Short Story Review: "A Reminiscence of Dr. Samuel Johnson" by H. P. Lovecraft

@msiduri (5841)
United States
May 31, 2016 7:35am CST
Originally published under unlikely pseudonym of Humphrey Littlewit, Esq., this is unlike most of Lovecraft’s writing in that is there is no horror. Littlewit begins by claiming that he really wasn’t born in 1890 (Lovecraft’s year of birth) as he’s as he’d been telling everyone (making him 28 or so when the story was published). People who have complained about “a Sort of antique Flow in [Lovecraft/Littlewit’s] Stile of Writing” were onto something. In point of fact, he was born August 20, 1690 (in the Gregorian style of reckoning) into a family living in Devonshire. He then begins name-dropping, letting the reader know all the famous English writers known that he’s been acquainted with over the years: “the lamented Mr. Dryden,” “Mr. Addison and Dr. Swift,” and “Mr. Pope.” He then goes to explain how he came to meet Dr. Samuel Johnson in a tavern. They were introduced by Mr. James Boswell, “a young Scotchman of excellent Family and great Learning, but small Wit, whose metrical Effusions I had sometimes revis’d.” "Littlewit" gives the reader his first impression of Samuel Johnson: “Dr. Johnson, as I beheld him, was a full, pursy Man, very ill drest, and of slovenly Aspect. I recall him to have worn a bushy Bob-Wig, untyed and without Powder, and much too small for his Head. His cloaths were of rusty brown, much wrinkled, and with more than one Button missing. His Face, too full to be handsom, was likewise marred by the Effects of some scrofulous Disorder; and his Head was continually rolling about in a sort of convulsive way. Of this Infirmity, indeed, I had known before; having heard of it from Mr. Pope, who took the Trouble to make particular Inquiries.” They exchange verbal barbs and become friends. What follows is absurd and farce, but it’s fun and chuckle-worthy, if a little wandering. I suppose some familiarity with the writers will make the jokes more meaningful, but the cattiness is obvious. This is funny, and enjoyable and, along with "Sweet Ermangarde," one of Lovecraft's few forays into farce. The text of short story is available at the link below. It’s also available as an audiobook through Librivox. _____ Title: “A Reminiscence of Dr. Samuel Johnson" Author: H.P. Lovecraft (1890-1937) First published: written in 1917, first published in United Amateur Sept. 1917. Source: ISFDB _____ *An earlier version of this review was posted at another site. It has been updated and expanded for its inclusion at myLot.*
https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/A_Reminiscence_of_Dr._Samuel_Johnson
2 people like this
2 responses
@teamfreak16 (35211)
• Colorado Springs, Colorado
31 May 16
Were all of these names he drops actual people?
1 person likes this
@msiduri (5841)
• United States
31 May 16
Yes indeed.
1 person likes this
@JohnRoberts (38885)
• Los Angeles, California
31 May 16
His pseudonym "Humphrey Littlewit" is amusing in itself. Lovecraft does farce. Who knew.
1 person likes this
@msiduri (5841)
• United States
31 May 16
He did a handful of farce pieces. No belly laughs, but cute things. "Sweet Errmangarde" was a send-up of the old fashioned melodramas. I liked it better than this piece.