 1934 issue is his only published praise for Howard’s fiction:

The March issue is very interesting. Howard’s story is both unusual and well-written, and any poetry of Smith’s is predestined to excellence. (FF 114)

No letters or references survive to suggest that Howard and Barlow exchanged any mail from April 1933 to April 1934. During this break in their correspondence Barlow and Howard both featured, rather sporadically, in Lovecraft’s letters to both. (OFF 91, 94-95, 110, 129, 130-131, 132; MF2.272, 276). This break would come to an end with the announcement:

My temporary address for a fortnight or so will be c/o R. H. BARLOW, BOX 88, DE LAND, FLORIDA.
— H. P. Lovecraft to Robert E. Howard, 25 Apr 1934 (MF2.763-764, cf. CL3.204)

Barlow had invited Lovecraft to come visit him in Florida since the family had moved there in 1933 (OFF ix), and the Yankee had finally taken his friend up on the offer. At some point around late April or May 1934, Barlow apparently wrote to Howard again, this time asking for drawings by Weird Tales artist Hugh Rankin, who had provided the cover for “The Moon of Skulls” (WT Jun 1930), and interior art for “Skulls in the Stars” (Jan 1929), “The Mirrors of Tuzun Thune” (Sep 1929), “Skull-Face” (Oct-Dec 1929), “The Moon of Skulls” (Jun-Jul 1930), “The Hills of the Dead” (Aug 1930), “Kings of the Night” (Nov 1930), “Rogues in the House” (Jan 1934), “The Valley of the Worm” (Feb 1934), “Shadows in the Moonlight” (Apr 1934), and “Queen of the Black Coast” (May 1934). Lovecraft appealed on behalf of his host:

Hope you can conveniently grant the request of our young friend Ar-E'ch-Bei.
— H. P. Lovecraft to Robert E. Howard, May 1934 (MF2.764)

Nevertheless, Howard responded:

Dear Mr. Barlow:

Concerning the illustrations you mentioned, I am very sorry, but I am a sort of a fiend about Rankin’s illustrations myself. I am making a collection of the illustrations of my stories appearing in Weird Tales, and contemplate arranging them on a panel for display. As you say, Rankin’s work is fine, though I consider that Doolin, who used to illustrate my stories in Oriental Stories and Magic Carpet — and occasionally in Weird Tales — is equally good. I hope my inability to supply these drawings will not inconvenience you in any way.

Thank you very much for your kind comments concerning “Queen of the Black Coast”, and I am sorry about your eyes. I strained mine at a comparatively early age, and have been forced to wear glasses while reading or working for a number of years now.

I am sure that you and HPL are having a splendid time. Would you please hand him the enclosed note? Thanks.
With best wishes.

[Robert E. Howard.]
— Robert E. Howard to R. H. Barlow, 1 Jun 1934 (CL3.212-213)

Dear Mr. Barlow:

If I ever decide to dispose of the Rankin drawings, you shall most certainly be given first choice. I’ll be sending you a weird ms. in a few days. (As soon as I can get around to sorting it out from among the junk which I untidily allow to accumulate.)

Yes, my eyes are poor; started when I was a kid, sitting out on the woodpile and reading until after dark. The condition hasn’t been improved by getting a large number of boxing gloves stuck in my eyes and bounced off my temples.

I’ve read your stories in Fantasy Fan with the keenest interest and I think you have real literary talent. I look forward to seeing your work in the larger magazines.

With best wishes,

P.S. Will you please hand the enclosed missive to Mr. Lovecraft?
—  Robert E. Howard to R. H. Barlow, 14 Jun 1934 (CL3.215)

Howard makes some passing references to Barlow in his letters to Lovecraft during this period, as Lovecraft’s initial two-week stay stretched out to seven weeks. (OFF xiii) During this period he apparently had another letter from Barlow, to which the Texan responded:

Dear Mr. Barlow:

Here, at last, is the ms. I promised you some time ago. “A Witch Shall be Born”. It is my latest Conan story, and Mr. Wright says my best. This delay in sending it to you was occasioned, mainly, by a sojourn in the extreme western part of the State, and into New and Old Mexico. I suppose Lovecraft has returned to New England by this time; I envy him his visit to Florida.

With best wishes.
— Robert E. Howard to R. H. Barlow, 5 Jul 1934 (CL3.219)

This was not actually the final draft, which was then at the Weird Tales offices (CL3.219n228), but an earlier draft that had been typed on the back of “Knife River Prodigal”; the title page was then signed “Best Regards, Robert E. Howard.” (Sasser)

Barlow and Howard’s correspondence appears to have dropped off again, though Lovecraft relayed news about them both. (OFF 150, 154, 163, 181, 187, 230, 232, 266, 270, 282; MF2.801, 802) In August of 1934, Howard received in the mail a copy of The Battle That Ended the Century, an 8 ½” x 14” mimeographed broadsheet containing an anonymous collaboration between Lovecraft and R. H. Barlow—although Howard correctly guessed that Lovecraft had a hand in it:

Yes, I received a copy of “The Battle That etc.”; it was mailed from Washington, D.C. It was cleverly done, and rather humorous. I don’t see how anybody but Lovecraft could have written it, because some of the points touched on were obscurely but unmistakably related to some matters that he and I have discussed and argued in our personal correspondence.
— Robert E. Howard to Charles D. Hornig, 10 Aug 1934 (CL3.248)

Howard showed limited interest in Barlow, with the longest exchange regarding him with Lovecraft being over a bas-relief of Cthulhu that the young man had made:

As soon as I get some more prints, I'm going to show you a photograph of the Cthulhu bas-relief which Barlow made for me. I think you'll agree that it's tremendously clever.
— H. P. Lovecraft to Robert E. Howard, 27 Jul 1934 (MF2.801)

I’d like very much to see that photograph you mentioned — Barlow’s bas-relief of Cthulhu.
— Robert E. Howard to H. P. Lovecraft, Dec 1934 (CL3.274, MF2.817)

And thanks, too, for the splendid picture of Cthulhu. Do you wish it to be returned? Barlow seems to be a very versatile young fellow.
— Robert E. Howard to H. P. Lovecraft, Jan 1935 (CL3.301)

Barlow was in fact a versatile writer, artist, and would-be publisher (under the name Dragon-Fly Press), though he often had so many projects going that few came to completion. In summer 1935 Lovecraft repeated his southern adventure with another visit with the Barlows, occasioning a long description of their activities (MF2.860-861), and was followed up by subsequent references in their correspondence over the following weeks (MF2.890, 892, 893, 894). While there, Lovecraft assisted with the printing of The Goblin-Tower, a collection of poems by Frank Belknap Long. (OFF xiii) A copy of this was sent to Howard:

Dear Mr. Barlow:

Thank you very much for the copy of the Goblin Tower; a neat, attractive job of printing and binding which does credit to Long’s splendid verse.
Robert E. Howard
— Robert E. Howard to R. H. Barlow, 17 Dec 1935 (CL3.394)

By autumn, Lovecraft was back in Rhode Island, and the usual references to Barlow and Howard in his letters resume (OFF 299, 300, 305), noting especially the “collaboration” between Lovecraft and Howard in the round-robin “The Challenge from Beyond” which ran in the Fantasy Magazine (Sep 1935). As a Christmas present to Lovecraft, Barlow printed a small chapbook edition of his story The Cats of Ulthar as well as the first issue of his amateur journal The Dragon-Fly (OFF xiii), copies of which were sent to Howard, and formed the subject of his final letter to Barlow:

Dear Mr. Barlow:

This is to express, somewhat belatedly, my thanks and appreciation for the fine copy of “Cats of Ulthar” and “The Dragon Fly”.

[Robert E. Howard]
— Robert E. Howard to R. H. Barlow, 14 Feb 1936 (CL3.417)

First page of Barlow's copy of
Howard's "A Witch Shall Be Born."
There is no record or evidence of any further contact between Howard and Barlow before the Texan’s death on 11 June 1936. Though their association had spread over a period of some five years, it was still rather scanty and formal. Yet Barlow had, at this point, the typescripts for “The Phoenix on the Sword”, “The Scarlet Citadel”, “Black Colossus”, “Iron Shadows in the Moon” (CL2.519), and “A Witch Shall Be Born” (CL3.219), an autograph sheet, and eight letters from Robert E. Howard (CL2.519, 3.47, 212-213, 215, 219, 394, 417). It is also not clear who sent Barlow notice that Howard had died, though he received the word from Farnsworth Wright (IMH 71) before Lovecraft could pass it on:

Just received the splendid elegy which shows that you’ve received the bad news. Nothing has jolted me worse in recent years than poor old Two-Gun’s end. His moody, sensitive streak must have run deeper than we thought. I assume that you have the main facts—that REH shot himself upon learning that his other was about to die. His desperate response to the bereavement shows how highly-strung & neurotic he was, since most persons accept philosophically the inevitable ultimate loss of the older generation, even when the strongest degree of affection exists. The shock to poor old Dr. Howard must be atrocious—wife & splendid only child gone at one stroke. He has given Two-Gun’s books to Howard Payne College as the nucleus of a Robert E. Howard Memorial Collection—which will also include letters, MSS., books by REH’s friends & any books of the sort that REH would have liked. Dr. Howard asked me for any books of mine that existed, & I sent him the Ulthar brochure. I wish you’d let me have a set of Shunned House sheets to get bound for the collection—unless you’d like to bind some & make the donation yourself. Price—the only one of us to meet Two-Gun in person—says he feels “clubbed on the head” by the news—& so do I. Here is Sultan Malik’s personal description of REH—which please return for re-lending. I’m telling EHP that he ought to write the official obituary for WT—just as I did in the case of good old Canevin. What a hell of a year 1936 is! Your sonnet-elegy is magnificent, & I hope you’ll try it on WT. In the copy sent me line 3 is defective—lacking 2 syllables. Just to fill out, I’ve put sadly before mute—but you can adopt any other arrangement you like.
— H. P. Lovecraft to R. H. Barlow, 9 Jul 1936 (OFF 349-350)

Barlow had composed the elegy “R.E.H.” in remembrance of the Texan, which Lovecraft duly praised. (ES2.740, LCM 248-249, LFB 330-331, LJM 389-390, LRB 173, 337, LRS 82-83, 85, OFF 351, 367) It was accepted for publication by Weird Tales editor Farnsworth Wright, and was published in the October 1936 issue—Barlow’s first professional publication.

Satrap Pharnabazus tells me that he’s accepting your elegy, & I’m taking the liberty of asking him to hold that 3rd line for repairs. [...] I’m suggesting “sadly mute”, but urging him to hold everything for instructions from you.
— H. P. Lovecraft to R. H. Barlow, 10 Jul 1936 (OFF 352)

Satrap Pharnabazus informed me in the same mail that the emendation for the elegy had come in time—a message which profoundly relieved me. I’ll be interested to know what the “mute” line originally was. If it was much superior to the result of the emendation, I shall be sorry you didn’t look it up at once & rush the result to WT.
Two-Gun’s tragic end surely has shaken weird fandom…. & with good reason! I’m sure Dr. Howard* would appreciate one of the signed MSS. for the collection, as well as a bound “Shunned House”. He wants Sultan Malik to come to Cross Plains at his expense to sort out REH’s manuscripts & act as a general literary executor. EHP would like to, but is not yet sure that he can. Leedle Shoolie says he is going to use my rather longish obituary in full—as well as any personal reminiscences which the Peacock Sultan may send him. No question about the sincere popular eagerness to honour Two-Gun’s memory—& I am glad that something of this wide & spontaneous appreciation was manifest during its object’s lifetime. Yes—I have the hat-in-hand, horizon-gazing snapshot (1931) which you mention, & really like it better than the round-faced, moustachio’d one (1936) which Dwyer has—or has lost. The 1931 one ought really to be the standard likeness to be remembered, since its represents the aspect of REH during the greater part of his writing career.

* Yes—Lock Box 313.
— H. P. Lovecraft to R. H. Barlow, 23 Jul 1936 (OFF 352-353)

The Shunned House was nominally Lovecraft’s first published book—a small debacle of a printing job by his friend W. Paul Cook of the Recluse Press in Vermont, the 300 copies printed were not bound at the time of publication, and 1935 Barlow received 150 sets of the unbound sheets and bound eight. One of these, Lovecraft avers, was made by Barlow for the Robert E. Howard memorial collection:

Incidentally, he made me up a rather crude bound copy to send to Dr. Howard for the Robert E. Howard Memorial Collection.
— H. P. Lovecraft to Donald Wandrei, 8 Nov 1936 (MTS 384)

An entry for The Shunned House does appear in the Howard Payne College library’s accession list for the Howard collection, as is Barlow’s edition of The Cats of Ulthar. Dr. Howard himself was pleased with “the beautiful eulogy in verse from Mr. Barlow” (IMH 101-102), though any acknowledgment of the receipt of The Shunned House has been lost.

Barlow’s situation was changing, in July 1936 he left Florida to visit Lovecraft in Providence for over a month, then left to live with relatives in Kansas, where he began his studies at the Kansas City Art Institute. (OFF xvii) Around this time Lovecraft wrote:

Two-Gun’s father, although I’ve heard from him several times (he sent me a fine large photograph of REH—also one to Sultan Malik), did not answer my questions regarding the loan of verse MSS.& the matter of signed MSS. for the collection. Better drop him a line yourself—Dr. I. M. Howard, Lock Box 313, Cross Plains, Texas. I don’t see why the hell you’re so reluctant to write letters. — H. P. Lovecraft to R. H. Barlow, 30 Nov 1936 (OFF 372)

What Lovecraft may not have known is that Barlow already had written to Dr. Howard, in a letter dated 5 July 1936:

Dear Mr. Howard:

Farnsworth Wright has written me of the shocking death of your son, of which I had not heard, and while I am aware that no expression of sorrow can mean anything to one who suffers a personal loss such as yours, I am sending you my sonnet—an echo of that uncapturable emotion that is its source—prompted by the tragic news. That I or anyone could pay adequate tribute to the vivid talents and personality of your son is unlikely. I had known and delighted in his writing for many years before I came in touch with im, and while it was my misfortune never to meet him, I have always felt that I knew him both through his letters and his close connection with Howard Lovecraft.
            Possibly my name may be familiar to you—I do not know. Some while ago I sent him the small book I printed last year, and very recently, The Dragon-Fly, a paper which I produce for my own pleasure. With the slowness of an amateur publisher, I have been working on further books, one of which—the poems of Lovecraft—will be ready this autumn, and another, by Clark Ashton Smith, to be produced next year. For some little while I had considered asking your son to assemble his poems, so that I could print them later, perhaps in the summer of next year. Now I cannot do this, but the sudden tragedy impels me to speak of it to you. Naturally I had not intended to undertake such a thing until my current projects were finished. I hence had not spoken of it to him. But so many times I have seen unprinted manuscripts disappear with no copy preserved, at times like this. In three recent cases important things were lost or destroyed after only a little while had gone, and for this reason I am going to make a request (explaining, first, that it will be at least a year before I could do further work). Would it be asking too great a favor for you to assemble those poems which have not seen print (or have been altered since publication) and permit me to make a transcription of them for a future volume? A number of writers whom you may know have entrusted to me for preservation their only copy of things—I have two novelettes by Lovecraft, stories by Price, Whitehead, Moore and others of which not even the authors have a copy. However, I realize that you might be reluctant to send anything so personally valuable (aside from their literary merit) as those poems, to a person of whom you may not even know. If you would allow me to make a copy, however, each of us would be assured that his MS. were fairly secure, and that they would be reading for printing n a small edition later. I am sure that such preservation and publication will appear even more desirable to you than to me, and trust the request is not too much of a burden or an imposition. Any poems that you locate and send, if you should concur, would be promptly copied and returned. (IMH 71-72)

H.P. Lovecraft

Barlow himself appears to be honest about his projects and intentions, but his many planned projects never came to fruition. (cf. OFF x) Dr. Howard apparently did not take Barlow up on the matter, though the issue was not entirely dropped. Robert E. Howard continued to be mentioned in Lovecraft’s letters to Barlow until the Providence gentleman himself died on 15 Mar 1937. (OFF 370, 374, 381, 391). In one of Lovecraft’s final letters, he quoted Barlow’s “R.E.H.”:

Ar-E’ch-Bei spoke all too truly when he wrote:

“Conan, the Warrior-King, lies stricken dead”.

— H. P. Lovecraft to Clark Ashton Smith, 5 Feb 1937 (DS 661)

H. P. Lovecraft had left “Instructions in the Case of Decease” which named the 18-year-old R. H. Barlow as his literary executor, and he hastened to Providence to consult with Lovecraft’s surviving aunt Annie Gamwell on the disposition of his books and papers. Barlow arranged for the deposit of the bulk of Lovecraft’s manuscripts and weird magazines at the nearby John Hay Library of Brown University. (OFF xviii-xix) Lovecraft’s file of letters, including those from Robert E. Howard, remained with Barlow; Dr. Isaac M. Howard inquired after these:

H. P. Lovecraft’s letters from Robert E. Howard, I have ascertained are with Mr. Barlow in Kansas City. He will send them to me. These letters will help furnish a basis from which to make a book of his life. A book I intend shall be published if possible.
— Dr. I. M. Howard to Otis A. Kline, 15 May 1937 (IMH 164)

Dear Sir:
Your letter has reached me. I had written your addressed letters as Mrs. Gamwell had said would be your address: 810 West 57 Terrace, Kansas City. Letters returned unclaimed. Since Mrs. Gamwell has given her consent for me to have the letters written by my son to H. P. Lovecraft, and at same requesting that I send August Derleth H. P. Lovecraft’s letters which I have done. May I not urge you to send my son’s letters to me at once. I am asking that you do this even though it may inconvenience you to do so. We have been trying to secure these letters for weeks and I feel that since so important a matter that you should do me the kindness to get them to me at once.
            — Dr. I. M. Howard to R. H. Barlow, 12 Jun 1937 (IMH 166)

The confusion in reaching Barlow was likely do to his still-unsettled situation in Kansas. Barlow was not idle during the period of 1937-1938, and brought forth two issues of Leaves, the Summer 1937 issue of which contained Robert E. Howard’s “With A Set of Rattlesnake Rattles”—taken from Howard’s letters to Lovecraft (MF2.957, CL2.453)—and made a brief trip to Mexico in 1938. (Abrams 4)

In 1938-39, Barlow moved to San Francisco, where he met Groo Beck (OFF 408-409) Together, Beck and Barlow formed the Futile Press, which published an edition of Lovecraft’s Commonplace Book (Faig 59), and then the Druid Press, resurrecting the idea of a volume of Robert E. Howard’s poetry. They wrote to Kline, who was still the agent for Robert E. Howard’s estate, and Kline sent them a box of Howard’s poetry manuscripts to “make copies of any poems you desire to use, returning the originals intact to the collection.” (IMH 169) Some months later:

The Druid Press of San Francisco is still holding Robert’s poems, but has not yet made an offer. A letter from the editor which I received about a month ago, stated that they had not yet finished going over all the poems—there were so many of them—but that they would make an offer as soon as possible.
— Otis A. Kline to Dr. I. M. Howard, 17 Jan 1940 (IMH 171)

The Druid Press eventually replied with a letter dated 15 February 1940, apologizing for the delay and returning the poems by express mail. They also noted: “At your suggestion, we have taken transcripts (on microfilm) of those we would like to see in a book.” (IMH 172) This letter includes a list of 51 poems that the Druid Press had microfilmed. (Lord 13) Like many of Barlow’s publishing projects, this one would be stillborn.

During this time (Fall/Spring 1939) Barlow had, following a recommendation returned to college, taking courses at the Polytechnic Institute (“junior college” OFF xx, 412-413) which spurred his interest in anthropology; the summer of 1940 saw him at the National University Summer School in Mexico City, and in 1941 was taking classes on anthropology at the University of California at Berkeley. (OFF xx-xxi, 414; Abrams 4) While in San Francisco Barlow was a close associate of E. Hoffmann Price, who was also in the area. (BOD 53, 277) In fall 1942 Barlow received his B.A. degree and in 1943 returned to Mexico, where he spent most of the remainder of his life. (Abrams 6)

In 1943, Dr. Howard appears to have accidentally burned many of the unpublished poem manuscripts, and inquired after Barlow & Beck’s microfilm transcription:

It will indeed be a tragedy if all of Robert’s unpublished poems are lost. I have lost all contact with the former owners of the Druid Press, but am airmailing Edgar Price to see if he can put us in touch with them. One, I recall, had gone to Mexico City.
— Otis A. Kline to Dr. I. M. Howard, 15 Oct 1943 (IMH 187)

Also, I am enclosing carbon copy of a letter written by E. Hoffmann Price to Robert Barlow, formerly of the Druid Press, with regard to the microfilm copies of the poems which you wrote me had been burned by mistake.
            As this was written on October 26, and I have heard nothing further, I don’t know whether he succeeded in locating Mr. Barlow or not. However, I’ll let you know when and if I receive further word on this.
— Otis A. Kline to Dr. I. M. Howard, 26 Nov 1943 (IMH 191)

I am very, very sorry that I have had the misfortune to lose those manuscripts of his poems; that was so tragic I can’t bear to think about it. However, I hope that the Druid Press, at the time those boys had the manuscripts, photostated them, and that they will be able to help us to recover some of his best poems, for I’m sure that they well understood the merit of the poems sufficiently to select the best, and maybe we can recover through them what we want.
— Dr. I. M. Howard to E. Hoffmann Price, Dec 1943 (IMH 192)

Glenn Lord
Glenn Lord’s index to the Robert E. Howard items in the R. H. Barlow collection at the Bancroft Library (University of California Berkeley) begins with a note from Barlow, dated July 1943:

Most of the present collection is unpublished; but not all. Others, all unpublished, are filed on a microfilm roll which accompanies this. (Lord 8)

The date suggests that Barlow prepared these materials before receiving Kline’s letter, and the typescripts in the collection were made by Barlow, suggesting that these were the materials the Druid Press had copied in 1940. (Lord 9) The alleged microfilm roll, however, does not appear to have ever been part of the Bancroft collection; as Lord reconstructs the sequence of events:

We know that Barlow did eventually send the microfilm roll to Price sometimes between 1944 and Barlow’s death in 1951 (or informed Price of where the microfilm roll was residing), but exactly when he sent the microfilm or when Price came in possession of it is not currently known.  If Price acquired the microfilm roll relatively soon after he sent his letter to Barlow, he simply may not have had a chance to forward it to Dr. Howard who died shortly thereafter on November 12, 1944. In any case, the roll remained in Price’s possession until Glenn Lord contacted Price and inquired about the missing Howard material. Price then sent the microfilm roll to Glenn Lord in late March 1958 [...] (Lord 10)

It later became apparent that Lord was correct in assuming E. Hoffmann Price had received the microfilm around 1944; with the death of Dr. Howard, his heirs the Kuykendalls had sent him a trunk of material (including the Howard-Lovecraft letters that had been in Barlow’s possession before he turned them over to Dr. Howard). (Roehm 29 Jan 2014)

R. H. Barlow committed suicide at the beginning of January 1951. His collection, including the Howard story typescripts, appears to have fallen into private hands, while the poetry typescripts, some letters, postcards, and other sundry materials survive at the Bancroft Library; Lovecraft’s letters to Barlow himself, with their references to Robert E. Howard, were deposited at the John Hay Library. The microfilm, with copies of Robert E. Howard poems that might otherwise have been lost, was found, the contents published. An elegiac sonnet. These are the most concrete examples of Barlow’s sporadic relationship with Howard, and later with his estate.

The Barlow-Howard relationship was sporadic, and is often overlooked; what is left of their correspondence makes it appear to be brief, and generally formal. The pulp studies or weird fiction interest in Barlow comes from his relationship with H. P. Lovecraft and his status as Lovecraft’s literary executor, and the impact of Barlow on the survival of certain of Howard’s materials is in large part a reflection of their mutual relationship with Lovecraft—but also of a plucky fan, collector, and fan-publisher who endeavored to preserve manuscripts and typescripts before they were lost forever, and to publish them. Few of Barlow’s proposed books ever achieved physical existence, but without his efforts a not-inconsiderable amount of Howard’s material may have been lost.

BOD    Book of the Dead Friends of Yesteryear: Fictioneers & Others
CL       Collected Letters of Robert E. Howard
DS       Dawnward Spire, Lonely Hill
ES       Essential Solitude
FF        The Fantasy Fan
IMH     Collected Letters of Dr. Isaac M. Howard
LCM    Letters to C. L. Moore & Others
LFB     Letters to F. Lee Baldwin, Duane W. Rimel, and Nils Frome
LJM     Letters to James F. Morton
LRB     Letters to Robert Bloch & Others
LRS     Letters to Richard F. Searight
MF       A Means to Freedom
MTS    Mysteries of Time & Spirit
OFF     O Fortunate Floridian

Works Cited
Abrams, H. Leon (1981). Robert Hayward Barlow: An Annotated Bibliography with Commentary. In the series Katunob...Occasional Publication in Mesoamerican Anthropology No. 16. Greeley, CO: University of Northern Colorado.
Faig, Kenneth W. (1988). “Robert H. Barlow as H. P. Lovecraft’s Literary Executor: An Appreciation” in Robert M. Price (ed.) Crypt of Cthulhu vol. 8, no. 1. Mount Olive, NC: Cryptic Publications.
Hornig, Charles D. (Ed.) (2010). The Fantasy Fan. Lance Thingmaker.
Howard, Robert E. (2007-2008). The Collected Letters of Robert E. Howard. Edited by Rob Roehm. Robert E. Howard Foundation Press.
Howard, Robert E. & Lovecraft, H. P. (2017). A Means to Freedom: The Letters of H. P. Lovecraft and Robert E. Howard. 2nd ed. Edited by S. T. Joshi, David E. Schultz, & Rusty Burke. New York: Hippocampus Press.
Lord, Glenn (2004). “Bibliography of the Robert E. Howard Collections held by the University of California at Berkeley, Bancroft Library” in Frank Coffmann (ed.) The Dark Man: The Journal of Robert E. Howard Studies no. 7. New Paltz, NY: Seele Brent Publications.
Lovecraft, H. P. (1992). Letters to Richard F. Searight. Edited by David E. Schultz, S. T. Joshi, and Franklyn Searight. West Warwick, RI: Necronomicon Press.
Lovecraft, H. P. (2003). Mysteries of Time & Spirit: The Letters of H. P. Lovecraft and Donald Wandrei. Edited by S. T. Joshi & David E. Schultz. Portland, OR: Night Shade Books.\
Lovecraft, H. P. (2007). O Fortunate Floridian: H. P. Lovecraft’s Letters to R. H. Barlow. Edited by S. T. Joshi & David E. Schultz. Tampa, FL: University of Tampa Press.
Lovecraft, H. P. (2011). Letters to James F. Morton. Edited by David E. Schultz & S. T. Joshi. New York: Hippocampus Press.
Lovecraft, H. P. (2015). Letters to Robert Bloch and Others. Edited by David E. Schultz & S. T. Joshi. New York: Hippocampus Press.
Lovecraft, H. P. (2016). Letters to C. L. Moore and Others. Edited by David E. Schultz & S. T. Joshi. New York: Hippocampus Press.
Lovecraft, H. P. (2016). Letters to F. Lee Baldwin, Duane W. Rimel, and Nils Frome. Edited by David E. Schultz & S. T. Joshi. New York: Hippocampus Press.
Lovecraft, H. P. & Derleth, August (2013). Essential Solitude: The Letters of H. P. Lovecraft and August Derleth. Edited by David E. Schultz & S. T. Joshi. New York: Hippocampus Press.
Lovecraft, H. P. & Smith, Clark Ashton (2017). Dawnward Spire, Lonely Hill: The Letters of H. P. Lovecraft and Clark Ashton Smith. Edited by David E. Schultz & S. T. Joshi. New York: Hippocampus Press.
Price, E. Hoffmann (2001). Book of the Dead Friends of Yesteryear: Fictioneers & Others. Sauk City, WI: Arkham House.
Roehm, Rob. (Ed.) (2011). The Collected Letters of Doctor Isaac M. Howard. The Robert E. Howard Foundation Press.
Roehm, Rob (29 Jan 2014). “The Legend of the Trunk - Part 3” on REH Two-Gun Raconteur blog. Retrieved from:

Sasser, Damon C. (21 Apr 2013). “A Witch Shall Be Bought” on REH Two-Gun Raconteur blog. Retrieved from:


Mike Hunter said...

Absolutely fascinating! So rich in information and personal detail, it demands and surely rewards repeated reading...

Scott Mob said...

Great stuff, thanks for posting it.