“A pretty good paper”: The Junto – Part 2

In a letter to Harold Preece postmarked September 23, 1928, Robert E. Howard wrote the following:

I have just received the July and September Juntoes. I enjoyed very much your article in the latter and was disappointed to note that you had nothing in the July number. I agree with Truett as stated in his “Hell Bent” that the younger generation or degeneration as they might be called, is bound for — not an orthodox Hell, the existence of which I deny — but stagnation, ruin, and utter futility and worthlessness. With the new knowledge and freedom which they possess, they might be giants but they choose to be instead, parasites, drones and degenerates. Damn them all; and that includes myself.

Vinson’s article, which sadly does not survive, proved to be fodder for comments in The Junto until at least January of the following year, but the ruckus didn’t really get started until the October issue appeared, which contained comments for the July issue. As Howard mentions above, he received both the July and September issues at the same time (there may not have been an August number), so let’s have a peek at the first surviving issue of The Junto: Volume 1, number 6, for September 1928.

On the cover is “Age,” verse by Robert E. Howard. This 20-line poem sets up a contrast between the interests of youth and age, with Age eventually calling Youth to fight and die in his battles. Also in this issue are Howard’s “Surrender—Your Money or Your Vice,” a series of movie reviews, including Surrender, Dressed to Kill, A Girl in Every Port, Escape, and The Claw; and “Them,” an article that comments on Charles Lindbergh’s fame and mob mentality. The rest of the contents are listed below:

“Modern Love Among Youth,” article by Maud McKay: a discussion of contemporary dating rituals as compared with those of the past; a defense of “modern” activities. Also touches upon women’s changing values and behavior.  “A Tribute to My Community,” article by Hildon V. Collins (1930 photo below): a discussion of Liberty, Texas, its citizens and geography, using patriotic and natural imagery; reads like propaganda. “Error of Opinion . . .” untitled article by Harold Preece: a laundry list of radical ideas and persons and the establishment that they were opposed to. It ends with this: “Why not trust human discernment of right and wrong to deal with fallacious ideas? Why be so tyrannical as to try to force your opinions upon others? Can you conscientiously expect for yourself the same right of self-expression you deny others? Because of the principles involved, and from the experience of mankind, absolute tolerance seems to be the best policy.”

The mailing list for this issue, which informed people where to send the issue next and provided space for them to write comments, does not survive, and there were no comments on previous issues included in the actual mailing. There were, however, two block quotes inserted to fill space, the first on page 5, the second on page 8:

About the same time that issue was circulating, Robert Howard wrote to Harold Preece (letter is postmarked September 23, 1928): “Clyde, Truett and I went over to Clyde’s uncle’s ranch and there, some miles from civilization, we sported hither and yon clad in innocence, purity and a loin cloth apiece — there being caves to explore and cliffs to climb. I guess I’ll wind up in the South Seas yet and go native.” This might be the trip that inspired Clyde to write “Gods in Arcady” which might be one of the contributions mentioned in a circa September letter from Mooney to Smith: “Thanks very much for your two letters and the two contributions for The Junto. [. . .] I was glad to get another article about college life from you.”

The same letter carries more reaction to Smith’s previous work: “I doubt if, despite [Roy McDonald’s] caustic comment, he can present a more true-to-life type than you did in ‘Collegiate’ and ‘Little Yahoo at College,’ which I believe I really like better than the former.” Mooney also mentions at least one Howard item that appeared in one of the lost issues: “Howard’s ‘Dust Dance,’ Sandburg’s ‘Chicago,’ and others of like type kindle within me a consuming fire, an irresistible thrill to the words and the meaning and the wild chant of the work.” The letter also mentions a recent plan: “Harold P., while visiting me a few weeks ago, mentioned something of plans for a get-to-gether of the masculine element of the Junto bunch, this Christmas. I believe that he said it would be held at Brownwood.”

In late September 1928 the October issue of The Junto began its circulation. Here’s a run-down of the contents:

V1N7, October 1928: “Song of Burial,” verse by Lenore Preece: a call for hope upon someone’s death. “More Evidences of the Innate Divinity of Man,” article by REH: a discussion of various torture techniques. The article states that Native American’s torture practices weren’t much before the arrival of the Christians. Also includes the following aside: “Women have always been the greatest torturers, and, to anyone who doubts this statement, I refer to any detailed history of the various wars and intrigues of older times—and present times. / However, the torture that women inflict is a very delicate subject, as the gentle sex, with its usual modesty and tenderness, has always favored torments of a nature indescribable and unspeakable.” “Dreams,” by Louise Preece: pastoral description of the life of a dreamer. “The Autobiography of an Atheist,” by Lenore Preece: humorous history of Honey Lenore Preece, includes anecdotes about her siblings and “necking.” “A Hairy Chested Idealist Sings,” verse by REH: regarding drinking, dancing, boxing, brothels, and mortality. “Religion,” article by Harold Preece: “The human race seems to have an eternal tendency, due to its innate cowardice, to choose the tinsel trappings of the imaginary to the somber hues of reality.” ’Nuff said. “The Prayer,” verse by Lenore Preece: soul in tomb “ponders deep in hearty dreams / Of memories, and this!”

But the main attraction of the issue was this, “One of the ‘Hell Bent’ Speaks”:

I am of the younger generation. I am going to Hell. I know, for it has been told me many times. I do not know whether there is a Hell nor where it is, but I know that is where I am bound for. I do not give a damn. If I really am going to Hell, that is the more reason that I should enjoy myself while I am going. I might as well, for I will go to Hell, anyway, so I will do it in the most pleasant manner. I do not think of anything but drinking (and, my God, what stuff one does get nowadays), and of petting, and of acquiring syphilis. I know this is true, for Truett Vinson said so. He is right. That is what I do think of. But I am not a hypocrite about it. I enjoy such things, and I intend to do what I enjoy, for I will go to Hell, anyway. So it does not matter much. But I believe Truett Vinson was wrong when he said the world war caused me to go to Hell. It did not. The World War happened ten years ago. The younger generation is about eighteen years of age, according to Truett Vinson. How could the war have caused it? I do not see. But I am not in favor of war. It may be because I am a coward. I do not know. But there is something so useless about war. It is so futile, so sickening for mob to kill mob. But I suppose that it can not be helped. Men have always fought. They always will. Men are like that. But this has nothing to do with my going to Hell. But I believe that I would have gone even if there had not been a war ten years ago. Of course, I do not know. I might not have. It does not matter now. I should like to invite Truett Vinson to accompany me to Hell. The way is pleasant.—A.M.Y.

After reading this, sometime in October presumably, Robert Howard wrote to Clyde Smith:

The reason I’m sending The Junto to you instead of Truett, I want you as a damned personal damned favor to me, see, to put as a comment a slam on this A.M.Y. business about Hell Bent or else a boost for Truett’s article. Now, I’m full of Virginia Dare, but I know what I’m talking about, see. We three birds are the holy and most revered Original Three and we must stand up for each other.  I have a hunch this A.M.Y. business is about fourteen and smokes corn husk cigarettes out behind the stable and thinks he’s on the high road to Hell.

Smith responded with an addendum to the mailing list: “The October Junto—and a Few Comments”:

It is to be regretted that a number of these Amys (I suppose that means “A Modern Youth”) are laboring under the impression that they will leave Time an intellectual and radical name if they will only die with the syphilis. To my mind, the seat of the intellect is located in the brain, and not in the nether regions. It is not necessary for me to comment further except to say that it’s godamned blasphemy to mention the idea of a preacher in connection with Bob Howard[see Lenore Preece’s comment in January 1929 Commentary]—and by that, I mean that it’s blaspheming Bob Howard. If anyone wants to know about those tortures [described in “More Evidences of the Innate Divinity of Man”], I’ll see if I can’t get Bob to present “specific information” personally to all those who desire erudition.

Tevis Clyde Smith

P.S.—I think it was unnecessary for Bob to explain certain tortures of women. Remember, we have postal laws!

Other comments from the Mailing List include the following:

To whom it may concern: I prefer to deal with people who sign their names to their opinions. Will A.M.Y. reveal himself or herself? T.V. [Truett Vinson]

Good Lord! What are we, cut throats? Have we lost sight of our treasured philosophy, our staunch independence, etc., etc? Did somebody accidentally drop a bomb that wasn’t a dud? I feel like I’d just been in a volcano or something after all this. The Junto is very good. Who is A.M.Y.? No fair hiding behind an alias. Anyway, what he or she said about Truett isn’t quite fair. As for “Our Beloved Barbarian” he can take care of himself. M.E. [REH’s cousin, Maxine Ervin]

This issue is about half pure trash and half good reading. Lenore and “Hal” Preece are good. Bob Howard hit the nail on the head. Good thot in Smith’s comment. If A.M.Y. is in earnest, he’s all wrong. I hope to be able to contribute some worthy material soon. Truly, C. Dennis Hart

 More next time . . .

[Go to Part 3]