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The Face Of Creation: Meet H.P. Lovecraft

March 28, 2019

 

Howard Phillips Lovecraft - or H.P. Lovecraft as he is better known - is a name synonomous with horror fiction. His influential writings didn't have much notority before his demise, but he is now regarded as one of the most significant horror and weird fiction writers of all time.

 

Born in Providence, Rhode Island, to Winfield Scott Lovecraft and Sarah Susan "Susie" Phillips Lovecraft, Howard Phillips took on employment as a travelling salesman for his father until he was sent to Butler Hospital for a psychotic episode in a Chicago hotel. Winfield spent five years in the commitment ward before his death in 1898, with his death certificate listed as cause of death being general paresis - a term synonymous with syphilis. This facilitated rumours that the relationship between H.P's parents wasn't sexual and that Winfield took his sexual gratifications from those he met on the road during his travels. This was essentially noted in a 1937 letter that H.P wrote that said after early childhood his mother avoided all physical contact with him.

 

Soon after Winfield's death, H.P's grandparents Whipple and Robie, as well as his aunts Lillian and Annie, came to live with him and his mother, with his grandfather Whipple becoming the "centre of his entire universe", who help H.P overcome his childhood fears of the dark, as well as introducing H.P to some early literary influences. However, with much mourning in the family after his grandmother Robie died in 1896, H.P began to have significant night terrors that later influenced his writing almost thirty years later.

 

H.P started writing when he was seven, restyling mythological stories and Roman accounts of the Gods. At the age of eight he took a keen interest in science, astronomy, biology, and chemistry and by the year 1902 he was producing the periodical Rhode Island Journal of Astronomy, as well as eventually the Scientific Gazette.

 

H.P Lovecraft's childhood past is noted to be filled with many health concerns, often removing him from school due to health concerns or failing mental health. A letter in 1934 saw H.P noting that he "saw no point in living anymore" so it was safe to say that extreme depression was reoccurring in the Lovecraft household. In another letter concerning the events of 1908 he notes, "I was and am prey to intense headaches, insomnia, and general nervous weakness which prevents my continuous application to any thing." 

 

 

It was noted through other personal accounts of friends that H.P's mother Susie was often unkind to H.P and told him that he was so hideous that it caused him to hide from everyone and retreat from public view. H.P took solace in writing and studying, and began writing letters to editors that appeared in weird fiction magazines and sending H.P on a journey of journalism, joining many boards that were critised for being xenophobic and racist. However, it was 1916 when Lovecraft published his short story "The Alchemist" in the main UAPA Journal, which launched his writing career, and followed similarly in his early influence of Edgar Allan Poe's writing style. 

 

Late 1919 saw Lovecraft become more outgoing. After a period of isolation, he began joining friends in trips to writer gatherings where he met many influences and friends of his writing career, In early 1920 H.P created his most prolific stories, including "The White Ship", "The Doom that Came to Sarnath" and the "The Cats of Ulthar" before the late 1920's saw H.P Lovecraft introduce his most famous work series into the Cthulhu mythos, which more information can be found in my article A Short History of Cthulhu.

 

When H.P's mother died in 1921 due to complications from gall bladder surgery, H.P was crippled physically and emotionally and spun him into further depression. However, in 1924 he married his longterm sweetheart Sonia Greene, who was not approved of in his family, and commented often on H.P's stifled upbringing. Sonia's love assisted in H.P. coming more out of his shell and his stories continued to gain notoriety and he did quite a lot of ghost writing for many projects in Providence once he returned from a trip to New York. In 1930 he and Sonia Greene amicably divorced and H.P continued in his writing ventures. Despite the popularity of H.P Lovecraft and his works today, he was never able to provide even basic expenses and lived frugally without food sometimes. 

 

In 1937 he was diagnosed with cancer in the small intestine and died on March 15, 1937. His tombstone at the site of his Providence graveyard has since become a memorial square to commemorate his English prose and many fans visit the today thanks to rise in popularity of his works after his death.

 

In fact, his horrific and dark tales of writing have been huge influences on many popular horror writers. According to Horror, fantasy, and science fiction author Stephen King  Lovecraft was

"the twentieth century's greatest practitioner of the classic horror tale." King has made it clear in his semi-autobiographical non-fiction book Danse Macabre that Lovecraft was responsible for his own fascination with horror and the macabre and was the largest figure to influence his fiction writing.

 

In fact, with many mentions and influences in TV shows, movies, board games, books, video games, and even table top games, it's easy to say that H.P Lovecraft is one of the most crucial weird writers to ever walk the Earth. 

 

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