While searching for an audio reading of de Camp’s 1938 non-fiction “Language for Time Travelers” (there doesn’t appear to be one), I discovered another Lovecraft-as-character story. In the 2005 collection Years in the Making: The Time-Travel Stories of L. Sprague de Camp, there is the story “Balsamo’s Mirror” (1976), which has Lovecraft as a very recognisable though un-named character.

In this 1930s tale an MIT university undergraduate named Willy and his friend Lovecraft wax lyrical about the virtues of the 18th century.

He [Lovecraft] wanted America to rejoin the British Empire; I was for splendid isolation. We argued history. He was devoted to the eighteenth century; I thought that men wearing wigs over good heads of hair looked silly.

They get lost in some dark back-alleys along Providence’s waterfront and thereby encounter the curious storefront of a Madame Nosi, mystic. The impoverished Lovecraft is reluctant to enter, but the affluent Willy offers to pay whatever her fee is. For a hefty $20 she offers a trip into what is claimed to be ‘the mirror of Nostradamus’, which apparently allowed the old seer to travel in time and actually see the future. The pair use it to visit the eighteenth-century, but unfortunately they find themselves in the form of humble rural yeomen (farm workers), rather than writers and wits in the London coffee-houses. Adventure ensues.

It’s not Nabakov, but it tells an amusing tale and must have been written interestingly close to the date of de Camp’s Lovecraft biography. It can be found in the Archive.org scan of Fantasy & Science Fiction magazine, June 1976.

As for his “Language for Time Travelers”, I’ve also discovered that Willy Ley produced a similar essay titled “Geography for Time-travellers”, just a year later. Apparently this takes a high level view, in terms of what the Earth would have looked like to space-visitors in orbit during past ages and aeons. C.M. Korbluth followed in similar vein with his essay “Time Travel and the Law”. All three essays can be found collected in good book form in the Martin Greenberg edited collection Coming Attractions (1957), which unfortunately is not on Archive.org. Though all the articles collected had first appeared in the pulps, and so the additional two can probably be found there with a little sleuthing.