Sunday, February 24, 2019

Conan and Jirel: Robert E. Howard and C. L. Moore Part Two by Bobby Derie

Dec. '34 WT
Jirel’s first adventure was quickly followed up by a second; “Black God’s Shadow” appeared in the Dec 1934 Weird Tales. The cover, and vote for most popular story of the issue, however both went to Robert E. Howard for the Conan story “A Witch Shall Be Born.” Lovecraft considered it a “good second.” (LRS 41, ES 2.671, cf. LFB 248) Clark Ashton Smith, too, was tiring of her a little. (CAS 262) Praise for Moore, and comparisons with Howard and his creations, continued in the “Eyrie”:
Now about this latest bombshell to burst so suddenly and astoundingly in our horror-seeking midst: C. L. Moore. More power to you! You have introduced a refreshing, vitally alive, human character whose actions are presented to us in a very capable, wholly artistic way. With Smith, Williamson, Howard and Merritt, you now hold a much-deserved place of honor at the ladder's top rung.—Louis C. Smith, WT Dec 1934
Of all the different characters I have read in numerous magazines, there are none that appeal to me as do Northwest Smith and Conan.—Bert Felsburg, WT Dec 1934
Conan vile, C. L. Moore splendid.—Robert Bloch, WT Dec 1934
'Tis with unholy glee that I read your announcement about the new serial; to wit, The People of the Black Circle, by Robert E. Howard. I always thought that the Conan stories were all too short, so you can imagine what a treat in store that is. Perhaps, some day, my other bosom pal, Northwest Smith, will appear in a book-length novel too.
—D. de Woronin, WT Dec 1934
I (and I'm sure many others) want to hear a great deal more of Jirel. She's the kind of person I'd like to be myself. A sort of feminine version of Conan the Cimmerian. He, too, is one of my favorites.
—Mary A. Conklin, WT Dec 1934
The character of Jirel may become as famous to us as Conan. I vote her first place.—Claude H. Cameron, WT Jan 1935
The praise was not unanimous however; one reader in particular wrote in:
The Black God's Kiss was by far the poorest C. L. Moore story yet. The first three of C. L. Moore's tales were excellent, but the last two were rather pediculous.—Fred Anger, WT Dec 1934
William Frederick Anger was one of the correspondents of H. P. Lovecraft, who felt the need to reply in private:


As to the work of C. L. Moore—I don’t agree with your low estimate. These tales have a peculiar quality of comic weirdness, hard to define but easy to recognise, which marks them out as really unique. “Black God’s Shadow” isn’t up to the standard—but you can get the full effect of the distinctive quality of “Shambleau” & “Black Thirst”. In these tales there is an indefinable atmosphere of vague outsideness & cosmic dread which marks weird works of the best sort. How notably they contrast with the average pulp product—whose bizarre subject-matter is wholly neutralised by the brisk, almost cheerful manner of narration! Whether the Moore tales will keep their pristine quality or deteriorate as their author picks up the methods, formulae, & style of cheap magazine fiction, still remains to be seen. A Merritt fell for the pulp formula, hence never realised his best potentialities. Miss Moore may do the same. But at present he certainly belongs in the upper tier of W T contributors along with Smith, Howard, &c.—H. P. Lovecraft to William F. Anger, 28 Jan 1935, LRBO 227
Regarding the Moore stories—one has to separate the undeniably hackneyed & mechanical romance from the often remarkable background against which it is arrayed. “The Black God’s Kiss” had a vastly clever setting—the pre-human tunnel beneath the castle, the upsetting of gravitational & dimensional balance, the strange, ultra-dimensional world of unknown laws & shapes & phenomena, &c. &c. If that could be taken out of the sentimental plot & made the scene of events of really cosmically bizarre motivation, it would be tremendously powerful. The distinctive thing about Miss Moore is her ability to devise conditions & sights & phenomena of utter strangeness & originality, & to describe them in a language conveying something of their outre, phantasmagoric, & dread-filled quality. That in itself is an accomplishment possessed by very few of the contributors to the cheap pulp magazines. For the most part, allegedly “Weird” writers phrase their stories in such a brisk, cheerful, matter-of-fact, colloquial, dialogue-ridden sort of style that all genuine ene of shadow & menace is lost. So far, Miss M. has escaped this pitfall; though continued writing for miserable rags like the current pulps will probably spoil her as it has spoiled Quinn, Hamilton, & all the rest. The editors will encourage her worst tendencies—the sticky romance & cheap “Action”—& discourage everything of real merit (the macabre language, the original descriptive touches, the indefinite atmosphere, the brooding tension, &c.) which her present work possesses. Nothing will ever teach the asses who peddle cheap magazines that a weird story should not & cannot be an “action” or “character” story. The only justification for a weird tale is that it be an authentic & convincing picture of a certain human mood; & this means that vague impressions & atmosphere must predominate. Events must not be crowded, & human characters must not assume too great importance. The real protagonists of fantasy fiction are not people but phenomena. The logical climax is not a revelation of what somebody does, but a glimpse of the existence of some condition contrary to nature as commonly accepted.—H. P. Lovecraft to William F. Anger, 16 Feb 1935, LRBO 229
These were many of the same general sort of criticisms that Lovecraft had quietly expressed regarding Robert E. Howard’s weird-adventure stories (cf. DS 245, LRBO 119), and perhaps go some way to expanding on Lovecraft’s thoughts regarding his Texas friend. The fans of Weird Tales had their own interpretations:
Conan, like Jirel, is a dynamic character—what would happen should the two ever meet? Or maybe I’m crazy. I don’t know, I don’t care, but I’d do without all my other reading matter rather than give up WT. It takes me from the realms of harsh reality to enchanted gardens that no man can ever conceive other than in his mind. To descend the dizzying other-dimensional spiral with Jirel, to dash over mountain and stream with Conan, to escape the unnameable horrors of Clark Ashton Smith, and try to pierce the uncanny taboos and Barbarian countries—that is something that can make me lose all sense of time and place and just live the stories.—Gertrude Hemken, WT Feb 1935

C. L. Moore
Ironically enough, Conan and Jirel did meet, after a fashion. A letter survives from C. L. Moore to Robert E. Howard, dated 29 Jan 1935. It is not the first letter in the exchange, since Moore thanks Howard and praises him for letting her read the typescript for “Sword Woman,” an historical adventure story about Dark Agnès de Chastillion, a red-haired female warrior-mercenary in 16th century France—with obvious parallels to Jirel of Joiry. (IMH 24) Howard wrote another story with this character (“Blades for France”) and started a third (“Mistress of Death”), but never found their market and remained unpublished. Passing references suggest Howard’s previous letter had come after the publication of “Black God’s Shadow” in the Dec WT, and mentions “Beyond the Black River” which sold in October 1934. (IMH 27, CL 3.256) Still, Dr. Howard forwarded a note dated 14 May [1936], so it is possible that the correspondence was ongoing, only slow. (LCM 130)

The full extent of the Howard-Moore correspondence, or even who started it, is unclear. R. H. Barlow or Farnsworth Wright might easily have provided either Howard or Moore the other’s address; given the lack of mention of this among Moore’s correspondence to Barlow, this suggests perhaps it was Howard who made the opening...but we do not know. Likewise, it is unknown if there was a continuing correspondence, as neither part mention it in their surviving letters to others. Still, there is some evidence that it went beyond a single exchange:
In the batch of relics I got are also [...] A number of letters to REH: a few of yours, a few C. L. Moore […]—E. Hoffmann Price to August Derleth, 11 Mar 1945, IMH 241
However, there are also suggestions from Moore’s letters with Lovecraft that the exchange did not continue very long, or at least did not cover the same ground as Howard’s letters to Lovecraft, since Moore was apparently unaware of upcoming publications of Howard’s work (LCM 68) or his travels in June 1935 (LCM 70). Years later, Moore was asked in an interview:
Do you remember anything in particular about your correspondence with REH? 
Moore: We really had such a short period to correspond that I don’t remember much, except that he seemed interested and had a good mind. We had enough common background that we were able to talk to each other, on paper anyway. I think he would have been pleasant to know--just as Lovecraft would’ve.
(Roark 31)
Price was also in touch with Moore. After reading “Shambleau” in the Weird Tales office in 1933:
In due course I wrote to tell the author what I’d said to Wright, after reading every word. Not as accustomed then to applause as she later became, Catherine and I were pen pals in no time. She sent me clips from the Indianapolis papers as part of my researching a race story. (BOD 261-262)
When Price got in touch with Moore is not entirely clear, although it may have been around the same time as when she was corresponding with Robert E. Howard (who was another of Price’s pen-pals). Lovecraft mentions Price in connection with Moore as early as April 1935 (OFF 252), and that he was trying to recruit her for the American Fiction Guild in June 1935 (LRBO 205, C. L. Moore to R. H. Barlow 4 Mar 1935).

Moore’s correspondence was stretching out in other ways as well, as she wrote to Barlow:
I'll send you a drawing I've just made for FANTASY MAGAZINE. In collaboration with Forrest J. Ackerman, who's been writing to me for some time, I've written a story for them, and Mr. Schwartz, who edits the magazine, is going to fix things up so he can publish the illustration for it too. All this is gratis, of course, for the WT issue of FANTASY. Mr. Ackerman's idea was so good I just had to write the story. he seems to be bulging with good ideas, and wants me to team up with me for WT, but I won't be able to. Have so little time to write I have to cash in on every minute of it, and as long as I have ideas of my own can't afford to use someone else's and split the profits.—C. L. Moore to R. H. Barlow, 31 Dec 1934 - 11 Feb 1935
Forrest J. Ackerman was a prominent fan in Los Angeles, who in 1933-1934 had gotten into a contretemps with Lovecraft and Clark Ashton Smith in the letter-pages of The Fantasy Fan. His extended account of the tale’s composition-through-correspondence is chronicled in “The ‘Nymph’ O’ Maniack” (EV2 92-97), but in brief:
Thank you for your complimentary remarks about NYMPH OF DARKNESS, which was from my plot. I contrived Nyusa and her pursuer, and Dolf, etc., and sent suggestions to Catherine while she was working on the story. After it was all finished and in New York and I had an autografed [sic] copy, I thot [sic] of the part at the conclusion about Nyusa giving NW a kiss, and C. was so enthusiastic about it and said it gave the story just the proper punch, etc., that she typed an extra page-insert about it and rusht [sic] off to FM.—Forrest J. Ackerman to Mrs. Burnhill, 7 May 1936
March '35 WT
Northwest Smith returned to Weird Tales Mar 1935 for a fifth adventure title “Julhi,” which won the popular vote from the readers, beating out Robert E. Howard’s 13th Conan story, “Jewels of Gwahlur.” “Nymph of Darkness,” the sixth Northwest Smith adventure, and the first published outside WT, appeared a month later in the April 1935 issue of Julius Schwartz’ Fantasy Magazine, alongside a biographical article on Lovecraft and an article from Seabury Quinn. Lovecraft mentioned “Julhi” in a few letters (LFB 268, LRS 60), but offered his longest thoughts to Anger, as part of their ongoing debate:
Regarding “Julhi”—I wouldn’t tend to give it an extreme classification in either direction. It certainly displays very well the author’s peculiar power to evoke images & conceptions of utter strangeness, & to suggest monstrous gateways from the tri-dimensional world to other spheres of entity, yet somehow doesn’t have quite the concentrated explanation, & the central idea is largely a repetition of “Shambleau” & “Black Thirst”. There is too much literal & concentrated power of the Shambleau theme. I would tend to rate it above “Black God’s Shadow”, but below “Black God’s Kiss”. It is hard to measure a story absolutely—there are so many points to consider. The real test is simply that of ability to awake & sustain a certain mood in the discriminating reader. “Julhi” falls short of certain other Moore yarns because there is something jut the least expected about the various twists and touches—& of course a sort of conventional romanticism hovers over the whole thing. However—the story of course rises miles above the lifeless, mechanical tripe forming the bulk of W T’s contents. As for the illustration—it is of course nothing notable, though it would have to go a long way to take the cellar championship from some of the other “art” work in the magazine.—H. P. Lovecraft to William F. Anger, 27 Mar 1935, LRBO 230
With regard to “Nymph of Darkness,” Lovecraft was more succinct:
I read “Nymph of Darkness” in Leedle Shoolie’s mag, & wonder how much Price had to do with it. Full of hokum, & inclined to repeat parts of “Black Thirst”, yet not without a touch of the vividness & originality which one may regard as typically Mooresque.—H. P. Lovecraft to R. H. Barlow, 20 Apr 1935, OFF 252
At this point in their correspondence, Barlow had conceived the idea of a small collection of Moore’s fiction (comparable to his other small press publishing projects), and recommended seeking Lovecraft’s advice and criticism, to which Moore consented. (C. L. Moore to R. H. Barlow, 31 Dec 1934 - 11 Feb 1935) Shortly afterwards, William Crawford (the fanpress publisher behind Marvel Tales) contacted her about possibly bring out a collection of Northwest Smith stories, to which her reaction was “[...] it seems if the idea were sound people like Howard with his Conan and Quinn with de Grandin would have tried it before.” (C. L. Moore to R. H. Barlow, 2 Mar 1935), but Barlow apparently advised against it. (C. L. Moore to R. H. Barlow, 4 Mar 1935; C. L. Moore to R. H. Barlow 20 Mar 1935).

Now, Barlow began working on Lovecraft for suggestions regarding the proposed collection of her stories, and to get him to write to her to intercede against both Crawford and Ackerman’s influence. (OFF 217-218, 224, 228, 229, 234, 236; DS 595) Lovecraft finally sent Moore a letter in late March 1935. (LCM 25-28) Moore’s response was measured; like Robert E. Howard, she was not an auteur:
I’m in no position to turn my back on profits, and somewhat doubt my ability to forego the temptation of easy money even if the choice were entirely mine. As Mr. Barlow knows, it isn’t. I have responsibilities which can’t be evaded, and the little money I can make by writing is so desperately essential to their fulfilment that at the present—and I hope temporarily—there can be no hesitation for me between the high road and the low road if the necessity for choosing should come.—C. L. Moore to H. P. Lovecraft, 3 Apr 1935, LCM 28
This began a correspondence which would continue until Lovecraft’s death, and which was full of appreciation for Lovecraft and his fellow weirdists:
The best weird story I ever read was, I think, your “The Outsider” which I ran across in a volume of bound copies of WT which Mr. Barlow forwarded to me. And close to that, for me anyhow, runs Robert E. Howard’s “Worms of the Earth”. Perhaps t was because that was the first of his stories I had read, and brought home to me very vividly the possibilities of that type of fiction, even when it appears in the pulps. I am a tremendous admirer of Mr. Howard’s work. At his bet he is very near perfection, it seems to me, and even at his goriest and blood-and-thundery-est there’s a luty vitality about everything he writes that makes the story engulf one in the vividest, most living sort of way. [...] [Clark Ashton Smith] is another fantasy writer whose work it is such a pleasure to read, and for almost the opposite reasons from those that make R. E. Howard’s writing so good. Exquisite and fantastic enough to lift one clear out of the present.—C. L. Moore to H. P. Lovecraft, 24 Apr 1935, LCM 31
Here, they were in perfect agreement:
Howard’s “Worms of the Earth” is certainly a tremendous thing—which captivated me profoundly despite the ay the Roman civilisation is traduced. [...] My own Nordic forbears become, in my imagination, “those barbarians beyond the Rheno-Danubian frontier”—& I literally see red when anyone attacks the Respublica of the Scipiones & the Caesar….as Howard most savagely & repeatedly does. But in the case of this story my admiration outweighed my resentment, & I was prepared to forgive any of the anti-Roman digs. [...] “Two-Gun Bob” will never be a hack because he puts so much of himself into his work—even his most ostensibly mercenary work. He is King Kull or Conan or Bran—or whatever may form the subject of any given tale. And not even what Clark Ashton Smith calls his “monotonous manslaughter” can spoil the vividness of his results. Nor do I know of anyone else who can throw such an aura of unholy, palaeogean antiquity about a lonely jungle ruin or a Cyclopean crypt beneath some mouldering, aeon-weighted city of horror & decay. Of all R.E.H.’s work I think I like the “Kull” stories most—though some of the newer things are fine. That “Queen of the Black Coast”—which appeared last spring or summer—flowered out into sheer poetry in places.—H. P. Lovecraft to C. L. Moore, 27 Apr 1935, LCM 33
At this point, the three-way correspondence developed between Lovecraft and Barlow, Lovecraft and Moore, and Moore and Barlow; Wright released permission for Moore’s early Northwest Smith stories to be collected or anthologized, but the various projects by Crawford and Barlow fell through. (LCM 33-36, C. L. Moore to R. H. Barlow 8 May 1935, OFF 258, 261) The discussion of “Worms of the Earth” sent Lovecraft off on a lengthy tangent about his beloved Rome, ending with the quip: “Or I might get back at Two-Gun by having a single cohort of the VIth Legion decapitate & otherwise dismember an entire tripe of his precious barbarians! S.P.Q.R.!” (LCM 37-38)

H.P. Lovecraft
Lovecraft was referring in part to a dream of his, which Frank Belknap Long, Jr. had borrowed for the middle part of his story “The Horror from the Hills” (WT Jan-Feb 1931), and in turn Moore spoke of her dreams:
In my lexicon of ailments must be included the early infant disorders that must somehow have induced the awful dreams I used to have of a place—no, nothing so localized as a place—an existence  wherein I used to get lost, sometimes even just by shutting my eyes, without going to sleep—where nothing was at all describable in terms of physical things, because I wasn’t aware thru the senses at all. There was a greyness over everything that was a greyness of the mind, not of the light, and nothing had size, yet there were awful bignesses outside the bounds of any mere dimensions. And there was an instability of the ground underfoot—only it wasn’t ground and there was no “underfoot”—and it was rather like an instability of anything basic in which to build one consciousness. [...] You’ll have to forgive the detail in the above. I never really worked the thing out in words before. Heretofore it just was—and Mother couldn’t understand why I didn’t want to go to bed. Well, will probably cash in on my early distresses—that paragraph has all the earmarks of a story nucleus.—C. L. Moore to H. P. Lovecraft, 27 May 1935 (LCM 40, cf. OFF 281)
Through Lovecraft, Moore also got in touch with H. C. Koenig (LCM 46, 52, 69) and briefly with Clark Ashton Smith (LCM 69). While all this correspondence was ongoing, Moore was still working during the day and trying to write, sometimes without success:
Well, have just receive my first flat rejection from Wright. A harmless little tale about a sorcerer king of antediluvian time, his mysterious witch-queen and a time-traveler with a startling resemblance to a certain Mr. Smith whom I may have mentioned once or twice before, tho no names were named in the story. Ah well, life is full of disappointments.—C. L. Moore to R. H. Barlow, 31 May 1935
Moore apparently sent this story to Barlow, who showed it to Lovecraft:
Well—anyhow, I’ve read the enclosed story, & think it distinctly good in places—though the rather conventional dialogue & general layout put it below “The Were Woman”. I presume the interepid [sic] & leather-clad time-traveller is none other than our old friend Northwest Smith. The other-wordly suggestion & description of vague, non-human forms are excellently managed--despite a slight sense of disappointment in the climax. It beats most recent Mooreiana, though scarcely attaining the “Shambleau”-”Black Thirst”-”Were-Woman” level. Most distinctly does it bear the impress of pulp influence. However—both stories are good, & I can unhesitatingly praise them in writing the author.—H. P. Lovecraft to R. H. Barlow, 24 Aug 1935, OFF 286
For all that, though, some things sold. The third Jirel of Joiry tale, “Jirel Meets Magic” was published in Weird Tales Jul 1935 issue. Lovecraft commented on it favorably. (ES2.704, LFB 281) He was at the time down in Florida, visiting with the Barlows for a full ten weeks. (OFF xv) While there, he read the second Northwest Smith story, “Were-Woman” which Wright had asked her to revise, but which she had ultimately sent to Barlow (OFF 313, LCM 56, C. L. Moore to R. H. Barlow 12 Dec 1935), although she did finally have an idea to revise it for publication (C. L. Moore to R. H. Barlow, 28 Sep 1935).

Moore and Lovecraft remained in touch through letters, and conversations with Lovecraft circled back around to Robert E. Howard; particularly the incident involving “The Rats in the Walls,” where Howard had caught Lovecraft out in a bit of linguistic borrowing from Gaelic. The subject came up because of some genealogical work Moore was doing for a Welsh family, causing Lovecraft to comment: “After your labours in the field of Welsh genealogy you must be a close rival of Two-Gun Bob so far as the Celtic etymology is concerned.” (CLM 47)

At this point, Julius Schwartz approached Moore and Lovecraft to take part in a round robin or chain-story—“The Challenge from Beyond.” Moore had the first part, and sent it off in July 1935. (LCM 53), after which things went odd:
Schoolie’s original program was as follows: (1) C L M, (2) F B L Jr.,  (3) A M, (4) H P L, (5) open. Belknap wrote his instalment—#2—as prescribed, but when the text got to Abie that old reprobate claimed that Sonny had spoiled the story by departing radically from the title & from the spirit of Katie’s opening instalment.—H. P. Lovecraft to R. H. Barlow, 21 Oct 1935, OFF 298
“Schoolie” is Julius Schwarz, CLM/Katie is C. L. Moore, FBL/Sonny is Frank Belknap Long, Jr., and AM/Abie is Abraham Merritt. Lovecraft ended up with the middle section, “All that Miss Moore & Abie did was to sketch out the background & plaster on atmosphere. There was no story up to the point where I was expected to begin [...]” (LFB 287, cf. LCM 87) for her own part, Moore modestly felt much the same way:
What a mix-up about that serial story for Fantasy. I hope you haven’t had too much trouble over your installment. Mr. Schwartz asked me to be as weird and original as possible in starting it out, and I was notably neither. At least there was a vast expanse of room for improvement as the story advanced. Frankly, if I’d been able to think up something strikingly weird and new I wouldn’t have given the idea away for nothing. Anyhow, it will be interesting to see what the others have done with such a poor start. (LCM 62)
Lovecraft completed his portion in late August. (LFB 284, cf. LRS 64-65) Long wanted the ending, so the open section following Lovecraft was provided by Robert E. Howard:
I was highly honored to be asked to contribute to “The Challenge from Beyond” yarn, along with you, Miss Moore, Merritt, and Long. I hope my share didn’t weaken the strength of the story too much. The rest of you did fine work, as you all always do. Appearing in such a company will probably remain my chief claim to fame.—Robert E. Howard to H. P. Lovecraft, 5 Dec 1935, MF 2.908, CL 3.392
Sept 1935
The composite story, the only such “collaboration” between Moore, Howard, et al., appeared in the Sep 1935 Fantasy Magazine. Moore was at this point, one of the “gang,” and Lovecraft listed her along with Howard on the circulation list for his story “The Shadow Out of Time.” (MTS 364, cf. CM 68) Lovecraft also tipped her off to Howard’s essay “The Hyborian Age” which was to be serialized in The Phantagraph, to which she replied: “And I shall certainly have to see the Conan the Reaver world-history.” (LCM 68)

Moore continued to sell. Her second story in Astounding, “Greater Glories” was published in Sep 1935, and regarding which she commented to Lovecraft: “The lovely thing about ASTOUNDING is the promptness of their checks.” (LCM 74)—something Lovecraft would soon appreciate, as Astounding had purchased both his stories “The Shadow Out of Time” and At the Mountains of Madness. “Greater Glories” was, as Moore explained to Lovecraft, the second idea that had budded off from the story “To What Dim Goal” that had given her “Bright Illusion,’ her first sale to Astounding. (LCM 87-88, C. L. Moore to R. H. Barlow 12 Dec 1935)

“The Cold Gray God,” the seventh adventure of Northwest Smith, appeared in Weird Tales in October, which garnered modest praise from Lovecraft (OFF 300, DS 619, ES 2.710, LJS 362, LA8.41, cf. LCM 68). Moore actually appeared twice in the issue, once under her byline and then in the “Eyrie”:
Miss Catherine Moore, of Indianapolis, writes: "I read the new WT last night and was very much impressed with that story Once in a Thousand Years. Is the author a new one? I hope she'll write more. Also Doctor Satan seems very promising. Mrs. Brundage's cover was grand. That villainous twisted mouth!
(WT Oct 1935)
Whether or not readers made the connection is unclear, but they continued to clamor for their favorite characters:
Now if you continue to publish these stories about Jirel of Joiry and Northwest Smith and Conan the Cimmerian and Jules de Grandin I will continue to be faithfully at the news stand every month--otherwise I will resurrect my old stock of Weird Tales and live in memory of a good book gone wrong. —Clara Espiritu, WT Oct 1935
In the old days you had a very few authors who could equal Lovecraft, Moore, and Howard. You had no such stories as the Conan series, or the stories of Jirel of Joiry.—Walter Scheible, WT Nov 1935
Please let us have more stories by Howard (about Conan), Northwest Smith stories by Moore, and the superb Clark Ashton Smith word pictures.—Alvin V. Pershing, WT Nov 1935

In June 1935, Robert E. Howard and his friend Truett Vinson spent a week’s vacation in New Mexico, visiting Carlsbad Caverns and other spots, which the Texas pulpster wrote about to Lovecraft at length. (MF 2.780-784, CL 3.235-239), which Lovecraft forwarded to Moore. (LCM 70, 76) Lovecraft also lent her several of his stories that she had missed, eliciting comments like:
The “Shadow Over Innsmouth” had me all but pounding the chair-arm in excitement. I’ve always been interested, too, in the idea of the union of human and unhuman, that you have so beautifully worked out in several stories. Wonder what their home life would be like!—C. L. Moore to H. P. Lovecraft, 7 Nov 1935, LCM 73

Lovecraft and Moore’s letters wended their way through many topics involving small persona events, history, writing, and the philosophy of fiction, sometimes with polite disagreements:
To me it’s just as pleasant to imagine during the duration of the story that there is a lovely springtime world people exclusively by handsome heroes and exquisite heroines and life is one long romp of adventure with no unpleasant attributes at all, as it is to believe for the length of the story that time, space and natural law can be elastic enough to permit the existence of a Shambleau or a Cthulhu (have I spelled him right?) Your point, of course, is that to be acceptable as release-literature the happenings must be incredibly outside, not against the phenomena of nature. Does that mean that you can’t, with self-respect, enjoy Howard’s gorgeous Conan sagas, which are surely pure romance for the most part?—C. L. Moore to H. P. Lovecraft, 11 Dec 1935, LCM 88-89
Lovecraft’s reply is lost, and the subject moved on to poetry and other matters in subsequent letters.

The January 1936 issue of Weird Tales featured the fourth Jirel of Joiry story, “The Dark Land,” as well as the second installment of Robert E. Howard’s Conan serial “The Hour of the Dragon”; the two appeared again in the February issue with “Yvala” (a Northwest Smith tale) and the third part of the Conan serial. Forrest J. Ackerman claimed to have come up with the name “Yvala”; whether or not thi was true, they were apparently still in correspondence in 1936. (EV 2 91-93) Lovecraft was appreciative of Moore’s efforts. (LCM 108, 228; LFB 316, LJS 284) So too were the fans, Moore’s was voted the most popular story of the February issue. (Moskowitz 1983):
Conan the Cimmerian still leads the field of characters, but only just; for Northwest Smith, followed closely by Jirel of Joiry, is immediately behind him.—D. de Woronin, WT Mar 1936
I do like the stories by C. L. Moore; Northwest Smith and Jirel of Joiry are very interesting characters. And always, the Conan stories by Howard are very entertaining. His short stories about the barbarian are really the best. We all love Jirel of Joiry and admire the mighty Conan, while Northwest Smith takes us into the days of the future.—A. Coffey, WT Apr 1936
When Lovecraft would next hear from Moore, she would be in Florida:
My fiance was killed a week ago today while cleaning a gun, and we’re just moving pointlely along Florida by bus, with no definite plans as yet. Saw St. Augustine yesterday, and thought of you there last summer. Would very much enjoy receiving one of your long letters (doubtless now in progress) as soon as I have address.—C. L. Moore to H. P. Lovecraft, 20 Feb 1936, LCM 109
(cf. C. L. Moore to R. H. Barlow 20 Feb 1936)
Lovecraft adds the detail: “On Feby. 13 the fiance of C. L. Moore—a mighty winter sportsman—was instantly killed while cleaning his rifle.” (ES 2.717, cf. DS 635, LFB 318), and Moore later mentions that they both worked at the same bank. (C. L. Moore to R. H. Barlow 27 Feb 1936) While no source gives the name of Moore’s fiance, obituaries in Indiana record the death on 13 Feb 1936 of Herbert Ernest Lewis, a 28-year-old bank teller at the Fletcher Trust Company where Moore worked, by accidental discharge of his firearm. The death certificate records it as a suicide. In any event, Lovecraft immediately rushed to comply:
Despite my upheaved programme I at once started a letter of what I thought to be the most consoling & useful sort—with sympathetic remarks & citations of others who have bravely pulled out of similar bereavements) gradually giving place to the cheerful discussion of general & impersonal topics in which long time-stretches (thus placing local & dividual sorrows at the small end of the telescope) are concerned—answering a letter received early in February. History was the main theme—the dominant topic being Roman Britain & its long decline, as brought up by C L M’s discussion of Talbot Mundy’s “Tros” stories. That, I fancy, is the kind of stuff a bereaved person likes to get from the outside world—sincere sympathy not rubbed in, & a selection of general topics attuned to his interests & quietly reminding him that there is a world which has always gone on & which still goes on despite personal losses. [...] I managed to finish & despatch the epistle last Monday. But the tragic accident surely is a beastly shame—far worse than deaths which do not his promising young folk with everything before them.—H. P. Lovecraft to R. H. Barlow, 11 Mar 1936, OFF 321
Henry Kuttner
In mid-February 1936 Lovecraft began corresponding with Henry Kuttner, a young Weird Tales fan who had previously praised Moore in the “Eyrie”:
If you bring to mind Lovecraft’s best stories (not his most successful ones), you will find that mystery, not calculating science, provided the fillip of true weirdness. That is why C. L. Moore seems to me a better writer than Lovecraft—the present Lovecraft...—Henry Kuttner, WT Sep 1934
Abbreviations
BOD Book of the Dead: Friends of Yesteryear
CAS Selected Letters of Clark Ashton Smith
CL The Collected Letters of Robert E. Howard
DS Dawnward Spire, Lonely Hill: The Letters of H. P. Lovecraft and Clark Ashton Smith
ES Essential Solitude: The Letters of H. P. Lovecraft and August Derleth
EV2 Echoes of Valor II
IMH Collected Letters of Dr. Isaac M. Howard
LA8 Lovecraft Annual #8
LCM Letters to C. L. Moore, &c.
LFB Letters to F. Lee Baldwin, &c.
LJS Letters to J. Vernon Shea, &c.
LRBO Letters to Robert Bloch and Others
LRS Letters to Richard F. Searight
MF A Means to Freedom: Letters of H. P. Lovecraft and Robert E. Howard
MTS Mysteries of Time & Spirit
OFF O Fortunate Floridian!
SL Selected Letters of H. P. Lovecraft


Other Works Cited
Elliot, Jeffrey M. (1983). Pulp Voices; or Science Fiction Voices #6: Interviews with Pulp Magazine Writers and Editors. San Bernadino, CA: Borgo Press.
Josh, S. T. (2010). A Weird Writer in Our Midst: Early Criticism of H. P. Lovecraft. NY: Hippocampus Press.
Moskowitz, Sam (1967). Seekers of Tomorrow. NY: Ballantine Books, Inc.
______________ (1980). “Some Thoughts on C. L. Moore” in A. Langley Searles (ed.), Fantasy Commentator vol. 4, no. 2
______________ (1983). “The Most Popular Stories in Weird Tales 1924 to 1940” in Jim van Hise (ed.) Sword & Sorcery #13.
Price, E. Hoffmann (2001). Book of the Dead: Friends of Yesteryear. Sauk City, WI: Arkham House.
Roark, Byron (ed.) (1976) Chacal #1. Shawnee Mission, KS: The Nemedian Chronicles.
Ross, Jean W. (1982). “CA Interview” in Frances C. Lochler (ed.) Contemporary Authors volume 104. Detroit, MI: Gale Research Co.
Shroyer, Frederick (1982). “C. L. Moore and Henry Kuttner” in E. F. Bleiler (ed.) Science Fiction Writers 161-167. NY: Charles Scribner’s Sons.
Wagner, Karl Edward (ed.) (1989). Echoes of Valor II. NY: Tom Doherty Associates.


Letters from C. L. Moore to R. H. Barlow are held at the John Hay Library.
Letter from Forrest J. Ackerman to Mrs. Burnhill, 7 May 1936 in personal collection of the author.
Letter from Forrest J. Ackerman to C. L. Moore, 2 Aug 1938 in personal collection of the author.

With thanks and appreciation for the help of Dave Goudsward and Marcos Legaria.


2 comments:

Unknown said...

We all know that REH had trouble receiving payment from Weird Tales. But, is there any mention by Moore of lack of prompt payment by WT? In 1935 she mentions that money is always nice. But she was working a full time job as a bank teller. As opposed to REH who was writing full time.

Bobby Dee said...

Payment issues aren't mentioned in any of the letters I have access to, but presumably she would have been seeing some of the same issues.

Also, she was not a "bank teller" - she is alternately described as a typist, stenographer, and secretary.