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In addition to his classics of horror fiction, it is estimated that Lovecraft wrote 100,000 letters — or roughly 15 every day of his adult life — ranging from one-page diaries to seventy-page diatribes. Perhaps 20,000 of those letters have survived, in the hands of private collectors and at the John Hay Library in Providence.

In each episode of this podcast, we'll read one of these letters (or part of it) and then discuss it. In his letters HPL reveals an amazing breadth of knowledge of philosophy, science, history, literature, art and many other subjects, and forcefully asserts some highly considered opinions (some of which can be upsetting).

And of course his letters offer a fascinating window into his personal life and times. Although we've been working with Lovecraftian material for over 30 years, we still find interesting new things in his letters, and while we don't claim to be experts we look forward to sharing them with a wider audience.

You can subscribe via iTunes, Stitcher, Overcast, Spotify, or wherever you get podcasts! Or listen right here!

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  • Episode 31
  • Posted May 24, 2020

Shea Part 3 — War, Peace, & Justice

In the sometimes uncomfortable finale of our three-part letter to J. Vernon Shea, HPL opines on weightier topics including the looming forces of war and peace, and issues of justice (social and otherwise) surrounding the famed Scottsboro Boys trial. CONTENT WARNING: This episode includes numerous bleeps, racist language, and painfully awkward discussion thereof. Listener discretion advised.

Our thanks again to our friends at Hippocampus Press for their book Letters to J. Vernon Shea, Carl F. Strauch and Lee McBride White, and its helpful footnotes.

stained glass

HPL mentions Lincoln Steffens in this letter, a famous liberal muckraking journalist who wrote about the corruption of politics in Rhode Island, St. Louis, and other places. If you want to hear more about corrupt Providence politics, we recommend the podcast Crimetown.

Another left-wing radical HPL cites is V.F. Calverton (born George Goetz), who founded Modern Quarterly magazine, published from 1923 to 1940.

The "Coates book" that HPL refers to is The Eater of Darkness by Robert Myron Coates, published in America in 1929 and described as "the first surrealistic novel in English". Coates went on to be a prominent art critic for The New Yorker.

In the section about art, HPL mentions having seen stained glass by noted designer Joseph G. Reynolds. That stained glass was installed at the East Liberty Presbyterian Church of Pittsburgh. You can see more photos at their website.

Lovecraft does mention George Bernard Shaw in a number of other letters, but usually in a list with other prominent writers with liberal leanings.

The "nice little Jew" HPL mentions at the very end of the letter was Julius Schwartz, who would go on to become a prominent editor of famous titles at DC comics, including both Superman and Batman. He also helped organize the first World Science Fiction Convention. Schwartz commissioned the collaborative story "The Challenge from Beyond", jointly written by Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard, Frank Belknap Long, Abraham Merritt and C.L. Moore in 1935.

You can get a copy of The Lady Who Came to Stay from our friends at Hippocampus Press. We did!


  • Episode 30
  • Posted May 17, 2020

Shea Part 2 — Bedelia and Friends

In part two of this three episode letter from February 4 1934, HPL gets into pop culture, describing to J. Vernon Shea his favorite songs, magazine stories, plays, and motion pictures. Even in 1934 movies about time travel had plot holes.... BLEEP WARNING: Although the vast majority of this episode is light and whimsical, there are a couple of passing mentions of racist language.

Our thanks again to our friends at Hippocampus Press for their book Letters to J. Vernon Shea, Carl F. Strauch and Lee McBride White.

Leslie Howard

There was a version of Lovecraft's favorite film, 1933's Berkeley Square, on YouTube, but it seems to have vanished. We have been informed by listener Charles Power that the film has been screened on the Turner Classic Movie channel. The version above seems to be the best we can do at the moment, but sadly it has no sound. Here is a still from the movie, in which we think Leslie Howard gives off a very Lovecraft vibe. Below is one of the few short clips from the movie that at least you can hear.

Our thanks to listener David Kellogg, who writes to solve the mysterious reference to the "Ah Wilderness year" that left us stumped by saying "...while Ah, Wilderness was produced in 1933, it is *set* on July 4, 1906."

Jules Romains was nominated for the Nobel Prize in literature 16 times!


  • Episode 29
  • Posted May 10, 2020

Shea Part 1 — Let Suicide Wait

In part one of this lengthy (three episode!) letter from February 4 1934, HPL writes to his friend J. Vernon Shea. Among the many topics he delves into are Lovecraft's youthful contemplations of suicide and what kept him from going through with it.

Our thanks to our friends at Hippocampus Press for their book Letters to J. Vernon Shea, Carl F. Strauch and Lee McBride White.

Little Blue BooksRover BoysAt left is a small sample of the hundreds of titles in the "Little Blue Book" series published by E. Haldeman-Julius. Lovecraft read many of the Little Blue Books and bought spare copies to send to friends and clients.

HPL uses the term "scientifiction" in this letter. That word was coined by Hugo Gernsback in 1916 and was used in the early years of the genre, but ultimately failed to catch on.

Many of the works of juvenile fiction that HPL enjoyed as a boy (and lamented as an adult) were written and/or published by Edward Stratemeyer, including the Rover Boys and Tom Swift series.


  • Episode 28
  • Posted May 3, 2020

Defending Sonny

In a letter to his revision client Zealia Brown Reed Bishop dated August 25, 1929, HPL emphatically defends the editorial work of his young protege, Frank Belknap Long. He gives lots of writing advice before moving on to vivid description of some of his recent local travels.

You'll find this letter in The Spirit of Revision published by The H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society! Music by Troy Sterling Nies. Our thanks to Christian Matzke, Sean and Jackie McCall, Mary Sullivan, S.T. Joshi, and the John Hay Library.

Our book The Spirit of Revision is lavishly illustrated, but mostly in black and white. If you'd like to see some scans of the original letters (and some of the extra things HPL included) in color, along with portraits of Zealia, please check out the Spirit of Revision page on this very website!

Fairbanks HouseThe Fairbanks House in Dedham, about which Lovecraft waxes rhapsodic in this letter, is still open as a museum run by the Fairbanks Family organization. Normally they give tours from May to October, but this year their opening day is a little uncertain. But you can make a virtual visit! And maybe even donate to help them through these hard times.

Buzzard's BayHere's the 1909 map of Buzzards Bay that Sean found online. Onset Beach, where HPL vacationed with Frank Belknap Long's family, is at the northmost end of the bay. The aeroplane that Lovecraft rode in probably didn't get high enough to get this kind of vista, but it's fun to think of him getting a similar bird's-eye view.


  • Episode 27
  • Posted April 26, 2020

Cats, Cheese and Hawaiians

In which Lovecraft speaks to Duane W. Rimel of many things, but most extensively on his fondness for cats. That leads to a discussion of local colloquialisms which then leads to an interesting discourse on local cheese nomenclature and the Owyhee Idaho Spud, among other things. It's a fun ride!

This letter was written November 19, 1934. Music by Troy Sterling Nies. Our thanks to Hippocampus Press for their Letters to F. Lee Baldwin, Duane W. Rimel, and Nils Frome.

Rimel's portraitHere is the portrait of Lovecraft that Rimel made using the linoleum carving technique. Although apparently originally intended for an earlier issue of Fantasy Fan, it was eventually published as an illustration of a short bio of HPL written by F. Lee Baldwin in Fantasy magazine in April of 1935. CLICK HERE to download a PDF of a typographical replica of the entire article, in which HPL describes his close encounter with a certain circus freak-show performer!

Idaho SpudLovecraft refers to the Idaho Candy Company and its signature product, the Owyhee Idaho Spud bar. It is not made with potato, but has a light cocoa flavored, soft marshmallow center drenched with a dark chocolate coating and then sprinkled with coconut. We're happy to report they're still in business and you can get your own Idaho Spud and other delicacies from their website. Although we haven't personally sampled all of it, we can attest that the butter toffee they make is quite wonderful.

Here's a look at the some of the ads for WLW that Sean found while researching this episode. WLW was one the country's most powerful radio stations in Lovecraft's day. You can learn more about them, and see bigger versions of these ads, here. WLW

Wind Shake textsWe checked in with our old friend Nick Offerman to see if in fact "wind shake" is prized by woodworkers. Apparently it is not, although other kinds of wood deformities, such as burl, do make for some very lovely furniture.

Rex Weldon coversIn later life Duane Rimel went on to write, among many other things, pulp erotica under the pen name "Rex Weldon". Here are some covers of just a few of his many books. Still haven't found that one about the tobacconists....

HPL used his own very personal spellings for dialects and the nicknames of his various correspondents, which makes this letter a different experience visually than it is aurally. Here are some of his idiosyncratic presentations:
Rimel = Rhi´-Mhel
F. Lee = Eph-Li
R.H.B. = Ar-E'ch-Bei

This is how Lovecraft renders the regional pronunciations of the word "half":
Cleveland = haff • Providence = häf [hahf] • Boston = hääf

The International Phonetic Alphabet had been conceived in the 1880s, but it was still under active development in Lovecraft's day, so it's not surprising if he never heard of it or thought to use it himself.


  • Episode 26
  • Posted April 19, 2020

Letters Phantastique

PhantastiqueIn which HPL writes about space travel, alien life, and the shortcomings of fictional science in a suite of letters to one of the first fans of science fiction: Nils Helmer Frome. PLEASE NOTE: During the recording of this episode, Andrew could not recall the name of the man with whom J.B.S. Haldane corresponded, and referred to him repeatedly — and inaccurately — as a "preacher". The man in question was, in fact, Arnold Lunn, who deserved to be better remembered. Andrew regrets his failure in this matter.

These letters were written between December 1936 and February 1937. Music by Troy Sterling Nies. Our thanks to Hippocampus Press for their Letters to F. Lee Baldwin, Duane W. Rimel, and Nils Frome.

If you want to get into a complicated discussion between two actually smart people, check out the correspondence between Arnold Lunn and J.B.S. Haldane.

Bragdon ArchThe blueprint on the right was the design for the gate to the headquarters of the Theosophical Society in America designed by Claude Fayette Bragdon, the architect who reminded Andrew of Ivo Shandor. Click the blueprint for more info!

Rachel Watches Star TrekLovecraft didn't care for anthropomorphic aliens like the ones on Star Trek, but our brother podcaster and dear friend Chris Lackey, co-host of The H.P. Lovecraft Literary Podcast, pointed out an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation that explains why so many alien races in that universe look basically human. It's called "The Chase". Chris and his wonderful wife Rachel Lackey have their own Star Trek podcast that you can check out here!


  • Episode 25
  • Posted April 12, 2020

Things That Go Bump in the Night

In one of the last letters he would ever write, HPL tells young correspondent Harry Otto Fischer about things he's afraid of. He also provides his etymological interpretation of the meaning of the title Necronomicon.

This letter was written in February of 1937. Music by Troy Sterling Nies. Our thanks to Hippocampus Press for their Letters to C.L. Moore and Others.

Necronomicon ArticleClick on the image at left to read Andrew's contribution to the Greek etymology question from Strange Eons.


  • Episode 24
  • Posted April 5, 2020

Dunsany and Childhood: My Favorite Things

In which HPL writes to the Gallomo (Alfred Galpin and Maurice Moe) of his potent dreams, his personal encounter with Lord Dunsany, and his idyllic youth at 454 Angel Street in Providence.

Music by Troy Sterling Nies. Our thanks to Arkham House for their Selected Letters of H.P. Lovecraft.

If you want to see HPL's reference to his Eben Spencer dream, check out page 16 of The Commonplace Book. It's full of fascinating stuff!

If you want to read the book that inspired HPL's childhood village of "New Anvik", check out Snow-Shoes and Sledges by Kirk Munroe!

DunsanysReviewBryn Mawr IncidentHere is some of the newspaper coverage HPL and his friends must have seen of Lord Dunsany's American lecture tour, including an ad for the Boston appearance that HPL himself attended.

Ad


  • Episode 23
  • Posted March 29, 2020

Pornography!

In which Lovecraft opines to his young friend Frank Belknap Long about the perils of pornography and includes a ribald cautionary poem in an 18th century style to drive the point home. Yes, this episode is safe for work.

Music by Troy Sterling Nies. Our thanks to Arkham House for their Selected Letters of H.P. Lovecraft.

Our thanks to John Locke, author of The Thing's Incredible! for his history of the early years of Weird Tales.

HPL may not have cared for pornography, but Anthony Comstock really hated it....


  • Episode 22
  • Posted March 22, 2020

Anything But The White Ape

In which HPL writes to Edwin Baird, the founding editor at Weird Tales. Lovecraft talks a bit of business before launching into his autobiography. Yes, we have no bananas!

Lovecraft mentions the name of his childhood cat in this letter, and after wrestling with very mixed feelings Andrew chose to bleep it.

Music by Troy Sterling Nies. Our thanks to Arkham House for their Selected Letters of H.P. Lovecraft.

The White Ape

Baird was not persuaded by HPL's arguments, and his story "Facts Concerning the Late Arthur Jermyn and His Family" did indeed get published in Weird Tales as "The White Ape" in April of 1924, with an illustration by William Heitman.

Make It Sammy

Lovecraft cites a book that changed his life when he was a little boy: "The Story of the Odyssey in the Harper's Half-Hour Series." We've been looking for a copy of this very rare book (HPL may be misremembering the title), published some time in the 1870s, but in the meantime Andrew was reminded of a book that changed his life in a similar way: McCall's Giant Golden Make-It Book. We spent a couple of minutes talking about it and Lovecraft's childhood books, but decided to cut this audio out of the episode. But you can listen to it above!


  • Episode 21
  • Posted March 15, 2020

Melmoth the Wandrei

In which Lovecraft writes to Donald Wandrei, a young correspondent who will go on to be one of the founders of Arkham House, and play a key role in preserving Lovecraft's legacy.

This episode is coming out on the Ides of March, the 83rd anniversary of Lovecraft's death. We want to take a moment to humbly recognize HPL's vast contributions to popular culture and to our lives. Ave et Vale!

Music by Troy Sterling Nies. Our thanks to Hippocampus Press for their Letters to Donald Wandrei and Others.

Learn more about the historical figure HPL hated more than any other: Elagabalus!

There are several versions of Fritz Lang's 1927 classic film Metropolis, but this seems to be the most complete one and features the original score.

Here is a very nice restoration of a film that HPL really enjoyed, The Thief of Bagdad (1924), starring Douglas Fairbanks.