A Typical Puritan Abode

Entering, I found myself in a low, dark passage whose massive beams almost touched my head; and passing on, I travers’d two immense rooms on the ground floor—sombre, barren, panell’d apartments with colossal fireplaces in the vast central chimney, and with occasional pieces of the plain, heavy furniture and primitive farm and domestick utensils of the ancient yeomanry. 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 admist the bare, ugly necessities of life, and without learning, beauty, culture, freedom, or ornament, terrible stern-fac’d folk in conical hats or poke-bonnets dwelt two hundred and fifty and more years ago …


DESCRIPTION: In a letter to his friends Frank Belknap Long and Alfred Galpin, Lovecraft describes his visit to the Rebekah Nurse House in Massachusetts.

CITATION: Lovecraft, H. P. “To Frank Belknap Long and Alfred Galpin.” 1 May 1923. Selected Letters. Edited by August Derleth and Donald Wandrei, vol. 1, Arkham House, 1965, pp. 218-25.

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Views on the Publishing Industry

As for New York—there is no question but that its overwhelming Semitism has totally removed it from the American stream. Regarding its influence on literary & dramatic expression—it is not so much that the country is flooded directly with Jewish authors, as that Jewish publishers determine just which of our Aryan writers shall achieve print & position. That means that those of us who least express our own people have the preference. Taste is insidiously moulded along non-Aryan lines—so that, no matter how intrinsically good the resulting body of literature may be, it is a special, rootless literature which does not represent us.


DESCRIPTION: In a letter to his friend J. Vernon Shea, Lovecraft claims that the Jewish community in New York controls the publishing industry in the United States.

CITATION: Lovecraft, H. P. “To J. Vernon Shea.” 30 July 1933. Selected Letters. Edited by August Derleth and James Turner, vol. 4, Arkham House, 1965, pp. 229-32.

Rejecting Multiculturalism

But of course, the primary reason for such attempts is simply a sensible wish to keep every settled culture (Nordic or not) true to itself for the sake of the human values involved. No one wishes to force Nordicism on the non-Nordic—indeed, a real friend of civilisation wishes merely to make the Germans more German, the French more French, the Spaniards more Spanish, & so on.


DESCRIPTION: In a letter to his friend J. Vernon Shea, Lovecraft defends his views on race, ethnicity, and immigration, claiming that they are not the result of prejudice.

CITATION: Lovecraft, H. P. “To J. Vernon Shea.” 25 Sept. 1933. Selected Letters. Edited by August Derleth and James Turner, vol. 4, Arkham House, 1976, pp. 245-59.

Four Distinct Types of Weird Story

There are, I think, four distinct types of weird story; one expressing a mood or feeling, another expressing a pictorial conception, a third expressing a general situation, condition, legend, or intellectual conception, and a fourth explaining a definite tableau or specific dramatic situation or climax. In another way, weird tales may be grouped into two rough categories—those in which the marvel or horror concerns some condition or phenomenon, and those in which it concerns some action of persons in connexion with a bizarre condition or phenomenon.

Each weird story—to speak more particularly of the horror type—seems to involve five definite elements: (a) some basic, underlying horror or abnormality—condition, entity, etc.—, (b) the general effects or bearings of the horror, (c) the mode of manifestation—object embodying the horror and phenomena observed—, (d) the types of fear-reaction pertaining to the horror, and (e) the specific effects of the horror in relation to the given set of conditions.


DEFINITION: In his essay “Notes on Writing Weird Fiction,” Lovecraft claims that, in general, there are four types of weird tale, each type featuring the same five “definite elements.”

CITATION: Lovecraft, H. P. “Notes on Writing Weird Fiction.” Collected Essays. Edited by S. T. Joshi, vol. 2, Hippocampus Press, 2004, pp. 175-8.

Gad Split Me!

Anacreon had a red nose, so they say;
But what’s a red nose if ye’re happy and gay?
Gad split me! I’d rather be red whilst I’m here,
Than white as a lily—and dead half a year!
So Betty, my miss,
Come give me a kiss;
In hell there’s no innkeeper’s daughter like this!


DESCRIPTION: In this passage from the short story “The Tomb” (1917), Jervas Dudley recites the eighteenth-century drinking song that he sang in front of his family at breakfast.  

CITATION: Lovecraft, H. P. “The Tomb.” The Thing on the Doorstep and Other Weird Stories. Edited by S. T. Joshi, Penguin Books, 2001, pp. 1-10.

 

The Last Remnant of the Ancient Slums

Hell’s Kitchen is the last remnant of the ancient slums—& by ancient I mean slums in which the denizens are not sly, cringing foreigners; but “tough” & energetic members of the superior Nordic stock—Irish, German, & American. The slinking Dago or Jew of the lower East Side is a strange, furtive animal—with the coming of his kind the Bowery ceased to be picturesque, for his crimes are of the treacherous secret kind—he uses poison instead of fists, automatic revolvers instead of bricks & black-jacks. But west of Broadway the old toughs have made their last stand. True, they are not the blithesome, omnipresent ruffians of yore—but in spite of their relative tameness they still make it very unpleasant for brass buttons & blue coats. Policemen are likely to have bricks dropped on their heads, or to be beaten by roving gangs—last year one was shot. Squalor is extreme, but not so odorous as in the foreign districts. Churches flourish—for all the natives are devout & violent Roman Catholics. It was odd to see slums in which the denizens are Nordic—with shapely faces, & often light hair & blue eyes. Nowadays we associate evil with dark foreign features—but McNeil assured us that any one of these cherubic blond youths could use language calculated to make strong men faint, & could on occasion beat up a cop or stab a plain-clothes-man with the utmost nonchalance & savoir faire.


DESCRIPTION: In a letter to his aunt Lillian D. Clark, Lovecraft describes Hell’s Kitchen, where his friend Everett McNeil lived, and compares it to New York’s other slums, which he claims are home to “sly, cringing foreigners.”

CITATION: Lovecraft, H. P. “To Lillian D. Clark.” 29 Sept. 1922. H. P. Lovecraft: Letters from New York. Edited by S. T. Joshi and David E. Schultz, Night Shade Books, 2005, pp. 26-31.