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Member Since 31 Dec 2008
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In Topic: In Defense of Hester Jane Ervin Howard

Yesterday, 07:55 AM

Hi Gary,

I think the world could use a lot more brothers like yours. You were very lucky in that respect.


You and I have had this conversation about Hester Howard although you may not remember. It was in the letters section of Leo Grin’s “The Lion’s Den” (The Cimmerian Journal April 2008) and I reiterate:


It’s easy to see how Gary can believe that Novalyne Price and de Camp reached the same conclusion regarding Hester’s influence over REH. And, at this distance in time, it’s difficult to be exactly sure of Hester Howard’s motives. All we can do is look at her actions and God knows, she has received harsh judgments because of those. But whatever her motives and actions, in my opinion, she did at least three things very right. First of all, she shared with REH her love of poetry; secondly, she encouraged his writing, and last, she kept the interruptions to his work to a minimum. Whether or not she went too far in doing these is, of course, another issue.


The statement by your mother, “His momma ruined him. She didn’t mean to but she did” is  understandable after watching WWW. As I said previously to you, “Because movies are so visually and dramatically oriented, they often exaggerate or add incidents in ‘biographical’ movies. (This is meant as a statement of fact, not a criticism.)” What helped me while watching WWW is Leo Grin’s advice that any scene in the movie that does not have Novalyne in it, did not happen. How could she know what happened if she wasn’t there.


Again as I said, …it also appears that Novalyne’s information regarding the Howard family situation may not have been that accurate. In her book, OWWA, Novalyne tells REH “You could get a nurse who is trained to do the job better than you can.” Then later in that paragraph she says. “My God, Bob, you’re not required to give up your whole life for her, your writing and everything.” (OWWA, 267)


She dates that conversation February 24, 1936. Yet, in a letter to HPL dated February 11, 1936, REH writes:


This has been a bitter winter, and the harshness of the weather has hurt her. First one woman and then another we hired to help wait on her has been taken sick herself, so the job of nursing my mother has been done largely by my father and myself. She is subject to distressing and continual sweats, and naturally has to have constant attention, so I find little, if any time to write, which is why this letter is brief, and possibly so disconnected. Sometimes we have to be up all night with her. There seems to be little we or anyone can do to help her, though God knows I’d make any sacrifice, including my own life, if it could purchase her any relief.


REH does confirm the date on Novalyne’s journal entry in his February 25, 1936 letter to her.


I’m sorry but I won’t be able to keep the date this afternoon. I’ve got to take my mother to a hospital in Marlin. I suppose you’ll find this subject for more criticism, but I can’t help it. When I get settled in Marlin, I’ll drop you a card, so you can write me if you care to do so. Whether I ever return to Cross Plains depends a great deal on whether my mother recovers or not.


I have thought a great deal about our date yesterday (to which I had eagerly looked forward to as to the bright spot in the otherwise somber pattern of the last few days,) and the memory is much like a fantastic dream. It seems incredible that I, in the blackest hours of my life, should have occupied half an hour in a childish squabble over a mustache! I looked forward to that date; I didn’t want you to feel sorry for me, or even approve of me. All I wanted was for you to give me a chance to relax and forget my troubles, to enjoy your company to the fullest. You said I didn’t seem to enjoy the date. How could I? What chance did you give me to enjoy it? I was already punch-drunk with grief, worry and trouble; but, with my mother’s life ebbing away before my eyes, with my father breaking and aging before me with the worry and strain we both labor under, and I myself faced with the wreckage of all my life’s plans and labors, and the utter ruin of my career —…


In a previous letter to HPL dated December 5, 1935, REH says he and his father took Hester to Marlin in the middle of November where she stayed two weeks. This means that from the middle of November 1935 until sometime in March 1936, his mother was seriously ill, eventually dying a few months later in June 1936.


And Hester’s illness wasn’t the only cause of REH’s lack of concentration. In Rusty Burke’s A Short Biography of Robert E. Howard, Burke mentions other interruptions to REH’s work. 1. His father’s practice was moved back into the house when Dr. Howard’s meager savings were depleted and patients were coming and going. 2. Hiring household help (when it was available) for his mother added to the confusion in the house.


Clyde Smith has written REH told him if it wasn’t for the fact his mother needed him, he would commit suicide. I think the first mention of this was about 1919. In a way, she anchored him to this earth. During those last two years, Hester’s bout with TB was incredibly painful, debilitating and some of the treatments are straight out of a horror movie. I’m just grateful that she hung on as long as she did. Think of what REH wouldn’t have written if she had died earlier.

Good talkin' to you as usual, Gary,


In Topic: In Defense of Hester Jane Ervin Howard

Yesterday, 12:58 AM

Hi Sam,

I was intrigued so I checked REH's poetry book for the word behest and it appears in three other poems besides "The Tempter." Here are lines from "Illusion."


Strong color contrasts, turquoise, sapphire, snow.

Tumbling the jade green billows from the west

Roars the wild sea-wind. Keep your sea. I go.

Stranger to me the fierce red-blooded zest,

The wild beast urge, the primitive behest.

Fierce primal impulses are thoughts I do not know.

I’ve ever dwelt ’mid worlds of vaguer tone,

All tints and colors merging soft and dim,

No garish flare of reds at the desert’s rim—

The sea-winds murmur there a pleasing drone;

The sea-fogs grace the ocean, friendly, grey.


The Lies

All is noble, fine and grand, say the Lies.

Cringe and kiss the masters’ hands, say the Lies.

Do their bidding with all zest,

Bend your backs at their behest, for the masters, they know best, say the Lies.


You can never smite us down, say the Lies.

Gemmed with ages is our crown, say the Lies.

They that rule and they that preach,

Ever still our worship teach, and we murmur through their speech, say the Lies.


Roundelay of a Rough Neck

Prospector; king of battling ring;

Tarred slave of tide’s behests,

Monarchs of muscle shall I sing,

Lords of the hairy chests.


Though some may stay ’neath cities away,

To toil with maul and hod,

To outer trails most take their way,

To lands yet scarcely trod.


Word's behesting, primitive behest and tarred behest are wonderful images. And don't appear to have anything to do with HH. Most importantly, REH would have referred to her as mother, ma or mom, not her given name Hester. Fun to think about and discuss these things though. 


The best news about Novalyne's book(s) is they offer a totally different perspective about REH as a person. There's a lot of day-to-day living in NPE's pages and while I'm not a big fan of hers those insights into his life are pure gold. Especially after de Camp's versions.


In Topic: REH Word Of The Week

29 June 2015 - 07:21 AM

The Word of the Week for June 29, 2015 is spawn





This week’s word was featured several times in REH’s poetry. Three of these are especially descriptive and all three are different in tone. For instance in “Babel” REH refers to foul spawn:


Was this your plan, foul spawn of cosmic mire,

To freeze my soul to stone and icy fire,

To carve me in the moon that all mankind

May know its race is futile, weak and blind—

A horror-blasted statue in the sky,

That does not live and nevermore can die?


Another is “hell’s red spawn” from “The Rhyme of the Three Slavers”—an anti-slavery poem about three slavers who kidnap and kill a tribal medicine man who was informing on them to the British man-of-wars:


They weighed their anchor and sailed at dawn

With the souls for which they’d paid,

Three men, the vilest of Hell’s red spawn,

Fairly and Fall and Slade.

Basest of Satan’s Brotherhood,

Sharks of the slaver’s trade.


The third description—shadow spawn—is from “Shadows 2.”


Grey ghost, dim ghost,

Moon and shadow spawn,

Strange are the far flung

Ways you have gone—

Wailing through the starlight

Fleeing at the dawn.


Grey ghost, dim ghost,

(Moon upon the hill,

Slender fingers rapping

At my window sill.)—


Eyes that haunt the shadows

Feet that shun the light—

Grey ghost, dim ghost

Where do you walk tonight?


And, this week’s poem “The Hills of Kandahar” wasn’t REH’s only reference to hills. In fact the word hills appeared in quite a variety of his poetry. For instance one of the most imaginative references is in “Always Comes Evening.”


“For I rode the moon-mare’s horses

       in the glory of my youth,
“Wrestled with the hills at sunset—

       till I met brass-tinctured 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.

Like “The Hills of Kandahar” and “But the Hills Were Ancient Then” “Red Blades of Black Cathay speaks of life and the lives of those who once passed through these hills.


Trumpets die in the loud parade,

The gray mist drinks the spears;

Banners of glory sink and fade

In the dust of a thousand years.

Singers of pride the silence stills,

The ghost of empire goes,

But a song still lives in the ancient hills,

And the scent of a vanished rose.

Ride with us on a dim, lost road

To the dawn of a distant day,

When swords were bare for a guerdon rare—

The Flower of Black Cathay.


In addition to hills of blue (“Nights to Both of Us Known”), purple (Untitled “There were three lads…”), scarlet (“The Gates of Babylon”), sapphire (“A Far Country”) and silver (“Keresa, Karesita”), REH wrote of “The Gibbet Hill”


They haled him to the crossroads

As day was at its close;

They hung him to the gallows

And left him for the crows.


His hands in life were bloody,

His ghost will not be still;

He haunts the naked moorlands

About the gibbet hill.


On the other hand, the hills in “Solomon Kane’s Homecoming 2” were grisly:


“And I have known a deathless queen in a city old as Death;
“Her smile was like a serpent’s kiss, her kiss was Lilith’s breath.
“And I have roamed in grisly hills where dead men walked by night,
“And I have seen a tattered corpse stand up to blast men’s sight.


“And I have heard the death-chant rise in the slaver’s barracoon,
“And I have seen a winged fiend fly, all naked, in the moon.
“My feet are weary of wandering and age comes on apace—
“I fain would dwell in Devon now, forever in my place.”


The description “shadowed hill” seems pretty tame compared to the other imaginative lines in  “Voices Waken Memory”


The blind black shadows reach inhuman arms

To draw me into darkness once again;

The brooding night wind hints of nameless harms,

And down the shadowed hill a vague refrain

Bears half-remembered ghosts to haunt my soul,

Like far-off neighing of the nightmare’s foal.


Not only are the hills sullen in “The Grim Land,” REH uses the word sullen twice more to describe this land.


From Sonora to Del Rio is a hundred barren miles

Where the sotol weave and shimmer in the sun—

Like a horde of rearing serpents swaying down the bare defiles

When the scarlet, silver webs of dawn are spun.


There are little ’dobe ranchos brooding far along the sky,

On the sullen dreary bosoms of the hills;

Not a wolf to break the quiet, not a desert bird to fly

Where the silence is so utter that it thrills.


Gaunt and stark and bare and mocking rise the everlasting cliffs

Like a row of sullen giants hewn of stone,

Till the traveler, mazed with silence, thinks to look on hieroglyphs,

Thinks to see a carven Pharaoh on his throne.


Once these sullen hills were beaches and they saw the ocean flee

In the misty ages never known of men,

And they wait in brooding silence till the everlasting sea

Comes foaming forth to claim her own again.


Perhaps the poem should be called “The Sullen Land”?


Finally, in “Cimmeria” the hills were somber and shadowed, cloud-piled with an endless vista:


I remember
The dark woods, masking slopes of sombre hills;

The grey clouds’ leaden everlasting arch;

The dusky streams that flowed without a sound,

And the lone winds that whispered down the passes.


Vista on vista marching, hills on hills,

Slope beyond slope, each dark with sullen trees,

Our gaunt land lay. So when a man climbed up

A rugged peak and gazed, his shaded eye

Saw but the endless vista—hill on hill,

Slope beyond slope, each hooded like its brothers.


It was a gloomy land that seemed to hold

All winds and clouds and dreams that shun the sun,

With bare boughs rattling in the lonesome winds,

And the dark woodlands brooding over all,

Not even lightened by the rare dim sun

Which made squat shadows out of men; they called it

Cimmeria, land of Darkness and deep Night.


It was so long ago and far away
I have forgot the very name men called me.

The axe and flint-tipped spear are like a dream,

And hunts and wars are shadows. I recall

Only the stillness of that sombre land;

The clouds that piled forever on the hills,

The dimness of the everlasting woods.

Cimmeria, land of Darkness and the Night.


Oh soul of mine, born out of shadowed hills,

To clouds and winds and ghosts that shun the sun,

How many deaths shall serve to break at last

This heritage which wraps me in the grey

Apparel of ghosts? I search my heart and find

Cimmeria, land of Darkness and the Night.



June featured the Cthulhu Mythos with words from Howard’s poetry such as werewolf, vampire, demon, dragon and spawn. 2015 celebrates the 125th birthday of HPL and the correspondence between him and Howard. More to come in August when PulpFest celebrates HPL’s birthday also.


In Topic: Jurassic World

26 June 2015 - 10:29 AM

Hi Ironhand,

Both Jurassic Park and Jurassic World are basically about the dinosaurs. I guess you could say dinosaurs saved Jurassic Park also because that was my fascination with that movie too. The main difference that I saw between the two movies is instead of focusing only on human snacks (remember the little girl on the beach in the beginning of JP), there is a lot of tension between the different types of dinosaurs. But that has also been traditional in any movies about them especially with the T-Rex's. Perhaps the best way of saying it: even if it is all about dinosaurs who save the day and the movie, I enjoyed the two hour adventure. It was different enough from the first movie to make it interesting.


I agree about the raptors. While they are still dangerous especially in view of their intelligence and cunning, they are developing into more than just killing machines which is ironic in view of the new dinosaur. As for movies about them, instead of man (or woman) and a dog, horse, pig, monkey, elephant -- or whatever companion, I see future adventures of Timmy and his raptor.


I'm still having a lot of trouble picturing any of them with feathers.


In Topic: Jurassic World

26 June 2015 - 03:09 AM

Saw it a couple times with different friends and I enjoyed it. I still enjoyed the original Jurassic Park the most--probably because of the originality of seeing the dinosaurs move so gracefully. I would rate this one second of the four movies. It has a different take on the raptors. I came away with a sort of fondness for them! JW has a couple of dinosaurs that are different from the original.


JP was dinosaur against humans. Probably Jurassic World should should be subtitled "There's always something bigger and badder out there." It is more dino against dino. There were several very tense moments, one scene that was totally unbelievable and another giving the inference of a sequel. The actors were good and it was great escapist fare. The dinosaurs really manage to steal the show many times. One paleontologist stated his only complaint is that not one of the dinosaurs had feathers.

As Chris Pratt says in one scene, "it's basically like going for a walk in the woods 65 million years ago."

As I said, not a bad way to spend a couple of hours especially if you're a dinosaur fan.