Monday, February 06, 2006

Lovecraftiana: Edith Miniter's Legends

In Unnamable (circa September 1923) Lovecraft uses his pseudonym “Carter” and juxtaposes philosophies of the weird tale with “Manton” who is Maurice Moe. [1, p,283].

I continue, in these blog essays, to express the opinion that HPL's stories are fictional representations of philosophical treatises. Each has a thesis, discussion and methods, and a long discourse culminating in a precise conclusion. However, this blog post is about delving into the mind of Lovecraft.

“I knew that Joel Manton actually half clung to many old-wives' superstitions which sophisticated people had long outgrown; beliefs in the appearance of dying persons at distant places, and in the impressions left by old faces on the windows through which they had gazed all their lives. To credit these whisperings of rural grandmothers , I now insisted, argued a faith in the existence of spectral substances on the earth apart from and subsequent to their material counterparts.”

Anytime Lovecraft uses the term “grandmothers”, this is a perjorative. The term is found in Shunned House discussing the Rhode Island tuberculosis vampire tradition. HPL ridicules gothic or rustic folklore to make room for his evolving philosophy of the weird tale. In 1923, he still had a long way to go to perfect this concept, but already he knew what he didn't like.

Another “buzz word” Lovecraft perpetually used in his writing was “superstition”. This is always a flag that what comes next is frowned upon. Sometimes he refers to Christianity and more often to common folk myths. Lovecraft set out to shatter traditional Gothic, Victorian, and Edwardian mythology. He had no use for it and violently desired to purge it from the weird tale.

However, the mention of this particular tradition of “ the impressions left by old faces on the windows through which they had gazed all their lives” can actually be traced to an actual event in Lovecraft's life.

In his touching and expansive tribute to the passing of Edith Miniter (written October 1934), he writes of his trip to see her years earlier. “Mrs. Miniter supplied many legends and particulars which no guidebook could furnish – and it was on this occasion {early 1923 with Miniter and Cole} that I first heard of the rustic superstition which asserts that window-panes slowly absorb and retain the likeness of those who habitually sit by them, year after year.”

Miniter, you recall, turned down the editorship of the Stoker manuscript of Dracula. She also provided the “whippoorwill” myth in Dunwich Horror. One suspects a pre-Sonia romantic attachment by HPL of Miniter, though obviously never acted upon.

1 An H. P. Lovecraft Encyclopedia, Joshi & Schultz, pp. 168, 169, 174, 175, 283, 284.

2 Collected Essays, Vol. 1: Amateur Journalism, Joshi, pp. 382, 387 n. 8,9.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This Edith Miniter you discuss same as one dau. of Jennie Dow, both living at 17 Akron St. Boston in 1910? If so do you know of published obituaries for Edith Miniter, e.g., Boston newspapers? She was my grandmother's cousin.


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