"About the Conan tales—I don’t know that they contain any more sex than is necessary in a delineation of the life of a lusty bygone age. Good old Two-Gun didn’t seem to me to overstress eroticism nearly as much as other cash-seeking pulpists—even if he did now & then feel in duty bound to play up to a Brundage cover-design. Speaking of Conan—he is on a fair way toward becoming a popular folklore hero among the fans. P. Schuyler Miller recently prepared a bibliography & chronology arranging the Conan stories in their proper time-sequence & providing a running comment on the history & development of the doughty Cimmerian from his first exploits at the age of 15 to his last recorded deeds as King of Aquilonia around the age of 30. This extremely clever document (which REH saw & praised shortly before his tragic exit) is now in [Farnsworth] Wright’s hands (he lent it to me), but if he doesn’t use it in Weird Tales you ought to get hold of it for the SFC. It would be a good rival to “The Hyborian Age”, now running in The Phantagraph."
-- H. P. Lovecraft to Willis Conover, 14 August 1936
"Frankly, I don’t feel capable of criticizing any of Lovecraft’s stories. I see no flaw in them, as weird stories and works of art, and if I seemed to see a flaw, I’d hesitate to call it such, for I concede him a vastly greater knowledge and skill in constructing fantasies than I could ever attain."
-- Robert E. Howard to E. Hoffmann Price, 15 February 1936
Over the years, I've seen people try to assert that HPL was no longer a friend to REH after the whole "civ vs. barbarism" thing. I've also seen numerous versions of the Narrative that Lovecraft didn't care for the Conan yarns. Letters like this, written after Howard's death, put the lie to that.
"A book of Conan stories would certainly be a very welcome item, & I hope such a thing can be published some day. It ought, I think, to be a pretty large & inclusive thing—& might form quite a problem to a publisher with limited equipment. It seems to me that for an immediate volume a collection of Howard’s best stories—irrespective of their membership in the Conan cycle—would be the wisest venture. REH’s best weird tales, without question, were the short “King Kull’ series—though perhaps some of the Conans & Solomon Kanes, plus the recent “Black Canaan”, fall into that category. Certain Howard enthusiasts ought to be consulted about the contents of such a book—[E. Hoffman] Price being especially well qualified to pick selections. Financing would be a rather hard problem (I’m utterly broke!), but a large number of small subscriptions secured through advertisements in the fan magazines might help. Your scale of estimated prices is very helpful in forming an idea of the problem—as is the set of paper & cover samples. A 100-page volume ought not to be impracticable in the end—& might conceivably hold all the “King Kull” tales. Art work can sometimes be secured quite reasonably—Utpatel having done four drawings for my “Innsmouth” for only $15.00. A sketch or line drawing of REH would make a good frontispiece—& as a model I’d suggest one of the 1931 snapshots (I could lend a small print). These are more typical, I think, that the stouter, moustached snaps of REH’s last days. But all these points could be discussed by the editorial board—pictures, title, scope, size, selections, &c. I’d suggest your getting in touch with Price on the subject, & also with REH’s father.
The Conan stories—as a unit—would probably make a huge volume …. or two smaller volumes. They are not all of equal merit; though each has something to recommend it, while the best are truly magnificent. An abridged collection, with material carefully selected, would be very welcome if an unabridged volume were found impracticable But it would want to be a sizeable tome in any case.
By the way—have you seen the article & bibliography about Conan which P. Schuyler Miller has prepared? It is a very clever thing—listing all the Conan tales in chronological order, & adding some running comment on the development of Conan from a raw Cimmerian youth of 14 to the period of his Aquilonian kingship around the age of 40. Wright lent me a copy of the MS., & I hope he will use it. If not, I hope one of the fan magazines will print it."
-- H. P. Lovecraft to Wilson Shepherd, 5 September 1936
"Yes—Robert E. Howard is a notable author—more powerful & spontaneous than even he himself realised. He tends to get away from weirdness toward sheer sanguinary adventure, but there is still no one equal to him in describing haunted cyclopean ruins in an African or Hyperborean jungle. He has written reams of powerful poetry, also—most of which is still unpublished."
-- H. P. Lovecraft to Natalie H. Wooley, 28 Jun 1935
Written not long after the REH-HPL correspondence began. The "theories" Howard refers to are his speculations regarding the peopling of the British Isles.
"I got a long letter from Lovecraft. That boy is plenty smart. And well read too. He starts out by saying that most of my arguments seem logical enough and that he is about on the point of accepting my views — and then follows with about three or four closely written pages with which he rips practically all my theories to shreds. He’s out of my class. I’m game to go the limit with a man my weight, but me scrapping with him is like a palooka climbing into the ring with a champion. I think I’ll ask him a lot of questions about things when I write him, instead of presenting my own views. That don’t mean, understand, that he’s convinced me to his way of thinking. Not at all; I still think I’m right. But I want to find out some of the things I’ll bet he knows — obscure phases of history and forgotten cultures, and mystic cults and all that. He says his young friend Frank Belknap Long, and Clark Ashton Smith have often praised my junk. Well, I’m very glad of it, naturally."
-- Robert E. Howard to Tevis Clyde Smith, July 1930
"The Battle That Ended the Century" is a spoof written by HPL and RH Barlow (who also corresponded with REH). It recounts a prize fight in 2001 (over 60yrs in the future, at that point). "Two-Gun Bob" is one of the boxers. There's an in-joke involving one of the Lovecraft Circle or someone connected to Weird Tales at least every other sentence. This is not a satirical attack on Howard. Both HPL and Barlow were devastated by REH's death two years later. Anyone curious about the in-jokes, ask away.
'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 August 1934
"Had another letter from Robert E. Howard, who seems to be a really profound student of Celtic philology & anthropology. I wonder that a scholar of his calibre makes so many concessions to popular taste. He has a theory that the early Irish legends contain a greater substratum of truth than we are commonly inclined to concede."
-- H. P. Lovecraft to August Derleth, 13 July 1930
REH refers to the Nemedians of Irish legend in the "Hyborian Age" essay. He also seems to have used the early Irish legends/Lebor Gabala as a guide for plotting his subsequent pseudo-history of the Cimmerians/Gaels after they settled on the shores of the Vilayet/Caspian Sea.
"My antipathy for Rome is one of those things I can’t explain myself. Certainly it isn’t based on any early reading, because some of that consisted of MacCauley’s Lays of Ancient Rome from which flag-waving lines I should have drawn some Roman patriotism, it seems. At an early age I memorized most of those verses, but in reciting, changed them to suit myself and substituted Celtic names for the Roman ones, and changed the settings from Italy to the British Isles! Always, when I’ve dreamed of Rome, or subconsciously thought of the empire, it has seemed to me like a symbol of slavery — an iron spider, spreading webs of steel all over the world to choke the rivers with dams, fell the forests, strangle the plains with white roads and drive the free people into cage-like houses and towns."
-- Robert E. Howard to H. P. Lovecraft, February 1931
As noted in an earlier post, HPL was quite the Romanophile and generally an ardent fan of the "Classical"/Greco-Roman period. Depending on where and when he was referring to, REH was openly antagonistic or apathetic about that entire era. He repeatedly tells Lovecraft in other letters that he needs to "study up" on the period "sometime". Howard had no need to do so when it came to the Middle Ages--at least, nowhere to the same degree--as his numerous yarns set in that period attest.
I've been diving into A Means to Freedom whenever I can.
Right on, Hun! A very informative and affordable resource for anyone interested in Robert E. Howard. Within AMtF, one finds some of REH's most interesting letters.
Rather than perusing, as some do, a couple of Conan yarns and then doing posthumous mind-reading on Howard--and then attempting to use that superficial reading as a springboard for their own agenda--those interested in delving deeper into REH's attitudes and opinions should start with A Means to Freedom. There really is no substitute for it. Since it also contains Lovecraft's replies, there is much-needed context provided that even the Collected Letters of Robert E. Howard doesn't give.