My unofficial round-up of NecronomiCon Providence 2013 news and links…

* Pic of Jo Pulver, Laird Barron, and Wilum Pugmire, glimpsed on the “Writing Mythos Fiction Today” panel (Friday, 10:30am – 11:45am)…

pugmire

* New 57-minute video version of the opening keynote addresses for NecronomiCon 2013, at the First Baptist Church.

* 70-minute video version of the “HPL’s Providence and Arkham” discussion panel (Friday, 2:30pm – 3:45pm Friday: Garden Room, Biltmore)…

“Few writers have as strong a sense of place as Lovecraft. His often quoted remark, “I am Providence” shows this. Many of Lovecraft’s places are based on real towns and areas. We look at the influence of Providence on Lovecraft’s work, as well as the imaginary locales he created. (S.T. Joshi, Will Murray, Steve Mariconda, Faye Ringel, Caitlin Kiernan + Donovan Loucks as moderator).”

S.T. Joshi throws out a couple of stumpers during this panel discussion…

i) Why did Lovecraft use “100 Prospect St.” as the address of Ward’s house in “Dexter Ward” (1927) — when the actual house is clearly, according to Joshi and others, based on 140 Prospect Street. (140 Prospect was apparently a house that Lovecraft could glimpse from his study windows, at that time?)

Henry Samuel Sprague (1847-1929) was resident at 100 Prospect St. in 1919 (Who’s who at New Port gives his Providence address alongside his 1919 holiday address). But modern architectural research shows Sprague was at 100 Prospect St. from c.1902 to c.1929. Sprague was also listed as a member of the Rhode Island Historical Society in 1920 and 1928. Henry was listed as in charge of “Hay and Grain” at the Providence Chamber of Commerce (Chamber magazine, November 1919) as he was “in the grain business”. He had the wholesale grain business from his Connecticut family, Sprague Flour & Grain: “their mills being the largest in this city [Providence], and perhaps in the state”, the works site being “The Columbia Elevator and Grain Mills” and its associated rail yards. By the time Lovecraft was writing “Dexter Ward”, Henry Samuel Sprague had very probably retired — since he was then nearing age 80.

Henry S. Sprague appears to have been closely connected to a John L. Sprague who had graduated from Cornell in 1918, and who was receiving mail at 100 Prospect St in 1921 (Cornell Alumni News, May 1921). John was either Henry’s son or a ward. The Cornell graduation date would make John L. Sprague approx. the same age as Dexter Ward (Ward born 1902). John L. Sprague was seemingly the namesake of an older man in the same family who died in 1917. Could Lovecraft have known the young John L. Sprague and his father Henry, perhaps via his research for “Dexter Ward” at the Rhode Island Historical Society, and for that reason felt able to use 100 Prospect St. as Ward’s address?

ii) Joshi said something I didn’t quite catch and can’t find again on the video. Something about there not being an actual post of Semitic Languages in Brown University. Presumably this was a reference to… “George Gammell Angell, Professor Emeritus of Semitic Languages in Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island.” (“The Call of Cthulhu”).

The nearest match seems to be a Henry Thatcher Fowler, professor of Biblical literature and history at Brown from 1901-1934, a specialist on early Judaism (Origin and Growth of the Hebrew Religion, 1916). His assistant professor at the time of “Cthulhu” was Millar Burrows, who was at Brown from 1925-1934 and who was later famous for the Dead Sea Scrolls.

iii) Joshi also mused during the panel on how to pronounce “Dunwich”. I can confirm that the British pronunciation is (and would have been) “Dunn-itch”, as Joshi suggests, with a silent “w”. As someone from the British Midlands I can also confirm that Warwick is not pronounced War-wick but “Warr-ick”, as the second “w” is silent. Greenwich has another silent “w”, and is pronounced “Grrenn-itch”. Although there are some places suggested as models for Lovecraft towns, such as Oakham, which consciously shunned the British pronunciation.

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