Sunday, August 03, 2008

Rare Barlow Diary and Memoir Surfaces

The auctioneer has these notes: (Lovecraft, Howard Phillips). Barlow, Robert H[ayward]. "WIND THAT IS IN THE GRASS: A MEMOIR OF H. P. LOVECRAFT IN FLORIDA, THE" [memoir]. TYPED MANUSCRIPT (TMs), seven leaves of letter-size paper, typed on rectos only, with partial AUTOGRAPH MANUSCRIPT DRAFT (AMs) of same essay on versos of three of these sheets. Together with MANUSCRIPT DIARY, 19 leaves, written on both sides, kept by Barlow to record details of Lovecraft's 1934 visit to Florida. "'The Wind That Is in the Grass' is the reminiscence of Lovecraft that Barlow wrote at the invitation of Arkham House as a contribution to their MARGINALIA (1944). The precocious thirteen-year-old Barlow struck up a correspondence with Lovecraft in 1931 based on their shared interest in weird literature, and the two developed a warm friendship over the last six years of Lovecraft's life. During that time the Providence native (28 years older than Barlow) spent two extended periods of time (six weeks and ten weeks) with Barlow and his family at their home in De Land, Florida. This improbable friendship -- almost impossible to imagine taking place today -- was no more unusual than many other aspects of this most improbable man. It put HPL in that professorial, avuncular role he craved -- though he never treated the boy with condescension. Indeed, Howard himself still felt in some ways like an adolescent whose achievements had not caught up with his dreams. Friendships with youngsters and amateur writers put Lovecraft at ease. But Barlow himself strikes one here as a writer of no small talent. His memories take strength from the mundane details of daily life shared over an extended period with Lovecraft, an experience that may have been unique among Lovecraft's associates (including his wife!). We read about lazy afternoons rowing on the lake, playing with the cats, late nights talking about weird tales or watching HPL maintain his formidable correspondence, listening to Howard relate his dreams over late-morning coffee ('thick with sugar'): '... once of how he was a magician standing on a cliff over the ocean sending balls out into space and guiding them back, some of them returning with the scars and mosses of seas and spaces unknown.' The low-key tone makes Barlow's piece all the more poignant. "Barlow's diary recording events from Lovecraft's first visit in 1934 reads in places like the work of a teenager trying to sound more mature than he is, a Boswell to Lovecraft's Johnson. Elsewhere it is unselfconscious and charming, loaded with gossip about authors and stories. The diary was supposedly reprinted by August Derleth in SOME NOTES ON H. P. LOVECRAFT (1959), but, as Joshi and Schultz point out in their edition of Lovecraft's letters to Barlow (O FORTUNATE FLORIDIAN [2008]), Derleth took considerable liberties with the text. The version reprinted in O FORTUNATE FLORIDIAN includes later additions and slight changes made by Barlow himself (including a somewhat different version of the 'balls' dream mentioned above). The unedited diary itself therefore represents a third text, valuable as a document of the raw first impressions of the sixteen-year-old. "Lovecraft named Barlow his literary executor, but the boy was muscled aside by the Arkham duo of Derleth and Donald Wandrei. Barlow met a tragic end, committing suicide at the age of 33 when he was threatened with exposure of his homosexuality." - Robert Eldridge. The leaves of the essay typescript have some light rumpling and faint rust stains from a old paperclip, but are generally very good or better. The diary is partly disbound, lacks rear cover and has rust marks on front cover from old paperclip. Provenance: Barlow / Derleth Papers. (#114492) $3500.00

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