Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Robert Nelson

Robert Nelson (b. St. Charles, Illinois, 23 July 1912; d. Elgin, Illinois, 22 July 1935)

Sable Revery: Poems, Sketches, Letters
Robert William Nelson was the only child of Elmer Nelson (1884-1978) and Ella Larson Nelson (1889-1974), who had both emigrated from Sweden in 1908. They married in 1911. After Robert graduated from the St. Charles High School in 1930, he spent one year at an Illinois university, and also studied journalism in a night class at Northwestern University. Nelson’s engagement with fandom is evidenced by his first letter (of five) in “The Eyrie”, the news and letter-column of Weird Tales, in the issue dated April-May 1931. From then until his death four years later he regularly appeared in letter columns and fanzines. His first poems appeared in 1934, “Below the Phosphor” in The Fantasy Fan for June and “Sable Revery”, in Weird Tales for September 1934. He corresponded with H.P. Love craft and Clark Ashton Smith. In early July 1935, he suffered a nervous breakdown, and seems to have attempted suicide. Though there was hope for his recovery, he died in the hospital in Elgin on 22 July 1935, one day short of his twenty-third birthday.  A collection of all his published writings, Sable Revery: Poems, Sketches, Letters, with an introduction by Douglas A. Anderson, appeared in 2012.  It also includes as an appendix five letters from H.P. Lovecraft, four to Nelson and one to Nelson’s mother after her son’s death. In it, Lovecraft wrote:
“His promise in the field of literature seemed to me very considerable; for despite the marks of youthful construction—indefiniteness or overcolouring now and then—his work had a distinct imaginative richness and atmospheric power which was rapidly improving through criticism and self-discipline. I expected to see him develop like other youths whose careers I have watched—August W. Derleth, Donald Wandrei, Frank B. Long, etc.—who are now well-established figures in the world of weird writing.”
The Nelson family gravestone, Union Cemetery, St. Charles, Illinois