"Our museum was a blasphemous, unthinkable place, where with the satanic taste of neurotic virtuosi we had assembled an universe of terror and decay to excite our jaded sensibilities."
Rating: Three shoggoths out of five
Nutshell: Two graverobbers get more than they bargained for when they steal an eerie amulet out of a casket in Holland.
Commentary: This is a rather basic horror tale, formed well before the bulk of Lovecraft's finest work. The storyline is rather unsurprising, but Lovecraft's descriptions are always a treat. It is a very quick read and is well worth having a look at, especially since "The Hound" marks the very first mention of The Necronomicon in Lovecraft's work.
History, Esoterica, and Factoids: Written in 1922, "The Hound" was one of five tales that Lovecraft submitted to Weird Tales in the year 1923; all were accepted. "The Hound" was published in February 1924.
"The Hound" was probably a tribute of a sort to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's (British, 1859-1930) The Hound of the Baskervilles (serial, 1902-1903), which marked the return of Sherlock Holmes after he was apparently killed off in "The Final Problem" (1893). Lovecraft admired the Sherlock Holmes stories when he was a child (he had read every single tale). As a 12-year-old fan, he would certainly have loved the return of the famed detective in The Hound of the Baskervilles. The mentions of both the moors and the howling dog in "The Hound" is a reference to Doyle's work, in which a mysterious hound roams Dartmoor, apparently waiting to kill any Baskerville who resides in his ancestral home.
A "moor", incidentally, is a large expanse of open, rolling, infertile, often boggy and/or rocky land.
The Symbolists were a French literary movement of the late nineteenth century that was something like the Impressionist movement in visual arts. The Symbolists were primarily experimental poets who strove to describe things by impression rather than by direct statement. As precedents to Freud, they mined dream imagery for much of their expression. The movement later expanded to prose and to the visual arts and into music. Symbolist artists include poet Jules Laforgue (French, 1860-1887), playwright Count Maurice Maeterlinck (Belgian, 1862-1949, 1911 Nobel Laureate in Literature), painter Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944), composer Claude Debussy (French, 1862-1918), and painter Franz von Stuck (German, 1863-1928).
The Pre-Raphaelites were a Victorian brotherhood established in Britain in 1848 by painters Dante Gabriel Rosetti (English, 1828-1882), John Everett Millais (British, 1829-1896), and William Holman Hunt (British, 1827-1910) as a reaction to the hackneyed state of British art at the time. They saw art as rooted in realism and nature. Pre-Raphaelite images tend to be very bright and based on medieval themes.
The Decadents were a late 19th century European literary movement associated with the idea that art should be independent of moral and societal boundaries. Decadent art tended to be somewhat morbid, and branched off of the work of the Symbolists and of Baudelaire. Oscar Wilde (British, 1854-1900) and J. K. Huysmans (French, 1848-1907) were both Decadents.
Charles Baudelaire (French, 1821-1867), the famed French poet and critic, was a predecessor of both the Symbolists and the Decadents. He is mainly remembered for The Flowers of Evil (Les Fleurs du mal, 1857), which is arguably the most important poetry collection published in Europe in the 19th century. Besides his own works, he is also famous for translating the work of Edgar Allen Poe (American, 1809-1849) into French. In a 1922 letter to Frank Belknap Long, Lovecraft mentions that, "The Freudism of such decadents as Baudelaire mildly amuses me." In a letter to Wilfred B. Talman, Lovecraft related what Baudelaire once asked of a younger copycat poet: "'Have you ever tasted young children's brains? They're quite delightful, and taste exactly like walnuts!'" Lovecraft also referred to Baudelaire in "Herbert West--Reanimator": "...he became... a fastidious Baudelaire of physical experiment..."
Joris Karl Huysmans (French, 1848-1907) was a novelist and occultist, renowned for A rebours (1884). In his works, he charted his spiritual quest from Satanism to Catholicism.
Francisco Goya y Lucientes (Spanish, 1746-1828) is one of the most renowned artists in history, famous for his royal portraiture, his socially-conscious engravings, and his often morbid Dark Paintings. Lovecraft often mentions Goya (see further notes on Goya in "Pickman's Model"), but he may only have known Goya through reputation, since most of Goya's work still resides in Spain, where Lovecraft had never traveled. A 1923 letter from Lovecraft to Frank Belknap Long contains the remark, "Goya? Yes, child, I must learn of him."
Lovecraft was inspired to write "The Hound" by a visit to the Dutch Reformed Church in Brooklyn, New York, which is filled with crumbling gravestones inscribed in Dutch. This probably is the reason that he set the violated graveyard of "The Hound" in Holland. There are two Dutch Reformed Churches in Brooklyn. The one Lovecraft refers to is at 890 Flatbush Avenue, and was completed as seen today in 1796 (the original building was constructed in 1662, complete with stockade fence to protect the Dutch from marauding Indians). This church still retains its original bell, which has rung for the funerals of every U.S. president and vice president since George Washington. American Revolutionary War soldiers who died in the Battle of Brooklyn are buried underneath the building. In addition to the graveyard, the church houses several original Tiffany stained glass windows. The other Dutch Reformed Church is at Kings Highway and East 40th Street. Both are designated historic landmarks.
"The Hound" marks the very first appearance of The Necronomicon and the Mad Arab Abdul Alhazred in Lovecraft's fiction. "Abdul Alhazred" was, in fact, one of Lovecraft's childhood pseudonyms, inspired by a reading of 1001 Arabian Nights.
The "19--" convention of disguising dates is frequently seen in gothic fiction, and probably familiar to almost anyone who has read Edgar Allen Poe.
"All he could do was whisper, "The amulet--the damned thing--." This quote is likely a reference to American satirist Ambrose Bierce (1842-1914), who penned a horror story named "The Damned Thing", about an invisible horror that roams the Old West. The invisible critter in "The Dunwich Horror" is also likely a reference to the same tale.
The Victoria Embankment is a walkway on the north side of the Thames in London, England. It runs from Westminster to Blackfriars. It was built in 1864-70, designed by architect Joseph Bazalgette. Want to see what it looks like right now? Here's a live cam at Northumberland Avenue.
"...upon an evil tenement had fallen a red death.." is, you guessed it, a tip of the hat to Edgar Allen Poe's "The Masque of Red Death", which is a fictional allegory to the bubonic plague that scoured Europe, beginning in the mid 1300's.
The Bacchanale is the Roman festival that honors Bacchus, the god of wine. It initially involved a lot of drinking and feasting, but later moved to excesses and vices of nearly every description and was banned 186 BC by the Roman senate by official decree. The Imperial Museum of Vienna houses a bronze table with the decree inscribed upon it. The Merriam-Webster dictionary simply defines bacchanal as an "orgy".
Belial, also mentioned briefly in "The Dunwich Horror", is another biblical name for Satan.
Availability: "The Hound" can be found in More Annotated H. P. Lovecraft (S.T. Joshi and Peter Cannon, eds.) and in Dreams of Terror and Death. More Annotated Lovecraft provides full footnotes, but Dreams of Terror and Death contains more stories for your reading pleasure.
The Scream, 1893
Sin (Die Suende), circa 1900
City of Manchester Galleries
City of Manchester Galleries
Saturn Devouring His Children, circa 1822
Dutch Reformed Church of Flatbush
Victoria Embankment, London, UK