Saturday, January 05, 2008

Algernon Blackwood on H P Lovecraft

Yes, we know that HPL adored The Willows and called Blackwood a master. Since Blackwood lived from 1869 to 1951 (Vs. HPL: 1890-1937). Perhaps living longer, being on radio and TV, and meeting more literary types he had a bit broader perspective that Lovecraft. England is decidedly a smaller landmass and easier to bump into folks like H G Wells, JB Priestly, and Arthur Machen. :)

Anyway, here is the skinny from Blackwood to August Derleth: Sheer horror, without this sense of wonder - wonder about the universe, I mean, 'cosmic wonder', to use a dreadful phrase - never quite stirs me. I have asked myself why Lovecraft often fails in my case, since he writes so well, and all the raw stuff of true horror is at his command. Is it that he often overdoes the piling up of material horror without relating it to bigger issues - cosmic, spiritual, literally 'unearthly'? Something in me turns instinctively from decay, the grave, a glut of too material detail. 'The Turn of the Screw', I feel, points the right way. [10 June 1946]. (p. 321 *)

OK, don't get teary eyed for ol' Ech-Pi-El. Everyone's a crtic. Vincent Starrett records that Arthur Machen said of Blackwood: I have met him a number of times ... he is a most interesting and amaible man ... there is a difference perhaps in our approach to our subject matter ... Tennyson said 'the cedars sigh for Lebanon', and that is exquisite poetry; but Blackwood believes the cedars really do sigh for Lebanon and that, Starrett, is damned nonsense. (Ibid. p.113)

Chapter, "The Ghost Man (1939-1948)", Algernon Blackwood: An Extraordinary Life, Mike Ashley, 2001, Carrol & Graf.

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