Sunday, April 30, 2006

A "Mythos" story from Chrispy

[OK, this is an exclusive. Placed here rather than my usual story home at HLnet. This may not be evryone's cup of tea, and I took a little historical literary license, but .. it .. is ... for free, lol.]


The musician puffed a drag on his fag, the red ember glowing in the darkened lighting of the backstage.

"Put yer hands together for the hottest trumpeter this side of Harry James! Mis-ter Bill Jones!"

The dark-skinned man bounded on stage, his trumpet shining mirror-gold in the blistering spotlight. Jonesey's white shirt unbuttoned a third of the way down made a woman in the first row swoon. His orange coat loosely flowed long and loose in zoot-suit fashion, but he'd tailored his pants to emphasize his manhood provocatively.

Hot, hot as the summer heat outside, the crowd raged in the smoke-filled, jam-packed room. The jazz blew hot; women's blouses stained with perspiration. Men dripped sweat but refused to take their jackets off. Hoots and a few whistles spurred on the heated jam session, the drummers and other musicians following the lead of the center-attraction.

In the corner, Armstrong nodded, his head bobbed with each note's anticipation.

The white man next to Louie patted his foot to the same rhythm as his hand on the large man's shoulder. He leaned in, "Satchmo, the kids good."

"The thick lipped musician turned, said, "Told ya, Bing. Ya oughta put that boy in yer next pitcher."

"Yeah, daddy. Go, slick, go, play that cat! Make it wail!" der Bingle crooned to the stage.

The man, barely past his teens, was unaware of those celebrities. Instead, he had his eye on a pale Italian in the back with his moll. The girl, dressed in red sequins, showed her ample cleavage to any who dared, and the teen dared much.

Sweat poured down the face of the musician as the last notes exploded in a flourish. The break in the action finally began - it was time to 'take five'.

It was past a hundred degrees in the place and some people had already passed out. Despite prohibition the ice cold booze flowed like water from a 101-st street fire hydrant just jimmied by a street gang.

The set over for a while, the black trumpeter moved out to work the crowd, slipping skin to well-wishers, and as a subterfuge to meet the hot girl. The Italian man stood in a darkened corner pocketing some graft from a politician. When he turned, he was in no mood to see the dark man flirt with his girl.

The gangster tapped a broken-nose man. The mobster's muscle leaned hard on the kid, but becuse he was a kid, it was only a light warning to the kid. "And keep yer johnson in yer pants, boy, or them trumpet lips will be sliced off. Don't ferget what happened to Joe. E. Brown! Last – only - warning."

Hyper-apologetic the musician retreated, thankful that the mobster was a low-totem, low-key booze runner, and not someone high up. However, youth, being youth, the warning faded as the club smoked on into the night.

Past two, a gaunt man and his friend slipped into the club. His buddy thought the poet might like to see another side of New York, but the smoke filled, liquor-swilling scene disgusted the writer.

Over the cacophonous noise, the lantern-jawed visitor croaked to his writing buddy, "Out! Let us leave this domdaniel abyss, the abominations of the place are more horrific than that noxious lobster you had for supper."

Outside, bumping past a line of people of all shades of color and smell, the man brushed their grime from his ancient turn-of-the-century suit.

"Howard, you've got to get with it, daddy-o. This ain't Providence, and it's a new century."

"You are indeed perceptive, but if this is the world of today, I'll have none of it. Civility, even if only a few of us hold to its tenants, is all that shall keep this nation from slipping beneath the waves of immigrants. Heed the warning of long ago R'lyeh."

"Howie-baby, you need a dish of ice cream." The companion looked over the poet as they stood under a yellow-lit street light. Good God, man, it's a roasting hell out here, and you're barely sweating. Stay right over there, by the alley; stay out of trouble, and I'll bring us back some ice cream."

The poet stood, his Aryan blood disgusted at the groping, kissing and worse that he beheld up and down the shadowed street. Above, the haze of Manhattan pollution obliterated his beloved stars. Still, there was a gibbous moon. It shone a sick yellow, squint-eye over a cyclopean skyscraper.

His ears perked.

"Goddamn it! First you take a make on Big Al's girl, then ya want to try and screw my moll? Ya ain't wo'th bloodying my boys' knives! Horn blowing two-bits like youse but a dime-a-dozen. Still, I'll break a leg, you'll get some humility. Heal up, come crawling back, and we'll see how it goes. Take him, Chuckle Charlie."

The poet strolled casually to the fight scene in the dank alley.

"Gentlemen, please. This is no way to act in a civilized world. Though this musician is young, and foolish, it appears that his nature is not to be able to control his passions. You russians are no better. You have difficulty controlling your swarthy temper, being descended of those from the south of Etrusca. Still, violent outbursts are such atrocities. I appeal to your intellect – albeit you have little to appeal to considering the shape of your apish skulls."

Stunned by the erudite diction of the skinny, gawky man, Chuckle Charlie and his boss blinked. But not for long.

"Chuckle, slit that talking pompous ass's throat, then let's get back to business."

The glint of switchblade steel in weak moonlight made the Rhode Island native raise an eyebrow. He followed that with the barest rise of a hand, and a slight whisper of some archaic phrase.

Charging like a bull, the towering punk - Chuckle Charlie - took several fast steps to the poet, but tripped half-way there over a ropy thing in the alley. The tendril, tough as an oak tree root, gripped the ankle of the man snapping it; provoking a scream.

Another thick cord slithered from a sewer grate, followed by others. Soon the Hercules of crime was but a bloody pulp of a thing, organs oozing from his ripped-up body. The mobster-boss trembled at the horror when he should have fled. Too late, he realized his mistake as a thing with leather wings sunk talons deep into the man's shoulders. Like a great monstrous eagle, the thing swooped toward the building tops with the mobster's cries of terror becoming fainter as the demon took him to a devil's Hell.

"Young man, you are quite lucky I came along when I did. I cannot approve of your perversions, but I pray you learn from this experience. I detected some modicum of talent, well hidden in your harlequin grotesquerie you call music, so perhaps you will seek a different patron than some swarthy don. If so, you may yet become useful to society. Now leave, lest some subterranean ooze take you away, also."

The dark man staggered, stopped long enough to hurl his stomach contents, then stumbled back into the back door of the club.

His subsequent life is unknown, but he never premiered on the silver screen, nor did he play the trumpet in a club afterwards. Some thought they saw a glimpse of him packing crates in Jersey, but it was only a rumor.

The return of Howard's friend with two bowls of ice cream brought a smile to the odd-jawed poet.

"I was worried about you." Lovecraft's pal said, "I probably should'nt have left you alone here. Did anything happen?"

"No, my young friend, it was but a typical night for me." He then slurped the frigid concoction.

(c) Chris Perridas, 2006

Best Regards, Chrispy

Saturday, April 29, 2006


(c) Chris Perridas, 2005

"The eldritch moon glinted horror over those unsuspecting." *

* Not HPL! That's Chrispy.

Nyarlathotep Part 13 Thoughts

By 1920, Lovecraft was deep into amateur journalism, had absorbed Lord Dunsany, chruned out hundreds of poems, and many stories. There was still a taint of Poe - and he would protest that he would always be obsessed by his hero - but his stories were very Lovecraftian.

He had not yet mastered his cosmic nihilism, and his admiration of Sam Loveman colored even his dreams. However, like a pointilist drawind, HPL took tiny snippets of his real and imagined life and made a montage with a moody background of horror. Like an impressionist, the horror was subtle.

If Jackson Pollack was akin to splatter punk, and Manet akin to an M. R. James ghost story, Lovecraft was Picasso. A bit here, a bit there, an eyeball out of place, or an arm on top of the head, it all came together at the end to shock.

I've tried to show below that every sentence had a touchstone in reality. However, the reality of Lovecraft's cloistered life was abstract to virtually everyone else. That abstraction added to the shock value.

Nyarlathotep was not just an Egyptian pharoah like Klarus, or Tesla, or an alien god stomping in our backyard, he was snippets of each put together into a horrible, uncaring, destroyer. Apocalypticism is uniquely American and here is Lovecraft's first exploration of it. Prior to this, individuals went mad facing the terror. This time, a whole town (Providence of course) was obliterated.

Stan Sargent has done the most recent masterful rendering of Nyarlathotep - an outstanding writer and knows HPL inside and out. But lest we stray too far afield, like a good canonical scholar, we must understand the writer of the original text before we put words in his mouth. There are as many flavors of Mythos as Baskin Robbins has ice cream - all delectably horrific, but sometimes one wants just plain vanilla Howard - still the best.

PS: Thannnk yoooou. More than 2000 reads from you. I know how many choices you have, thank you for making HPLblog one of them.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Nyarlathotep Part 12 The Moon

...that the shrieks of cities
might less horribly disturb the pale, pitying moon
as it glimmered on green waters
gliding under bridges,
and old steeples crumbling
against a sickly sky.

In 1528 a rimester published these lines:

Yf they saye the mone is belewe, {blue}
We must believe that it is true.

The next year "green cheese" entered the picture in the lines of another writer:

They woulde make men beleue ... {believe}
that ye Moone is made of grene cheese."

Apparently, there were two schools of thought back in the early sixteenth century--one maintaining that "ye Moone" was made of "grene" cheese, and the other stoutly affirming that it was "belewe."

These ancient humorists were just punsters with a taste for metaphor; for by "green cheese," it was not the color but the freshness that was referred to-- the moon, when full and just rising, resembling both in color and shape a newly pressed cheese.

By "blue cheese" the ancient reference was to a cheese that had become blue with mold, metaphorically transferred, probably, to the comparatively rare appearance of the moon on unusually clear nights when the entire surface of the moon is visible although no more than a thin edge is illuminated.

Thus, our phrase "once in a blue moon" may actually date back to the sixteenth-century saying that "the mone is belewe." [1]

--From: A Hog on Ice and Other Curious Expressions,
Charles Earle Funk [2], Harper, New York, 1948

1 In Chrispy's neck of the woods, a "blue moon" is meant to connote a rarity. The moon, cycling about every 29.5 days, rarely exhibits a full moon twice in a single month.

2 Funk was an incredible source of etymology.

Nyarlathotep Part 11 vintage illustration

I believe we felt something coming down from the greenish moon ...

Nyarlathotep Part 10 weather

Lovecraft usually brought some portion of his autobiographical life into play when he wrote his stories. The experiences often became abstracted beyond recognition.

inexplicable snows,
swept asunder
in one direction only,
where lay a gulf
all the blacker
for its glittering walls.

The column seemed very thin indeed
as it plodded dreamily into the gulf.

I lingered behind,
for the black rift
in the green-litten snow was frightful,
and I thought
I had heard
the reverberations of a disquieting wail
as my companions vanished;
but my power to linger was slight.

As if beckoned
by those who had gone before,
I half-floated between the titanic snowdrifts,
quivering and afraid,
into the sightless vortex of the unimaginable.

Was HPL remembering the previous record snowfall winter? Records of Providence weather are devilishly hard to locate, but the general New England snowfall was notable. Recall that Lovecraft was fatally allergic to freezing temperatures.

February 1, 1920 - a great anticyclone was over the northeastern United States. Northfield, VT had a high pressure reading of 31.14 inches (on the 31st) and Portland, ME had a reading of 31.09 inches which is the highest ever recorded at sea level in the United States. This caused cold temperatures with a reading of 45 degrees below zero at Pittsburg, NH. 3 days later, a snow and sleet storm paralyzed the region.

February 7, 1920 - a great 4 day snow and sleet storm came to an end over New England and southeastern New York. Accumulations of 15 to 20 inches of ice, sleet, and snow were common, stalling traffic for weeks.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Nyarlathotep Part 9 - the prequel

In the dream described to Kleiner (Kleicomo) of 21 may 1920, HPL syas, "The watchers on the banks screamed in horror - it has come - it has come at last! - & fled away tot eh deserted streets. But I ran toward the bridge instead of away; for I was more curious than afraid. When I reached it I saw hordes of terror-stricken people in hastily donned clothing fleeing across from the Providence side as from a city accursed by the gods."

I screamed aloud that I was not afraid, that I never could be afraid, and others screamed with me for solace. Nyarlathotep.

p. 188. Letters to Rheinheart Kleiner.

Nyarlathotep: Part 8 social upheaval

Since this is a prose poem, Chrispy has rearranged these sentences into free verse.

I do not recall distinctly when it began,
but it was months ago.

The general tension was horrible.

To a season of political and social upheaval
was added a strange and brooding apprehension
of hideous physical danger;
a danger widespread and all-embracing,
such a danger as may be imagined
only in the most terrible phantasms of the night.

At 3:00 P.M. on April 15,1920, a paymaster and his guard were carrying a factory payroll of $15,776 through the main street of South Braintree, Massachusetts, a small industrial town south of Boston. Two men standing by a fence suddenly pulled out guns and fired on them. The gunmen snatched up the cash boxes dropped by the mortally wounded pair and jumped into a waiting automobile. The bandit gang, numbering four or five in all, sped away, eluding their pursuers. At first this brutal murder and robbery, not uncommon in post-World War I America, aroused only local interest.

Three weeks later, on the evening of May 5, 1920, two Italians, Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti, fell into a police trap that had been set for a suspect in the Braintree crime. Although originally not under suspicion, both men were carrying guns at the time of their arrest and when questioned by the authorities they lied. As a result they were held and eventually indicted for the South Braintree crimes.

Vanzetti was also charged with an earlier holdup attempt that had taken place on December24, 1919, in the nearby town of Bridgewater. These events were to markthe beginning of twentieth-century America's most notorious political trial.

In addition to these things, the end of WWI had caused an upheaval with the dough boys coming back seeking jobs. The incredible Spansih Flu had taken the lives of many. Women were finally given the right to vote. The immigrants had finally risen up and began to seize their second generation American rights which scared the hell out of the old guard elite - like HPL.

No wonder he wrote these words in late 1920!

Nyarlathotep Part 7 The gullible public

"Last night I had a brief but typical dream. I was standing on the shore of the Skekonk River, anout three quaretrs of a mile south of the foot of Angell Street, at some unearthly nocturnal hour. The tide was flowing out horribly - exposing parts of the river-bed never before exposed to human sight. many persons lined the banks, looking at the receding waters & occassionally glancing at the sky." [1]

"To the editor ...

The general ignorance of the public as regards ... science ... has been noted and deplored... while in the business section fo the city on Christmas Eve, about 6 P.M. the writer noticed excited groups of people on the street corners, and mystified individuals everywhere pointing to the western sky. ... he beheld the planet Venus ... the centre of attraction ... it seems the general idea existed that the planet was nothing more than the searchlight from some airship ,,, the writer heard remarks as tot he perect control to which the aeroplane must be subject ... and estimates of its distance above the earth varying in a half mile to two miles. When apprised of their error, the gentlemen of the aforementioned group exhibited only mild surprise." [2]

Nyarlatehotep drave us all out ... I screamed aloud that I was not afraid; that I never could be afraid ...

Lovecraft, the elite, the prepared, the scientist, in real life a pedantic lecturer, but in fiction, the one who is translated and (while sometiems battered) always translated and survives.

1 Letters to Rheinheart Kleiner, p. 188, beginning of the May 21, 1920 letter of the dream that presaged Nyarlatehotep by several months.

2 Venus and the Public Eye, 26 Dec 1909, letter to the editor, Collected Essays, Vol. 3, Science, p. 99

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Nyarlathotep Part 6: audient void

... audient void ...

Many hundreds have used this phrase since its appearance in Nyarlathotep. It has many nuances to these many individuals.

... audient void ...

What did it mean to HPL, though?

Why "audient" instead of audible, audacious, or some other expression?

It is from Latin, the present participle of audiere; to listen; paying attention. Webster's 1913 edition, however, makes a telling reference: see: Mrs. Browing, audient souls.

HPL - scientist first, but poet in heart - absolutely must have known of this most famous user and its usage in her masterpiece Aurora Leigh. Now, you and Chrispy will take a look. :)

Aurora Leigh was an incredible 11,000 line poem novel published in 1856. It stunned critics who mostly panned it save for its unique combination of masculine traits in the feminine body. Franly, no one had ever seen a woman do such a vast work of poetry - much less in Victorian times. Browning was feeling her feminist oats.

The "woman exhibiting masculine traits" is a theme the mature HPL would come back to many times. However, it is not the poetry, per se, but certain lines that would have had HPL's attention.

In the ROMNEY AND AURORA section: (lines 260,261)

"With strange electric life; and both my cheeks // Grew red, then pale, with touches from my hair ..." might conjure up static electricity and Tesla.

And lines 275-281 state:

"The mystic motions, which in common moods // Are shut beyond our sense, broke in on us, /// And, as we sate, we felt the old earth spin, // And all the starry turbulence of worlds /// Swing round us in their audient circles, till // If that same golden moon were overhead // Or if beneath our feet, we did not know."

The Moon, the Earth on its axis, mysticism, starry turbulence of worlds and other parts of this might have elicited the astronomer and apocalyptic in Lovecraft.

Elsewhere, we see the phrase that was quoted in Webster's 1913 edition, "For thrilling audient and beholding souls...".

Now we understand that Lovecraft replaced "souls" with "void". This (void) is a technical term, I believe. The void was the vacuum. As Classical Mechanics collapsed and was replaced by quantum physics at the beginning of the 20th century, the "aether" was put to rest by Einstein's special relativity. There was suddenly pioneer work to show that vast amounts of empty space existed throughtout the universe with densities near zero particles per cubic parsecs.

Once we got past the galactic edge nothingness was overwhelming.

A Victorian paradox arose and was best stated by the astronomer, Heinrich Olbers, in 1826. In a homogeneous Universe, infinite in space and time, every line of sight will end on the surface of a star. So why is the sky dark at night? It should be as bright as Broadway's Great White Way.

Hotly debated, the facts were known - the sky is black at night - but few could come up with a mathematical model. However, two literary philosophers - Mark Twain and Edgar Allan Poe - had written that one resolution to Olbers’ Paradox was that the Universe was finite. Being ‘mere’ writers, they were both ignored by scientists of the time. I believe that the 30 year old Lovecraft would have certainly come across his idol's (Poe) idea, and may have even used it here.

I think we can say that "audient void" meant something like an impassioned but watchful astronomer (HPL, maybe) peering into the blackness of space with a telescope and seeing the laws of physics come unraveled.

Often, HPL speculated that the laws of physics did not operate the same everywhere in the universe - and that there was no logical reason why they should.

Many quantum physicists wondered the same thing. It was only when Stephen Hawking forced quantum laws onto black holes that he realized the ultimate energy eater actually was the largest black body emitter - black holes emit heat. This fairly well cemented the idea that not only could Einstein's theories of relativity be melded to quantum dynamics, but that the laws of physics operate everywhere the same in our universe.

... audient void...

Below, I list two long passages of Elezabeth Barrett Browning's poetry from Aurora Leigh.

But oh, the night! oh, bitter-sweet! oh, sweet!
O dark, O moon and stars, O ecstasy
Of darkness! O great mystery of love,—
In which absorb’d, loss, anguish, treason’s self 255
Enlarges rapture,—as a pebble dropp’d
In some full wine-cup, over-brims the wine!
While we two sate together, lean’d that night
So close, my very garments crept and thrill’d
With strange electric life; and both my cheeks 260
Grew red, then pale, with touches from my hair
In which his breath was; while the golden moon
Was hung before our faces as the badge
Of some sublime inherited despair,
Since ever to be seen by only one,— 265
A voice said, low and rapid as a sigh,
Yet breaking, I felt conscious, from a smile,—
"Thank God, who made me blind, to make me see!
Shine on, Aurora, dearest light of souls,
Which rul’st for evermore both day and night! 270
I am happy."
I flung closer to his breast,
As sword that, after battle, flings to sheathe;
And, in that hurtle of united souls,
The mystic motions, which in common moods 275
Are shut beyond our sense, broke in on us,
And, as we sate, we felt the old earth spin,
And all the starry turbulence of worlds
Swing round us in their audient circles, till
If that same golden moon were overhead 280
Or if beneath our feet, we did not know.

Truth so far, in my book! a truth which draws
From all things upwards. I, Aurora, still
Have felt it hound me through the wastes of life
As Jove did Io: and, until that Hand
Shall overtake me wholly, and, on my head,
Lay down its large, unfluctuating peace,
The feverish gad-fly pricks me up and down
It must be. Art's the witness of what Is
Behind this show. If this world's show were all,
Then imitation would be all in Art;
There, Jove's hand gripes us!-For we stand here, we.
If genuine artists, witnessing for God's
Complete, consummate, undivided work:
-That not a natural flower can grow on earth,
Without a flower upon the spiritual side,
Substantial, archetypal, all a-glow
With blossoming causes,-not so far away,
That we, whose spirit-sense is somewhat cleared,
May not catch something of the bloom and breath,-
Too vaguely apprehended, though indeed
Still apprehended, consciously or not,
And still transferred to picture, music, verse,
For thrilling audient and beholding souls
By signs and touches which are known to souls,-
How known, they know not,-why, they cannot find,
So straight call out on genius, say, 'A man
Produced this,'-when much rather they should say,
''Tis insight, and he saw this.'
Thus is Art
Self-magnified in magnifying a truth
Which, fully recognized, would change the world
And shift its morals. If a man could feel,
Not one day, in the artist's ecstasy,
But every day, feast, fast, or working-day,
The spiritual significance burn through
The hieroglyphic of material shows,
Henceforward he would paint the globe with wings,
And reverence fish and fowl, the bull, the tree,
And even his very body as a man,-
Which now he counts so vile, that all the towns
Make offal of their daughters for its use
On summer-nights, when God is sad in heaven
To think what goes on in his recreant world
He made quite other; while that moon he made
To shine there, at the first love's covenant,
Shines still, convictive as a marriage-ring
Before adulterous eyes.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Interlude: Strange Maine

This exciting blog keeps me wondering - is my beloved Kentuckiana weirder than strange Maine, or vice versa? While you're wondering, too, check out these great images from "M-" of Strange Maine fame.

HPL wanted to go to Brown U. more than life itself. We all have our dreams challenged, and sometimes crushed. We have to work with the cards dealt to us, but step back to those early days and wonder what might have been with Ech-Pi-El.

Strange Maine

^ 9 years old, Howard had already met major and influential professors at Brown.

^H. P. Lovecraft begins his ascent into amateur journalism.

^In 1913, HPL comes out of hermitry and engages the world.

^In 1904, Howard has his devastating crisis - Grandfather Whipple dies.

Nyarlathotep Part 5: Trolleys

Lovecraft loved trolleys. On his 21st birthday he rode them all day long. Soon, however, America's lust for automobiles crushed the trolley cars.

"..we saw a tram-car, lone, windowless, dilapidated, and almost on its side." [1]

1 Joshi [2] relates this 1927 dream, "After walking some distance, I encounter's the rusty tracks of a street-railway, & worm-eaten poles which still held the limp and sagging trolley wire. Following this line, I soon came upon a yellow, vestibuled car numbered 1852 - of a plain, double-trucked type common from 1900-1910." [3]

2 The Call of Cthulhu and other weird stories, Penguin, 1999, p. 370, note. 4

3 This date is interesting. The references I've found show "green" trolleys in the earleist days, and "yellowish" cars in the latter days.


^1922, yellow?


Monday, April 24, 2006

Nyarlathotep: Part 4 - L Sprague de Camp weighs in

"That concluding paragraph (which Lovecraft paraphrased in "The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath") has alwats reminded me of one of the noisier nightclubs." [1]

He meant: And through this revolting graveyard of the universe the muffled maddened beating of drums, and the thin, monotonous whine of blasphemous flutes from inconceivable unlighted chambers beyond Time; the detsetable pounding and piping whereunto dance slowly, awkwardly, and absurdly the gigantic tenebrous ultimate gods - the blind, voiceless, mindless gargoyles whose soul is Nyarlathotep.

deCamp [2] says that 'hotep' means 'contented'. He belives that nyarlat... is from Bantu which language often negins with a palatized 'n' (as in Spanish, with the 'ny' sound).

Chrispy has notice two other possible linkages - and these may be somewhat original ideas. The Hebrew (and Arabic/Semitic) word for 'paper' is 'nyar'. With Loveman being an incredible influence and we know that HPL dabbled in Arabic and the Qabballa, maybe the word 'paper' has a significance?

In addition, the initials stand for the New York & Altantic Railway.


1 H P Lovecraft: A Biography, de Camp, Barnes & Noble Edition, 1975, p. 139
2 op. cit. p. 458, note 25

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Hurrah! 200 posts!!!


I am delighted to write this blog, and celebrate HPL. It makes it very exciting to know that many hundreds of you view the blog. Your time is valauble and you have many choices. Thank you for letting this blog be one of them.

Nyarlathotep: Part 3 Egypt?

Many know that "Nyarlathotep" was a poem as part of the huge epic known as Fungi From Yuggoth. That poem was written around November 1920. By December 14, 1920, Lovecraft had constructed the short prose-poem story now knows as Nyarlathotep.

This is an impressionistic piece based on a dream Lovecraft had about Sam Loveman - one of many. He had already immersed himself into Lord Dunsany - a writer of myths writ large and horror with a capital H.

The poem was written in a loose pentameter (sometimes 9, 10, or 11 syllables) . Interestingly, though the poem is entitled XXI. Nyarlathotep, the name is not rhymed or used in the stanza.

"And at the last from inner Egypt came
The strange dark One to whom the fellahs bowed;"

Of course, tongue in cheek, HPL probably intended the "fellahs/fellows" pun.

The prose-poem story has these fragments of Egypt:

"And it was then that Nyarlathotep came out of Egypt ... he was of the old native blood and looked like a Pharoah. The fellahin knelt when they saw him ... he said he had risen up out of the blackness of twenty-seven centuries.

In a perjorative [1] of Sonia as he first met her, she indicated that Nyarlathotep was incomprehensible, which he amazingly replied to Kleiner, "Teutonic mysticism is tooo subtle for Slaves...". A refernece to her being Jewish and he ancestry. However, Teutonic is not Egyptian.

In relating the dream to Kleiner [2], HPL makes absolutley no reference to Egypt - only to Sam Loveman, the dream, his headache, David Van Bush's bad poetry, and his aunt. As often happens, Kleiner has intimate details, while Galpin does not. Though, to be fair, there is a long gap in Gallomo correspondence in late 1920.

HPL was writing like a fiend at this time of his life. The Temple (Fall 1920), Arthur Jermyn (late 1920), From Beyond (16 Nov 1920), Picture in the House 12 Dec 1920, Nameless City Jan 1921. None mention Egypt that Chrispy can recall. The story can easily read without any mention of Egypt, and the river with three towers need not be Egypt's Nile.

So whence Egypt?

1 p. 209, 30 July 1921. Letters to Rheinheart Kleiner.
2 p. 200ff, 14 Deccember 1920 op.cit.

Nyarlathotep: Part 2 - Providence River?

"When we gazed around the horizon, we could not find the thrid tower by the river, and noticed that the silhouette of the second tower was ragged at the top."

"...the pale, pitying moon as it glimmered on green waters gliding under bridges, and old steeples crumbling against a sickly sky..."

Be the jusge. Did HPL have the Providence River in mind as a model? Here are some scenes including some postcards in Chrispy's collection*.

^1896 view showing "smokestack towers"

^ card shows day view from a 24 May 1906 postcard*

^ shows night view of Providence River from a 14 Sept 1924 postcard*

[Below: The cancellation of the above mentioned postcards, including the rare 1 cent and 2 cent postage stamps]

Nyarlathotep: Part 1, Tesla

It is not an original thesis, but most now believe that Nyarlathotep (in part) was scripted around the genius and eccentricity of Tesla. Working for and combatting the major players in electricity of his day, Tesla was part technically awesome, and part crackpot.

"It was in the hot autumn that I went through the night with the restless crowds to see Nyarlathotep ... and shadowed on the screen .. I saw the world battling blackness ... the sparks played amazingly around the heads of the spectators, and hair stood up on end ... and when I, who was colder and more scientific than the rest, mumbled a trembling protest about "imposture" and "static electricity", Nyarlathotep drove us all out ..."

I reiterate my {Chrispy's!} position that Lovecraft always plays the scientist-adventurer in his fiction. I have searched and can find nothing that shows a lecture or film at Brown University or anywhere else that HPL might have met Tesla. In any event, that is not the point. He had many newspaper articles that he could have used as fertile fodder.

Tesla certainly knew electricity, and had a reputation for drama. He believed in death rays, martians, and apocalypse. Lovecraft has several notablke runins with folks ignorant of pure, cold logic and science. He mocked a group of folks on the street who thought that Venus was an airplane (and wrote a letter to the editor to tell everyone else) and a few times ridiculed Percival Lowell's idea of martians and their canals. (Though early on he believed in water on Mars too).

Much More.

Lovecraftiana: Virgil Finlay (a poem) - part 2

Below you will see the original autograph facsimile from Fantasy Collector's Annual 1974 by Gerry de la Ree, a former collector of note

You will see the context, and the additional lines not in part 1 are:

"I would easily scrawl a sonnet to one of your materpieces if you weren't too particular about quality. For example -"

"...Well, well - quite in the Yuggoth traditions{.} I'll have to keep a copy of this to try on one or another of the fan magazines!"

Lovecraftiana: Virgil Finlay (a poem) - part 1

To Mr. Finlay, upon His Drawing for Mr. Bloch's Tale, "The Faceless God" [1]

In dim abysses [2] pulse the shapes of night,
Hungry and [3] hideous, with strange mitres crown'd;
Black pinions beating in fantastic flight
From orb to orb thro' sunless voids [4] profound. [5]

None dares to name the cosmos whence they course,
Or guess the look on each amorphous face,
Or speak the words that with resistless force
Would draw them from the hells of outer space. [6]

Yet here upon a page our frighten'd glance
Finds monstrous forms no human eye should see;
Hints of those blasphemies whose countenance
Spreads death and [3] madness thro' infinity.

What limner he who braves black gulfs alone
And lives to make their alien horrors known?

1 Text taken from The Ancient Track: The Complete Poetical Works of H P Lovecraft, Joshi, Night Shade Books, 2001, p.80
2 abyss is a favorite and recurring Lovecraft word
3 Lovecraft, as you can see, always use "+" or "&"
4 Joshi has "void" while the text has "voids".
5 I have added a break here that is not original. See 6
6 There is a natural gap between these stanzas, but there is also a natural flow that Joshi does not use, not Lovecraft. That is three stanzas of 4 (the verse is apparently pentameter) and a flourish of two lines to end with a question.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Lovecraft reviews Weird Tales

"The Mar. & Apr. WT {weird tales magazine} struck me as not quite as bad as usual - tales by Binder, Klarkash-Ton, Hamilton (!!), Kuttner, Jacobi, Derleth, & Bloch having marked points of merit." [*]

March 1936
Margaret Brundage cover
The Albino Deaths • Ronal Kayser • nv
The Crystal Curse [by Earl Binder & Otto Binder] • Eando Binder • nv
Beyond Death's Gateway [*Dr. Satan] • Paul Ernst
The Black Abbot of Puthuum [*Zothique] • Clark Ashton Smith • nv
The Hour of the Dragon [Part 4 of 5; *Conan] • Robert E. Howard • n
In the World's Dusk • Edmond Hamilton • ss
The Ship that Committed Suicide • A. J. Mordtmann • ss
The Graveyard Rats • Henry Kuttner • ss
Homecoming Day • Jay Wilmer Benjamin • ss
A Masterpiece of Crime • Jean Richepin

{March interior}

April 1936
Margaret Brundage cover
The Ruler of Fate [Part 1 of 3] • Jack Williamson
The Face in the Wind • Carl Jacobi • nv
Son of Satan • Arlton Eadie • nv
They Shall Rise • August W. Derleth & Mark Schorer • ss
The Hour of the Dragon [Part 5 of 5; *Conan] • Robert E. Howard • n
The Druidic Doom • Robert Bloch • ss
The Call in the Night • Chandler H. Whipple • ss
The Rajah's Gift • E. Hoffmann Price • ss


* Letters of HP Lovecraft and Donald Wandrei, Joshi, 2002 p.376

Rare Letter

Chrispy was able to find a copy of an old fanzine that had this letter to Virgil Finlay from Harry Probst on 1 May 1937.

"My Dear Sir.

"Since Mr. Lovecraft has become critically ill I am writing this letter. He looked very bad this a.m. and seems to be slowly going downhill. ...

"...He is still at 66 College Street - and has not been removed to the hospital. He is suffering from some gastro-intestinal condition - has severe pain, can get little rest, and seems very weak. ..."

Virgil Finlay and HPL corresponded a few times from Sept. 9, 1936 to Jan. 1, 1937. HPL was in ecstasy over the young man's artwork and raved to him. If you have never seen Finlay's work, it rivals Hannes Bok and precedes and perhaps anticipates Frazetta.

From the collection of Gerry de la Ree in Fantasy Collector's Annual 1974, Saddle River, NJ [copy 432] p.9.

Friday, April 21, 2006



I have recently acquired a copy of the 1905 yearbook of the Hope Street High School. This was the seventh graduating class, and would have been HPL's freshman year. Unfortunately HPL is not in the book. It is rare to see an undergraduate in an old style yearbook.

In that year, he was one of 585 students [1] with 23 instructors. Lovecraft mentions a Mrs. Blake ("a fat old English teacher") but she is not listed as an instructor or student teacher. The article in conflict was the 12 October 1906 column for the Pawtuxett Valley Gleaner. [2] This would have been HPL's sophomore year and just prior to his November collapse.

Some notes of interest are:

"The freshmen are a noisy, boisterous lot and not worthy of our slightest attention. We leave them to Mellin's Food {no information - CP} and the perambulator." [1. p. 13]

Some things never change, "The Lunch Counter is still in operation. 'The good die young'. ... At that rate the lunch counter will be here as the ages roll by."

Athletics take up 13 of the 62 non-advertising pages. The most horific oration during the year was "The Influences of the Witches in Macbeth", which won a place under literary oration. [1, p.53]. "...Shakespeare's witches are supernatural beings, the personification of temptations ... some secret evil desire which responds to the witches' evil influences ... something weird and horrible..." [1, p.54, Philip Burbank, author]. One wonders if HPL was in the audience.

In the undergraduate address, "Freshmen, you poor children, your first year in High School is nearing its end. You have caused no end of trouble and fear, your childish pranks have set our nerves ajar, your stamping in the lunchroom has disgusted us. But then, you are only kids, and may some day, the faculty permitting, reach the goal so far off from you now, the Senior class, the class of 1908." [1, p.61]

Update, 21 April 2006

Mellin's, I've discovered through private correspondence and research, is a baby formula, which makes the "pun" quite understandable as a "put down". Lovecraft was often fond of slang and schoolish ridicule of his friends.

1 The Blue and White 1905, p. 11
2 HP Lovecraft A Visionary and a Dreamer, 2001, p. 49

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Lovecraft's Early Stories

You've no doubt read or seen many HPL juvenalia. Here is an excerpt you may be less familiar with ...

"I used to write detective stories very often, the works of A, Conan Doyle being my model so far as plot was concerned." [1]

"One long destroyed tale was of twin brothers - one murders the other, but conceals the body & tries to take the life of both - appearing in one place as himself,& elsewhere as his victim. ... He meets sudden death (lightning) when posing as the dead man - is identified by a scar,& the secret finally revealed by his diary. This I think antedates my 11th year. For fun, I have a great mind to write a story again from this plot, publish it without signature, & await the contemptuous laughter of the amateur critics!!" [2]

Perhaps The Case of Charles Dexter Ward of The Dunwich Horror evolved from these concepts? [3]

1 Letters to Rheinheart Kleiner, Joshi, Hippocampus, 2005, {Feb. 2, 1916} p.30

2 op. cit. p. 30

3 op. cit. see note 3, p. 31, S T Joshi.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Lovecraftiana: Donald A. Woldheim

Chrispy recently acquired a rare copy of Avon Science Fiction Reader # 3. [1] This copy has the HPL revisionist story In the Walls of Eryx with Kenneth Sterling. [2]

The fascinating part is Woldheim's introduction. [3]

"Although many of Lovecraft's weird epics may be described as science fiction in the manner in which he made his horrors credible, he never once laid a story on the surface of another world. This tale would seem to be the exception. Laid on the planet Venus and involving space-borne explorers it was originally drafted by Kenneth Sterling, at that time a student in Providencem Lovecraft's home city. Sterling persuaded Lovecraft to revise his short story and so thoroughly did the master do so, that the young author insisted that the tale should carry both by-lines. Thus do we have the one and only planet story to bear the signature of the master of the eerie lore. The young student of those days is incidentally now a full-fledged M.D. engaged in cancer research."

1 Avon Novels Inc. 1952 - a small Reader's Digest sized pulp of reprints of earlier decades.

2 Listed as copyrighted by Weird Tales 1939 and subsequently by August Derleth and Donald Wandrei 1943 and 1947.

3 p. 59. The story lies on pp. 59-80.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Lovecraft: Struck by the Cold - in August!

{30 August 1935} "Almost knocked down by the cold, but on my way! ...Virginia seems really bleak & strange ... am dodging showers & circulating among the Poe vestigia. Just now on a bench in Capitol Park with a squirrel virtually climbing over me. ...Yrs between tooth-chatters - Melmoth III.

[Postcard described by ST Joshi as 'The Old Stone House and Enchanted Garden, Edgar Allen {sic} Poe Shrine, Richmond Virginia' The mispelled middle name is crossed out and spelled correctly, according to Joshi.]

Letters of H P Lovecraft and Donald Wandrei, p. 360, 361

Legend Tripping with Lovecraft: Poe's Grave

Poe's grave circa 1930's.

"I've just been to the grave of Edgar Allan Poe, in Westminster Presbyterian Churchyard. It is at once a melancholy & inspiring spot - I feel like writing a verse about it!" [1]

Lovecraft concludes, "Am nearly broke, but have saved a side my fare home."

Letters of H P Lovecraft and Donald Wandrei, p. 223 {postmarked postcard of 12 July 1928 from Baltimore, Maryland}

c.1937 scene of a postcard very similar to the one on which HPL wrote this note. It is of Mansion House, Druid Park, Baltimore, Md.

Lovecraft the Hiker

"I've broken hibernation & begun the spring hiking season. Walked 16 miles through idyllic contryside Easter Sunday - from the village of Esmond, R.I. to Woonsocket."

{17 April 1928}

Letters of H P Lovecraft and Donald Wandrei, p. 219.

This is as close to the era as I could locate. It pictures Woonsocket circa 1913, several years earlier than HPL's hike.

Strange Maine

Always a weird adventure, Strange Maine has a regional announcement of Lovecraft import.

Saturday, May 13th, 2006
Lovecraft Lounge
featuring the Maine premiere of Christian Matzke's "Experiment 17"

Call for times!!! (207)771-9997
Be there, or be squishy.

Monday, April 17, 2006

The Tomb

"I shall never forget the afternoon when I first stumbled upon the half-hidden house of death." The Tomb.

all above photos (c) Chris Peridas, 2006

If you've read any of my Chad Spence ghost stories, or my La Llorna story you know how fascinated I am with the idea of keeping memories alive of those deceased. When we die, our bodies decay and memories of our love, tears, and adventures slowly fade into the aether. We pray for our loved ones to remember, but as they grow old and die, who remembers? How do we maintain our imortality?

By telling stories.

I like to walk. As I strolled through the Walnut Ridge Cemetery of Jeffersonville, Indiana I nearly fainted when I saw these crypts dug into the side of the hill. I came back a little later to capture them on film with my archaic and aging 35mm SLR (not digital). This is not out in the wilderness, but nestled between a few small business parks that sprung up around them over the last century.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Legend Tripping with Lovecraft: Poe's Cottage


^c. 1930


In 1922 and again in 1927 Lovecraft journeyed to Fordham, NY. In 1922 he, Frank Belknap Long and James F Morton had their picture snapped by one Paul Livingston Keil [1].

In 1927 on a postcard of Poe's Cottage HPL wrote, "This is a short letter, but I am surprised that I have time to write any kind of note. I am to lunch with Long in an hour, after which we shall visit the Poe Cottage."

^Poe Cottage, date unknown

September. See Letters of Donald Wanderi and HP Lovecraft, p. 134.

Lovecraftiana: Robert H. Waugh

Hurrah! I just got my copy of "The Monster: Looking for H. P. Lovecraft". [1]

In scanning the book, here is a new voice to merge the fractious perspectives of Robert Price, L Sprague de Camp, August Derleth and S T Joshi. Waugh also takes the brave perspective of creating a new look at Lovecraft's atheist but evangelical philosophy.

It is interesting that clergy such as Dan Clore and Robert Price (and the Catholic Derleth) see the religious aspect of Lovecraft's fiction, while Joshi focuses on the letters which convey a much more secular presentation of his personality.

Later, I will quote from Waugh's book, but Chrispy must weigh in too.

I see Lovecraft's fiction and letters as presenting himslef as the Scientist-Adventurer. No less a Professor Challenger, or a hero of H G Wells or Jules Verne, Lovecraft explores horror terrain and like a good Edwardian. If the protagonist is well-heeled, learned, bookish, and of the right genetic stock, he undergoes a purging through horror fire and is translated no less that Elijah.

Lovecraft was clearly capable - as all good scholarly Edwardians - of being a spin doctor. This comes out clearest with the Gallomo and Kleicomo letters. Kleiner (b. 1892 and whose perceived genius daunted Howard) often gets much more detail, and a much grittier HPL comes across, while the younger Galpin (b. 1902) gets a glossier version of HPL.

1 isbn 0976159279, The Monster In the Mirror: Looking For HP Lovecraft, Robert H. Waugh, Hippocampus Press, 2005, 2006. Much of this is reworked from numerous articles in Lovecraft Studies (17, 25, 32, 34, 35, 36, 38, 39, 40) and The HP Lovecraft Centennial Conference Proceedings of 1991.

Purgatory ... ?

Purgatory, Newport, Rhode Island.

Hail, Melmoth! Here are two of the [1] 1927 triad, but where is our young Tertius Quis? Yesterday we had quite a '27-ish day - Maxfield's at noon, & Jake's [2] in the evening. When is that eastern trip of your coming?

Yrs for the Elder Sign - Pappas Nekrophilos [3]

Salutations from the least of the erstwhile pilgrims to the Berkeleyan shrine. If you are acquainted with one Howard Wandrei, [4] pray convey to him my congratulations on his admirable production. J.F.M. [5] [6]

1 In 1927, Morton, Wandrei and Lovecraft on or about the 19-22 July, 1927 also met up with Long for a high time of motoring and eating.

2 These are diners, i.e. cafeterias.

3 In written greek letters, this is Lovecraft's way of signing the postcard.

4 Donald Wandrei's brother and a reference to his art and stories.

5 James F. Morton (i.e. Mortonius)

6 Joshi describes the postcard, and Chrispy has this one (see pciture) in his possession. There may be another style or angle, but imagine Lovecraft seeing the postcard and the dizzying heights "purgatory" conveys. Perhaps they drove by the actual site? In any event, this card (my card is undated but comes from the 1930's) brings us very close to touching HPL.

Letters of Donald Wandrei and HP Lovecraft, p. 306. This card also has the brief mention of Farnese (see post in HPLblog elsewhere). Postcard from HPL & JFM postmarked from Newport, R.I. and dated 5 August 1932.

An interesting note on Fritz Lieber and UFO's

This is not exactly Lovecraftian, but it is close and has lots of arcane books and a vague reference to Cthulhu and his kin. Today (April 16) Chrispy was perusing the $1 sale books at Half Price Books and found an obscure paperback [1]

Lieber's story [2] is typical tongue-in-cheek and social commentary. The interesting thing is how he chooses to describe the aliens. "Dad is the sort who could strangle two and a half Antarean multibrachs while using his sixth and seventh tentacles to read the latest supplement to Acta Cosmica." ... "These Earthans looked like arthritic heptapussies [3] with only four tentacles, the other three either cropped off [4] (ugh!) or twined in permanent tight knot at the tops of their bodies (double ugh!)." [5]

1 Flying Saucers In Fact and Fiction, ed. Hans Stefan Santesson, Lancer, 1968. The book has a whole list of essays and short stories dating from the period after the 1947 "flying saucer" flap through the Project Bluebook era. Notably, Theodore Sturgeon, Bertram Chandler, Lester del Rey, Robert Bloch, and Fritz Lieber are contributors. In addition, the notable Ivan T. Sanderson of Fortean and Bigfoot fame contributes. "Our Saucer Vacation", pp. 63-87. An obvious pun of the notorious return to school essay, "What I did on my summer vacation".

2 The story was originally printed in Fantastic Universe, December 1958.

3 The aliens are heptapods, i.e. seven limbed - as opposed to Cthulhu and his octopus (octopod) relatives! Therefore, they are "heptapus" and refered to as "heptapussies", no doubt a clever way to get "pussies" into a science fiction magazine.

4 It appears Lieber is indicating the legs as two appendages, arms as two appendages, women's breasts as two appendages, and the head as the seventh appendage. Otherwise, it is hard to count seven "pods" for people.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Lovecraftiana: Harold S. Farnese

One of the more obscure, but incredibly influential forces on the evolution fo Mythos, Dr. Farnese (1885-1942) had three touchstones to HPL and his Legacy.

First, he was a late correspondent. [1, p. 306 & note 1] {August 5, 1932 to Donald Wandrei} "A man in Los Angeles wants to set 2 of my Yuggotian fungi to music". Joshi goes on to say, "...Farnese set two stanzas of Fungi From Yuggoth, 'Mirage' and "The Elder Pharos' to music, but HPL neither heard nor saw the finished work. He goes on to reference primary sources of Weird Tales, Feb-Mar, 1931 and Selected Letters IV on page 159 of which the latter has a page from The Elder Pharos. Chripsy found one reference where the music was performed, albeit altered and expanded, as an operetta on (Saturday) November 1, 2003. [2]

Dan Clore, an HPL scholar, has stated, "Harold Farnese ... it appears, had little grasp of what Lovecraft was doing in his fiction, and simply projected his own concerns with black magic onto Lovecraft, and then presented a paraphrase from memory {to Derleth}..." [3]

Second, Farnese was a source of accidental misinformation about Lovecraft's Mythos philosophy.

Elsewhere, Chrispy found this pericope. [4] "In a letter to Harold S. Farnese in 1932, Lovecraft discussed his fascination with that which is unknown, outside scientific classification, declaring it ... 'virtually permanent ... part of the human personality '. (Letters 4, 70-71) Although contemporary science 'destroys' human belief in the supernatural, Howard Phillips Lovecraft saw his work as: "a sense of impatient rebellion against the rigid and eluctable tyranny of time, space and natural law - a sense which drives our imaginations to devise all sorts of plausible hypothetical defeats of that tyranny - and second a burning curiosity concerning the vast reaches of unplumbed and unplumbable cosmic space which press down tantalisingly on all sides of our pitifully tiny sphere of the known. Between these two ... factors I believe the field of the weird must necessarily continue to have a reason for existence, and that the nature of man must necessarily still seek occasional expression ... in symbols and phantasies involving the hypothetical frustration of physical law, and the imaginative extrusion of knowledge and adventure beyond the bounds imposed by reality. " [4]

Finally there is this passage [5] "In his introduction to Arkham House’s “The Dunwich Horror and Others,” August Derleth makes the following comment:
“The pattern of the Mythos is a pattern that is basic in the history of mankind, representing as it does the primal struggle between good and evil; in this, it is essentially similar to the Christian Mythos, especially relating to the expulsion of Satan from Eden and Satan’s lasting power of evil. ‘All my stories, unconnected as they may be,’ wrote Lovecraft, ‘are based on the fundamental lore or legend that this world was inhabited at one time by another race who, in practising black magic, lost their foothold and were expelled, yet live on outside ever ready to take possession of this earth again.’” [5]

"In fact, this quote did not come from Lovecraft, but from Harold Farnese, a brief correspondent of Lovecraft. After Lovecraft’s death, Derleth wrote Farnese, asking if he could borrow the letters from Lovecraft. Farnese gladly agreed, and mailed the letters to Derleth. In letters Farnese then wrote to Derleth, he often “quoted” Lovecraft—these quotes appear to be, at best, paraphrases. In one, Farnese writes:
“Upon congratulating HPL upon his work, he answered: ‘You will, of course, realize that all my stories, unconnected as they may be, are based on one fundamental lore or legend: that this world was inhabited at one time by another race, who in practicing black magic, lost their foothold and were expelled, yet live on outside, ever ready to take possession of this earth again.’” [5]

"Derleth took this “quote” as fact and used it on several occasions, but investigation into Lovecraft’s letters does not reveal this “quote.” In several other letters to Derleth, Farnese quotes the letters he sent to Derleth, yet comparison to the letters themselves reveals that Farnese was not quoting, but merely recalling. Farnese at one point refers to a writer for Weird Tales by the name of “Bellknap Jones”—an obvious misreference to Frank Belknap Long." [5]

"For a fuller discussion of this long-standing misconception, see David E. Schultz’ "The Origin of Lovecraft’s ‘Black Magic’ Quote" in Crypt of Cthulhu, issue 48." [5]

1 Letters of H P Lovecraft and Donald Wandrei, Night Shade Books, 2002

2 http:// http:// www. / calendar / archives / 2003-11.html
Other Ideas at The SpaceFrom the San Francisco Bay Area: Tri-Cornered Tent Show. Andre Custodio (synthesizer, percussion), Philip Everett (drums, autoharp, elec. perc), Rent Romus (reeds, flute, toys, vocals), Ray Schaeffer (electric bass). The newest CD release from Tri-Cornered Tent Show entitled Legion of Dagon is inspired by early 20th Century horror-scifi writer H.P. Lovecraft's 38-sonnet piece entitled "Fungi In Yuggoth." Music by a Dr. Harold Farnese who wrote an unfinished operetta for Lovecraft's sonnets is the loose basis for this project. At The Space916 West Washington St.Mission Hills, San Diego

3 http:// www. SoHo/ 9879/ lurker.htm

4 http:// www. cadavre_exquis_uk/ caincraft

5 http:// www. life/ myths.asp

Lovecraft and Guns

A recent comment had me searching for more information, and I found this pericope,

"...Lovecraft at this time developed an interest in firearms ... 'After 1904 I had a succession of 22-calibre rifles, & became a fair shot till my eyes played hell with my accuracy. [1]" [2]

1 HPL to Vernon Shea, 1933.
2 A Dreamer and a Visonary, Joshi, Liverpool, 2001, p.53 & note 26.

Time Travel with HPL: 1911


^College Hill


"He celebrated his twenty-first birthday - 20 August 1911 - by riding the electric trolley cars all day, going through the states of Connecticut and Massachusetts before coming home."

Note the trolley cars of the era and recall that HPL lived on "College Hill".

1 A Dreamer and a Visionary: H P Lovecraft in his Time. ST Joshi, Liverpool, 2001, p. 69

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Legend Tripping Lovecraft Part 1

"Legend Tripping" is a recent term for someone seeking an adrenaline or endorphin rush by going to a haunted place - such as a cemetery - or a place where one's idol traversed. Many people go to Mercy Brown's [1] gravesite and many fans go to see HPL's gravestone. [2]

Lovecraft often sniffed around Poe's trails. Lovecraft wrote this letter: [3]

{Postmarked Richmond, Va. to Donald Wandrei, May 9, 1929}

"Don't you wish you were here? The Original Melmoth" [4]

1 c. 1890, Mercy Brown, the model for both Lovecraft's Mercy Dexter (she was from Exeter, R.I.) and Bram Stoker's Mina Westenra (one wonders if this was a subconscious allusion to 'western rhode island". She was believed by her family to be a vampire, her body exhumed and her heart burned. The Providence Journal exploded at the atrocity.

2 HPL is not buried under his gravestone on purpose. There was at least one happenstance of attempted amateur exhumation.

3 The Letters of HP Lovecraft to Donald Wandrei, p. 237. ST Joshi describes the postcard as "Front: The Edgar Allen [sic] Poe House in Richmond". The typographical mispelling of Poe's middle name persisted for a number of years and was finally corrected (apparently) in the late 1930's. This card (see photo, Legend Tripping Lovecraft Part 2) preserves the misspelling.

4 Melmoth the Wanderer (1820) by Charles Robert Maturin quickly became a touchstone and originated the pun "Melmoth the Wandrei". Joshi, footnote 9, p. 8 in Letters of HPL & DAW, op.cit.

PostCard similar to ST Joshi's description. For another view, see Lovecrfat Legend Tripping Part 2

Lovecraft Legend Tripping Part 2

A postcard very similar to that Lovecraft sent to Wandrei on May 2, 1929. "Don't you wish you were here? {signed} The Original Melmoth."

^The description of this 1932 postmarked card carries the same typo as HPL's card.

^Detail from card in possesion of Chris Perridas.

Cancel: 6 PM, April 5, 1932. "I have read "Good Earth" {Pearl Buck - CP}. It is both splendid and terrible. I am having such a lovely trip and visit. Cattee and his mother send love to you. Love, Mary".

As with HPL, post cards were easy means to share brief thoughts with correspondents.

As can be seen, the mispelling was eventually corrected on the post cards.

An Australian Mythos collection

This is a unique package of exotic Mythos stories published in 1975 in Australia

The Horror in the Burying Ground (Hazel Heald), The Green Meadow (H.P.Lovecraft & Elizabeth Berkeley), Invisible Monster (Sonia Greene), The Man of Stone (Hazel Heald), Deaf Dumb and Blind (C.M.Eddy Jr.), Till All the Seas (Robert H. Barlow), Out of the Eons (Hazel Heald), The Last Test (Adolphe de Castro), The Curse of Yig (Zealia Bishop), Medusa's Coil (Zealia Bishop), Two Black Bottles (Wilfred Blanch Talman)

In many cases, Lovecraft was the revisionist of these stories.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Lovecraft's Food Humor

The Shepard Cafeteria, 122-124-126 Mathewson Street, Providence, R.I.

When he got to know Wandrei better, they often joked about a low-end diner in Providence known as Jake's. That in mind, HPL found a post card and wrote on August 11, 1927 [1]:

"Glad you've found the equivalent of Jake's - here's hoping you load up with enough fuel to make up for the fatigue! ... economise on the food & take it easier in other ways! ... I can imagine the unrestrained orgy of nourishment & dormitation which will follow your return... {signed} Nekrophilos"

Wandrei was on another hitchhiking tour at the time.

Diligent Chrispy has found a facsimile of the very postcard Lovecraft wrote these notes upon.

1 Letters pf HP Lovecraft and Donald Wandrei, Joshi, Night Shade Books, 2002, p.147

H. S. H. S.

"...but in the autumn of 1904 I mingled with the world once more - to the extent of entering Hope St. High School. Here I was confronted for the first time with cosmopolitainism." [2]

1 Picture of Hope Street High School on Post Card in possession of Chris Perridas. While not associated with Lovecraft, it represents what the school looked like while he attended. Front dated 2 August 1906, cancelation 3 August 1906. Lovecraft would have been days from his sisteenth birthday on that date! [Signed Sarah to Mrs. Henry B Tucker of Jamestown R.I.]

2 Letters to Rheinhart Kleiner, Joshi, Hippocampus, 2005 ,p.74.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Lovecraft, Winslow Upton & Ladd Observatory


Does the ghost of Lovecraft haunt the observatory? Still in existence, still deeply loved and cherished, the Ladd Observatory was built the year after Lovecraft was born - constructed in 1891.

In a recent article [2] some interesting information has been related.

"Ladd was built to educate Brown students, to perform research and to serve the community. (The building was Providence's official time-keeping facility for years.) The observatory's first director, Prof. Winslow Upton, joined Brown University's faculty in 1884, on the condition that an observatory be built as soon as the funds could be raised. When the money had still not materialized five years later, Upton threatened he would go elsewhere unless immediate progress was made. Luckily for Brown, Herbert W. Ladd, then-governor of Rhode Island, offered to pay to build and equip the building that now bears his name. Because light and air pollution around the growing city of Providence {a top 10 city in those days - CP} soon made real discoveries impossible, Ladd remains a living museum of 19th century astronomy practices, complete with creaking staircases and a pleasantly musty attic smell." [2]

"Some of those rooms, like the one that houses the old transit telescopes, haven't been fully renovated. As the door creaks open, visitors are greeted by a blast of cold air. The lights don't work, but Targan shows groups around anyway, with the aid of a flashlight, pointing out how the telescopes were used to keep time by tracing the stars along the sky's meridian. In the dark, with various strange-looking contraptions covered in dark sheets, the building has a certain haunted house-quality, and indeed, Ladd is said to be haunted by at least one ghost -- that of noted Providence fantasy writer H.P. Lovecraft. "Did he ever come here?" a visitor asks. "Are you kidding?" Jackson says. "He had a key to the place." As a teenager, Lovecraft displayed a keen interest in the skies, even writing regular articles about astronomy for Providence newspapers. And he enjoyed the run of the observatory, thanks to then-director Winslow Upton, a friend of the Lovecraft family." [2]

"Ladd has its original copper-plated dome, which turns through a system of hand-cranked ropes and pulleys, and the original 15-foot refracting telescope that is controlled by a set of weights and gears, wound up like an grandfather clock. ... Ladd's first floor is an equally interesting and eccentric combination of attic and antique. Gas lamps still sit above the fireplace in the lecture room, where the shelves hold a variety of astronomical ephemera -- scientific journals dated from the 1970s, a globe or two, a Parade Magazine from last summer featuring Mars on the cover, an Edmund Scientific Star and Planet Locator. {as of 2004 -CP}" [2]

So, we're sure HPL haunts the observatory, but why would a professor let a boy have keys to a valuable observatory? After all, at only 15 years old, it was quite a valuable piece of real estate.

Chrispy has wondered for years, and been frustrated at the lack of information on Upton. However, certain anecdotes [3] survive and show the character of Upton. He was not the purely cynical scientist and had an altruistic spirit.

"Winslow Upton (1853-1914), professor of astronomy, was born in Salem, Massachusetts, on October 12, 1853. His father was a musician and young Winslow sang and took music lessons. After his graduation from the Phillips School in 1869 at an age his father considered too young for college, he continued his study of music and other academic subjects in Boston for two years before entering Brown in 1871. There he indulged his musical bent by setting the class roll call to music and composing a setting for Chaucer’s Prologue to be sung at the junior burial of books. [3]

"He shared his education with his sister Lucy {women had not yet been accepted to go to college and Brown was on the cutting edge of letting women go to college in the late 1890's - CP} by providing her with the books and outlines of the lectures for Professor Diman’s history course, which he then discussed with her in his letters. At Commencement in 1875 he delivered the valedictory address, Sympathy Essential to True Criticism. [3]

"He was employed for a short time at the Harvard College Observatory, going from there to the observatory of the University of Cincinnati {not far from Chrispy!}, and earning a master’s degree in 1877. From May 1878 to September 1879 he was a member of the staff of the Harvard Observatory, which experience was the inspiration for a skit, The Observatory Pinafore, (obviously a parody on a Gilbert and Sullivan operetta), which included such lines as:

I’m called an astronomer, skillful astronomer,
Though I could never tell why;
But yet an astronomer, happy astronomer,
Modest astronomer, I.
I read the thermometers, break the photometers,
Mend them with paper and wax;
I often lament that so seldom is spent
A fair evening on star parallax.
" [3]

"After a short stint in Detroit with the Army Engineer Corps’ Lake Survey, Upton became a computer {a person who does copious quantities of math - CP} at the Naval Observatory in Washington in 1880. He worked with the United States Signal Office from 1881 to 1883. In
May of 1883 he accompanied a group of scientists to Carolina Island in the Pacific to view a solar eclipse, an event which resulted in his writing The Carolina Island Opera. In September of the same year he came to Brown, having been encouraged by President Robinson’s assurance of an
observatory in the near future, to take a position which included teaching mathematics and logic. A few years later he was inclined to leave when the promised observatory had not materialized {see above notes, [2] - CP}" [3]
"Upton took a leave of absence in the academic year 1886-87, during which he spent six months in Germany, two months in England, and visited leading European observatories. He observed
the total solar eclipse of August 19, 1887 from the interior of Russia. He was away again in 1896-97 at the southern station of the Harvard College Observatory in Arequipa, Peru. During this time he conducted a special series of observations from Arica, Chile, and made four ascents of the volcano El Misti, which was the site of recording instruments maintained by Harvard and the highest meteorological station in the world." [3]

"He was appointed the first dean of the University in 1900, but resigned that position a year later. President Faunce, speaking of this time, said, 'For one year he was Dean, and I was brought into contact with him more than ever. But his nervous system was too delicately organized for the position and at the end of the year he wished to give it up. The burden of
every man was his burden, the disappointments of others were his disappointments. The tenderness of his heart was something which only those who came into close touch with him can know.' [3]
"In December 1913, after directing the Christmas music performed by his church choir, he
became ill with pneumonia and died on January 8, 1914." [3]
I think what is telling is the passion that Upton had for people. In 1900, Lovecraft was 10. As Dean he would have had to solicit money - a usual prerequisite to fund projects - and no doubt aquainted himself at least by then with one of the richest men in Providence - Lovecraft's grandfather. Imagine the stories HPL heard from Upton.
A household filled with women, a veritable matriarchy at the time, Upton would have been sympathetic to the precocious child who was already translating Latin, knew the classics, read Scientific American with a passion, and had the financing to be anything he wished. HPL would ahve been into the violin by then, another (musical) touchstone. By winter 1902, all young Howard could think about was astronomy. [4]
I believe we can make some assumptions. Upton was compassionate, gregarious, and perhaps saw a kindred soul in a precocious child. Himself a prodigy, held off from attending college, dominated by a strong male figure, how could Upton miss the cues?
One thing I've learned about HPL is that he was a cautious, deliberate spin doctor when he wrote letters and stories., revelaing only what he wished to reveal. The reality is that Howard was a typical geeky child who worshiped the then-in-vogue Scientist-Explorers. In his house, a living breathing Victorian Adventurer appeared and Howard fell deeply into idolatry - at least until the chemist Appleton appeared in the midst.
Still, it was astronomy that was a passion, and Upton left his greatest legacy embedded into the bosom of H. P. Lovecraft.

1 Chrispy now owns this eldritch postcard. Complete with a 1 cent stamp :) it is dated July 9, 1909 when Lovecraft would have neared his nineteenth birthday and was deep in the realization that he would never be a true astronomer. Between 1908 and 1914, HPL discontinued writing his astronomy columns and most writing of any kind. He wrote one letter to the Providence Sunday Journal on a minor stir he noted. Some pasers-by began to idly speculate that an "aeroplane" was on the horizon. HPL, flabbergasted, lectured the crows that it was merely the planet Venus. So appalled, he wrote the newspaper and lamblasted the ignorance of the public. Collected Essays, Vol. 3, Science, Joshi, 2005, Hippocampus, pp. 99,100

2 Article on the web. physics/ newspages/ Projo-Ladd-Article.html
3 The above quotes appear in Encyclopedia Brunoniana by Martha Mitchell, copyright ©1993 by the Brown University Library and are used only to elucidate the scholarly thesis I present.
4 A Dreamer and a Visionary, Joshi, p. 44

Saturday, April 08, 2006

A snapshot in time through HPL's eyes

"Just saw Dec. WT {Weird Tales} - nothing of any merit in it except Klarkash-Ton's "Chains of Aforgomon" - that is nothing short. Two Gun's {R E Howard} serial may be good, b ut I never read serials until I have all the parts." [1]

1 p. 372, letter to Don Wandrei of Dec 6, 1935, Letters of H P Lovecraft and Donald Wandrei, S T Joshi, 2002

Billopp House: A tiny horror fragment

When Chrispy writes horror, it appears from the most obscure and common place things. So, too, Lovecraft.

"A short walk out of Tottenville, embowered among antique pines on the south shore and now is a state of vast decrepitude, is tehe old Billopp House, {1,4} a stone pile built by the first British circumnavigator of the {New York} island about 1664. There is something both impressive and terrible in its steep and hoary gable - one could write a story about it. I talked with the owner. a crude man whose family have inhabited it for ninety years. He does not appreciate his habitat, though he knows is is popular with the visitors from the outside world." [2]

Do you see how HPL slid from travelogue to horror story in a seamless manner? This has basically become an outline for a new horror story - never undertaken. This shows the quickness of his mind, his visual accuity to find a cue for a new story. All the elements are there - antiquarian ship captain, modern era devolved miscreant, eldritch house in near-ruins, and a Poesque family with a tainted past.

1 The Conference House so named because of a peace conference held September 11, 1776. It is quite restored now. see [3]

2 Letters from New York, to Lillian Clark, Sept. 29, 1924, ed. ST Joshi, p. 69

3 From the National Park Service:

A British naval officer, Capt. Christopher Billopp, built this two-story, stone house sometime before 1688, and in September 1776 a "peace" conference was held here between Admiral Lord Howe and an American delegation consisting of Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, and Edward Rutledge. Even though it came after the British victory on Long Island, the conference ended without agreement because the patriots insisted on independence and Howe required the withdrawal of the Declaration of Independence. The city of New York acquired the house in 1926 and 3 years later placed it in custody of the Conference House Association under whose auspices it has been restored and furnished in the Revolutionary period. NHL Designation: 05/23/66

4 Sadly, Chrispy has found a few poor pictures of Billlopp House on-line but all are listed as copyrighted. If you google "Billopp House" or "Conference House" you will see a few.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Lovecraft's Scientific Heroes

Winslow Upton c. 1899
Renowned astronomer. Brown had to build the Ladd Observatory to keep him on staff.

Renowned chemist, John Howard Appleton.

Gave HPL one of his first chemistry books.

Chrispy has a copy and has posted excerpts throughout the blog.

Lovecraft in the Shadow of Brown University

Howard loved the Ladd Observatory, hung out with professors who also came over to the house. He dearly wanted to be a student there, but alas he never made it.

Here are some vintage pictures of BU in the day.

The top picture is circa 1900 John Hay Library.


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