Monday, December 27, 2010

The Ghosts of Phillipses Past

I'm back from a few days of rest. It was a very quiet Christmas, just what Chrispy needed.

I also took a little time to do HPL research, and as usual uncovered some unbelievable items. I've been stunned so much, that I'm getting almost shock proof. Almost.

I uncovered a stirring memorial to Robie* Phillips that just about made me weep. I can't go into all the details right now, but suffice it to say it was a detailed eyewitness report of Robie's decline between Thanksgiving 1896 and January 1897.

It is hard for me to believe that hundreds of Lovecraft researchers missed these items, but they obviously were much more focused on Lovecraft and not his family. Those few who did care about the Phillips family, just didn't have the time and resources of instant information at one's fingertips as I have. As I stated before, I can do in one night on Google's archives what someone in the 1970's would take two weeks of vacation to do.

Google's search algorithms do not work well on the newspaper archives, unfortunately. I have to use the current reference dates made available by generous sources, and then slog through a mound of newspapers for those dates and several others on either side.

However, the theme of today's blog is "ghosts". About 8 years ago I stumbled over the name of H P Lovecraft. Who was he? Like many fans, I became obsessed with the details of his stories and life. Then something very bizarre began to happen.

Lovecraft took over my life.

At first it was a lark. People began to read. That was pretty exciting, and went well with my horror writing at the time. (I still think I turned out some very good stories and held my own with Stoker and other nominees). Then, it turned dark.

This year Lovecraft was not an obsession, I was possessed. The Phillips family, one after another, crawled inside my head and began to tell their life stories to me.

First the patriarch, Whipple Phillips laid out his business career to me in intimate and bloody detail.

Annie and Edward Gamwell were next, telling me about their beautiful wedding at 454 Angell Street, and how Gamwell slowly built up his publishing career from an obscure Brown University periodical to a Cambridge newspaper, and then collapsed into alcoholism.

Theodore Phillips senior and junior both chimed in to tell me about their life, though TWP II remains elusive and coy about how, when, and where he died. Through a kind genealogist of the Manton-Mitchell family, we compared notes and learned more about 612 Angell Street than any people have a right to know. Wow.

Lovecraft told me about his boyhood friends, their lives, their tragedies, and his own meteoric rise in astronomy - despite major illnesses - and then his collapse when he realized it would never come true. Then he had to tell me all about the Pykes and Metcalfs near 598 Angell. And how the city nearly wrecked Angell Street by widening of it. He has been quite yakkity about that kind of stuff.

And on it went even to this weekend with the intimate details of Robie Phillips death, and their subsequent trip to Moosup Valley and meeting Mrs Nancy Wood at Job D Place's home (who had just received a Tillinghast as a visitor).

Like a bizarre Dickensian drama, I have been commandeered by the ghosts of the Phillips clan, and honestly they and me have to have a sit down. I have quite a bit more of my life yet to live, and they need to chill out for a while. I can barely digest it all, much less tell you dear readers about all of it.

2011 will be about how I disseminate the massive details that I have uncovered, and blend it into what you kind correspondents have shared with me, as the Phillips and Lovecrafts and others of old Providence shared with you. It is a daunting task.

Edmund Morris just came out with the third - and last? - installment of Theodore Roosevelt's life. I can imagine what his life has been, and the sacrifices his family made for him to be rode on the Rough Rider's saddle.

Chrispy has a veritable mountain of obligations that live people are waiting upon, so sweet Phillipses, please !! you have waited a century and a half or more, can you just relax and let Chrispy work through all of this!

And you, kind blog readers, also be patient as I find the right time and conduits for this information. It is a story of drama and tears and Gilded Age drama, and Lovecraft's youth is that of a gifted boy in the Edwardian era that will cheer your heart as you root for him - despite knowing that it will all work out in the end, albeit very much differently than anyone (even he, HPL) foresaw.

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