H.P. Lovecraft Biography

by Marion Phillips - September 5, 2003

h p lovecraftHoward Phillips Lovecraft was a self-made genius, the literary heir of Edgar Allan Poe and the most important Horror writer of the first half of the 20th century.

His short life was filled with struggle against ill health, constant nightmares and so many losses of close relatives to madness that this theme was the most common in his stories.

Hell Amid Paradise

H.P. Lovecraft was born in 1890 in Providence, USA in a conservative family of British ascendance. At age 4 he started reading the books of his grandfather's library, being fascinated by Greek and Roman mythology, the fairy stories of the brothers Grimm and the sci-fi adventures of Jules Verne. He also read a lot of 18th century Georgian verse, which would later inspire his own poetry.

A few years later he started reading Poe's story and to him it was his "downfall", as he called it, because he never looked at the world again with the same eyes.

The greatest part of his education was acquired on his own, partly due to his ill health that constantly kept him away from school and because of his mother's over-protectiveness, as she preferred him to stay close to her.

But thanks to his insatiable curiosity, Lovecraft acquired a great amount of knowledge, and by his mid-teens he was fan of astronomy and science and even used to write articles about them to local newspapers.

He never graduated from high school, due to his health problems, also he hardly ever lived anywhere else than in his hometown, but he was so well cultured that even those of his friends who had a fuller formal education were amazed at his knowledge, memory and intelligence.

Art Imitates Life

h p lovecraft bookAs for the tragedies in Lovecraft's life, the first one was his grandmother's death in 1896, then came his father's, two years later, who first got mad and consequently died in an asylum due to syphilis. Then there was his grandfather's, which forced the family to fall in their social class and to share a house with another family. Years later, when he was already an adult, his mother died also in an asylum.

All these terrible happenings, plus the awful nightmares that he frequently had, and plus his own pessimistic point of view on modernism and technological progress were all used as fuel to create his macabre stories.

From 1914 on, Lovecraft started publishing essays and poems to amateur magazines, and then he started to work as a ghostwriter and literary reviewer, jobs that became his life-long main source of income.

Through the years Lovecraft was much influenced by his contemporaneous writers too, like Lord Dunsany and Arthur Machen. Although many of his stories were published in his lifetime in magazines and newspapers and he got some fame through them, he was never really popular at that time and he never had a good financial life.

However at least he got admiration from critics and even his opponents, like the New York journalist Edmund Wilson, who had to admit that he was a good writer.

In 1924, Lovecraft married Sonia Greene, a Jewish Russian immigrant, who was a very unlikely pair to him, because he was a notorious anti-Semite and a traditionalist who used to comment on the "purity of race" even in his short stories. This marriage didn't last long, maybe due to their clashing strong wills, but they continued to be friends.

To Lovecraft, writing should have been a compulsion, because apart from his short stories, novels, essays and poems, he wrote more than 100 000 letters to friends! When some of these letters were published, only 1% of them were contained in the 2000 pages of a collection of 5 volumes.

His most famous stories are those involving the Cthulhu myths - originally imagined by a friend of his called August Derleth, who after Lovecraft's death would be responsible for organizing his works and publishing them under a publishing house of his own.

The Cthulhu myth is about an ancient race that due to the practice of black magic was expelled from the world, but lives always waiting for the moment when it'll take control of it again.

In 1937, Lovecraft was diagnosed with cancer and died five days later in the hospital. He was almost 47 years old and his body was buried in the Swan Point Cemetery, but surprisingly only 40 years later a tombstone was erected by fans and by effort of the scholar Dirk Mosig, in which the double-sensed sentence "I am Providence" was written.

His exquisite and mystic horror stories are as current as if they had been written recently and still hold their haunting quality. His works have been inspiration to several generations of horror writers worldwide, some of them quite famous nowadays like Anne Rice and Stephen King, just as one day he himself was inspired by writers like Poe, Algernon Blackwood and Ambrose Bierce.

Download 3 of Lovecraft's stories now!(ZIP file: 38 KB)

Contents:

- The Outsider
- The Doom That Came To Sarnath
- The Thing On The Doorstep

If you want more information:

H. P. Lovecraft Library

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