frank_frazetta_atlantis In Part One, I detailed my discovery of the 1923 Little Blue Book (or LBB), Theosophy in Outline, by Frederick Willis and how it appeared to be source for Howard’s use of theosophical themes in some of his early works, like “Men of the Shadows,” rather than the previously proposed source, W. Scott-Elliot’s book The Story of Atlantis. This LBB also appeared to be the source for a 1923 letter to Tevis Clyde Smith in which Howard discusses Atlantis and reincarnation.  After I shared the LBB with Patrice Louinet, he noted some similarities with the 1923 untitled Bran Mak Morn story that also deals with reincarnation (Howard, “Untitled”)

But then Patrice noticed a potential problem with the chronology. Howard mentions writing the untitled reincarnation story in an October 5, 1923 letter (Collected Letters i:24), which dates it very securely. Theosophy in Outline, however, was part of the Little Blue Book’s Pocket Series, which did not begin publication until that same month: October of 1923 (Gibbs, “Dating”). Further research on the Library of Congress’s online database indicated that Theosophy in Outline was published on November 9, making it too late to have influenced either the untitled story or the Smith “Atlantis” letter.

Still intrigued by the apparently coincidental similarities, I contacted historian Jake Gibbs, the foremost authority on the chronology of the Haldeman-Julius LBB publications to find out if there could have possibly been an earlier version of Outline. Gibbs confirmed the November 9 publication date, but he also pointed out that the material in the LBBs was often published earlier in one of several newsletters—all of which were exceedingly rare (Personal communication). Gibbs indicated that the publications Life and Letters and Know Thyself were the two that most often printed material from forthcoming Little Blue Books; of these two, the latter, which dealt primarily with philosophy and psychology, seemed like the most likely venue for a theosophy article.

I then contacted Randy Roberts, the head of special collections at the Pittsburg State University library where the largest and most complete collection of Haldeman-Julius publications is housed. Roberts graciously conducted a search of all of the newsletters for 1923 looking for references to Willis or to theosophy. Unfortunately, he was only able to locate two editorial mentions of the forthcoming Outline LBB by Haldeman-Julius himself , but with little detail beyond a brief biographical sketch of Willis (Roberts). The first of these is from Haldeman-Julius Weekly no. 1424 (March 17, 1923), 1:

I am preparing for me a booklet to be entitled “A Guide to Theosophy,” which is being written especially for the Pocket Series by F.Milton Willis, who promises delivery of the manuscript within a few weeks. The matter will be treated impartially and scientifically. We all know, of course, that the fanatical propaganda spirit is quite lacking in the real students of theosophy, just as it is in the students of any other philosophy. E. Haldeman-Julius.

The second is from Haldeman-Julius Weekly no. 1432 (May 12, 1923), 1:

I have already told my readers about Dr. F. Milton Willis agreeing to write a book for the Pocket Series which is to be known by the name of “An Outline of Theosophy.” The manuscript is in my hands and it is scheduled for early publication. Dr. Willis has long been a member of the world-wide Theosophical Society, whose headquarters is at Adyar, Madras, India. He has held prominent positions in the Society in America. He has written extensively for theosophical magazines and is accepted as a correct interpreter of these doctrines. E. P. Dutton and Company are publishing a series of his books, a fact which speaks for itself. Captain Russell Lloyd Jones, who conducts what is known as the Philosophers Book Shop, 26 West 43rd Street, New York City, writes me that he fully endorses Dr. Willis as an accurate writer on Theosophy. ‘I am myself a member of the Theosophical Society and a student of Theosophy,’ writes Captain Jones. ‘I might add that the only original work in theosophical research is being done by members of this society, of which Mrs. Annie Besant is President and of which Mr. C. W. Leadbeater is an invaluable members, a man who might be characterized as the Pythagoras of modern times.’

Unfortunately, while these passages provide some interesting background on the publication of the Theosophy in Outline LBB and on Willis himself, they offer no evidence that the content was published elsewhere. So, it appears that the similarities between Outline and Howard’s reincarnation writings from the fall of 1923 are merely coincidental, or that Willis published his material in an earlier as-yet unidentified publication, possibly one of the numerous theosophical periodicals, and that Howard encountered it there.

Caledonian-pictIn any case, given Howard’s interest in Little Blue Books and in concepts like reincarnation and lost civilizations, it is not at all unlikely that he would have acquired a copy of Outline sometime after its November 1923 publication. It still appears to be a probable source for much of the information on Root Races and on Atlantis and Lemuria that appears in “Men of the Shadows.”

In “Theosophy and the Thurian Age” I argued that much of the pre-cataclysmic geography described in “Men of the Shadows,” such as the west coast of North America being partially submerged (i.e. Howard’s Pictish Isles) was influenced in part by the maps in Scott-Elliot’s The Story of Atlantis (Shanks 60-62). Recently however, I completed a study of the surviving draft pages from “Men of the Shadows,” and discovered that, in fact, much of the geography of Howard’s pre-cataclysmic world probably came from another of his known sources, E. A. Allen’s Prehistoric World, Or Vanished Races (1885), rather than the maps from The Story of Atlantis (the results of this study will be published in a forthcoming article). The similarity between the prehistoric world described by Allen and the maps by Scott-Elliot are not a coincidence, however, as Scott-Elliot and Allen, writing only a decade apart, were themselves utilizing many of the same sources, such as geologist Alexander Winchell and ethnologist Hubert Bancroft.

If Howard did acquire Scott-Elliot’s The Story of Atlantis prior to 1928 there is little evidence he did more than skim it and look at the large fold out maps (and in truth the maps are the most interesting feature of the book) and even that is now questionable as it appears that most of the theosophical elements in his early works could have come from Theosophy in Outline or from Allen’s Prehistoric World. Howard’s depiction of Atlantis itself during this early period in “Men of the Shadows,” Exile of Atlantis,” and “The Shadow Kingdom” tends to follow Lewis Spence’s stone-age model of the lost continent rather than Scott-Elliot’s advanced Atlantean civilization (though the kingdom of Valusia in the last two stories does have similarities with Scott-Elliot’s Atlantis).

EPSON MFP imageIn 1928, however, Howard’s depiction of Atlantis and Atlanteans in his fiction begins to change significantly. With “Skull-Face,” Howard begins to incorporate tropes such as the advanced,  brown-skinned, “imperial” Atlanteans, as well as the idea of a “deep time” Atlantis hundreds of thousands of years old—tropes that do seem to have their origin with Scott-Elliot’s Story of Atlantis, and in particular Scott-Elliot’s description of the Atlantean sub-race, the Akkadians (Shanks 69-71). This new version of Atlantis would inform his next few stories on the subject in “Moon of Skulls” and “Gods of Bal-Sagoth.” The catalyst that prompted Howard to read The Story of Atlantis itself and go beyond Willis’s synopsis in Theosophy in Outline may have been the prominent mention of Scott-Elliot’s book in Lovecraft’s story “The Call of Cthulhu” (139), which was published in the February 1928 issue of Weird Tales.

The means by which Howard might have acquired a copy of Scott-Elliot’s book can be explained by Theosophy in Outline as well, as The Story of Atlantis is listed at the back of the LBB in a bibliography of suggested further reading (94). In the preface, Willis also informs the reader that they can order these books directly from the Theosophical Publishing Company and then provides the mailing address. Interestingly, Willis does not list Scott-Elliot’s second book, The Lost Lemuria. As I have noted previously, there is little or no evidence that Howard had seen or read The Lost Lemuria. This is significant as many editions of Scott-Elliot’s after 1925 had the two books combined in a single volume and Howard surely would have acquired this combined version if he had known about it.

While not conclusive, the evidence presented here suggests that Howard’s first introduction to theosophical ideas about prehistory and human evolution was not Scott-Elliot’s The Story of Atlantis, as I have argued previously, but rather the short synopsis of Scott-Elliot’s ideas in the 1923 Little Blue Book Theosophy in Outline by Frederick Milton Willis. Theosophy in Outline appears likely to have been Howard’s primary source for the theosophical ideas expressed in “Men of the Shadows” in particular. Willis’s booklet may have prompted Howard to acquire The Story of Atlantis, but the latter does not appear to have had a great impact on his work until 1928 when the manner in which Howard depicted Atlantis and Atlanteans changed dramatically. This Scott-Elliot-influenced vision of “brown” Atlanteans would remain the dominant one until Howard returned to Spence’s concept of a stone-age Atlantis with the creation of the Hyborian Age in 1932.

The identification and analysis of Howard’s influences and sources of inspiration like Willis, Scott-Elliot, Allen, and Spence in these early stories of prehistoric and antediluvian worlds, is crucial to furthering our understanding of Howard’s sub-creative methodology  and of his influential role as one of the first great world-builders of modern fantasy.

Bibliography

Allen, A. E. The Prehistoric World, or Vanished Races. Cincinnati: Central Publishing House, 1885. Print.

Gibbs, Jake. Personal Communication. November 2011. Email.

———. ” Dating Little Blue Books. [http://www.haldeman-julius.org/haldeman-julius-resources/dating-little-blue-books/]”  haldeman-julius.org. Haldeman-Julius: Pocket Series and The Little Blue Books. March 2009. Web. November 2011.

Howard, Robert E. The Collected Letters of Robert E. Howard. 3 Vols.. Ed. Rob Roehm. Plano, TX: The REH Foundation Press, 2007. Print.

———. “The Gods of Bal-Sagoth.” The Black Stranger and Other American Tales. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2005. 110-  145. Print.

———. “Men of the Shadows.” Bran Mak Morn: The Last King. New York: Del Rey, 2005. 1-30. Print.

———. “The Moon of Skulls.” The Savage Tales of Solomon Kane. New York: Del Rey, 2004. 99-170. Print.

———. “The Shadow Kingdom.”  Kull: Exile of Atlantis. New York: Del Rey, 2006. 13-51. Print.

———. “Skull-Face.” Tales of Weird Menace. Plano, TX: Robert E. Howard Foundation Press, 2010. 3-94. Print.

———. “Untitled.” Bran Mak Morn: The Last King. New York: Del Rey, 2005. 289-320. Print.

———. “Untitled Story (Previously published as ‘Exile of Atlantis’).” Kull: Exile of Atlantis. New York: Del Rey, 2006. 3-9. Print.

Louinet, Patrice. Personal communication. November 2011. Email.

Lovecraft, H. P. “The Call of Cthulhu.” The Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Stories. New York: Penguin, 1999. 139-169. Print.

Roberts, Randy. Personal communication. December 2011. Email.

Scott-Elliot, William. The Lost Lemuria. London: Theosophical Publishing Company, 1904. Print.

———. The Story of Atlantis. London: Theosophical Publishing Society, 1896. Print.

Shanks, Jeffrey. “Theosophy and the Thurian Age: Robert E. Howard and the Works of W. Scott-Elliot.” The Dark Man 6:1-2 (2011). Print.

Spence, Lewis. The Problem of Atlantis. London: William Rider and Son. 1924. Print.

Willis, Frederick Milton. Theosophy in Outline. Little Blue Book No. 477. Girard, Kansas: Haldeman-Julius Company, 1923. Print.

This entry filed under Howard's Fiction, Tevis Clyde Smith.

IMG_0001Lauren D. Chouinard, without boasting, states in the preface to his biography of Kid Lavigne, Muscle and Mayhem:  The Saginaw Kid and the Fistic World of the 1890s, that he “just may be the world’s foremost authority on” this legendary boxer.  A seemingly bold statement, but Chouinard, a cousin to Lavigne, steps into the ring and proves this assertion by delivering a knockout of a book.

It’s a thorough history of the Kid’s career, and nothing is left out—from the battle with Andy Bowen to Lavigne’s battles with the bottle, it’s all here and always told in an interesting and entertaining manner.

While the information on the Saginaw Kid provides excitement, the author also, as the title implies, gives us an overview of the “fistic world of the 1890s.”  This includes the aforementioned Andy Bowen, who died following his match with Lavigne, to such renowned and legendary fighters as Young Griffo, who, on his best days could be almost impossible to hit, and Joe Walcott, who once knocked down Sailor Tom Sharkey during a sparring match.  Also much welcome was the section dealing with Mysterious Billy Smith, a character who, for those researching him, can prove to be a little tough to lay a glove on.

Chouinard’s book is blessed with many photographs, and this alone makes the book worth buying—Robert E. Howard fans should be overjoyed to be able to put a face to some of the pugilists the Texan mentions in his letters.

Mr Chouinard  forever endears himself to Howard readers by his inclusion of the poem “Kid Lavigne is Dead” and he mentions the pulp author with respect.  So if you’re a Howard fan you need this biography to help you understand the boxing world that so enthralled REH, and if you’re one of those collectors who need to have every Howardian appearance in your library, it’s a must-buy just for the sake of Howard’s fistic poem.

Chouinard’s book packs a solid punch—truly much bang for your buck.

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I’m curious to know how the readers will like Gottfried von Kalmbach …  A more dissolute vagabond than Gottfried never weaved his drunken way across the pages of a popular magazine: wastrel, drunkard, gambler, whore-monger, renegade, mercenary, plunderer, thief, rogue, rascal – I never created a character whose creation I enjoyed more.

– Letter to H.P. Lovecraft, March 6th, 1933

Red Sonya of Rogatino’s comrade in arms, Gottfried, among his varied qualities, was German.  A coming series of posts from myself and Deuce Richardson is going to be devoted with serious intent (damn’ well told) to another noteworthy German created by REH – von Junzt, author of Nameless Cults.  The latter was born in 1795, and it’s my contention that he had von Kalmbachs among his ancestors.  Not Gottfried, though, or not directly at any rate.  Gottfried was a footloose, debauched black sheep who doubtless died drunk or in battle, or both, and never married.

The von Kalmbachs were not merely noble.  They belonged to the “Uradel” or Old Nobility, those with ancestors of free and knightly birth before the mid-fourteenth century.  The families ennobled after that time, by imperial letters patent, were known as the “Briefadel”.  There were also the Imperial Knights, a class of their own, responsible to the Emperor only and the backbone of his army.

charlemagne-1-sizedGottfried von Kalmbach would have been a younger son.  I assume he was born in 1498 – almost exactly three centuries before von Junzt – and had two older brothers as well as a sister.  The von Kalmbachs were a Bavarian family with a castle near Regensburg (Ratisbon).  They were said to be descendants of Charlemagne through Arnulf of Carinthia (who died at Regensburg in December 899 CE).  The town had been a free imperial city with its own mayor and council since the Emperor Frederick II granted it those rights in 1245.

Von Kalmbachs had fought in the Crusades and been members of the Teutonic Order in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, subjugating the pagan Balts.  The family had also become related by marriage to the Dukes of Bavaria, the Wittelsbachs, by 1500.   The Kalmbach coat of arms was “per pale purpure and argent, a chief and bear passant counterchanged”.  The crest was a gauntleted hand grasping the hilt of a broken sword.

Gottfried was exceptionally large and strong by the time he was fourteen.  Tawny-haired and blue-eyed, he was a born rebel, brawler and hell-raiser.  He demonstrated it even at that early age, as the undisputed leader of a gang of other nobly-born but rambunctious boys, some of them years older than he.  They drank, whored, engaged in highway robbery for amusement, and wrecked a dozen taverns in Regensburg during their free-for-alls.  Flogging at the hands of their fathers, or on a couple of occasions the law, never mended their ways.

At seventeen, Gottfried killed a man in a fight over a peasant girl.  German aristocrats in those days were allowed plenty of leeway in their amusements, but the man was a rich burgher’s son, and that made a difference even though he had been no better than young von Kalmbach.  Gottfried’s father decided his youngest son was unsafe to have around, and pulled strings to have him accepted into the Order of St. John of Jerusalem (the Hospitallers), telling him roundly that if no-one else could discipline him, the knights of the white eight-pointed cross certainly would.  As a German, Gottfried would have joined the Teutonic Knights if born two centuries before, but that Order had lost its main purpose when Lithuania became a Christian land, and in 1515 – the very year Gottfried von Kalmbach overstepped the mark too far – the Emperor Maximilian I had made a marriage alliance with Poland-Lithuania.  The German Empire ceased to support the Teutonic Order against Poland after that, and the Order’s decline – already far advanced — accelerated.  The Order of St. John offered better prospects.

knights-of-st-johnIt was rather like the way aristocratic ne’er-do-wells were sent out to the colonies from England in Queen Victoria’s time, or misfits and drifters found their way into the French Foreign Legion.  Gottfried didn’t mind too much, knowing as he did that the Knights of St. John were great seamen (and pirates) sworn to fight the Turks.  He would as soon have fought Turks as anybody else.

From the beginning it was plain that his career in the Order would not lead to the Grand Master’s chair.  Gottfried was hardly suited by nature to observe vows of poverty, chastity and obedience.  Poverty he could accept with a shrug, chastity he could take or leave, but obedience was beyond him.  If he thought about it at all, he probably assumed his remarkable fighting prowess would ensure that his misdeeds were overlooked.  Coming from one of the noblest families in Germany ought to ensure exceptional tolerance, also.

Fabrizio del Carretto was Grand Master of the Order when Gottfried joined it.  The failure of the Crusades had pushed the knights from Jerusalem and the Levant to Cyprus, then from Cyprus to Rhodes, their present stronghold.  The Order was divided into eight langues, or tongues, one of them German.  Each, on Rhodes, was lodged in a separate inn, or auberge. Their ships were three-banked galleys armed with rams at the bow and small cannon, but the main striking power lay with the knights who manned them, in their plate suits, wielding their heavy broadswords.  Their usual tactic was to close and grapple with their enemies – or victims – and board in a red onslaught.  Gottfried von Kalmbach was in his element there.

Rhodes had a long, violent history, even then.  From the 15th century BCE it had been under the sway of Minoan Crete, and when the main Bronze Age civilizations collapsed before the migrating Sea Peoples, it fared as badly as Cyprus and the Levant.  In the 8th century the Dorians came to the island, and brought with them the worship of Athena and Helios.  The Persians later conquered Rhodes, but Athens beat the Persians and forced them out of the island in 478 BCE, after which the Rhodian cities joined the Athenian League.  After the war King Mausolus of Caria (whose tomb was one of the Seven Ancient Wonders) conquered Rhodes in his turn, though only briefly.  The Persians came back and conquered Rhodes again, but again their rule was short before Alexander the Great defeated them and added Rhodes to his dominions.

Alexander died, his generals struggled to control Rhodes, by then an important centre of commerce and culture, closely allied with Egypt.  Antigonus threw all his resources into a siege of the island to destroy that alliance.  He failed, and had to sign a peace agreement, leaving vast stores of military equipment and immense siege engines behind.  The Rhodians – chuckling and rubbing their hands, no doubt – sold it all and used the money to raise a gigantic statue in honour of their sun god, Helios, the famous Colossus of Rhodes.  It stood for less than sixty years before an earthquake snapped it at the knees.  The wreckage lay where it had fallen for centuries, and travellers marvelled to see it.  Then the conquering forces of Islam came to Rhodes, and the statue’s remnants – according to popular legend – were carted away and sold as just another graven image from the “days of ignorance”.

constantinopleBy Gottfried’s time the island was the best defended fortress in the Mediterranean.  The Knights of St. John had spent two hundred years making it impregnable, or as close to that as human powers could contrive.  Eight smaller islands surrounding Rhodes were under the sway of the knights, serving as important surveillance posts and ports.  They maintained a hospital – one of their order’s functions – and in theory protected Christian shipping from the depredations of Islamic corsairs.  In practice they were corsairs themselves, not only raiding Turkish vessels but also Venetian ones, on the ground that Venice traded and colluded with the Turks.  Before the Byzantine Empire fell to the Turks, the knights had raided Byzantine shipping too, the Order of St. John being Catholic and the Byzantines Greek Orthodox – heretical by the knights’ standards.

Gottfried became a skilled pirate and naval gunner while wearing the eight-pointed cross.  He had survived a number of ferocious sea-battles by the time he was twenty.  Once, against odds, he had distinguished himself in a fight with a squadron of galleys led by Khaireddin Barbarossa himself.

In 1520 a new Ottoman sultan, only four years older than Gottfried, came to the throne of Turkey.  He was Suleiman, who would be known in the west as “the Magnificent” and to his own people as “the Lawgiver”.  In his teens, to learn the business of ruling, he had been appointed by his father Selim the Grim as governor of Theodosia, Manisa, and briefly Adrianople.  Having become sultan, he began as he intended to go on, first crushing a revolt by the governor of Damascus, then leading his armies against the key fortress-city of Belgrade, to wrest it away from Hungary.  Through criminal, craven negligence, Belgrade had a garrison of only seven hundred, and worse yet, Hungary sent it no assistance.  Belgrade fell to the Turks in August 1521.

Suleiman might easily have advanced into Hungary then.  He chose not to.  He regarded taking Rhodes, headquarters of the Knights of St. John, as more urgent.  While he was taking Belgrade, a new Grand Master of the knights had been appointed, del Carretto having died.  The new man was the redoubtable Philippe Villiers de l’Isle Adam, who wasted no time making the fortifications of Rhodes even stronger.  He called all the knights of the Order to Rhodes and appealed to the monarchs of Christendom for help, but aside from some Venetian troops from Crete, no help arrived, in spite of the sinister lesson of Belgrade.  It wasn’t a new story.

De l’Isle Adam prepared to resist with all his power.

In June 1522, a mighty Turkish fleet of four hundred ships assailed Rhodes.

piechota_zaporoska_1Gottfried’s future comrade-in-arms and mistress, Sonya of Rogatino, was then eighteen years old by my reckoning.  She had already seen Crimean raiders attack her home town and carry off her sister Roxelana – later to be Suleiman’s favourite.  Sonya, in the aftermath of the raid, had become the adopted daughter of a hetman of the Zaporozhian Cossacks.  The wildest of those wild men had to admit she rode as hard and cut as deep as any.  She and Gottfried would meet, in seven years’ time, at the siege of Vienna.

But first Gottfried fought at Rhodes, unaware that Sonya existed.  Coban Mustafa Pasha commanded the fleet that preceded the Sultan, and Suleiman himself arrived at the end of July to take charge in his own person, with an army of one hundred thousand men.  The Order prepared to withstand him with three hundred knights, the Venetian mercenary troops from Crete, and about four thousand Rhodian soldiers – five thousand men, six thousand at most, against the superbly trained, motivated and organized Turkish host, with the most advanced artillery in the world, of one hundred and seventy thousand.

The odds were a trifle heavy …

This entry filed under H. P. Lovecraft, Howard's Fiction.

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This essay is a follow up to my article, “Theosophy and the Thurian Age: Robert E. Howard and the Works of William Scott-Elliot,” that was published in the November 2011 issue of The Dark Man journal (Shanks). In that article I argued that the principle source for the theosophical elements identified by Rusty Burke and Patrice Louinet (350) in Howard’s 1926 story “Men of the Shadows” and his 1928 “Atlantis” letter to Harold Preece was the book The Story of Atlantis by William Scott-Elliot. This is important because “Men of the Shadows” is the first story in which we see Howard beginning to creat his fictional prehistoric world that would later evolve into the Thurian Age of Kull and the Hyborian Age of Conan.

I argued further that Scott-Elliot’s influence could be seen in other stories, particularly “The Shadow Kingdom,” “Moon of Skulls,” “Skull-Face,” “The Gods of Bal-Sagoth,” and “The Hyborian Age.” I also identified several specific themes that Howard seems to have taken from The Story of Atlantis, including the idea of a “deep time” antediluvian civilization existing hundreds of thousands of years ago, a later maritime Atlantean empire, a series of multiple geological cataclysms, and a sequence of races of mankind.

9781258170066_p0_v1_s260x420Not long after submitting that article I came across an item, which I had not realized existed, but that I now feel adds more information to our understanding of Howard’s interest in theosophical ideas about prehistory and human evolution. It also helps answer some of the lingering questions that I still had after my previous research. This item is Little Blue Book No. 477, Theosophy in Outline by Frederick Milton Willis, first published in 1923.

Willis was a theosophist and author of several books on reincarnation, Christian mysticism, and the like. His Theosophy in Outline is exactly what the title implies—a concise summary of the Theosophy movement and its principle ideas and beliefs. This includes a section discussing and summarizing Scott-Elliot’s version of antediluvian prehistory from The Story of Atlantis.

The Little Blue Books (or LBBs) were a series of small chapbooks published by editor, author, and social reformer E. Haldeman-Julius beginning in 1919 (Gibbs, “Dating”). They were designed as inexpensive, concise, popular works on a variety of topics such as politics, literature, history, science, philosophy, religion, and self-help. Howard seems to have been a fan of the LBBs and he mentions them and Haldeman-Julius in his letters on several occasions (Burke, “Bookshelf”). In Howard’s semi-autobiographical novel, Post Oaks and Sand Roughs, the narrator Steve (meant to represent Howard) calls the Little Blue Books “a godsend” (76). So it’s not at all unreasonable to suggest that the LBB Theosophy in Outline might have been one of Howard’s sources for the theosophical elements that we find in some of his stories.

The section that concerns us is located near the end of Willis’s booklet under the heading “Root Races and Sub-Races” and is worth quoting at length:

Seven root-types of men evolve on our Earth during this stage of its life. Theosophists call these types Root-Races, and each has its own special “Continent,” or configuration of land. The first two Root-Races have disappeared. Of the third, the Lemurian, which flourished on the continent of Lemuria, now beneath the Pacific Ocean for the most part, hardly a pure specimen remains; the negroes are its descendents from mixed marriages. The fourth, the Atlantean, spread over the Earth from the continent of Atlantis, which united western Europe and Africa with eastern America. It built some of the mightiest civilizations the world has known, and the greater part of the world’s inhabitants still belong to it. The fifth, the Aryan, leads humanity today. The sixth is in the womb of the future, but its continent is beginning its formation and will occupy, roughly, the Lemurian site; the islands now being thrown up in the northern Pacific are indications of the commencement of a work which will demand hundreds of thousands of years for its accomplishment. The seventh lies far, far ahead. (88)

Here we find represented many of the theosophical elements that appear in “Men of the Shadows,” such as the idea that the islands of the Pacific are the peaks of sunken Lemurian mountains. More significant is the discussion of the progression of Root Races. In the oft-quoted 1928 letter to Harold Preece discussing Atlantis, Howard summarizes the theosophical Root Race concept, but describes the first two Root Races as “unknown and unnamed”:

The occultists say that we are the fifth—I believe—great sub-race. Two unknown and unnamed races came, then the Lemurians, then the Atlanteans, then we. They say the Atlanteans were highly developed. I doubt it. (Collected Letters i:237)

In the sequence of the Races of Man in “Men of the Shadows,” he replaces the first two races with his own prehistoric Picts. As I noted previously, however, the first and second Root Races are not “unnamed,” but are referred to in a number of theosophical works as the Polarians and Hyperboreans respectively (Shanks 57–58). The fact that Theosophy in Outline gives no names or details on these two early races, lends credence to the idea that this may been one of Howard’s sources for the Root Race concept.

Willis continues his synopsis of Scott-Elliot’s ideas with a description of the sub-races of the Atlantean Root Race:

Each Root-Race divides into seven sub-races. We have the fourth Root-Race [i.e. the Atlanteans] divided into the Rmoahal, Tlavatli, Toltec, Turanian, Semitic, Akkadian and Mongolian sub-races. (89)

When I came across this passage it occurred to me that it may help resolve one of the nagging problems regarding Howard and his concept of Atlantis. A curious August 24, 1923 letter to Tevis Clyde Smith contains Howard’s earliest known mention of Atlantis. The letter is a little odd in that Howard, in a matter-of-fact way, discusses a past life as a Philistine soldier and goes into great detail about a number of civilizations and events from the Bronze Age Near East and Mediterranean (Collected Letters i:20-21). Almost in passing he mentions that Atlantis existed at that time and was a contemporary of the Mesopotamian civilization of Accad (an alternate spelling of Akkad).

AtlantisThis placing of Atlantis in the historical past is completely incongruous with the “deep time” Atlantis that we see later in his stories. Unlike Scott-Elliot, who places the lost continent far back in prehistoric times, Willis does not give any dates for Atlantis in Theosophy in Outline. If you didn’t know that Scott-Elliot uses the names of historic cultures (Toltec, Semitic, Turanian, Akkadian, etc.) as stand-ins for their supposed prehistoric antecedents, you might easily assume that Willis was making Atlantis contemporaneous with the historic versions of those cultures. If Howard was basing his comments in the Smith letter solely on the content of Theosophy in Outline it would explain this placement of Atlantis in the Bronze Age.

Another interesting point to consider is that earlier in Theosophy in Outline there is a section on reincarnation and how one can sometimes remember their past lives (51-57). Whether or not Howard truly believed the past life information that he was detailing in the letter to Smith or was simply having a bit of fun with his friend is impossible to say, but in either case it seemed reasonable that Howard’s reading of Outline might have inspired this letter.

Upon sharing a copy of this Little Blue Book with Patrice Louinet, he noticed similarities not only with the letter to Smith, but also the untitled Bran Mak Morn story that was discovered in 2001 (Howard, “Untitled”; Louinet). The story, which is essentially a sequence of past lives, contains the line “The Wheel turns and the cycles revolve forever. The Wheel turns and the souls of all things are bound to the spokes through all Eternity” (291). Patrice noted the similarity of that passage and the line from Outline referring to reincarnation: “Looking at this long-turning wheel of births and deaths” (54).

haggardHoward’s story also mentions a drug called Taduka, which when smoked allows the user to experience his past lives (291). Charles Rutledge has noted that Howard’s source for this is likely the “Taduki” plant in H. Rider Haggard’s The Ancient Allan, which has a similar effect (“Ancient Allison“), but it is worth noting that Outline also suggests that various drugs such as hashish, bhang, and opium can allow glimpses of the astral world (16).

Initially then, it seemed as though Willis’s LBB Theosophy in Outline might have been a source of inspiration for not only the theosophical material in “Men of the Shadows,” but also both the reincarnation story and the August 24 letter to Smith. But then, Patrice realized there was a problem—more on that in Part Two.

 

Bibliography

Burke, Rusty. “The Robert E. Howard Bookshelf. [http://www.rehupa.com/OLDWEB/bookshelf.htm]” REHupa.com. Robert E. Howard United Press Association. 1998. Web. November 2011.

Burke, Rusty, and Patrice Louinet. “Robert E. Howard, Bran Mak Morn, and the Picts.” Bran Mak Morn: The Last King. New York: Del Rey, 2005. 343-360. Print.

Gibbs, Jake. “Dating Little Blue Books. [http://www.haldeman-julius.org/haldeman-julius-resources/dating-little-blue-books/]” haldeman-julius.org. Haldeman-Julius: Pocket Series and The Little Blue Books. March 2009. Web. November 2011.

Howard, Robert E. The Collected Letters of Robert E. Howard. 3 Vols.. Ed. Rob Roehm. Plano, TX: The REH Foundation Press, 2007. Print.

———. “The Gods of Bal-Sagoth.” The Black Stranger and Other American Tales. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2005. 110-145. Print.

———. “The Hyborian Age.” The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian. Eds. Rusty Burke and Patrice Louinet. New York: Del Rey, 2003. 381-398. Print.

———. “Men of the Shadows.” Bran Mak Morn: The Last King. New York: Del Rey, 2005. 1-30. Print.

———. “The Moon of Skulls.” The Savage Tales of Solomon Kane. New York: Del Rey, 2004. 99-170. Print.

———. Post Oaks and Sand Roughs. Hampton Falls, NH: Donald M. Grant Publishers, 1990. Print.

———. “The Shadow Kingdom.”  Kull: Exile of Atlantis. New York: Del Rey, 2006. 13-51. Print.

———. “Skull-Face.” Tales of Weird Menace. Plano, TX: Robert E. Howard Foundation Press, 2010. 3-94. Print.

———. “Untitled.” Bran Mak Morn: The Last King. New York: Del Rey, 2005. 289-320. Print.

Louinet, Patrice. Personal communication. November 2011. Email.

Rutledge, Charles R. “The Ancient Allison. [http://singular–points.blogspot.com/2011/01/ancient-allison.html]” singular–points.blogspot.com Singular Points. January 2011. Web. November 2012.

Scott-Elliot, William. The Story of Atlantis. London: Theosophical Publishing Society, 1896. Print.

Shanks, Jeffrey. “Theosophy and the Thurian Age: Robert E. Howard and the Works of W. Scott-Elliot.” The Dark Man 6:1-2 (2011). Print.

Spence, Lewis. Atlantis in America. London: Ernest Benn. 1925. Print.

———. The Problem of Atlantis. London: William Rider and Son. 1924. Print.

Willis, Frederick Milton. Theosophy in Outline. Little Blue Book No. 477. Girard, Kansas: Haldeman-Julius Company, 1923. Print.

J-01

It appears that most issues of The Junto started their way down the mailing list at the end of the month prior to the date on the cover; so, the July issue most likely started circulating at the end of June. As we saw last time, the June issue was “lost,” so the July edition is the first of new editor Lenore Preece’s issues that survive. On the cover is a poem by former editor Booth Mooney:

The Moths

A moth came flying.
It approached a lamp
And beat against it
And perished. . . .

And a fool said,
Verily, serenity is greater than force.

But many moths came
And beat against the lamp.
They labored mightily
And called to other moths.
The mass of moths grew larger—
All beating against the lamp. . . .

Many were consumed in the flame,
But at last the lamp was extinguished.
The remaining moths
Held counsel. . . .
They set up a new lamp
That shed a most magnificent light.

This is followed by editorial comments from Lenore Preece. These tell the origin and purpose of the travelogue and are presented at the head of this post. Up next is “The Monotony of Being Good,” an article by John Doughty. This is a meandering rant that points out the difference between what the Christian faith advises people do and their actual behavior. It ends with this: “That some thus far inconceivable fashion of man will arrive who will try being good once in his life, at least; and thereby for the first time in the history of the race, learn whether, after all, there is an actual monotony in being good. As matters now stand, we can only speculate.”

This is followed by a couple of short paragraph items, both untitled, and both probably supplied by Lenore Preece as space fillers. The first is a little rant that claims that the mixing of white and black blood, “according to scientists, seems to bring out the worse qualities of both.” The second deals with France’s war debt, sort of.

Up next is “Hate’s Dawn,” verse by REH, one of the few to reference the World War. After this is “Women,” a tirade by Harold Preece containing this, “Naturally weak, Woman relies upon her only commodity, sexual favors, for her existence”; this, “Strictly speaking, there is no such thing as an intellectual woman”; and this, “The Orientals have the proper idea; they keep their women in deserved subjection,” just to mention a few. One wonders if this article is similar to the “tirade against women” that Preece sent to Howard at Clyde Smith’s instigation back in December.

“Sic Transit,” verse by Booth’s brother, Orus Mooney, tells the story of a man who played three women, “thinking to choose in time,” but at the end his “friends and opportunities passed away” and he is alone. This is followed by “An Open Letter to Texas’ Governor,” by Truett Vinson, the text for this is in here.

Up next is “The King and the Mallet,” verse by REH. Beneath the poem, fellow Juntite Norbert Sydow has written this: “The gentleman must not make his knowledge of Poe’s poems so obvious as to mutilate a line from ‘The Greenest of Our Valleys’ poem.” A criticism that I haven’t looked into.

This is followed by Booth Mooney’s “Spirit of God,” wherein an elderly man offers Mooney a ride after his car breaks down. This surprises Mooney as the man is known as a miser. Once in the man’s buggy, he pesters Mooney about his actions and implores him to go to church: “Quit your nonsense. Don’t kill your soul by goin’ to a show. Live right.” After enduring this, Mooney muses:

How easily is the down rubbed off the wings of our little butterfly illusions—patriotism, religion, democracy—the little illusions that breed maggots.

Following this are several poems. First is a series of four “Sonnets on the Recognition of the Vatican” by Lenore Preece. The second of these is subtitled “Mussolini” and has these lines: “[. . .] is’t for this / That all the centuries of effort spent / Have spawned a brute to ravish and to rent / The total sum of art’s hard-conquered bliss?”

The sonnets are followed by “Fragment” by Booth Mooney, which tries to channel Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself” with lines like this: “This is America working and singing and sweating and swearing.” Then there’s “To Franz Schubert” by Harold Preece, a 15-line lyric praising Schubert as a “weaver of melodious webs.” And, finally, another by Mooney: “To an Evangelist,” wherein the speaker accuses the evangelist of robbing the poor.

“On the Death of a Great Juntite,” by Lenore Preece, is a heartfelt, if humorous, obituary for her cat, Thomas Paine. The issue concludes with Robert E. Howard’s “Singing in the Wind” and Orus Mooney’s “Faith,” which asks, “How, believing not in that which I can see, / Can I believe in a Divinity I know not of?”

At the end of the issue is the “Texas Mailing List,” which explains the rules of membership:

J-17

This is followed by the names and addresses of everyone who will receive the issue. Each name has an inch or two of space left open for comments on the current issue. Here are some selections:

Harold Preece: “On the whole, exceptional. Orus not up to his usual standard. Bob Howard’s ‘King and the Mallet’ best contribution of this issue.”
Truett Vinson: “An extraordinary issue. The ‘Sonnets on the Recognition of the Vatican’ are superb. They should be passed on to some good poetry magazine. Bob Howard is still fine—as usual. Harold’s article is a fine collection of words! Good luck to The Junto’s new editor!”
Booth Mooney: “Harold’s article good, but I think his argument flawed. Howard’s stuff good, of course. [. . .] For God’s sake, don’t publish ‘Open Letters.’ I agree with T. V., however. [. . .]”
Maxine Ervin: “The best issue we have had in a long time, and it still has plenty of room for improvement.”

And a note from Truett Vinson:

Miss Preece—
Please add the name of Edna Mae Coffin, No. Chelmsford, Mass., to your National Mailing list. She is an artist of some ability and will be interested in The Junto.
T.V.

Fists_3_coverWith the jack-o-lantern rotting on the front porch and a half-finished list of items needed for Thanksgiving dinner in a kitchen drawer, the bombardment of Christmas sales and advertisements that unmercifully pound our senses has begun. In this tempest of holiday commercialism, where there is much wailing and gnashing of teeth, there is solace within the pages of a spate of new Howard books and publications to calm one’s shattered and battered nerves. This year end publishing surge is a well-deserved reward for having survived yet another year of living on a planet that is seemingly coming apart at the seams. Escapism is the watchword for these troubled times, so let’s see what is on the reading menu for the waning weeks of 2014.

Now shipping is the third volume of the collected boxing stories of Robert E. Howard, Fists of Iron, Round 3. The volume is a smorgasbord of Costigan misadventures. If you are not onboard with the boxing stories, it is not too late. Volumes one and two are still available on the Robert E. Howard Foundation website. While you are there, check out the Membership details; being a member of the foundation is a great way to support REH, get discounts on books, the quarterly newsletter and some free swag to boot!

girasol-WeirdTales-September1934Neil Meacham over at Girasol Collectibles has been making many a Howard fan happy with the flurry of Weird Tales replicas featuring Conan stories he has been publishing the past months. The latest is one of Two-Gun’s best Conan yarns, “The People of the Black Circle.” Part one of the three part serial originally published in the September 1934, with a Brundage cover based on the story was published last month by Girasol, part two this month and part three will appear next month. It is really great to read Howard as he was originally published.

Also available from the Cimmerian Press is John D. Haefele’s A Look Behind the Derleth Mythos: Origins of the Cthulhu Mythos. This is the first volume from Leo Grin’s new publishing venture. The Cimmerian Press falls under the umbrella of LMG Books. Check out the website for more information. I am very please to see Leo get back in the publishing game. His The Cimmerian journal was far and away one of the best Howard zines ever, second only to Glenn Lord’s The Howard Collector

Swords-smSwords of the North from the REH Foundation Press is shipping next month. The book is one that the late, great Steve Tompkins dreamed of, what he called “The Northern Thing.” The volume is a comprehensive collection of all Howard’s “Northern Adventures,” featuring Cormac mac Art, Turlogh O’Brien, James Allison, and a number of other stories and poems. In a perfect world, this would have been the twelfth volume of the Del Rey series of Howard books.

A new volume from McFarland might be of interest to Howard fans: J.R.R. Tolkien, Robert E. Howard and the Birth of Modern Fantasy by Deke Parsons, edited by Donald E. Palumbo and C.W. Sullivan III. Per the website “The birth of modern fantasy in 1930s Britain and America saw the development of new literary and film genres. J.R.R. Tolkien created modern fantasy with The Lord of the Rings, set in a fictional world based upon his life in the early 20th century British Empire, and his love of language and medieval literature. In small-town Texas, Robert E. Howard pounded out his own fantasy realm in his Conan stories, published serially in the ephemeral pulp magazines he loved . . . ”

With Christmas coming, any or all of the above items would make great additions to your collection or gifts for other Howard fans, provided they haven’t been naughty and reading Conan pastiches.

SweetwaterBroadwayStreetScene1939

The Howards paused in their southward journey close to the point where the Texas Panhandle merges with the main body of the state in the town of Sweetwater, as Howard continues his travelogue in a letter to H.P. Lovecraft dated December 5, 1935:

So we came south, following the road we had taken in our northward travels, and reached the town of Sweetwater, in Nolan County, before sunset. It was formerly a clean, likable cattle-town, but now, since it is becoming an industrial center, has attracted some pretty unsavory characters, as well as many decent and honest citizens. While having my car greased (and being just full enough of beer to be talkative) I listened to a tale by one of the mechanics concerning the activities of a mysterious character who had tried to rob his house on more than one occasion, and once had even got into his bedroom, while he slept, and tried to ransack the place. He said he suspected a certain dope-fiend and announced his intention of filling the offender’s legs with lead on the next offense. I heartily sympathized with him, but doubted the wisdom of aiming at the fellow’s legs.

Howard loved to talk to people, hearing their life stories, tales of woe and misadventure. He would often incorporate these firsthand accounts of life in 1930s Texas one way or another and in his yarns.

Howard continues his narration of the trip to Lovecraft:

Returning to the tourist camp where we were staying I got a glimpse at another phase of life when a small girl and her young brother came out of a cabin and wistfully eyed a melon that had just been cut. We shared with them, of course, and this inspired the girl to volunteer unasked information concerning herself and parents. They were nice looking kids, but poorly dressed, and were, the child volunteered, being taken to California by their mother. She naively prattled away of watching her mother being beaten by their father, and it was rather revolting to hear her matter-of-fact tones relating how their father had, on one occasion, pinned their mother against the wall and beaten her eye nearly out of her head. This tale confirmed the fact that they were not natives of Texas, which of course was evident from their accents any way. They told where they were from, but that doesn’t matter.

SweetwaterTourist CampWhile I don’t doubt this encounter took place, as he was wont to do, Howard embellished it a bit. In his mind Texans were good, honest hard working people, incapable of domestic violence. But reality tells us people are both good and bad. And the good ones are not all confined within the borders of Texas.

There was one man Howard didn’t mention who also spent time in Sweetwater, Bat Masterson, whose name appears in several places in his correspondence.

In 1874 Masterson was a young man, an excellent rifle shot, and was also the youngest of 29 defenders at the Battle of Adobe Walls on July 27, 1874 in the Texas Panhandle. Adobe Walls was little more than a wide spot in the road, having only a picket blacksmith shop, 2 sod stores and a sod saloon, all of which had been built to serve regular parties of buffalo hunters who passed through. In that time and place, Masterson and his fellow buffalo hunters found their way of life threatened by a force of a superior force of 700 Arapaho, Kiowa, Comanche, and Cheyenne warriors who had a plan to sweep through the Panhandle, massacring all the whites.

The Indians made their first attack at dawn. However, the marauding force soon discovered they had me a formidable force, albeit very small (28 men and 1 woman) but deadly force — all 29 were superb shots with the famous “Big Fifty” Sharps buffalo gun. Hunkered down behind the thick adobe walls, they repulsed charge after charge of the Indians. The seasoned buffalo hunters were such good shots that one warrior was knocked off his horse almost a mile away. Suffering huge losses under the barrage of those massive caliber rifles, the Indians lost a large number of warriors and quickly retreated. The defenders lost 4 men, including 2 who had been sleeping in a wagon outside the buildings. This fight triggered the Red River War of 1874-1875. Masterson worked through this war first as a scout for Colonel Nelson A. Miles, and then as a teamster running mule teams and wagons out of Camp Supply. The Texas Indian wars ended in 1875, with the Indians forced onto reservations. It was once again safe for soldiers and buffalo hunters to return to the area and the tiny town of Sweetwater became a stopping point for them to resupply and rest.

batmasterson1879It was in Sweetwater that Masterson took the life the of the only man he ever killed in a gunfight. The disagreement that led to the shooting was over a saloon girl named Molly Brennan. A soldier, Corporal Melvin A. King, stormed into the Lady Gay Saloon on January 24, 1876, and discovered Masterson and Brennan together. In a jealous rage, he opened fire. Witnesses to the shooting stated that Brennan jumped in front of Masterson to protect him from the gunfire. A bullet from King’s gun passed through Brennan and into Masterson, leaving both wounded. As Masterson fell to the floor, he fired his pistol at King, who had paused to cock his gun. King and Brennan both died of their wounds and Masterson was left severely wounded. It was during his long recovery that Masterson began using his famous cane. Masterson would go on to become a lawman in Kansas and Colorado. Despite his reputation, Masterson never killed another man, preferring instead to use his wits and negotiation skills to deal with lawbreakers.

After their brief respite in Sweetwater the Howards turned southward, heading toward San Angelo.

Read Part One, Part Two, Part Three

This entry filed under H. P. Lovecraft, Howard's Texas, Howard's Travels.

halloween6_0

Hallowe’en in a Suburb
by H. P. Lovecraft

The steeples are white in the wild moonlight,
And the trees have a silver glare;
Past the chimneys high see the vampires fly,
And the harpies of upper air,
That flutter and laugh and stare.

For the village dead to the moon outspread
Never shone in the sunset’s gleam,
But grew out of the deep that the dead years keep
Where the rivers of madness stream
Down the gulfs to a pit of dream.

A chill wind weaves thro’ the rows of sheaves
In the meadows that shimmer pale,
And comes to twine where the headstones shine
And the ghouls of the churchyard wail
For harvests that fly and fail.

Not a breath of the strange grey gods of change
That tore from the past its own
Can quicken this hour, when a spectral pow’r
Spreads sleep o’er the cosmic throne
And looses the vast unknown.

So here again stretch the vale and plain
That moons long-forgotten saw,
And the dead leap gay in the pallid ray,
Sprung out of the tomb’s black maw
To shake all the world with awe.

And all that the morn shall greet forlorn,
The ugliness and the pest
Of rows where thick rise the stones and brick,
Shall some day be with the rest,
And brood with the shades unblest.

Then wild in the dark let the lemurs bark,
And the leprous spires ascend;
For new and old alike in the fold
Of horror and death are penn’d,
For the hounds of Time to rend.

This entry filed under H. P. Lovecraft, Howard's Favorite Authors.

IMGWhen John D. Haefele won the Venarium Award for emerging scholar for the 2007 Cimmerian Awards, I knew he was destined for great things—I mean, I was also nominated that year and he had beaten me, so this guy had to be good, right?

Well, the new, revised trade paperback edition of Haefele’s A Look Behind the Derleth Mythos:  Origins of the “Cthulhu Mythos” shows that the confidence the Cimmerian Awards voters had in this particular Howard fan was not misplaced.  As a founding participant in the birth of the Cthulhu Mythos, Howard is mentioned quite often in Haefele’s book, always respectfully, something which should make readers of this blog very happy.

Fittingly, this book is the first volume published by the Cimmerian Press, which should cause shouts of joy in Howard fandom.  Leo Grin’s journal The Cimmerian was a Golden Age for fans and scholars of our favorite Heroic Fantasy author.  At that time Howard studies was an enjoyable field of endeavor, with the essays being not only informative but entertaining to read—something lacking in much of the literary criticism lately, with titles that strive to be pretentious, and essayists who are not at all familiar with the work of those dedicated individuals who toiled earlier, in some cases before these new “scholars” were even born.

Readers of A Look Behind the Derleth Mythos will see that Haefele is indeed a scholar, putting in years of work on a book which can only enrich the writing and publishing heritage of August Derleth and force people to throw away their Joshi-tinted glasses and re-evaluate their opinions of the Sac Prairie Sage.  Fans of Robert E. Howard need to realize that August Derleth was indispensable in the history of REH, publishing the first hardcover collection of Howard’s weird fiction, Skull-Face and Others, and in 1957 printed, with much help and financial backing from Glenn Lord, Always Comes Evening, a book Haefele describes as “iconic.”

What is probably not so well known is that ten years earlier Arkham House had included a sampling of Howard’s verse in Dark of the Moon, which also included a poem by no less than Robert Frost, putting our pulp author in some pretty high company.

So, just in time for Halloween, appears John D. Haefele’s A Look Behind the Derleth Mythos.  A hefty, 510 page book that, at less than twenty dollars, will give you much bang for your buck. Run, don’t walk, over to Amazon.

2014 06-08 p002

In Dark Valley Destiny, L. Sprague de Camp says, “Early in 1929 a professional colleague had told Isaac Howard of a cotton boom in sparsely-inhabited Dickens County.” And, after a description of the area, this:

Dr. Howard learned that many new people would be coming into the region to grow cotton by irrigation. Undoubtedly they would have need of a physician. Thinking this a chance to make some quick cash, Isaac Howard went to Spur, a town of moderate size in Dickens County, 112 miles northwest of Cross Plains.

On May 4, 1929, he took out his license to practice medicine in Dickens County. He transferred his letter of membership in the First Baptist Church of Cross Plains, which he had joined in 1924, to the Baptist Church in Spur. He evidently meant to stay for some time in Spur, one of those places on the fringe of things to which he had always been drawn. We can only guess what part was played in Isaac’s move by his discomfiture over his wife’s royal pretensions, his son’s animosity, and the necessity of sharing his small house with a roomer.

While the dates of Isaac’s moves are uncertain, it appears that his sojourn in Spur lasted at least half a year. He must have come back often to Cross Plains to visit his family, for the townsfolk of Cross Plains seem to have been unaware of his absences. In mid-1929 he probably returned home to stay for at least half a year, because of Robert Howard’s absence during this time. We do not know whether the doctor returned to Spur during the first half of 1930; in any event he transferred his church membership back to Cross Plains on August 28, 1930.

The last sentence ends with the following footnote: “Interview with J. Scott, 21 Feb. 1980; letter from Rev. T. Irwin, 25 Aug. 1977.” De Camp’s notes on his talk with Jack Scott say, “The reason for IMH’s stay in Spur was a cotton boom in that region, which he thought would give him a chance to make some money.” I haven’t seen the letter from Rev. Irwin, but I assume that is where the information regarding church membership comes from.

That all sounds pretty squishy, and I’ve never been a fan of speculation. Here are the few nuggets regarding Dr. Howard’s trip to Spur that I’ve seen. First up is Norris Chambers’ July 7, 1978 letter to de Camp:

Received your letter asking about Dr. Howard’s trip to Spur. I heard a little about this, but all I knew then (I was pretty young in 1929), was that he was thinking of moving his practice out there. I remember he talked some in later years about the country out there, but I never really knew that he went out there with the intention of “taking out.” However, this could easily have been the case. He often spoke of moving to various parts of the country, but we had heard this talk so much that we just listened to it and figured that nothing would come of it. The Dr. talked of doing many things that he never did. Sometimes he would start on something, but usually got other interests or changed his mind before he went very far with the actual act.

Besides de Camp’s notes on the 1980 Jack Scott interview, there’s also an earlier, August 31, 1978, letter to de Camp’s partner, Jane W. Griffin, which has this:

I was in college in 1929 at the time you say Dr. I. M. Howard moved to Spur and opened temporary practice. Consequently, I have no knowledge of that. Neither am I familiar with any unhappiness in his marital life.

And there are these items:

Cross Plains Review – May 3, 1929 (page 8)

1929 05-03 CPR p8 IMH to Spur

Cross Plains Review - June 7, 1929 (page 8)

1929 06-07 CPR p8

Cross Plains Review – July 5, 1929 (page 1)

1929 07-05 CPR p1

Cross Plains Review – July 5, 1929 (page 8)

1929 07-05 CPR p8 IMH ad

So, de Camp’s “at least half a year” looks more like two months, though I can’t explain the late membership renewal at church. I suppose it’s possible Dr. Howard went back to Spur, but I think it’s more likely he just didn’t get around to renewing. Speculation—yuck. During a recent trip to the area, my folks and I stopped in Dickens County and visited the courthouse in the town of Dickens. There are no land records for Dr. Howard, but I did get a copy of his medical registration. I also talked to local historian Erick Swenson. He told me that the cotton boom was over by 1929 and couldn’t think of anything special that would bring someone to town at the time.

Just a tad south of Dickens, we also visited Spur itself. I learned that the local newspaper, The Texas Spur, has been in business practically since the town was created due to the cotton boom in 1909. All of its holdings are archived at Texas Tech; unfortunately, it appears that no issues from 1929 survive. The town has a small museum, but other than a few old photographs of Spur, I didn’t find much of interest.

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