A “Spoiled Child”

The science of chemistry, in which I am glad to find you interested, first captivated me in the Year of Our Lord 1898—in a rather peculiar way. With the insatiable curiosity of early childhood, I used to spend hours poring over the pictures in the back of Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary—absorbing a miscellaneous variety of ideas. After familiarising myself with antiquities, medieval dress and armour, birds, animals, reptiles, fishes, flag of all nations, heraldry, etc., etc., I lit upon the section devoted to “Philosophical and Scientific Instruments”, I was veritably hypnotised with it. Chemical apparatus especially attracted me, & I resolved (before knowing a thing about the science!) to have a laboratory. Being a “spoiled child” I had but to ask, & it was mine. I was given a cellar room of good size, & provided by my elder aunt (who had studied chemistry at boarding school) with some simple apparatus & a copy of The Young Chemist—a beginner’s manual by Prof. John Howard Appleton of Brown—a personal acquaintance. The Young Chemist was just the book for me—devoted to easy and instructive experiments—and I was soon deep in its pages. The laboratory “work”—or play—seemed delightful, & despite a few mishaps, explosions, & broken instruments, I got along splendidly. Soon I acquired other books, and began (March 4, 1899) to issue a chemical magazine called The Scientific Gazette, which I maintained for eight years. This was, I suppose, my entry to amateur journalism! By 1901 or thereabouts I had a fair knowledge of the principles of chemistry and the details of the inorganic part—about the equivalent of a high-school course, and not including analysis of any kind.


DESCRIPTION: In a letter to his friend Alfred Galpin, Lovecraft describes his discovery of chemistry at the age of eight years old and the laboratory his family created for him in the basement of their home.

CITATION: Lovecraft, H. P. “To Alfred Galpin.” 29 Aug. 1918. Selected Letters. Edited by August Derleth and Donald Wandrei, vol. 1, Arkham House, 1965, pp. 74-6.

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