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Re: New edition of HPL from Oxford University Press
Posted by: Platypus (IP Logged)
Date: 14 May, 2014 09:07PM
Someone asked about textual issues in "The Music of Erich Zann" ("MUSIC"). Here's a bit what I know.

MUSIC was first published in an amateur magazine, THE NATIONAL AMATEUR (1922). I have never seen that text nor even heard of anyone who owns a copy.

MUSIC was next published in WEIRD TALES (1925). The text uses American spelling, as well as "show" and "demon" in place of their archaic or anglo-saxon equivalents. Otherwise no real issues. HPL (who as far as I know, was generally unconcerned about American versus British spelling) must have been happy.

MUSIC was next published in the Dashiell Hammett anthology CREEPS BY NIGHT (1931). This is clearly based on the WEIRD TALES text, but there are some minor revisions, the most significant of which are "bareness" is changed to "barrenness"; and the word "west" is capitalized ("...mocking note from far away in the West"), as if to suggest some special meaning (as was done, for instance, in "The White Ship" and "Poetry and the Gods"). There are also some minor changes in punctuation. I don't know if these revisions come from HPL.

MUSIC was next published in MODERN TALES OF HORROR (1932) which is the British version of CREEPS BY NIGHT. I have not seen this text, but I imagine its the same, perhaps with British spellings. In any event, I would not expect additional input from HPL.

MUSIC's final publication in HPL's lifetime was a second appearance in WEIRD TALES (1934). This version ignores the changes made in CREEPS BY NIGHT, but has changes of its own, the most significant of which are excisions of a word, two phrases, and even a whole sentence, amounting to 39 words. Excised are (1) the phrase "and I reflected for a moment that" which is replaced by a full stop, after which the narrator simply states (in a new sentence) what he had been about to reflect ("...in the theaters. This was the first time..."); (2) the word "unrecognizable" ("blind, mechanical [unrecognizable] orgy"); (3) the phrase "looked while the candles sputtered and the insane viol howled with the night-wind"); and finally the sentence "To save myself and Erich Zann I could at least try, whatever the powers opposed to me." I personally believe these excisions improve the tale, eliminating clumsy and/or redundant elements. The removal of the last sentence in particular increases the horror of the climax, by eliminating the unnecessary suggestion of heroic self-control in the face of nightmarish chaos. The question is, were these changes authorized by HPL.

Derleth's text very closely follows CREEPS BY NIGHT (and hence ignores the excisions from the 2nd WEIRD TALES appearance). The only change I noted was that at one point "know" has changed to "knew" ("the qualities of supreme genius which I *knew* this strange old man possessed"). I am relying on BEST SUPERNATURAL STORIES (1945). I do not know if this variant was present in THE OUTSIDER AND OTHERS (1939). In any event, it is probably a transcription error.

Joshi's first text appeared in THE DUWICH HORROR AND OTHERS (1982). In his "Note on the Text" Joshi declares that no manuscript or typescript was available for this story, and so the text had to be based on WEIRD TALES. In fact, it seems to follow the old Arkham House text, but makes various changes to it, some of them based on the first WEIRD TALES text (hence, he also ignores the 1934 excisions), and some based on other considerations. He retains "knew" in place of "know" (via Derleth) texts, but (for instance) "barrenness" and "West" are restored to "bareness" and "west". The remaining changes I list are not supported by any source text: He changes "show" to "shew"; changes "demon" to "daemon"; and insists on capitalizing "bacchanals" in the phrase "satyrs and bacchanals" (but if you do that, should not "satyrs" also be capitalized?). He eliminates the paragraph break that occurs between "...departed as a friend." and "The next day Blandot ...", presumably based on the theory that whenever he sees a short paragraph it must have been caused by an interfering editor. There are also a score or so of minor changes in punctuation and word-division that I won't bother to list.

Also, in later Joshi texts (those currently being sold), an instance of "of" is replaced by "to" ("having no semblance *to* anything on earth")

In the Library of America collection TALES, it is declared that Joshi's text of MUSIC follows HPL's "typescript in a private collection." I don't know why the explanation has changed, since the text is still the same as it was in 1982 (except for the latter "of/to" switch).

Joshi's trivial changes do no real harm to the story. But if there is any reason to believe his text is somehow more definitive than any other version, I have no idea what those reasons would be.



Edited 7 time(s). Last edit at 14 May 14 | 09:44PM by Platypus.

Re: New edition of HPL from Oxford University Press
Posted by: Ahab (IP Logged)
Date: 14 May, 2014 11:04PM
Interestingly, one can read the LOA text of that story here:

LOA

Re: New edition of HPL from Oxford University Press
Posted by: Platypus (IP Logged)
Date: 15 May, 2014 08:33PM
wilum pugmire Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> The texts seems
> mostly sound, but there are some errors, including
> the notorious "silent stutter in darkness" in "The
> Horror at Red Hook," which should be "silent
> strutter"

I must here give Mr. Pugmire credit for identifying an actual error in Luckhurst's text. Yes, Luckhurst's text does indeed say "stutter" and it should indeed by "strutter". However, 2 things need be said:

(A) This is not a "notorious" error that Joshi identified and corrected long ago. As far as I know, it has never occurred before. It does not occur in WEIRD TALES, it does not occur in the pre-65 Derleth texts I have seen; it does not occur in the post-65 Derleth texts. Concievably it was in THE OUTSIDER AND OTHERS (which I have yet to check), but as that is the holy grail of texts, which none have ever seen, it could hardly be a "notorious" error, if that is the only place it ever appeared. It may simply be one of those errors and typos that seem to inevitably creep into texts (yes, including Joshi's texts).

(B) A similar error DOES occur in certain Joshi texts. The "Library of American" collection (TALES) has "silent stutterer". So does the first, and notoriously corrupt, B&N edition, but perhaps that does not count. I have not, of course checked all the current Joshi texts.

Re: New edition of HPL from Oxford University Press
Posted by: Geoffrey (IP Logged)
Date: 17 May, 2014 12:22PM
Platypus Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Someone asked about textual issues in "The Music
> of Erich Zann" ("MUSIC"). Here's a bit what I
> know...

That was me, and I greatly appreciate your information. I also wonder about the textual history and textual uncertainties regarding "The Colour out of Space". I am particularly interested in these two tales because Lovecraft held them to be his best. I can imagine that his attention to the editing of these two stories would be greater than that given to his other stories since he considered the latter inferior.

Re: New edition of HPL from Oxford University Press
Posted by: jdworth (IP Logged)
Date: 19 May, 2014 12:00AM
I suppose it would be best to preface the rest of my comments by stating that, while I have received Luckhurst's volume, I've not had a chance to go through it thoroughly -- that is, re-reading all the stories carefully, line by line. I have, however, browsed through several of them (particularly the two which have been the major points of contention here), and read nearly all Luckhurst's own matter: introduction, note on the text, chronology of Lovecraft, and the bulk of the notes. The majority of the latter are quite unexceptionable, though there is not often a great deal of difference between the information given there and in other annotated editions of Lovecraft containing these stories; what difference there is, is generally in formulation and occasionally minor detail. The major room for criticism, I think, was put forth by Joshi himself in his review, when he noted that (to paraphrase) the book is neither fish nor fowl. It does not honestly reflect Lovecraft's own final wishes (something Luckhurst himself acknowledges in his note on the text), nor does it genuinely fulfill his own stated intention of recapturing the experience the initial readers of these tales had when encountering them in the pulp magazines, as he silently corrects various misprints which can affect the reading of a tale, and follows the magazine paragraphing of the two tales in Astounding, while nonetheless incorporating the restorations utilized by Derleth. On the other hand, his reactions to Joshi's texts are generally neutral to favorable, with a few exceptions; and even here the "negative" (if one can call it truly negative, rather than perhaps a bit sharply sceptical) is balanced by his quoting the text in question... which is certainly helpful for those who wish to compare the two. (These instances of quotation are, however, few; leaving the majority of discrepancies between the two texts -- that is, Luckhurst's and Joshi's -- unremarked.)

The result, I am sorry to say, does not particularly impress me as a very useful edition of Lovecraft, as it does fall into neither camp, and therefore does not even do what Luckhurst himself has stated as his purpose. Which is a pity, as such an edition would at least be of interest to scholars interested in comparing the precise magazine versions with those which more closely follow Lovecraft's own manuscripts or (apparently) approved printed versions.

As for errors in Luckhurst's texts -- as I say, I've not had the time to go through each story thoroughly, nor even most cursorily; but here are a few worth noting:

from "The Whisperer in Darkness":

Notwithstanding the deep things I saw and heard, and the admitted vividness of the impressions produced on me by these things, I cannot prove even now... (p. 121)

which should read:

Notwithstanding the deep extent to which I shared the information and speculations of Henry Akeley, the things I saw and heard, and the admitted vividness of the impressions...

Or:

If I knew as little of the matter as they, I would feel justified in believing as they do. I would be wholly on your side. (p. 129)

which simply doesn't make sense. It should read:

If I knew as little of the matter as they, I would not feel justified in believing as they do. I would be wholly on your side.

Or:

I have seen the reprints of letters from you, and those agreeing with you, in the Rutland Herald, and I guess I know about where your controversy stands at the present time.(p. 220)

which, again, does not make sense; as opposed to:

I have seen the reprints of letters from you, and those arguing with you, in the Rutland Herald, and I guess...

There are others in this story as well, but these will serve as examples of where Luckhurst errs in following Derleth's texts.

There is also a rather peculiar one, in "The Horror at Red Hook", on p. 6: "columns of pilasters". You can't have columns of pilasters; it should be "columns or pilasters". Which might simply be a typo, except that, if so, it is odd that this is the same exact typographic error which appears in the AH text.

And an entirely new one, from the first chapter of At the Mountains of Madness:

which we then thought to form a separate and smaller continent divided from the larger one by a frozen junction of Ross and Weddell Seas, though Byrd has since disproved the report. (p. 189)

That last word, even in the older Arkhan House texts, should be "hypothesis". This makes sense, whereas "report" simply does not, and is in fact nonsense, given that there is no report of their hypothesis. This may, of course, be an editorial change in the original Astounding printing which has slipped through (as elsewhere noted, I've not seen the original publications), but in any event, it certainly doesn't reflect HPL's own wording.

So much for Luckhurst's texts as being representative of Lovecraft's wishes. Given that he himself makes it clear he is using magazine publications as the basis of his texts, and that he retained -- against Lovecraft's explicit instructions, even according to your own statements -- the paragraphing of At the Mountains of Madness from Astounding, it is obvious that such was never his intention. He was attempting a different goal altogether; one which I think is questionable on several grounds, but within an editor's privilege.

Which leaves us with what has become (in this thread, at least), the thorny question of "the Joshi texts", whether they fall into this heading, and whether or not they are more representative of Lovecraft's wishes. Rather than simply going point-by-point here, I will begin by stating flatly that all we know concerning the two most contended texts is that Lovecraft did not make (in his correcting of the Astounding printings) some of the emendations and changes present in Joshi's texts. Well and good. If we consider just these texts in isolation, that would be enough. If, on the other hand, we consider not only these "corrected" magazine excerpts, but Lovecraft's lifelong usage, then questions inevitably arise. And when we add to that his own repeated statements about such issues (see the letter excerpts at the end), it becomes virtually certain that there are some serious anomalies. Add to that the fact that he was still making such statements even at the point where he was making these corrections, and these stand out even more. These anomalies, on the other hand, are almost entirely resolved by reference to his manuscripts (both autograph and existing typescript), which firmly place these two texts within both his explicitly stated aesthetic preferences and lifelong practice. Unless you are claiming that, in these isolated instances alone, and going against statements he was making even at the same time, Lovecraft suddenly chose to take a completely different path, then such a collation of texts and consequent editorial choices seem the best method for respecting the author's wishes, rather than an ignoring of such. It then becomes a matter of which choices seem reasonable, and which do not. As the following will indicate, I think that, at least in the majority of cases, Joshi's choices most soundly reflect Lovecraft's own policies on these matters.

Platypus Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> That revision, at least, must have come from HPL.
> But since this draft does not survive, we cannot
> know that he did not make OTHER revisions as well.

True enough. By the same token, we have no evidence that he did, either; so any further support of that idea is entirely speculative. Once again, additional evidence would be required to make a sound decision either way.

> Since the draft HPL submitted does not survive, we
> cannot know WHICH of these excisions, rewordings
> and re-paragraphing come from HPL, and WHICH were
> made by ASTOUNDING.

We do have the original typed manuscript, however; we also have Lovecraft's letters expressing his fury at the alteration of his paragraphing; and it is the paragraphing used by Astounding, which he spends a lengthy paragraph and more on excoriating, which Luckhurst follows in his edition:

"These stories were both published in the science fiction magazine, Astounding Stories and were extensively reparagraphed by the editor, with some passages deleted and some of the phrasing simplified. I have chosen to reprint the original pulp versions of the tales with regard to paragraphing, in order to retain some of the pulp energy that Astounding Stories wanted to inject into Lovecraft's tales. Readers may note a different prose rhythm in these two tales, but this breathless form was how they were first encountered by their audience in the Golden Age of science fiction. I have followed August Derleth in restoring deleted passages[...]."

-- "Note on the Text", p. xxix

We also have Lovecraft's letter to Alvin Earl Perry, which outlines in more detail his methods of composition as set forth in "Notes on Writing Weird Fiction", and which make it virtually certain such alterations would not have been done at that stage. (It should be noted, too, that Luckhurst is a bit loose in his categorization of the "Golden Age", which did not begin until the so-called "Campbell Revolution" of 1939... several years after the publication of these tales.)

At any rate, once again, you are building a rather flimsy argument here, given Lovecraft's repeated rejection of such short, "choppy" paragraphing and his frequent criticism of it as a detriment to good prose style. (See the section of letter excerpts at the end.) To propose that in these two tales only he would choose to suddenly adopt a type of prose rhythm completely alien to that which he had used in his entire career (at least since "The Beast in the Cave"), and at the same time that he is inveighing against precisely this sort of thing, is extremely shaky. When you talk about editors advancing their own theories, you might want to consider that this is precisely what you are doing here, as the weight of evidence is very much against you on this.

> Thankfully, we do not need to solve this unsolvable problem ourselves BECAUSE we
> have...
>
> > D) Lovecraft's correction of these issues,
>
> PHEW!! Problem solved! If we do what the author
> tells us, we have no need to rely on the mystical
> and mysterious scholarly powers of Joshi, that
> allow him to miraculously discern the content of
> documents that no longer exist.

Once again, you are ignoring the fact that Lovecraft himself expressed dissatisfaction with these corrected copies; they were an improvement, but even he says that they were not ideal. They serve in lieu of an entirely retyped manuscript (something he abhorred doing), but that is all.

> It is, of course, is his business, and not ours,
> what he chooses to rely on in correcting his text.

Save that, once again, you are ignoring the fact that Lovecraft raised the issue himself, emphasizing it in his own hand. This makes it quite clear that he had reservations about this aspect of his corrections, as otherwise (given the way he tended to express himself clearly in letters on such matters) he would have noted either that he had made some additional revisions or been silent about the memory part of it altogether. This is hardly unusual practice for him, as he tends to be a stickler for such.

> his (alleged) lack of
> access to any typescript

No "alleged" about it. Lovecraft's letter to Barlow has HPL himself saying he didn't have access to it.

> You are stacking the deck against he author!
>
> If a person honestly wants to follow the author's
> wishes, "crystal clarity" is not required.
> Reasonable clarity should suffice. He who uses
> remote theoretical possibilities as an excuse for
> ignoring the author's instructions was never
> interested in the author's wishes to begin with.
>
> Nor is the author required to swear that he
> reviewed all earlier drafts with a "fine tooth
> comb", before his last instructions are obeyed. He
> is not required to review earlier drafts at all.
>
> Nor need he make any formal declaration of
> absolute finality. For our purposes, it suffices
> that he clearly intends his latest draft to
> supercede any prior draft.

There are several points I would dispute here: !) These are not "remote theoretical possibilities", but rather a following of Lovecraft's own established practice as set forth in his letters, essays, and all extant drafts of the text, barring the published version. This includes his own statements to Barlow about the prose rhythm and interconnectedness of the various parts of the text, for these passages are anything but redundant, but instead act on several levels: as reflections on earlier events (but always with new information and associational resonance added), "rhythms of repetition" (to use Luckhurst's phrase, p. xix; and also his noting that "These repetitions build an incantatory rhythm, tying baroque literary form to philosophical content", p. xx), motifs much as in music (particularly opera, which bears an interesting resemblance to Lovecraft's work in many ways) which tie the text together structurally, knitting the fabric more tightly into a coherent, "organic" (to use HPL's own phrasing) whole; and foreshadow events to come (which are, of course, given that the narrative, though told as if the events are unfolding for the sake of maximum tension, are actually given post facto); and so on.

For example, the passage which Luckhurst cites in his note on p. 474 (for p. 215) not only reminds the readers of Lake's description of the toughness of the things, and their offensive odor, but also looks forward to the finding of the decapitated Old Ones toward the end of the novel, which thus acts as a parallel to the action of the dogs (the consideration and rejection of the penguins' being responsible recalls and adds new layers to the earlier passage concerning the attack of the dogs on the things) plus the reminder of the odor acts as a mnemonic resonance for the readers, not only preparing them for the later scene, but also acting to set the readers' knowledge in tension against the apparent facts as the protagonists encounter them, thus heightening suspense and the feeling of terror. It also serves as an instance of that "summing up" of events his characters so often use to come to grips with events up to that point, and that "emotional preparation" which was paramount in Lovecraft's conception of a weird tale (again, see the letters below).

So, too, with the passage you reject (beginning "For..."), as it serves many of these purposes as well. And no, Joshi is not talking nonsense here; he is following the sort of grammatical correctness in structure that Lovecraft made the keynote of his comments time and again. (See, for instance, his comments on the importance of rhetorical effects, as reflected in the letter citing his own influences in that regard.) That "for" is, without such a close referent, at best a clumsy usage, quite unlike the very careful structuring Lovecraft was so intent on, where every word was chosen for its precise effect and placement, even such a conjunction as this; again, more tightly knitting the fabric of the text while adding new resonances and also acting as a "summing up" of the case as being weighed by the actors so far (as in a detective story; one technique from such which Lovecraft used quite extensively). One sees this sort of thing constantly in Lovecraft's manuscripts. For example, on the first page of Mountains, as reproduced on p. 119 of Nightmare Countries, he has included in his interlineations a note to reference the discussion of the photographs and drawings from the opening paragraphs. This sort of "rhythmic repetition" has long been noted as a very important aspect of Lovecraft's textual style, at least as far back as Fritz Leiber's "A Literary Copernicus".

2) When putting together a "definitive" text, as I've indicated before, you not only have to consider the particular piece in question, but all other matter connected to it, including such a red flag as Lovecraft's letter to Barlow, which raises the question not of whether Lovecraft was entirely satisfied or not (the fact that he went into this entire matter not once, but twice within the same letter, strongly points to him not being so; he also went into this further in a later letter), but the degree to which he had reservations, and on what points. At which juncture, the letters, essays, and his lifelong usage enter the picture as tools to determine the degree to which this was so, and where.

I find it very interesting that you jump on the one phrase from that quotation of "Notes on Writing Weird Fictino" which would support your own contention, while ignoring the rest of the quote, let alone the essay itself, which argues against you in this matter; for Lovecraft did not go back and reconcile these things; references to these passages still occur elsewhere in the novel, references which, for their full effect, depend on these passages being there.

Allow me to quote the relevant passage again:

"If the development suddenly reveals new opportunities for dramatic effect or vivid storytelling, add whatever is thought advantageous -- going back and reconciling the early parts to the new plan. Insert and delete whole sections if necessary or desirable, trying different beginnings and endings until the best arrangement is found. But be sure that all references throughout the story are thoroughly reconciled with the final design. Remove all possible superfluities -- words, sentences, paragraphs, or whole episodes or elements -- observing the usual precautions about the reconciling of all references."

Again, note that not once, but three times in this short passage, he emphasizes this reconciling of all references and various parts, and then go back and reread Mountains carefully, and you'll find that there are passages which simply are not reconciled properly if these passages are missing, whereas if they are included, each element fits perfectly into the concepts voiced above. (Again, see the letter to Alvin Earl Perry for more on this topic.)

3) No, I am not "stacking the deck" here; I am using critical judgment to follow the indications of how Lovecraft himself tended to view these things, how he expressed his views on such matters, and what his common usage was (as well as his repeated advice to other writers on the subject). If anything, this is paying much more attention to the what the writer says than simply going by a single bit of evidence about which the writer has himself expressed reservations. In such a case, it is the editor/scholar who actually goes to the trouble of collating all these factors, and then carefully considering and weighing each factor against the others before reaching a decision, who is the most concerned with securing what is likely the author's wishes on the matter. Whether or not such an attempt is successful is, of course, open to debate; but following such a course indicates the very opposite of not caring what the writers' wishes are.

In a case where there are no contrary evidences, or indications that there may (or definitely are) problems with the text, then no such high bar is needed. But when such enter the picture, things have to be weighed that much more carefully, much as a judge or jury must weigh all the evidence of a case before reaching a verdict (e.g., the analogy in considering cases concerning a separation of church and state, wherein not only the specific wording of the constitutional amendment must be at issue, but also such clarifying documents as the original Treaty of Tripoli and Jefferson's letter to the Danbury Baptist Association, from which the phrase "wall of separation between church and state" is derived). However simple it may first appear, when something like this comes to light, following the simple course is more likely to land you in the wrong than otherwise.

4) As indicated by the above, as well as my statements elsewhere, there is no "clearly" about it. Along with detailing his efforts to restore the text, he at the same time flatly states that it may not reflect his formal typed manuscript, with the strong implication that referencing that would likely reveal some errors in an effort in which he was relying on his memory of that very document. Hence, it is not a clear-cut case, but an extremely nuanced one.

> You claim this proves HPL was careless.

Nowhere do I accuse HPL of "carelessness". I do state (with backing from his own comments in letters) that he was not a particularly good proofreader; this is scarcely uncommon among writers, in part because they have been going over the same material time and time and time again, and eventually even the most careful among human beings will find that they miss things simply due to fatigue with the material, or a galley-related analogy to "highway hypnosis". Ask just about any writer, and they'll tell you they've been through the same thing. This is why it is such a good idea to have multiple sets of eyes go over the same materials; each is likely to miss things, but together the likelihood of such drops dramatically. (Which is why we have so many typos, misprints, and missing passages in modern books: Publishers have "downsized" proofreading and even editing corps drastically, relying on machinery or one or two individuals to do what used to be done by several. I worked in this field for many years, and I know.)

As you seem intent on misrepresenting or at least distorting what I said... that letter to Morton was done before he had done more than glance over the Astounding text. It was not until some time later that someone else drew his attention to the botched job, particularly in the third installment. I do, however, stand corrected on one point: the passages mentioned were not omitted from the first installment, which ends at the last line of section III (according to Luckhurst's notes; p. 474; I've not seen the original Astounding text itself). These were from the first portion of the second installment. However, I stand by my statements concerning the likelihood that these were overlooked rather than intentionally excised by HPL, both because he was relying on his earlier A.Ms. rather than the typescript (the first version of which, at least, is extant; it is here where he had done several revisions we know for certain were by his hand). As I have stated, I have not seen the original manuscripts (A.Ms. or T.Ms.) save for occasional pages reproduced in this or that book or journal, but these passages were certainly present in the latter at least. Joshi himself raises the point -- though he considers it unlikely for these same reasons -- that he may have removed them in the revised T.Ms. sent to Astounding; but, for the reasons given above, as well as a point made in the letter to Perry, I would argue that such is unlikely. (And, if you've seen copies of his original autograph manuscripts, it is very conceivable that such passages could be overlooked; even with a magnifying lens, often his interlineations and transpositions are almost impossible to decipher; something even he ruefully admitted.) It remains hypothetical, but consistent with the craft and care he took on the points mentioned above.

Which brings us, once again, to the paragraphing of "The Shadow out of Time". Once more, all we know is that Lovecraft did not go over this one nearly as extensively. We do not know why he did not indicate the others; though certainly such would have been superfluous with Barlow, who had the original manuscript. However, once again, given the numerous statements Lovecraft made up to and including this time concerning the organic nature of paragraphs as they are written, as well as his lifelong adherence to the standard rules of composition and his frequent disparagement of such choppy, staccato "near-rhythms" (see letter extracts below, as well as the letter to Barlow cited earlier), the probability that he would deliberately go against all this in this one instance without remarking on such a drastic change (recall that, whenever he did attempt any such change in his style of composition, he remarked on it in his letters and discussed the difficulties he had with such) is so tiny as to have long passed the point of invisibility. It is much more reasonable to accept the paragraphing of the manuscript, which reflects his lifelong usage and the statements made in his correspondence and essays, as being more representative of his wishes in this case.

And while we're on the subject... it isn't simply my opinion that the passage I cite from "The Shadow Out of Time" is a "non-paragraph"; it is a simple fact of the rules of composition. It just does not meet any of the requirements of what constitutes a paragraph, certainly not by the standards which HPL used:

[lrs.ed.uiuc.edu]

Now, this is very basic stuff, and Lovecraft knew these basics (and followed them) from childhood; he argued for them again and again in his critical columns for the amateur press, his letters to other writers (particularly those who were just beginning), and so forth. In no instance does he make exceptions which would violate such a simple, basic part of writing construction. On the other hand, the passage as given in the restored text is a very sound example of precisely this unit of writing.

As for your arguments (which you admit are entirely theoretical)... again, this is not only against Lovecraft's lifelong practice, but against his explicit statements regarding prose rhythms and the need for the complex paragraphing he so carefully constructed. (Again, see the examples given below.) Not a priority for him? I think you are missing the forest for the single tree here; as I said, he begins by speaking of Mountains, but before he is through he is speaking of both (check the entire letter to see what I mean -- I do not copy it all because it amounts to about two full pages of text), and what he says agrees entirely with his constant reiteration of this very same point, and his distaste for such paragraphing as a part of declining prose style.

There is also this, from a later letter to Barlow, which further exemplifies his reservations:

"About the 'M of M' mess -- I think [Lovecraft's emphasis] my printed copies are now in tolerable shape. The other day I succeeded in straightening out your imperfect typed version (of which several early pages are absent), & may get some valuable points from that. As for the "Shadow" -- the copy now with Comte d'Erlette can't be correct, since I don't recall your transcribing my corrections in the typed copy. I think, though, that the printed copy had no omissions -- so that my memory-corrections make it sufficiently tolerable. -- O, Fortunate Floridian, p. 344

Note the very reserved phrasing here in both cases. In neither is there an indication of genuine satisfaction with the result. Once again, this argues against these as representing Lovecraft's "final wishes" concerning these two tales; whereas (at least with Mountains; by "Shadow" his self-confidence was so low that he never felt at all sure of the merits of that tale) in his comments dealing with the original manuscript he reiterates time and again that this is his "best" tale, and the infinite care and pains he took in correcting and revising it in original manuscript form.

> It's not obvious in anything you have said. Did
> you leave out part of your argument? Where is
> your proof that he never got around to checking
> the typescript?.

A) The letters already cited (written near the end of his life). B) No reference in any further letters indicating otherwise, something he would almost certainly (given how much he had gone into this already) have mentioned.

****************


The following excerpts from his letters go toward supporting many of the contentions I have made above, particularly about the forging of a careful, measured prose style using many of the same devices as good rhetoric and poetry to subtly enhance effect; an avoidance of the standards of popular magazines with their "action-oriented" prose (particularly paragraphing, but also word choice and subtleties and complexities of sentence structure and an overemphasis on brevity over accepted standards of composition); and the extremely careful, gradual emotional build-up by use of reiterations and expansions of particular phrases and motifs to prepare the reader for the desired emotional response to the wonders and terrors depicted in the work.

"At present you're laying more stress on plot than on those intangible subtleties of mood and colouring which come from the studied choice (really, a poetic choice) of cadenced words and phrases, and from a minute selective attention to the thousand-and-one almost invisible details which add up collectively into a living background.[...] But in the end, atmosphere repays cultivation; because it is the final criterion of convincingness or unconvincingness in any tale whose major appeal is to the imagination." -- SLII.89-90

This goes toward what I was saying earlier about Lovecraft using such poetic techniques in his own fiction, including such rhythmic repetitions, as well as chiasmus (one of his favorites, apparently, as it crops up over and over again in his work), etc.

"The second essential -- the element which, joined to the proper vision, makes literary competence a certainty -- is a keen sense of beauty as applied to language. A natural author thinks of words solely in their aesthetic relations -- in their power to grasp delicately and exquisitely his every shade of meaning and emotion, and to sing forth his dreams in music of surpassing loveliness. To him language is no haphazard, utilitarian thing, but the conjoined marble and chisel of a sculptor, wherewith perfect things may be bodied forth afresh in perfect beauty. No one need try authorship unless he feels himself able and inclined to treat language as a fine art -- as a thing of complex and delicate laws, of hidden meanings, and of a thousand potent subtleties of sound, rhythm, force, vividness, tone-colour, and associative values. He must be willing and eager to bind himself in a long and toilsome apprenticeship to the gods of speech -- and must never be impatient or rebellious. He must come to love language so much that it will form almost an end in itself -- he must love it till the mere handling of beautiful words and rhythms becomes an exquisite pleasure...." -- SLII.143-44

On the faults of an "action-oriented" style and lack of adequate emotional preparation:

"Walpole was too steeped in the classical tradition of the early 18th century to catch the Gothic spirit of the latter half. His choice of words and rhythms is the brisk, cheerful Addisonian one; and his nonchalant and atmosphereless way of describing the most prodigious horrors is enough to empty them of all their potency." -- SLII.231

"My advice today would be the same as in the past -- to put all energies into the twin fields of accurate life-knowledge and subtle language-mastery; substituting for a romantic interest in a limited field of outward human actions a profound curiosity to get at the roots of conduct and events and to detect hidden rhythms, ironies, and inclusive truths behind the external mask -- this, and a carefully cultivated love of the art of written expression for its own sake, involving a passionate interest in words and phrases and cadences at least three-quarters as great as your interest in what you write about. Cultivate accuracy, profundity, and scholarship -- remembering that the popular tastes and perspectives are all false things of the surface unworthy of a sober thinker's attention, and that the proportionate importance of the different factors in life is never even approximated by romantic popular literature with its artificial, catchpenny standards based on the dull comprehension of the brainless majority. Learn to lose interest in the tawdry and tinsel things exalted by cheap novelists, and to gain interest in the only two things worthy of a high-grade adult mind -- truth and beauty, as exemplified by a searching and unbiased glance into the real nature and proportions of life, and a single-minded devotion to the processes, harmonies, and niceties of art as practiced only for its own sake. Substitute the specific for the general, the scholarly for the careless, the accurate for the inexact, the true for the pleasant or conventional, the analytical for the empirical, the serious for the trivial, the painstaking for the casual, the conscientious for the dashing, the objective for the subjective, the impersonal for the personal, the gradual for the sudden, the profound for the swift, the effacing for the ambitious, the unworldly for the worldly, the settled for the restless, the relentless for the ennuied, the patient for the impatient, the sceptical for the credulous, the ironic for the romantic, the calm for the excitable, the deliberate for the random, the sharp for the blurred, the conscious (in craftsmanship only, however) for the unconscious and haphazard, the well-planned for the vague..... Choose as the only suitable aim in life the feat of spying out truth so far as it can be spied, and of pinning it down to paper in the most vivid and beautiful of all possible forms....... Let all your interest and enthusiasm go into the process of selecting the true and significant from the false and irrelevant, and of crystallising your selection in the most perfect language and imagery which art can provide."-- SLII.326-27

"What you want is a reading-course in several parallel lines, mapped out with care by some competent scholar and followed attentively and conscientiously by yourself. I'd say, offhand, that about five parallel streams would be about right -- elementary science, to give you an idea of man's place in nature; psychology and philosophy, to shew you how people think, why they do what they do, and what they do under given conditions; history, to give you an intelligent perspective on possible fictional backgrounds; literary method, (critical essays, textbooks on writing and appreciation) to teach you how to translate thoughts, events, pictures, and moods into language to the greatest possible advantage; and literature itself --in its most standard form -- to enlarge your aesthetic knowledge of life, and at the same time to accustom you unconsciously to the most effective devices of linguistic expression. Of these five streams, the last-named is by far the most important and necessary. Above everything else comes good literature. And of course a concomitant to all this would be a complete swearing-off of the cinema and of cheap magazines. You can't bury that stuff too deeply out of sight and memory for your own artistic good!!" -- SLIII.14-15

[On the possibility of his writing an "interplanetary" tale:] "I doubt if I'd handle it as a phantasy so much as a stark, macabre bit of quasi-realism. I would try to achieve what all other interplanetary writers blithely & deliberately reject -- namely, the sense of awesome, utter, & almost mind-unhinging tremendousness implicit in the very notion of transportation to another world either in body or in mind. Virtually all writers wholly miss this point to a degree I cannot but regard as ludicrous. In cold realistic fact, any man with half an imagination would undergo a frightful mental shock at the mere idea of any contact with a planet other than this. This feeling would be the central element of any interplanetary story of mine; indeed, the whole thing would be more of a psychological study than an adventurous narrative -- more a Poe-effect than a H. G. Wells or Jules Verne effect.[...] There is one basic difference in our work which would almost automatically eliminate the danger of parallelism, even when we work on identical themes. It is this -- that you are fundamentally a poet, & think first of all in symbols, colour, & gorgeous imagery, whilst I am fundamentally a prose realist whose prime dependence is on the building up of atmosphere through the slow, pedestrian method of multitudinous suggestive detail & dark scientific verisimilitude. Whatever I produce must be the sombre result of a deadly, literal seriousness, & almost pedantic approach. The "art" atmosphere is never in my best stuff -- instead, there is an impersonal, unsmiling, minutely reporting quality somewhere. I have to see a thing or scene with clear-cut visual distinctness before I can say anything whatever about it -- then I describe it as an entomologist might describe an insect. Prose realism is behind everything of any importance that I write[...]" -- SLIII.96

"Still, it is absurdly easy to find the cause of that decay in prose rhythm of which Dr. Canby speaks -- so easy, indeed, that I marvel at his failure to dwell upon it himself. I allude to the use of the typewriter in the original composition of manuscripts; a practice which not only discourages good workmanship through its undue speed, distracting noise, [... ] and division of the attention, but which insidiously corrupts a writer to condone hasty crudities in rhythm on account of the extreme difficulty of making adequate interlineations, corrections, and recastings in the sentences of the rough draughts. No writer ought ever to consider a rapidly written sentence as a finished product. It may be that four or five verbal transportations will be needed to produce the desired effect; or that wholesale substitutions of words of diverse length -- often demanding still further textural changes for their perfect accommodation -- will have to be effected. These needs may be obvious at once, or not until some later passage brings out the asymmetrical quality of the first-evolved version. In any case, an artistically conceived prose manuscript must be in a perpetual state of flux; with unlimited opportunities for every kind of shifting, interpolation, and minute remodeling, and with no sentence or paragraph accepted more than tentatively until the very last word is set down.[...] In other words, no decent prose -- or rather, no prose of permanent rhythmical value -- can be produced except on a sheet which can at any moment be subjected to instant emendation, in any degree of extensiveness, in any of its parts whatsoever; a set of conditions which cannot be met on the typewriter. Of course, it is possible that occasional typed products -- casual letters, and so on -- of persons with an already-implanted rhythm-sense may accidentally achieve a fair grade of harmoniousness; just as an accomplished musician's idle strumming of piano-keys may produce a chance bar of fair quality. But in this case the merit will be due to a long previous saturation with good melody and cadence, such as can be obtained only through habits of deliberate, fastidious, and constantly-amended longhand composition. Only the generation of writers brought up on cautious pen and ink methods can have any chance of clicking out passable rhythm on a typewriter. This is indeed already sadly obvious -- for the newest crop of adults contains from fifty to seventy-five percent of lifelong typewriter-addicts whose tempo and mechanically imposed limitations can be readily traced in short, jerky sentences, staccato near-rhythms, and an utter ignoring of periodic beats and modulations in favour of ideas and images presented by direct intellection and without the aid of sound-appeal. These people often show a perfect natural sense of rhythm when they write in verse and are obliged to keep the prosodick element paramount; but when they turn to prose, the discouraging effect fo their mechanical incubus grows too much for them, and they soon succumb to the deadening staccato and careless structure inevitable in not-easily-corrected and over-speeded writing." -- SLIII.132-33

"To make a story effective in the highest degree, the inner rhythms of the prose structure must be carefully fitted to the incidents as they march along; while each word must be chosen with infinite care-- a care which considers not only the dictionary meaning, but the subtle aura of associations which it has picked up through folk-usage and previous literary employment. In other words, prose must be created with just the same exactness, delicacy of ear, imaginative fertility, etc., as verse. One must study profoundly the art of how to present each new development in a narrative. Often everything depends on the dramatic manner in which some turn of plot is unfolded -- so that one must study hours to discover just the right way to lead up to a revelation, bridge over a transition of scene or mood or perspective or time or action, build a foundation for some future event so that it will have an air of half-expectedness when it comes, express the delicate suggestions, associations, and implications which surround some specific act or object or incident, etc., etc., etc........" -- SLIII.355

"As I've been trying to make clear, the popular magazine world is essentially an underworld or caricature-imitation world so far as serious writing is concerned. Absolutely nothing about it is worthy of mature consideration or permanent preservation. That is why I am so absolutely unwilling to make any concessions to its standards, & so much disposed to repudiate it entirely in an effort to achieve real aesthetic expression even on the humblest plane." -- SLIII.416

"Any tale which attempts to re-create a section of experience in maturely effective proportions must devote fully as much attention to the static as to the kinetic factors involved. This is even truer of weird fiction than of any other form; since phantasy is not, directly, a picture of objective events at all, but merely the delineation of a certain type of human mood. What a weird story tells is something that never happens; the real portraiture being wholly of the feeling which often gives rise to the illusion of such happenings.[...]

"Now I have no quarrel with non-artistic fiction manufacture. It is a profession just as difficult and dignified as steamfitting -- and I would gladly follow either if it were practicable and profitable. The only thing is, that I can't do it. The process of tinkering cold-bloodedly and inartistically with words and phrases and cadences for purposes other than that of self-expression develops within me certain repugnances which prevent me from duplicating the required patterns in quasi-original fiction. I can revise, but I can't concoct new things in the domain of the cheap and spurious.[...] One can't succeed in a field for which one has only contempt and loathing, so beginning about five years ago I stopped trying to suit shoddy markets and decided to work sincerely. I have no ambition to work in any but the genuine field -- that of Machen, Blackwood, or Poe -- even though I realise keenly that I shall never be more than a microscopic figure (if even that) in that honourable and fiercely contested area. I had rather fail like an inferior Blackwood than succeed like a glorified Quinn or Kline -- although, as I said before, I'd be perfectly willing to grind out the Quinn-Kline brand of pap if I could do it without impairing my ability to write sincerely. But I can't -- so that's that." -- SLIII.427-28

"[...] I think my days of contribution to W. T. are decidedly numbered, for Wright rejected my best story last year [Mountains], & is likely to do the same with my later work on account of its greater length & slower motion as compared with my earlier stuff. I can no longer be satisfied with the glib, machine-clipped type of tale which editors demand -- & unfortunately there is no likelihood of editors ever being satisfied with the kind of story I now write. -- SLIV.24

"While it is damn true that of two statements the more direct, caeteris paribus, is the better, it does not follow that a skeletonic structure is the prose ideal. There are limits -- and euphony must [not] be sacrificed for headline brevity. The sort of superfluous stuff that needs clearing away is what dilutes the thought by removing the closely-knit relationship of cognate parts. It isn't wholly a matter of the number of words, and often a smooth, ample passage is actually more direct than a chopped-up, rugged hash of conscious Carlylese which shows less words by mathematical count. Then again, actual phonetic harmony means a lot in itself. Good prose needs rhythm as much as good verse, and anybody who thinks that the style of Time is real prose is a sucker.[...] [T]here's no excuse for barking out an Hemingway machine-gun fire when one could weave prose which can be read aloud without sore throat or hiccoughs. I refuse to be taken in by the goddam bunk of this aera just as totally as I refused to fall for the pompous, polite bull of Victorianism -- and one of the chief fallacies of the present is that smoothness, even when involving no sacrifice of directness, is a defect. The best prose is vigorous, direct, unadorn'd, and closely related (as is the best verse) to the language of actual discourse; but it has its natural rhythms and smoothness just as good oral speech has. There has never been any prose as good as that of the early eighteenth century, and anyone who thinks he can improve upon Swift, Steele, and Addison is a blockhead." -- SLIV.32-33

"As for the current decline in prose style -- it has really been going on for over half a century. Even back in my day the teaching of rhetoric was by no means as exact as it had been in the day of my parents & grandparents, & my early writings were constantly picked to pieces by my more rigidly trained uncle & grandfather. If my prose has any merit, it is due to that criticism, & to the ancient books of rhetoric (1797, 1812, 1818, 1842, 1845, &c.) in the family library, which I studied assiduously as part of my ingrained antiquarianism. In reality, my writing reflects not the standards of my own chronological period, but those of a century & more ago. For real, honest training you can't beat Blair's Rhetorick (of which I have a late -- 1820 -- edition), Alden's Reader (1797), or Parker's Aid to Composition (1845). The latter -- redolent of the scholarship of the Poe period -- is what I really grew up on. If I had depended on the weak-kneed stuff dished out to me in the early 1900's, I would have a damned sight worse style than I do now." -- SLIV.96-97

"Some stories are so interdependent in their parts, and so inextricably tied up with a certain proportioning, that they wouldn't be worth a damn if mangled to suit some pachydermatous mob-caterer who knows and cares nothing for genuine quality; and when this is the case my respect goes to the chap who insists that they appear as written or not at all." -- SLIV.122

"There's nothing "academic" in [his criticism of Price's story]. I simply couldn't get interested in a bald succession of flat statements whose astonishing content was belied by the casual, cheerful atmosphere.[...] What is there to give any sense of life -- any sense that something besides a cool catalogue of impossible, irrelevant, gratuitous, and doubtfully interesting assertions is being presented[....]

"[...] What is needed so cryingly is emotional preparation for the incredible events delineated, and this might conceivably be achieved in brief compass through a very discriminating use of words and rhythms and details in setting the scene and establishing the relationship of the characters to it.[...] It may be added, that weird or in general strange fiction undoubtedly suffers more than any other kind through devitalisation to the "action" state. This is because the presentation of incredible material depends absolutely on the fancy-cajoling or semi-hypnotising process which nothing but plentiful and convincing atmosphere can set in motion. A non-strange "action" story is not nearly such a self-defeating paradox as a story which tries to be strange and "actionated" at the same time." -- SLIV.162-4

"The press directly discourages the minute, leisurely development, careful choice of significant detail, full presentation of nuances, sharp analysis of motives & emotions, impartial treatment of values, & rhythmical grace of style, which distinguish serious novel-writing from mere capable journalism." -- SLIV.316

This next one is from his letter to Alvin Earl Perry, which was essentially an expansion of his essay on writing a weird tale; here, given more room, he makes more explicit certain aspects, and his comments here, I would argue, make the case all the stronger on the unlikelihood that the debated excisions and deletions from At the Mountains of Madness and the alteration in paragraphing of "The Shadow Out of Time" would have taken place at such a late date in the composition of these tales:

"Then comes the next stage -- deciding how to tell the story already thought out. This begins mentally -- by thinking of various effective ways to arrange certain unfoldings revelations. We speculate on what to tell first, & what to save for later presentation in order to preserve suspense or provoke interest. We analyze the dramatic value of putting this thing before that thing, or vice versa, & try to see what selection of details & order of narration best conduce to that rising tide of development final burst of revealing completion which we call "climax." Having roughly made our decisions regarding a tentative arrangement we proceed to write these down in the form of a second synopsis -- a synopsis or "scenario" of events in order of their narration to the reader, with ample fulness & detail, with notes on such things as changing perspective, modulated stresses, & ultimate climax. I never hesitate to change the original synopsis to fit some newly devised development if such a devising can increase the dramatic force or general effectiveness of the future story. Incidents should be interpolated or deleted at will -- the writer never being bound by his original conception, even though the ultimate result be a tale wholly different from that first planned. The wise author lets additions & alterations be made whenever such are suggested by anything in the formulating process.

"The time has now come to write the story in the approximate language which the reader is to see. This first draught should be written rapidly, fluently, not too critically -- following the second synopsis. I always change incidents & plot whenever the developing process seems to suggest such change -- never being bound by any previous design. If the development suddenly reveals new opportunities for dramatic effect or weird story-telling, I add whatever I think advantageous -- going back and reconciling early points to the new plan. I insert or delete whole sections when I deem it necessary or desirable -- trying different beginnings & endings until the best is found. But I always take infinite pain to make sure that all references throughout the story are thoroughly reconciled with the final design. Then -- in completing the rough draught -- I seek to remove all possible superfluities -- words, sentences, paragraphs, or whole episodes or elements -- observing the usual precautions about the reconciliation of all references.[...]

"Now comes the revision -- a tedious, painstaking process. One must go over the entire text, paying attention to vocabulary, syntax, rhythm of prose, proportioning of parts, of tone, grace & convincingness of transitions (scene to scene, slow detailed action to rapid & sketchy time-covering action & vice versa ... &c. &c. &c.), effectiveness of beginning, ending, climaxes, &c., dramatic suspense & interest, plausibility & atmosphere, & various other elements. That finishes the story -- & the rest is merely the preparation of a neatly typed version ... the most horrible part of all to me. I detest the typewriter, & could not possibly compose a story on one. The mechanical limitations of the machine are death to good style anyway -- it being harder to transpose words & make the necessary complex interlineations when bound to keys & rollers, while delicate prose rhythms are defeated by the irrelevant regular rhythms of line-endings & roller-turnings. Nothing was ever composed on a typewriter which could not have been composed better with pen or pencil." -- SLV.202-04

All of which goes to show that the actual revision process, including any excisions, additions, rephrasings, etc., would be done before he went to preparing a typescript. That last is merely a transcribing process, save where such a vital change as that concerning the factual refutation of his hypothesis about there being more than one land-mass is involved. He also adds the following:

"I always endeavor to read and analyse the best weird writers -- Poe, Machen, Blackwood, James, Dunsany, de la Mare, Wakefield, Benson, Ewers, & the like -- seeking to understand their methods & recognise the specific laws of emotional modulation behind their potent effects. Such study gradually increases one's own grasp of his materials, & strengthens his powers of expression. By the same token, I strive to avoid all close attention to the prose and methods of pulp hack writers -- things which insidiously corrupt cheapen a serious style." -- SLV.204

And once again, concerning the importance of the subtleties of handling all these factors, particularly that "emotional preparation" and realistic handling of character reactions which were so important to him (and this goes, once again, toward the support of the necessity of those contested passages in Mountains:

"As for science-fiction, and the dividing-line betwixt literature and tripe -- I think the latter can be drawn with rough accuracy, even though all lines are hazy and surrounded by a broad twilight or ambiguous zone. A work is primarily literature when it presents events in a really convincing perspective -- with adequate emotional preparation for each development, honest delineation of character (without inappropriate, conventionalised, or misproportioned emotional reactions, etc.), plausible developments and motivations, absence of artificially handled melodrama and synthetic "adventure" clichés, and the sort of artistic craftsmanship which uses language gracefully and fastidiously and weaves an atmosphere of logical unfolding and momentary reality about the recorded scenes and happenings. When a work departs markedly from this standard -- following cheap "action" patterns suited to juvenile taste, having absurd and inappropriate emotions figuring in the pattern, harbouring rubber-stamp characters and strained motivations, and written in an ignorant, slapdash newspaper style -- it certainly is not even approximately literature." -- SLV.309

"[...] I disagree totally & violently with your belief in making concessions in writing. One concession leads to another -- & he who takes the easiest way never comes back.[...] The road does not lie through any magazines ... that is, the road for a fantastic writer.[...] The road to print for the serious fantaisiste is through book-publication alone -- save for those incidental magazine placements which lie along the way. And if one can't make the book grade in the end, he is better off with his work largely unpublished -- able to look himself in the face & know that he has never cringed nor truckled nor sold his intellectual & aesthetic integrity. He may go down, but he'll go down like a free & unbroken gentleman with sword untarnished & colours defiantly flying.[...] Actually, all technical training for the popular magazines is in precisely the wrong direction so far as aesthetic expression is concerned. The better magazine hack one is, the less chance one has of ever doing anything worth doing. Every magazine trick & mannerism must be rigidly unlearned & banished even from one's subconsciousness before one can write seriously for educated mental adults." -- SLV.400-01

Re: New edition of HPL from Oxford University Press
Posted by: Jojo Lapin X (IP Logged)
Date: 19 May, 2014 06:03AM
I see! So we need to revise Lovecraft's stories until they are in line with aesthetic principles he stated elsewhere. What about the "cosmic," a quality he stressed was essential to the weird tale and which he found in such examples as Blackwood's "The Willows," but which is notably absent from his own stories? Should we fix Lovecraft so that he becomes more "cosmic," which we must, after all, assume to have been his intention?

Re: New edition of HPL from Oxford University Press
Posted by: wilum pugmire (IP Logged)
Date: 19 May, 2014 06:54AM
Thank you, J. D., for your excellent responses. They are inform'd and intelligent, unlike the mutterings of those who are so clueless as to state that Lovecraft's weird fiction is poorly written, lacks art, lacks "the cosmic," &c. I've been reading some of Ligotti's own critical comments on Lovecraft, as well as the bit that del Toro penned in his essay that was reprinted in his series of hardcover reprints from Penguin, and China Mieville's mesmerizing Introduction to the Modern Library edition of AT THE MOUNTAINS OF MADNESS, and it is remarkable--the difference between people who have actually read and understand Lovecraft's genius and those ignorant few who haven't. More and more, I look forward to the thrilling publication of THE VARIORUM LOVECRAFT (one volume of which I have seen in pdf and it is fantastic) and reading as a whole the collected essays soon to be publish'd in hardcover as LOVECRAFT AND A WORLD IN TRANSITION. I recently reread I AM PROVIDENCE, and every time I return to that masterpiece of biography I glean newly noted information that I had forgotten or didn't fully notice in my five previous readings. I am also more and more excited about THE NEW ANNOTATED H. P. LOVECRAFT, having spent some time discussing it with its editor, Leslie Klinger, at WHC, and hearing him describe the form he gave his Notes &c. (He also shew'd such enthusiasm for the book's cover, to the point where he began to giggle as he described it to me; but I cannot share his enthusiasm in this, as I am anti-tentacle.) I am just now hoping to find time to begin a careful rereading of A MONSTER OF VOICES--SPEAKING FOR H. P. LOVECRAFT; it was utterly delightful to meet Robert H. Waugh in Providence last year, at that amazing celebration of Lovecraft's genius where were gather'd so many of the scholars who have and continue to do such solid work. I've also been dipping into the past numbers of LOVECRAFT ANNUAL, and reread with admiration your fine essays therein; and I am currently doing a very careful rereading of James Goho's "The Sickness unto Death in H. P. Lovecraft's 'The Hound'", and in the same number, "Knowledge of the Void: Anomaly, Observation, and the Incomplete Paradigm Shift in H. P. Lovecraft's Fiction" by Kalman Matolcsy. This is perhaps one of the truly remarkable aspect's of S. T.'s own work in Lovecraft Studies, that it has not only inspir'd solid and enthralling new work by others but that he has given them a place in which to see their works publish'd. Gawd, we have so many treasures to look forward to!

"I'm a little girl."
--H. P. Lovecraft, Esq.

Re: New edition of HPL from Oxford University Press
Posted by: jdworth (IP Logged)
Date: 20 May, 2014 12:48AM
Jojo Lapin X Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> I see! So we need to revise Lovecraft's stories
> until they are in line with aesthetic principles
> he stated elsewhere. What about the "cosmic," a
> quality he stressed was essential to the weird
> tale and which he found in such examples as
> Blackwood's "The Willows," but which is notably
> absent from his own stories? Should we fix
> Lovecraft so that he becomes more "cosmic," which
> we must, after all, assume to have been his
> intention?

Que? For one thing, there is no "revising" going on here -- the choices made are all from Lovecraft's own hand, save for occasional preference for British spelling variants, and even these follow his general preference. But also... the "cosmic" is "notably absent from his own stories"??? I beg to differ... strongly. Granted, there are those stories lacking a cosmic element ("The Tomb", "The Quest of Iranon", etc.); but the majority of Lovecraft's tales have at least a hint of the cosmic, and most are actually centered around such: At the Mountains of Madness certainly qualifies, as does "The Shadow out of Time", "The Whisperer in Darkness", "The Call of Cthulhu", "The Colour Out of Space", The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath... even such things as "The Silver Key" (and even its collaborative sequel) or "Beyond the Wall of Sleep" have a fair degree of the cosmic in their makeup. Whether an individual reader feels he succeeded with this aspect or not is, of course, up to that reader to decide. Myself, I've always felt that was one of the strong points, and something which first drew me to Lovecraft in the first place.

I fear my feeling here is that you really aren't reading Lovecraft very closely, for it is pretty darned evident that he did work according to his aesthetic theories and standards. He certainly didn't always achieved what he set out to do -- I don't know if it was even possible for him, or anyone, to quite do that -- but he managed to come very, very close a remarkable amount of the time.

Let me give a practical example, by question: What would you say is the relationship between At the Mountains of Madness and The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath? Why does Lovecraft bring Kadath into that novel at all? What purpose does it serve, and what are the implications? A tremendous number of readers seem to either see it as simply Lovecraft attempting to connect all his work (in this case, unsuccessfully), while others see it as mere cloudy reference to build atmosphere, but which ultimately has no meaning. I have my own views on the matter, but I'm curious to hear what your views might be (assuming you've ever considered the question; many don't). As far as my own views... a careful reading of the novel, with knowledge of the earlier piece in mind, has a great deal to do with the cosmic implications rife throughout this Antarctic terror, but it is often on such a subtle level, requiring a very close reading to catch it, that much is often missed as a result of a more casual reading (which, let's face it, is the way most people read, and always have).

I'd suggest going back through Lovecraft's tales and weird verse in chronological order, and noting how he developed various themes and motifs or symbols. I think by doing so you might begin to see a great deal more of the cosmic than your comment above would suggest you do now.

Wilum: Thank you. I appreciate the kind words. As you know, as a result of my rather close study of HPL's body of writings, I've come to view him as one of the most remarkably consistent writers I've ever encountered, in point of the interplay of his philosophy, aesthetics, and the influence of these on his "practice"... that is, his actual fiction and verse (yes, even his antiquarian verse ties into this in many ways, as you are aware, given my essay on such things as "On a Grecian Colonnade..." and so on.

It has been an odd journey to get here, but once I got past the point of simply reading his work for the frisson of the familiar trappings most people connect with HPL, and actually began to read all this as if for the first time, but closely and critically, I quickly came to realize that his entire body of work -- stories, poems, letters, essays (including his travelogues) are closely interconnected. He was not simply creating a "mythology" (as has been pointed out by others, it is as much an "anti-mythology" as anything), but expressing in artistic form a worldview; a secular worldview which is nonetheless among the most cosmic and breathtaking I've ever encountered... and that's saying no little, as I've read a number of writers with a strong strain of that in their work. Not every single piece fits into such a cosmic -- or, for that matter, such a secular -- framework (again, "The Tomb", while in many ways a very fine story, much more subtle and nuanced than is generally realized, comes to mind), the vast majority of his work does. Yet it is not a simplistic cosmicism, but linked (as his letters make clear) very much to his love of the past, tradition, and the emotional roots which these so often give, from which a true Burkean sense of the cosmic or sublime can emerge.

A fascinating and complex writer; and the more I read by him, the more fascinating and complex he continues to become....

Re: New edition of HPL from Oxford University Press
Posted by: wilum pugmire (IP Logged)
Date: 20 May, 2014 02:15AM
jdworth
> A fascinating and complex writer; and the more I
> read by him, the more fascinating and complex he
> continues to become....


Yes, this has been my experience as well, from my constant study of his excellent fiction. I don't have the kind of intellect that can understand nuances and the mechanics of literary perfection, but I can comprehend it when I read the scholarly works of others and they point out such aspects of classic fiction. You and I disagree, as I disagree with S. T., concerning aspects of "The Hound," and so when I reread yesterday, in LOVECRAFT ANNUAL No. 2, James Goho's "Sickness Unto Death in H. P. Lovecraft's 'The Hound'", I was overhwelm'd with fascination and appreciation at how well the essay explains all of the marvelous literary aspects of that story that came from intelligent study.

It has been my experience that the detractors of Lovecraft haven't read him in a long time, haven't read his complete oeuvre, and thus they are not to be taken seriously in any way. They are always wrong.

"I'm a little girl."
--H. P. Lovecraft, Esq.

Re: New edition of HPL from Oxford University Press
Posted by: Jojo Lapin X (IP Logged)
Date: 20 May, 2014 05:45AM
jdworth Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> But also...
> the "cosmic" is "notably absent from his own
> stories"??? I beg to differ... strongly. Granted,
> there are those stories lacking a cosmic element
> ("The Tomb", "The Quest of Iranon", etc.); but the
> majority of Lovecraft's tales have at least a hint
> of the cosmic, and most are actually centered
> around such: At the Mountains of Madness certainly
> qualifies, as does "The Shadow out of Time", "The
> Whisperer in Darkness", "The Call of Cthulhu",
> "The Colour Out of Space", The Dream-Quest of
> Unknown Kadath... even such things as "The Silver
> Key" (and even its collaborative sequel) or
> "Beyond the Wall of Sleep" have a fair degree of
> the cosmic in their makeup.

What did Lovecraft mean by the "cosmic"? I cannot be bothered to quote him directly at the moment, and he never gave a precise definition anyway, but it seems he intended a sense of awe, a feeling that something is wrong with the universe, that the laws of nature do not necessarily hold---in general, a sudden fear that there might be something beyond the material. He exemplified this notion of the "cosmic" by such works as Blackwood's very subtle "The Willows."

Lovecraft's own most celebrated tales, in contrast, are about monsters from space. They are very tangible, corporeal things---most of them even have names. What Cthulhu looks like in the flesh is described in such detail that you can now buy dolls of him if you like.

Lovecraft himself, in his letters, frequently noted that his own works did not achieve the "cosmic."

> A fascinating and complex writer; and the more I
> read by him, the more fascinating and complex he
> continues to become....

I agree, of course. But it is important not to confuse his attempts at theorizing with what he actually did himself.

Re: New edition of HPL from Oxford University Press
Posted by: jdworth (IP Logged)
Date: 20 May, 2014 09:23AM
Jojo Lapin X Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> jdworth Wrote:
> --------------------------------------------------
> -----
> > What did Lovecraft mean by the "cosmic"? I cannot
> be bothered to quote him directly at the moment,
> and he never gave a precise definition anyway, but
> it seems he intended a sense of awe, a feeling
> that something is wrong with the universe, that
> the laws of nature do not necessarily hold---in
> general, a sudden fear that there might be
> something beyond the material. He exemplified this
> notion of the "cosmic" by such works as
> Blackwood's very subtle "The Willows."
>
> Lovecraft's own most celebrated tales, in
> contrast, are about monsters from space. They are
> very tangible, corporeal things---most of them
> even have names. What Cthulhu looks like in the
> flesh is described in such detail that you can now
> buy dolls of him if you like.
>
> Lovecraft himself, in his letters, frequently
> noted that his own works did not achieve the
> "cosmic."

First... I'm not sure quite which quote you are thinking of, but the canonical one which comes to mind is from "Supernatural Horror in Literature", and it is one he frequently reiterates in his letters:

"The true weird tale has something more than secret murder, bloody bones, or a sheeted form clanking chains according to rule. A certain atmosphere of breathless and unexplainable dread of outer, unknown forces must be present; and there must be a hint, expressed with a seriousness and portentousness becoming its subject, of that most terrible conception of the human brain—a malign and particular suspension or defeat of those fixed laws of Nature which are our only safeguard against the assaults of chaos and the daemons of unplumbed space."

While in this particular quotation he does not define this as the "cosmic", later on he makes the identification of the two clear; and this is the thing he refers to time and again in his letters. Now, I could be mistaken, but I do not recall him ever saying his works never achieved this, but he did feel that he always fell short of the level to which he attained it -- however, I would use caution in citing this as evidence he didn't, as he was always disparaging of his works on so many levels, save occasionally shortly after they were done, when he felt he had at least come close to putting his vision on paper. And certainly he felt he had come quite close at times, as those same letters indicate. Even with "The Call of Cthulhu", which he felt was a very flawed story, he indicates that he had at least touched the cosmic, as his letter to Wright shows.

Now what you say about his most celebrated works being "about monsters from space" who are "very tangible things", etc., goes precisely to what I was saying about my fear that you aren't reading his work very closely. Yes, such beings are a part of the tales, but they are (as are his "human puppets") symbolic; this is one of the reasons they so often tend to be static, as in the Old Ones in At the Mountains of Madness; or impossible to truly describe or classify, as with "The Colour Out of Space"; or with descriptions so chaotic (yet using clinically accurate language) that they defy clear conception in the brain, as with Wilbur's twin in "The Dunwich Horror". Even Cthulhu, remember, is seen from a distance (literarily speaking) not by Thurston, but by another, whose words Thurston then paraphrases; so we are getting a distortion of a distortion of a reality which, in the final analysis, confounds language. Recall, too, that the figure most people consider Cthulhu to be, is not necessarily his actual shape; he is such an alien being that, when the ship drives through him (if "him" is even the proper word, rather than merely another limitation of our language), When Johansen looks behind, what he sees is "the scattered plasticity of that nameless sky-spawn was nebulously recombining in its hateful original form" -- "original" here, of course, referring to the only form in which the character has seen it. What its original, or normal (if it has such) might be, is questionable, given later descriptions by Lovecraft in other tales which are both extremely brief and vague, but even in what they contain do not entirely agree with what is given here.

The same sort of thing is at work in so many of the other tales as well. These are things readers can easily identify, but if you read the stories with care, you will see that they are (as he described "Cthulhu" in that letter to Wright) only the getting at the very edge of what is really present in the story... and it is this which lies behind them, and which is approached much more subtly and cloudily, which is the cosmic. This is, for instance, why we have the epigraphs from Blackwood to "The Call of Cthulhu" or Lamb for "The Dunwich Horror". Lovecraft is telling the reader right off the bat that what his characters are seeing is merely the closest approximation out limited senses and understanding can approach to what is present; and the text of the story more often than not backs this time and again, albeit not in such blunt terms.

And this is why I chose that example of Kadath cropping up in At the Mountains of Madness earlier; for it gets at the very heart of the matter. What is the horror (or, better, terror) there? Certainly not the Old Ones, with whom we come to have a certain sympathy and even a feeling of almost comradeship; nor even the shoggoths which, while certainly horrific and repulsive enough, and disturbing as a violation of all our conceptions of life beyond the genuinely amoebal, remain merely a physical threat. No, it is what he hints that Danforth saw beyond those further mountains; the original (if you will) of Kadath in the Cold Waste, and which has been given such a charming surface appearance in Carter's dreaming... yet even in that earlier novel, one can sense something much more cosmic and frightening behind what is on the surface. Lovecraft is very delicately (yet it is distinctly there, as a close reading will show) getting at precisely that violation of all the laws of the cosmos which we accept as reality, that blurring between "reality" and the unreal which he defines as the weird or cosmic in its most pure form, for it is this which leaves us without all the defenses which we have built up during our existence as a species against the realization that we live on a very precarious perch at the mouth of the abyss -- the alien universe which is not only stranger than we imagine, but stranger than we can imagine, and which takes no heed of us, our needs, or our conceptions, and in which we are at best strangers, creatures of the moment with no more importance or significance than the mayfly.

As I said, go back to the stories and weird verse; read them in chronological order -- but read them carefully... even, preferably, aloud, as this will call attention both to the music of the language and the carefulness of the phrasing and delicacy of the conceptions being adumbrated -- and you'll begin to see what I mean. After all I, too, was there once; what I saw and enjoyed in Lovecraft was, despite a vague feeling of that cosmic disruption, largely what you describe. But when I went back to the stories after some years, I found soooooo much more going on there. Not because I was looking for it, but because I read them with care. And in that reading, I found that his theories and practice match up, if not perfectly, then this is only because, as others have noted, what he was attempting may well be beyond language itself. The closest we can get is a rough approximation; but this he achieved time and again in his work, and achieved beautifully and to a remarkable degree.

Re: New edition of HPL from Oxford University Press
Posted by: jdworth (IP Logged)
Date: 20 May, 2014 11:13AM
That should read "in the level to which he attained it". *sigh* Really should go over these before I post them sometimes.....

Re: New edition of HPL from Oxford University Press
Posted by: wilum pugmire (IP Logged)
Date: 20 May, 2014 11:51AM
I'll be going to S. T.'s Memorial Day cook-out on Sunday, and he is going to lend me his galley copy of THE NEW ANNOTATED H. P. LOVECRAFT. Les had asked that I be sent a copy but the company never did so. I won't start a new thread called "New Edition of Lovecraft from Leslie S. Klinger" until ye book is publish'd in October, but I am excited to investigate the galley and see the way that Les has organized his notes, which he told me emphasized the trend of Lovecraft scholarship rather than a biographical approach. Annotated editions are one of my passions (I am still returning to the Penguin CAS after having read it fully twice and portions of it a third time), and I think this new publication of E'ch-Pi-El will be amazing. I'll shew the galley in detail on YouTube, so that others can examine it before purchasing, as it's quite expensive.

How I wish there was a Lovecraft site to match this one. But perhaps it's good, for me, that there is none, as I would otherwise not get any original weird writing accomplish'd. Eldritch Dark is as wonderful as it is unique, and we are extremely fortunate to have it, to be able to come here and discuss--with originality & intelligence & a solid knowledge of the genre--weird fiction and fantasy.

"I'm a little girl."
--H. P. Lovecraft, Esq.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 20 May 14 | 12:17PM by wilum pugmire.

Re: New edition of HPL from Oxford University Press
Posted by: Knygatin (IP Logged)
Date: 21 May, 2014 05:35PM
I think Jojo Lapin X's description of the "cosmic" was rather well put impromptu. Not definite perhaps, but an acceptable description, one of several possible interpretations. My own preferred description of the "cosmic", would simply be a disturbing sensation of something that differs, and deviates, from the Earth's natural laws that we humans are now conditioned to.

However, if Cthulhu was no more than a puppet, a clearly defined, tangible gelatinous bloat with arms and tentacles, then it would be the equivalent of the material rubber monsters of the 1950's sci-fi horror movies. It's the things that Cthulhu does, that are disturbing, the taint Cthulhu emanates. Cthulhu tears down Earth's natural laws. I find it deliciously cosmic.

There are other writers than Lovecraft, who probably by their word sorcery are better able to directly conjure up a disturbing apprehension of the cosmic in their prose. Lovecraft, while being no lean sorcerer with words himself, foremost presents intellectual concept ideas, scientific prospects, and it takes some imagination from the reader to interpret the sensation of cosmic disturbance in these.

I don't think Blackwood is a "cosmic" writer. While it is too long ago I read "The Willows" to remember it, other things that I have read by him, like The Centaur, Incredible Adventures, and Pan's Garden, deals more with spiritual matters. His work is about opening up the senses and awareness to inner truths, to all levels of dimensions, to Totality. He is not so interested in weird disturbance (well, maybe more so early in his career, since he understood the terror of the unknown in the spiritually undeveloped soul. But not in the sense of confronting alien physical laws), as in reaching for the disclosed Truth.

Arthur C. Clarke wrote excellent "cosmic" material.

Re: New edition of HPL from Oxford University Press
Posted by: jdworth (IP Logged)
Date: 22 May, 2014 01:21AM
Knygatin Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> I think Jojo Lapin X's description of the "cosmic"
> was rather well put impromptu. Not definite
> perhaps, but an acceptable description, one of
> several possible interpretations. My own preferred
> description of the "cosmic", would simply be a
> disturbing sensation of something that differs,
> and deviates, from the Earth's natural laws that
> we humans are now conditioned to.

I would agree that, as an impromptu definition, it was pretty close -- in fact, that was what made it so easy to refer to the definition I quote. He didn't have it verbatim, but it wasn't far off. Kudos there, certainly.

> However, if Cthulhu was no more than a puppet, a
> clearly defined, tangible gelatinous bloat with
> arms and tentacles, then it would be the
> equivalent of the material rubber monsters of the
> 1950's sci-fi horror movies. It's the things that
> Cthulhu does, that are disturbing, the taint
> Cthulhu emanates. Cthulhu tears down Earth's
> natural laws. I find it deliciously cosmic.

I would agree with this, too. Cthulhu works as a symbol of many things, from the sheer alienness of the cosmos to the human tendency to mythologize anything which is beyond our immediate understanding. And Cthulhu's "mastery of dreams" is a very important point, especially given the common use of dreams as a major theme in Lovecraft's work. This was one of the most fascinating things, to me, about his work, and his ability to take the same theme and ring so many changes on it while still retaining a strange sort of commonality upon which he builds in story after story, effectively erasing the line between reality and dream, is one of the most unique and powerful things about him.

> There are other writers than Lovecraft, who
> probably by their word sorcery are better able to
> directly conjure up a disturbing apprehension of
> the cosmic in their prose. Lovecraft, while being
> no lean sorcerer with words himself, foremost
> presents intellectual concept ideas, scientific
> prospects, and it takes some imagination from the
> reader to interpret the sensation of cosmic
> disturbance in these.

I think there is quite a bit which is correct here; Lovecraft does often tend toward a conceptual approach with these things. Not that there isn't an emotional component there, but rather that his ideas and concepts are so full of ramifications that no single emotional response is able to encompass them all. I would also add that I think a part of the problem is that, quite frankly, few people know how to read well anymore. We've been so inundated with prose which is so oversimplified, which diagrams out what we are supposed to see, feel, and react to (a point which Brian Aldiss, of all people, complained of in a letter to a sff fan) that, when a writer does not do this, but rather presents intimations, adumbrations, and subtle suggestions which merely point toward something, but do not overtly draw attention to themselves (once again, I refer the reader to such hints throughout At the Mountains of Madness, indicating that this is a realm where dream and reality are not necessarily differentiated; where time does not obey the same laws; where the primal is still very much alive and active; where in fact all the laws of nature break down when viewed closely) -- when a writer does this, even the most literate among us is seldom equipped any longer to catch these without having them first drawn to our attention by something else; or by repeated readings over time. It is, therefore, frequently the case with Lovecraft that the vast majority of what is actually going on in his stories is overlooked by most readers, until they clear their heads of the common misconceptions of what he was about (the tentacles, as some have put it) and reads the material with fresh perspective. It's a real eye-opener, and an extremely rewarding one.

> I don't think Blackwood is a "cosmic" writer.
> While it is too long ago I read "The Willows" to
> remember it, other things that I have read by him,
> like The Centaur, Incredible Adventures, and Pan's
> Garden, deals more with spiritual matters. His
> work is about opening up the senses and awareness
> to inner truths, to all levels of dimensions, to
> Totality. He is not so interested in weird
> disturbance (well, maybe more so early in his
> career, since he understood the terror of the
> unknown in the spiritually undeveloped soul. But
> not in the sense of confronting alien physical
> laws), as in reaching for the disclosed Truth.

I think I'd have to disagree with this, at least to some extent. I would agree that Blackwood has at least a fair degree of the "cosmic" to his work, and that "The Willows" actually fits well into that category (as do the pieces you mention, particularly several in Incredible Adventures). But this is not a consistent quality with Blackwood, and it was indeed closely tied in with his mystical interests, which may explain the difference in our views on this matter.


> Arthur C. Clarke wrote excellent "cosmic"
> material.

Indeed he did. I believe Fritz Leiber, in the piece mentioned before, expressed the view that Clarke (along with several others) would have fit very well into Lovecraft's view of what the ideal sort of science fiction ought to be.

Though we've drifted a fair amount from Luckhurst's edition as a topic of discussion here, I'll go even further afield by adding the following, which Jojo and others may find of some interest. It is an excerpt from Donald Burleson's wonderful essay, "On Lovecraft's Themes: Touching the Glass", in An Epicure in the Terrible:

"After producing a few earlier tales (stories that, while perhaps minor, adumbrate the thematic posture of later works), Lovecraft in 1921 wrote "The Outsider" and gave us the central apocalyptic moment at the mirror, the moment of terrible revelation when the Outsider, trying at first to believe the carrion horror in the frame to be a separate entity, reaches out and touches the polished glass and knows the abominable form to be his own. In a sense, the fateful mirror is also a lens, in that the moment at the glass brings to focus what is going to be the broad thematic concern of Lovecraft's entire oeuvre: the nature of self-knowledge, the effects of learning one's own nature and one's place in the scheme of things. The rotting finger that touches the glass sets ringing a vibration that will endure, will continue to resonate in varying pitches and intensities, throughout the whole experience of Lovecraft's fiction.[...]

Aside from (but connected to) the grand theme just described, one may discern five major themes in Lovecraft's fiction. They may be listed and characterized as follows:

1. The theme of denied primacy: the theme that as human beings on this planet we were not first, will not be last, and have never really been foremost.

2. The theme of forbidden knowledge, or merciful ignorance: the theme that there are some types of knowledge only by the avoidance or suppression of which can humankind maintain a semblance of well-being.

3. The theme of illusory surface appearances: the theme that things are not as they seem, that surface appearances mask a deeper and more terrible reality.

4. the theme of unwholesome survival: the theme that some things, and some beings, outlive what would be from the ordinary human viewpoint their rightful existence, producing circumstances in which it must be concluded that the present is no place where we can hide from an encroaching past that can reach forward to find us.

5. The theme of oneiric objectivism: the theme that there is at best an ambiguous distinction between dreaming and reality -- that the world of deep dream may be as real as, or more real than, the waking world; the suggestion is strongly present that the shared dream-world of humankind holds awesome secrets about the ultimate nature of things."

I also cannot resist quoting the final paragraph of this essay, which is phrased in such a poetic and powerful form that it remains a favorite passage among all my reading:

"In literary theorist M. H. Abrams's well-known The Mirror and the Lamp, the mirror is a metaphor for mind, mind viewed (in pre-Romantic or Neoclassicist terms) as a mimetic reflector of externality, in contrast with the "lamp" metaphor of mind as a radiant contributor to what it perceives. For Lovecraft (in such a scheme decidedly the pre-Romantic) the mind is more mirror than lamp. But for Lovecraft the mirror is also a metaphor for the cosmos itself that reflects back humankind's true face, the face of a lost and nameless soul. Self-referentially, Lovecraft's career-long text itself is a sprawling hall of mirrors, mirrors mirroring mirrors, a labyrinth of iterated thematic reflections through which wanders the Outsider who forever reaches forth, in hope against hope, to touch the glass."

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