More notes on insights gleaned from Letters to Family…
* Lovecraft was a member of the Blue Pencil Club of Brooklyn, though perhaps not a paid-up one. He joined in July 1924 and anticipated paying his dues in due course. The membership had a cost, but Dench was a commercial opportunity-spotter and it was presumably good networking if rather humdrum in terms of the literary debate. Lovecraft was then in dire need of a regular job, following the disaster of Sonia quitting her well-paid job to start a (quickly failed) upmarket hat-shop, and then having her valuable client-list effectively stolen from her by subterfuge.
* Lovecraft’s correspondent and fellow amateur journalist Mrs. Renshaw was remarked on as being “high” in Republican women’s circles in Washington, which adds another small item of data on her.
* Lovecraft read Moby Dick and… far from hailing it as a existential masterpiece the tale seems to have only made him interested in the history of the old time whalers.
* Lovecraft’s Grandpa never lived to see him in long trousers. Since he died in 1904, this puts a marker on Lovecraft going into long trousers. Actually he elsewhere tells us exactly when the trousering happened, April 1904. He had his first suit in 1905.
* As a boy, his room at 598 was cut off from light and air by the side of a neighbouring house.
* Lovecraft evidently kept a “trunk” in the cellar at Clinton Street. A possible cue there for a new Mythos story.
* During one regional antiquarian trip he tripped and fell headlong down stairs into a dark colonial cellar, while carrying a black cat. This offers a rather mind-boggling opportunity for an artist to depict the moment.
* Lovecraft and Sonia saw the original ‘Zippy the Pinhead’ in a sideshow at Coney Island. This was not in the Luna Park section, as that section was only done on a similar visit a few weeks later.
* Lovecraft’s famous silhouette was not cut at Coney Island. E.J. Perry the cutter was working in the winter at the “Capitol Book Shop on Broadway near 51st St.” (page 309), and that was where Lovecraft and some of the Kalems first had theirs cut. Sonia did later have two silhouettes cut by Perry at his Coney Island stand (not Luna Park) with and without her hat. On the bookshop The New York Times, then a reputable paper and ‘the paper of record’, noted its name change from “Capital Book Shop, Manhattan to Capitol Book Shop” in its 26th June 1925 issue. But that doesn’t help, as the shop is now utterly obscure under either name or close variants. Which is strange, as it obviously gave Perry a reasonable trade in the winter.
* The somewhat shady Yesley-Leeds “publication” of 1925 sounds to me like it would have been a generic giveaway magazine, into which the sponsoring business would have its own flattering article and pictures centrally inserted. Lovecraft wrote a number of general articles for it, as did Long. Its nature is never explicitly spelled out for his aunt, nor is Yesley pictured.
* Prior to “copying some yarns” for submission to Weird Tales and starting the New York stories with “Red Hook”, he was considering writing tales with an Eastern, “Baghdad” setting. It would be interesting to speculate on how these might have turned out. Perhaps we glimpse something of these unwritten tales in “Under The Pyramids” (written after close study of a travel guide or two, and afternoons spent in the antiquities departments of the New York museums) and in Dream Quest.