Letter to Clark Ashton Smith

From H. P. Lovecraft

10 Barnes St.

Feby. 18, 1927

Dear C A S:—

.......... New York is too far removed from the main stream of any one civilisation to be the home of any genuine art. It is a hybrid place, with garishness & squalor in monotonous alternation. Such places—like all cosmopolitanism—may breed the critical spirit, but never art. Art grows out of solitude & communion with one's own past & background, & at bottom is exceedingly nativistic & nationalistic. One's dream-country, be it in Cocaigne or on Canopus, is always a vague projection & etherealisation of one's own childhood land; & the fartherone's life gets from these authentic sources, the weaker his art will become. New York belongs to no well-defined fabric & has no place in anyone's hereditary or continuous life—wherefore it is a nursery of pose & pretence rather than of depth & sincerity in art. It is delightful to visit on account of its faery pinnacles & wealth of museums & the like—but as a place for a white man to live it simply doesn't exist. The old New York is dead—this one is only a kennel of feverish mongrels ..........

........ Sterling was a real poet, & the fact of his not fitting the age is purely the age's fault. It is my belief—& was so long before Spengler put his seal of scholarly proof on it—that our mechanical & industrial age is one of frank decadence; so far removed from normal life & ancestral conditions as to make impossible its expression in artistic media. Last night I was supported in this belief by a lecture given here by the Irish poet Padraic Colurn on Contemporary Poetry. Colum started by denying that such a thing as contemporary poetry exists, & shewed very clearly that the ideas & life of the present period are as yet artistically unformulated. We live on memories—& I think that is all we can ever live on now, since mechanical invention has so appallingly divorced us from the soil & from those conditions of our forefathers around which the aesthetic feelings of the race are entwined.

Most cordially & sincerely yrs—
H P L

Selected Letters (Arkham House) 260

Printed from: www.eldritchdark.com/writings/correspondence/102
Printed on: November 23, 2017