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The December 1928 mailing of The Junto opened with “A Song for Men that Laugh,” a poem by Robert E. Howard that begins with this: “Satan is my brother, Satan is my son,” and ends with this: “Satan is my brother, and I will follow him.” A fine “Merry Christmas” from the post oaks.
Up next is “Regression” by Lenore Preece. This is an imaginative spoof of a future “reunion of that circle of compatriots, who, twenty years ago, constituted the Junto fraternity.” Preece begins with a description of Truett Vinson, who has become the “head of a large printing company which sells religious works of all descriptions, including the speeches of William J____ Bryan and triumphant and infallible refutations of Paine and Ingersoll.” She continues with this: “Truett shortchanges many of his customers; but his creed, which inculcates that three is one, may be responsible. He has a seventy-five thousand dollar mansion, fifteen servants, and an egregious income. His testimony recently sent three Socialists to prison. If there were any justice, he would be sent to the electric chair.” Perhaps Lenore saw Truett’s poem that appeared in the October 1928 issue of New Masses:
But I digress. Vinson isn’t the only Juntite to receive a skewering. Preece continues with this:
Indeed, a striking characteristic of the Juntites was their ostensible religion. Each pious member, on the other hand, informed me privately that the rest were hypocrites and imposters. As far as all had scaled, in one direction, the shining paths of atheism and deism, tolerance, socialism, and unconventionality, in the other they had fallen back into a quagmire of orthodoxy, bigotry, capitalistic sympathies, and social dogmas. as a striking example of this retrogression, Bob Howard was a preacher of that sect christened Apostolics, dubbed Holy Rollers. His ministerial activities have made him as supple as a snake. He it was who pronounced the blessing, which I here produce:
“Oh God, our Father, we thank Thee for Thy bounty and ask for more. We pray that Thy wrath will strike all infidels dead, and that Thou wilt cleanse the adulterer and murderer. If some here are damned and sinful, may they come to Thy throne tonight and be saved.”
Bob would have given the invitation then and there if Booth hadn’t nudged him. I hear that he preaches very juicy sermons.
Of Clyde Smith, Preece wrote that he “contributes to the American Magazine. His interviews with famous men are an inspiration. From a late write-up of Truett Vinson, one would fancy that he was interviewing God. It is very probable that Clyde had a wrong sense of direction.” And so on with other members.
Following “Regression” is Vinson’s “The Autobiography of a Bookkeeper,” which appears to be in answer to Booth Mooney’s call for “some autobiographies” which Howard mentioned in a letter last time and which included a photograph of Vinson (poorly reproduced at right). After this is another Howard poem, “To the Evangelists,” and “The Commentary,” which was discussed in the last installment. Up next is part 2 of “Confessions of a Virgin,” signed by “ ‘H’ (A Virgin)”; this is a spoofy story of a first kiss. Part 1 was apparently published in the missing November issue. After this is “The Galveston Affair,” by Bob Howard, which describes Howard’s and Vinson’s experience while waiting to see the “Bathing girls from all over the world” at the International Pageant of Pulchritude and Annual Bathing Girl Review. And the last page of the mailing has “The Destructive Critic,” verse by Elmer T. Hendricks, who was not a member of The Junto, but did contribute to many Lone Scout papers. Mooney appears to have “borrowed” the poem for its appearance here, though I can’t find an original publication elsewhere.
After perusing this issue, Harold Preece wrote to Clyde Smith (December 16, 1928): “Bob’s ‘To the Evangelists’ in the current number of The Junto is one of his best poems in my opinion. It reminds me of Swinburne.” And the following:
Your revelations concerning Bob’s affair surely were astounding. I thought that he would be the last one of the bunch to capitulate. I am shocked, to put it mildly. I have written an impersonal tirade against women to Bob, as you requested. I can see myself, in future years, as the only bachelor of the noble fraternity of The Junto, envied by you fellows and despised by your wives, giving nickels to your children and—but I had better stop.
In a letter to Smith written not long after, Howard quotes the following from Preece’s “impersonal tirade”:
“Women are damned good actors but damned bad friends.
“One step in the process of emancipating myself, mentally, has been the complete disillusionment of myself regarding women. Women have a tendency to make men effeminate and domestic; and I believe, therefore, that they are a hindrance to the full expression of masculine personality. It is significant that the frails have never produced a single great philosopher, and that the really great women, whom this world has produced, can be counted on the fingers of one hand.
“The fickleness of woman is proverbial, one of the major themes of literature, in fact. A woman, generally speaking, has no conception of honor, or obligation except to her offspring; and she generally ceases to love her mate after the birth of the first child.
“Woman should be relegated to her proper place, and kept there. Let the men assert their rights, and not be daunted by powder puff or allured by hose.”
[Photo from The Cactus, 1931 yearbook from the University of Texas, Austin.]
To which Howard says:
I am preparing a scathing rebuke of which I shall probably enclose a carbon copy to you. I will not ask you to destroy this letter, as I have foolish scruples about depriving posterity of masterpieces rightfully theirs, but for cat’s sake, hide it skillfully and with subtlety where no prying or Haroldesque eye can discover its heinous and libelous contents. [Preece] also praises my rime in the Junto but says “Easter Island” was below my usual standard. I hesitate to tell him I wrote the sonnet over two years ago lest he should think I am apologizing for it, but I believe I will. I gather that he thinks I wrote it since I fell for the diabolical blond and I will derive a sadistic pleasure from disillusioning him — i.e. busting his best argument. Let us carry on our intrigue with caution and fiendish craft. Harold has gypsy blood in him and the Romany are proverbially revengeful. Beware the dripping and gory dagger of vengeance.
The “diabolical blond” has been identified as Ruth Baum, though when she was interviewed by L. Sprague de Camp she claimed no knowledge of Howard’s supposed infatuation with her. Whether or not Baum was the “blond,” there was no doubt going to be talk of the ladies at the proposed gathering of Juntites before the New Year. And while Booth Mooney’s prediction to Smith turns out to be accurate (“I’m beginning to fear that I shan’t be able to attend the Brownwood gathering of the Junto fraternity”), the rest of gang did manage to meet. More on that next time.
[Go to Part 5]