Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Lovecraft's "Beast in the Cave": Antecedent?

Make special note of this passage, "In another portion of the cave is a representation of a panther upon the dead limb of a tree which is singularly correct." As is my supposition, in the first draft - due to the loss of his cat, N-man, Lovecraft first utilizes a panther in the cave, Later, perhaps under influence of Packard, Jr. and Ernst Haekel, he transmogrifies it to an albino anthropoid. (Which he uses again in Arthur Jermyn".

This was published in: Scientific_American vol 1 no 3. Lovecraft not only would have access to this, but he was an avid reader.

Mammoth Cave.
(From Arthur's Lady's Magazine for July.)
The scenery of Edmonson Co. Kentucky, in which mammoth cave is situated, is unusually wild and picturesque. The surface is much broken, being in fact, a succession of high hills, but a little distance apart, between which are deep and narrow valleys. The bottoms of these valleys, or ravines, are composed of a spongy, yielding soil, and are full of pits, or "sink-holes," some of them of great extent, and filled with treacherous mire, the consistency of which is little greater than that of water. The soil upon the hills is generally composed of rich vegetable mould of considerable depth, which has gradually formed upon a substratum of rock, clay, or gravel. This wide territory was formally nearly destitute of vegetation-hence it has been called the "Barrens;" but it is now covered with a luxuriant growth of timber, long grass, vines, and wild flowers of endless variety. This change has been effected by nature during the last thirty-five years. The prospect has thus been rendered more pleasing to the eye, to which is presented a view seldom surpassed in wild and solitary beauty.
Mammoth Cave is situated in one of the deep and narrow ravines above mentioned, which, gradually growing wider, extends to Green River (so called from the dark ocean colour of its waters) a large and beautiful stream flowing within half a mile of the mouth of the cavern. This cave is literally "a world within a world," so numerous are its objects of beauty and grandeur. To describe it completely would be impossible, for the best description would be but a cold epitome of its wonders. Nor will our limits allow more than a brief notice of a few of its more striking curiosities which, we trust, will not be unacceptable to our readers.
The entrance to the cave is thirty feet high and forty feet broad, the archway being composed of a thick stratum of limestone. The descent is made by means of stone steps, which lead to the floor of the "Main Cave," which is divided into two parts, separated from each other by streams of water of which we shall speak in the proper place. The cave upon this side of the river is remarkable for the gloomy grandeur and sublimity of its scenery. It abounds in spacious rooms, precipices overhanging apparently bottomless gulfs, lofty galleries, and magnificent domes, reaching upwards of hundreds of feet, which when brightly lighted, dazzle the eye with the brilliancy reflected from their crystal walls. The feelings of the beholder are those of awe, and he is over-whelmed with a sense of the immensity of the place. That portion of the cave which is situated beyond the rivers, is less grand, but more beautiful in scenery, and is characterized by the peculiar delicacy as well as the variety of the formation of gypsum, which hang from the ceiling. The general formation of the cave, however, is limestone.
The feelings of the visitor on entering the cave, for the first time, are those of awe, not unmingled with dread. If it be in the summer, he feels the cool air issuing from its mouth, as if it were the breath of some huge monster, and hears the distant sound of the hidden waterfall; fain would he penetrate with sight, before entering the darkness within, which has never yet been banished by the light of day.
After entering the broad mouth and passing the "Narrows," the "Rotunda" is the first object of note which presents itself. This is a spacious circular chamber one hundred feet in diameter, and forty feet high. When illuminated by "Bengal lights" the formations upon the walls reflect the cave in a thousand different shades of brilliancy;-the different avenues leading off in various directions, are also partially revealed, until the view is shut out by the impenetrable gloom beyond. The remains of the "Saltpetre works," which were in operation here during the war of 1813, are yet to be seen. The peculiar atmosphere of the cave has kept the wood in a perfect state of preservation.
To the right of the Rotunda is Audubon's Avenue, which is nearly as large as the main cave. In this, in the winter season are found great quantities of bats, hanging in clusters of thousands from the ceiling. Hence the avenue has been called after the celebrated ornithologist, although we cannot say that we entirely acquiesce in the propriety of the name. Beyond the "Bat's-nest," the cave grows wider and higher, from the walls of which, are huge rocky projections to which has been given the name of the "Kentucky Cliffs," from their resemblance to the cliffs on the Kentucky River. These rocks tower up to the distance of sixty-five feet. The remoter end of these cliffs assume, by degrees, the shape and appearance of a gallery, about midway between the floor and the ceiling of the cave; hence the name of the "Church-gallery." This leads to the "Church," a spacious chamber, three hundred feet square and sixty-five feet high. In the centre has been erected a stand for preaching, and meetings have frequently been held here. Beyond the "Gothic Galleries," which are elevated sixty-five feet from the floor, and which lead from the "Church," is the entrance to "Gothic Avenue," which takes its name from a resemblance between its structure and the Gothic order of architecture. The remote end of this avenue is distant two-and-a-half miles from the entrance of the cave. In this branch are the "Haunted Chambers," a series, or cluster of contiguous rooms, so connected together that the slightest noise made in one is re-echoed throughout all the rest. Beyond the haunted chambers, in the Gothic Avenue, are some splendid stalagmites and stalactites. The first and principal one is the "Port-oak Pillar" extending from the floor to the ceiling, and several feet in diameter, as if supporting the roof of the cave. A short distance beyond in the "Gothic Chapel" is another pillar of crystallized limestone. It is larger than the one already mentioned, and is called "Hercules Pillar." Its diameter is eight feet, and its surface is covered with crystals, which sparkle like diamonds in the light of the torches. Next to the Gothic Chapel, is "Vulcan's shop," with its huge limestone anvil, one of the most curious formations in this part of the cave, which boasts of many beautiful ones. Among these, the principal are the "Elephant's Head" and the "Arm-Chair." The first is an exact representation of an elephant's head; so correct is it indeed, that, at the first view it has the appearance of having come from the sculptor's hand. The second is formed by the union of a stalagmite and a stalactite. It is, in reality, a pillar, with a cavity on one side in which is a convenient seat and a foot stool. The "Lover's Leap" is temptingly near this place for reflection. It is a rock, projecting over a deep it, into which the plunge would be fearful! The name given to it is well deserved-that is, if lovers now-a-days ever leap over precipices. But I had nearly forgotton to mention the "Flying Indian," one of the greatest curiosities of the cave. This is a black figure upon the ceiling (that is perfectly smooth and white) formed by the dripping of water previously impregnated with some bituminous susbstance. This is retained and absorbed by the rock, which it has coloured; while accident has given the outlines of an Indian-with outstretched arms, grasping his bow and arrows. The position of the figure has caused it to be named the "Flying Indian." In another portion of the cave is a representation of a panther upon the dead limb of a tree which is singularly correct. Near by is the "Giant Coffin," a huge rock, fifty feet long and ten feet high, having the exact shape of a coffin. At this point is the "Acute Angle" of the cave, after turning which, you enter the "Star-chamber," decidedly the most beautiful curiosity in the cave, although there are other portions which may surpass it in grandeur.
(To be continued.)

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