Wednesday

Acquisitions (32): S. T. Joshi



H. P. Lovecraft: Collected Fiction: A Variorum Edition (3 vols: 2015)


H. P. Lovecraft: Collected Fiction (Revisions and Collaborations) (Vol. 4: 2017)




S. T. Joshi (b.1958)



[Ordered 1/12/19 - Amazon.com]:

H. P. Lovecraft, Collected Fiction, Volume 1 (1905-25): A Variorum Edition. Ed. S. T. Joshi. 3 vols. 2015. New York: Hippocampus Press, 2017.

H. P. Lovecraft, Collected Fiction, Volume 2 (1926-1930): A Variorum Edition. Ed. S. T. Joshi. 3 vols. 2015. New York: Hippocampus Press, 2017.

H. P. Lovecraft, Collected Fiction, Volume 3 (1931-1936): A Variorum Edition. Ed. S. T. Joshi. 3 vols. 2015. New York: Hippocampus Press, 2017.

H. P. Lovecraft, Collected Fiction, Volume 4 (Revisions and Collaborations): A Variorum Edition. Ed. S. T. Joshi. New York: Hippocampus Press, 2017.


H. P. Lovecraft (1890-1937)

The Astonishing S. T. Joshi


Howard Phillips Lovecraft, the sage of Providence, Rhode Island, wrote approximately seventy stories over a period of a few decades, from 1905 to 1935. A great many of these would have to be seen as juvenilia: Dunsanian fantasy tales, and short experiments in poetic diction.

This leaves a depressingly short list of late, major stories - albeit including such classics as 'The Shadow over Innsmouth,' 'At the Mountains of Madness' and 'The Shadow Out of Time' - to explain his immense, and apparently still growing, posthumous literary reputation.

I've recounted, in a 2018 blogpost on The Imaginary Museum, my experience of asking a shop assistant in a local mall if they stocked his books way back in the early seventies:
only to be solemnly informed by the shop assistant that not only did they not, but that she doubted the very existence of such books. I recall the slightly roguish expression on her face when I brought out the dread syllables 'Love-craft,' and the distinct impression she gave that I was on some kind of subterranean quest for porno. ... To add insult to injury, I'd seen those very books in that same bookshop only a month or two before. So her denials were, to say the least, somewhat disingenuous.
How times have changed!

Back then, the situation seemed pretty self-explanatory: the collected stories were available either as three rather eccentric-looking hardbacks:


H. P. Lovecraft: The Dunwich Horror and Others: The Best Supernatural Stories, ed. August Derleth (1963)


H. P. Lovecraft: At the Mountains of Madness and Other Novels, ed. August Derleth (1964)


H. P. Lovecraft: Dagon and Other Macabre Tales, ed. August Derleth (1965)


Or, alternatively (the form in which I first read them), as six garish paperbacks:


H. P. Lovecraft: The Case of Charles Dexter Ward (1970)


H. P. Lovecraft: The Haunter of the Dark and Other Tales (1970)


H. P. Lovecraft: At the Mountains of Madness and Other Novels of Terror (1973)


H. P. Lovecraft: The Lurking Fear and Other Stories (1973)


H. P. Lovecraft: Dagon and Other Macabre Tales (1973)


H. P. Lovecraft: The Tomb and Other Tales (1974)


Wonderful, aren't they? And irresistible to a mind like mine. There's a pulpy exuberance about them which seemed to say: 'You won't be able to put me down.' And so it proved. I dutifully ticked off the titles on the list of stories included in one of the early volumes until it seemed that I had obtained them all.

And then, as a final flourish, I purchased (and read) L. Sprague de Camp's pioneering biography of the author.



L. Sprague de Camp: Lovecraft: A Biography (1975)


Case closed, it seemed. What more could one find to say about the elusive Mr. Lovecraft? Apart from the usual steadily growing number of ponderous tomes of academic commentary, that is.

Mind you, there is one more unquestionable monument in H. P. Lovecraft studies: his selected letters, edited over a period of a dozen years by his loyal acolytes at Arkham House, a publishing firm started with the express purpose of getting his scattered body of work into print:



H. P. Lovecraft: Selected Letters (1964-76)


Lovecraft, H. P. Selected Letters. Ed. August Derleth, Donald Wandrei & James Turner. 5 vols. Sauk City, Wisconsin: Arkham House, 1964-76.
  • Volume I: 1911-1924 (1964)
  • Volume II: 1925-1929 (1968)
  • Volume III: 1929-1931 (1971)
  • Volume IV: 1932-1934 (1976)
  • Volume V: 1934-1937 (1976)


H. P. Lovecraft: Selected Letters (1964-76)


And so it was, and so it seemed likely to remain:
Lovecraft and Lovecraft's work lay hid in night:
God said, Let
Joshi be! and all was light.
― Alexander Pope (slightly paraphrased).


S. T. Joshi (2002)


Enter Sunand Tryambak Joshi, an Indian-born, American-educated 'scholar interested in weird and fantastic fiction.'

As he himself puts in the autobiography included on his author's website:
At the age of thirteen I discovered the work of H. P. Lovecraft. Immediately taken with Lovecraft's evocative prose, I began both to learn more about the Providence writer and to engage in writing myself.
From an outsider's point of view (rather appropriate to any discussion of Lovecraft, I guess, given the fame of his story of that name), Lovecraft studies should really be divided into two eras: BJ and AJ - Before Joshi and After Joshi.

He began modestly enough, with an edition of Lovecraft's Uncollected Prose and Poetry, co-edited with Marc A. Michaud (Necronomicon Press, 1978). This was followed by the more thorough-going anthology H. P. Lovecraft: Four Decades of Criticism (Ohio University Press, 1980). After that the floodgates opened.
In 1979 I began editing the scholarly journal Lovecraft Studies for Necronomicon Press. Aside from many editions of Lovecraft's obscurer writings, I have written several scholarly works and compilations for Necronomicon Press, including Lovecraft's Library (1980; rev. ed. Hippocampus Press, 2002), An Index to the Selected Letters of H. P. Lovecraft (1980; rev. 1991), Selected Papers on Lovecraft (1989), and An Index to the Fiction and Poetry of H. P. Lovecraft (1992). I also edited Sonia Davis' The Private Life of H. P. Lovecraft (1985) and Donald Wandrei's Collected Poems (1988).
All this besides his annotated bibliography of H. P. Lovecraft and Lovecraft Criticism (Kent State University Press, 1981; rev. ed 2003), and a slew of other books and editions on Lovecraft and his contemporaries - together with other writers such as Ambrose Bierce, M. R. James, Arthur Machen, and Clark Ashton Smith - which continues to this day. You can find a full list of his output here.

From the point of view of my interest in him, though, the really important facts are here:
In 1982 I met James Turner, managing editor of Arkham House, and we discussed the prospect of publishing corrected editions of Lovecraft's stories. I had, since the winter of 1976-77, begun the task of collating Lovecraft's texts with surviving manuscripts and early printed appearances, and had found thousands of errors in the standard editions of his fiction, essays, and poetry. After long negotiations with Arkham House, I finally agreed to edit the new editions, and they have now appeared in four volumes: The Dunwich Horror and Others (1984), At the Mountains of Madness and Other Novels (1985), Dagon and Other Macabre Tales (1986), and The Horror in the Museum and Other Revisions (1989). These corrected texts have served as the basis for new translations into Italian, German, and Japanese.


Leslie S. Klinger: The New Annotated H. P. Lovecraft (2014 & 2019)


One notes a certain diffidence in other editors when they refer to Joshi's bibliographical labours on Lovecraft's text. Both Peter Straub, in his 2005 Library of America edition of Lovecraft's Tales, and Leslie S. Klinger in his two-volume Norton New Annotated Lovecraft, are careful to acknowledge Joshi's aid in establishing an accurate text of the stories they include, but still fall a little way short of according him full academic honours:
Lovecraft: Tales. Ed. Peter Straub. The Library of America, 155. New York: Literary Classics of the United States, Inc., 2005.

The New Annotated H. P. Lovecraft. Ed. Leslie S. Klinger. Introduction by Alan Moore. Liveright Publishing Corporation. New York & London: W. W. Norton, 2014.

The New Annotated H. P. Lovecraft: Beyond Arkham. Ed. Leslie S. Klinger. Introduction by Victor LaValle. Liveright Publishing Corporation. New York & London: W. W. Norton, 2019.
Why is that? Is it academic jealousy? Resentment of a somewhat bumptious younger rival? Envy at his sheer productivity? It's hard to know, really - especially from this distance. Certainly Joshi has a tendency to claim complete primacy in each field he enters, and his textual labours do seem to have a way of requiring endless revision and readjustment in successive banks of editions of the same basic material.



Does that sound a little bitchy? There are 65 separate items listed in the section of Joshi's bibliography devoted to 'Editions of Works by H. P. Lovecraft.' These include (besides his four-volume 1984-89 revision of the Arkham House editions of Lovecraft's complete fiction): three volumes of Uncollected Prose and Poetry (1978-82); over 20 volumes of letters to a range of correspondents; many, many individual volumes of poetry, culminating in The Ancient Track: Complete Poetical Works (2001; rev. ed. 2013); five volumes of Collected Essays (2004-7); and a number of different 'annotated editions' of the Master's work, two from Dell (1997-99), three from Penguin Books (1999-2004), one from Hippocampus Press (2000; rev ed. 2012); and two from Arcane Wisdom (2011-12). It's safe to say he's been a busy boy.

All of this has culminated (for the moment, at least) in his sumptuous 'variorum edition' of Lovecraft's Collected Fiction:
Collected Fiction: A Variorum Edition. New York: Hippocampus Press, [August] 2015.
  • Volume I (1905-1925)
  • Volume II (1926-1930)
  • Volume III (1931-1937)
Collected Fiction: A Variorum Edition, Volume IV (Revisions and Collaborations). New York: Hippocampus Press, [August] 2017.






H. P. Lovecraft: Collected Stories: Variorum Edition. Ed. S. T. Joshi (2015)


But what exactly is a 'variorum edition' when it's at home? Here's a page from Joshi's edition - included on his publisher's website - to give you some idea:

Is this overkill? Lovecraft's prose, a bit cack-handed at the best of times, surely doesn't merit this level of attention. 'Variorum' editions, ones which record every textual variant in every published edition pf a work, are usually reserved for major poets (Yeats, Shakespeare, Hardy) rather than prose writers. Not even Dickens or Henry James have hitherto attained this dizzying height ...



Russell K. Anspach & Peter Allt, ed. The Variorum Edition of the Complete Poems of W. B. Yeats (1957)


Horace Howard Furness, ed. A New Variorum Edition of Shakespeare (1871-1913)


James Gibson, ed. The Variorum Edition of the Complete Poems of Thomas Hardy (1979)


Nonsense, yes - did we really need to know that 'lost' in the second sentence of Lovecraft's 'The Beast in the Cave' originally had a dash after it rather than a comma? - but (as my old father was wont to say) magnificent nonsense.



H. P. Lovecraft: Collected Essays (Vol. 2: 2004)


Does it do any harm to record the minutiae of his texts in this way? No, none at all. I suspect that I'm certainly not the only lunatic Lovecraftian to relish the prospect of tracking every bizarre bit of verbiage to its ultimate source ...



H. P. Lovecraft: Collected Essays (2004-7)


So I have to say that, on balance, I approve of S. T. Joshi. Certainly he can get a bit doctrinaire at times, but (as you can see below) the best of his work has greatly advanced the cause of fantastic fiction quite a lot, I'd say - and he's certainly kept Lovecraft and the state of his texts in the public eye!







Virgil Finlay: H. P. L.

Sunand Tryambak Joshi / Howard Phillips Lovecraft
(1958– ) / (1890–1937)

  1. Lovecraft, H. P. The Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Stories. Ed. S. T. Joshi. 1999. Penguin Classics. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 2011.

  2. Lovecraft, H. P. The Thing on the Doorstep and Other Weird Stories. Ed. S. T. Joshi. 2001. Penguin Classics. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 2002.

  3. Lovecraft, H. P. The Dreams in the Witch House and Other Weird Stories. Ed. S. T. Joshi. Penguin Classics. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 2005.

  4. Joshi, S. T., ed. The Ancient Track: The Complete Poetical Works of H. P. Lovecraft. 2001. Rev. ed. New York: Hippocampus Press, 2013.

  5. Lovecraft, H. P. Collected Essays: Volume I (Amateur Journalism). Ed. S. T. Joshi. New York: Hippocampus Press, 2004.

  6. Lovecraft, H. P. Collected Essays: Volume II (Literary Criticism). Ed. S. T. Joshi. New York: Hippocampus Press, 2004.

  7. Lovecraft, H. P. Collected Essays: Volume III (Science). Ed. S. T. Joshi. 2005. New York: Hippocampus Press, 2006.

  8. Lovecraft, H. P. Collected Essays: Volume IV (Travel). Ed. S. T. Joshi. 2005. New York: Hippocampus Press, 2006.

  9. Lovecraft, H. P. Collected Essays: Volume V (Philosophy; Autobiography and Miscellany). Ed. S. T. Joshi. 2006. New York: Hippocampus Press, 2007.

  10. Lovecraft, H. P. Collected Fiction, Volume 1 (1905-25): A Variorum Edition. Ed. S. T. Joshi. 3 vols. 2015. New York: Hippocampus Press, 2017.

  11. Lovecraft, H. P. Collected Fiction, Volume 2 (1926-1930): A Variorum Edition. Ed. S. T. Joshi. 3 vols. 2015. New York: Hippocampus Press, 2017.

  12. Lovecraft, H. P. Collected Fiction, Volume 3 (1931-1936): A Variorum Edition. Ed. S. T. Joshi. 3 vols. 2015. New York: Hippocampus Press, 2017.

  13. Lovecraft, H. P. Collected Fiction, Volume 4 (Revisions and Collaborations): A Variorum Edition. Ed. S. T. Joshi. New York: Hippocampus Press, 2017.

  14. Lovecraft, H. P. Lord of a Visible World: An Autobiography in Letters. Ed. S. T. Joshi & David E. Schultz. 2000. Rev. ed. New York: Hippocampus Press, 2019.

  15. Joshi, S. T. I am Providence: The Life and Times of H. P. Lovecraft. 2 vols. 2010-11. New York: Hippocampus Press, 2012.



  16. S. T. Joshi: I am Providence (2010-11)



  • category - Occult & Supernatural: Fiction






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