This is not our usual Lovecraftian fare. Indeed it is no more, and no less exactly what the title claims it to be, all be it a fictional account written by a narrator who claims to be over two hundred years old.
It is also, a rare and somewhat awkward piece of Lovecraftian comedy. Though much like its Shakespearean equivalent, it helps if you have read the background material if you wish to spot the jokes.
Written in 1917 and published in the same year under the pseudonym Humphrey Littlewit, Esq. It was written with no small wit intended. It pokes fun at both Lovecraft’s own style of writing, which had been referred to by contemporary’s as antiquated, and at the amateur press, which has a certain irony when you know that Lovecraft himself was a major player in the amateur press association, latterly is president for a short while.
Its jokes are a little flat, however, though the observation of the wit of Dr Johnson, famous for creating the first dictionary as well as his rapier-like retorts is extremely well written. Though exactly why Lovecraft’s narrator doesn’t punch the good doctor on their first meeting but instead becomes firm friends, I am unsure.
It is clear that Lovecraft had a high degree of respect for Dr Johnson, as well as several literary lights which are mentioned in the story. I suspect he would not be enamoured at the portrayal of Johnson in series three of Black Adder, which is where I personally came across the doctor.
We do not expect comedy from Lovecraft, and he is not secretly a Terry Pratchett or Douglas Adams when he does try his hand at it.
In the end, this is a dull, even boring tale, but this may be only because it is not what I expect from a writer of horror and delver of the dark places of the human psyche.
As such I give it a woefully tentacle free 0 out of 6… only to read if you’re the kind of completist fool who would write a blog on every piece of Lovecraft fiction….
However as a work of pomposity, and some vague humour I give it 4 Johnsons of 6…
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