Thursday, February 02, 2006

Young Lovecraft as Editor

I find the amateur journalism of Lovecraft's era similar to the writer circles of today. Plumbers, ministers, bored doctors, or house wives with extra time all contributed their pastiches in hopes that they would attract a pulpish publisher to print their work. Are we that different at the turn of the 21st century than they at the turn of the 20th?

Today we see electronic publications of horror, romance, or erotica and within those forums amateurs vie to see their names in light. Within those communities, minor stars arise and glow for a few years. Sometimes, within the covers of cheap yellow paper of the pulps and small press, there is that rare nova that will blaze the heavens: a Ray Bradbury, a Karl Edward Wagner, a Brian Lumley.

Lovecraft was such a writer and now – more than a century later – he still illuminates the weird tale word-world. But way back in November 1914, he was just another editor of a tiny publication organization. In April 1914, he joined the United Amateur Press Association (UAPA) rival to the National Amateur Press Association (NAPA). He rose quickly in the group and became the pompous titled Chairman of the Department of Public Criticism. [*, p. 9]

For better or worse, Lovecraft was very opinionated – but usually right. Today, I thought you might like an example of how a 24 year old "H. P. Lovecraft" wielded his critical pen.

"'Just the Best Emigrant I Ever Knew', by Mrs. L. J. Tillery, is a sketch which exhibits much power of description and insight into human nature. The portrait ... is here painted in vivid and impressive manner. The same author in 'Poe and Poesy' displays a ... knowledge of poetical construction ... at present we might suggest ... 'the music that his wife set poetry to', might flow more smoothly if written thus: 'the music to which his wife set poetry'. It seems best to keep prepositions from the ends of sentences."

And this:

"Mrs. M. W. Hart's ... style is direct and forceful, but a little wanting in perspicuity. The phrase {in 'The Modern Status of Peace'} 'the present war between Austria and Germany and the parties of the Triple Entente and Japan' leaves us somewhat in doubt as to the exact alignment of the belligerent powers. And might thus be improved: 'the present war of Austria and Germany with the powers of the Triple Entente and Japan'. The expression: 'in innovating new methods' is pleonastic. It would be better either to omit the word 'new', or to change 'innovating' to 'introducing'." [*, p. 17]

Only a polysyllabic and pedantic Howard could jibe his fellow writers and still do it in a collegiate manner.


* H. P. Lovecraft, Collected Essays: Volume 1, Amateur Journalism, ed, S. T Joshi, Hippocampus Press, 2004

Is it OK to use a preposition at the end of a sentence? In H.P.L.'s day, English grammar was forced into conforming to Latin rules. For a different opinion, click.

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