The Hound and the Rats
Published in The Strand Magazine (1902) and continually republished in book form, The Hound of the Baskervilles has interesting similarities with “The Rats in the Walls” (written in 1923). Both use Gothic conventions that stretch back to The Castle of Otranto, so it is not so obvious that Hound influenced “Rats.” However, there are intriguing points of meeting.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was a writer in genres other than his most famous, the mystery.He wrote enough weird stories to warrant anthologies (e.g., The Horror of the Heights & Other Tales of Suspense), and some of these titles received H.P. Lovecraft’s guarded appreciation in his Supernatural Horror in Literature. Indeed, Hound appeared to have begun life as a horror story. Doyle initially called the work “a real creeper,” and in its early version did not include Sherlock Holmes, so the Gothic would have been less mediated.
The most appealing aspect of the short novel to Lovecraft must have been the flourishes of Hound’s atmosphere, especially the landscape. In a letter Doyle spoke of rambling on the moor to get color for Hound: “It is a great place very sad & wild, dotted with the dwellings of prehistoric man, strange monoliths and huts and graves” (quoted in Philip Weller, The Hound of the Baskervilles: Hunting the Dartmoor Legend: Being the Original Text of the Classic Story (Devon Books, 2001)). In the story Dr. Watson wrote that “the moor with its mysteries and its strange inhabitants remains as inscrutable as ever.” Much of Hound takes place on or near the moors of Dartmoor. Throughout the story the moors are depicted as foreboding, mysterious, and impersonal, with remains of prehistoric dwellings. It is typically a dreary place: “there rose ever, dark against the evening sky, the long, gloomy curve of the moor.” At times the expanse seems part of the cosmos, as when Watson states “the dark, void spaces on either side of the narrow road told me that we were back upon the moor once again.”
It is a habitation for Houndian terror. “"I am presuming’” states Sherlock Holmes “’that the cause of his fears came to him across the moor.’” A Baskerville ancestor warns his sons in a letter, “I counsel you by way of caution to forbear from crossing the moor in those dark hours when the powers of evil are exalted.” The moor is likewise “very sparsely inhabited” and is “desolate, lifeless.” According to Dr. Mortimer, who brings the case to Holmes, it is a place of supernatural monsters: “"I find that before the terrible event occurred several people had seen a creature upon the moor which corresponds with this Baskerville demon, and which could not possibly be any animal known to science.’” As one character says, “’Queer place, the moor’" and notes there “’all things are possible.’”
Another aspect, already noted, is its association with the early evolution of mankind, a place for “prehistoric man” where, as Watson noted, “hill after hill showed traces of the ancient people.” These qualities tie in with “Rats,” as I will discuss below.
Although as in Emily Dickinson’s poem, Lovecraft never saw a moor, he put them in several stories to evoke mood. In “Nyarlathotep,” the 1920 short-short, “as we stalked out on the dark moor, we beheld around us the hellish moon-glitter of evil snows.” Before burning himself, the title character of “Facts Concerning the Late Arthur Jermyn and His Family” (1921) would “vanish on the black moor surrounding the house.”
“We lived as recluses; devoid of friends, alone, and without servants in a few rooms of an ancient manor-house on a bleak and unfrequented moor” says the narrator of Lovecraft’s “The Hound” (1922), which appears to make other nods to Doyle’s Hound. The first sentence of the story speaks of “a faint distant baying as of some gigantic hound.” Compare this with Watson’s “Twice I have with my own ears heard the sound which resembled the distant baying of a hound.” Lovecraft, however, is simultaneously making allusion to the most famous line from the work, "’Mr. Holmes, they were the footprints of a gigantic hound!’" The influence of this line might be deeper for the Lovecraft corpus. Consider the climactic last sentences of his works where there is a revelation in the form of some violation of nature, whether the photograph from life (“Pickman’s Model”) or the hands and face lying in a chair (“The Whisperer in Darkness”). The Hound quote comes as the last sentence of a chapter and would do the maximum to ensure that readers would want to buy the next issue of The StrandMagazine, which was serializing the novel.
Moors belong to the typical and visible conveyors of atmosphere in a Lovecraft story, what nature, man, or alien has created or built. While possibly of little importance as an influence, there are several mentions of cliffs and valleys in Hound, and the locale of Exham Priory is notable, being on “the solid limestone of the precipice” overlooking “a desolate valley.” Describing Devonshire, the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica states, "In the south important masses [of limestone] occur" (all EB quotes will be from this edition).
Lovecraft could supplement his reading ofHound with factual information about the area of the moors from his 1896 edition of EB, which has been shown by S.T. Joshi that he consulted for details in several stories. Had he wanted to find out about Dartmoor, he could have read (v.7) that “the higher parts are open, bleak and wild.... Sloping heights rise from the main tableland in all directions, crested with broken masses of granite, locally named tors, and often singularly fantastic in outline" (p. 837). It is a place of "rough wastes" (think of “the waste valley” in “Rats”), and is in the district of Devonshire, where "the scenery, much varied, is in most parts striking and picturesque." Such descriptiveness—both under the headings for Dartmoor and for Devonshire—must have appealed to him.
What may be inferred from the few real locales noted in “Rats”? Devonshire is bounded by Cornwall in the west, and one character is alluded to as “Lady Margaret Trevor from Cornwall.” EB notes that a forest in Devonshire "had been granted to Richard, earl of Cornwall" (p.837).
The two works share an atmosphere of prehistory. As already noted, Doyle wrote about the region from a personal and fictional viewpoint. In Hound this exchange takes place between two characters about the moor.
“it's rather an uncanny place altogether. Look at the hillside yonder. What do you make of those?" The whole steep slope was covered with gray circular rings of stone, a score of them at least. "What are they?Sheep-pens?" "No, they are the homes of our worthy ancestors. Prehistoric man lived thickly on the moor, and as no one in particular has lived there since, we find all his little arrangements exactly as he left them.”
And in another passage
you are conscious everywhere of the homes and the work of the prehistoric people.On all sides of you as you walk are the houses of these forgotten folk, with their graves and the huge monoliths which are supposed to have marked their temples. As you look at their gray stone huts against the scarred hillsides you leave your own age behind you, and if you were to see a skin-clad, hairy man crawl out from the low door fitting a flint-tipped arrow on to the string of his bow, you would feel that his presence there was more natural than your own.The strange thing is that they should have lived so thickly on what must always have been most unfruitful soil.I am no antiquarian, but I could imagine that they were some unwarlike and harried race who were forced to accept that which none other would occupy.
Doyle based his description on a Bronze-Age village, Grimspound, which I visited in the summer. From the road it is a walk of several minutes up a grassy moor with a rich scattering of rocks, which takes over when you reach a flattish area at the base of two tall hills. At first I thought that if these rocks were truly in some order, it might be to keep modern livestock, that the village was somewhere else. It took me and my fellow hiker a little walking about to determine the rocks were arranged in a pattern, especially when we were able to distinguish the low walls of huts, which I later learned had been “restored” by Victorian antiquarians. One of two big hills has at its top a noticeable tor, an upthrust of large rocks. I tackled the other and nearer hill. When about half way up I looked back, and I could obviously see, as I could not from ground level, a large, pronounced oval of rocks, presumably forming a defensive wall of the ancient community. The arrangement was obvious there as it was not when I walked in the village.
According to EB (v.8, p.134) "Dartmoor abounds in remains of the highest interest, the most peculiar of which are the long parallel alignments of upright stones.... On Dartmoor the lines ... are found in direct connexion with cairns, and with circles which are probably sepulchral." There are also "the so-called sacred circles". This is the sort of place that Lovecraft could have been thinking about when he wrote of “a weird pattern of tumuli, a savage circle of monoliths.” Both fictions show that the moor and Priory attracted diggers. In Hound Dr. Mortimer “has been excavating a barrow at Long Down and has got a prehistoric skull,” which a few paragraphs on is called “neolithic,” while in “Rats” the anthropologist “Dr Trask had opened one of the prehistoric tumuli, and brought to light skulls which were slightly more human than a gorilla’s.”
One Hound character is portrayed as part beast. The convict has “a terrible animal face” and “might well have belonged to one of those old savages who dwelt in the burrows on the hillsides.” Also, he has a “beetling forehead” and “sunken animal eyes.” While semi-humans underpin the Lovecraft tale, they are even more reminiscent of his Martense tribe in “The Lurking Fear” (written 1922) the “sullen, odd-eyed Martenses, whose unclean animal aspect” was shocking and who moved through “a tunnel or burrow.”
Interlocking with prehistory is the notion of devolution or atavism, which affects the narrator at the climax of “Rats” and appears in the Baskerville line. Of the villain’s ancestral portrait, Holmes says “’it is an interesting instance of a throw-back, which appears to be both physical and spiritual.’” Dr. Mortimer is credited with writing for The Lancet in 1882 an article entitled “Some Freaks of Atavism.” (Beside an introduction of the theme, note the technique that Doyle uses, as HPL would later, of verisimilitudinous scholarly citations.)
Both Lovecraft and Doyle mix atavism with mental balance. Philip Weller talks about “references associated with madness in connection with Sir Henry, and noting the references to Atavism … it may have resulted from some form of insanity which allowed Baskervilles to see the Phantom hound and die as a consequence.” The presence of the horrible affects “the servant who had gone mad at what he saw in the priory in the full light of day,” and for the recently defunct Lord Baskerville, who “saw something coming across the moor, something which terrified him so that he lost his wits and ran and ran until he died of sheer horror and exhaustion.There was the long, gloomy tunnel down which he fled.” (While the passage is made of yew trees, a “gloomy tunnel” suggests the underground.)
In speaking of throwbacks, Weller notes that the polymath Sabine Baring-Gould published in 1891 a book entitled Freaks of Fanaticism, of which the Dr. Mortimer title was a parody. Baring-Gould has at least one well-known Lovecraft connection. His collection Curious Myths of the Middle Ages, with its story of Bishop Hatto being devoured by rats and mice as divine punishment, has been put forward as one model for “Rats” (as I did independently around 1972 in a paper I wrote). Baring-Gould was a noted writer about Dartmoor, where he was a native. Weller described his Dartmoor novel, JohnHerring (1883), as being about “the Gubbins, a group of savages who once lived in burrows just beyond the Western rim of Dartmoor, but had them bringing animals across the whole width of the Moor to avoid detection” (p.29). If one thinks of this in connection with Lovecraft, the most obvious story is “The Lurking Fear,” which shares its theme of devolution with “Rats,” where the cannibal cult keeps “animals” in stone pens.
Atavism and archaeology support one another in “Rats.” David Roberts comments that when in the 1890’s “Baring-Gould's band began their excavations, the learned theories of earlier explorers announced that the ancient monuments on Dartmoor were either the remains of Druid temples [cf. “Exham Priory stood on the site of a prehistoric temple; a Druidical or ante-Druidical thing”], of Phoenician walled towns or of Viking fortresses. The experts agreed that the megaliths dated back not much beyond the time of Christ, and more likely to the first millennium A.D… Baring-Gould's band came to some startling conclusions. The ancient monuments were not fortresses. The people who built them were pastoralists; the circles were to keep livestock in [cf. “the quadruped things … had been kept in stone pens”] and predators out. And, most startlingly, the builders had lived far earlier than suspected, in the Bronze Age, as long as 5,000 years ago” (David Roberts, “His `Magpie Mind' Made Baring-Gould a Rare Bird Indeed” (Smithsonian, July 1993)).
While prehistory is evident in both stories, history that is missing completely in Hound but of major importance in “Rats” is that of the Roman period. It is present in terms of architecture, in the introduction of Cybele worship, and through nearby Anchester, the site of a Roman camp. Indeed, the word “Roman(s)” appears in the tale seventeen times, not counting “Romanesque.” EB states "Roman relics have been found from time to time at Exeter (Isca Damnoniorum), the only large Roman station in the county." It is not far from Dartmoor.
Both “Rats” and the real Dartmoor that inspired Hound are connected to the pagan (prehistoric, Roman, etc.).According to Weller, the Dartmoor Exploration Committee found possible “ritualistic burning” within a “large stone circle.” In “Rats” a large block has features that “indicated its connection with fire -- probably burnt offerings.”
Lovecraft wrote that “Rats” had a “south-of-England locale” (SelectedLetters I, p.258), and Roberts calls Dartmoor, “the largest remaining wilderness in southern England… Its miles of heath were covered with the ruins of tin mines dating back to the Middle Ages and with much stranger structures built of the native granite: rows of standing stones, large circles enclosing the remains of rude huts, colonies of streamside dwellings all but buried in the moss and peat, and strange barrows, or mounds, of earth.”
In “Rats” toponyms point to Devonshire and its moors as the scene of the action. The Annotated Lovecraft suggests that the name “Exham Priory” came from the northern English town of Hexham. This is a good guess. According to the online Catholic Encyclopedia, “Hexham, in Northumberland, England, receives its name from the stream Hextold… It was founded as an abbey by St. Wilfrid of York, in 674, on land given by the Northumbrian queen St. Etheldreda.” A city with an abbey makes for an attractive candidate, more so because the distinction between an abbey and a priory was small. The Oxford Dictionary of Local and Family History states a priory is “a monastery or nunnery headed by a prior or prioress, which was a lower rank than abbot or abbess. In practice, some priories were larger than some abbeys.” Moreover, as S.T. Joshi states, Hexham is mentioned in The Case of Charles Dexter Ward in conjunction with “strange deeds in [its] Roman ruins.”
(To digress, if we accept that “Exham” came from “Hexham,” could Lovecraft’s “Arkham” have come from “Harkham”? It seems unreasonable when you consider that this may be a Jewish surname. On the other hand, a family with the name “Harkham” is listed as one of the early settlers of western New York, location of Rochester, home of the Lovecrafts. A search in the 1901 census for England and Wales reveals 12 persons with the surname “Harkham.”)
However, the word “Exham” may be taken at face value. Consider the four English place names that begin “Ex”: Exeter, Exminster, Exmoor, Exmouth. All are in southwest England (Somersetshire and Devonshire) and all are named for the neighboring river, Exe, the Celtic word for “the water.” EB states, "The Exe rises on Exmoor in Somersetshire; but the main part of its course is through Devonshire."
According to A Dictionary of English Place-Names the name “Exmoor” means “moorland on the River Exe”, showing a relationship between the moors and the riverscape. Two words have been joined together, as with the other “Ex” names. Called in EB "the most westerly town in the south-west of Roman Britain" (v.10, p.66), Exeter is translated as “Roman town on the River Exe”; the Old English “ceaster” makes up the second part of the name, i.e., “Roman town.” The second part of “Exminster” is “minster,” which is defined as “a large or important church” (The Concise Oxford Dictionary), as with Westminster Abbey; while for “Exmouth,” “mouth” is the opening of a river. The toponym ending “-ham” is very common (e.g., “Nottingham,” “Ham House”). A Dictionary of English Place-Names states it is “a common name, from OE hamm which had various meanings, including ‘enclosure, land hemmed in by water or higher ground, land in a river-bend.’” For Exham Priory the higher ground is a “precipice,” and the name might be translated as “higher ground near the River Exe.” This leads to the deduction that “Exham” was associated with the Exe River valley and likely near Dartmoor, not so many miles from the river. The one objection is that there is no mention of a nearby river in “Rats,” but Lovecraft was writing a story and not a gazetteer; and absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.
(Another place name, Anchester, could be modeled after the name “Ancaster,” a Lincolnshire village on the site of a Roman town. The chester part is the Old English re-spelling of caester, meaning a Roman fort or town. English towns that end in “chester” or “caster” identify the place as having been occupied by the Romans. The name “Anchester” substantiates that the area was Roman (“Anchester had been the camp of the third Augustan legion”). It may be a coincidence that “Anchester” is a play on “ancestor,” a word which with variants is noted fourteen times in the short story.)
Of the Doyle dedication Weller states “there are those who consider that this reference to a “west country” legend indicates a legend from the West of England, near the Welsh border” (p.43). That echoes in Lovecraft’s story “the daemon heroine of a particularly horrible old ballad not yet extinct near the Welsh border.” Weller also states “The main branch of the [real-life] Baskerville family lived at Eardisley Castle in Herefordshire, near Hay-on-Wye … with part of the family living just across the nearby Welsh border” (p.46). He observes that Doyle “may have visited the Welsh borderlands with his wife in 1897 or 1898.”
As Doyle takes a playful dig at Baring-Gould through “Some Freaks of Atavism,” could Lovecraft having been doing the same with Doyle in the character of Thornton, “devoted to the psychic,” which Doyle certainly was? It is interesting that Lovecraft wrote “The Unnameable” immediately after “Rats” in 1923, for in it he has the narrator sarcastically refer to “the correct doctrines of theology—preferably those of the Congregationalist, with whatever modifications tradition and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle may supply.”
Sir Arthur may have lent his title to the eminent archaeologist, Sir William Brinton, the heroic leader of the expedition. He has a Sherlock Holmes ability to figure out how to open the altar as well as that detective’s power of observation in noting the direction of the chisel strokes. Similarly, his depiction is that of someone who keeps his composure despite horror, perhaps due to a rigid scientific objectivity. Admittedly, in Hound, Holmes is as shaken as anyone when he confronts the beast. Sir William is an atypical presence in Lovecraft—dauntless and active in addition to being a gentleman scholar—and I can think of no other Lovecraft character to which to compare him. He appears to be an idealized portrait.
There are a lot of other possibilities concerning a direct influence of Hound upon HPL. In attempting to find why the servant Barrymore is tiptoeing around in the night, Watson and the present lord keep watch. “I sat up with Sir Henry in his rooms until nearly three o'clock in the morning, but no sound of any sort did we hear except the chiming clock upon the stairs.It was a most melancholy vigil and ended by each of us falling asleep in our chairs.” On the next night Sir Henry and Watson are made fully alert through the sound of a creak from a step in the passage. De la Poer and his companion Norrys are “determined to pass the night” in the sub-cellar so “couches were brought down.” The former is waked by Norrys when the phenomena begins.
More significantly, in chapter II of Hound a 1742 paper is read, “’a statement of a certain legend which runs in the Baskerville family.’” It gives “’the origin of the Hound of the Baskervilles.’” Writing it for his sons, the author “’had the story from my father, who also had it from his.’” The narrator of “Rats” relates that there was not “any kind of tradition handed down except what may have been recorded in the sealed envelope left before the Civil War by every squire to his eldest son for posthumous opening.”
In his dedication to The Hound of the Baskervilles Doyle writes of the genesis of the Hound: “My Dear Robinson: It was your account of a west country legend which first suggested the idea of this little tale to my mind.” In the story there is the question if the Hound was a legend that had come to life, and as in the early Gothics of Ann Radcliffe and others, the supernatural reveals itself to have a natural explanation. In “Rats” the sense of myth and legend is referred to repeatedly, with the words “legend(s)” and “legendry” appearing seven times throughout, and by implication the epic of the rats is one. Here the legendry is not exploded at the end but confirmed and expanded. Holmes had solved the mystery through deduction, but in the “Rats” the legendry supports and helps deepen “a subterraneous world of limitless mystery,” and recantation of knowledge wins: “We shall never know what sightless Stygian worlds yawn beyond the little distance we went, for it was decided that such secrets are not good for mankind.”
Legends and superstitions are assigned to the ignorant, the peasants. In Hound Stapleton expresses his view "’It is extraordinary how credulous the peasants are about here! Any number of them are ready to swear that they have seen such a creature upon the moor.’" Delapore mentions “some peasant superstitions which few novelists could equal for wildness and incredibility.”
Delapore states he “came of an accursed house,” and chapter II of Hound is entitled “The Curse of the Baskervilles.” The approach to the convention of the family curse—an element of the legend—is instructive, with the Doyle work strongly suggesting the purely supernatural, and later proving it an imposition, while in Lovecraft the fantastic is confirmed by story’s end.
Both men come from North America to claim their homes. A sense of home (with which Lovecraft sympathized) or perhaps destiny makes Sir Henry Baskerville state, “’There is no man upon earth who can prevent me from going to the home of my own people,’” and “’this should be the same hall in which for five hundred years my people have lived.’”; whereas Delapore would “resolve to purchase and restore the family seat.”
Delapore is the descendant of a baron, and the Baskerville heir is repeatedly called a baronet. The baronet wants to change Baskerville Hall. Watson observes “our friend has large ideas and means to spare no pains or expense to restore the grandeur of his family.” For the narrator, seeing Exham Priory “made me resolve to purchase and restore the family seat.” Both buildings are remodeled for modern comfort. There is a major difference in the extent of repair, the Priory simply “a shell-like ruin,” though one outlying part of Baskerville Hall, its lodge, “was a ruin.”
Occasionally Doyle employs diction that is Lovecraftian, as when he speaks of the mire tugging people “’down into those obscene depths.’” Some words groups are the same in both stories. In the abandoned cottage of a miner “a quantity of gnawed bones showed where the animal [the Hound] had been confined” The twilit grotto has “gnawed bones,” is where “all the bones were gnawed.” A Hound character speaks of “’the stone huts where the old folk used to live,’” which calls to mind the excerpt from the 1927 Lovecraft letter to Donald Wandrei that has been titled “The Very Old Folk,” who were mysterious and feared beings.
It is not possible to draw a boundary between the acknowledged influence of the Gothic and that of Hound as part of the Gothic stream. Consider the line, “I realize how trite this sounds -- like the inevitable dog in the ghost story, which always growls before his master sees the sheeted figure.” It is consciously sourcing the Gothic, yet could this also be a sly reference to the Hound, thereby reflecting, through compaction, both sources? Another passage of which this also might be claimed is the “haunt of fiends and werewolves.” Nor was Doyle above making some of the same word plays, as when Holmes says to Sir Henry “’I have ample evidence that you are being dogged in London’” (see Weller for development of this idea). Even the very manifest participation of the Priory cats might be a roundabout allusion.
The horror world of Lovecraft and the detective world of Doyle seem a fitting match, both in terms of non-fiction and fiction, and it has drawn Lovecraft mavens. Ben Indick has had an article published about the pair, while Peter Cannon has had several, plus the fictional Pulptime. And there has been the recently published anthology Shadows Over Baker Street: New Tales of Terror (Del Rey, 2003). As far back as the Edmund Wilson New Yorker article (1945), a relationship between the two creations was implied.
Of all Sherlock Holmes stories, the one most likely to influence HPL, due to its atmosphere and embrace of Gothicism, was The Hound of the Baskervilles. As a detective might explain his solution to a case, I will offer one that takes into account the ideas I have presented. Within a period of a few years, Lovecraft wrote stories that show he knew of Hound, most obviously in “The Hound” but also slightly in “Arthur Jermyn” and “The Lurking Fear.” It is the moors personification that was the most compelling source material. Lovecraft incorporated the place and its mood when he put “The Rats in the Walls” together.
If Lovecraft wanted to find a suitable place for Exham Priory, the Dartmoor moors in Hound were a plausible region. Looking at a map he would find the nearby Exe Valley with its communities such as Exmoor and Exeter, giving him the prefix for“Exham.” That Exeter was a Roman presence in this region supports the idea. The archaeological relics noted in Hound and existing in actuality were further motivations for using Devonshire and its Dartmoor, information about which he supplemented through Encyclopedia Britannica articles.
It would add to the air of reality if he used place names that identified the locale, such as something that began with the prefix “Ex,” as well as the place name “Anchester,” identifying the Roman. There is also the intriguing linkage between a possible source for “Rats” from that archaeological researcher, writer, and native of Dartmoor, S. Baring-Gould, alluded to in Hound and who helped identify the prehistoric stone pens for keeping animals.
The short novel used themes that were to be taken up with more emphasis in the Lovecraft masterpiece: prehistory, atavism, legendry, the Gothic, and the supernatural. Similar word patterns and situations appear in both works, and references to dogs and even Doyle and his creation, Sherlock Holmes, may have traces in “Rats.”
Could all this be coincidence, or influence?
According to the Illinois Statewide Marriage Index, 1763–1900 Paul Mellon of Macon was married to Mary Lovecraft on 8 July 1893.
A stage musical combining the first two Evil Dead movies includes the number, “Do the Necronomicon.” *** Alpinestars, the music group, has the cut “Lovecraft” on its album White Noise (Riverman/Virgin, 2003).
“The Dunwich Horror”
“When I was about twelve, I asked my parents for books that would terrify me; I wanted to be really frightened, I said. They recommended Bram Stoker, Algernon Blackwood, and H.P. Lovecraft. Dracula I found dull, but The Dunwich Horror gave me the shivers I was looking for. I had known on the hill that if I looked back I would see something terrible, a cultural blend of my old nemesis, the Dunwich Horror, and the water horse.”—Susan Parman, Scottish Crofters: An Historical Ethnography of a Celtic Village (Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1990), p.128.
Libraries and Bookstores
The Milwaukee Public Library keeps a complete Arkham House collection in its rare books area. *** Huzzah! for Indigo Books in Toronto. It put Lovecraft in the literature section rather than science fiction and fantasy. *** Amazon.com has made the text of 120,000 books searchable. Now you can find references to HPL in Stephen King’s On Writing, Anne Rice’s The Tale of the Body Thief, and many other titles.
Necropsy: The Review of Horror Fiction has included material aboutSupernatural Horror in Literature and the new “The Shadow Out of Time.”
Perhaps because his house has an association with HPL, author Robert Arellano has “had dreams where Lovecraft comes to ‘egg me on to finish my book’" (Providence Journal-Bulletin, 23 Aug 2003, p.E04). *** At the Other Side of the Mountains of Madness? The odd book The Other Side of the Mountain by Michel Bernanos was reviewed as a combination ofTreasure Island and A High Wind in Jamaica, some Kafka, “and a hefty dollop of H. P. Lovecraft” (Chicago Tribune, 19 Jan 1963). It was described as a religious allegory. *** Publisher’s Weekly interviews Peter Straub, who in going to his glass case with first editions “selects a white jacketed volume and lays it in our hands. It's H.P. Lovecraft's The Shadow Over Innsmouth.” (I wonder if this is the 1936 first edition?) However, the biggest news in the article is that Straub is preparing a Modern Library edition of Lovecraft.
A cryptic note I made to myself indicates that there is mention of HPL in the article “'There's a Man with a Gun over There': Faulkner's Hijackings of Masculine Popular Culture,” by Walter Wenska, The Faulkner Journal (Fall-Spring 1999-2000), p. 35-60. *** Look for information about correspondent and publisher Willis Conover in the book Voice of America: A History by Alan L. Heil (Columbia University Press, 2003). *** Super reader Michael Dirda has a piece on M.P. Shiel’s orientalism in the 24 Aug 2003 issue of the Washington Post (p. BW15). In his new memoir An Open Book he mentions Lovecraft. *** D'Arkham à Malpertuis: Jean Ray et Lovecraft (Oeil du Sphinx, 2003) by Patrice Allart compares the two authors.
The Criticaster 29 misstated that critic Julia Kristeva was the reviewer of an article by David Vilaseca about Charles Dexter Ward. She is discussed in the article rather than a reviewer of it. *** The lyrics to "T'aint No Sin To Take Off Your Skin" precedes Tom Waits, et al., (see The Criticaster 30) for it is the title of a humorous song from circa 1929.