Joshi, S.T. and David E. Schultz, eds. Lord of a Visible World: An Autobiography in Letters. H.P. Lovecraft. Athens, Ohio: Ohio University Press. 2000.

I got a stack of books on H.P. Lovecraft’s letters through interlibrary loan, intending to read all of them. I only got as far as the first 40 pages of Lord, which I’d already read once. I did glance at the others; there was a pretty cool story in one about how the author was on jury duty, sitting in a stuffy room with all these other people waiting to see if they’ll get called, and he overhears someone talking about Lovecraft. They get to talking, and the next thing you know, voila, there’s another book on HPL. I thought that make a good scene in the movie I’m going to do on his life.

Here are some thoughts I jotted down after my second read through Lord, up to page 40.

p. 4, e.o. 1st paragraph—seems to be searching his ancestry for some clue as to why he turned out the way he did—“not a damn thing to indicate . . . a taste for the weird . . . ” May feel like a freak in his own family; an antecedent for my own feelings of alienation in my family.

p. 6 talks of decay in RI following revolt against U.K.

p. 9—regret and discomfort at recalling precocious childhood. Encouraged to it by doting women.

Tragedy—father suffers complete paralysis (from syphilis?) in 1893, dies in 1898.

p. 9-10—bright spot: becomes close to grandfather—a memory to hold on to, a reason to go on living.

p. 11—grandmother dies Jan. 1896. Mother, aunts wear black. He pins bits of bright cloth to their clothes for relief.

HPL has nightmares with strange beings that hurl him through the air and poke him with tridents. He draws them when he wakes up.

More comfortable with adults than with other children.

p. 11—at age 5, quotes Cicero in Latin

p. 12—anxiety; senses the reversal of fortune about to occur. Same thing happened to Dickens, me and others I know

— fewer servants in house
— stables close

“irritable and sensitive”—a Highly Sensitive Person?

p. 14—wants to believe in paganism—probably represents an escape

[what was Providence like at turn of century?]

p. 16—nervous breakdown around age 17 or so (family financial setback occurred around age 14)

p. 16—had friends—Providence Detective Agency; all boys between the ages of 9 and 14. HPL was 13.

p. 18—a one-man band

p. 19—table-top villages and cities, consisting of very small toys, earth or clay

— churches, trees, houses, courts
— not always to scale
— vehicles, people (lead soldiers)
— mother modified with paint, knife
— windmills, castles
— aimed for geographical (or geological) and chronological accuracy
— 18th C., mostly
— also modern scenes

back to p. 16: Providence Detective Agency could be a good idea for a children’s book

13-y.o. HPL was Sherlock Holmes—read all his stories

1) solved robberies and murders, which they re-enacted

2) HQ in deserted house on edge of town

3) HPL made fake blood

4) “rigid regulations”

5) equipment consisted of the following (all of it shoved into overstuffed pockets):

a. police whistle
b. magnifying glass
c. electric flashlight
d. handcuffs (sometimes just twine)
e. tin badge (HPL kept his)
f. tape measure (for footprints)
g. revolver

i. HPL’s was real
ii. Insp. Munroe (12 years old) had a water pistol
iii. Insp. Upham (10 years old) had a cap gun

h. Information on criminal activity from the following sources:

i. News clippings
ii. A paper called The Detective, which printed photos and descriptions of suspected criminals

6) The PDA would trail suspects based on their resemblance to “Detective” photo. They never apprehended or arrested anybody.

More on table-top villages (p. 19); pre-1904, when family finances collapsed

— “very small” toys [less than 1cm2?]; probably used the same ones for different scenes
— trays of earth or clay
— toy villages with wooden or cardboard houses
— combined villages into cities
— steepled churches
— toy trees of “infinite number” to flesh out landscape, and to make forests or suggested edges of forests
— blocks that made walls or hedges and large public buildings
— no “German toys” [too exotic {?} ]
— previous item indicated HPL’s concern at achieving realism, though he would eschew scale when toys, usually dolls, were out of proportion to the scenes he had constructed

o This could be a good thematic element—HPL’s imagination outstrips the ability of those around him to comprehend or appreciate it; also belies his loud insistence that man is insignificant

— mostly 18th century scenes, but also modern one because of HPL’s fascination with railways and streetcars: “Large numbers of contemporary landscapes with intricated systems of tin trackage . . . . [C]ars and railway accessories—signals, tunnels, stations, etc.— . . . . too large in scale for my villages.”
— Stories or pictures would inspire scenes. He would act out fantasies for up to “a fortnight.”
— Events might be brief: war, plague or “pageant of travel and commerce and incident leading nowhere . . . ”
— Other events would go on for “long aeons, with visible changes in the landscape and buildings.” Cities rose and fell; rivers changed course.

— Scenes weren’t always accurate, but HPL did consult a number of sources of information, including the following:

o Stories
o Pictures
o Questioning elders
o “Adams Synchronological Chart”

— “distinctly juvenile”
— either actual scenes and events (Roman, 18th C., or modern) or made up. Constructed horror plots, but always with a realist tinge, never pure fantasy
— also had a toy theater to perform Shakespeare and Sheridan, complete with programs

p. 43, 2nd paragraph: “cursed with an aspiration which far exceeds my endowments . . .”

Try to contact Joshi: are there any pix of these scenes? Did RRs work?
HPL Hist. Soc’y
Poverty, decay, reduced circumstances