Robert Howard explains the butchersome logic of empire to HP Lovecraft


Robert E Howard's 1935 letter to HP Lovecraft schools Lovecraft on his unthinking acceptance of authoritarian dogma: "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 surprise, 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.

There's some excellent material about the Howard/Lovecraft correspondence in Heroes in the Wind: From Kull to Conan, John Clute's anthology of Howard letters, essays and stories.

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