In The Two Bobs: Robert E. Howard and Robert H. Barlow it was mentioned that after the death of their mutual friend H. P. Lovecraft, Barlow became the literary executor for Lovecraft’s estate—which included the disposition of the file of letters from Robert E. Howard. Several letters pertinent to Barlow’s possession of these letters and efforts to get them to Dr. Isaac M. Howard, the late Robert E. Howard’s father, have been made available online by Brown University as part of their digitization of the Lovecraft materials, and make interesting reading concerning the posthumous afterlives of Barlow and his two literary correspondents.
Dear Miss Spicer,
I pulled out rather abruptly & had no opportunity for farewells, but perhaps I’m forgiven.
In about two weeks I’ll send you some Sterling items &c from KC. Thanks for putting up with all the bother I made while in Providence.
Here is something for your files—revised, it will appear in in HAWK ON THE WIND—a book—in six or eight months.
I beseech & implore you to keep the various correspondences—except R. E. Howard—under your hat & out of the catalogue. Their authors would boil me over a slow fire!—The sacrifices one makes in the interests of Literature.
Regards to Prof. Damon. I’m going to write him when I settle.
R. H. Barlow
After Lovecraft’s death, Robert H. Barlow was made his literary executor; the young writer took steps to archive Lovecraft’s correspondence and other papers at the John Hay Library, where Elizabeth Spicer worked. The “Sterling” items were presumably related to Kenneth Sterling, one of Lovecraft’s later correspondents and his collaborator on “In the Walls of Eryx.” Barlow wrote this on his way back to Kansas City (“KC”) where he was attending the Art Institute. Hawk on the Wind” Poems (1938, Ritten House) was a collection of August Derleth’s poetry, containing “Elegy: In Providence the Spring…” regarding Lovecraft.
Barlow’s desire to keep the correspondence from Lovecraft’s correspondents “out of the catalogue” was probably in an effort to protect their privacy; Howard was at this point already deceased, so this was less of an issue.
By May of 1937, Dr. Isaac M. Howard had determined that Barlow was the executor of Lovecraft’s estate and was in possession of the letters from his son Robert E. Howard that Lovecraft had saved, mentioned above; Dr. Howard wrote to Barlow and to Lovecraft’s surviving aunt asking for their return, but did not receive a prompt reply, probably because Barlow’s situation was unsettled—the young writer would soon head out for California (IMH 164, 166).
As Howard letters were actually at the John Hay Library while Barlow was in Kansas City, this might explain some of the delay and confusion, but Barlow did eventually respond to Dr. Howard’s request.
Dear Professor Damon,
I am sending you a miscellany; too varied to itemise. Among the contents of the express package shipped today are a couple of pieces of sheet-music; a typescript of THE SPHINX, unpublished play by the author of THE HERMAPHRODITE & OTHER POEMS; nearly all the Ms. I have from the pen of Clark Ashton Smith, author of THE STAR-TREADER, EBONY & CRYSTAL, ODES & SONNETS, &c; a special issue of The Modern School on Whitman (1919) &c &c. Of these, I think I’d like to keep nominal ownership of the Whitman photograph, though in all probability it’s yours till Doomsday.
Did you receive the Sterling letter sent in my last? The envelope turned up, and is enclosed in the Tomato Surprise. I have a few other things which I’m not quite ready to send, but will hand over later.
I would appreciate it if you would send me the cardboard box containing letters from R. E. Howard, which I deposited. His father wants them to go to Howard Payne College. If you will send them Express collect, I shall be in your debt.
Later, Mrs. Gamwell may want someone to look over Howard’s books for possible library donations, I believe there is not much for the Harris Collection, but other departments might find material.
Am still typing dementedly on the “copy” for the Lovecraft collection to be published!