Friday, August 06, 2010


By H.P. Lovecraft

HP Lovecraft was a Rhode Islander and a Providence native. His settings are invariably the towns and countryside of New England and especially the imaginary area around Arkham, Massachusetts. But in The Case of Charles Dexter Ward he used his beloved Providence to give this tale a very real backdrop.

This story is really a novella issued in a single volume by Del Rey back in 1982 (it’s assuredly still in print, but I’ve still got the Del Rey edition on my shelf). It tells of young Charles Dexter Ward who takes a deep interest in genealogy, much to everyone’s regret. It seems Ward is a descendant of a certain Joseph Curwen, an old RI settler of dubious and disturbing repute. The reader is led through Curwen’s biography and Ward’s descent into madness with a chillingly clinical precision, heightened by the loving references to Providence landmarks (my brother and sister live in Pawtuxet which Lovecraft describes as the site of Curwen’s farm, check your basement kiddies!).

Compared with better known tales such as “The Dunwich Horror” or “The Shadow over Innsmouth” Charles Dexter Ward is low-key. The antiquarian references may sometimes be a bit overwhelming. For me these quirky touches are what make reading Lovecraft’s work enjoyable. He truly poured himself into his stories. I recommend you sit down on a dark night and pour yourself into The Case of Charles Dexter Ward.
-Dave Hardy

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