Juvenile Works: Fiction
- Aside from HPL’s surviving juvenile fiction—“The Little Glass Bottle,” “The Secret Cave,” “The Mystery of the Grave-yard,” “The Mysterious Ship,” “The Beast in the Cave,” and “The Alchemist” (see entries on these tales)—we know of several other nonextant tales written prior to 1908.HPL’s first work of fiction was “The Noble Eavesdropper” (1897), which concerned “a boy who overheard some horrible conclave of subterranean beings in a cave” (HPL to J.Vernon Shea, July 19– 31, 1931; ms., JHL). It may have been inspired by the Arabian Nights,with its frequent citation of caves. Other stories written prior to 1902 were “The Haunted House” and “John, the Detective.” The latter presumably focused on HPL’s dime-novel detective, King John (featured in “The Mystery of the Grave-yard”). HPL also cites a tale called “The Secret of the Grave,” but this may be the same as “The Mystery of the Graveyard.” In 1905 he wrote a tale called “Gone—but Whither?” Late in life he discovered the composition book containing the title of the story and remarked: “I’ll bet it was a hellraiser! The title expresses the fate of the tale itself ( SL5.140).HPL also notes writing “several yarns” about Antarctica around 1899, inspired by W.Clark Russell’s The Frozen Pirate (1887). HPL was also devoted to Jules Verne, noting that “many of my tales showed the literary influence of the immortal Jules”; he goes on to describe one of them: “I wrote one story about that side of the moon which is forever turned way from us—using, for fictional purposes, the Hansen theory that air and water still exist there as the result of an abnormal centre of gravity in the moon. I hardly need add that the theory is really exploded—I was even aware of that fact at the time—but I desired to compose a ‘thriller’” ( SL1.19).HPL also claimed to have written detective stories “very often, the works of A.Conan Doyle being my model so far as plot was concerned.” In describing one he writes: “One long-destroyed tale was of twin brothers—one murders the other, but conceals the body, and tries to live the life of both— appearing in one place as himself, and elsewhere as his victim. (Resemblance had been remarkable.) He meets sudden death (lightning) when posing as the dead man—is identified by a scar, and the secret is finally revealed in his diary. This, I think, antedates my 11th year” ( SL1.20). As late as September 1934, he still contemplated developing a story along similar lines ( SL5.33–34).HPL’s fascination with ancient Rome led to the writing of at least one tale: “The idea of a Roman settlement in America is something which occurred to me years ago—in fact, I began a story with that theme (only it was about Central America & not U.S.) in 1906 or 1907, tho’ I never fmish’d it” (HPL to Lillian D. Clark, November 14–19, 1925; ms., JHL).Of “The Picture” (1907) HPL remarks: “I had a man in a Paris garret paint a mysterious canvas embodying the quintessential essence of all horror. He is found clawed & mangled one morning before his easel. The picture is destroyed, as in a titanic struggle—but in one corner of the frame a bit of canvas remains …& on it the coroner finds to his horror the painted counterpart of the sort of claw which evidently killed the artist” ( Letters to Robert Bloch[Necronomicon Press, 1993], p. 15). The story seems to anticipate “Pickman’s Model” (1926).
An H.P.Lovecraft encyclopedia. S.T. Joshi, David E. Schultz.
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