Thursday, August 06, 2009

Joseph Wood Krutch: An HPL Anecdote

Roughly an early contemporary of HPL, Krutch (November 25, 1893 – May 22, 1970) was a prolific writer. He was probably a member of Brooklyn Polytechnic when HPL crossed paths at the lecture, and his greater fame would be years ahead.

Never missing an opportunity to learn more about his idol, Poe, HPL went to a lecture on Poe by Krutch. Unknown as to the locale of the lecture - nothing on google about the tour.

In "Essential Solitude" HPL says (to Derleth, p.254), "March 5th I heard Joseph Wood Krutch lecture on Poe, but he didn't say anyting more than he did in his book published in 1926. He has a nervous manner - hangs on to a desk & sways as if he were ging to vault over it."

A short time later, in May 1930, HPL would be roaming Richmond looking for Poe iconography. (As to Wandrei in Mysteries of Time and Spirit).


A citation note (as follows) shows that his book was scrutinized and found wanting by later generations. Krutch made little impression on HPL, as can be seen. Fraiberg, Louis. "Joseph Wood Krutch: Poe's Art as an Abnormal Condition of the Nerves," Psychoanalysis and American Literary Criticism (Detroit: Wayne State U P, 1960), pp. 134-144. [Critically summarizes Krutch's book, More Lives Than One, to show that his psychoanalytic approach "was far too superficial to 'explain' Poe's genius."]

KRUTCH, Joseph Wood; Edgar Allan Poe. EDGAR ALLAN POE : A Study in Genius. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1926. First Edition First Printing. Very Good+ in boards.

I found a few excerpts about Poe by Krutch ('The Philosophy of Composition'):
Before the first of his critiques appeared in the [Southern Literary] Messenger Poe had already begun to produce a new kind of literature, and this fact made it inevitable that, granted the gift of exposition which was his to so striking a degree, he should become a remarkable example of that sort of critic whose function is not primarily judicial. Neither intellectual detachment nor catholicity of taste could be expected of him, but because he had, even when he was least conscious of the fact, his own practice to defend, he was bound to write with passion; and because of his powers of rationalization he could not but formulate with remarkable clarity the principles which he drew from a consideration of his own works. (Krutch 22)
The creations of [Poe's] imagination satisfy perfectly his critical theories because the critical theories were made to fit the works; but there are many worse ways than this inductive one for arriving at generalizations which are…illuminating. (Krutch 22)
That legend of himself which he fashioned in a manner so marvellously inclusive that it employs as material everything from the events of his daily life to the products of his imagination is finally completed by his interpretation. His criticism inscribes a curve within which everything else is included; it unifies all the various aspects of his life and work… (Krutch 30)

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