Into the Slums

Klei . . . proceeded to lead us into the slums; with “Chinatown” as an ulterior objective. My gawd—what a filthy dump! I thought Providence had slums, and antique Bostonium as well; but damn me if I ever saw anything like the sprawling sty-atmosphere of N. Y.’s lower East Side. We walked—at my suggestion—in the middle of the street, for contact with the heterogeneous sidewalk denizens, spilled out of their bulging brick kennels as if by a spawning beyond the capacity of the places, was not by any means to be sought. At times, though, we struck peculiarly deserted areas—these swine have instinctive swarming movements, no doubt, which no ordinary biologist can fathom. Gawd knows what they are—. . .—a bastard mess of stewing mongrel flesh without intellect, repellent to eye, nose, and imagination—would to heaven a kindly gust of cyanogen could asphyxiate the whole gigantic abortion, end the misery, and clean out the place.

DESCRIPTION: In a letter to his friend Maurice W. Moe, Lovecraft describes, in racist terms, the people of Chinatown and calls for their extermination.

CITATION: Lovecraft, H. P. “To Maurice W. Moe.” 18 May 1922. Selected Letters. Edited by August Derleth and Donald Wandrei, vol. 1, Arkham House, 1965, pp. 175-83.


A Civilised Oasis

Further explorations in Flatbush, Flatlands, New Utrecht, and related regions yielded many highly picturesque glimpses of old farmhouses, churches, churchyards, and other reliques of better days. In some cases these were wholly surrounded by the incursions of decadent modernity, whilst in other cases small bits of contiguous farmyard or boskage lent a touch of redeeming congruity to the background. The region, as a whole, is doomed; for it is slowly being bought out by oily Jews fat with ill-got money, who are flocking out from the New-York Ghetto. Only certain parts in Flatbush proper, now zoned with fanatical strictness and held by families who have long liv’d there, will remain as a civilised oasis amidst this flood of ethnick and social putrefaction.

DESCRIPTION: In his essay “Observations on Several Parts of America,” Lovecraft denigrates Jewish immigrants, whose presence, he claims, has deprived western Long Island of its charm.

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.

Our Own Melancholy Age of Decay

And so Charleston has come down to our own melancholy age of decay, to meet the greatest test of all as the engulphing barbarism of mechanised life, democratick madness, quantitative standards, and schedule-enslaved uniformity presses in upon it from every side and seeks to stifle whatever of self-respecting humanity and aristocratick individualism remains in the world. Against all the inherited folkways which alone give us enough of the illusion of interest and purpose to make life worth living for men of our civilisation, there now advances a juggernaut of alien and meaningless forms and feelings which cheapens and crushes everything fine and delicate and individual which may lie in its path. Noise—profit—publicity—speed—time-tabled convict regularity—equality—ostentation—size—standarisation—herding. . . . . . The plague has swept all before it, saddling old New England with unassimilable and corrosive barnacles, extinguishing once-proud New York with a foetid flood of swart, cringing Semitism, and sapping even at old Virginia and the Piedmont Carolinas with a tawdry industrial Babbitry all the more blasphemous because working through normal Anglo-Saxons. Values evaporate, perspectives flatten, and interests grow pale beneath the bleaching acid of ennui and meaninglessness. Emotions grow irrelevant, and art ceases to be vital except when functioning through strange forms which may be normal to the alien and recrystallised future, but are blank and void to us of the dying Western civilisation. James Joyce . . . Erik Dorn . . . . Marcel Proust. . . . Brancusi. . . . . Picasso. . . . . . The Waste Land. . . . . Lenin. . . . . Frank Lloyd Wright. . . . . cubes and cogs and circles. . . . segments and squares and shadows. . . . . . . . . wheels and whirring, whirring and wheels. . . . purring of planes and click of chronographs. . . . . . milling of the rabble and raucous yells of the exhibitionist. . . . “comic” strips. . . . Sunday feature headings. . . . advertisements. . . . sports. . . . tabloids. . . . luxury . . . Palm Beach. . . . “sales talk”. . . . . rotogravures. . . . radio. . . . . Babel. . . . . Bedlam. . . . .

DESCRIPTION: In his essay “An Account of Charleston, in His Majᵗʸ’ˢ Province of South-Carolina,” Lovecraft condemns modernity and the socioeconomic trends accompanying it, including immigration, industrialization, capitalism, and Modernism, which he claims have deprived Western civilization of the charm, beauty, and purpose it once possessed.

CITATION: Lovecraft, H. P. “An Account of Charleston, in His Majᵗʸ’ˢ Province of South-Carolina.” Collected Essays. Edited by S. T. Joshi, vol. 4, Hippocampus Press, 2005, pp. 70-105.