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 letter to Robert H. Barlow from April 10, 1934, HPL discusses plans for his imminent trip to DeLand, Florida, to meet his young correspondent in person for the first time. Lovecraft describes his travel strategies in substantial detail, talks at some length about mental health, and breaks down the contents of the current issue of Weird Tales.
Music by Troy Sterling Nies. Thanks to S. T. Joshi and David E. Schultz for their excellent footnotes to this letter as published in O Fortunate Floridian by the University of Tampa Press, and for editing Ave Atque Vale for Necronomicon Press. Thanks also to Arkham House for Selected Letters IV. Personal thanks to Dan Pratt and Rebecca Paiva for their research efforts.
This month's letter is viewable in the Brown Digital Repository.
HPL seems to have planned to use Greyhound to get from New York City to Florida, and then transfer to local bus lines once he was closer to his destination. Above is the route map from a 1930s brochure for Florida Motor Lines indicating that, for a price, they did have direct service from NYC. Note also their promotional description of the service. All buses in Florida were segregated in the '30s. The Greyhound Lines was the result of the consolidation of several competing motor transit companies in the Midwest starting in 1914, and traveling by bus was quite popular in the 1920s and '30s. In 1934, intercity buses carried as many passengers as the railroads did.
We had never before heard of alexithymia, but whether it is physiological or psychological, it is thought to affect 10% of the population to one degree or another. There are a number of personal accounts of it online which are very interesting. We also recommend the fascinating blog post Lovecraft and Trauma by Murray Ewing.
When this letter was written, August Derleth had just gotten his first novel published and it was being favorably reviewed in the press. At left is the review that appeared in the March 18 issue of the Providence Journal. (Thanks Rebecca!) Judge Peck appeared in a total of ten books by Derleth, the last in 1953.
Of all the stories in the April 1934 issue of Weird Tales, HPL most enjoyed C.L. Moore's "Black Thirst", with illustration by H.R. Hammond. You can read the whole issue online!
HPL makes a glancing reference in this letter to the Luck of Edenhall, a subject he describes in more detail in the letter to Barlow immediately preceding this one. Our amazing researcher Dan Pratt compiled a vast amount of information on this fascinating relic, and you can read all of it here!
Like Lovecraft, we haven't gotten around to reading James Branch Cabell's book Smirt, although as far as we know it has nothing to do with smoking and flirting at the same time, which is the more current meaning of its strange title, or with Structural Mechanics in Reactor Technology, which is the other term now associated with that name. The novel itself seems to have been all but completely forgotten.
Stay tuned to this page for an announcement next week about the Kickstarter for Miskatonic Missives!