Letter to Clark Ashton Smith

From H. P. Lovecraft

598 Angell St.
Jany. 25, 1924

My dear Smith:—

. . . . . Like you, I don't know anyone who is at all congenial here; & I believe I shall migrate to New York in the end—perhaps, when Loveman does. But fortunately, all this sterility doesn't disturb me much, for I have never had much inclination to depend on people for amusement. To me all mankind seems too local & transitory an incident in the cosmos to take at all seriously. I am more interested in scenes—landscapes & architecture—I have a very real affection for the old town with its ancient steeples & belfries, hills & corners, courts & lanes, all reminding me of that 18th century & that Old England which I love so well.

. . . . . Providence—founded in 1636—is perhaps the most Colonial & English of American cities, since the solid & generous nature of its early structures has discouraged replacement. Before 1750 it was a prosperous village built along a street where the foot of a precipitous hill dipped into the waters at the head of Narragansett Bay, & sending out offshots up the hill & on the marshy peninsula across the water, whither led a series of three wooden bridges. Then came a great wave of building & expansion, expressive of the town's rivalry with Newport, theretofore the metropolis. Bricks—locally baked—were given their first trial in place of timber, in the construction of two houses both of which are still standing. Land was filled in on the opposite west shore, & a bridge of enormous width & strength was thrown across. New streets were laid out both up hill & on the added "west side" across the Great Bridge, & by 1762 the town was a bustling little metropolis of its region—as such things were then and there reckoned. I speak of this odd date because I have a picture of Providence at that especial juncture—a picture shewing many buildings even now recognisable. The brick Court & Colony House was finished in 1762, the brick school in Gaol-Lane (opposite Mr. Carter's printing office at the Sign of Shakespeare's Head—building still standing—where was each Wednesday publisht The Providence Gazette & Country-Journal, Containing the Freshest Advices both Foreign & Domestick, with the Royal Arms over the heading) in 1769, the brick college building in 1770, the brick Market House in 1773, the great white Baptist Church (our family church, with finest Georgian spire in America—designed by Gibbs, who designed the London churches of St. Martin's-in-the-Fields, St. Mary le Strand, etc.) in 1775, the brick Clarendon Tavern in 1775, the Golden Ball Inn (where Washington & Lafayette stopped in 1790, & where under its present name of "Mansion House" Edgar Allan Poe stopped repeatedly in 1846-49) in 1783 . . . & so on; these buildings all remaining today in prime condition & active use. And meanwhile prodigious rows of brick & wooden houses & shops had arisen, all so solidly built that a large proportion are with us yet. Even in busy Westminster St., now our main thoroughfare, it is still possible to recognise at least twenty of the buildings shewn in a panoramic view of 1785. The Georgian tradition lingered very late with us, no architectural change coming till 1825 or 1830, when the pure-Grecian fashion brought us a wealth of Doric & Ionic facades. And the odd things, how much of the old material yet abides. We have our domed Congregational church of 1808, our St. John's tower of 1810, our Unitarian steeple of 1816, & endless miles of streets, waterfront warehouses, courts, & alleys just as they were. I do not think a Londoner could feel very strange or ill-at-ease here, & I am sure I should feel very much at home in London, allowing for the differences between a provincial metropolis & a world-metropolis. The renewed use of Georgian architecture is emphasising the similarity; & visitors tell me that they do not wonder at my 18th century taste after seeing my 18th century milieu

Yet Providence's own realisation of its Georgian quaintness is relatively recent. I was a pioneer in a kind of exultation that the bulk of my solidly commercial fellow-townsmen are just beginning to share. . .

With every good wish, most sincerely yrs

Selected Letters (Arkham House) 157

Printed from: www.eldritchdark.com/writings/correspondence/87
Printed on: December 12, 2018