Robert Hayward Barlow (18 May 1918 – 1 or 2 January 1951) was an American author, avant-garde poet, anthropologist and historian of early Mexico, and expert in the Nahuatl language.
Barlow spent much of his youth at Fort Benning, Georgia, where his father, Colonel E. D. Barlow, was stationed; around 1932 Col. Barlow received a medical discharge and settled his family in the small town of DeLand, in central Florida. Family difficulties later forced Barlow to move to Washington, D.C., and Kansas.
Life and career
Barlow had been a friend of writers H. P. Lovecraft and Robert E. Howard since he was 13. He collaborated with Lovecraft on six stories, and Lovecraft made several extended visits to the young Barlow at his home in De Land,Florida. Barlow attempted to bind and distribute Lovecraft's story The Shunned House (1928) but bound only a few copies (Arkham House distributed some bound versions of the original Barlow project as late as the 1970s). Barlow aided significantly in the preservation of Lovecraft's manuscripts by typing texts in exchange for autographed manuscripts. At his death, Lovecraft's will named Barlow his literary executor and Barlow came to Providence shortly thereafter, and donated most of the manuscripts and some printed matter to the John Hay Library of Brown University.
Barlow was interested in printing and after becoming involved in the early 'fan' scene relating to fantasy and science fiction, published several important journals - The Dragon-Fly (two issues - 15 Oct 1935 and 15 May 1936); and Leaves (two issues - Summer 1937; Winter 1938/39). He was also proprietor of his imprint, the Dragon-Fly Press (Cassia, Florida) and under that imprint published two important works by members of the Lovecraft Circle - The Goblin Tower (the first verse collection by Frank Belknap Long - Lovecraft helped Barlow set the type for this) and The Cats of Ulthar, a story by H.P. Lovecraft.
Barlow's fiction career was interrupted in 1937 by a variety of circumstances, including the death of his friend and mentor Lovecraft, and his own uprooting from Florida because of family troubles. As late as 1938 he edited Lovecraft's Notes and Commonplace Book and in 1943 lent assistance to the first bibliography of Lovecraft (by Francis T. Laney and William H. Evans). His poignant memoir of Lovecraft, “The Wind That is in the Grass” can be found in Marginalia (Arkham House, 1944). Barlow also contributed the introduction for the 1944 Arkham House volume Jumbee and Other Uncanny Tales by his fellow Floridian and Weird Tales author Henry S. Whitehead.
Barlow moved permanently to Mexico around 1943, where he taught at several colleges, and in 1948 became chairman of the anthropology department at Mexico City College and a distinguished anthropologist of Indian culture, as well as a poet writing both formalist verse and experimental verse of the Activist school pioneered by Lawrence Hart. In 1950 he published Mexihkatl itonalama (“The Mexican's calendar”), a Nahuatl-language newspaper. His work in Meso-American anthropology is of pioneering significance, and his collected anthropological papers are in the process of publication in Mexico.
Barlow had written as early as 1944 that he had “a subtle feeling that my curious and uneasy life is not destined to prolong itself”. He committed suicide on the first or second of January, 1951, apparently fearing the exposure of his homosexuality by a disgruntled student. William S. Burroughs, then a student of Barlow's, briefly described his death in a letter to Allen Ginsberg, dated January 11: “A queer Professor from K.C., Mo., head of the Anthropology dept. here at M.C.C. where I collect my $75 per month, knocked himself off a few days ago with overdose of goof balls. Vomit all over the bed. I can’t see this suicide kick.