Thursday, May 26, 2016

Dr. Isaac M. Howard, Pellagra, and Homeopathy by Bobby Derie

Cross Plains, Tex., April 23, 1921.

The North American Journal of Homeopathy:

A few short years ago quite a lot was written about Pellegra in the South being caused by drinking water from wells in the Southern sections underlaid with a yellow clay foundation. One writer wrote extensively on this, giving the sections of country where Pellegra prevailed more extensively, and claimed to give the geological formation of such sections, and wound up by saying that if any doubted such to be the case had only to read a Homeopath’s description of Silicea proving he would have a complete picture of Silicea.

I have read the several theories of Pellegra, and somehow what this man wrote has stayed with me. Of course there may be a better understanding of the cause now than when this man wrote, but the theory of an unbalanced diet does not hardly satisfy me. However, I want to say that I have several cases of Pellegra from time to time, but one case I have in mind who has been treated with large doses of soda cacadylate. The attacks through the hot weather season is now practically in the same condition as when she came to me three years ago.

I would certainly like some suggestions from Homeopathic physicians as to their methods of treating this disease, and particularly would I like to see Silicea proving described by a Homeopath and its treatment.

(Signed) Isaac Howard, M. D.
Cross Plains, Tex.
(North American Journal of Homeopathy, vol. 69, 505)

Dr. Isaac Mordecai Howard
Pellagra was a vitamin deficiency caused by a lack of niacin (vitamin B3) in the diet; it was especially prevalent in diets that were based heavily on corn (maize), as most of the niacin is not available unless the corn is treated with an alkali and hulled (nixtamalization). Native American cultures dependent on corn understood this processing was necessary, but Europeans who adopted the crop did not understand or appreciate the significance, leading to outbreaks of malnutrition and pellagra throughout the globe, especially in poverty-stricken areas with corn-heavy diets, including the Southwestern United States. There were some three million cases reported after 1902, with over 100,000 deaths, and the epidemic continued for four decades. Symptoms such as Dr. Howard described above were typical:
[…] a recurrent, debilitating warm-weather sickness […] Each spring, he became anorectic and lost weight. Typically, blisters erupted on his arms and legs, and he had extreme melancholia with suicidal ideation. The symptoms worsened during the summer and abated with the onset of cool weather. (Southern Medical Journal, vol. 94, no.3, 272-273)
Pellagra Victim
The cause of this malady was, by 1909, chiefly understood to be corn, but in what capacity was heavily debated, with some suggesting a toxin from “spoiled corn” and others an unknown infectious disease. Treatments were generally “unpleasant, illogical, and quixotic” and included “Arsenic, salvarsan, calcium sulfide, iron, strychnine, quinine, autoserotherapy, partial appendectomy, and static electric shock.” (Southern Medical Journal, vol. 94, no.3, 273) Dr. Howard’s own treatment of “soda cacadylate” (sodium cacodylate) was an arsenical preparation, and a common treatment for pellagrins (as sufferers of pellagra were known), with doctors prescribing large doses. (Pellagra, 1913, 220)

Another idea, promoted by Dr.  E. M. Perdue, A.M., M.D. as early as 1915 in his book Pellagra in the United States, was that pellagra was not caused by spoiled corn but by colloidal silica in drinking water, resulting in “acid intoxication,” and therefore the disease had a geographic cause. Perdue was the American translator and proponent of the idea, based on the homeopathic research of G. Alessandrini and A. Scala, who had published their findings in 1910 and 1913. It was this idea that Dr. Howard was referring to in his letter, and Perdue response was a restatement of his theory:
Forest Hall, office of Dr.s Perdue and Perdue, 1003 Forest Avenue, Kansas City, Mo., July 7, 1921.
The North American Journal of Homeopathy:
In the June number at page 505, I note an inquiry from Dr. Isaac Howard, of Cross Plains, Texas, about a writer on Pellagra who gave the geological distribution of the disease and its cause as drinking water coming from clay soils. He states that this writer “wound up by saying that if any doubted such to be the case had only to read a Homeopath’s description of Silicea proving he would have a complete picture of Pellagra.”
I am guilty. Pellagra is an acid intoxication due to ingestion of water coming from clay soils devoid of alkalies. The poisonous mineral is colloidal silica. There never will be any improvement in this finding as it is a finished research. Determined scientific facts are truths which are not altered and improved upon. Other truths may be added.
Pellagra is cured by the hypodermic administration of a 10 per cent solution of neutral sodium citrate. Give one cubic centimeter daily for thirty days, then on alternate days for thirty days longer.
This was all worked out by Alessandrini and Scala of the University of Rome. The writer was their collaborator in America. The “unbalanced diet” theory of Goldberger was devised solely as “counter research” in an attempt to belittle and obscure the research of Alessandrini and Scala in Italy and my corroborative findings in America. It has no scientific foundation, and in its inception was not even sincere.
E. M. Perdue, M. D.
(North American Journal of Homeopathy, Vol. 69, 609-610)
Dr. Joseph Goldberger
The “Goldberger” in question was Dr. Joseph Goldberger, a Hungarian emigre who had begun studying pellagra in 1914, as head of the Public Health Service’s investigation. Conducting studies on orphanages and a state sanitarium, Goldberger successfully identified diet as the cause and cure of pellagra, and published his findings in 1921, though the exact culprit (niacin deficiency) would not be determined until 1937. (Southern Medical Journal, vol. 94, no.3, 276)

Dr. Howard’s frustration in the letter can readily be understood, given the nature of the illness, the confusion as to its cause, and the lack of understanding for its treatment. Perdue’s prescription of sodium citrate would have done nothing to address the niacin deficiency, though the period of application might have given symptoms time to abate; likewise arsenical preparations like cacodylate of soda would not treat the underlying cause or prevent resurgence, and was toxic in its own right. Whether he ever followed Perdue’s suggestion is likewise unknown, but it is interesting is that Dr. Howard turned to the North American Journal of Homeopathy in the first place.

Homeopathy was only one of three schools of medicine widely recognized in the United States during the early part of the 20th century, the others being “regular” and “eclectic,” though as scientific progress advanced and licensing and certification became more strict, both homeopathic and eclectic schools began to decline; by the 1920s homeopathic and eclectic medical colleges and hospitals were already transitioning to mainstream medicine and dropping such signifiers from their name. However, many doctors mixed methods, prescribing homeopathic remedies as they would any drug, and it may be that Dr. Howard was similarly open to potential remedies.

Howard received his initial certification to practice medicine in Texas in 1899, having not attended a medical college but presumably having studied and served an apprenticeship for a number of years. (CLIMH x) This was before the state of Texas set up separate medical examination boards for regular, homeopathic, and eclectic physicians. To strengthen his credentials, Howard took a correspondence course from Gate City College of Medicine in Texarkana, TX – which, although later not recognized by the state board, was listed as a “regular” medical school, not homeopathic or eclectic – and continued to take other courses to expand his medical education throughout his life. (Patterson’s College and School Directory of the United States and Canada 1909, Vol. 5-7, 386; CLIMH xi)

The North American Journal of Homeopathy itself was simply the organ of the American Medical Union, a homeopath association, but was self-declared “pan-pathic,” open to submissions from all schools of medicine, though the rival American Medical Association and its own Journal saw it as a haven for quacks peddling nostrums, and it is hard to dispute the point, since it consists mainly of anecdotes related to “Auto-Hemic Therapy.” (Journal of the American Medical Association, Vol. 74, 477)

We can only speculate as to why Dr. Howard subscribed to this journal, but evidently he felt it of some value, or else honestly sought counsel on treatment for a patient that suffered from pellagra and was willing to keep an open mind on different courses of treatment, since those at his disposal were not working.

Works Cited:

CLIMH   Collected Letters of Dr. Isaac M. Howard (2011, Robert E. Howard Foundation Press)

Journal of the American Medical Association, Vol. 74, 477 (1920, American Medical Association)

North American Journal of Homeopathy, Vol. 69 (1921, American Medical Union)

Pellagra (1913, C. V. Mosby Company)

Southern Medical Journal, vol. 94, no.3 – “Pellagra in the United States: A Historical Perspective” (2000)

Sunday, May 22, 2016

The Thing About Conan Is . . . By Todd B. Vick

What follows below is an extremely condensed version of the article I presented at the Popular Culture Association/American Culture Association Conference in Seattle, Washington. The entire paper—in much greater detail—will be published in an upcoming edition of The Dark Man: The Journal of Robert E. Howard Studies. The article is titled "The Mistaken Identity of a Barbarian: Conan, Hero or Anti-Hero?" For this post, I have added a few paragraphs & rearranged a few details. I highly recommend getting a copy of the upcoming Dark Man journal & reading the entire article to get a better understanding & more detailed account of why I think Conan has been mistakenly identified as a hero. 
      “Conan the Cimmerian is the hero of over two dozen stories by Robert Ervin Howard (1906-36).”[1] Thus begins L. Sprague de Camp’s introduction to Conan the Conqueror in 1967 and all subsequent Lancer and Ace editions. There’s no explanation for the claim, it’s just there—in print—for all to see. Of course, de Camp’s not the first to ever call Conan a hero nor is he the last. Many others have called Conan a hero.
The Frost Giant's Daughter
Illustrated by Frank Frazetta

      Through the years, and in the various media through which Conan has been presented, the character has been widely known as a barbarian hero. In fact, this description has been used so frequently over the last sixty or more years that Conan is almost universally considered a hero without question or further thought. However, closer examination of Howard’s most popular character raises several questions. Does Conan exhibit traditional heroic qualities that are demonstrated by other heroes from literature? And, what exactly is a hero? Is Conan something other than a hero?

     In the mid-20th century (1949), Joseph Campbell developed what is known as the monomyth.[2] Campbell examined mythology, folk-tales, and fairy-tales, as they had been handed down either orally or in written form for the last two-thousand or so years. Joseph Campbell’s research took an in-depth look into not only the hero’s journey, but the specific personality traits of heroes. According to Campbell's research, a hero undergoes trials and tests to emerge a better person. And a hero typically places others above his or her self.

      Additionally, a hero rarely ever acts independently and will always welcome reliable help. A hero is also typically not at odds with the law, and is usually merciful and not vengeful or wrathful. The hero also typically shares the spoils of his or her adventure with society (civilization).

Les Liaisons Dangereuse

According to early 20th century literary scholar Sean O’Faolain’s work titled The Vanishing Hero, the first European novel to be without a social hero[3] is Pierre Choderlos de Laclos’ Les Liaisons Dangereuse, published in 1782. From 1782—with the publication of Les Liaisons Dangereuse—to the 1920s a type of ambivalence crept into fiction. Writers began to question social structures and the behavior of humans in their work. This also led to a change in the interest of not only the writer but the reader as well. They were both becoming “enormously interested in the emotional “tug-of-war between the ‘soul’ and ‘imperfection’” (xv).

     The previous formula in literature had been the struggle between the hero (the protagonist) and the villain (the antagonist). “The Hero, and his opposite number, the Villain, represented in the traditional novel conflicts which they more or less clearly defined” (xiii). The ambivalence that slowly crept into works of fiction began to divide “admiration and sympathy, virtue and pleasure” (xv). The hero and the villain slowly began to change sides, but no one at this stage in the history of fiction was willing to admit it.[4]

Conan the Cimmerian
Illustrated by Frank Frazetta
The interesting aspects of this gradual shift in literature reside in the writers’ angst against social norms, social contracts, social conventions that have, as they believed, been blindly accepted. This caused a shift in the perspective of the protagonist who is “about to discover that his opposite number is not the Villain but himself imbued by new and disturbing forms of discontent” (xx). The ideals in fiction shift from social-centric heroes who sacrifice themselves for the good of mankind and the well-being of others, to the anti-hero who acts according to his or her needs, to rise above social conventions which they deem are wrought with problems, thus needing to be exposed and/or changed. And thus, the anti-hero is created.

     The literary hero follows a specific pattern in a given story: a call to a type of supernatural adventure, facing trails in this adventure to emerge as a better person, and then returning home. All this is in service of the hero’s homeland and people. Thus, the hero gives his or her life to something bigger than self. While the details vary from story to story, these essentials are always present. Additionally, a hero rarely ever acts independently and will always welcome reliable help. A hero is also typically not at odds with the law, and is usually merciful and not vengeful or wrathful. The hero also typically shares the spoils of his or her adventure with society (civilization).

Conan the Cimmerian
Illustrated by Frank Frazetta
While the anti-hero developed in literature as the new protagonist, an attitude of discontent progressively surfaced. Viewing society as a type of enemy—or at least something untrustworthy—the anti-hero trusts only him or herself. The anti-hero typically acts independently according to his or her own needs. Frequently, the anti-hero sees civilization and the social code as either hypocritical or in need of change, and finds no satisfaction in the social structures or patterns of society. Deprived of social sanctions and definitions, the anti-hero creates his/her own order or law of life. So how does Conan stack up? Is he a hero or an anti-hero?

     After Howard created Conan, he declared—in a letter to Clark Ashton Smith—that the character was an amalgamation of “the dominant characteristics of various prizefighters, gunmen, bootleggers, oil field bullies, and honest workmen” (Howard 367-68) that he had encountered. Conan certainly reflected this diverse set of influences. In his career, Conan was a thief, a pirate, wanderer, and sometimes a mercenary. He also decries civilization and its weak men by demonstrating a strong angst about civilization.

     Howard often uses Conan as an indictment against civilization. This use reflects an ongoing debate Howard was having with fellow pulp writer H.P. Lovecraft. The debate, amongst the many other topics they discussed, dealt with the issue of barbarism and civilization; the merits and woes of each. Several ideas from this debate made its way on the printed page in the Conan stories. Howard frequently pits his barbarian against civilized men in the various Conan stories. And, of course, the civilized men pale in comparison. This is because they're described as soft and weak. Conan as a barbarian, will always be superior, civilization will always pale in comparison to Barbarism. Ironically, Howard uses a civilized character to say as much in "Beyond the Black River":
"'Barbarism is the natural state of mankind,’ the borderer said, still staring somberly at the Cimmerian. ‘Civilization is unnatural. It is a whim of circumstance. And barbarism must always ultimately triumph.'" (Howard 100) 
Additionally, a mere cursory reading of the Conan stories demonstrates that Conan is also an existentialist nihilist, a loner with no real attachment to anyone, and a character who maintains ulterior motives when he shows “loyalty” to any other character.[5] These actions are not the actions of a hero, but of a different kind of protagonist—an anti-hero. In the 1930s anti-hero protagonists were not near as pervasive as they are today. Moreover, the kind of protagonist (anti-hero) that Howard created Conan to be[6] was one that was 40 years ahead of its time.

It should also be noted that the term anti-hero does not mean against the hero. To eliminate any confusion, the anti-hero is always the protagonist in the narrative (story) who combats a real enemy (antagonist). Therefore, the anti-hero is not the antagonist of a given story/narrative. Way too many people have fallen prey to this confusion. In the end, Conan does not follow the typical heroic pattern or have the standard heroic characteristics. Rather, Conan’s autonomous behavior, nihilistic philosophy about life and strong discontent with civilization make him an anti-hero. But despite these glaring facts, Conan has been mistakenly identified as a hero for the last seventy to eighty years. With the evidence presented above, my hope is that we can put to rest the faulty idea that Conan is a hero and finally recognize his true role as an anti-hero.

[1] Howard, Robert E., and De Camp L. Sprague. Introduction. Conan The Conqueror. Twelfth ed. New York: Ace, 1986. 8. Print.
[2] Joseph Campbell. The Hero With A Thousand Faces. Third ed. Novato, California: New World Library, 2008. Print..
[3] A social hero is a hero for society or for the people. This is equivalent to the previous classic heroes who experienced/endured their adventures for the people or for society.
[4] It should be pointed out that the roles of the characters do not change in literature, the protagonist (who was typically the hero) remains the protagonist and the villain continues as antagonist. The shift is a subtle one in literature where the protagonist begins to feel or act like the antagonist through a demonstration of discontent with society or himself. Even so, the antagonist is still present in the story, thus contrasting the two. Attitudes simply change within the thinking and actions of the protagonist.
[5] See my upcoming article in The Dark Man Journal for detailed examples from Howard’s Conan stories that support these claims.
[6] I do not think Robert E. Howard set out to intentionally create Conan to be a hero or an anti-hero. Conan is simply of reflection of Howard's experiences with various kinds of people in his life and a multifarious mixture of his opinions and philosophies. When applied to a character in a narrative, the end result is a protagonist who is an anti-hero.

Works Consulted for this Research:

Anderson, Jennifer Joline. The Antihero. Minneapolis, MN: Essential Library, an Imprint of Abdo, 2016. Print.

Brombert, Victor. In Praise of Antiheroes: Figures and Themes in Modern European Literature, 1830-1980. Chicago, IL: U of Chicago, 1999. Print.

Campbell, Joseph. The Hero with a Thousand Faces. Third ed. Novato, California: New World Library, 2008. Print.

Campbell, Joseph, and Bill D. Moyers. The Power of Myth. Ed. Betty Sue Flowers. New York: MJF, 1988. Print.

Howard, Robert E. The Collected Letters of Robert E. Howard Volume Three: 1933-1936. Ed. Rob Roehm. Plano, TX: Robert E. Howard Foundation, 2007. Print.

_____. The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian. New York, NY: Del Rey/Ballantine, 2003. Print.

_____. The Bloody Crown of Conan. New York, NY: Del Rey/Ballantine, 2004. Print.

_____. The Conquering Sword of Conan. New York, NY: Del Rey/Ballantine, 2005. Print.

Lovecraft, H. P., and Robert E. Howard. A Means to Freedom: The Letters of H.P. Lovecraft and Robert E. Howard 1930-1932. Ed. S. T. Joshi, David E. Schultz, and Rusty Burke. New York, NY: Hippocampus, 2011. Print.

_____. A Means to Freedom: The Letters of H.P. Lovecraft and Robert E. Howard 1933-1936. Ed. S. T. Joshi, David E. Schultz, and Rusty Burke. New York, NY: Hippocampus, 2011. Print.

Lubin, Harold, ed. Heroes and Anti-heroes. San Francisco: Chandler Pub., 1968. Print.

O'Faoláin, Seán. The Vanishing Hero; Studies in Novelists of the Twenties. Second Printing ed. Boston: Little, Brown, 1957. Print.

Raglan. The Hero: A Study in Tradition, Myth, and Drama. Mineola, NY: Dover Publications, 2003. Print.

Rollin, Roger B. Hero/Anti-Hero. New York: Webster Division, McGraw-Hill, 1973. Print.

Simmons, David. The Anti-hero in the American Novel: From Joseph Heller to Kurt Vonnegut. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008. Print.

Stendhal. The Red and the Black. Trans. Charles Tergie. Franklin Center, PA: Franklin Library, 1981. Print.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Barbarism and Civilization in the Letters of REH and HPL (Part 8) by David Piske

Lovecraft in Brooklyn, 1922
Letter 100, HPL to REH (April 3, 1934)

This installment in the ongoing controversy with REH comes at least two months after REH's last entry. In that time the two men exchanged four smaller pieces of correspondence (two of which are lost), with (presumably) no mention of the topics of their controversy. HPL begins the letter acknowledging the impasse they have reached and expounds at length on the difficulty of conversations like theirs, which are based on values rather than facts. HPL lays out a course on which they can continue. They have no need to change each other's opinions, he says, only to make their own positions clear, and demonstrate their basis in "long and careful examination" rather than on "mere personal caprice" (730). But this seems disingenuous as HPL regularly comments on REH's resistance to being swayed by argument. With the intention of continuing their arguments, HPL identifies the core issues of their debate: "evolvedness versus unevolvedness, freedom versus order, civilisation versus barbarism" (729), and immediately turns to responding to REH's remarks.

Addressing REH's lengthy and somewhat bitter retort to the claim that he "refused to accept the basic standards of human development," HPL says that his intention was not that REH denied all values. Even though REH had indicated a belief that all values are"a meaningless jumble," HPL recognizes that this was hyperbole, and that REH surely holds a functional value system. His main concern is that REH overemphasizes certain secondary values, clouding his recognition of primary ones:
"I thought you were so strongly influenced by certain personal likings for things which might or might not be high in the organic scale, that you had come virtually to deny the existence of any basic organic scale. . . . You did certainly give signs that your personal likes were entirely disregardful of this scale . . ." (731).
From here he goes on to argue for a distinction between important human pursuits and trivial ones (731-4). Based on the intrinsic difference between simplicity and complexity, sensation and consciousness, there is an objective difference between merely simian activity, and human activity. By analogy, human activities can be classed from low and animal-like, to high and worthy.

He counters REH's claim that "a caterpillar is as important as a man" by first agreeing that the distinctions he is drawing are not cosmically significant. Indeed, to the universe a man is no more significant than any other creature. However, the distinction itself is intrinsic, and therefore even cosmically, absolute (731-2). To illustrate his point he says:
"We may like bulldogs better than men. . . . [But] to call a bulldog 'higher' than Xenophanes, Aristotle, Bacon . . . would be to strain our natural sense of proportion and probability to a rather grotesque extent" (733)
He concludes his lengthy argument by coming back around the the initial point (that REH's preferences for certain activities and qualities seems to disregard an objective standard of value):
 "It may seem strange and unacceptable to you, at present, to have a distinction drawn between the human effort which seeks to measure the universe, or crystallise a phase of beauty, or evolve a more harmonious social order, and that which seeks to apply science to the mutual slugging of two sullen giants—but that is something which must be left to time and to your instinctive sense of proportion. If what I have somewhat clumsily tried to outline above is not sufficient . . . then I greatly doubt whether I could in any way make this point clear at the present state of the debate" (734).
HPL's exasperation seems well-founded as it seems that REH does not fully grasp the argument from complexity/consciousness. But in any case, his exasperation shows that,despite his earlier claim, he does care about changing REH's mind.

Robert E., Howard
Previously, REH claimed that HPL too narrowly associated art with human superiority, and pointed to other professions (i.e., physician and football coach) which equally display human superiority. HPL clarifies that he does not consider the formal, professional activity of art as the highest form of human activity. Rather it an example of "a very typical aspect of human aspiration at its best," because of its "intrinsically rewarding" position as an "end in itself" (735). He acknowledges, as he has before, the value of, and even the skill and intelligence involved in certain other forms of effort (such as management of a business or a government), but implies that their value is instrumental, being concerned with "the mechanics of mere survival" and the necessity "to keep civilisation going." While formal art is not necessarily the highest form of human effort, "pure art and science more emphatically and conveniently illustrate the principle of reward—of a purpose in organised human life" (735).

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Clark Ashton Smith: The Emperor of Dreams

The first feature-length documentary about the visionary fantasy writer, poet and visual artist.

This looks like an excellent project, and there has never been a documentary released about Clark Ashton Smith. The film looks at the life of Clark Ashton Smith, his work, and his influence. Fans and scholars interviewed include: Donald Sidney-Fryer, S. T. Joshi, Harlan Ellison, etc.

This project is important because Clark Ashton Smith is important. He was a pioneering creator of stories in multiple genres: fantasy, horror, supernatural fiction and science fiction. As a poet he was hailed as the Keats of the West Coast when his first book of poetry, The Star-Treader and Other Poems, came out in 1912, when he was just 19 years old. He was a member of the California Romantic tradition along with Ambrose Bierce and his poetic mentor, George Sterling. And, as a friend and correspondent of writer H.P. Lovecraft, Smith's life and work should be of interest to the many fans of the creator of The Necronomicon and Cthulhu! He also deserves regional recognition in the Northern California foothills, as he was nearly a lifelong Auburnite who was known as the "bard of Auburn."  I hope to show the film in Sacramento, Auburn, Placerville, and other venues in the Gold Rush area. 

The project only has around two weeks remaining. Check it out, it looks really good.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Barbarism and Civilization in the Letters of REH and HPL (Part 7) by David Piske

The 2015 Cross Plains Postal Cancellation
artwork by Mark Schultz

Almost a year and a half into the controversy between Howard and Lovecraft in their correspondence, the conversation has already taken several turns and led to flared tempers. The degree of resentment, especially on REH's part, seems to rise with every cycle of letters. As does HPL's exasperation. At the end of his last letter, HPL admitted to some misgivings about the effect of mechanization on culture, and worries about the future of civilization as mechanization progresses by the hands of an "already somewhat tainted race." Such a candid confession of doubt about the progress of civilization could be received favorably by REH, especially considering HPL's usual haughty optimism about civilization.

However it may be a matter of 'too-little, too-late,' as REH's resentment is already roused, and it seems like he may not even grasp all of HPL's arguments, even though he would never admit it. Indeed, instead REH seems to back off from arguing vigorously against civilization (perhaps seeing himself at a disadvantage on HPL's turf), and fall back onto his original statement—that his preference for barbarism is personal, not absolute. But first there are several accusations and misunderstandings that must be addressed.

Letter 95: REH to HPL (ca. January 1934)

Coming back to address their lengthy controversies, REH turns first to the topic of art and its relative place in the human scale of values. REH says that he finally understands the idea behind HPL's objections to his arguments: "You say I 'refuse to accept the basic standards of human development" (693). REH denies this charge and claims only to question HPL's ideas about what constitutes the criterion of development.From a cosmic perspective he believes all values are irrelevant:
"I am convinced that things are a meaningless jumble, that a caterpillar is as important as a man, that a baboon is as significant as an artist, and that it means absolutely nothing to the universe whether a man is an imbecile or a genius" (693).
But he does recognize a scale of values in human affairs, and claims that all of his actions reflect recognition of this scale. He speculates that HPL came to his inaccurate conclusion about him based on disparaging remarks about supposedly "superior" men in a previous letter (Letter 87). However, REH claims, he never denied the superiority of some types of men; he only questioned what he thought was HPL's narrow identification of superiority with the arts, and with the formal occupation of art, specifically.

In defense of his previous denial that art is higher than (at least) some other types of human activity, he points out that HPL has admitted as much when he said that various intellectual activities (e.g., science, statesmanship) are equal to art. REH implies that this is what he had meant in the first place, for he certainly did not mean to equate art with "the making of mud pies or the twiddling of one's thumbs" (694). But he says further that HPL too narrowly identifies superiority with intellectual pursuits. A superior man, he says, is one who, regardless of his line of work (from physician to football coach), attains the highest possible degree of development in his field. Then he says that HPL admitted as much in a previous statement when he stated that art is "merely one of the several manifestations of the highest state of development" (694).

REH concludes the matter denying that he repudiates "human values" and claims that they both agree that other things occupy the same level as art (694). REH seems to overstate the level of agreement between them here. First, HPL's argument is that certain types of human activity are higher. Excelling in one's profession is not necessarily a sign of the superiority HPL has in mind. Second, the particular kinds of activity that they each would consider on par with art has not been agreed upon.

Robert E. Howard
As noted before, human freedom has been one of the the most important topics in REH's controversy with HPL. The amount of ink spilled by REH on this topic attests to its importance to him; in A Means to Freedom this section covers over 12 pages, most of which follows a point by point rebuttal of HPL's arguments. He begins by correcting HPL's misunderstanding. Previously, HPL had stated that there is no "perfect liberty," and that the degree of man's liberty in any age is a result of social and economic conditions. REH admitted that freedom is relative, but seemed to conflate HPL's view with that of philosophical "sophists" who say that freedom is a myth, and he countered with the analogy of a philosopher forced out of his contemplative profession to work at hard labor for long hours. HPL, in turn, mistook the meaning of the analogy, taking it instead as a new angle to the argument. In his response here, REH says "there is no need to get a new slant on my conception of [freedom]—which is simply that there was more personal freedom on the frontier than there is in modern life" (697).

HPL on the shore of Magnolia, MA
in August of 1922
He acknowledges HPL's hope that mechanization will "usher in an age of leisure," but observes that it has not yet arrived. And merely "in passing" he observes that mechanization did not work out well for farmers. The tractor reduced the farmer's work, but prices for finished commodities increased while cost for the raw product did not, forcing farmers to double and triple their yields, and leaving many in debt and bankruptcy (697). Returning to the main thrust of his response, he reiterates that his previous analogy was a reply to HPL's claim that liberty is a myth (something which HPL did not say!).

He expresses resentment that his desire for freedom is considered merely romantic whim. He asserts that his motivation for writing is purely because of the freedom it gives him, and he mocks artistic aspiration. He caustically reiterates his view of philosophers theorizing away freedom, and likens his own craving for freedom with that of his forefathers who left Ireland for America: "An ideal that rules the lives of generations is no empty pose" (697).