“Trap, The“


“Trap, The“
   Short story (8,570 words); written in collaboration with Henry S. Whitehead, probably in the summer of 1931. First published in Strange Tales(March 1932); first collected in Uncollected Prose and Poetry II(1980); corrected text in HM.
   Robert Grandison, one of the pupils at the Connecticut academy where Gerald Canevin teaches, comes upon an anomalous mirror in Canevin’s house that sucks hapless individuals into a strange realm where colors are altered and where objects, both animate and inanimate, have a sort of intangible, dreamlike existence. The mirror had been devised by a seventeenth-century Danish glassblower named Axel Holm who yearned for immortality and found it, after a fashion, in his mirrorworld, since “‘life’ in the sense of form and consciousness would go on virtually forever” so long as the mirror itself was not destroyed. Grandison manages to bring his plight to Canevin’s attention, and Canevin contrives to release Grandison from his “trap.”
   HPL and Whitehead probably worked on the tale, or at least discussed it, during HPL’s three-week visit to Whitehead’s home in Dunedin, Fla., in May– June 1931. He says in one letter that he “revised & totally recast” the tale (HPL to August Derleth, December 23, 1931; ms., SHSW) and in another that he “supplied] the central part myself (HPL to R.H.Barlow, February 25, 1932; ms., JHL). Judging purely from the prose style, it can be conjectured that the latter three-fourths of the story is HPL’s. Nevertheless, HPL clearly did not wish to share a byline with Whitehead for the story, maintaining that his help was simply a courtesy. The story appears in the second of Whitehead’s two posthumously published collections of tales, West India Lights(1946); HPL’s contribution to the story only came to light in the late 1970s.

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