H. P. Lovecraft
About the Author
American poet and author of macabre short novels, who was virtually unknown most of his career. Lovecraft's posthumous fame, particularly in America and France, rests on his 'Cthulhu Mythos' stories, referring to a "race who, in practicing black magic, lost their foothold and were expelled, yet live on outside ever ready to take possession of this earth again." H.P. Lovecraft has become a cult figure in the genre of horror stories; he is considered a true successor of Edgar Allan Poe. Lovecraft's imaginary town in his tales, Arkham, was based on his home town of Providence.
Howard Phillips Lovecraft was born in Providence, Rhode Island. He was of predominantly of British stock on both sides of his family, consumed by eccentricity. His mother keep his son from contact with the outside world. She treated him like a girl, and made him wear his hair long until the age of six. Lovecraft's father, named after the hero Winfield Scott, was a traveling salesman, who went mad, probably from syphilis, was institutionalized, and died when his son was five. Lovecraft suffered from terrifying nightly disturbances and nightmares which lasted until his own death. This deeply personal material also clinged to his stories, such as The Case of Charles Dexter Ward (1928). "From a private hospital for the insane near Providence, Rhode Island, there recently disappeared an exceedingly singular person. He bore the name of Charles Dexter Ward, and was placed under restraint most reluctantly by the grieving father who had watched his aberration grow from a eccentricity to a dark mania involving both a possibility of murderous tendencies and a peculiar change in the apparent contents of his mind."
Lovecraft grew up as a fringe member of the conservative New England aristocracy. He was educated at local schools, although often he was kept away from school by his overprotective mother. Lovecraft's poor health as a young boy led him to read voluminously from his grandfather's old library. During this time he found the works of Edgar Allan Poe, who had visited several times the library in Province, and whose model inspired Lovecraft in his literary aspirations. He also read works by Ambrose Bierce, Arthur Machen, Algernon Blackwood, M.R. James, and Lord Dunsany (1878-1957), who inspired him to write the short novel The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath (1926-27). "The most poignant sensations of my existence are those of 1896, when I discovered the Hellenic world, and of 1902, when I discovered the myriad suns and worlds of infinite space," Lovecraft once said to his friend. In his early career Lovecraft struggled to assimilate all these literary influences he encountered, finding his own voice after years of writing.
After two and half years of high school, he had a 'nervous collapse' and failed to leave secondary school with a diploma. However, he was fascinated by science and by the age of 16 he wrote on astronomy for local newspapers. At the age of 27 he was still at home, writing gloomy tales for amateur publications. The published of Weird Tales magazine, Clark Henneberger, become interested in the work of the Rhode Island hermit, a character not far from his stories, and published 'Dragon' in the Octobor 1923 issue. Henneberger bought everything he wrote. For Harry Houdini, the famous magician who "contributed" to the magazine, Lovecraft ghostwrote 'Imprisoned with the Pharaohs' (1924). Eventually Lovecraft was offered the job of editor at Weird Tales, but he turned the offer down.
Lovecraft's mother died when the author was 31 - at the same insane asylum as his father. Lovecraft continued to live with his two aunts. His marriage in 1924 with Sonia Greene, who was seven years his senior, lasted only until 1926. Sonia was a Jew and she has recalled that her husband hated Jewish immigrants, but he was an "adequately excellent lover." After two miserable year in New York, "a babel of sound and filth," he moved back to Providence, where he spent the rest of his life with his aunts. Social contacts Lovecraft maintained mainly by mail - Lovecraft's letters to Clark Ashton Smith (1893-1961) alone averaged about 40,000 words a year. While still in his thirties he began referring to himself as an "old gentleman" and signing his letters as "Grandpa". L. Sprague de Camp has claimed in Lovecraft: A Biography (1975) that the author wrote over 1000,000 letters.
After gaining some success as a writer Lovecraft started to travel. His later works show that he was beginning to outgrow from the genre of horror in the direction of science fiction - among others 'The Color Out of Space' and 'The Shadow Out of Time' from his mature period were first published in science fiction magazines. Lovecraft died from a combination of intestinal cancer and Bright's disease on March 15, 1937. He was buried in the family plot in the Swan Point Cemetary. Lovecraft's friends August Derleth and Donald Wandrei set up in 1939 a publishing house for his work, Arkham House, and the author's books have remained in print ever since.
Most of Lovecraft's short stories appeared in the magazine Weird Tales, beginning in 1923. His works from the early phase include 'The Tomb', 'The Statement of Randolph Carter', 'The Outsider', 'The Rats in the Walls', 'The Shunned House', 'From Beyond', and 'Cool Air', all written with more or less conventional scenarios. Lovecraft often used the first-person narrator, who is a scientist or scholar. The narrator witnesses events that contradict his beliefs and completely change his view of the world. "Trouble with memory. I see things I never knew before. Other worlds and other galaxies... Dark... The lightning seems dark and the darkness seems light..." (from 'The Haunter of the Dark') Going gradually insane, Lovecfaft's characters must face ultimate horrors, prepared or not: "The end is near. I hear a noise at the door, as of some immense slippery body lumbering against it. It shall not find me. God, that hand! The window! The window!" (from 'Dragon', 1919)
After returning to his native Providence, Lovecraft became interested in his own New England heritage, evoking its topography, history and society. This mature period produced such stories as 'The Color Out of Space', 'The Dunwich Horror', 'The Shadow over Innsmouth', 'The Thing on the Doorstep', 'The Dreams in the Witch House'. Many of Lovecraft's tales utilize a pseudo-mythical framework, termed the 'Cthulhu Mythos.' The first installment in the series, 'The Call of Cthulhu' appeared in the February 1928 issue of Weird Tales, where he created his basic myth of the Elder Race. 'The Dunwich Horror' was partly inspired by Lovecraft's trip to western Massachusetts in the area of Athol. He tranformed it into the home of decadent Wheateleys. In the story cycle, humans are hapless victims, not important for the incomprehensible cosmic forces. The view was based on his philosophical idea of 'cosmicism', the insignificance of all human affairs in the vastness of the universe. Religion Lovecraft had rejected early but used it myth and images, among others the scene of the crucifixion. "He hated modern civilization, particularly in its confident belief in progress and science," wrote Colin Wilson in The Strength to Dream, 1962.
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