- Short story (2,550 words); written in early November 1920. First published in Sonia Greene’s amateur journal, the Rainbow(May 1922); rpt. Marvel Tales(May 1934) and WT(June–July 1939); first collected in O;corrected text in D;annotated version in CCKuranes (who has a different name in waking life) escapes the prosy world of London by dream and drugs. In this state he comes upon the city of Celephais, in the Valley of Ooth-Nargai. It is a city of which he had dreamed as a child, and there “his spirit had dwelt all the eternity of an hour one summer afternoon very long ago, when he had slipt away from his nurse and let the warm seabreeze lull him to sleep as he watched the clouds from the cliff near the village.” But Kuranes awakes in his London garret and finds that he can return to Celephais no more. He dreams of other wondrous lands, but his sought-for city continues to elude him. He increases his use of drugs, runs out of money, and is turned out of his flat. Then, as he wanders aimlessly through the streets, he comes upon a cortege of knights who “rode majestically through the downs of Surrey,” seeming to gallop back in time as they do so. They leap off a precipice and drift softly down to Celephais, and Kuranes knows that he will be its king forever. Meanwhile, in the waking world, the tide at Innsmouth washes up the corpse of a tramp, while a “notably fat and offensive millionaire brewer” purchases Kuranes’s ancestral mansion and “enjoys the purchased atmosphere of extinct nobility.” HPL notes that the story was based upon an entry in his commonplace book (\#10) reading simply: “Dream of flying over city.” Another entry (\#20) was perhaps also an inspiration: “Man journeys into the past—or imaginative realm—leaving bodily shell behind.” The story is strikingly similar in conception to Dunsany’s “The Coronation of Mr. Thomas Shap” (in The Book of Wonder,1912). There a businessman imagines himself the King of Larkar, and as he continues to dwell obsessively on (and in) this imaginary realm his work in the real world suffers, until finally he is placed in a madhouse. The image of horses drifting dreamily over a cliff may echo the conclusion of Ambrose Bierce’s “A Horseman in the Sky” (in Tales of Soldiers and Civilians, 1891), where a man seems to see a horse flying through the air after he has shot the rider—who proves to be his own father. Kuranes returns for a very different purpose in The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath(1926–27). Likewise, the city of Innsmouth, here set in England, later becomes a decaying seaport in Massachusetts.
An H.P.Lovecraft encyclopedia. S.T. Joshi, David E. Schultz.