Thursday, April 21, 2016

Lovecraft on an Inkling

So, still at work on the Nodens, which I'm glad to say is finally nearing its end, and keep coming across things that while interesting are not relevant to the paper in hand, some of which I'm marking for future reference. One was relevant to a question that had long interested me: whether any of the Inklings were aware of H. P. Lovecraft's work. I suspect so but have never been able to muster any direct evidence. What I did come across, while looking up just when H. P. Lovecraft wrote two specific works,* is the reverse: proof that Lovecraft was aware of the work of one of the Inklings. In  a passage in Joshi's vast dual-volume biography of Lovecraft,**  Joshi quotes Lovecraft's opinion of Charles Williams.  Lovecraft had been sent*** several of Wms' early novels (since this took place in 1934, when only five of Wms' seven novels had been published:  WAR IN HEAVEN, MANY DIMENSIONS, THE PLACE OF THE LION, THE GREATER TRUMPS, and SHADOWS OF EXSTACY; the final two, DESCENT INTO HELL [1937] and ALL HALLOWS EVE [1945], were yet to come, not being published until after Lovecraft's death). Here's what Lovecraft had to say to Derleth about Wms' novels:

Essentially, they are not horror literature at all, 
but philosophical allegory in fictional form. 
Direct reproduction of the texture of life & the
substance of moods is not the author's object. He
is trying to illustrate human nature through symbols
& turns of idea which possess significance for those
taking a traditional or orthodox view of man's 
cosmic bearings. There is no true attempt to express
the indefinable feelings experienced by man in 
confronting the unknown . . . To get a full-sized
kick from this stuff one must take seriously the 
orthodox view of cosmic organisation -- which
is rather impossible today.

(I AM PROVIDENCE,  p. 878)

As Joshi points out, by taking the 'traditional or orthodox view', Lovecraft means being a Christian, "which Lovecraft emphatically was not". Joshi also agrees with Lovecraft's judgment, writing that "Lovecraft's evaluation of these mystical, heavily religious works is very much on target" (ibid)

So there we have it: a passing reference which shows, if nothing else, that the two groups (Lovecraft's Weird Tales circle and the Oxfordian Inklings) were contemporaries, even if their paths almost never crossed.

--John R.

 *THE DREAM-QUEST OF UNKNOWN KADATH and "The Strange High House on the Hill",
my two favorites among his works, and incidently his two most Dunsanian tales.

**at 1149 pages, it's even longer than THE HISTORY OF THE HOBBIT

***by H. C. Koenig, the great champion of the great Wm Hope Hodgson's works.

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