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Colin Wilson
Release notes:
I found the text on the web in a somewhat messed up state. The mainproblem was a lot of split words (almost as many as there are lines in the text),and random paragraphs. But surprisingly few mistakes. So the main credit goesto an unknown person who scanned it. I read it, corrected along the way, andchecked and divided into paragraphs by an edition in Russian (having no Englishcopy).Respect goes to
for supplying (typing out) thePreface and several discovered missing pages in the text. So here we may hopeto have the book in its entirety and pretty readable. Yet, to be in the perfect order,it still needs someone possessing an English paper copy to proofread the text,set the correct paragraphs, italics etc. This gem is definitely worth it!!!Meanwhile, cheers and enjoy! =)
, April 2011
For August Derleth who suggested it.
The story of how I came to write a 'Lovecract novel' for ArkhamHouse is a curious one. Several years back--it must have been about1959--I had stopped at the Dorset farm of an old friend--an Americannamed Mark Helfer. The setting of this place would have delightedLovecraft. The small town of Corfe Castle is little more than a village,with winding streets and an ancient inn that sells superb beer. Thecastle itself is an impressive ruin dating back to the eleventh centuryand from its ramparts you can look out over the 'wind blasted furze' ofHardy's Egdon Heath. To get to Mark Helfers's farm, you turn underan ancient bridge, then climb a step and narrow road into the hills.And finally, on a high exposed hilltop, you reach the grey stone
farmhouse, many hundreds of years old, with its thick walls and tinywindows. Its ceilings are low; the floors are of stone slabs; it has thatsmell of age and coldness which is not unpleasant.And then I lay in a bed at half past eleven at night, the bedsidelamp flickering (for the electricity was produced by a dynamo thatthumped away in the distance), pleasantly drunk on Marks's homemade cider. (In England, all cider is alcoholic.) But I felt like readingbefore I dropped off to sleep, so I poked around the room for a book.And apart form old bound volumes of
and the
Illustrated London News,
all I could find was a book called
The Outsider and others 
by H. P. Lovecraft.The title interested me for a simple reason. Some three yearsearlier, I had been hurled into notoriety by the completely unexpectedsuccess of my first book,
The Outsider 
, a rather heavy tome onexistential philosophy. It had become an overnight best seller--to thepublisher's amazement--and was translated in sixteen languageswithin the course of a year. I knew my title was not original. The Negrowriter Richard Wright had written a book of the same title in the earlyfifties. Camus's
The Stranger 
in America, istranslated into English as
The Outsider 
. There are at least three morenovels of the same title. Still, I felt that my use of the word had acertain originality, for before my book, an outsider had simply meantsomebody who didn't belong. ('We can't have that bounder in the club.He's a demned outsidah.')I opened the Lovecraft book--I'd never heard his name before. Itwas an old, black-bound edition, printed in the late months of 1939,and it was on crumbling yellow paper that smelt musty. And beforefalling asleep I read
The Outsider 
the Rats in the Walls,
In the Vault,
the story about the mortuary keeper who chop off the corpse'sfeet to make it fit the coffin.I knew immediately that I had discovered a writer of someimportance. So the next morning, when I left, I borrowed the book.And driving back towards my home in Cornwall, I brooded on thequestion of the horror story, and the type of imagination that producesit. I brooded to such good purpose that as soon as I got home, I beganto write a book called
The Strength to Dream 
, in which Lovecraftfigures largely.I must confess that my estimate of Lovecraft would not have
pleased his most ardent admirers. The view I expressed in that bookwas that, while Lovecraft was distinctly a creative genius in his ownway, his pessimism should not be taken too seriously: that it was thepessimism of a sick recluse and had about an element of
a kind of desire to take revenge on a world that rejectedhim. In short, Lovecraft was a 19th century romantic, born in thewrong time. Most men of genius dislike their own age, but the reallygreat ones impose their own vision on the age. The weak ones turnaway into a world of gloomy fantasy.Well, the book appeared in England in 1961, and I thought I haddone with Lovecraft. But later that year, I found myself in Providence,lecturing at Brown University. There I met the Blake scholar FosterDamon, who looks and sounds like Mark Twain, and he showed methe house where Poe had lived and told me of legends that stillsurvived. But here, in this town of clapboard houses, with its streetsankle-deep in leaves, my imagination was haunted by anther writer--Lovecraft. I found that his stories now returned to mind a dozen timesa day. I went and looked at the house in which Lovecraft had lived; Ispent hours in the university library reading Lovecraft's letters inmanuscript, and a thesis that somebody had written on his life andwork. Here I read for the first time
The Case of Charles Dexter Ward 
The Shadow Over Innsmouth.
And I had to admit that there wassomething about
Lovecraft that makes him very hard to dismiss. Inmany ways, I found him more impressive than Poe. Poe's imaginationwas simply obsessed by death. In some ways his most typical story is
The Premature Burial 
, which is the kind of nightmare that might occurto any of us. Basically, Poe is a gentle romantic, a lover of beautifulpale women and ancient Gothic mansions set among wooded hills.Lovecraft is not so concerned with death as with terror. Poe is pre-Dracula; Lovecraft is very much post-Dracula. Poe's world is the worldwe all live in, seen through eyes that were always aware of 'the skullbeneath the skin'. Lovecraft's world is a creation of his own, as uniqueand nightmarish as that of Hieronymus Bosch or Fuseli.I found the address of Arkham House in a bookseller's catalogue,and wrote to enquire what books of Lovecraft were still available. Theresult was a friendly letter back from August Derleth who knew mywork. As a result of some of Derleth's comments, I made severalalterations of the Lovecraft sections in the American edition of
The Strength to Dream 
(although he still considered it unfair to Lovecraft).
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