“A pretty good paper”: The Junto – Part 1

Back when I was preparing the Collected Letters volumes for the REH Foundation, I was in fairly regular contact with Glenn Lord. Besides pestering him for copies of Howard’s letters, I was also after issues of The Junto, the amateur press/Lone Scout paper that Howard contributed to from 1928 to 1930. In one of his letters, Glenn told me that he had complete copies of all the Juntoes listed in The Last Celt, minus two, and over the course of several years I received photocopies of them all. Lenore Preece never sent Glenn the missing two issues, only the Howard content/mentions.

Glenn wrote the definitive article about The Junto (which I’m pretty sure was titled by someone else), “The Junto: Being a Brief Look at the A.P.A. REH Partook In as a Youth,” which appeared in 2006’s Two-Gun Bob: A Centennial Study of Robert E. Howard. But while that article tells the reader everything they need to know about the group, it doesn’t delve much into the content of the actual mailings. That will be the focus of this series of posts. And before you start hunting for issues on eBay, there was only one copy of each mailing prepared. That one issue was then circulated to the members on the mailing list. Lenore Preece is the last person to have them in her possession; we don’t know what happened to them upon her 1998 death.

The first issue of The Junto that we have copies of is Volume 1, Number 6, for September 1928 (which probably came out mid- to late-August), but some of the previous issues are mentioned in the surviving letters to Tevis Clyde Smith written by Robert E. Howard, Booth Mooney, and Harold Preece. We’ll begin there.

The first issue of The Junto was probably dated April 1928 and came out in March. Upon receiving it, Robert Howard wrote to Clyde Smith:

I’m going to give your name to Booth Mooney as a possible subscriber to The Junto; a pretty good paper for that type. He seems to be a kindred soul, lacking the touch of idealistic optimism I find cropping out in Preece and Klatt ever and anon. They are the true reformers, the men who will do real good in the world. You, I and I think Mooney will do the world good — we will do it so good that likely we will all have plenty of money before we take the count.

Howard was true to his word and Mooney wrote to Smith late in the month:

Bob says that he considers you the coming poet of the age. He further informs me that you have the true fire. Also, he says that you wish to receive THE JUNTO. You will. NOW: I want you to contribute. Can you get me some material for the next issue? It must be in by the tenth of April. If you will send me some of your poems, the more the better, by that date, my appreciation will know no bounds. Really, I do want you to contribute, and I hope that you will do so.

Mooney also mentioned one of his own projects: “I am at present engaged in writing (in vers libre) a book, Voices From the Tombs. Extracts from this will appear in the next issue of THE JUNTO.”

Smith apparently met the deadline, for in a circa April 1928 letter Mooney responded, “Thanks muchly for the article and poem. They’ll both appear in the next issue of THE JUNTO.” Around the same time, Robert Howard was telling Harold Preece, “Glad you liked the stuff I had in The Junto. I had thought it would contain something by you and was disappointed when I found it did not.” Since these early issues of the travelogue were later destroyed in a fire at the Mooney home, we have no way of knowing what Howard “stuff” was included therein.

In early May 1928, Clyde Smith sent Mooney a few contributions. Mooney responded:

Thanks for the article and poem for THE JUNTO. Right worthy are they. I hope you continue to send such within your letters. Especially good is “Collegiate,” for I happen to have knowledge that the events depicted therein happen as everyday occurrences on the campus. Which, probably, is one reason why I have never and shall never honor any college by my attendance.

The same letter mentions the May 10, 1928 death of original Juntoite (to use REH’s terminology) Herbert Klatt (photo below). There was a flurry of activity amongst his friends and correspondents, with plans for publishing a memorial collection of Klatt’s writing being discussed. Mooney offered to send the compiler “an article by Klatt [that] appeared in the first issue of THE JUNTO.” The collection never materialized, but Mooney also told Smith that the “July issue of THE JUNTO will be the Klatt Memorial Edition. It will be typed as are regular issues, but it will contain only material by and regarding Klatt.” [This episode is discussed in greater detail here.]

As the plans for honoring Klatt went their course, the June 1928 mailing of The Junto began circulation. While the mailing itself does not survive, we know that it contained Smith’s “Collegiate”; Booth Mooney wrote to Smith about the comments that had been written on the Mailing List: Bob Howard—“Let’s have more by Smith; the rougher, the better; every man for himself and Hell for all.” Below this, Harold Preece wrote: “One doesn’t have to go to college for that.” Katherine Preece—“Why ‘Collegiate’? It is not restricted to college life.” Myron Flechtner—“As for Clyde Smith’s ‘Collegiate,’ I have no quarrel with it; the ‘type’ he describes exists, altho they are hardly numerous, and, too, he has laid it on a bit too thickly. There is nothing ‘raw’ about it, as Preece says; I suppose he alludes to the language used by these young jackasses.”

Howard also wrote Smith about the issue:

Having just read the Junto I get une grande kicke out of it especially your poems and article. I instantly sit me down and indict, following “comments” on the address sheet: “Let’s have more by Smith and the rougher the better; every man for himself and Hell for all.” Seeing that Truett has forgotten to comment, I considerately add for him: “Anybody who don’t like what I said about Will Hays will kindly go to Hell, you bastards.”

Smith’s article appears to have caused a bit of a ruckus. In an August letter to Smith, Mooney mentions “a new feature” to appear in The Junto, “a discussion page. If you wish to defend your article, ‘Collegiate,’ in this department, you are at liberty to do so.” He also says, “Personally, I agree with you regarding the article. It is certainly true to life. Though, I have never attended college, I have a brother who has, and I can judge by him.” Juntite Hildon Collins appears to have had a different reaction to Clyde’s work. On August 30, 1928, Truett Vinson wrote to Robert Howard: “Collins writes there are only two objectionable features to The Junto—Clyde’s ‘college article’ and your opinion of it.”

Vinson was about to create a bit of a stir, himself. Whether or not the July 1928 issue was the Klatt Memorial issue, we’ll probably never know, but it did contain a piece by Vinson called “Hell Bent” which we will see the reaction to in the next installment.

[Go to Part 2]