Sunday, June 10, 2012

Lin Carter on Dunsany

While on the subject of fantasy fans and writers making the pilgrimage to see Dunsany when, after decades, he resumed his visits to America in the mid-1950s, here's what Lin Carter had to say about the time he saw Dunsany in person:

I met him in 1954, on what must have been his last speaking tour of America.* (During an earlier tour, in November of 1919, a deeply moved young member of his audience was the then amateur writer, H. P. Lovecraft, who was still years away from becoming the most celebrated American author of supernatural tales since Edgar Allen Poe.) When I saw him, on the evening of February 24th, 1954, at the Theresa L. Kaufmann Auditorium of New York's YM-YWHA Poetry Center, Dunsany was tall, slender, erect, and vigorous for a man then in his seventy-sixth year. He had ruddy apple-cheeks, sparkling frosty blue eyes, a trim little spike of snowy goatee, and was dressed in a sloppy, baggy suit of nondescript grayish tweeds, with a soft-collared white shirt and a loosely tied old-fashioned foulard instead of a tie.

--Foreword by Lin Carter to the Adult Fantasy Series edition of THE KING OF ELFLAND'S DAUGHTER [June 1969]

*actually, no; according to his biographer, Mark Amory, Dunsany made lecture trips to America in 1953 (as described by Hazel Littlefield Smith in her memoir LORD DUNSANY: KING OF DREAMS), after a gap of decades; in 1954 (when Carter saw him), and in 1955; a planned 1956 trip didn't materialize, and he died in 1957.

--It's a pity that with so much detail about the time and place and exactly how Dunsany was dressed, Carter fails to mention a single thing Dunsany said. Alas. Rather as if someone were to visit Tolkien and leave behind a detailed account of the weather that day and exactly what flowers were blooming outside the house on Sandfield Road. Still, nice to know he made the pilgrimage to see the legended figure and pay homage when he had the chance.



Magister said...

But Lovecraft, on the other hand, wrote in detail of the lecture he attended.

It is a shame that he was too shy to talk to Dunsany afterward -- decades later Dunsany came across his work and liked it, as you know.

Wurmbrand said...

Whoa! Magister, could you tell me where Dunsany's response to Lovecraft is recorded? I don't remember seeing that! (I love these biographical nuggets.) Thanks.

John D. Rateliff said...

Re. Dunsany's comments on Lovecraft:

Actually, I was the one who discovered that these existed.

While researching my dissertation, I found an Irish dissertation written in the 1950s, the author of which had actually gotten in touch with Dunsany himself. I'm pretty sure I discussed this in my dissertation, but (a) since that's been over twenty years ago and (b) it doesn't have an index, I wasn't able to find the reference just now on a quick skim.


Magister said...

I know of at least two places:

1) A letter from Dunsany to August Derleth, in which he requests a copy of Arkham House's Marginalia because he has heard that there is an essay, "Lord Dunsany and His Work", by Lovecraft included in it. This letter was printed in one of Arkham House's magazines (Arkham Sampler?); I found it quoted in full over at the forum:

Dunstall Priory
Shoreham Nr Sevenoaks

March 28, 1952

Dear Mr. Derleth

I have been told of an article which I never saw in print, written about my work by the late H. P. Lovecraft, in a book published by you called Marginalia. It would be very kind of you if you would give me a copy of this book because I cannot get one here, & have an odd interest in Lovecraft’s work because in the few tales of his I have read I found that he was writing in my style, entirely originally & without in any way borrowing from me, & yet with my style & largely my material. It would much interest me to see the book if you would be so kind as to send me a copy.

Yours sincerely,


Which brings us to

b) a letter sent by Dunsany to Arthur C. Clarke in 1948, after Clarke had sent him an issue of the Arkham House magazine mentioned above, in which a portion of The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath had been published. These letters were published in Arthur C. Clarke & Lord Dunsany: A Correspondence. Dunsany writes (again, I've lifted the text from the forum):

Dunsany Castle,
Co. Meath
March 20, 1948

Dear Mr. Clarke,

Thank you very much for the Arkham Sampler. I see Lovecraft borrowed my style, and I don't grudge it to him. Indeed, I am glad to be able to read his tales. The Necronomicon reminds me of a brief scene I once sent to a paper called Rhythm, or The Blue Review (I forget which), that was edited by Middleton Murry, which I called The Fifth Act of the Thlobbon of Sapphanal. Middleton Murray printed it, but I don't think he quite made head or tail of it. That was a very long time ago. I will send the magazine back to you shortly. Perhaps when your examination is successfully over & when we are in England, as we shall be from the beginning of April, you might care to come & see us at our small house, Dunstall Priory, Shoreham near Sevenoaks, Kent. It is only 20 miles by electric train from Victoria; & to anyone who contemplates the journeys that you contemplate it is not far, unless you should mistake, as many do, our little Shoreham for the larger on on the sea, in which case the journey to reach us is of a more interplanetary nature.

Yours sincerely

I can also add that Dunsany in fact read Lovecraft as early as 1919 (!), but probably forgot it, because the poem he read, "To Edward John Moreton Drax Plunkett, Eighteenth Baron Dunsany", is forgettable. One of HPL's friends had sent Dunsany a copy of the amateur journal that contained the poem, and Dunsany's charitable response was published in the next issue (it was The Tryout).

Wurmbrand said...

Thank you, JDR and especially Magister!

Magister said...

I'm looking forward to seeing your dissertation in print, John!


John D. Rateliff said...

Many thanks to Magister for reminding me of the Dunsany/Clark letter, which I'd forgotten about (though I do have and have read the book). Also for providing the copy of the Dunsany/Derleth letter; this one I knew about but if I had a copy it's gotten buried long ago. I'll post the third reference, the one from the Dublin dissertation, at some future point Ii.e., when I find my copy of said dissertation again).

I would indeed like to revise the dissertation and get it published, but that'll have to come after some other projects where I'm committed to a specific deadline. I'd have thought it'd be dated by now, but somewhat to my surprise no one's done much work on Dunsany in the years since, aside from the very welcome release of some unpublished work (a novel, three plays, the additional Jorkens stories). Here's hoping that trend continues, and that he belated gets the recognition he deserves.

--John R.

Magister said...

I can add that while Derleth does not seem to have sent Marginalia to Dunsany, he definitely did send the proofs for the pages of the book that contain "Lord Dunsany and His Work". I found them recently while excavating a pile of interesting papers at Dunsany Castle. :)