The Evil Clergyman

The Evil Clergyman

"The Evil Clergyman" is an excerpt from a letter written by American horror fiction writer H. P. Lovecraft in 1933. After his death, it was published in the April 1939 issue of "Weird Tales" as a short story.

The letter, to his friend Bernard Austin Dwyer, recounted a dream that Lovecraft had had. Although Lovecraft frequently based stories on his dreams, "An H. P. Lovecraft Encyclopedia" notes that " [i] t is difficult to say how HPL would have developed this conventional supernatural scenario." [Joshi and Schultz, p. 88.]

ynopsis

The story begins in the attic of an old house. The narrator’s companion refers to the former owner of the house and the presumably violent end that befell him. He advises the narrator not to stay until after dark or touch anything, especially the small object on a table, which the companion seems to fear considerably.

The narrator is then left alone in the attic; he notes the many theological and classical books, and one bookshelf in particular containing books on magic. He feels a considerable curiosity for the forbidden object on the table.

The narrator finds a strange flashlight-like device in his pocket that produces a peculiar violet glow. He attempts to illuminate the object on the table with this strange light, which he describes as being composed of particles. The object makes a crackling sound like a sparking vacuum tube, and takes on a pinkish glow with a vague white shape taking form from its center.

The narrator, feeling that his surroundings are taking on strange new properties, realizes that he is not alone; the sinister newcomer is described as wearing clerical garb typical of the Anglican Church. The newcomer begins throwing magical books into a fireplace.

The narrator notices other men within the room, all dressed in clerical attire, including a bishop; they confront the first man, who reaches for the object on the table with a wry smile. The other men, looking terrified, make a quick retreat.

The man then proceeds to retrieve a coil of rope from a cupboard and ties it into a noose as if to hang himself. When the narrator attempts to intervene, the man notices him and approaches threateningly. The narrator shines the strange light on the man as if it were a weapon, causing him to fall backwards down an open stairwell.

When the narrator proceeds towards the stairwell, he finds no body below, but rather three people approaching with lanterns. Two of them see the narrator and flee shrieking, leaving only the companion who had accompanied the narrator to the attic.

The companion says that the narrator should have left the object alone, that interfering with it had altered him. The man then leads the narrator to a mirror, where he is presented not with his own reflection, but that of the evil clergyman.

Notes

External links

* [http://www.hplovecraft.com/writings/fiction/ec.asp "H. P. Lovecraft's 'The Evil Clergyman'"] , The H. P. Lovecraft Archive; publication history


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