“Ibid.” Short story (1,720 words); written probably in the summer of 1928. First published in O-Wash-Ta-Nong (January 1938); rpt. Phantagraph (June 1940); first collected in Uncollected Prose and Poetry II (1980); corrected text in MW.
In this “biography” of the celebrated Ibidus, the author is careful to point out that his masterpiece was not, as is sometimes believed, the Lives of the Poets but in fact the famous “Op. Cit. wherein all the significant undercurrents of Graeco-Roman expression were crystallised once for all.” Ibid was born in 486 and taught rhetoric in Rome. His fortunes were mixed during the succession of barbarian invasions in Italy, and by 541 he had moved to Constantinople. He died in 587, but his remains later were exhumed and his skull began a long series of peregrinations and ended up—by way of Charlemagne, Alcuin, William the Conqueror, Oliver Cromwell, and others—in the New World, specifically in Salem, Mass., then in Providence, and finally in Milwaukee, where it rolled down into the burrow of a prairie-dog, only to be brought back to earth by a convulsion of Nature.
HPL on one occasion dated this sketch to 1927 (see HPL to Maurice W.Moe, January 19, ; AHT), but the first mention of it is in a letter by Moe to HPL dated August 3, 1928, so a date of 1928 seems more probable. The story was either included in a letter to Moe or was a separate enclosure in a letter to him; its epigraph (“‘…As Ibid says in his famous Lives of the Poets.’—From a student theme”) may refer to an actual statement from a paper by one of Moe’s students. HPL uses this real or fabricated piece of fatuity as the springboard for an exquisite tongue-in-cheek squib with numerous in-jokes (particularly in relation to HPL’s residence in Providence and Moe’s in Milwaukee).
The target of the satire in “Ibid” is not so much the follies of students as the pomposity of academic scholarship. It is full of learned but preposterous footnotes and owlish references to real and fabricated historical events. Moe considered submitting the sketch to the American Mercury or some such journal and asked