Tuesday, November 23, 2010
Lovecraft: circa 23 November 1926
From an auction comes this unique item. Seller's notes below.
Lovecraft, H[oward] P[hillips]. SUGGESTIONS FOR REVISION OF AN UNTITLED MYSTERY STORY, AUTHOR UNKNOWN. AUTOGRAPH MANUSCRIPT (AMs). 2 pages. Handwritten on 2 sheets of 8 7/8 x 11 1/4-inch paper. Undated, but verso of each sheet comprises a 2-page letter to Lovecraft from a Munich publisher dated 23 November 1926 on their letterhead. The bread-and-butter of Lovecraft's employment for most of the 1920s and '30s was fixing up the work of other writers. This ranged from critiquing to editing to extensive revision to collaboration to outright ghosting. Yet not a lot of the work he did for strangers has survived. The present document, therefore, has value for filling in part of that gap, and more unusually, in a genre we think of as foreign to him: the traditional mystery story. It's known that HPL revised all sorts of nonfictional work (history, textbooks, speeches) but this is the first example we have of fiction other than the weird tale receiving his professional attention, with detailed advice here about plotting, characterization, style, etc. What's interesting is what a quick study he was. Given the encyclopedic tendencies we've always seen in nonfictional interests, it shouldn't be surprising perhaps that he could familiarize himself so quickly with a strange genre. It makes one think he could have done the same -- with sufficient motivation -- for any kind of writing. Protean yet obsessive is another one of the paradox pairs that belong to Lovecraft. But the kind of revisionary work shown here also has a more direct bearing on his weird tales, which, after all, form the core of his work. In a 1929 letter to a young admirer (see LWC inventory #108100), he refers to the glibness of all his work up until the last two or three years. "The thing that has helped me shake off this incubus is, without doubt, my critical & revisionary work -- which compels me to analyze …. Bitterly as I hate this work, it has done me good by compelling me to pay more attention to the fundamentals of the writing process…" Light mailing creases, else fine. (#109136)
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