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A Tribute To H.P. Lovecraft

My Opinion

After I read every Poe tale I could find I turned my attention to Lovecraft. I was a little older but just as impressionable and Lovecraft left a mark. His use of nightmare imagery (I suffered from night terrors myself) coupled with his whole mythos intrigued me. I can say I always liked Poe a little more, but Lovecraft would be a close second as far as my favorite horror writers are concerned. Like Poe, if you are deeply into horror film, you should read some of his fiction as it has influenced so much that came after.


from: Wikipedia.org/

Early life

Lovecraft was born on August 20, 1890 at 9:00 a.m. in his family home at 194 (later 454) Angell Street in Providence, Rhode Island. (The house was torn down in 1961.) He was the only child of Winfield Scott Lovecraft, a traveling salesman of jewelry and precious metals, and Sarah Susan Phillips Lovecraft, who could trace her ancestry in America back to the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1630. His parents married, the first marriage for both, when they were in their thirties, unusually late in life given the time period. In 1893, when Lovecraft was three, his father became acutely psychotic in a Chicago hotel room while on a business trip. The elder Lovecraft was taken back to Providence and placed in Butler Hospital, where he remained until his death in 1898. Lovecraft maintained throughout his life that his father had died in a condition of paralysis brought on by "nervous exhaustion" due to over-work, but it is now almost certain that the actual cause was general paresis of the insane. It is unknown whether the younger Lovecraft was ever aware of the actual nature of his father's illness or its cause (syphilis), although his mother likely was, possibly having even received tincture of arsenic as "preventive medication".

After his father's hospitalization, Lovecraft was raised by his mother, his two aunts (Lillian Delora Phillips and Annie Emeline Phillips), and his maternal grandfather, Whipple Van Buren Phillips. All five resided together in the family home. Lovecraft was a child prodigy, reciting poetry at the age of three and writing complete poems by six. His grandfather encouraged his reading, providing him with classics such as The Arabian Nights, Bulfinch's Age of Fable, and children's versions of The Iliad and The Odyssey. His grandfather also stirred the boy's interest in the weird by telling him his own original tales of Gothic horror. His mother, on the other hand, worried that these stories would upset him.

Lovecraft was frequently ill as a child, at least some of which was certainly psychosomatic, although he attributed his various ailments to physical causes only. Early speculation that he may have been congenitally disabled by syphilis passed on from father to mother to fetus has been ruled out. Due to his sickly condition and his undisciplined, argumentative nature, he barely attended school until he was eight years old, and then was withdrawn after a year. He read voraciously during this period and became especially enamored of chemistry and astronomy. He produced several hectographed publications with a limited circulation beginning in 1899 with The Scientific Gazette. Four years later, he returned to public school at Hope Street High School. Beginning in his early life, Lovecraft is believed to have suffered from night terrors, a rare parasomnia disorder. Much of his later work is thought to have been directly inspired by these terrors.

His grandfather's death in 1904 greatly affected Lovecraft's life. Mismanagement of his grandfather's estate left his family in such a poor financial situation they were forced to move into much smaller accommodations at 598 (now a duplex at 598-600) Angell Street. Lovecraft was so deeply affected by the loss of his home and birthplace that he contemplated suicide for a time. In 1908, prior to his high school graduation, he himself claimed to have suffered what he later described as a "nervous breakdown", and consequently never received his high school diploma (although he maintained for most of his life that he did graduate). S. T. Joshi suggests in his biography of Lovecraft that a primary cause for this breakdown was his difficulty in higher mathematics, a subject he needed to master to become a professional astronomer. This failure to complete his education (he wished to study at Brown University) was a source of disappointment and shame even late into his life.

Lovecraft wrote some fiction as a youth but, from 1908 until 1913, his output was primarily poetry. During that time, he lived a hermit's existence, having almost no contact with anyone but his mother. This changed when he wrote a letter to The Argosy, a pulp magazine, complaining about the insipidness of the love stories of one of the publication's popular writers. The ensuing debate in the magazine's letters column caught the eye of Edward F. Daas, President of the United Amateur Press Association (UAPA), who invited Lovecraft to join them in 1914. The UAPA reinvigorated Lovecraft and incited him to contribute many poems and essays. In 1917, at the prodding of correspondents, he returned to fiction with more polished stories, such as "The Tomb" and "Dagon". The latter was his first professionally-published work, appearing in W. Paul Cook's The Vagrant (November, 1919) and Weird Tales in 1923. Around that time, he began to build up a huge network of correspondents. His lengthy and frequent missives (letters) would make him one of the great letter writers of the century. Among his correspondents were Robert Bloch (Psycho), Clark Ashton Smith, and Robert E. Howard (Conan the Barbarian series).

In 1919, after suffering from hysteria and depression for a long period of time, Lovecraft's mother had a nervous breakdown and was committed to Butler Hospital just like her husband before her. Nevertheless, she wrote frequent letters to Lovecraft, and they remained very close until her death on May 21, 1921, the result of complications from gall bladder surgery. Lovecraft was devastated by the loss.

Marriage and New York

A few weeks after his mother's death, Lovecraft attended an amateur journalist convention in Boston, Massachusetts, where he met Sonia Greene. Born in 1883, she was of Ukrainian-Jewish ancestry and seven years older than Lovecraft. They married in 1924, and the couple moved to the borough of Brooklyn in New York City. Lovecraft's aunts may have been unhappy with this arrangement, as they were not fond of Lovecraft being married to a tradeswoman (Greene owned a hat shop). Initially, Lovecraft was enthralled by New York, but soon the couple was facing financial difficulties. Greene lost her hat shop and suffered poor health. Lovecraft could not find work to support them both, so his wife moved to Cleveland for employment. Lovecraft lived by himself in the Red Hook neighborhood of Brooklyn and came to intensely dislike New York life. Indeed, this daunting reality of failure to secure any work in the midst of a large immigrant population- especially irreconcilable with his opinion of himself as a privileged Anglo-Saxon- has been theorized as galvanizing his racism to the point of fear, a sentiment he sublimated in the short story "The Horror at Red Hook."

A few years later, Lovecraft and his wife, still living separately, agreed to an amicable divorce, which was never fully completed. He returned to Providence to live with his aunts during their remaining years. Due to the unhappiness of their marriage, some biographers have speculated that Lovecraft could have been asexual, though Greene is often quoted as referring to him as "an adequately excellent lover".

Return to Providence

Back in Providence, Lovecraft lived in a "spacious brown Victorian wooden house" at 10 Barnes Street until 1933. This is the same address given as the home of Dr. Willett in Lovecraft's The Case of Charles Dexter Ward. The period after his return to Providence, the last decade of his life, was Lovecraft's most prolific. During that time period, he produced almost all of his best-known short stories for the leading pulp publications of the day (primarily Weird Tales), as well as longer efforts, such as The Case of Charles Dexter Ward and At the Mountains of Madness. He frequently revised work for other authors and did a large amount of ghost-writing, including "The Mound," "Winged Death," "Under the Pyramids" (Also known as "Imprisoned With the Pharaohs") (for Harry Houdini), and "The Diary of Alonzo Typer."

Despite his best writing efforts, however, he grew ever poorer. He was forced to move to smaller and meaner lodgings with his surviving aunt. He was also deeply affected by Robert E. Howard's suicide. In 1936, Lovecraft was diagnosed with cancer of the intestine, and he also suffered from malnutrition. He lived in constant pain until his death on March 15, 1937 in Providence.

Lovecraft was listed along with his parents on the Phillips family monument. That was not enough for his fans, so in 1977, a group of individuals raised the money to buy him a headstone of his own, on which they had inscribed Lovecraft's name, the dates of his birth and death and the phrase, "I AM PROVIDENCE," a line from one of his personal letters.

Background of Lovecraft's work

H. P. Lovecraft's name is synonymous with horror fiction; his writing, particularly the "Cthulhu Mythos", has influenced fiction authors worldwide, and Lovecraftian elements may be found in novels, movies, music, comic books and cartoons. Many modern horror writers, including Stephen King, Bentley Little, Joe R. Lansdale, Alan Moore and Neil Gaiman, have cited Lovecraft as one of their primary influences.

Lovecraft himself, though, was relatively unknown during his own time. While his stories appeared in the pages of prominent pulp magazines such as Weird Tales (often eliciting letters of outrage from regular readers of the magazines), not many people knew his name. He did, however, correspond regularly with other contemporary writers, such as Clark Ashton Smith and August Derleth, people who became good friends of his, even though they never met in person. This group of correspondents became known as the "Lovecraft Circle", since they all freely borrowed elements of Lovecraft's stories, the mysterious books with disturbing names, the pantheon of ancient alien gods, such as Cthulhu and Azathoth, and eldritch places, such as the New England town of Arkham and its Miskatonic University, for use in their own works (with Lovecraft's blessing and encouragement).

After Lovecraft's death, the Lovecraft Circle carried on. August Derleth was probably the most prolific of these writers, having added to and expanded on Lovecraft's vision. Derleth's contributions have been controversial to say the least; while Lovecraft never considered his pantheon of alien gods more than a mere plot device, Derleth created an entire cosmology, complete with a war between the 'good' "Elder Gods" and the 'evil' "Outer Gods" (such as Cthulhu and his ilk), which the 'good' Gods were supposed to have won, locking Cthulhu and others up beneath the earth, in the ocean etc., and went on to associate different gods with the traditional four elements.

Lovecraft's fiction has been grouped into three categories by some critics. While Lovecraft did not refer to these categories himself, he did once write, "There are my 'Poe' pieces and my 'Dunsany pieces' but alas where are my Lovecraft pieces?"

Macabre stories (approximately 1905-1920)
Dream Cycle stories (approximately 1920-1927)
Cthulhu Mythos/Lovecraft Mythos stories (approximately 1925-1935)

Some critics see little difference between the Dream Cycle and the Mythos, often pointing to the recurring Necronomicon and subsequent "gods". A frequently given explanation is that the Dream Cycle belongs more to the genre of fantasy, while the Mythos is science fiction. Also, much of the supernatural elements in the Dream Cycle takes place in its own sphere or mythological dimension separated from our own level of existence. The Mythos on the other hand, is placed within the same reality and cosmos as the humans live in.

Much of Lovecraft's work was directly inspired by his night terrors, and it is perhaps this direct insight into the unconscious and its symbolism that helps to account for their continuing resonance and popularity. All these interests naturally led to his deep affection for the works of Edgar Allan Poe, who heavily influenced his earliest macabre stories and writing style known for its creepy atmosphere and lurking fears. Lovecraft's discovery of the stories of Lord Dunsany with their gallery of mighty gods existing in dreamlike outer realms, moved his writing in a new direction, resulting in a series of imitative fantasies in a 'Dreamlands' setting.

Another inspiration came from a totally different kind of source; the scientific progresses at the time in such wide areas as biology, astronomy, geology and physics, all contributed to make the human race seem even more insignificant, powerless and doomed in a materialistic and mechanical universe, and was a major contributor to the ideas that later would be known as cosmicism, and which gave further support to his atheism.

It was probably the influence of Arthur Machen, with his carefully constructed tales concerning the survival of ancient evil into modern times in an otherwise realistic world and his mystic beliefs in hidden mysteries which lay behind reality, that added the last ingredient and finally helped inspire Lovecraft to find his own voice from 1923 onwards.

This took on a dark tone with the creation of what is today often called the Cthulhu Mythos, a pantheon of alien extra-dimensional deities and horrors which predate humanity, and which are hinted at in aeon-old myths and legends. The term "Cthulhu Mythos" was coined by Lovecraft's correspondent and fellow author, August Derleth, after Lovecraft's death; Lovecraft jocularly referred to his artificial mythology as "Yog-Sothothery".

His stories created one of the most influential plot devices in all of horror: the Necronomicon, the secret grimoire written by the mad Arab Abdul Alhazred. The resonance and strength of the Mythos concept have led some to incorrectly conclude that Lovecraft had based it on pre-existing myths or occult beliefs. Faux editions of the Necronomicon have also been published over the years.

His prose is somewhat antiquarian. Often he employed archaic vocabulary or spelling which had already by his time been replaced by contemporary coinages; examples including Esquimau, and Comanchian. He was given to heavy use of an esoteric lexicon including such words as "eldritch," "rugose," "noisome," "squamous," "ichor," and "cyclopean," and of attempts to transcribe dialect speech which have been criticized as clumsy, imprecise, and condescending. His works also featured British English (he was an admitted Anglophile), and he sometimes made use of anachronistic spellings, such as "compleat" (for "complete") "lanthorn" ("lantern"), and "phantasy" ("fantasy"; also appearing as "phantastic").


Forbidden knowledge

In the opening of his 1926 tale "The Call of Cthulhu" Lovecraft wrote: "The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far. The sciences, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the deadly light into the peace and safety of a new dark age." Lovecraft's protagonists are nevertheless driven to this "piecing together," which becomes a primary plot device in many of his works.

When such vistas are opened, the mind of the protagonist-investigator is often destroyed. Those who actually encounter "living" manifestations of the incomprehensible are particularly likely to go mad, as is the case of the titular character in The Music of Erich Zann. The story features an insane mute viol player virtuoso's sixth-floor apartment, whose window is the only one high enough to see over a wall on a mysterious, disappearing Parisian street, a wall whose other side contains unexplainable horrors. Those characters who attempt to make use of such knowledge are almost invariably doomed. Sometimes their work attracts the attention of malevolent beings; other times, evoking the spirit of Frankenstein, they are destroyed by monsters of their own creation.

Non-human influences on humanity

The beings of Lovecraft's mythos often have human (or mostly human) servants; Cthulhu, for instance, is worshipped under various names by cults amongst both the Eskimos of Greenland and voodoo circles of Louisiana, and in many other parts of the world. These worshippers served a useful narrative purpose for Lovecraft. Many beings of the Mythos were too powerful to be defeated by human opponents, and so horrific that direct knowledge of them meant insanity for the victim. When dealing with such beings, Lovecraft needed a way to provide exposition and build tension without bringing the story to a premature end. Human followers gave him a way to reveal information about their "gods" in a diluted form, and also made it possible for his protagonists to win temporary victories. Lovecraft, like his contemporaries, envisioned "savages" as closer to the Earth, only in Lovecraft's case, this meant, so to speak, closer to Cthulhu.

Inherited guilt

Another recurring theme in Lovecraft's stories is the idea that descendants in a bloodline can never escape the stain of crimes committed by their forebears, at least if the crimes are atrocious enough. Descendants may be very far removed, both in place and in time (and, indeed, in culpability), from the act itself, and yet blood will tell ("The Rats in the Walls," "The Lurking Fear," "Arthur Jermyn," "The Alchemist," "The Shadow Over Innsmouth," and The Case of Charles Dexter Ward). An example of a crime that Lovecraft apparently considered heinous enough for this consequence is cannibalism ("The Picture in the House" and again "The Rats in the Walls").


Often in Lovecraft's works the protagonist is not in control of his own actions, or finds it impossible to change course. Many of his characters would be free from danger if they simply managed to run away; however, this possibility either never arises or is somehow curtailed by some outside force, such as in "The Colour Out of Space" and "The Dreams in the Witch House." Often his characters are subject to a compulsive influence from powerful malevolent or indifferent beings. As with the inevitability of one's ancestry, eventually even running away, or death itself, provides no safety ("The Thing on the Doorstep," "The Outsider," The Case of Charles Dexter Ward, etc.). In some cases, this doom is manifest in the entirety of humanity, and no escape is possible ("The Shadow Out of Time").

Civilization under threat

Though little known to his fan base, Lovecraft was familiar with the work of the German conservative-revolutionary theorist Oswald Spengler. Spengler's pessimistic thesis of the decadence of the modern West formed a crucial element in Lovecraft's overall anti-modern, conservative worldview. Spenglerian imagery of cyclical decay is present in particular in At the Mountains of Madness. In his book titled H.P. Lovecraft: The Decline of the West, S. T. Joshi places Spengler at the center of his discussion of Lovecraft's political and philosophical ideas. Lovecraft wrote to Clark Ashton Smith in 1927: "It is my belief, and was so long before Spengler put his seal of scholarly proof on it, that our mechanical and industrial age is one of frank decadence" (see China Miéville's introduction to "At the Mountains of Madness", Modern Library Classics, 2005). Lovecraft was also acquainted with the writings of another German intellectual who dealt with civilized decadence in philosophical terms, Friedrich Nietzsche.

Lovecraft frequently dealt with the idea of civilization struggling against more barbaric, primitive elements. In some stories this struggle is at an individual level; many of his protagonists are cultured, highly-educated men who are gradually corrupted by some obscure and feared influence.

In such stories, the "curse" is often a hereditary one, either because of interbreeding with non-humans (e.g., "Facts Concerning the Late Arthur Jermyn and His Family" (1920), "The Shadow over Innsmouth" (1931)) or through direct magical influence (The Case of Charles Dexter Ward). Physical and mental degradation often come together; this theme of 'tainted blood' may represent concerns relating to Lovecraft's own family history, particularly the death of his father due to what Lovecraft must have suspected to be a syphilitic disorder.

In other tales, an entire society is threatened by barbarism. Sometimes the barbarism comes as an external threat, with a civilized race destroyed in war (e.g., "Polaris"). Sometimes, an isolated pocket of humanity falls into decadence and atavism of its own accord (e.g., "The Lurking Fear"). But most often, such stories involve a civilized culture being gradually undermined by a malevolent underclass influenced by inhuman forces.

There is a lack of analysis as to whether England's gradual loss of prominence and related conflicts (Boer War, India, World War I) had an impact on Lovecraft's worldview. It is likely that the "roaring twenties" left Lovecraft disillusioned as he was still obscure and struggling with the basic necessities of daily life, combined with seeing non-European immigrants in New York City.

Race, ethnicity, and class

Lovecraft lived at a time when the eugenics movement, anti-Catholicism, nativism, and strict racial segregation and miscegenation laws were all widespread in the United States and the Protestant countries of Europe, and his writings reflect that social and intellectual environment. A common dramatic device in Lovecraft's work is to associate virtue, intellect, civilization, and rationality with upper class White Anglo-Saxon Protestants. These are often posed in contrast to the corrupt, intellectually inferior, uncivilized and irrational attributes which he associated with both the lower classes in general and those of non-Anglo Saxon ethnicity, especially those who have dark skin. He held English culture to be the comparative pinnacle of civilization, with the descendants of the English in America as something of a second-class offshoot, and everyone else below.

Ethnicity was more salient than race for Lovecraft; he admired Anglo-Saxons in particular, not white people generally. Non-Anglo-Saxon whites of European descent are frequently disparaged in his work on ethnic grounds. The degenerate descendants of Dutch immigrants in the Catskill Mountains, "who correspond exactly to the decadent element of white trash in the South", are common targets. In "The Temple," Lovecraft's highly unsympathetic narrator is a German World War I U-boat captain whose faith in his "iron German will" and the superiority of the Fatherland lead him to machine-gun helpless survivors in lifeboats and, later, kill his own crew, while blinding him to the curse he has brought upon himself.

Class distinctions inform Lovecraft's worldview nearly as much as ethnicity. The narrator of "Cool Air" speaks disparagingly of the poor Hispanics of his neighborhood, but respects and admires the wealthy and aristocratic Dr. Muñoz, described as "a man of birth, cultivation, and discrimination."

One of the foremost Lovecraft scholars, S. T. Joshi, notes "There is no denying the reality of Lovecraft's racism, nor can it merely be passed off as 'typical of his time, for it appears that Lovecraft expressed his views more pronouncedly (although usually not for publication) than many others of his era. It is also foolish to deny that racism enters into his fiction." In his book H. P. Lovecraft: Against the World, Against Life, Michel Houellebecq argues that "racial hatred" provided the emotional force and inspiration for much of Lovecraft's greatest works.

Recent studies have begun to question, not Lovecraft's racism per se, but his dedication to the theory. For example, Michael Gurnow's study of "The Dunwich Horror," relays that Lovecraft makes martyrs of African American twins by the close of the text, thus suggesting that, at least in part and at various times throughout his life, Lovecraft explored and questioned the veracity of his racial views.

According to Sprague de Camp, Lovecraft greatly moderated his views toward the end of his life as he began to travel more and came into contact with people of diverse ethnic backgrounds. He says Lovecraft was horrified by reports of anti-Jewish violence in Germany during the 1930s, which he regarded as irrational.

Risks of a scientific era

At the turn of the 20th century, man's increased reliance upon science was both opening new worlds and solidifying the manners by which he could understand them. Lovecraft portrays this potential for a growing gap of man's understanding of the universe as a potential for horror. Most notably in "The Colour Out of Space," the inability of science to comprehend a meteorite leads to horror.

In a letter to James F. Morton in 1923, Lovecraft specifically points to Einstein's theory on relativity as throwing the world into chaos and making the cosmos a jest. And in a 1929 letter to Woodburn Harris, he speculates that technological comforts risk the collapse of science. Indeed, at a time when men viewed science as limitless and powerful, Lovecraft imagined alternative potential and fearful outcomes.


Maltheism is a recurrent theme in Lovecraft fiction. Many of Lovecraft's works are directly or indirectly adversarial to the belief in a loving, protective God. Several, particularly those of the Cthulhu Mythos, indulge upon alternate human origin myths in contrast to those found in Genesis and creation stories of other religions. Protagonist characters were often academics who favored the claims of the physical sciences over those of scripture. In Herbert West- Reanimator, he spoke briefly of the atheism common within the academic world.

In 1932, Lovecraft himself declared: "All I say is that I think it is damned unlikely that anything like a central cosmic will, a spirit world, or an eternal survival of personality exist. They are the most preposterous and unjustified of all the guesses which can be made about the universe, and I am not enough of a hair-splitter to pretend that I don't regard them as arrant and negligible moonshine. In theory I am an agnostic, but pending the appearance of radical evidence I must be classed, practically and provisionally, as an atheist."

Influences on Lovecraft

Lovecraft was influenced by such authors as Gertrude Barrows Bennett (who, writing as Francis Stevens, impressed Lovecraft enough that he publicly praised her stories and eventually "emulated Bennett's earlier style and themes"), Oswald Spengler, Robert W. Chambers (writer of The King in Yellow, of whom H. P. Lovecraft wrote in a letter to Clark Ashton Smith: "Chambers is like Rupert Hughes and a few other fallen Titans, equipped with the right brains and education but wholly out of the habit of using them"), Arthur Machen (The Great God Pan), Lord Dunsany (The Gods of Pegana and other Dunsany works), Edgar Allan Poe, A. Merritt (The Moon Pool, later a great liking and admiration of the original version of The Metal Monster) and Lovecraft's friends Robert E. Howard and Clark Ashton Smith.

Lovecraft considered himself a man best suited to the early 18th century. His writing style, especially in his many letters, owes much to Augustan British writers of the Enlightenment like Joseph Addison and Jonathan Swift. Lovecraft even went so far as to write using the antiquated grammatical peculiarities of that literary era. While Lovecraft's fiction radically inverted the Enlightenment belief in mankind being able to comprehend the universe, his personal outlook as revealed in his letters shows Lovecraft largely agreeing with rationalist contemporaries like Bertrand Russell.

He also cited Algernon Blackwood as an influence, quoting The Centaur in the head paragraph of The Call of Cthulhu. He also declares Blackwood's "The Willows" to be the single best piece of weird fiction ever written.

Among the books found in his library (as evidenced in Lovecraft's Library by S.T. Joshi) was "The seven who were hanged" by Leonid Andreyev and "A Strange Manuscript Found in a Copper Cylinder" by James De Mille .

Lovecraft's influence on culture

Beyond direct adaptation, Lovecraft and his stories have had a profound impact on popular culture and have been praised by many modern writers. Some influence was direct, as he was a friend, inspiration, and correspondent to many of his contemporaries, such as August Derleth, Robert E. Howard, Robert Bloch and Fritz Leiber. Many later figures were influenced by Lovecraft's works, including author and artist Clive Barker, prolific horror writer Stephen King, film directors John Carpenter, Stuart Gordon, and Guillermo Del Toro, horror manga artist Junji Ito, and artist H. R. Giger. H. P. Lovecraft's writing, particularly his so-called "Cthulhu Mythos", has influenced fiction authors worldwide, and Lovecraftian elements can be seen in novels, films, comic books, music, games, and even cartoons.

Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges wrote his short story "There Are More Things" in memory of Lovecraft. Contemporary French writer Michel Houellebecq wrote a literary biography of Lovecraft called H. P. Lovecraft: Against the World, Against Life. Prolific American writer Joyce Carol Oates wrote an introduction for a collection of Lovecraft stories. The Library of America published a volume of Lovecraft's work in 2005, essentially declaring him a canonical American writer.

In music, two examples of the widespread Lovecraftian influence include the psychedelic rock band called H. P. Lovecraft (later shortened to just Lovecraft) who released four albums in the 1960s and 1970s, and the thrash metal band Metallica, devoted readers of Lovecraft's work, who recorded a song inspired by The Call of Cthulhu, titled The Call of Ktulu, and a song based on The Shadow Over Innsmouth, titled The Thing That Should Not Be.

Survey of the work

For most of the 20th century, the definitive editions (specifically At the Mountains of Madness and Other Novels, Dagon and Other Macabre Tales, The Dunwich Horror and Others, and The Horror in the Museum and Other Revisions) of his prose fiction were published by Arkham House, a publisher originally started with the intent of publishing the work of Lovecraft, but which has since published a considerable amount of other literature as well. Penguin Classics has at present issued three volumes of Lovecraft's works: The Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Stories, The Thing on the Doorstep and Other Weird Stories,, and most recently The Dreams in the Witch House and Other Weird Stories. They collect the standard texts as edited by S. T. Joshi, most of which were available in the Arkham House editions, with the exception of the restored text of "The Shadow Out of Time" from The Dreams in the Witch House, which had been previously released by small-press publisher Hippocampus Press. In 2005 the prestigious Library of America canonized Lovecraft with a volume of his stories edited by Peter Straub, and Random House's Modern Library line have issued the "definitive edition" of Lovecraft's At the Mountains of Madness (also including "Supernatural Horror in Literature").

Lovecraft's poetry is collected in The Ancient Track: The Complete Poetical Works of H. P. Lovecraft, while much of his juvenilia, various essays on philosophical, political and literary topics, antiquarian travelogues, and other things, can be found in Miscellaneous Writings. Lovecraft's essay "Supernatural Horror in Literature", first published in 1927, is a historical survey of horror literature available with endnotes as The Annotated Supernatural Horror in Literature.


Although Lovecraft is known mostly for his works of weird fiction, the bulk of his writing consists of voluminous letters about a variety of topics, from weird fiction and art criticism to politics and history.

He sometimes dated his letters 200 years before the current date, which would have put the writing back in U.S. colonial times, before the American Revolution (a war which offended his Anglophilia). He explained that he thought that the 18th and 20th centuries were the "best"; the former being a period of noble grace, and the latter a century of science.

Lovecraft was not a very active letter-writer in youth. In 1931 he admitted: "In youth I scarcely did any letter-writing, thanking anybody for a present was so much of an ordeal that I would rather have written a two hundred fifty-line pastoral or a twenty-page treatise on the rings of Saturn." (SL 3.369-70). The initial interest in letters stemmed from his correspondence with his cousin Phillips Gamwell but even more important was his involvement in the amateur journalism movement, which was responsible for the enormous number of letters Lovecraft produced.

Lovecraft clearly states that his contact to numerous different people through letter-writing was one of the main factors in broadening his view of the world: "I found myself opened up to dozens of points of view which would otherwise never have occurred to me. My understanding and sympathies were enlarged, and many of my social, political, and economic views were modified as a consequence of increased knowledge." (SL 4.389).

Today there are five publishing houses that have released letters from Lovecraft, most prominently Arkham House with its five-volume edition Selected Letters. Other publishers are Hippocampus Press (Letters to Alfred Galpin et al.), Night Shade Books (Mysteries of Time and Spirit: The Letters of H. P. Lovecraft and Donald Wandrei et al.), Necronomicon Press (Letters to Samuel Loveman and Vincent Starrett et al), and University of Tampa Press (O Fortunate Floridian: H. P. Lovecraft's Letters to R. H. Barlow).

Ohio University Press also published "Lord of a Visible World - An Autobiography in Letters" in 2000 which presents his letters according to themes, such as adolescence and travel. It was edited by S. T. Joshi and David E. Schultz.


There is controversy over the copyright status of many of Lovecraft's works, especially his later works. Lovecraft had specified that the young R. H. Barlow would serve as executor of his literary estate, but these instructions had not been incorporated into his will. Nevertheless his surviving aunt carried out his expressed wishes, and Barlow was given charge of the massive and complex literary estate upon Lovecraft's death.

Barlow deposited the bulk of the papers, including the voluminous correspondence, with the John Hay Library, and attempted to organize and maintain Lovecraft's other writing. August Derleth, an older and more established writer than Barlow, vied for control of the literary estate. One result of these conflicts was the legal confusion over who owned what copyrights.

All works published before 1923 are public domain in the U.S. However, there is some disagreement over who exactly owns or owned the copyrights and whether the copyrights for the majority of Lovecraft's works published post-1923, including such prominent pieces as "The Call of Cthulhu" and "At the Mountains of Madness", have expired as of April 2008.

Questions center over whether copyrights for Lovecraft's works were ever renewed under the terms of the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976 for works created prior to January 1, 1978. The problem comes from the fact that before the Copyright Act of 1976 the number of years a work was copyrighted in the U.S. was based on publication rather than life of the author plus a certain number of years and that it was good for only 28 years. After that point, a new copyright had to be filed, and any work that did not have its copyright renewed fell back into the public domain. The Copyright Act of 1976 retroactively extended this renewal period for all works to a period of 47 years and the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act of 1998 added another 20 years to that, for a total of 95 years from publication. If the works were renewed, the copyrights would still be valid in the United States.

The European Union Directive on harmonising the term of copyright protection of 1993 extended the copyrights to 70 years after the author's death. So, all works of Lovecraft published during his lifetime, became public domain in all 27 European Union countries on 1 January, 2008. In those Berne Convention countries who have implemented only the minimum copyright period, copyright expires 50 years after the author's death.

Lovecraft protégés and part owners of Arkham House, August Derleth and Donald Wandrei, often claimed copyrights over Lovecraft's works. On October 9, 1947, Derleth purchased all rights to Weird Tales. However, since April 1926 at the latest, Lovecraft had reserved all second printing rights to stories published in Weird Tales. Hence, Weird Tales may only have owned the rights to at most six of Lovecraft's tales. Again, even if Derleth did obtain the copyrights to Lovecraft's tales, no evidence as yet has been found that the copyrights were renewed.

Prominent Lovecraft scholar S. T. Joshi concludes in his biography, H. P. Lovecraft: A Life, that Derleth's claims are "almost certainly fictitious" and that most of Lovecraft's works published in the amateur press are most likely now in the public domain. The copyright for Lovecraft's works would have been inherited by the only surviving heir of his 1912 will: Lovecraft's aunt, Annie Gamwell. Gamwell herself perished in 1941 and the copyrights then passed to her remaining descendants, Ethel Phillips Morrish and Edna Lewis. Morrish and Lewis then signed a document, sometimes referred to as the Morrish-Lewis gift, permitting Arkham House to republish Lovecraft's works but retaining the copyrights for themselves. Searches of the Library of Congress have failed to find any evidence that these copyrights were then renewed after the 28-year period and, hence, it is likely that these works are now in the public domain.

Chaosium, publishers of the Call of Cthulhu role-playing game, have a trademark on the phrase "The Call of Cthulhu" for use in game products. Another RPG publisher, TSR, Inc., original publisher of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, included in one of that game's earlier supplements, Deities & Demigods (originally published in 1980 and later renamed to "Legends & Lore"), a section on the Cthulhu Mythos; TSR, Inc. later agreed to remove this section at Chaosium's request.

Regardless of the legal disagreements surrounding Lovecraft's works, Lovecraft himself was extremely generous with his own works and actively encouraged others to borrow ideas from his stories, particularly with regard to his Cthulhu mythos. He actively encouraged other writers to reference his creations, such as the Necronomicon, Cthulhu and Yog-Sothoth. After his death, many writers have contributed stories and enriched the shared mythology of the Cthulhu Mythos, as well as making numerous references to his work.


The Tomb (Jun 1917)
Dagon (Jul 1917 / Nov 1919)
A Reminiscence of Dr. Samuel Johnson (Sum-Fall 1917 / Sep 1917)
Polaris (Spr-Sum 1918 / Dec 1920)
The Mystery of Murdon Grange (c.1918 / unpublished, nonextant)
Beyond the Wall of Sleep (Spr 1919 / Oct 1919)
Memory (Spr 1919 / Jun 1919)
Old Bugs (c.Jul 1919 / 1959)
The Transition of Juan Romero (16 Sep 1919 / 1944)
The White Ship (c.Oct 1919 / Nov 1919)
The Doom that Came to Sarnath (3 Dec 1919 / Jun 1920)
The Statement of Randolph Carter (Dec 1919 / May 1920)
The Street (late 1919 / Dec 1920)
Sweet Ermengarde (c.1919-21? / 1943)
The Terrible Old Man (28 Jan 1920 / Jul 1921)
The Tree (Jan-Jun 1920 / Oct 1921)
The Cats of Ulthar (15 Jun 1920 / Nov 1920)
The Temple ( c. Jun-Nov 1920 / Sep 1925)
Facts Concerning the Late Arthur Jermyn and His Family (Fall 1920 / Mar & Jun 1921)
Celephaïs (early Nov 1920 / May 1922)
From Beyond (16 Nov 1920 / Jun 1934)
Nyarlathotep (c.Nov-Dec 1920 / >Jan 1920)
The Picture in the House (12 Dec 1920 / Sum 1921)
Life and Death (c.1920 / c.1920?, lost)
Ex Oblivione (1920-21 / Mar 1921)
The Nameless City (Jan 1921 / Nov 1921)
The Quest of Iranon (28 Feb 1921 / Jul-Aug 1935)
The Moon-Bog (<10 Mar 1921 / Jun 1926)
The Outsider (Spr-Sum 1921 / Apr 1926)
The Other Gods (14 Aug 1921 / Nov 1933)
Herbert West--Reanimator (Oct 1921-Jun 1922 / Feb-Jul 1922)
The Music of Erich Zann (Dec 1921 / Mar 1922)
Hypnos (Mar 1922 / May 1923)
What the Moon Brings (5 Jun 1922 / May 1923)
Azathoth Fragment (Jun 1922 / Jun 1938)
The Hound (Oct 1922 / Feb 1924)
The Lurking Fear (Nov 1922 / Jan-Apr 1923)
The Rats in the Walls (Aug-Sep 1923 / Mar 1924)
The Unnamable (Sep 1923 / Jul 1925)
The Festival (Oct 1923 / Jan 1925)
The Shunned House (Oct 1924 / 1928 (not distributed) & Oct 1937)
The Horror at Red Hook (1-2 Aug 1925 / Jan 1927)
He (11 Aug 1925 / Sep 1926)
In the Vault (18 Sep 1925 / Nov 1925)
Cool Air (Feb 1926 / Mar 1928)
The Call of Cthulhu (Aug-Sep 1926 / Feb 1928)
Pickman's Model (Sep 1926 / Oct 1927)
The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath (Oct 1926-22 Jan 1927 / 1943)
The Silver Key (Nov 1926 / Jan 1929)
The Strange High House in the Mist (9 Nov 1926 / Oct 1931)
The Case of Charles Dexter Ward (Jan-1 Mar 1927 / May & Jul 1941)
The Colour out of Space (Mar 1927 / Sep 1927)
The Descendant Fragment (early 1927 / 1938)
History of the Necronomicon sketch (Fall 1927 / 1938)
The Very Old Folk (3 Nov 1927 / Sum 1940)
The Dunwich Horror (Aug 1928 / Apr 1929)
Ibid (Sum 1928 / Jan 1938)
The Whisperer in Darkness (24 Feb-26 Sep 1930 / Aug 1931)
At the Mountains of Madness (24 Feb-22 Mar 1931 / Feb-Apr 1936)
The Shadow over Innsmouth (Nov-3 Dec 1931 / 1936)
The Dreams in the Witch House (Feb 1932 / Jul 1933)
The Evil Clergyman Letter extract (Fall 1933 / Apr 1939)
The Thing on the Doorstep (21-24 Aug 1933 / Jan 1937)
The Book Fragment (c.Oct 1933 / 1938)
The Shadow Out of Time (10 Nov 1934- 22 Feb 1935 / Jun 1936)
The Haunter of the Dark (5-9 Nov 1935 / Dec 1936)

Collaborations, revisions, and ghostwritings

The Battle That Ended the Century with R. H. Barlow (Jun 1934 / Jun 1934)
The Challenge from Beyond with C. L. Moore; A. Merritt; Robert E. Howard, & Frank Belknap Long (Aug 1935 / Sep 1935)
Collapsing Cosmoses Fragment. with R. H. Barlow (? / 1938)
The Crawling Chaos with Winifred V. Jackson (c.Dec 1920 / Apr 1921)
The Curse of Yig with Zealia Bishop (Spr 1928 / Nov 1929)
The Diary of Alonzo Typer with William Lumley (Oct 1935 / Feb 1938)
The Disinterment with Duane W. Rimel (Sep 1935 / Jan 1937)
The Electric Executioner with Adolphe de Castro (Jul 1929 / Aug 1930)
The Green Meadow with Winifred V. Jackson (c.1918-19 / Spr 1927)
The Horror at Martin's Beach with Sonia H. Greene (c.Jun 1922 / Nov 1923)
The Horror in the Burying-Ground with Hazel Heald (c.1933-34 / May 1937)
The Horror in the Museum with Hazel Heald (Oct 1932 / Jul 1933)
In the Walls of Eryx aka "Within the Walls of Eryx" with Kenneth Sterling (Jan 1936 / Oct 1939)
The Last Test with Adolphe de Castro (Oct-Nov 1927 / Nov 1928)
The Lurker at the Threshold (posthumous, with August Derleth; 1945)
The Man of Stone with Hazel Heald (Sum 1932 / Oct 1932)
Medusa's Coil with Zealia Bishop (May-Aug 1930 / Jan 1939 abridged, 1989 restored)
The Mound with Zealia Bishop (Dec 1929-Jan 1930 / Nov 1940 abridged, 1989 restored)
The Night Ocean with R. H. Barlow (Sum 1936 / Win 1939)
Out of the Aeons with Hazel Heald (c.Aug 1933 / Apr 1935)
Poetry and the Gods with Anna Helen Crofts (c.Sum 1920 / Sep 1920)
The Thing in the Moonlight with J. Chapman Miske (24 Nov 1927 / ?)
Through the Gates of the Silver Key with E. Hoffmann Price (Oct 1932-Apr 1933 / Jul 1934)
Till A’the Seas with R. H. Barlow (Jan 1935 / Sum 1935)
The Trap with Henry S. Whitehead (c.Sum 1931 / Mar 1932)
The Tree on the Hill with Duane W. Rimel (May 1934 / Sep 1940)
Two Black Bottles with Wilfred Blanch Talman (Jun-Oct 1926 / Aug 1927)
Under the Pyramids aka "Imprisoned with the Pharaohs" with Harry Houdini (Feb 1924 / May-Jul 1924)
Winged Death with Hazel Heald (c.Sum 1932 / Mar 1934)

My Reviews

Like Poe, it would impossible to know all the movies that have been inlfuenced, even a little bit, by Lovecraft. Here are some obvious ones I've seen

Haunted Palace, The (1963)- Corman directed Price vehicle based on Lovecraft’s "The Curious Case of Charles Dexter Ward", Corman threw in a couple of lines from a Poe poem so he could make folks think it part of his successful Poe series, but it was in fact the first film based on a Lovecraft story. If you like these type of Corman flicks then I think you will like this. I liked it a lot and felt the acting and directing were great as were the sets. Amazing what can be done on Corman budgets! Price plays both the evil Curwin, a warlock who uses a town’s young maidens to try and mate with ‘The Elders’ to create a super race and is then burned by the town’s folk, but not before he curses them all, and his great great grandson, Ward, who inherits the palace and then becomes possessed by Curwin and starts up the old practices again. Price is great in his dual role and obviously relishes the chance to switch between good and evil at the drop of a hat. This film fits right in with his "Masque of the Red Death" and "The Pit and the Pendulum" and is a must see if you liked those. A

Die, Monster, Die (1965)- Based on Lovecraft's "The Colour Out of Space", this little American International flick moves along at a nice pace. A guy heads to not so jolly old England to visit his college sweetie and soon finds no one will help him find his way to the house. Cursed it must be. He eventually makes it to the house, after walking through some barren landscapes that is. Turns out the girl's family has a dim past of demonology and insanity. The girl's father, played by Karloff, will have none of that and looks for scientific reasons for what has happened there in the past, with typical devastating results. A great line that sums it all up "It's like a zoo from Hell... A menagerie of horrors." This is great fluff that sits somewhere between horror and sci-fi. The actors are just going through the motions (except Karloff who always took his roles seriously), most of the sets look good. If you like 60s goof then you'll like this, if not stay away.C-.

Shuttered Room, The (1966)- This is a strange moody tale based on an HP Lovecraft story. A 4 year old girl is sent away from an island when her parents are killed in what we are told is a freak lightning strike. She returns to her home after she marries an older man and in their trip they run into a bizarre group of folks who threaten them and basically treat them like crap. They are also told about curses, the woman is basically threatened with rape, and they are repeatedly told to leave. Despite all of this they decide to stay (I guess because the husband is good at the ol’ Karate Chop). Everyone on the island is afraid of the old mill where the girl once lived and is staying again, yet everyone seems to cruise out there and hang out, sometimes even inside. What started the rumors of a curse, what is it in the attic, and what the hell is the rebel rouser gang’s problem? This is a weird one with a somewhat silly twist at the end and a sometimes fairly annoying Free Jazz soundtrack and ‘artsy’ interludes that fall flat. Some of the acting is weird as Hell too, especially Oliver Reed’s character who just runs around all the time acting all pissed off and rebellious (he thought he was going to inherit the mill). Anyway, it had good atmosphere and some parts worked so I will give it a C+, just don’t expect too much.

Dunwich Horror, The (1970)- This is an interesting adaptation of the Lovecraft story of the same name, it’s just that Lovecraft stuff doesn’t always translate well to film. Sometimes it is just better to imagine things than to try and actually ‘see’ what they look like. Dean Stockwell plays a very low key role as a member of one of the ‘cursed’ families Lovecraft liked writing about. Stockwell’s family was once into black magic and his grandfather was hung for it, however it seems his experiments succeeded and Stockwell is the result of those experiments, but he’s only half the result, his twin brother is stuck between our world and the world of the Elder Gods, who are trying to return to earth (as in Lovecraft’s cosmology). Stockwell will need the help of an innocent young maiden to complete the deal, bad special effects and late 60s art cinematography ensue. Over all this isn’t a bad flick, but it isn’t great, I couldn’t really tell if they were being serious or hamming it up here and there, I think it was a little of both. This doesn’t quite measure up to the American International Poe movies but if you like the Lovecraft mythos and don’t mind a little cheese smeared on top of it you’ll probably like it. I’ll give it a C.

Re-Animator (1985)- If you like campy horror al la "Evil Dead", "Return of the Living Dead" or "Dead Alive" then you’ll like this. It is almost a masterpiece in that sub-genre. There is no doubt; this flick plays by its own rules. We start out with Herbert West, a very bright and promising med student whose professor and mentor apparently has died, Herbert thinks he can bring him back from the dead. Things go slightly awry and he has to leave the country (Switzerland) and shows up at the famous Miskatonic Medical School, where he rents a room from another student who is dating the dean’s daughter (which makes for some blackmail material), and promptly clashes with the head professor there. You see Herbert has a solution that can re-animate the dead, sort of... One thing leads to another and we’re off and running down the road with insane reanimated corpses, mad scientists, a decapitated body and its love interest, and a room full of walking cadavers. The casting, especially Jeffry Combs as West, is perfect for this over-the-top, take-it-so-seriously-that-we’re-obviously-not-taking-it-seriously approach. A very strong A.

From Beyond (1986)- Damn near made right smack in the middle of the 80s, and you would know that just by watching the first couple of minutes! Yes this flick is a product of its times, no way around it. Here we have the Lovecraft influenced theme of creatures coming from another dimension, this time because scientists have discovered the resonant frequency required to bridge the new dimension. Slimy over the top gore and lots of weird sex references follow. This is brought to you by the basically the same crew that brought us the great ‘Re-Animator’, and Jeffrey Combs again returns as a Miskatonic researcher in over his head, although this time a little more reluctantly. This has lots of over the top camp, like ‘Re-Animator’, but really doesn’t hold up nearly as well. But if you like 80s horror you should give this a viewing. B.

In The Mouth of Madness (1994)- This is considered the last in John Carpenter’s ‘Apocalypse Trilogy’, which were 3 unrelated films "The Thing", "Prince of Darkness" and this one. Here he pays an obvious tribute to the great horror/fantasy/sci-fi writer HP Lovecraft, although the movie isn’t based on any particular Lovecraft story, just an overview of his style and ideas. In this one we have an insurance investigator who is looking into the disappearance of a famous horror writer, Sutter Cane, who has disappeared just before the release of his new book. He believes it is a just a publicity stunt and it turns out he’s half right. But the ‘half wrong’ drives him insane and may just spell the end of the world as he goes to great lengths to find the author, and may in fact actually be in one of his stories. The line between reality and fantasy is blurred to great effect and this flick just works on a lot of levels. It is far fetched in a Twilight Zone/Lovecraft sort of way and that works for me. A.

Dagon (2001)- This Lovecraft tale is about a couple who find themselves stuck on a sail boat in a storm, the boat hits rocks so they head for shore to get help. They don’t find any help on shore, instead they find some half human half fish creatures who want very badly to capture and or kill them. A local who hasn’t succumbed to the fish changing disease, but has taken to quite a bit of drinking, tells them the story of how this came to be. It was a fishing village that had fallen on bad times, when a sailor told them about worshipping the god Dagon things would get better, so they did, and things did, and now, well, I’m not sure if this is better or not. The first half of the movie is basically a long (too long) chase scene; the second half becomes kind of an insane monster riddled alternate reality, not unlike a Lovecraft story! Over-all it is pretty well done, some parts campy, some pretty atmospherically scary, and some downright gory. There was obviously not much of a budget to work with, but they are able to make due with what’s available. I’ll give it a B.

Marebito (2004)- (Not really full on Lovecraft but it does borrow from his imagery and ideas.) Very strange flick about a cameraman who films a man commit suicide and then becomes obsessed with finding out what caused the man so much fear that he would take his own life. He ventures into underground Tokyo (or his subconscious) to look for something that would be so terrifying and lands in a Lovecraftian realm and winds up bringing home a girl who he finds chained up. She is not human and craves blood. The man receives warnings and slowly tries to drive himself insane, or maybe he is already insane. This could’ve been a great flick but I just kept getting the ‘look how smart I am’ vibe from the directing. Just too artsy, and I like artsy sometimes, but this thing just felt like a mess to me. I wanted to like it, I really did, and I stuck through until the end as I was hoping for some twist, but nothing really happened. I hate to give this a low grade, maybe it is your thing, but I have to give this a D.

Call of Cthulhu, The (2005)- How, on a small budget, do you film a Lovecraft story? Giant monsters, ocean voyages, large cult gatherings, ships landing at uncharted islands. Impossible to pull with any believability at all... But what if the filmmakers decided to make the film look like it was filmed when Lovecraft actually wrote the story in the 1920s? What if they filmed it as a black and white silent film and used many of the same special effect techniques used then? They could pull it off on a small budget without looking like a small budget, get in the main points of the story, and look like ‘artists’ in doing it. That’s what they did, and did it work? That depends on if you like silent movies and Lovecraft’s mythos. I think the film was done really well and definitely had that old school silent film look and feel, and the effects were, well, quaint I guess, but it worked for me. The story? It follows Lovecraft’s story very closely. A man’s great-uncle dies and he inherits his work. The great-uncle was an archeologist and an expert in old languages and had been investigating a strange cult called The Cult of Cthulu and its worship of a huge ancient god-like beast. The man becomes obsessed with the research himself and uncovers a plot larger than he anticipated... Or maybe he is insane and reading too much into simple coincidences. I’m going to give this a strong A. It clocks in at about 50 minutes and is a perfect vehicle for this story.

Last Lovecraft, The: Relic of Cthulu (2009)- Comedy/horror chock full of low brow dick jokes. It follows the hapless Jeff Phillips, long lost relative of H.P. Lovecraft and apparently the only man alive who can save the world from Cthulu and his cult, all unbeknownst to him until he is given a relic he must protect and he goes from a sales rep at SQRLY to trying to save the world with his high school buddy. It misses on so many marks but really, over-all, I didn’t hate it. It has an almost made-for-TV feel (despite the dick jokes) and if you approach it knowing it is just goof-ball buddy comedy with lots of ‘hey bro’ then you might enjoy it, although it might just annoy the piss out of you too. I fell somewhere in the middle so I will give it the benefit of the doubt and toss a B- on it.