Also, she hath told him that I am egotistical from reading Nietzsche—which disturbeth me not in the least. Anybody can call me anything he damn pleases if he will give fifty sinkers to the organ fund & issue a United paper as good as the RAINBOW promises to be! […] By the way—I have just returned proofs of my RAINBOW article, which is a melange of cynical aphorisms culled from two letters of mine. Whoever was the printer knoweth his business, for errors were monstrous few. The R. will evidently be quite some paper—pictures ‘n’ everything. Surely Mrs. G is the find of the present year amateurically, & I regret very much the recent indisposition to which you refer.
—H. P. Lovecraft to Rheinhart Kleiner, 30 Aug 1921, Letters to Rheinhart Kleiner & Others 187
In July 1921, Sonia H. Greene met H. P. Lovecraft at the National Amateur Press Association convention in Boston. The meeting led to an extended correspondence, and eventually their marriage in 1924. Yet before they married, Sonia worked hard on a new project: an amateur journal of her own. Many amateurs issued their own journals, forerunners of the ‘zine culture of today, put together with love, enthusiasm, and and often rather modest equipment. H. P. Lovecraft had issued his own amateur journal, The Conservative (1915-1919, 1923), and he suppiled both content for the two issues, but also proofreading and (perhaps) editorial assistance.
Finally #598 was reached, & the visitor was introduced to the present regent of these domains—my elder aunt. Both seemed delighted with each other, & my aunt has ever been eloquent in her praise of Mme. G., whose ideas, speech, manner, aspect, & even attire impressed her with the greatest of favourableness. In truth, this visit has materially heightened my aunt’s respect for amateurdom—an institution whose extreme democracy & occasional heterogeneity have at times made it necessary for me to apologise for it. During the session at #598, Rainbow proofs were the main topic. I read most of them, denatured a sketch which some might have taken as a caricature on myself, & set aside for revision a piece of verse entitled “Mors Omnibus Communis”. I am told that you advised the inclusion of this piece in the R. If so, why the hell didn’t you correct it? It could not stand as it was. The R. will be quite some paper—believe Grandpa! Since the visit I have let Mme. G. have Loveman’s “Triumph in Eternity”, which will lend a finishing touch of exquisite classicism. It is one of the most splendid poems amateurdom has ever produced. At length the meeting adjourned, & Mme. G. generously invited both my aunt & myself to dinner at the Crown. Having had a noon meal, (we eat but twice daily) we were not ready for another; so my aunt had to decline, whilst I went along & consumed only a cup of coffee & portion of chocolate ice-cream.
—H. P. Lovecraft to Rheinhart Kleiner, 21 Sep 1921, Letters to Rheinhart Kleiner & Others 190
Sonia H. Greene was not an amateur printer with a handpress; she had the amateur magazine typeset and printed professionally, including with photographs, on good paper. This makes those two issues some of the handsomest amateur journals of the period. There is no indication of the number of copies of each issue, but given the size of each issue (the first issue was 14 pages, the second issue 20), even a modest run of 50 copies, complete with proofs, would have been a considerable outlay of cash, and the printrun may well have been higher.
Beyond a doubt, the leading amateur publication of the season is Mrs. Sonia H. Greene’s resplendent October Rainbow. The editor is anxious to have this magazine reach every member of the United, and hopes that all who have been accidentally overlooked will notify her at 259 Parkside Ave., Brooklyn, N.Y., that the omission may be repaired.
—“News Notes,” United Amateur 21, No. 1 (Sep 1921), Collected Essays 1.299
In 1921, Lovecraft was the Official Editor for his faction of the United Amateur Press Association of America; an election dispute in the organization some years before had split the membership, and Lovecraft assumed a leadership role. It is no doubt Lovecraft’s personal influence that convinced Sonia H. Greene to join the UAPA, and to issue The Rainbow to both the United and National membrs. How much more influence Lovecraft had on the production of The Rainbow is a matter of conjecture.
The Rainbow (October 1921), Vol. I, No. 1
How many struggling mortals languish and pine for want of an adequate outlet for self-expression! Thousands find it a prime necessity to give vent to their thoughts on paper—thousands who think deeply and feel strongly, yet who through diffidenceor hesitancy tend to be inarticulate regarding their half-conscious aesthetic and intellectual longings. Such persons, knowing how prone are ones near and dear to misunderstand, must either speak through the medium of writing or remain mute, lonely and repressed.
—Sonia H. Greene, “Amateurdom and the Editor,” The Rainbow (vol. 1, no. 1) 3
Thus does Sonia open her first amateur journal. The contents include “Ode to Florence” by Sonia H. Greene (poem; Florence Carol Greene being her daughter), “Nietzsche as a Practical Prophet” by Alfred Galpin (essay), “Philosophia” by Sonia H. Greene (essay), “How I Would Like To Be Entertained At The Next National Convention” by James F. Morton (poem), “More Omnibus Communis” by Sonia H. Greene (poem), “Nietscheism and Realism” by H. P. Lovecraft (essay), “Idle Idylls” by Sonia H. Greene (essay), “To—” by Rheinhart Kleiner (poem), “A Triumph in Eternity” by Samuel Loveman (poem), two letters from Sonia H. Greene, and “Oh, If The Gods” by Rheinhart Kleiner (poem).
The most notable thing about his issue is that the editing and writing of the editorials show little to no influence from Lovecraft, though he likely helped procure some of the contents. Galpin, Kleiner, Morton, and Loveman were all mutual friends of the two, and one of the letters is to their amateur friend Edith Miniter with praise for her novel Out Naputski Neighbors (1916). Lovecraft’s essay “Nietscheism and Realism” was stitched together from two letters to Sonia on the subject of Nietzsche, which subject she had been arguing through correspondence with both Lovecraft and Galpin.
I have just read proofs of my RAINBOW article, which consists of some cynical aphorisms culled from two letters of mine. I fear this stuff will shock friend Mocrates—but it may help prepare him for the fuller shock of my “Confession of Unfaith” in Campbell’s next LIBERAL.
—H. P. Lovecraft to the Gallomo, 31 Aug 1921, Letters to Alfred Galpin 104
There is still the air of the amateur to the production; not in the formatting or the editing, but the content. Sonia’s material doesn’t exactly dominate the issue thanks to the meaty essays by Lovecraft and Galpin, but her own essays are relatively weak and unfocused by comparison. Given the placement and source of Lovecraft and Galpin’s essays, I suspect that “Philosophia” is borrowed from one of her letters to Galpin or Lovecraft, addressing a similar subject but in a very informal way; her strongest passage being:
When the intellectually and phsyically strong will learn how to rule wisely and humanely, and the weak will recognize the limits of their natural ability; when the strong will properly compensate the weak for their efforts, giving them the chance to develop according to their lights; when property and the accumulation of superfluous wealth and dominant power shell not be placed above human comfort and life—then may civilization rise to altitudes not yet achieved in the history of man. There must be neither “master nor slave,” but “leader and led.” Then, and then only, may there be a justifiable hope for the advent of the superman.
—Sonia H. Greene, “Philosphia,” The Rainbow (vol. 1, no. 1) 7
H. P. Lovecraft made a great deal about The Rainbow in the pages of amateur journals; aside from The United Amateur, he also penned “Rainbow called Best First Issue” in the National Amateur 44, No. 4 (Mar 1922), CE 1.310-312, and he wrote about it in letters to friends:
You have probably seen Mrs. G.’s paper—The Rainbow—ere this, and may judge her general amateur interest by it. After her amazing pledge to the O.O. Fund I do not know how tactful it would be to suggest recruiting funds immediately; but after a duly decorous interval I fancy the matter might well be broached. You might drop her a line of welcome, her address being 259 Parkside Ave., Brooklyn, N.Y. Mrs. G. is an agnostic & anti-religionist, as you may observe in the Rainbow; but is too Russian & emotional to share the biting cynicism of Galpin & myself.
—H. P. Lovecraft to Anne Tillery Renshaw, 3 Oct 1921, Letters to Elizabeth Toldridge 367
The issue, already fairly long by amateur standards, might have been longer still, but at least one item was apparently left out of The Rainbow:
I have sent to Arkham House snapshots of HPL’s aunts, some postcards, a story revised by HP. and a fictitious story I wrote about HP a few months after I met him, but at his request I did not publish it in the Rainbow because, as he told it, it was too obviously a description of himself.
—Sonia Davis to Winfield Townley Scott, 11 Dec 1948, MSS. John Hay Library
By inference, this would be “Four O’Clock” (1949) by Sonia H. Greene.
It must not have been too long after the successful mailing of the first issue that plans came underway for a second.
The Rainbow (May 1922), Vol. II, No. 2
Without a doubt the greatest publishing event of the season is the second number of Mrs. Sonia H. Greene’s magnificent Rainbow. It is difficult to imagine either mechanical lavishness or excellence of contents carried to a greater extreme, and the United may well be proud of having such an exponent. The editorial tone is a stimulating one, forming an influence in just the proper direction at this trying juncture of amateur history. A special word is due the excellent portraits of eminent amateurs, among which is the first likeness of our poet-laureate, Mrs. S. Lilian McMullen (Lillian Middleton) ever published in Amatuer Journalism. Amateurs failing to receive The Rainbow are urged to notify the editor at 259 Parkside Ave., Booklyn, N.Y.
—”News Notes,” United Amateur 21, No. 5 (May 1922), Collected Essays 1.317
The second (and ultimately final) issue of The Rainbow was even larger and more lavish than the first. It begins with three extensive editorial essays: “Amateurdom and the Editor,” “Recruiting,” and “Opinion” (all unsigned); followed by “Commercialism—The Curse of Art” (essay), “Amatory Aphorisms” (prose), “A Game of Chess” (essay), and “Heins versus Houtain” (essay), all by Sonia H. Greene; “I Wonder” (poem) and “Keep Smiling” (poem), by B. C. Brightrall, “My Yesterdays” (poem) by W. C. Brightrall, “The Distant Forest” (poem) by Betty Jane Kendall, “Certain Ideals” (essay) by Edith Miniter, “Behind the Swinging Door” (poem) by Lilian Middleton, “Celephais” (short story) by H. P. Lovecraft, “Misconceptions of Art” (essay) by James F. Morton, “A Letter to G— K—” (poem) by Samuel Loveman, “Through the Eyes of the Poet” (essay) by Maurice W. Moe, “Frank Harris” (essay) by Alfred Galpin, “Amatuerdom of the Editor” (essay) by “The Editor.”
There are new names: Maurice W. Moe was a friend of Lovecraft, Lillian Middleton was a well-known amateur poet, W. C. or B. C. Brightall was probably William Clemens Brightall, an amateur poet and traveling salesman who would publisha book of poetry titled Tip o’ The Tongue (1925), and Betty Jane Kendall, only nine years old, was the daughter of former NAPA president Frank Austin Kendall, and her mother Jennie Kendall Plaisier was still active in amateurdom as well. Lovecraft fans will note the first publication of Lovecraft’s story “Celephrais,” and Loveman’s poem “A Letter to G— K—” is a reference to bookseller George Kirk, a mutual friend of Lovecraft and Loveman who would go on to be one of the founding members of the Kalem Club during Lovecraft’s New York adventure.
Some readers might wonder if Lovecraft had a heavier hand in the editing of this issue, at least in touching up some of the four unsigned editorial pieces. It’s hard to tell, especially since there is very little in Lovecraft’s letters on the creation of this issue, his only comment being:
I am grateful to Mrs. Greene for her editorial in support of my literary policies, as indeed for many instances of a courtesy & generosity seldom found in this degenerate aera. You may be assur’d that I shall not diminish the frequency of the epistles I send her, tho’ I am of opinion that S. Loveman & my grandchild Alfredus deserve much of the credit for her retention in the United. I regret that she hath suffer’d indignites from Mrs. Houtain; whose cast of mind, I suspect, is not exempt from the petty cruelty & fondness for gossip which blemish the humours of the most commonplace females.
—H. P. Lovecraft to Rheinhart Kleiner, 25 Jan 1922, Letters to Rheinhart Kleiner & Others 194
The former is a reference to the lead editorial “Amateurdom and the Editor,” which reads like some of Lovecraft’s unsigned editorials in other amateur journals—and it is written in the third person, whereas Sonia’s more personable editorial “Amateurdom of the Editor” is written in the first person. While it is impossible to tell, without some surviving manuscript or letter, I would not be surprised if Lovecraft helped Sonia complete this issue by revising a few of the earlier, unsigned editorials. At the very least, Lovecraft was seeing these editorials, or proofs thereof, months earlier than anyone else if the date on his letter to Kleiner is to be believed.
The later bit regarding “Mrs. Houtain,” is a reference to Sonia’s essay “Heins versus Houtain,” and involves a dispute between NAPA president Elsie Houtain and the teenaged Official Editor John Milton Heins; Sonia had not been in amateur journalism long and was already feeling the effects of some of the politics and personalities that come with any small organization.
Some gauge to response to these two issue of The Rainbow can be had in the memoirs of Lovecraft and Sonia’s mutual amateur friends:
Just previous to his coming to Brooklyn, and no doubt as part of her campaign to impress herself upon Lovecraft, his wife-to-be had issued an elaborate number of an amateur magazine, The Rainbow. It contained half-tone reproductions of Lovecraft’s portrait, together with portraits of his friends and articles or poems from their pens. It was a great success from the amateur journalist’s point-of-view, and I believe it may have been during the early stage of her married life with Lovecraft that she decided to issue another one. Printing costs being then, as now, quite high, I suppose the first issue cost a couple of hundred dollars. The second could not have cost much less. I don’t know what crisis took place in her affairs at this time—she had been holding a well-paid job as “buyer” in an uptown hat shop—but to pa for this issue she made an arrangement with the printer whereby his wife could obtain all the hats she wanted up to the amount of the bill. I am almost certain that Lovecraft was prominently featured in the first Rainbow, but he may have had enough influence to keep himself out of too conspicuous a place in the second. But this mere conjecture.
—Rheinhart Kleiner, “A Memoir of Lovecraft” in Ave Atque Vale 105
But I leave all the fascinating details of that convention to tell of The Rainbow, issued by Sonia Greene in the following October. It was a large and handsome affair, illustrated with half-tone reproductions of photographs of well-known amateurs of the day and containing excellent contributions by many of them. Lovecraft, still in Providence, reviewed it at some length in The National Amateur, for March, 1922. He said, in part, that The Rainbow represented “a genuinely artistic and intelligent attempt to crystallise homogeneously a definite mood as handled by many writers.” He said much more, and it was all highly satisfactory to Mrs. Greene. In fact, the vivacious Brooklyn widow was quite dazed with delight.
—Rheinhart Kleiner, “Discourse on H. P. Lovecraft” in Ave Atque Vale 194
Some time in the school year 1921-1922 I received a brief visit at Madison from Sonia Greene, later Mrs. Lovecraft. She had recently joined the United Amatuer Press Association, met Howard, and presented ponderous essays by Howard and me in her amateur publication, The Rainbow (October, 1921). Howard and I were then both faithful to a vaguely aesthetic sort of Nietzscheism. In her incidenta correspondence with me she found that besides my fondness for Nietzsche I was even fonder of Dostoievski, and it was this discovery (the Russians were not so generally in style in those days) that imprelled her to meet me in person.
—Alfred Galpin, “Memories of a Friendship” in Ave Atque Vale 203
Kleiner’s recollection of the arrangement with the printer is no doubt confused with a later affair; when in 1928 she had her own hat shop for a time (cf. Letters to Family and Family Friends 2.628-629), but the admiration of both those amateurs even decades later was real.
So why were there only two issues? No doubt cost was a major factor, and perhaps time. Publishing an amateur journal is a largely thankless task, and Sonia’s final editorial speaks of her burning the metaphorical midnight oil to write and edit; perhaps business and her personal life made putting together and issuing a third issue untenable. Even Lovecraft had gaps in the publication of his much more modest journal The Conservative, which he finally revived for a few issues in 1923.
The Rainbow (Vol. I, No. 1) has historically been the most accessible of the two issues because in 1977 Marc Michaud of the Necronomicon Press issued a facsimile reproduction in an edition of 550 copies, and this facsimile edition is still widely available at reasonable prices, for those interested in this early piece of Lovecraftiana, and to read Lovecraft’s essay in something close to it’s original context, as part of a conversation with Sonia.
The Rainbow (Vol. II, No. 2) has never been reprinted. However, as it is in the public domain a digital copy of the issue is now available for free on the Internet Archive.
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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