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Titre : AUTOGRAPH LETTER SIGNED (ALS). 16 pages, ...
Nothing is known of this letter's recipient except his last name. We can infer that he was a youngster who had written Lovecraft from summer camp, asking for reading recommendations. We don't have HPL's first response, but it evidently generated a request from the boy for biographical information. What follows, after a three-page exordium of esoteric scholarship parsing a medieval invocation used by HPL in one of his stories, is a literary confession of rare purity and strength. Taken in parts, it reveals little that hasn't been stated elsewhere -- sometimes with the same phrasing -- but the sum of its parts amounts to something else: an extraordinarily fresh and vivid summation of his life, free of the mundane chatter that dilutes his letters to friends: a distilled essence. This outpouring to a total stranger is curious -- or perhaps not. The anonymity of their relationship might have been exactly what sparked the letter's intimacy. He recounts the stages of his development that are familiar to all Lovecraft students: the successive, and sometimes abiding, enthusiasms for the Arabian Nights, Graeco-Roman mythology, chemistry, astronomy, colonial architecture, 18th century manners and neo-classical prose; his heritage and home life, the illness and traumas of his childhood and adolescence, his abortive education, the rescue of his literary ambitions by amateur journalism, his social network and travels, his straitened circumstances, and, over and above them all, the love of stories of supernatural horror, the need to write, and the life-long efforts to offer up a worthy sacrifice to this art, which was the closest thing he had to a religion. The letter was written al fresco. "At the present moment I am seated on a wooded bluff above the shining river which my earliest gaze knew & loved - which my infant imagination peopled with fauns & satyrs & dryads . Whenever possible, I take my writing out in the open in a black leatherette case ." This image of HPL is a useful corrective to the more typical one, of a pallid nocturnal bookworm cramped over a table crowded with dusty folios, lit fitfully by a candle guttering in an inexplicable draft. He recalls his two earliest efforts at writing weird tales, "The Secret of the Grave" (Joshi I-E-iii-a-8), and "The Mysterious Ship" (not in Joshi) and quotes from the earliest composition he can remember, a poem written when he was six (of which all that remains are the four lines he quotes here and elsewhere (this is probably the same as Joshi I-E-iv-a-12):"The night was dark, O Reader hark! & see Ulysses' fleet;All homeward bound, with Vict'ry crown'd, he hopes his spouse to greet.Long he hath fought, put Troy to nought, & levell'd down its walls,But Neptune's wrath obstructs his path, & into snares he falls."In general, I think my later tales are better -- at least technically -- than the earlier ones; for with the years, I have learned to use a certain moderation of tone & simplicity of style which I rather badly lacked a decade ago." Regarding the early acquisition of his taste for antiquities, he mentions the old books in his childhood home, "most of them in a black, windowless attic room to which I was half-afraid to go alone, yet whose terror-breeding potentialities really increased for me the charm of the archaic volumes I found & read there." Concerning his loss, at an early age, of belief in any form of the supernatural and his conversion to an atheistic materialism, he writes, "Thus my serious conception of reality is diametrically opposite to the fantastic position I take as an aesthete. In aesthetics, nothing interests me so much as the idea of strange suspensions of natural law . I think this kind of thing fascinates me all the more because I don't believe a word of it!" The letter constitutes, really, The Education of Howard Lovecraft -- in a concentrated version that nevertheless feels free and spontaneous. One almost senses an existential Nietzschean joy in the face of his. N° de réf. du libraire 108099
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