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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.

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  • Episode 56
  • Posted January 3, 2021

Citizen Lovecraft

Happy new year! In this lengthy letter from November 16 of 1916, the young Lovecraft tells his friend Rheinhart Kleiner about his childhood. Many details are revealed, and yet many mysteries remain! BLEEP ADVISORY: HPL uses the word which we bleep a couple of times in this letter.

Music by Troy Sterling Nies. Thanks to Donovan Loucks for letting us know about Joe Shea's attempt to find the lost paintings of Lillian Clark. (It seems there was a somewhat later painter also named Lillian Clark, whose watercolors turn up on eBay from time to time....) Thanks as usual to Hippocampus Press for their new edition of Letters to Rheinhart Kleiner and Others.

Here are some musical selections from the 1916 operetta Katinka, which HPL had seen and very much enjoyed just a few weeks before writing this letter. It was a Broadway hit in 1916 and toured nationally, and was often produced prior to the second World War.

One of the hit numbers from the show was called "Allah's Holiday", which became popular with dance orchestras in the 1920s.

And here is the original "Negro Laughing Song". Although extremely popular in the first decade of the 20th century, HPL did not whistle or hum this one. !

HPL mentions a poem called "The Pool" in this letter, with which he clearly assumes that Kleiner was already familiar. Lovecraft had recently published the poem in his own amateur journal, The Conservative. It is by Winifred V. Jackson, and it follows:
Above my head a leaf-lock’d sky,
A brown bowl set beneath my feet;
About my face pale ferns grow high,
And over all is silence sweet.
But Oh! Sometimes in dreams I hear
A whisper, then a torrent’s roar:
The shriek of wind, the belch of fear,
That I have known somewhere before!