Monday, September 22, 2008

Samuel Loveman on HPL (1958 symposium )

Thanks to Keith for finding and sending this to us. You can catch his blog here (click). Keith is a Programmer, Harmonica player and Science Fiction Writer.


You can see images of the symposia booklet on the blog: here, here, and here.

Samuel Loveman
Samuel Loveman is a man unique in the history of contemporary American literature in that he has known three of its major figures, two of them quite intimately. In his early years, he corresponded with Ambrose Bierce. In Cleveland, he became a close friend of Hart Crane. In New York City he lived for three years in close association with Lovecraft who considered Loveman to be one of the greatest poets of our time.

In 1911, Mr. Loveman brought forth a pamphlet of poems. A few years later he edited a symposium on James Branch Cabell with contributions by Mencken, Morley, Cabcll and others. Bierce’s letters to him were published under his editorship. In 1926, The Hermaphrodite was published (reprinted in 1936 as The Hermaphrodite and Other Poems). This poem is mentioned by Hart Crane in his letters and is thought to have influenced hi writing. In 1944, The Sphinx was published by the late W. Paul Cook.

Mr. Loverman has also done translations of Heine, Beudelaire, Rimbaud, Verlainc, among others.

At a certain gathering which Lovecraft attended, a remark was made and later printed: "And there was Howard Phillips Love- craft a-talking just like a book!"

I have in my possession some 500 folio pages of his letters, generally in his handwriting and one running to as much as sixty pages. Now, what has frequently characterized great letter writers of any period has always been their congenial ease, the fluidity and, occasionally, the enchanting gossip that permeates their writing—Madame Dc Sevigne, Horace Walpole, Thomas Gray, James Boswell, Charles Lamb, Edward Fitzgerald, and even Oscar Wilde. Premising future publication, the letters of Lovecraft would require an enormous amount of pruning and selection. Whatever their topical interest may have been at the time of writing, much appears resolved into a laborious surplusage of words, words, words. Things that arc permissablc {sic} and even add to the flavor of his fiction, freeze into an attitude in his letters. And yet, even while one is prone to condemn their verbal vomit, one must admit that sound editing and the process of still sounder omission, should free and add to the Lovecraft legend, and deliver him to posterity as he actually was—a charming companion, a wonderful human being and a loyal friend.

But the conversation of Lovecraft - the conversation! For a matter of three years and more I was actually in daily association with him —years of plenitude and literary activity; years of happiness. I can safely assert that Lovecraft’s conversation takes its place among the masters of that brilliant but difficult art. The texture of his voice was uncomfortably high and when the clement of satire or irony entered into his subject, could rise even higher. Yet, it was not, as has been asserted of Shelley, strident like "the cry of a peacock"—but capable by the merest intonation into a twist of sarcasm and of devastating confutation.

His pity for the peccadilloes of his friends or acquaintances was unswerving. I remember a specific instance where one of our friends whose predominating characteristic was that of insincerity, became involved in an incriminating. ghastly episode. Lovecraft’s remark, made with a negative gesture of both hands: “Well. only another collection of molecules!” Adding: “I pass no judgements {sic} on anyone. I take no one too seriously. Disillusion has its disadvantages, but therein lies safety.”

His appearance was frequently a shock to those who met him for the first time—the long, lean face, the extended jaw, the deadly pallor of his skin (except when it became flushed with excitement) caused him much silent embarrassment. "My one desire," he had confided to me in a subway train when a young woman steadily gave him the eye, "is to remain inconspicuous and unnoticed. If I could render myself invisible, I would gladly do so. I avoid the ordinary run of human beings and have imbibed much of the philosophy of good old Bishop Berkeley, who denied the existence of matter and even the actuality of life itself. Nothing really exists for me. Dreams provide me with a solution to the fantastic ambiguity that we choose to call life. I begin to live only when I pass through the embroidery of sleep. You, Samuelus (meaning me) place too munch stress and importance on human beings and, since this is so, you suffer. Make yourself impersonal and impervious to the mob. Deny not only contact with them but with their existence. Books and old Colonial houses are safest; they hold well their sinister and mysterious secrets. Mistrust everything except the past or antiquity."

I heard Lovecraft utter profanity on only one occasion. That was in my apartment on Columbia Heights in Brooklyn—and how he loved the lighted tier upon tier that constituted the fabulous skyline of New York! Some nondescript person had engaged him in a heated and deliberately antagonistic argument, with insistence on his own point of view. Howard's reply was succinct and blurted out like a blast of dynamite. "That’s a lot of *****!" I gasped. His antagonist colored. There was, for an instant, an ominous silence in the room. Then the conversation proceeded without interruption.

My roommate, Pat McGrath, who shared the apartment and privately called Howard a "ghoul," decided on a certain New Year's eve celebration and, so, some twenty-five of our friends were invited. Included were Mrs. Grace Crane (Hart Crane's mother, who was properly appalled at the unconventional conversation of some of our guests, and Howard P. Lovecraft. I)rinks were served and, to Lovecraft, who never even remotely tasted hard liquor, ginger-ale. Pat beckoned me into the kitchen. "Have you noticed how talkative Howard has very suddenly become?” I hadn’t, but, as we entered the room where the guests were assembled, there was Lovecraft, the very life of the party, talking, gesticulating, radiating smiles and laughter, rolling his verbal gymnastics with witticisms and even indulging in a spirited aria from Gilbert and Sullivan's "Mikado"—a display of exhilarating pyrotechnics that I had never seen or heard him indulge in before. Pat whispered mirthfully into my ear, "I SPIKED HIS DRINK!"

I should say that, conversationally, Lovecraft was at his best with men, rather than with women. A certain restraint and progressive hollowness entered into his addresses with the female sex. I may be mistaken, but the deferential and overwhelming politeness that he conveyed seemed always strained and faintly artificial.


George Berkely was a key materialist philosopher. You can read about Bishop Berkeley in this wikipedia article.


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