London: George Routledge and Sons, Limited. No Date . Re-Issue, First Published in 1794. Octavo, original blue cloth decorated in white, brown and black on spine and front panel, gilt titles. viii +  - 157 + 158 pp, two parts in one, separately paginated. Issued in the publisher's "Half-Forgotten Books" Series. Formerly, Howard Philips Lovecraft's copy, with his ink name and aquisition note "From George Willard Kirk, Esqr." in his own hand on front free endpaper along with his iconic "fanlight" bookplate on the front paste-down. Browning to endpapers, old price of 1- ($1.00) in pencil on front endpaper, light rubbing and a touch of soiling to the cloth, a very good, bright copy of an attractive book. Item #311053
¶ A seminal volume of early Gothic Fiction, the personal copy from the library of one of the greatest writers of Supernatural and Weird Fiction ever. Considered to be the archetypal Gothic novel, THE MYSTERIES OF UDOLPHO, originally published in 1794, follows the fortunes of Emily St. Aubert, who suffers, among other misadventures, the death of her father, supernatural terrors in a gloomy castle and the machinations of an Italian brigand. Lovecraft wrote extensively about this work in his long essay SUPERNATURAL HORROR IN LITERATURE (originally published in 1927), where he states (in Part III: The Early Gothic Novel) : Mrs. Radcliffe wrote six novels; The Castles of Athlin and Dunbayne (1789), A Sicilian Romance (1790), The Romance of the Forest (1792), The Mysteries of Udolpho (1794), The Italian (1797), and Gaston de Blondeville, composed in 1802 but first published posthumously in 1826. Of these Udolpho is by far the most famous, and may be taken as a type of the early Gothic tale at its best... Udolpho will always be a classic.
This copy was gifted to HPL by George Willard Kirk (1898 - 1962). Kirk was a bookseller, publisher, and good friend of HPL. Born in Akron, Ohio, he entered the book trade at an early age. He spent the years 1920–22 in California, where he became acquainted with Clark Ashton Smith. Kirk met Lovecraft when the latter came to Cleveland in August 1922; at that time Kirk gave HPL a copy of Smith’s Odes and Sonnets(1918), thereby encouraging Lovecraft to get in touch with Smith. In August 1924 Kirk came to New York to establish a bookshop. He participated in numerous all-night walks around New York with HPL and other members of the Kalem Club. In early 1925 Kirk moved into the same apartment house at 169 Clinton Street, Brooklyn, where Lovecraft was residing (prompting HPL’s poem, “To George Kirk, Esq., Upon His Entertaining a Company in His New-Decorated Chambers, 18th January 1925”), but stayed only a few months. From August to October 1925 Kirk resided at 317 West 17th Street in Manhattan; HPL later used the building as the setting for his short story “Cool Air” (1926). It is unclear at which date Kirk gave Lovecraft this copy of UDOLPHO, but in a letter written to Clark Ashton Smith on Dec 12, 1925 (on George W. Kirk's letterhead) Lovecraft writes: "W. Paul Cook's request for an article on weird literature from me - a request which he won't withdraw despite my emphatic disclaimers of all possible qualification - has imposed upon me the very pleasant task of reading up some of the matter I had long ago scheduled for perusal. I waded through the whole of "Udolpho" last week, & am now on the hunt for Maturin's "Melmoth"..." . Lovecraft also made a list of his weird fiction collection in a letter he sent to CAS on August 27, 1932; Radcliffe's "Udolpho" is on that list. Lovecraft had a fairly large library - but surprisingly little of it was weird fiction; to acquire such a significant book from his library is a rare opportunity indeed. Many of the books in Lovecraft's library were in fairly poor condition; that is certainly not the case here. See Joshi & Shultz, LOVECRAFT'S LIBRARY: A CATALOGUE, Fourth Edition, Revised & Enlarged (2017), Item No. 787.