Archive for the 'Truett Vinson' Category

Conan_the_Barbarian

Weapons, especially edged weapons, axes, swords, and spears, hold my attention as nothing else can. Long ago I started collecting them, but found it a taste far too expensive for my means. I still have the things I did manage to get hold of — a few sabers, swords, bayonets and the like.

— Robert E. Howard to H. P. Lovecraft, 6 March 1933, CL3.31

By the time Bob Howard reached puberty, the sword was almost defunct as a weapon of war. Aside from ceremonial weapons, the only combat swords in the United States military were issued to the cavalry, though the day of the cavalry charge itself was finished, and the navy, which retained a few cutlasses. The sword had its day, and the weapons were surplused, or taken home by old soldiers to be kept, passed down, or sold to the likes of Robert E. Howard.

Yet for centuries the sword was one of the principal weapons of war, its form evolving to changing technologies, needs, and styles of combat, and it features heavily in the fiction and poetry of Robert E. Howard. It is of interest then to examine swords and swordsmanship in the writings and life of Robert E. Howard from a technical viewpoint, to see both what he wrote about swords and using them, and what that tells us about him.

Part of this article will retread familiar ground—readers may recall that several years ago, Barbara Barrett wrote two excellent articles, Robert E. Howard: The Sword Collector and His Poetry and Robert E. Howard: The Sword Collector’s Sword Collection, which illustrated the several types of swords in Howard’s collection, and which were mentioned in his poetry—but are repeated here for the sake of completeness in addressing this subject.

The Swords of Robert E. Howard

We know very little about Howard’s collection, including when or where he bought them, however, from the few details given in his letters and the memoirs of others we can make some educated guesses—and, as fortune has it, a few photographs of Bob Howard and his blades survive, which allows us to at least tentatively identify a few of them.

I enacted these wars in my games and galloped full tilt through the mesquite on a bare-backed racing mare, hewing right and left with a Mexican machete and slicing off cactus pears which I pretended were the heads of English knights. (CL2.292)

Howard’s first “sword” was probably that self-same Mexican machete from his private games; the “racing mare” might have been the same that he had named Gypsy. (CL3.55n39) This was probably the same machete that Howard was wielding in a staged photograph with Truett Vinson.

Robert E. Howard (left), Truett Vinson (right)

Robert E. Howard (left), Truett Vinson (right)

In 1922 at the age of sixteen, Robert E. Howard transferred to Brownwood High School, as the Cross Plains School District only went up to the tenth grade. There, he first made the acquaintance of Truett Vinson and Tevis Clyde Smith, who became fast friends. Howard by that point had either already begun acquiring his collection of swords, or would soon thereafter and they came into play during their leisure:

I used to wish that I could learn to fence, but the opportunity never presented itself, fencing masters not being very commonly met with in West Texas. A friend and I, several years ago, decided to try to learn the art by practice, and being unable to obtain foils, we used a pair of army swords. It was my misfortune, however, to run him through the right hand in the very first bout, and thereafter he could never be persuaded to fence again. I doubt, though, if fencing could ever have interested me like boxing, since it is, apparently, founded on finesse, and gives little opportunity for the exercise of ruggedness and sheer physical power. (CL3.242)

And sometimes less playfully, as Clyde Smith would write:

A mutual friend, talking of the futility of existence, said life meant nothing. “Just the same, you’d jump like hell if I made a pass at you with this knife,” said Bob. He was at the moment trimming his nails with one of his sabres; as the friend went ahead with his discourse, Bob slashed out at him with the cold steel. For some reason or other he missed, no doubt because the friend, in the midst of his eloquent desires for death, leaped out of the way, and howled in a pale voice: “My God, you’d kill a feller!” (RWM 10)

Of course, from Bob’s own accounts, he and his friends were well-used to a bit of rough-and-tumble play:

Two of them had me down once, one big gazabo was on top of me with a quarter-Nelson on me and another guy had me by the feet and was alternately kicking me on the shins and jabbing me in the ribs with a bayonet sheath. I drove my elbow into the neck of the guy that was holding my hands, got one hand free, got hold of a bayonet — and they let go. I used the bayonet, not the sheath, and the point at that. (CL1.11-12)

A few photographs from this period survive, and showcase elements of Howard’s collection from this period. One such depicts Robert E. Howard his neighbor’s children, brother and sister Leroy and Faustine Butler:

reh-big

Leroy Butler (left), Faustine Butler (center), Robert E. Howard (right)

While shadowed and partially concealed, these swords—evidently from Bob’s collection—provide enough details that they many can be reasonably identified. The basis for this identification are the key characteristics of the weapon: the length and shape of the blade, the shape of the hilt, which includes the guard (any device to protect the hand), handle, and pommel (the fitting at the end of the handle), the present of quillons (a projection on the guard of a sword), langets (flaps of metal extending from the guard), and any ornamentation. Manufacturer and issue marks on the blades are indistinguishable in the photograph.

The blade in Leroy Butler’s right hand is a long, slightly curved, single-edged blade with a distinct fuller (a groove in the blade to save weight and add stiffness) running most of the length of the blade, stopping several inches before the tip of the blade; the hilt is of the type called a “three-bar hilt” with an oval guard with no quillons or langets; the handle appears to be ribbed, with a ribbed pommel. The three-bar hilt is characteristic of French model cavalry swords of the 18th and 19th century, which were frequently the basis of American cavalry swords, and this appears to be a US Model 1860 Cavalry Trooper’s Sword, or an equivalent weapon.

On his left hip, we can just see the handle of a short sword or dagger—if it was a longer blade, it would likely be evident in Butler’s shadow, and the handle seems to be bare of decoration, with a small rectangular metal guard. Unfortunately, too little of this weapon is showing to identify it.

Faustine Butler carries a straight-bladed sword; the hilt features a knuckle guard with one quillon, with a handle that narrows as it approached the egg-shaped pommel. Blade is shorter than saber on the left. Such blades were based on the military smallsword of the 18th century, designed primarily for thrusting with a single or double-edged blade, and appears to be a US Model 1840 Infantry Non-Commissioned Officer’s Sword.

Robert E. Howard is holding a curved single-edged blade—more curved than Leroy Butler’s saber—with a fuller that stops several inches before the tip of the blade; the blade is apparently not sharpened, or Howard would not be gripping the cutting edge. The hilt is distinguished by small guard with a quillon and langets on either side of the blade, and possibly a knuckleguard, though this and the handle are mostly obscured by the angle of Howard’s hand. The strong curve suggests a saber, and the arrangement of quillon and langets suggests a US Model 1812 Dragoon Saber, or similar blade. The term “Dragoon” originally referred to a French cavalry trooper armed with a firearm called a dragon, but developed into a term for mounted infantry.

Two fixed-blade knives or daggers are stuck through Bob Howard’s belt-sash. On the left is a double-edged dagger with no scabbard, a short cross-guard, and a round handle that is flattened at the end; a very generic design that resists identification, the best that can be said about it is that it does not appear to be a bayonet, being both short and lacking an attachment point.

The blade on Bob’s left hip is a larger knife or short-sword, in a scabbard that suggests it is curved with a single edge; on the handle you can see two places where bolts extend through the handle and the tang (the portion of the blade that extends into the handle), and ends with a rounded, forward-projecting knob. Given the evidence, it appears to be a US Model 1909 Bolo Machete.

Some of these guesses can be at least partially verified when another photograph from the same period is considered:

REH_Three_Swords

Robert E. Howard (left), Truett Vinson (center), Tevis Clyde Smith (right)

Here, these appear to be the same three swords that were in the prior photograph; this time it is notable that all three young men are carrying the the scabbards for their sword.

Clyde Smith (right) appears to be wielding the same curved blade that Howard was grasping in the previous photograph: you can see the curve of the blade, the fuller, the quillon and one of the langets, and in addition it has the distended knuckleguard (sometimes called a “stirrup hilt”) typical of many cavalry sabers of the 19th century, including the US M1812 Dragoon Saber and the Prussian M1811 cavalry saber. The scabbard slipped into his belt appears to be metal (as opposed to wood and leather), and you can see a single band with the ring mount used to adjust the hang of the sword, which would normally be carried in a leather harness or “frog.”

Truett Vinson holds the three-bar hilted saber, where you can fairly see all three bars; swords of this type were typically made primarily for right-handed users, and you can see the bars cover the outside of the right hand when carried in that manner. Bob Howard is carrying the straight-bladed NCO Infantry sword, with few other details discernable.

After Robert E. Howard’s death, his father gave his collection of blades to Bob’s friend Earl Baker, who described them as including:

Robert E. Howard’s collection of edged weapons consisted of eight or nine pieces altogether. There were two swords, both sabers of Civil War vintage – one a battle saber, heavy and sharp; the other a handsome dress saber without an edge. There was a double-curved French bayonet of the late 19th century modeled after the Turkish yataghan. There was a World War I trench knife, with a triangular blade and an iron knuckle-guard. There was a boomerang, and there were three or four heavy knives of various kinds. (Barrett)

The de Camps, who interviewed Baker for their biography Dark Valley Destiny, add:

The collection eventually included a pair of foils, a cavalry saber of Civil War vintage, a Latin American machete, a boomerang, and several knives and daggers, one of which was a World War I trench knife with a triangular blade and a scalloped knuckle guard. He even obtained a long French double-curved bayonet of a type copied from the Turkish yataghan. (DVD 215)

A few things stand out in these descriptions; keeping in mind that that the de Camps’ account is based largely on Baker’s interview, as well as other sources. The two sabers that Baker describes could well be the US M1860 cavalry saber and the US M1812 dragoon saber pictured in the photograph of Howard and the Butlers. The M1860 (or even the early M1840) would be Civil War era, though it is important to remember that the model number refers to when the sword pattern was adopted and pattern swords could be produced for decades, and the M1812, as noted above, may not have had an edge.

The “double-curved French bayonet of the late 19th century modeled after the Turkish yataghan” could be any number of a family of yataghan-style bayonets that were popular in the 19th century, including the sword bayonet for the M1861 Navy rifle; Barrett also suggests the M1841 Mississippi Rifle bayonet which is of the same basic design. These bayonets typically featured cast-brass grips, with a quillon on one end of the cross guard and a muzzle ring to attach to the rifle on the other. The yataghan that this style of bayonet derives its name from is a short Ottoman sabre with a forward curve—that is, the part of the blade farthest from the handle is curved to be ahead of the hilt, to provide more striking power.

The “World War I trench knife, with a triangular blade and an iron knuckle-guard” is almost certainly a US M1917 knucklebow knife. The stiletto-like blade has a triangular cross-section and a steel knucklebow studded with small pyramidal projections. The US M1918 knuckle knife, also known as the Mark One Trench Knife, had a cast brass hilt with a studded knuckleduster grip.

The De Camps’ list contains “a Latin American machete”—probably the Mexican machete Howard described in his letter (CL2.292)—and, curiously, a pair of fencing foils. They go on to say of the foils:

Robert and Lindsey took a pair of empty brass cartridge cases, taped them over the ends of the foils, and tried to fence without the fencer’s usual mask, jacket, and gloves. Luckily no eyes were injured. Robert also fenced a little with Earl Baker. (DVD 215)

This is very curious given that in Howard’s 1933 letter to H. P. Lovecraft, he claims “being unable to obtain foils, we used a pair of army swords.” (CL3.242) While it is possible that Howard obtained the foils at a later date, given Howard’s own statement and the lack of mention of foils by Baker, it seems likely that this is an error on the part of the De Camps, or a misrecollection. More likely, Howard and his erstwhile partners used two of the three swords in the above photographs.

As for where Bob kept his collection:

As opportunity and finances permitted, Robert began to collect weapons, some of which decorated the bathroom wall itself, while others were stashed with his guns in the long closet built into the west wall of the room. (DVD 215)

  1. E. Hoffmann Price, in a letter to L. Sprague de Camp (who had apparently specifically asked about it), wrote that “I was in his work room, but, saw nothing. Can’t imagine where he kept the stuff.” But admitted “Or, I may have seen them and without really noting them at all.” (CLIMH 313)

Read Part 2,  Part 3

24403

However, we saw the town, and it’s worth seeing alright, especially to anyone not familiar with Spanish style architecture. It’s much like towns I have visited in old Mexico, with the exception that it is much cleaner and neater. In cleanliness it compares with any town I ever saw. The native population is, of course, predominantly Mexican. Or as they call them out there, Spanish-Americans. You or I would be Anglo-Americans according to their way of putting it. Spanish-American, hell. A Mexican is a Mexican to me, wherever I find him, and I don’t consider it necessary for me to hang any prefix on the term “American” when referring to myself.

– Robert E. Howard to H. P. Lovecraft, July 1935 (AMTF2.872; CL3.352-353)

The summer of 1935 saw Robert E. Howard and his friend Truett Vinson driving through New Mexico, and in his lengthy letter to Lovecraft describing the journey, he took especial interest in the difference exhibited by the Hispanic populations in New Mexico, Old Mexico, and Texas:

The town itself is interesting enough in a conventional sort of way, and I may have said, much resembles the towns of Old Mexico, but is cleaner, and more law-abiding. It doesn’t have, for instance, or at least we didn’t see any of those dives so popular in Mexican border towns, where naked prostitutes of both sexes and various Latin races first dance before the customers, then copulate with each other, and then indulge in various revolting perversions for the entertainment of the crowd, which is generally made up of tourists.

The State seems predominantly Catholic and Mexican. We went into the capitol and I made a point of counting the Mexican names among the legislators. The legislature wasn’t in session at the moment, but each man’s name was fastened to his desk on a placard. The majority were Mexican. Chavez, Otero, Bacca, Roybal, especially Chavez, are the names which appear most frequently in the population. There seem to be as many Chavez’s in New Mexico as there are Gonzaleses in South Texas. I might also add that the State capitol looks about as big as a good-sized Texas county-courthouse. Speaking in general, the Mexican population of New Mexico seems much further advanced, more prosperous and better educated than the Mexican population of Texas and Oklahoma. There are plenty of school-houses, and the Mexicans we saw seemed quicker, more intelligent in general than those in my own State. I admit it seemed strange to me to see Mexicans being treated on the same footing as white people. You can certainly tell the difference in the bearing of Mexicans, Indians, negroes and other dark races the instant you cross the Texas line. Texas, whatever its virtues or faults, is a white man’s state, and that fact is reflected in the manner of the non-white races. They know their place. (AMTF2.875; CL3.356-357)

This examination of a new Hispanic population prompted Lovecraft to ask questions and offer his own experiences of different Hispanic groups he had encountered in Florida:

Your observations on New Mexico as a whole are extremely interesting—revealing an environment in some respects absolutely unique. I suppose that nowhere else in the United States is the Spanish-speaking element so numerous. In Florida a great many of the St. Augustine families linger on—Sanchez, Ponce, Segui, Usina, etc.—but they are without exception English-speaking…although still Catholic in religion. In the end, the New Mexican Spanish-speakers will probably be Anglicised—such being the general trend whenever a foreign region is incorporated into the continuous fabric of an Anglo-Saxon land. It was so in Florida—and has proved so with the French in Louisiana. […] Puerto Rico stays Spanish partly from such patriotic resistance and partly because its unsettled territorial status and West Indian insularity hinder the natural. By the way—is New Mexico legally bi-lingual as Quebec is—so that legal notices, official signs, etc. have to be in both English and Spanish[?] […] Regarding the Spanish-speaking population of New Mexico—isn’t it a fact that the better elements of it are really different from the low-grade ¾ Indian peon stock usually known as Mexican? I had an idea that the high-grade population of the Spanish Southwest—N. M.—Arizona—California—was pretty surely European in blood, and that in New Mexico it has survived without much change. That would surely create an element vastly different from the greasy peon stock—a group of solid middle-class Spaniards well-born and well-descended, and just as racially Aryan, though in a Latin way, as we are. Such a population could hardly mix much with the typical Mexicans. As you know—the newly appointed U.S. Senator from N.M. is a Chavez. Am I wrong in this impression? I’ll admit that I haven’t any specific documentary evidence to back it up—but I merely picked up the notion somehow. I may remark that the Spanish of St. Augustine come most emphatically under this head. They are all pure European white—no mixture of any sort having affected them. They are now, of course, freely intermarrying with the Anglo-Americans—have been, indeed, since the advent of U.S. rule in 1819. Florida is as much a white man’s state as Texas—with a rigid colour-line against niggers, and with the tribal, swamp-dwelling Seminoles utterly separate—but the ancient Genevors and Garcias and Menendez’s of St. Augustine are so proudly and obviously pure white that no one begrudges them a place on the right side of the line. This perfect equality does not, however, hold good for their fellow-Spaniards from Cuba, who are beginning to immigrate into southern Florida. Except in Key West, which was always half-Cuban, the Spaniard from the West Indies occupies about the same place that the omnipresent Italian occupies in the north. He uses the white man’s compartments in stations, coaches, etc., but is definitely regarded as a foreigner. The Cuban negro and mulatto, of course, is segregated with other blacks. Just now Miami is worried about its growing Cuban colony. It used to be extremely Anglo-Saxon; but as Cuba gets more turbulent and Key West gets more poverty-stricken, more and more Cubans flock to the South Florida metropolis. Tampa has an enormous Cuban quarter (very quaint—I’ve explored it) called Ybor City. (AMTF2.888-889)

Lovecraft was more prone than Howard to use the somewhat outdated terms mestizo and mulatto (and even more archaic terms like quadroon in some letters), and neither word appears in any of his surviving letters, though mulatto appears in Howard’s unfinished tales “The Last War” and “The Hand of Obeah.” For that matter, Howard only uses the term “colored” once in his letters, in an early epistle to Lovecraft (AMTF1.44; CL2.76), though that would have been a popular and accepted term during the 1930s to refer to any and all persons not considered “white.” The distinction, in terms of the Hispanic populations of Florida and the Southwest, at least as far as Lovecraft saw it, was in terms of assimilation: he held the belief that white Europeans of different nationalities could, by denying their own culture and accepting American culture, be assimilated as Americans. The “Anglicisation” of the Spanish families in St. Augustine, in adopting English and American customs, was seen by Lovecraft of proof of this belief. Howard replied:

You are probably right in assuming that the Latin population of New Mexico will eventually be Anglicized. But it will be a slow process, for migration into the State is comparatively sparse, and probably more than balanced by the drift of Latins from Mexico. To the best of my knowledge New Mexico is legally bi-lingual, though all the highway signs I remember seeing were in English. As for that matter, you could say the same for San Antonio, as far [as] the store signs are concerned. You ask concerning the different classes of Latin New Mexicans. Of course, I wasn’t there long enough, and didn’t see enough of New Mexican society to make any positive statements about conditions. But the higher class New Mexicans are undoubtedly of a purer and superior stock than the ordinary peons—more Spanish blood and less Indians. But I doubt (though I can’t swear to it) if the upper classes in New Mexico are as purely Spanish as those of Florida. It must be remembered that New Mexico was colonized, not directly from Spain, but from Old Mexico, where an intermingling with Aztec strains had already been going on for some years; that for many years New Mexico was an isolated region with little chance of contact with other European colonies; and that the region’s native Indians were peaceful and semi-civilized, offering no great barrier to the mixing of their race with the conquerors. I have an idea that the Spaniards of early New Mexico mixed a great deal more with the Indians than did those of Florida. However, there is probably a strong Anglo-Saxon strain in many of the better families, for in the early days of American rule, a good many Americans settled there, first as traders and trappers, later as soldiers and cattlemen, and married Mexican women. By the way, the first European colony in Texas, Ysleta, was settled by people from Santa Fe, fleeing an Indian revolt in 1680. (AMTF2.900-901; CL3.381-382)

In a following letter, discussing the ethics and moralities of the Italian invasion of Abyssinia (with its parallels to the European conquest of the Americas), Lovecraft perhaps unknowingly tied in this notion of assimilation and cultural autonomy—the idea that different national cultures, which were in part dependent on race, should maintain themselves apart without mixing—with Howard’s old fantasy of the conquest of Mexico:

As a whole, Mexico has enough of an established Hispanic civilisation to win it a place in the instinctively favoured category, but that is not true of all its parts. When at various times the U.S. took sections of its southern neighbour, these sections were among the least settled and civilised—hence the gradual Americanisation. But if we were to conquer the entire country in some future war, it seems certain that the intensively developed central area containing the capital would be granted a cultural autonomy like that enjoyed by Puerto Rico. (AMTF2.930)

It is perhaps fitting that in this letter, which is essentially the last word on the subject in Howard and Lovecraft’s correspondence due to Robert E. Howard’s suicide soon after, Lovecraft for the first and only time in these letters uses the word “Hispanic” to describe the peoples they had been discussing, off and on, since 1930.

Read Part 1, Part 2, Part 4, Part 5

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.

Mooney

[Not counting this, the above is the earliest photo of Mooney that I’ve been able to find; it’s circa the late 1950s.]

[It’s been a while. Part 5 is here]

Early in 1929, Junto editor Booth Mooney was beginning to get bogged down.  He wrote to Clyde Smith:

I, too, find that college is a terrible bore, and I’m not learning a damn thing. I don’t think that I shall go next term. As Bob says, “about the only thing colleges is good for is that they enable one to get a line-up on semi-humanity.” Hell, I don’t see why I ever wanted to attend a Baptist college, anyway.

No more nom de plumes will be used in The Junto. I’m not sure whether the magazine will be continued or not, for it takes up so much time. I’m trying to do a little writing now, and I need all the time I can get.

By February, he was clearing the way:

I’d like to continue “The Junto,” but I’m afraid that I just can’t do it. It surely takes lots of time—more than I have to spare. I may get out another issue or so to clear up the material that I have on hand, but I can’t make a definite promise.

And that spring he was done:

Yes, I have discontinued “The Junto.” I hated to do it. It was necessary, though. My time is limited. However, Lenore Preece is going to revive it, I believe. She asked me to send her all material I had on hand. Some of your stuff was in the bunch I sent her. If you have time, send her something pretty often. I should like to see the Junto continue to come out. I don’t know whether you know her address. Capitol Station, Austin.

How long The Junto was on hiatus is unclear, but by the end of May, Lenore Preece was ready to send out the June issue:

[handwritten]

Capitol Station
Austin, Texas
May 24, 1929
Mr. Tevis Clyde Smith
c/o Walker-Smith Co.
Brownwood, Texas

Dear Mr. Smith:

The June issue of “The Junto,” containing your “Fragmentary Portrait” and “God” should reach you within the next two weeks. As Booth may have informed you, I am editing the travelogue. I now have nothing to be published which is written by you.

Since, while “The Junto” was compiled by Booth, you were a frequent contributor, I trust that, under my management of “The Junto,” you will continue to submit manuscripts. Could you send me anything for the July issue? Also, I do not think that an autobiography of yours, with the accompanying picture, has appeared. Any material which you care to mail me will be appreciated.

I hope to edit “The Junto” as much like Booth as possible. Should it seem that I am not conforming to the standard evinced by him, please do not hesitate to point out the deficiency. I will welcome any criticism.

I regret that, last fall, I did not get to see you and the young lady (whose name, with my usual aberration, I have forgotten) before your departure. Thinking that I would have the pleasure of seeing you all that night of your arrival, I did not have an opportunity to invite you back, and tell you how glad I was to meet you.

Sincerely,
Lenore Preece

Unfortunately, we’ll never have a chance to peruse Lenore’s first offering as editor, as this note in the July issue explains:

J-01a

But despite her desire to reprint the issue, her August 15, 1929 letter to Clyde Smith reveals that, “On Booth’s advice, [she] did not re-issue the June number.” That same letter gives us a little more information about what was contained in the lost issue:

If Vinson wishes to send me “Canal Street,” Howard, “Nocturne,” and you, your sketch which described those gentlemen “occasionally saluting Bacchus,” (all of which were published in the lost “Junto”) I shall be glad to re-print them in subsequent “Juntoes.”

In his last surviving letter to Smith (circa Summer 1929), Booth Mooney mentions the Preece-edited Junto:

I haven’t had time to do more than glance over the Junto, but it looks like a good issue. By the way, has Lenore told you about the Juntite convention which she hopes to throw about the last of December—in Dallas, I believe? I hope you’ll be able to come.

We’ll have a look at the first surviving Preece issue next time.

1928 12-27 TV to HP 1

1928 12-27 TV to HP 2

Around the time the January 1929 issue of The Junto was making the rounds, certain members of that group were planning a get-together for after Christmas. On December 27, 1928, Truett Vinson sent Harold Preece the postcard above, and nearly 50 years later (in his essay “The Last Celt”) Preece described what happened next:

The time was Christmas week of 1928; the locale, a wooded ravine in Brown County. The central personage of that reunion was also Bob Howard, metamorphosing through a haze of booze and talk into Conan. Bob was in extra fine fettle on that mild night in an Ireland created ephemerally from Texas. His tongue had been whetted by the bottle of liquor he’d been able to pick up from a drugstore as a “medical prescription” during that hypocritical era of the Eighteenth Amendment. I can remember his bawling at the top of his voice a verse from an Irish revolutionary song, “The Rising of the Moon,” but which he rendered to the tune of that sentimental popular ballad, “Where the River Shannon Flows”:

“Oh tell me, Sean O’Farrell,
Where the gathering is to be.
At the old house by the river,
Sure ‘tis known to you and me.”

During that night, too, the talk turned to fairies and leprechauns and all those diminutive humanoids of Celtic legend. From Bob Howard, I heard for the first time some plausible explanation of the stories.

Besides the above conversation, there appears to have been a bit of discussion regarding the fairer sex, or so it seems from Preece’s January 6, 1929 letter to Smith:

I had a wonderful time with you fellows, one that I shall always remember; and I deeply appreciate the hospitality which you and your family extended to me.
[. . .]
That Rogers girl! I can’t forget her cold, yet siren, eyes. Verily, I would give whatever soul I may happen to have for a rendezvous with her. And I doubt not that she would slit your throat for a nickel.

reh_93130

And while we don’t know if any of the group had actually seen the January Junto by then, there was almost certainly discussion of it. In that issue’s “The Commentary,” the controversy surrounding Vinson’s “Hell Bent” continued:

Bob Howard: About this Hell bent stuff: Truett Vinson ain’t goin’ with this A.M.Y. business because me and Truett are pards and we’re goin’ to Hell together, and we’ll be the best men there, by God.

Truett Vinson: Bob’s poem and article [“More Evidences” and “Hairy-Chested”] and Harold’s article [“Religion”] save this issue from being “dry rot.” A.M.Y. evidently thinks I want to be good only that I may see the “pearly gates”! What utter “hooey”! I prefer to deal with persons who sign their names to their opinions. Will A.M.Y. reveal himself or herself?

Besides the above, Harold Preece submitted “In Defense of A.M.Y.” which takes Juntite Roy McDonald to task for sinking to personal attacks in his assessment of “A.M.Y.” in the December mailing. And “A.M.Y.” him or herself also steps to the plate to refute McDonald’s argument, ending with this: “Through it all, I have retained an innate modesty and spirit of self-abasement. But now I cannot resist strutting a little. I have been called a damn fool by Roy W. McDonald, lawyer.”

Besides the “A.M.Y. business,” there’s also this comment on a piece by Bob Howard:

Lenore Preece: B.H., in his “Further Evidences of the Innate Divinity of Man,” is very much like a preacher: he presents alluring promises, but will not produce specific information. Why not go into detail? As for woman’s delight in torture, I confess I enjoy nothing more than a good reeking funeral, and I have, on several occasions, indulged in scientific experiments.

Of course, the comments aren’t the only items in the mailing. The issue also contains “The Destructive Critic,” verse by Harold Preece; a bit of autobiographical fiction, “Ambition in the Moonlight,” by Bob Howard; “Books and Things,” an article by Truett Vinson with discussion of John Brown’s Body, The Film Spectator, New Masses, and Upton Sinclair’s Boston; the next installment of “Confessions of a Virgin” by “H” (A Virgin); and “I Am the Destructive Critic,” verse by Lenore Preece.

And, unfortunately, that’s the last Mooney-edited issue of The Junto that we have. There is, however, some mention of other issues in the surviving correspondence. Preece’s February 23, 1929 letter to Smith: “I enjoyed your article in the last issue of The Junto, although it was pornographic in spots. Either Sinclair Lewis or H. L. Mencken has influenced you tremendously.” And the following, from a circa March 1929 letter from REH to Preece:

I haven’t heard from Booth lately. I liked Strachan’s  article in the latest Junto. The last I’ve seen, I mean. A naked negress is a rather fascinating study, when young and lissome. Truett’s article was about the best of its kind he’s written yet I think.

Clyde’s preparing a novel on college life, I think. It will sell I’m sure and will probably cause an upheaval. He’s gone to the roots of the college system in America.

Mooney’s tardiness in corresponding would soon spill over into his Junto activities and cause him to pass the publication on to another. We’ll have more on that next time.

[Go to Part 6.]

12-28 01

The December 1928 mailing of The Junto opened with “A Song for Men that Laugh,” a poem by Robert E. Howard that begins with this: “Satan is my brother, Satan is my son,” and ends with this: “Satan is my brother, and I will follow him.” A fine “Merry Christmas” from the post oaks.

Up next is “Regression” by Lenore Preece. This is an imaginative spoof of a future “reunion of that circle of compatriots, who, twenty years ago, constituted the Junto fraternity.” Preece begins with a description of Truett Vinson, who has become the “head of a large printing company which sells religious works of all descriptions, including the speeches of William J____ Bryan and triumphant and infallible refutations of Paine and Ingersoll.” She continues with this: “Truett shortchanges many of his customers; but his creed, which inculcates that three is one, may be responsible. He has a seventy-five thousand dollar mansion, fifteen servants, and an egregious income. His testimony recently sent three Socialists to prison. If there were any justice, he would be sent to the electric chair.” Perhaps Lenore saw Truett’s poem that appeared in the October 1928 issue of New Masses:

IMG_1050

But I digress. Vinson isn’t the only Juntite to receive a skewering.  Preece continues with this:

Indeed, a striking characteristic of the Juntites was their ostensible religion. Each pious member, on the other hand, informed me privately that the rest were hypocrites and imposters. As far as all had scaled, in one direction, the shining paths of atheism and deism, tolerance, socialism, and unconventionality, in the other they had fallen back into a quagmire of orthodoxy, bigotry, capitalistic sympathies, and social dogmas. as a striking example of this retrogression, Bob Howard was a preacher of that sect christened Apostolics, dubbed Holy Rollers. His ministerial activities have made him as supple as a snake. He it was who pronounced the blessing, which I here produce:

“Oh God, our Father, we thank Thee for Thy bounty and ask for more. We pray that Thy wrath will strike all infidels dead, and that Thou wilt cleanse the adulterer and murderer. If some here are damned and sinful, may they come to Thy throne tonight and be saved.”

Bob would have given the invitation then and there if Booth hadn’t nudged him. I hear that he preaches very juicy sermons.

Of Clyde Smith, Preece wrote that he “contributes to the American Magazine. His interviews with famous men are an inspiration. From a late write-up of Truett Vinson, one would fancy that he was interviewing God. It is very probable that Clyde had a wrong sense of direction.” And so on with other members.

12-28 04Following “Regression” is Vinson’s “The Autobiography of a Bookkeeper,” which appears to be in answer to Booth Mooney’s call for “some autobiographies” which Howard mentioned in a letter last time and which included a photograph of Vinson (poorly reproduced at right). After this is another Howard poem, “To the Evangelists,” and “The Commentary,” which was discussed in the last installment. Up next is part 2 of “Confessions of a Virgin,” signed by “ ‘H’ (A Virgin)”; this is a spoofy story of a first kiss. Part 1 was apparently published in the missing November issue. After this is “The Galveston Affair,” by Bob Howard, which describes Howard’s and Vinson’s experience while waiting to see the “Bathing girls from all over the world” at the International Pageant of Pulchritude and Annual Bathing Girl Review. And the last page of the mailing has “The Destructive Critic,” verse by Elmer T. Hendricks, who was not a member of The Junto, but did contribute to many Lone Scout papers. Mooney appears to have “borrowed” the poem for its appearance here, though I can’t find an original publication elsewhere.

After perusing this issue, Harold Preece wrote to Clyde Smith (December 16, 1928): “Bob’s ‘To the Evangelists’ in the current number of The Junto is one of his best poems in my opinion. It reminds me of Swinburne.” And the following:

Your revelations concerning Bob’s affair surely were astounding. I thought that he would be the last one of the bunch to capitulate. I am shocked, to put it mildly. I have written an impersonal tirade against women to Bob, as you requested. I can see myself, in future years, as the only bachelor of the noble fraternity of The Junto, envied by you fellows and despised by your wives, giving nickels to your children and—but I had better stop.

In a letter to Smith written not long after, Howard quotes the following from Preece’s “impersonal tirade”:

1931 Cactus HPreece d“Women are damned good actors but damned bad friends.

“One step in the process of emancipating myself, mentally, has been the complete disillusionment of myself regarding women. Women have a tendency to make men effeminate and domestic; and I believe, therefore, that they are a hindrance to the full expression of masculine personality. It is significant that the frails have never produced a single great philosopher, and that the really great women, whom this world has produced, can be counted on the fingers of one hand.

“The fickleness of woman is proverbial, one of the major themes of literature, in fact. A woman, generally speaking, has no conception of honor, or obligation except to her offspring; and she generally ceases to love her mate after the birth of the first child.

“Woman should be relegated to her proper place, and kept there. Let the men assert their rights, and not be daunted by powder puff or allured by hose.”

[Photo from The Cactus, 1931 yearbook from the University of Texas, Austin.]

To which Howard says:

I am preparing a scathing rebuke of which I shall probably enclose a carbon copy to you. I will not ask you to destroy this letter, as I have foolish scruples about depriving posterity of masterpieces rightfully theirs, but for cat’s sake, hide it skillfully and with subtlety where no prying or Haroldesque eye can discover its heinous and libelous contents. [Preece] also praises my rime in the Junto  but says “Easter Island” was below my usual standard. I hesitate to tell him I wrote the sonnet over two years ago lest he should think I am apologizing for it, but I believe I will. I gather that he thinks I wrote it since I fell for the diabolical blond and I will derive a sadistic pleasure from disillusioning him — i.e. busting his best argument. Let us carry on our intrigue with caution and fiendish craft. Harold has gypsy blood in him and the Romany are proverbially revengeful. Beware the dripping and gory dagger of vengeance.

The “diabolical blond” has been identified as Ruth Baum, though when she was interviewed by L. Sprague de Camp she claimed no knowledge of Howard’s supposed infatuation with her. Whether or not Baum was the “blond,” there was no doubt going to be talk of the ladies at the proposed gathering of Juntites before the New Year. And while Booth Mooney’s prediction to Smith turns out to be accurate (“I’m beginning to fear that I shan’t be able to attend the Brownwood gathering of the Junto fraternity”), the rest of gang did manage to meet. More on that next time.

[Go to Part 5]

The controversy surrounding Vinson’s “Hell Bent” no doubt continued in the November issue; unfortunately, we’ll never know as that is one of the missing issues. And, while the actual mailing lists for the September and October issues don’t survive, some of the comments that were written on them were included in “The Commentary” section of the December issue. The relevant passages follow:

12-28 05

Besides the above, Mooney also included the following, signed by “S.A.S.”:

Bob Howard’s poetry is, as a usual thing, delightful to an extraordinary degree, but I must say that his “A Hairy-Chested Idealist Sings” is distinctly disappointing. There is very little that may be commended in the poem, and, after reading it over several times, I was reluctantly forced to conclude that a page and a half of that issue of The Junto was wasted, insofar as I was concerned.

Undoubtedly “A.M.Y.” is “hell bent,” if there is a hell. But, also undoubtedly, he will not lack for company, and I am sure that it will be interesting and stimulating company. I’d like to know “A.M.Y.” and I have an idea that he is Clyde Smith in disguise—though that doesn’t explain his initials, of course.

When I come to one of Hildon V. Collins’ articles in The Junto, I invariably feel that I have got a copy of some Lions Club publication, by mistake. With no intention whatsoever of giving offense to Mr. Collins, I wish to hell that he would quit writing articles in praise of the “liberty” and the “justice” and the “beauty” of these United States. However, if he feels that that is too much to ask, I should like to request that he attempt to rid himself of his platitudinous style of writing.

Clyde Smith’s style is great! His themes are fresh and original and amazingly well expressed. I number his prose as some of the best that has appeared in The Junto. I, for one, welcome everything that he writes. Let’s have more by him.

Now, before we get to the actual content of the December issue, let’s take a look at what was going on behind the scenes during the fall of 1928.

Circa Oct. 1928, Robert E. Howard to Tevis Clyde Smith:

Booth wants some autobiographies so for God’s sake, give him a line — all bull, get me, of course. I’m going to start mine:

I was a nun until the age of fourteen. At four I robbed a bank and burned down an insane asylum. At nine I raped my governess. I was a nun until I got a change of heart (?) when I became a monk. At seventeen, like all the other Juntoers, I knew everything there was to know in the world and started out to reform people by picking their pockets. Then I went to the Antarctic with a bastard whose name I don’t remember. He had four hands.

Maybe.

For God’s sake you somnolent jackass, write something for the damned Junto to clear the muck. Don’t get sore at Booth for not publishing your Yapoo business — he will next time, likely didn’t get it in soon enough. He’s a good kid but he’s got a lot of anti-religious fanatics dizzying him. Don’t let this letter get mixed up and don’t send it on in the Junto. I am drunk, but I know what I’m talking about.

Circa Oct. 1928, Booth Mooney to Tevis Clyde Smith:

Thank you very much for the two contributions. I assure you that all material is appreciated, and that the more you send in, the better I like it. I certainly like your poetry, and will be glad to get a great deal of it . . . the same goes for your prose. According to comments, you and Bob Howard stir up quite a bit of notice—not all favorable, by the way, but, of course, that doesn’t matter. [. . .]

I am also heartily in favor of the get together of you, Preece, Truett, and Bob (and myself) sometime during the Christmas holidays. I believe that the days immediately following the twenty-fifth would be best. I believe that I could make it, though I might, as you said, be forced to hitch hike it. Anyway, it would be well worth any time and money spent. I certainly am in favor of the meeting being held in Brownwood, and I appreciate the offer you made. Let’s don’t let this thing die down. We want to carry it out. [. . .]

I’ll be very glad to receive any contributions for “Misapprehensions” [a proposed regular column for The Junto] from you. So far, only one has been received; it will be used in the November issue, which is due to appear within three weeks.

Oct. 15, 1928, Harold Preece to Tevis Clyde Smith:

The Junto came today, and its contents would have highly elated the American Association for the Advancement for Atheism. An article on “Religion” by H. P., “The Autobiography of an Atheist” by my sister, Lenore, and some choice comments by Bob.

Circa Oct. 1928, Booth Mooney to Tevis Clyde Smith:

I am receiving quite a bit of material for The Junto now from yourself, the mysterious “H,” “A Virgin,” “A.M.Y.,” you, Bob, Lenore Preece, Harold, and others. [. . .]

I suppose that you have seen Bob recently, as a letter which I received from him yesterday was sent from Brownwood. Bob’s a genius. He sent quite a lot of material for The Junto. A poem, “Swings and Swings,” was very good, as were also several articles, principally about him, you, and Truett.

Around this time, the end of October 1928, Volume 1, Number 8, the November issue of The Junto appeared—as stated above, that issue does not survive, but there are some comments in the surviving correspondence:

Nov. 5, 1928, Harold Preece to Tevis Clyde Smith:

I presume that you received The Junto which I mailed you, several days ago, in a besmeared envelope. I don’t like the “Snappy Stories” tendency of the Junto. [. . .]

I am planning to be at the Brownwood gathering if I walk both ways. What date are you fellows planning to throw it?

Circa Nov. 1928, Booth Mooney to Tevis Clyde Smith:

Yes, do send some more material for The Junto if you can. I have enough for the next issue or so, but we mustn’t forget the March anniversary issue. [. . .]

I’m glad you met Harold [circa mid-October]. He and I have met four times, and I have never failed to enjoy his company. He has a very brilliant mind, and can discuss very intelligently on almost any subject that is brought up. I have known him for almost two years, much longer than any of the others of the Junto bunch. It was through him that I got acquainted with the rest of you.

Circa Nov. 1928, Robert E. Howard to Tevis Clyde Smith:

Thanks for your comment in the Junto. I think Amy must be a boy but if he can’t fight any better than he writes, I don’t think we have anything to fear. [. . .]

I hope to hell Mooney puts some of yours and Truett’s work in the next Junto. Most of the last was a lot of hokum, though Harold and Lenore did good work. After writing a lot of scathing denunciations of the present day system of life in most of my letters, my last epistle to Harold contained a passionate defense of the gilt and tinsel of life, and the gaudy shams. I spoke gloatingly and lip-smackingly of pageantry and golden banners and knighthood and the old days of war and glory. I haven’t heard from him since.

Circa Nov. 1928, Robert E. Howard to Tevis Clyde Smith:

I’m glad Truett has made such a hit with the Junto she-males. That boy has sex appeal. I’m also glad you saw Harold before he emulates Sacco and Vanzetti. I guess you got the Junto I sent you. Another ought to be out soon.

Circa Nov. 1928, Robert E. Howard to Tevis Clyde Smith:

I’m enclosing a letter and articles to Booth Mooney. Read the articles and if you don’t want them published, don’t hesitate to send them back. Also if you want any changes made. If o.k., just mail the letter on to Mooney, will you? Now, get this straight, if you’d rather not have these articles published, I want you to say so and it will be alright with me.

We’ll hear more about these articles, and the proposed Christmas gathering, next time.

[Go to Part 4]

File2381

In a letter to Harold Preece postmarked September 23, 1928, Robert E. Howard wrote the following:

I have just received the July and September Juntoes. I enjoyed very much your article in the latter and was disappointed to note that you had nothing in the July number. I agree with Truett as stated in his “Hell Bent” that the younger generation or degeneration as they might be called, is bound for — not an orthodox Hell, the existence of which I deny — but stagnation, ruin, and utter futility and worthlessness. With the new knowledge and freedom which they possess, they might be giants but they choose to be instead, parasites, drones and degenerates. Damn them all; and that includes myself.

Vinson’s article, which sadly does not survive, proved to be fodder for comments in The Junto until at least January of the following year, but the ruckus didn’t really get started until the October issue appeared, which contained comments for the July issue. As Howard mentions above, he received both the July and September issues at the same time (there may not have been an August number), so let’s have a peek at the first surviving issue of The Junto: Volume 1, number 6, for September 1928.

On the cover is “Age,” verse by Robert E. Howard. This 20-line poem sets up a contrast between the interests of youth and age, with Age eventually calling Youth to fight and die in his battles. Also in this issue are Howard’s “Surrender—Your Money or Your Vice,” a series of movie reviews, including Surrender, Dressed to Kill, A Girl in Every Port, Escape, and The Claw; and “Them,” an article that comments on Charles Lindbergh’s fame and mob mentality. The rest of the contents are listed below:

“Modern Love Among Youth,” article by Maud McKay: a discussion of contemporary dating rituals as compared with those of the past; a defense of “modern” activities. Also touches upon women’s changing values and behavior.  “A Tribute to My Community,” article by Hildon V. Collins (1930 photo below): a discussion of Liberty, Texas, its citizens and geography, using patriotic and natural imagery; reads like propaganda. “Error of Opinion . . .” untitled article by Harold Preece: a laundry list of radical ideas and persons and the establishment that they were opposed to. It ends with this: “Why not trust human discernment of right and wrong to deal with fallacious ideas? Why be so tyrannical as to try to force your opinions upon others? Can you conscientiously expect for yourself the same right of self-expression you deny others? Because of the principles involved, and from the experience of mankind, absolute tolerance seems to be the best policy.”

1930 Collins Lone Scout

The mailing list for this issue, which informed people where to send the issue next and provided space for them to write comments, does not survive, and there were no comments on previous issues included in the actual mailing. There were, however, two block quotes inserted to fill space, the first on page 5, the second on page 8:

9-28 05

About the same time that issue was circulating, Robert Howard wrote to Harold Preece (letter is postmarked September 23, 1928): “Clyde, Truett and I went over to Clyde’s uncle’s ranch and there, some miles from civilization, we sported hither and yon clad in innocence, purity and a loin cloth apiece — there being caves to explore and cliffs to climb. I guess I’ll wind up in the South Seas yet and go native.” This might be the trip that inspired Clyde to write “Gods in Arcady” which might be one of the contributions mentioned in a circa September letter from Mooney to Smith: “Thanks very much for your two letters and the two contributions for The Junto. [. . .] I was glad to get another article about college life from you.”

The same letter carries more reaction to Smith’s previous work: “I doubt if, despite [Roy McDonald’s] caustic comment, he can present a more true-to-life type than you did in ‘Collegiate’ and ‘Little Yahoo at College,’ which I believe I really like better than the former.” Mooney also mentions at least one Howard item that appeared in one of the lost issues: “Howard’s ‘Dust Dance,’ Sandburg’s ‘Chicago,’ and others of like type kindle within me a consuming fire, an irresistible thrill to the words and the meaning and the wild chant of the work.” The letter also mentions a recent plan: “Harold P., while visiting me a few weeks ago, mentioned something of plans for a get-to-gether of the masculine element of the Junto bunch, this Christmas. I believe that he said it would be held at Brownwood.”

In late September 1928 the October issue of The Junto began its circulation. Here’s a run-down of the contents:

V1N7, October 1928: “Song of Burial,” verse by Lenore Preece: a call for hope upon someone’s death. “More Evidences of the Innate Divinity of Man,” article by REH: a discussion of various torture techniques. The article states that Native American’s torture practices weren’t much before the arrival of the Christians. Also includes the following aside: “Women have always been the greatest torturers, and, to anyone who doubts this statement, I refer to any detailed history of the various wars and intrigues of older times—and present times. / However, the torture that women inflict is a very delicate subject, as the gentle sex, with its usual modesty and tenderness, has always favored torments of a nature indescribable and unspeakable.” “Dreams,” by Louise Preece: pastoral description of the life of a dreamer. “The Autobiography of an Atheist,” by Lenore Preece: humorous history of Honey Lenore Preece, includes anecdotes about her siblings and “necking.” “A Hairy Chested Idealist Sings,” verse by REH: regarding drinking, dancing, boxing, brothels, and mortality. “Religion,” article by Harold Preece: “The human race seems to have an eternal tendency, due to its innate cowardice, to choose the tinsel trappings of the imaginary to the somber hues of reality.” ’Nuff said. “The Prayer,” verse by Lenore Preece: soul in tomb “ponders deep in hearty dreams / Of memories, and this!”

But the main attraction of the issue was this, “One of the ‘Hell Bent’ Speaks”:

I am of the younger generation. I am going to Hell. I know, for it has been told me many times. I do not know whether there is a Hell nor where it is, but I know that is where I am bound for. I do not give a damn. If I really am going to Hell, that is the more reason that I should enjoy myself while I am going. I might as well, for I will go to Hell, anyway, so I will do it in the most pleasant manner. I do not think of anything but drinking (and, my God, what stuff one does get nowadays), and of petting, and of acquiring syphilis. I know this is true, for Truett Vinson said so. He is right. That is what I do think of. But I am not a hypocrite about it. I enjoy such things, and I intend to do what I enjoy, for I will go to Hell, anyway. So it does not matter much. But I believe Truett Vinson was wrong when he said the world war caused me to go to Hell. It did not. The World War happened ten years ago. The younger generation is about eighteen years of age, according to Truett Vinson. How could the war have caused it? I do not see. But I am not in favor of war. It may be because I am a coward. I do not know. But there is something so useless about war. It is so futile, so sickening for mob to kill mob. But I suppose that it can not be helped. Men have always fought. They always will. Men are like that. But this has nothing to do with my going to Hell. But I believe that I would have gone even if there had not been a war ten years ago. Of course, I do not know. I might not have. It does not matter now. I should like to invite Truett Vinson to accompany me to Hell. The way is pleasant.—A.M.Y.

After reading this, sometime in October presumably, Robert Howard wrote to Clyde Smith:

The reason I’m sending The Junto to you instead of Truett, I want you as a damned personal damned favor to me, see, to put as a comment a slam on this A.M.Y. business about Hell Bent or else a boost for Truett’s article. Now, I’m full of Virginia Dare, but I know what I’m talking about, see. We three birds are the holy and most revered Original Three and we must stand up for each other.  I have a hunch this A.M.Y. business is about fourteen and smokes corn husk cigarettes out behind the stable and thinks he’s on the high road to Hell.

Smith responded with an addendum to the mailing list: “The October Junto—and a Few Comments”:

It is to be regretted that a number of these Amys (I suppose that means “A Modern Youth”) are laboring under the impression that they will leave Time an intellectual and radical name if they will only die with the syphilis. To my mind, the seat of the intellect is located in the brain, and not in the nether regions. It is not necessary for me to comment further except to say that it’s godamned blasphemy to mention the idea of a preacher in connection with Bob Howard[see Lenore Preece’s comment in January 1929 Commentary]—and by that, I mean that it’s blaspheming Bob Howard. If anyone wants to know about those tortures [described in “More Evidences of the Innate Divinity of Man”], I’ll see if I can’t get Bob to present “specific information” personally to all those who desire erudition.

Tevis Clyde Smith

P.S.—I think it was unnecessary for Bob to explain certain tortures of women. Remember, we have postal laws!

Other comments from the Mailing List include the following:

To whom it may concern: I prefer to deal with people who sign their names to their opinions. Will A.M.Y. reveal himself or herself? T.V. [Truett Vinson]

Good Lord! What are we, cut throats? Have we lost sight of our treasured philosophy, our staunch independence, etc., etc? Did somebody accidentally drop a bomb that wasn’t a dud? I feel like I’d just been in a volcano or something after all this. The Junto is very good. Who is A.M.Y.? No fair hiding behind an alias. Anyway, what he or she said about Truett isn’t quite fair. As for “Our Beloved Barbarian” he can take care of himself. M.E. [REH’s cousin, Maxine Ervin]

This issue is about half pure trash and half good reading. Lenore and “Hal” Preece are good. Bob Howard hit the nail on the head. Good thot in Smith’s comment. If A.M.Y. is in earnest, he’s all wrong. I hope to be able to contribute some worthy material soon. Truly, C. Dennis Hart

 More next time . . .

[Go to Part 3]

1927 08-20 TV to HP 1a

After I put up the first of my posts on The Junto, I realized that most people have never seen the postcard that preceded the formation of that group: Truett Vinson to Harold Preece, postmarked August 20, 1927. The text has been published, but never the picture (I think). The card is part of the Glenn Lord Collection.

1927 08-20 TV to HP 2

The card is important because it shows exactly when Howard and Vinson were in San Antonio together, and about when they met Preece fact to face. The “Monday” referred to would have been August 22, 1927. This contradicts Preece’s memory of the meeting as recorded in his essay, “The Last Celt,” where he says the meeting took place in July.

Preece’s meeting with Vinson and Howard would have been fresh in his mind that weekend, August 27-28, when he met with a large group of Lone Scouts in Dallas’ Lake Cliff Park. A photo of the boys at the event has been online for a while (scroll down for a picture with two more Junto members, Herbert Klatt and Hildon Collins), but the original poster has the wrong date attached. Because of Preece’s mention of the meeting in “Robert’s Lady Cousin” (from an issue of Simba) I knew what newspaper the photo came from, and the Vinson postcard provides a window of dates. So, with an assist from Paul Herman, who lives near enough to a Dallas library with a collection of the Times-Herald to go digging, I was able to get another copy of the photo showing several soon-to-be Junto members, as well as a short article I didn’t know about before:

1927 08-27_0002a

The article is from the Times-Herald for August 27, 1927; the photo appeared in the edition for August 28.

1927 08-28_0008

9-28 01

Back when I was preparing the Collected Letters volumes for the REH Foundation, I was in fairly regular contact with Glenn Lord. Besides pestering him for copies of Howard’s letters, I was also after issues of The Junto, the amateur press/Lone Scout paper that Howard contributed to from 1928 to 1930. In one of his letters, Glenn told me that he had complete copies of all the Juntoes listed in The Last Celt, minus two, and over the course of several years I received photocopies of them all. Lenore Preece never sent Glenn the missing two issues, only the Howard content/mentions.

Glenn wrote the definitive article about The Junto (which I’m pretty sure was titled by someone else), “The Junto: Being a Brief Look at the A.P.A. REH Partook In as a Youth,” which appeared in 2006’s Two-Gun Bob: A Centennial Study of Robert E. Howard. But while that article tells the reader everything they need to know about the group, it doesn’t delve much into the content of the actual mailings. That will be the focus of this series of posts. And before you start hunting for issues on eBay, there was only one copy of each mailing prepared. That one issue was then circulated to the members on the mailing list. Lenore Preece is the last person to have them in her possession; we don’t know what happened to them upon her 1998 death.

The first issue of The Junto that we have copies of is Volume 1, Number 6, for September 1928 (which probably came out mid- to late-August), but some of the previous issues are mentioned in the surviving letters to Tevis Clyde Smith written by Robert E. Howard, Booth Mooney, and Harold Preece. We’ll begin there.

The first issue of The Junto was probably dated April 1928 and came out in March. Upon receiving it, Robert Howard wrote to Clyde Smith:

I’m going to give your name to Booth Mooney as a possible subscriber to The Junto; a pretty good paper for that type. He seems to be a kindred soul, lacking the touch of idealistic optimism I find cropping out in Preece and Klatt ever and anon. They are the true reformers, the men who will do real good in the world. You, I and I think Mooney will do the world good — we will do it so good that likely we will all have plenty of money before we take the count.

Howard was true to his word and Mooney wrote to Smith late in the month:

Bob says that he considers you the coming poet of the age. He further informs me that you have the true fire. Also, he says that you wish to receive THE JUNTO. You will. NOW: I want you to contribute. Can you get me some material for the next issue? It must be in by the tenth of April. If you will send me some of your poems, the more the better, by that date, my appreciation will know no bounds. Really, I do want you to contribute, and I hope that you will do so.

Mooney also mentioned one of his own projects: “I am at present engaged in writing (in vers libre) a book, Voices From the Tombs. Extracts from this will appear in the next issue of THE JUNTO.”

Smith apparently met the deadline, for in a circa April 1928 letter Mooney responded, “Thanks muchly for the article and poem. They’ll both appear in the next issue of THE JUNTO.” Around the same time, Robert Howard was telling Harold Preece, “Glad you liked the stuff I had in The Junto. I had thought it would contain something by you and was disappointed when I found it did not.” Since these early issues of the travelogue were later destroyed in a fire at the Mooney home, we have no way of knowing what Howard “stuff” was included therein.

In early May 1928, Clyde Smith sent Mooney a few contributions. Mooney responded:

Thanks for the article and poem for THE JUNTO. Right worthy are they. I hope you continue to send such within your letters. Especially good is “Collegiate,” for I happen to have knowledge that the events depicted therein happen as everyday occurrences on the campus. Which, probably, is one reason why I have never and shall never honor any college by my attendance.

The same letter mentions the May 10, 1928 death of original Juntoite (to use REH’s terminology) Herbert Klatt (photo below). There was a flurry of activity amongst his friends and correspondents, with plans for publishing a memorial collection of Klatt’s writing being discussed. Mooney offered to send the compiler “an article by Klatt [that] appeared in the first issue of THE JUNTO.” The collection never materialized, but Mooney also told Smith that the “July issue of THE JUNTO will be the Klatt Memorial Edition. It will be typed as are regular issues, but it will contain only material by and regarding Klatt.” [This episode is discussed in greater detail here.]

HCK hat 300

As the plans for honoring Klatt went their course, the June 1928 mailing of The Junto began circulation. While the mailing itself does not survive, we know that it contained Smith’s “Collegiate”; Booth Mooney wrote to Smith about the comments that had been written on the Mailing List: Bob Howard—“Let’s have more by Smith; the rougher, the better; every man for himself and Hell for all.” Below this, Harold Preece wrote: “One doesn’t have to go to college for that.” Katherine Preece—“Why ‘Collegiate’? It is not restricted to college life.” Myron Flechtner—“As for Clyde Smith’s ‘Collegiate,’ I have no quarrel with it; the ‘type’ he describes exists, altho they are hardly numerous, and, too, he has laid it on a bit too thickly. There is nothing ‘raw’ about it, as Preece says; I suppose he alludes to the language used by these young jackasses.”

Howard also wrote Smith about the issue:

Having just read the Junto I get une grande kicke out of it especially your poems and article. I instantly sit me down and indict, following “comments” on the address sheet: “Let’s have more by Smith and the rougher the better; every man for himself and Hell for all.” Seeing that Truett has forgotten to comment, I considerately add for him: “Anybody who don’t like what I said about Will Hays will kindly go to Hell, you bastards.”

Smith’s article appears to have caused a bit of a ruckus. In an August letter to Smith, Mooney mentions “a new feature” to appear in The Junto, “a discussion page. If you wish to defend your article, ‘Collegiate,’ in this department, you are at liberty to do so.” He also says, “Personally, I agree with you regarding the article. It is certainly true to life. Though, I have never attended college, I have a brother who has, and I can judge by him.” Juntite Hildon Collins appears to have had a different reaction to Clyde’s work. On August 30, 1928, Truett Vinson wrote to Robert Howard: “Collins writes there are only two objectionable features to The Junto—Clyde’s ‘college article’ and your opinion of it.”

Vinson was about to create a bit of a stir, himself. Whether or not the July 1928 issue was the Klatt Memorial issue, we’ll probably never know, but it did contain a piece by Vinson called “Hell Bent” which we will see the reaction to in the next installment.

[Go to Part 2]