Urban Wild takes a neat look at Lovecraft the outdoorsman, complete with vintage photos and quotes.

1928-BAbove: Lovecraft in 1928. The Orton visit?

This Urban Wild blog article has the only old (1940s?) photos of Lovecraft’s favorite haunt of Quinsnicket (an invented name, the original Indian name being Caucaunjaivatchuck) that seem to be available online. Other than this old postcard of “the sitting rock” that I managed to dig up…

Quinsnicket_Lake

“Old days — old days — old days — [he implies the old days of a homogeneous pioneering America, not his own childhood memories of the place] & I have not lost them yet, for the same old nostalgic urge still drives me out to where such primal things still live, & makes me spend many a warm, mystical day in the old Quinsnicket country (8 m. N. of Prov.) with its hoary fields & orchards, its stone walls & winding lanes, its 1670, 1678, 1720, & 1735 farmhouses, its venerable water-mill. beside the moss-banked reedy Blackstone, its great stone mansion of 1811 with the cyma-pediment & fanlighted doorway, its quaint old Butterfly Factory (so named from the iridescent stone of the walls) of 1815, with belfry & vane, & the deep, Druidic silences of the dark Quinsnicket woods where hidden pools, rocky cliffs, mysterious valleys, cryptic caves, & uncommunicative circles of standing stones all linger unchanged in arboreal twilight…” — Lovecraft in Selected Letters III, p.318.

There was a “Butterfly Factory, Quinsnicket” noted there in the online record as running tours for local youngsters in 1924. It was noted as “an old, small, stone mill” apparently near one of the main entrances to the park, although postcards show it as a little bigger than “small” implies. Lovecraft noted the building in Selected Letters III, p.318… “its quaint old Butterfly Factory (so named from the iridescent stone of the walls)”. You can just about see what he means on this postcard…

Old Butterfly Factory, Near Pawtucket Lincoln, RI

You can also see, to the left of the chimney stack, a butterfly shape made by two paired iridescent stones, possibly something scoured on later to amuse visitors. The name of the Butterfly Factory was later attributed to this mark. If so then it was one more minor example of the huge levels of embellishment and outright invention of the past in America, which I’m starting to see was undertaken on a staggering scale (Mystery Hill being the most prominent historical jiggery-pokery and wool-pulling). Something which was inherited from the British, perhaps, since the invention of tradition has always been one of our great traditions.

It seems this was not the.. “the picturesque ivied ruins of an ancient mill which I knew in youth”, which Lovecraft mentions while describing the woods to August Derleth in a letter of 21st October 1929.

He elaborates in a letter to Morton (Selected Letters III, p.57), telling us it had been demolished by 1929…

“In Quinsnicket I chiefly haunted a region quite newly open’d up — a deep wooded ravine, on whose banks one may spy the picturesque ivy’d ruin of a forgotten mill. Ah, me! I well recall that mill when it was standing — but it hath gone the way of all simple, beauteous things. I also haunted a roadside terrace whence I obtain’d one of the finest landskip vistas in the world — the steepled, sunset-gilded town of Saylesville in the distance, rising above a lake-carpeted valley to which the road beside me spirall’d down. On my right was the edge of the wooded ravine; on my left a rocky upland with stone walls, rows of harvest-sheaves, and gnarled orchards thro’ which peep’d the trim gables of antient farmhouses. Hell, but I’d have given anything for the skill to draw such a scene! And at evening when the Hunter’s Moon came out!!! Oh, baby! Now I know what Jim Flecker meant when he pulled that one about ’burning moonlight” in the last act of Hassan!”

So the picturesque mill was the not the same as the Butterfly Factory.

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