Outsider (Cover) Art

Virgil Findlay’s original pen-and-ink illustration for the 1939 Arkham House edition of H.P. Lovecraft’s The Outsider, and Others was recently sold by the book dealers Carpe Librum. This was the first volume published by Arkham House, the firm having been founded the same year by August Derleth and Donald Wandrei for the purpose of collecting Lovecraft’s stories in hardcover.

The sale has produced a scan of the illustration in rare high quality, via the dealer’s website.

Whitman on Poe

The Washington Star of November 16, 1875 reported the following remarks by Walt Whitman at the public reburial of Edgar Allan Poe in Baltimore:

For a long while, and until lately, I had a distaste for Poe’s writings. I wanted, and still want for poetry, the clear sun shining, and fresh air blowing—the strength and power of health, not of delirium, even amid the stormiest passions—with always the background of the eternal moralities. Non-complying with these requirements, Poe’s genius has yet conquer’d a special recognition for itself, and I too have come to fully admit it, and appreciate it and him. Even my own objections draw me to him at last, and those very points, with his sad fate, will doubtless always make him dearer to young and fervid minds.

The quote offers a nice insight into Whitman’s own philosophy. He spoke extemporaneously, having declined to make a formal speech. In conclusion, he evoked a vision of Poe:

In a dream I once had, I saw a vessel on the sea, at midnight, in a storm. It was no great full-rigg’d ship, nor majestic steamer, steering firmly through the gale, but seem’d one of those superb little schooner yachts I had often seen lying anchor’d, rocking so jauntily, in the waters around New York, or up Long Island sound—now flying uncontroll’d with torn sails and broken spars through the wild sleet and winds and waves of the night. On the deck was a slender, slight, beautiful figure, a dim man, apparently enjoying all the terror, the murk, and the dislocation of which he was the centre and the victim. That figure of my lurid dream might stand for Edgar Poe, his spirit, his fortunes, and his poems—themselves lurid dreams.

Elaborating on his remarks in The Critic, Whitman wondered what to make of the “lush and the weird” influences that had “taken such extraordinary possession of Nineteenth Century verse-lovers”.

Views of The Grange

Seven photographs depicting the home of Pre-Raphaelite painter Sir Edward Burne-Jones, taken in 1887 by Frederick Hollyer, will be auctioned at Christie’s later this month. The artist and his family moved into The Grange, an 18th century house in West Kensington, London, twenty year earlier. Views include the exterior, drawing room, dining room; garden studio, and daughter Margaret’s bedroom. The lot, which is being sold by descendants, is estimated between one and two thousand pounds.

White Horse

But thou, Goddess, farewell, and turn thy steeds to the Ocean stream,
And I will endure my misery still, even as I have borne it.
Farewell, bright-faced Selene; and farewell too, ye stars,
That follow the slow-moving chariot of the tranquil Night.

—Theocritus, Idylls.

Pictured above: head of a chariot horse belonging to the moon-goddess Selene, designed by Pheidias in marble, once situated on the east pediment of the Parthenon in Athens, now at the British Museum.

The Fleet Revisited

Over the past few years, I have made several attempts to film the River Fleet as it passes under a storm grate on Saffron Hill. You can see one of these attempts in an earlier blog post about the subterranean waterway. The Fleet is one of London’s “lost” rivers, a once-important tributary of the Thames that was covered over and incorporated into the sewer system in the 1800s.

My most recent attempt has proven successful, yielding clear footage. You can see it in the video below, or at YouTube.

A Tower Raven

An apocryphal but well-known story tells of a prophesy: if the ravens ever leave the Tower of London, the Kingdom will fall. Out of an abundance of caution a flock of the birds are kept in residence.

Pictured above: a raven perched on a surviving portion of London Wall (the Roman defensive works that surrounded third-century Londinium) beside the White Tower.

Stonehenge Field Notes

2022 is the year of Stonehenge. A new exhibit at the British Museum collects artifacts from Neolithic and early-Bronze Age Europe, giving context to “The World of Stonehenge.” I recently took a camera through the gallery, as part of a larger video project about the monument. This culminated in Wiltshire where I spent the morning filming within Stonehenge itself.

You can watch the video below, or at YouTube.

See also: Help Save Stonehenge.

The Edward Gorey Stamp Campaign

The Edward Gorey Charitable Trust has launched a petition for a postage stamp to honor the artist best known for his whimsical and macabre illustrations:

February 22, 2025 marks the 100th anniversary of Edward Gorey’s birth, and we would like to see it celebrated with a U.S. postage stamp recognizing him as one of America’s most inventive and influential cultural figures. And, we need your help!

Please join the Edward Gorey Charitable Trust and our friends at the Edward Gorey House in our joint campaign for a centennial 2025 Edward Gorey postage stamp. To make this stamp a reality, please consider sending a letter of nomination to the United States Postal Service. To petition USPS for a stamp, we all must send in actual letters on paper at least three years in advance of prospective publication.

You can visit the Trust’s website for instructions on how to support the campaign. Alas, we never had a set of postage stamps designed by Gorey. My photo essay on the artist’s house in Cape Cod can be read here at the blog.

Charles Dickens in Boston

On his second tour of the United States in the late 1860s, Charles Dickens took rooms at the Parker House in Boston. This hotel was his headquarters for five months between 1867 and 1868, during which time he traveled extensively among other cities. Next door at the Tremont Temple he gave the first American reading of A Christmas Carol—from memory—together with the trial scene from Pickwick, a perennial favorite with audiences.

The Parker House was torn down and rebuilt in stages during the 1920s, with the present building completed in 1927. Two artifacts related to Dickens and his residency can still be found on site. The first is a mirror in which he rehearsed. On stage he would seem to transform into the various characters from his books, not only in voice, but in body and mannerism.

If you find yourself at the Parker House, you will see his mirror on the mezzanine floor, to the left of the elevator bank.

The second artifact is the very door to the suite of rooms that he occupied, with the numbers 138 and 139 affixed. This was salvaged during the demolition of the original building and stands in a small gallery downstairs from the lobby.

See also: Dickens and the Stage.

Bocca Baciata

The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston has two excellent paintings by Dante Gabriel Rossetti in its collection. I have been in Boston this week and paid a visit to the MFA, as I always do on such trips.

The highlight for any admirer of the Pre-Raphaelites is Rossetti’s 1859 painting Bocca Baciata. This work marked a transition in the artist’s career, away from the narrative Medieval paintings of his youth and toward the sensuous female portraits of his mature period. The title comes from a line in Boccaccio’s Decameron, which is written on the reverse of the canvas:

Bocca baciata non perde ventura, anzi rinnova come fa la luna.

‘The mouth that has been kissed does not lose its good fortune:
rather, it renews itself just as the moon does.’

Bocca baciata means, “The mouth that his been kissed,” or “the kissed mouth.”

The model was Fanny Cornforth, who lived with Rossetti at the time. She also sat for the the second painting in the collection: Belcolore, or Girl with Rose, from 1863. It is a fitting companion piece as the subject is likewise drawn from the Decameron. The character of Monna Belcolore is a married woman who is courted by her village priest in one of the stories within the story.