To Quebec and the Stars by H. P. Lovecraft, edited by L. Sprague de Camp (1976)
Nowadays it's hard to imagine there is not a jot, tittle, or laundry list by H. P. Lovecraft that has not been published. 'Twas not always the case, McGee.
Between 1952 and 1955, SSR Publications issued the five-volume mimeographed chapbook series The Lovecraft Collector's Library, with two (very) slim volumes of essays, two of poetry, and one with a few samples from HPL's amateur magazine days; these chapbooks ranged in length from 25 to 33 pages/. In 1976, Arkham House had just published the last two volumes of Lovecraft's five-volume Selected Letters, begun in 1965, but many of his essays, poetry, and writings in amateur journals had notyet been reprinted. The year before, Willis Conover had published Lovecraft at Last, a collection of letters to him from Lovecraft, and collector and bookseller Gerry de la Ree published a slim chapbook. The Occult Lovecraft, which contained "The Cosmos & Religion," a brief essay by Lovecraft, along with a few essays by others. The floodgates began tomopen in 1976 published volumes of Lovecraft's writing in The Pawtuxet Valley Gleaner, The Consevative, and The United Amateur.
DeCamp, in researching his book Lovecraft: A Biography (1975), uncovered a number of articles by Lovecaft that had not been reprinted. These he gathered in To Quebec and the Stars, which was published in an attractive volume by Donald M. Grant. The core pat of the book was an unpublished history of the city of Quebec, a place Lovecraft had visited three times and one that had captured his imagination. "A Description of the Town of Quebeck" is most likely the longest thing that Lovecraft ever wrote. The piece -- 75,000 words -- was written in longhand from October 1930 to January 1931 shortly after Lovecraft's first visit to that city. It was never intended for publication and, indeed, is actually only a draft that Lovecraft never revised.
Lovecraft's first visit to Quebec was a pivotal one in his life in that it helped him to erase much of the "benighted ethnocentrism" he had held against foreigners.
Lovecraft was a man trapped by his his preconceived persona. He pictured hmself as an eighteenth century gentleman of British stock, and adopted -- both publicly and in part privately -- the preconceived prejudices that went with that image. In reality, much of this persona seems to be mere posturing. Rail as he would against the "mongrel races," several of his closest firneds wre Jewish, as was his wife. In person, Lovecraft was both kind and forgiving to a fault and his vast circle of correspondents grew to appreciate his friendship and his unwavering support. Prudish in outlook, Lovecraft was most likely completely unaware that one of his close friends, the teen-age Robert Barlow, at whose house he stayed several times, was overtly homosexual.
Lovecraft's persona ruled his life, causing his to live in penury because a "gentleman" did not lower himself or his art to mercenary influences.
Yet Lovecraft was a genius -- a polymath with a vast knowledge of science, history, classical literature, and philosophy. Many of these traits are evident in the articles De Camp chose to displayin this volume. In a number of these articles, Lovecraft interjects his opinions and prejudices to the detriment of the pieces. In expressing his admiration for French navigator, explorer, and founder of Quebec and New France Samuel de Champlain (1567-1635), Lovecraft writes, "A gentleman of distnguish'd ablity & untarnish'd virtue, 'tis a pity Samuel de Champlain cou'd not have been an Engishman & a Protestant." (!) Lovecraft's affectation for eighteenth century England also extended to his use of archaic spelling and verbiage. He also tended to incorporate his personal friendships in some of hi amateur writings, as when he refers to "Galpinian Wisconsin" - the average reader would have no idea he was referring to his young friend Alfed Galvin.
This miscellany of Lovecraft's essays allows us a look at Lovecraft, warts and all. It gives us a fadcinating portrait of the man through his many interests and prejudices. This volume is now well out of date, having been supplanted by the plethora of Lovecraft books that have flooded the market in recent years, most particularly the five-volume collected essays issued by Hippocampus Press from 2004 to 2007, which I believe collects all the material in de Camp's book, plus much, much more.
- "Trans-Neptunian Planets" (letter published in Scientific American, August 25, 1906)
- "November Skies" (from Providence Evening News, November 1, 1915)
- "June Skies" (from Providence Evening News, June 1, 1916)
- "May Skies" (from Providence Evening News, May 1, 1917)
- "the Truth About Mars" (from The Phoenician, Autumn 1917)