A great-nephew discovers an old bundle of family papers in a forgotten basement trunk, revealing a hitherto-unknown world. It sounds like the beginning of an H. P. Lovecraft story, but it really happened to Sean McCall in 2014, when he found a collection of letters to his great-aunt Zealia Brown Reed Bishop. Mrs. Bishop was an aspiring young writer in the 1920s who became of a client of Lovecraft's, making use of his service of revising and improving other author's stories to help them get published. Through dozens of detailed letters, Lovecraft coached and advised her over the course of several years, and they went on to collaborate on the stories "The Curse of Yig", "The Mound" and "Medusa's Coil".
Zealia wrote to R. H. Barlow: "Isn't [Mr. Lovecraft] a wonderful person? I feel deeply indebted to him for anything I have and may ever accomplish. His letters are always great sources of inspiration to me." Bishop kept dozens of the letters she received from HPL, and some of them were published, in part, by August Derleth and Donald Wandrei in Selected Letters. But many of the letters were returned to Bishop and were forgotten until Sean McCall found them after his own mother's death.
In The Spirit of Revision, the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society has carefully scanned and transcribed the original manuscripts which date from 1927 to 1936. Thirty-six new letters to Mrs. Bishop are presented in sequence with eighteen previously known letters to create the most thorough picture of the correspondence between Lovecraft and Bishop possible. The collection is extensively annotated by Sean Branney and Andrew Leman and includes pictures of reference documents which Lovecraft recommended to his clients, newspaper clippings about topics he describes, facsimiles of some letters, a cartoon by Lovecraft and much more.
And be sure to check out our podcast about all of Lovecraft's letters: Voluminous
Lovecraft often included picture postcards, magazine and newspaper clippings, and other "extras" in his letters. He loaned books from his personal library to clients, even buying extra copies when he had the chance. Below are thumbnail images of some of the items in the McCall collection, plus images of Bishop, and copies of postcards and other bits of ephemera of the type that HPL often included. Click the magnifying glass icon on any image to view a larger version.