Letter to Clark Ashton Smith

From H. P. Lovecraft

169 Clinton St.
Brooklyn, N. Y.

Octr. 9, 1925

Dear C A S:—

. . . . . No-I've never read any of the jargon of formal "occultism", since I have always thought that weird writing is more effective if it avoids the hackneyed superstitions & popular cult formulae. I am, indeed, an absolute materialist so far as actual belief goes; with not a shred of credence in any form of supernaturalism—religion, spiritualism, transcendentalism, metempsychosis, or immortality. It may be, though, that I could get the germs of some good ideas from the current patter of the psychic lunatic fringe; & I have frequently thought of getting some of the junk sold at an occultists book shop in 46th St. The trouble is, that it costs too damned much for me in my present state. How much is the brochure you have just been reading? If any of these crack-brained cults have free booklets & "literature" with suggestive descriptive matter, I wouldn't mind having my name on their "sucker lists". The idea that black magic exists in secret today, or that hellish antique rites still survive in obscurity, is one that I have used & shall use again. When you see my new tale The Horror at Red Hook, you will see what use I make of the idea in connexion with the gangs of young loafers & herds of evil-looking foreigners that one sees everywhere in New York.

I have a nest of devil-worshippers & devotees of Lilith in one of the squalid Brooklyn neighbourhoods, & describe the marvels & horrors that ensued when these ignorant inheritors of hideous ceremonies found a learned & initiated man to lead them. I bedeck my tale with incantations copied from the "Magic" article in the 9th edition of the Britannica, but I'd like to draw on less obvious sources if I knew of the right reservoirs to tap. Do you know of any good works on magic & dark mysteries which might furnish fitting ideas & formulae? For example—are there any good translations of any mediaeval necromancers with directions for raising spirits, invoking Lucifer, & all that sort of thing? One hears of lots of names—Albertus Magnus, Eliphas Levi, Nicholas Flamel—&c., but most of us are appallingly ignorant of them. I know I am—but fancy you must be better informed. Don't go to any trouble, but some time I'd be infinitely grateful for a more or less brief list of magical books—ancient & mediaeval preferred—in English or English translations. Meanwhile let me urge you, as I did over a year ago, to read The Witch Cult in Western Europe, by Margaret A. Murray. It ought to be full of inspiration for you.

Most cordially & sincerely yrs,

Selected Letters (Arkham House) 197

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