Sunday, May 25, 2008

Limbonaut Comments on Lovecraft as Chemsit

The issue of Limbonaut XXIV (click here) has a brief note on HPL and chemistry.

For the documents mentioned, use the "search feature" on this blog.

Lovecraft and Chemistry
On his blog for May, Chris Perridas posts scans of
census and other data about Lovecraft. For example, here is a copy of his draft registration, which is unreadable unless one is willing to tempt heroic eye strain.
The most interesting document is the census form for 1910. Under a column for trade or profession or particular kind of work Lovecraft, age 19, is listed—and this is blurry—as a student; while the next column (“general nature of industry, business, or establishment in which the person works”) has the word “chemist.” (Apparently, by this time astronomy had been replaced by chemistry as the thing he wished to identify himself with.)
There are three columns for education. The first two ask about the person’s ability to read and write, and the answer to both is “yes.” But there is also a “yes” to the query “Attended school any time since Sept. 1, 1909.” Does this mean that Lovecraft was working on his high school credits— it wouldn’t have been college—during the fall or spring? Or perhaps we glimpse, in these answers about occupation and education, how Mrs. Lovecraft wanted to present her son, if she were the respondent to the questions.
This was my reasoning thus far. Then I consulted Joshi’s H.P. Lovecraft, and that clarified matters. During the time of the census Lovecraft was taking a correspondence course in chemistry. Going by this situation, Lovecraft could fairly call himself a student.
Astronomy has received much more publicity than chemistry in the life of HPL. It is more obvious, as in his writing those newspaper astronomy columns and in its connection through many of his famous stories, with things coming from the stars and the overarching concept of cosmic horror. Yet you don’t have to peer too hard to find the science of chemistry in several tales, from the early (1908) “The Alchemist” to “Herbert West, Reanimator,” The Case of Charles Dexter Ward, and “The Colour out of Space.” More could be named.

... the 53rd issue of The Criticaster (for August 2007, Esoteric Order of Dagon mailing 139) by Steve Walker ... published on the Net as The Limbonaut (no 24).

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