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.
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In which HPL upbraids, chides and spanks his poor young friend Frank Belknap Long about weird literature (and several other topics to boot!). The first of a four-part series which documents one of HPL's longest and most broad-ranging letters.
Music by Troy Sterling Nies. Our thanks to Arkham House for making this letter available in Selected Letters: Vol. III.
CORRECTION: Andrew was in error in this episode when he said that all of the letters from HPL to Frank Belknap Long have been lost. While it's true that no one knows the location of any letters written after 1931, there is a fabulous trove of letters written from 1920 until 1931 currently in the hands of a private collector. If you happen to have $150,000 to spare, you could buy them! (If so, please donate them to the John Hay Library at Brown University.) Special thanks to HPLHS member Kevin Miller for pointing this out to us.
We did not have time in the episode to talk about all of the many references in this letter. Here are some we had to skip over:
"Bellamy": Lovecraft addresses Long as "Bellamy" in the greeting of this letter. We don't know exactly which Bellamy he was referring to, but it might have been Edward Bellamy, a 19th-century journalist and author who wrote a utopian novel called Looking Backward.
"Chesterbelloc": This nickname was coined by George Bernard Shaw in reference to G. K. Chesterton and Hilaire Belloc, two highly influential writers who were close friends and very famous in the time of Lovecraft.
"Resentment": Lovecraft uses the term "resentment" in this letter in what might well be a specifically philosophical sense. (Or maybe he was just responding to something specific that Long said.) If you're interested you can find out more about ressentiment here.
"Aeson": In the very last sentence of this segment of the letter, HPL makes a reference to an "Aeson-like revival". Just in case you have to look that up the way we did, Aeson is a figure from Greek mythology who came back from the dead.