Geography of The Heavens, and class book of astronomy, accompanied by a celestial atlas, rev. and corr. by O.M. Mitchel (1849, digital facsimile link), was one of a collection inherited from Lovecraft’s maternal grandmother who had been trained as an astronomer. It was the key which unlocked an interest in astronomy in the young Lovecraft. According to S.T. Joshi’s Lovecraft’s Library, Lovecraft owned the 1853 reprint edition of it. Writing to Moe in 1915 he called it… “the most prized volume in my library”. In a letter of 1926 he refers to it as… “Grandma’s copy of Burritt’s Geography of the Heavens“.
It also covers some history and recounts that comets were once posited as vehicles of eternal punishment, inside which the wicked were slowly frozen and then roasted over the aeons.
Lovecraft also owned the more sumptuously illustrated Atlas Designed to Illustrate the Geography of the Heavens (1856), which was a supplement to the above book. Here are some of the interior decorated and illustrated pages which the young Lovecraft would have scrutinised…
The latter two images were only present in Lovecraft’s 1856 edition.
Hippocampus has announced the new S.T. Joshi novel starring H.P. Lovecraft, in an imagined plot set in 1914. The Assaults of Chaos: a novel about H.P. Lovecraft is initially in a limited edition of only 500 in hardcover. Let’s hope there’s a later paperback, and even a affordable Kindle edition, to keep it available.
A 45 minute podcast from the University of Pennsylvania Press, “Astounding Wonder: Imagining Science and Science Fiction in Interwar America” (.mp3 link)
“John Cheng discusses the early culture of popular science fiction. Cheng’s new book examines the origins of the genre and its community of fans. Cheng shows how pulp science fiction magazines of the 1920s and 30s reflected mainstream views of race and gender, while inspiring both professional scientists and amateurs to pursue research.”
Pulp Studies, new website of The Pulp Studies Area of the U.S. Popular Culture Association.
A single page Inventory of the H.P. Lovecraft Collection, on the website of the Rhode Island Archival and Manuscript Collections Online. Very usefully annotated, and easily searchable by keyword.
HPL has discovered that he is descended from the Elizabethan astronomer John Field. “For one who has always had an eye for the heavens himself, this sure is quite a find!” [Lovecraft to Robert H. Barlow, 14th May 1936]
A new $100(!) book of essays from the academic publisher Ashgate, Transnational Gothic: Literary and Social Exchanges in the Long Nineteenth Century. The “Long Nineteenth Century” was a Marxist term for the period 1789 (French Revolution) to 1914 (First World War), which implicitly positions communism as the fulcrum of history. This increasingly well-reviewed collection tries to wriggle free of the tribal academic mindsets that apparently… “concentrate exclusively on race, gender, or nation” in the gothic, litcrit studies in which… “every nineteenth century haunting seems to be based on race” and “with few exceptions, the focus is limited to national borders”. This new book tries instead to see the gothic as a global network of aesthetic influence — something which would seem to be obvious to a historian, but which mainstream literary academics writing on the gothic have apparently been blind to.
The book’s Introduction is available on Amazon’s “Look Inside”, or via the free 10% sample for your Kindle ereader. The Kindle version is cheaper, but is still $58(!). You can also get to Google Books chapter previews, but only by Google Search.
There are a couple of essays of tangential relevance to Lovecraft:
“Demonizing the Catholic Other” develops the accepted history in which the roots of horror fiction lie in folk tales re-crafted to serve as anti-Catholic propaganda tales (Beware the Cat etc), by suggesting that anti-Catholicism was later complicated and developed by the rising and secularising middle-classes. By having been demonised, a conversion to Catholicism was inadvertently positioned as an alluring form of cultural rebellion for middle-class youth. But if gothic horror fiction really sent readers into the clammy hands of the local Catholic priest, then I suspect there were more than a few disappointed converts. Most literary-minded Catholic converts probably just had a simple yearning for a sumptuously embroidered and censer-smelling alternative to parental cold-water Christianity or secular boredom, rather than any hopes for orgies with vampire nuns and the like. Although perhaps some gay converts such as Montague Summers actually got the dark sensual frisson they were looking for. As the English-speaking world modernised, the spread of middle-class education and toleration of Catholics meant that horror’s cliched anti-Catholic elements had outlived any practical usefulness in the culture. But the social acceptability of horror had been established due to its past political usefulness, and thus horror found itself in a cultural space where it could become a formularised and tolerated commercial titillation for the literate secular middle-classes. A formula against which Lovecraft later rebelled in his best work.
The another interesting essay, “A Transnational Perspective on American Gothic Fiction” questions the rigid boundaries which mainstream academics have apparently set up between British and American gothic fiction. I’m no expert on mainstream gothic litcrit, but it seems a convincing overview and is pointed out in reviews as one of the best essays in the book.
“Gothic Prosidy: Monkish Perversity and the Poetics of Weird Form” also looks as though it might have some slight interest to historians of weird poetry. It… “examines the way Romantic-period poets such as Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Edgar Allan Poe invented unique stanzas and meters for poems that involve horror or the supernatural.”