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The Case of Charles Dexter Ward by H. P.…
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The Case of Charles Dexter Ward (1941)

by H.P. Lovecraft

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Randolph Carter tales (5; mentioned)

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1,107187,478 (3.9)33
  1. 10
    The Haunted and the Haunters by Edward Bulwer-Lytton (Anonymous user)
    Anonymous user: Lovecraft's Curwen is reminiscent of the ageless villain in Bulwer-Lytton.
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» See also 33 mentions

English (14)  German (2)  French (2)  All (18)
Showing 1-5 of 14 (next | show all)
Lovecraft's only full-length novel (though a short one) and a classic of the genre. It falls just short of masterpiece due to a slightly prosaic feel that never quite attains the scope of something like At the Mountains of Madness and the Shadow Out of time, to name two of his other longer works. Which isn't necessarily a criticism per se since it's a different type of story, more in common with the works of Poe and Hawthorne than Hodgson or Blackwood. It's simply that I prefer his more cosmically themed work, and feel that Lovecraft excelled more strongly in that area. Tales of witchcraft and the occult were hardly new, even in Lovecraft's day, and had already been attempted by bigger-name writers than himself.

The novel isn't without its high points, of course: for one, a strong evocation of place that includes more than a few semi-autobiographical details, as well as a good deal of authentic New England folklore and history, all of which add a richness to the tale that raises it above his other works of this ilk. There are also some magnificently eerie moments such as the doctor's exploration of the abandoned catacombs, as well as a surprisingly rousing action scene early in the book. Unfortunately some recurring Lovecraft faults are also present: a rather too credulous and naive set of characters, an over-reluctance to reveal a particular twist long after said twist should have become blindingly apparent to everyone concerned, and a somewhat fuzzy main threat that's just a little too ill-defined to be truly terrifying.

Taken as a whole, though, I found The Case of Charles Dexter Ward to be a gripping and well-wrought tale of New England witchcraft, worth reading as much for its autobiographical content as its merits as a horror tale. ( )
  StuartNorth | Nov 19, 2016 |
Lovecraft's only full-length novel (though a short one) and a classic of the genre. It falls just short of masterpiece due to a slightly prosaic feel that never quite attains the scope of something like At the Mountains of Madness and the Shadow Out of time, to name two of his other longer works. Which isn't necessarily a criticism per se since it's a different type of story, more in common with the works of Poe and Hawthorne than Hodgson or Blackwood. It's simply that I prefer his more cosmically themed work, and feel that Lovecraft excelled more strongly in that area. Tales of witchcraft and the occult were hardly new, even in Lovecraft's day, and had already been attempted by bigger-name writers than himself.

The novel isn't without its high points, of course: for one, a strong evocation of place that includes more than a few semi-autobiographical details, as well as a good deal of authentic New England folklore and history, all of which add a richness to the tale that raises it above his other works of this ilk. There are also some magnificently eerie moments such as the doctor's exploration of the abandoned catacombs, as well as a surprisingly rousing action scene early in the book. Unfortunately some recurring Lovecraft faults are also present: a rather too credulous and naive set of characters, an over-reluctance to reveal a particular twist long after said twist should have become blindingly apparent to everyone concerned, and a somewhat fuzzy main threat that's just a little too ill-defined to be truly terrifying.

Taken as a whole, though, I found The Case of Charles Dexter Ward to be a gripping and well-wrought tale of New England witchcraft, worth reading as much for its autobiographical content as its merits as a horror tale. ( )
  StuartNorth | Nov 19, 2016 |
4.5

Lovecraft must be the only author whose works I've read and don't mind certain things most readers seem to hate. Yes, it can be slow. Yes, he can be overly descriptive. Yes, there is an omniscient narrator. Yes, there is lots of retelling. And in most cases, some of those annoy me too.
However, all of it pales in front of his extraordinary imagination and the atmosphere you find in his stories. It doesn't matter if it is a short story or a longer one. He is one of a kind and The Case of Charles Dexter Ward is one of those stories that shows just how great Lovecraft was.'What horrors and mysteries, what contradictions and contraventions of Nature, had come back after a century and a half to harass Old Providence with her clustered spires and domes?' It starts with the escape of Charles Dexter Ward from a private hospital near Providence, Rhode Island. He 'was placed under restraint most reluctantly by the grieving father who had watched his aberration grow from a mere eccentricity to a dark mania involving both a possibility of murderous tendencies and a profound and peculiar change in the apparent contents of his mind'. Charles seemed to switch his personality to the one from eighteenth century. Even his physical appearance was changed. The last person to talk to him before his escape is his family physician, Dr. Marinus Bicknell Willett. The only thing left in the room is a strange blue powder. 'This is no common case—it is a madness out of time and a horror from beyond the spheres which no police or lawyers or courts or alienists could ever fathom or grapple with.' From there, the story goes back to where and when it all started. From Ward's unhealthy interest in his ancestor Joseph Curwen who came from Salem during the witch-hunt trials to all the changes everyone noticed. It goes even further in the past, because there is a story within a story here. Who was Joseph Curwen? What did he do? What happened to him? Why would someone try to erase every trace of him? From Ward's research, private letters and rare diaries he managed to find, he found out that his ancestor 'was marvelled at, feared, and finally shunned like a plague'.

You already know where Charles Dexter Ward would end up, but his path from a solitary young antiquarian to the changed man the doctor left in that hospital room is a remarkable story. Considering that Dr. Willett is the one who brought him into this world, the ending is extraordinary and the doctor one of my favourite characters I've read. ( )
  Aneris | Oct 31, 2016 |
4.5

Lovecraft must be the only author whose works I've read and don't mind certain things most readers seem to hate. Yes, it can be slow. Yes, he can be overly descriptive. Yes, there is an omniscient narrator. Yes, there is lots of retelling. And in most cases, some of those annoy me too.
However, all of it pales in front of his extraordinary imagination and the atmosphere you find in his stories. It doesn't matter if it is a short story or a longer one. He is one of a kind and The Case of Charles Dexter Ward is one of those stories that shows just how great Lovecraft was.'What horrors and mysteries, what contradictions and contraventions of Nature, had come back after a century and a half to harass Old Providence with her clustered spires and domes?' It starts with the escape of Charles Dexter Ward from a private hospital near Providence, Rhode Island. He 'was placed under restraint most reluctantly by the grieving father who had watched his aberration grow from a mere eccentricity to a dark mania involving both a possibility of murderous tendencies and a profound and peculiar change in the apparent contents of his mind'. Charles seemed to switch his personality to the one from eighteenth century. Even his physical appearance was changed. The last person to talk to him before his escape is his family physician, Dr. Marinus Bicknell Willett. The only thing left in the room is a strange blue powder. 'This is no common case—it is a madness out of time and a horror from beyond the spheres which no police or lawyers or courts or alienists could ever fathom or grapple with.' From there, the story goes back to where and when it all started. From Ward's unhealthy interest in his ancestor Joseph Curwen who came from Salem during the witch-hunt trials to all the changes everyone noticed. It goes even further in the past, because there is a story within a story here. Who was Joseph Curwen? What did he do? What happened to him? Why would someone try to erase every trace of him? From Ward's research, private letters and rare diaries he managed to find, he found out that his ancestor 'was marvelled at, feared, and finally shunned like a plague'.

You already know where Charles Dexter Ward would end up, but his path from a solitary young antiquarian to the changed man the doctor left in that hospital room is a remarkable story. Considering that Dr. Willett is the one who brought him into this world, the ending is extraordinary and the doctor one of my favourite characters I've read. ( )
  Aneris | Oct 31, 2016 |
A master of infered horror. ( )
  jefware | Sep 29, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 14 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (62 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Lovecraft, H.P.primary authorall editionsconfirmed
Blommestein, Bob vanCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Miller, IanCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Niessen-Hossele, J.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Whelan, MichaelCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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From a private hospital for the insane near Providence, Rhode Island, there recently disappeared an exceedingly singular person.
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This is for books that contain The Case of Charles Dexter Ward as their complete contents.
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"OGTHROD AI'F GEB'L-EE'H

YOG-SOTHOTH 'NGAH'NG AI'Y ZHRO!"

Fine blueish-grey dust!

(timspalding)

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0345354907, Mass Market Paperback)

Incantations of black magic unearthed unspeakable horrors in a quiet town near Providence, Rhode Island. Evil spirits are being resurrected from beyond the grave, a supernatural force so twisted that it kills without offering the mercy of death!

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 17:58:43 -0400)

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