Old tentacle hugger had more than his fair share of strange dream by anybody’s standards. It was often these dreams that inspired aspect of his stories and occasionally there entirety. This story however is unique among the collected works because unlike other stories inspired by dreams this is not so much a story inspired by a dream, as a recounting of the dream in its entirety. Its not even a story as such, as it was never written down as one. Instead this text is taken from a letter Lovecraft wrote to his friend Bernard Dwyer in part of which he recounted a dream he’d had, and said he intended to base a story upon it.
After Lovecraft’s death, when weird tales and others were rooting through his papers this letter was found and the recounting of the dream was later published as a story, though it never was.
It is therefore nothing but Lovecraft narrating a dream he’d had to a friend. Whatever fuller tale he might had decided to turn this into we will never know. Instead it is a bit of literary grave robbing by the publishers of weird tales. A tale that is not a tale, or certainly not a tale as told in the way the writer would have presented it to the world. Its a short little read, that bounds along with little exposition, recounting the dream in it’s entirety with no real anchor as such. There is none of H P’s laborious later style here, no long introduction involving ponderous family histories and tentative connections. It is in fact just a story, told from a dream, cast adrift of contextual constraints. A simple tale, in all regards.
And oddly enough, its all the better for it. This is frankly refreshing, and feels more like Lovecraft’s early work. It draws you in quickly, keeps your attention, moves along with pace, and because its not mired in exposition it keeps you there. Its just a fun read, a perfect insight into the place where Lovecraft’s stories come from , without them being mired in his later obsessive drone. It has everything I loved about early Lovecraft stories, the sense of urgency and place without place. It’s disturbing in the right way, partly perhaps because I know this is a recounted dream, rather than a story about a recounted dream.
Lovecraft would never have submitted this story to publishers as it stands. he might never have submitted it at all, but if he had used this as the basis for a story he would have made it three times as long, there would have been a history of the clergyman who used to live in the attic rather than a mere nod towards his dark reputation. There would have been an explanation of his downfall, of what he was burning and why, of his suicide and all that led to him haunting that place. There would have been exposition aplenty, and layers of brooding tensions. But I suspect it would also lose everything I like about this story in the process.
This is raw Lovecraft, Lovecraft from the source undiluted by pretension or anything else. Just a story, just and awful chilling horror story of a haunting and evil spirits. Frankly the only thing Lovecraft would have done by writing a story based on this tale is ruin everything good about it.
Now I realise I have said very little about the story itself, that’s because you should just read it. Its worth the time it takes to do so, its a little gem amidst the coal of Lovecraft’s last few stories… So, when you have five minutes go and read it at the link below.
This is not a masterpiece, its not even a piece at all in any real sense, but its still good value for five slithering tentacles, just be thankful Lovecraft never got around to ruining his tale by writing a story based upon it.