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Poles In Eldritch Arkham


Des Essientes 7 | 1,291
30 Apr 2013 #1
Walpurgis Night is here and it may interest you to know that H.P. Lovecraft's supremely weird Walpurgis Night story contains several Polish characters. Set in Arkham, the fictional New England college town in which Lovecraft placed most of his stories, The Dreams in the Witch House, is the tale of a student, named Walter Gilman, who studies mathematics and folklore at Arkham's Miskatonic University. These dual concerns have lead the student to rent a room in Arkham's "Witch House" so named because it had harbored a reputed sorceress, named Kesiah Mason, who'd escaped from her Salem jail cell during the infamous witch trials, before the pious townsfolk were able to set her alight. The circumstances of her liberation were very mysterious:

That was in 1692-the gaoler had gone mad and babbled of a small, white-fanged furry thing which scuttled out of Keziah's cell, and not even Cotton Mather could explain the curves and angles smeared on the grey stone walls with some red, sticky fluid.

At the time of Lovecraft's story, presumably the mid 1930's when it was authored, the Witch House is owned by a Polish man and peopled with some Polish tenants. Readers familiar with Lovecraft's xenophobia may expect to find the Polonians less than favorably characterized in the tale, and I heartily invite them to read it at the link provided below, and to decide for themselves, if it is true, as many critics have alleged, that Lovecraft had indeed become far more tolerant during the last years of his life.

As April advanced Gilman's fever-sharpened ears were disturbed by the whining prayers of a superstitious loomfixer named Joe Mazurewicz, who had a room on the ground floor. Mazurewicz had told long, rambling stories about the ghost of old Keziah and the furry, sharp-fanged, nuzzling thing, and had said he was so badly haunted at times that only his silver crucifix-given him for the purpose by Father Iwanicki of St. Stanislaus' Church-could bring him relief.

/writings/texts/fiction/dwh.aspx
pam
30 Apr 2013 #2
There's nothing in the link you provided that suggests to me that Lovecraft was particularly xenophobic, but without having read any of his earlier work, I can't comment on whether he'd become more tolerant or not.

Nothing to compare it to.
OP Des Essientes 7 | 1,291
30 Apr 2013 #3
There's nothing in the link you provided that suggests to me that Lovecraft was particularly xenophobic

The link I provided is to the text of The Dreams in the Witch House. Did you read the entire story, Pam? If so what did you think of Lovecraft's characterization of the Poles in it?

without having read any of his earlier work, I can't comment on whether he'd become more tolerant or not.

I feared that I was posting this thread on a forum in which no one has read Lovecraft, but it is Walpurgis Night so I said "What the Hell!"

Lovecraft does have avid readers worldwide. Here is an eerie looking Polish site devoted to him:
hplovecraft.pl
pam
30 Apr 2013 #4
Did you read the entire story, Pam?

I read the passage from the story which you have highlighted, but the link at bottom of your post doesn't work.
Wroclaw 44 | 5,385
30 Apr 2013 #5
hplovecraft.pl

but the link at bottom of your post doesn't work.

it worked for me, pam. please try again

edit.. sorry.... u meant the op, maybe... my bad if so
pam
30 Apr 2013 #6
This doesn't work: So I can't read rest of story!
TheOther 5 | 3,711
30 Apr 2013 #7
This doesn't work:

Try this: hplovecraft.com/writings/texts/fiction/dwh.aspx
pam
30 Apr 2013 #8
Thank you!

Did you read the entire story, Pam? If so what did you think of Lovecraft's characterization of the Poles in it?

I've just finished the story, and very enjoyable it was too!
I suppose to a degree you could say Lovecraft was portraying the Poles in a slightly negative way, but I was reading it with a critical eye, and tbh, had i not have been, there wasn't much that would have leapt off the page at me screaming xenophobia!

Yes, Gilman refers to Mazurewicz as a superstitious foreigner, but equally he says the same about the French-Canadian tenant. In the context of what he's saying, I just think that Lovecraft is trying to add to the overall sense of doom with Walpurgis-Night approaching.

If you were going to be really picky, I suppose you could say his attitude toward foreigners is a bit off, especially referring to the Polish woman whose son was taken, as ' clod like', but if we weren't specifically discussing Poles here, I don't think much would be made of this story.

As i said before, I've not read his earlier work, to judge whether he was xenophobic or not. Certainly not too much to complain about in this story.

Anyway I'm not a book critic, let's see if other posters have differing opinions.


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