Following up on last month’s entry on Jim Beard’s ‘Sgt. Janus’, this month I’m taking a gander at August Derleth’s Dr. Laban Shrewsbury.
“They are at the mouth of the Miskatonic now. But I am ready.”
-Dr. Laban Shrewsbury, “The House on Curwen Street”
‘…an elderly man who wore his hair long and white…a firm, almost prognathus chin, half-pursed lips and a strong Roman nose. His eyes were not visible at all, for he wore dark glasses with shields which prevented one from seeing his eyes even from the side.’ Such is our first glimpse of Dr. Laban Shrewsbury, late of Arkham, late of the distant star Celaeno, and the Hyades in the 1944 story, “The House on Curwen Street”. Blind, and yet all-seeing, Shrewsbury stands between humanity and Lovecraft’s nightmarish god-things, employing weapons both material and supernatural in the world’s defence.
Created in 1944 by August Derleth for a series of interlinked stories set firmly in the dark universe of HP Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos—a term coined by Derleth himself—Shrewsbury was far from the standard Lovecraftian protagonist. With his incantations and machinations, he is at first glance the antithesis of the hapless antiquarians and artists who populate both the original stories and many of the pastiches that came after.
Shrewsbury is far more active than his predecessors, who are, in most cases, passive victims of the horrors they encounter. Unlike John Kirowan, who has seen the audient void and been frightened by it into a haunted and semi-reclusive retirement, Shrewsbury is more akin to Titus Crow—he is an active combatant in a war in which humanity is, at best, a pawn and at worst, food for the titanic forces at play.
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