Howard Phillips Lovecraft: The Life of a Gentleman of Providence

January 19, 2020 | By Jim Stovall | Filed in: fiction, journalism, writers, writing.

It’s good to have friends, even after you have died.

In 1939, the year H.P. Lovecraft died, he considered himself a failure. His life had been a series of mental and emotional battles. His relationship with his mother had been strange and destructive. His marriage had ended in divorce.

His view of non-Nordic, non-white people made him sympathetic to Nazism and put him on the wrong side of history.

His name was known almost exclusively to readers of Weird Tales magazine, and many of those readers were highly critical of his stories of the strange and the horrible. But whether they were complimentary or critical, Lovecraft took time and pains to answer every letter. He is thought to have written between 60,000 and 100,000 letters during his lifetime.

And it was this massive correspondence that ultimately saved his reputation and allowed his work to available to succeeding generations. According to the biography on one of several websites devoted to his work:

. . . the friendships that he had forged merely by correspondence held him in good stead: August Derleth and Donald Wandrei were determined to preserve Lovecraft’s stories in the dignity of a hardcover book, and formed the publishing firm of Arkham House initially to publish Lovecraft’s work; they issued The Outsider and Others in 1939. Many other volumes followed from Arkham House, and eventually Lovecraft’s work became available in paperback and was translated into a dozen languages. Source: Howard Phillips Lovecraft: The Life of a Gentleman of Providence

Today, Lovecraft is considered to be the father of modern weird and horror fiction — the writer who gave inspiration to Robert Bloch, Stephen King, Clive Barker, Brian Keene, Jorge Luis Borges, and Joyce Carol Oates, just to name a few. His work has also inspired rock musicians, movie producers, and gamers. Some satanic cults have found great use for the concepts Lovecraft used in his fiction.

Lovecraft himself has appeared as a character in many fictional works.

The cult status of H.P. Lovecraft continues to grow, as do the publications and translations of his work. One of his biographers, S.T. Joshi, is responsible for much of this output. In 2005, the Library of America placed Lovecraft into the realms of American letters with a volume of his short stories. Joyce Carol Oates wrote a long review of Lovecraft and his work for the New York Review of Books in 1996.

The appetite for Lovecraft shows no signs of abating. Late in 2018 the BBC began a podcast series titled The Whisperer in Darkness: The Case of Charles Dexter Ward, which is based on a Lovecraft story. The podcast tells the story as if it were a true-crime investigation, and the first three episodes have little in the way of “horror.”

If horror is not your cup of tea (it isn’t mine either), this is a good introduction to the work of H.P. Lovecraft.


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