Interview-by-postcard that HP Lovecraft filled in with a sewing needle dipped in ink and a magnifying glass


Update: The joke's on me. Nick Mamatas sez, "Thanks for the ink, but I should tell you that my piece in The Revelator is fiction. The 'from the vaults' feature of the magazine is always a fiction that purports to be a true story or interview connected with the largely imaginary history of The Revelator itself."



Nick Mamatas (author of such wonderful books as Sensation) formerly lived in Battleboro, VT, once home to amateur press enthusiast Arthur H. Good­e­nough, who was a correspondent of HP "Cthulhu" Lovecraft's. Nick discovered a postcard containing an interview between Good­e­nough and Lovecraft, entirely conducted on a single postcard. Good­e­nough kicked it off by sending Lovecraft a postcard with some questions, and Lovecraft answered them in minute writing in the whitespace on the card, using a sewing-needle dipped in ink, then posted it back to Goodenough. Seriously.

Love­craft was acquainted with Good­e­nough, and Lovecraft’s vis­its to Good­e­nough in Ver­mont in 1927 and 1928 are the basis of his won­der­ful nov­el­ette “The Whis­perer in Dark­ness.” After the story was pub­lished in Weird Tales, Good­e­nough sent Love­craft a con­grat­u­la­tory card, and also asked the author a cou­ple of ques­tions. Rather than respond­ing with a card or let­ter of his own, Love­craft wrote the answers in a tiny hand and then appar­ently gave the card to Vrest Orton — a book­man and even­tual founder of The Ver­mont County Store — who returned the card to Good­e­nough per­son­ally dur­ing a trip to the Green Moun­tain State. Then Good­e­nough sent the card back to Love­craft again, with follow-up ques­tions writ­ten in a nearly micro­scopic hand. I sup­pose he knew the local post­mas­ter, and was able to get the card back into the mail sys­tem with­out a prob­lem. Amaz­ingly, Love­craft man­aged to fit the answers to the ques­tions on the post­card in an even smaller hand. Sher­wood told me that he’d guessed that Love­craft used a mag­ni­fy­ing glass and a sewing nee­dle dipped in ink. Here’s an odd thing; Sher­wood had found the post­card at an estate sale. It had been pro­tected from the ele­ments because it had been used as a book­mark in a 1935 num­ber of The Rev­e­la­tor, and that num­ber was a spe­cial issue ded­i­cated to the “gothic tales” of Isak Dinesen.

I bought the card and kept it with me for years — I moved to Boston, and then to Cal­i­for­nia. Only recently have I been able to spare the time to closely exam­ine and tran­scribe the post­card. It took a few weeks. Lovecraft’s hand­writ­ing was dif­fi­cult to read in the best of times, as I learned in 2007 when writer Brian Even­son took me and my friend Geof­frey Good­win to the library at Brown Uni­ver­sity to check out some of Lovecraft’s papers. If any­thing, Goodenough’s pen­man­ship is even worse, espe­cially in the last unan­swered round of ques­tions. There are a few ink splat­ters on the post­card as well, but only one seems pur­pose­ful, as I make note of below. I took the card to work and abused my pho­to­copy and scan­ner priv­i­leges to blow up sec­tions of the card, then turn them into a series of PDFs. I then zoomed in on the PDFs as much as I could, to turn the tiny let­ters into great abstract shapes, to bet­ter see what we would call “kern­ing” if the text had been typset. To deci­pher this post­card, I not only had to read between the lines, as it were, but I had to make sure I was prop­erly read­ing between the letters.

Mamatas and a friendly googler who specializes in fonts managed to transcribe the card, and the link below contains the whole interview.

Brattleboro Days, Yuggoth Nights (via JWZ)

Discuss

7 Responses to “Interview-by-postcard that HP Lovecraft filled in with a sewing needle dipped in ink and a magnifying glass”

  1. Sekino says:

    Correspondence between guys named Lovecraft and Goodenough is plenty whimsical in itself.

  2. Phoc Yu says:

    That would be “Brattleboro”, VT

  3. Lobster says:

    Wouldn’t be the first time Lovecraft’s made someone work really hard to figure out what he’s trying to say.

  4. oasisob1 says:

    Did either one attend Goodenough college?

  5. hipdadiddy says:

    I’m confused.  The article on The Revelator is fiction, but the postcard is real, right?  If not, the idea that someone would put that much time and effort into creating this particular hoax amazes me more than the original story.

  6. Marc Mielke says:

    If the postcard is a hoax, it’s not far off from HPL’s actual correspondence. His letters would get up to 200 pages in length — far longer than any of his stories, oddly enough. 

Leave a Reply