Sunday, September 09, 2007

Beast in the Cave

Of many of Lovecraft's works, this one keeps haunting me. It is classified as juvenalia, but it was accepted as an adult work. I find several issues with the story.

First, if one applies decostruction and form criticism to the work, it clearly is a heavily edited work. Mr. Joshi declares that it is edited and can be proven, though I have yet to see several versions in print. I do believe that it had several editions.

First, I believe that the weeping scene is an allusion to the death of Lovecraft's Grandfather at Eastertime (Mary clutches Jesus and weeps: John 20:11 But Mary stood without at the sepulchre weeping: and as she wept, she stooped down, and looked into the sepulchre ... 17Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not..). I believe it would be a typical Baptist sermon to mention this passage at Eastertime. More so, if Lovecraft's Grandfather died at Easter and therefore the funeral would have been centered about this theme.

OK, that's sheer conjecture.

There is also the elusive figure of Alphaeus Spring Packard, Jr. lurking throughout The Beast in the cave. A reknowned Brown University professor, Packard spent much of his life advocating evolution and used the cave systems - notably Mammoth Cave - to prove his theories.

It can be no coincidence that Lovecraft worked hard on this story, placed it in the far off Mammoth Cave, and ended up with an albino cave creature which distinctively was man devolved back to an apish creature.

This is no horror story, per se, it is a scientific adventure. It was Lovecraft's way to work out his concepts of biology. Just as he wrote numerous astronomy columns after meeting Brown University's Upton; just as he wrote chemical treatises after meeting Brown University's Appleton; so to I believe he wrote Beast in the Cave after corssing paths with Brown University's Packard. Coincidentally (or not) Packard died about the time Lovecraft wrote Beast in the Cave.

A little later, I'll discuss why I believe that the original story actually had a cave cat, and not an albino man as the monster. He lost his beloved cat in 1904, too.

1 comment:

John ROwlands said...

10 Barnes St.

Jany. 17, 1930

Dear Klarkash-Ton:—

. . . . Thanks for the Carlsbad Cavern cutting—it was of unusual interest because I have long known about the cave, & have urged a friend in New Mexico to visit it. What I did not know was its extreme size & antiquity, & its overwhelming precedence over the supposedly peerless Mammoth Cave. Truly, if any abyss be the logical gateway to the hellish & hidden worlds of K'n-yan, Yoth, & N'kai, this is it! The hint of possible primordial human traces is weirdly provocative, whilst the idea of taking in a telephone outfit makes me think of my own old yarn about Randolph Carter. I am placing the item in my most precious idea-files, & hope that some day it may serve as the nucleus of some unprecedented horror. Meanwhile I am anxious to know how the actual cave-probing expedition comes out—ugh! I can picture that party fishing up unhallowed secrets & blasphemous palaeogean artifacts from those monstrous arcades & Cyclopean unlighted crypts.

**********

As to the difference in our respective styles or moods—one thing that influences mine is my extreme & lifelong geographic sensitiveness. I have never been tremendously interested in people, but I have a veritably feline interest in & devotion to places. The greater number of my dreams & visions are fantastic syntheses, etherealisations, & rearrangments of the landscape & architectural impressions which impinge on me during waking hours; & during those waking hours there is no pleasure which can compare with the experience of seeing strange old towns & houses & scenic vistas. These things are, & always have been, the most potent stimuli my imagination can possibly encounter; hence they usually form the points of departure for my excursions into the outside cosmic gulfs. Like Gautier "I am one for whom the visible world exists"—though my chief use of the visible world, unlike his, is simply to provide a springboard for leaps into abysses & dimensions forever beyond visibility.

Yr most obt & hble
HPL

Selected Letters (Arkham House) 394

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