Dark Dreams
H.P. Lovecraft: The Father of Modern Horror

Devan Sagliani | 6 Mar 2015 15:00
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HP Lovecraft

Lovecraft was born on August 20, 1890 in his family home in Providence, Rhode Island. As an only child who was frequently ill, he was coddled by his affectionless, Puritanical mother Sarah Susan Phillips who referred to him as hideous. He came to believe her, further fueling his insecurities and furthering his sense of isolation. He later divulged to his wife that how his mother raised him left him feeling absolutely devastated. In April of 1893 his father, Winfield Scott Lovecraft, a travelling salesman, fell into a bout of madness and was placed in the Providence psychiatric institution Butler Hospital where he remained until his death of syphilis in July of 1898.

After his father's hospitalization, Lovecraft was raised by his troubled mother, her two sisters, and his maternal grandfather, Whipple Van Buren Phillips. Whipple, a successful businessman, played a big part in helping to shape the budding author, encouraging his studies and providing Howard with classics like The Arabian Nights and children's versions of the Iliad and the Odyssey from his enormous personal library. Lovecraft was a prodigy, reciting poetry at the age of three, and writing complete poems by six. Whipple also introduced him to Gothic horror by telling him ghost stories. It was also during this period, perhaps not coincidentally, that he began to suffer from night terrors in which he believed he was being attacked by 'night gaunts' - monsters without faces that would sweep him up by the stomach and carry him away.

The death of his grandfather, the squandering of their family fortune on bad investments, his inability to master the requisite higher mathematics needed to become a professional astronomer and his dropping out of school, were all contributing factors to Howard's self-diagnosed nervous breakdown. He lived in isolation with his mother during this time, had no friends, and rarely went out before dark. Unemployed, he spent his days lounging around the house writing poetry. In 1913 he wrote a letter to The Argosy, a pulp magazine, trashing writer Fred Jackson for his love stories and sparking a debate that caught the attention of Edward F. Daas, the president of the United Amateur Press Association or UAPA. Edward saw promise in Lovecraft and asked him to become a member of the organization in 1914.

Joining the UAPA brought new life to Lovecraft and his writing. He began contributing poems and essays, and by 1916 had his first published story, "the Alchemist." By 1922 he was getting paid for his writing and had amassed an impressive network of correspondents, including Robert Bloch, the author of "Psycho," and Robert E. Howard, the creator of the Conan the Barbarian series. He also encouraged countless authors through his innumerable and lengthy letters. A few days after his mother's death from gall bladder surgery complications, Lovecraft attended a convention of amateur journalists in Boston, Massachusetts, where he met and became friendly with Sonia Greene, a woman older and far more experienced in the ways of the world. Against his remaining family's wishes the two married and moved into her Brooklyn apartment where she introduced him to sex, good home cooking, and the wonders of big city living. Lovecraft developed a group of literary friends (he dubbed them the Kalem club) who urged him to submit stories to Weird Tales, one of the only places he ever published under his own name.

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