Thursday, December 23, 2010

Reflections on 2010

Finally, a chance to take a breath.

Chrispy has been inundated by the day job, and I had to cut back a little on the blog.

This year brought some of the current technology to the Lovecraft realm, but for the most part Lovecraft remains very soundly in the early 21 st century. A few brave souls have plunged into audio and YouTube, but it seems that MySpace and Twitter are going to begin to fade away. Email and Forums will continue to hang on, but the advent of texting, Facebook, and the ubiquitous appearance of mobile combination internet-computer-phone-multimedia devices has yet to make a dent into Lovecraft research. That is the future, however.

The new revelation that is also the biggest kept secret, it seems, is the explosion of free and instantly accessible archives of primary data on Google. Ancestry is still a paid format, but it is primarily a genealogical resource, and Mr. Faig has pretty definitively traced the Phillips family, and the Lovecraft family is pretty delineated as well. Google has tens of thousands of pages of newspapers now online, and millions of pages of 19th and early 20th century civic documents. It has been a treasure-trove of Lovecraftiana. Go forth and read !

What the cutting edge will now be is to use primary documents (newspapers for instance) to relate what Lovecraft was doing with what his friends, colleagues, and neighbors were doing. In essence to place Lovecraft in context with his society. I've spent virtually every day of 2010 doing this very thing, and have been quite excited - and astonished - how much HPL was a creature of his environment. When HPL declared "I am Providence", he really wasn't even close. Providence had moved far away from HPL, but it didn't seem like it to him at the time. He had immersed himself in nostalgia, and he didn't see the aging, rusting, swollen behemoth of industrialism that was becoming more democratically controlled, and crime-ridden. If he had looked, large sections of the 1920's Providence were very much like the New York he hated. Just not on his corner of Angell Street.

I should not have been taken aback by all of this, but so many writers have made Lovecraft so larger than life that he seems a caricature out of time and space. He clearly wasn't. He was a brilliant man intellectually coping with his world the best he could, and the fantasy he left us is a treasure and pleasure.

About 60% of my research time has been on Young Lovecraft (pre-1912) with some progress of dating specific incidents in his life, and creating logical arguments to show that the Phillips family mythology was sometimes true, sometimes false, and sometimes as yet unknown. I have made a great deal of progress.

For instance, when HPL was about 7 or 8, his neighborhood played a powerful influence on him. From thence came all his nostalgic recollections, and enjoyment. Neighbors introduced him to plays, friends came to the house and exposed him to adult conversations, introduced him to writing, printing, science, literature, and many other issues - some dark like racism and irreligion. These are the formative years of every child, so be not surprised that these were the key years for HPL.

About 40% of my research time has been spent on Whipple Van Buren Phillips. Due to primary documents now available, his business career can be more fully established and explained. In context he was not as powerful as a Vanderbilt, Carnegie, or Rockefeller, and even in Providence men such as Aldrich, Manton or Banigan were far wealthier, but WVP cut a wide swath. His genius was two-fold. He understood the power of the velocity of money, and he was able to quickly gauge who would be useful to him as business associates. His judgement was not infallible, and he made serious mistakes, but he always recovered and built a new fortune. He also associated with a conclave of - for lack of a better term - the Foster gang. From powerful Senator Aldrich to the future RI supreme court justice Clarke Johnson, his best friend, WVP used and manipulated western Rhode Island contacts (as early as 1855) to get inside information on business deals, and used the legislature to secure prominent business ventures. Every few years he and his colleagues placed into the acts of the legislature many new businesses, a process not available to just any Providence man.

For instance, we now know that after a bankruptcy, WVP associated with an old Foster RI fellow and began to peddle sewing machines. Through that activity, he uncovered and seized rights to a special machine that became as hot as pet rocks, and in that burst of glory became fantabulously rich again. This was on the eve of his triumphant building of his home on Angell Street. We also know that early on, he was involved in intra-state business trasactions. New York, West Virginia, Massachusetts, Minnesota, and Idaho were all places of interest. WVP was quick to litigate, and his lawsuits are legion in law literature. It was a trait of all the Phillips family, most likely extending from their proto-Republican and Federal-Period belief systems. And so much more to discuss!

Next year may see the death of blogging on the internet, so I'd like to make it more personal and worthwhile. In the close to 3000 posts I have done, no facet of Lovecraft has been left out. It is an archive that is useful for me, and available to anyone who reads this to learn more about HPL and his legacy. My greatest challenge is to write all this information up into a well argued set of historical treatises. I'm no longer a young person, and it is a lot of hard work. I already feel I'm faltering. Wish me luck.

This will be an intensive and time consuming process, and as that activity grows, the blog will have to fade into the background. I considered reposting old posts, but the only thing that gives is a continual feed to services who pick up and distribute. The blog isn't a visual media, and that is the future, and one I'm not capable of committing time and work to. Not when I can create books that will one day be available in electronic format.

I won't say that 2011 is the last year of the blog, that's up to the fast moving change of technology, but as I finalize commitments I have given to the blog, it will have to change somewhat in frequency.

Don't fear, though, I still have months and months of things I have to put up on the blog, so stay tuned for January !


Shane Mangus said...

Very interesting stuff, as usual, Chris. Your efforts are much appreciated and I can't wait to see what you have in store for next year.

Robert Olmstead said...

Same for me I really discover the other (hidden) face of Lovecraft reading your blog. Not sure that Blog is deadas is not done for the same purpose than Twitter and Facebook oriented to rapid communication without tyhe possibility to construct something well defined as in a blog. In a blog uou act and then people react. In new media you just react. Well it's my point of view. Alban


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