On the 14th I visited Gen. Washington’s country-seat of Mt. Vernon, on the river below Alexandria, and left not a corner of house or grounds unexamin’d. It were trite to speak in detail of this well-known scene, but I may mention that the house was built in 1743 by Lawrence Washington, half-brother to the General, and that the latter inherited it in 1752, upon the death of Lawrence and his daughter. It was call’d Hunting Creek Estate till its builder renam’d it in honour of Admiral Vernon, the inventor of “grog”, under whom he had serv’d against Spain. The house is low and spacious, most of the rooms being rather smaller than one wou’d expect in an edifice of such pretensions. The grounds, sloping down from a high bluff to the river with many a wooded ravine and willow-lin’d path, display the finest taste in selection. Stables and other outbuildings comport with the mansion house in style and beauty; the whole forming as sightly a plantation as any gentleman in Virginia cou’d reasonably demand. The elegance of the lower rooms, in point of architectural ornament, is carry’d almost to excess; but the upper rooms are singularly austere. I beheld the bed upon which the General dy’d, together with innumerable other objects connected with him. In walking thro’ the grounds I came upon his tomb, and stood but a few feet from the body (in its sarcophagus beyond the grating) which even now must bear some resemblance to the living gentleman, so perfectly was it embalm’d. In the 1830’s, when it was transferr’d from its original resting-place on the river bluff to this mausoleum, a person who gaz’d upon the features declar’d them but little impaired by the more than three decades of internment. I descended to the river, view’d all the buildings, and in general familiaris’d myself with the whole estate. I cannot praise it too highly, or hope too strongly that it may always be preserv’d with unremitting diligence as a specimen of good architecture and ideal type of southern gentleman’s seat.
DESCRIPTION: In his essay “Observations on Several Parts of America,” Lovecraft describes his trip to Mount Vernon, one of many historic sites he visited during the summer of 1928.
CITATION: Lovecraft, H. P. “Observations on Several Parts of America.” Collected Essays. Edited by S. T. Joshi, vol. 4, Hippocampus Press, 2005, pp. 16-30.
With such a mood, softened perhaps by the beauty of the hills and river-bends which flank the gateway, the southern New-Englander enters Vermont. He has seen its hills for some time across the Connecticut, domed and undulant, and shining with a clear emerald light unmarred by vapour or defacement. Then comes a sweeping downward curve, and beyond limpid water the climbing terraces of an old town loom into sight, as a loved, remembered picture might appear when the leaves of a childhood volume are slowly turned. It is plain from the first that this town is not quite like those one has left behind. Roofs and steeples and chimneys, prosaic enough in the telling, here cluster together on the green river-bluff in some magical collocation that stirs dim memories. Something in the contours, something in the setting, has power to touch deep viol-strings of feeling which are ancestral if one by young and personal if one be old. The whole scene vaguely brings us a fleeting quality we have known before. We have seen such towns long ago, climbing above deep river-valleys and rearing their old brick walls beside sloping, cobbled streets. Grandeur may be wanting, but the marvel of rekindled vision is there. Something is alive that is dead elsewhere; something that we, or the blood that is in us, can recognise as more closely akin to ourselves than anything in the busy cosmopolis to the southward. This, in fine, is a surviving fragment of the old America; it is what our other towns used to be in the days when there were most themselves, the days when they housed their own people and gave birth to all the little legends and bits of lore which make them glamorous and significant in the eyes of their children.
DESCRIPTION: In his essay “Vermont—A First Impression,” Lovecraft describes the bittersweet emotions evoked by the rural scenes that he encountered in the summer of 1927 while traveling through southern Vermont.
CITATION: Lovecraft, H. P. “Vermont—A First Impression.” Collected Essays. Edited by S. T. Joshi, vol. 4, Hippocampus Press, 2005, pp. 13-5.
The one form of literary appeal which I consider absolutely unsound, charlatanic, and valueless—frivolous, insincere, irrelevant, and meaningless—is that mode of handling human events and values and motivations known as romanticism. Dumas, Scott, Stevenson—my gawd! Here is sheer puerility—the concoction of false glamours and enthusiasms and events out of an addled and distorted background which has no relation to anything in the genuine thoughts, feelings, and experiences of evolved and adult mankind. Its very essence is that one unforgivable disparity which forms the supreme crux of all cheapness and commonness—the investing of things and events with wholly disproportioned and inappropriate emotions. Heroic tales are not unsound so long as they adhere to the actual essentials of life and the human spirit; but when some sentimental poseur adopts their tone for artificial and trivial unrealities, the result is too nauseating and wearisome for words.
DESCRIPTION: In a letter to fellow writer Clark Ashton Smith, Lovecraft derides romanticism, claiming that it is inherently unrealistic and inauthentic.
CITATION: Lovecraft, H. P. “To Clark Ashton Smith.” 17 Oct. 1930. Lord of a Visible World: An Autobiography in Letters. Edited by S. T. Joshi and David E. Schultz, Ohio University Press, 2000, pp. 210-13.