Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Lovecraft's Alleged Head Trauma as a Boy

S T Joshi has reported in a few places, notably in his Lovecraft biographies, that HPL may have had a terrible fall and blow to his head. Harold W. Munro (1) wrote of the incident (2). However, it is a FOAF tale - a friend of a friend. In this case, his wife told Munroe that as a kid (younger than HPL at the time) that, "a new house was going up, which ... intrigued the youth of the neighborhood ... the mystery of it also appealed to little Howard, who never ran with the pack but waited until near darkness when the field was clear for his solo visitations. Then came news that a boy, the Lovecraft boy, had fallen ... and landed on his head ... word followed that ... the injured head was kept packed in ice ..."(3)

Mr. Joshi, whom we must always respect greatly, says this may have led to or contributed to Lovecraft's troubles in high school.

If one deconstructs this annecdote, however, there are some suspect traits. Lovecraft's long walks at night started in his older years. Therefore it appears this may be apocraphal. Munro says Howard never ran with the pack, but we have Lovecraft's testimony that he often played games with his neighboring children. In other remarks, Munro recalled Howard was not athletic, that they argued about athletics, that Howard shunned buying a ticket from one of Munro's athletic buddies, and that Lovecraft's face had lots of ingrown hairs. These tend toward a darker perspective on his memories of Lovecraft. The nature of the story is, on the face of it, a concern. Any youth who fell and struck his head, would be hospitalized. This is a catastrophic issue, and Susan would have immediately sought aid from a number of family members and community doctors. If the blow was slight, then ice might have been used. However, if it was slight, then there is really no story. It seems clear the intention is that the famous Howard was weird, and therefore a weird story is concocted to justify it. At least that is my {CP} suspicion.

1. In an on-line version this was erroneously attributed to Harold Bateman Munroe. The link is not defunct, as best as I can determine. {CP}
2. Munro's quote comes from Joshi's biography (1990) and note 5.6 (page 660) states "Lovecraft, My Childhood Friend", Etchings and Odysseys No,2, 1983, p.104.
3. As best as I {CP} can determine this memory was recorded by Peter Canon in Lovecraft Remembered, and from a 1983 recollection. Mr. Munro would have undoubtedly been in his very late 80's or more likely 93 years old. This does not mean the story is not true, just unverified by a second source.

No comments:


Blog Archive


Google Analytics