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Voluminous: The Letters of H.P. Lovecraft

Voluminous: The Letters of H.P. Lovecraft

In addition to his famous classics of horror and science fiction, H.P. Lovecraft wrote tens of thousands of fascinating letters. In each episode Sean Branney and Andrew Leman of the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society read one of those letters and then discuss it.

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Melmoth the Wandrei

In which Lovecraft writes to Donald Wandrei, a young correspondent who will go on to be one of the founders of Arkham House, and play a key role in preserving Lovecraft's legacy.

This episode is coming out on the Ides of March, the 83rd anniversary of Lovecraft's death. We want to take a moment to humbly recognize HPL's vast contributions to popular culture and to our lives. Ave et Vale!

Our thanks to Hippocampus Press for their Letters to Donald Wandrei and others. 

Both of the movies that HPL mentions in this letter are watchable online.

Metropolis (1927) by Fritz Lang

The Thief of Bagdad (1924) by Raoul Walsh

2020-03-16
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A Comedy of Vain Desire

In which HPL attempts to bring good cheer to his depressed friend Rheinhart Kleiner. We hope Rheinhart took comfort from Howard's suggestions of fixing his love life by cultivating a cosmic perspective.

Music by Troy Sterling Nies. Our thanks to Arkham House.

Jason Thompson, who created the feature-length animated film version of The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath also created an RPG based on the never-written story HPL mentions in this letter, The Club of the Seven Dreamers.

If you don't already subscribe to the H.P. Lovecraft Literary Podcast, you should consider starting! They have a very fun episode about the August Derleth story The Dark Brotherhood, which may or may not have anything to do with the Club of the Seven Dreamers....

You can hear some lines from this letter quoted in the brilliant performance of Lovecraft by Christopher Heyerdahl in the excellent Canadian film Out of Mind.

2020-03-09
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The Worst Anthropologists in the World

In which HPL and Robert E. Howard discuss a number of issues of the day. They opine about the Massie Affair, an incident in the Hawaiian Islands which proved a magnet for many of America's ugliest racial views.

Warning: this episode includes discussion of racism.

Special thanks to Hippocampus Press for their two volume edition of A Means to Freedom: the Letters of H.P. Lovecraft and Robert E. Howard.

If?like Lovecraft?you would like to own a complete copy of the Necronomicon, be sure to check out the work of our good friend Christian Matzke, and maybe even support it, on his Patreon page.

For a better explanation of the Massie Affair than we could provide, check out this article.

2020-03-02
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New Orleans and other Horrors

In which HPL writes to Robert E. Howard during his trip to New Orleans. And in which Sean and Andrew grapple with the language of racism and other problems.

Special thanks for Hippocampus Press for their two volume series A Means to Freedom: the Letters of H.P. Lovecraft and Robert E. Howard.

2020-02-24
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Spanking Sonny Part 4 - About Art

In the thrilling conclusion of our coverage of Lovecraft's eternal letter, he tells Frank Belknap Long everything he fails to understand about art, history and much more. Lovecraftian opinions abound in this vigorous diatribe.

Our thanks to Arkham House for making this letter available. To read the rest of it for yourself, check out Selected Letters: Vol. III.

2020-02-17
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Spanking Sonny Part 3 - About Religion

HPL assaults Catholicism and other intellectual outrages. This one may ruffle some feathers as Lovecraft lays it on thick in part three of his lengthy letter to his friend Frank Belknap Long. Includes a short and pleasant detour to Quebec!

Be sure to check out the website of The Museum of Jurassic Technology, and visit in person if you ever get the chance. In the gift shop they have the wonderful book No One May Ever Have the Same Knowledge Again.

Frank Belknap Long wrote a memoir of HPL entitled Howard Phillips Lovecraft: Dreamer on the Nightside. In that memoir, he mentions this letter and gives us some insight into what he had said to Lovecraft to provoke HPL's anti-Catholic diatribe. "At one point covering a period of several years," Long writes, "I came close to becoming a convert to a ritualistic Catholic mysticism, perhaps because I have always been in rebellion against what I felt was the beauty-ignoring aspect of Protestantism, even when it repudiated every kind of Bible Belt fundamentalism. Despite his atheism, HPL had a great admiration for the liberal Protestant tradition, as he made plain in one of his middle-period letters to me. It is included in the third volume of Arkham House correspondence and was just about the longest letter he ever wrote to anyone. What he failed to realize was that even at that period I had no real intention of becoming a Trappist monk, and it was only the aesthetic aspects of Roman or Anglo-Catholicism that had made me just a bit less of an agnostic than I had been earlier. Basically, I would never have been able to live for long with any kind of theological orthodoxy, but in challenging some of his most firmly held beliefs, I derived a certain pleasure in playing the part of a Devil's advocate." So it seems Long deliberately tried to get a rise out of HPL by suggesting he might become a monk!

Long's memoir was first published by Arkham House in 1975, but it has been recently released in paperback and digital versions by Wildside Press.

And drop by the website of our friends at Hippocampus Press to see HPL's lengthy essay about Quebec and other travel writing!

2020-02-10
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Spanking Sonny Part 2 - About Science

In part two of HPL's lengthy letter to his friend Frank Belknap Long, Lovecraft speaks his mind about the merits of pure science. Listen as he disdains commercialism and the machine age in his diatribe celebrating knowledge for its own sake. Greeks ahoy!

2020-02-03
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Spanking Sonny Part 1 - About Literature

In which HPL upbraids, chides and spanks his poor young friend Frank Belknap Long about weird literature (and several other topics to boot!). The first of a four part series which documents one of HPL's longest and most broad-ranging letters.

CORRECTION: Andrew was in error in this episode when he said that all of the letters from HPL to Frank Belknap Long have been lost. While it's true that no one seems to know the location of any letters written after 1931, there is a fabulous trove of letters written from 1920 until 1931 currently in the hands of a private collector. If you happen to have $150,000 to spare, you could buy them! (If so, you might consider donating them to the John Hay Library at Brown University.) Special thanks to HPLHS member Kevin Miller for pointing this out to us.

2020-01-27
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My Breakfast with Howard

In which Lovecraft describes both his diet and his thrift as he documents his shopping and dining habits in alarming detail. For added fun he walks the wife of sci-fi writer Fritz Leiber through fascinating branches of his family tree.

Special thanks to Wildside Press for their book Fritz Leiber and H.P. Lovecraft: Writers of the Dark, edited by Ben J.S. Szumskyj and S.T. Joshi.

2020-01-20
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Bimbos Bozos and James F Morton

At the suggestion of S.T. Joshi, we read a letter to James F. Morton. Brimming with snappy 1920s slang, HPL's letter grapples with his ideas on writing, creativity and the best ways to get your kicks. Lamp it!

Music by Troy Sterling Nies

Special thanks to S.T. Joshi and Hippocampus Press

Here's an online version of Morton's 1906 book "The Curse of Race Prejudice".

2020-01-13
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Politics, Poetry and Other Outrages

Howard unfurls his most vigorous inner-cynic as he attacks political ideals and modern poetry in this letter to Washington DC poet Elizabeth Toldridge.

You can see a poem Toldridge wrote about HPL at the Brown Digital Repository here.

Music by Troy Sterling Nies

Special thanks to Hippocampus Press for their book H. P. Lovecraft: Letters to Elizabeth Toldridge & Anne Tillery Renshaw

2020-01-06
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Tidings of Comfort and Joy? Part 2

Just before Christmas, Lovecraft meets Vrest Orton for the first time. Howard is smitten by his young visitor. Is it a blossoming bromance or something more? Don't miss the giddy side of HPL in part two of his Christmas letter to his Aunt Lillian.

Music by Troy Sterling Nies

Thanks to the Brown Digital Repository at Brown University

2019-12-30
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Tidings of Comfort and Joy? Part 1

HPL sends his aunt a very telling Christmas letter. Written while he was living in Brooklyn, the letter is revealing about both HPL and those closest to him.

Music by Troy Sterling Nies

Special thanks to the Brown Digital Repository at Brown University.

You might need a New York Times subscription to see it, but there's a fascinating article about the crazy rich Wendel family

And while you're surfing, learn more about the fascinating Byron Khun de Prorok!

Lovecraft hoped to get a job at the Paterson Museum, where his friend James F. Morton was a curator and which was founded in the very year HPL wrote this letter. HPL never got that job, but the museum did eventually get its own new building. It's still going and is worth a visit!

Lovecraft mentioned a number of interesting figures in the letter we didn't have time to talk about in the episode. One was Edward Arnold, whose recent obituary HPL and his aunts had noted. Lovecraft said it was too bad his mother didn't "snap him up". He was a member of one of the founding families of Rhode Island (which also included the infamous Benedict Arnold). He mentions astronomical articles by "Brainin" and "Upton". C.S. Brainin was the editor of The Amateur Astronomer in the late 1920s, and Professor Winslow Upton was the director of Ladd Observatory in Providence when HPL was a boy and wrote articles for the Providence Journal. He also mentions enjoying the "Hoppin conceptions", which is a reference to noted 19th-century Providentian book illustrator Augustus Hoppin.

2019-12-23
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Those Meddling Kids

High school admirers Robert Bloch and Willis Conover both wrote fan letters to Lovecraft. Here we see HPL writing back to these two young writers who will go on to correspond with HPL and have fascinating lives after Lovecraft's death.

You can learn more about Willis Conover here. You can hear his voice in this YouTube video.

Music by Troy Sterling Nies

Thanks to Hippocampus Press and Carrollton-Clark Publishing

2019-12-16
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Grief and Other Lugubrious Demonstrations

In which Lovecraft delivers some unexpected bad news. Intellect collides with emotion in this letter to poet Ann Tillery Renshaw.

Thanks to Hippocampus Press.

Music by Troy Sterling Nies

2019-12-09
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Howard Swears a Blue Streak

In which HPL deploys shocking language in a feisty letter to his friend, Wisconsin schoolteacher Maurice Moe.

Thanks to Arkham House. You can read a much less abridged version of this letter in the book H.P. Lovecraft: Letters to Maurice W. Moe and Others from Hippocampus Press.

Music by Troy Sterling Nies.

2019-12-02
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The Clark Ashton Smythos

In which Lovecraft writes his friend and fellow author of fantastic tales, Clark Ashton Smith. As wildfire threatens Smith's California home we're reminded how nothing ever really changes...

Thanks to Clark Ashton Smith guru Scott Connors and to Hippocampus Press.

2019-11-25
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My Dearest Mother

In which HPL writes to his mother about his delightful visit to a gathering of amateur press friends for St. Patrick's day. Sent a few weeks before her death, it's Howard's final extant letter to his mother.

Special thanks to our friends at the Brown University Digital Repository where they keep and digitally share with the public many of HPL's original manuscripts. You can see a thrilling ad for David Van Bush with Lovecraft's commentary here.

If you want to read some of Bush's books, you can find the one Lovecraft himself worked on here. And click here to read Practical Psychology and Sex Life.

2019-11-18
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Dipping Our Toes in August Derleth

In which we read a letter from HPL to August Derleth from November 7, 1926. We discuss unique qualities of HPL's correspondence with Derleth, and his essential role in sharing Lovecraft's works with the public.

Special thanks to the helpful team at Hippocampus Press.

2019-11-11
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Sex, Drugs and Marketing

A set of three shorter letters written one hundred years ago, in which 29-year-old HPL dispenses relationship and life advice to one of his earliest correspondents, Rheinhart Kleiner. Hear of Lovecraft's encouragement to the lovelorn, his temptation to try the dreaded cannabis, and more!

These letters come from The Selected Letters of H.P. Lovecraft Volume I. Our deepest thanks to Arkham House Publishing. You can find them at www.arkhamhouse.com

Music by Troy Sterling Nies.

2019-11-04
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Dear Mr. Barlow

In his first letter to Robert H. Barlow, written on June 25, 1931, HPL very kindly answers a few important questions of a young fan, and begins what will prove to be a very important relationship.

Our thanks to Dan Viafore for being our audio consultant.

Original music by Troy Sterling Nies.

Special thanks to S.T. Joshi and David E. Schultz. The text of the letter came from their book O Fortunate Floridian, published by the University of Tampa Press.

2019-10-22
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En liten tjänst av I'm With Friends. Finns även på engelska.
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