Lettre de fin février 1937 de H.P. Lovecraft à Mr. Harry Otto Fischer :
Unknown Kadath —
(late February, 1937)
Valiant & (I fervently trust) Undrowned Mouser : —
.......... Regarding the element of fear — I don't think I share your immunity. I am a middle-grounder, with heights as my weak point. Lacking any natural sense of balance (some of those curious equilibrating devices in the inner ear must be weak or absent in me), I become dizzy in lofty & difficult places, & could easily fall to a pulpy doom (in more than the figurative, literary sense) if I tried to duplicate some of the stunts which others perform as a matter of course. I used to war against this weakness, & have at times temporarily conquered it enough to let me walk on high, narrow wall-tops & over dizzying trestles — but in later years I have lost ground. Just about a decade ago I began refusing to take dares — beginning with the time a friend challenged me to walk along the foot-wide and not-quite level parapet of upper Riverside Drive in New York, with a 500-foot perpendicular drop to ragged rocks & railway tracks on one side. In other fields, however, I'm an especial Caspar Milquetoast — being willing to take a chance where there really is a chance. I'm not especially set on living for ever, although I'd dislike meeting a messy or disintegrative end. I don't bear pain well, & dodge it whenever possible. However, I endeavour not to do my yelling out loud. In infancy I was afraid of the dark, which I peopled with all sorts of things ; but my grandfather cured me of that by daring me to walk through certain dark parts of the house when I was 3 or 4 years old. After that, dark places held a certain fascination for me. But it is in dreams that I have known the real clutch of stark, hideous, maddening, paralysing fear. My infant nightmares were classics, & in them there is not an abyss of agonising cosmic horror that I have not explored. I don't have such dreams now — but the memory of them will never leave me. It is undoubtedly from them that the darkest & most gruesome side of my fictional imagination is derived. At the ages of 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, & 8 I have been whirled through formless abysses of infinite night and adumbrated horrors as black & as seethingly sinister as any of our friend Fafhrd's « splatter-stencil » triumphs. That's why I appreciate such triumphs so keenly. I have seen these things ! Many a time I have awaked in shrieks of panic, & have fought desperately to keep from sinking back into sleep & its unutterable horrors. At the age of six my dreams became peopled with a race of lean, faceless, rubbery, winged things to which I applied the home-made name of night-gaunts. Night after night they would appear in exactly the same form — & the terror they brought was beyond any verbal description. Long decades later I embodied them in one of my Fungi from Yuggoth pseudo-sonnets, which you may have read. Well — after I was 8 all these things abated, perhaps because of the scientific habit of mind which I was acquiring (or trying to acquire). I ceased to believe in religion or any other form of the supernatural, & the new logic gradually reached my subconscious imagination. Still, occasional nightmares brought recurrent touches of the ancient fear — & as late as 1919 I had some that I could use in fiction without much change. The Statement of Randolph Carter is a literal dream transcript. Now, in the sere & yellow leaf (I shall be 47 in August), I seem to be rather deserted by stark horror. I have nightmares only 2 or 3 times a year, & of these none even approaches those of my youth in soul-shattering, phobic monstrousness. It is fully a decade & more since I have known fear in its most stupefying & hideous form. And yet, so strong is the impress of the past, I shall never cease to be fascinated by fear as a subject for aesthetic treatment. Along with the element of cosmic mystery & outsideness, it will always interest me more than anything else. It is, in a way, amusing that one of my chief interests should be an emotion whose poignant extremes I have never known in waking life !
Of the celebrated « phobias » of the modern psychologists (or of things like them) I have only one ; & that, amusingly enough, is one I have never seen cited or named. Probably it has a name & record, but my very superficial knowledge of psychology (a subject which fails to fascinate me greatly, despite its grotesque fictional possibilities) does not include any glimpse of it. I know about claustrophobia & agoraphobia, but have neither. I have, however, a cross betwixt the two — in the form of a distinct fear of very large enclosed spaces. The dark carriage-room of a stable — the shadowy interior of a deserted gas — house — an empty assembly-room or theatre-auditorium — a large cave — you can probably get the idea. Not that such things throw me into visible & uncontrollable jittery spasms, but that they give me a profound & crawling sense of the sinister — even at my age. I'm not sure of the source of this fear, but I believe it must link up somehow with the black abysses of my infant nightmares. Anyhow, I keep it in mind to deflate my ego when I tend to feel superior about the illogical aversions & timidities of others. Grandpa must not forget his Achillean heel !
..........The name « Abdul Alhazred » is one which some adult (I can't recall who) devised for me when I was 5 years old & eager to be an Arab after reading the Arabian Nights. Years later I thought it would be fun to use it as the name of a forbidden-book author. The name Necronomicon (necroV, corpse ; nomoV, law ; eicwn, image = An Image [or Picture] of the Law of the Dead) occurred to me in the course of a dream, although the etymology is perfectly sound. In as signing an Arabic author to a Greek-named book I was whimsically reversing the condition whereby the monumental astronomical work of the Greek Ptolemy (Megalh SuntaxiV AstronomiaV) is commonly known by the Arabic name Almagest (or more truly, Tabrir al Magesthi), which was evolved from a corruption of the original title when the Arabs made their translation (megisth is the superlative of megalh, the Arabs probably found it in common use to distinguish the work from another of Ptolemy's). It was not until later that I took the trouble to hunt up a genuine Arabic title (Al Azif — a word which I found in Henley's learned notes to Vathek. I use the term correctly, though at second-hand) for old Abdul's original version of the Byzantinely translated Necronomicon. .....
I can well comprehend the vague impression of aloneness or differentiation which you have always had in some degree. Such, I imagine, is always the concomitant of a very active imagination & highly individualised personality. The bulk of the human race lives very little in the imaginative realm ; hence can seldom grasp the goals, motives, & aspirations of anyone with whom subtle perspectives, symbolic associations, & obscure mental correlations form important emotional factors. Such a one must inhabit a quasi-solipsistic world of his own even more completely than the average individual, & he is always fortunate when he encounters others of a cast sufficiently similar to appreciate the existence, general principles, & typical laws of his private universe. This general comprehension of separate worlds & their workings is usually as sound a basis of congeniality as that rarer & perhaps wholly non-existent phenomenon of an identity of private universes. At least, what makes me feel cordial & at ease toward anyone is not so much an identity of tastes & beliefs & perspectives, as an assurance that my own tastes & beliefs & perspectives are not regarded as insane, incomprehensible, or non-existent ! .......
Yrs by still-sunken R'lyeh —