Arthur Jermyn


Arthur Jermyn

"Facts Concerning the Late Arthur Jermyn and His Family" is a short story by H. P. Lovecraft, written in 1920. The story was first published in the journal "The Wolverine" in March and June of 1921. To Lovecraft's distaste, the story was retitled "The White Ape" when it appeared in "Weird Tales" in 1924; subsequent reprintings titled it "Arthur Jermyn" until the corrected publishing in "Dagon and Other Macabre Tales" in 1986. [S. T. Joshi and David E. Schultz, "An H. P. Lovecraft Encyclopedia", p. 90.]

Inspiration

In a letter, Lovecraft described the story's surprising impetus:

:Somebody had been harassing me into reading some work of the iconoclastic moderns — these young chaps who pry behind exteriors and unveil nasty hidden motives and secret stigmata — and I had nearly fallen asleep over the tame backstairs gossip of Anderson's "Winesburg, Ohio". The sainted Sherwood, as you know, laid bare the dark area which many whited village lives concealed, and it occurred to me that I, in my weirder medium, could probably devise some secret behind a man's ancestry which would make the worst of Anderson's disclosures sound like the annual report of a Sabbath school. Hence Arthur Jermyn. [H. P. Lovecraft, letter to Edwin Baird, c. October 1923; cited in Joshi and Schultz, p. 90.]

Critic William Fulwiler suggests that the plot of "Arthur Jermyn" may have been inspired by Edgar Rice Burroughs' novels "The Return of Tarzan" (1913) and "Tarzan and the Jewels of Opar" (1916), in which the lost city of Opar is "peopled by a hybrid race resulting from the matings of men with apes." [William Fulwiler, "E.R.B. and H.P.L.", "Black Forbidden Things", Robert M. Price, ed., pp. 64–65.]

Plot summary

The story begins by describing the ancestors of Sir Arthur Jermyn, a British nobleman. His great-great-great-grandfather, Sir Wade Jermyn, had been an early explorer of the Congo, whose books on a mysterious white civilisation there had been ridiculed. He had been confined to an asylum in 1765. Lovecraft describes how the Jermyn family has a peculiar physical appearance that began to appear in the children of Wade Jermyn and his mysterious and reclusive wife, whom Wade claimed was Portuguese.

Wade's son, Philip Jermyn, was a sailor that joined the navy after fathering his son, and disappeared from his ship one night as it lay off the Congo coast. Philip's son, Robert Jermyn, was a scientist who made two expeditions into the interior of Africa. He fathered three sons, one of which, Nevil Jermyn, had a son, Alfred, who was Arthur Jermyn's father. In 1852, Robert Jermyn met with an explorer, Samuel Seaton, who described "a grey city of white apes ruled by a white god". Robert killed the explorer after hearing this, as well as all three of his sons. Nevil Jermyn managed to save his son Alfred before his death.

Alfred Jermyn grew up to inherit his grandfather's title, but abandoned his wife and child to join a circus, where he became fascinated with a gorilla "of lighter colour than the average". He became its trainer, but was killed after an incident in which he attacked the gorilla. Arthur Jermyn inherited the family possessions, and moved into Jermyn House with his mother.

Arthur Jermyn is described as having a very unusual appearance, and supposedly the worst in the line descended from Sir Wade Jermyn. Arthur became a scholar, eventually visiting the Belgian Congo on a research expedition, where he heard tales of a stone city of white apes and a stuffed white ape goddess body, which had since gone missing. Returning to a trading post, Arthur talks to a Belgian agent who offers to obtain and ship the goddess' body to him. Arthur accepts his offer and returns to England. After a period of several months, the body arrives at Jermyn House. Arthur begins his examination of the mummy, only to run screaming from the room and later commit suicide by dousing himself in oil and setting himself alight.

Lovecraft then describes the contents of the stuffed goddess' coffin--the ape goddess has a golden locket around her neck with the Jermyn arms on it, and bears a striking resemblance to Arthur Jermyn. It is clear that Wade Jermyn's supposedly Portuguese wife was really the ape goddess, and all of his descendants were the product of their union. The mummy is removed and burnt by the Royal Anthropological Institute.

Footnotes

References

cite book | first = Howard P. | origyear = 1920 | last = Lovecraft | year = 1999 | title = The Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Stories | editor = S. T. Joshi (ed.) | edition = 1st printing | pages = 363 | publisher = Penguin Books | id = ISBN 0-14-118234-2 Explanatory Notes by S. T. Joshi.

External links

* [http://www.bartleby.com/156/ "Winesburg, Ohio"] , Sherwood Anderson; complete text at Bartleby.com
* [http://www.cs.cmu.edu/~rgs/tar5-table.html "The Return of Tarzan"] , Edgar Rice Burroughs; complete text at Project Gutenberg
* [http://www.cs.cmu.edu/~rgs/tar5-table.html "Tarzan and the Jewels of Opar"] , Edgar Rice Burroughs; complete text at Project Gutenberg


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