Lettre du 20 décembre 1936 de H.P. Lovecraft à Mrs. Fritz Leiber (Jonquil Stephens) :
December 20, 1936
Dear. Mrs. Leiber : —
......I shall probably be available a decade hence — if still living at so advanced an age — for that good-weird-magazine editorship which Mr. Leiber has in mind ! Such a magazine would surely be welcomed by a limited and devoted circle — though in harsh fact I gravely doubt its practicability as a commercial or even self-sustaining venture. The old W. T. group has many a time discussed something of the sort — pointing out that virtually all of the world's first-rate authors (for example — Henry James, Rudyard Kipling, Edith Wharton, F. Marion Crawford, Theodore Dreiser, Guy de Maupassant, etc., etc., etc.) have at one time or another written weird material, and arguing that they would probably produce a great deal more if a definite and dependable market existed. With this potential source of contents (to which would of course be added the presumably increased output of such acknowledged fantaisistes as Blackwood, Machen, Dunsany, de la Mare, etc.), argued the optimists, the right sort of publisher might float a weird magazine of the very highest grade, commanding a select and dependable public, and reaching persons who would toss aside a cheap rag like W. T. with contempt. A pleasing picture ! But there were not lacking pessimists to point out that this select and faithful public would of necessity be woefully small. After all, a taste for fantasy in large doses is a rather unusual thing. Most readers like it only occasion ally — relishing a Machen book now and then, or faintly appreciating the timid and insipid bits (like The House of the Laburnums in the Dec. Harper's) sparingly scattered through the conventional magazines, but becoming distinctly bored when confronted by a solid or frequent diet of shadow and bizarrerie. Hence the reluctance of book publishers to issue collections of weird short stories .... and hence, by inference, the impossibility of finding enough readers among the literate to keep a cosmic-spectral periodical alive. That Farnsworth Wright and his congeners recognise this dilemma is very obvious — for their output is deliberately designed to attract the limitless hordes of the crude and illiterate. They tap a class which a civilised magazine could not reach — the coarse sensation-seeker, the superstitious séance-devotee, and so on — and yet they manage to retain a small literate following through the insertion of a few passable yarns, and because of the fact that no other magazines of like subject-matter exist. The editors are glad to hold this handful of the civilised if they can do so without alienating their bread-and-butter-yielding yokelry — but when it comes to a choice betwixt the two, the yokelry wins every time. Caeteris paribus, the cheap, sensational story is preferred to the sincere artistic effort. And the sad thing is that the editors are probably commercially right. That's what business is ! If they tried to present an all-civilised programme of fiction their circulation would probably dwindle below the self-supporting limit. But let us hope — for the sake of weird literature as well as of that editorship — that conditions may somehow miraculously change before 1947. Good luck to the future Leiber Fabularum Pavidorum .... if one may attempt a base but classic example of paronomasia.
Speaking of industrio-economic matters — let me assure you that a 2 — or-3-dollar-a-week dietary programme need not involve even a particle of malnutrition or unpalatability if one but knew what to get and where to get it. The tin can and delicatessen conceal marvellous possibilities ! Porridge ? Mehercule ! On the contrary, my tastes call for the most blisteringly highly-seasoned materials conceivable, and for desserts as close to 100% C12H22O11 as possible. Indeed, of this latter commodity I never employ less than four teaspoons in an average cup of coffee. Favourite dinners-Italian spaghetti, chili con carne, Hungarian goulash (save when I can get white meat of turkey with highly-seasoned dressing). If this be asceticism, make the most of it ! As for the expense element — to begin with, I eat only twice daily from choice ... or rather, digestive advisability. I adopted this two-meal programme long before I had to economise. The rest is merely a matter of judicious and far from self-denying choice. Let us investigate a typical day's rations.
(a) Breakfast (whether I eat it before or after retiring depends on whether I retire at 2 a. m. or 9 a. m. or 3 p. m. or 9 p. m. or some other hour. My programme of sleeping and waking is very flexible.)
Doughnut from Weyhasset Pure Food Market 0.015
York State Medium Cheese (for sake of round numbers) 0.060
Coffee + Challenge Brand Condensed Milk + C12H22O11 0.025
Total Breakfast 0.100
(b) Dinner (occurring vaguely betwixt 6 and 9 or 10 p. m.)
1 can Rath's Chili con Carne* 0.100
2 slices Bond Bread 0.025
Coffee (with accessories as noted above) 0.025
Slice of cake or quadrant (or octant) of pie 0.050
Total Dinner 0.200
Grand Total for Entire Day 0.30
Average Total per Week 2.10
(*or Armour's Corned Beef Hash or baked beans from delic., or Armour's Frankfort Sausage or Boiardi Meat Balls and Spaghetti or chop suey from delicatessen or Campbell's Vegetable Soup, etc., etc., etc. )
Occasionally, of course, extravagant additions occur — such as fruit with breakfast, or cheese with pie at dinner, or a chocolate bar or ice cream at an odd hour, or a meat-course costing more than a dime, or other sybaritic luxuries. But even the most Lucullan indulgence seldom tops an hebdomadal 3 bucks. And the old man still lives — in a fairly hale and hearty state, at that ! Oddly enough, I was a semi-invalid in the old days when I didn't economise. Porridge ? Not for Grandpa ! ......
..... I can endorse with the most profanely fervent emphasis your appraisal of American Business Push ! The fact is, an ideal of toil for its own sake, and an exaltation of the grasping, aggressively acquisitive type, have always seemed to me so self-evidently barbarous and ignominious that I have never quite been able to realise their existence as important factors. Commercial ideals are a trifle better camouflaged in New England than in other parts of America ; and as one more disposed to draw ideas from books than to absorb the spirit of my physical environment, I managed to grow up with a European rather than pioneerAmerican scale of values regarding the individual and society. Not that I have ever scorned honest industry — for should not every person contribute all he can to society, in exchange for the organised benefits it extends him ? — but that I have scorned the notion of industry as an end in itself. I cannot comprehend the exaltation of a mere process as distinguished from its objects. Working to live I can understand — but not living to work ! And the poisonous, cheapening vulgarity of the commercial mind — the readiness to haggle, the tendency to relate all ideas and impressions to material advantage, and the rat-like intensiveness associated with « business enterprise » — has always nauseated me so violently that the notion of a social order founded on it has seemed to partake of fantastic nightmare rather than sober reality. Yet I suppose such a reign of commercial ideals does exist — indeed, I see many evidences of it when I view the objective phenomena of today. But I fancy its triumph will be short-lived. Mechanisation of industry and diffusion of knowledge are laying the foundations for widespread change, and squirearchy and capitalism must alike go down in time before some planned society more rational and equitable than either.
Yr. Obdt. etc. —