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In the same way, in the Arthur Machen story mentioned earlier, one of the two men whose conversation frames the story notes with evident satisfaction that the young woman who wrote the diary poisoned herself “in time”—presumably before she did something far more ghastly, such as embarrassing her father or making the neighbors talk.Myself, if I ran across an account from 1899 of a young woman who committed suicide after the sort of awakening described in “The White People,” my first guess would be that she considered the normal and healthy sexual and spiritual needs she’d recognized in herself, assessed her chances of satisfying them given the asphyxiating narrowness of the life available to her as a middle-class Englishwoman of her time, and poisoned herself in sheer despair.
I find his tentacled Elder Gods endearing rather than terrifying, and the vision of reality central to his fiction—the philosophy that Lovecraft scholar S. Joshi has helpfully labeled “cosmic indifferentism,” the recogition that the universe is under no obligation to pay the least attention to humanity’s embarrassingly overinflated sense of self-importance—strikes me as simple common sense, deserving a sigh of relief rather than a shudder of existential dread.One of my favorite examples, though, comes from Mouni Sadhu aka Dymitr Sudowski, or more precisely from his book The Tarot, much of which is copied verbatim from an earlier book on the same subject by Russian occultist Grigorii Mebes.I haven’t read Mebes’ book, so don’t know whether this passage is from his pen or Sadhu’s, but either way it’s a fine piece of unintentional comedy.The subject is that standard target for some of the most hysterical diatribes of that age, the nightmare consequences of—gasp! Apparently Sadhu (or Mebes) hadn’t encountered the claim that little boys who masturbate are doomed to go blind and have hair sprout on their palms, for the young man at the center of this little morality play becomes a dangerous raving maniac instead.He shows up at the author’s apartment, hallucinates on cue, and says: “Don’t you see them?Still, this month’s post is going to head down a different path.
The process of writing Moon Path to Innsmouth sent me back to the stories of Lovecraft and his peers in search of local color, and one of the bypaths that I followed in that quest led me to “The White People,” one of the more renowned horror stories of Welsh fantasy author Arthur Machen, which originally appeared in 1899.
A healthy young man of heterosexual inclinations who happened to find himself in the presence, real or hallucinated, of a group of attractive women who weren’t wearing any clothes might reasonably be expected to have such thoughts, and even to mention the thoughts to a sympathetic friend, whether or not it was appropriate for him to do anything about them—but that’s today’s attitude.
It was not the attitude in common circulation when Sadhu (or Mebes) wrote.
As noted over in the other blog, I’ve just finished a novel I didn’t plan to write, in rather less time than I’ve ever written anything of that size; the working title is Moon Path to Innsmouth; it’s almost certainly the first of a series, length as yet undetermined; and while I’ll refrain from spoilers, the basic concept is that the Elder Gods aren’t the villains they’ve been made out to be—quite the contrary.
All those lurid claims of blood sacrifice, sexual depravities, conspiracies to destroy the world?
I’ve called “The White People” a horror story, and most people apparently read it that way.