On 19th February 1933 Lovecraft wrapped up warm against the winter chill and attended “a poetick reading” by the famous poet T.S. Eliot at Brown University…
the celebrity being none other than … the eminent & incomprehensible Shantih S. (Waste Land) Eliot.
A little later on 15th May 1933 Lovecraft moved to his last home at 66 College Street. This move put him right on the edge of the university campus, since all he had to do was step a few yards up the hill and slip through the gates at the top of College Street…
Looking through the gates at College Street, the John Hay Library on the right.
Having moved into “Grandpa’s hillside abode” nearby, he made two pictures of the new place with his “ancient Brownie” camera and then evidently strolled with his aunt into the neighbouring college grounds at Brown. Since he states that…
A third snap shews my aunt against ancient University Hall (1770) in the neighbouring college grounds.
He was still very much an outsider of course, a ‘pulp hack’ of no note or celebrity. But due to his new location he must have begun to have more contact with campus life, and (quite possibly) its event notice-boards. In his final years he would sporadically attend various public lectures at Brown. Not only lectures on the arts, but also on certain aspects of history and the sciences which interested him. In one late instance he also attended a large meeting of the Brown ‘Skyscrapers’ astronomy club, where there was to be a lecture on the history of early astronomy in Rhode Island.
It occurs to me that it might be useful to append a full list of ‘public lectures attended by H.P. Lovecraft’ to the forthcoming giant meta-index for the published Letters. And the same for the exhibitions he notes seeing at the city’s School of Design and elsewhere. Rather than try to rather awkwardly shoehorn them into the index itself?
But in the meanwhile, what did the public lecture halls at Brown look like?
Well, here is the venue for the T.S. Eliot lecture and reading, at Faunce House. This served as the Student Social Centre and was thus presumably larger (the size needed to cater for the large T.S. Eliot audience?) than the adjacent University Hall or Manning Hall. Note what appears to be a pseudo 18th century coaching entrance on the right side, its entrance shape obviously fashioned after one Lovecraft knew near the Art Club (the haunt of the ancient cat ‘Old Man’) and another half-way down College Street.
One of the lounges at Faunce House, late 1930s.
Here we see a 1950s map, which shows the arrangement of the various buildings around the central College Green lawn. Lovecraft had lived just behind the John Hay Library. The map also shows that the genteel old folks home, that had once been across the cat-haunted courtyard garden from him, had by the 1950s been taken by the University as a faculty car-park. Lovecraft’s own house does not appear, being a residential rather than a functional university building. His house was lifted and moved to a new site in the city in 1959.
Here we see the University Hall in the 1920s-30s, followed by two sketch cards of Manning and University halls. Lovecraft sent a card showing both halls to Donald Wandrei, quite possibly this one. These sketches are by Stacey Tolman (1860-1935), a prominent Providence artist whose final exhibition Lovecraft also attended.
These then are some of Lovecraft’s last haunts, as he explained to young Rimel in a letter just before Christmas 1936…
For me the season of outings ended early in November , & the long hibernation is now on. I get to hear lectures now & then, but spend as little time as possible away from [the 66 College Street] steam heat!
Lovecraft later told Rimel (in his final 20th February 1937 letter to the lad) that even in his final days, half-starved and near death, he still…
managed to get around somehow … tottering forth … occasionally taking in lectures on subjects as varied as Peruvian antiquities, Italian Romanesque architecture, biological concepts in philosophy, and Greek astronomical hypotheses.
According the Brobst the very last lecture he heard was on his beloved Colonial Furniture. That same night, when he returned in a terrible state, the doctor was called.