My thanks to Carsten Flaake for pointing out The Step ladder journal online, which lists H.P. Lovecraft as a member of the Order of Bookfellows. Flaake notes Lovecraft is in the membership lists for 1920 (p.75), as well as for 1921 (p.48). I note that Lovecraft is joined in his Bookfellows membership by his friends and correspondents Renshaw and Daas. Later editions of The Step ladder are unavailable online due to copyright, so Lovecraft’s continuing membership can’t be determined. As far as I can tell he doesn’t mention the Bookfellows in his letters. I can find no accessible scholarly source that has noted Lovecraft’s membership of the Bookfellows. Perhaps the recent collection of letters between Lovecraft and Renshaw might throw some light on how Lovecraft came to be a member of the Bookfellows?

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bookfellows1921

The Bookfellows was a Chicago based literary society, seemingly devoted to poetry, book collecting, and the publishing of its members. It was established by the auditing accountant and poet George S. Seymour (1878-1945). It appears to have started to publish in 1919, with an address of 4917 Blackstone Avenue, Chicago. Seymour and his lawyer wife were avid collectors of materials and letters from “various political and royal figures in France” as well as “items from authors, scientists, American Presidents, politicians and other historical figures”, and they amassed a large collection of historic autographs and letters. They possibly also dabbled in Eastern mysticism…

“A reception at the twilight hour followed at Bookfellow Lodge, the center for the Order of Bookfellows, Mr. and Mrs. George S. Seymour being the hosts. Here the Swami [Paramananda] read from “The Vigil” and “Soul’s Secret Door,” and answered carefully…” (Message of the East, Vol.13, 1924. p.144)

The Bookfellows also published two or three books per year, and the May 1927 issue of The Step ladder was devoted to the poetry of Clark Ashton Smith (thanks to Scott Connors for this information).

The Order of Bookfellows reach seems to have been national, since it was elsewhere refered to as the “Nat’l Order of the bookfellows” and the 1920 and 1921 membership lists show a wide reach.

Poetry from the journal was collected in the books The Poet’s Pack (1921, 500 copies — no Lovecraft included) and Songs From The Step Ladder (1927, 285 copies) and they issued A Bookfellow anthology from 1925 through 1936 (Lovecraft’s friend Frank Belknap Long was in the 1925 collection), and The Bookfellow poetry annual from c.1938 onwards. But presumably Lovecraft didn’t publish there, or else such titles would be in Joshi’s monumental Lovecraft Bibliography. My vague guess would then be that Lovecraft found his poetry was too antiquarian for The Step Ladder, and thus his hopes of finding an outlet for his cherished poetry were dashed — so he allowed his membership to lapse circa 1922? On the other hand, perhaps he hung on with his membership until penury came knocking, in the slim hope that he might one day get a small book published with them?

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