2 Lovecraft questions

Being a fan of HPL (the author, not the poster, although there is nothing wrong with the poster :D), there are two questions that have been bothering me lately :

  1. Lovecraft mentions frequently the Pnakotic manuscripts, saying that they were written by a pre-human race. If that is the case, how were they translated ? I mean, there were no humans around, how was the knowledge of the language preserved ?

  2. In an essay written by Maurice Levy in the early 70s, he made the claim that Lovecraft was the first one to translate Mein Kampf in English. Is there a way to verify the truthfulness of this assertion ?

  3. Hi Opal !

You could always search for the answer :wink:

  1. There is an answer, but it is not simple.

The Pnakotic Manuscripts, like the Eltdown Shards and other prehuman writings, were originally produced by the Great Race of Yith, who in the aeons before humanity, dwelled in great cone-shaped bodies in cities scattered across Pangaea.

It’s important to note that the Great Race was not cone-shaped, though. The Great Race was actually a race of beings of pure thought; they escaped a cataclysm on their home world by transmitting their minds to Earth and possessing the bodies of beings they found here. The minds of the cone-shaped creatures were swapped out, and THEY died in the cataclysm that presumably destroyed Yith, whatever or whereever that was.

The Yithians, once established on Earth, did peachy; they were learned in technology, and did okay with what they had. However, they later came into conflict with a race of invisible carnivores, the “flying polyps.”

Now, Yithians could do more than swap minds with creatures on other worlds. They could do it across time, too, and often did, to gain glimpses into their future, and to study future aeons and cultures. They are known to have done this with one Professor Peaslee of Arkham, who spent quite some time trapped in a Yithian body while a Yithian spy nosed around 1930s America wearing his body. As a result of this, the Yithians learned that they were going to be exterminated by the polyp monsters.

…and so they began casting out across the future, seeking another race to swap out with. They eventually settled upon a race of beetles of the far future, after humanity had died out, if I’m not mistaken.

Beings trapped in Yithian bodies were confined, but treated sympathetically, even being allowed access to Yithian libraries, although their memories were wiped before they were transferred back. In Peaslee’s case, the process was incomplete; he later regained his memory of his brief life in prehistory, including his knowledge of the Yithian language. Presumably, either he or another human historian to whom this had happened were able to translate the Pnakotic Manuscripts and/or the Eltdown Shards; in the story The Shadow Out Of Time, this is kinda sorta implied, although it’s also implied that the Eltdown Shards have already been translated. I also seem to recall (although I could be mistaken) that the Pnakotic Manuscripts and/or Eltdown Shards are cross-referenced in other Lovecraftian tomes, like the Necronomicon.

  1. Mein Kampf? I’ve never heard such a thing. It’s true that throughout much of his life, Lovecraft was a racist and an anti-Semite, but he later recanted many of his earlier beliefs. That, and he died in 1938; when, exactly, was Mein Kampf translated?

You sure about the anti-semite part? Harry Houdini was Jewish and Lovecraft ghostwrote several stories for Houdini.

Master Wang-Ka answered the first question much better than I could, but I’ve been looking into the second:

From Wikipedia:

So there have been two English versions.

Further googling reveals a third. One by James Murphy in 1939, and another by someone named Ralph Manheim in 1943. I’m not entirely sure about the site I’ve got this information from (it’s seems very subtlely pro-Nazi), so I’m not going to link it.

I’d like to say that having been married to a Jewish woman should nix the Nazi rumours, but of course that’s not necessarily true. Plus, his racism is well-known, so we can’t discredit the possibility entirely.

I’d have to see a little more evidence, though. Did he even know German?

Lovecraft’s attitudes towards Jews were inconsistent. He talked the anti-semitic talk, but he married a Jewish woman.

From reading a lot of S.T. Joshi’s biographical work about Lovecraft, Lovecraft’s major malfunction seems to be that he was a geeky, gothy, repressed kind of guy who had a tough time making friends in person, and so consequently did so by correspondence and membership in various amateur periodical associations.

'Zines, in other words. And snail mail.

This is how he got acquainted with his future wife, as well as a great many lifelong friends. After he got married and moved to New York, he developed a somewhat more cosmopolitan viewpoint, but still had a heck of an attitude problem. He didn’t like New York, and he still didn’t much care for “foreigners.” The word “provincial” describes Lovecraft fairly well, and he actually wrote a poem, IIRC, in which he denigrated black folks, whom he considered a less evolved form of human. The N-word features prominently here.

He really didn’t start growing up, as far as his viewpoint and attitudes went, until he was well into his thirties, after his divorce (and subsequent return to Providence, R.I., with tail between legs). Afterwards, though, in his correspondence, he pondered what an idiot he’d been in regards a lot of his previous beliefs about race, nationality, and politics, and did a lot of traveling and meeting folks he’d only known by mail. He kinda blossomed, then.

Unfortunately, he would then get intestinal cancer and die, at the age of 48.

His wife was Jewish, as were some of his chums in New York. As far as I can tell, he was okay with them because they didn’t ACT Jewish, so to speak. Lovecraft liked people who acted more or less like New Englanders. It didn’t help that while he and his wife lived in New York, they hit rough financial straits and wound up living in Red Hook, a low-income neighborhood in which a great many immigrants lived and worked and insisted on hanging onto large chunks of their own cultures. This apparently bugged Lovecraft to no end; many of his stories deal with “degeneration” of human beings over time and generations, caused by depravity or crossbreeding with “lesser strains.” Easy to see where someone could draw the Nazi connection.

He did ghostwrite one story for Houdini, as far as I am aware – Imprisoned With The Pharaohs, published under Houdini’s name in Weird Tales, the magazine Lovecraft published most of his material in. However, Lovecraft and Houdini never met, or corresponded with each other, that I know of. The editor of WT knew that Lovecraft was perpetually short on cash, and asked him to ghost a spooky story out of an anecdote that Houdini had spun while out to lunch with said editor.

Durned if I’ve ever heard that he spoke German, though, much less ever read Mein Kampf. I have no idea if there’s any truth to it, but it seems kind of unlikely.

I have a copy of Lovecraft’s Library: A Catalogue, and Mein Kampf isn’t listed. So if HPL did do a translation of the book, he didn’t keep a copy of either the source version or the translated one.

Back in 1985, Arkham House Publishers put out Lovecraft’s Book, a historical novel by Richard A. Lupoff. Sorry about the Amazon link; the book no longer appears on the Arkham website.

It was a pretty goofy book…the premise was that, in 1926, a German-American publisher and propagandist tried to contract Lovecraft to write a Mein Kampf-like political tract in exchange for assuring publication of a volume of his fiction.

As far as I know, he never did. This is the first I’ve heard of it from any source (The “Lovecraft was Gay” idea which tends to flare up ever so often, is the wierdest thing I’ve heard about him).

There’s nothing about it in the S.T. Joshi Biography of him.

Lovecraft’s Racism was particulary bad when he was young, but he was mellowing out later in his life. I’ve read that it wasn’t so much Jews and others that bothered him, it was the fact he percieved them as coming to the US, but not trying to become part of the American Culture, not assimilating, Keeping their “Savaga ways”. This was probably fueled by the “Dirty Immigrants” came across in New York. In a way it’s more of a xenophobic elitism with racist elements.

Jews such as his wife and others in his life, he didn’t mind, because they had become part of the American System, in his view.

I forget what he had to say about the Nazis(Around the time of the first world war, he believed that the war was a mistake because Germany, Britian and America were all Teutonic), or if he had anything to say at all, but I do remember reading that in the mid 1930’s, he was told about the treatment of jews in Nazi Germany and was reportadly upset about it. No mention of the incident is made in his letters, but references to Hitler(who he had previously admired) began to drop off quite a bit.

As far as I know, he didn’t. He was quite found of Latin, though I’m not sure if he actually spoke it. He considered the Roman Empire the greatest thing in Human History.

I’d like to point out that anti-semitism was quite common in the early 20th Century (judging by comments I’ve heard locally, it’s still around today) and was, by our standards, almost the norm in many areas of the country. There were many prominent figures of that time who were openly and blatantly anti-semite in a manner that would polite society would not tolerate today.

Second - one can be rabidly prejudiced against a group and still make exceptions for individuals. In other words, having a Jewish wife in no way proves that a man is NOT an anti-semite. Fer cryin’ out loud - there were “honoary Aryans” of Jewish ancestry accepted by the Nazis into their crowd, and some “Aryan appearing” Jewish orphans were adopted by German Nazis… that hardly proves the Nazis were NOT anti-Jew!

If the man generally didn’t along with anyone it probably wasn’t so much that he was a bigot on principle as socially inept and misanthropic in general, and just picked up the language of his society used to express contempt for others.

Semi Hijack

Am I the only one who sees Trapped In The Walls Of Eryx as an alegory on how the US government screwed the indians?

Re Translation

If a man of proper training and disposition should ste his mind on a puzzle, is it not possible that he should begin to see things? That his hours of pondering such inhuman designs could twist his mind? Then, hints would begin to appear to him. In time, he would be utterly, irretrievably mad. Yet, his shattered mind could percieve and know things saner men could not. He could then look into that alien relic and tell us its foul secrets.

I’ve never heard that theory before. I only saw Enyx as unique becuase it’s the only Lovecraft story that reads like a Standred Sci-fi story…complete with an Ironic Twilight Zone ending.


The only known inteligent species on the planet are humans and the Venusian snakemen. The humans did not build the invisible maze. Either it’s a relic of a third species which is not seen or mentioned anywhere else in the story, or the snake men built it. If they built it, they are much more inteligent than the humans believe.
The crystals are sacred to the snake men. Why have they left such a large crystal in the maze instead of putting it in a shrine? Unless, they left it as bait.
When the Venusians come and surround the maze, they do not make any attempt to harm Stanfield. They know the maze is there. They quickly point out the entrance. Even if they can’t see the maze, there are enough of them, with enough supplies to mark a trail and get to Stanfield.
When Stanfield gestures and shouts, a few mimic him. He thinks that they are mocking him. I think that they are attempting to communicate.
Stanfield believes the Venusians are gloating. I believe that they are attempting to communicate an offer. If Stanfield drops the crystal and his gun, they will lead him out of the maze. Stanfield is blinded by hatred and never sees this. The ending is symbolic. If he had simply looked at the situation without prejudice, he would have seen that all he had to do was give up and ask for help. That the Venusians are inteligent and peaceful (they are after all only defending their land and objects they hold sacred <The story reminds me of the discovery of gold in the Black hills> makes the final decision to exterminate them more tragic. Note that Miller implies that Stanfield’s advice to leave the planet is the result of delirium but considers genocide to be a sane and reasonable plan.