More notes on my reading of the second volume of H.P. Lovecraft’s Letters to Family, here mostly relating to 1926-1928.

There is an interesting description, re: a possible inspiration for “The Colour Out of Space”, of a ground curiously mineralised and as-if “powdered with star-dust” (page 604). He finds this in September 1926 scattered around the 1707 birthplace of the early astronomer David Rittenhouse (1732-1796), a homestead that had been encountered by chance as Lovecraft was lost while exploring the Wissahickon Valley. “Colour” was written some six months later.

Lovecraft saw the grand historical-adventure movie Ben Hur (page 602). Later he remarks on his break from cinema-going, between Aug-Sept 1927 and May 1928.

He recalls the Old Corner Bookshop (page 612). Presumably Dana’s Old Corner Bookstore in Providence, as he had sold some of his mother’s books to them and later regretted parting with one such when he saw it on display in the window.

He remarks that, like himself, his friend Loveman also had many young proteges… “He had with him one of his numberless prodigy-proteges, a quiet blond youth whose accomplishments seem to be, so far, appreciative rather than creative” (page 632).

In April 1928 Loveman had noticed that the old rooming house, 169 Clinton St. on the edge of Red Hook, appeared abandoned and with some windows smashed. However, in May 1928 Lovecraft and Loveman went to bid it a final goodbye… only to find it revived (a fresh coat of paint and “marks of rehabilitation”) and thus presumably under new ownership (pages 634 and 661).

By April 1928 the Kalem meetings had “almost dissolved” (i.e. dwindled to just a few attendees) but were strongly revived while Lovecraft was again living in New York City.

On discovering that some museums would make a good affordable plaster-casts for private display, he remarks… “it was my original design in youth to have a private museum of Greek & Roman casts”.

He discovers an old Antarctic adventure novel he has not yet read, titled Revi-lona: a Romance of Love in A Marvelous Land (1879) by a journalist of the time. An explorer finds love with sex-starved women in a tropical shangri-la amid the ice. Apparently very floridly written and yet ultimately conveying the rather cynical and anti-utopian sentiments of an American newspaperman. The implication is that Lovecraft has read most such novels, but that this is a new find for him. Not on under that title.

“The Spence book on Atlantis that I read so hurriedly just before departing for my trip” (page 637). There is no footnote for this book, and both “Spence” and “Atlantis” are curiously missing from the index. Lewis Spence wrote five books about Atlantis, and the most likely in spring 1928 was the relatively new The History of Atlantis (1927), though it might have been the earlier The Problem of Atlantis (1924) or Atlantis in America (1925).

Lovecraft read at least one non-fiction book by Lewis Mumford on architecture. This was prior to Mumford’s efflorescence of ideas on tools, technologies and civilisation.

He knew, read and kept the magazine published by the Hospital Trust in Providence. This produced the fine Netropian journal, with many local history articles and local drawings from the 1920s. Copies apparently languish in paper at Brown and the Rhode Island School of Design, un-scanned.

He mentions reading and being impressed by a volume of poetry by Gessler, friend of his best friend Belknap Long, titled Kanaka Moon (1927). Not on

He found Morton’s full library very impressive when he saw it fully assembled and shelved at Paterson, and thought it better even than that of Cook. “I’ve never seen so fine a private Library” (pages 657 and 658).

Lovecraft finds he has a family-tree line named “Fish” (page 663), and this is some years before the writing of “Innsmouth”.

There was a time when $5 would buy you a custom original plot-synopsis by H.P. Lovecraft. In the spring of 1928 he was writing many such plots for one “Reed”, at the jobbing rate of a dollar per page (page 668). We later learn this client to be a “Mrs Reed” (page 676), now of course known to be his revision client Zealia Brown Reed.

Lovecraft revised the first chapter of McNeil’s historical-adventure novel The Shores of Adventure (1929). In which the boy hero earns and acquires his father’s super-sword.

In summer 1928 he notes “a resumption of the Providence Line of New York boats”, meaning passenger services from Providence — New York City.

Lovecraft discovered an old unchanged working colonial farmstead, “in full sight of the distant towers of Manhattan” and with its inhabitants oblivious to modernity of New York City (page 678).