“Old Bugs“

“Old Bugs“
   Short story (3,010 words); probably written just prior to July 1919. First published in SR;rpt. MW In the year 1950 an old derelict, Old Bugs, haunts Sheehan’s Pool Room in Chicago. Although a drunkard, he exhibits traces of refinement and intelligence; no one can figure out why he carries an old picture of a lovely and elegant woman on his person at all times. One day a young man named Alfred Trever enters the place in order to “see life as it really is.” Trever is the son of Karl Trever, an attorney, and a woman who writes poetry under the name Eleanor Wing. Eleanor had once been married to a man named Alfred Galpin, a brilliant scholar but one imbued with “evil habits, dating from a first drink taken years before in woodland seclusion.” These habits had caused the termination of the marriage; Galpin had gained fleeting fame as an author but eventually dropped from sight. Meanwhile Old Bugs, listening to Alfred Trever tell of his background, suddenly leaps up and dashes the uplifted glass from Trever’s lips, shattering several bottles in the process. Old Bugs dies of overexertion, but Trever is sufficiently repulsed at the whole turn of events that his curiosity for liquor is permanently quenched. When the picture of the woman found on Old Bugs is passed around, Trever realizes that it is of his own mother: Old Bugs is the erstwhile Alfred Galpin. The story was written to dissuade Galpin—who wished to sample alcohol just prior to its being made illegal in July 1919—from engaging in such an activity. It is not nearly as ponderous as it sounds, and is in fact a little masterpiece of comic deflation and self-parody. The name Eleanor Wing is that of a girl in the Appleton High School Press Club; possibly Galpin was attracted to her. Galpin, in a brief introductory note to the first publication, states that at the end of the piece HPL had written: “Now will you be good?!”

An H.P.Lovecraft encyclopedia. .

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