Geography of The Heavens, and class book of astronomy, accompanied by a celestial atlas, rev. and corr. by O.M. Mitchel (1849, digital facsimile link), was one of a collection inherited from Lovecraft’s maternal grandmother who had been trained as an astronomer. It was the key which unlocked an interest in astronomy in the young Lovecraft. According to S.T. Joshi’s Lovecraft’s Library, Lovecraft owned the 1853 reprint edition of it. Writing to Moe in 1915 he called it… “the most prized volume in my library”. In a letter of 1926 he refers to it as… “Grandma’s copy of Burritt’s Geography of the Heavens“.
It also covers some history and recounts that comets were once posited as vehicles of eternal punishment, inside which the wicked were slowly frozen and then roasted over the aeons.
Lovecraft also owned the more sumptuously illustrated Atlas Designed to Illustrate the Geography of the Heavens (1856), which was a supplement to the above book. This was lost by him, I think in a house move, but he later acquired a replacement.
Here are some of the interior decorated and illustrated pages which the young Lovecraft would have scrutinised…
The latter two images were only present in Lovecraft’s 1856 edition.
Hippocampus has announced the new S.T. Joshi novel starring H.P. Lovecraft, in an imagined plot set in 1914. The Assaults of Chaos: a novel about H.P. Lovecraft is initially in a limited edition of only 500 in hardcover. Let’s hope there’s a later paperback, and even a affordable Kindle edition, to keep it available.
Pulp Studies, new website of The Pulp Studies Area of the U.S. Popular Culture Association.
A single page Inventory of the H.P. Lovecraft Collection, on the website of the Rhode Island Archival and Manuscript Collections Online. Very usefully annotated, and easily searchable by keyword.
HPL has discovered that he is descended from the Elizabethan astronomer John Field. “For one who has always had an eye for the heavens himself, this sure is quite a find!” [Lovecraft to Robert H. Barlow, 14th May 1936]
A new $100(!) book of essays from the academic publisher Ashgate, Transnational Gothic: Literary and Social Exchanges in the Long Nineteenth Century. The “Long Nineteenth Century” was a Marxist term for the period 1789 (French Revolution) to 1914 (First World War), which implicitly positions communism as the fulcrum of history. This increasingly well-reviewed collection tries to wriggle free of the tribal academic mindsets that apparently… “concentrate exclusively on race, gender, or nation” in the gothic, litcrit studies in which… “every nineteenth century haunting seems to be based on race” and “with few exceptions, the focus is limited to national borders”. This new book tries instead to see the gothic as a global network of aesthetic influence — something which would seem to be obvious to a historian, but which mainstream literary academics writing on the gothic have apparently been blind to.
The book’s Introduction is available on Amazon’s “Look Inside”, or via the free 10% sample for your Kindle ereader. The Kindle version is cheaper, but is still $58(!). You can also get to Google Books chapter previews, but only by Google Search.
There are a couple of essays of tangential relevance to Lovecraft:
“Demonizing the Catholic Other” develops the accepted history in which the roots of horror fiction lie in folk tales re-crafted to serve as anti-Catholic propaganda tales (Beware the Cat etc), by suggesting that anti-Catholicism was later complicated and developed by the rising and secularising middle-classes. By having been demonised, a conversion to Catholicism was inadvertently positioned as an alluring form of cultural rebellion for middle-class youth. But if gothic horror fiction really sent readers into the clammy hands of the local Catholic priest, then I suspect there were more than a few disappointed converts. Most literary-minded Catholic converts probably just had a simple yearning for a sumptuously embroidered and censer-smelling alternative to parental cold-water Christianity or secular boredom, rather than any hopes for orgies with vampire nuns and the like. Although perhaps some gay converts such as Montague Summers actually got the dark sensual frisson they were looking for. As the English-speaking world modernised, the spread of middle-class education and toleration of Catholics meant that horror’s cliched anti-Catholic elements had outlived any practical usefulness in the culture. But the social acceptability of horror had been established due to its past political usefulness, and thus horror found itself in a cultural space where it could become a formularised and tolerated commercial titillation for the literate secular middle-classes. A formula against which Lovecraft later rebelled in his best work.
The another interesting essay, “A Transnational Perspective on American Gothic Fiction” questions the rigid boundaries which mainstream academics have apparently set up between British and American gothic fiction. I’m no expert on mainstream gothic litcrit, but it seems a convincing overview and is pointed out in reviews as one of the best essays in the book.
“Gothic Prosidy: Monkish Perversity and the Poetics of Weird Form” also looks as though it might have some slight interest to historians of weird poetry. It… “examines the way Romantic-period poets such as Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Edgar Allan Poe invented unique stanzas and meters for poems that involve horror or the supernatural.”
Proposal for a fairly simple non-RPG gamer’s fun Lovecraft board-game…
The board-game to be based on Lovecraft’s many long night-walks in New York, walks made frequently when he lived in the city for several years in the mid 1920s. Devise a simplified Monopoly-like version of New York City circa 1926, based on appropriate places found on maps and guides to the city at that time, and in the Lovecraft letters etc. The board-game would then have Lovecraft and his New York friends (maybe also a few cats from Ulthar, Detective Malone from “Red Hook”, and the old man from “He”) encountering mysterious atmospheres in NYC locations as they circle the squares at the edge of the board. The “hall of mirrors in Coney Island at night” would be an example of the sort of location to use (Lovecraft visited Coney Island several times), as well as the more obvious graveyards and museums etc. By landing on and answering knowledge questions about these places the players collect cards. When they have a certain combination of cards, this lets them into the tunnels or crypts or abandoned subway stations on the board. All tunnels emerge in the raised centre of the board — where players have a dream-encounter / psychic battle with Cthulhu. Perhaps they have to escape from the dream that Cthulhu is ‘sending’ to them. Perhaps Cthulhu is hanging off the Empire State Building, to which he is gripping King Kong-like. Players can only escape him via answering strange riddles, which would fit with Lovecraft’s concern with unspeakability and madness. The goal of the game would be to complete a tour of the Lovecraftian places in New York at night without going insane from too many Cthulhu dream encounters.
Feel free to take this idea and run with on Kickstarter. Just send me 10% of the take 🙂
The Mormons (LDS) have officially put three of Kenneth W. Faig Jr.’s Lovecraft books online for free. No, they haven’t suddenly taken to worshiping Cthulhu. The Mormons are interested in anything genealogical, since tracing your ancestors is apparently a key part of their religion. So they’re happy to include serious works of that nature in their vast online databases. No registration required, to view.
George Elliott Lovecraft: Lost Scion of the House of Lovecraft (Moshassuck, 2010).
Qvae Amamvs Tvemvr: Ancestors in Lovecraft’s Life & Fiction (Moshassuck, 2008).
Devonshire Ancestry of Howard Phillips Lovecraft (with Chris Docherty & Langley Searles) (Moshassuck, 2003).
Faig’s 1993 Phillips genealogy (with its 1994 Corrections & Additions volume) for Lovecraft’s maternal line is available free, but only via LDS microfilm. Presumably one can access it via local LDS research centres, of which there are many.
[ Expanded version of this post, in footnoted essay form, can now be found in my new book Lovecraft in Historical Context: fourth collection. ]
Now available for pre-order and set to ship in August, H.P. Lovecraft: Letters to Elizabeth Toldridge & Anne Tillery Renshaw. Lovecraft corresponded with the disabled Elizabeth Toldridge for eight years, it seems mainly on poetry and politics. Anne Tillery Renshaw was an amateur colleague of the 1910s, who later became a rather tedious revision client. The letters are “unabridged”, and with “annotations by David E. Schultz and S.T. Joshi”.
Elizabeth Toldridge (1861-1940), graduated 1880 (although I have been unable to discover from where). Also corresponded with Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., although possibly only briefly as only one letter from her is in his archives. S.T. Joshi states that in Lovecraft’s time Toldridge lived the life of an invalid in various dingy hotels in Washington D.C. Her two volumes of verse appear to have been The Soul of Love (c.1910) and Mother’s Love Songs (1910). These show that, up to age 50 at least, she wrote ladies’ verse in the conventional Edwardian style. Although one can see, in at least one of her later poems, a somewhat more vigorous style. One wonders if this improvement was due to Lovecraft’s influence. For instance, this is the opening section of her poem “Washington” (pub. 1932) on George Washington…
Some men are born to glory, as the day
Awakes to travail and the night, to stars!
And he, the predestined, was of such fine clay
It fit his spirit as white sails their spars.
Travail and star were ever rim to rim —
His very toil was dream and prophecy.
She also set some of her poems to music, for instance writing the words and music of the song “Flag of My Home and Heart” (1921). This, in its use of the line “America-linking East and West” seems to show the influence of Walt Whitman…
Flag of my home and heart!
America-linking East and West,
To heroic stature grown…”
It seems that the “25 West 57th Street” address — where Lovecraft’s wife Sonia opened her first hat shop, just off Fifth Avenue — had long been a location for upmarket hat retail, judging by these online snippets:
“Fresh with ideas from Paris and elsewhere, Herman Tappe opened up his own emporium in New York City in May of 1907. At first, he specialized in ladies’ hats” […] “He opened the House of Tappe’ at 25 West 57th Street” circa 1910.
Then in 1918…
“Doane-Evette, a new millinery concern, has leased the store formerly occupied by Tappe at 25 West 57th Street, New York, taking over the former Lewison mansion.”
After Tappe moved, the store had been advertised for rent as…
“This is an exceptional opportunity to lease a showroom 25 x 90 feet, also a workroom of the same size with executive offices. In the heart of the most exclusive millinery center to be found anywhere in America”.
Doane-Evette filed a notice of bankruptcy in the New York press in February 1919. That she failed so quickly may have been due to the disruption in supply lines from Paris in the aftermath of the Armistice. But it may also indicate that the expense of running such a store was considerable. Less than a decade later, Sonia’s hat shop at the same address would also collapse within months.
It seems surprising that Sonia’s store, opening there in the mid 1920s, has left no trace in the online record. Perhaps something of that size and location was thought not to need press advertising, or the relevant directories and trade publications have not yet been scanned and placed online? Perhaps the sheer speed of its collapse (a few months, it seems) meant that she had no chance to built up a wad of profits that could be spent on advertising?