Dear Mr. Lovecraft,
Illness (cold) prevents Dr. de Castro writing or doing anything at present, but Dr. de Castro hopes to see Mr. Lovecraft soon.
—Mrs. G. de Castro
The above note is, as far as is known, the only communication by card, letter, or note between Georgina de Castro and H. P. Lovecraft. Who she was, and how they came to share this brief correspondence—and an acquaintanceship that stretched a bit beyond that—involves the complicated and murky marital history of her husband, Adolphe Danziger de Castro, in whose adventures she shared for twenty-eight years.
Born in Poland in 1859 as Abram Dancygier, when he emigrated to the United States in 1883 he used the name Gustav Adolphe Danziger—with variations in spelling in various documents as Gustave, Adolph, Adolf, or simply G. A. Danziger. He practiced as a dentist, rabbi, and writer, though his English was at first imperfect, which led to a collaboration with Ambrose Bierce. In 1888, Danziger became a naturalized citizen of the United States, and married Bertha R. Levy. She bore two children by him: Beatrice Danziger (b. 1892) and Nathan Moses Danziger (b. 1895).
In 1900, Danziger left for New York, without his family. Whether this was intended abandonment or some other reason is not clear. He became enmeshed in local Republican politics in New York, and became acquainted with Ida Silbert, who worked as stenographer. Danziger’s politicking bore fruit: in 1903 he was off to Madrid to fulfill a post as Vice-Consul. In Spain he met and apparently became secretly engaged with Lucy M. White Watts. Their relationship was carried on long-distance, by letter and telegram, and was cut off abruptly when she married the Baron von Thielen. Danziger served for a time as Vice-Consul in Aberdeen, Scotland, but by 1906 was back in the United States.
1906 is a complicated year in the life of Adolphe Danziger. According to newspaper accounts, during that year he married Ida Silbert in a Jewish ceremony officiated by a rabbi and before witnesses; I have not yet been able to find any marriage license or registration, but the bride presumptive changed her name to Ida Silbert Danziger. Subsequent to this, Adolphe sued for divorce from his wife Bertha. In response, Bertha charged him with bigamy. It is known that Danziger’s divorce suit was dismissed.
According to Ida, they stayed together for a year before he left for Europe on business, from which he did not return. By that time, Ida was already pregnant. The 1910 census lists Ida Danziger living with her parents and siblings, along with a two-year-old Martha Danziger.
Adolphe Danziger was by this point back in California, working as a lawyer among various other ventures, which makes tracking his movements with any precision difficult. Apparently c.1907 he met and fell in love with Georgina McLelland, a 34-year-old Irish immigrant who had come to the country in 1895.
Ida S. Danziger sued for divorce from Adolphe in 1910, and asked for child support; Adolphe answered by claiming that they had never been married. In 1915, Bertha Danziger sued for divorce from Adolphe, and she alleged he was living with a woman with bleached blonde hair. That may well have been Georgina.
Documentation on Georgina and Adolphe’s life is scarce, and in places flawed or contradictory. Among Adolphe’s surviving papers is the manuscript for a book that consists of love-letters from himself to Georgina, dating from 3 April 1907 to 22 January 1935—however, there is evidence that these letters have been edited, and it isn’t clear if these are all authentic or partially written after the fact with the aim of collection or publication. It is not known when or if they ever legally married, but a document in Adolphe’s papers titled “Transfer of Patent of invention in the Incandescent Lamps from Adolphe Danziger to Georgina de Castro-Danziger of LA, 11/27/17″ is the first indication that they either married or were presenting themselves as man and wife.
Adolphe Danziger’s legal career hit a snag in 1917 when he was sued by a client for embezzlement; the allegation was that unnaturalized German immigrants were concerned that the United States government might seize their funds or property during the war with Germany, and that Danziger had sheltered the money for them…and then not given it back. While Danziger was eventually acquitted, it would have been a scandal. For this or some other reason, in 1921 he legally changed his name from Gustave Adolphe Danziger to Adolphe de Castro. If the hope was to save his legal practice, it failed: de Castro was disbarred in 1922.
Adolphe moved to Mexico, where he became a journalist; Georgina was apparently with him, at least part of the time. In 1925, the couple left Vera Cruz for New York. The arriving passenger list gives her age as 39, though she was really 52 at the time; the 1930 U.S. Census (which transcribed her name as “Georgeanna” gives her age as 40. This might have been a scribal error…or, perhaps not; many women have been 39 for a few more years. They settled in New York City, and in 1927 Adolphe got a bit of a break when an article he wrote about Ambrose Bierce was picked up nationally. He hoped to further his success by republishing some of his old stories…and to this end, he sought someone to revise them for publication. So he came into contact with H. P. Lovecraft…and Lovecraft met Georginia de Castro.
References to “Mrs. de Castro” in Lovecraft’s letters are few; they apparently met in person at least once, when Lovecraft visited Adolphe de Castro in New York, and Adolph himself writes in a later letter:
Lovecraft and the late Mrs. de Castro and myself were at dinner at the Styvensen in New York. He had been revising a short story for me, the scene of which was laid in my native land, Poland. There had been some difference of opinion regarding the plot – made by correspondence. In response to his last letter I – stante pede, as it were, made a new plot and sent it to him. Thereupon he flattered me by saying that it was not likely I had so quickly made so new and excellent a plot. My reply was, “come to New York and we’ll discuss it.” At an elaborate bit of dinner we talked the matter over.Adolphe de Castro to John Stanton, 9 Mar 1949, MSS Wisconsin Historical Society
This dinner would have taken place in 1928, and the work discussed is believed to be the lost “third revision” after “The Electric Executioner” and “The Last Test,” now probably non-extant, but based on “In the Confessional” (1892) by Adolphe Danziger de Castro.
One notable point about Lovecraft’s revisions for Adolphe is that in “A Sacrifice to Science” (1893) the name of the female lead is Alvira; when Lovecraft revised this story into “The Last Test,” it was changed to Georgina.
Lovecraft’s references to Georgina de Castro pick up in 1934, in response to some comments in Adolphe’s letters:
He is aged, infirm, & absolutely penniless—& believes he is slowly going blind. And his wife is in an advanced stage of tuberculosis.H. P. Lovecraft to R. H. Barlow, 25 Sep 1934, O Fortunate Floridian 181
Given Lovecraft’s own brief experience caring for his sick wife, he was sympathetic with what Adolphe and Georgina were going through:
I am surely sorry to hear that recent years have dealt you so many blows, & hope most profoundly that Mrs. de Castro’s health my presently take a turn for the better. It is easy to understand the anxiety you must feel—& with your own ocular troubles the burden is further aggravated.H. P. Lovecraft to Adolphe de Castro, 14 Oct 1934, Letters to Alfred Galpin & Others 357
References to Adolphe and Georginia pop up here and there in his letters, part of the normal pulp grapevine. Lovecraft never gives any indication he was aware of Adolphe’s other wives, but the older man apparently kept him up to date…including when Georgina was admitted to the hospital as her condition worsened.
I am tremendously sorry to hear that Mrs. de Castro’s illness is necessitating an hospital sojourn—but hope that observation & treatment there may afford decidedly favourable results. Sometimes the expert care & continuous medical attention in such a place produces unexpected upturns in cases which seemed very discouraging at home. […] Again expressing the hope that Mrs. de Castro’s health will soon respond favorably to treatment—I remain yrs most sincerelyH. P. Lovecraft to Adolphe de Castro, 6 Nov 1934, Letters to Alfred Galpin & Others 367, 372
To others, Lovecraft was more pragmatic and pessimistic:
Old de Castro is in severe straits now, & almost paralysed with grief over the probably fatal illness of his wife—an advanced consumptive who lately went to the hospital, perhaps never to return.H. P. Lovecraft to F. Lee Baldwin, 23 Dec 1934, Letters to F. Lee Baldwin 116
Yet when Lovecraft wrote to Adolphe, he sought to be optimistic and reassuring:
Let me express my sincerest sympathy regarding your recent illness—which I trust may not soon be repeated. Considering the nervous strain you must be under, I can hardly wonder at the attack—but the rest obtained through the collapse will probably help to ward off another. I hope that, upon reflection, you will not take the tactless pessimism of that nun too seriously. A mere nurse is not a physician, and the lesser fry around an hospital sometimes acquire a casual outlook greatly subversive of accuracy. It does not do to give up hope prematurely in anything as potentially controllable as tuberculosis. As I have mentioned, there are thousands of persons living with lungs impaired to a vast degree—for once the spread of the trouble is checked, a surprisingly small fraction of the pulmonary apparatus can serve to carry on the vital processes.
So if I were you I wouldn’t be totally discouraged. A spirit as indomitable as that of Mrs. de Castro is itself a great bulwark against disease—you may recall that in vast epidemics the psychology of the patients is so influential that the most hopeful and determined are usually the ones to pull through. It is certainly tremendously lamentable that this affliction has had to come—but at the same time it is far too early to conclude that it will not safely pass over and lead to a pleasanter outcome. Don’t believe all the croakers—they’ve had many a person mentally in his tomb, who is today hale and hearty again!
With renewed thanks for the acrostic, and with every good and hopeful wish for you and Mrs. de Castro, I remain, Yrs most cordiallyH. P. Lovecraft to Adolphe de Castro, 26 Jan 1935, Letters to Alfred Galpin & Others 374
Well wishes, however, could not stave off the inevitable.
Melancholy note—old de Castro’s wife died Jan. 23 at St. Joseph’s Hospital. I dropped Dolph a line of sympathy & told Price & Belknap to do the same. The poor old boy is considerably broken up—he had a two-week’s nervous collapse earlier in January, so that we might have been able to see him had we called during our metropolitan sojourn.H. P. Lovecraft to R. H. Barlow, 10 Feb 1935, O Fortunate Floridian 206-207
Barlow and Lovecraft had been in New York for New Years, but had apparently missed visiting Adolphe. Find A Grave gives a different date for her death, but the New York State death certificate confirms she died on 23 January 1935 from pulmonary tuberculosis (although it gives her name as “Georgia,” and lists her age as 45). Among Adolphe’s papers is a poem manuscript titled: “L’amour ne Peut pa Mourir” (“The Love That Cannot Die”), with the note “written three days after the passing of Georgina—my first love which lasted for twenty-eight delightful years.”
Georgina was, inadvertently and posthumously, to set the stage for another of the small episodes in Lovecraft’s life. Her expressed last wishes had been, apparently, to have her ashes cast into the ocean—presumably toward her native land—and this Adolphe de Castro finally did, choosing to take the bus up to Boston to do so. On his way back, he stopped into Providence to see Lovecraft, who was at the time hosting R. H. Barlow as his guest:
Another social event was the sojourn of old Adolphe Danziger de Castro early in August. You’ve probably heard me speak of old Dolph—the semi-charlatanic chap whose biography of Bierce Belknap adorned with a preface, & whose stories I used to doctor up. He was here for 5 days at the Hotel Dreyfus—on his way back to N.Y. from Boston, where he had been to scatter his late wife’s ashes on the sea in accordance with her last wishes. Old Dolph vainly tried to saddle me with some wholly unprofitable revision work, & is now pestering Kleiner about the same stuff. On one occasion we all—he, Barlow, & I—sat on a tomb in the hidden hillside churchyard & wrote rhymed acrostics on the name of Edgar Allan Poe—who 90 years ago used to roam that selfsame necropolis when on visits to Providence.H. P. Lovecraft to Donald Wandrei, 29 Aug 1936, Letters with Donald & Howard Wandrei 354
Adolphe de Castro actually managed to sell his acrostic to Weird Tales; the others saw publication in fanzines and poetry collections over the years. Lovecraft and de Castro stayed in touch, even as Lovecraft’s own terminal illness took hold, and one of his final letters is a word to the grieving old man, who had left New York for California once again:
I am glad that you have some of the pictures and other things collected by yourself and Mrs. de Castro, and feel sure that their ultimate effect will be one of consolation rather than melancholy.H. P. Lovecraft to Adolphe de Castro, 17 Feb 1937, Letters to Alfred Galpin & Others 397
Lovecraft would die. Adolphe de Castro would live on, and marry again for the “third” time (presumably, he had decided Ida didn’t count) in 1947, to pass away at the age of 99 in 1959.
Who was Georgina McClellan de Castro? Sadly, in death she is largely attested to only as “Mrs. de Castro,” and that one among many. We know almost nothing of her background or habits, her interests or activities, and that is a direct reflection of the fact that Lovecraft himself no doubt knew little to nothing of these things. Their lives intersected only once or twice, in a note to explain an absence or a seat at a dinner table, connected as they were only by their association with Adolphe de Castro, who had brought them into proximity and contact. What little remains of Georgina’s memory rests now amid his papers…aside from a few scattered references in the voluminous letters of H. P. Lovecraft.
Thanks to Dave Goudsward for help and assistance on this piece.
Bobby Derie is the author of Weird Talers: Essays on Robert E. Howard and Others and Sex and the Cthulhu Mythos.
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One thought on “Her Letters To Lovecraft: Georgina de Castro”
A great article as always! How typical of Lovecraft to be so sympathetic and yet so pessimistic about the same matter.