I will not publish publicly my full notes on ''The Street'' as I fear the expression of Lovecraft's -- and my own -- political and social convictions may not be permissible in this age of political correctness.
This is a rather heavily expurgated edition.
''Blessed Isles'' – The phrase is here applied to Britain. It derives from the Greek nesoi makaron, a phrase of rather varied significance depending upon which source is consulted. Once the notion of an Elysium, a blessed realm of the virtuous dead, was conceived (it was unknown to Homer in the eighth century B.C.), there is a fairly general agreement that these Islands were on the river Oceanus, ruled over by either Kronos or Rhadamanthus.
Hesiod, rather after Homer (8th-7th century B.C.) admits of the existence of the Isles of the Blessed, but makes them the domain solely of the hemitheoi or demi-gods, semi-divine heroes.
By the fifth century B.C., Pindar distinguishes between a lesser Elysian fields in Hades, and, a new concept, the Islands of the Blessed as the ultimate abode of thrice-reincarnated and thrice-Elysian virtuous souls, not merely heroes.
Applying the name to Britain is not, I think, altogether unique to Lovecraft. A dim glimpse can be seen in Procopius of Caesarea, in his Gothic War, alludes to a ''Brettia'', which, despite being inhabited by Angles, Britons and Frisians, he makes separate from Brittannia, and of which is said:"They imagine that the souls of the dead are transported to that island''.
The opinion of one better qualified than I would be deeply welcome. I am no Classicist in the true sense, merely a dabbler.
''conical hats'' – an allusion to capotains, the tall black hats especially associated with Puritan costume prior to the Civil War, and during the Restoration, brought to America by the Pilgrim Fathers.
''muskets or fowling pieces'' – muzzle-loading flintlock firearms, distinguished by the projectile fired: a musket would fire a solid ball, a fowling-piece fragmentary shot. As the name suggests, the latter was devised for bird-hunting.
''Once most of the young men went away, and some never came back.'' – an allusion to the American Revolutionary War, 1775-83.
''small-swords'' – light thrusting swords, often so much so as to lack a sharpened edge, lighter than the rapier (which was serviceable with a doublet and hose but cumbersome with the advent of jacket, breeches and stockings). Often highly ornate, and worn as much as a mark of gentle birth as a weapon, it was nevertheless highly effective as a duelling sword.
''periwigs'' – taken from the French perruque, through English peruke (corrupt form perwyke). The periwig of the eighteenth-century gentleman in full dress was rendered ''snowy'' white by the application of starch ground to a fine powder and scented, as with lavender.
''blooded horse'' – an alternate form of blood-horse, a thoroughbred horse, more loosely a horse of fine quality and breeding.
'horse blocks'' – raised platforms of wood or stone, sometimes stepped, used to aid the mounting and dismounting of riders from their horses. Many fine examples exist in this country.
''hitching-posts'' – posts or pillars into which was set an iron ring, used to tether horses.
''tall beavers'' – the polished top hats, of beaver-fur, worn in the nineteenth and early twentieth century. Note also the oblique references to theIndustrial Revolution in the following paragraph – the steam-boat, the steam-train, the ensuing industrial smogs, the gas-mains and telegraph-wires.
''many knew it, who had not known it before. And those who came were never as those who went away; for their accents were coarse and strident, and their mien and faces unpleasing.'' – perhaps the flood of Irish Romanist and other foreign (not Anglo-Saxon, e.g. Central European immigrants) of the 1850s and 60s, against which the nativist movement unsucessfully fought.
''But it felt a stir of pride one day when again marched forth young men, some of whom never came back. These young men were clad in blue'' – an allusion to the Civil War of 1861-5.
''swarthy, sinister faces with furtive eyes and odd features'' – races either of Latin (Italians) or not of Indo-Aryan stock, as Jews, Levantine Arabs &c.
''Characters known and unknown'' – likely the Hebrew script, to write Yiddish, possibly Cyrillic, Arabic, Chinese.
''Push-carts'' – small wagons of a sort in which a man pushes between the shafts rather than an animal draws, associated with peddlers.
''a dynasty had collapsed, and its degenerate subjects were flocking with dubious intent to the Western Land.'' – an allusion to the fall of the Romanoffs, the Czars of Russia, in the February of 1917, and also to the establishment of open Communism in the October of 1917. Not only White Russians, but Communist agitators came west.
''a plainer yet glorious Tri-colour'' – perhaps an allusion to the blue-white-red tricolour of France, an ally during the Great War, but I suspect more likely the bunting of red, white and blue flown during the War and representative of both the Old Flag and the New.
''Again young men went forth, but not quite as did the young men of those other days. Something was lacking. And the sons of those young men of other days, who did indeed go forth in olive-drab with the true spirit of their ancestors, went from distant places and knew not The Street and its ancient spirit.'' – an allusion to the Great War, in America, 1917-18).
''the appointed day of blood, flame, and crime'' – the moral horror of the Russian Revolution passes description. I tend to avoid relying on Wikipedia and would like to examine the work by Leggatt on the Cheka, but the following atrocities [only atrocities of violence, many atrocities of rape, abuse, forced labour &c. elsewhere] are recounted, and they are but a fraction:
''At Odessa the Cheka tied White officers to planks and slowly fed them into furnaces or tanks of boiling water; in Kharkiv, scalpings and hand-flayings were commonplace: the skin was peeled off victims' hands to produce "gloves"; theVoronezh Cheka rolled naked people around in barrels studded internally with nails; victims were crucified or stoned to death at Dnipropetrovsk; the Cheka at Kremenchuk impaled members of the clergy and buried alive rebelling peasants; inOrel, water was poured on naked prisoners bound in the winter streets until they became living ice statues; in Kiev, Chinese Cheka detachments placed rats in iron tubes sealed at one end with wire netting and the other placed against the body of a prisoner, with the tubes being heated until the rats gnawed through the victim's body in an effort to escape.''
''Petrovitch ''– a Russian name.
''Rifkin'' – a Russian Jewish name.
''Modern Economics'' – Socialism, Communism.
''And still the old houses stood, with their forgotten lore of nobler, departed centuries; of sturdy colonial tenants and dewy rose-gardens in the moonlight. Sometimes a lone poet or traveller would come to view them, and would try to picture them in their vanished glory; yet of such travellers and poets there were not many.'' – a passage of melancholy beauty, as well as describing the few dreamers – Lovecraft in life, Charles Ward or Randolph Carter in fiction – who remembered the beautiful days of old.
''It was said that the swart men who dwelt in The Street and congregated in its rotting edifices were the brains of a hideous revolution; that at their word of command many millions of brainless, besotted beasts would stretch forth their noisome talons from the slums of a thousand cities, burning, slaying, and destroying till the land of our fathers should be no more.'' – There is a very similar passage in ''Dagon'', applied to things inhuman, rather than to degenerate men:
I cannot think of the deep sea without shuddering at the nameless things that may at this very moment be crawling and floundering on its slimy bed, worshipping their ancient stone idols and carving their own detestable likenesses on submarine obelisks of water-soaked granite. I dream of a day when they may rise above the billows to drag down in their reeking talons the remnants of puny, war-exhausted mankind—of a day when the land shall sink, and the dark ocean floor shall ascend amidst universal pandemonium.
''arc-lights'' – an allusion to the glaring carbon arc lamp, devised by Humphrey Davy and consisting in principle of an electric arc between two carbon electrodes. The carbon vaporises and the carbon-particles become incandescent in the heat, producing an extremely bright and harsh light. It was superseded by the incandescent filament-lamp in the early years of the twentieth century.
''The Street'' possesses, as well as a sinister tale of revolution and an ironically rationalist ending, extensive passages of Lovecraft's most exquisite prose, depicting with deep affection the simple, elegant, moderate New England of the eighteenth century he loved.