moon-mare2

(click for larger image)

noun

(Moon plus) mare: obsolete. an evil preternatural being causing nightmares; level basalt plain on the surface of the moon, appearing dark by contrast with highland areas

[origin: prior to 12th century; Middle English, from Old English; akin to Old High German mara incubus, Serbo-Croatian mora nightmare]

HOWARD’S USAGE:

Riding down the road at evening
with the stars for steed and shoon
I have heard an old man singing
underneath a copper moon:

“God, who gemmed with topaz twilights,
opal portals of the day,
“On your amaranthine mountains,
why make human souls of clay?

“For I rode the moon-mare’s horses
in the glory of my youth,
“Wrestled with the hills at sunset—
till I met brass-cinctured Truth.

“Till I saw the temples topple,
till I saw the idols reel,
“Till my brain had turned to iron,
and my heart had turned to steel

[from “Always Comes Evening”; to read the complete poem see Always Comes Evening, p. 73; The Collected Poetry of Robert E. Howard, p. 146; Night Images, p. 67; and Robert E. Howard Selected Poems, p. 104]

This entry filed under Howard's Poetry, Word of the Week.

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Among the names that appear in the dedication to the first editions of The Satanic Bible (1969) is that of Robert E. Howard. It is the first of several mentions that Anton LaVey, would make regarding the Texan author, usually in a passing manner. H. P. Lovecraft has spawned an entire genre of contemporary occult material, literally decades worth of false Necronomicons and associated books of theory, ritual, and practice, but Robert E. Howard’s impact on the occult has been comparatively slight.

Even then, the Howardian occult has mostly come through his association with Lovecraft and his participation in the Cthulhu Mythos and the mythology of the Necronomicon, particularly “The Black Stone” (1931)—for example, one Necronomicon hoax cites “The Book of the Arab, by Justin Geoffrey” (NF 64)—and Howard still crops up occasionally in volumes of the Lovecraftian occult like Peter Levenda’s The Dark Lord (2013, Ibis Press). Aside from this, occult references to Howard are rather sparse, such as when Robert Anton Wilson echoed (knowingly or not) Kenneth Grant’s interpretation of Lovecraft in ascribing Howard the attributes of a mystic:

In the course of writing, I’m always drawing on my unconscious creativity, and I find things creeping into my writing that I wasn’t aware of at the time. That’s part of the pleasure of writing. After you’ve written something, you say to yourself, “Where in the hell did that come from?” Faulkner called it the “demon” that directs the writer. The Kabalists call it the “holy guardian angel.” Every writer experiences this sensation. Robert E. Howard said he felt there was somebody dictating the Conan stories to him. There’s some deep level of the unconscious that knows a lot more than the conscious mind of the writer knows. (RAW)

lavey2Despite this general absence from occult circles, Robert E. Howard does have a small but consistent appearance in reference to Satanism, particularly the contemporary brand associated with the Church of Satan and its offshoots. Anton LaVey founded the Church of Satan in San Francisco in 1966, not the sole Satanic organization, but perhaps the most widespread and influential. However, it was several years before LaVey began publishing the central texts of his new religion: The Satanic Bible (1969), The Satanic Witch (1971), and The Satanic Rituals (1972); during this time he associated with a number of writers, reportedly including August Derleth, Ben Hecht, Robert Barbour Johnson, Emil Petaja, Clark Ashton Smith, Forrest J. Ackermann, and Fritz Leiber, Jr. (SLAS 66) One such associate, science fiction writer Mike Resnick, made a suggestion regarding LaVey’s work:

I explained that the Malleus Malicifarum and the Compendium Malificarum were fine text books, but he was sitting on hundreds of wonderful (and occasionally Satanic) poems by Robert E. Howard, Clark Ashton Smith and H. P. Lovecraft in his Arkham collection, poems that had beat and meter – and eventually he did incorporate some of them into his ceremonies. (AAF 297-298)

Resnick’s suggestion rings true with other evidence from LaVey’s life and writings. For example, Michael Aquino confirmed in a letter that “You will undoubtedly be pleased to know that Lovecraft and Howard are the High Priest’s favorites also!” (COS 105), and Blanche Barton in her biography of LaVey writes:

The Dunwich Horror of H. P. Lovecraft’s story comes through the angles of a trapezohedron. “The Lurker on the Threshold”, “The Haunter in the Dark” – the entire Cthulhu mythos and much of Lovecraft’s poetry makes references to the slavering beasts that find passage into our world through angles. Many of Robert E. Howard’s poems and horror stories, The House on the Borderland by William Hope Hodgeson, the supposedly apocryphal Emerald Table of Thoth (from which LaVey derived the text for Die elektrischen Vorspiele), and, one of the most terrifying stories ever written, Frank Belknap Long’s Hounds of TIndalos, all refer to the flux that angles induce. (SLAS 165)

The reference to the “Emerald Table of Thoth” (sic) might point to the influence of Maurice Doreal (sometimes given as Morris Doreal, real name apparently Claude Doggins), the founder of the Brotherhood of the White Temple. Doreal’s poem “The Emerald Tablets of Thoth the Atlantean” appeared in mimeographed form in the 1930s, and describes the secret history of a shape-changing Serpent Race which have strong parallels to Howard’s story “The Shadow Kingdom” (1929). (NC 112, ACOC 121)

In truth Lovecraft and his mythos inspired several sections of The Satanic Bible, and The Satanic Rituals contains several Lovecraftian rites crafted by Aquino. Howard came up less often, as in 1971 when LaVey wrote:

It is bad enough to hear of the “great teachings” of Aleister Crowley—who hypocritically called himself by the Christian devil’s number, yet steadfastly denied any Satanic connections, who wrote and had published millions of words of Kabbalistic mulligatawny, the distilled wisdom of which could have been contained in a single volume of once-popular E. Haldeman Julius’ Little Blue Books (which sold for a nickel). Strange, how seldom one hears plaudits for Crowley’s poetry, worthy of inclusion with the likes of James Thompson, Baudelaire, Clark Ashton Smith, and Robert E. Howard. If Crowley was a magician, it was the beauty of his creative art which made him so, not his drug-befuddled callings-up of Choronzon, et al. Unfortunately, his followers today have taken up his worst, while neglecting his best. (OOP)

And again in 1996:

Too often, “fans” want to keep their heroes pristine, especially where Satanic connection inconveniently surface. It has happened with many, from Benjamin Franklin to Mark Twain to Jayne Mansfield. One of the most flagrant sugar-coatings is contained in a biography of Robert E. Howard, in which the author of a chapter on “The Satanic Poetry” of Howard, opines those verses — to me the most powerful writing of his entire output — were scribbled for shock value and couldn’t be taken seriously. Mr. Howard at worst, had just gotten up on the wrong side of the bed when he wrote his most stirring and powerful litanies. (MIR 8)

It’s not clear what “biography” and chapter LaVey refers to; certainly not the de Camps’ Dark Valley Destiny (1983) or Marc A. Cerasini and Charles Hoffman’s Starmont Reader’s Guide 38: Robert E. Howard (1987). The nearest parallel seems to be Steve Eng’s essay “Barbarian Bard: The Poetry of Robert E. Howard,” where Eng writes:

Like Lovecraft, and probably nearly all pulp fiction writers of his day, Howard would have found real Satanism puerile or perverse, yet for dramatic effect Howard was unafraid of extremes. (DB 40)

Other mentions of Howard appear to be few, and despite LaVey’s professed enthusiasm, Howard’s fiction doesn’t doesn’t seem to have largely shaped any of the Church of Satan’s theology, rituals, or terminology (the Satanic magazine The Cloven Hoof shares a name with a poetry magazine mentioned in Howard’s “The Children of the Night,” but this appears to be a coincidence.)

After LaVey’s death in 1997 and the subsequent splintering of the Church of Satan, there is a corresponding drop off in references to Robert E. Howard—not everyone, apparently, shared LaVey’s appreciation. Blanche Barton dedicated The Church of Satan (1990) to:

Ben Hecht, Robert E. Howard, Rudyard Kipling, Robert Knox Hammersly, and Walt Disney, who made their Pacts.

Later associations with Howard and Satanism appear to be slight. There are a number of Black metal bands inspired by Robert E. Howard, including Bal-Sagoth, Khrom, Arkham Witch, Thoth Amon, Assàl, Damnation’s Hammer, Summoner’s Circle, The Sword, etc., but these bands are largely distinct from “Satanic metal,” and the imagery they borrow from Howard’s works is not particularly Satanic.

AAAAAAA51fBi7A4oXL__SX331_BO1,204,203,200_The most substantial Howard/Satanist connection in recent memory is Michael Rose’ Infernalia (2015, Underworld Amusements), which includes the brief chapter “Robert E. Howard: Satanic Skald” (96-98), which includes such epithets as “Robert E. Howard understood the Satanic spirit.” and “I do not weep for Howard, I rejoice in the poems he left us, poetry which stokes the black flame within.” (98)

For all this attention paid to the “Satanic spirit” of Robert E. Howard, the concept of real-world “Satanism” was a rather crudely developed concept in Howard’s time. Interest in survival of pagan religions and the medieval witchcraft trials increased, as evidenced by James Frazer’s The Golden Bough (1890) and Margaret Murray’s The Witch-Cult in Western Europe (1921); the Black Mass in particular features in Montague Summers’ The History of Witchcraft and Demonology (1926), as well as Joris-Karl Huysmans’ novel Là-Bas (1891). Likewise, a desire for exoticism and interest in foreign religions fostered an interest in accounts of the “devil worship” of the Yazidis, such as William Seabrook’s Adventures in Arabia (1927), and promulgated fictional portrayals like Robert W. Chambers’ The Slayer of Souls (1920).

Whether for personal or professional interest, Howard appears to have sought out some material related to these matters, as evidence by an unsent letter to bookdealer Merlin Wand (“Also interested in devil worship, human sacrifice, anything unusual, grisly or strange.” CL4.6). However, there is little evidence of this in Howard’s library, aside from Robert W. Chambers’ novel The Slayer of Souls and possibly reference works like John William Wickwar’s The Black Art (1925). (DB 188, 199) Certainly too, Howard had access to various encyclopedias, and fellow-pulpsters with interests in the same subjects, such as H. P. Lovecraft and E. Hoffmann Price.

Given this disparity of material and approaches, it may be worthwhile to examine Mike Resnick’s assertion at its root—what are the Satanic works of Robert E. Howard, which have so inspired Satanists for more than forty years?

 

Works Cited

AAF   …Always a Fan: True Stories from a Life in Science Fiction (Mike Resnick, Wildside Press, 2009)

ACOC A Culture of Conspiracy (Michael Barkun, University of California Press, 2006)

COS  The Church of Satan (Michael Aquino, Hell’s Kitchen Press, 5th ed., 2002)

DB     The Dark Barbarian (Greenwood Press, 1984)

MIR    “Introduction” to Might is Right (Anton LaVey, Shane Bugby, 2014)

NF      The Necronomicon Files (Dan Harms & John William Gonce III, Weiser Books, 2003)

OOP  “On Occultism of the Past” (Aleister Crowley, http://www.churchofsatan.com/occultism-of-the-past.php)

RAW  “Robert Anton Wilson: Searching for Cosmic Intelligence” (Jeffrey Elliot, https://web.archive.org/web/20120412051600/http://www.rawilsonfans.com/articles/Starship.htm)

SLAS The Secret Life of a Satanist (Blanche Barton, Feral House, 1990)

Read Part 2, Part 3

gyve

Artist: Giulio Romano (Orbetto)

noun

1. fetter, shackle

[Origin: 13th century; Middle English]

HOWARD’S USAGE:

Crack of a whip in the dusky air,
Clatter of brazen wheels on the stones,
Thunders of drums and a trumpet flare,
And the king of kings is passing there,
While the wind o’ the ages drones.

Bronze face limned in the crimson sun,
Helmet of gold with a regal feather,
Flaming cloak that a princess spun,
Sandals of tinted leather.
…..
Serfs and barons, knights of the lists,
Silver shackles upon their wrists
(But silver is sister to rugged steel);
Though proudly they wear their gleaming gyves,
And proudly they strut, they live their lives
Chained to the chariot wheel.

[from “Custom”; to read the complete poem see The Collected Poetry of Robert E. Howard, p. 298]

This entry filed under Howard's Poetry, Word of the Week.

S-Solomon-Sappho-und-Erinna-im-Garten-

Women  have always been the inspiration of men, and just as there are thousands of unknown great ones among men, there have been countless women whose names have never been blazoned across the stars, but who have inspired men on to glory. And as for their fickleness – as long as men write the literature of the world, they will rant about the unfaithfulness of the fair sex, forgetting their own infidelities. Men are as fickle as women. Women have been kept in servitude so long that if they lack in discernment and intellect it is scarcely their fault.

Letter of REH to Harold Preece, circa December 1928

16th-century-IrishAs Robert E. Howard’s best-known correspondent, H.P. Lovecraft was a great admirer of classical Greco-Roman culture and fairly disparaging towards the barbarians on the Empire’s borders, so Howard felt a strong emotional bond with the barbarian outsiders and quite an antipathy towards the Romans. (Except, as he admitted, when they had been fighting eastern peoples like the Persians.)  He was fascinated by the Gaels of Ireland, the Celts in general, and by the wild colorful Middle Ages. (“Oh, a brave time, by Satan!”)  He had far less interest in the classical world. Still, he greatly admired some individuals who had lived in that milieu. He also knew more about it, and them, than most of us do today. Ask most of us – including this blogger – who Elpinice and Aspasia were, or for that matter Anaxagoras, and we’d be lucky if we could give an approximate answer.

For Sappho of Mytilene, REH had a torrent of impassioned praise.

She is famous as one of the greatest Greek poets – in fact; Plato called her “the tenth muse.” But astonishingly little is known of her life. She was born circa 615 BCE on the island of Lesbos, to an aristocratic family, and spent most of her adult years in the town of Mytilene. It is believed that she had several brothers. There is some evidence – not conclusive – that she married a rich man by the name of Cercylas and had a daughter named Cleis. More definitely, she led an academy for unmarried young women in Mytilene, a school devoted to the cult of Aphrodite and her son Eros (Venus and Cupid), winning fame and a high reputation as a teacher.

Lord Byron mentioned her in a telling phrase in “Don Juan.” “The isles of Greece! The isles of Greece/ Where burning Sappho loved and sung … ”  C.L. Moore referred to Byron’s lines in her story “Daemon,”, told by a simpleton with the strange gift of being able to see “the shapes that walk behind” most people, some dark, some bright, some colored, “pale colors like ashes or rainbows.”  He meets a man named Shaugnessy, educated and cultured but dying of illness, who is kind to him and “told me of burning Sappho, and I knew why the poet used that word for her, and I think the Shaugnessy knew too … I knew how dazzling the thing must have been that followed her through the white streets of Lesbos and leaned upon her shoulder while she sang.”

Chassériau,_Théodore_-_Sappho_Leaping_into_the_Sea_from_the_Leucadian_Promontory_-_c__1840Nearly everything else about Sappho is rumor now – speculation at best. Ovid, centuries after Sappho’s time, averred that she had a love affair with a young sailor, Phaon, which ended badly, and that she threw herself from a cliff while fairly young. Other writers – perhaps more reliable than Ovid, but we can’t be certain – have claimed she died of old age somewhere about 550 BCE.

There is also surprisingly little known of her poetry, because little of it has survived. Daniel Mendelsohn wrote in the New Yorker (March 16th, 2015), “The greatest problem for Sappho studies is that there’s so little Sappho to study. It would be hard to think of another poet whose status is so disproportionate to the size of her surviving body of work.”

The same article (“Girl, Interrupted: Who Was Sappho?”) reminds the readers that the poetess and teacher (“lyric genius whose sometimes playful, sometimes anguished songs about her susceptibility to the graces of younger women bequeathed us the adjectives “Sapphic” and “lesbian”) has been controversial for the better part of three thousand years because of her sexuality, not her poetry or teaching. And precious little is known with certainty about that either. Few people – naturally – were or are short on opinions. Even in the ancient world, critics of literature called her style “sublime” while comic playwrights, probably without a quarter of her genius, derided her (allegedly) loose morals. The early Christian church’s theologians were far more severe, and even (I’ve read) burned her work. One described her as a “sex-crazed whore who sings of her own wantonness.”

Citing Mendelsohn again, “A millennium passed, and Byzantine grammarians were regretting that so little of her poetry had survived. Seven centuries later, Victorian scholars were doing their best to explain away her erotic predilections, while their literary contemporaries, the Decadents and the Aesthetes, seized on her verses for inspiration.”

Howard, in his letter to Preece quoted above, didn’t so much express as unleash his opinions on that aspect of Sappho’s fame.

Sappho: doubtless the greatest woman poet who ever lived; certainly one of the greatest of all time. The direct incentive of the lyric age of Greece, the age that for pure beauty, surpasses all others. How shall a pen like mine sing of the beauties of Sappho, of the golden streams which flowed from her pen, of her voice which was fairer than the song of a dark star, of the fragrance of her hair and shimmering loveliness of her body? Has it been proven that she was a Lesbian in the generally accepted sense of the word? Who ever accused her but the early Christian (sic) – ignorant monks and monastery swine who were set on breaking all the old golden idols; and Daudet, a libertine, a groveling ape who could see no good in anything; Mure, a drunkard and a blatant braggart whose word I hold of less weight than a feather drifting before a south wind. May the saints preserve Comparetti who was man enough to uphold pure womanhood, and scholar enough to prove what he said.

Howard is referring to Domenico Comparetti (1835-1927), a Roman who took his first degree in mathematics at La Sapienza but learned Greek on his own account and became one of Italy’s foremost classical scholars. He was appointed Professor of Greek at Pisa in 1859. Besides classical subjects, he wrote impressively on others, such as the Kalelvala, the national epic of Finland – but his monograph on Sappho was of most concern to Howard. I wish I could find the actual text, but I’ve not been able to.

Read the rest of this entry »

This entry filed under Harold Preece, Howard's Favorite Authors.

ceorl

(The Peasants Brawl, British Museum, 1547 Engraving)

noun

1. a free peasant that formed the basis of society in Anglo-Saxon England. His free status was marked by his right to bear arms, his attendance at local courts, and his payment of dues directly to the king. His wergild, the sum that his family could accept in place of vengeance if he were killed, was valued at 200 shillings. Although frequently represented as a typical peasant laborer in a kind of Anglo-Saxon democracy, he was a member of the peasant elite that was gradually extinguished between the seventh and the twelfth centuries. Also referred to as a churl or a carle.

[origin: before 12th century; Old English]

HOWARD’S USAGE:

“—A voice came out of the throng saying: ‘Good rede, good rede! Slay ye the Bishop!’ The bishop was forthwith slain.” —The Norman Conquest

“Good rede, good rede! Slay ye the Bishop!”
Roaring through the gloom like a rousing tiger’s snarl.
Bugle call and drum beat pale and fade before it,
Pale before the growl of a nameless Saxon carle.

Little love I bear for the surly ceorls of England—
A black blight befall them! The first of all my name
Breathed the breath of life in the grey Norse mountains,
Rode with Iron William when the Norman came.

Yet I burn again at that savage cry for freedom,
Roaring down the ages at the crozier and the crown;
All the pagan eons speak in that mad bellow:
“Slay ye the Bishop—the tyrant in the gown!”

Freedom, freedom, freedom! Oh, I hear the heathen ages
Loose their pent-up fury in that one red roar!
Symbol through all Eternity, their blind revolt shall guide us,
Who slew a Norman bishop in his own church door.

[from “The Cry Everlasting”; for the complete poem see The Collected Poetry of Robert E. Howard, p. 465; Robert E. Howard Selected Poems, p. 187; and A Rhyme of Salem Town, p. 87]

This entry filed under Howard's Poetry, Word of the Week.

With Howard days just four months from today, here is the panel schedule for the two day event happening June 10th and June 11th:

Howard Days 2016 Panel Schedule

FRIDAY June 10. Panels to be held in the Cross Plains High School Library

11 am: 30 YEARS OF HOWARD DAYS. The origins and history of Howard Days will be discussed, along with a showing of photos from over the years. Rusty Burke, Bill Cavalier and Susan McNeel-Childers of Cross Plains will tell their tales.

1:30 pm: The Whole Wide World and One Who Walked Alone. Guest of Honor Michael Scott Myers will discuss the movie, the book and Novalyne Price Ellis, as interviewed by Mark Finn.

2:30 pm: Presentation of the Robert E. Howard Foundation Awards. Rusty Burke, Bill Cavalier and a cast of several. 30 minutes.

9:00 pm: Fists at the Ice House. Mark Finn, Chris Gruber, Jeff Shanks and Patrice Louinet will entertain you with a spirited discussion of the Pugilistic Bob Howard, complete with readings from Howard’s boxing tales. Held on the actual site of the Ice House where Howard boxed.

SATURDAY June 11. Panels to be held at the Cross Plains Senior Center

 11:00 am: REH and FRAZETTA: Celebrating the Fifty Year Legacy of the Lancers. Come hear a lively discussion about this benchmark event in Howard Publishing along with the importance of Frank Frazetta’s iconic cover paintings for the series.

Panelists to include: Gary Romeo, Special Guest Val Mayerik, Jeff Shanks and Rusty Burke (with an opening monologue by Bill Cavalier).

1:30 pm: The Life of Robert E. Howard – A discussion of Howard’s life, his working habits, his mannerisms, his routines, his quirks, his interests. We’ll talk about Howard the Man as opposed to Howard the Writer and also show some rare Howard artifacts (typescripts, photos etc.). Panelists to include: Mark Finn, Patrice Louinet, Chris Gruber and Paul Herman.

2:30 pm: The First Annual Glenn Lord REH Symposium. A presentation by several REH scholars regarding Howard the Writer, with special essay readings by Daniel Look,  Jonas Pridas, Todd Vick, Dierk Guenther. Moderator: Jeff Shanks. 90 minutes.

More details and a complete schedule of Howard Days events will be forthcoming. Stay tuned to the this blog, the Robert E. Howard Days Facebook page and the Robert E. Howard Days blog for updates.

IMG_0262

The new issue of The Dark Man, celebrating 25 years of the journal, is now available to order. Here are the contents of The Dark Man: The Journal of Robert E. Howard Studies and Pulp Fiction Studies Vol. 8, No. 1:

Editorials:

“Twenty Five Years Young!” by Mark E. Hall
Reflections by Rusty Burke
“On Editing Robert E. Howard” by Chris Gruber
“My Robert E. Howard PhD Adventure” by Patrick Burger

Letters:

“Comments on Finn’s ‘Less an Archive, More an Agenda’” by Todd Vick

Abstract:

“On the Precipice of Fascism:The Mythic and the Political in the Work of Robert E. Howard and Ernst Jünger” by Patrick Burger

Articles:

“The Influence of Joseph A. Altsheler’s Apache Gold on Howard’s ‘The Haunted Mountain’” by Robert McIlvaine
“Literary Gothicism in Robert E. Howard’s ‘Red Nails’” by Matthew Cirilli
“Bersker Synecdoche: Howard’s Aesthetic of Violence” by Philip Emery
“The Outsider Scholar: Robert E. Howard, H. P. Lovecraft, and Scholarly Identity” by Karen Kohoutek
“Disintegrating Verse: The Poetry of the Shadow Modernists and the Ephemerality of the Ordinary” by Jason Carney

The Dark Man has two new scholars joining the editorial board beginning with this issue: Scott Connors, one of the editors of the Clark Ashton Smith Nightshade collection and Jeffrey Shanks, contributor to TDM, The Cimmerian, REH: Two-Gun Raconteur and REHupa, among others who have joined the team.

Order your copy today!

This entry filed under H. P. Lovecraft, Howard Scholarship, News, Rusty Burke.

11111111386d52fc8fab637b6ea98b1ffa3ba1

noun

1. a kind of ancient fortification found in Ireland; a circular fort protected by earthworks, used by the ancient Irish in the pre-Christian era as a retreat in time of danger. Some of the larger raths such as that at Tara were important in early Irish history and were used by chieftains or kings. Many raths still exist throughout Ireland.

[Origin: Irish gaelic]

HOWARD’S USAGE:

Up over the cromlech and down the rath,
Treading a dim forgotten path,
Past the ancient, vague monolith,
Out of the past of tale and myth,
Where the bat wheels silent ’round walls of might,
The phantoms gather from out the night.

[from “The Phantoms Gather”; this is the complete poem as it appears in The Collected Poetry of Robert E. Howard, p. 199; Selected Poems of Robert E. Howard, p. 316; and A Rhyme of Salem Town, p. 124]

This entry filed under Howard's Poetry, Word of the Week.

Strange-Tales-7

I have just gotten hold of your magazine and, believe me, it’s a hummer! I read it from cover to cover the night I bought it, and my one plea is give us more stories by those masters of fiction, Robert E. Howard and Henry S. Whitehead.

– Charles Roe, Strange Tales, January 1933 (WGP 44)

The Reverend Henry St. Clair McMillan Whitehead (1882-1934) was an Episcopalian priest and pulpster, one of the regulars of Weird Tales and Strange Tales and a correspondent of H. P. Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard, E. Hoffmann Price, Clark Ashton Smith, August Derleth, Bernard Austin Dwyer, and R. H. Barlow.

Born in Elizabeth, New Jersey, Whitehead attended Harvard from 1901-1904, in the same class with future president Franklin D. Roosevelt, but did not take a degree. He sold his first story to Outdoors in 1905, and shortly after began working for the Daily Record in Port Chester, CT. In 1909, having worked his way up to assistant editor, he entered Berkeley Divinity School. Whitehead gained an M.A. in pedagogy from Ewing College in 1911 (through an extension course), graduated divinity school in 1912, and was advanced to the priesthood in 1913. (HSMW 1, LHSW 2)

Henry_S_WhiteheadFrom 1912 to 1913, Whitehead was priest at the Trinity Parish House in Torrington, CT, and from 1913 to 1917 he was appointed rector of Christ’s Church in Middletown, CT; ill-health prevented him from serving in the army or the navy during World War I, though he served on the local draft board and in various other roles. 1917-1919 Whitehead was the Children’s Pastor at the Church of St. Mary the Virgin in New York City, and after that was Senior Assistant at the Church of the Advent in Boston. Along with these ecclesiastical duties, Whitehead busied himself with various other positions run concurrently: running summer camps; acting as chaplain for the Connecticut State Hospital for the Insane and the Churchman’s Club in Wesleyan University; practicing psychology, tutoring, and writing. (HSMW 4-6, LHSW 2)

Whitehead suffered from ill-health for many years, and from about 1920 to 1929, began spending his summers in the American Virgin Islands (purchased from the Danes in 1916), and was acting Archdeacon for the Virgin Islands between 1921 and 1929. During this time Whitehead served at the Church of the Advent (1919-1923), Trinity Church in Bridgeport, CT. (1923-1925), Holy Rood Parish in New York City (1926), St. Paul’s Church in Oswego, NY (1927), and St. Luke’s School for Boys in New Canaan, CT (1928), before finally applying for the position of rector of the Church of the Good Shepherd in Dunedin, Florida, which position he occupied from 1929 to his death.  (HSMW 4-6, LHSW 2, DN)

Much of what we know of Whitehead’s life comes from a letter published in the 10 November 1923 issue of Adventure, which included Whitehead’s story “The Intarsia Box.” It was the custom of the magazine to ask first-time writers for a brief autobiography, and Whitehead obliged with a few autobiographical details, as well as excerpts from a friend’s letter describing Whitehead in the Virgin Islands. One of the appreciative readers of this letter was a young Robert E. Howard, who would later quote sections of Whitehead’s letter to H. P. Lovecraft of 6 March 1933, notably a particular stunt involving a deck of cards:

He is the strongest man, physically, I ever saw. Soon after he came here to Santa Cruz, it was discovered that he took a great deal of exercise. One evening he was asked to do a ‘stunt’ for a large group of people who were having an old-fashioned Crucian jollification, and he called for a pack of cards. He tore them squarely in half, and then quartered them. I had heard of cards being torn in two, but never quartered. Incredulity was expressed. The people present thought it was a trick, and said so, though pleasantly and in a bantering way. Father Whitehead asked for another pack to destroy, and for two wire nails. He nailed the pack through at both ends, so that the cards could not be “beveled”, and then quartered that pack. He had to do this everywhere he went after that. Everybody wanted to see it done. One night Mrs. Scholten, the wife of our Danish Bank manager, gave him a small pack of brand new Danish cards. They were made of linen! He tore those in two.” […] As usual the people of Santa Cruz were most interest in what I didn’t go there to do—strongman stunts. The card thing I have practised since I was about seventeen. (CL3.23-24, AMTF 2.538-539)

1923 was the beginning of Whitehead’s career as a pulpster proper, breaking into not only Adventure but Hutchinson’s Adventure-Story Magazine (“Christabel”) and People’s Story Magazine (“The Wonderphone”). The following year he splashed Weird Tales with a January letter in “The Eyrie” and the short stories “Tea Leaves” (May/Jun/Jul) and “The Door” (Nov). 1925 saw another story in Adventure (“The Cunning of the Serpent”), Whitehead splashing The Black Mask (“The Gladstone Bag”), and four stories in Weird Tales—”The Fireplace” (Jan), “Sea Change” (Feb), “The Thin Match” (Mar), and “The Wonderful Thing” (Jul)—the last of which also shared an issue with the first publication of Robert E. Howard in those pages, “Spear and Fang.”

At the present time, so far as the writer is aware, there is only one market in the English-speaking world for the occult short story. That is Weird Tales, which specializes in this branch of literature. (SWF 25)

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harry

verb

1. To make a pillaging or destructive raid on; 2. to force to move along by harassing; 3. to torment by or as if by constant attack

[origin: before twelfth century; Middle English harien, from Old English hergian; akin to Old High German herion to lay waste, heri, army, Greek koiranos ruler]

HOWARD’S USAGE:

From the Baltic Sea our galleys sweep
To South and West and East,
We bring our bows from the Northern snows
That the great grey wolves may feast.

To the outmost roads of the plunging sea
Our dragon ships are hurled,
We have broken the chains of the Southern Danes
And now we break the world.

Out of the dark of the misty north
We come like shapes of the gloam
To harry again the Southland men
And trample the arms of Rome.

The ravens circle above our prows
And our chant is the song of the sea.
They hear our oars by a thousand shores
And they know that the North is free.

[from “The Song of Horsa’s Galley”; for the complete poem see The Collected Poetry of Robert E. Howard, p. 57, Robert E. Howard Selected Poems, p. 463 and Echoes From an Iron Harp, p. 77]

This entry filed under Howard's Poetry, Word of the Week.