Letter to Clark Ashton Smith

From H. P. Lovecraft

10 Barnes St.

Octr. 15, 1927

Dear C A S:—

As to futility & work—I have come to the comfortably elderly condition of not caring a rap whether I do anything or not! I had really much rather read than write things, & would not write at all if I could find exactly what I want—written by some one else. My environmental requirements are rather unlike yours—although, such as they are, they are very exacting. What I absolutely must have—& that is about the only thing really essential to me—is a general atmosphere exactly like that of my youth—the same scenes, the same kind of faces & voices & thoughts & opinions around me—the same type of sounds & impressions. I did not realise my dependence on these things till I tried living in New York, but then I was very soon made to see my essential attachment to them. I discovered that the cosmic & cosmopolitan element in me is the thinnest of veneers, & that I am actually—so far as all the deeper emotions & springs of action are concerned—an extremely localised New Englander of the most pronounced type. In New York my mental processes were virtually atrophied for want of contact with the impressions which form their exclusive nourishment—I was an unassimilated alien there, & always would have been. Only the return home liberated & resuscitated my faculties, such as they are. Now all these environmental concernments have nothing to do with people—except as vague& distant decorative elements, to be classified according to what their dress, physiognomy, & voice contribute to the general geographical impression. Intellectual companionship I do not really require—except so far as correspondence is concerned—since my ideal is to be an absolutely passive & non-participating spectator to the pageant of meaningless existence, As a matter of fact, the mental attitude of Providence would probably be decidedly hostile to me if I tried to mingle in it—but I've never tried, so far. I simply don't care whether or not I see & talk to anybody except my family. My family don't care for the weird, but they don't object to my caring for it—hence provide an atmosphere of friendly harmony even though they aren't likely to share my ravings anent Algernon Blackwood or Arthur Machen. And of course, there are plenty of other topics, antiquarian & otherwise, which we can discuss with perfect satisfaction. Thus I really don't feel any need of outside contacts—books give that—& judge my environment by its massed pictorial effect. I was born & reared in a certain kind of old town, with certain kinds of antient steeples & doorways around me, certain kinds of faces & voices flitting through the scene, a certain kind of house in a certain kind of quiet neighbourhood containing me, certain articles of furniture, painting, statuary, & bric-a-brac in the rooms through which I walked, certain books on the shelves, & certain staid & conservative New England social & moral & political attitudes floating about in the circumambient conversation. These things, I find, are all that spell reality in life to me. As soon as I am apart from them, everything becomes spurious & two-dimensional—vague fragments of a dream in which I have no business to be. It may be that the alien milieu is intrinsically richer in aesthetic & intellectual value—but that means nothing to me. My aesthetic & intellectual life are lived in books anyhow, all exclusive of people & material surroundings, & owe nothing to companionship. What I need is simply my own fabric as a matter of cosmic symmetry—be it worse or better than anybody else's fabric. That ethereal sense of identity with my own native & hereditary soil & institutions is the one essential condition of intellectual life—& even of a sense of complete existence & waking reality—which I cannot do without. Like Antaeus of old, my strength depends on repeated contact with the soil of the Mother Earth that bore me.

With all good wishes, & thanking you prodigiously for that nameless head from the black planet, Yadoth, I remain

Yr most obt

Selected Letters (Arkham House) 301

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