In early April 1905 a 15 year old H.P. Lovecraft walked down the old hill into town, buffeted and chilled by the unusually windy and snowy season. There he snuggled down in the warmth and silence of the Public Library and spent “days of boning at the library”, as he later said. The word ‘boning’ here being schoolboy shorthand for the elbows-on-the-table hardness of steady study — and perhaps also the dog-at-a-bone tenacity needed to do it.

His research subject was the Mammoth Cave in distant Kentucky, a vast and reputedly endless cave system that had already been well-mined by juvenile writers. It was to form the setting of his juvenile tale “The Beast in the Cave”, of which S.T. Joshi states “the finished version dates to April 21, 1905”. While the photographic postcards of the 1920s and 30s were at that point still decades distant, Lovecraft would almost certainly have dug up evocative engravings made in the 1880s and 90s by Edwin Hopper and others…

The Descent

The River Cliffs

On Echo River, with the hint of a lost doorway being discovered.

Cyclopean formations

So far as I know he never visited Mammoth Cave, but he did take a long trip to see the Endless Caverns, which I’ve documented in another post.