H. P. Lovecraft was born on the 20th of August, 1890.
Me, something pushing on toward sixty years ago, I stumbled upon his writings.
No doubt his dark universe, which if I recall it aright these days, the “Cthulu Mythos,” had an evil race locked in mortal combat with an even more evil race, and kind of as an aside we humans were bred from apes as convenient labor and, in a pinch, for food, seemed just the thing for a boy noticing the world was not in fact constructed of peaches and cream. (I’ve been informed my memory appears faulty here. But, its the version I carry, so you’re welcome to it! Google the old boy if you want more “accurate” versions…)
One thing we can be pretty clear on, Lovecraft was a terrible human being. He was a misogynist, an antisemite, and a racist. And that appears to only begin a list.
And, as I recall, he wasn’t actually the best of writers. At least in a technical sense.
He certainly had no success to speak of in life, never selling enough of his work to support himself. And, in fact, he died in penury at the age of 46 in 1937. Today at least in some circles he stands only second to Edgar Allan Poe as the grand master of the literarily weird and horror. Such luminaries of the field as Robert Bloch (of Psycho fame) and Stephen King gratefully acknowledge his influence.
He certainly captured my imagination. And that of generations since. Somehow his hanging horrors implied have to be more insidious to the psyche, and delicious, than the splatter that we mostly encounter in the film versions of his beloved genre.
And then through the mysteries of the universe, I ended up in Providence, Lovecraft’s hometown.
One of the odd facts for me is that while the grand and historic First Unitarian Church of Providence, which I served as minister while we lived in Providence, was right in the middle of his stomping grounds and he made prolific reference to the sites, he ignored the Unitarians in favor the even more historic First Baptist Church of America.
Sometime after we arrived my old friend James Austin was in town for something or other, and suggested lunch. I countered with the idea of going out to Swan Point cemetery and trying to find Lovecraft’s grave. While apparently never having heard of Lovecraft, he was game. And we ended up stomping around on a wet afternoon. Never did find the grave.
Eventually Jan & I oped for the Rhode Island Historical Society’s walking tour of College Hill sites associated with his life and writings.
And then finally we made it…
He is buried under a family marker. As a footnote in 1977 fans erected a stand alone monument with his name, dates, and the motto “I am Providence.” People assume he is actually there. Including, as it turns out, some grave robbers, presumably in quest of his skull or at least some bones. They left a three foot hole. But, well, there was nothing there…
If this isn’t enough, here’s a bit more on the old boy…
And at absolutely no extra cost, here’s Rats in the Walls, one of his most famous stories, read by the incomparable David McCallum…