H. P. Lovecraft’s “The Nameless City” Annotated

I have taken the liberty of annotating (footnoting, actually) HPL’s “The Nameless City,” in fixed-layout PDF format.

Hopefully, I’ve caught most, if not all of the British-isms and archaic spellings and obscure references. This is deliberately designed for someone less familiar with HPL’s British spellings and obscure words (“vigintillion” for example). May be useful for English Second Language (ESL) students?

I thought I’d try out my scholarship on this lesser-known story, rather than having a go at “The Call of Cthulhu” first.

111 footnotes on 25 pages.

Please let me know what you think.

Nameless City


Author: Staff Writer

Thirty-something graphic designer trapped in a boring part of Florida.

One thought on “H. P. Lovecraft’s “The Nameless City” Annotated”

  1. I’m really pleased with your efforts with this story, thank your for your efforts to popularize Lovecraft’s works. I humbly suggest you expand the footnotes slightly for your excellent rendition an annotated edition of The Nameless City. Your work will help many readers who are unfamiliar with HPL’s poetic and historical allusions with which he filled his early works. Keeping up with your good work, I recommend you have an illustrated version using Victorian steel engravings, such as for the Colossi of Memnon and other easily found public domain pictures, which would enlighten readers with images that HPL would have been familiar.

    In a forward to the story you can add that Lovecraft produced other Egyptian-based stories such as Buried with the Pharos/Under the Pyramids, as well as the short story, The Cats of Ulthar. His early short story, The Outsider refers to a female pharaoh Nitocris. For that matter, name Nyarlathotep has a strong Egyptian association. Egypt and Semitic nations are mentioned in HPL’s essay Supernatural Horror in Literature as important sources for his works. These words are important and there is a reason he used them rather than more common words. Again thank you for your work in getting people to read Lovecraft’s works.

    Suggested footnotes

    11. Memphis was one of the ancient capitals of Egypt originally called Inbu-Hetch. Over the centuries it received a number of descriptive names until it was finally renamed Memphis by the Greek Ptolemaic dynasty by modifying the name at that the time, which was Men-nefer. The present name of Egypt comes from one of the names of Memphis (modified by the Greeks) from Hut-ka-Ptah into Aegyptos. We now know the land as Egypt.

    Add one new footnote:
    Page 3 between 11 and 12 Sheik was an honorific term for a ruler of a tribe but can be for a religious leader or learned cleric as well.

    15 Aeons — A measure of immense portions of time. From the Greek it is translated as “forever” by many although, it originally meant “life” or “vital forces” in ancient Greek. From that meaning it was used in philosophy and by mystics. HPL uses it a several times in his works to indicate great sections of time, although he would have understood its connection to mysticism as well.

    20 Memnon – A reference to the Colossi of Memnon, which are two statues standing at the Necropolis of Thebes dating to 1350 BCE, flanking the entrance of Amenhotep’s Mortuary Temple. They were damaged in an earthquake in 27 BCE and the ancient statues were cracked. From that damage they reportedly make a sound just after dawn, sounding like a moan or a blowing sound reported by ancient sources. They are supposed to have oracular powers from ancient times. Although the Colossi of Memnon were popular in Victorian stories, there are no verifiable noises from the Memnon in modern times.

    23 Meroe – Meroë was the capital of capital of the kingdom of Kush (present day Sudan). In the 25th Dynasty of Egypt a culture arose which copied a number of practices of its neighbor Egypt such as the making of pyramids. Even before this time Egypt had strong trade relations with this region.

    28 Chaldaea was an ancient Semitic kingdom, considered by some to be a place of powerful magics and demons, a belief which has carried over into Victorian and later literature. HPL may have been familiar with the 1874 book, Chaldean Magic: Its Origin and Development.

    72 added … In Greek mythology the Satyr could induce wild passions as well as intense panic. The god Pan who was a satyr, from which we get the word pandemonium in this connection. This reference to wildness and panic would reflect on the creature described.

    74 added … Jove was the chief god of Roman mythology and a sky god with a lightening bolt and eagle. HPL invokes the hugeness of Jove for the scale of this creature. In HPL’s Buried with the Pharaohs a huge creature is found in a vault under a pyramid, of which only the paw is seen.

    108 Cacodaemoniacal refers to a cacophony or discordant racket raised by demons or the like. The word appears several times in HPL’s works.

    109 Aether was a classical philosophical element, which was also a reference to the upper sky. Aether was believed to exist between the planets and the stars as nobody believed that a vacuum could exist. HPL uses the word in that sense but also in an alchemical context, such as in luminiferous aether. It was the medium through light was conducted and also called the fifth element.

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