A Pulitzer Prize winner on Robert E. Howard

For those who missed it last January 22, here is a link to Michael Dirda’s evaluation of Howard’s Conan series, as published in the Washington Post on the occasion of Howard’s 100th birthday. Dirda was the 1993 winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Criticism, so it’s pretty cool that someone of his stature not only grooves on Howard but was savvy enough to know when his birthday was and to promote Howard accordingly.

Stumbling into Howard’s hometown

Chris Kent wrote a pretty funny Cross Plains experience at Blogcritics, detailing how he stumbled upon Howard’s hometown by accident.


In it he has several memorable phrasings, such as calling Cross Plains a “dusty, cotton farming nowhere of a crap town,” and exclaiming “absolutely f***ing amazing” when the place he has accidentally found really hits home.

Herron vs. Joshi Smackdown


I recently read some perceptive comments on the TTA Press Discussion Forum about two of the Big Names in the Weird Fiction field, S. T. Joshi and Don Herron. The posts were intriguing because they did not come from the usual crowd. These are not fans plugged into the main Howard scene, and hence are people who are judging the merits and demerits of Joshi and Herron objectively.

On the forum, under the Joel Lane folder, there is a discussion thread about Joshi. It gets interesting when Joel says on Wednesday, November 24, 2004:

There should be an emoticon for the pensive but resigned frown… I’m continuing this topic from the Nemonymous board to canvass thoughts on this extraordinary critic and archivist–a man whose sharp insights and sarcastic barbs are as impressive as his blind spots and biases are frustrating.

He is, of course, speaking about the inimitable S. T. Joshi. Gary Fry asks, “Well, I’ve only read the Campbell book. What else should I seek?”, to which Joel responds:

The Lovecraft biography is a serious classic. Joshi’s recent book The Modern Weird Tale is a mixed bag, highly idiosyncratic and unfair, but full of good insights. His new book The Evolution of the Weird Tale, despite its grand title, is basically a collection of review articles; but it’s enormous fun and less narrow than some earlier Joshi stuff. The Weird Tale, published in 1990 and covering the weird fiction genre from Machen to Lovecraft, is ambitious and dynamic but heavy-handed and too fond of extreme statements. Behind the veils of academic objectivity, Joshi can be seen to be a volatile, short-tempered, aggressive and highly intense young man. He has mellowed a little since, though his sarcasm can still wither at forty paces.

Howard fans can only laugh–that’s almost exactly the rep Joshi has acquired in our neck of the woods. Some “good,” “ambitious,” and “dynamic” insights, marred far too often by “highly idiosyncratic,” “unfair,” “heavy-handed,” “extreme,” “volatile,” and “short-tempered” critical judgments.

Joel later adds:

And the latest news is that the two volumes of revised, annotated Lovecraft stories edited by S.T. Joshi for Penguin Modern Classics is to be followed by a third containing… everything else! ‘The Dreams in the Witch-House’ will be out in the UK next year and will complete the set of revised Lovecraft texts in mass market paperback. I’m not sure whether to be impressed by this purposeful rebranding of Lovecraft’s work or disappointed that the opportunity to consign the dozen or so weakest stories to the dustbin of history was missed.

When asked about other books in the field to look up, Joel mentions Herron:

Well, there’s the ‘Penguin Encyclopedia of Horror and the Supernatural’, about 20 years old now. And the St James Encyclopedia of Horror, Ghost and Gothic Fiction, a massive and costly volume which I don’t own–I wrote six entries, but didn’t qualify for a comp. copy.

There’s some very good stuff on the horror genre in Ramsey Campbell, Probably, as well as much else of interest (and the occasional foray into the realm of Too Much Information). And Don Herron’s excellent anthology of essays on Robert E. Howard, The Dark Barbarian, has recently been reissued by Wildside Press.

Can anyone recommend other studies of the field?

To which Gary Fry responds “Don Herron is an excellent critic: he wrote some very even-handed reviews of King’s earlier work.” And a bit later says:

Don Herron’s take on King is, in my view, the definitive assessment: he claims King writes the kind of fiction you’d expect from a professor (loaded with theme and symbols, ripe for critical dissemination), rather than a raw artist. However, he also claims that King, at his best, could produce great stuff (not Shakespeare, but great all the same): “Apt Pupil,” The Shining, “The Woman in the Room,” etc. Nevertheless, he also claims that King can’t control the quality, that he only ever hits to high notes occasionally.

Sums the guy up nicely, methinks.

Another reader, “Stu,” chimes in on Don’s take on King with:

Gary, I’ve not read a lot of King but that does sound a more balanced assessment than a lot of people offer on him. Way more charitable than Joshi’s take on King, for example.

There you have it, guys outside of Howard fandom simmering with many of the same evaluations of Joshi and Herron that we have historically had. Joshi is blissfully unaware of how many intelligent fans his criticism has offended on an aesthetic level over the years, how plain wrong many of his opinions are, by any standards. I wonder if he’ll ever figure it out.

Joel finishes the Joshi commentary with:

Yes, I think King’s vast popularity has blinded some critics to the power of his best work. The Dark Half in particular is brilliant. He’s not terribly original, but he is passionate and intense–features that most commercial horror fiction notably lacks. Joshi’s grandstanding denunciation of King is the most disappointing feature of his criticism, though he does offer a fair-minded critique of Straub.

“Disappointing” is one of the words I hear most associated with Joshi’s critical work. Oh well, bad criticism fades away when the living critic does, while good research–Joshi’s strength–endures. My guess is that books like The Weird Tale, The Modern Weird Tale, and The Evolution of the Weird Tale will fade into merciful oblivion in due course, while the various indexes, pure texts, and biographical finds will become standards.

Meanwhile, Herron’s critical books on Howard, as far as I can tell, are here to stay. For each essay contained within, one finds it very difficult to think of another essay anywhere that has covered the same subjects better.

Fantasy of the 20th Century: An Illustrated History

Last week over at Rah Hoffman’s house, DSF showed me a copy of this book, which contained quite a bit of interesting material for Howard fans. The book is an oversized coffee table volume, full color on slick paper, a great value for $60. REH is featured prominently in an early chapter on the pulps, and his life and work is given a fairly detailed, fair treatment by Mr. Broecker. Later on, when the history reaches the 1960s, REH is given another chapter describing the Howard Boom and the shockwaves it created. De Camp is also featured prominently in relevant sections, and is given generally high praise by Broecker, although the problems many fans had with the pastiches is noted.

All in all, a great read for Howard fans. At Amazon.Com, you can order a brand new one for $60, or go for a used one for as low as $2.

Howard Gets Some Good Press

The Brownwood Bulletin published not one but two nice articles about Howard Days, the first one preceding the event and the second one in the wake of it. Unfortunately, the newspaper archives their articles after a few days and charges ridiculous amounts of money for access. For anyone who is interested, the text is reprinted below. Each included several photographs of the house, Howard’s grave in Greenleaf Cemetery, and one of the panels in the pavilion.

Incidentally, Era Lee Hanke, President of Project Pride in Cross Plains, had a hand in popularizing the event this year, not only getting a commercial on television played sixty times in the lead-up to the weekend, but also getting coverage in local papers, including helping attract the Bulletin, urging the paper to write the articles. Howard has had few friends in the last few years as dogged, inventive, and worthy of praise as Era Lee. However, Era Lee gets it all wrong when she states that Howard fans “don’t come here to see us. They come here to see each other.” I for one look forward to seeing the ladies of Project Pride each and every year, as much if not more than seeing the Howard marvels the town offers. One of the greatest things about Howard Days is all the new friends I otherwise would never have met.

By Gene Deason
Thursday, June 9, 2005
Brownwood Bulletin

CROSS PLAINS — The legacy of fantasy writer Robert E. Howard will be celebrated this weekend as Cross Plains hosts visitors from around the world for tours, auctions and programs.

Marcelo Anciano of London, with Wandering Star, publisher of the Robert E. Howard Library of Classics, will be attending this year’s events Friday and Saturday. He will speak on “Let His Name Not Fade: Interpreting Robert E. Howard in Books, Films and Other Media” at a banquet Friday night and participate in a panel discussion with other Howard scholars Saturday afternoon.

“Brownwood is very tied to this event,” said Era Lee Hanke, president of Project Pride, the Cross Plains organization which owns the Robert E. Howard House and Museum and hosts the annual event. “Bob Howard attended his final year of high school at Brownwood. We have a 1923 Brownwood High yearbook with his picture in it. And then he took some classes at Howard Payne. He is buried in Greenleaf Cemetery.”

Many of those attending from outside the immediate area will also be staying in Brownwood, she said. More than 200 guests are expected, including 90 who have made reservations for the casual banquet at 7 p.m. Friday.

“This is quite a thing for Cross Plains,” Hanke said. “We have people come and have their pictures taken at the Howard house. They say ‘Bob Howard actually stood at this spot.’ Word has really spread about this event, and interest has really taken off in the last few years.”

Howard is best known for his creation of the literary genre known as “Sword-and-Sorcery,” featuring Conan. His fantasy fiction character came to the attention of the general public when the movie “Conan the Barbarian” starring a youthful bodybuilder named Arnold Schwarzenegger took the box office by storm in 1982.

“Howard also wrote quite a bit of other types of literature,” Hanke added. Those include historical adventure, suspense, detective stories, gothic horror, sea stories and Western burlesque.

Howard, born in 1906 in Palo Pinto County, was the only son of Dr. and Mrs. Isaac M. Howard. The family lived in several different Texas communities—including Cross Cut in Brown County—but by 1919, they had settled in Cross Plains. Most of Howard’s writing was done in their home on West Highway 36, a building which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and has been restored by Project Pride as a museum. He died in 1936 of a self-inflicted gunshot as his mother faced his own death because of illness.

The public is invited to attend a variety of events scheduled Friday and Saturday, including tours of the Howard home and panel discussions on his work. The pavilion on the museum grounds will serve as a headquarters for visitation by those attending, and a variety of Howard books—including new volumes published by the University of Nebraska Press—will be available for purchase.

“They don’t come here to see us,” Hanke said of the guests arriving from long distances. “The come here to see each other.”

A special postal cancellation noting the occasion will be available at the Cross Plains Post Office Saturday morning.

Anciano, the featured speaker at Friday night’s casual banquet, has been a promoter for the rock group Duran Duran, and director and producer of music videos and feature films. He has been publisher of the Robert E. Howard Library of Classics for eight years. Tickets to the dinner were sold in advance.

On Friday, tours of the Howard home will be available from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. A walking tour of the Cross Plains Cemetery is set from 10 to 11 a.m., and lunch will be served at the pavilion from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. with donations as the cost of the meal. Bus tours will be offered from 12:30 to 2 p.m. from the pavilion, and the Cross Plains Library will feature a collection of Howard items from 1 to 5 p.m.

Paul Herman will lead a program on caring for a Howard collection from 2:30 to 3 p.m. Friday at the pavilion, and a book-signing is set from 3 to 4 p.m. Rusty Burke and [redacted] will offer a seminar from 4 to 5 p.m. at the pavilion on writing a Howard biography. The banquet is set for 7 p.m. at the community center.

On Saturday, the stamp cancellation is set from 8 to 10 a.m. at the post office, and the Howard house will be open for tours from 9 to 11:30 a.m., and again from 2 to 4 p.m. The Barbarian Festival will be under way on Main Street from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m., and a screening of “Pigeons from Hell” with commentary by Burke, Anciano and Michael Scott Myers is set from 10 to 11:30 a.m. at the high school.

Bus tours will leave from the pavilion at 12:30 p.m. Howard items will again be shown at the library from 1 to 3 p.m. Bill Cavalier and James Reasoner will speak on “What Would Robert E. Howard Have Done Had He Lived” from 2 to 2:30 p.m.

A Wandering Star panel featuring Anciano, Burke, and Jim Keegan is planned at the pavilion from 3 to 4:30 p.m. The Saturday evening meal will be at Caddo Peak Ranch, and those attending will meet at the pavilion at 5 p.m.

A group of about 10 people are involved in Project Pride throughout the year, but Howard Days requires as many as 40 volunteers, Hanke said.

By Gene Deason
Monday June 13, 2005
Brownwood Bulletin

CROSS PLAINS — Fans and experts alike agreed Saturday that Robert E. Howard, the Cross Plains fantasy writer who took his own life at the age of 30, would have become a giant in his field if he had lived. The question, though, is exactly what field that might have been.

“That’s what I love about Robert E. Howard speculation,” artist and long-time Howard enthu­siast Bill Cavalier said during a panel discussion on what Cross Plains’ most famous resident might have done. The program was one of several panel discussions held Friday and Saturday during Robert E. Howard Days, an annual cele­bration of his works which draws international attention.

Howard is best known today for establishing the fantasy fiction genre, which was headlined by the character Conan who was brought to life on the movie screen by Arnold Schwarzenegger in the early 1980s. But by the time of his death in 1936, Howard had left that part of his career behind and was moving into other types of

Parallels between Howard’s writing and his Conan charac­ter, and Edgar Rice Burroughs’ career and his Tarzan charac­ter, were raised in an attempt to project what direction Howard’s career might have taken. Burroughs, while 25 years his senior, was also a pulp fiction story writer who developed into an international celebrity. However, author James Reasoner, the other member of the panel, was not confident that Conan would made a similar leap into other literary forms as Tarzan did. It wasn’t Howard’s style.

“The only thing that makes me think that is, Howard tend­ed to leave his characters behind,” Reasoner said. “That was his professional history, and he was talking about writ­ing westerns primarily.”

That raised speculation that his interest in movies might have taken him into a career as a script writer for films.

“I would have to think with Howard’s great love for the movies, it would be a natural progression,” Cavalier said.

He noted that western movies in the 1930s are con­sidered poor, and that Howard’s death came three years before the release of what is considered the first great western, John Ford’s Stagecoach. That evolution could have been what it would have taken to turn Howard in that direction.’ Based on mutu­al acquaintances, it is probable that Howard would have teamed with Ford.

Reasoner said Howard’s approximately 100 articles, published primarily in pulp magazines of the era, were basically styled in a form of a movie script.

“You don’t find page after page of what a character is thinking,” Reasoner said. “His work is very external. That’s what a film is. He was one of those writers who expects the reader to meet him halfway, and that’s what a movie does.”

Reasoner agreed that Howard had a great future as a western writer.

“He would have been a big name in the western genre had he lived,” he said. “He was writing westerns. He was just five or six years ahead of his time. All he had to do was walk out his back door, and there was the West.”

Cavalier said there is also evidence to support those who think Howard may have become a great novelist.

“Later in his career, his sto­ries got longer,” he said.

Howard had also expressed delight with the vast number of stories available to him as a pure fiction writer, and com­parisons to Mickey Spillane’s gritty prose were offered. However, Reasoner said Howard had shown no interest in detective stories.

Members of the audience wondered if he might have become a battlefield corre­spondent in World War II, as a few pulp writers did. His inter­est in international affairs had been documented; in the 1920s, he wrote in letters in which he expressed worries about Japan and his hatred of Adolph Hitler.

One person suggested he probably would have traveled extensively if he had lived past his mother’s death. There would be nothing holding him from leaving Cross Plains.

Questions arose concerning Howard’s mental state during the final days of his life, before he took his own life on June 11, 1936.

“Was this something that was inevitable, or was it just a bad time in his life?” a mem­ber of the audience asked, alluding to the bouts of depres­sion many highly creative peo­ple often battle.

Most seemed to think his suicide was the result of sever­al personal setbacks which occurred at the same time. The consensus was that Howard would have been able to deal with them if they had not all hit him at the same time—the fatal illness of his mother, who died the day after he took his life, along with the break-up with his girlfriend and difficulties in his work.

“If any of those other things hadn’t been happening, he might have survived,” Reasoner said.

Reasoner marveled at Howard’s grasp of the publish­ing business and the richness of his stories, which would have been a key to major suc­cess in later years.

“For somebody who was stuck out in a small town in Texas, he knew his markets and he knew his editors,” Reasoner said. “No matter how long he lived, I think he would have continued doing very well.”

“It’s a never-ending debate,” Cavalier observed of the speculation. “He died at such an early age when his career was just about to take off. In the 12 years he worked, he wrote some good things, and he wrote some bad things. What direction would he have gone? He liked writing history, and he was getting away from fantasy. He wrote in 1933 that he might live the rest of his life writing history in the guise of fiction.”

“He wrote that he wished he had a century to write his­torical fiction,” he said. “He wrote a lot about history in everything he did. If he didn’t have any history, he made it up.”

“He was just on the verge of making the big time,” Cavalier observed. “It’s such a shame he had to leave us.”

Also participating in the discussion from the audience were Rusty Burke; prominent Howard researcher and author, and Michael Scott Myers, who co-produced and wrote the screenplay of the 1996 movie The Whole Wide World.

The film is based on the book One Who Walked Alone: Robert E. Howard, The Final Years by Novalyne Price Ellis, a memoir of Howard’s final two years from the eyes of his girlfriend. The film stars Renée Zellweger and Vincent D’Onofrio.

World Fantasy Convention 2006 News

In case you haven’t heard, the World Fantasy Convention for 2006 is going to be held in Austin, Texas, and the theme of the Con will be the Centennial of Robert E. Howard’s birth. Attendance is limited, and you have to purchase a “membership.” Click on the pic to view the flyer that was passed out by the Siros brothers (i.e. the 2006 WorldCon folks) at this year’s Howard Days.


Incidentally, the Con guys were saying that Howard fans are welcome to “pack the field” of the World Fantasy Awards with nominees from Howard fandom. So The Cimmerian could be nominated for the Non-Pro Category, Wandering Star editors and artists could be nominated for their respective categories, etc. Keep that in mind when purchasing your membership, nominating, and voting. Together we can make the Con Howard-centric in more ways than one.

American God

Just finished reading Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, the premise of which I found interesting although the book suffers from several problems. One is the rampant passivity that plagues most modern fiction—i.e., the main character has lots of things happen to him without proactively affecting the plot, and hence spends most of the book in utter confusion somewhat akin to that of a lab rat, a problem Robert E. Howard, despite his many artistic faults, seldom manifests. Also, much of American Gods, clever and well-written as it often is, is penned in a spare and hyper-visual style just like comic scripts or movie screenplays I’ve read, which serves certain scenes well but ultimately detracts from the epic Lord of the Rings/The Stand quality of the journey. And the plot is somewhat reduced in thematic terms by the gaping hole where Jesus should be, something that I think needs to be addressed in any book that lays claim to discussing Americans and their gods, both historical and modern. Still, the sheer phantasmagoric imagination at work here and the courageous "swinging for the fences" mentality that seems to drive the ideas lends gravitas to the book and validates the many awards it won upon its release in 2001. In a genre as stagnant and repetitive and filled with terrible writers as fantasy, Gaiman stands out as a talent worth reading and analyzing.

It occurred to me that the book’s main fantasy—that all the Gods of history were brought to America in the minds of its immigrants and were then forgotten, leaving them to get by in America as near-mortal, on-the-skids versions of their previous godlike selves, albeit ever on the lookout for a comeback—can be applied to authors as well. Gaiman himself seems to have unwittingly made this connection, as the following excerpt from one of his press tour interviews shows:

1930. Probably the most prominent English essayist was A. A. Milne. The editor of Punch, famed for his comedic essays and a man with several plays running in the West End concurrently. A man who had bestselling books with titles like The Daily Round and hilarious collections of essays and sketches. One of the funniest writers of his generation and an accomplished playwright. I did an Amazon search several months ago just out of interest to see just what of his was actually in print. And it listed 700 books: all of which, as I went down page after page, were variant editions of the two Winnie the Pooh books and the two books of comic verse for children that he wrote. And that’s all that we have left of A. A. Milne and he’s in better shape than most of his contemporaries whose names we do not remember at all. I can’t point to the other guy who was the biggest playwright in the 1930s because we don’t know who that was and if I said his name, you’d be blank. The fact is, those two books of children’s stories and two volumes of children’s verse are what posterity, rightly or wrongly, has deemed the important thing to remember about what A. A. Milne did.

Like the gods of Gaiman’s imagination, authors go through periods of sometimes incredible power and influence, which can continue for decades or for millennia, depending entirely on the necessity of "worshippers" continuing to praise and honor them. It’s the reason why Charles Willeford, in Don Herron’s biography Willeford, maintains so forcefully that "writers need critics." It’s why, in both Gaiman’s novel and in his example above, even the Great hold power only at the pleasure of the masses. Once the people stop worshipping, the power of the god, and indeed the god itself fades. It’s still there, buried in the psyche of a few, popping up now and again in some minor fashion or historical context, but the fame and influence that once was is no more.

Seen in this light, Robert E. Howard’s borderline obscurity takes on a new, more optimistic meaning. Like Milne, he has seen better days, and also like Milne, he is largely now known for a single creation, Conan. But it’s clear that, seventy years after his death, Howard has a much broader range of material in print than "most of his contemporaries whose names we do not remember at all," as Gaiman puts it. Even Howard’s minor characters have fan followings and reprintings via books like Paul Herman’s Wildside volumes. Howard is, most definitely, not forgotten, or in mortal danger of being lost to the ages like his contemporaries, many of whom inspired and influenced him. Given the extremely low percentage of authors that make the jump to posthumous relevance and success, I like Howard’s chances to remain a viable force in fantasy, and a growing one in classic American literature.

Later in his interview Gaiman notes that it’s far too early to tell if he himself is going to be remembered for anything, despite his classic Sandman series of comics selling upwards of 80,000 copies in hardcover collections each year, almost twenty years after they debuted. Or perhaps—like Milne—one of Gaiman’s minor works will be the one thing everyone remembers his name for long after he’s gone. That’s exactly right, and exactly what many people do not understand about the long-term prospects of writers. When the current crop of popular authors have been dead for seventy years like Howard, then you can talk about who’s selling what and who is more famous than who. With living authors sales count precious little towards their long-term critical or artistic viability. But with dead authors, continued sales become much more important. Howard’s work has outlived the hugely popular works of far more successful authors, for far longer than such authors have been on the cultural map. Selling millions of copies and being highly collectible seventy years after your death is a high achievement. It’s rare. It means something.

As American Gods go, Robert E. Howard is not too shabby.

Dark Valley Dust Jacket

When I recently picked up the hardcover edition of Dark Valley Destiny by L. Sprague de Camp, Catharine Crook de Camp, and Jane Griffin (Bluejay Books, 1983) for the hundredth time, a quick perusal of the dust jacket copy suggested a number of thoughts.

The first was one I never heard anyone else mention before, namely that it’s risible that two thirds of the triad that penned the only biography to date on Robert E. Howard were women, and antipathetic women at that. While I of course have known this factually for many years, this observation had never struck me with such force before. Try as I might, I find it impossible to escape the conclusion that dissecting the life of Howard, one of the all-time classic men’s writers, requires a sympathetic and understanding male outlook and empathy far beyond what a pair of old ladies like Mrs. de Camp and Mrs. Griffin could ever hope to either possess or compensate for. The dust jacket copy of Dark Valley Destiny is also a microcosm of both the pleasures and the problems inherent in the book. It begins, as de Camp’s ruminations on Howard almost always did, with noting the suicide, stating:


On the morning of June 11, 1936, thirty-year old Robert E. Howard ascertained from his mother’s nurse that Mrs. Howard would not regain consciousness. He had spent the night before sorting through his papers; he had made funeral arrangements earlier in the week. Then he calmly walked out the door, got into his car, carefully rolled up the window, and shot himself in the head. Thus ended the life of one of America’s most significant writers.

Such a preternatural focus on the suicide to the exclusion of all else is a large part of what infuriates so many fans about de Camp’s book. But tellingly, the dust jacket then goes on to heap ample praise on Howard in unabashedly admiring terms. “The definitive biography of Robert E. Howard, who created the archetypical fantasy hero … the heroic sweep of his narratives, the vividness of his imagery, and his ability to convey mood, magic and mystery mark his writing as exceptional. Had he lived, he might have become one of the most celebrated of all American fantasy writers.” That he actually has become one of the most celebrated of fantasy writers shouldn’t cause us to judge this last statement too harshly; Howard fans have well-documented the penchant of critics to leave Howard out of books on the fantasy genre, despite his preeminent status. On those grounds, the statement that Howard “might have” become celebrated is valid.

The various analytical statements that follow the above praise, describing how the de Camps and Griffin have masterfully delineated “Howard’s problems,” should be weighed against the remark that “Dark Valley Destiny is a fascinating work of research, interpretation and writing that illuminates the personality of the man who, almost single­handedly, created the subgenre of American fiction now called `heroic fantasy.”‘ The italics in “interpretation” are mine, intended to highlight one of the stated techniques de Camp used to flesh out the shadowy areas in Howard’s life, one of the techniques that any biographer has to use when a vast swath of the subject’s life is mist. De Camp can surely be criticized for the logic and strength, or lack thereof, of these interpretations, but let us not damn him for the necessity of interpreting in and of itself.