Whitehead, Henry S[t. Clair]

Whitehead, Henry S[t. Clair]
   American author of weird tales and friend of HPL (1931–32). HPL reports (“In Memoriam: Henry St. Clair Whitehead”) that Whitehead, a New Jersey native, graduated from Harvard in 1904; this is false, although Whitehead did study at Harvard and Columbia. HPL also notes that he later received a Ph.D.; this also appears to be false, although Whitehead earned an M.A. from Ewing College in Illinois. He also became an Anglican priest. From 1921 to 1929 Whitehead served as Acting Archdeacon in the Virgin Islands, thereby absorbing a fund of native lore (especially regarding zombies, jumbees, and other legendary entities) for his weird tales. Whitehead published voluminously in WT, Strange Tales, Adventure,and other pulps; his tales, although on the whole unadventurous in conception, are written with elegance and occasional emotive power. They were posthumously collected in two volumes published by Arkham House: Jumbee and Other Uncanny Tales(1944) and West India Lights(1946).
   HPL visited Whitehead in Dunedin, Fla., from May 21 to June 10, 1931. Among HPL’s activities then was an impromptu narration of the plot of “The Cats of Ulthar” to a boys’ club organized by Whitehead. At this time or a few months later, HPL assisted Whitehead on the revision of his story, “The Trap”; as revised, the story is perhaps one-half to three-fourths by HPL, but it was published only under Whitehead’s byline in Strange Tales(March 1932). Later that year HPL apparently allowed Whitehead to use a plot-germ from his commonplace book (entry \#133, about a man with a miniature Siamese twin); Whitehead wrote up the idea as “Cassius” ( Strange Tales,November 1931), but HPL later admitted that his development of the idea would have been very different from Whitehead’s (see SL5.33–35). In the spring and summer of 1932 HPL appears to have assisted Whitehead on another story, apparently titled “The Bruise.” This story (about a man who experiences strange visions after receiving a blow to the head) had been rejected by Strange Talesas too tame, and HPL devised an elaborate plot involving the man’s access to hereditary memory, so that he sees in his mind his distant ancestor’s experience of the destruction of the Pacific continent of Mu 20,000 years ago. HPL was unsure whether Whitehead had managed to finish the story prior to his death on November 23, 1932. A story in West India Lightsentitled “Bothon” (published simultaneously in Amazing Stories,August 1946) is the story in question. From internal evidence, there appears to be no prose by HPL in the tale, but it may well have been based upon what seems to be a detailed synopsis by HPL. A. Langley Searles has conjectured that August Derleth in fact wrote the story from HPL’s synopsis and published it under Whitehead’s byline.
   In 1932 R.H.Barlow planned a very limited edition of Whitehead’s letters, to be entitled Caneviniana, but never progressed beyond the setting of a few pages in type. HPL’s letters to Whitehead were apparently destroyed (see Bar low’s introduction to Jumbee). No letters by Whitehead to HPL survive. HPL’s “In Memoriam: Henry St. Clair Whitehead” was a brief obituary that appeared in WT(March 1933). HPL notes that editor Farnsworth Wright used only about a quarter of what HPL had written (see HPL to R.H.Barlow, April 9, 1933; ms., JHL); however, the full version of this essay is probably similar to a lengthy letter by HPL to E.Hoffmann Price, December 7, 1932 (ms., JHL; printed in part in SL4.116–17), written a few weeks after Whitehead’s death.
   See R.Alain Everts, Henry St. Clair Whitehead (Strange Co., 1975); A. Langley Searles, “Fantasy and Outre Themes in the Short Fiction of Edward Lucas White and Henry S.Whitehead,” in American Supernatural Fiction,ed. Douglas Robillard (New York: Garland, 1996), pp. 59–76.

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