A Fat, Shock-Headed Gentleman Named Morton

Naturally I did not omit the town of Paterson from my itinerary, but was very congenially entertain’d by the head of the local Musaeum there; a fat, shock-headed gentleman named Morton, with whom I had had considerable previous acquaintance. James Ferdinand, I may remark, is an ideal host; and his establishment is a marvel of accomplishment and effective administration. A building all too small is utilis’d with the greatest ingenuity conceivable, and the system of arrangement and labelling wou’d do credit to the most veteran practitioner of the curatorial art. The mineral collection, which covers the entire exhibition part of the second floor, is one of the most ample and well-classify’d in these colonies; and is due entirely to the keen skill and unremitting vigilance and activity of our genial colleague. Mortonius also shew’d me as much of the local scenery as limited time wou’d permit; taking me to the top of Garrett Mountain, whence is observable as fine a prospect of Paterson [as] one cou’d ask—a prospect which removes much of the grimy sordidness habitual to the town as seen closely.

DESCRIPTION: In his essay “Observations on Several Parts of America,” Lovecraft describes his visit to Paterson, New Jersey, during which he was entertained by his longtime friend and fellow amateur James F. Morton.

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.


The Past Is Real

The past is real—it is all there is. The present is only a trivial and momentary boundary-line—whilst the future, though wholly determinate, is too essentially unknown and landmarkless to possess any hold upon our sense of concrete aesthetic imagery. It is, too, liable to involve shifts and contrasts repugnant to our emotions and fancy; since we cannot study it as a unified whole and become accustomed to its internal variations as we can study and grow accustomed to the vary’d past. There is nothing in the future to tie one’s loyalties and affections to—it can mean nothing to us, because it involves noe of those mnemonic association-links upon which the illusion of meaning is based. So I, for one, prefer Old New England and Old Virginia to the unknown mechanised barbarism that stretches out ahead of us—as meaningless and alien to men of our heritage and memories as the cultures of China or Abyssinia or ancient Carthage or the planet Saturn.

DESCRIPTION: In a letter to his friend James F. Morton, Lovecraft defends his attachment to the past and his dismissal of the future.

CITATION: Lovecraft, H. P. “To James F. Morton.” 19 Oct. 1929. Selected Letters. Edited by August Derleth and Donald Wandrei, vol. 3, Arkham House, 1971, pp. 31-5.

My Fancies They Do Roam

When the evening shadows come
Then my fancies they do roam
Round the dear old rustic cottage by the lane,
Where in days that are no more
Liv’d the maid I did adore,
Liv’d my own beloved sweetheart, darling Jane!

O my dearest, sweetest pride,
Thou couldst never be my bride,
For the angels snatch’d you up one summer day;
Yet my heart is ever true,
And I love you yes I do,
And I’ll mourn for you until I pine away!
I—pine—a—away (by 1st Tenor).

DESCRIPTION: In his poem “My Lost Love,” Lovecraft parodies the romantic poetry of his fellow amateur James Laurence Crowley.

CITATION: Lovecraft, H. P. “My Lost Love.” The Ancient Track: The Complete Poetical Works of H. P. Lovecraft. Edited by S. T. Joshi, Hippocampus Press, 2013, pp. 226-7.

The Oldest and Strongest Emotion

The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown. These facts few psychologists will dispute, and their admitted truth must establish for all time the genuineness and dignity of the weirdly horrible tale as a literary form. Against it are discharged all the shafts of a materialistic sophistication which clings to frequently felt emotions and external events, and of a naively insipid idealism which deprecates the aesthetic motive and calls for a didactic literature to uplift the reader toward a suitable degree of smirking optimism. But in spite of all this opposition the weird tale has survived, developed, and attained remarkable heights of perfection; founded as it is on a profound and elementary principle whose appeal, if not always universal, must necessarily be poignant and permanent to minds of the requisite sensitiveness.

DESCRIPTION: In his essay “Supernatural Horror in Literature,” Lovecraft claims that the weird tale, despite the objections of its critics, is a legitimate form of artistic expression.

CITATION: Lovecraft, H. P. “Supernatural Horror in Literature.” Collected Essays. Edited by S. T. Joshi, vol. 2, Hippocampus Press, 2004, pp. 82-125.