At the risk of boring regular readers of Tentaclii, here are four more glimpses of the ‘Uncle Eddy’ bookshop on Weybosset in Providence. Readers of the Lovecraft Annual 2022 will recall my detailed article which revealed the bookselling uncle of Eddy Jr., a firm “favorite” for the book collectors in Lovecraft’s circle whenever they visited Providence. The largest used bookshop in Providence, for many years. In the article I was only able to furnish a bit of a poor picture-postcard…
I’ve since found four more glimpses of the site. Though only glimpses, not a straight-on picture of the doorway to the cellar bookstore.
First, an early image of the site (here outlined in red) from the archives of the Providence Public Library. Two distinctive domes are clearly seen. The nearer one on the far-left, and in the distance the old Beneficent Congregational ‘Round Top’ Church. These provide useful orientation.
Next a detail from another Public Library picture. Here we look the other way, and see only the distinctive domed building on the corner. Again, the doorway is outlined in red.
Next we again look toward the Round Top church. The bookstore entrance, or what would later be a bookstore, is obscured by a street fountain.
Here we look toward the Crown Hotel, and can just see the same distinctive dome on the corner building. The entrance is again obscured, by what might be a short telegraph pole.
While looking for pictures I did however stumble on a rare good front-view of a Providence ‘news-stand’ store, and in what might be the early 1920s. The Narraganset Smoke Shop, probably in Dorrance Street since an adjacent/above sign (seen on the wider picture) for “T.H. D’Arcy, Engraver” leads me to 86 Dorrance Street. Just around the corner from Weybosset Street. This hole-in-the-wall magazine, tobacco and candy store looks a likely prospect for a fellow wanting to bag a copy of the curious new magazine called ‘Weird Tales’. Here newly colourised.
The UK’s Heath Robinson Museum has an “Illustrating the Grotesque” exhibition, 23rd September to 10th December 2023. Focussing on his illustrations for The Works of Rabelais (1904, 2 vols., not on Archive.org), but probably also drawing on his earlier Poe work and others. The museum is in Pinner, about 12 miles north of central London.
Currently the Museum has an exhibition of Robinson, one the UK’s best-loved illustrators, “Illustrating Andersen & Perrault”.
Paper-sniffers rejoice. My big scholarly Tolkien book Tree & Star (2022) can now be purchased in paperback from the U.S. Lulu.com store. Formatted as a standard 6″ x 9″ American ‘trade’ paperback. I chose the slightly better quality of b&w printing, since the book has many illustrations.
A quick scatter-gun round-up of some new British journals.
Undefined Boundary: The Journal of Psychick Albion has produced a second issue. Including a Bill Nelson interview. Both issues can currently be had as a bundle.
Wow, and what’s this… yes, it’s a Detectorists fanzine: Detectorists Bundle, Issues 1 – 4 from the same folk as Psychick Albion.
And finally the Bacon Review has its first issue out. Not the ‘sizzling piggy’ type of bacon. The artist Francis Bacon, painter of the ‘Screaming Pope’ painting and all that.
A Lovecraft Telegram Sticker set. Some better than others, but pleasingly done. Telegram being a moderately successful Twitter competitor, keen on free speech. Perhaps I should try it, but it’s yet another service that doesn’t seem very friendly to users of desktop PCs. Presumably because mobile devices allow much more data-leeching than PCs? /Adopts clueless old man pose, scratches head…/ Anyway, nice stickers. Which I assume are used like ye olde emojis.
I don’t see any other Lovecraft sets, just this large one.
The Irish fantasy writer Rosa Mulholland’s vivid fantasy for children The Walking Trees, now freely available in PDF at last. This is not the later handsome illustrated edition, which I find is utterly available except physically in a few Irish libraries. So my new assemblage from the original magazine serial will have to do for now. You’re welcome.
Also in ‘choice obscurities’, new on Archive.org is The Armchair Detective for July 1972, which considered “A. Merritt’s Mysteries”. Merritt being a Lovecraft fave. On the novel Creep, Shadow! (Argosy, August 1934) the author of the article writes…
The themes of the book — reincarnation, sympathetic magic through shadows, and the re-enactment of an ancient myth of Brittany — are methodically laid out and examined intellectually before the author proceeds to the action. There are flashes of the old poetic imagery, and some of Merritt’s finest writing is in the “shadowland” sequence. This book, which I consider to be one of Merritt’s finest works, is unusual in its pace and plot when compared to his other novels.
A 2023 open-access book details the history of the technologies of the picture for print. Half the book looks at the pre-digital days when there was effectively nothing but print, and no scanners and hard-drives either. The other half looks at the change-over period.
This new digital culture arrived surprisingly late in time for some. In my university department we had around 20 filing cabinets in a ‘slide room’ aka Picture Library, each cabinet stuffed with rack-sliders and hangers containing slide transparencies of fine art and fine-art and some documentary photography. I think the date of change-over was about 2005 (roughly the date of the arrival of fast home broadband in the UK) when we got a new hot and young ‘slide room guy’. In short order we had a consignment of new digital projectors and people started getting their own laptops or mini laptops (the EEEs, which could run Windows XP quite happily and had standard VGA output).
The screen-projected quality on a wall wasn’t as good as slides on a proper slide-screen, and the digital + laptops classroom wrangling of the equipment was often as painful as setting up the slides and a screen. But it was kind of easier, because lecturers had started using Powerpoint rather than the blackboard (yes, our purpose-built department had fine blackboards and we used them) and photocopied handouts. So unless you printed the Powerpoint on acetates for an overhead projector, or on photocopies… and assuming you could find an overhead projector or a photocopier still working… well, you see some of the many ramifying problems.
And all this assumes you could get into what was often a locked room in the early morning, 30 minutes prior, to do all the needed setup, tidy the desks and air the room. An all-in-one digital solution just made things somewhat easier, though the visual quality of the projection was only about two-thirds that of a crisp and well-focused 35mm slide in a darkened room.
I cringe today when (finding pictures to illustrate local creative industries news) I occasionally see contemporary pictures of dedicated ‘art appreciation’ lessons inside middle school classrooms. The projector is often being used in daylight under strip-lights, and the kids are supposed to be ‘experiencing art’ through a really crappy washed-out image. Which I suspect is often also of a picture just ‘grabbed from the Internet’ without realising how colour-shifted and cropped the picture has become. One often has to really hunt to track down the best available and most faithful/largest version of a famous picture, and of course busy teachers don’t have the time or discovery skills for that. Even if they did, the picture would look poor when projected. I guess the ideal is that new-build schools should have their own cinema-like ‘dark room’ for quality projection, linked to online access to a quality-approved picture library.
Anyway, I thought that those readers of Tentaclii who are editors, publishers and artists might be interested in the new free book. Especially those who have lived through the change from print to digital…
from the pre-photographic 1830s to the post-digitized 2010s [the book examines] range of research skills, reproduction machinery, and communication infrastructures needed to make pictures available to a public before digitization.
A 2020 Rhode Island School of Design student dissertation project imagined a new use for the churchyard of St. John’s Episcopal in Providence, a place which in its time was a favorite Lovecraft haunt…
the intended design strategy is to keep the upper surface of the landscape untouched as much as possible, but create a spatial condition of the churchyard downwards. [Thus juxtaposing] the two sides of the world separated by death [via] a tunneling technique that creates an earthy quality in the spaces, emphasizing the reality of being underground, beneath a churchyard.
As Lovecraftians will recall, the master made frequent nocturnal visits to “St. John’s hidden hillside churchyard which Poe used to love [in 1847-48]”. He was also please to find that local early astronomer John Merritt, a London man before Providence, had a tomb. Lovecraft had his own thoughts on what lay beneath…
there must be some unsuspected vampiric horror burrowing down there & emitting vague miasmatic influences [Many friends have fearful feelings there. My friend Cook was afrighted there] by a certain unplaceable, deliberate scratching which recurred at intervals around 3 a.m.” (Lovecraft to Helen Sully, Letters to Talman, p. 305)
Finding this RISD student work (the author seemingly oblivious of Lovecraft and Poe) seemed a fine cue for one of my Friday ‘Picture postals’ posts. By sheer co-incidence I had also reached the St. John’s passages in the book containing the Sully letters.
The 271 North Main Street church building (opened 1810) which replaced the King’s Church (1722) is not to be confused with St. John’s Roman Catholic Church on Federal Hill (Lovecraft’s model for the ‘Free-Will Church of the Starry Wisdom’) which was demolished in 1992. Unfortunately there are few vintage postcards to be found. Just two of the church itself.
And a later one, which judging from the colour printing method and the typography on the back might be late 1950s or early 60s. The garish colour is here de-saturated…
But there is also this fine atmospheric glass-plate record-picture from circa the mid 1930s…
Lovecraft may have stepped inside, since the place had a la Farge stained-glass window. It was then open for services and presumably visitors, but today is said to be decaying rapidly. He noted that in his time (c. 1890-1930) burials had continued, but that those were only of the worthy rectors and bishops of the church. It sounds from the letters like it was more enclosed, overgrown and hidden by trees in the 1920s and 30s than today. The glimpses that can be obtained on Street View hint that much of the surrounding vegetation is now cut back, presumably to aid police surveillance re: druggies and vandalism?
Today I’m told the churchyard is accessed from up on Benefit Street, and I think I’ve found the un-signed entrance here on Street View. Though Lovecraft probably wouldn’t venture far down the path today, before swooning in horror… at the hideous pre-cast concrete modernist bunker, built right next to the ancient church and churchyard. What were they thinking of? Vampiric under-crypts, possibly.
My Patreon patron John is considering a visit to Vermont, setting of Lovecraft’s story “The Whisperer in Darkness”. He asks: “Are there any HPL-related sites of special interest and worth visiting in the state?”
There are several Vermont sites known to be associated with either Lovecraft, his stories or correspondents/associates. But the question is which might be worth making the effort to see today. And in the month of September, or early ‘fall’ as Americans call autumn.
Reading Lovecraft’s own essay “Vermont – a first impression” (1927) will be useful if not already familiar. It’s easily found annotated in the “Travel” volume of Collected Essays. S.T. Joshi writes…
Lovecraft visited Vermont for the first time in the summer of 1927, returning in the summer of 1928. He did not actually witness the Vermont floods (a real event) [which later inspired the early incidents in “Whisperer”].
Dylan Henderson’s brilliant and well-written consideration of “The Promise of Cosmic Revelations: How the Landscape of Vermont Transforms “The Whisperer in Darkness”” (Lovecraft Annual 2021) would also be a useful preparatory read. Along with the 1977 edition of Vermont History journal, containing a short historical essay followed by a “Whisperer” plot-summary, “Dark Mountain: H.P. Lovecraft and the “Vermont Horror”” by Alan S. Wheelock. Lovecraft’s friend Orton later corrected some of the dates and biographical facts in this article.
The Goodenough and Orton sites:
A key site is the Goodenough farm in West Brattleboro, on the south-eastern edge of the state. Which it appears can still be visited, as by these young Lovecraft fans a few years ago on Lovecraft’s birthday…
Apparently the place is now held under the auspices of The Goodenough Farmstead Trust, with a covenant on the building and surroundings for its upkeep and restoration/preservation. They’ve had preservation grants for this in the 2000s, which appears to have given it a new roof judging by the above photo. It might be interesting if John could visit and show Lovecraftians how much progress has been made by 2023, and what its use (if any) is today. Also known to a local historian as the “Levi Goodenough Farm” in 2005.
Also the nearby Vrest Orton place, if it still exists and can be visited. Lovecraft himself states that Goodenough… “dwells not much above a mile from Orton’s”. Lovecraft spent two weeks at the newly acquired Orton place, and soon hauled some old clothes out of the barn in order to undertake heavy outdoor work with Orton. The work was re-directing the bed of a stream, mostly, if I recall correctly…
Lovecraft looks short here, but it’s a clever optical illusion. Orton is standing on a higher level of the lawn, and a letter says that Orton was not a tall fellow.
I never seen no country niftier than the wild hills west of Brattleboro, where this guy hangs out. Brat itself is the diploduccus’ gold molar [a big chunk of gold], with its works of pristine Yankee survival, but once you climb the slopes toward the setting sun you’re in another and an elder world. All allegiance to modern and decadent things is cast off — all memory of such degenerate excrescences as steel and steam, tar and concrete roads, and the vulgar civilisation that bred them — […] The nearness and intimacy of the little domed hills become almost breath-taking — their steepness and abruptness hold nothing in common with the humdrum, standardised world we know, and we cannot help feeling that their outlines have some strange and almost-forgotten meaning, like vast hieroglyphs left by a rumoured titan race whose glories live on in rare, deep dreams.
Lovecraft also partly drew on the landscape here for “Dunwich”, which he wrote…
is far inland [near the headwaters of the Miskatonic, and a] synthesis of the picturesquely retrograding Wilbraham country (near Springfield) with certain characteristics of southern Vermont” (Writers of the Dark).
Lovecraft probably refer to the terrain of his epic “escaped cow chase” in the company of the young Lee boys, Orton’s neighbours. This recalls the chase of the final monster in “Dunwich”. A “Lee’s Swamp” is mentioned in “Dunwich”.
My search for the Goodenough / Orton places in “the wild hills west of Brattleboro” in 2019 found…
If the Goodenough farmstead’s location is the address [340 Goodenough Road] at which the Goodenough Farmstead Trust is formally registered today (and satellite photography in Google Earth suggests it is, offering the same building layout, roof shape, and arrangement of of the grounds) then that puts it about five miles directly west of Brattleboro itself. This further suggests that Orton’s springwater-fed and oil-lit “eighteenth-century” place may have been in the hills somewhere off Akley Road, about a mile south of the Goodenough farmstead.
Amazingly, it’s not on Google Street View. Does Vermont not allow the Google cameras, perhaps? Or is it just too remote?
Brattleboro was also the home of Rudyard Kipling from 1892-1896, who less than ten years later was to birth hard science-fiction with the famous long story “With the Night Mail” (1905). He had married a Vermont girl, and their house was “on the north side of Brattleboro, towards Putney”. He wrote the Jungle Book books and Mowgli tales here.
The Akley home and farmstead:
The rustic naif artist-recluse Bert Gilman Akley (1871-1946), visited and met by Lovecraft in 1928. I recently found a postcard of the place in the Brown University repository…
The Akley house, one of the inspirations for “The Whisperer in Darkness”. Though the “set against a hillside” description also suggests the Goodenough farmhouse and the Orton house nearby. So probably the Akeley place in “Whisperer” was an amalgam. I’ve no idea if the actual Akley farmstead still exists, or if its site can be visited. Perhaps fellow Lovecraftians can advise. But it looks from the picture like it fits the other “Whisperer” descriptions of the exterior yard approach (re: the scenes with the dogs etc) better than the more enclosed Goodenough farmhouse.
The character of the very similarly named Akeley in “Whisperer” was more of an amalgam of Cook and Lovecraft himself, and perhaps Orton in terms of his able organisation of the place.
The ‘sightings of Mi-go in the floods’:
Lovecraft never saw the well-reported local floods except in press and magazine clippings, but in “Whisperer” the floods of November 1927 are used for the plot with locations…
three separate instances involved — one connected with Winooski River near Montpelier, another attached to the West River in Windham County beyond Newfane, and a third centring in the Passumpsic in Caledonia County above Lyndonville.
The “Guide to Lovecraftian Sites in Vermont and New Hampshire” also notes the Brattleboro Railroad Station and Townshend Post Office (where Akeley sent and received mail). I’ve found one evocative picture of the Brattleboro Railroad Station interior…
In the Brattleboro passenger station (an ugly new passenger and parcels depot, built circa 1916), in 1925.
Paul Cook in Vermont:
The long-time friend and avid weird book-collector Paul Cook later moved about a lot, I recall. But he was a Rutland, Vermont man and that was his home place. Under a pen-name he wrote stories of Vermont, collected recently in Willis T. Crossman’s Vermont: Stories (2005). It would be interesting to know if any of these have a weird flavour.
From Ex-presidents of the National Amateur Press Association: sketches, “Paul Cook”, page 93. A 1948 Arkham Sampler also noted that his poetry had been published and collected under the same pen-name.
In 2006 Cook’s home place of Rutland had a well-attended weekend “Lovecraft in Vermont” festival. The local newspaper’s details are unavailable outside the USA, due to the European Union’s cookie-madness, but I’ve made sure that the Internet Archive now has a copy. This led me to discover that the remarkable organiser, Lovecraftian and veritable ‘Indiana Jones’ passed away the next year, so one should not waste time trying to contact him.
As for research on correspondents and revision clients, it’s possible there may still be memories or documents relating to Woodburn Harris in his town of Vergennes, Vermont. He was a prominent and well-known leading man there. The recent publication of Lovecraft’s Woodburn Harris letters as a book might also interest the more antiquarian folk among the residents.
Walter J. Coates and his Driftwind:
Also, I recently looked at the location of the home of Walter J. Coates in Vermont. The address was North Montpelier, which actually turns out to be east of the main town. The East Montpelier Historical Society has online a detailed historical essay on the Coates little magazine and its editor, including several photographs. Thanks to John’s prompt I’ve now been able to re-find this (the link had been broken) and it (hurrah!) reveals the Coates / Driftwind location…
In November 1922, he and Nettie purchased the George Pray store in North Montpelier, and the Coateses and son John continued as the storekeepers.
So we do now have the place in a picture of the place, thanks to the postcard of North Montpelier I was recently able to find…
Nearby is one of the flood locations in “Whisperer”…
University collections in Vermont:
Mention of James Howard Flower and especially his “gem” of a poem “With Shelley in My Soul”). A footnote to Lovecraft’s comment reveals Flower was a Vermont revision client whose “Shelley” poem has “not been found”. […] if anyone’s in Vermont and near the University, it might be worth an afternoon sifting through the 1919-1925 boxes of the Howard Flower-Solitary Press Collection in search of Lovecraft mentions or material. “Collection is unprocessed” according to the Library.
Coates was doing revision for them, and my guess is that some of this work may also have been passed on to Lovecraft and/or Cook. One also wonders if Lovecraft ever had any poetry or letters in any of the Flower publications. Also, can Flower’s Lovecraft-admired “With Shelley in My Soul” be found again? Also at the same Library is the Walter John Coates Papers collection, though I’d assume that’s already been well-sifted for Lovecraft material. Still, a look at the complete run of Driftwind and other publications may be of interest.
As for imaginative reading, it’s possible a set of Mythos stories involving Vermont could be self-assembled, though I don’t think there’s yet been a published anthology. One might start with Lin Carter’s “Strange Manuscript Found in the Vermont Woods”. Said to be in Crypt of Cthulhu #39, by a trailer for it in #38.
So my initial itinerary would be:
1. The farmhouse in West Brattleboro (Goodenough) and the Goodenough grave. Possibly also nearby places (Orton and Akley) it they still exist.
2. North Montpelier and the nearby Winooski River (Coates, flooding in “Whisperer”).
3. Perhaps Vergennes, Vermont (Harris) and Rutland, Vermont (Cook).
4. Possibly Burlington, Vermont for the university archives (Flower, and Coates).
As to “worth seeing”, who knows until one goes?