Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Breaking News on ... Polaris

Lovecraft wrote: "the Pole Star, evil and monstrous, leers down from the black vault, winking hideously like an insane watching eye which strives to convey some message"

Prophetic as always, Lovecraft presaged Hubble's view of the third star of Polaris' system.

More pictures and more discussion at www.space.com

From Science News (Ron Cowen)

"Old drawings portray the North Star, Polaris, as a solitary beacon of light. But the star, which generations of seafarers have relied on for navigation, has two stellar companions... One of the stars has been visible to astronomers for centuries, but the other, smaller, fainter star that tightly orbits Polaris has now been photographed for the first time by the Hubble Space Telescope.

"Small telescopes can easily view the more distant partner, which English astronomer William Herschel discovered in 1780. The newfound body, dubbed Polaris Ab, lies about 6 billion kilometers from Polaris and takes about 30 years to orbit it."

{Note that Pluto is about 6 billion kM from the sun and takes 280 years to orbit - CP}

"The triple-star system is 430 light-years from Earth.

"Polaris is the nearest known Cepheid variable, a type of star used to measure the distances to other galaxies and the rate of expansion of the universe. "

So, the next time you look at the North Star, remember Lovecraft. If you look closely at the Hubble picture, I think you can just make out Randolph Carter waving.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Lovecraft in Maine!

Strange Maine (today, January 30) has an exceptional extract from Wandrei and Lovecraft's correspondence and photographs! Please visit.

If you do, don't forget to post comments there & here, so both communties can read your impressions.

Lovecraft & Charles M. Skinner

Lovecraft was fascinated with the Schenectady legend, though he transfered it to his home town in Providence. He obtained a great deal of the legend in The Shunned House from Skinner's book.

In a cellar in Green Street, Schenectady, there appeared, some years ago, the silhouette of a human form, painted on the floor in mould. It was swept and scrubbed away, but presently it was there again, and month by month, after each removal, it returned: a mass of fluffy mould, always in the shape of a recumbent man. When it was found that the house stood on the site of the old Dutch burial ground, the gossips fitted this and that together and concluded that the mould was planted by a spirit whose mortal part was put to rest a century and more ago, on the spot covered by the house, and that the spirit took this way of apprising people that they were trespassing on its grave. Others held that foul play had been done, and that a corpse, hastily and shallowly buried, was yielding itself back to the damp cellar in vegetable form, before its resolution into simpler elements. But a darker meaning was that it was the outline of a vampire that vainly strove to leave its grave, and could not because a virtuous spell had been worked about the place. ... But the Schenectady vampire has yielded up all his substance, and the green picture is no more.

Lovecraft wrote:

I wondered what it would look like - what its form and substance would be, and how big it might have waxed through long ages of life- sucking. ... At length, upon a suggestion of my uncle's, I decided to try the spot nocturnally; and one stormy midnight ... the mouldy floor with its uncanny shapes and distorted, half-phosphorescent fungi. ... I saw - amidst the whitish deposits a particularly sharp definition of the "huddled form" ... the thin, yellowish, shimmering exhalation ... anthropomorphic patch of mould by the fireplace ... a subtle, sickish, almost luminous vapour which, as it hung trembling in the dampness, seemed to develop vague and shocking suggestions of form, gradually trailing off into nebulous decay ... truly horrible ... the spot.

Suddenly my spade struck something softer than earth. ... I scraped away more dirt ... the surface I uncovered was fishy and glassy - a kind of semi-putrid congealed jelly with suggestions of translucency. I scraped further, and saw that it had form. ... like a mammoth soft blue-white stovepipe doubled in two... still more I scraped, and then abruptly I leaped out of the hole and away from the filthy thing ... this unthinkable abnormality whose titan elbow I had seen. {after destroying it} The dampness was less foetid, and all the strange fungi had withered to a kind of harmless greyish powder which blew ashlike along the floor.

Charles Skinner and HPL had one thing in common, they enjoyed telling weird tales!

Sunday, January 29, 2006

The Shunned House ... by Charles M. Skinner?

Perhaps. When Lovecraft was in New York, he spent a considerable time researching folklore - an interest of his and his family for years. he certainly knew of Skinner

Today we will look at one portion of The Shunned House and see how Lovecraft cribbed some notes from Skinner's book.

Compare first the extract from Skinner, my emphasis in bold.

"A vampire is a dead man who walks about seeking for those whose blood he can suck, for only by supplying new life to its cold limbs can he keep the privilege of moving about the earth. He fights his way from his coffin, and those who meet his gray and stiffened shape, with fishy eyes and blackened mouth, lurking by open windows, biding his time to steal in and drink up a human life, fly from him in terror and disgust. In northern Rhode Island those who die of consumption are believed to be victims of vampires who work by charm, draining the blood by slow draughts as they lie in their graves. To lay this monster he must be taken up and burned; at least, his heart must be; and he must be disinterred in the daytime when he is asleep and unaware. If he died with blood in his heart he has this power of nightly resurrection. As late as 1892 the ceremony of heart-burning was performed at Exeter, Rhode Island, to save the family of a dead woman that was threatened with the same disease that removed her, namely, consumption." [*]

Now compare Lovecraft's paragraph from The Shunned House my emphasis in bold.

"Mercy should have known better than to hire anyone from the Nooseneck Hill country, for that remote bit of backwoods was then, as now, a seat of the most uncomfortable superstitions. As lately as 1892 an Exeter community exhumed a dead body and ceremoniously burnt its heart in order to prevent certain alleged visitations injurious to the public health and peace, and one may imagine the point of view of the same section in 1768."

Rarely is HPL so bold as to copy nearly verbatim. However, Lovecraft was a recycler of text and had a vivid memory. As the opportunities arise, I'll show passages of The Alchemist cribbed from Poe's The Cask of Amontillado, and A. Gordon Pym.

Sometimes it is nearly impossible to see where he gets an idea or passage, so these infrequent glimpses of where he is apparent, give us great insight into how Lovecraft composed his stories.

Tomorrow, we will find out about "Mercy" and Lovecraft's further use of Skinner's text.

* Charles M. Skinner, Myths And Legends Of Our Own Land, Complete, The Hudson and Its Hill, 1896.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Lovecraftiana: The Hillside Thickets

...One glance is all it took,
She gave him that Innsmouth look ...
He made love - to the fishes ...

The best Lovecraftian music I've heard in ages. :)

Don't think, just do - go here now and listen.

When you listen, post comments below!

Lovecraft the Chemist

One of the reason's Chris reads Lovecraft is because of the chemistry HPL sneaks into his stories. [Chris is a chemist in "real" life.] I came to Lovecraft very late, only about 5 years ago. I'd remembered him - vaguely - from high school converstaing, but in those days it was all science fiction and no horror.

Once obsessed, an HPL fan knows no bounds. One of my treasures is my copy of The Young Chemist, John Howard Appleton, Silver Burdett & Co, 8th ed., 1889!

"In 1899 a new interest of mine began to gain ascendency... a love of chemistry ... a friend of ours is Prof. John Howard Appleton, the venerable professor of chemistry at Brown {University} & author of many books on the subject." [1, p. 71]

"The science of chemistry first captivated me in the Year of Our Lord 1898 ... in ... Webster's Dictionary ... chemical appartus especially attracted me ... being a "spoiled" child I had but ask ... I was given a cellar room ... some simple apparatus & a copy of "The Young Chemist" - a beginner's manual by Prof. Howard Appleton of Brown - a personal acquaintance." [2, p. 38]

Well, one day I was reading his and Hazel Heald's [3] story Winged Death. This is usually panned by all critics, but happens to be a favorite of mine - about a tse tse fly of all things.

I came across "...both chemicals - hydrochloric acid and manganese dioxide - on the table all ready to mix...". Hmm, I say to myself, Chris! you've seen that somewhere. Indeed. When I flipped open Appleton's book, there it was, virtually word for word. The story was written between 1932-1933 and mostly by HPL. At age 43, Lovecraft still either had his little, precious book, or had recalled it after decades. Truly, HPL was a remarkable man.

1 {Nov 16, 1916} H. P. Lovecraft: Letters to Rheinheart Kleiner, op.cit.
2 {Aug 29, 1918} H. P. Lovecraft" Letters to Alfred Galpin, op. cit.
3 Winged Death, c. 1933, Hazel Heald, H. P. Lovecraft: The Horror in the Museum and other revisions, Carroll & Graff, 2002, pp. 146-167.

Note: If you like Gilbert and Sullivan, and like it mangled, read my latest parody ... Member of the Menagerie by Giblet and Skeleton - Here!

Friday, January 27, 2006

Lovecraft's Dream Cycle: Tom Lera Comments

Tom is a fellow writer, naturalist, and a world recognized specialist in bats and caves. If you read his stories at HL.net, you'll discover that his descriptions encompass his real-life, frequent trips to rainforest countries. He also is a fellow Lovecraft fan, and honors HPL with The Cemetery.

Lovecraft wrote about a lot of strange things and had an active imagination, as we all have.

Lovecraft, though, has been criticized as repetitious and clumsy, but his stories share the same colourful imagination familiar from the classic works of H.G. Wells and H. Rider Haggard and have become a target for academic research. The entire Dream Cycle created by H. P. Lovecraft included some of his most fantastic tales:

The Doom That Came to Sarnath--Hate, genocide, and a deadly curse consume the land of Mnar.

The Statement of Randolph Carter--You fool, Warren is Dead!

The Nameless City--Death lies beneath the shifting sands, in a story linking the Dream Cycle with the legendary Cthulhu Mythos.

The Cats of Ulthar--In Ulthar, no man may kill a cat ... and woe unto any who tries.

The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath--The epic nightmare adventure with tendrils stretching throughout the entire Dream Cycle. Was he possessed or just have a great imagination to tell a story.

Publishing and marketing was basically just beginning and Lovecraft, Poe, Burroughs, Howard and others siezed the market and in turn abducted our imagination. Bottomline is that the 19th and 20th Century writers were talented. Their stories have captured our minds and hearts and will continue to do so in the future. I only hope that one or two of our stories are able to do this. Perhaps in the age of the internet it will happen.

Tom's latest story.

Note: Coming in 6 days to HL.net, Chris Perridas' new Mythos story. So you thought you knew everything about Cthulhu, eh? Heh. Just wait.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Lovecraft's Legacy: Jan Bodeson

Every horror writer, Poe and Lovecraft afficianado, and historian of myth needs to read this book.

Bodeson’s exposition details how, until the twentieth century, the medical profession was unable to clearly define death in many instances. This created the millennia old practice of “the wake” or “the vigil”. As a southerner, I've participated in many of these three day, bone-wearying ceremonies. I’ve also had the incredible experience of being present when two people died in my presence – My Grandfather and my Mother.

In those early days, myths and legends of people comatose, but alive, propagated that many were being buried alive. Physicians worked hard and had special instruments and techniques to determine death. The most prevalent practice was to wait- to allow putrefaction to set in.

For those “in a hurry” long needles were inserted in toes, fingers, and other areas to see if muscles twitched. In earliest days, the cessation of the heart was unclear as a sign of death. Even specialized aides could not always determine this, and even if the heart stopped, often the connection was not made between organ functions, and life and death.

Poe wrote frequently of being buried alive. During the nineteenth century this was a vivid issue. At the end of the nineteenth century, a craze of being buried with telephones was all the rage. I believe that Lovecraft’s dream, and subsequent story – The Statement of Randolph Carter – used that prop because of an incident that happened in his youth. [1, p. 130]

In 1908, a wealthy Louisiana matron, Mrs. Pennord, greatly feared a live burial. She subsequnetly was buried in a vault with plenty of air and atelephone connected to the guard house. It never rang, for she was truly gone. This was one of many dozens of wealthy members of society that were frightened out of their wits of being buried alive. They had the money, and means, to set up telephone relays to their coffin. None are recorded to have dialed for help.

The practice of embalming became established in urban American areas at the turn of the twetieth century – though even in the 1940’s in Kentucky, the practice had not caught up in rural areas.

However, this sure means of ascertaining the person was truly dead deflated many Victorian horror tales [2] . Lovecraft wrote to Clark Ashton Smith that one of his stories would not work, that the practice of embalming would never let being buried alive be believed by the reading public of their day. Another, more obscure, means would have to be devised to make the patient appear to be buried alive. [3, p.232, 233]

Lovecraft’s In the Vault, was itself scandalous and rejected by Farnsworth Wright for not passing the "Indiana Test". [4, p. 225] It is in reality a routine, albeit jazzed up Lovecraftian-style, revenge motif ghost story that explores - as did Poe's Legeia - what connotes death and the living dead.

All in all, Bodeson's book is an essential reference for the book shelf. It was definietly a delight to see a mainstream author quote HPL.

1 Jan Bodeson, Buried Alive: The Terrifying History of Our Most Primal Fear, W.W. Noton, 2001.
2 Like Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes tale, The Dissapearance of Lady Frances Carfax.”
3 Jan Bodeson, Buried Alive: The Terrifying History of Our Most Primal Fear, W.W. Noton, 2001.
4 H. P. Lovecraft In His Timre: A Dreamer and a Visionary, Joshi, Liverpool University, 2001. The reference is to Lovecraft's collaboration with his pal, C. M. Eddy, Jr. and their story "The Loved Dead" that alluded to a demented man having intercourse with a corpse. The scandal set off a new wave of censorship, and simultaneously saved Weird Tales from bancruptcy. The scandal made it the hottest selling magazine on the pulp newsstands.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Lovecraft the Entertainer

Lovecraft, in his youth, enjoyed pretend. He was a Sherlock Holmes Baker Street Irregular and carried a real revolver in his pretend detective work - at perhaps age 13. He studied the violin (shades of Erich Zann), but eventually became bored with it. At 11, he played in the Blackstone Military Band. He often put on plays in a section of the Phillips' stable.

Years later, he was still the entertainer.

"It was now evening … after dinner the family {of Miss M. A Little} demanded Grandpa {i.e. Lovecraft's pseudonym of humself} amuse them with some of his theatrical impersonations – and believe us, you’d never know the old man in some of the things they made him put on! In my acting days I went the heavy villanous stuff, but the Hampsteaders seem partial to the Julian Entinge stuff, and could not be satisfied until they had Grandpa laced into a hoop skirt outfit with bonnet and parasol to match! Though it was hard to think of dialogue for such makeup, they seemed satisfied with my improvistaions; and compensated by prolongued applause for the injury inflicted upon my patriarchal dignity."

Perhaps HPL looked ludicrously like these models?

H. P. Lovecraft: Letters to Galpin, Joshi, p. 102

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Lovecraft Loved Cats

It's time to explore the softer side of Ech Pi El, a two-legged member of the Kappa Alpha Tau's felinity.

In these two letter fragments, we see that Lovecraft, at the convention of August 1921, had an unexpected treat.

[1, p.214] "I held in my lap the prettiest actual kitten that I have seen for many a day - a grey furry double handful with a belled collar around his neck, who was brought in by a neighbour at the express suggestion of Mrs. McMullen, who knows of my predilection for the feline species."

[2, p. 99] "But speaking of cats - the best one present was the real thing, a tiny grey kitten, part Angora, that a neighbor brought in at Mrs. McM's suggestion - Mrs. McM being aware of my predilection for the (genuine) feline species. He was a good double handful, with an inespressively pretty face and eyes, and a collar with tiny bells that tinkled as he cavorted with the innocent sprighlines of youth. Most of the time he sat on Grandpa Theobald's lap, chewing either my waistcoat buttons or my fingers according to his juvenile taste."

I also find it interesting that Lovecraft was more loose and conversational with Galpin in this passage.

Tomorrow: Lovecraft as a performer

1. H. P. Lovecraft: Letters to Rheinheart Kleiner, Joshi & Schultz
2. H. P. Lovecraft: Letters to Alfred Gallapin, Joshi & Schultz

Monday, January 23, 2006

Lovecraft's Elitism: J. T. O'Connor

Pausing to Ponder-Lovecraft on racial equality by J.T. O'Connor.

I notice that in some of the writing here, Lovecraft is often called a racist. He was, and he wasn't. During Lovecraft's lifetime, the race issue was very difficult. Less than a hundred years had elapsed since the end of the Civil War and the end of slavery in the South. Most whites just had no experience with minorities, except as slaves or servants. This applied not only to Blacks, but also to Hispanics and Asians as well, although not to the same extent. The main teaching among the so called "educated and forward looking" whites was that these minorities deserved a place, but not with whites. In other words, each race was expected to remain with itself and keep intermingling to a bare minimum, and then the intermingling was to be at the behest of the white. Not a very good attitude for today, but about the most advanced attitude at the time.

As for Lovecraft himself, he did not hate Blacks or any members of the other races. He was, however, dead set against any kind of mixing of the races, particularly through intermarriage. If you read carefully, he mentions the "mongrel hordes" several times in "The Horror at Red Hook". One of the main reasons he hated New York was that there were so many people who were of mixed marriages, even during the 1910's and 1920's. This was anathema to Lovecraft. To him, pure blood was of the utmost importance, unless, of course, you were Irish. Remember, Lovecraft nearly worshipped the British, and in several of his writings, actually said that he was sorry that we won the Revolutionary War. The British hated the Irish, so Lovecraft did as well.

Lovecraft's racial peeve, then, was not the races themselves, but the interbreeding. In several of his letters, he talks about Blacks that he found interesting to talk with and to know. He also mentions at least one Asian that I recall. They were "purebred" and therefore Lovecraft felt that he could interact with them. Any mixing of the races, however, was repugnant to him. Recall how he describes the Innsmouth people, as being a mixed breed from humans and Deep Ones. He felt that any mixed breeding was as disgusting as these mixed humans.

Lovecraft, for all of his wonderful imagination, was still a product of his times, and to try to impose our attitudes on him is useless. All people are of their time, and all have at least a trace of the prejudices of their times. To expect anything else is to expect too much.

(c) 2006 by J.T. O'Connor

My thanks to J. T.

Don't forget to check out his newest book with James Layne! The Coming of T'loal.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Addressing Lovecraft's Elitism

My last comment on "Lovecraft's elitism" has prompted several of you to write me.

To be fair to the man's life, we must discuss in this blog the impact of Lovecraft's deep paranoia with "others" and his elitism. We would necessarily call it racism, today, but American society was rife with racial and bigoted tensions. Even T.R. (Teddy Roosevelt) has memoirs with epithets contained. The Edwardian age was not enlightened - and evidence shows that American post-modernism still struggles with racial and ethnic harmony. Before we cast a stone at HPL, I ask you to examine your glass house.

Casper Kelley sends this extract along for the community to ponder.


[From: Lovecraft Studies #40 "The Subway and the Shoggoth"]

"The story remains a gauge of Lovecraft's obsessions through his exploitation of the subway...
But shoggoths, the plastic shoggoths, are Lovecraft's central invention connected with subways, and to discover the meaning of the subway we need to say more about the meaning of the shoggoth. Certainly it carries connotation of the Hebrew suffix -oth, a plural ending as in Sabaoth or Yuggoth, "which has a sort of Arabic of Hebraic cast, to suggest certain words passed down from antiquity in the magical formulae contained in Moorish and Jewish manuscripts" (SL V.386 {Arkham House Letter Collection}); a shoggoth may not be individual -- it is legion. In addition, "shog" is a common English word that Samuel Johnson records: "to shake; to agitate by sudden interrupted impulses." the Oxford English Dictionary notes other meanings, "to rouse from sleep", "to upset", "to, walk ride or move with a succession of bumps or jerks", or "to go away, begone"; and cites Shakespeare's line in Henry V, "Will you shog off?" (2.1.42). ...

"As Will Murray has shown ("The Trouble with Shoggoths" 37-38), the immediate occasion of Lovecraft's shoggoth was Clark Ashton Smith's description in "The Tale of Satampra Zeiros: of a black, "semiliquescent" creature that either serves or incarnates the toad-god Tsathoggua, a description that uses words capable of triggering Lovecraft's own antisemitic language: "What unimaginable horror of protoplasmic life, what loathly spawn of the primordial slime had come forth..." (Smith 74) -- it could well have seemed to Lovecraft reading these words that what he had seen in the streets and subways of New York had suddenly taken concrete form."


Thanks Casper!

Lovecraft suffered his share of trauma being thrust into poverty as a teenager. He certainly inherited some of his bigotry from family - sociologists teach us that much of racism is taught by culture. Still, as in the exposition of He (see thread archives) and in the use of shoggoths and "that Innsmouth look", HPL despised "others" in a colllective sense and described them in caricaturish manner. They disrupted his antiquarian imagination, his idealism, and thus - I believe - led him to cosmic nihilism. If only the educated elite were worthy, that they were few in number and fading fast, then it follows that mankind is unworthy and will be exterminated by those greater than man. Like all men, HPL had to create devils and gods to fit his worldview.

(Tommorrow: John T. O'Connor's perspective on HPL in his time.)

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Lovecraftiana: Winifred Virginia Jackson V

The WVJ finale, at least for now.

Winifred Virginia Jackson led a mysterious life. We have few facts of this vibrant poet today, but we know one thing that HPL didn’t. In 1915, WVJ was married to an African-American in 1915 named Horace Jordan. Even in Massachusetts, in that day, this was a rare expression of love. It did not last, for in 1919 she divorced.

She was unencumbered by marriage when HPL caught a fancy of her. However, she already was conducting an affair that would be long enduring, with the African-American poet and critic William Stanley Braithwaite.

Joshi reports that there is no extant correspondence between HPL and she after July 1921. They apparently did both attend the NAPA convention that month, so it must have went badly.

I did locate a poem by WVJ included in Braithwaite's collection. As per her two Elizabeth Berkeley stories with HPL, it has dark woods and gnarly trees.

I preface this next section carefully. This ‘blog is all about Lovecraft and his legacy. His fiction and letters show the complete man, and we can frown on portions of his life – as he may of ours.

We must examine his elitist – racist, if you will – opinions, though. We recall that HPL could be venomous in his hatred of minorities, but he also was able to look past those differences and embrace his friends who were drug addicts, gay, divorced, and Jewish. They - for the most part - overlooked his idiosyncracies. Loveman was a notable exception, who felt betrayed and in bitterness destroyed most of his correspndence with HPL.

Lovecraft mentions Braitwaite in horrible terms. I will not go into all the gory details, but on May 1918, he tells Kleiner, "the annual ceremony … given to a member of the negro race , Gov. Beeckman of Rhode Island gracefully awarded the badge …to William Stanley Braithwaite." I will not go into the bigoted description of Braithwaite’s "mongrel" look, and Howard’s use of the "n" word.

In the last few posts I've shown (courtesy of those sources quoted) that through poems and letters the two shared good will - and more. However if more circulated between WVJ and HPL, than a little correspondent love and in person flirting, it did not consummate in a torchy romance.

Later, HPL told Sonia that before her he had not kissed a girl since his school days.

Next up - Lovecraft's darker side & Lovecraft's lighter side.

1 H P Lovecraft Encyclopedia p. 130
2. HPL: Letters to Rheinheart Kleiner.

Lovecraftiana: Forest J. Ackerman - Interlude

Breaking bulletin.

Tom Lera reports a sighting of once H.P.L. fan, critic - and pal - Forest J. Ackerman. There is an autograph by Lovecraft there.

And don't forget to check out Tom's site. He's an entrepreneur, scientist, spelologist, and writer!

Ackerman is mentioned by pun (effjay weeds and wriggling akmans) in Lovecraft & Sterling's satirical scientifiction story In the Walls of Eryx.

[H.P. Lovecraft, In His Time, A Dreamer and a Visionary, Joshi, Liverpool University Press, 2001, p. 370.]

Friday, January 20, 2006

Must see cartoon ...

We interupt this gallimaufry of blog posts for an announcement!!!

The ill-tempered bear by Tom and Jason has the most hilarious and ```shudder``` frightening cartoon ever. Go there now!

Be sure to bookmark their cartoon site and go there often.

We will return to our main feature - and conclusion - of Howard and Virginia, tommorrow.

Future posts will include comments from the shoggothologist "suctionmule", an historical synopsis of a dark part of Lovecraft's life by Casper Kelley, and for a returning compadre - this is for you Chuck...

"What part of 'Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn' don't you understand?"

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Lovecraftiana: Winifred Virginia Jordan Part IV

Lovecraft jumps to the defense of Virginia in a Kleicomolo [1] letter dated April 1917. Maurice, apparently, had been harsh in his critique of her poem Insomnia. "I was ... interested in ... Mrs. Jordan's singularly graphick {sic} verses entitled "Insomnia" {published Oct. 1916} ... my personal opinion of "Insomnia" is ... favourable ... the confusion of images as an intentional reproduction of the chaotic thoughts of the insomnious brain ... I have had moods of this semi-imagism myself..."

Deflecting the criticism, Lovecraft goes into the closest thing to a love poem I believe I've ever read by him.

A Garden
by Lewis Theobald, Jr. [2]

"There's an ancient, ancient garden [3] that I see sometimes in dreaming,
Where the very May time sunlight plays and glows with spectral gleams,
There's a sadness settles o'er me, and a tremor seems to start -
For I know the flow'rs are shrivell'd hopes - the garden is my heart."

Things progress because we read on May 5, 1918, "Mrs. Jordan's recovery has not been as rapid as one might wish, but a copy of The London Daily Mail lately came from her, addressed in her own hand writing ... hence I assume she is much improved."

Then on July 14, 1918, we read, "In treating New England, Mrs. Jordan chooses aspects I seldom touch upon. She is affected by its bleaker features, whilst I pass over these, & dwell upon those things which resemble Old England. But I have a wholesome respect for her rugged marine pieces - even though I should not be likely to parallel them in my own metrical effects. I think her "Song of the North Wind" {1916}, was a tremendously powerful poem."

This Edwardian romance spanned a few years, perhaps, but it did not last.

1 Kleicomolo is a round robbin series of correspondences by Rheinheart Kleiner, Ira Cole, Maurice Moe, and Howard Lovecraft. Letters to Rheinheart Kleiner, Joshi & Schultz, 2005.

2 Theobald is Lovecraft's pseudonym.

3 Lovecraft fancied himself an experienced poet and read the classics. He well knew that garden is a sexual metaphor, but it is unknown if he meant it that way. Both of the stories he wrote for Virginia involve a great deal of meadows, forsts, green scenery, blue oceans, water falls and singing of eerie songs.

Lovecraftiana: Winifred Virginia Jordan, Part III.

Howard Lovecraft was quite a dandy and apparently his company was sought after by the ladies in amateur journalism. If you are writer, you probably belong to an on-line writer circle. I belong to zoetrope, the Horror Library, and a few others. Back in the day, things were done by USPS (long delays in getting reviews back), telephone (very expensive), and get-togethers. The gatherings were events, but as a true Edwardian, Lovecraft was genteel and quite an antiquarian poseur. His carefully worded exposition of one event showed that the ladies were quite taken by him – if one reads between the lines.

In the August 31, 1921 letter to the Gallomo, he reveals, “Later there arrived … the Aonian W. V. J. {Virginia Jackson}. Having an interesting tiff with Mrs. Miniter in cattishly civil dialogue whose iciness was delectably veiled with politeness… Mrs. Miniter decided to introduce fiction into her account of the meeting, and has been telling the world that ‘W.J.V. did not speak to me for over an hour after she arrived’. Hell, how the cats fight! But I am outside it all – a cosmic being apart, as ‘tewer. Although I am of course on the … Jackson side in any real warfare {there were factions in the amateur movement}, I shall be civil to Mrs. Miniter as long as she is civil to me, despite the view of W.V.J. … that I ought to observe a more marked coolness as a mark of United loyalty. No mere poet can tell me anything about loyalty… Mrs. Miniter invited me to stay over at 20 Webster {an address – maybe hers}, but I was wretchedly tired and decided to omit the signal…” [1]

Joshi [2] relates that George T. Wetzel and R. Alain Everts report that it was widely known in the amateur circles that Virginia and Howard were an item and romantically linked. There is said to be a photograph of them at a Massachusetts beach.

Then, a third ‘girl’ enters the letter’s conversation. “Am now notified that I must act as host next Saturday .. when there will descend upon Providence no less a whirlwind than … Mrs. Sonia H. Greene … what can one do to entertain such a human dynamo … “

Lovecraft’s language tends to shift to colloquial jazz age when he is trying to be cute and cagey to impress the reader. He also introduces a dodge, but the truth seems to be that he enjoys being sought after. “Galba {i.e. Galpin} yuh’d orta hear what she {Sonia} says about you in her latest 12 pages! If your ma don’t watch out, she’ll kidnap yuh!” [1]

1. H.P.Lovecraft: Letters to Alfred Galpin, Joshi & Schultz, pp. 95-104.
2. Joshi in the Jackson entry in H.P. Lovecraft Encyclopedia.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Lovecraftiana: Winifred Virginia Jordan, Part II.

Sonia and Howie,
Sitting in a tree,
First came love,
Then came marriage,
Then came Cthulhu
In a baby carriage!

But, before Sonia was there a 'Ginnie?

Many think so. HPL was cagey, but Sonia certainly uttered one day, "I stole Howard away from Virginia, you know."

There is a lot to tell about this matter. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Lovecraftiana: Winifred Virginia Jordan, Part I.

The April 1920 Gallomo [1] letter described another wonderful dream of Lovecraft's which he had a few years earlier [2]. However, and for once, someone had out dreamed him!

"A singular dream ...led me to start a ... story about a terrible forest, a sinister beach, and a blue ominous sea."

Um, HPL? Have you ever seen a beautiful Greek isle?

Oh, sorry, I was day dreaming. Well, let's get back to Mr. Lovecarft's story.

He continues, "After writing one paragraph I was stalled, but happened to send it to Mrs. Jordan [3]. Fancy my surprise when the poetess replied that she had had a precisely similar dream ... a piece of the shore had broken off, carrying her out to sea. A green meadow had loomed up on the left hand side, and horrible entities seemed to be hiding among the trees of the awful forest behind her. The piece of earth on which she was drifting was slowly crumbling away, yet this form of death seemed preferable to that which the forest things would have inflicted. And then she heard the sound of a distant waterfall and ... a kind of singing in the green meadow {woke her]. I abandoned my plan ... used my opening paragraph ... {and I wrote a story around her dream}."

Lovecraft was one of history's greatest dreamers. This time, he'd met his dream match.

[1] The Gallomo was a group of amateur writers. Back in the day, there were no forums or e-mail, so amateur writers circulated their manuscript drafts via USPS along with news, comments, and opinions on the news of the day. Each writer would review, pencil in errors, changes, and suggestions, and pass it on the the next person, until it made the "rounds". This group consisted of Alfred Galpin, Howard Lovecraft, and Maurice Moe, i.e. Gal-lo-mo.

[2] An H. P. Lovecraft Encyclopedia, Joshi & Schultz, 2001, p. 101, 102

[2] Winifred Virginia Jordan (Jasckson) wrote under the pseudonym of Elizabeth Berkeley.

[3] H. P. Lovecraft: Letters to Alfred Galpin, Joshi & Schultz, 2003, p. 82, 83.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Poe and Lovecraft

First, thank you fellow bloggers and fans of HPL! Your personal notes of encouragement are appreciated. Thanks to Tom, Fran, and the rest of you who link to this site. Also, I've had to think long and hard about the philosophy of this blog. I don't want to just reach out and take snapshots of HPL stuff and post it here. I don;t want to copy willy nilly and infringe on copyrights. I want each entry to be my original thought and work. I do due diligence to reference intellectual work. Any pictures I use are usually auto-referenced by their properties. The rest are my original photos, sketches, etc. It makes it very hard, but it challenges me as a writer and an essayist.


There are a number of limited and incredible items on ebay right now. Apparently a collector has turned loose of several autographs in HPL's hand. Christmas cards to Bloch and Clark Ashton Smith, a theater program with notes, and others. Make it a regular trip over to ebay and even if you can't buy something for $500, at least the photos are excellent.

Always feel free to email me at Chris 560729 @ yahoo . com.

Now, today.

Have you ever wondered when people say - Lovecraft immitated Poe? In the coming weeks, I'll show you snippets of text where HPL's early stories cribbed a lot of Poe.

Here, we look at two paragraphs at the beginning to E. A. Poe's William Wilson and compare it to Lovecraft's Alchemist and Tomb.
Also notice that it looks very suspicious that two stories written 9 years apart, but published within month of each other should so eerily alike. I think it shows that HPL edited the 1908 Alchemist. In the future we might deconstruct the Alchemist to show how the teenage HPL was revised by the older writer.

"I am the descendant of a race whose imaginative and easily excitable temperament has at all times rendered them remarkable; and, in my earliest infancy, I gave evidence of having fully inherited the family character. As I advanced in years it was more strongly developed; becoming, for many reasons, a cause of serious disquietude to my friends, and of positive injury to myself. I grew self-willed, addicted to the wildest caprices, and a prey to the most ungovernable passions. Weak-minded, and beset with constitutional infirmities akin to my own, my parents could do but little to check the evil propensities which distinguished me. Some feeble and ill-directed efforts resulted in complete failure on their part, and, of course, in total triumph on mine. Thenceforward my voice was a household law; and at an age when few children have abandoned their leading-strings, I was left to the guidance of my own will, and became, in all but name, the master of my own actions.

"My earliest recollections of a school-life, are connected with a large, rambling, Elizabethan house, in a misty-looking village of England, where were a vast number of gigantic and gnarled trees, and where all the houses were excessively ancient. In truth, it was a dream-like and spirit-soothing place, that venerable old town. At this moment, in fancy, I feel the refreshing chilliness of its deeply-shadowed avenues, inhale the fragrance of its thousand shrubberies, and thrill anew with undefinable delight, at the deep hollow note of the church-bell, breaking, each hour, with sullen and sudden roar, upon the stillness of the dusky atmosphere in which the fretted Gothic steeple lay imbedded and asleep."

{highlights mine)

The Alchemist (1908):

“…I spent the hours of my childhood in poring over the ancient tomes that filled the shadow-haunted library of the chateau, and in roaming without aim or purpose through the perpetual dust of the spectral wood that clothes the side of the hill near its foot. …”, “…It was perhaps an effect of such surroundings that my mind early acquired a shade of melancholy. Those studies and pursuits which partake of the dark and occult in nature most strongly claimed my attention. …”, “…yet as I grew out of childhood, I was able to piece together disconnected fragments of discourse, let slip from the unwilling tongue…”

“…I was an only child and the lack of companionship which this fact entailed upon me was augmented by the strange care exercised by my aged guardian, in excluding me from the society of the peasant children whose abodes were scattered here and there upon the plains that surround the base of the hill. At that time, Pierre said that this restriction was imposed upon me because my noble birth placed me above association with such plebeian company. Now I know that its real object was to keep from my ears the idle tales of the dread curse upon our line that were nightly told and magnified by the simple tenantry as they conversed in hushed accents in the glow of their cottage hearths. …”

The Tomb (1917):

”…I have dwelt ever in realms apart from the visible world; spending my youth and adolescence in ancient and little known books, and in roaming the fields and groves of the region near my ancestral home. I do not think that what I read in these books or saw in these fields and groves was exactly what other boys read and saw there; but of this I must say little, since detailed speech would but confirm those cruel slanders upon my intellect which I sometimes overhear from the whispers of the stealthy attendants around me. …”, “…Close by my home there lies a singular wooded hollow, in whose twilight deeps I spent most of my time; reading, thinking, and dreaming. Down its moss-covered slopes my first steps of infancy were taken, and around its grotesquely gnarled oak trees my first fancies of boyhood were woven. Well did I come to know the presiding dryads of those trees, and often have I watched their wild dances in the struggling beams of a waning moon but of these things I must not now speak. …”, “… of this I must say little, since detailed speech would but confirm those cruel slanders upon my intellect which I sometimes overhear from the whispers of the stealthy attendants around me…”

“…I have said that I dwelt apart from the visible world, but I have not said that I dwelt alone. This no human creature may do; for lacking the fellowship of the living, he inevitably draws upon the companionship of things that are not, or are no longer, living. …”, “…the race whose scions are here inurned had once crowned the declivity which holds the tomb, but had long since fallen victim to the flames which sprang up from a stroke of lightning. Of the midnight storm which destroyed this gloomy mansion, the older inhabitants of the region sometimes speak in hushed and uneasy voices…”

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Ponape Scriptures

First, fellow bloggers, here is a public thanks to Megg for her technical and moral support. Also for the stories (Tom), articles and research discussion (James, John, T. Peter, Kelly) and to Fran and Lance for posting comments. Those of you who read - and there are a lot of you - and link up to me, a big thanks! too.

I don't want this to be just another Mythos blog. But I won't ignore it either. Here is a bit of obscurianta, and especially since Lin Carter (and Fritz Lieber) are becoming a forgotten part of Lovecraft's world.

The Ponape Scriptures is one of those additions to the weird books of Lovecraft's world via an in-joke. Those who are die hard fans know that in The Call of Cthulhu HPL picked the most desolate stretch of the Pacific Ocean to make his island of R'lyeh.

A derivitive and parody of Atlantis, Lemuria and Mu, R'lyeh is an abberant anagram of Lemuria. He sets the coordinates at S. Latitude 47° 9′, W. Longitude 126° 43′. Derleth later altered these to S. Latitude 49° 51′, W. Longitude 128° 34′.

Carter noted that the only real island near there - about a day away by steamship - was Ponphei. He introduced the Ponape Scriptures in his story Out of the Ages. The Scripture is a manuscript found in the Caroline Islands by Captain Abner Exekiel Hoag sometime around 1734 and even then was old. The book was made of palm leaves and bound in wood.

Polynesians often did use this type of book to record their myths and stories.

Part of the sheer fun that Lovecraft had - and we share today - was creating weird, black books and trading names of gods with his pals. Here's to Lin Carter!

See More Here.

Grandpa Whipple and The Beast In The Cave

I find it interesting that The Beast in the Cave was written in stages or drafts. [1, p.56-58] It was begun in the Spring of 1904 (before Whipple's death) and supposedly completed April 21, 1905. I think it was revised for its subsequent amateur publication, but that remains a discussion for another blog-day.

Whipple died of a stroke after exhausting himself with business failure in Idaho. The date was Monday, March 28, 1904. With a little research [2,3], I found that full Moon was Thursday, March 31, 1904 which meant Easter was the following Sunday, April 3, 1904.

In The Beast in The Cave Lovecraft utters, "...before I could completely understand what had occurred, [I] was lying upon the ground at the feet of the guide, embracing his boots and gibbering, despite my boasted reserve, in a most meaningless and idiotic manner, pouring out my terrible story". This is eerily similar to Luke 7:37,38. And, behold, a woman in the city, which was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at meat in the Pharisee's house, brought an alabaster box of ointment, And stood at his feet behind him weeping, and began to wash his feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment."

This is often Easter sermon material in the Baptist church, to which Whipple belonged. I've noted that Lovecraft usually reserves "gibbering" as a weak and contemptible feature and "superstition" for Christianity or Theosophy in his fiction.
Did young Howard take the Easter week death of Whipple and parody it in one of his drafts of Beast? He was certainly devoted and attached to "Grandpa" and his writing shows many instances wherein he tried to keep the memory (resurrect?) of Whipple alive. Frequently, his letter writing pseudonym was "Grandpa" even to family members.
Lovecraft often parodied scripture, most notoriously in Dunwich Horror. [1, pp. 316, 319]

" By their smell can some men know Them near..." Lovecraft parodies Jesus' Sermon on th Mount in the Dunwich Horror: Mt. 7:20, Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.

Psalm 91.6, "Sabaoth" meaning Lord of Hosts, and not to be confused with "Sabbath" is utilized.

"Help! Help! ff-ff-ff-Father! Father! Yog-Sothoth." Luke 23:46, Father into thy hands I commend my spirit ... and gave up the ghost (Cp. Mk. 15 & Mt 27)

I believe that the expression of the lost protagonist seizing the "guide" around the feet and "gibbering" is an early attempt by Lovecraft to parody scripture, a lifelong habit.

[1] The Thing on the Doorstep and Other Weird Stories, S. T. Joshi, 2001, Penguin.

[2] Perpetual Calendar Here.

[3] Calculate a full Moon Here.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Breaking Cthulhu Research

Can you imagine the Deep Ones chanting while proud Cthulhu beams. Read the entire story. Lots more squid pictures, there.

Raiding Dracula?

When I first read Colour Out of Space, one section made my heart race. Then I remembered why. In the movie, Bram Stoker's Dracula which really is Francis Ford Coppola's Dracula, there is a vivid scene done well where the horses are ripped to shreds by the female vampires.

Stoker actually wrote [Ch. 27. Memorandum by van Helsing], "For the snow flakes and the mist began to wheel and circle round, till I could get as though a shadowy glimpse of those women that would have kissed him. And then the horses cowered lower and lower, and moaned in terror as men do in pain. Even the madness of fright was not to them, so that they could break away. ... The horses had ceased to moan, and lay still on the ground. The snow fell on them softly, and they grew whiter. I knew that there was for the poor beasts no more of terror." {my emphasis in bold}

Lovecraft wrote, "At this point, as the column of unknown colour flared suddenly stronger and began to weave itself into fantastic suggestions of shape which each spectator described differently, there came from poor tethered Hero such a sound as no man before or since ever heard from a horse. Every person in that low-pitched sitting room stopped his ears, and Ammi turned away from the window in horror and nausea. Words could not convey it - when Ammi looked out again the hapless beast lay huddled inert on the moonlit ground between the splintered shafts of the buggy. That was the last of Hero till they buried him next day." {my emphasis in bold}

So, fellow bloggers, contemplate this. Which scene is the more terrifying?

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Lovecraft Rides with Charlemagne!

Well not exactly, but here's another glimpse into Lovecraft's vast mind.

In elder days, astronomers and astrologers referred to our Big Dipper Constellation as Charlemagne's Wagon - that is his chariot. This was more colloquially known as Charles' Wain, where a wain is a wagon - Old English 'woegen'. For instance, a wainwright or Cartwright (shades of the Ponderosa) repaired wagons.

As far back as 1918, in Polaris (the North Star)Lovecraft speaks of Ursa Major - the Big Dipper - by it's antique name, Charles' Wain. "Into the North Window of my chamber glows the Pole Star ... in the small hours of the morning under the horned waning moon, I sit by the casement and watch ... the glittering Cassiopeia ... while Charles' Wain lumbers up from behind the vapour-soaked swamp trees that sway in the night wind."

In late 1926, HPL penned in The Strange Case of Charles Dexter Ward, "...And the night came with gorgeous stars, and the dark ship steered for Charles' Wain and the Little Bear as they swung slowly round the pole. And the sailors sang strange songs of unknown places..."

It so happens that the North Star is a part of the Big Dipper. In astrologers' imaginations, the great French king rode the skies rutting the heavens with his chariot.

So, in March 1927, HPL puns, "That July ... were hot, and Nahum worked hard at his haying ... his rattling wain wearing deep ruts in the shadowy lanes...".

One might also compare Shakepeare, Henry IV, Part I, Act II, Scene I, First Carrier, "Heigh-ho! an it be not four by the day, I’ll be hanged: Charles’ wain is over the new chimney, and yet our horse not packed. What, ostler!" [i.e., hostler, stableboy].

My imagination soars, sometimes. I imagine Lovecraft chuckling over Shakespeare, imagining himself walking in the highways of his beloved Britain and thinking lofty astronomical thoughts.

One more coincidence. In July 1927, 13 year old John Bell Benton designed the Alaska flag for the territory of Alaska using the constellation of the Big Dipper and Polaris against a blue field.

Lovecraft was a voracious reader, maybe he smiled when he read of that in his copy of the Providence Journal.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

An Idaho Jackrabbit In Arkham?

Today we have a glimpse inside the workings of Lovecraft's mind. The smallest incident, or an obscure fact, might influence a bit of horror. Perhaps his childood traumas or those long midnight walks throughout Providence triggered these flashes of odd briliance. In any case, the Colour Out of Space seemed to have more than its share of Lovecraftian flashbacks.

"...he said he was disturbed about certain footprints in the snow. They were the usual prints of red squirrels, white rabbits, and foxes, but the brooding farmer professed to see something not quite right about their nature and arrangement. ... There had been a moon, and a rabbit had run across the road, and the leaps of the rabbit were the longer than either Ammi or his horse liked."

Grandpa Phillips [2] was a wealthy businessman and scion of Providence. His company built a hotel and had large properties and a dam in Idaho. All of these needed intimate management at the beginning of the twentieth century, and would eventually lead to Phillips financial ruin and death. Everything changed for HPL in 1904 when Grandpa died. But those letters from the American west and memories were retained:

[1, p.88] "I was a small boy then; but his trips out there, and his descriptions of the country, interested me prodigiously. In his office downtown he had all sorts of samples of Idaho minerals and produce, and his occassional letters postmarked "Boise City," "Mountain Home," and "Grand View" (the latter place named by him, & occupying land owned by the company) lent a sense of reality to those exotic specimens."

The rabbit that Ammi saw [1, p.88] was a western jackrabbit.

To a boy the western specimens must have been fantastic. To his budding scientific mind - and remember, little Howard wanted to be a scientist in the worst way - he absorbed everything like a sponge. How different the western rabbit was to the eastern cottontail. How horrific! What would Poe make of it?

We know what the 37 year old man made of it in 1927 - he used it to describe an abberant alien landscape. Below, I include pictures of the familiar (to HPL) cottontail with snow prints.

1 Books at Brown (op.cit. this blog 1/11/06): John McInnis relates that the letters and trips out west were influential and influenced Lovecrafts stories. HPL was nostalgic for his pre-1904 days.

2 A wonderful site with a lot of background of HPL's early days. http://www.yankeeclassic.com/miskatonic/dliterature/

The Meteorite in Colour Out of Space

Greetings fellow bloggers. Your response, while not always public, has been wonderful to this blog. Many of you are sending me information and articles for future posting. Thanks! I hope you like the word of the day feature. A dear friend suggested it!

The Colour Out of Space is one of my favorite Lovecraft stories. It is filled with chemistry, astronomy, neat nineteenth century geeky gadgets, and is one weird tale!

It was written in March 1927, but describes the events of June 1882 and following.

I have looked for a number of years, but I've not been able to find a New England meteorite of June 1882 to fit the story. Maybe one of you can post some information?

There was one at Stevens Point, Wisconsin on Saturday, March 18, 1882 "An immense meteortie fell about fifty miles southeast of Fort Assinaboine, Arizona, on the night of the 10th ... its glare lighting the country for many miles around. Four minutes after striking the earth the report was heard ... sounding like the discharge of a heavy-gun, and the earth was perceptibly shaken."

However, John McEnnis [1, p.89] believes the model that impressed HPL was the Willamette, Oregon event of 1902. The full scientific article can be found here.

"This ... meteorite ... was found ... in the autumn of 1902. The region ... is a series of hills ... steeply sloping sides cut into by streamlets flowing into the Willamette ... wild ... covered by a primeval forest of pines and birch, little visited and largely inaccessible. Here, on the spur of the hill ... lay the great iron mass, lightly buried in soil and the carpet of accumulated vegetable debris. In the valley, half a mile away, there lives with his family, a humble, intelligent Weishman, Mr. Ellis Hughes ... dug and found its great dimensions; also that it was iron. .... For some months they kept the find a secret ... {until} Mr. Hughes conceived the idea of bringing the great iron mass to his house, a distance of nearly three-fourths of a mile. This seemed an almost impossible task, he having only his son of 15 years and a small horse ... but he was an old miner, full of mechanical resources, and also full of pluck and energy. With infinite pains he fashioned a simple capstan with chain to anchor it, and a long braided wire rope to roll up on it, as his horse traveled around it as a winch. Then he fashioned an ingenious car with log body-timbers and sections of tree trunks as wheels; also some heavy-double-sheaved pulleys. By wearisome blocking-up and leverage he succeeded in capsizing the great mass directly upon the car and lashing it securely...

McInnis explains that the meteorite ended up at one of Lovecraft's favorite places, the American Museum of Natural History in New York. If time permits, tomorrow we'll blog together on other autobiographical elements in CooS.

[1] Books At Brown, 1991-1992, Vol. XXXVIII-XXXIX, pp. 67-100. McInnis deconstructs CooS as a model to understand HPL's feelings toward his father and grandfather.
[2] THE WILLAMETTE METEORITE, HENRY A. WARD: Proceedings of the Rochester Academy or Science VOL. 4, PP. 137—148, MARCH 24, 1904.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Lovecraftiana: G P Serviss & Nova Persei

I was re-reading Beyond the Wall of Sleep [1] yesterday. I smiled as I read the Lovecraftian vocabulary with the likes of "terraqueous" and "matutinal aberrations". HPL is at his pure elitist worst when he mentions the "white trash" of the Catskills [2]. I shook my head at the names of the rustics and allusions to racial degeneracy. Slater (or Slaader) lives next door to a neighbor named Slader! Like the old ethnic joke about Kentucky (my state): three million people, five last names.

However, today, let's discuss Nova Persei. The picture below was taken recently by the Palomar Observatory. Lovecraft enjoyed placing real astronomical events in his stories in order to give them a cosmic relevance. Somewhere out there, a conflict raged between ancient races, much the same as HPL's beloved Teutons battled the even more loved British in The War to End All Wars. As usual, we find a man of science and good breeding is contrasted with an oaf of a man. Slater is anhilated, but the sientist is rewarded with a transcendental translation to the outer realms.

HPL cribbed a large section of the story from his Astronomy [3] text. The passage [4] reads:

I will quote the following account of the star Nova Persei verbatim from the pages of that eminent astronomical authority, Professor Garrett P. Serviss: "On February 22, 1901, a marvelous new star was discovered by Doctor Anderson of Edinburgh, not very far from Algol. No star had been visible at that point before. Within twenty-four hours the stranger had become so bright that it outshone Capella. In a week or two it had visibly faded, and in the course of a few months it was hardly discernible with the naked eye."

Garrett Putnam Serviss was a scientifiction writer and scientist. HPL was a huge fan, and said so as early as 1914, " I have read every published work by Garrett P. Serviss, own most of them, and await his future writings with eagerness...". Please, Lovecraft fans, read the entire letter. [5 ]

It is interesting that this spectacular event also caught the imagination of Charles Fort in one of his books. He wrote much of it and the dust associated with its appearance. HPL was not influenced by Fort, and did not read the book Lo! until years later [6].

[7] Star after star has appeared, as a minute point, or as a magnificent sight in the heavens, and the professional astronomers have been unobservatory ... Night of Feb. 22nd -- and ... looked up at the constellation Perseus ... It was a magnificent new star ... a splendor that scintillated over stupidity -- not a professional, at any of this earth's Observatories, knew of this spectacle, until informed by Dr. Anderson. Usually it is said that Dr. Anderson discovered this star, but his claim has been contested. In Russia, it was recorded that, nine hours earlier ... the new star had been discovered by Andreas Borisiak, of Kieff. Andreas was a schoolboy. Before the discovery of this new star in Perseus, or Nova Persei, there had been appearances like volcanic phenomena, unattributable, however, to any volcano of this earth. ... deep-greenish-yellow clouds, ... Upon the 16th, a black substance fell from the sky, in Michigan ... At Naples, three persons were found to have frozen to death, night of the 13th ... a red substance fell with snow, near Mildenhall ... It may have been functionally transmitted organic matter. "Pigeons seemed to feed upon it."

The entity that was trapped in Slater's body is loosed to seek vengeance upon another race near Algol, the demon star. So this nova (and one ignores that light travels only so fast - HPL had not come to grips with Einstein - but more on that some other day) explodes heralding a new war. This is a true Mythos story of elder races at war, but one not always lumped into the Cthulhu continuum.

I hope you get a chance to reread it soon, too. If so post your comments!
[1] Lovecraft wrote BtWoS in the Spring of 1919 and had it published in Pine Cones in the Ocober 1919 issue.
[2] HPL had just read "How Our State Police Have Spurred Their Way to Fame" by F.F. Van de Water, New York Tribune (27 April 1919); Sec. VII, pp.2-3. {in H. P. Lovecraft: Letters to Alfred Galpin, Joshi & Schultz, 2003, p. 92. He reports this to the Galomo in the April 1919 circular.
[3] Astronomy with the Naked Eye, 1908, a book Lovecraft used and cherished.
[4] Joshi confirms that Lovecraft cribbed Serviss' account from his astronomy book in An H.P. Lovecraft Encyclopedia, Joshi & Schultz, 2001, p.19
[5] http://www.erbzine.com/mag11/1137.html
[6] HPL letter to Wandrei April 27, 1931 . Mysteries of Time and Space, Joshi & Schultz
[7] Charles Fort, Lo! Third book in a series of odd events, published in 1931.

Lovecraft Despairs

I know many of you are writers. It is a frustrating profession, and Lovecraft felt the stress.

[To Wandrei, November 27, 1931, p, 291 in MTS] Dear Melmoth: ... I have ... done some experimenting in the hope of improving my style somewhat, & the result of such practice may soon take the form as a kind of a story called "The Shaodow over Innsmouth". The experimenting consisted of writing out the same plot in different manners, but is ending rather negatively - with four versions torn up & the fifth taking form in about the same waythat it would have if I hadn't experimented at all. My stuff does not satisfy me ..."

[To Wandrei, October 19, 1932, p. 313, 314 in MTS] Hail, Melmoth! ... Belknap read my "Shadow Over Innsmouth" & thought it shewed {sic} a decline in the old man's powers. Between that opinion & Comte d'Erlette's {August Derleth} annihilation of "Witch's House", I'm about ready to fade from the map."

Well fellow writers, Mr. Lovecraft recovered and continued to write. Somedays, that's all we can do: Write and pray to the muse.

[MTS] Mysetries of Time and Space: The Letters of H. P. Lovecraft and Donald Wandrei, ed. Joshi & Schultz, 2002, isbn 1892389495

Sunday, January 08, 2006

This little community is growing and I'm excited about delving into the many unique aspects of Mr. Lovecraft. Like a jewel, it glitters differently depending on the angle one views it.

J. T. O'Connor writes frequently of HPL and the Mythos perspective. I'm delighted to be able to share this essay.

H.P. Lovecraft was the bridge between traditional horror and modern horror. Traditional horror, with few exceptions, was concerned with werewolves, vampires, ghosts and creatures from myth. Even Arthur Machen's "little people" horrors were based on his interpretation of Welsh and Irish mythology.

Lovecraft was the first writer of horror to actually put forth a "scientific" explanation for the horrors and creatures in his works. The famous "creatures of black magic who were cast out" quote was from August Derleth, not Lovecraft, but it aptly, if somewhat simplistically, explains Lovecraft's concepts.

Eons ago, there was a war between two groups of beings, the Great Old Ones and the Elder Gods. Neither was a creature even remotely related to man. The Elder Gods won, but since neither group could be "killed", the Elder Gods imprisoned the Great Old Ones in various places throughout our universe, and in some spaces between our spaces. What is imprisoned can be freed, and the Great Old Ones are no exception. When the "stars are right", Cthulhu, or other Great Old Ones can be freed, but only by an outside source. It's for that reason that Cthulhu contacts human beings through dreams, hoping that one of them will help free him when R'Lyeh rises above the waves. There are also nonhuman servants of the Great Old Ones who exist on our plane, and can be bad news for humans who become involved with them. These include the "fish men" of Innsmouth, the Sand Dwellers and several others, although most of them have been created by the followers of Lovecraft, not by Lovecraft himself.

The concepts are far wider than this essay, and have influenced many other writers to "borrow" Lovecraft's concepts for their own writing. First, of course, was August Derleth, the founder of Arkham House, and the single most important person to preserve the writing of Lovecraft. Other writers who started with Lovecraftian works are Ramsey Campbell, Brian Lumley, Lin Carter, Robert Bloch and a host of much more minor writers, including the poor weirdo writing this essay. The influence of Lovecraft appears in the tales of every writer, whether that writer acknowledges it or not. Even Stephen King has used 'Lovecraftian mentions' in most of his stories. Lovecraft's influence will undoubtedly be felt for many years to come.

About the Author: J.T. O'Connor is the co author of The Coming Of T'Loal (Layne Books, 2004)a trained musician with two recording credits Tone Poems...That Sometimes Rhyme (Sacred Chao Records, 2000) and Fary Ring (Sacred Chao Records, 2001). His current project is another mythos tale called Opening the way.

You can contact him at bandofmisfits@woh.rr.com with JTOC in the subject line.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Leavenworth, Indiana

Here I was, casually gawking at the sites of a small Hoosier town and what do I espy? It seems that a former resident of Innsmouth had migrated to the midwest! We greeted each other, but he was bit standoffish.

Actually, last Fall we were at the Overlook Restaurant. Some local artist had made this sculpture of tin or brass. I had to have my picture taken. :)

I've been contemplating the froggish folks of Innsmouth and T. Peter Park's Lincoln Legend lately - a very serious issue. I just made the connection today as I went through my digital photos. Someone else had an active imagination, or at least a whimsical moment in the studio. I have no information on this.

However, I do recommend the dining at the restaurant, and the view.

*From Shadow Over Innsmouth:

...The patterns all hinted of remote secrets and unimaginable abysses in time and space, and the monotonously aquatic nature of the reliefs became almost sinister. Among these reliefs were fabulous monsters of abhorrent grotesqueness and malignity - half ichthyic and half batrachian in suggestion - which one could not dissociate from a certain haunting and uncomfortable sense of pseudomemory, as if they called up some image from deep cells and tissues whose retentive functions are wholly primal and awesomely ancestral. At times I fancied that every contour of these blasphemous fish-frogs was over-flowing with the ultimate quintessence of unknown and inhuman evil.


"Wal, Sir, Matt he says the natives ... sported bracelets an' armlets an' head rigs made aout o' a queer kind o' gold an' covered with picters o' monsters jest like the ones carved over the ruins on the little island - sorter fish-like frogs or froglike fishes that was drawed in all kinds o' positions likes they was human bein's. ... Wal, Sir, Obed he 'lart that they's things on this arth as most folks never heerd about - an' wouldn't believe ef they did hear. lt seems these Kanakys was sacrificin' heaps o' their young men an' maidens to some kind o' god-things that lived under the sea, an' gittin' all kinds o' favour in return. They met the things on the little islet with the queer ruins, an' it seems them awful picters o' frog-fish monsters was supposed to be picters o' these things. Mebbe they was the kind o' critters as got all the mermaid stories an' sech started."
They were the blasphemous fish-frogs of the nameless design - living and horrible - and as I saw them I knew also of what that humped, tiaraed priest in the black church basement had fearsomely reminded me.

Lovecraftiana: Shadow Out of Time - Revelations!

So, you think you've read Shadow Out of Time, eh? Maybe. Maybe not.

In May 1934, after a period of frustration and depression, HPL got a thought for a new story [1, p.10] "I'm ... planning a novellette of the Arkham cycle ... when somebody inherited a queer old house on the top of Frenchman's Hill ... an urge to dig in a certain ... abandoned graveyard ... [but this will be] ... scientifiction."

He got to work [1, p.10,11] and scribbled with pencil between Nov. 10, 1934 and Feb. 22, 1935. He went through two or three drafts, no one is sure.

Lovecraft circulated the scrawled story to his writer circle. Perhaps because it was virtually illegible, the gang thought it lackluster. He carried it down to R. H. Barlow who stayed up nights secretly typing it. Then he sprung the typed copy on "Grandpa" who nearly had a spell he was so overwhelmed by Barlow's firendship.

This copy - unbeknownst to anyone - had many typos and errors. HPL then carried that typed manuscript back with him, and Barlow kept the autograph.

Don Wandrei nabbed the typed copy from Lovecraft and got it into the hands of F. Orlin Tremaine of Astounding Stories and the story was published.

When HPL read the published copy he went apoplectic. Everything was wrong. Paragraphs were screwed up, words capitalized, and the list went on. He took his pencil and corrected the copy in the 'zine. However, his memory was quite faulty. He reproduced yet another version.

Later, when Wandrei and Derleth decided to publish SooT, they took HPL's corrected copy of Astounding and used it. Barlow tucked his autograph copy away never to be seen again until Jan. 17, 1995. That story will have to wait another blog entry.

If you have, like I do, the Del Rey [2] text, it is quite different. However, the imdomintable Mr. Joshi published the Barlow edition in Hippocampus Press in 2001. This text was used by Penguin [3] in their version, including many of the end notes of the Hippocampus edition.

I want to give you an example of what happened between Derleth's copy and Barlow's autograph.

The Del Rey edition has:

"I am the son of Jonathan and Hannah (Wingate) Peaslee, both of wholesome old Haverhill stock. I was born and reared in Haverhill - at the old homestead in Boardman Street near Golden Hill - and did not go to Arkham till I entered Miskatonic University as instructor of political economy in 1895.
"For thirteen years more my life ran smoothly and happily. I married Alice Keezar of Haverhill in 1896, and my three children, Robert, Wingate and Hannah were born in 1898, 1900, and 1903, respectively. In 1898 I became an associate professor, and in 1902 a full professor. At no time had I the least interest in either occultism or abnormal psychology."

HPL's autograph has this as one paragraph. Barlow's lacuna* is replaced here:

I am the son of Jonathan and Hannah (Wingate) Peaslee, both of wholesome old Haverhill stock. I was born and reared in Haverhill - at the old homestead in Boardman Street near Golden Hill - and did not go to Arkham till I entered Miskatonic University at the age of eighteen. That was in 1889, After my graduation I studied economics at Harvard, and came back to Miskatonic as instructor of political economy in 1895. For thirteen years more my life ran smoothly and happily. I married Alice Keezar of Haverhill in 1896, and my three children, Robert K. , Wingate and Hannah, were born in 1898, 1900, and 1903, respectively. In 1898 I became an associate professor, and in 1902 a full professor. At no time had I the least interest in either occultism or abnormal psychology."

So, there you have it! There are perhaps 5 or more drafts of this incredible story. As a writer, I understand the painful process of creating, drafting, editing, and rewriting stories. It is tedious, and the writer wants to always make it better. I find this process important. In an earlier blog, I alluded to multiple drafts of The Beast In The Cave. Soon, I will explore my redactive analysis of this early, but pivotal story.

*scribal omission usually due to identical words in the same passage. The eye sees one, and then glances away and back at the text and picks up at the next word omitting the text in between.

1. The Shadow Out of Time, ed. Joshi & Schultz, Hippocampus, 2001, isbn 0967321530.
2. The Best of H. P. Lovecraft: Bloodcurdling Tales of Horror and the Macabre, Del Rey, 1986, isbn 0345394688
3. H. P. Lovecraft: The Dreams in the Witchhouse and Other Weird Stories, ed. Joshi, Penguin, 2004, isbn 0142437956

Friday, January 06, 2006

The Coming of T'loal : New Edition

James Layne just let me know that this book is in a new edition. Great news!

See more HERE.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Lovecraft - in Love !

And I don't mean with Sonia. This is one of my favorite stories.

We start with the formidable An HPLovecraft Encyclopedia (Joshi and Schultz, isbn 0313375787) ...

"Sully, Helen V- (1904-1997), friend Of Clark Ashton Smith (daughter of Genevieve Sully, a married woman with whom Smith carried on a longtime affair) and correspondent of HPL ... visited HPL early July 1933; HPL also took her to Newport, R.I.; Newburyport, Mass.; and elsewhere.

"HPL told her an impromptu ghost story one night in the churchyard Of St. John's Episcopal Church, frightening her so badly that she ran from the cemetery.

"After Providence, she went to New York, where HPL's associates were captivated by her (Frank Belknap Long and Donald Wandrei threatened to fight a duel over her).

She began corresponding with HPL after her return to California. Some of HPL's replies suggest that Sully was despondent, perhaps even suicidal. He attempted to cheer her up by telling her his own situation was much worse but that he nevertheless found enough interest in life to continue.

"HPL's biographer L. Sprague de Camp interpreted these remarks as displaying HPL's own depressive and suicidal tendencies at the time, but such an interpretation seems wide of the mark."

Ah, Mr. Joshi and Mr. deCamp sapr once again! So we look at HP Lovecraft: A Biography, (L Sprague de Camp isbn1566199948) ...

"After Price and Cook came Morton for a brief stopover, and then a friend of Clark Ashton Smith, a very attractive young woman named Helen V. Sully, who was studying music.

"Helen Sully had met the Gang in New York, and the Longs drove her to Providence. To Smith, Lovecraft wrote of the "devastating havoc" she had created among them. To her he wrote later, apologizing for the unwelcome amorous propositions that some of them had made to her. He got her quarters in the nearby boarding house and took her on sight-seeing tours. He insisted on paying for everything, even the boarding-house bill. After an expedition to Newport:

'That night, after dinner, he took me to a graveyard associated with Poe.... It was dark, and he began to tell me strange, weird stories in a sepulchral tone and, despite the fact that I am a very matter-of-fact person, something about his manner, the darkness, and a sort of eerie light that seemed to hover over the gravestones got me so wrought up that I began to run out of the cemetery with rim close at my heels, with the one thought that I must get up to the street before he, or whatever it was, grabbed me. I reached a street lamp, trembling, panting, and almost in tears, and he had the strangest look on his face, almost of triumph. Nothing was said.'

"It would hardly seem to most single men that the way to entertain a pretty girl was to lure her to a graveyard at night and scare the wits out of her. But Lovecraft was a highly original character."

Well, what hath Mr. Lovecraft to say for himself?

[The Letters of H. P. Lovecraft and Donald Wandrei p. 327 isbn 1892389495]
[letter # 1981 [HPL and Frank Belknap Long to Donald A Wandrei]
[Postmarked Onset, NIA, 25 July 1933]

Hail, Melmoth! Old M. III {Melmosth is a wanderer, after Wandrei's frequent habit of hitchhiking} manages to keep up his migratory reputation despite service at home as an amateur nurse. Spending 2-1/2days with the Soviet expedition which is investigating the economic & revolutionary potentialities of Onset.

Your late guest-the High-Priestess of Tsathoggua - departed safely for Gloucester Friday despite the ghouls of the hidden churchyard & the cuisine at Jake's.

My aunt's plaster cast was reduced in area Friday night, & she may be up on crutches by the end of this week.

I expect Mortonius (whom you have so basely neglected!) on the ancient hill shortly-about August 1-st. Wish you could come along & renew the antient {sic}triad of 1927!

May Yog- Sothoth bless thee-

Yr obt Grandsire Melmoth III

Greetings, 0 Donaldus! Parting from our gracious guest was bitter- sweet sorrow. She is a divine person, really. I shall drop in for a chat when I return Regards, Belknap

Front.- The Old Discarded Mill, Cape Cod, Mass.

{footnotes, fyi...}

1. See Helen V. Sully, "Memories of Lovecraft: II": "After dinner, he took me into a graveyard associated with Poe… it was dark, and he began to tell me strange, weird stories in a sepulchral tone and, despite the fact that I am a very matter-of-fact person, something about his manner, the darkness, and a sort of eerie light that seemed to hover over the gravestones got me so wrought up that I began to run out of the cemetery with him close at my heels, with the one thought that I must get up to the street before he, or whatever it was, grabbed me. I reached a street lamp, trembling, panting, and almost in tears, and he had the strangest look on his face, almost of triumph. Nothing was said." (Lovecraft Remembered, p. 278.)

2. HPLs aunt Annie Gamwell broke her ankle shortly after taking up residence at 66 College Street.

Mr Lovecraft then says ...

[August 19, 1933 to Wandrei]

…I liked Miss Sully exceedingly – as, evidently, did all the several hosts along her route. She certainly does combine intelligence & prepossessing charms to a remarkable degree - & she appeared to appreciate the venerable antiquities of Providence and Newport more than is common with members of her iconoclastic generation.

[Nov 21, 1934, Wandrei and Sully to HPL from Auburn, CA]

Dear HPL – This is where my charming young hostess daily disappears- you must eventually include Auburn in your own Neo-Classical Odysseys. These ancient hills hold mysteries & riddles not lightly to be spoken of, and never to be fathomed. And the climate is of the magnificent variety which sedulously avoids dropping below the freezing point. Now westward and southward my wanderings continue.

Melmoth II.

But he's coming back again next week, which he neglects to mention. The California climate has been exceedinfly temperamental and barely avoids the freezing point. We all wish you were here also.


Wednesday, January 04, 2006

The Coming of T'Loal

I was delighted to see that my colleague James Layne and his co-author have taken this opportunity to create a new treasure in the Mythos continuum.

They'd like to let you know that the book relates the fearful tale of , "Two college friends who stumble onto an ancient religious cult with links to the present while assembling an exhibit for the Clay County Historical Society. Can Michael and Terry solve the mystery of the great T'Loal before the final battle? Or will the Great Old Ones and the Elder Gods engage in an interdimensional battle that will determine the fate of humanity?"

James W. Layne, Jr. is a member of my Lovecraft zoetrope office. He resides in Springfield, Ohio with his wife and two children. He writes and attends Urbana University as a full time student. He has been writing stories for personal entertainment for many years and decided to pursue writing as a career as an afterthought to a happy and fulfilling life. James is a Veteran of The United States Army, participating in Operation Desert Storm, Operation Poised Hammer, and Operation Provide Comfort. His fictional works include The Screenplay National Security, An Ultra Violent Techno-Thriller called Carnage, A Dozen Songs, a horror piece called The Land Beyond the Mirror, a collaborative effort with long time friend J.T. O'Connor titled The Coming of T'Loal and a couple of political satires. James’ non-fiction work is the self-help course "Square One" available by contacting him directly at screenwright@woh.rr.com.

His partner, J.T. O’Connor is a retired Air Force Master Sergeant who gave 34 years of service. He loves "classic" horror, meaning horror that depends on plot and characters, not blood, gore or superfluous sex. He has co-authored a novella based on H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu mythos. He is also a trained musician who has released two Cd’s –Tone Poems… That Sometimes Rhyme (2000, Sacred Chao Records) and Faery Ring (2001, Sacred Chao Records) Current projects include writing another mythos tale, practicing, and preparing for another music release with an experimental instrument called a Solene.

Check out this adventure.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Gorham Silver & Winfield Scott Lovecraft

Winfield Scott Lovecraft lived between 1853-1898. Originally from Rochester, NY and son of English emigrants who arrived about 1831, he later became a salesman with the Gorham & Company of Providence. [1,p.44] Like you, I've read of this many times. Then I came across this antique column article. [2]

"For centuries, smooth, polished silver was the metal favored for luxurious serving pieces. That changed by the mid-1870s, when Art Nouveau and Arts and Crafts metalsmiths began to make unusual and expensive pieces with a hammered surface that left marks, indicating the piece was hand-wrought.

"The Gorham Co. of Providence, R.I., made many hammered pieces as well as conventional silver pieces in older styles. Often the bowls had added 3-D raised decorations of silver, bronze or copper. Gilt was added to the interior, handles and decorations.

"By the 1880's, Gorham was producing a line of handmade copper pieces finished with a reddish-brown, natural copper color. Some silver decorations were added to the outside. By the 1890's, a handmade line made of high-grade silver called Marteli became popular. Its designs were decidedly Art Nouveau, with twisting vines, leaves and other flowing shapes.

"Collectors ignored all of these Gorham Pieces when Art Deco designs became Popular in the 1920s. It was not until the 1980's that the pieces were again noticed by serious collectors and prices began to rise.

"(This mixed-metal soap dish sold for $LO35 at auction in Fairfield, Maine.)"

1. Books at Brown: 1991-1992: Volumes XXXVIII-XXXIX, "Lovecraft's Parental Heritage," Kenneth W. Faig, Jr, pp. 43-65.
2. Unfortunately, I've lost the reference to this article, but it appeared in 2005 in the Louisville Courier-Journal.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Lovecraft's New York Crisis

My original essay previously published on www.horrorlibrary.net

A Glimpse of Greatness in The Midst of Crisis: HP Lovecraft's He.


Deep in his mid-30's, Lovecraft's dream was to be a poet and he believed that New York would free his muse to greatness. As it turned out, The Big Apple of the roaring 20's did not agree with HPL. Instead of being inspired, the grand metropolis took his narrow small city ideals and his old fashioned bigoted beliefs and crushed them.

For a time, Lovecraft felt free. He'd learned to live life without his mother who passed in 1921. He'd met and then married Sonia Greene in 1924. For a time, Lovecraft settled into a life in New York, but tensions built.

For one thing, he could not find a job - or perhaps didn't want one. Sonia was pulling down about $10,000 a year which was five times the typical salary of an average family in America [2,p. xii]. He ignored many opportunites and in March 1924 turned down an opportunity to go to Chicago and edit a Weird Tales correlary. He relates, "Henneberger ... has in mind a new magazine ... 'right in my line', and he wants to know if I would consider moving to Chicago to edit it! My gawd, Pete, bring the stretcher! It may be a fliver, but S.H. [Sonia] is urging me to take it up if it definitely materialises [sic] ... She would be willing to move at any time, for the milinery world of Chicago...". In the same breath, Lovecraft decides, "such a break from the Colonial scenes would be a little short of tragic; and big though the proposition would be ... I would not consent ...". That was basically that. [2, p.47.]

Things turned bad after Sonia opened up a store of her own which failed. She left him and moved to Cincinnatti. After his marriage broke up and the opportunities for employment in New York dried up, Lovecraft grew increasingly hostile to the city.

As the year 1925 ground into summer, Lovecraft slowly hunkered down into a cheap flat and struggled to spread out his meager income. He refused to go home to Providence in defeat, yet he was close to starvation. He wrote little. Those two years in New York would produce only five stories [2, p. xiv] and little poetry.

In July 1925, Lovecraft turned in his editorial resignation in United Amateur Vol. 24, No.1. "...the present editor [Lovecraft] is doubtless as much to blame as anybody else [the the organization is failing]. It is true [he dissembles] that a multiplicity of outside duties have drained his head, hand, and schedule of nearly available time and energy ... he ought to retire and make room for younger blood." [9, p. 354, 355]

How far HPL's dreams had tarnished.

When he had first spied New York, he had waxed poetically, “Out of the waters it rose at twilight; cold, proud, beautiful; an Eastern city of wonder whose brothers the mountains are. It was not like any city of earth, for above purple mists rose towers, spires and pyramids which one may only dream of in opiate lands beyond the Oxus...” [4, p.169].

Lovecraft actually reproduces this portrait in his short story He. “Coming for the first time upon the town, I had seen it in the sunset from a bridge, majestic … its incredible peaks and pyramids … pools of violet mist to play with the flaming clouds .. redolent of faery music, and one with the marvels of Carcassone and Samarcand and El Dorado…”. [1, p. 119]

This is, in fact, amazingly the same as what his acquaintance, the poet Hart Crane, said in a letter of his own, "I am living in the shadow of that bridge ... There is all the glorious dance of the river directly beyond the back window ... the ships, the harbor, the skyline of Manhattan ... it is everything from mountains to the walls of Jerusalem and Nineveh ..." [5]

Long afterwards, HPL wrote to Donald Wandrei of his New York crisis [3, p.33ff], “If you want to know what I think of New York, read, “He” ... I had to get out of town to the quiet shades of a New Jersey village in order to put it in coherent words. No – New York is dead & the brillancy which so impresses one from outside is the phosphoresence of a maggoty corpse. There can be no normal American life or thought in a town so full of twisted ratlike vermin from the ghetto & steerage of yesterday – a town where for block on block one can walk without seeing ... the Nordic, Anglo-American stream of civilisation [sic] ... it is ... the sort of stinking, amorphous hybridism which Juvenal noted.”

This mirrors his text in He, “...[New York] is in fact quite dead, its sprawling body imperfectly embalmed and infested with queer animate things ..”.

Lovecraft was an elitist, perhaps even a racist, and loathed the melting pot of the city. Yet, the events and circumstances of his New York collapse isn't so simple. After all, he'd married Sonia, and his best friend was Sam Loveman, both Jewish. Loveman, Crane and his later friend Robert Barlow were homosexual. [6] Lovecraft had no problem associating with them, yet still maintained his anathema to strangers who did not meet his elitist criteria. Most notorious were his attacks on T. S. Elliot's Waste Land [4, p.181,182] and later William Faulkner [7 ,p.362].

His attempt to control what people saw and thought of him was lifelong. Frank Long declared that Lovecraft never uttered a racial remark during their frequent visits and walks. [2, p. xv]. Loveman was stunned to find out about HPL's bigotry when he learned of it from Sonia after Lovecraft's death. Yet, on January 11, 1926 Lovecraft wrote this to Aunt Lillian, "Most frankly peasant stocks are moronic en masse & injudicious immigration priveleges have brought about the deplorable condition here ..". [2, p. 267.] As late as 1936, Lovecraft maintained these attitudes. [7 ,p.361]

Should we be sympathetic to genius? Compare Lovecraft’s bitterness to another artist in a different field, George Gerswin, who flourished in the town. His popular song, Swanee, was a hit sung by Al Jolson. He followed that with Lady Be Good! starring Fred and Adele Astaire. On February 12, 1924, Rhapsody in Blue was placed near the end of a program put on by the then phenomenal Paul Whiteman. The score was like nothing before. Gershwin went on to his magnum opus, the opera Porgy and Bess. There could not be two different responses to the same environment, the same city.


To fathom Lovecraft'ss depression, and his amazing rebound a few years later, consider this passage from He [1, 119]. "My coming to New York had been a mistake ... the Cyclopean modern towers and pinnacles that rise blackly Babylonian under waning moons, I had found ... a sense of horror and oppression which threatened to master, paralyse [sic], and annihilate me … So instead of the poems I had hoped for, there came only a shuddering blackness and ineffable loneliness…”.

Lovecraft was a dreamer and had lived in a secluded fantasy world of his own making from childhood. He wanted to be surrounded by antiquarian architecture and fancied himself an aristocrat of leisure. He certainly played at the part. Instead of poking fun at him, his brilliant and friendly banter usually won his acquaintances over. His affectations were endearing down to his 20 year old suits and ratty bathrobes.

Still, something was taking place in his fevered brain during this period. His writing of the earlier period was filled first with Poe and then Dunsany – he was not his own man yet. Bungling his way from job to job and walking through the poorest parts of the city into the wee hours of the night, he thought. He pondered. He created. He wrestled with ideas. He visited museums. He read for hours at the Library. He met Houdini and other notables. He read new horror stories and studied weird mythology anew.

He had become a fan of Nietsche in 1918 [7, p.97]. He stated in 1921, "Frederich Nietsche ... [has] perfected my cynicism; a quality which grows more intense ..." [7, p. 130]. A few years later - based on Nietsche - he declared, "I believe in an aristocracy, because I deem it the only agency for the creation of those refinements which make life endurable.." [7, p. 183].

His mind desperately wanted to see the world through Anglo-Saxon rose-tinted glasses, and his anger welled that the nostalgic antiquarian days were over. So, too, was his childhood days of comfort. He missed his Grandfather and that era. As such, he usually called himself “Grandpa” and “Theobald” [3, p.170] and made up pet names for his pen pals because that was the way it was – or the way he recalled - back in the days of comfort under the protection of his grandfather Philips.

Boiling mad at New York, he lashed out with The Horror at Red Hook. Described by HPL, it is a story of “hellish happenings amongst mongrel Satan worshipers that lurk in a slum district of Brooklyn, betwixt Clinton St. & the waterfront.” [2, p. 160]. It told a tale of an heroic Irish New York detective. It is filled with demonology, slant-eyed Asians and Kurds who practice a blend of the worship of Lilith, Satan, Moloch and satyrs. [4, 240,241]. Sociologists would find it hard to believe that segregated racial and ethnic groups freely associated, much less practiced a hybrid blend of kabaalism and witchcraft.

While this scenario is as far from real life New York as one could get, more spectacular is that the story evolved over a trivial incident in Lovecraft's life.

Sonia reported that one evening, a band of ruffians invaded a restaurant and upset Lovecraft. [4, 240]. That small thing set him off on a tirade. “Red Hook is a maze of hybrid squallor ... the population is a hopeless tangle and enigma; Syrian, Spanish, Italian, and negro elements ... a babel of sound and filth ... strange cries to answer the lapping of oily waves at its grimy piers ...”. The Horror at Red Hook is more a primal scream than a story.


Though he wrote of modern New York in The Horror at Red Hook , Lovecraft really had ancient New Amsterdam on his mind. He reported in a letter of August 6, 1925 to his Aunt Lillian that the main feature of The Horror at Red Hook was: “A gentleman of ancient Dutch family in Flatbush, goes down among these folk & becomes their leader in terrible rites – after which he meets a loathsome end.” [2, p.160].

Lovecraft's enormous mind stored and recycled events in his life and colored them horrific. On his 34th birthday, August 20, 1924, HPL told his Aunt Lillian about a walk he had with Sonia through Greenwich village. [2, p.60] He relates that Sonia noticed a small opening between two business fronts, and they squeezed through to an antiquarian world. The triangular court with flagstone walks, a giant urn and greenery, had lots of colonial doorways.

He was in antiquarian Heaven. The best was to come.

They met “a neighboring loafer of weatherbeaten face and inconguously good speech”. [2, p.60] They fell into “a conversation with the chrysotomic gentleman of leisure” and “learned much of local history”. The man took them though more twists to a “little lost world of a century and a quarter ago”. He speculated about “what awesome images ... suggested by the existence of secret cities within cities! Beholding this ingulp'd and search-defying fragment of yesterday, the active imagination conjures up endless weird possibilities – ancient and unremember'd towns still living in decay ... sometimes sending forth at twilight strains of ghostly music”.

It took a year of incubation, but the cordial tour guide transmogrified in He. [1, p.120] “On a sleepless night's walk, I met the man. It was in a grotesque hidden courtyard of the Greenwich section ... the archaic lanes and houses and unexpected bits of square and court had indeed delighted me.”


Lovecraft had a secret retreat. On the night of August 10, he jumped a ferry, went to New Jersey, rode a train and wandered an obscure place he often misnamed Elizabethtown. [1, p. 388]

As day broke and shops opened, he bought a little notebook and sat in a little park in Elizabeth, N.J. And penned most of the story of He in one setting. [1. p.388-390] Surrounded by relaxing antiquarianism, he gazed at the Georgian relics and thought of Providence, R.I. It would not take many more months for him to return to his hometown and exhale "I am Providence" [7, p.236] and generate a veritable pent up explosion as he rushed to write classics such as Call of Cthulhu, Pickman's Model and The Silver Key.

This day, however, he was still depressed and in transition. Glimmers of the future can be gleaned from He. Already his idea of cosmicism was deeply thought through. He'd pondered Einstein's theory. Special relativity produced. "... can you do that for anytime? ... Far? What I have seen would blast ye to a mad statue of stone. Back, back – forward, forward ...”. [1, p.126,7]

An atheist from his youth, despite his family's Baptist leanings, Lovecraft embraced some peculiar ideas. He'd desperately wanted to be a chemist, then an astronomer, but illness and apathy doomed this. But his entire life he embraced the branches of science. He was an early advocate of continental drift – decades before it was accepted in the 1960's, so thus was born his Lemurian-type continent of R'lyeh. And while not exactly a Darwinian, he certainly ridiculed the Scope trial [2, 149,150]. He was more concerned with a spicy brand of social darwinism, and that sense of devolution started back in 1904 with The Beast in the Cave and certainly that philosophy bore fruit in New York.

Lovecraft's amalgam of belief in Western and Anglo-Saxon superiority, his paranoia, quantum mechanics, rejection of classic myths for nihilism, and a layer of social darwinism formed a hodge-podge that came out with a startling new style of weird and "scienti-fiction".

No one had yet seen its like. It was hard to classify, but his teenage fans adored it. He shows a new twist on this.

A few months previous, he'd worked hard on a small project [2, p. 53] and wrote three chapters on American superstition. That was when he was introduced to a pivotal book: “The Witch Cult in Western Europe” by Margaret Alice Murray. While her theory has since been discredited (though some feel this book lay the ground work for modern Wiccan belief [10, p. 90]) it played a profound influence on HPL for years to come. The Shunned House, Dunwich Horror, and Strange Case of Charles Dexter Ward all sprung upon unsuspecting fans later, but we see both witchy things and antiquarianism blended in the coloquial language and spooky goings on in He.

Harlan Ellison says, "To see the cosmos through his eyes was scary." [8, p.x] Yet, while horrible things happen to people in Lovecraft's stories, the horror usually transmogrifies – or translates to a new plane – individuals. If the protagonist is erudite and artistic, clever and well read, holds fast to quantum nihilism, that person raises to a higher level as if engaged in some bloody multidimensional chess match.

This happened in Pickman's Model for we later see Pickman in some later stories. Randolph Carter – Lovecraft's pseudonymn – was the highest elevated of all, often seen transcending space and time – and evolution. It is clearly the case in He.

It is not that the old man in He has merely killed a few Indians and dabbled in witchcraft – no! He has soiled himself by rising above his means. The old squire, long gone ahead to a new plane of existence, had transcended. Like animals with instincts keen, the Indians knew that the old man was a poseur. The observer, Lovecraft of course, endured, though injured, and yet he escaped and dragged his broken body off to write another day. So, who was the winner in this horror story? Lovecraft, the intelligent and prepared.

As a want-to-be scientist, Lovecraft always knew that experimentation was risky. As a kid, he'd nearly burned fingers off with his chemistry kit. Magic was no different. But preparation was everything. To survive through to the otherside, one had to be cultured, refined, and knowlegable.

Death was literally nothing to Lovecraft – just cold and rotting in the grave. His thought was that through horror came immortality – in Hell or not, one could not say in his stories – but the plane of existence on the other side certainly existed in a different set of physical reality. On that plane, the old myths and petty gods like Zeus, Jehovah or Allah were bit players.

HPL had not yet thought through all of the elder gods that he playfully created and later exchanged with Robert Bloch, August Derleth, R.E. Howard and Clark Ashton Smith. He hadn't yet snickered over all of the made up books of elder majick, but with He he took a solid step forward.

In the end, Lovecraft crawled off to ponder on magic which had taken the old man "whither he has gone, I do not know". That magic would take Lovecraft [1, p.129] "home to the pure New England lanes up which fragrant sea-winds sweep at evening."


1. H.P.Lovecraft, The Call of Cthulhu, ed. S.T. Joshi, 1999, Penguin Books, NY, isbn 0141182342
2. H.P. Lovecraft, Letters From New York, ed. S.T. Joshi and David E. Scultz, 2005, Night Shade Books, isbn 1892389371
3. Mysteries of Time and Spirit: The Letters of H.P.Lovecraft and Donald Wandrei, ed. S.T. Joshi and David E. Schultz, 2002, Night Shade Books, isbn1892389495
4. H.P.Lovecraft: A Biography, L. Sprague de Camp, 1975. 1996, Barnes and Noble, isbn 1566199948
5. Tom Robbins, http://www.brns.com/pages3/hartcrane.html
6. James Russell http://members.fortunecity.com/moderan/nonfic/20thgothic4.html
7. H.P. Lovecraft In His Time: A Dreamer and a Visionary, S.T. Joshi, 2001, Liverpool University Press, isbn 0853239460.
8. Terrifying Tales by H.P. Lovecraft: Shadows of Death, Introduction by Harlan Ellison, 2005, Arkhma House Publishers & DelRey, isbn 0345483332.
9. Collected Essays, Volume 1: Amateur Journalism, H. P. Lovecraft, ed. S.T. Joshi, 2004, Hipocampus Press. isbn 0972164413.
10. Not in Kansas Anymore: A Curious Tale of How Magic Is Transforming America, Christine Wicker, 2005, Harper Collins, isbn 0060726784.


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