My Greenwich peregrinations included Abingdon Square, Grove St., Grove Court, Barrow & Commerce Sts., the Minettas, Milligan & Patchin Places, Gay St., Sheridan Square, & Charlton St., & embraced many marvellous glimpses of the old times. Once I saw a colonial doorway lighted up, the traceries of transom & side-lights standing out softly against the mellow yellow gleams inside. From Greenwich my route led south along Hudson St. to old New York, (across Lispenard’s Meadows & the filled-in swamp) & I noted the colonial square at the intersection of Canal. Later crossing to Greenwich St., I descended into the most ancient district; noting the Planters’ Hotel, Tom’s Chop House, & the like, & emerging on Broadway to salute St Paul’s & plunge down Ann St. into the heart of Golden Hill—Irving’s boyhood neighbourhood, & the seat of much disturbance during the late disastrous revolt against His Majesty’s government. I passed under the Brooklyn Bridge to Vandewater St., & noted with horror the replacement of a fine colonial row by a damnable new garage, (other excellent colonials have vanished in Greenwich, at Barrow & Hudson Sts.) & doubled back through New Chambers & Pearl, noting beside the former a colonial smithy which had always appealed to me. Proceeding along Pearl toward the Battery, I viewed all the ancient houses & waterfront panoramas as I passed them—remarking incidentally that the old Harpers publishing house has been newly razed. At Hanover-Square, seat of the best British gentry before the Revolution, I lifted my hat in honour of King George the Third; then passing on by the Queen’s Head Tavern—Fraunces’, that is—to those regions of Battery Park where one or two colonial mansions yet linger. It was now five o’ the morning, & I had so fully thrown off melancholy by my free & antique voyage, that I felt exactly in the humour for writing. The clouds were dissolving, & another day was done. Should I drag it away in New-York, & lose the keenness of my mood, or keep on in my dash for liberty—gaining fresh strength as I kicked aside the irritating fetters of the usual?
DESCRIPTION: In a letter to his aunt Lillian D. Clark, Lovecraft describes his late-night walk through Greenwich Village, a journey that inspired him to write the short story “He” the following day.
CITATION: Lovecraft, H. P. “To Lillian D. Clark.” 13 Aug. 1925. H. P. Lovecraft: Letters from New York. Edited by S. T. Joshi and David E. Schultz, Night Shade Books, 2005, pp. 169-72.
Time, space, and natural law hold for me suggestions of intolerable bondage, and I can form no picture of emotional satisfaction which does not involve their defeat—especially the defeat of time, so that one may merge oneself with the whole historic stream and be wholly emancipated from the transient and the ephemeral.
DESCRIPTION: In a letter to his friend and fellow writer August Derleth, Lovecraft describes the sense of oppression he feels when contemplating the limitations imposed on humanity by natural law.
CITATION: Lovecraft, H. P. “To August Derleth.” 21 Nov. 1930. Selected Letters. Edited by August Derleth and Donald Wandrei, vol. 3, Arkham House, 1971, pp. 220-2.
It so happens that I am unable to take pleasure or interest in anything but a mental re-creation of other & better days—for in sooth, I see no possibility of ever encountering a really congenial milieu or living among civilised people with old Yankee historic memories again—so in order to avoid the madness which leads to violence & suicide I must cling to the few shreds of old days & old ways which are left to me. Therefore no one need expect me to discard the ponderous furniture & paintings & clocks & books which help to keep 454 always in my dreams. When they go, I shall go, for they are all that make it possible for me to open my eyes in the morning or look forward to another day of consciousness without screaming in sheer desperation & pounding the walls & floor in a frenzied clamour to be waked up out of the nightmare of “reality” & my own room in Providence. Yes—such sensitivenesses of temperament are very inconvenient when one has no money—but it’s easier to criticise than to cure them. When a poor fool possessing them allows himself to get exiled & sidetracked through temporarily false perspective & ignorance of the world, the only thing to do is let him cling to his pathetic scraps as long as he can hold them. They are life for him.
DESCRIPTION: In a letter to Lillian Delora Clark, Lovecraft describes his attachment to the past.
CITATION: Lovecraft, H. P. “To Lillian D. Clark.” 8 Aug. 1925. H. P. Lovecraft: Letters from New York. Edited by S. T. Joshi and David E. Schultz, Night Shade Books, 2005, pp. 167-9.
In a colourless or monotonous environment I should be hopelessly soul-starved—New York almost finished me, as it was! I find that I draw my prime contentment from beauty & mellowness as expressed in quaint town vistas & in the scenery of ancient farming & woodland regions. Continuous growth from the past is a sine qua non—in fact, I have long acknowledged archaism as the chief motivating force of my being.
DESCRIPTION: In a letter to his friend Donald Wandrei, Lovecraft describes how important tradition is to his psychological wellbeing.
CITATION: Lovecraft, H. P. “To Donald Wandrei.” 27 Mar. 1927. Mysteries of Time and Spirit: The Letters of H. P. Lovecraft and Donald Wandrei. Edited by S. T. Joshi and David E. Schultz, Night Shade Books, 2002, pp. 60-8.
As to my dietary programme—bosh! I am eating enough! Just you take a medium-sized loaf of bread, cut it in four equal parts, & add to each of these ¼ can (medium) Heinz beans & a goodly chunk of cheese. If the result isn’t a full-sized, healthy day’s quota of fodder for an Old Gentleman, I’ll resign from the League of Nations’ dietary committee! It only costs 8¢—but don’t let that prejudice you! It’s good sound food, & many vigorous Chinamen live on vastly less. Of course, from time to time I’ll vary the “meat course” by getting something instead of beans—canned spaghetti, beef stew, corned beef, &c. &c. &c.—& once in a while I’ll add a dessert of cookies or some such thing. Fruit, also, is conceivable.
DESCRIPTION: In a letter to his aunt, Lillian Delora Clark, Lovecraft insists that, despite his aunt’s apprehensions, his diet is nutritionally adequate.
CITATION: Lovecraft, H. P. “To Lillian D. Clark.” 11 Apr. 1925. H. P. Lovecraft: Letters from New York. Edited by S. T. Joshi and David E. Schultz, Night Shade Books, 2005, pp. 118-22.
On December 31, 1924, I established myself in a large room of pleasing & tasteful proportions at 169 Clinton St., cor. of State, in the Heights or Borough Hall section of Brooklyn, in an house of early Victorian date with white classick woodwork & tall windows with panell’d seats. Two alcoves with portieres enable one to preserve the pure library effect, & the whole forms a pleasing hermitage for an old-fashion’d man, with its generous view of ancient brick houses in State & Clinton Sts.
DESCRIPTION: In his diary, Lovecraft describes his room at 169 Clinton Street, which he had obtained after his wife accepted a position in Ohio and left him alone in New York.
CITATION: Lovecraft, H. P. “Diary: 1925.” Collected Essays. Edited by S. T. Joshi, vol. 5, Hippocampus Press, 2006, pp. 149-76.
The place was a four-story mansion of brownstone, dating apparently from the late forties, and fitted with woodwork and marble whose stained and sullied splendour argued a descent from high levels of tasteful opulence. In the rooms, large and lofty, and decorated with impossible paper and ridiculously ornate stucco cornices, there lingered a depressing mustiness and hint of obscure cookery; but the floors were clean, the linen tolerably regular, and the hot water not too often cold or turned off, so that I came to regard it as at least a bearable place to hibernate till one might really live again.
DESCRIPTION: In this passage from the short story “Cool Air” (1926), the narrator describes the rundown apartment building, in which he is living.
CITATION: Lovecraft, H. P. “Cool Air.” The Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Stories. Edited by S. T. Joshi, Penguin Books, 1999, pp. 130-38.