- Commonplace Book
- Notes (5,000 words); written between late 1919/early 1920 and 1935. First published in The Notes & Commonplace Book(Futile Press, 1938); rpt. BWS, SR,and MW. Annotated version in Commonplace Book(1987).No “book” at all, HPL’s commonplace book was merely a sheaf of long, narrow, folded sheets of paper, on which he jotted ideas for stories. In January 1920, he wrote to Rheinhart Kleiner, “I have lately…been collecting ideas and images for subsequent use in fiction. For the first time in my life, I am keeping a ‘commonplace-book’—if that term can be applied to a repository of gruesome and fantastick thought” ( SL 1.106). In May 1934, after a decade and a half of keeping and using the book, HPL described it as follows, in a note jotted on the manuscript for presentation to a young friend: “This book consists of ideas, images & quotations hastily jotted down for possible future use in weird fiction. Very few are actually developed plots—for the most part they are merely suggestions or random impressions designed to set the memory or imagination working. Their sources are various—dreams, things read, casual incidents, idle conceptions, & so on.”Few entries in the book are story plots per se; most are merely notes to jog the memory or spur the imagination. Consider these sample entries from c. 1920: “Transposition of identity.” “Man followed by invisible thing.” “Fisherman casts his net into the sea by moonlight—what he finds.” The first entry is the shortest possible description of an idea developed at length in two late stories: “The Thing on the Doorstep” and “The Shadow out of Time.” The next contains an early scene from Fungi from Yuggoth, and also scenes from “The Dunwich Horror” and “The Shadow out of Time.” The last finds its way into “The Haunter of the Dark” in a throwaway passage about a fisherman finding the Shining Trapezohedron in his net. In the manuscript, HPL noted the use of only a handful of items. However, many of the recorded images find their way into many of his works—perhaps not as complete story ideas, but as elements of stories; others are not used exactly as written, but modified to suit a particular need.In 1938, the Futile Press published HPL’s notebook, derived from a manuscript in the possession of R.H.Barlow and augmented by later notes HPL kept on a typed copy made for him by Barlow. See “Notes on Weird Fiction” concerning the related material published with these notes. In BWS and SR, the commonplace book entries were conflated with the supplemental material, mistakenly identifying all the notes as part of HPL’s commonplace book; also, the text was based not on Barlow’s Futile Press Edition, but on the truncated typescript that Barlow had made for HPL. The annotated edition of 1987 restores all notes (including rejected items) to their proper sequence.
An H.P.Lovecraft encyclopedia. S.T. Joshi, David E. Schultz.