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Howard Phillips Lovecraft - The Silver Key (110.0 Kb)

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"The Silver Key" is a short story written by H. P. Lovecraft in 1926, considered part of his Dreamlands series. It was first published in the January 1929 issue of Weird Tales. It was followed by a sequel, "Through the Gates of the Silver Key", co-written with E. Hoffmann Price.The story and its sequel both feature Lovecraft's recurring character of Randolph Carter as the protagonist."The Silver Key" is thought to have been inspired in part by Lovecraft's visit to Foster, Rhode Island, where his maternal ancestors lived. The... More >>>
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Category 1:  Horror Tales
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Author:      Howard Phillips Lovecraft
Format:      eBook
"The Silver Key" is a short story written by H. P. Lovecraft in 1926, considered part of his Dreamlands series. It was first published in the January 1929 issue of Weird Tales. It was followed by a sequel, "Through the Gates of the Silver Key", co-written with E. Hoffmann Price.

The story and its sequel both feature Lovecraft's recurring character of Randolph Carter as the protagonist.

"The Silver Key" is thought to have been inspired in part by Lovecraft's visit to Foster, Rhode Island, where his maternal ancestors lived. The character Benijah Corey from the story seems to combine the names of Emma Corey Phillips, one of Lovecraft's relatives, and Benejah Place, a farmer who lived across the street from the home where Lovecraft stayed.[1]

Carter's search for meaning through a succession of philosophical and aesthetic approaches may have been inspired by J. K. Huysmans' A rebours (1884), whose main character undertakes a similar progression.

Randolph Carter discovers, at the age of 30, that he has gradually "lost the key to the gate of dreams." Randolph once believed life is made up of nothing but pictures in memory, whether they be from real life or dreams, and he highly prefers his romantic nightly dreams of fantastic places and beings, as an antidote for the "prosiness of life", believing his dreams to reveal truths missing from man's waking ideas, regarding the purpose of humans and the universe, primary among these being the truth of beauty as perceived and invented by humans in times past. As he ages, though, he finds that his daily waking exposure to the more "practical", scientific ideas of man, has eventually eroded his ability to dream as he once did, and has made him regretfully subscribe more and more to the mundane beliefs of everyday, waking "real life". But still not certain which is truer, he sets out to determine whether the waking ideas of man are superior to his dreams, and in the process, he passes through several unsatisfying philosophical stances. Discouraged, he eventually withdraws from these lines of inquiry, and goes into seclusion. After a time, a hint of the fantastic enters his dreams again, though he is still unable to dream of the strange cities of his youth, leaving him wanting more. During one of these dreams, his long-dead grandfather tells him of a silver key in his attic, inscribed with mysterious arabesque symbols, which he finds and takes with him on a visit to his boyhood home in the backwoods of northeastern Massachusetts (the setting for many of Lovecraft's stories), where he enters a mysterious cave that he used to play in. The key somehow enables him to return to his childhood as a ten-year-old boy, and his adult self disappears from his normal time. The story then relates how Randolph's relatives had noted, beginning at the age of ten, that he had somehow gained the ability to glimpse events in his future. The narrator of the story then states that he expects to meet Randolph soon, in one of his own dreams, "in a certain dream-city we both used to haunt", reigning there as a new king, where the narrator may look at Randolph's key, whose symbols he hopes will tell him the mysteries of the cosmos.

About Author:

Howard Phillips Lovecraft (August 20, 1890 - March 15, 1937) was an American author of horror, fantasy, and science fiction, known then simply as weird fiction.

HP Lovecraft was one of the early exponents of horror fantasy, best known for the series of works known collectively as the Cthulhu Mythos. He peppered his books with references to an occult work called The Necronomicon, and, as his fame grew, he was besieged by readers asking where they could find a copy of it. But the truth was that Lovecraft had invented the book and its title. He wrote in a letter of 1937: 'The name Necronomicon (necros, corpse; nomos, law; eikon, image = An Image of the Law of the Dead) occurred to me in the course of a dream, although the etymology is perfectly sound.' So the title came before everything else, and substituted, perfectly reasonably, for the work itself.

This is a game that many writers have played, and the history of literature is full of references to books that don't, in fact, exist. Margaret Atwood, AS Byatt, Dorothy L Sayers, Frank Herbert, Martin Amis, Arthur Conan Doyle and many, many others have all joined in. Some of my favourite fictional titles are from Kurt Vonnegut, who, as Kilgore Trout, writes non-existent works such as The Barring-Gaffner of Bagnialto, or This Year's Masterpiece, which are usually accompanied by helpful plot summaries. Perhaps the most notorious fictional-book-inventors have been writers such as Umberto Eco and Jorge Luis Borges; naturally enough, since their writing often draws attention to literature as itself an artefact.

With the Necronomicon there was a difference, however. Other writers began to treat it as if it really did exist, quoting from the nonexistent work and even composing large sections of it; several Necronomicons were in fact later published, by hoaxers including L. Sprague De Camp and Colin Wilson.

Lovecraft's major inspiration and invention was cosmic horror, the idea that life is incomprehensible to human minds and that the universe is fundamentally alien. Those who genuinely reason, like his protagonists, gamble with sanity. Lovecraft has developed a cult following for his Cthulhu Mythos, a series of loosely interconnected fiction featuring a pantheon of human-nullifying entities, as well as the Necronomicon, a fictional grimoire of magical rites and forbidden lore. His works were deeply pessimistic and cynical, challenging the values of the Enlightenment, Romanticism, and Christian humanism. Lovecraft's protagonists usually achieve the mirror-opposite of traditional gnosis and mysticism by momentarily glimpsing the horror of ultimate reality.

Although Lovecraft's readership was limited during his life, his reputation has grown over the decades, and he is now commonly regarded as one of the most influential horror writers of the 20th century, who together with Edgar Allan Poe has exerted "an incalculable influence on succeeding generations of writers of horror fiction". Stephen King has called Lovecraft "the twentieth century's greatest practitioner of the classic horror tale.