Robert E. Howard

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Civilized men are more discourteous than savages because they know they can be impolite without having their skulls split, as a general thing.

Robert E. Howard (22 January 190611 June 1936) was an American writer of fantasy and historical adventure pulp stories, published primarily in Weird Tales magazine in the 1930s.

See also:
Conan the Barbarian
Conan the Barbarian (film) (1982)
Conan the Destroyer (1984)
Solomon Kane

Sourced[edit]

I have never yet done a man to death by torture, but by God, sir, you tempt me!
They claimed that the old man had a knuckle-duster on his right, which is ridiculous and a dirty lie. He had it on his left.

"Red Shadows" (1928)[edit]

  • Slowly he rose, mechanically wiping his hands upon his cloak. A dark scowl had settled on his somber brow. Yet he made no wild, reckless vow, swore no oath by saints or devils.
    "Men shall die for this," he said coldly.
  • "I have never yet done a man to death by torture, but by God, sir, you tempt me!"
  • The gorilla-slayer moved out into the glade. Massive, terrible, he was the personification of the primitive, the Stone Age. His mouth yawned in a red cavern of a grin; he bore himself with the haughty arrogance of savage might.

"The Shadow Kingdom" (1929)[edit]

  • The blare of the trumpets grew louder, like a deep golden tide surge, like the soft booming of the evening tides against the silver beaches of Valusia. The throng shouted, women flung roses from the roofs as the rhythmic chiming of silver hoofs came clearer and the first of the mighty array swung into view in the broad white street that curved round the golden-spired Tower of Splendor.

"The Mirrors of Tuzun Thune" (1929)[edit]

  • Like the surface of the sea was the mirror of Tuzun Thune; hard as the sea in the sun's slanting beams, in the darkness of the stars, where no eye can pierce her deeps; vast and mystic as the sea when the sun smites her in such way that the watcher's breath is caught at the glimpse of tremendous abysses. So was the mirror in which Kull gazed.
  • Kull was still mazed. "But being a wizard, having knowledge of all the ages and despising gold, glory, and position, what could Kaanuub offer Tuzun Thune that would make of him a foul traitor?"
    "Gold, power, and position," grunted Brule. "The sooner you learn that men are men whether wizard, king, or thrall, the better you will rule, Kull."
  • "For there are worlds beyond worlds, as Kull knows, and whether the wizard bewitched him by words or by mesmerism, vistas did open to the king’s gaze beyond that strange door, and Kull is less sure of reality since he gazed into the mirrors of Tuzun Thune."

"Rattle of Bones" (1929)[edit]

  • "Fool that I was to trust a Frenchman!"
  • "My sorcerer is rattling his bones," whispered the host, then laughed wildly. "Dying, he swore his very bones would weave a net of death for me. I shackled his corpse to the floor, and now, deep in the night, I hear his bare skeleton clash and rattle as he seeks to be free, and I laugh, I laugh! Ho! ho! How he yearns to rise and stalk like old King Death along these dark corridors when I sleep, to slay me in my bed!"

"The Pit of the Serpent" (1929)[edit]

  • The men on the Dauntless have disliked the Sea Girl's crew ever since our skipper took their captain to a cleaning on the wharfs of Zanzibar--them being narrow-minded that way. They claimed that the old man had a knuckle-duster on his right, which is ridiculous and a dirty lie. He had it on his left.

"Kings of the Night" (1930)[edit]

  • "This warrior says you must fight him for the leadership," said Bran, and Kull, eyes glittering with growing battle-joy, nodded: "I guessed as much. Give us space."
    "A shield and a helmet!" shouted Bran, but Kull shook his head.
    "I need none," he growled. "Back and give us room to swing our steel!"

"The Moon of Skulls" (1930)[edit]

  • "Eons ago when your ancestors were defending their caves against the tiger and the mammoth, with crude spears of flint, the gold spires of my people split the stars! They are gone and forgotten, and the world is a waste of barbarians, white and black. Let me, too, pass as a dream that is forgotten in the mists of the ages..."

"The Hills of the Dead" (1930)[edit]

Mayhap I shall find curious adventure—mayhap my doom awaits me. But better death than the ceaseless and everlasting urge, the fire that has burned my veins with bitter longing
  • Kane gazed, awed. This was truly a hell on earth. As in a nightmare he looked into the roaring red cauldron where black insects fought against their doom and perished. The flames leaped a hundred feet in the air, and suddenly above their roar sounded one bestial, inhuman scream like a shriek from across nameless gulfs of cosmic space, as one vampire, dying, broke the chains of silence which had held him for untold centuries. High and haunting it rose, the death cry of a vanishing race.
  • "Yonder in the unknown vastness"—his long finger stabbed at the black silent jungle which brooded beyond the firelight—"yonder lies mystery and adventure and nameless terror. Once I dared the jungle—once she nearly claimed my bones. Something entered into my blood, something stole into my soul like a whisper of unnamed sin. The jungle! Dark and brooding—over leagues of the blue salt sea she has drawn me and with the dawn I go to seek the heart of her. Mayhap I shall find curious adventure—mayhap my doom awaits me. But better death than the ceaseless and everlasting urge, the fire that has burned my veins with bitter longing."

"The Dark Man" (1931)[edit]

  • And about the table where stood the Dark Man, immovable as a mountain, washed the red waves of slaughter.

"The Footfalls Within" (1931)[edit]

  • He wondered at the presence of these raiders, for this country lay far to the south of the districts usually frequented by the Moslems. But avarice can drive men far, as the Englishmen knew. He had dealt with these gentry of old. Even as he watched, old scars burned in his back--scars made by Moslem whips in a Turkish galley. And deeper still burned Kane's unquenchable hate.

"The Phoenix on the Sword" (1932)[edit]

What do I know of cultured ways, the gilt, the craft and the lie?
I, who was born in a naked land and bred in the open sky.
The subtle tongue, the sophist guile, they fail when the broadswords sing;
Rush in and die, dogs—I was a man before I was a king.
  • What do I know of cultured ways, the gilt, the craft and the lie?
    I, who was born in a naked land and bred in the open sky.
    The subtle tongue, the sophist guile, they fail when the broadswords sing;
    Rush in and die, dogs—I was a man before I was a king.
  • When I was a fighting-man, the kettle-drums they beat,
    The people scattered gold-dust before my horses feet;
    But now I am a great king, the people hound my track
    With poison in my wine-cup, and daggers at my back.
  • Know, oh prince, that between the years when the oceans drank Atlantis and the gleaming cities, and the years of the rise of the Sons of Aryas, there was an Age undreamed of, when shining kingdoms lay spread across the world like blue mantles beneath the stars - Nemedia, Ophir, Brythunia, Hyberborea, Zamora with its dark-haired women and towers of spider-haunted mystery, Zingara with its chivalry, Koth that bordered on the pastoral lands of Shem, Stygia with its shadow-guarded tombs, Hyrkania whose riders wore steel and silk and gold. But the proudest kingdom of the world was Aquilonia, reigning supreme in the dreaming west.
  • Hither came Conan the Cimmerian, black-haired, sullen-eyed, sword in hand, a thief, a reaver, a slayer, with gigantic melancholies and gigantic mirth, to tread the jeweled thrones of the Earth under his sandalled feet.
  • "They have no hope here or hereafter," answered Conan. "Their gods are Crom and his dark race, who rule over a sunless place of everlasting mist, which is the world of the dead. Mitra! The ways of the Aesir were more to my liking."
  • "Wits and swords are as straws against the wisdom of the Darkness..."
  • Conan sensed their uncertainty and grinned mirthlessly and ferociously. "Who dies first?"

"Wings in the Night" (1932)[edit]

  • The lions had come into the plateau in great quantities and the herds of little pigs dwindled fast. Those the lions spared, Kane slew, and tossed to the jackals. This racked Kane's heart, for he was a kindly man and this wholesale slaughter, even of pigs who would fall prey to hunting beasts anyhow, grieved him. But it was part of his plan of vengeance and he steeled his heart.
  • With a choked cry the Englishman woke from his trance of horror, drew and fired at a darting flame-eyed shadow which fell at his feet with a shattered skull. And Kane gave tongue to one deep, fierce roar and bounded into the melee, all the berserk fury of his heathen Saxon ancestors bursting into terrible being.
  • The ancient empires fall, the dark-skinned peoples fade and even the demons of antiquity gasp their last, but over all stands the Aryan barbarian, white-skinned, cold-eyed, dominant, the supreme fighting man of the earth.
  • If this myth of the harpies were a reality, what of the other legends—the Hydra, the centaurs, the chimera, Medusa, Pan and the satyrs? All those myths of antiquity--behind them did there lie and lurk nightmare realities with slavering fangs and talons steeped in shuddersome evil? Africa, the Dark Continent, land of shadows and horror, of bewitchment and sorcery, into which all evil things had been banished before the growing light of the western world!

"The Scarlet Citadel" (1933)[edit]

Gleaming shell of an outworn lie; fable of Right divine—
You gained your crowns by heritage, but Blood was the price of mine.
The throne that I won by blood and sweat , by Crom, I will not sell
For promise of valleys filled with gold, or threat of the Halls of Hell!
  • Gleaming shell of an outworn lie; fable of Right divine—
    You gained your crowns by heritage, but Blood was the price of mine.
    The throne that I won by blood and sweat , by Crom, I will not sell
    For promise of valleys filled with gold, or threat of the Halls of Hell!
  • The Lion strode through the Halls of Hell;
    Across his path grim shadows fell
    Of many a mowing, nameless shape
    Monsters with dripping jaws agape.
    The darkness shuddered with scream and yell
    When the Lion stalked through the Halls of Hell.
  • Like gay-hued leaves after an autumn storm, the fallen littered the plain; the sinking sun shimmered on burnished helmets, gilt-worked mail, silver breastplates, broken swords and the heavy regal folds of silken standards, overthrown in pools of curdling crimson. In silent heaps lay war-horses and their steel-clad riders, flowing manes and blowing plumes stained alike in the red tide. About them and among them, like the drift of a storm, were strewn slashed and trampled bodies in steel caps and leather jerkins...
  • "...Free my hands and I'll varnish this floor with your brains!"
  • "Crom!" his mighty shoulders twitched. "A murrain of these wizardly feuds! Pelias has dealt well with me, but I care not if I see him no more. Give me a clean sword and a clean foe to flesh it in. Damnation! What would I not give for a flagon of wine!"
  • Aye, you white dog, you are like all your race; but to a black man gold can never pay for blood.
    • A former chief of Abombi to Conan
  • A long bow and a strong bow, and let the sky grow dark!
    The cord to the nock, the shaft to the ear, and the king of Koth for a mark!
    • Song of the Bossonian Archers

"The Tower of the Elephant" (1933)[edit]

  • Civilized men are more discourteous than savages because they know they can be impolite without having their skulls split, as a general thing.

"Black Colossus" (1933)[edit]

  • Not for naught had he gained access into darksome cults, had harkened to the grisly whispers of the votaries of Skelos under midnight trees, and read the forbidden iron-bound books of Vathelos the Blind.
  • Reeling up, blood streaming down his face from under his dented helmet, Conan glared dizzily at the profusion of destruction which spread before him. From crest to crest the dead lay strewn, a red carpet that choked the valley. It was like a red sea, with each wave a straggling line of corpses.
  • "This day you become knights!" he laughed fiercely, pointing with his dripping sword towards the hillmen horses, herded nearby. "Mount and follow me to hell!"

"Xuthal of the Dusk" (1933)[edit]

  • "By Crom, I do not like this place, where dead men rise, and sleeping men vanish into the bellies of shadows!"
  • Conan's hand fell heavily on her naked shoulder.
    "Stand aside, girl," he mumbled. "Now is the feasting of swords."

"The Pool of the Black One" (1933)[edit]

  • She who had been the spoiled and petted daughter of the Duke of Kordava, learned what is was to be a buccaneer's plaything, and because she was supple enough to bend without breaking, she lived where other women had died, and because she was young and vibrant with life, she came to find pleasure in the existence.
  • The dullest was struck by the contrast between the harsh, taciturn, gloomy commander, and the pirate whose laugh was gusty and ready, who roared ribald songs in a dozen languages, guzzled ale like a toper, and--apparently--had no thought for the morrow.

"Rogues in the House" (1934)[edit]

  • "When I cannot stand alone, it will be time to die," he mumbled, through mashed lips. "But I'd like a flagon of wine."
  • "If that's true, then answer this priest, why are we in these pits, hiding from some animal?" Conan asked "Someday, when all your civilization and science are likewise swept away, your kind will pray for a man with a sword."

"Shadows in the Moonlight" (1934)[edit]

  • Conan wheeled toward the gaping corsairs.
    "Well, you dogs!" he roared, "I've sent your chief to hell--what says the law of the Red Brotherhood?"

"Queen of the Black Coast" (1934)[edit]

He dwells on a great mountain. What use to call on him? Little he cares if men live or die. Better to be silent than to call his attention to you; he will send you dooms, not fortune!
  • He shrugged his shoulders. "I have known many gods. He who denies them is as blind as he who trusts them too deeply. I seek not beyond death. It may be the blackness averred by the Nemedian skeptics, or Crom's realm of ice and cloud, or the snowy plains and vaulted halls of the Nordheimer's Valhalla. I know not, nor do I care. Let me live deep while I live; let me know the rich juices of red meat and stinging wine on my palate, the hot embrace of white arms, the mad exultation of battle when the blue blades flame and crimson, and I am content. Let teachers and priests and philosophers brood over questions of reality and illusion. I know this: if life is illusion, then I am no less an illusion, and being thus, the illusion is real to me. I live, I burn with life, I love, I slay, and am content."
  • [The] chief [of the gods of Cimmeria] is Crom. He dwells on a great mountain. What use to call on him? Little he cares if men live or die. Better to be silent than to call his attention to you; he will send you dooms, not fortune! He is grim and loveless, but at birth he breathes power to strive and slay into a man's soul. What else shall men ask of the gods? ... There is no hope here or hereafter in the cult of my people. In this world men struggle and suffer vainly, finding pleasure only in the bright madness of battle; dying, their souls enter a gray misty realm of clouds and icy winds, to wander cheerlessly throughout eternity.
  • "There is life beyond death, I know, and I know this, too, Conan of Cimmeria"--she rose lithely to her knees and caught him in a pantherish embrace--"my love is stronger than any death! I have lain in your arms, panting with the violence of our love; you have held and crushed and conquered me, drawing my soul to your lips with the fierceness of your bruising kisses. My heart is welded to your heart, my soul is part of your soul! Were I still in death and you fighting for life, I would come back to the abyss to aid you--aye, whether my spirit floated with the purple sails on the crystal sea of paradise, or writhed in the molten flames of hell! I am yours, and all the gods and all their eternities shall not sever us!"

"The Devil in Iron" (1934)[edit]

  • Conan stood paralyzed in the disruption of the faculties which demoralizes anyone who is confronted by an impossible negation of sanity.

"A Witch Shall Be Born" (1934)[edit]

  • I never saw a man fight as Conan fought. He put his back to the courtyard wall, and before they overpowered him the dead men were strewn in heaps thigh-deep about him. But at last they dragged him down, a hundred against one.
    • Valerius recounting the tale of how Conan was caught

"Jewels of Gwahlur" (1935)[edit]

  • Conan did not hesitate, nor did he even glance toward the chest that held the wealth of an epoch. With a quickness that would have shamed the spring of a hungry jaguar, he swooped, grasped the girl's arm just as her fingers slipped from the smooth stone, and snatched her up on the span with one explosive heave.

"Beyond the Black River" (1935)[edit]

Barbarism is the natural state of mankind. Civilization is unnatural. It is a whim of circumstance. And barbarism must always ultimately triumph.
  • Barbarism is the natural state of mankind. Civilization is unnatural. It is a whim of circumstance. And barbarism must always ultimately triumph.
  • "There's nothing in the universe cold steel won't cut," answered Conan. "I threw my ax at the demon, and he took no hurt, but I might have missed in the dusk, or a branch deflected its flight. I'm not going out of my way looking for devils; but I wouldn't step out of my path to let one go by."
  • "Civilized men laugh," said Conan. "But not one can tell me how Zogar Sag can call pythons and tigers and leopards out of the wilderness and make them do his bidding. They would say it is a lie, if they dared. That's the way with civilized men. When they can't explain something by their half-baked science, they refuse to believe it."
  • He was concerned only with the naked fundamentals of life. The warm intimacies of small, kindly things, the sentiments and delicious trivialities that make up so much of civilized men's lives were meaningless to him. A wolf was no less a wolf because a whim of chance caused him to run with the watch-dogs. Bloodshed and violence and savagery were the natural elements of the life Conan knew; he could not, and would never, understand the little things that are so dear to civilized men and women.
  • "... you speak of Venarium familiarly. Perhaps you were there?"
    "I was," grunted [Conan]. "I was one of the horde that swarmed over the hills. I hadn't yet seen fifteen snows, but already my name was repeated about the council fires."
  • A wolf was no less a wolf because a whim of chance caused him to run with the watch-dogs.

"Shadows in Zamboula" (1935)[edit]

  • Did you deem yourself strong, because you were able to twist the heads off civilized folk, poor weaklings with muscles like rotten string? Hell! Break the neck of a wild Cimmerian bull before you call yourself strong. I did that, before I was a full-grown man - like this!

The Hour of the Dragon (1935-1936)[edit]

  • He grunted with satisfaction. The feel of the hilt cheered him and gave him a glow of confidence. Whatever webs of conspiracy were drawn about him, whatever trickery and treachery ensnared him, this knife was real. The great muscles of his right arm swelled in anticipation of murderous blows.

"The Thunder-Rider" (c. 1936)[edit]

  • Barbarism has its vices, its sophistries, no less than civilization. Your cynicisms and sophistications are weak and childish beside the elemental cynicism, the vital sophistication of what you call savagery. If our virtues were unspoiled as a new-born panther cub, our sins were older than Nineveh.
    ~ Possibly Howard's last complete story; first published in The Marchers of Valhalla (1972).

The Tempter (1937)[edit]

  • "Who are you?" I asked the phantom,
    "I am rest from Hate and Pride.
    "I am friend to king and beggar,
    "I am Alpha and Omega,
    "I was councilor to Hagar
    "But men call me suicide."
    I was weary of tide breasting,
    Weary of the world's behesting,
    And I lusted for the resting
    As a lover for his bride.

"Black Vulmea's Vengeance" (1938)[edit]

  • "Poor devils, they'll wake up in hell without knowing how they got there."

"The God in the Bowl" (1952)[edit]

It is not pleasant to come upon Death in a lonely place at midnight
  • Arus saw a tall powerfully built youth, naked but for a loin-cloth, and sandals strapped high about his ankles. His skin was burned brown as by the suns of the wastelands and Arus glanced nervously at his broad shoulders, massive chest and heavy arms, A single look at the moody, broad-browed features told the watchman the man was no Nemedian. From under a mop of unruly black hair smoldered a pair of dangerous blue eyes. A long sword hung in a leather scabbard at his girdle.
  • Arus the watchman grasped his crossbow with shaky hands, and he felt beads of clammy perspiration on his skin as he stared at the unlovely corpse sprawling on the polished floor before him. It is not pleasant to come upon Death in a lonely place at midnight.

"The Frost-Giant's Daughter" (1953)[edit]

"Not in Vanaheim," growled the black-haired warrior, "but in Valhalla will you tell your brothers that you met Conan of Cimmeria."
  • "Man," said he, "tell me your name, so that my brothers in Vanaheim may know who was the last of Wulfhere's band to fall before the sword of Heimdul."
    "Not in Vanaheim," growled the black-haired warrior, "but in Valhalla will you tell your brothers that you met Conan of Cimmeria."
  • "You cannot escape me!" he roared. "Lead me into a trap and I'll pile the heads of your kinsmen at your feet! Hide from me and I'll tear apart the mountains to find you! I'll follow you to hell!"
  • The clangor of the swords had died away, the shouting of the slaughter was hushed; silence lay on the red-stained snow. The bleak pale sun that glittered so blindingly from the ice-fields and the snow-covered plains struck sheens of silver from rent corselet and broken blade, where the dead lay as they had fallen. The nerveless hand yet gripped the broken hilt; helmeted heads back-drawn in the death-throes, tilted red beards and golden beards grimly upward, as if in last invocation to Ymir the frost-giant, god of a warrior-race...

"The Black Stranger" (1953)[edit]

  • "Seek for a shadow that drifts before a cloud that hides the moon; grope in the dark for a cobra; follow a mist that steals out of the swamp at midnight."

"Delcardes' Cat" (1967)[edit]

  • The lake-beings about him drew daggers and moved upon Kull. Then the king laughed and set his back against a column, gripping his sword hilt until the muscles stood out on his right arm in great ridges.
    "This is a game I understand, ghosts," he laughed.

"Riders Beyond the Sunrise" (1967)[edit]

  • Kull walked apart, beyond the glow of the campfires to gaze out among the mystic vistas of crag and valley. The slopes were softened by verdue and foliage, the vales deepening into shadowy realms of magic, the hills standing out bold and clear in the silver of the moon. The hills of Zalgara has always held a fascination for Kull. They brought to his mind the mountains of Atlantis whose snowy heights he had scaled as a youth, ere he fared forth into the great world to write his name across the stars and make an ancient throne his seat.

"By This Axe I Rule!" (1967)[edit]

"By This Axe I Rule!"
I am too lost for shame
That it moves me unto mirth,
But I can vision a Hell of flame
For I have lived on earth.
  • "A great poet is greater than any king."
  • "The King is only a slave like yourself, locked with heavier chains."
  • "By This Axe I Rule!"
  • Slowly the pale-faced noblemen and frightened women knelt, bowing in fear and reverence to the bloodstained giant who towered above them with his eyes ablaze.
    "I am king!"

"The Blue Flame of Vengeance" (1968)[edit]

  • Silence lay like a white shroud over all. Kane wrenched his dirk clear and a trickle of seeping blood followed sluggishly, then ceased. The Puritan mechanically swished the blade through the air to shake off the red drops which clung to the steel, and as it flashed in the lanthorn light, it seemed to Jack Hollinster to glitter like a blue flame--a flame which had been quenched in scarlet.
  • Pirates! No true honest seamen, these, with their strange contrast of finery and ruffianism. Tarry breeks and seamen's shirts, yet silken sashes lapped their waists; no stockings to their legs, yet many had on silver-buckled shoes and heavy gold rings to their fingers. Great gems dangled from many a heavy gold hoop serving as an ear ring. Not an honest sailorman's knife among them, but costly Spanish and Italian daggers. Their gauds, their ferocious faces, their wild and blasphemous bearing stamped them with the mark of their red trade.

"The Castle of the Devil" (1968)[edit]

  • It has fallen upon me, now and again in my sojourns through the world, to ease various evil men of their lives...

"Visions" (1972)[edit]

  • I cannot believe in a paradise
    Glorious, undefiled,
    For gates all scrolled and streets of gold
    Are tales for a dreaming child.

    I am too lost for shame
    That it moves me unto mirth,
    But I can vision a Hell of flame
    For I have lived on earth.

"The Lost Valley of Iskander" (1974)[edit]

  • "To the mistress of all true adventurers!" he whispered, choking on his own blood. "To the Lady Death!"

"The Road of Azrael" (1976)[edit]

  • Verily, the star of Azrael hovers over the birth of a beautiful woman, the King of the Dead laughs aloud, and ravens whet their black beaks.
  • "The sea-road is good for wanderers and landless men. There is quenching of thirst on the grey paths of the winds, and the flying clouds to still the sting of lost dreams."

Letters[edit]

My feet are set on the outward trails
And the call of the roistering sea.
My wings are spread on the outbound gales
And the paths that are long and free.
Money and muscle, that’s what I want; to be able to do any damned thing I want and get away with it. Money won’t do that altogether, because if a man is a weakling, all the money in the world won’t enable him to soak an enemy himself; on the other hand, unless he has money he may not be able to get away with it.
I'll say one thing about an oil boom; it will teach a kid that Life's a pretty rotten thing as quick as anything I can think of.
But whatever my failure, I have this thing to remember — that I was a pioneer in my profession, just as my grandfathers were in theirs, in that I was the first man in this section to earn his living as a writer.
Civilized nations never, never have selfish motives for butchering, raping and looting; only horrid barbarians have those.
One objection I have heard voiced to works of this kind—dealing with Texas—is the amount of gore spilled across the pages. It can not be otherwise.
  • When a nation forgets her skill in war, when her religion becomes a mockery, when the whole nation becomes a nation of money-grabbers, then the wild tribes, the barbarians drive in... Who will our invaders be? From whence will they come?
    • From a letter to Tevis Clyde Smith (July 1923)
  • If men are to meet steel with steel, they should be adequately armed. Long spears and short swords to meet a charge of long swords. If you dont believe that, read the chronicles of Rome and Macedonia.
    • From a letter to Tevis Clyde Smith (August 24, 1923)
  • I walk from five to fifteen miles a day, no exaggeration, soliciting clothes and delivering them and when I’m not doing that I wash and clean clothes. Not an overly pleasant occupation but I like it all right. I work on commision and ought to make about $40 per month, some months more.
    • From a letter to Tevis Clyde Smith (September 9, 1923)
  • I see in the papers where Roy Guthrie committed suicide. Why, I wonder?
    • From a letter to Tevis Clyde Smith (October 5, 1923)
  • Also, there was a rape over in the Cisco country. Man about forty and a girl about five. They didnt hang him. A guy can get away with nearly anything in this part of the country.
    • From a letter to Tevis Clyde Smith (April 21, 1924)
  • Coming, as I do, from mountain folk on one side and sea followers on the other, there are few old songs of the hills or the sea with which I am not familiar.
    • From a letter to Robert W. Gordon (February 4, 1925)
  • I heard from Truett that you fellows are forbidden the company of the girl you were going with. Thats a dirty shame. How come? I suppose its because you tried to act like gentlemen.
    • From a letter to Tevis Clyde Smith (July 7, 1925)
  • I have no fear of the Hereafter. An orthodox hell could hardly be more torture than my life has been.
    • From a letter to Tevis Clyde Smith (July 1925)
  • My body seems a mere encumbrance to me; an imbecillic wagon, hitched to the horse of desire, which is the soul.
    • From a letter to Tevis Clyde Smith (August 28, 1925)
  • Mingle my dust with the burning brand,
    Scatter it free to the sky
    Fling it wide on the ocean’s sand,
    From peaks where the vultures fly.
    • From a letter to Tevis Clyde Smith (August 28, 1925)
  • By the way, I sold another story, same company. “Wolfshead” twentyfive pages $ 40.00. After reading it, I’m not altogether sure I wasnt off my noodler when I wrote it.
    • From a letter to Tevis Clyde Smith (October 9, 1925)
  • Rome got some peachy pastings when she tried to lick the Irish.
    • From a letter to Tevis Clyde Smith (January 14, 1926)
  • Come, my friend, let us cuss things in general.
    • From a letter to Tevis Clyde Smith (January 14, 1926)
  • In the hill country, civilization steals in last, and the people retain much of the crude but vigorous mode of expression of the colonial days and earlier.
    • From a letter to Robert W. Gordon (February 15, 1926)
  • I have a faculty of memorizing any song or poem as I hear it, many, especially the old Scotch and Irish ballads I heard my grandmother sing when I was but a child.
    • From a letter to Robert W. Gordon (February 15, 1926)
  • My feet are set on the outward trails
    And the call of the roistering sea.
    My wings are spread on the outbound gales
    And the paths that are long and free.
    • From a letter to Tevis Clyde Smith (June 23, 1926)
  • Now I gazed upon him, no longer in a passionate frenzy, but in a cold contempt. I visualized long days and nights of vengeance, of fiendish ingenuity and complete consumation. My enemy was at my mercy; he lived; all the plans of hate and torture I had concieved through the long years of wrong and insult I would wreak upon him. My plans were carefully laid; I knew exactly what tortures I would use, how long I could inflict them without causing death, until my enemy at last went forth, a man ruined of soul and body. I was at peace, and content.
    • From “Revenge” in a letter to Tevis Clyde Smith (c. late Aug/early September 1927)
  • College dont amount to much anyhow. A lot of narrow minded, musty old ideas despensed by uninterested teachers to pupils who have come to college for athletics, because they considered it the stylish thing or to keep from going to work.
    • From a letter to Edna Mann (October 30, 1926)
  • Don’t you think that as a people, Americans have less poetry, real poetry, in their souls than any other nations?
    • From a letter to Robert W. Gordon (January 2, 1926)
  • I reckon if I ever marry, she will have to be a strong woman in a circus or something.
    • From a letter to Harold Preece (c. January or February 1928)
  • I mean my characters are more like men than these real men are, see. They’re rough and rude, they got hands and they got bellies. They hate and they lust; break the skin of civilization and you find the ape, roaring and red-handed.
    • From a letter to Harold Preece (c. January or February 1928)
  • We’re making tin gods out of those poor buffoons in Hollywood; I dote on movies and appreciate the scanty art therein but I consider the profession about the most debased and debasing I know.
    • From a letter to Tevis Clyde Smith (week of February 20, 1928)
  • Hell, the world isn’t worth reforming or even aiding as I can see. Men are swine and most women are fools. Befriend a man and he’ll betray you. Fondle a woman and she’ll double-cross you – whip her and she’ll cringe to you.
    • From a letter to Harold Preece (c. early 1928)
  • What shall a man say when a friend has vanished behind the doors of Death? A mere tangle of barren words, only words.
    • From a letter to Tevis Clyde Smith (c. May 1928)
  • Money and muscle, that’s what I want; to be able to do any damned thing I want and get away with it. Money won’t do that altogether, because if a man is a weakling, all the money in the world won’t enable him to soak an enemy himself; on the other hand, unless he has money he may not be able to get away with it.
    • From a letter to Harold Preece (c. June 1928)
  • 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.
  • The poem you sent me was as fiery and virile as anything you’ve ever written – or anybody else, for that matter. Especially the second part went to my brain like the flaming liquor of insanity. No one else besides Jack London has the power to move me just that way.
    • From a letter to Tevis Clyde Smith (c. November 1928)
  • But who is this who rides in silver white
    Attire that shames the stars across the night?
    Helmet and shield and corselet all a-gleam,
    Like some crusader from a drifting dream
    Upon a prancing jackass shod with flame—
    Rise, heralds of the past, bray forth his name
    • From a letter to Tevis Clyde Smith (c. November-December 1928)
  • I could name all day, those women I deem great in Greece alone and the records would scarcely be complete. And what of Joan of Arc and Emma Goldman? Kate Richards O’Hare and Sarah Bernhardt? Katherine the Great and Elizabeth Barrett Browning? H.D. and Sara Teasdale? Isibella of Spain who pawned her gems that Columbus might sail, and Edna St. Vincent Millay? And that queen, Marie, I think her name was, of some small province - Hungary I believe - who fought Prussia and Russia so long and so bitterly. And Rome – oh, the list is endless there, also - most of them were glorified harlots but better be a glorified harlot than a drab and moral drone, such as the text books teach us woman should be. Woman have always been the inspiration of men, and just as there are thousands of unknown great ones among men, there have been countless women whose names have never been blazoned across the stars, but who have inspired men on to glory. And as for their fickleness – as long as men write the literature of the world, they will rant about the unfaithfulness of the fair sex, forgetting their own infidelities. Men are as fickle as women. Women have been kept in servitude so long that if they lack in discernment and intellect it is scarcely their fault.
    • From a letter to Harold Preece (c. December 1928)
  • I'm not worrying about my Irish past. What has my Celtic blood ever done for me but give me a restless and unstable mind that gives me no rest in anything I do? Damn the Shan Van Vocht, and the ancestors that went to Sassenach gallows for her, and damn the Irish and damn the black Milesian blood in my veins that makes me like drift-wood fighting the waves and gives me no peace or rest waking or sleeping or riding or dreaming or traveling or wooing, drunken or sober, with hunger or slumber on me.
    • From a letter to Harold Preece (1929)
  • I believe, like you, that civilization is a natural and inevitable consequence, whether good or evil I am not prepared to state.
  • If I was wealthy I'd never do anything but poke around in ruined cities all over the world - and probably get snake-bit.
    • From a letter to H. P. Lovecraft (1931)
  • I'll say one thing about an oil boom; it will teach a kid that Life's a pretty rotten thing as quick as anything I can think of.
    • From a letter to Farnsworth Wright (c. Summer 1931)
  • Youngsters of this generation seem not quite so hazardous except in the way of mechanical speed, bad liquor and venereal diseases.
    • From a letter to H. P. Lovecraft (c. April 1932)
  • I don't believe I ever saw an Oklahoman who wouldn't fight at the drop of a hat — and frequently drop the hat himself.
    • From a letter to H. P. Lovecraft (July 13, 1932)
  • I am unable to rouse much interest in any highly civilized race, country or epoch, including this one.
    • From a letter to H. P. Lovecraft (August 9, 1932)
  • Magazines were even more scarce than books. It was after I moved into "town" (speaking comparatively) that I began to buy magazines. I well remember the first I ever bought. I was fifteen years old; I bought it one summer night when a wild restlessness in me would not let me keep still, and I had exhausted all the reading material on the place. I'll never forget the thrill it gave me. Somehow it never had occurred to me before that I could buy a magazine. It was an Adventure. I still have the copy. After that I bought Adventure for many years, though at times it cramped my resources to pay the price. It came out three times a month, then... I skimped and saved from one magazine to the next; I'd buy one copy and have it charged, and when the next issue was out, I'd pay for the one which I owed, and have the other one charged, and so on. So I generally owed for one, but only one.
    • From a letter to H. P. Lovecraft (1933)
  • One objection I have heard voiced to works of this kind—dealing with Texas—is the amount of gore spilled across the pages. It can not be otherwise. In order to write a realistic and true history of any part of the Southwest, one must narrate such things, even at the risk of monotony.
    • From a letter to August Derleth (March 1933)
  • When I look down the vista of the years, with all the "improvements," "inventions" and "progress" that they hold, I am infinitely thankful that I am no younger. I could wish to be older, much older. Every man wants to live out his life's span. But I hardly think life in this age is worth the effort of living. I'd like to round out my youth; and perhaps the natural vitality and animal exuberance of youth will carry me to middle age. But good God, to think of living the full three score years and ten!
    • From a letter to H. P. Lovecraft (March 6, 1933)
  • I wrote my first story when I was fifteen, and sent it—to Adventure, I believe. Three years later I managed to break into Weird Tales. Three years of writing without selling a blasted line. (I never have been able to sell to Adventure; guess my first attempt cooked me with them for ever!)
    • From a letter to H. P. Lovecraft (c. July 1933)
  • It seems to me that many writers, by virtue of environments of culture, art and education, slip into writing because of their environments. I became a writer in spite of my environments. Understand, I am not criticizing those environments. They were good, solid and worthy. The fact that they were not inducive to literature and art is nothing in their disfavor. Never the less, it is no light thing to enter into a profession absolutely foreign and alien to the people among which one's lot is cast; a profession which seems as dim and faraway and unreal as the shores of Europe. The people among which I lived — and yet live, mainly — made their living from cotton, wheat, cattle, oil, with the usual percentage of business men and professional men. That is most certainly not in their disfavor. But the idea of a man making his living by writing seemed, in that hardy environment, so fantastic that even today I am sometimes myself assailed by a feeling of unreality. Never the less, at the age of fifteen, having never seen a writer, a poet, a publisher or a magazine editor, and having only the vaguest ideas of procedure, I began working on the profession I had chosen. I have accomplished little enough, but such as it is, it is the result of my own efforts. I had neither expert aid nor advice. I studied no courses in writing; until a year or so ago, I never read a book by anybody advising writers how to write. Ordinarily I had no access to public libraries, and when I did, it was to no such libraries as exist in the cities. Until recently — a few weeks ago in fact — I employed no agent. I have not been a success, and probably never will be. But whatever my failure, I have this thing to remember — that I was a pioneer in my profession, just as my grandfathers were in theirs, in that I was the first man in this section to earn his living as a writer.
    • From a letter to H. P. Lovecraft (c. July 1933)
  • It may sound fantastic to link the term "realism" with Conan; but as a matter of fact - his supernatural adventures aside - he is the most realistic character I ever evolved. He is simply a combination of a number of men I have known, and I think that's why he seemed to step full-grown into my consciousness when I wrote the first yarn of the series. Some mechanism in my sub-consciousness took the dominant characteristics of various prize-fighters, gunmen, bootleggers, oil field bullies, gamblers, and honest workmen I had come in contact with, and combining them all, produced the amalgamation I call Conan the Cimmerian.
    • From a letter to Clark Ashton Smith (23 July 1935)
  • You express amazement at my statement that 'civilized' men try to justify their looting, butchering and plundering by claiming that these things are done in the interests of art, progress and culture. That this simple statement of fact should cause surprize, amazes me in return. People claiming to possess superior civilization have always veneered their rapaciousness by such claims...
    Your friend Mussolini is a striking modern-day example. In that speech of his I heard translated he spoke feelingly of the expansion of civilization. From time to time he has announced; 'The sword and civilization go hand in hand!' 'Wherever the Italian flag waves it will be as a symbol of civilization!' 'Africa must be brought into civilization!' It is not, of course, because of any selfish motive that he has invaded a helpless country, bombing, burning and gassing both combatants and non-combatants by the thousands. Oh, no, according to his own assertions it is all in the interests of art, culture and progress, just as the German war-lords were determined to confer the advantages of Teutonic Kultur on a benighted world, by fire and lead and steel. Civilized nations never, never have selfish motives for butchering, raping and looting; only horrid barbarians have those.
    • From a letter to H. P. Lovecraft (5 December 1935)

Other[edit]

  • If someone asks you where you get your characters... and they're sure to do that... you always say, "He's a combination of a lot of people I have known." That way, if your character is a damn fool, nobody will want to identify with him... To tell the truth, I don't know how a man gets a character for a story, anymore than I know how he falls in love. I don't know if his characters spring full-blown from his head, or if he sees a man walking down the street and recognises him instantly... I doubt any writer knows for sure where his characters come from.
    • Comment made to Novalyne Price. One Who Walked Alone by Novalyne Price Ellis, pp. 78-79

About[edit]

Howard...makes the reader feel the dark, desperate undercurrent of his character's schemes and struggles.
One cannot write about Robert E. Howard without writing about Texas.
  • "No wonder a few people in Cross Plains don’t like him. They don’t understand him. His preoccupation with history and with writing instead of the price of corn and cotton is something they could not understand Could I? I liked to talk about books. . . History. . . Writing. Well, this was an opportunity to listen to a very interesting storyteller!" ~ Novalyne Price Ellis, One Who Walked Alone, p. 64, ISBN 093798678X
  • "It is hard to describe precisely what made Mr. Howard's stories stand out so sharply; but the real secret is that he himself is in every one of them, whether they were ostensibly commercial or not. He was greater than any profit-making policy he could adopt — for even when he outwardly made concessions to Mammon-guided editors and commercial critics, he had an internal force and sincerity which broke through the surface and put the imprint of his personality on everything he wrote." ~ H. P. Lovecraft, "Robert Ervin Howard: A Memorium", Fantasy Magazine, 1936 (Reprinted in The Last Celt, Glenn Lord ed., p. 69, 1976, ISBN 0425036308)
  • "Although he had his faults as a writer, Howard was a natural storyteller, whose narratives are unmatched for vivid, gripping, headlong action. His heroes – King Kull, Conan, Bran Mak Morn, Solomon Kane are larger than life: men of mighty thews., hot passions, and indomitable will, who easily dominate the stories through which they stride. In fiction, the difference between a writer who is a natural storyteller and one who is not is like the difference between a boat that will float and one that will not. If the writer has this quality, we can forgive many other faults; if not, no other virtue can make up for the lack, any more than gleaming paint and sparkling brass on a boat make up for the fact that it will not float." ~ L. Sprague de Camp, Conan of the Isles, "Introduction", 1968
  • ..."all these criticisms fade like morning mist before Howard’s headlong rush of action, his rainbow-tinted prose, the intensity with which he wrote his own feelings into his stories, and, above all, his Hyborian world – that splendid creation – which ranks with Burroughs' Barsoom and Tolkien's Middle Earth as a major fictional achievement." ~ L. Sprague de Camp, Dark Valley Destiny, p. 295, 1983, ISBN 0312940742
  • "Howard takes great care to develop mood and atmosphere in his best stories, and in so doing makes the reader feel the dark, desperate undercurrent of his character's schemes and struggles. It is in this that I feel closest to Howard, and it is something that his conscious imitators have never captured. The disparity of writing styles aside, the mood immediately sets pastiche-Howard apart from the real article. Pseudo-Conan is out having just the best time, 'cause he's the biggest, toughest, mightiest-thewed barbarian on the block, and he's gonna have a swell time of brawling and chopping monsters and rescuing princesses and offing wizards and drinking and brawling and ... and... etc... etc.... But in Howard's fiction the underlying black mood of pessimism is always there, and even Conan, who enjoys a binge or a good fight, is not having a good time of it at all. This is particularly true of Solomon Kane and King Kull-driven men whom not even a desperate battle can exorcise their black mood, while Conan at times can find brief surcease in excesses of pleasure or violence. I think Solomon Kane and King Kull were closer to Howard's true mood, while Conan represented the ability to escape briefly from black reality that Howard wished he could emulate. He failed. Of all Howard's characters I most prefer King Kull, and it is Kull who is closest to my own Kane..." ~ Karl Edward Wagner, Midnight Sun, "The Once and Future Kane", 2007, ISBN 978-1892389510 (First published in REH: Lone Star Fictioneer #1, Spring 1975)
  • "One cannot write about Robert E. Howard without writing about Texas. This is inevitable, and particularly so when discussing any aspect of Howard's biography. To ignore the presence of the Lone Star State in Robert E. Howard's life and writing invites , at the very least, a few wrongheaded conclusions, and at worst, abject character assassination. This doesn't keep people from plunging right in and getting it wrong every time." ~ Mark Finn, 2006, p. 249, Blood and Thunder, ISBN 978-1-932265-21-7
  • "[Behind Howard's stories] lurks a dark poetry and the timeless truth of dreams." ~ Robert Bloch
  • "I adore these books. Howard has a gritty, vibrant style--broadsword writing that cuts its way to the heart, with heroes who are truly larger than life. I heartily recommend them to anyone who loves fantasy." ~ David Gemmell
  • "Forget Schwarzenegger and the movies. This is pure pulp fiction from the 1930s, before political corrections and focus groups dictated the direction of our art. Swords spin, entrails spill, and woman swoon." ~ Men's Health magazine
  • "Found the short story collection, PIGEONS FROM HELL by Robert E. Howard the creator of Conan the Barbarian when I was thirteen, or fourteen. It was the first dark fantasy and heroic fantasy I’d ever read. In that moment I knew not only did I want to be a writer, but this is what I wanted to write." ~ Laurel K. Hamilton, About Laurel K. Hamilton, LaurelKHamilton.com
  • "Thriller was the first television program to discover the goldmine in those back issues of Weird Tales ... Robert E. Howard's "Pigeons from Hell," one of the finest horror stories of our century, was adapted, and remains the favorite of many who remember Thriller with fondness. ~ Stephen King, Danse Macabre, p. 138, ISBN 978-1439170984
  • "This sort of fiction, commonly called "sword and sorcery" by its fans, is not fantasy at its lowest, but it still has a pretty tacky feel; mostly it's the Hardy Boys dressed up in animal skins and rated R ( and with cover art by Jeff Jones, as likely as not). Sword and sorcery novels and stories are tales of power for the powerless. The fellow who is afraid of being rousted by those young punks who hang around his bus stop can go home at night and imagine himself wielding a sword, his potbelly miraculously gone, his slack muscles magically transmuted into those "iron thews" which have been sung and storied in the pulps for the last fifty years.
    "The only writer who really got away with this sort of stuff was Robert E. Howard, a peculiar genius who lived and died in rural Texas ( Howard committed suicide as his mother lay comatose and terminally ill, apparently unable to face life without her). Howard overcame the limitations of his puerile material by the force and fury of his writing and by his imagination, which was powerful beyond his hero Conan's wildest dreams of power. In his best work, Howard's writing seems so highly charged with energy that it nearly gives off sparks. Stories such as "The People of the Black Circle" glow with the fierce and eldritch light of his frenzied intensity. At his best, Howard was the Thomas Wolfe of fantasy, and most of his Conan tales seem to almost fall over themselves in their need to get out. Yet his other work was either unremarkable or just abysmal... The word will hurt and anger his legion of fans, but I don't believe any other word fits. Robert Bloch, one of Howard's contemporaries, suggested in his first letter to Weird Tales that even Conan wasn't that much shakes. Bloch's idea was that Conan should be banished to the outer darkness where he could use his sword to cut out paper dolls. Needless to say, this suggestion did not go over well with the marching hordes of Conan fans; they probably would have lynched poor Bob Bloch on the spot, had they caught up with him back there in Milwaukee." ~ Stephen King, Danse Macabre, p. 204, ISBN 978-1439170984

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