Saturday, January 28, 2006

Lovecraft the Chemist

One of the reason's Chris reads Lovecraft is because of the chemistry HPL sneaks into his stories. [Chris is a chemist in "real" life.] I came to Lovecraft very late, only about 5 years ago. I'd remembered him - vaguely - from high school converstaing, but in those days it was all science fiction and no horror.

Once obsessed, an HPL fan knows no bounds. One of my treasures is my copy of The Young Chemist, John Howard Appleton, Silver Burdett & Co, 8th ed., 1889!

"In 1899 a new interest of mine began to gain ascendency... a love of chemistry ... a friend of ours is Prof. John Howard Appleton, the venerable professor of chemistry at Brown {University} & author of many books on the subject." [1, p. 71]

"The science of chemistry first captivated me in the Year of Our Lord 1898 ... in ... Webster's Dictionary ... chemical appartus especially attracted me ... being a "spoiled" child I had but ask ... I was given a cellar room ... some simple apparatus & a copy of "The Young Chemist" - a beginner's manual by Prof. Howard Appleton of Brown - a personal acquaintance." [2, p. 38]

Well, one day I was reading his and Hazel Heald's [3] story Winged Death. This is usually panned by all critics, but happens to be a favorite of mine - about a tse tse fly of all things.

I came across "...both chemicals - hydrochloric acid and manganese dioxide - on the table all ready to mix...". Hmm, I say to myself, Chris! you've seen that somewhere. Indeed. When I flipped open Appleton's book, there it was, virtually word for word. The story was written between 1932-1933 and mostly by HPL. At age 43, Lovecraft still either had his little, precious book, or had recalled it after decades. Truly, HPL was a remarkable man.

1 {Nov 16, 1916} H. P. Lovecraft: Letters to Rheinheart Kleiner, op.cit.
2 {Aug 29, 1918} H. P. Lovecraft" Letters to Alfred Galpin, op. cit.
3 Winged Death, c. 1933, Hazel Heald, H. P. Lovecraft: The Horror in the Museum and other revisions, Carroll & Graff, 2002, pp. 146-167.

Note: If you like Gilbert and Sullivan, and like it mangled, read my latest parody ... Member of the Menagerie by Giblet and Skeleton - Here!

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