Her Letters To Lovecraft: Lillian M. Galpin

Here’s some news that can’t wait for a letter. Alfredus—Grandpa’s little Galpinius-child—is married! The event occurred last June, but The Boy kept it a secret for a while—perhaps waiting to see whether or not it would turn out well.

H. P. Lovecraft to Lillian D. Clark, 27 Aug 1924, Letters to Family & Family Friends 1.154

According to census data, birth records, and her gravestone, Lillian Mary Roche was born on 16 Nov 1903 in Lowell, Massachusetts, one of six children of Irish immigrants Maurice and Elizabeth Roche. Her family was living in Chicago, IL in the 1920s, and Lillian was attending the University of Chicago and in the final year of her undergraduate degree when she married Alfred Galpin, then finishing his master’s degree at the same university. The marriage occurred on 23 June 1924, and initial prospects did not appear to be poor—Alfred was fluent in French and had a position as an instructor in that language at the Univeristy of Michigan secured. It would end with Lillian’s death in 1954…and as far as public records go, there is little to add to that. The Galpins had no children, and if Lillian left any record, it has not been published.

Yet things were not all right with the marriage…and that would lead to one of the oddest and briefest (one might say, tangential) correspondences in Lovecraft’s life. The story is not one that Lovecraft or anyone else has told directly, but has to be pieced together from different records, references in Lovecraft’s correspondence, and other odds and ends.

AUGUST 27, Wednesday. Did I mention that Alfred Galpin, Madisonian, friend of Lord and L (whatshisname) and myself, incidentally, went and got married some time ago? Hully gosh! He, Howard! Next I suppose CAS, SL, RK, and even JFM and perhaps even GK will join ranks.

George Kirk, Lovecraft’s New York Circle 28

H. P. Lovecraft came in contact with Alfred Galpin around 1918, when Galpin was still in high school, through their mutual associate Maurice W. Moe. They shared an interest and involvement in amateur journalism, and developed a robust correspondence. Lovecraft predicted great things for Galpin, but neither man shared everything with the other. When Lovecraft eloped in March 1924 to marry Sonia H. Greene, he didn’t inform Galpin (or anyone else) until after the fact; when Galpin married Lillian Roche a few months later, he didn’t inform Lovecraft right away either.

Ex-President Alfred Galpin, having been married in June, 1924, last autumn accepted a post as Instructor in French at the Rice Institute, Houston, Texas, perhaps the leading university of the Lone Star State. His interests are veering more and more away from literature toward music, and after suitable years of study he hopes to be recognised as a pianist and composer.

H. P. Lovecraft, “News Notes,” United Amateur 24, No. 1 (Jul 1925) in Collected Essays 1.356

For young, untenured university professors, going where the jobs are isn’t unusual, then or now. Yet the Galpins did not end up going to Paris. Instead, about a year after their marriage, Alfred and Lillian went to Paris:

The little rascal sailed from New Orleans (3d class) on the 14th of last month, & has since been imbibing true Parisian accent & colour whilst his wife studies at the Sorbonne. They inhabit a rather costly hotel in the Rue Madame, & Galpinius does not seem to be disappointed in the least—as yet—with the storied city of his dreams.

H. P. Lovecraft to Lillian D. Clark, 13 Jul 1925, Letters to Family & Family Friends 1.313

Most of Lovecraft’s surviving correspondence mentions Lillian indirectly; they were not apparently correspondents at this time, and if they exchanged letters after 1925 there is no evidence of it. She was, for the most part, mentioned only indirectly as Lovecraft related news about Alfred Galpin to his various correspondents. It is somewhat ironic, given how nebulous and tangential the bulk of these passing references are, that it is only through Lovecraft’s letters that we get a picture of Lillian Galpin.

The story unfolds in his letters:

Speaking of Galpin—he is now in Paris studying, having gone thither in June with his wife. The latter is returning ahead of him on the Majestic—arriving, as coincidence would have it, this very day—& Loveman & I expect to see her & ply her with questions anent her brilliant spouse & his Gallic sojourn.

H. P. Lovecraft to Clark Ashton Smith, 18 Aug 1925, Dawnward Spire, Lonely Hill 77

Arrival documents confirm that Lillian Galpin arrived, without her husband, in New York City on 18 Aug 1925. Why she left Paris is not clear, although in other letters Lovecraft notes that Alfred Galpin was experiencing financial difficulties (his father, who died in 1924, had left the bulk of his estate to a nephew also named Alfred Galpin). This is the first real hint of trouble in the marriage, although Lovecraft goes into no details—and Lovecraft himself was at the time semi-separated from his wife, living in Mrs. Burn’s boarding house at 169 Clinton Street in Brooklyn while Sonia was working in Cleveland to help support them both, visiting New York at intervals.

Alfred Galpin wrote to Lovecraft ahead of time to greet his wife at the pier and help her out; Sonia was in town at the time, although due to leave for Cleveland in a few days. Lovecraft, not sure how best to handle the situation, wrote Lillian a letter which was to be delivered to her when she came ashore, giving his phone number and enclosing photographs of himself and Samuel Loveman, so she could recognize them when they came to assist with her luggage.

Dear Mrs. Galpin:—

Your gifted husband having informed our local circle of easthetic dilettanti of your impending arrival on the S.S> Majestic, & having delegated to use the agreeable responsibility of showing you such sights & salient points of interest as you may care to inspect hre, I herewith take it upon myself to facilitate your location & identification of the circle in question. Mr. Galpin tells me that you will call me up by telephone, but it occurs to me that I may not have given him the number of this haven of remunerative guests; in which case you will look in vain through the book for a telephone in my name. Let me, therefore, here state that the correct number is MAIN 1401, at the Brooklynward end of which a proper sentry will be posted during the day of your arrival as estimated byt he White Star offices—Tuesday, Aug. 18.

H. P. Lovecraft to Lillian M. Galpin, 16 Aug 1925, Letters to Alfred Galpin & Others 261-262, MSS. John Hay Library

What followed was one of those comedies of errors that in another century could have been solved with a ten-minute call on a cellphone.

The next day—Tuesday the 18th—we were up early & on the watch for Mrs. Galpin’s telephone call. S H had to go out, but arranged to leave the numbers of the places she visited, so that I might reach her when Mrs. G. communicated. Meanwhile I busied myself with reading & correspondence—& framed an inquiry for the Post Office concerning an important envelope from Clark Ashton Smith, containing a letter, a story, & several poems, which was mailed to me last March & failed to reach its destination. Thus the day passed—when at three o’clock the Burns boy brought up the card of Mrs. Alfred Galpin! The steamship letter had failed to reach her; & after a five-hour search including inquiries at police stations, public libraries, & heaven knows what else, she had come upon the place through a vague remembrance that it was in Clinton Street, & that its number had three figures beginning with 1 & ending with 9. Beginning at 199, she had worked along the street northward, trying 189 & 179, & finally stumbling on the correct spot at 169.

H. P. Lovecraft to Lillian D. Clark, 19-20 Aug 1925, Letters to Family & Family Friends 1.353-354

Lovecraft’s 1925 diary entry for 18-20 Aug 1925 covers the essentials of Lillian Galpin’s visit (Collected Essays 5.165-166), while his letter to his aunt has a much more detailed, expanded account of events. One has to imagine Lillian Galpin, after a six-day crossing of the Atlantic, arriving in a strange city and randomly knocking on doors until she finds her husband’s friends. It was here that Lovecraft gave his description of her to his aunt:

Mrs. G. was undecided about the duration of her stay; though waning finance dictated a very brief sojourn,whilst her trunk had already been scheduled for through transportation to her parents in Chicago. Three days seemed a logical period, though she would like to obtain a local position & settle semi-permanently till the American return of The Boy. At length she decided to plan on leaving Thursday night, on a late train. Mrs. Galpin is a small person of no especial beauty, strongly resembling the portrait of Mrs. McMullen (Lillian Middleton) which you will find in the second (green-covered) issue of The Rainbow. She is descended from the most ancient Norman nobility domiciled in Ireland—the de Roches—& Alredus is strongly thinking of changing his name to hers, because of its greater aristocratic significance. Some of the kin of this family, the Burke-Roches, are of international social pormienncel whilst Mrs. G’s own father would be the 21st Earl of Fermoy if he would renounce his American citizenship. A proper family for the reception of Grandpa’s Boy—I can see him as Alfred de Roche, in a panlled coach with his new coat-of-arms on the door! Mrs. G. was, like Alfredus, an infant prodigy; & is a graduate of the University of Chicago. Her literary background is ample & profound, & appears to be united to an excellent taste & keen intelligence; in short, the match seems in very way a suitable one for The Child, whose genius deserves a kindred environment. Alfredus himself, I learn, is developing into a typical Parisian character. He wears his hair long—longer, in literal truth, than his wife’s—& even tried to grow a beard till he found it impossible. His scornful repudiation of literature is complete; & he not only laughs at his wife for reading, but refrained from telling her that he had ever followed letters himself—so that the Galpinian essays & critiques which I shewed her came as a complete surprise!

H. P. Lovecraft to Lillian D. Clark, 19-20 Aug 1925, Letters to Family & Family Friends 1.354-355

There is a Baron Fermoy in the peerage of Ireland, and the Burke Roche family do hold it, but someone got the other details wrong. More compelling is the idea that Alfred Galpin didn’t see fit to tell his wife anything of his amateur journalism career, despite the fact that he had once been president of the United Amateur Press Association in 1920-1921 term. That Lillian was resolved to be separated from Galpin until his return to the United States the following year, and looking for work to support herself, speaks somewhat to their marital difficulties—and one has to wonder if the Lovecrafts saw the parallels with their own situation.

After the play we took a taxicab to the Erie ferry near the White Star dock, & fetched Mrs. Galpin’s hand luggage to 169, where she took a room on the ground floor. En route we took refreshments at the Scotch Bakery. Finally, we dispersed for slumber; Ms. Galpin deciding to devote the morrow to job-hunting, & indicating her intention of rising early, perhaps before the rest of the household—returning some time in the afternoon, & attending the meeting of The Boys at Kirk’s ex-partner’s—where S H also planned to attend. […] I last spoke of Wednesday the 19th, on which date I rose early & wrote letters till mid-afternoon, when Mrs. Galpin returned from her fruitless industrial quest. Upon her arrival she spoke of the night before–which, thanks to the negligence of busy Mrs. BUrns–had not been one of rest. It seems that the downstairs room has not been kept as immaculate as some others herabouts, & that its couch has an undesirable population of invertebrate organisms which resent the intrusion of mere mortals to a highly vindictive extent! Accordingly Mrs. G. was far from harassed, & in the morning held an interesting conversation with Mrs. Burns—who apoligised profoundly & let her have the room at a reduced rate.

H. P. Lovecraft to Lillian D. Clark, 19-20 Aug 1925, Letters to Family & Family Friends 1.355-356

Fresh across the Atlantic, without her husband, in a strange city, and then faced with bedbugs. Lillian Galpin’s New York adventure was not shaping up to be a good one. Lovecraft himself had long been discouraged with job-seeking, and was not surprised by her lack of success. They went out to dinner, and then an evening with the Kalem Club. When they returned to 169 Clinton, the exhausted Lillian must have realized she was facing another night with bedbugs.

The residual trio proceeded to 169; where Mrs. Galpin, after inspecting her room, decided she could not rest. Accordingly—& with many apologies for having delivered a guest unwittingly into an arena of sanguinary monsters—S H & I decided that Mrs. G. had better stop at some haven of undisputed immaculeteness & desirability; hence I assisted in the transfer of her effects to the celebrated & dignified Hotel Bossert in Montague Street, where she obtained an excellent seventh-floor room for four dollars.

H. P. Lovecraft to Lillian D. Clark, 19-20 Aug 1925, Letters to Family & Family Friends 1.356

This was, however, not the last injury that Lillian suffered at Burn’s boarding house:

On this occasion I proceeded home, where I found Mrs. G. already arrived after a last & unavailing early morning interview ith a possible employer, & a last & earnest conversation with Mrs. Burns anent a fresh case of robbery in this delectable retreat! It seems that when packing in haste the previous evening she had left heind a somewhat valuable silk nightgown—which was now missing, & which has not been heard from since. Which of the sundry transient inhabitants to accuse one cannot say—but fortunately Mrs. G. is a philosopher, & able to dismiss life’s casual losses with a shrug & a sigh. We now endeavoured to set out upon that course of sightseeing which malign circumstance had thus far delayed—but again the Fates interposed, & the entire morning was wasted at the Erie & white Star piers in a fruitless attempt to locate Mrs. G’s trunk, for which she had failed to obtain a receipt, but which probably went through to Chicago. We did, however, recover the missing letter with its pictorial encloserues, which latter I wished to preserve.

H. P. Lovecraft to Lillian D. Clark, 19-20 Aug 1925, Letters to Family & Family Friends 1.357

They did retrieve the letter, which is why it is not preserved in Letters to Alfred Galpin & Others. Sonia was due back in Cleveland by an earlier train, to which city she invited Lillian to visit; they then helped Lillian see what she would of New York in her few remaining hours.

Since all museums close at five, it was now too late to see more than one; & this was chose without difficulty, snce Mrs. G’s chief wish in N.Y. was to inspect the American Wing of the Metropolitan Museum. Arriving in good season, & prviouslt surveying the French rooms (as you & I did) we proceeded to cover the colonial exhibits in detail; & Mrs. G. displayed a genuine interest & acute knowledge in remarking upon the objects displayed. She purchased the dollar handbook of the oclleciton, & means to become something of an authority on Georgian America whilst her effulgent lord & master absorbs the antique charm of mediaeval Paris.  […]

Mrs. Galpin, being exceedingly fatigued by continuous exertion, sent her regrets & went to her hotel to rest; but I went down & saw S H safely aboard the Cleveland train—incidentally carrying her a letter from A E P G which had just arrived. […] Now proceeding to the Bossert, I met Mrs. G. & transferred her values once more to 169, for later transportation to the train. She obtained some light refreshments—cheese crackers, orange marmalade, chocolate, & fruit, & served these whilst I began a letter to The Boy. In due time she added her section, & under separate cover we added the postcards obtained during the afternoon, as a supreme inducement for The Child to stop off in New York next June upon his return to the United States.

H. P. Lovecraft to Lillian D. Clark, 19-20 Aug 1925, Letters to Family & Family Friends 1.357-358

It was typical of Lovecraft to write joint letters with such friends were available; there would be nothing more suitable than for Lillian Galpin to include a brief note to the letter Lovecraft was writing to her husband. Regrettably, Alfred Galpin destroyed much of his early correspondence with Lovecraft c.1930, including their joint letter. This is why Lillian Galpin might be considered a “tangential” correspondent—the one letter Lovecraft wrote to her she didn’t receive, and the one letter they wrote together doesn’t survive.

After completing her section, Mrs. G. rested on the couch & slept soundly whilst I finished the epistle at length. At 11:00 I fared forth to secure a taxicab, which I found only with great difficult & alarming loss of time. Returning with it, I awakened Mrs. G. with as much gradualness & as little violence as possible, after which the expedition hastened in the cab across Brooklyn Bridge & through the town to the Erie ferry, just in time to miss the 11:50 boat which had been mentioned as the one connecting with the Cleveland-Chicago train! For a moment, dramatic despair supervened; but in another instant a clerk had cleared the skies by mentioning tht according to Daylight-Saving Time we were a full hour early, the real boat being the 12:50 by the local clocks. Saved! We now proceeded to a neighbouring cafeteria, had coffee & read books at a table which commanded a view of the clock, & in due time returned to the ferry & sailed thereon. Reaching the other side, I assisted the luggage to the 1:25 train, & bade Mrs. Galpin convey my regards to S H upon meeting her, & to Alfredus upon writing him.

H. P. Lovecraft to Lillian D. Clark, 19-20 Aug 1925, Letters to Family & Family Friends 1.358

That was the last time that H. P. Lovecraft and Lillian Galpin met, though he would continue to hear from her. In fact, rather shortly he would get an urgent letter from his wife regarding Lillian.

Had a letter from S H yesterday, saying that Mrs. Galpin didn’t shew up in Cleveland at all! She’s quite worried, imagining all sorts of kidnappings, wrecks, & such like; but I fancy Mrs. G. was merely too tired out to relish the Youngstown change of cars, so went straight home to Chicago.

H. P. Lovecraft to Lillian D. Clark, 19-20 Aug 1925, Letters to Family & Family Friends 1.367

Lovecraft was probably correct; after the trials and hectic travel of the last few days, Lillian was probably happy to be home…although again, this was back in Chicago, without her husband. How she spent the next year is not clear; Alfred Galpin was desperate for money to continue his music studies in Paris, even asking Lovecraft for a loan, and Lovecraft reported that his wife prevailed on Galpin’s mother to send a $250 cheque to cover his needs (Letters to Family & Family Friends 1.451-452). In 1926, she passed through New York again to take ship to bring him back to the States:

MAY 4 […] Met, the other day, Galpin’s wife: she went back to Paris on the Leviathan, and expects to bring him back ere long….

SEPTEMBER 9 […] Guess old Galpin isn’t coming from Paris either, as I hear his wife is going back and they’re to say another year. There’s bedlam for you.

George Kirk, Lovecraft’s New York Circle 87, 98

By this time, Lovecraft had left New York and so missed a reunion with Lillian; while Alfred Galpin may have wished to stay in France, they did apparently return to the United States in 1926, with Alfred taking a position at Northwestern University in Evanston ( a suburb of Chicago) teaching French and Italian. The 1930 Census shows Lillian employed as a clerk and living with Alfred in Chicago, but likely he would return home to Appleton, Wisconsin in between terms. Lillian did not apparently accompany him.

In 1930 Alfred finished his M.A. at Northwestern, and spent another year (1931-1932) in France; whether Lillian accompanied him is not clear, although a 1932 news article shows she was applying for jobs in Appleton. When Alfred returned to the United States, he took a position at Lawrence College (now Lawrence University) in Appleton. It is in these letters from Lovecraft to Alfred Galpin after the second trip to France that we get more hints of discontent in the Galpin household:

As for your present perturbations—I think a year or so will find you much less agitated, since all amorous attractions are essentially transient. And of course, if you’d get outside yourself, take an objective & panoramic survey, & give some really serious thought to the fortuitous meaninglessness of all emotion, you would be greatly helped in the cooling-off proces. That’s the only process worth cultivating unless the other victim gets ashamed of accepting luxury from a deceived partner & coöperates toward putting the whole matter on an open & straight-forward basis. Meanwhile one may only advise that you “coast” as inconspicuously & indecisively as you can—with eyes open as to possible exits & solutions. Let us hope that your wife will have time in Chicago to think on the value of the prize that is slipping away, & that a renewed affection on her part may assist in toning down the new & capricious hormone-storm. But time & common sense will doubtless bring their own adjustments.

H. P. Lovecraft to Alfred Galpin, 20 Jan 1933, Letters to Alfred Galpin & Others 283-284

Which sounds a great deal as if Lillian left Alfred, and that there was some issue that caused the separation—the hints “amorous attractions” and “deceived partner” sound an awful lot like an extramarital affair, or perhaps the preliminary stages of one. It’s speculative all around—someone that Alfred met in Paris? A female student at Lawrence College (notable as one of the first co-educational colleges)? The “possible exits & solutions” may have been a gentle hint at divorce, as Lovecraft’s own separation had led to. Suffice to say, Lovecraft was not himself a font of good advice on marital difficulties, although he tried to say positive and encouraging things:

I am glad your domestick affairs maintain a certain quiescence, if not ideal adjustment, & trust that time may do its own salutary & imperceptible modelling toward a stabler & sounder equilibrium.

H. P. Lovecraft to Alfred Galpin, 24 Jun 1933, Letters to Alfred Galpin & Others 292

It is gratifying to learn—even tho’ it implies no great change in your basick philosophy—that you have extinguish’d the altars of Astarte in favour of those of Urania & Hymenaeus. In your easy recovery from the aberration you might well read a confirmation fo what I previously told you regarding the wholly capricious, cosmically un-grounded, & therefore essentially trivial nature of such seizures. They are simply temporary biological-psychological surface twists—& when one thoroughly realises the trivialmechanical character of such emotional phaenomena, he ought to be able to analyse them out of existence whenever they interfere with the well-harmoised & appropriate course of his life, or with the practice of that fairness, honest, & open, aboveboard conduct which distinguishes artistic living from sloppy, messy living.

H. P. Lovecraft to Alfred Galpin, 5 Oct 1933, Letters to Alfred Galpin & Others 296

Astarte is the Hellenized version of the Near Eastern goddess Ishtar, associated with love; Aphrodite Urania was the aspect of spiritual love, and Hymenaeus the god of marriage. Which suggests that whatever affair was being pursued was broken off, and that Alfred Galpin was endeavoring to mend fences with Lillian. Part of this involved a trip to Chicago, implying they were still separated:

Glad you had a good Chicago trip, but sorry you picked up a cold. […] As for the philosophy & aestheticks of domestick organisation—I still don’t agree with your essentially cloudy & ill-defined system of standards. The common emotions connected with primary instincts, & not extensively linked with imaginative associations & a sense of pattern, are undeniably largely mechanical matters which, while powerful in the sense that a rap on the head or a siege of typhoid is mechanically powerful in its effect on the system, are certainly not important in the artistic experience of complex conscious living.  Assuredly, they are not important enough to justify their easy interference with the fulfilment of other emotions whose richness & coördination give them a really pivotal place in an harmonious life of widely-realised possibilities. I feel confident that the current fashionable endorsement of messy living will vastly diminish whenever a reacquired cultural stability gives our most active minds a renew’d chance for mature & leisurely reflection.

H. P. Lovecraft to Alfred Galpin, 25 Oct 1933, Letters to Alfred Galpin & Others 300

Some sort of peace was apparently brokered between husband and wife:

Glad that the household matters are recrystalising favourably, & hope the dual Appleton-Chicago arrangement may ensure you an ideal summer.

H. P. Lovecraft to Alfred Galpin, 6 Jun 1934, Letters to Alfred Galpin & Others 308

Again, speculation rears its head: if Lillian was living and working in Chicago, she probably was either living with family or had a lease on an apartment, and Alfred was probably in much the same situation in Appleton, although probably staying at the family home; perhaps Alfred would live with or visit Lillian in Chicago between terms until her lease was up, as they sought a more permanent solution.

Too bad that discord developed in Mme. Hasting’s work, but trust that her retirement to domesticity will not be any grave financial blow.

H. P. Lovecraft to Alfred Galpin, 24 Sep 1934, Letters to Alfred Galpin & Others 322

Where Lillian was when she lost her job (and what it was, and why she lost it) are entirely unknown. It was the Great Depression, and she was a married woman; sexism and economics are equally likely culprits. Lovecraft mentions her being disappointed in not getting a position in October 1934 (Letters to Alfred Galpin & Others 323), so she hadn’t given up looking just yet, and a little later he wrote:

Always glad to hear of old-time children turning out well—which reminds me that Little Alfie’s pa’s estate is getting settled at last, so that Master Consult Hasting may get 2000 bucks a year froma trust fund. Hot stuff! He’s fixing up the old home (726 E. College Ave.—formerly numbered 536 College Ave) in good style, & his ma is turning out the boarders as far as she can—& his wife is giving up her job in Chi.

H. P. Lovecraft to Maurice W. Moe, 29 Nov 1934, Letters to Maurice W. Moe 364

“Consul Hastings” was Alfred Galpin’s pseudonym in amateur journalism days. After this, presumably Lillian had moved to Appleton to be with her husband. The 1940 Census entry does not list any employment, and the 1950 lists only “Keeping house.” References to Lillian Galpin are few in Lovecraft’s remaining letters; his last mention of their marraige reads:

Descending to merely human matters—I trust that financial asperities will soon be smoothed out, & that domestic life in general will be clarified by a resigned realisation of the irreconcilability of romantic glamour with middle age.

H. P. Lovecraft to Alfred Galpin, 17 Jan 1936, Letters to Alfred Galpin & Others 325

We have to depend on Lovecraft’s description of Lillian Galpin because Alfred Galpin does not provide one. In his memoir about his friendship with Lovecraft,  “Memories of a Friendship” (1959), Alfred Galpin leaves out all mention of his wife or the time Lovecraft met and helped her those few days in New York in 1925. By 1959, of course, Lillian was dead (she passed away in 1954) and Alfred had remarried (to Isabella Panzini; when the marriage took place is unclear, but she entered the United States in 1957 as Mrs. Galpin). A letter from Galpin clarifies his reasons for cutting Lillian out of the narrative a little:

You will note that I remained as anonymous as feasible and in particular, since ISabella has brought me the only real happiness I have known, I don’t like any reference to “first wife” or such when they can be avoided.

In 1925, Lee got “fed up” with my high-brow and penny-pinching attitude toward Paris and announced her intention to go home; giving this the usual “the hell with you, go along then” treatment, I was surprised to find her show up one day with the return ticket, so off she went. That is why most of my 14-15 months in Paris in 1925-1926 were spent alone (not most as she ultimately came back to fetch me. . . .) and it was while I was alone there that I wrote such reams of correspondence to HPL and also to her—the file which I mention as having later destroyed, as I never had any fondness for lingering on what is dead in the past. Well, here is where HPL comes in—I wanted you, in strict confidence between us, to get the general picture.

When Lee actually left it was without any harshness between us, on the sound theory that I could profit best on our $$ by remaining alone. One of the things we were anxious for her to do on her return was to see HPL who had married just a few months earlier than me (March and June 1924) and who was then in Brooklyn. Still a “babe in the woods” as my music teacher called us both when we went abroad in June 1925, Lee stopped off in New York and then started looking for Howard on foot in Brooklyn after having lost the address!! Believe it or not, she actually found some one who gave her the address and spent a brief visit with them, but very brief for the reason to be indicated and which I have no reason to doubt, since the much less credible part of the story, just told, is confirmed by other sources.

Alfred Galpin to August Derleth, 25 Jun N.D. [1959?], MSS. John Hay LIbrary

Galpin then mentions the bedbugs, which no doubt stood out in any account Lillian must have given her husband of the trip.

Marriages are difficult, always have been; this was true for the Lovecrafts and it was true, apparently, for the Galpins. Sometimes they work out, sometimes they do not. It is unfortunate to us that Alfred Galpin destroyed all the letters from his wife…and Lovecraft…during that year in Paris. As it is, we have only a very limited view of Lillian Mary Roche Galpin…as Lovecraft saw and described her, through the lens of his own relationship with her husband.

Bobby Derie is the author of Weird Talers: Essays on Robert E. Howard & Others (2019) and Sex and the Cthulhu Mythos (2014).

Deep Cuts in a Lovecraftian Vein uses Amazon Associate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

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