H. P. Lovecraft, A rare postcard to Alfred Galpin, “my intellectual superior” (1922)

H. P. Lovecraft, A rare postcard to Alfred Galpin, “my intellectual superior” (1922)

Lovecraft, Howard Phillips (1890 – 1937). Postcard to Alfred Galpin, 21 November 1922. With a postscript by A. M. Adams. In fine condition.

A charming postcard from Lovecraft to his friend and mentor, Alfred Galpin (1901-1983), then a student at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, offering a telling glimpse into the dynamics of their friendship.

“Yeh – we gotta museum just the same as Chi!”

Although Lovecraft was the elder – he signed his letters to Galpin “Grandpa” -- the exchange of ideas went both ways. Most notably, it was Galpin who introduced Lovecraft to the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche and the fiction of Clark Ashton Smith. In 1921 Lovecraft wrote another correspondent to sing the praises of the younger man:

It is odd that an old man should be so much influenced by a kid so vastly his junior, but it remains a fact that no other human creature has moulded my thoughts and opinions as extensively as has that Alfredus child. The secret is this: that he is intellectually exactly like me save in degree. In degree he is immensely my superior – he is what I should like to be, but have not brains enough to be.

The intellectual dynamic between Lovecraft and Galpin is reflected even in this brief postcard. Lovecraft addresses Galpin as “Kid,” but also indulges in a bit of shucking-and-jiving in tacit acknowledgment of the cultural imbalance between the two: “Yeh –we gotta museum just the same as Chi!” The postcard Lovecraft shows depicts Francisco Collantes’s painting Hagar and Ishmael (c.1640), in the collection of the museum of the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD). Did the writer choose this image at random, or did the painting hold a special significance for him?

            Lovecraft remarks on Galpin’s visit to Ben Hecht. “Hope he appreciates the honour,” he jokes. In 1921, Lovecraft read a review of Erik Dorn that he quoted in a letter to Galpin, suggesting that the novel might appeal to him. Evidently it did. Galpin must have read the book and sought the writer out, with a gumption that surely impressed the more reclusive Lovecraft. It was not the first time Galpin knocked on the door of a writer he admired. In July, 1922, while he was summering in Cleveland, Galpin paid visits to Samuel Loveman and Hart Crane.

“Even Providence has charms” – A. M. Adams

When he wrote the postcard Lovecraft had a friend in tow, visiting from Boston. Albertus Minton Adams (1878 – 1952) knew Lovecraft through their participation in the amateur press. Adams was living in Brooklyn when he first met Hazel Bosler Pratt (1888 – 1927). He served as President of the Blue Pencil Club; she was Secretary. The two married in 1914. Hazel Pratt Adams published Lovecraft in The Brooklynite and other amateur journals she edited. He in turn contributed an elegy to a memorial volume published at her untimely death at the age of 39. Albertus (his real name!) would spend the bulk of his professional career as editor of the National Hotel Review.

Although Galpin and Lovecraft once had a voluminous correspondence, the younger man destroyed most of the letters he received from the writer. Fewer than 30 survive. This postcard was discovered after the publication of their collected correspondence by the Hippocampus Press in 2003.

Provenance: Ex. coll. Robert Weinberg, with his estate certificate

Selected References

Galpin, Alfred. “Memories of a Friendship,” in H. P. Lovecraft, The Shuttered Room and other pieces. Sauk City: Arkham House, 1959.

Lovecraft, H. P. “The Absent Leader,” in In Memoriam: Hazel Pratt Adams [Brooklyn: Blue Pencil Club?], 1927, pp. 11-12.

-----. Letters to Alfred Galpin, edited by S. T. Joshi and David E. Schultz. New York: Hippocampus Press, 2003.

-----. Selected Letters, edited by August Derleth and Donald Wandrei. 5 vols. Sauk City: Arkham House, 1965-1976.




Date: 21 November 1922

To: Dr. Albert Galpin, Jun., 1909 Madison St., Madison, Wisconsin

Hey, Kid! Back from Boston -- & have brung A. M. Adams, Esq. with me to show him a real city. Pipe de art stuff! Yeh – we gotta museum just the same as Chi! Glad you saw [Ben] Hecht & hope he appreciates the honour. I’ll write shortly. – Grandpa.

Just learning that even Providence has charms – A. M. Adams

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