Thursday, May 6, 2010

Rediscovering the real Robert E. Howard in Collected Letters

We know a lot more about Robert E. Howard these days, and in particular we know a lot more truths about the man from Cross Plains than ever before. For this, we have many sources to thank, including the recent excellent work done by Rusty Burke in his A Short Biography and Mark Finn’s biographical work Blood and Thunder: The Life and Art of Robert E. Howard. There’s also plenty of places to find important critical analysis of Howard’s works, including collections of essays like The Dark Barbarian and The Barbaric Triumph.

But if you want to get a look inside Howard’s mind—how he thought, what he believed in passionately, and what he raged about—I can’t recommend The Collected Letters of Robert E. Howard highly enough. Editor Rob Roehm deserves our utmost praise for putting together this three volume collection, available for purchase from The Robert E. Howard Foundation.

To read the rest of this post, visit The Cimmerian Web site.


David J. West said...

I'm moved buy those snatches of verse salted into letters. I was able to get Collected Poetry a couple months ago (I'll review it soon) but your summary here makes me want to get Letters even more. One of these days.

Eric D. Lehman said...

I'm a huge fan of letters. I'm reading Samuel Taylor Coleridge's letters right now, and read Van Gogh's letters to Theo about once a year. I love how personality comes out in a way that it never does in biographies (or even most autobiographies).

Of course, I read Elizabeth Bishop's letters, and was highly disappointed. She is one of my favorite poets, but I didn't "like" her at all in the letters...

Anonymous said...

I wonder if it is pure chance, or a matter of choice, that R.E.H. was well versed, ans interested with the philosophers mentioned in the Cimmerian for that is an unfortunate circle of philosophers.

Especially with Nietzsche, who spent too much time, and was too close to the nature of evil, and thus became ensnared by that very nature that he sought to avoid. In the end, he was only able to convey that he was ensnared, and that we should give up hope. The fate of Sauron was his.

So too, with Sartre, but to a lesser degree, and in the end Sartre was redeemed, for it was Simone de Beauvoir who showed him the light.

R.E.H., however, whom was a contemporary of Sartre, did not have another luminary spirit close at hand, to provide salvation.

I'd wager on this without seeing the collected letters, however will endeavor to do so now especially, If only to see if It is possible to comprehend the path that R.E.H. chose to take.

Brian Murphy said...

David: Howard's Collected Letters are not cheap, but after buying one volume I think they're worth the price.

Eric: Agreed. I learned more about Tolkien from his letters than Carpenter's biography, for example.

Anonymous: Although I'm reluctant to psychoanalyze Howard's death, I suppose it's possible, or at least one factor among others.