Morton, James Ferdinand, Jr.


Morton, James Ferdinand, Jr.
   (1870–1941)
   pamphleteer, amateur journalist, and friend of HPL. Morton received a simultaneous B.A. and M.A. from Harvard in 1892. In 1896–97 he was president of the NAPA; in later years he would become president of the Thomas Paine Natural History Association and vice president of the Esperanto Association of North America. He wrote numerous pamphlets supporting free speech, free love, and the single tax and attacking religion and race prejudice; among his publications are The Rights of Periodicals (1905?), The Curse of Race Prejudice (1906?), Sex Morality, Past, Present and Future (with William J.Robinson and others) (1912), The Case of Billy Sunday (with others) (1915), Exempting the Churches (1916), and others. Early in life he was an evangelical atheist, but later he converted to Bahaism. Morton first crossed swords with HPL when he defended Charles D.Isaacson against HPL’s attack (“In a Major Key”) in “‘Conservatism’ Gone Mad” (In a Minor Key No. 2 [1915]); HPL responded with a poem (unpublished at the time), “The Isaacsonio-Mortoniad” (1915). At the time the two were not acquainted. They met unexpectedly at an amateur gathering in Boston on September 5, 1920. Although HPL was immediately taken with Morton, they only became regular correspondents after HPL met Morton again in his two visits to New York in April and September 1922. Morton assisted HPL in revising Jonathan E.Hoag’s poems for The Poetical Works of Jonathan E.Hoag (1923). He visited HPL in Providence in September 1923. and HPL showed him around Marblehead, Mass., as well as the remote villages of Chepachet and Pascoag, in northwestern Rhode Island. Morton returned to Providence on December 27, 1923. He appears to have been one of the original members of the Kalem Club and met frequently with HPL at its meetings and at other times during the latter’s New York stay (1924–26). In 1924 HPL and Morton formed the Crafton Revision Service (an ad for it appeared in L’Alouette,September 1924), but evidently it did not do much business. In February 1925 Morton became curator of the Paterson (N.J.) Museum, serving there for the remainder of his life. For a time he hoped to hire HPL as an assistant, but the prospect never materialized. HPL visited Paterson on August 30, 1925, finding the city itself dismal but the nearby Buttermilk Falls picturesque. A year later HPL commemorated the visit in “The Call of Cthulhu” (1926), when the narrator finds an important newspaper clipping while “Visiting a learned friend in Paterson, New Jersey; the curator of a local museum and a mineralogist of note.”
   On July 19, 1927, Morton visited HPL (now back in Providence) along with Frank Belknap Long and Donald Wandrei; on the 23rd he, HPL, and Wandrei staged their ice cream eating contest at Maxfield’s in Warren, R.I., each of them sampling twenty-eight different flavors of ice cream. HPL also assisted Morton in securing rock specimens for his museum. On May 12, 1928, HPL visited Morton in Paterson; Morton repaid the favor by passing through Providence in June 1929 and again on July 31–August 2, 1933. Morton came to Rhode Island again on August 4–7, 1934, visiting the town of Buttonwoods in quest of genealogical data. Otherwise HPL’s and Morton’s friendship was conducted by correspondence, and HPL’s side of it is among the most scintillating and wide ranging of any of his letters. The whereabouts of most of these letters are, however, unknown, and to current knowledge they survive only in extensive extracts in AHT. After HPL’s death Morton wrote a brief memoir, “A Few Memories” ( Olympian,Autumn 1940; in LR).

An H.P.Lovecraft encyclopedia. .

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