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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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1,524339,989 (3.9)45
From a private hospital for the insane near Providence, Rhode Island, there recently disappeared an exceedingly singular person. He bore the name of Charles Dexter Ward... A young intellectual is lured to his doom through his obsession with his ancestor, a reputed necromancer. Never published in Lovecraft's lifetime, this is the iconic American author's most powerful exploration of an inquisitive mind overwhelmed by the dark arts.… (more)
  1. 10
    Haunted and the Haunters by Edward Bulwer Lytton, Baron Lytton (Anonymous user)
    Anonymous user: Lovecraft's Curwen is reminiscent of the ageless villain in Bulwer-Lytton.
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» See also 45 mentions

English (23)  German (2)  Spanish (2)  French (2)  All languages (29)
Showing 1-5 of 23 (next | show all)
9788494510410
  archivomorero | Jun 27, 2022 |
August 10, 2012
I hate to give up on this one so soon, as I'm very interested in the Cthulhu mythos, but this book was just too dry and rambling. i'll try it again another time.
  KrakenTamer | Oct 23, 2021 |
Lovecraft's longest work, but also one of his more underwhelming ones. I think, with some judicious editing to remove repetitive passages and to straighten out the meandering plot a bit, this could have been one of his good ones, but it just didn't quite hit the marks for me. ( )
  TobinElliott | Sep 3, 2021 |
Old Providence! It was this place and the mysterious forces of its long, continuous history which had brought him into being, and which had drawn him back toward marvels and secrets whose boundaries no prophet might fix. Here lay the arcana, wondrous or dreadful as the case might be, for which all his years of travel and application had been preparing him. A taxicab whirled him through Post Office Square with its glimpse of the river, the old Market House, and the head of the bay, and up the steep curved slope of Waterman Street to Prospect, where the vast gleaming dome and sunset-flushed Ionic columns of the Christian Science Church beckoned northward. Then eight squares past the fine old estates his childish eyes had known, and the quaint brick sidewalks so often trodden by his youthful feet. And at last the little white overtaken farmhouse on the right, on the left the classic Adam porch and stately bayed facade of the great brick house where he was born. It was twilight, and Charles Dexter Ward had come home.

I am out of review space under [b:The Complete Works of H.P. Lovecraft|11851522|The Complete Works of H.P. Lovecraft|H.P. Lovecraft|https://images.gr-assets.com/books/1327886768s/11851522.jpg|16807494], and I seem to be headed into the longer works now, so I am going to start reviewing them individually, I think. This one, at least. This one is the first of Lovecraft's tales to date (and I have slogged through everything he wrote as a sole author from 1917 to 1926 so far) that I have really, genuinely enjoyed beginning to end. Just some general points regarding the overall craft:

*When Lovecraft actually bothers to write dialogue, it's generally very, very good. All the conversations in this tale really work to heighten the creep factor. I wish he'd done this more often.

*The whole story balances around the quote I've pulled above, and I just love everything that is going on in that passage. This is really 100% Grade A mastery, here.

*The balance between truly horrific cosmic realities and a hero who has just enough luck and fortitude to win this one time actually works in this one, largely because the villainy and heroism are both kept directly at a human level.

*There is a cosmic something emergent in the story, but it is left with just a scrap of mystery. Everything else is explained. It works. Somehow Lovecraft finally manages to hit the balance he's been grasping for exactly in this outing.

*The Mythos continues to grow in the background, with our friend Randolph Carter making another return trip through a tiny reference to tie the whole matter back into previous stories. This helps explain the hero's otherwise rather improbable ability to fight fire with fire. The conspiracy that is revealed in this tale will be making returns in the future stories, I feel sure. Lovecraft has finally come up with an evil that isn't just hand waving at primitive cults.

*Even though so much of the story depends on [b:The Picture of Dorian Gray|5297|The Picture of Dorian Gray|Oscar Wilde|https://images.gr-assets.com/books/1424596966s/5297.jpg|1858012], I found the outright reference to Wilde's disgrace disconcerting. Probably just a problem for a modern reader.

*Another black cat, this one named Nig. Really, Lovecraft?

*Lovecraft actually gives us four whole sympathetic characters to cheer on. I am not big on being able to 'relate' to a character, but wow does sympathetic characterization help me with Lovecraft.

*Lovecraft loved New England so, so much. With everything else I hate about him, that fact is so very endearing.

*You know that trope that so annoys me, where protagonists are slow to figure everything out and are still stumbling about in the dark light years after the reader knows what happened? Yeah, that happens here. But I've almost come to find this endearing about Lovecraft as well. And it this case, the piece by piece reveal to the characters is more the point of the story than the mystery to be resolved, and that reveal is done incredibly well and it very satisfying.

*The explanations that are given here are all excellent and nothing in this story crosses over into stupid territory. This one sits very firmly in the fantasy genre for me (rather than horror), but it is deliciously creepy fantasy. (Plenty of gross, but no close ups of the gross, and after every other flipping story in the collection I'm reading, that works fine for me.)

*I am not sure this story would work quite so well for someone who hasn't read the rest of his works up to this point, unfortunately. Otherwise this would be a great place to start with Lovecraft.

Tl;dr: Good job, H.P. Loved it.

( )
  amyotheramy | May 11, 2021 |
Digging up the past
nice hobby for a young man,
or an old wizard. ( )
  Eggpants | Jun 25, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 23 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (60 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Lovecraft, H.P.primary authorall editionsconfirmed
Äärelä, IlkkaTranslatorsecondary authorsome 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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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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This is for books that contain The Case of Charles Dexter Ward as their complete contents.
2 stories. "Der Fall Charles Dexter Ward" & "Schatten über Innsmouth".
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From a private hospital for the insane near Providence, Rhode Island, there recently disappeared an exceedingly singular person. He bore the name of Charles Dexter Ward... A young intellectual is lured to his doom through his obsession with his ancestor, a reputed necromancer. Never published in Lovecraft's lifetime, this is the iconic American author's most powerful exploration of an inquisitive mind overwhelmed by the dark arts.

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Book description
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!
Haiku summary
"OGTHROD AI'F GEB'L-EE'H

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

Fine blueish-grey dust!

(timspalding)

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