the legend of the trunk part 3

Following the death of Dr. Howard, his colleague, Dr. P. M. Kuykendall, made funeral arrangements and approved the final details for the Arkham House collection of Robert E. Howard’s stories Skull-Face and Others. Early in the new year, February 7, 1945, Kuykendall finally responded to a November 16, 1944 letter from E. Hoffmann Price. Kuykendall had been getting rid of Dr. Howard’s possessions and was wondering what to do with a certain trunk that was full of papers.

[Dr. Howard] left all his affairs in my hands to settle up. All his personal effects, car, clothing, etc. were sent to his nephew Wallace Howard. The only thing to dispose of now are Robert’s stories, some of which were published, and others in manuscripts (all). There is a large trunk of these. I thought perhaps you might like to have them; if you do want them, let me know and I’ll send them prepaid to you and you can just throw the old trunk away—it is strong [enough] to send them in.

After receiving this, Price wrote to Derleth, then in the final phases of preparation on Skull-Face and Others, and told him what Dr. Kuykendall had said. He added this: “The real point of Dr. K’s delayed acknowledgment may or may not interest you professionally—I am sure it won’t—but I pass it on: I am to get Robert’s stories [. . .]” which he described as “Duds—juvenilia—miscellanea—from your viecrovwpoint, nothing worth considering for the REH book. However, if I find anything of striking autobiographical value, I’ll let you know. I’ve not had time to make photo prints of the 65 frames of microfile of REH verses which Barlow selected from a mass of material.” Price also wrote back to Dr. Kuykendall, whose wife responded on February 21:

Received your letter last week—are glad you wanted Robert Howard’s papers, we did not go through them and are sure many of them are useless, but are sending you all we can find. Sent you four rather large boxes today by parcel post, hope they reach you in good order. We did not know he wanted you to have his writings, had not heard of his wish—so are very glad we remembered his mentioning you—as he did quite often and he had a picture of you. Did he send you a steel trunk or box of Robert’s papers? He had one made and we have not located it.

While it is tempting to think that there were two trunks full of Howard material, this missing trunk was probably used by Dr. Howard himself when sending various of his personal effects to friends and family before his death.

On March 11, 1945 Price wrote to Derleth and described what the Kuykendalls had sent:

Four boxes of REH relics arrived: tear sheets of published yarns, weird, western, adventure, etc.; some high school themes, several bales; carbons of MSS; rejected originals; half finished yarns; a bound MS of 81,500 words, Gent from Bear Creek, made up of Breckinridge Elkins yarns threaded into a continuity, and put on offer by Otis Kline, and presumably returned by Kline as unsalable. There is also a scrap book of the kind popular with women in the 1880s-90s, my mother had one, years ago, I vaguely remember it. Colored pictures, sentimental occasion cards; news clippings, verses, etc., pressed flowers after the manner of the times. Mrs. Howard’s, without doubt. In this book, loose, was a postal card sized studio picture of REH around age 5-6, or so I would deduce—the eyes, and the facial contours convince me it must be young REH. [. . .]

In the batch of relics I got are also some snapshots of the house in NM from which Billy the Kid escaped; REH in front of it; usual snapshot from long range, no use as a likeness. A few snapshots posed: two-three buckos of Cross Plains, engaged in Breckinridge Elkins type mayhem. No good as likenesses, except one, and REH isn’t in it. A number of letters to REH: a few of yours, a few C. L. Moore, a few from fans; a couple or three I wrote him, back in 1932-33 [. . .]

A file of Dr. Howard’s carbons. [. . .]

There is also a file of letters from REH to HPL. This file, as a guess, counts to 250 single spaced typed sheets. RH Barlow got them from Mrs. Gamwell, and forwarded them to Dr. Howard. It has all the while been my impression that these letters had been destroyed accidentally, but Dr. H must have been confused when he wrote me on that. [. . .]

While the lion’s share of “The Trunk” was now in California, across the country, in his New York office, Otis Kline had possession of the items he had pulled in 1936. But just as Dr. Howard’s items had changed hands, Otis Kline’s would not remain in New York much longer.

Sometime between May 1945 and August 1946, Kline relocated from New York to Short Beach, Connecticut. He died there on October 24, 1946. His daughter had a go with the family business, but by 1948 the business was back in New York in the hands of Oscar J. Friend. On June 17, 1948, Friend wrote to Kuykendall:

For your information, I have purchased the Otis Kline agency from the Kline heirs—being an old friend and client of Mr. Kline’s myself—and am handling all of the business details of unfinished affairs in the name of the Klines without disturbing anything. Please feel free to write and ask me for any information at any time. I have the complete Howard file and records in my office.

And there things stood in 1948. E. Hoffmann Price had possession of “The Trunk,” which included the Barlow microfilm, Howard’s side of the REH-HPL correspondence, an unknown quantity of fiction (both published and unpublished), and a mass of related items, photographs, letters, scrapbook, etc. Oscar J. Friend had the “Howard file” in his office, which contained the stories pulled by Otis Kline.

As we will see, neither of these gentlemen was very careful with the items in their possession.

[Go to Part 4]

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