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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This letter to Frank Belknap Long from November 23, 1923, is from the collection acquired last year and donated to Brown University. Previously published only as a very brief excerpt in Selected Letters, now after 99 years you get to hear the whole thing! HPL talks about his recent discoveries in his beloved Providence.
Music by Troy Sterling Nies. Thanks to Heather Cole and the librarians at the John Hay Library of Brown University, the Rhode Island Historical Society, and to Dan Pratt and David Cercone for their research help.
The recently acquired letters from HPL to Frank Belknap Long have been scanned, but are not yet readily available in the Brown Digital Repository. But thanks to our good friends at the John Hay Library, here's a glimpse of the second page of this month's letter. HPL used stationery from the original Hotel Radisson, turning it upside down and starting the letter on the back side.
Col. George L. Shepley was a very successful businessman in the insurance industry, and former Lieutenant Governor of Rhode Island. He had amassed a huge private collection of Rhode Island antiquities and ephemera, and built a magnificent museum (seen above) to house it attached to his home at 292 Benefit street, which opened just a couple of years before HPL wrote this letter. Dan Pratt turned up this wonderful biography of Shepley at the Rhode Island Historical Society. Shepley died just nine months after this letter was written, and his heirs disposed of his collection in the late 1930s. His house is still standing but the museum building is gone now. The HPL letters to Frank Belknap Long were purchased from a private collector by Brown University using funds donated by a group of concerned citizens, and in exactly the same way the Rhode Island Historical Society acquired parts of the Shepley collection. They crowd-funded it in 1938! You can read about it HERE! The RIHS acquired so many items from Shepley that no complete catalog has yet been produced. Somehow the Providence Public Library came into possession of the George Mason photograph collection, and if you are as interested in Georgian doorways as HPL was, you can view it online!
Here's the front page of Gazette Françoise de Newport that HPL admired. Our friend David Cercone found this at the Library of Congress, but none of these newspapers included the "accurate and artistick" maps that Lovecraft mentions. You can read the entire issue here. If you are interested in reading about printers and printing in Providence from 1762-1907, you can find that book online here!
Above is the flattened-out version of the map of Providence engraved on a powder horn by Stephen Avery that HPL saw at the Shepley Museum. The Rhode Island Historical Society is now in possession of the powder horn itself.
Here's one of a number of pretty amazing maps we found showing the French fleet anchored off Newport during the Revolutionary war. You can learn more about those exciting times, and see more maps and old newspapers, here and here.
Here are just four of the over 100 pages of material in the HPL "Reading Recommendations" folder compiled by Robert Barlow. You can view the entire thing in the Brown Digital Repository.