Skip to main content

L'Affaire Barlow: H.P. Lovecraft and the Battle For His Literary Legacy

$16.95 - $39.95
(1 review) Write a Review
Marcos Legaria
216 pages
6x9 paperback; Case Laminate; Dust Jacket
Adding to cart… The item has been added
A battle with no winners ...

Even the most casual reader of Lovecraft’s work is aware that bringing his works to a mainstream audience was a journey fraught with complications. In L’Affaire Barlow, the author examines primary source material in detail never attempted before, clearly explaining how dangerously close Lovecraft’s work was to being litigated into obscurity. Bruised egos, personal vendettas, and Machiavellian plots abound, making control of the Lovecraft literary estate read like a tale from one of the pulp magazines.

Lovecraft designated Robert Barlow as his literary executor. Barlow created the Lovecraft archives at Brown University even as a campaign was waged to wrest control of Lovecraft’s work from him. Barlow’s reputation was destroyed among the Lovecraft circle. It was only after his premature death that his unyielding guardianship of Lovecraft’s legacy was fully understood despite the plot against him. L’Affaire Barlow is the story of Robert Barlow’s quest to preserve the Old Gent from Providence for the ages.

Marcos Legaria is an independent scholar located in southern California. He has appeared in such scholarly publications as Lovecraft Annual and Penumbra. He is a regular contributor to Spectral Realms and a member of the amateur press association the Esoteric Order of Dagon. Marcos is currently researching a full-length biography on the life and career of Robert H. Barlow.

1 Review Hide Reviews Show Reviews

  • 5
    Excellent work on the legacy of HPL

    Posted by Michael Brown on Apr 26th 2024

    A recent work in literary criticism I picked up is L’Affaire Barlow: H.P. Lovecraft and the Battle for His Literary Legacy by Lovecraft scholar Marcos Legaria, with a great intro by fellow Lovecraft scholar Ken Faig Jr. I was surprised this came out from Bold Venture Press, as this sort of work I would have expected from Hippocampus Press. L'Affaire Barlow: H.P. Lovecraft and the Battle for His Literary LegacyThis focus on this work is the “battle,” so to speak, over who would be the one in charge of Lovecraft’s literary legacy after his death. H.P. Lovecraft (1890-1937) is the now well-known author of weird fiction and the stories usually referred to as the Cthulhu Mythos. But at the time of his death, he was known only to those who bothered to read Weird Tales and the few other pulp magazines that ran his work. His friends and fans hoped to preserve his legacy by getting his work published in book form to a wider audience. This would soon by done by Arkham House, founded by August Derleth and Donald Wandrei. I assumed when I got into reading Lovecraft that they were somehow given the rights to do so. However, that’s not quite the case. Instead, Lovecraft did appoint someone to be his literary executor. But as shown in this work, through the actions of Donald and Howard Wandrei, with some involvement of Derleth and a few others, this person was basically driven away from doing the job he was asked to. This person was then-19-year-old Robert Barlow. Robert Barlow (1918-51) was a young fan and correspondent with Lovecraft from an early age. He even hosted Lovecraft at his family’s home in DeLand, Fla., for extended stays during two summers. Barlow collaborated with Lovecraft on some stories, got into publishing, and for reasons that are hopefully clear from the work, was named by Lovecraft his literary executor. Sadly that document was not part of Lovecraft’s formal will. Barlow seems to have followed Lovecraft’s wishes, as well as presenting many papers and documents to the John Hay Library at Brown University in Providence, R.I., that are there today. It seems clear that others were more than willing to sell off their Lovecraft documents instead of having them preserved this way. Barlow also typed up several Lovecraft stories that then only existed in handwritten form, and Lovecraft’s handwriting is hard to read for most. The whole story about this affair is pretty sad as many people behaved badly. They pulled in others they shouldn’t have, attacked not only Barlow but others, and led to several proposed publications never seeing the light of day. Worse, some of those are lost, as the only copies were destroyed in a fire. Barlow himself pretty much handed things over to Derleth et al and left the weird-fiction world to start a new career in academia in the area of Mexican anthropology, where he became a noted expert there, living and working in Mexico City until his death. One has to wonder what might have been had the Wandrei brothers, along with Derleth, had not conducted themselves as you will see here. This is a well-researched work, and I look forward to further works by this author, who is working on a biography of Barlow. If you have a passing interest in Lovecraft, check it out. It is also a cautionary tale on the issue of authors clearly setting out who will be in charge of their works upon their passing, which hasn’t always gone well with some. In the meantime, folks may be interested in the collection Eyes of the God: Selected Writings of R.H. Barlow and Dim-Remembered Stories: A Critical Study of R.H. Barlow, both from Hippocampus Press as well as O Fortunate Floridian: H.P. Lovecraft’s Letters to R.H. Barlow from University of Tampa Press. Another work I am looking forward to is David Goudsward‘s Adventurous Liberation: H.P. Lovecraft in Florida, coming from Bold Venture Press.