Friday, January 19, 2007

Houdini and Lovecraft: Testimony of Muriel Eddy (1961) Part 2

We turn to Muriel Eddy's 1961 memoir (1) to see what we may learn - and discern - of how C M Eddy and Lovecraft met and worked together - and their unique relationships with Henneberger and Houdini.

In August 1923, after some kind of series of phone calls and correspondence, Lovecraft walked over to the Eddy's house; they met; hit it off, and established a friendship.

She states:

Shortly after his visit, we moved again, this time to a cottage on Pennsylvania Avenue. H.P.L. came over often, and gave my husband a note of introduction to Harry Houdini, who was then playing at a Providence theater. Houdini wanted someone to do a little ghost-writing for him, also to help him expose fake spiritualists or mediums. Lovecraft thought (correctly) that Mr. Eddy would fit right in, in this category. H.P.L. at this time was bogged down with countless revisions to do for people via mail, and he admitted he had no time to ghost-write Houdini’s somewhat rambling manuscripts.

Let's deconstruct this paragraph.

We find that Muriel says
(A) Lovecraft gave to CM Eddy a note of introduction to Houdini.
(B) This happened when Houdini was playing at a Providence theater.
(C) Houdini wanted someone to ghost write.
(D) Houdini wanted someone to expose spirtualists.
(E) Lovecraft felt that C M Eddy was perfect for both jobs.
(F) Lovecraft was busy doing revision work by mail.
(G) Lovecraft had not timeto write a Houdini story.

Some of this (A) & (E) (see 4, 5, 6) we have no evidence to weigh in on the veracity of the statements. We are sure that HPL had revision work [Bush, for instance]. He may have been busy (F, G) (5)- but he had time to rewrite C M Eddy's stories in late 1923.

However, it is (D) we want to focus upon. Clearly Muriel states that Houdini wanted a spy. She also says that it is Lovecraft who recruits C M Eddy. Howard Lovecraft writes a letter of introduction for C M Eddy !!

The problem with this is that Lovecraft gets a commission from Houdini from Henneberger at the end of 1923. C M Eddy already knows Edwin Baird - and likely J C Henneberger - prior to Augist 1923. Henneberger surely knows Houdini - he is soliciting an article and a story.

A 14 February 1924 letter to Long states (2) "Yes, child, WEIRD TALES is certainly shovin' a lot of work at your aged Grandsire! Entire new job - to rewrite a strange narrative which the magician Houdini related orally to Henneberger; a narrative to be amplified and formulated to appear as a colalborated product - 'By Houdini and H. P. Lovecraft'.

We lastly examine (B). I can only find two significant incidences of Houdini playing Providence. Lovecraft alluded that he saw Houdini perform in 1898 (when HPL would have been 8 and Houdini 24) (3) and most importantly the week of 26 September 1926. Chrispy will continue to research if there were other opportunities to explain when HPL would have passed a note to C M Eddy from Houdini during a performance engagement in Providence.

At this point, without further evidence, the statement seems to be either apocryphal, conflated by poor recollection, or deflective for some reason. (4, 5, 6) It seems clear that Houdini and C M Eddy knew each other no later that 2 February 1925. (6)

...continued ...

1. The Gentleman From Angell Street: Memories of H. P. Lovecraft, Muriel E. Eddy & C. M. Eddy, Jr., ed. Jim Dyer, Fenham Publishing, Narangasett, R.I., 2001. “The Gentleman From Angell Street”, Muriel Eddy, 1961.
2. Lord of a Visible World, ed. Joshi, Ohio University Press, 2000, p. 124.
3. p. 105, Letters From New York, ed. Joshi, Night Shade Books, 2005, "I joined S{onia} H at the Hippodrome - a pleasantly immense house -$ saw Houdini go through the same tricks he shewed {sic} in Providence about 1898."
4. While this is not meant to be rude, HPL had a clear opinion of C M Eddy at this time of his life. In frankness, he seemed to be friendly with C M Eddy, yet held him at arm's length. On p. 99 (Ibid. Letters from New York)dated 29 November 1924, "{crossword puzzles} the first I heard of them was just a year ago, when honest (more or less honest) Eddy shew'd {sic} me one in the Boston Post.
5. p. 102, (Ibid. Letters From New York) dated 29 November 1924, "All litterateurs have their troubles. Poor Eddy is down & out again, as you may see by the enclosed epistle - which you might return, since I haven't answered it. He has his "Deaf, Dumb & Blind" back without any revision from me - in answer to the very peremptory telegram which I emclose for your amusement. A tough case, these easy-going tassels on the fringe of literature!"
6. p. 108, 109, (Ibid. Letters From New York)dated 2 February 1925, "P.S. C. M. Eddy, Jr. has just blown in! On business in N.Y. to see Houdini & some editors."

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