The Picture in the House

  1. j d worthington

    j d worthington Moderator

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    That is hard to say. On the whole, though, I think a lot of it may be chalked up to the artist's imagination rather than the account itself. I don't know for certain, having not read the book itself (I don't believe anything more than brief excerpts have ever received an English translation), but such would not be at all uncommon.

    The Brothers De Bry? Quite real, as is the book itself. As for the rest... the book (if you are referring to the Regnum Congo) isn't associated with magic at all, though it may have a brief account of some of the natives' beliefs. I also can't help but ask where you get the idea of any connection with Voodoo. Certainly the text doesn't give that impression, not from anything I know about that particular religion (which is itself a far cry from "black magic"; it is indeed a formal religion with both darker and lighter aspects and is a rather complex syncretistic belief system). However, Lovecraft would almost certainly not have used voodoo in any case, as I doubt he knew much of anything about it (save for whatever may have been included in the 9th edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica which he owned). His knowledge on the subject of occult beliefs was extremely scanty at this point in his career, though he would later read a bit from some reasonably good authorities on the subject. Even then, his views of the fictional possibilities of such were often quite dim, as he felt that genuine folklore and religious or occult beliefs were too garbled and jury-rigged as a result of their gradual evolution (and often absorption of elements of other belief systems which they encountered over time) to allow them to have the consistency necessary for artistic verisimilitude.

    However... I would be interested in what about the story brings the connection with voodoo to mind....
     
    Mar 13, 2010
    #21
  2. Tinsel

    Tinsel Science fiction fantasy

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    People don't chop each other to pieces and eat human flesh for little or no reason. There has to be an influence. I believe that the picture had an influence on anyone who looked at it and the source that makes sense based on the book being about Africans, is their voodoo religion. Now these Africans were white and native so they were no longer black. I can't say anything else because I don't have the book. I don't know anything about the brothers, except that there is one thing that I do know about and that is the presence of electricity; the thunder storm. It is by personal experience that I have had with spirits, that so called magic is developed by electricity (power) but the rest I hesitate to try to explain. Well if you can not see it, than that is fine. You might not be able to see it, in other words, it might not be possible. It is not my intention to convince anyone but that is how I would explain the happenings in the story. I was wondering where the connection was to magic, and now that you mentioned the Congo, than that answers my question. Those damn brothers though. There is something there. They were depicted as monsters if I remember correctly, half dragon.

    Oh and the blood...and the blood in "The Dunwich Horror"...all unexplained.

    More Information from wikipedia:
    Okay so this somewhat dispels the myth. Apparently the brother's father made carvings that were relative to his European readership. In other words, his European audience would see other races depicted as Europeans. It mentions cannibalism as being a practice of American natives, at the time. This explains the discrepancy in the book plates. It is because the engraver drew them wrong on purpose.

    Now, what still remains unanswered is, why the old man began to become a cannibal. In addition, why were the brothers De Bry depicted in the way that they were?

    Now this also opens up another religion and that is the religion system of the American natives, and than here you have spirits involved. Something had to have influenced the observer of the picture on plate number XII. It is either Voodoo or else something to do with natives, and really it can't be answered, and there still remains the question of the brothers depicted as part dragon. This reminds me of the brothers in "The Dunwich Horror".
     
    Last edited: Mar 13, 2010
    Mar 13, 2010
    #22
  3. Tinsel

    Tinsel Science fiction fantasy

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    Here is a quote from a site on the Internet:


    I forget but in the book, the Anzique butcher shop depicted the Anzique's as whites? Is that correct? Were they European whites? If so, than that stands to reason, but somewhere in the story it does mention "Injies" unless I spelled that wrong, sorry. I understand that word to mean, native Americans. Than that goes back to the fathers drawings. Well I should maybe read it again while looking for these answers because I don't remember what the exact references were made to.
    [/FONT]
     
    Mar 13, 2010
    #23
  4. Tinsel

    Tinsel Science fiction fantasy

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    Mar 13, 2010
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  5. Tinsel

    Tinsel Science fiction fantasy

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    [SIZE=+1]Final Re-reading[/SIZE]

    In the end my final conclusion is that the evidence shows that the brothers father did add relativity to the carvings so that aspect of the book was not unusual or out of place and that is a major point that is not found in the Penguin edition.

    Next, although the African tribe practiced cannibalism, so did the native Americans. The brother's father depicted that in older carvings during his lifetime according to the online encyclopedia. What I am forced to conclue is that the antagonist after listening to sermons would look at plate number 12 and was somehow influenced by the land and evil spirits. What else can I conclude.

    Now as for the drawing of the monsters, that is a recurring pattern in Lovecraft's short stories. There is no direct sub plot, yet he does include that in the story for some unexplained reason.

    The thunder bolt and the blood are mysteries.
     
    Mar 13, 2010
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  6. Ningauble

    Ningauble Lovecraftian

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    Are you still referring to the brothers De Bry? They were the artists. They do not appear in the story. They were not depicted.

    No, that is also in the story. He thought that he could prolong his life by eating human flesh. He says so.

    I repeat: They were the artists behind the illustrations. They are not depicted.

    No.
     
    Mar 13, 2010
    #26
  7. Tinsel

    Tinsel Science fiction fantasy

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    Yes I know that already Ningauble. I read that part lightly, than re-read it and the picture is of half dragon with reptilian head and part monkey beasts similar to the frog and fish hybrid in "The Shadow Over Innsmouth".

    What we somehow have here is the American version of the book printed in Frankfurt with relativism applied to it. Was this what Lovecraft was looking at when he wrote the story?
     
    Mar 13, 2010
    #27
  8. j d worthington

    j d worthington Moderator

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    First, as Ningauble has noted, the Brothers De Bry are not in the story save by the brief mention of their being the artists who did the plates for the Regnum Congo. They are not depicted in any way; no information is given on them whatsoever beyond that in the previous sentence. However, you may have an interesting point about the frequency with which mention of brothers -- whether they are actual characters in a tale or not -- and weird or unnatural happenings are connected in Lovecraft's work. It would be an interesting survey to see how often these occur.

    Well, yes and no. Think of the various notorious cannibals of history. Think of Elizabeth Bathory, who bathed in the blood of virgins because she thought it kept her young. Then there are simply those who are cannibals for other, personal reasons -- Jeffrey Dahmer and Ed Gein being prominent examples in recent American criminal history. As for there being an influence, as Ningauble has stated, the cannibal here gives his reasons plainly in the text:

    This, too, ties into the Biblical quote "For the blood is the life" (Deut. 12:23; cf. Gen. 9:4 and Lev. 17:11) -- a quote also used in connection with Dracula, incidentally.

    Again, voodoo as such is not an African religion; it is a syncretistic blending of pre-existing beliefs of various tribes and elements of Roman Catholicism given their own slant to blend with those beliefs. Combine this with the totemism of the snake, and various beliefs developed under the reign of slavery, and you end up with the amalgam which is voodoo. While it did become a practice in Africa (Dahomey, if I remember correctly) voodoo has always been at its strongest in the slave cultures of the West Indies and, to a slightly lesser degree, some parts of the American South, etc. There is mention of "Injuns" in the story, but it is in a passage where even the old man is commenting on the inaccuracies of the picture, whereas the "sort of dragon with the head of an alligator" is "a fabulous creature of the artist" -- i.e., a creation of the artist's imagination without reference to a real beast. The Africans being white was, as stated, a mistaken -- deliberately or otherwise -- depiction of the artist, not the genuine state of the tribe depicted.

    As for this being your explanation of the events of the tale... it's an interesting take, but I'm afraid not supported by the text, which gives a quite adequate explanation for the occurrence of the cannibalism, the fascination with the picture, the general perversion of the old man, and even the appearance of the blood. The religion of the American Indians doesn't enter into the tale at all, not even by implication.

    As for the link you sent on the voodoo connection... again, this is simply quoting from the same site from which I linked the picture itself -- this is noted by the "hosted by Angelfire" at the top of the page -- and that site is, as you can see by reading the rest of the text, devoted to a Lovecraf-based game. The "facts" there are not to be trusted as genuine, but are rather concocted of part actual historical fact and large amounts of pure fiction, for the purposes of enhancing the atmosphere of the game's scenario.

    The problem with what you are bringing in here, though it is as I said an interesting interpretation, is that it isn't supported by the text of Lovecraft's tale, nor by things in his other stories -- such as, for example, George Wetzel's idea of the "ghoul-changeling", which is a theme Lovecraft developed through several stories, from a nascent, inchoate form such as we may see here (though this is arguable) to the final overt statement of such in "Pickman's Model". That is the risk of bringing too much of one's own views to the reading of a tale: you end up imposing a reading on a text which really can't be found in the text itself (even in relation to other texts by the same author), rather than developing or explicating something which is inherent at some level in the original work.

    (I repeat, though, that your idea concerning his use of brothers may be a quite valid one; at any rate, it is certainly worthy of examination.)

    And, again, the blood in both tales is amply explained. In both cases, it is used to "[make] blood an’ flesh, an’ [give] new life"; here, by the cannibalistic hermit; there, for both Wilbur and his brother, whose ancestry is at least half alien, the father being Yog-Sothoth.....
     
    Mar 13, 2010
    #28
  9. Tinsel

    Tinsel Science fiction fantasy

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    Hmmm, I think that I also remember that on the Online encyclopedia article on the brother's De Bry's father. There is mention of dinosaur carvings. I think that is what it said. Anyway that is the only explanation that I can come up with for the hybrid animals and the monster depiction, other than it is Lovecrafts theme, but there is that basis in actual history that he drew dinosaurs if memory serves, I don't use my memory very much though.

    Well whatever.
     
    Mar 13, 2010
    #29
  10. Tinsel

    Tinsel Science fiction fantasy

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    j.d, I have to read your post later since I am at work! I can't log in again.

    Please respond to the issue that what is being used is ethnocentrism and this book sounds like what the American version would look like. That is an important point.
     
    Mar 13, 2010
    #30
  11. j d worthington

    j d worthington Moderator

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    There is no "American version" of the book (as I stated earlier, to the best of my knowledge, the book has never had an English translation save for brief excerpts)... this was a book which a sea captain (Ebenezer Holt) bought during his merchanting travels (most likely in Europe) and brought back with him, then traded to the old man (who was most likely not old at the time):

    As for what Lovecraft was looking at -- or, in this case, referring to, as it was, as I recall, likely a library copy he had seen the reproduction in -- was, as stated earlier, Thomas Henry Huxley's On Man's Place in Nature and Other Anthropological Essays, where the very inaccurate rendition of the original -- that is, a totally redrawn sketch, not a genuine reproduction of the original plate -- is to be found in chapter 2. This is, as the title states, a book of scientific (anthropological) essays by one of the leading figures of that field in his day. There is no evidence that Lovecraft ever saw a copy of the actual Regnum Congo itself in any form.
     
    Mar 13, 2010
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  12. Lobolover

    Lobolover Well-Known Member

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    Is there any modern reprint of that modified sketch , JD ?
     
    Mar 13, 2010
    #32
  13. Tinsel

    Tinsel Science fiction fantasy

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    Just logging on very quickly (have not read posts yet):

    My understanding is that the Sea Captain lied to him about where he got the book from.
     
    Mar 13, 2010
    #33
  14. Tinsel

    Tinsel Science fiction fantasy

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    Is it safe to say that the book was reprinted in pre America in Latin, than the Revolution occured and the British took it back to London, where the Captain picked it up and brought it back to America.
     
    Mar 14, 2010
    #34
  15. Tinsel

    Tinsel Science fiction fantasy

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    Last of all, this maniac did not have prolonged life, but evil certainly took form. He picked up the book in 1868, which was 28 years to the day of the encounter, giving his murders in that time frame.
     
    Mar 14, 2010
    #35
  16. Tinsel

    Tinsel Science fiction fantasy

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    I did read your comments j.d. worthington,

    What I will say is that in the book it says that the Latin version of the book was "printed at Frankfort in 1598". I understand that Frankfort is located in Kentucky. I'm not sure if that is the same Frankfort, but if it is than this means that this book existed in what is now America, but before America became a country and during Spanish rule there (is that correct, I'm not exactly educated).

    In regard to the pictures of native Americans, it is apparent that Kentucky was highly populated by native Americans, and based on the wikipedia of Theordor de Bry Theodor de Bry - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia it says that the carvings were done according to the region. In other words, a book done in Frankfort would resemble native Americans and Caucasian people of that region rather than black people, but the example provided in the article is Europeans. Anyway I would have to sit here and focus on wording if I wanted to explain this better, but that is a lot of work. What I am saying is that this book traveled out of pre America as stated in the above post.

    Well this hellish nightmare is clearly ended, is it not? Case solved, except for one thing. What kind of evil occured? Yes, the blood is the life, that is what the LORD said in Leviticus maybe. I thought about that too. I also thought about how just before Abraham lowered his knife to sacrifice his son, than the Angel of God interceded. This part of the story is going to have to remain subjective. There is also the strong hint of Puritanism and that is going to have to serve as the answer to why he went astray. I suspect that there is more to it, but it would be difficult to prove.

    One thing that can be said about the dragon with the alligator head and the monkeys and human hybrids is that in other stories when these symbols show up, there is always the notion of paganism.

    I like to hear your interpretation because you appear to be much better educated than I am. I vegetated during all of my school years except for elementary or grades 1 - 6. Only now am I learning other than a couple years post secondary which were okay.
     
    Mar 14, 2010
    #36
  17. Tinsel

    Tinsel Science fiction fantasy

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    Actually where is Frankfort in 1598? Is that Belgium? Hmm, did they colonize anywhere? That could mess things up.

    This is impossible for me to know but otherwise my theory makes total sense.
     
    Mar 14, 2010
    #37
  18. j d worthington

    j d worthington Moderator

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    While there is a Frankfort in Kentucky, Frankfurt is in Germany. (Note from the article on Theodor de Bry you cite: "In 1588, Theodorus and his family moved permanently to Frankfurt-am-Main"; emphasis added.) This is another instance of HPL's being tripped up by second-hand scholarship: the plates first made their appearance (as noted earlier) in the German edition (see my post above quoting Joshi's notes) and, in fact, in most reproductions of that plate the text from that page is included, and this is in the "black-letter" German -- that is, the older Gothic script:

    Blackletter - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    As for your statement and query earlier... I'm curious where you get that Ebenezer Holt lied about where he acquired the book (and, for that matter, why you think he would even want to). On the idea that his encounter with Holt was in 1868, look again at the following:

    The date meant was 1768, eight years before the War of Independence, as is made clear by the narrator's commenting that he had encountered Holt's name before in his genealogical researches, but "not in any record since the Revolution" (1775-1783), during which war Holt "was kilt". So, yes, the old man of the tale is at least 150 years old (granting that he was in his twenties at the time of this meeting with Holt), quite likely older.

    Incidentally, it was not Theodor (or Theodorus) de Bry, but his son, John-Theodore who, with his brother, did the illustrations for this particular book; though John-Theodore did work with his father on others.

    I don't recall anything quite like those, though there are certainly chimaera-like creatures in some of his tales; notably "The Dunwich Horror"; cf. the citation from Charles Lamb's essay "Witches, and Other Night-Fears" which heads the story... a very fascinating essay, by the way:

    Charles Lamb's Essay: Witches, And Other Night-Fears

    Though I thank you for the compliment (and am glad you find my -- perhaps overly-lengthy -- comments interesting, I think you overpraise my abilities undervalue your own. I've known many who were so thoroughly alienated by the way modern education is so often handled that they simply didn't engage with learning until once they were out of the school system... a rather sharp but, I feel often deserved, criticism of our educational methods. The point is that you are attempting to broaden your horizons now, and that can be both a difficult and very rewarding challenge... my heartiest congratulations and best wishes with the endeavor!:)

    Lobo (and anyone else interested): You can find Huxley's book at the following link; the picture in question is at page 74:

    Man's place in nature: and other ... - Google Books
     
    Mar 14, 2010
    #38
  19. Tinsel

    Tinsel Science fiction fantasy

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    The Captain must have had the extended life, not this turkey who became a cannibal. If that date was 1768 instead of 1868, I thought that it would have to be declared 1768 instead of just 68, which I would interpret to be the current century, otherwise I would accept your claim.

    So the de Bry brothers father carved images of native Americans or native canibals, whatever the article says. These carvings existed. The also messed up the images on purpose by changing racial features and items.

    I have to agree with you about Frankfurt Germany. That is now understood. The spelling was Frankfort and I used the Reader dictonary and got faked out when Kentucky appeared in the definition.

    The father did othe drawings of the New World as well. Yes there is at least some background information here. I don't want to start looking at those things if they are fake, but I thought I read that he carved images of dinosaurs.

    Imagine what a voyage into the unexplored remote Congo would be like in the late sixteenth century. Now that would be quite an expedition.

    I moved on to Herbert West. You can't expect me to read a whole bunch of stuff. I can barely read.
     
    Mar 14, 2010
    #39
  20. Tinsel

    Tinsel Science fiction fantasy

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    What do you figure, that eternal life only applies to butchers and not sailors? The butcher shop carving is the only carving in that dem dare evil book?
     
    Mar 15, 2010
    #40
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