- Posted September 27, 2020
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.