> The Shadow over Usenet
> "The Horror in the Burying-Ground"
Hello Mr. Harms,
I had never gotten around to actually reading this story until this past
week. I wish I had read it sooner. I don't think it was intended as
parody; rather, it is a simple and straight forward attempt at macabre
humour. I am reminded of some of Poe's efforts at black humour.
Ambrose Bierce also comes readily to mind. Of course, the latter was
far more successful than the former.
I literally laughed out loud when I read the following lines.
"As the organ wheezed into _Beautiful Isle of Somewhere_ the Methodist
church choir added their lugubrious voices to the gruesome cacaphony,
and everyone looked piously at Deacon Leavitt - everyone, that is,
except crazy Johnny Dow, who kept his eyes glued to the still form
beneath the glass of the coffin." (HM, 295)
Having heard my share of Methodist choirs throughout my youth, I can
attest to the authenticity of Lovecraft's description. I laughed even
more when I read this passage.
"Get me home, quick, and let me be. That fluid I got in my arm by
mistake ... heart action ... this damned excitement ... too much ...
wait ... wait ... don't think I'm dead if I seem to ... only the fluid -
just get me home and wait ... I'll come to later, don't know how long
... all the time I'll be concious and know what's going on ... don't be
"As his words trailed off into nothingness old Dr. Pratt reached him and
felt his pulse - watching a long time and finally shaking his head. "No
use doing anything - he's gone." (HM, 297)
Notice in this passage how Lovecraft carefully builds the tension.
Obseve how it is all suddenly released by the punchline delivered by old
Dr. Pratt. There is no way this could be a mistake. It is a deliberate
attempt at humour, and (in my humble opinion) it is a fairly successful
Will Murray in his "Self Parody in Lovecraft's Revisions" can only find
one fault with "The Horror in the Burying-Ground." He notes that the
first sentence is distinctly modeled after the opening of "The Dunwich
Horror." This is really a niggling detail and it does nothing to
support his thesis. I suspect that Murray simply wished to include all
of the revisionist tales in this essay.
Even S.T. Joshi, who often displays something akin to genuine
embarassment for some of Lovecraft's revisionist work, acknowledges that
if "The Horror in the Burying-Ground" is viewed as an instance of
graveyard humour then "it is relatively succesful." (HPL:AL, 526)
One last thought on the "Horror in the Burying-Ground." If you continue
looking for evidence of cosmic horror in this tale you will continue to
be disappointed; however, if you look for a little dark humour, you
might be pleasantly surprised.
Let's take a brief glance at Hazel Heald. Joshi also points out that
idea of a living brain trapped in an immobilised body is a recurring
theme found throughout Lovecraft's revisions for Heald. This can be
found in "Out of the Aeons," "The Man of Stone," "The Horror in the
Museum" and "The Horror in the Buying Ground." The only Heald story to
deviate from this pattern was "Winged Death." (HPL:AL 526)
About Hazel Heald herself very little is known. Obviously, she produced
nothing aside from what she wrote with Lovecraft. Joshi does share this
interesting albeit dubious tale.
"Muriel Eddy (if we can trust her on this point) reports that Heald had
joined a writers' club established by the Eddys, and that the latter
steered her to Lovecraft when the tenor of her work became evident.
Eddy goes on to say that Heald confided to her a vague romantic interest
in Lovecraft; she managed to persuade Lovecraft to come to her home in
Somerville on one occasion, when she arranged a candlelight dinner with
him. I am not all certain of the veracity of this entire account, given
Muriel Eddy's unreliability on other matters. Cook reports that
Lovecraft was scheduled to meet with Heald in Somerville upon his return
from Quebec in early September, but this may have been a harmless
half-buisness half-social call." (HPL:AL 523)
Of course, I like to think it was a harmless candlelight dinner. Oh, I
know. It probably never happened, but I think the image is kinda sweet.
It evokes the warm fuzzies.
Regards and Best Wishes,
Donald Eric Kesler