Lovecraftisms in Thomas De Quincey
"I came suddenly upon Isis and Osiris: I had done a deed, they said, which the ibis and the crocodile trembled at. I was buried, for a thousand years, in stone coffins, with mummies and sphynxes, in narrow chambers at the heart of eternal pyramids. I was kissed, with cancerous kisses, by crocodiles; and laid, confounded with all unutterable slimy things, amongst reeds and Nilotic mud." This quote by De Quincy (Confessions of an English Opium-Eater) reminds me of several Lovecraft stories: "done a deed" is a phrase in both "Herbert West" and "Lurking Fear"; the references to Egypt harkens to "Under the Pyramids"; and "unutterable slimy things" seems a generic Lovecraft phrase (e.g., "unutterable things" from "Picture in the House"). The synonyms of the indescribable and unnamable as well as the idea of things that ought not to be known also appear in De Quincey's Suspiria de Profundis "So shall he see the things that ought not to be seen, sights that are abominable, and secrets that are unutterable. So shall he read elder truths, sad truths, grand truths, fearful truths." This appeared many decades before HPL made these qualities representative of his writing. Several paragraphs earlier De Quincey discussed three mythic females, the last of which he called Our Lady of Darkness, which makes him a forerunner of Fritz Leiber.
"Diary in the Snow"
This Fritz Leiber story has other reflections of Lovecraft beyond the borrowing from "He," noted in my last issue. The narrator refers to "adventurous expectancy" and elsewhere to monsters "dragging off the Earth and Sun to their own dead solar system," an echo of "He would shout that the world was in danger, since the Elder Things wished to strip it and drag it away from the solar system" ("The Dunwich Horror"). But the story has most similarity to "The Whisperer in Darkness." Lovecraft's statement of the aliens' "attempts to establish secret outposts in the human world" is similar to Leiber's "the monsters with a secret outpost established on Earth." The monsters are envisaged as having "black furry masks"-and a mask is of great importance in "Whisperer." In both stories monsters beset protagonists who are in isolated cabins. Lovecraft's letter-writing is replaced by Leiber's journal writing; and as a monster eventually authors the letters in "Whisperer," another finishes the journal in "Diary."
From Famous Monsters of Filmland no. 29 (July 1964)
AIP (American International Pictures) is to present "The Dunwich Horror." *** The novel Witch House (presumably published by Arkham House) is being considered for filming. *** Actor Christopher Lee states "I am interested . in recording . 'The Dunwich Horror' by Lovecraft" (p. 19) as well as other authors of the macabre. *** A photo is featured from The Haunted Palace.
Reflecting Lovecraftian sentiments, "Shadow out of Time" was a 2009 group exhibition of twenty-four Providence artists that showed at Boston University's 808 Gallery. An article about it ("Providential Objects" by Doug Norris) with illustrations is in the February/March 2009 issue of Art New England, page 9.
Where in the world is Cthulhu? On a 2010 wall calendar.
"Art, Cosmic Horror, and the Fetishizing Gaze in the Fiction of H. P. Lovecraft" by V. Ralickas appeared in Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts (vol. 19, no. 3, 2008). *** “Borderlands: Spiritualism and the Occult in Fin de Siècle and Edwardian Welsh and Irish Horror" (Irish Studies Review, February 2009) by Darryl Jones looks at the influence of spiritualist and occult thinking on Machen, Hodgson, HPL, etc. *** A 2006 dissertation in Portuguese from the Universidade de São Paulo (Funções do Mito na Obra de Howard Phillips Lovecraft by Caio Alexandre Bezarias) emphasizes the myth function of the Cthulhu Mythos. *** "Instabilities in Creative Professions: A Minimal Model" (Nonlinear Dynamics, Psychology, and Life Sciences, July 2000) by Sergio Rinaldi, Roberto Cordone, and Renato Casagrandi studies creativity, beginning with three cases: Mozart, Van Gogh, and Lovecraft. *** H.P. Lovecraft and the Modernist Grotesque was Sean Elliot Martin's 2008 Ph.D. thesis for Duquesne University. One of the dedicatees is "the Great H.P. Lovecraft."
To fulfill his Master of Arts in English for Clemson University, Nicholas John Mazzuca has a 2009 thesis, The Dreamer Deepe, in the form of a play that embodies the Lovecraft mythos, with a setting in Nebraska.
The Chicago Tribune presented an article about Bruce Brown, author of Howard Lovecraft and the Frozen Kingdom.
Gaither's Dictionary of Scientific Quotations: A Collection of Quotations Pertaining to Archaeology, Architecture, Astronomy, Biology, Botany, Chemistry, Cosmology, Darwinism. (Springer, 2008) probably has at least one quote by HPL, though I haven't been able to verify this.
Comedian Billy Kirkwood has a role in a radio production of "The Dunwich Horror."
Some issues and years ago I mentioned that in Dashiell Hammett's The Dain Curse the narrator refers to Arthur Machen. In "The Gutting of Couffignal" the narrator speaks favorably of The Lord of the Sea (M.P. Shiel). Since Hammett edited Creeps by Night (1931), which included "The Music of Erich Zann," as well as stories by Donald Wandrei, Paul Suter, and Frank Belknap Long, he must have had a taste for the weird.
Norris Chambers, the last living person to know Robert E. Howard, discusses him in the Howard house and museum (via Bill Ward). *** Howard is analyzed in Ron Mottern's "Understanding Suicide: A Brief Psychological Autopsy of Robert E. Howard" (International Journal of Reality Therapy [October 2009]). *** The theropod dinosaur Ozraptor subotaii is named for a swift-running thief from the Conan the Barbarian movie. *** The Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression uses a Howard epigraph before one of its Jefferson Muzzles awards.
The Arkham Advertiser
This newspaper is mentioned in both "The Dunwich Horror" and At the Mountains of Madness. I'll suggest reasons why HPL chose Advertiser for the newspaper name.
· Arkham Advertiser is alliterative.
· The term was reminiscent of Lovecraft's favorite time. "The Advertiser [was] a name that was becoming increasingly popular in the eighteenth century" (p. 93, Porcupine, Picayune & Post: How Newspapers Get Their Names [University of Missouri Press, 2007] by Jim Bernhard). And no doubt it would please the anglophile in HPL to know that Advertiser is now the third most popular newspaper name in Great Britain.
· Three eighteenth-century Providence, Rhode Island newspapers included this word in their titles: The American Journal and General Advertiser (Mar. 18, 1779-Aug. 29, 1781); The Providence Journal, and Town and Country Advertiser (Jan. 2, 1799-Dec. 30, 1801); and State Gazette, and Town and Country Advertiser (Jan. 4-July 2, 1796). Newport also had a paper, The Newport Mercury, or, The Weekly Advertiser (June 19, 1758-Jan. 23, 1759). These and other Rhode Island newspapers are at
The name has appeared in several magazines and journals. Mathematics Magazine is particularly fond of it. Its most recent appearance was in October 2004, where a paragraph from "The Dreams in the Witch-House" is quoted under the article "An October Warning." The September 1973 issue has "A Note on Matrix Inversion" by "A. Polter Geist, Miskatonic University, Arkham, Mass."; who also has a short contribution in March/April 1973. "ζυτουργει̑ον: A Scholarly Ghost Word" (Mnemosyne, Fourth Series, December 2001) by M. Nelson thanks "the patient and obliging librarians at Miskatonic University" (p. 723).
A section about this fabled text appears in Grimoires: A History of Magic Books (Oxford University Press, 2009) by Owen Davies.
Esoteric Views of 149th Mailing
Ken: How high on your reading list should Gustav Meyrink's The Golem be? I read it around twenty years ago, and I recall it as being somewhat of a slow narrative and not weird in the popular sense of the word. *** Re your guess about Winfield Lovecraft owning property in Duluth, Minnesota-why there? Did he have relatives in the area, or did he want something near a lake, or did he find a bargain in land? *** I covered news about Frederick A. Lovecraft as it appeared in various issues of the New York Times in Criticaster 34 (2002), passim. *** I'll offer one possible reason why Lovecraft abandoned a career in chemistry-he was weak or uncomfortable with mathematics, a necessary background for chemical accomplishment.
It was I who made the connection between the 1910 Frankenstein mirror scene and a similar one in "The Outsider," but I would not go so far as to suggest a "very likely" influence. The idea of self-discovery via mirror seems such a basic theme that it doesn't have a definite father.
Yet-in Oscar Wilde's "The Birthday of the Infanta" (1891) there is an intriguing prefiguration of the mirror discovery scene in "The Outsider," so plain coincidence between the two stories seems a bit strained (and was it Sam Moskowitz? L. Sprague de Camp? who made the connection between the Lovecraft and Wilde tales). In the Wilde work, a dwarf discovers himself to be "grotesque monster" and asks, "Why had they not left him in the forest, where there was no mirror to tell him how loathsome he was?" (Ray Bradbury's "The Dwarf" brings together the title character and a mirror, though in this case the mirror is used to enlarge its gazer.)
An ironic juxtaposition. In Mexico I was once in a research station with limited amenities. Perhaps after a week I realized there was no mirror. So I said to someone that I hadn't seen my face in a while. The reply was, "Don't worry, Steve, you still look the same."
T.R.: You state that HPL's writing "speaks" to you, "but I don't consider that a criteria to evaluate greatness." I do. I should say that "greatness" in writing is based on criteria that is considerably subjective, and that which memorably moves you is on its way to being called "great." Some look to a consensus to find greatness, and some may choose to make their own taste the supreme arbiter. I choose the latter.
Don and Mollie: Re photos of Schroedie being held; he has that typical cat attitude of wanting to be somewhere else. *** Watching 50 versions of A Christmas Carol would be punishment to me, even though I'm fond of the story. I can think of only half-a-dozen or so off the top of my head. Why not publish a list of what you have?
Leigh: William S. Burroughs did contribute to a Lovecraft themed volume-The Starry Wisdom-and I'm fascinated to learn he took a class from Robert Barlow. *** The EOD biographies and snapshots are long overdue and make a significant contribution to the group's corporate memory.
Fred and Dorothea: Thanks for the interesting travelogue. I look forward to more.
Laurence: It was fascinating to learn of a Japanese Cthulhu Mythos novel from 1956, two years after the debut of another great monster, Godzilla. I would have liked more publication information (e.g., date) of the other books described. Perhaps you know that in September 2006 Rue Morgue magazine had an article, "Lovecraft in Japanese Literature."
Martin: I did a Google search for "amigurumi Cthulhu" and got 264,000 results! Karin's Cthulhu looks like a tea cosy. A recommendation-instead of including such long url's, where it is easy to mistype part of the address, use a site such as tinyurl.com, which "translates" a long address into a short one. You'll note that I use this service. *** Re Leiber's uncollected writings-maybe it was the EOD-circulated Fantasy Commentator that carried some original Leiber, where he talked about the various types of moons (hunter's moon, etc.) in a series of articles. *** "Diafaeon" sounds like a misprint. The replacement word that instantly leaps to my mind is "diapason" ("a low grunting from the other side of the veil of clouds which broke out suddenly into a diafaeon [diapason] of brute-sound"], but it is a sheer guess.
Juha-Matti: The discovery of a Lovecraft revision is really noteworthy, and congratulations for publicizing it. *** I'm glad to see you are including the source for your Lovecraft transcriptions, and your annotations are enlightening. I'll address the following transcription by you of the Lovecraft letter to Talman, which includes your bracketed sic: ".& can only add that the patroons [sic] of Nieuw Nederland." The word "patroon" has an entry in the Oxford English Dictionary, where one of its definitions is "U.S. A possessor of a landed estate and certain manorial privileges, granted under the former Dutch governments of New York and New Jersey, to members of the (Dutch) West India Company. Now hist." So Lovecraft's use is spot on.
Lovecraft in European Libraries
The following are European national libraries that contain Lovecraft holdings, as based on a search I did for the name (in search.theeuropeanlibrary.org/portal/en/index.html). Not all refer to the author, and a few libraries returned the message "not responding". I've arranged this from least number of records to the most. How many libraries for each country are part of the search is not known, so the figures should not be taken as absolute when taking into account which country has the most Lovecraft books.
National Library of Romania Online Catalogue since 1994 0
Online catalog of the National Library of Estonia (ESTER) 1
Online catalogue of the National Library of Ireland 1
Online catalogue of the National Library of Poland - BNPOL 1
Online Catalogue of the National Library of Lithuania 2
Catalogue of Cyprus Library 3
Online catalogue of the National Library of Liechtenstein and the library network 3
HELVETICAT : the catalogue of the Swiss
National Library 6
Main Catalogue of the National Library of Greece 8
Catalogue of the National Library of Luxembourg 8
The catalogue of the national library of Norway 8
KatNUK: the catalogue of the Slovene National
and University Library 8
National Library of Turkey Main Catalog 8
Catalogue of the National Library of the Czech Republic 10
Collections from the National Library of Portugal 12
General Catalogue of the National and University Library, Croatia 14
GEGNIR - The Union Catalogue for most libraries in Iceland 21
Regina - Catalogue of the National Library of
HELKA - Union catalogue of all Helsinki University libraries 25
Amicus - Online catalogue of National Széchényi Library of Hungary 30
Danish Collections (The National Collections) 42
The Slovak Library - Catalogs and collections
of Slovak libraries 50
General Catalogue Koninklijke Bibliotheek, National library of The Netherlands 58
Russian State Library Electronic Catalogue (OPAC) 66
General catalogue of the Bibliothèque nationale de France 143
British Library integrated catalogue - Online
catalogues of printed and electronic resources 161
Catalogue of the German National Library 212
Catalogue of the National Library of Spain 246
The union catalogue for over 2.000 Italian libraries 295
The Devil of Pei-Ling
The 1927 book by Herbert Asbury is pulp fiction that could be mistaken as something Seabury Quinn might have written alongside of his The Devil's Bride. After execution a devil-worshipping prisoner exacts supernatural revenge against several law officials as well as his stepdaughter, wife, and father-in-law. A pagan idol from China is central to the story, and floating gouts of blood as well as toads abound. At least one victim is appallingly mutilated, fingers and tongue being removed.
One problem with this horror mystery is that the supernatural power seems unfathomable and unstoppable; and to overcome it the author has to, so to speak, ad-lib new rules of magic. Getting rid of the monster summoned by black magic was a problem in "The Dunwich Horror," and to make a plausible solution HPL had Henry Armitage discover the anti-formula in the same "cookbook" text that allowed Wizard Whateley to call the Horror into being. In Devil, the hero-narrator more or less intuits what is needed to be done.
Among the background sources the author acknowledges as being drawn upon for "the demonology in this book" are The History of Witchcraft and Demonology and The Geography of Demonology by the Rev. Montague Summers, The Witch-Cult in Western Europe by Alice Murray, and the Encyclopedia Britannica. I think that HPL found inspiration from most of these titles.
Unlike Quinn's pulp fiction, this was brought out by a mainstream publisher (A.L. Burt is the edition I'm using) and was reviewed by the New York Times. Even more notable, in the following decade it was dramatized and played at several venues, culminating in a 1936 Broadway run of 12 performances.
Soon after The Devil of Pei-Ling Asbury would write his most famous work (also dramatized, though much later and through the cinema), The Gangs of New York (1928). In the same year he produced an introduction to Not at Night! (Macy-Masius). Maybe it was the result of the success of The Devil of Pei-Ling that he was picked for this.
Above I mentioned the Quinn-like echoes in Devil. It is possible that Asbury was even influenced by Quinn, for in the Not at Night! introduction he states, "Most of the authors represented in this collection appear to be comparatively unknown in this country (Seabury Quinn is the only one whose work I have ever seen before), and scholars and critics will look in vain for evidences of the skill and erudition displayed by such masters of the horror story as Edgar Allan Poe, Ambrose Bierce and Algernon Blackwood."
However, there is a question about Asbury's role as the book's anthologist, for while the title page has "Not at Night! edited, and with an introduction by Herbert Asbury," a note on the title page verso shows, "These stories were originally printed in England in Weird Tales, and were selected and arranged for the English edition by Christine Campbell Thomson." Among the stories are Lovecraft's "The Horror at Red Hook," whose subject might be of particular attractiveness to the author of Gangs. There is also "The House of Horror" and "The Horror on the Links" by Quinn, as well as material by Derleth, Long, etc., surely the first appearance in hardcover for a number of writers, including HPL as a fictioneer. (Okay, this was a reprint, so maybe not the first.)
Thanks for reading the 64th issue of The Criticaster (April 2010, mailing 150th) by limbonautist Steve Walker. Eventually published on the Net as The Limbonaut (no 35).