In the the Summer 1945 issue of a fanzine called The Acolyte was published a short memoir called “Interlude with Lovecraft” by Stuart Morton Boland, which began:
In the Spring of 1935 I was making a library survey tour of the European continent. At the quaint little hill town of Orvieto, in Italy, I came upon an amazing mural high on the walls of the local Duomo or Cathedral. The painting represented mighty figures of ebon-hued men (not angels or demons) with great wings, flying through etheric space carrying beauteous pinionless mortals--men and women who were rapturously accompanying them in their voyage through eternity.
I photographed the scene and sent a print to Robert E. Howard, telling him it reminded me of one of his Conan stories. With the print I included a colored reproduction of a rare illuminated manuscript of the 10th Century which I had seen in the Royal Archives at Budapest. Howard, for some reason, sent this facsimile to Lovecraft, asking if he thought his Necronomicon would look anything like the reproduction of the parchment.
Three months later, when I reached my home by the Presidio in San Francisco, I found awaiting me two letters from Howard and an extensive missive from Lovecraft. [...] In my reply to HPL, I stated that I thought his opinion was well-founded, and furthermore that the references of both men to odd ancient gods were ideas they must have borrowed from Mayan, Toltec, and Aztec mythology. (Boland 15)
This presents an interesting example of the consideration of historical evidence, because aside from statements from Boland, there is no direct evidence that Boland and Robert E. Howard ever corresponded. Boland wrote to Glenn Lord in the late 1950s:
I corresponded with Bob for quite some time before his demise—also with his father. I have not located the missives—but if recollections and reminiscences will help, I can give you some rather colorful data concerning the letters we exchanged on European topics, art culture, archeology and anthropology, ecology and the Dark Ages. [...] [Howard] replied via American express ‘poste haste’ and asked about Pompeii, Boscoreale, Herculaneum, Rhodes, Olympus, Palmyra, Orvieto, Palermo, etc. (Roehm 25 Feb 2014)
|1931 Boland at Berkley|
Absence of evidence, however, is not the same thing as evidence of absence. A close study of Robert E. Howard’s letters shows that he did not, by and large, discuss his correspondence with fans widely: there are no references to Emil Petaja, F. Lee Baldwin, or Charles D. Hornig in Howard’s surviving letters to Lovecraft, for example, though we know Howard corresponded with all three fans. So too, there are gaps in the correspondence during the period of 1935-1936 when Boland and Howard might have written to each other, and the Lovecraft letters are based not on complete manuscripts, but from the abridged Arkham House Transcripts. The case may be, then, that Howard could plausibly have failed to mention his correspondence with Boland to anyone else, and possible that any such mention of Boland or the facsimile that he claims Howard sent to Lovecraft was in a postcard, letter, or section of a letter that is no longer extant.
Without the actual letters or a direct mention by Robert E. Howard, Boland’s claims are unprovable. However, a detailed analysis of his claims can be made with certain circumstantial evidence, which might lend or remove credence from his recollections. To begin with, some background on Boland: according to census data Stuart Morton Boland was born in 1909 in New York City, and by 1920 he was in San Francisco, California. In 1931 he graduated with a BA in Public Speaking from the University of California - San Francisco, and sometime after that was employed at the San Francisco Public Library, as well as being a poet, playwright, and lecturer or guest speaker. According to Boland, his European tour occured Spring 1935, and this is supported by several statements in The Link, the journal of the San Francisco Public Library, where Boland was normally employed: