New on the Kindle store at Amazon, David Acord’s The Other Mr. Lovecraft: A True Story of Tragedy and the Supernatural From H.P. Lovecraft’s Family Tree

“In this original [10,000 word] non-fiction monograph, author David Acord (When Mars Attacked: Orson Welles, The War of the Worlds and The Radio Broadcast That Changed America Forever) shines a light on a forgotten aspect of Lovecraft’s family tree: the troubled life of his [father’s] cousin Frederick [1850-1893], a once-prosperous businessman in 1890s New York City. When Frederick committed suicide in [6th Oct] 1893, it caused a sensation, with wall-to-wall coverage in all of the major papers, including The New York Times. His death triggered a pitched battle over his estate and revealed a secret romance with one of the most beautiful actresses in America [May Brooklyn], who took her life several months later. After her death, a tragic story of grief, spiritualism and obsession with the supernatural was revealed.”

I haven’t yet seen this new work, but the blurb seems factually correct. Although I suspect any spiritualist aspect of the case may be a new discovery(?). How much H.P. Lovecraft knew of the truth of the case is not known, or even if he knew of it at all. Those were the pre-microfilm and pre-Web days when even yesterday’s newspapers were hard to get hold of, still less the newspapers from twenty years before. But there may well have been family stories around the event.

Frederick Lovecraft was a treasurer of Palmer’s theater in New York, and May Brooklyn was its leading lady. Shortly before his death he had lost around $100,000 in…

“numerous schemes which loaded him down with worthless stocks” … “Day by day he grew worse and was finally seized with nervous prostration. Mr. Lovecraft’s delusion was that all his money was gone and that he was a poor man. Col. Kearney went over his friend’s fund account and found $60,000 of his fortune remained, but it was impossible to get Lovecraft to believe this.” (Evening Star, October 27 1893).

Possibly this $100k was the bulk of money he had in the jewellery trade, as he was also… “a partner in the firm of Williamson & Co., 26 Union Square, and a director in the Essex Watch Co.” (Jewelers’ Circular and Horological Review, 1893). The New York Times stated that “he owned outright” Williamson & Co. which was a “jewelry manufacturing concern”. Perhaps he also felt he had let down, or even ruined, other men involved in one or more of these jewellery businesses? Was his cousin, Winfield — Lovecraft’s father — perhaps even one of those men, since there was a vague memory that he had once worked in jewellery? Winfield had gone mad in April 1893, six months before Frederick Lovecraft’s suicide.

His 1894 probate hearing concurred with the diagnosis of acute depression…

“He seemed to be in a very depressed condition,” said Dr. Robertson. “He took no interest apparently in anything that was transpiring, when spoken to, he answered in monosyllables, He was exceedingly pale, and complained of insomnia and nervousness. He said he was hardly able to attend to his business.” Dr Robertson said that Lovecraft was “suffering from melancholia, following delusions.

“What was the condition of his eyes?” asked a lawyer. “Were they vacant or full of life as in ordinary men?”

“I couldn’t tell. I could hardly induce him to look up. He kept his head bowed down. Everything indicated acute melancholia.”

I wonder if the author of this new monograph has discovered that Frederick Lovecraft’s “warm personal friend” in the theatre, Mr. W.B. Palmer, also committed suicide by the same method as Frederick, two years later in early September 1895?