This chapter of A Life of Fantasy and Horror: H.P.Lovecraft by Donald Clarke appeared in "The Arkham Advertiser" volume 1, issue 4. Copyright © 1995 Donald Clarke / Miskatonic University Press




At age twenty, Lovecraft was still hibernating inside his mother's apartment. He continued his studies in organic chemistry, in fact, in 1910, the only writing he seems to have done was his chemistry journal and astronomy articles. During these years of solitude, Lovecraft cultivated for himself the illusion of a "Boston Brahman," America's answer to British aristocracy. Though only five feet, ten and a half inches, Lovecraft's thin frame and broad face and shoulders gave him the impression of height. He kept his hair short, his face clean-shaven, and remained perpetually pale. He dressed very conservatively, taking his style hints from the hand-me-down nineteenth century clothes of his father and grandfather. He liked to wear grey-striped trousers, black coat, black bow-tie, and high-buttoned shoes. Though this austere image would soften some with age, HPL would never let himself go for the latest style. He thought this old-style appearance gave him maturity and an aristocratic air. 

But, alas, it was only an "air." With a desire to be like his grandfather, Lovecraft turned to envying the lives of such literary figures as Lord Dunsany and Robert W. Chambers who stood out less as authors than as aristocrats of literary sets. Lord Dunsany was a true nobleman with all the required attributes of wealth, popularity, sportsmanship, education, and social standing. Robert Chambers, whose horror stories impressed Lovecraft, was the American version: popular in New York society, hugely successful as a writer, a member of literary societies and social clubs in and about New York City, and the owner of a rambling farm and hunting estate in upper New York state which had been handed down to him from his wealthy ancestors. 

Though Lovecraft dreamed of recovering the family estate and making a name for himself in either science, his lack of education, lack of social skills, and lack of income would prevent his from ever successfully attaining his goals. He also failed at the sportsman level, with a dislike for any dog, let alone a hunting hound. He preferred cats. Though he never owned another cat after Nigger-Man deserted him, he cultivated the friendship of the neighborhood cats, plying them with milk and catnip. And, though he had inherited a fine gun collection, the killing of a squirrel has put him forever off bloodsport. Citing eye trouble, HPL gave up shooting altogether and slowly gave away his guns except a show-piece flintlock musket. 

Nor was he particularly sporting or athletic. He slept away most of his days away and very seldom went out to in the sun. A good example of his health habits is seen in 1911 when he purposely missed the Thanksgiving supper at his Aunt Lillian Clark's house. His mother awoke that morning to find a poem from HPL indicating that she should go without him because he wanted to sleep late and would she call him if she was going to stay there late so he would know to make his own supper. He also preferred sweets and ice-cream to more substantial food.(1)

HPL did keep up his few friendships, notably Chester Munroe. Munroe's father, Addison, would later remember: "He lived by a few houses from our house and was quite frequently over here with our sons. I remember that we had a room fixed up in our basement for the boys to use as a club room, which was a popular place with Howard. The club, so called consisted of about a half-dozen of the neighborhood boys, around twenty years of age, and when they had a so-called "banquet," improvised and usually self-cooked, Howard was always the speaker of the evening and my boys always said he delivered addresses that were gems.

"Occasionally, I would have an opportunity to talk with him and he always surprised me with the maturity and logic of his talk. I remember one time in particular, when I was a member of the R. I. Senate, 1911-1914, we had several important measures before that body; Howard, being over here one evening, started to discuss some of these measures, and I was astounded by the knowledge that he displayed in regard to measures that ordinarily would be of no interest to a young fellow of twenty.(2)

In 1912, at 22, Lovecraft was still struggling with organic chemistry: "with its frightfully dull theoretical problems, & involved cases of isomerism of hydrocarbon radicalsthe benzene ring&c., &c., &c., I found myself so wretchedly bored that I positively could not study for more than fifteen minutes without acquiring an excruciating headache for the rest of the day."(3) He dismantled his laboratory, "owing to my mother's nervousness at having deadly poisons, corrosive acids, and potential explosives about the place. One tangible memorial remainsa bulky manuscript entitled A Brief Course in Inorganic Chemistry, by H. P. Lovecraft, 1910."(4) The feeling of failure reached even to his astronomical interests. He ceased going to the Ladd Observatory at Brown University. If he couldn't be a student and professor of astronomy, he felt uncomfortable being seen there as amateur.

In imitation of his mother and aunt, Lovecraft tried to develop a career in the pictorial arts. Though he found himself lacking as a artist and, as always, unable to follow someone else's regimen, he decided he didn't have what it took, though he would constantly illustrate his letters to friends with wonderful self-portraits.

Lovecraft continued his general self-education through reading. He read the Bible cover to cover. He read the works of Shakespeare, Poe, H.G. Wells, and Jules Verne. It is said that he put such gusto into his readings of Shakespeare to his mother that the neighbors through they were fighting. The novel Journey to the Centre of the Earth inspired a lifelong interest in Iceland and polar regions.(5) He read the Gothic novelists of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries: Walpole, Maturin, Beckford, and Mrs. Radcliffe. These he wrote about with relish in his later work The Supernatural in Literature and would claim to have much more been influenced by them than by his contemporaries.

But he did follow contemporary literature, often in the form of the lurid fiction magazines of his day. "I had formed the reprehensible habit of picking up cheap magazines like The Argosy to divert my mind from the tedium of reality."(6) These weekly, male-oriented magazines included: The Argosy, All-Story Magazine, and The Cavalier. In 1912, All-Story Weekly began to run a six-part serial entitled "Under the Moons of Mars," by "Norman Bean." Bean was actually Edgar Rice Burroughs and this tale launched the successful John Carter of Mars series.

And he returned to his literary bent, though, unfortunately, in the single vein that most mars his reputation. "In 1912 my first bit of published verse appeared in [March 4] The Evening Bulletin. It is a 62-line satire in the usual heroic couplet, ridiculing a popular movement on the part of the Italians of the Federal Hill slums to change the name of their main street from "Atwells' Avenue" to "Columbus Avenue". I pictured Providence in 2000 A.D., with all the English names changed to foreign appellations. This piece received considerable notice of a minor sort, I am told, though I doubt if it had much effect in silencing the Italians' clamour. The idea was so foolish that it probably died of its own weakness."(7) Lovecraft, like so many uneducated and unsophisticated people of his time, cloistered in their "white Anglo-Saxon Protestant" world, feared the influx and economic expansion of those races and religions which they had, in the past, exploited: the Africans, Irish, Italians, and Chinese to name a few. From this came the turn-of-the-century notion of Aryan genetic superiority. Of course, this was before ethnologists and archaeologists realized that Aryans were actually not blond or blue eyed but migrants from Asia. He followed this verse up with one called "New England Fallen" in April.

By 1913, Lovecraft began to feel his health was improving though he still complained: "Adulthood is hell."(8) Though he continued his racial tirade with the poem "The Creation of Niggers," he did become incited by another of his conservative ideals: "One of the authors [Fred Jackson] in [The Argosy] so much excited my contempt that I wrote a letter to the editor in quaint Queen-Anne prose, satirizing the offending novelist. This letter, which was printed in the September number, aroused a veritable tempest of anger amongst the usual readers of the magazine. I was assailed & reviled by innumerable letters, which appeared in the editorial department. Among these hostile compositions was a piece of tetrameter verse by one John Russell, of Tampa, Fla., which had in it so much native wit, that I resolved to answer it. Accordingly I sent The Argosy a 44-line satire in the manner of Pope's Dunciad. This was duly printed in January, 1914, & it created an immense sensation (of hostile character) amongst the Argosy readers. The editorial department had nothing but anti-Lovecraft letters the following month! And then I composed another satire, flaying all my tormentors in stinging pentameter. This, too, was printed, till the storm of fury waxed high. Russell's replies were all rather clever, & well worth answering. Finally I sent Russell a personal communication which led to an ultimate peacea peace established just in time, for T. N. Metcalf, the editor of The Argosy had intimated that the poet's war must soon end, since correspondents were complaining of the prominence of our verses in their beloved magazine. They feared we were usurping all the extra space! So Russell & I officially closed the affair with a composite poemmy part of which was in heroics; his in anapest. This farewell to The Argosy took place in October, 1914, & I have never since beheld that worthy organ of popular literature. . . . Amateur journalism has many eyes, & long before this momentous conflict passed into history it was being watched by no less a celebrity than Hon. Edward F. Daas of Milwaukee, Wis. This gentleman, then official editor, communicated with Russell & with me in March, 1914, which resulted in my advent to the United on April 6. . . . "(9)

Edward Daas, a resident of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, was editor of the United Amateur, the magazine of an amateur journalists club. The amateur journalist movement was networking young writers, poets, essayists, and publishers together in an attempt to get their material published. From these clubs would come the small literary magazines of the twentieth century. Certain these two fiery writers would be good for the club, Daas stopped in Providence on his way to New York to convince him to join his faction of the United Amateur Press Association (the UAPA had split into two groups both keeping the same name). 

On April 6, 1914, Lovecraft joined the United Amateur Press Association. Suddenly, Lovecraft found himself in amongst a group of people like himself, not yet successful in their writing field and certain they had what it takes. Daas introduced him by mail to Maurice W. Moe who taught high-school English in Appleton, Wisconsin. Moe introduced him to Ira Cole, the cowboy-poet, of Kansas and the young intellectual Alfred Galpin. These four would continue a correspondence and later friendship for much of Lovecraft's life. 

Once in, Lovecraft was sent an assortment of amateur publications to criticize by amateur publisher Edward H. Cole of Somerville, Massachusetts. Though he claimed to be cautious about criticizing others work, Lovecraft revelled in the chance to play the part of "professor" to amateur "students." Lovecraft soon discovered there was a Providence Amateur Press Club. Here was a challenge for HPL: "the members are recruited from the evening high school, and are scarcely representative of the intellectual life of Providence. Their environment has been distinctly plebeian, and their literary standards should not at this time be criticized too harshly.(10)

As he grew more involved in the amateur journalist movement, HPL began to notice a writer who he felt had great poetic talent, Samuel Loveman, a Jewish bookseller in Cleveland. Since Loveman's UAPA membership had run out and he seemed disinclined to renew it, Lovecraft decided it was his place to reinstall Loveman for the sake of the poetic world. He wrote Kleiner: "Loveman has become reinstated in the United through me. Jew or not, I am rather proud to be his sponsor. ... His poetical gifts are of the highest order. ... His variety of ideas, facility of expression, & background of classical & antiquarian knowledge, place him in the front rank."(11) Unfortunately this did not fully reverse Lovecraft's anti-semitism when he later called Loveman "a glorious pagan and a Jew by race." (12) His affection for Loveman, though, as a writer and a person, would grow over the years. In a way, Lovecraft made an exception of Loveman's heritage rather than a rule, as Lovecraft would also do with his wife, Sonja Greene. 

In November of 1914, Lovecraft's archaic verses began to appear in the amateur press, notably: "To General Villa" and "To Members of the Pin-Feathers." He also began column called the "Department of Public Criticism" which would run for sixteen installments between November, 1914, and May, 1919. He still continued his astronomy articles for Providence Evening News and published six satirical "Bickerstaffe" pieces in Providence Evening News

Lovecraft was coming out of his shell, if not his lair. In 1915, Lovecraft was exploding with literary energy. His friend Chester Munroe had moved to Asheville, North Carolina where he went into the hotel business. Munroe suggested HPL write some astronomical articles for his local Gazette-News. Lovecraft produced 18 articles for them explaining the month's facts and myths related to them. Even an attack of chicken pox and the sudden death of his beloved replacement for his grandfather, Aunt Lillian's husband, Dr. Franklin Clark, on April 26 did not slow Lovecraft's "amateur" fervor. He passed his stamp collection on to Phillips Gamwell, his cousin. He tried to tutor Phillips in science but found he'd forgotten so much that he had to retutor himself ahead of the lessons. Anyway, amateur journalism now took precedence over science.

Lovecraft took on the job of producing The Providence Amateur for the local club, which he hoped to educate to his style of thinking and writing. This ambition did not last, he jumped ship in 1917. And he began his own magazine, The Conservative. The first issue came out in April in a run of 210 copies. He took on his two pet peeves: proper (archaic) English and racial relations. This second topic is presented in the editorial, "The Crime of the Century." It presents the old rubbish which later Nazi leaders would expound: "The Teuton is the summit of evolution. That we may consider intelligently his place in history we must cast aside the popular nomenclature which would confuse the names "Teuton" and "German," and view him not nationally but racially." Well, Lovecraft was wrong. And he, himself, would be sorry he had ever written such garbage: "Yuggoth, but I'd pay blackmail to keep some of my essays & editorials of 20 or more years ago from being exhumed & reprinted!"(13)

The next issues of The Conservative had similar diatribes of close-minded logic. The July issue had an article on "Metrical Regularity" which attacked modern forms of verse. He also attacked the publisher of another amateur magazine In a Minor Key, Charles D. Isaacson of Brooklyn, New York, as much for his leftist Socialist ideals as his race: "Mr. Isaacson's views on racial prejudice . . . are too subjective to be impartial. He has perhaps resented the more or less open aversion to the children of Israel, which had ever pervaded Christendom, . . . Race prejudice is a gift of nature, intended to preserve in purity the various divisions of mankind which the ages have evolved."(14)

Isaacson returned fire with a sharper projectile: "There comes a musty smell as of old books with the reading of he Conservative; the imagination unconsciously rushes to the days of Raleigh, Elizabeth and Lovelace. . . . I have said that Mr. Lovecraft's writings smell of the library. They are literary. They are of the playworld. Everything is so unreal about everything in the Conservative's writings." (15)

As L. Sprague de Camp said: "Isaacson had put his finger on Lovecraft's main weakness as a thinker. Although erudite, Lovecraft was wont to pontificate on subjects of which he had the merest literary smattering, without the correctives of firsthand knowledge or worldly experience. The friends to whom he expounded his half-baked notions were usually too awed by his learning to contradict him. His long seclusion had instilled in him (in the words of my colleague Fletcher Pratt) 'that haste to form judgements and that lack of critical sense in testing them, which are often the result of self-education conducted by immense and unsystematic reading.'" 

Throughout the rest of the year, Lovecraft produced similar articles: The Conservative and His Critics (July; October); The Youth of Today (October); The Renaissance of Manhood (October); Liquor and Its Friends (October); More "Chain Lightning" (December); Systematic Instruction in the United (December)

All the while, HPL was pounding out the verse: The Power of Wine (January); March (March); The Simple Speller's Tale (April); Elegy on Franklin Chase Clark (April); The Bay-Stater's Policy (June); The Crime of Crimes (July); Fragment on Whitman (July); On Receiving a Picture of Swans (September); Unda, or The Bride of the Sea (September); Gems from "In a Minor Key" (October); The State of Poetry (October); The Magazine Poet (October); A Mississippi Autumn (November); On the Cowboys of the West (December); To Samuel Loveman (December). 

And his letter writing continued to take the majority of his time. One of the most interesting forms was suggested by Moe. With Cole, Lovecraft, and Kleiner, he formed a round-robin letter circuit which was called the Kleicomolo. A letter was passed from one member to the next who added his own material and passed it on to the third. In this manner, all members of the circle got to read all the letters and responses of their friends. 

Lovecraft would claim to have suffered another "nervous collapse"(16) in 1916, but overall he was opening up and letting more of the world in. His penpal Kleiner stopped off in Providence on his way to an amateur journalist convention in Boston. Lovecraft went to the train station to meet him. Kleiner says: "[Lovecraft] was still somewhat young in looks then, and, as I thought, of a very prepossessing appearance. What struck me was his extreme formality of manner and the highly complimentary style of his approach..."

Lovecraft also "laboured with a "literary" club of Micks (the Providence Amateurs) who dwelt in the dingy "North End" of the city. The biggest of them was an odd bigoted fellow named Dunn, two years older than I. He hated England & was violently pro-German! I was foolish enough to waste time trying to convert him as if an Irishman could reason!!" Actually, Dunn was a plumber with strong ideals. In 1917 he resisted the draft as a conscientious objector and was jailed. This was the end of the Providence Amateurs. Dunn went on to become a priest and remembered Lovecraft as a member who sat rigid at meetings, only turning his head when he was speaking to someone. According to Dunn, the other members considered him a bit of a joke. They even got someone's sister to call Lovecraft to ask him if he'd take her out. Lovecraft reportedly said that he's have to ask his mother and never called the woman back. Despite his anti-Irish feelings, Lovecraft did write a poem for Dunn's sister to read at her graduation from the Rhode Island Hospital's School of Nurses. This poem was published in the Tryout, Feb. 1917.(17)

Through the United, he began to leave Providence to attend meetings in Boston. There he came in contact with two women who would become part of his circle of friends and correspondents: Miss Winifred V. Jackson and Mrs. Anne Renshaw.

But 1916 was even a greater landmark in Lovecraft's growth. Paul Cook and George W. Macauley had been constantly urging Lovecraft to try writing fiction again. In January, Lovecraft wrote Kleiner: "Only four persons in the association have seen any of my fictionthese being Misses Ballou and Hefner, and Messrs. Fritter and Geo. Schilling. The story they saw is my unpublished credential The Alchemist, which, having been sent to Miss Ballou, then Secretary, was shown to Miss Hefner and Mr. Fritter. Later I sent Schilling a revised copy for publication in a paper he was finally forced to abandon. The tale was written 11 years ago, yet it is my latest attempt at fiction."(18) Lovecraft was at that point trying unsuccessfully to write mystery fiction. His life would change drastically when, in its November, 1916 issue, The United Amateur printed The Alchemist, the first published horror work of Howard Phillips Lovecraft.

Coming Soon - Chapter 4
1. HPL to Sarah Lovecraft, Nov. 30, 1911, SL-HPL, Vl. I.

2. Scott, Winfield Towley, Exiles and Fabrication, 1961.

3. HPL to A. Galpin, Aug. 29, 1918, SL-HPL, Vl. I.

4. Ibid

5. de Camp, Lovecraft: A Biography, 1975.

6. HPL to R. Kleiner, Nov. 16, 1916, SL-HPL, Vl. I.

7. HPL to E. H. Cole, Nov. 23, 1914; to the Gallomo, 1920, SL-HPL, Vl. I.

8. HPL to E. H. Cole, Nov. 23, 1916, SL-HPL, Vl. I.

9. HPL to R. Kleiner, Nov. 16, 1916, SL-HPL, Vl. I.

10. HPL to E. H. Cole, Nov. 23, 1914, SL-HPL, Vl. I.

11. HPL to R. Keliner, Nov. 8, 1917, SL-HPL, Vl. I.

12. HPL to F. B. Long, Feb. 8, 1922, SL-HPL, Vl. I.

13. HPL to H. O. Fischer, Jan. 10, 1937, SL-HPL, Vl. V.

14. HPL, The Conservative, Something About Cats.

15. Isaacson, C.D., Concerning the Conservative, In a Minor Key, June, 1915.

16. HPL to R. Kleiner, Sep. 30, 1915, SL-HPL, Vl. I.

17. HPL, The Tryout, III, 3 (Feb. 1917).

18. HPL to Kleiner, Jan. 20, 1916, SL-HPL, Vl. I.

1. . HPL to Susie Lovecraft, November 30, 1911.

2. . Scott (1961), pp. 56f.

3. . Need to find this quote in his letters.

4. . HPL to A. Galpin, Aug. 29, 1918.

5. . de Camp, p. .

6. . HPL to R. Kleiner, Nov. 16, 1916.

7. . HPL to R. Kleiner, November 16, 1916.

8. s8.. HPL to E. H. Cole, 23 Nov. 1914; to the Gallomo, 1920.

9. . HPL to R. Kleiner, Nov. 16, 1916.

10. . HPL to E.H. Cole, 23 Nov. 1914.

11. HPL to R. Kleiner, 8 Nov. 1917.

12. . HPL to F.B. Long, 8 Feb. 1922.

13. . 

14. The Conservative, I, 2 (Jul. 1915), pp. 9f. This and other editorials by HPL in The Conservative are quoted more fully in 

15. Isaacson (Opus 2), pp. 8f.

16. HPL to R. Kleiner, 30 Sep. 1915; to A. de Castro, 14 Oct. 1934

17. . HPL to R. Kleiner, 4 Jun. 1916; to A. Galpin, 29 Aug. 1918; ; J. T. Dunn (pers. comm., 16 Nov. 1973); Lovecraft & Dunn; Wetzel (1973), p. 19.

18. . HPL to Kleiner, January 20, 1916.

Coming Soon - Chapter 4
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