“Hound, The“

“Hound, The“
   Short story (3,000 words); written c. October 1922; first published in WT(February 1924); rpt. WT (September 1939); first collected in O;corrected text in D;annotated version in An2and CC The story involves the escapades of the narrator and his friend St. John in that “hideous extremity of human outrage, the abhorred practice of grave-robbing.” The two “neurotic virtuosi,” who are “wearied with the commonplaces of a prosaic world,” can find in this loathsome activity the only respite from their “devastating ennui.” One day they seek the grave in Holland of “one buried for five centuries, who had himself been a ghoul in his time and had stolen a potent thing from a mighty sepulchre.” When they unearth this grave, they find “much—amazingly much” left of the object despite the lapse of half a millennium. They find an amulet depicting a crouching winged hound and take this prize for their unholy museum of charnel objects in England.
   Upon their return, strange things begin to happen. Their home seems besieged by a nameless whirring or flapping, and over the moors they hear the “faint, distant baying” as of a gigantic hound. One night, as St. John is walking home alone from the station, he is torn to ribbons by some “frightful carnivorous thing.” As he lies dying, he manages to utter, “The amulet—that damned thing—.” The narrator realizes that he must return the amulet to the Holland grave, but one night in Rotterdam thieves take it. Later the city is shocked by a “red death” in a squalid part of town. The narrator, driven by some fatality, returns to the churchyard and digs up the old grave. As he uncovers it, he finds “the bony thing my friend and I had robbed; not clean and placid as we had seen it then, but covered with caked blood and shreds of alien flesh and hair, and leering sentiently at me with phosphorescent sockets and sharp ensanguined fangs yawning twistedly in mockery of my inevitable doom.” The narrator, after telling his tale, proposes to “seek with my revolver the oblivion which is my only refuge from the unnamed and unnamable.”
   The story was written sometime after HPL and his friend Rheinhart Kleiner visited the churchyard of the Dutch Reformed Church (1796) in Brooklyn on September 16, 1922. HPL remarks: “From one of the crumbling gravestones—dated 1747—I chipped a small piece to carry away. It lies before me as I write—& ought to suggest some sort of a horror-story. I must some night place it beneath my pillow as I sleep…who can say what thingmight not come out of the centuried earth to exact vengeance for his desecrated tomb?” ( SL1.198). The character St. John is a clear nod to Kleiner, whom HPL referred to in correspondence as Randolph St. John, as if he were a relative of Henry St. John, Viscount Bolingbroke.
   “The Hound” has been criticized for being overwritten, but it appears to be a self-parody, as becomes increasingly evident from the obvious literary allusions (St. John’s “that damned thing” echoing the celebrated tale by Ambrose Bierce; the “red death” and the indefinite manner of dating [“On the night of September 24, 19—”], meant as playful nods to Poe; the baying of the hound clearly meant to recall Doyle’s The Hound of the Baskervilles; and, as Steven J.Mariconda has demonstrated, many nods to Joris-Karl Huysmans, particularly A Rebours).
   Some autobiographical touches in the story are noteworthy. While St. John is clearly meant to be Kleiner, the connection rests only in the name, as there is not much description of his character. The museum of tomb-loot collected by the protagonists may be a reference to Samuel Loveman’s impressive collection of objets d’art( nottaken from tombs): HPL first saw the collection in September 1922 and was much impressed by it. The original typescript of the story includes a reference to a new colleague: “A locked portfolio, bound in tanned human skin, held the unknown and unnamable drawings of Clark Ashton Smith.” HPL revised this passage (on the advice of C.M.Eddy, Jr. [see SL1.292–93]) before submitting it to WT
   In terms of HPL’s developing pseudomythology, “The Hound” is important in that it contains the first explicit mention of the Necronomiconand attributes it to Abdul Alhazred.
   See Steven J.Mariconda, “‘The Hound’—A Dead Dog?” Crypt No. 38 (Eastertide 1986): 3–7; rpt. in Mariconda’s On the Emergence of “Cthulhu” and Other Observations (Necronomicon Press, 1995); James Anderson, “A Structural Analysis of H.P.Lovecraft’s ‘The Hound,’” Crypt No. 88 (Hallowmas 1994): 3–5.

An H.P.Lovecraft encyclopedia. .

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