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Re: Of Peake and CAS
Posted by: Atropos (IP Logged)
Date: 4 May, 2004 11:46PM
I find it interesting that CAS would count "The Door to Saturn" among his favorites. That story, with its grotesque extremes (even for Smith) and mordant satire has always been one of my favorites of the Hyperborean cycle, though I have always sensed that others did not share my enthusiasm for it. With CAS listing "The White Sybil" as well, he seems to have had a strong preference for the Hyperborean tales. I also remember that CAS was quite fond of "The Seven Geases" (one of my all-time ABSOLUTE FAVORITES) and "The Coming of the White Worm." It's sad that some of CAS's "other" cycles get slighted somewhat from all the focus on the Zothique cyclce (not to mention the excellent SF entries. I'm eagerly awaiting "Star Changes." Hint Hint, Scott, if you may have heard anything).
Kevin, what exactly were CAS's later feelings toward De La Mare? What I have read of CAS's literary criticism has evinced a discomfort with de la Mare's psychological focus. I'd like to know what his revised feelings were.
On a side note, if you are interested in coming to Peake through one of the more "weird" works in his oeuvre, I have heard that "Boy in Darkness" is creepy to the point of bordering on the downright horrific. I've got a copy near the top of my ever-growing "to read" stack; I'll let you know how she reads when I get to her.
-Daniel

Re: Of Peake and CAS
Posted by: Kyberean (IP Logged)
Date: 5 May, 2004 12:03AM
Daniel:

I'm just basing my view on what I've read in the Selected Letters of Clark Ashton Smith. In a letter to Lovecraft dated c. December 4, 1933, for instance, CAS writes (I imagine that HPL lent CAS a volume of de la Mare's tales),

"I have greatly enjoyed the de la Mare volume. 'Mr. Kempe' is a fine tale, and one is not likely to forget either the setting or the central character. However, it seems to me that a stronger suggestive element could easily have been worked in. 'All Hallows', on the the other hand, is beyond improvement and beyond praise. To me, it is even more satisfactory than 'Seaton's Aunt'. The powerfully hinted idea of demoniac reconstruction is about as good as anything in weird fiction and is wholly original".

In a letter to L. Sprague de Camp dated October 21, 1953, CAS writes, "Among living writers, I probably admire Aldous Huxley and Walter de la Mare as much as any".

This isn't much to go on, to be sure, but it seems to suggest an upward curve. I should add that I'd be surprised, indeed, if CAS didn't appreciate de la Mare's considerable gifts as a poet.

Thanks for the further information regarding Peake's work. Yes, by all means let me know what you think of the work you mentioned.

Re: Of Peake and CAS
Posted by: Atropos (IP Logged)
Date: 5 May, 2004 12:38AM
WHOA! CAS was a Huxley fan? I would have thought that Huxley was slightly too modernistic for CAS's tastes. I've got to get Selected Letters; I'm missing out on some choice info :-)
Here is the quote I had in mind, from "The Tale of Macrocosmic Horror,"

"In authors such as Algernon Blackwood and Walter de la Mare, it seems to me that the accent is primarily on human character. But in their work (at least, in any of it that I have read) one fails to find the highest imaginative horror, the overwhelming sweep of black, gulf-arisen wings, such as is conveyed in the best tales of Ambrose Bierce, Poe and H. P. Lovecraft, where human character is treated more briefly and subversively."

Interestingly, while trying to relocate this quote, I discovered a quote from Lovecraft claiming that de la Mare WAS a cosmicist. Go figure ;-)
-Daniel
P.S. I'm not too sure about Lovecraft's assessment; on the one hand, we have the aforementioned "All Hallows." However, on the other hand we have the BULK of all de la Mare's non-weird fiction, which is decidedly non-cosmic in perspective, perhaps even more so than CAS's ironic-romantic fiction. "The Nap," anyone? This is not to say that de la Mare's non-weird fiction isn't any good; actually my favorite story of his is "Miss Duveen."

Re: Of Peake and CAS
Posted by: Kyberean (IP Logged)
Date: 5 May, 2004 10:00AM
(Formerly K.S.)

Daniel:

Quote:
WHOA! CAS was a Huxley fan? I would have thought that Huxley was slightly too modernistic for CAS's tastes.

There are some disparaging remarks about Huxley in one of the essays in Planets and Dimensions, as well. I suspect that Huxley's satirical bent eventually won over CAS, as they had many of the same targets. In the same letter I quoted from CAS to Sprague de Camp, above, CAS goes on to mention that his tastes are fairly eclectic, and include Fritz Leiber, Jr. and John Collier! (terrain where I definitely cannot follow him! lol)

I figured that you had in mind the "Macrocosmic Horror" quotation. I think that CAS's dismissal of Blackwood in this respect is downright silly, but CAS seems to admit that he hadn't read as much of Blackwood's work as he perhaps should have.

Regarding de la Mare, in particular: I agree that weirds are a (too) small percentage of his work as a whole, but I suppose that HPL is focusiong on cosmicism in de la Mare's weird work per se. (In a letter, HPL also wrote that [I paraphrase], "De la Mare can be exceedingly powerful when he chooses, and I only wish that he'd choose oftener!") I'm much fonder of de la Mare's weirds than of his non-weirds, myself, but he is such an exquisite stylist that I find anything he writes to be worth reading, regardless of whether I find myself interested in his characters or his subject matter (This may sound like heresy, but that's often the way I approach Shakespeare, as well, whose extraordinary poetry is, to my mind, mostly wasted on exclusively humanistic themes and concerns. It's a tragedy of the first water, I think, that Shakespeare didn't try his hand at a Paradise Lost, but I digress, as usual [That wouldn't have paid the bills, I realize] ).

The question of who HPL thinks is and isn't a cosmicist is a vexing one, because HPL seemed constantly to change his mind on the subject. For instance, in Supernatural Horror in Literature, we learn that Arthur Machen is a master of cosmic fear raised to the highest pitch. In a later letter, however, HPL claims that Machen's imagination is not cosmic at all. De la Mare receives similar treatment, I think. At one point, HPL questions the cosmicism of even the revered Dunsany. The subject of HPL's idea of cosmicism, and his shifting opinions of what writers embody it, would make an excellent book-length study (does S.T. Joshi lurk in this forum? ;-) ), both for the intrinsic interest of the subject matter and the confusion and complexity of it!

Getting back to CAS: His opinions of authors certainly changed, as well. As I mentioned, I'm delighted to see his upwardly revised opinion of de la Mare, especially as they are kindred spirits in some respects, at least in verse. CAS favorably mentioned Bierce in the "Macrocosmic Horror" quotation, but then revised his opinion of him downward in a letter to Lovecraft. All this shows that we must all be careful in our assumptions regarding the tastes of our favorite authors, as their viewpoints were dynamic. Of course, one would expect no less of such individuals.

Re: Of Peake and CAS
Posted by: calonlan (IP Logged)
Date: 7 May, 2004 11:42AM
Several notes in response, connect them as is appropriate:

First, recall that HPL was frequently given to hyperbole in his
praise - please take "cum grano salis."

Clark and I both enjoyed some of de la Mare's stuff - I recall particularly relishing and evening's recitation where I delivered
"Master and Bosun's Song" -- "At Dirty Dick's and Sloppy Joe's we
drank our liquor straight; Some went upstairs with Marjorie, and
some, alas, with Kate..."

Clark's enjoyment of his own love poetry, I am sure, had to do with
the existential fact of being married - albeit late in life. Living
with a woman for some years (particularly such a volatile and expansive
person as Carol), as opposed to surreptitiously "plowing with someone
else's heifer" and the secret, forbidden joys appurtaining thereto,
brought Clark to a different (I would say - deeper) perspective on the
the subject.

His comment on Huxley had to do with stories, not the poetry.

Re: Of Peake and CAS
Posted by: Kyberean (IP Logged)
Date: 7 May, 2004 02:33PM
Brief counter-notes:

Here, it's less an question of Lovecraft's praise, I think, than it is of the way he would characterize an author's work; in particular, whether that author's work or perspective embodied "cosmicism". For instance, Lovecraft felt that Donald Wandrei was one of the few individuals of his acquaintance who shared the cosmic perspective, but he did not, to my knowledge, over-praise Wandrei's work.

Regarding Huxley: As I mentioned, I'm nearly certain that Huxley's satires appealed most to CAS. CAS singles out for praise After Many A Summer Dies The Swan, I believe.

I dare say that you are right regarding the reason for whatever changes CAS's perspective on love poetry and romantic love may have undergone in time. Like Lovecraft, I freely confess to finding romantic love mostly ridiculous, myself, and so I suppose that "deeper" is a matter of perspective. For me, the deepest comment on romance and the like comes from Shelley (although he couldn't put it into practice during his youth, and didn't live long enough to see its wisdom into his dotage): "I think that one is always in love with something or other. The error consists in seeking in a mortal image the likeness of which is perhaps eternal" (paraphrased from memory). CAS offers similar wisdom a fortiori in "The Muse of Hyperborea" and "The White Sybil".

Re: Of Peake and CAS
Posted by: Dale Nelson (IP Logged)
Date: 24 October, 2019 11:07AM
The subject of Walter de la Mare came up in Oct. 2019 on the thread for Machen's Hieroglyphics -- not that Machen mentions de la Mare there, or, in fact, so far as I remember, anywhere.

I looked to see if there was a de la Mare thread here, and found that there are several threads relating to particular things by de la Mare or to other subject,s in which de la Mare came up.

That might be a good way to continue, rather than to start a thread simply on de la Mare.

Re: Of Peake and CAS
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 29 October, 2019 12:40PM
Hello, Atropos.

I started Titus Groan for the first time and am about 10% into it and while I can agree that Peake uses an unusual vocabulary, like CAS, it's not the same sort of vocabulary, to my mind. I've seen CAS's word choice described as "lapidary", for example, and that's far from what I'm seeing in Peake.

While both dwell on the topic of dissolution, there's a nobility and grandeur in CAS that is absent in Peake, who dwells on the grotesque and disgusting aspects of decay, both physical and spiritual. Peake is (so far) a tour of the backstreets of Villon, while CAS explores the remnants of Persepolis.

Peake also emphasizes more of the natural grotesque--dwarves, fat men, filth--than does CAS, whose grotesquery is more of a cosmic or transcendent nature. In short, you can see Peake grotesques in everyday life, while CAS grotesques don't for the most part exist in this universe.

This establishes a very different tone, and because of this I'm not sure where Peake is taking me, which is very exciting. I am very happy that you brought Peake to the group's attention.

Thanks, and I look forward to finishing Titus Groan soon.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. But give a man a boat,
a case of beer, and a few sticks of dynamite..." -- Sawfish

Re: Of Peake and CAS
Posted by: Knygatin (IP Logged)
Date: 30 October, 2019 02:25PM
Sawfish Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
...
> I started Titus Groan for the first time and am
> about 10% into it and while I can agree that Peake
> uses an unusual vocabulary, like CAS, it's not the
> same sort of vocabulary, to my mind. I've seen
> CAS's word choice described as "lapidary", for
> example, and that's far from what I'm seeing in
> Peake.
>
> While both dwell on the topic of dissolution,
> there's a nobility and grandeur in CAS that is
> absent in Peake, who dwells on the grotesque and
> disgusting aspects of decay, both physical and
> spiritual. Peake is (so far) a tour of the
> backstreets of Villon, while CAS explores the
> remnants of Persepolis.
>
> Peake also emphasizes more of the natural
> grotesque--dwarves, fat men, filth--than does CAS,
> whose grotesquery is more of a cosmic or
> transcendent nature. In short, you can see Peake
> grotesques in everyday life, while CAS grotesques
> don't for the most part exist in this universe. ...


I look forward to hearing how you will evaluate this book, especially from a supernatural and fantastic aspect.

Otherwise your observations confirm my generally preconceived hunches when younger, and why I then chose to read CAS among a select few others, and rejected to read Peake along with most other offerings standing on the bookracks in libraries and shops. That may be a risky approach. Still, there is only time enough to read a very small part of everything available. Too much reading effort had already been wasted in my early teens. One needs be discriminate, and always look for the artistic and ecstatic best. But I have been proven wrong on occasions, and delightfully surprised with some authors I had previously ignored.

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