“Seekers after horror haunt strange, far places.”
–H.P. Lovecraft, “The Picture in the House”
At a time most would prefer to visit Venice Beach, Mexico or Hawaii, I flew to Providence, Rhode Island, and walked up a hill that boasts “The finest mile of colonial architecture in America” and, ignoring almost all of it, made my way to the John Hay Library. This marble edifice contains the Special Collections division of Brown University.
More than that, it contains the immortal remains of the greatest 20th century writer of the bizarre and the horrible. The mortal remains of Howard Phillips Lovecraft are consigned to Swan Point cemetery some miles distant, but this matters little. Being a complete materialist, the only soul that Lovecraft could imagine outside of his fiction would be this collection of his letters, drafts and other papers.
Here, scant yards from his last apartment at 66 College Street, is the remnants of an extraordinary life. Certainly it was a flawed life, a human life, and yet because of the amount quicksilver thoughts preserved on paper, extraordinary. Bound up in the spidery writing, lies the preserved mind of my favorite author and research subject.
The sheer volume of his output (An estimated 40,000-100,000 handwritten letters, of which about 20,000 still exist) makes possible biographical research normally reserved for “The Great and The Good.” But my researches were more personal than biographical. I was looking for a connection.
This came in the form of a high-security phase-box, carnation red. Carefully opening the elderly ribbon, the box opened like a flower, revealing the Dragon-Fly Press edition (the imprint of fellow writer Robert H. Barlow) of “The Cats of Ulthar.” The inscription reads:
Here is the booklet I so long ago promised! There were forty copies on ordinary paper, and only two on Red Lion text. This is one of the latter.
You see, this book was no ordinary rarity.
It was his Christmas Present!
For more information on the H.P. Lovecraft collection see the online finding aid at: