Rock Hill Herald profiles the Lovecraft-contemporary known as the ‘Goat Gland King’, the sort of quack that Lovecraft appears to laugh at in several works. In this case, John Romulus Brinkley was active from 1916 into the early 1930s. He offered expensive quack treatments claiming that goat-gland transplants would “restore sexual vitality and fertility to impotent or ‘tired’ men”.
However as I’ve noted in “On Lovecraft’s glands”, while laughing at such things Lovecraft also held long-standing notions about ‘glands shaping personality’ and believed glandular compulsion to be the major factor driving various forms of sexual aberrancy. It appears to have followed, for him, that the more tiresome emotions could be ignored because they were just the passing result of “glandular secretion & hormonic discharge”.
These notions were not the result of some cranky middle-aged idée fixe but were more or less a normal take-up of the emerging science-based ideas of his time, half-baked though some of them may now seem. But he was perhaps unusual in extending his glandular thinking to aesthetic capabilities, which may have raised a few eyebrows among the reputable scientists in the field…
There are subtleties & overtones on my side that you can never get [on the] emotional & imaginative wave-lengths. […] we’re simply not built the same way & our glands simply don’t function the same way” (To Woodburn Harris, 1929).
One’s glandular state was then for him a kind of determinism. One had been ‘born that way’, and nothing could be done about it. But he once mused that this dulled state was perhaps not perpetually fixed. Some future eugenic improvement might open up people to new aesthetic experiences that they would otherwise be incapable of…
While nothing in our normal experience is ever likely to call forth any additional senses, it is not impossible that experiments with the ductless glands might open up a fresh sensitivity or two — and then what impressions might not pour in?” (To Ashton Smith, 1933).
In this he seems to vaguely anticipate the technocratic post-war ideas of Marshall McLuhan, who suggested that experiencing electronic media and information-flows might extended man’s “entire nervous system” and thus “produce an entirely different state of being” with access to expanded aesthetic senses. No need for those old 1930s goat-glands, just plug in your gleaming 1970s Home Cinematron screen.