Robert E. Howard to Harold Preece, Oct 20, 1928

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Letter to Harold Preece  (1928) 
by Robert Ervin Howard
Received October 20, 1928

Salaam:

Your stationery is alright. How is the university? Frankly, I know very little about the school and the little I do know is bad, but I'm prejudiced against all colleges—to Hell with them.

The American Legion—gah! They're supposed to be running the fight club here and won't put on a decent show; been expecting me to rustle some good hard slugging boys who'll fight for little or nothing. I worked up a good grudge bout between two boxers who hated each other, but it fell through and I'm done with the damned business. I was going to San Antonio to the convention, mainly because Sammy Baker was supposed to fight there, but I didn't make it. I wish to Hell I had; I'd have liked to have been there.

About O. Henry and the ostrich feather business—I can't work up much resentment against a girl who's that childish—too much like the action of a little kid who isn't responsible for her thoughts.

"The King of Kings" gripped me. I though it was powerful, though I think Joseph Schildrkraut ran away with the picture as Judas. And William Boyd, that fellow is the most human actor in the world. H.B. Warner lacked fire of course, but I don't know who else could have done even as good as he did…

I'm not going to vote. I won't vote for a Catholic and I won't vote for a damned Republican. Maybe I've said that before. My ancestors were all Catholic and not very far back. And I have reason to hate the church.

About Atlantis—I believe something of the sort existed, though I do not especially hold any theory about a high type of civilization existing there—in fact, I doubt that. But some continent was submerged away back, or some large body of land, for practically all peoples have legends about a flood. And the Cro Magnons appeared suddenly in Europe, developed to a high stage of primitive culture; there is no trace to show that they came up the ladder of utter barbarism in Europe. Suddenly their remains are found supplanting the Neanderthal Man, to whom they have no ties of kinship whatever. Where did they originate? Nowhere in the known world, evidently. They must have originated and developed through the different basic stages of evolution in some land which is not now known to us.

The occultists say that we are the fifth—I believe—great sub-race. Two unknown and annamed races came, then the Lemurians, then the Atlanteans, then we. They say the Atlanteans were highly developed. I doubt it. I think they were simply the ancestors of the Cro Magnon man, who by some chance, escaped the fate which overtook the rest of the tribes.

All my views on the matter I included in a long letter to the editor whom I sold a tale entitled "The Shadow Kingdom", which I expect will be published a a foreword to that story—if ever. This tale I wove about a mythical antediluvian empire, a contemporary of Atlantis.

I wish I had money—I'd take several courses in anthropology and the various phases of antiquity, and spend the rest of my life exploring ruins in out-of-the-way corners of the globe. The guture of the race interests me little; the present but a little more; the past, greatly. An occultist of my acquaintance, who has gone deeper in the matter than any man I ever knew, says I have a very ancient soul, am a reincarnated Atlantean, in fact! Maybe if there's anything to this soul business, or to reincarnation, that theory is maybe right. Sure I live in the dust of the past and my dreams are seldom of present or future, but I am ever treading roads of the dim ages and strange are some of the figures whom I meet and strange the shapes who stare at me.

I feel a curious kinship, though, with the Middle Ages. I have been more successful in selling tales laid in that period of time, than in any other. Truth it was an epoch for strange writers. Witches and werewolves, alchemists and necromancers, haunted the brains of those strange savage people, barbaric children that they were, and the only thing which was never believed was the truth. Those sons of the old pagan tribes were wrought upon by priest and monk, and they brought all their demons from their mythology and accepted all the demons of the new creed also, turning their old gods into devils. The slight knowledge which filtered through the monastaries from the ancient sources of decayed Greece and fallen Rome, was so distorted and perverted that by the time it reached the people, it resembled some monstrous legend. And the vague minded savages further garbed it in heathen garments. Oh, a brave time, by Satan! Any smooth rogue could swindle his way through life, as he can today, but then there was pageantry and high illusion and vanity, and the beloved tinsel of glory without which life is not worth living.

Oh, the gauds and the baubles and the frills and the tinsel! All empty show and the smoke of conceit and arrogance, but what a drab thing life would be without them. Hell, man can long for a world of working men all they wish—for a world of common sense and reason—I like the gilt and the silver bells, even if they can never be mine. The cap and wand of the jester, and the blare of the golden trumpets!

Hell, it's all a game, and let us be children and clap our hands when the gallant cavalcade wings by, and not look for the rust on the spears and the stains on the banners—not all the time, at least. I hate the devotees of great wealth but I enjoy seeing the splendor that wealth can buy. And if I were wealthy, I'd live in a place with marble walls and marble floors, lapis lazulis ceilings and cloth-of-gold and I would have silver fountains in the courts, flinging an everlasting sheen of sparkling water in the air. Soft low music should breathe forever through the rooms and slim tigerish girls should glide through on softly falling feet, serving all the wants of me and my guests; girls with white bare limbs like molten gold and soft dreamy eyes.

Oh Hell, may I always be able to laugh at myself. Self mockery is a good wine to drink sometimes. Satan blast my soul. You'll have to pardon all this rambling. I had nothing to say when I started. Answer soon.