"I CRAVE A WORLD OF GORGEOUS AND GIGANTIC MYSTERY, SPLENDOUR, AND TERROR." A very fine and voluminous correspondence - the 50 letters averaging 10 pages, with one running up 60 autograph pages - in which Lovecraft writes to one of his most important friends about a multitude of topics and gives a detailed account of his personal and intellectual life. Subjects including his own writings during this period, other writers (Poe, Machen, Dunsany, Stoker, Bierce, Whitman, et al), his philosophical beliefs (long discourses on Man and the Cosmos), his travels in New England (absorbing accounts), Providence, New York, his views on history and the races, etc. The quotations below can only suggest the extensiveness and inclusiveness of the correspondence.
3 May 1922: "... To me Poe is the apex of fantastic art - there was in him a vast and cosmic vision which no imitator has been able to parallel. it is no wonder that his work was totally devoid of the sensual, because his dominant excitant lay outside the domain of human relations altogether. His was the true awe of the atom in the presence of the infinite - the essentially intellectual wonder of one who looks out upon the whirling of which the sensually-minded are utterly unconscious. I have yet to find in Baudelaire, great as he was in the in the domain of the hideously imaginative, any trace of this terrible realisation of the mysteries beyond the stars. I do find it in Dunsany, though in a much weaker form, and diluted with certain shrewd self-consciousness which Poe sublimely lacked ..." 1 May 1923: "... In these wide, low-pitch'd rooms a spectral menace broods - for to my imagination the seventeenth century is as full of macabre mystery, repression, and ghoulish adumbrations as the eighteenth century is full of taste, gayety, grace, and beauty. This was a typical Puritan abode; where amidst the bare, ugly necessities of life, and without learning, beauty , culture, freedom, or ornament, terrible stern-fac'd fold in conical hats or poke-bonnets dwelt two hundred fifty and more years ago - close to the soil and all its hideous whisperings; warp'd in mentality by isolation and unnatural thoughts, and shivering in fear of the devil on autumn nights when the wind howl'd through the twisted orchard trees or rustled the hideous corpse-nourish'd pines in the graveyard at the foot of the hill. There is eldritch fascination - horrible bury'd evil - in these archaick farmhouses ..." 13 May 1923: "... Goya? Yes, child, I must learn of him. Undoubtedly he is akin to the horror I relish, though as yet pictorial art is remoter than literary art from my centres of consciousness. Then, again, I am not sure how well I like the thickly laid on horror of the actually decadent masters. Somehow I am not so much thrilled by a visible charnel house or conclave of daemons, as i am by the suspicion that a charnel vault exists below an immemorially ancient castle, or that a certain very old man has taken part in a demoniac conclave fifty years ago. I crave the ethereal, the remote, the shadowy, and the doubtful - more and more I detest life and all connected with it, and long for such nebulous realms of spirit as only a Machen or a Dunsany can evoke. I believe Mortonius is right in considering me no true decadent, for much that decants love seems to me either absurd or merely disgusting. What I am is a hater of actuality - an enemy to time and space, law and necessity. I crave a world of gorgeous and gigantic mystery, splendour, and terror, in which reigns no limitation save that of the untrammelled imagination ..."
3 June 1923: "... And I have read The Hill of Dreams!! Surely a masterpiece - though I hope it isn't quite as autobiographical as some reviewers claim. I'd hate to think of Machen himself as that young neurotic with his sloppy sentimentalities, his couch of thorns, his urban eccentricities, and all that! But Pegana, what an imagination! Cut out the emotional hysteria, and you have a marvellously appealing character - how vivid is that exquisite Roman day-dreaming! ... even if the spirit is sadly un-Roman. Machen is a Titan - perhaps the greatest living author - and I must read everything of his. But Dunsany is closer to my own personality and understanding. Machen has an hysterical intensity which I neither experience nor understand - a seriousness which is a philosophical limitation. But Dunsany is myself, plus an art and cultivation infinitely greater. His cosmic realm is the realm in which I live; his distant, emotionless vistas of the beauty of moonlight on quaint and ancient roofs are the vistas I know and cherish." 4 September 1923: "... And I have writ two hideous tales - The Unnamable and The Rats in the Walls, the latter being the longest story ever to proceed from my pen. I shall never shrew them to anybody because I will not type them and do not wish to hear the adverse criticism I am sure little Alfie will give them. The amusement of such things is purely in the writing, and I have many more in mind for the near future, including the plots we discust last fall." 7 October 1923: "...Bram Stoker's last production, The Lair of the White Worm. The plot idea is colossal, but the development is so childish that I cannot imagine how the thing ever got into print unless on the reputation of Dracula. The rambling and unmotivated narration, the puerile and stagey characterisation, the irrational propensity of everyone to do the most stupid possible thing at precisely the wrong moment and for no cause at all, and the involved development of a personality afterward relegated to utter insignificance - all this proves to me either that Dracula (Mrs. Miniter saw Dracula in manuscript about thirty years ago. It was incredibly slovenly. She considered the job of revision, but charged too much for Stroker.) and The Jewel of Seven Stars were touched up brushwork-fashion by a superior hand which arranged all the details, or that by the end of his life (he died in 1912, the year after the Lair was issued) he trickled out in a pitiful and inept senility. But the book is a painful thing! ..."
14 February 1924: "... Yes, Child, Weird Tales is certainly shovin' a lot of work at your aged Grandsire! Entire new job - to rewrite a strange narrative [Under the Pyramids] which the magician Houdini related orally to Henneberger; a narrative to be amplified and formulated, and to appear as a collaborated product - 'By Houdini and H.P. Lovecraft.' Henneberger demanded a telegraphed reply as to whether or not I'd accept the job, and promises INSTANT PAY on delivery! I wired him an affirmative, and am now at work familiarising myself with the geographical details of the Cairo-Gizeh locality where the alleged adventure is set - especially with the singular subterranean place betwixt the Sphinx and the second pyramid known as 'Campbell's Tomb' ..." 20 February 1924: "... At heart I despise both intellect and conscious art. I wish only to enjoy things - to receive a maximum of agreeable impressions with a minimum of effort either mental or physical. All life is hollow and futile - it means nothing, and I want nothing of it but passive dream and simple childhood memory till the greater boon of oblivion comes. My taste? Simply a wistful longing for the perpetuation of those early fancies and tribal memories which moulded my imagination when I was very young."
2 August 1925: "... I like a tale to be told as directly and impersonally as possible, from an angle of utter and absolute detachment. Which reminds me that I would have just finished a new attempt at fiction - the story I told you I would write, with Brooklyn as a setting. The title is The Horror at Red Hook, and it deals with hideous cult-practices behind the gangs of noisy young loafers whose essential mystery has impressed me so much. The tale is rather long and rambling, and I don't think it is very good; but it represents at least an attempt to extract horror from an atmosphere to which you deny any qualities save vulgar commonplaceness ..." 23 April 1926: "... It is astonishing what a wealth of hidden and tangled lanes and obscure, surprising quarters Providence possesses. A good three-quarters of my recent trip took place over territory my feet has never before trodden, and I found one monstrous and blasphemous neighbourhood whose existence I had never suspected - a region actually inhabited by degraded and quasi-human forms of life where I had always fancied there were merely factories and railway yards. God, that frightful and cacodaemoniacal valley of grey tottering houses and black earth and choking smoke and nameless labyrinthine courts straggling up steep coal-dusty hillsides without pavement, plan, or purpose! The houses are very tall and ancient and grey, with shaky clapboards and shingles, and windows rheumy with unmentionable elder morbidities. Oozing out of various apertures and dragging themselves along the narrow lanes are shapeless forms of organic entity whose dead faces hint fiendishly of the rites and orgies and incantations in the hideous leaning synagogue whose wormy, unpainted boards hold strange Eastern signs and unholy marks taken from the cabala and the Necronomicon. Awful things have been evoked in the pits under that accursed temple - one can read it in the puffy, malformed faces of the slug-like beings (half Jew and half Negro, apparently) which crawl about and wheeze in the acrid smoke which pours from passing trains ... or from secret nether altars. Ngrrrhh ... I shall weave all this into a tale some day! ..."
February 1927: "... It all comes out on page 112 of the tale now drawing its close, and which I shall call either The Case of Charles Dexter Ward or The Madness out of Time. Like Midas of old, curs'd by turning into gold of everything he touch'd, I am this year curs'd by the turning into a young novel of every story I begin. You will in all likelihood see neither this nor The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath till you come hither in your new shiny Essex, for the typing of manuscripts of this length is utterly beyond the powers of a feeble old gentleman who loses interest in a tale the moment he completes it ..."
27 February 1931: "... if I live much longer, I may try my hand at something of the sort - for it is really closer to my serious psychology than anything else on or off the earth. In The Colour Out of Space I began to get near it - though Dunwich & the Whisperer represent a relapse. In using up the ideas in my commonplace-book, I shall doubtless perpetrate a great deal more childish hokum, (gratifying to me only through personal association with the past) yet the time may come when I shall at least try something approximately serious ... I am still a primitive & retarded type as measured by good intellectual standards; but not quite so pathetic a case of belated infantility as I was in 1920 or 21 or 22, when I spewed forth such insufferable maundering as The Tree, Hypnos, The Moon-Bog, The Hound, &c., &c., though a fat middle-aged clod who ought to have known better a decade before; or even in 1925, when (during the Clinton Street period) I allowed myself to sign such mawkish drivel as The Horror at Red Hook & (worse yet) He. The only decent things I wrote in those days were sheer luck-shots - Arthur Jermyn, Erich Zann & a few others. And yet I had a better time, in some ways, than I have now; for my very infantility (repulsive as it was in middle-aged man) allowed me to retain as a subjective reality something of that sense of adventurous expectancy which is now only a wistful aesthetic memory ... I wish I could keep clear of mere theorising myself - probably I could if I had the money to travel every now & then to antient places & keep my imagination constantly fed with real, objective images of fresh vistas of antiquity & picturesqueness to serve as excitant symbols of expansion & adventurous expectancy. All this kind of thing, with me, joins curiously up with the experience, liberation, & adventurous expectancy , which would be of probably aesthetick value if I only had the genius to get it down on paper as it clamours to get down. But since I haven't that genius, I can only fume in muteness, & try to write feeble tales & stale Yuggothian fungi ..."
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