This week’s Friday ‘Picture Postal’ continues the loose Florida theme, begun for me by a recent Voluminous podcast in which Lovecraft preparing for an epic trip to meet Barlow in De Land, Florida.
After his arrival at De Land, and settling into the Barlow spread some 14 miles away from the town centre, they began to visit such local tourist spots as there were. One of these places was the nearby De Leon Springs. It was an obvious choice, as there was then a choice bit of antiquity for Lovecraft to enjoy.
Among our diversions have been several trips to ancient places of the sort I dote upon…. including a Spanish sugar-mill at De Leon Springs which antedates 1763 (vide enc. [see enclosed free-leaflet or postcard]). … [many such places having] the tropical background & marks of the jungle’s reconquest, being picturesque & exotic to the highest degree” (letter to Helen V. Sulley)
This is what the spot looked like…
“Tall trees casting a sinister twilight over shallow lagoons…” (Lovecraft on a 1931 visit to Florida).
Another card of one of De Land’s springs shows the more vibrant local colours one would see in the bright sunshine. It also perhaps evokes the wild ‘island’ and lake/riverine spread that the Barlow family had ‘out back’ of their isolated place, although it appears that around the house the native vegetation was mixed with belts of “tall Australian pines” (possibly planted as storm-breaks, and to dry out the ground?) as Lovecraft describes them.
This was no fleeting visit and Lovecraft had plenty of time to explore and get to know the environment and its snakes…
De Land, Florida, where I visited the young weird tale enthusiast R. H. Barlow for nearly 2 months in May & June, 1934.
The following summer he spent a mammoth 10 weeks there. It was, arguably, during these times that he was probably most happy/healthy as an adult.
De Land is a modern town which owes all its beauty to its fine subtropical setting — live-oaks, moss, magnolias … The Barlow place is 14 miles west of the village, & out of sight of any other human habitation … The climate is admirable — 85º to 90º day after day, & no chill spells at this season, I feel like a new person — as spry as a youth, & without a trace of the usual trouble which besets me in the north. I go hatless & coatless, & am maintaining an admirable layer of tan. Snakes abound to a picturesque degree; & young Barlow shoots them for their skin — which he uses in amateur bookbinding. The other day I saw him bag a coach-whip snake all of 7 feet long. (from a letter to Helen Sulley, 26th May 1934)
After reading Lovecraft’s letters I sometimes formed the vague impression that young Barlow was almost as blind as a bat (“he is very unfortunately handicapped by poor eyesight” etc). But evidently he could pick off a snake’s head in verdant undergrowth with a rifle, and presumably at some distance? Perhaps the explanation is he had good long-sight, but poor short-sight?
Screenshot of missing pictures: