Short Story #385: The Descendant by H. P. Lovecraft

Title: The Descendant

Author:  H. P. Lovecraft


Book cover to H. P. Lovecraft: The Complete Collection with Accompanying Facts from Red Skull Publishing
The story begins with a narrator explaining that he is on his deathbed and feels the need to share a particular story before he dies.  He tells of a quiet and slightly mad older man who lives in the Gray's Inn.  The man has  pet cat whom he talked to a lot.  In fact, his talk was largely irrelevant but then a young man named Williams moved into to the Inn and tries constantly to befriend the old man and get him to share his knowledge..  It is revealed that the man is Lord Northam of England.  Williams attempts are largely rebuked but then one day, Williams acquires a copy of the Necronomicon, the book of the dead that captures the minds of so many intrigued by the dark arts.  This book provides an opening for the Lord Northam to open up.  He discusses his home and his lineage.  His line goes back to Roman times in England when soldiers first took to the land.  However, they encountered this one cave that they couldn't vanquish, despite their best efforts.  This cave was said to be of a people who had lived there for a long time before and were from an ancient land which had sunk into the sea.  This was the place where his castle was built upon.  Generations later, Lord Northam still felt the haunting power of the place which let him to pursue the tales of the supernatural and even to witness it himself.  This led him eventually to the Nameless City and to believe that there are points in the world where one can transcend to some other place not of this world.  The story ends with him wondering if this is all in his mind or something that is actually real.    


The story began with an engaging premise but fizzles out in the end.  It has the story (the narrator telling his tale) within a story (Williams trying to confront Lord Northam) within a story (Lord Northam's tale).  But the ending feels abrupt and without a climax.  It seems like there is no real climax beyond getting Northam to speak.  The only real way this story has a climax is if it goes hand in hand with the short story, The Nameless City, wherein you witness just what his experience was with The Nameless City (which is pretty significant), but then the story feels like it is the framing for that tale, not a tale in itself. 

Rating:  2 (out of 5 stars)

Source:  I read this version  of a the complete works of H. P. Lovecraft from Red Skull Publishing (that's their book cover too).  However, you can find all of H. P. Lovecraft's work for free at this website.  

For a full listing of all the short stories in this series, check out the category 365 Short Stories a year.

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