“Street, The“


“Street, The“
   Short story (2,250 words); written in late 1919. First published in the Wolverine(December 1920); rpt. National Amateur(January 1922); first collected in The Lovecraft Collectors Library,Volume 2 (1953); corrected text in D
   The narrator wishes to tell of The Street, which was built by “men of strength and honour…good, valiant men of our blood who had come from the Blessed Isles across the sea.” These were grave men in conical hats who had “bonneted wives and sober children” and enough courage to “subdue the forest and till the fields.” Two wars came; after the first, there were no more Indians, and after the second “they furled the Old Flag and put up a new Banner of Stripes and Stars.” After this, however, there are “strange puffings and shrieks” from the river, and “the air was not quite so pure as before”; but “the spirit of the place had not changed.” But now come “days of evil,” a time when “many who had known The Street of old knew it no more; and many knew it, who had not known it before.” The houses fall into decay, the trees are all gone, and “cheap, ugly new buildings” go up. Another war comes, but by this time “only fear and hatred and ignorance” brood over The Street because of all the “swarthy and sinister” people who now dwell in it. There are now such unheard-of places as Petrovitch’s Bakery, the Rifkin School of Modern Economics, and the Liberty Cafe. There develops a rumour that the houses “contained the leaders of a vast band of terrorists, who on a designated day are to initiate an “orgy of slaughter for the extermination of America and of all the fine old traditions which The Street had loved”; this revolution is to occur, picturesquely, on the fourth of July. But a miracle occurs: without warning, the houses for some reason implode upon themselves, and the threat is gone.
   HPL supplies the genesis of this manifestly racist story in a letter: “The Boston police mutiny of last year is what prompted that attempt—the magnitude and significance of such an act appalled me. Last fall it was grimly impressive to see Boston without bluecoats, and to watch the musket-bearing State Guardsmen patrolling the streets as though military occupation were in force. They went in pairs, determined-looking and khaki-clad, as if symbols of the strife that lies ahead in civilisation’s struggle with the monster of unrest and bolshevism” (HPL to Frank Belknap Long, November 11, 1920 [AHT]). The Boston police had gone on strike on September 8, 1919, and remained on strike well into October. The story was probably written shortly after the strike concluded. “The Street” restates the anti-immigrant message of such early poems as “New England Fallen” (1912?) and “On a New-England Village Seen by Moonlight” (1913). There may be an influence from Dunsany, as the stories in Tales of War (1918) have somewhat the same allegorical flavor (but without the racism).

An H.P.Lovecraft encyclopedia. .

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