The Statement of Randolph Carter

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"The Statement of Randolph Carter"
Author H. P. Lovecraft
Country United States
Language English
Genre(s) Horror/thrill
Publisher The Vagrant
Media type Magazine
Publication date May, 1920

"The Statement of Randolph Carter" is a short story by H. P. Lovecraft. Written in December 1919, it was first published in The Vagrant, May 1920.[1] It tells of a traumatic event in the life of Randolph Carter, a student of the occult loosely representing Lovecraft himself. It is the first story in which Carter appears and is part of Lovecraft's Dream Cycle.

Inspiration[edit]

Lovecraft based the story on a dream that he transcribed, adding only a preamble to make it more fluid as a narrative,[2] and wrote it in the form of a testimony given to the police.

An account of the actual dream Lovecraft had can be found in one of his letters to August Derleth.

Synopsis[edit]

"The Statement of Randolph Carter" is the first person, apparently verbatim, testimony of the titular character, who has been found wandering through swampland in an amnesiac shock. In his statement, Carter attempts to explain the disappearance of his companion, the occultist Harley Warren.

Warren has come into the possession of a book written in an unknown language that he forbids Carter from seeing. Carter mentions that Warren has other "strange, rare books on forbidden subjects", several of which are in Arabic.

From his mysterious book, Warren apparently deduces that doors or stairways exist between the surface world and the underworld through which demons may travel. He encourages Carter to travel with him to the location of one such portal, an ancient graveyard near Big Cypress Swamp. Upon arriving, Warren locates a particular tomb and opens it to reveal a staircase that descends into the earth. Taking a lantern, he leaves Carter on the surface and follows the stairs into the darkness, communicating with his companion by a telephone wire.

After several minutes of silence, Warren suddenly begins to make vague, panicked outbursts that culminate in a desperate plea for Carter to flee. Finally, after Warren is silent for several minutes, Carter calls to him down the line, only to hear a voice telling him that Warren is dead.[3]

Characters[edit]

Randolph Carter[edit]

Main article: Randolph Carter

Randolph Carter is one of Lovecraft's most commonly recurring characters. An H. P. Lovecraft Encyclopedia places the events of the story after those of The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath and before "The Unnamable" or "The Silver Key".

In the dream upon which the story was based, Lovecraft himself played the role of Carter.

Harley Warren[edit]

Main article: Harley Warren

Harley Warren is a mysterious occultist who apparently perishes while exploring an underground crypt in Big Cypress Swamp. After his disappearance, Randolph Carter tells police that "I have for five years been his closest friend, and a partial sharer of his terrible researches into the unknown." Warren, he says, "always dominated me, and sometimes I feared him." He mentions a facial expression of Warren's that caused him to shudder. Warren himself suggests that he sees himself as someone with "ironclad sensibilities".

Carter describes Warren as having a "vast collection of strange, rare books on forbidden subjects," many of them apparently in Arabic, with one "fiend-inspired book...written in characters whose like I never saw elsewhere."

In the dream that inspired the story, the Warren character was actually Lovecraft's friend Samuel Loveman. Loveman also figured in the dream that became the prose poem "Nyarlathotep".

Warren is referred to in other Lovecraft stories. In "The Silver Key", he is alluded to as "a man in the south, who was shunned and feared for the blaspemous things he read in prehistoric books and clay tablets smuggled from India and Arabia." In "Through the Gates of the Silver Key", he is revealed to have come from South Carolina, and to have been an expert linguist of the primal Naacal language of the Himalayas.

Warren is also mentioned in Brian Lumley's Titus Crow series, as a member of a Bostonian group of psychics.

Several actors in cinematic renditions of "The Statement of Randolph Carter" have portrayed Harley Warren, the most notable of them being John Rhys-Davies.

Connections[edit]

The story contains an early statement of a common theme of Lovecraft's—the terrible price of knowledge:

As to the nature of our studies--must I say again that I no longer retain full comprehension? It seems to me rather merciful that I do not, for they were terrible studies, which I pursued more through reluctant fascination than through actual inclination.

This theme is most famously stated in "The Call of Cthulhu": "The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents."

Randolph Carter and the events in "The Statement of Randolph Carter" are key elements of Cosa Nosferatu, a fantasy/crime/horror novel featuring Eliot Ness and Al Capone, set in a 1930 era Chicago beset with Lovecraft-style Undead.

Film[edit]

The novel has inspired several films;

Other media[edit]

  • "The Case of Randolph Carter" [1] is an interactive fiction version of the story with alternate endings [2]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Straub, Peter (2005). Lovecraft: Tales. The Library of America. p. 823. ISBN 1-931082-72-3. 
  2. ^ Lovecraft, Howard P. (1999) [1920]. "The Statement of Randolph Carter". In S. T. Joshi (ed.). The Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Stories (1st printing ed.). Penguin Books. p. 363. ISBN 0-14-118234-2.  Explanatory Notes by S. T. Joshi.
  3. ^ Lovecraft, Howard P. (1985) [1919]. "The Statement of Randolph Carter". In S. T. Joshi (ed.). At the Mountains of Madness and Other Novels (7th corrected printing ed.). Sauk City, WI: Arkham House. ISBN 0-87054-038-6.  Definitive version.

External links[edit]