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Notes on ''Facts concerning the Late Arthur Jermyn and His Family


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#1 Dabbler

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Posted 25 September 2017 - 06:17 PM

These notes carry with them the warning that I have dealt with HPL's scientific and racial theories as he presents them, not in a ''modern'' manner. If this is liable to cause offence, I will withdraw the thread.
 
''Oriental seclusion'' – an allusion to the largely Moslem (also current among some Hindus) practice of confining their womenfolk (a custom known known in India as purdah), in their rare public appearances under heavy veils, and if possible in a closed sedan chair, and for the most part of the time in a secluded apartment within the house (the harem of the Arab, the zenana of the Indian subcontinent).
 
''in his cups'' – drunken or inebriated.
 
''fabulous creatures which even a Pliny might describe with scepticism'' – an allusion to the Naturalis Historia of the the elder Pliny, which, amongst much sound zoology, contains a good deal of garbled material and sheer bizarrerie e.g.  the ''Achlis'' of the sixteenth chapter of the eighth book, a garbled elk, with an upper lip so large it is obliged to go backwards in grazing lest it double up, the ''corocotta'' of the forty-fifth, which cannot move its eyes, nor has it gums, and the teeth are all of one piece of bone, and the ''catoblepas'' of the thirty-second, whose gaze can slay men, but, as its head is so heavy, it is always bowed to the ground and so is no danger (!). 
 
Along with these are found the  better-known cynocephali (dog-headed men), sciapods (men with but one foot , tho' this one was so large they could shelter from the Sun beneath it) and cyclopes (men with one single eye), amongst many other apocryphal races, in the second chapter of the seventh book.
 
''mesalliance'' – an unworthy marriage with a social inferior.
 
''seventh Viscount Brightholme'' – a fictitious title. There is a modern holiday-resort bearing the name near Brean in Somerset, a nursing-home and several villas in assorted parts of the country. A literal translation of the elements would be bright-sea (holm, Anglo-Saxon sea, ocean, wave). The numerous ''holms'' or small islands of the Orknies acquire their name from the Old Norse noun holmr, an islet.
 
''Samuel Seaton'' – although Lovecraft fairly often incorporates living men into his stories, Seaton is an invention. 
 
''Arranging with the Belgian authorities for a party of guides'' – the greater part of the basin of the river Congo passed formally into the hands of white men in 1885, with the establishment of the  État Indépendant du Congo, the Congo Free State, under the personal sovereignty of Leopold II of Belgium. He bequeathed it to the country in the event of his death, but was ceded to Belgium in 1908, the year before his death, after a scandal of some twenty years duration regarding alleged maladministration and extreme cruelty to natives, especially to rubber-tappers. 
 
Arthur Jermyn, therefore, arrived in the Congo in the third year of direct Belgian rule.
 
''The Onga and Kaliri country'' – these tribes are fictitious, though given the vast size (some 900,000 square miles) and frequently impenetrable nature of the little-explored colony, the existence of several or many tribes not accounted for in the very broadly painted Britannica of 1911 is far from implausible.
 
''warlike N'Bangu'' – likewise fictitious, see above. The name may be suggested by e.g. the Bangala tribe, the river Ubangi &c.
 
''no mere Negro village'' – in 1911, even the Bangala, the ''most gifted'' of the Congo tribes, had not advanced beyond parallel rows of huts and a plantation of manioc within a simple palisade. 
 
''King Albert's government'' – Albert I.  succeeded Leopold II in 1909.
 
''hapless traveller's keepsake'' – likely a victim of cannibals. The Bangala mentioned above were former cannibals in 1911, and despite the ''rigorous measures'' of the state  there were many tribes , e.g. Manyema, Batetela, Bakussa – where the repellent practice persisted in violation of the law.
 
General Notes:
 
It should be noted that the coarse features and low and often squalid pursuits of the Jermyns after Sir Wade (with the exceptions of Sir Robert, who died insane, and Sir Arthur, who committed suicide) were the result of the admixture of blood of an extremely low and primitive type. Modern readers often find Lovecraft's tales of hereditary viciousness distasteful as they disagree with current modern beliefs.
 
Parallels:
 
I will treat of apparent similarities first. One might point to the Lovecraft stories in which the breeding of men with inhuman things occurs. These  include The Shadow over Innsmouth (which shares the subtle narrative device of The Rats in the Walls), The Dunwich Horror. See Machen's ''Great God Pan'' for an early example.
 
Nevertheless, these are stories of supernaturalism, or of interbreeding with altogether alien stock, not of plain zoological hybridism. The white ape-goddess is merely an hominid, not a Deep One or supernatural creature.
 
A better scientific or mundane semi-parallel (although I suspect the ''White Ape'' and the ''filthy whitish'' [things] have caused the two, which stand in different classes, to be placed too close together, at least in my own mind prior to serious study) can be found in The Lurking Fear. Despite the supernaturalism of the oddly swollen trees it is not suggested that the Martense family were the product of anything other than inbreeding carried to speculative lengths. I place them more akin to Sawney Bean.
 
Some conceptual parallels can be found clearly in The Rats in the Walls, Sir Robert Jermyn being parallel to Walter, Eleventh Baron de la Poer, with the sensitive Sir Arthur finding a semi-parallel in the likewise sensitive last de la Poer. For familial degeneration, a parallel can be found in the latter's cousin Randolph Delapore, who ''went among the negroes and became a voodoo priest''. Nevertheless, racial degeneration or atavism is never implied in the De La Poer family.
 
Therefore, the ''Facts'' stands alone as Lovecraft's essay into the possibility of Man breeding with a sub-human hominid. Although there are inevitable similarities, I believe it should be held distinct.

Edited by Dabbler, 25 September 2017 - 06:35 PM.

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#2 TMS

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Posted 26 September 2017 - 04:09 AM

It's interesting to me to hear that the N'bangu tribe is fictional. I never looked into it, but thought they might have been a real tribe because Lovecraft mentioned them again in "Medusa's Coil," a story he ghostwrote for Zealia Bishop. If they didn't exist, then it was actually just Lovecraft doing his usual self-referencing.

 

By the way, CoC keepers may want to note that the Jermyn family is wiped out in the story, which makes it very strange that there's an alleged Jermyn descendant who appears in Masks of Nyarlathotep. Back when I was running it, my plan was to make that character a descendant of Seaton instead.


Edited by TMS, 26 September 2017 - 04:14 AM.