1934 Letter Handwritten & Signed by Weird Fiction Writer H.P. Lovecraft - NR
To young poet Robert Nelson - Fresh Honlulu Estate Find
P.S. Had a pleasant time in N.Y. around New Year’s. Saw Long, the Wandrei boys, (illegible), Koenig, Leeds, &c, &c - & also young Barlow, who was up from the South. Quite a convention, all in all!
66 College St.,
Jany. 16, 1935
My dear Nelson:-
Glad to hear that you had a pleasant Christmas, & the coming year may prove a fruitful & congenial one for you. I shall be looking for more of the “Lost Excerpts” – as well as other material from your pen. Don’t be discouraged merely because you don’t produce Poe-like masterpieces (illegible) the (illegible). No one ever wrote a great story or poem without years of experience & apprenticeship. You have done very well indeed – keep it up! Regarding copyrights – I never bothered with such things. The chances of pirating are really very remote & when a piece is professionally published, the magazine holds the copyrights – with reservations indicated by the author on the upper right-hand corner of his (illegible) In sending a (illegible) for publication it as well to append the phrase “First North American Serial Rights Only.” This means that you are selling only the first printing. If an anthology copies the piece or if the magazine decides to reprint it, more pay is due you – though re-sale prices seldom equal those for a first printing. Re-sales sometimes (illegible) up quite impressively – my “Erich Zann”, for instance has been used six times in America and England.
Regarding philosophic matters – I doubt profoundly anything involving extremes, or suspicious conformity- to human wishes. All religious or other systems assigning mankind an important place in the universe are obviously primitive (illegible) – no matter how widely & persistently perpetuated. So far as any real evidence goes, the cosmos is simply a perpetual field of interacting streams of farce, amidst which the galactic universe, the solar system, this tiny Earth, the principle of animal life, & the human species are nothing more than momentary accidents. The cosmos at large knows nothing & cares nothing about the trivial incidents of human existence.
“Beauty” & “goodness” are mere local human concepts which have nothing to do with the universe. The only real permanent & universal things are the lairs of mechanics, chemistry, & physics which we learn slowly & gradually through the impersonal observation of external nature. The conditions resulting from these lairs can never be changed. What we can do toward diminishing our painfully chaotic adjustments to nature, is to study these lairs assiduously, & then see how closely we can steer our own courses in conformity with them. To do this, we must pay especial attention to these phases of natural law which govern the actions of our bodies & thoughts – processes - biology, psychology, anthropology, &c. – so that we may ascertain what may & what may not be expected. Perfect adaptation to nature can never be lasted for; since our various instincts were all accidentally evolved, & include many permanently conflicting tendencies. But reason & experience can probably – through long courses of trial & error – cut down many of the conflicts now existing. The subordination of religious delusion will form one great step in advance. As to war – it can never vanish as a whole, since it is merely the expression of a natural human instinct. Any individual or group will always try to get whatever it wants in any way it can - & when peaceful means fail, it will fight if it believes it has any chance of winning. We can scarcely imagine any alignment of human forces which will make it impossible for some group to challenge all opposition at one time or another. Wars there will always be – as long as animal life exists – but on the other hand, it is quite conceivable that reason will succeed in cutting down the number of them considerably. Many of the present specific causes of war can undoubtedly be removed in time. Alas, I think that individual economic distress will vastly diminish under the social & political conditions of the future. Life is a matter of mixed chance & mechanics, & there is as little reason to be a pessimist as to be an optimist. Scientific detachment is the only sound attitude.
All good wishes (illegible) HPL
Signed by H.P. Lovecraft
Howard Phillips Lovecraft (August 20, 1890 – March 15, 1937) — known as H. P. Lovecraft — was an American author of horror, fantasy and science fiction, especially the subgenre known as weird fiction.
Lovecraft’s guiding aesthetic and philosophical principle was what he termed "cosmicism" or "cosmic horror", the idea that life is incomprehensible to human minds and that the universe is fundamentally inimical to the interests of humankind. As such, his stories express a profound indifference to human beliefs and affairs. Lovecraft is best known for his Cthulhu Mythos story cycle and the Necronomicon, a fictional grimoire of magical rites and forbidden lore.
Although Lovecraft's readership was limited during his lifetime, his reputation has grown over the decades, and he is now regarded as one of the most influential horror writers of the 20th century. According to Joyce Carol Oates, Lovecraft—as with Edgar Allan Poe in the 19th century—has exerted "an incalculable influence on succeeding generations of writers of horror fiction". Stephen King called Lovecraft "the twentieth century's greatest practitioner of the classic horror tale." King has even made it clear in his semi-autobiographical non-fiction book Danse Macabre that Lovecraft was responsible for King's own fascination with horror and the macabre, and was the single largest figure to influence his fiction writing. His stories have also been adapted into theater and film, and have inspired an award-winning role-playing game.
Letter written to Robert Nelson an aspiring young Illinois poet and fan of the popular pulp magazine "Weird Tales" who had several unusual poems published in the magazine before his suicide at the age of seventeen. Farnsworth Wright thought very highly of his work, all of which has remained unprinted until now
Recently discovered in Honolulu estate
Paper has the characteristics of age, text is clear and readable
Be sure to view our other great estate finds we have listed this week!!
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On Apr-06-12 at 15:59:57 PDT, seller added the following information:
We apologize for the confusion but the incorrect transcription was given. The auction is for the letter pictured and the correct transcription is below. We give a big MAHALO to the eBayers who pointed out our mistake.
Dear Nelson: -
Yes. Of the (illegible) impels one to add a postscript to my note of yesterday. Bless my soul, but I didn’t see anything “over-haughty” or otherwise amiss in your former letter! Don’t worry so much about the impression you create – what the hell does it matter, anyhow? The world isn’t important enough to make it worth anybody’s while to bother about such trifles. Simply; jog along, observe the ordinary rules of civility as you understand them & let the other fellow go sit on a tack if he doesn’t like the way you spear or write! As to being “insignificant”- hell! So are we all, except perhaps some 5 or 6 percent of the human race…. the really capable & creative men who sustain the burden of our civilization. So far as the weird-fiction gang is concerned, we’re all insignificant together, & as individual need worry a moment about his own especial personal insignificance! When we reflect on the actual structure & nature of the cosmos – just a perpetual (illeg) of elections & streams of force aimlessly changing position according to blind fixed laws – we see how useless it is to attach any real importance to human events. What the hell! Everything is automatic, predetermined, & actually uncontrollable by ourselves anyhow. The whole mess means nothing – hence regarding it seriously is really a gigantic piece of naiveté which an external eye would perceive as a titanic jest of a bitter (illeg) “Life”, said old Horace Walpole a century & half ago, “is a tragedy to those who feel but a comedy to those who think”. Cultivate analytical) thought rather than emotion & join the laughers! Remember that it was old Democritus, the acute analyst & atomic materials, whom antiquity called “The Laughing Philosopher.” When we first begin to realize the triviality of existence & insignificance of mankind over traditional pride & (illeg) may get a (ileg); but on second thought we ask ourselves, ‘why the devil should we mean anything in the damned universe? What good would it do us if we did mean anything?’ As soon as this sensible attitude sinks in, we begin to acquire something of the placidity & contentment of untroubled mice who scamper happily about a granary without resenting in the least their negligible status there in. There is less to worry about once we realize the truth. Why in thunder need we bother about anything except keeping fed & clothed, & observing the common rules of rhythm & non-encroachment which make for beauty & social adjustments? If others don’t like it when we do our best, what the hell of that? Why need we concern ourselves with what others think of us? Human feelings & relationships have no meaning – they are mere biochemical phenomena like the growth of weeds or the motions of fishes – so why waste time & emotional energy in bothering about them? Once we perceive the triviality & meaninglessness of the whole business, an immense burden is lifted from our nerves. I thumb my nose at the whole cursed cosmos & let it stew in its own damn grease!
However, I know what nervous tension is, & can sympathize most acutely with your present state. That’s why I urge you to apply realistic philosophy & reason yourself out of it as far as possible. While we can’t always conquer a predisposition toward neuroticism, we can generally apply sound horse sense & remove many of the irritants which cause that predisposition to become painfully manifest. I know where of I speak – since my whole youth was punctuated by nervous breakdowns which prevented my attending college & wrecked my career general. Im an old fossil of 44 now – but a damned sight better off nervously through sheer observation, appraisal, & reflection. The lesson brought by the years is to take things lightly. Nothing in the universe matters much - & the existence of organic life on this planet is only a momentary accident which will soon vanish, leaving things just the same as if it had never been. Amidst such an n ironic comedy of blind cosmic drift, who are we to worry about trifles?
Glad you like “Erich Zann” – which has had 6 printings in various magazines & anthologies. I like it send best among my stuff – “Colour out of Space” being first. Sorry the disillusion about the “Necronomicon” was a (illeg) – almost all fantastic authors (Poe, Bierce, (illeg), Hodgson, (illeg)., &c) have invented such fictitious background (illeg). Cheer up & don’t worry about things!
Yours most cordially –HPL