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 a letter from October of 1934, HPL talks with one of his most difficult revision clients about the challenges of the job and whether or not Jesus ever really existed.
Music by Troy Sterling Nies. Our thanks to Hippocampus Press for their book Letters to Alfred Galpin and Others.
Like HPL, we had never heard of Tyrus of Mayence, but we found this interesting article from MacLean's Magazine from 1924. The story it tells is quite entertaining, but no one since seems to have taken it very seriously, because this article seems to be just about the last place it appears.
We couldn't find out too much more about the author of this piece, Henry W. Fisher. He seems to have been a well-known international newspaper journalist in his day, widely travelled and familiar with important people all over the world. He wrote a book published in 1922 called Abroad with Mark Twain and Eugene Field: Tales They Told a Fellow Correspondent. Eugene Field died in 1895, and Mark Twain passed away in 1910, so the tales they might have told Fisher were decades old by the time Fisher produced his book.
To complicate matters, there was another writer at the same time named Harry W. Fischer, spelled with a C, who wrote a number of apparently fabulous books, including Behind the Scenes with the Kaiser (1888-1892) The True Story of the Kaiser as he Lived, Loved, Played and Warred, by the Baroness von Larisch [pseud.] of the Imperial Household. It's possible that the two writers were actually the same person, or that the story about Tyrus of Mayence was written by Fischer and his name was just misspelled or Anglicized in MacLean's. "Henry Fisher" is a very common name so it's hard to pin him down.
Both of them seem to have been interesting characters, on a par with DeCastro himself!
In previous episodes we have encountered mentions of Delilah, a Lovecraft family servant. Our friend Donovan Loucks of the H.P.Lovecraft Archive has now provided us with her last name! He cites this letter from HPL to his aunt Lillian from August 1, 1924:
On this occasion I met for the first time the Michigan amateur Clyde G. Townsend (no relative of Delilah’s, but a fine Nordic specimen with yellow hair and blue eyes!), the prepossessing Alabaman W. Alvin Cook, my literary enemy Edna Hyde of New Jersey, and an attractive young man named Albert Rader, from Lorain, Ohio, whose tempestuous experiences have recently preëmpted front page space in the Evening Bulletin.
Donovan goes on to say "The medium-length story is that I was tracking down the location of Curwen’s townhouse in Providence, found a home at 6 Olney Street that seemed to fit the bill, and then found a city directory that listed a Delilah Townsend at that address. The name “Delilah” sounded familiar, so I started digging in Lovecraft’s letters and found the above quote. So, Delilah and her husband, William, were the inspiration for Hannah and Asa in The Case of Charles Dexter Ward, and their home that of Joseph Curwen.
"I wrote an article about my discovery that appeared in the 2015 issue of Lovecraft Annual. It included part of a 1918 plat map, and the two photos of the house (demolished around 1931) that I miraculously discovered in the basement of the Stephen Hopkins House!
"I’ve actually been discussing the birth year of Delilah Robinson Townsend with Ken Faig recently. I’ve got data showing that she was born in December 1872 and Ken has data indicating she was born in 1868, backed up by an 1870 census indicating she was two years old. Of course, either of us might have information on a different Delilah Robinson or any of our information could be in error. So, we’re going to be doing our best to correlate all the contents!"
Listener and HPLHS Member Dan Pratt also added to the Delilah Townsend information by sending along the page from the US Census of 1900 shown here. About halfway down the page you can learn a lot about Delilah and her family, including the fact that she had a son named William who was just six years younger than Lovecraft himself. We thank Dan and Donovan both for shedding so much added light on this interesting woman.