Lettre inachevée (mars 1937) de H.P. Lovecraft à Mr. James F. Morton, et trouvée sur
son bureau après qu'on l'eut conduit à l'hôpital où il devait mourir :
By the way — to let an association of ideas start me off at a tangent — here's a remarkable case of coincidence or « small world » stuff or what-the-hell. You've probably heard me spout more than a dozen times those favourite lines of mine from the close of King John, which make me swell with a kind of exaltation every time I even think of them :
This England never did, nor never shall,
Lie at the proud Foot of a Conqueror,
But when it first did help to wound itself.
Now these her Princes are come home again,
Come the three Corners of the World in Arms,
And we shall shock them. Nought shall make us rue
If England to itself do rest but true !
I had the privilege of hearing these lines on the actual boards a quarter of a century ago when Robert Mantell's repertory company played Providence, and ever afterward associated them with the extremely gifted young actor who spoke them in the part of the bastard Faulconbridge — a chap named Fritz Leiber, who handled all such secondary roles as Horatio, Mercutio, Iago, Maccluff, Richmond, Edgar, Bassanio, Antony, and so on. I used to think that Leiber was really better than Mantell himself — for the latter was getting egotistical, self-conscious, and stagey. Well — I lately had occasion to revive those ancient memories, when I received (through Astounding Stories) a communication from Fritz Leiber's son and namesake — a fanatical and scholarly devotee of weird fiction and the aesthetic, psychological, and philosophical background behind it. Young Fritz (twenty-five, a University of Chicago graduate, and entering his father's profession) has one of the keenest minds I have ever encountered, and in the interval since last November has become one of the star correspondents on my desperately crowded list. His understanding of the profound emotions behind the groping for cosmic concepts surpasses that of almost anyone else with whom I've discussed the matter ; and his own tales and poems, while not without marks of the beginner, shew infinite insight and promise. Papa's genius certainly reached the second generation in this case — for whether or not Fritz Jun. equals his sire on the boards, he'll certainly get somewhere in literature if he keeps on at his present rate. He has had classic thespian experience — having played in his father's companies (which have never visited Providence) in recent years those self-same roles (Edgar, Iago, etc.) which in my day old Fritz himself played in Mantell's companies. Incidentally, I saw old Fritz in two cinemas last year — the Pasteur opera and Anthony Adverse. Young Fritz has a momentary bit in the current Camille film — which I have not seen. Pater et filius reside together (though young Fritz has a wife) in Beverly Hills, California. — the same town with young Henry Kuttner. Young Fritz resembles his parent — who, by the way, is an amateur sculptor of much talent, with some remarkable Shakespearian busts to his credit. The son's artistic ability is manifest in something he sent me for Christmas — a series of strangely potent and macabre illustrations for some of my tales. These designs were produced by a novel and original process which the artist calls « splatter-stencil work », and they convey surprisingly vivid effects in a semi-futuristic way. The best is probably one shewing the earthward The Whisperer in Darkness. There will shortly be circulated among the gang (you can be on the list if you like) a remarkable unpublished novelette by young Leiber — Adept's Gambit, rejected by Wright and now under revision according to my suggestions. It is a very brilliant piece of fantastic imagination — with suggestions of Cabell, Beckford, Dunsany, and even Two-Gun Bob — and ought to see publication some day. Being wholly out of the cheap tradesman tradition, it has small chance of early magazine placement — hence the idea of circulation amongst the members of the circle. This novelette is part of a very unusual myth-cycle spontaneously evolved in the correspondence of young Leiber and his closest friend — Harry 0. Fischer of lately-inundated Louisville. Fischer has also come within my congested epistolary circle, and is in some ways even more remarkable than Leiber — he has more imaginative fertility, though less concentrated emotional power and philosophic insight. Their myth-cycle, originally started by Fischer, involves my own pantheon of Yog-Sothoth, Cthulhu, etc., and revolves round the adventures of two roving characters (Fafhrd the Viking, modelled after Leiber — who is six feet four — and the Gray Mouser, modelled after the diminutive Fischer) in a vague congeries of fabulous and half-fabulous worlds of the remote past. Fischer's parts of this cycle are vivid but unformulated and disjointed, so that at present Leiber — the better cratfsman — is the only publicly visible author of the pair. Adept's Gambit is laid in the Syria of the earlier Hellenistic period, but soon moves away from Tyre and Ephesus to a fabulous mountain realm of inland Asia. Fischer's wife is an accomplished artist, and has made several very effective pastel drawings of some of the inconceivable Entities in the Fafhrd-Mouser cycle.