Facts Concerning the Late Arthur Jermyn and His Family

"Facts Concerning the Late Arthur Jermyn and His Family" is a short story in the horror fiction genre, written by American author H. P. Lovecraft in 1920. The themes of the story are tainted ancestry, knowledge that it would be best to remain unaware of, and a reality which human understanding finds intolerable.

"Facts Concerning the Late Arthur Jermyn and His Family"
AuthorH. P. Lovecraft
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Genre(s)Horror
Published inThe Wolverine
Publication date1921

Plot

Genealogy of Arthur Jermyn
A chart depicting the genealogy of the Jermyn family in the story.

The story begins by describing the ancestors of Sir Arthur Jermyn, a British nobleman. His great-great-great-grandfather, Sir Wade Jermyn, had been an early explorer of the Congo region, whose books on a mysterious white civilization there had been ridiculed. He had been confined to an asylum in 1765. Lovecraft describes how the Jermyn family has a peculiar physical appearance that began to appear in the children of Wade Jermyn and his mysterious and reclusive wife, who Wade claimed was Portuguese.

Wade's son, Philip Jermyn, was a sailor that joined the navy after fathering his son, and disappeared from his ship one night as it lay off the Congo coast. Philip's son, Robert Jermyn, was a scientist who made two expeditions into the interior of Africa. He married a daughter of the (fictional) 7th. Viscount Brightholme and fathered three sons, one of whom, Nevil Jermyn, had a son, Alfred, who was Arthur Jermyn's father. In 1852, Robert Jermyn met with an explorer, Samuel Seaton, who described "a grey city of white apes ruled by a white god". Robert killed the explorer after hearing this, as well as all three of his own sons. Nevil Jermyn managed to save his son, Alfred, before his death. Robert was put in an asylum and, after two years, died there.

Alfred Jermyn grew up to inherit his grandfather's title, but abandoned his wife and child to join a circus, where he became fascinated with a gorilla "of lighter colour than the average". He became its trainer, but was killed in Chicago after an incident in which he attacked the gorilla and the latter fought back. Arthur Jermyn inherited the family possessions, and moved into Jermyn House with his mother.

Arthur Jermyn is described as having a very unusual appearance, and supposedly the strangest in the line descended from Sir Wade Jermyn. Arthur became a scholar, eventually visiting the Belgian Congo on a research expedition, where he heard tales of a stone city of white apes and the stuffed body of a white ape goddess, which had since gone missing. Returning to a trading post, Arthur talks to a Belgian agent who offers to both obtain and ship the goddess' body to him. Arthur accepts his offer, and returns to England. After a period of several months, the body arrives at Jermyn House. Arthur begins his examination of the mummy, only to run screaming from the room, and later commit suicide by dousing himself in oil and setting himself alight.

Lovecraft then describes the contents of the stuffed goddess' coffin—the ape goddess has a golden locket around her neck with the Jermyn arms on it, and bears a striking resemblance to Arthur Jermyn. It is clear that Wade Jermyn's supposedly Portuguese wife was really the ape goddess, and all of his Parahuman descendants were the product of their union. Arthur's remains are neither collected or buried, on account of this. The mummy is removed and burnt by the Royal Anthropological Institute.

Inspiration

Both of Lovecraft's parents died in a mental hospital, and some writers have seen a concern with having inherited a propensity for physical and mental degeneration reflected in the plot of his stories, especially his 1931 novella, The Shadow Over Innsmouth, which shares some themes with Facts Concerning the Late Arthur Jermyn and His Family.[1] As in many of his stories, the mind of a character deteriorates as his investigations uncover an intolerable reality, a central tenet of Cosmicism which Lovecraft outlines in the opening sentence of The Call of Cthulhu: "The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents."[2] In a letter, Lovecraft described the impetus behind Facts Concerning the Late Arthur Jermyn and His Family':

Somebody had been harassing me into reading some work of the iconoclastic moderns — these young chaps who pry behind exteriors and unveil nasty hidden motives and secret stigmata — and I had nearly fallen asleep over the tame backstairs gossip of Anderson's Winesburg, Ohio. The sainted Sherwood, as you know, laid bare the dark area which many whited village lives concealed, and it occurred to me that I, in my weirder medium, could probably devise some secret behind a man's ancestry which would make the worst of Anderson's disclosures sound like the annual report of a Sabbath school. Hence Arthur Jermyn.[3]

While Lovecraft claimed that he intended to describe the most horrible family shadow, E. F. Bleiler declares that "actually, the story is a metaphor for his extreme bigotry and social snobbery; the motifs of expiating ancestral evil and committing suicide on discovering 'racial pollution' occur in other of his works." [4]

Publishing history and possible influences

The story was first published in the journal The Wolverine in March and June of 1921. To Lovecraft's distaste, the story was retitled "The White Ape" when it appeared in Weird Tales in 1924; he commented: "If I ever entitled a story 'The White Ape', there would be no ape in it".[5] Subsequent reprintings titled it "Arthur Jermyn" until the corrected publishing in Dagon and Other Macabre Tales in 1986.[6] Critic William Fulwiler suggests that the plot of "Arthur Jermyn" may have been inspired by Edgar Rice Burroughs' novels The Return of Tarzan (1913) and Tarzan and the Jewels of Opar (1916), in which the lost city of Opar is "peopled by a hybrid race resulting from the matings of men with apes."[7] E.F. Bleiler, too, has commented that it "undoubtedly owes much to Edgar Rice Burrough's Opar in his Tarzan series".[8]

See also

References

  1. ^ Ronan (née Sylvester), Margaret, Forward to The Shadow Over Innsmouth and Other Stories of Horror, Scholastic Book Services, 1971
  2. ^ HP Lovecraft, "The Call of Cthulhu" (1928).
  3. ^ H. P. Lovecraft, letter to Edwin Baird, c. October 1923; cited in Joshi and Schultz, p. 90.
  4. ^ E.F. Bleiler, "H.P. Lovecraft" in Supernatural Fiction Writers, Vol 2, NY: Scribners, 1985, p. 482.
  5. ^ The Call of Cthulhu and Other Dark Tales 2009 Barnes and Noble, page 12
  6. ^ S. T. Joshi and David E. Schultz, An H. P. Lovecraft Encyclopedia, p. 90.
  7. ^ William Fulwiler, "E.R.B. and H.P.L.", Black Forbidden Things, Robert M. Price, ed., pp. 64–65.
  8. ^ E.F. Bleiler, "H.P. Lovecraft" in Supernatural Fiction Writers, Vol 2, NY: Scribners, 1985, p. 482.

Sources

  • Lovecraft, Howard P. (1999) [1920]. S. T. Joshi, ed. The Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Stories (1st printing ed.). Penguin Books. p. 363. ISBN 0-14-118234-2. Explanatory Notes by S. T. Joshi.

External links

Cthulhu

Cthulhu ( kə-THOO-loo) is a fictional cosmic entity created by writer H. P. Lovecraft and first introduced in the short story "The Call of Cthulhu", published in the American pulp magazine Weird Tales in 1928. Considered a Great Old One within the pantheon of Lovecraftian cosmic entities, the creature has since been featured in numerous popular culture references. Lovecraft depicts Cthulhu as a gigantic entity worshipped by cultists. Cthulhu's appearance is described as looking like an octopus, a dragon, and a caricature of human form. Its name was given to the Lovecraft-inspired universe where it and its fellow entities existed, the Cthulhu Mythos.

Fire vampire

Fire vampires are fictional characters in the Cthulhu Mythos. The term refers to two distinct types of beings: the Flame Creatures of Cthugha, created by August Derleth, and the Fire Vampires of Fthaggua, created by Donald Wandrei.

H. P. Lovecraft

Howard Phillips Lovecraft (US: ; August 20, 1890 – March 15, 1937) was an American writer who achieved posthumous fame through his influential works of horror fiction. He was virtually unknown during his lifetime and published only in pulp magazines before he died in poverty, but he is now regarded as one of the most significant 20th-century authors of horror and weird fiction.Lovecraft was born in Providence, Rhode Island, where he spent most of his life. Among his most celebrated tales are "The Rats in the Walls," "The Call of Cthulhu," At the Mountains of Madness, The Shadow over Innsmouth, and The Shadow Out of Time, all canonical to the Cthulhu Mythos. Lovecraft was never able to support himself from earnings as an author and editor. He saw commercial success increasingly elude him in this latter period, partly because he lacked the confidence and drive to promote himself. He subsisted in progressively strained circumstances in his last years; an inheritance was completely spent by the time he died of cancer, at age 46.

H. P. Lovecraft Historical Society

The H. P. Lovecraft Historical Society or HPLHS is the organization that hosts Cthulhu Lives!, a group of live-action roleplayers for the Cthulhu Live version of Call of Cthulhu. Founded in Colorado in 1984, it is now based in Glendale, California. Their motto is Ludo Fore Putavimus ("We thought it would be fun").HPLHS produces a number of Cthulhu Mythos films and sound recordings, under its Mythoscope and Mythophone labels, respectively. They also offer props, both for sale and for free download.

H. P. Lovecraft bibliography

This is a complete list of works by H. P. Lovecraft. Dates for the fiction, collaborations and juvenilia are in the format: composition date / first publication date, taken from An H. P. Lovecraft Encyclopedia by S. T. Joshi and D. E. Schultz, Hippocampus Press, New York, 2001. For other sections, dates are the time of composition, not publication. Many of these works can be found on Wikisource.

Humanzee

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The portmanteau word humanzee for a human–chimpanzee hybrid appears to have entered usage in the 1980s.

Innsmouth

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Lovecraft first used the name "Innsmouth" in his 1920 short story "Celephaïs" (1920), where it refers to a fictional village in England. Lovecraft's more famous Innsmouth, however, is found in his story "The Shadow Over Innsmouth" (1936), set in Massachusetts. This latter Innsmouth was first identified in two of his cycle of sonnets Fungi from Yuggoth. Lovecraft called Innsmouth "a considerably twisted version of Newburyport", Massachusetts.

List of fictional primates in literature

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Necronomicon

The Necronomicon is a fictional grimoire (textbook of magic) appearing in stories by the horror writer H. P. Lovecraft and his followers. It was first mentioned in Lovecraft's 1924 short story "The Hound", written in 1922, though its purported author, the "Mad Arab" Abdul Alhazred, had been quoted a year earlier in Lovecraft's "The Nameless City". Among other things, the work contains an account of the Old Ones, their history, and the means for summoning them.

Other authors such as August Derleth and Clark Ashton Smith also cited it in their works; Lovecraft approved, believing such common allusions built up "a background of evil verisimilitude". Many readers have believed it to be a real work, with booksellers and librarians receiving many requests for it; pranksters have listed it in rare book catalogues, and a student smuggled a card for it into the Yale University Library's card catalog.Capitalizing on the notoriety of the fictional volume, real-life publishers have printed many books entitled Necronomicon since Lovecraft's death.

R'lyeh

R'lyeh is a fictional lost city that first appeared in the H. P. Lovecraft short story "The Call of Cthulhu", first published in Weird Tales in June 1928. In the story, R'lyeh is a sunken city in the South Pacific and the prison of the entity called Cthulhu.

The nightmare corpse-city of R'lyeh…was built in measureless eons behind history by the vast, loathsome shapes that seeped down from the dark stars. There lay great Cthulhu and his hordes, hidden in green slimy vaults.

Sonia Greene

Sonia Haft Greene Lovecraft Davis (16 March 1883 – 26 December 1972) was an American one-time pulp fiction writer and amateur publisher, a single mother, business woman and milliner who bankrolled several fanzines in the early twentieth century. She is best known for her two-year marriage to American weird fiction writer H. P. Lovecraft. She was a president of the United Amateur Press Association.

Steven Philip Jones

Steven Philip Jones (born March 20, 1960) is an American writer. His works include adaptations and original stories based on the works of H. P. Lovecraft and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes Canon, the horror-adventure comics series Nightlinger, the mystery novel King of Harlem, and the non-fiction books The Clive Cussler Adventures: A Critical Review and Comics Writing: Communicating with Comic Books.

Supernatural Horror in Literature

"Supernatural Horror in Literature" is a long essay by American writer H. P. Lovecraft, surveying the topic of horror fiction. It was written between November 1925 and May 1927 and revised during 1933–1934. It was first published in 1927 in the one-issue magazine The Recluse. More recently, it was included in the collection Dagon and Other Macabre Tales (1965).

Lovecraft examines the beginnings of weird fiction in the gothic novel (relying greatly on Edith Birkhead's 1921 survey The Tale of Terror) and traces its development through such writers as Ambrose Bierce, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Edgar Allan Poe (who merits his own chapter). Lovecraft names as the four "modern masters" of horror: Algernon Blackwood, Lord Dunsany, M. R. James, and Arthur Machen.

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writes about it with much intelligence". David G. Hartwell has called "Supernatural Horror in Literature", "the most important essay on horror literature".

The Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Stories

The Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Stories is Penguin Classics' first omnibus edition of works by seminal 20th-century American author H. P. Lovecraft. It was released in October 1999 and is still in print. The volume is named for the Lovecraft short story, "The Call of Cthulhu".

This edition, the first new paperback publication of Lovecraft's works since the Del-Rey editions, contains a new introduction and explanatory notes on individual stories by noted Lovecraft scholar S. T. Joshi. The texts of the stories are, for the most part, the same corrected versions found in the earlier Arkham House editions of Lovecraft's works, also edited by Joshi, with a few further errors corrected for the present editions.

Its companion volumes from Penguin Classics are The Thing on the Doorstep and Other Weird Stories (2001), and The Dreams in the Witch House and Other Weird Stories (2004).

The Shadow over Innsmouth

The Shadow over Innsmouth is a horror novella by American author H. P. Lovecraft, written in November–December 1931. It forms part of the Cthulhu Mythos, using

its motif of a malign undersea civilization, and references several shared elements of the Mythos, including place-names, mythical creatures, and invocations. The Shadow over Innsmouth is the only Lovecraft story which was published in book form during his lifetime.

The narrator is a student conducting an antiquarian tour of New England. He travels through the nearby decrepit seaport of Innsmouth which is suggested as a cheaper and potentially interesting next leg of his journey. He travels to Innsmouth, interacting with strange people, and observes disturbing events that ultimately lead to horrifying, and personal, revelations.

Whipple Van Buren Phillips

Whipple Van Buren Phillips (November 22, 1833 – March 28, 1904) was an American businessman from Providence, Rhode Island who also had mining interests in Idaho. He was most notable as the grandfather of H. P. Lovecraft, whom he raised with his daughters and encouraged to have an appreciation of literature, especially classical literature and English poetry.

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