Lovecraft’s boyhood writing manual…


Download the first volume (in exactly the same 1802 edition as Lovecraft had), and also the second volume (probably not had by Lovecraft, since he mentions only a single volume).

It’s a little more interesting that simply a style and composition guide, being also an anthology of examples that serve as a guide-to-life…

By Imagination man can travel back to the source of time: converse with successive generations of men … he can sail down the stream of time until he loses “sight of stars and sun, by wandering into those retired parts of eternity, when the heavens and earth shall be no more”

Lovecraft in a letter to Bernard Austin Dwyer, 3rd March 1927…

“Being highly imaginative, and sensitive to the archaic influences of this old town with its narrow hill streets and glamorous Colonial doorways, I conceived the childish freak of transporting myself altogether into the past; so began to choose only such books as were very old — with the “long s” — (which I found mainly in the banished portion of the library in a great dark storeroom upstairs) and to date all my writings 200 years back — 1697 instead of 1897 and so on. For my guidance in correct composition [in early boyhood] I chose a deliciously quaint and compendious volume which my great-grandfather had used at school, and which I still treasure sacredly minus its covers:

Containing the Art of Delivery—Articulation, Accent, ‘Pronunciation, Emphasis, Pauses, Key or Pitch of the Voice, and Tones; Selection of Lessons in the Various Kinds of Prose; Poetick Numbers, Structure of English Verse, Feet and Pauses, Measure and Movement, Melody, Harmony, and Expression, Rules for Reading Verse, Selections of Lessons in the Various Kinds of Verse.
Abner Alden, A. M.
Printed by J. T. Buckingham for Thomas and Andrews,
No. 45, Newbury-Street

This was so utterly and absolutely the very thing I had been looking for, that I attacked it with almost savage violence. It was in the “long s”, and reflected in all its completeness the Georgian rhetorical tradition of Addison, Pope, and Johnson, which had survived unimpaired in America even after the Romantic Movement had begun to modify it in England. This, I felt by instinct, was the key to the speech and manners and mental world of that old periwigged, knee-breeched Providence whose ancient lanes still climbed the hill […] Little by little I hammered every rule and precept and example into my receptive system, till in a month or so I was beginning to write coherent verse in the ancient style.