Looking for more details of Salem-as-Arkham
August 25, 2009 6:37 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for details about H.P. Lovecraft's visits to Salem, MA.

Thanks to Google Books and Scholar, I know HPL visited the Salem area pretty routinely (1923, 1929), basing his fictional towns of Arkham and Kingsport off of Salem and Marblehead respectively. I'm looking for details of his visits - where he went, where he stayed, etc. Being a true 'man of letters' I'm pretty sure he would have written about his visits in some of his correspondence.

However, the sheer volume of correspondence (and surprisingly high cost of bound editions of his selected letters) is pretty daunting. So before I unleash the dogs of ILL, I was hoping that there was some sort of online guide or resource I could consult first in order to better target my interlibrary loans.

An Index to the Selected Letters of H.P. Lovecraft by Joshi seems like a place to start, but my best source for the volume is prying it from Harvard's cold, dark vaults and I'm a'feared of the hound, so I'm looking for other options.

The eventual goal is to produce a pamphlet and/or podcast walking tour of Salem-as-Arkham, sort of a ghost walk through a bit of Lovecraft country. It would combine details from his fiction ("Here's where Carter sat in The Unnamable, watch out for shoggoths."), his life ("Lovecraft slept here."), and city sites that are evocative of the Mythos ("This building is not Arkham Asylum - that's in Danvers - but it is architecturally similar." or "The Peabody-Essex has a vast collection of items imported from the Orient by Salem merchants. What dread stone idols lie moldering in its basement, whispering their secrets to the empty air?").

I've got all the references from his tales that I need (although more are always welcome) and my fertile imagination can produce enough eldritch symmetry between the Mythos and Salem. It's the hard biographical data that I need a leg up on.
posted by robocop is bleeding to Writing & Language (12 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Have you contacted Arkham House about this? They might have some good information for you.

Release the Hounds of Tindalos!
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 6:50 AM on August 25, 2009

This book might be useful.
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 6:52 AM on August 25, 2009 [1 favorite]

This website mentions some of his letters in their details of his trips. That may help direct your looking to those specific correspondences.
posted by quodlibet at 6:56 AM on August 25, 2009

An Index to the Selected Letters of H.P. Lovecraft by Joshi seems like a place to start

It is definitely the best place to start, and the Harvard librarians are not fiends about interlibrary loan; your time is better spent getting the paperwork done so you can go to the gold-standard source rather than dicking around with other stuff.

Also, why not just contact S.T. Joshi directly? He's a good guy and takes his role as the doyen of Lovecraft scholarship seriously.
posted by Sidhedevil at 7:22 AM on August 25, 2009

Forwarding this to Mr. Arkham, as I have not yet read the Selected Letters.

There are also some annotations in The Annotated Lovecraft and More Annotated about the basis for his fictional settings.
posted by JoanArkham at 7:34 AM on August 25, 2009

From Mr. Arkham:

"There used to be an online index of the Arkham House Selected Letters volumes, but I don't recall the address. Also, the book of his travel writings, and the Arkham House book of selected non-fiction work may have something - I think we have copies of both."

I'll check the library tonight if I can, and if no one else beats me to it.
posted by JoanArkham at 7:52 AM on August 25, 2009

Thanks for the replies so far!

I sent S.T. Joshi an email. His site hasn't been updated in five years, so we'll see if I hear anything back.

I ILL'd the Index. 25$ to get it released from the depths of Harvard's Depository. My ILL people instead opted to get it from Indiana. This does not bode well for future access to letters.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 6:17 AM on August 26, 2009

The Index arrived today and I've already sucked the marrow from the bones. One useful thing about it is that it contains a brief chronology of his life, including when he visited certain places. So, that puts (at least according to the Selected Letters) his first visit to Salem in April of 1923.

"The Unnamable" becomes an ur-text of Salem-as-Arkham. It's the first story set in Arkham (Herbert West mentions it previously) and, what's more important for my nebulous effort, it pretty well describes an actual, real-world location that inspired Lovecraft.

So now to ILL some of the volumes of Selected Letters, I guess.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 9:12 AM on September 2, 2009

Initial Joshi contact made.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 4:37 AM on September 9, 2009

Oh, cool. I saw him speak/read once at the HPL Film Festival but I was too shy about my fangirlishness to talk to him.
posted by JoanArkham at 5:56 AM on September 9, 2009

An embarrassment of information to sort through now. Joshi put me in touch with a scholar who has transcribed a giant collection of Lovecraft's letters who very kindly sent me a 180 page document of excerpts from every letter mentioning Salem. Some of the excerpts are pretty brief ("This was not as good as Salem") while a few detail his walking route and favorite haunts. It looks like HPL visited Salem pretty much once a year.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 6:20 AM on September 11, 2009

An excerpt on the view from the House of the Seven Gables:

This scene, at the foot of Turner-Street, is one of the most impressive in existence. Landward we behold the seventeenth-century scene just describ’d; seaward we behold the deserted harbour, deep and nobly landlock’d, yet holding only the ghosts of the ships that once made known the name of Salem on distant shoars of Ind. It is a terrible sight, for as I lookt I saw a spectral train of galleons and frigates, barques and brigantines; sailing, sailing, sailing, with tatter’d sails distant by no breeze, and with seaweed and barnacles on the wormy hulls and high sterns.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 6:24 AM on September 11, 2009

« Older Argentina Flights   |   Ugh. Weddings. Never a fun one. Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.