Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Lovecraft's Last Days

Ebay has become the historical museum of Lovecraftiana. As each item is circulated and sold, revelations unfold. I suppose that one could spend years in libraries and archives and not see the unique items that are presented on ebay.

Recently, an item [1] came up for auction and I will judiciously quote it. The occasion was a May 1949 limited release publication with a keynote essay by August Derleth refuting scandalous remarks about his departed mentor.

He starts out by saying that “in the dozen years” since March 11, 1937 many had whispered that Lovecraft committed suicide.

“This legend was actually propagated by people who belong to that scurrilous group of mentally unbalanced souls who are somehow mysteriously “in the know” of facts or so-called facts no one else can ascertain. Fortunately, the records of the Jane Brown Memorial Hospital contain all the ... details.”

Derleth was obviously furious at the gossip and lashed out at it. The document, however, sheds light on the legend of Lovecraft and suicide at such an early date from his death – a mere twelve years after his death – and no doubt the concept originated sometime prior to the Derleth rebuke.

Joshi [2] reports that the progression of the cancer was rapid. First signs were noted in January of 1937, which was diagnosed as terminal on February 27. Specialists were consulted, but the pain raged. Friends (the Probsts) visited and others wrote and sent telegrams. March 6 reported hideous pain, March 9 HPL could not eat, March 11 he was ambulated to the hospital and intravenously “fed”. He spoke feebly and little on March 12 and 13. On March 14 the fluids built so badly that 6 quarts were drained. Thus, Lovecraft expired on March 15.

[1] Said to be produced and published by Ray Zorn and this ebay copy was inserted into a National Amateur Press Asssociation mailer from 1949.

[2] p. 389 ff. A Dreamer and a Visionary, S T Joshi, Liverpool University Press, 2001 (an apparently abridged version of Joshi's longer American biography)

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