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 this series of postcards and letters from June of 1928, HPL tells his aunts Lillian Clark and Annie Gamwell all about his wonderful summer vacation in Vermont with Vrest Orton. The trip inspired several elements that would later find their way into his classic story "The Whisperer in Darkness".
Music by Troy Sterling Nies. Thanks to Hippocampus Press for their Letters to Family and Family Friends. Special thanks to Donovan and Pamela Loucks for guiding Sean and Dave Robertson through some of these sites, and to Michael Weitzner and The Occupant Who Must Not Be Named for being such gracious hosts in Vermont.
All of the postcards and letters we discuss this month are viewable in the Brown Digital Repository, but you can see the fronts of some of them below. June 12th. June 14th. June 14th. June 15th. June 18th. June 18th. June 19th. June 20th. June 23rd. June 24th.
Here are some of the many fun photos taken of Lovecraft while he was on this trip. He posed next to Vrest Orton with a yoke of milk pails over his shoulders. He posed in front of the Goodenough house with poet Arthur Goodenough (left) and publisher J. Paul Cook (right). And he posed with the Lee boys, Orton's summer neighbors, with whom he rounded up at least one stray cow.
On their recent trip to New England, Sean and Dave Robertson got to visit some of the very places HPL describes in these letters. Davey took these photos of the house where Orton and Lovecraft stayed, and of Arthur Goodenough's house, now being preserved as a historical site. As soon as we know more about how we can help with that effort, we'll be sure to post an update! Top row: the house where Lovecraft stayed with the Orton family, now made bigger in every direction. Bottom row: the exterior and interior of the home of Arthur Goodenough, where HPL convened with literary notables of Vermont.
Lovecraft's trip was mentioned in the local Vermont papers a couple of times. Vrest Orton wrote what HPL himself described as a "puff piece" that was published in Charles Crane's "Pen-Drift" column in the Brattleboro Reformer on Saturday, June 16. (The Pen-Drift column made an appearance in "The Whisperer in Darkness".) And on the 18th, on the same day Amelia Earhart landed in Wales, Lovecraft's name was (almost correctly) included in a brief unsigned item about the literary convention held at Goodenough's house.
Lovecraft met rustic painter Bert Akley, who inspired the character of Henry Akeley in "Whisperer". We stumbled across one of his paintings online!
Charles Crane, of the "Pen-Drift" column, also worked in advertising and gave HPL a number of advertising brochures as souvenirs of his trip. We don't know if any of them survive, but we did find this nifty travel brochure about Vermont in the 1920s published by the Vermont Bureau of Publicity.