Monday, March 15, 2010

A pause for speculation

I emphasize this is sheer speculation, but a few things are curious about the mental and health collapse of Lovecraft's father. Just a cursory look at 21st century posts on syphillis shows three stages of the disease. The forst shows a sore that appaeras withing 3 weeks, and then it disappears only to appear sporadically off and on for up to 30 years. These are pronounced sores, often on the face.

In ST Joshi's invaluable HPL: A Life, we read the medical report (p. 13) ... for the past year he has shown obscure symptoms of mental disease ...

This is precisely the time that Susan and Howard were secluded at Guiney's. Were they not just waiting for a real estate transaction as they planned a new house, but a bit of safety as Winfield traveled on sales calls?

The effects of tertiary syphillis are incredible and horrific. Sometimes soft, tumor-like balls of inflammation appear as big as billiard balls. (16% of reported patients). I won't reproduce those shocking images, but they are easily googled if you wish to check them.

One famous case of syphillis was Al Capone, who contracted the disease as a young man, and it is considered that his anger and out of control behavior grew as the disease progressed, despite the other members of "the business" wanting a lower profile.

At the end of his life he often raved on about Communists, foreigners, and George Moran, who he was convinced was still plotting to kill him from his Ohio prison cell.

Compare this to the paranoid rantings reported by Winfield.

Now, we move to the famous and amazing declaration by Susan (reported by Clara Hess), years later, about Howard who often had ingrown hairs (p. 85): "...Mrs. Lovecraft talked continuously of her unfortunate son who was so hideous that he hid from everyone ... when I protested that she was exagerating ... she looked at me ... as though I didn't undersatnd about it ...".

This incident is undated, but as Clara would have known HPL from High School and would have noticed something odd, this must have been past 1908 and before Susan being hospitalized before March 1919. Unfortunately this spans a decade, but could this have been (again sheer speculation) a vivid remembrance of the shock of Winfield's last days?

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