Owens Davies’ Grimoires – On the Necronomicon

I finished Owen Davies’ new book Grimoires, and overall it’s a masterpiece.  If you’re at all interested in this topic, you need to go out and buy it right now.

No, really, I’m serious.  Stop reading right now and buy it.  For any readers who are concerned as to whether Davies’ credentials measure up to their high standards, I can assure you that the membership policies of his college’s student union are beyond reproach.

The book does indeed cover the Necronomicon phenomenon, and there’s one passage that screams out for Papers comment.  As many of you know, one author who Lovecraft held in high esteem was William Hope Hodgson, who included among his works a series of stories based around the occult detective Carnacki.  Carnacki often used a fourteenth-century work called the Sigsand Manuscript.  Davies raises a question:

It is possible that the Sigsand Manuscript may have been the seed for Lovecraft’s Necronomicon.  Lovecraft had great respect for Hodgson’s work, writing in an essay on ‘Supernatural Horror in Literature’ that, ‘Few can equal him in adumbrating the nearness of nameless forces and monstrous besieging entities through casual hints and insignificant details, or in conveying feelings of the spectral and the abnormal.’  He was less than thrilled by Hodgson’s conception of Carnacki’s magical defences, though, stating that ‘scenes and events [are] badly marred by an atmosphere of professional “occultism.”‘

So, did the Sigsand Manuscript inspire Lovecraft’s creation of the Necronomicon?

To be brief – it’s highly unlikely.  As with many authors – I would include Dunsany, Machen, and Chambers among them – Lovecraft didn’t read them until much later in his career than most people have guessed.  Lovecraft’s letters don’t show him to have read any Hodgson until 1934, a few years before his death and twelve years after he first wrote about the Necronomicon in his short story “The Hound.”  I double-checked with S. T. Joshi just to make sure, and he confirms this finding.

Nonetheless, this should not detract from Owen Davies’ book, which I hope to review for Papers readers in the next few days.  If you have any particular questions, please feel free to ask them.

Published in: on May 8, 2009 at 12:07 pm  Comments (2)  

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. […] Review – Owen Davies’ Grimoires: A History of Magic Books Having touched upon the discussion of the Necronomicon’s origins in the book Grimoires by Owen Davies, it now falls upon me to describe Davies’ work.  Simply […]

  2. Excellent review Mister Harms. I will look into buying it myself.

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