Friday, February 15, 2008

Lovecraft to FBL Letter

H. P. Lovecraft. Autograph Letter with Great Content. First four pages of a longer letter, 5.75" x 9", n.p. [Providence, Rhode Island], Wednesday, [February 1927], to Frank Belknap Long, Marlborough-Blenheim Atlantic City, N.J. stationery, ink.
The text of the letter reads, in part:

"Young Man: -

[Symbol] [Symbol]

You don't know what these twin formulae mean? Ah, you are fortunate! Dr. Willett would give every hair of his well-trimmed white beard if he could only say the same-but God! He knows! He has seen! It all comes out on page 112 of the tale now drawing toward its close, and which I shall call either "The Case of Charles Dexter Ward" or "The Madness out of Time." Like Midas of old, curs'd by the turning into a young novel of every story I begin. You will in all likelihood see neither this nor "The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath" till you come hither in your new shiny Essex, for the typing of MSS [manuscripts] of this length is utterly beyond the powers of a feeble old gentleman who loses interest in a tale the moment he completes it. As for South Main St. - your dollar is safe & drawing interest, & Grandpa will get to work just as soon as the weather becomes venal enough to bring energy & activity to sluggish old bones. Writer is a ridiculous institution, & I'm almost inclin'd to feel kindly toward your Mediterranean world..."

This is a fascinating letter for a number of reasons. First of all, at the opening of the letter, Lovecraft writes several lines in his Cthulhu language, invented by the author and used in many of his Cthulhu Mythos stories. "Yog Sothoth" is, in fact, an Outer God and one of "The Old Ones" in many Lovecraft stories, and first appeared in Lovecraft's story "The Case of Charles Dexter Ward", which the author mentions in the beginning of this very letter. Lovecraft also mentions "The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath" here, as well as his friends Donald Wandrei and Clark Ashton Smith, the latter of whom Lovecraft refers to as "Klarkash-Ton."

Lovecraft also writes of Providence in this letter, always an interesting prospect from the man who once proclaimed in a letter that "I am Providence." Here, Lovecraft writes that "well, Providence has not yet begun to take a census of the rats! (Of course, our figures do include the heterogeneous Labres west of the river, but we never think of Providence except as the compact old village of rooted stock on the hill & beyond, whose straight Yankee population may be 25,000 or so. I consider Providence a village, because the only part I inhabit is truly a separate social organism descending directly from the colonial town whose picture you may have seen on the walls.) As for the inspiration of New England - well, the landscape alone is enough for any man with even half an aesthetical sense!" He talks of New York, Virginia, Carolina, Georgia, Philadelphia, and Washington. None of these cities compare in Lovecraft's mind to his own little Providence, of course, though he does describe Philadelphia as "a place in which I could almost live." High praise, indeed, from a recluse who never desired to venture far from his own doorstep for very long. At the end of his discussion of other American cities, Lovecraft's racism surfaces again when he writes: "The three last strongholds of white civilisation in the Western Hemisphere are New England, Philadelphia, & the South! God save the King!"

The majority of the third and fourth pages of this letter show Lovecraft turning his critical eyes toward modern literature and modern poetry. He discusses or mentions "poor Tom Hardy," Robert Frost, Carl Sandburg, Ezra Pound, H. R. Haggard, and H. G. Wells. Lovecraft eventually comes around to addressing some of the work of the letter's recipient, Frank Belknap Long: "Speaking of poetry - your 'Homer at Five & Two' is altogether delightful, & ought to be amply welcome in any standard magazine."

The recipient of this letter, just like its writer, is a legend in the field of weird fiction. Frank Belknap Long was a prolific writer of all sorts, but is most remembered for his genre career, writing horror, fantasy, and science fiction alongside Lovecraft and for decades after "the gentleman of Providence" passed away. Long even wrote several stories in Lovecraft's Cthulhu Mythos universe, and was published on numerous occasions by Arkham House. And he was a frequent and long-standing correspondent of Lovecraft's.

The opening paragraph of this letter was excerpted as number 258 in Arkham House's Selected Letters II (p. 99), part of the legendary five-volume collection of Lovecraft's letters edited and published by August Derleth and Donald Wandrei. The letter is in fine condition. Both pages have usual mailing folds and two diagonal creases. Each page also has a 2.5" to 4" circular spot of toning to the top half of the page. A fantastic letter loaded with great content, written from one legendary weird fiction writer to another. From the Robert and Diane Yaspan Collection.

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