Sometimes, when I’m digging through my library, I come upon a book I haven’t read since my misspent youth and the urge strikes me to try it again, just to see if it still holds up after all those years. It’s very disappointing, of course, when it doesn’t.
Knowing that the anniversary of Lovecraft’s death (March 15) is coming up the book I pulled out was The Case of Charles Dexter Ward and I had last read that at fifteen, when I purchased the Beagle edition. I knew I wouldn’t be disappointed, not with Lovecraft, but I wondered if I’d like it as much as my first, and only, reading.
Well, I liked it more. It’s an awe-inspiring work, a beautiful work, even if it does concern a hideous horror from beyond poor Charles Dexter Ward’s time. Over the course of forty-some years I’ve done a little research on Lovecraft and so on my second reading I picked up a little more on how Lovecraft uses his beloved Providence to add authenticity to his tale of terror, and this helped increase my enjoyment.
It’s obvious that HPL wrote with a very sure hand when he composed this short novel and no one has ever done this type of writing any better than the Rhode Island master of macabre. I’ve been told that I need to get more up-to-date with my reading habits—friends tell me it’s time to quit poring through old books written by dead authors but I just can’t agree. Reading time is precious, and sometimes hard to come by, so I’ll continue to read the best there is, and Lovecraft is most assuredly that.
The University of Tampa Press published an authoritative edition of The Case of Charles Dexter Ward and I recommend it to all of Lovecraft’s fans. It is edited, with notes, by Lovecraft scholar S. T. Joshi—while I do have issues with the way Joshi perceives Robert E. Howard and his fans, this is the definitive edition. Nit-picker that I am, I will, however, take exception with Joshi’s writing in his afterword that Lovecraft’s book never saw publication until Arkham House’s Beyond the Wall of Sleep in 1943. Any fan of Weird Tales could tell him that it appeared, in an abridged form, in the May and July issues from 1941. Now I know Joshi knows that, and he probably means the first publication in an unabridged form, but he should have pointed that out. The book is rounded out by a great series of photos of Providence by Donovan K. Loucks which make me want to vacation sometime in Lovecraft’s stomping ground—on my bucket list.