“Statement of Randolph Carter, The“


“Statement of Randolph Carter, The“
   Short story (2,500 words); written in late December 1919. First published in the Vagrant(May 1920); rpt. WT(February 1925) and WT(August 1937); first collected in O;corrected text in MM;annotated version in CC.
   Randolph Carter tells a police investigation what happened one night when he and Harley Warren entered an ancient cemetery and only Carter returned. Warren, a learned mystic, had been intrigued by an ancient book that led him to wonder “why certain corpses never decay, but rest firm and fat in their tombs for a thousand years. ”So Warren and Carter walk along the Gainesville pike toward Big Cypress Swamp and approach a particular tomb in an old cemetery, equipped with spades, lanterns, and other paraphernalia—including a portable telephone set with an extremely long cord. After opening the tomb, they see stone steps leading down. Warren refuses to let Carter go down with him because of his “frail nerves,” but promises to stay in touch by means of the telephone set. Carter protests, but Warren is adamant and proceeds down into the crypt. After a time Warren begins making increasingly frantic utterances through the telephone— “God! If you could see what I am seeing!…Carter, it’s terrible—monstrous—unbelievable!”Carter anxiously asks Warren what he sees, but Warren does not specify. Finally Warren cries: “Beat it! For God’s sake, put back the slab and beat it, Carter!”Carter tells Warren he is coming down to help him, but Warren says it is no use. Finally, after a long silence, with Carter crying, “Warren, are you there?”, another voice —“deep; hollow; gelatinous; remote; unearthly; inhuman; disembodied”—is heard: “YOU FOOL, WARREN IS DEAD!”
   HPL stated the story was a nearly literal transcript of a dream he had, probably in early December 1919, in which he and Samuel Loveman make a fateful trip to an ancient cemetery and Loveman suffers some horrible but mysterious fate after he descends alone into a crypt. HPL’s account of the dream, in a letter to the Gallomo (December 11, 1919), is strikingly similar in many points of language and plot to the finished story; he must have kept a copy of the letter and later rewritten it. But there are also some interesting differences between the two accounts. In the dream the setting is clearly in New England; in the story the setting is unspecified, but the mention of Big Cypress Swamp and the Gainesville pike (spelled “Gainsville” in the surviving typescript) leads one to suspect a setting in Florida, near the city of Gainesville. (In later stories Warren is said to be a man from the South.) In the dream, HPL had no true idea of the purpose of the cemetery visit; in the story, HPL must have felt that some hint of motivation had to be provided, so he introduced the point about undecaying corpses. Warren’s exhaustive collection of esoteric books was probably inspired by Loveman’s impressive collection of first editions.
   The name Randolph Carter is of some interest. HPL knew that Carter was a Rhode Island family of long standing (John Carter was the founder of Providence’s first newspaper in 1762); but he also knew that this family itself had come to Rhode Island from Virginia. In a 1929 letter HPL remarks: “This transposition of a Virginia line to New England always affected my fancy strongly—hence my frequently recurrent fictional character ‘Randolph Carter’” ( SL2.353). Carter is HPL’s most frequently used recurring character, appearing in “The Unnamable” (1923), The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath(1926–27), “The Silver Key” (1926), and “Through the Gates of the Silver Key” (1932). The book that impels Warren to explore the cemetery has been thought by some to be the Necronomicon,but this is unlikely. Carter declares that he had read every book in Warren’s library in the languages known to him; this must mean that Carter is at least versed in the common languages (Latin, Greek, French, German, English), and he even mentions that some books were in Arabic. But of the “fiend-inspired book” Carter declares that it was “written in characters whose like I never saw elsewhere,” which suggests that the book was notin Arabic or any other common language; later Carter states that the book came from India. Since, according to HPL’s later testimony, the Necronomiconexists only in Arabic, Greek, Latin, and English, Warren’s book cannot be that volume.
   See Robert M.Price, “You Fool! Loveman Is Dead!” Crypt No. 98 (Eastertide 1998): 16–21.

An H.P.Lovecraft encyclopedia. .

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