The Shadow of the Unattained: The Letters of George Sterling and Clark Ashton Smith


  • Edited by David E. Schultz and S. T. Joshi
  • Cover art and design by Jason Van Hollander
  • 2005, reprinted 2019
  • ISBN 9780974878935
  • Paperback



In 1911 the poet George Sterling was the focus of a thriving literary community in California that included Jack London, Mary Austin, and the aged Ambrose Bierce. When he received a letter and some manuscript poems from a young writer in Auburn named Clark Ashton Smith, he immediately recognized that a literary prodigy of tremendous potential had come his way, and for the remaining fifteen years of his life he nurtured Smith’s poetic talent with care and sensitivity. This volume presents, for the first time, the complete surviving correspondence between these two poetic titans. In the decade and a half of their involvement, they exchanged many poems and prose works, visited each other on several occasions, and discussed the burning literary and social issues of the day—Modernist poetry, the founding of Weird Tales, the publication of their collections of cosmic and fantastic verse, and much else besides. Such figures as H. L. Mencken, H. P. Lovecraft, and Donald Wandrei are the subjects of their frequent letters, and we come to see why Smith took over the mantle of poetic greatness from Sterling, whose suicide in 1926 left Smith shocked and bereft. As an appendix, all of Smith’s essays on Sterling, and Sterling’s writings on Smith, are gathered.

This volume has been scrupulously annotated by David E. Schultz and S. T. Joshi, leading authorities on Smith, Sterling, Lovecraft, Bierce, and other writers.

Abstracts of all the letters in The Shadow of the Unattained are available here:

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This product was added to our catalog on Monday 29 March, 2010.