H. P. Lovecraft

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Men of broader intellect know that there is no sharp distinction betwixt the real and the unreal...

Howard Phillips Lovecraft (20 August 189015 March 1937) was an American author of fantasy, horror, and science fiction, noted for combining these three genres within single narratives and possibly best known for the creation of the Cthulhu Mythos. He is considered, along with Edgar Allan Poe, to be one of the greatest Horror writers.

Quotes[edit]

Fiction[edit]

  • What do we know … of the world and the universe about us? Our means of receiving impressions are absurdly few, and our notions of surrounding objects infinitely narrow. We see things only as we are constructed to see them, and can gain no idea of their absolute nature. With five feeble senses we pretend to comprehend the boundlessly complex cosmos, yet other beings with wider, stronger, or different range of senses might not only see very differently the things we see, but might see and study whole worlds of matter, energy, and life which lie close at hand yet can never be detected with the senses we have.
    • "From Beyond" Written November 16, 1920, published June 1934 in The Fantasy Fan, 1
  • Disintegration is quite painless, I assure you.
    • "From Beyond"
I am aware that my present position will create a natural doubt of the authenticity of my narrative....
  • In relating the circumstances which have led to my confinement within this refuge for the demented, I am aware that my present position will create a natural doubt of the authenticity of my narrative. It is an unfortunate fact that the bulk of humanity is too limited in its mental vision to weigh with patience and intelligence those isolated phenomena, seen and felt only by a psychologically sensitive few, which lie outside its common experience. Men of broader intellect know that there is no sharp distinction betwixt the real and the unreal; that all things appear as they do only by virtue of the delicate individual physical and mental media through which we are made conscious of them; but the prosaic materialism of the majority condemns as madness the flashes of super-sight which penetrate the common veil of obvious empiricism.
    • "The Tomb" - Written Jun 1917; first published in The Vagrant, No. 14 (March 1922)
  • I have dwelt ever in realms apart from the visible world; spending my youth and adolescence in ancient and little-known books, and in roaming the fields and groves of the region near my ancestral home. I do not think that what I read in these books or saw in these fields and groves was exactly what other boys read and saw there; but of this I must say little, since detailed speech would but confirm those cruel slanders upon my intellect which I sometimes overhear from the whispers of the stealthy attendants around me. It is sufficient for me to relate events without analysing causes.
    • "The Tomb" (1917)
The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown...
  • I am writing this under an appreciable mental strain, since by tonight I shall be no more. Penniless, and at the end of my supply of the drug which alone makes life endurable, I can bear the torture no longer; and shall cast myself from this garret window into the squalid street below.
    • "Dagon" - Written Jul 1917; First published in The Vagrant, No. 11 (November 1919)
  • The end is near. I hear a noise at the door, as of some immense slippery body lumbering against it. It shall not find me. God, that hand! The window! The window!
    • "Dagon" - Written Jul 1917; First published in The Vagrant, No. 11 (November 1919)
  • My opinion of my whole experience varies from time to time. In broad daylight, and at most seasons I am apt to think the greater part of it a mere dream; but sometimes in the autumn, about two in the morning when winds and animals howl dismally, there comes from inconceivable depths below a damnable suggestions of rhythmical throbbing ... and I feel that the transition of Juan Romero was a terrible one indeed.
  • Sometimes I believe that this less material life is our truer life, and that our vain presence on the terraqueous globe is itself the secondary or merely virtual phenomenon.
    • "Beyond the Wall of Sleep" in Pine Cones, Vol. 1, No. 6 (October 1919)
  • I screamed aloud that I was not afraid; that I never could be afraid; and others screamed with me for solace. We swore to one another that the city was exactly the same, and still alive...
  • Life is a hideous thing, and from the background behind what we know of it peer daemoniacal hints of truth which make it sometimes a thousandfold more hideous. Science, already oppressive with its shocking revelations, will perhaps be the ultimate exterminator of our human species — if separate species we be — for its reserve of unguessed horrors could never be borne by mortal brains if loosed upon the world.
    • "Facts Concerning the Late Arthur Jermyn and His Family" - written 1920; first published in The Wolverine, No. 9 (March 1921)
  • It is only the inferior thinker who hastens to explain the singular and the complex by the primitive shortcut of supernaturalism.
    • "The Temple" - Written 1920; first published in Weird Tales, 6 No. 3 (September 1925)
We know that we have looked back through the ivory gates into that world of wonder which was ours before we were wise and unhappy.
  • There be those who say that things and places have souls, and there be those who say they have not; I dare not say, myself, but I will tell of The Street.
    • "The Street" - first published in The Wolverine, No. 8 (December 1920)
  • When the last days were upon me, and the ugly trifles of existence began to drive me to madness like the small drops of water torturers let fall ceaselessly upon one spot of their victim's body, I loved the irradiate refuge of sleep. In my dreams I found a little of the beauty I had vainly sought in life, and wandered through old gardens and enchanted woods.
    • "Ex Oblivione" - First published in The United Amateur, 20, No. 4 (March 1921)
  • No new horror can be more terrible than the daily torture of the commonplace.
    • "Ex Oblivione"
  • There are not many persons who know what wonders are opened to them in the stories and visions of their youth; for when as children we listen and dream, we think but half-formed thoughts, and when as men we try to remember, we are dulled and prosaic with the poison of life. But some of us awake in the night with strange phantasms of enchanted hills and gardens, of fountains that sing in the sun, of golden cliffs overhanging murmuring seas, of plains that stretch down to sleeping cities of bronze and stone, and of shadowy companies of heroes that ride caparisoned white horses along the edges of thick forests; and then we know that we have looked back through the ivory gates into that world of wonder which was ours before we were wise and unhappy.
    • "Celephaïs" - Written early November 1920; first published in The Rainbow, No. 2 (May 1922)
  • Madness rides the star-wind... claws and teeth sharpened on centuries of corpses... dripping death astride a bacchanale of bats from nigh-black ruins of buried temples of Belial...
    • "The Hound" Written September 1922, published February 1924 in Weird Tales, 3, No. 2, 50–52, 78
  • Memories and possibilities are ever more hideous than realities.
The only saving grace of the present is that it's too damned stupid to question the past very closely.
  • Instead of the poems I had hoped for, there came only a shuddering blackness and ineffable loneliness; and I saw at last a fearful truth which no one had ever dared to breathe before — the unwhisperable secret of secrets — The fact that this city of stone and stridor is not a sentient perpetuation of Old New York as London is of Old London and Paris of Old Paris, but that it is in fact quite dead, its sprawling body imperfectly embalmed and infested with queer animate things which have nothing to do with it as it was in life.
    • "He" - Written 11 August 1925; first published in Weird Tales, Vol. 8, No. 3 (September 1926)
Past, present, future, all are one in Yog-Sothoth. He knows where the Old Ones broke through of old, and where They shall break through again...
  • The only saving grace of the present is that it's too damned stupid to question the past very closely.
    • "Pickman's Model " - written 1926; first published in Weird Tales, Vol. 10, No. 4 (October 1927)
  • Yog-Sothoth knows the gate. Yog-Sothoth is the gate. Yog-Sothoth is the key and guardian of the gate. Past, present, future, all are one in Yog-Sothoth. He knows where the Old Ones broke through of old, and where They shall break through again. He knows where They have trod earth's fields, and where They still tread them, and why no one can behold Them as They tread.
    • "The Dunwich Horror " - Written Summer 1928; first published in Weird Tales, 13, No. 4, (April 1929)
It was an All-in-One and One-in-All of limitless being and self — not merely a thing of one Space-Time continuum, but allied to the ultimate animating essence of existence's whole unbounded sweep...
  • It was an All-in-One and One-in-All of limitless being and self — not merely a thing of one Space-Time continuum, but allied to the ultimate animating essence of existence's whole unbounded sweep — the last, utter sweep which has no confines and which outreaches fancy and mathematics alike. It was perhaps that which certain secret cults of earth have whispered of as YOG-SOTHOTH, and which has been a deity under other names; that which the crustaceans of Yuggoth worship as the Beyond-One, and which the vaporous brains of the spiral nebulae know by an untranslatable Sign...

The Crawling Chaos (1921)[edit]

First published in The United Co-operative Vol. 1, No. 3 (April 1921)
  • Of the pleasures and pains of opium much has been written. The ecstasies and horrors of De Quincey and the paradis artificiels of Baudelaire are preserved and interpreted with an art which makes them immortal, and the world knows well the beauty, the terror and the mystery of those obscure realms into which the inspired dreamer is transported. But much as has been told, no man has yet dared intimate the nature of the phantasms thus unfolded to the mind, or hint at the direction of the unheard-of roads along whose ornate and exotic course the partaker of the drug is so irresistibly borne.
  • I took opium but once — in the year of the plague, when doctors sought to deaden the agonies they could not cure. There was an overdose — my physician was worn out with horror and exertion — and I travelled very far indeed. In the end I returned and lived, but my nights are filled with strange memories, nor have I ever permitted a doctor to give me opium again.
  • Slowly but inexorably crawling upon my consciousness and rising above every other impression, came a dizzying fear of the unknown; a fear all the greater because I could not analyse it, and seeming to concern a stealthily approaching menace; not death, but some nameless, unheard-of thing inexpressibly more ghastly and abhorrent.
  • I felt that some horrible scene or object lurked beyond the silk-hung walls, and shrank from glancing through the arched, latticed windows that opened so bewilderingly on every hand.
  • I beheld such a sight as I had never beheld before, and which no living person can have seen save in the delirium of fever or the inferno of opium. The building stood on a narrow point of land — or what was now a narrow point of land — fully three hundred feet above what must lately have been a seething vortex of mad waters. On either side of the house there fell a newly washed-out precipice of red earth, whilst ahead of me the hideous waves were still rolling in frightfully, eating away the land with ghastly monotony and deliberation.
  • Some terror in the swishing tall grass seemed added to that of the diabolically pounding sea, and I started up crying aloud and disjointedly, "Tiger? Tiger? Is it Tiger? Beast? Beast? Is it a Beast that I am afraid of?"
There now ensued a series of incidents which transported me to the opposite extremes of ecstasy and horror; incidents which I tremble to recall and dare not seek to interpret.
  • There now ensued a series of incidents which transported me to the opposite extremes of ecstasy and horror; incidents which I tremble to recall and dare not seek to interpret. No sooner had I crawled beneath the overhanging foliage of the palm, than there dropped from its branches a young child of such beauty as I never beheld before. Though ragged and dusty, this being bore the features of a faun or demigod, and seemed almost to diffuse a radiance in the dense shadow of the tree. It smiled and extended its hand, but before I could arise and speak I heard in the upper air the exquisite melody of singing; notes high and low blent with a sublime and ethereal harmoniousness. The sun had by this time sunk below the horizon, and in the twilight I saw an aureole of lambent light encircled the child's head. Then in a tone of silver it addressed me: "It is the end. They have come down through the gloaming from the stars. Now all is over, and beyond the Arinurian streams we shall dwell blissfully in Teloe." As the child spoke, I beheld a soft radiance through the leaves of the palm tree, and rising, greeted a pair whom I knew to be the chief singers among those I had heard. A god and goddess they must have been, for such beauty is not mortal; and they took my hands, saying, "Come, child, you have heard the voices, and all is well...."
  • I was obviously floating in the atmosphere; companioned not only by the strange child and the radiant pair, but by a constantly increasing throng of half-luminous, vine-crowned youths and maidens with wind-blown hair and joyful countenance. We slowly ascended together, as if borne on a fragrant breeze which blew not from the earth but from the golden nebulae, and the child whispered in my ear that I must look always upward to the pathways of light, and never backward to the sphere I had just left.
  • The ocean ate the last of the land and poured into the smoking gulf, thereby giving up all it had ever conquered. From the new-flooded lands it flowed again, uncovering death and decay; and from its ancient and immemorial bed it trickled loathsomely, uncovering nighted secrets of the years when Time was young and the gods unborn. Above the waves rose weedy remembered spires. The moon laid pale lilies of light on dead London, and Paris stood up from its damp grave to be sanctified with star-dust. Then rose spires and monoliths that were weedy but not remembered; terrible spires and monoliths of lands that men never knew were lands...

The Other Gods (1921)[edit]

Written on August 14, 1921, first published in The Fantasy Fan (November 1933)
  • Atop the tallest of earth's peaks dwell the gods of earth, and suffer not man to tell that he hath looked upon them. Lesser peaks they once inhabited; but ever the men from the plains would scale the slopes of rock and snow, driving the gods to higher and higher mountains till now only the last remains. When they left their old peaks they took with them all signs of themselves, save once, it is said, when they left a carven image on the face of the mountain which they called Ngranek. ... They are grown stern, and where once they suffered men to displace them, they now forbid men to come; or coming, to depart. It is well for men that they know not of Kadath in the cold waste; else they would seek injudiciously to scale it.
  • Sometimes when earth's gods are homesick they visit in the still of the night the peaks where once they dwelt, and weep softly as they try to play in the olden way on remembered slopes.
  • In cloud-ships the gods are wont to travel, and wise cotters have legends that keep them from certain high peaks at night when it is cloudy, for the gods are not lenient as of old.
  • Barzai knew so much of the gods that he could tell of their comings and goings, and guessed so many of their secrets that he was deemed half a god himself.
  • The moon is dark, and the gods dance in the night; there is terror in the sky, for upon the moon hath sunk an eclipse foretold in no books of men or of earth's gods...' There is unknown magic on Hatheg-Kla, for the screams of the frightened gods have turned to laughter, and the slopes of ice shoot up endlessly into the black heavens whither I am plunging... Hei! Hei! At last! In the dim light I behold the gods of earth!
  • The other gods! The other gods! The gods of the outer hells that guard the feeble gods of earth!... Look away... Go back... Do not see! Do not see! The vengeance of the infinite abysses... That cursed, that damnable pit... Merciful gods of earth, I am falling into the sky!
  • Above the mists on Hatheg-Kla, earth's gods sometimes dance reminiscently; for they know they are safe, and love to come from unknown Kadath in ships of clouds and play in the olden way, as they did when earth was new and men not given to the climbing of inaccessible places.
May the merciful gods, if indeed there be such, guard those hours when no power of the will, or drug that the cunning of man devises, can keep me from the chasm of sleep...

Hypnos (1922)[edit]

Written March 1922; First published in The National Amateur Vol. 45, No. 5 (May 1923)
  • May the merciful gods, if indeed there be such, guard those hours when no power of the will, or drug that the cunning of man devises, can keep me from the chasm of sleep. Death is merciful, for there is no return therefrom, but with him who has come back out of the nethermost chambers of night, haggard and knowing, peace rests nevermore. Fool that I was to plunge with such unsanctioned frensy into mysteries no man was meant to penetrate; fool or god that he was — my only friend, who led me and went before me, and who in the end passed into terrors which may yet be mine!
  • Of our studies it is impossible to speak, since they held so slight a connection with anything of the world as living men conceive it. They were of that vaster and more appalling universe of dim entity and consciousness which lies deeper than matter, time, and space, and whose existence we suspect only in certain forms of sleep — those rare dreams beyond dreams which come never to common men, and but once or twice in the lifetime of imaginative men. The cosmos of our waking knowledge, born from such an universe as a bubble is born from the pipe of a jester, touches it only as such a bubble may touch its sardonic source when sucked back by the jester's whim. Men of learning suspect it little and ignore it mostly. Wise men have interpreted dreams, and the gods have laughed. One man with Oriental eyes has said that all time and space are relative, and men have laughed. But even that man with Oriental eyes has done no more than suspect....
  • Among the agonies of these after days is that chief of torments — inarticulateness. What I learned and saw in those hours of impious exploration can never be told — for want of symbols or suggestions in any language. I say this because from first to last our discoveries partook only of the nature of sensations; sensations correlated with no impression which the nervous system of normal humanity is capable of receiving. They were sensations, yet within them lay unbelievable elements of time and space — things which at bottom possess no distinct and definite existence. Human utterance can best convey the general character of our experiences by calling them plungings or soarings...
  • There was a night when winds from unknown spaces whirled us irresistibly into limitless vacum beyond all thought and entity. Perceptions of the most maddeningly untransmissible sort thronged upon us; perceptions of infinity which at the time convulsed us with joy, yet which are now partly lost to my memory and partly incapable of presentation to others.
  • I found myself projected against an obstacle which I could not penetrate. It was like the others, yet incalculably denser; a sticky clammy mass, if such terms can be applied to analogous qualities in a non-material sphere.
    I had, I felt, been halted by a barrier which my friend and leader had successfully passed. Struggling anew, I came to the end of the drug-dream...
  • That was the end of our voluntary searchings in the caverns of dream. Awed, shaken, and portentous, my friend who had been beyond the barrier warned me that we must never venture within those realms again.
  • Never could I tell, try as I might, what it actually was that I saw; nor could the still face tell, for although it must have seen more than I did, it will never speak again. But always I shall guard against the mocking and insatiate Hypnos, lord of sleep, against the night sky, and against the mad ambitions of knowledge and philosophy.
  • They say that that haunting memory-face is modeled from my own, as it was at twenty-five; but upon the marble base is carven a single name in the letters of Attica — HYPNOS.

The Shunned House (1924)[edit]

Full text online at Wikisource
  • From even the greatest of horrors irony is seldom absent.

The Call of Cthulhu (1926)[edit]

Full text online at Wikisource
The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents...
That is not dead which can eternal lie,
And with strange aeons even death may die.
  • The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far. The sciences, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the light into the peace and safety of a new dark age.
  • Theosophists have guessed at the awesome grandeur of the cosmic cycle wherein our world and human race form transient incidents. They have hinted at strange survivals in terms which would freeze the blood if not masked by a bland optimism. But it is not from them that there came the single glimpse of forbidden eons which chills me when I think of it and maddens me when I dream of it. That glimpse, like all dread glimpses of truth, flashed out from an accidental piecing together of separated things — in this case an old newspaper item and the notes of a dead professor....
  • It seemed to be a sort of monster, or symbol representing a monster, of a form which only a diseased fancy could conceive. If I say that my somewhat extravagant imagination yielded simultaneous pictures of an octopus, a dragon, and a human caricature, I shall not be unfaithful to the spirit of the thing. A pulpy, tentacled head surmounted a grotesque and scaly body with rudimentary wings; but it was the general outline of the whole which made it most shockingly frightful.
  • The writing accompanying this oddity was, aside from a stack of press cuttings, in Professor Angell's most recent hand; and made no pretense to literary style. What seemed to be the main document was headed "CTHULHU CULT" in characters painstakingly printed to avoid the erroneous reading of a word so unheard-of.
  • Many of his questions seemed highly out of place to his visitor, especially those which tried to connect the latter with strange cults or societies; and Wilcox could not understand the repeated promises of silence which he was offered in exchange for an admission of membership in some widespread mystical or paganly religious body. When Professor Angell became convinced that the sculptor was indeed ignorant of any cult or system of cryptic lore, he besieged his visitor with demands for future reports of dreams.
  • My uncle, it seems, had quickly instituted a prodigiously far-flung body of inquires amongst nearly all the friends whom he could question without impertinence, asking for nightly reports of their dreams, and the dates of any notable visions for some time past. The reception of his request seems to have varied; but he must, at the very least, have received more responses than any ordinary man could have handled without a secretary.
  • It was from the artists and poets that the pertinent answers came, and I know that panic would have broken loose had they been able to compare notes. As it was, lacking their original letters, I half suspected the compiler of having asked leading questions, or of having edited the correspondence in corroboration of what he had latently resolved to see.
  • The statuette, idol, fetish, or whatever it was, had been captured some months before in the wooded swamps south of New Orleans during a raid on a supposed voodoo meeting; and so singular and hideous were the rites connected with it, that the police could not but realise that they had stumbled on a dark cult totally unknown to them, and infinitely more diabolic than even the blackest of the African voodoo circles. Of its origin, apart from the erratic and unbelievable tales extorted from the captured members, absolutely nothing was to be discovered; hence the anxiety of the police for any antiquarian lore which might help them to place the frightful symbol, and through it track down the cult to its fountain-head.
  • No recognised school of sculpture had animated this terrible object, yet centuries and even thousands of years seemed recorded in its dim and greenish surface of unplaceable stone.
  • What, in substance, both the Esquimaux wizards and the Louisiana swamp-priests had chanted to their kindred idols was something very like this: the word-divisions being guessed at from traditional breaks in the phrase as chanted aloud:
    "Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn." ... "In his house at R'lyeh dead Cthulhu waits dreaming."
  • They worshipped, so they said, the Great Old Ones who lived ages before there were any men, and who came to the young world out of the sky. Those Old Ones were gone now, inside the earth and under the sea; but their dead bodies had told their secrets in dreams to the first men, who formed a cult which had never died. This was that cult, and the prisoners said it had always existed and always would exist, hidden in distant wastes and dark places all over the world until the time when the great priest Cthulhu, from his dark house in the mighty city of R'lyeh under the waters, should rise and bring the earth again beneath his sway. Some day he would call, when the stars were ready, and the secret cult would always be waiting to liberate him.
  • There had been aeons when other Things ruled on the earth, and They had had great cities. Remains of Them, he said the deathless Chinamen had told him, were still be found as Cyclopean stones on islands in the Pacific. They all died vast epochs of time before men came, but there were arts which could revive Them when the stars had come round again to the right positions in the cycle of eternity. They had, indeed, come themselves from the stars, and brought Their images with Them.
    These Great Old Ones, Castro continued, were not composed altogether of flesh and blood. They had shape — for did not this star-fashioned image prove it? — but that shape was not made of matter. When the stars were right, They could plunge from world to world through the sky; but when the stars were wrong, They could not live. But although They no longer lived, They would never really die...
  • That cult would never die till the stars came right again, and the secret priests would take great Cthulhu from His tomb to revive His subjects and resume His rule of earth. The time would be easy to know, for then mankind would have become as the Great Old Ones; free and wild and beyond good and evil, with laws and morals thrown aside and all men shouting and killing and revelling in joy. Then the liberated Old Ones would teach them new ways to shout and kill and revel and enjoy themselves, and all the earth would flame with a holocaust of ecstasy and freedom. Meanwhile the cult, by appropriate rites, must keep alive the memory of those ancient ways and shadow forth the prophecy of their return.
  • No book had ever really hinted of it, though the deathless Chinamen said that there were double meanings in the Necronomicon of the mad Arab Abdul Alhazred which the initiated might read as they chose, especially the much-discussed couplet:
That is not dead which can eternal lie,
And with strange aeons even death may die.
  • The dream-narratives and cuttings collected by the professor were, of course, strong corroboration; but the rationalism of my mind and the extravagance of the whole subject led me to adopt what I thought the most sensible conclusions. So, after thoroughly studying the manuscript again and correlating the theosophical and anthropological notes with the cult narrative of Legrasse, I made a trip to Providence to see the sculptor and give him the rebuke I thought proper for so boldly imposing upon a learned and aged man.
  • What I now heard so graphically at first-hand, though it was really no more than a detailed confirmation of what my uncle had written, excited me afresh; for I felt sure that I was on the track of a very real, very secret, and very ancient religion whose discovery would make me an anthropologist of note. My attitude was still one of absolute materialism, as l wish it still were, and I discounted with almost inexplicable perversity the coincidence of the dream notes and odd cuttings collected by Professor Angell.
  • I thought with a shudder of what Old Castro had told Legrasse about the Old Ones; "They had come from the stars, and had brought Their images with Them."
  • Johansen, thank God, did not know quite all, even though he saw the city and the Thing, but I shall never sleep calmly again when I think of the horrors that lurk ceaselessly behind life in time and in space, and of those unhallowed blasphemies from elder stars which dream beneath the sea, known and favoured by a nightmare cult ready and eager to loose them upon the world whenever another earthquake shall heave their monstrous stone city again to the sun and air.
  • The very sun of heaven seemed distorted when viewed through the polarising miasma welling out from this sea-soaked perversion, and twisted menace and suspense lurked leeringly in those crazily elusive angles of carven rock where a second glance shewed concavity after the first shewed convexity.
    Something very like fright had come over all the explorers before anything more definite than rock and ooze and weed was seen.
  • The odour rising from the newly opened depths was intolerable, and at length the quick-eared Hawkins thought he heard a nasty, slopping sound down there. Everyone listened, and everyone was listening still when It lumbered slobberingly into sight and gropingly squeezed Its gelatinous green immensity through the black doorway into the tainted outside air of that poison city of madness.
  • The Thing of the idols, the green, sticky spawn of the stars, had awaked to claim his own. The stars were right again, and what an age-old cult had failed to do by design, a band of innocent sailors had done by accident. After vigintillions of years great Cthulhu was loose again, and ravening for delight.
  • The brave Norwegian drove his vessel head on against the pursuing jelly which rose above the unclean froth like the stern of a daemon galleon. The awful squid-head with writhing feelers came nearly up to the bowsprit of the sturdy yacht, but Johansen drove on relentlessly. There was a bursting as of an exploding bladder, a slushy nastiness as of a cloven sunfish, a stench as of a thousand opened graves, and a sound that the chronicler could not put on paper. For an instant the ship was befouled by an acrid and blinding green cloud, and then there was only a venomous seething astern; where — God in heaven! — the scattered plasticity of that nameless sky-spawn was nebulously recombining in its hateful original form...
  • I have looked upon all that the universe has to hold of horror, and even the skies of spring and the flowers of summer must ever afterward be poison to me. But I do not think my life will be long. As my uncle went, as poor Johansen went, so I shall go. I know too much, and the cult still lives.
  • Who knows the end? What has risen may sink, and what has sunk may rise. Loathsomeness waits and dreams in the deep, and decay spreads over the tottering cities of men.

The Colour Out of Space (1927)[edit]

It is not because of anything that can be seen or heard or handled, but because of something that is imagined. The place is not good for imagination, and does not bring restful dreams at night.
  • West of Arkham the hills rise wild, and there are valleys with deep woods that no axe has ever cut. There are dark narrow glens where the trees slope fantastically, and where thin brooklets trickle without ever having caught the glint of sunlight. On the gentle slopes there are farms, ancient and rocky, with squat, moss-coated cottages brooding eternally over old New England secrets in the lee of great ledges; but these are all vacant now, the wide chimneys crumbling and the shingled sides bulging perilously beneath low gambrel roofs. The old folk have gone away, and foreigners do not like to live there. French-Canadians have tried it, Italians have tried it, and the Poles have come and departed. It is not because of anything that can be seen or heard or handled, but because of something that is imagined. The place is not good for imagination, and does not bring restful dreams at night.
  • Even the dry tips of the lingering hedge-mustard, grey and blighted, and the fringe on the roof of the standing democrat-wagon were unstirred. And yet amid that tense godless calm the high bare boughs of all the trees in the yard were moving....
  • What it is, only God knows. In terms of matter I suppose the thing Ammi described would be called a gas, but this gas obeyed the laws that are not of our cosmos. This was no fruit of such worlds and suns as shine on the telescopes and photographic plates of our observatories. This was no breath from the skies whose motions and dimensions our astronomers measure or deem too vast to measure. It was just a colour out of space — a frightful messenger from unformed realms of infinity beyond all Nature as we know it; from realms whose mere existence stuns the brain and numbs us with the black extra-cosmic gulfs it throws open before our frenzied eyes.
  • Something terrible came to the hills and valleys on that meteor, and something terrible — though I know not in what proportion — still remains.

Non-Fiction[edit]

The poetical tendency of the present and of the preceding century has been divided in a manner singularly curious.
Behold great Whitman, whose licentious line
Delights the rake, and warms the souls of swine;
Whose fever'd fancy shuns the measur'd pace,
And copies Ovid's filth without his grace.
  • Behold great Whitman, whose licentious line
    Delights the rake, and warms the souls of swine;
    Whose fever'd fancy shuns the measur'd pace,
    And copies Ovid's filth without his grace.
    In his rough brain a genius might have grown,
    Had he not sought to play the brute alone;
    But void of shame, he let his wit run wild,
    And liv'd and wrote as Adam's bestial child.
    Averse to culture, strange to humankind,
    He never knew the pleasures of the mind.
    Scorning the pure, the delicate, the clean,
    His joys were sordid, and his morals mean.
    Thro' his gross thoughts a native vigour ran,
    From which he deem'd himself the perfect man:
    But want of decency his rank decreas'd,
    And sunk him to the level of the beast.
    Would that his Muse had dy'd before her birth,
    Nor spread such foul corruption o'er the earth.
    • Orignially written as part of an "Essay on Modern Poets" this was published as a "Fragment on Whitman” (c. 1912) in The Ancient Track (2001) edited by S. T. Joshi, p. 192
  • The poetical tendency of the present and of the preceding century has been divided in a manner singularly curious. One loud and conspicuous faction of bards, giving way to the corrupt influences of a decaying general culture, seems to have abandoned all the properties of versification and reason in its mad scramble after sensational novelty; whilst the other and quieter school constituting a more logical evolution from the poesy of the Georgian period, demands an accuracy of rhyme and metre unknown even to the polished artists of the age of Pope.
  • The best critics of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries demand perfect rhyming, and no aspirant for fame can afford to depart from a standard so universal. It is evidently the true goal of the English, as well as of the French bard; the goal from which we are but temporarily deflected during the preceding age.
    But exceptions should and must be made in the case of a few who have somehow absorbed the atmosphere of other days, and who long in their hearts for the stately sound of the old classic cadences. Well may their predilection for imperfect rhyming be discouraged to a limited extent, but to chain them wholly to modern rules would be barbarous. Every limited mind demands a certain freedom of expression, and the man who cannot express himself satisfactorily without the stimulation derived from the spirited mode of two centuries ago should certainly be permitted to follow without undue restraint a practice so harmless, so free from essential error, and so sanctioned by precedent, as that of employing in his poetical compositions the smooth and inoffensive allowable rhyme.
    • The Allowable Rhyme (1915)
The Birth of a Nation, … is said to furnish a remarkable insight into the methods of the Ku-Klux-Klan, that noble but much maligned band of Southerners who saved half of our country from destruction at the close of the Civil War.
  • The negro is fundamentally the biological inferior of all White and even Mongolian races, and the Northern people must occasionally be reminded of the danger which they incur in admitting him too freely to the privileges of society and government. …The Birth of a Nation, … is said to furnish a remarkable insight into the methods of the Ku-Klux-Klan, that noble but much maligned band of Southerners who saved half of our country from destruction at the close of the Civil War. The Conservative has not yet witnessed the picture in question, but he has seen both in literary and dramatic form The Clansman, that stirring, though crude and melodramatic story by Rev. Thomas Dixon, Jr., on which The Birth of a Nation is based, and has likewise made a close historical study of the Klu-Klux-Klan, finding as a result of his research nothing but Honour, Chivalry, and Patriotism in the activities of the Invisible Empire. The Klan merely did for the people what the law refused to do, removing the ballot from unfit hands and restoring to the victims of political vindictiveness their natural rights. The alleged lawbreaking of the Klan was committed only by irresponsible miscreants who, after the dissolution of the Order by its Grand Wizard, Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest, used its weird masks and terrifying costumes to veil their unorganised villainies.
    Race prejudice is a gift of Nature, intended to preserve in purity the various divisions of mankind which the ages have evolved.
    • Response to observations made in In A Minor Key by Charles D. Isaacson, in The Conservative, Vol. I, No. 2, (1915), p.4
  • Four years ago a large part of the civilised world laboured under certain biological fallacies which may, in a sense, be held responsible for the extent and duration of the present conflict. These fallacies, which were the foundation of pacifism and other pernicious forms of social and political radicalism, dealt with the capacity of man to evolve mentally beyond his former state of subservience to primate instinct and pugnacity, and to conduct his affairs and international or interracial relations on a basis of reason and good-will. That belief in such capability is unscientific and childishly naive, is beside the question.
  • We must recognise the essential underlaying savagery in the animal called man, and return to older and sounder principles of national life and defense. We must realise that man's nature will remain the same so long as he remains man; that civilisation is but a slight coverlet beneath which the dominant beast sleeps lightly and ever ready to awake.
  • Man's respect for the imponderables varies according to his mental constitution and environment. Through certain modes of thought and training it can be elevated tremendously, yet there is always a limit. The man or nation of high culture may acknowledge to great lengths the restraints imposed by conventions and honour, but beyond a certain point primitive will or desire cannot be curbed. Denied anything ardently desired, the individual or state will argue and parley just so long — then, if the impelling motive be sufficiently great, will cast aside every rule and break down every acquired inhibition, plunging viciously after the object wished; all the more fantastically savage because of previous repression.
  • The opinions of the masses are of no interest to me, for praise can truly gratify only when it comes from a mind sharing the author's perspective. There are probably seven persons, in all, who really like my work; and they are enough. I should write even if I were the only patient reader, for my aim is merely self-expression. I could not write about "ordinary people" because I am not in the least interested in them. Without interest there can be no art. Man's relations to man do not captivate my fancy. It is man's relation to the cosmos—to the unknown—which alone arouses in me the spark of creative imagination. The humanocentric pose is impossible to me, for I cannot acquire the primitive myopia which magnifies the earth and ignores the background. Pleasure to me is wonder—the unexplored, the unexpected, the thing that is hidden and the changeless thing that lurks behind superficial mutability. To trace the remote in the immediate; the eternal in the ephemeral; the past in the present; the infinite in the finite; these are to me the springs of delight and beauty. Like the late Mr. Wilde, "I live in terror of not being misunderstood."
    • "The Defence Remains Open!" (April 1921), published in Collected Essays, Volume 5: Philosophy edited by S. T. Joshi, p. 53
  • It must be remembered that there is no real reason to expect anything in particular from mankind; good and evil are local expedients—or their lack—and not in any sense cosmic truths or laws. We call a thing "good" because it promotes certain petty human conditions that we happen to like—whereas it is just as sensible to assume that all humanity is a noxious pest and should be eradicated like rats or gnats for the good of the planet or of the universe. There are no absolute values in the whole blind tragedy of mechanistic nature—nothing is good or bad except as judged from an absurdly limited point of view. The only cosmic reality is mindless, undeviating fate—automatic, unmoral, uncalculating inevitability. As human beings, our only sensible scale of values is one based on lessening the agony of existence. That plan is most deserving of praise which most ably fosters the creation of the objects and conditions best adapted to diminish the pain of living for those most sensitive to its depressing ravages. To expect perfect adjustment and happiness is absurdly unscientific and unphilosophical. We can seek only a more or less trivial mitigation of suffering. I believe in an aristocracy, because I deem it the only agency for the creation of those refinements which make life endurable for the human animal of high organisation.
    • "Nietzscheism and Realism" from The Rainbow, Vol. I, No. 1 (October 1921); reprinted in "To Quebec and the Stars", and also in Collected Essays, Volume 5: Philosophy edited by S. T. Joshi, p. 70
  • It is good to be a cynic—it is better to be a contented cat — and it is best not to exist at all. Universal suicide is the most logical thing in the world—we reject it only because of our primitive cowardice and childish fear of the dark. If we were sensible we would seek death—the same blissful blank which we enjoyed before we existed.
    • "Nietzscheism and Realism" from The Rainbow, Vol. I, No. 1 (October 1921); reprinted in "To Quebec and the Stars", and also in Collected Essays, Volume 5: Philosophy edited by S. T. Joshi, p. 71
  • The undesirability of any system of rule not tempered with the quality of kindness is obvious; for "kindness" is a complex collection of various impulses, reactions and realisations highly necessary to the smooth adjustment of botched and freakish creatures like most human beings. It is a weakness basically—or, in some cases, and ostentation of secure superiority—but its net effect is desirable; hence it is, on the whole, praiseworthy. Since all motives at bottom are selfish and ignoble, we may judge acts and qualities only be their effects. Pessimism produces kindness. The disillusioned philosopher is even more tolerant than the priggish bourgeois idealist with his sentimental and extravagant notions of human dignity and destiny.
    • "Nietzscheism and Realism" from The Rainbow, Vol. I, No. 1 (October 1921); reprinted in "To Quebec and the Stars", and also in Collected Essays, Volume 5: Philosophy edited by S. T. Joshi, p. 71
  • Children will always be afraid of the dark, and men with minds sensitive to hereditary impulse will always tremble at the thought of the hidden and fathomless worlds of strange life which may pulsate in the gulfs beyond the stars, or press hideously upon our own globe in unholy dimensions which only the dead and the moonstruck can glimpse.
    • "Supernatural Horror in Literature" (1927)
  • Inconceivable events and conditions form a class apart from all other story elements, and cannot be made convincing by any mere process of casual narration. They have the handicap of incredibility to overcome; and this can be accomplished only through a careful realism in every other phase of the story, plus a gradual atmospheric or emotional build-up of the utmost subtlety. The emphasis, too, must be kept right—hovering always over the wonder of the central abnormality itself. It must be remembered that any violation of what we know as natural law is in itself a far more tremendous thing than any other event or feeling which could possibly affect a human being. Therefore in a story dealing with such a thing we cannot expect to create any sense of life or illusion of reality if we treat the wonder casually and have the characters moving about under ordinary motivations. The characters, though they must be natural, should be subordinated to the central marvel around which they are grouped. The true "hero" of a marvel tale is not any human being, but simply a set of phenomena. Over and above everything else should tower the stark, outrageous monstrousness of the one chosen departure from Nature. The characters should react to it as real people would react to such a thing if it were suddenly to confront them in daily life; displaying the almost soul-shattering amazement which anyone would naturally display instead of the mild, tame, quickly-passed-over emotions prescribed by cheap popular convention. Even when the wonder is one to which the characters are assumed to be used, the sense of awe, marvel, and strangeness which the reader would feel in the presence of such a thing must somehow be suggested by the author. . . . Atmosphere, not action, is the thing to cultivate in the wonder story. We cannot put stress on the bare events, since the unnatural extravagance of these events makes them sound hollow and absurd when thrown into too high relief. Such events, even when theoretically possible or conceivable in the future, have no counterpart or basis in existing life and human experience, hence can never form the groundwork of an adult tale. All that a marvel story can ever be, in a serious way, is a vivid picture of a certain type of human mood. The moment it tries to be anything else it becomes cheap, puerile, and unconvincing. Therefore a fantastic author should see that his prime emphasis goes into subtle suggestion—the imperceptible hints and touches of selective and associative detail which express shadings of moods and build up a vague illusion of the strange reality of the unreal—instead of into bald catalogues of incredible happenings which can have no substance or meaning apart from a sustaining cloud of colour and mood-symbolism. A serious adult story must be true to something in life. Since marvel tales cannot be true to the events of life, they must shift their emphasis toward something to which they can be true; namely, certain wistful or restless moods of the human spirit, wherein it seeks to weave gossamer ladders of escape from the galling tyranny of time, space, and natural laws.
    • "Some Notes on Interplanetary Fiction", Californian 3, No. 3 (Winter 1935): 39-42. Published in Collected Essays, Volume 2: Literary Criticism edited by S. T. Joshi, p. 178
  • There are, without doubt, great possibilities in the serious exploitation of the astronomical tale; as a few semi-classics like "The War of the Worlds", "The Last and First Men", "Station X", "The Red Brain", and Clark Ashton Smith's best work prove. But the pioneers must be prepared to labour without financial return, professional recognition, or the encouragement of a reading majority whose taste has been seriously warped by the rubbish it has devoured. Fortunately sincere artistic creation is its own incentive and reward, so that despite all obstacles we need not despair of the future of a fresh literary form whose present lack of development leaves all the more room for brilliant and fruitful experimentation.
    • "Some Notes on Interplanetary Fiction", Californian 3, No. 3 (Winter 1935): 39-42. Published in Collected Essays, Volume 2: Literary Criticism edited by S. T. Joshi, p. 178
I am Providence
  • I am Providence.
    • Epitaph on his headstone, which he used in letters to Lillian D. Clark (March 1926) and James F. Morton (May 1926) around the time of his April 1926 return to Providence after living for two years in New York City. Originally Lovecraft was buried without his own separate grave marker, his name simply carved into the family's obelisk, but in 1977 a network of fans paid to add this headstone.

Letters[edit]

  • My theological beliefs are likely to startle one who has imagined me as an orthodox adherent of the Anglican Church. My father was of that faith, and was married by its rites, yet, having been educated in my mother's distinctively Yankee family, I was early placed in the Baptist sunday school. There, however, I soon became exasperated by the literal Puritanical doctrines, and constantly shocked my preceptors by expressing scepticism of much that was taught me. It became evident that my young mind was not of a religious cast, for the much exhorted "simple faith" in miracles and the like came not to me. I was not long forced to attend the Sunday school, but read much in the Bible from sheer interest. The more I read the Scriptures, the more foreign they seemed to me. I was infinitely fonder on the Graeco-Roman mythology, and when I was eight astounded the family by declaring myself a Roman pagan. Religion struck me so vague a thing at best, that I could perceive no advantage of any one system over any other. I had really adopted a sort of Pantheism, with the Roman gods as personified attributes of deity. . . . My present opinions waver betwixt Pantheism and rationalism. I am a sort of agnostic, neither affirming nor denying anything.
    • Letter to Maurice W. Moe (16 January 1915), in Selected Letters I, 1911-1924 edited by August Derleth and Donald Wandrei, p. 10
  • Your wonderment 'what I have against religion' reminds me of your recent Vagrant essay . . . To my mind, that essay misses one point altogether. Your "agnostic" has neglected to mention the very crux of all agnosticism—namely that the Judaeo-Christian mythology is NOT TRUE. I can see that in your philosophy truth per se has so small a place, that you can scarcely realise what it is that Galpin and I are insisting upon. In your mind, MAN is the centre of everything, and his exact conformation to certain regulations of conduct HOWEVER EFFECTED, the only problem in the universe. Your world (if you will pardon my saying so) is contracted. All the mental vigour and erudition of the ages fail to disturb your complacent endorsement of empirical doctrines and purely pragmatical notions, because you voluntarily limit your horizon—excluding certain facts, and certain undeniable mental tendencies of mankind. In your eyes, man is torn between only two influences; the degrading instincts of the savage, and the temperate impulses of the philanthropist. To you, men have but two types of emotion—lovers of the self and lovers of the race. . . . You are forgetting a human impulse which, despite its restriction to a relatively small number of men, has all through history proved itself as real and as vital as hunger—as potent as thirst or greed. I need not say that I refer to that simplest yet most exalted attribute of our species—the acute, persistent, unquenchable craving TO KNOW. Do you realise that to many men it makes a vast and profound difference whether or not the things about them are as they appear? . . . If TRUTH amounts to nothing, then we must regard the phantasma of our slumbers just as seriously as the events of our daily lives. . . . I recognise a distinction between dream life and real life, between appearances and actualities. I confess to an over-powering desire to know whether I am asleep or awake—whether the environment and laws which affect me are external and permanent, or the transitory products of my own brain. I admit that I am very much interested in the relation I bear to the things about me—the time relation, the space relation, and the causative relation. I desire to know approximately what my life is in terms of history—human, terrestrial, solar, and cosmical; what my magnitude may be in terms of extension,—terrestrial, solar, and cosmical; and above all, what may be my manner of linkage to the general system—in what way, through what agency, and to what extent, the obvious guiding forces of creation act upon me and govern my existence. And if there be any less obvious forces, I desire to know them and their relation to me as well.
    • Letter to Maurice W. Moe (15 May 1918), in Selected Letters I, 1911-1924 edited by August Derleth and Donald Wandrei, p. 60
  • I am only about half alive—a large part of my strength is consumed in sitting up or walking. My nervous system is a shattered wreck, and I am absolutely bored & listless save when I come upon something which peculiarly interests me. However—so many things do interest me, & interest me intensely, in science, history, philosophy, & literature; that I have never actually desired to die, or entertained any suicidal designs, as might be expected of one with so little kinship to the ordinary features of life.
    • Letter to Alfred Galpin (27 May 1918), published in Letters to Alfred Galpin edited by S. T. Joshi, p. 18
  • As you are aware, I have never been able to soothe myself with the sugary delusions of religion; for these things stand convicted of the utmost absurdity in light of modern scientific knowledge. With Nietzsche, I have been forced to confess that mankind as a whole has no goal or purpose whatsoever, but is a mere superfluous speck in the unfathomable vortices of infinity and eternity. Accordingly, I have hardly been able to experience anything which one could call real happiness; or to take as vital an interest in human affairs as can one who still retains the hallucination of a "great purpose" in the general plan of terrestrial life. ... However, I have never permitted these circumstances to react upon my daily life; for it is obvious that although I have "nothing to live for", I certainly have just as much as any other of the insignificant bacteria called human beings. I have thus been content to observe the phenomena about me with something like objective interest, and to feel a certain tranquillity which comes from perfect acceptance of my place as an inconsequential atom. In ceasing to care about most things, I have likewise ceased to suffer in many ways. There is a real restfulness in the scientific conviction that nothing matters very much; that the only legitimate aim of humanity is to minimise acute suffering for the majority, and to derive whatever satisfaction is derivable from the exercise of the mind in the pursuit of truth.
    • Letter to Reinhardt Kleiner (14 September 1919), in Selected Letters I, 1911-1924 edited by August Derleth and Donald Wandrei, pp. 86-87
  • I should describe mine own nature as tripartite, my interests consisting of three parallel and dissociated groups—(a) Love of the strange and fantastic. (b) Love of the abstract truth and of scientific logick. (c) Love of the ancient and the permanent. Sundry combinations of these three strains will probably account for all my odd tastes and eccentricities.
    • Letter to Reinhardt Kleiner (7 March 1920), in Selected Letters I, 1911-1924 edited by August Derleth and Donald Wandrei, p. 110
  • One can't write a weird story of real power without perfect psychological detachment from the human scene, and a magic prism of imagination which suffuses them and style alike with that grotesquerie and disquieting distortion characteristic of morbid vision. Only a cynic can create horror—for behind every masterpiece of the sort must reside a driving daemonic force that despises the human race and its illusions, and longs to pull them to pieces and mock them.
    • Letter to Weird Tales editor Edwin Baird printed in Weird Tales 3, no. 3 (March 1924), pp. 89-92. Quoted in Lord of a Visible World: An Autobiography in Letters edited by S. T. Joshi, p. 122
  • I am essentially a recluse who will have very little to do with people wherever he may be. I think that most people only make me nervous—that only by accident, and in extremely small quantities, would I ever be likely to come across people who wouldn't. It makes no difference how well they mean or how cordial they are—they simply get on my nerves unless they chance to represent a peculiarly similar combination of tastes, experiences, and heritages; as, for instance, Belknap chances to do . . . Therefore it may be taken as axiomatic that the people of a place matter absolutely nothing to me except as components of the general landscape and scenery. Let me have normal American faces in the streets to give the aspect of home and a white man's country, and I ask no more of featherless bipeds. My life lies not among people but among scenes—my local affections are not personal, but topographical and architectural. No one in Providence—family aside—has any especial bond of interest with me, but for that matter no one in Cambridge or anywhere else has, either. The question is that of which roofs and chimneys and doorways and trees and street vistas I love the best; which hills and woods, which roads and meadows, which farmhouses and views of distant white steeples in green valleys. I am always an outsider—to all scenes and all people—but outsiders have their sentimental preferences in visual environment. I will be dogmatic only to the extent of saying that it is New England I must have—in some form or other. Providence is part of me—I am Providence—but as I review the new impressions which have impinged upon me since birth, I think the greatest single emotion—and the most permanent one as concerns consequences to my inner life and imagination—I have ever experienced was my first sight of Marblehead in the golden glamour of late afternoon under the snow on December 17, 1922. That thrill has lasted as nothing else has—a visible climax and symbol of the lifelong mysterious tie which binds my soul to ancient things and ancient places.
    • Letter to Lillian D. Clark (29 March 1926), quoted in Lord of a Visible World: An Autobiography in Letters edited by S. T. Joshi, p. 186.
  • good art means the ability of any one man to pin down in some permanent and intelligible medium a sort of idea of what he sees in Nature that nobody else sees. In other words, to make the other fellow grasp, through skilled selective care in interpretative reproduction or symbolism, some inkling of what only the artist himself could possibly see in the actual objective scene itself.
    • Letter to Woodburn Harris (25 February-1 March 1929), quoted in "H.P. Lovecraft, a Life" by S.T. Joshi, p. 487
  • My conception of phantasy, as a genuine art-form, is an extension rather than a negation of reality. Ordinary tales about a castle ghost or old-fashioned werewolf are merely so much junk. The true function of phantasy is to give the imagination a ground for limitless expansion, and to satisfy aesthetically the sincere and burning curiosity and sense of awe which a sensitive minority of mankind feel toward the alluring and provocative abysses of unplumbed space and unguessed entity which press in upon the known world from unknown infinities and in unknown relationships of time, space, matter, force, dimensionality, and consciousness. This curiosity and sense of awe, I believe, are quite basic among the sensitive minority in question; and I see no reason to think that they will decline in the future—for as you point out, the frontier of the unknown can never do more than scratch the surface of eternally unknowable infinity. But the truly sensitive will never be more than a minority, because most persons—even those of the keenest possible intellect and aesthetic ability—simply have not the psychological equipment or adjustment to feel that way. I have taken pains to sound various persons as to their capacity to feel profoundly regarding the cosmos and the disturbing and fascinating quality of the extra-terrestrial and perpetually unknown; and my results reveal a surprisingly small quota. In literature we can easily see the cosmic quality in Poe, Maturin, Dunsany, de la Mare, and Blackwood, but I profoundly suspect the cosmicism of Bierce, James, and even Machen. It is not every macabre writer who feels poignantly and almost intolerably the pressure of cryptic and unbounded outer space.
    • Letter to Clark Ashton Smith (17 October 1930), quoted in Lord of a Visible World: An Autobiography in Letters edited by S.T. Joshi, p. 213
  • I do differ from you radically in respect to familiar things & scenes; for I always demand close correlation with the landscape & historic stream to which I belong, & would feel completely lost in infinity without a system of reference-points based on known & accustomed objects. I take complete relativity so much for granted, that I cannot conceive of anything as existing in itself in any recognisable form. What gives things an aspect & quasi-significance to us is the fact that we view things consistently from a certain artificial & fortuitous angle. Without the preservation of that angle, coherent consciousness & entity itself becomes inconceivable. Thus my wish for freedom is not so much a wish to put all terrestrial things behind me & plunge forever into abysses beyond light, matter, & energy. That, indeed, would mean annihilation as a personality rather than liberation. My wish is perhaps best defined as a wish for infinite visioning & voyaging power, yet without loss of the familiar background which gives all things significance. I want to know what stretches Outside, & be able to visit all the gulfs & dimensions beyond Space & Time. I want, too, to juggle the calendar at will; bringing things from the immemorial past down into the present, & making long journeys into the forgotten years. But I want the familiar Old Providence of my childhood as a perpetual base for these necromancies & excursions—& in a good part of these necromancies & excursions I want certain transmuted features of Old Providence to form part of the alien voids I visit or conjure up. I am as geographic-minded as a cat—places are everything to me. Long observation has shewn me that no other objective experience can give me even a quarter of the kick I can extract from the sight of a fresh landscape or urban vista whose antiquity & historic linkages are such as to correspond with certain fixed childhood dream-patterns of mine. Of course my twilight cosmos of half-familiar, fleetingly remembered marvels is just as unattainable as your Ultimate Abysses—this being the real secret of its fascination. Nothing really known can continue to be acutely fascinating—the charm of many familiar things being mainly resident in their power to symbolise or suggest unknown extensions & overtones.
    • Letter to Clark Ashton Smith (7 November 1930), in Selected Letters III, 1929-1931 edited by August Derleth and Donald Wandrei, p. 214
  • There is no field other than the weird in which I have any aptitude or inclination for fictional composition. Life has never interested me so much as the escape from life.
    • Letter to J. Vernon Shea (7 August 1931), quoted in "H.P. Lovecraft, a Life" by S.T. Joshi, p. 579
  • As for New England as a seat of weirdness—a little historic reflection will show why it is more naturally redolent of the bizarre & the sinister than any other part of America. It was here that the most gloomy-minded of all the colonists settled; & here that the dark moods & cryptic hills pressed closest. An abnormal Puritan psychology led to all kinds of repression, furtiveness, & grotesque hidden crime, while the long winders & backwoods isolation fostered monstrous secrets which never came to light. To me there is nothing more fraught with mystery & terror than a remote Massachusetts farmhouse against a lonely hill. Where else could an outbreak like the Salem witchcraft have occurred? Rhode Island does not share these tenedencies—its history & settlement being different from those of other parts of New England—but just across the line in the old Bay State the macabre broods at its strongest.
    • Letter to Elizabeth Toldridge (9 October 1931), in Selected Letters III, 1929-1931 edited by August Derleth and Donald Wandrei, p. 423
  • All I say is that I think it is damned unlikely that anything like a central cosmic will, a spirit world, or an eternal survival of personality exist. They are the most preposterous and unjustified of all the guesses which can be made about the universe, and I am not enough of a hair-splitter to pretend that I don't regard them as arrant and negligible moonshine. In theory I am an agnostic, but pending the appearance of radical evidence I must be classed, practically and provisionally, as an atheist.
    • Letter to Robert E. Howard (16 August 1932), in Selected Letters 1932-1934 edited by August Derleth and Donald Wandrei, p.57.
  • We know today that nothing will restore the pre-machine condition of reasonably universal employment save an artificial allocation of working hours involving the use of more men than formerly to perform a given task. . . . The primary function of society, in spite of all the sophistries spurred of selfishness, is to give men better conditions than they could get without it; and the basic need today is jobs for all—not for "property" for a few of the luck and the acquisitive. . . . In view of the urgent need for change, there is something almost obscene in the chatter of the selfish about various psychological evils allegedly inherent in a New Deal promising decent economic security and humane leisure for all instead of for a few. . . . What is worth answering is the kindred outcry about "regimentation", "collective slavery", "violation of Anglo-Saxon freedom", "destruction of the right of the individual to make his own way" and so on; with liberal references to Stalin, Hitler, Mustapha Kemal, and other extremist dictators who have sought to control men's personal, intellectual, and artistic lives, and traditional habits and folkways, as well as their economic fortunes. Naturally the Anglo-Saxon balks at any programme calculated to limit his freedom as a man and a thinker or to disturb his inherited perspectives and daily customs—and need we say that no plan ever proposed in an Anglo-Saxon country would conceivably seek to limit such freedom or disturb such perspectives and customs? Here we have a deliberate smoke-screen—conscious and malicious confusion of terms. A decent planned society would indeed vary to some extent the existing regulations (for there are such) governing commercial and economic life. Yet who save a self-confessed Philistine or Marxist (the plutocrat can cite "Das Kapital" for his purpose!) would claim that the details and conditions of our merely economic activities form more than a trivial fraction of our whole lives and personalities? That which is essential and distinctive about a man is not the routine of material struggle he follows in his office; but the civilised way he lives, outside his office, the life whose maintenance is the object of his struggle. So long as his office work gains him a decently abundant and undisputedly free life, it matters little what that work is—what the ownership of the enterprise, and what and how distributed its profits, if profits there be. We have seen that no system proposes to deny skill and diligence an adequate remuneration. What more may skill and diligence legitimately ask? Nor is any lessening in the pride of achievement contemplated. Man will thrill just as much at the overcoming of vast obstacles, and the construction of great works, whether his deeds be performed for service or for profit. As it is, the greatest human achievements have never been for profit. Would Keats or Newton or Lucretius or Einstein or Santayana flourish less under a rationally planned society? Any intimation that a man's life is wholly his industrial life, and that a planned economic order means a suppression of his personality, is really both a piece of crass ignorance and an insult to human nature. Incidentally, it is curious that no one has yet pointed to the drastically regulated economic life of the early Mass. Bay colony as something "American"!
    • Unpublished (and probably unsent) letter to the Providence Journal (13 April 1934), quoted in Collected Essays, Volume 5: Philosophy, edited by J. T. Joshi, pp. 115-116
  • Of the complete biological inferiority of the negro there can be no question—he has anatomical features consistently varying from those of other stocks, & always in the direction of the lower primates . . . Equally inferior—& perhaps even more so—is the Australian black stock, which differs widely from the real negro . . . In dealing with these two black races, there is only one sound attitude for any other race (be it white, Indian, Malay, Polynesian, or Mongolian) to take—& that is to prevent admixture as completely & determinedly as it can be prevented, through the establishment of a colour-line & the rigid forcing of all mixed offspring below that line. I am in accord with the most vehement & vociferous Alabaman or Mississippian on that point ... Other racial questions are wholly different in nature—involving wide variations unconnected with superiority or inferiority. Only an ignorant dolt would attempt to call a Chinese gentleman—heir to one of the greatest artistic & philosophic traditions in the world—an "inferior" of any sort . . . & yet there are potent reasons, based on wide physical, mental, & cultural differences, why great numbers of the Chinese ought not to mix into the Caucasian fabric, or vice versa. It is not that one race is any better than any other, but that their whole respective heritages are so antipodal as to make harmonious adjustment impossible. Members of one race can fit into another only through the complete eradication of their own background-influences—& even then the adjustment will always remain uneasy & imperfect if the newcomer's physical aspect froms a constant reminder of his outside origin. Therefore it is wise to discourage all mixtures of sharply differentiated races—though the color-line does not need to be drawn as strictly as in the case of the negro, since we know that a dash or two of Mongolian or Indian or Hindoo or some such blood will not actually injure a white stock biologically. . . . As a matter of fact, most of the psychological race-differences which strike us so prominently are cultural rather than biological. If one could take a Japanese infant, alter his features to the Anglo-Saxon type through plastic surgery, & place him with an American family in Boston for rearing—without telling him that he is not an American—the chances are that in 20 years the result would be a typical American youth with very few instincts to distinguish him from his pure Nordic college-mates. The same is true of other superior alien races including the Jew—although the Nazis persist in acting on a false biological conception. If they were wise in their campaign to get rid of Jewish cultural influences (& a great deal can be said for such a campaign, when the dominance of the Aryan tradition is threatened as in Germany & New York City), they would not emphasize the separatism of the Jew but would strive to make him give up his separate culture & lose himself in the German people. It wouldn't hurt Germany—or alter its essential physical type—to take in all the Jews it now has. (However, that wouldn't work in Poland or New York City, where the Jews are of an inferior strain, & so numerous that they would essentially modify the physical type.)
    • Letter to Natalie H. Wooley (22 November 1934), in Selected Letters V, 1934-1937 edited by August Derleth and Donald Wandrei, p. 77
  • I used to be a hide-bound Tory simply for traditional and antiquarian reasons—and because I had never done any real thinking on civics and industry and the future. The depression—and its concomitant publicisation of industrial, financial, and governmental problems—jolted me out of my lethargy and led me to reëxamine the facts of history in the light of unsentimental scientific analysis; and it was not long before I realised what an ass I had been. The liberals at whom I used to laugh were the ones who were right—for they were living in the present while I had been living in the past. They had been using science while I had been using romantic antiquarianism. At last I began to recognise something of the way in which capitalism works—always piling up concentrated wealth and impoverishing the bulk of the population until the strain becomes so intolerable as to force artificial reform.
    • Letter to Jennie K. Plaiser (8 July 1936), quoted in "H.P. Lovecraft, a Life" by S.T. Joshi, p. 564
  • As for the Republicans — how can one regard seriously a frightened, greedy, nostalgic huddle of tradesmen and lucky idlers who shut their eyes to history and science, steel their emotions against decent human sympathy, cling to sordid and provincial ideals exalting sheer acquisitiveness and condoning artificial hardship for the non-materially-shrewd, dwell smugly and sentimentally in a distorted dream-cosmos of outmoded phrases and principles and attitudes based on the bygone agricultural-handicraft world, and revel in (consciously or unconsciously) mendacious assumptions (such as the notion that real liberty is synonymous with the single detail of unrestricted economic license or that a rational planning of resource-distribution would contravene some vague and mystical 'American heritage'…) utterly contrary to fact and without the slightest foundation in human experience? Intellectually, the Republican idea deserves the tolerance and respect one gives to the dead.
    • Letter to C.L. Moore (August 1936), quoted in "H.P. Lovecraft, a Life" by S.T. Joshi, p. 574
  • [W]hat I used to respect was not really aristocracy, but a set of personal qualities which aristocracy then developed better than any other system . . . a set of qualities, however, whose merit lay only in a psychology of non-calculative, non-competitive disinterestedness, truthfulness, courage, and generosity fostered by good education, minimum economic stress, and assumed position, AND JUST AS ACHIEVABLE THROUGH SOCIALISM AS THROUGH ARISTOCRACY.
    • Letter to C.L. Moore (c. mid-October 1936), quoted in "H.P. Lovecraft, a Life" by S.T. Joshi, p. 566
  • As for the general idea of what one would do if certain of death in an hour—I fancy most persons in normal health tend to sentimentalise and romanticise a bit about it. For my part—as a realist beyond the age of theatricalism and naive beliefs—I feel quite certain that my own known last hour would be spent quite prosaically in writing instructions for the disposition of certain books, manuscripts, heirlooms, and other possessions. Such a task would—in view of the mental stress—take at least an hour—and it would be the most useful thing I could do before dropping off into oblivion. If I did finish ahead of time, I'd probably spend the residual minutes getting a last look at something closely associated with my earliest memories—a picture, a library table, an 1895 Farmer's Almanack, a small music-box I used to play with at 2 ½, or some kindred symbol—completing a psychological circle in a spirit half of humour and half of whimsical sentimentality. Then—nothingness, as before Aug. 20, 1890.
    • Letter to a round-robin letter-writing group called "the Coryciani" (14 July 1936), quoted in Lord of a Visible World: An Autobiography in Letters edited by S.T. Joshi, p. 339
  • I am probably the least sensuous of all living beings; being almost exclusively visual and quasi-abstract in imagination, and tending to view and enjoy all things as a passive, detached, and sometimes remote spectator. Those arts which appeal most to the ideational imagination—the sense of drama, pageantry, historic flux, collective organisation, or escape from the natural limitations of time, space, and natural law—are undoubtedly those which appeal chiefly to me. Even my strong love of architectural and decorative beauty is probably largely dependent upon the historical bearings of the forms and motifs in which I delight. I am not wholly insensible to abstract form, but seem to relish the associative element in art more instantly and acutely than the lyrical or mathematical element . . . I don't really revel in anything unless it reminds me of something else either real or visionary—unless it opens up visual avenues of linked pseudo-recollections leading to sensations of ego-expansion and liberation . . . usually bringing in the element of time, somehow based on the past, and harbouring hints of an elusive, intangible kind of adventurous expectancy.
    • Letter to Virgil Finlay (25 September 1936), in Selected Letters V, 1934-1937 edited by August Derleth and Donald Wandrei, p. 310
to August Derleth[edit]
  • I can look back . . . at two distinct periods of opinion whose foundations I have successively come to distrust—a period before 1919 or so, when the weight of classic authority unduly influenced me, and another period from 1919 to about 1925, when I placed too high a value on the elements of revolt, florid colour, and emotional extravagance or intensity.
    • Letter to August Derleth (1929), quoted in "H.P. Lovecraft, a Life" by S.T. Joshi, p. 307
  • Time, space, and natural law hold for me suggestions of intolerable bondage, and I can form no picture of emotional satisfaction which does not involve their defeat—especially the defeat of time, so that one may merge oneself with the whole historic stream and be wholly emancipated from the transient and the ephemeral. Yet I can assure you that this point of view is joined to one of the plainest, naivest, and most unobtrusively old-fashioned of personalities—a retiring old hermit and ascetic who does not even know what your contemporary round of activities and "parties" is like, and who during the coming winter will probably not address two consecutive sentences to any living person—tradesmen apart—save a pair of elderly aunts! Some people—a very few, perhaps—are naturally cosmic in outlook, just as others are naturally 'of and for the earth'. I am myself less exclusively cosmic than Klarkash-Ton and Wandrei . . . I begin with the individual and the soil and think outward—appreciating the sensation of spatial and temporal liberation only when I can scale it against the known terrestrial scene. They, on the other hand, are able to think of wholly non-human abysses of ultimate space—without reference-points—as realities neither irrelevant nor less significant than immediate human life. With me, the very quality of being cosmically sensitive breeds an exaggerated attachment to the familiar and the immediate—Old Providence, the woods and hills, the ancient ways and thoughts of New England—whilst with them it seems to have the opposite effect of alienating them from immediate anchorages. They despise the immediate as trivial; I know that it is trivial, but cherish rather than despise it—because everything, including infinity itself, is trivial. In reality I am the profoundest cynic of them all, for I recognize no absolute values whatever.
    • Letter to August Derleth (21 November 1930), in Selected Letters III, 1929-1931 edited by August Derleth and Donald Wandrei, p. 220
  • I am perfectly confident that I could never adequately convey to any other human being the precise reasons why I continue to refrain from suicide—the reasons, that is, why I still find existence enough of a compensation to atone for its dominantly burthensome quality. These reasons are strongly linked with architecture, scenery, and lighting and atmospheric effects, and take the form of vague impressions of adventurous expectancy coupled with elusive memory—impressions that certain vistas, particularly those associated with sunsets, are avenues of approach to spheres or conditions of wholly undefined delights and freedoms which I have known in the past and have a slender possibility of knowing again in the future. Just what those delights and freedoms are, or even what they approximately resemble, I could not concretely imagine to save my life; save that they seem to concern some ethereal quality of indefinite expansion and mobility, and of a heightened perception which shall make all forms and combinations of beauty simultaneously visible to me, and realisable by me. I might add, though, that they invariably imply a total defeat of the laws of time, space, matter, and energy—or rather, an individual independence of these laws on my part, whereby I can sail through the varied universes of space-time as an invisible vapour might ... upsetting none of them, yet superior to their limitations and local forms of material organisation. ... Now this all sounds damn foolish to anybody else—and very justly so. There is no reason why it should sound anything except damn foolish to anyone who had not happened to receive precisely the same series of inclinations, impressions, and background-images which the purely fortuitous circumstances of my own especial life have chanced to give me.
    • Letter to August Derleth (25 December 1930), quoted in "H.P. Lovecraft, a Life" by S.T. Joshi, p. 584
  • It's not a bad idea to call this Cthulhuism & Yog-Sothothery of mine "The Mythology of Hastur"—although it was really from Machen & Dunsany & others, rather than through the Bierce-Chambers line, that I picked up my gradually developing hash of theogony—or daimonogony. Come to think of it, I guess I sling this stuff more as Chambers does than as Machen & Dunsany do—though I had written a good deal of it before I ever suspected that Chambers ever wrote a weird story!
    • Letter to August Derleth (16 May 1931), responding to Derleth's suggestion that he call the interconnected mythology of his stories (what would later be known as the Cthulhu Mythos) "The Mythology of Hastur", quoted in "H.P. Lovecraft, a Life" by S.T. Joshi, p. 505
to Frank Belknap Long[edit]
  • Nothing must disturb my undiluted Englishry — God Save The King! I am naturally a Nordic — a chalk-white, bulky Teuton of the Scandinavian or North-German forests — a Vikinga berserk killer — a predatory rover of Hengist and Horsa — a conqueror of Celts and mongrels and founders of Empires — a son of the thunders and the arctic winds, and brother to the frosts and the auroras — a drinker of foemen's blood from new picked skulls — a friend of the mountain buzzards and feeder of seacoast vultures — a blond beast of eternal snows and frozen oceans — a prayer to Odin and Thor and Woden and Alfadur, the raucous shouter of Niffelheim — a comrade of the wolves, and rider of nightmares — aye — I speak truly — for was I not born with yellow hair and blue eyes.
    • Letter to Frank Belknap Long (3 May 1923), published in Selected Letters Vol. I (1965), p. 227
  • It is just as ridiculous to get excited & hysterical over a coming cultural change as to get excited & hysterical over one's physical aging . . . There is legitimate pathos about both processes; but blame & rebellion are essentially cheap, because inappropriate, emotions . . . It is wholly appropriate to feel a deep sadness at the coming of unknown things & the departure of those around which all our symbolic associations are entwined. All life is fundamentally & inextricably sad, with the perpetual snatching away of all the chance combinations of image & vista & mood that we become attached to, & the perpetual encroachment of the shadow of decay upon illusions of expansion & liberation which buoyed us up & spurred us on in youth. That is why I consider all jauntiness, & many forms of carelessly generalised humour, as essentially cheap & mocking, & occasionally ghastly & corpselike. Jauntiness & non-ironic humour in this world of basic & inescapable sadness are like the hysterical dances that a madman might execute on the grave of all his hopes. But if, at one extreme, intellectual poses of spurious happiness be cheap & disgusting; so at the other extreme are all gestures & fist-clenchings of rebellion equally silly & inappropriate—if not quite so overtly repulsive. All these things are ridiculous & contemptible because they are not legitimately applicable . . . The sole sensible way to face the cosmos & its essential sadness (an adumbration of true tragedy which no destruction of values can touch) is with manly resignation—eyes open to the real facts of perpetual frustration, & mind & sense alert to catch what little pleasure there is to be caught during one's brief instant of existence. Once we know, as a matter of course, how nature inescapably sets our freedom-adventure-expansion desires, & our symbol-&-experience-affections, definitely beyond all zones of possible fulfilment, we are in a sense fortified in advance, & able to endure the ordeal of consciousness with considerable equanimity . . . Life, if well filled with distracting images & activities favourable to the ego's sense of expansion, freedom, & adventurous expectancy, can be very far from gloomy—& the best way to achieve this condition is to get rid of the unnatural conceptions which make conscious evils out of impersonal and inevitable limitations . . . get rid of these, & of those false & unattainable standards which breed misery & mockery through their beckoning emptiness.
    • Letter to Frank Belknap Long (27 February 1931), in Selected Letters III, 1929-1931 edited by August Derleth and Donald Wandrei, p. 291
  • I really agree that Yog-Sothoth is a basically immature conception, & unfitted for really serious literature. The fact is, I have never approached serious literature yet. But I consider the use of actual folk-myths as even more childish than the use of new artificial myths, since in the former one is forced to retain many blatant peurilities & contradictions of experienced which could be subtilised or smoothed over if the supernaturalism were modelled to order for the given case. The only permanently artistic use of Yog-Sothothery, I think, is in symbolic or associative phantasy of the frankly poetic type; in which fixed dream-patterns of the natural organism are given an embodiment & crystallisation . . . But there is another phase of cosmic phantasy (which may or may not include frank Yog-Sothothery) whose foundations appear to me as better grounded than those of ordinary oneiroscopy; personal limitations regarding the sense of outsideness. I refer to the aesthetic crystallisation of that burning & inextinguishable feeling of mixed wonder & oppression which the sensitive imagination experiences upon scaling itself & its restrictions against the vast & provocative abyss of the unknown. This has always been the chief emotion in my psychology; & whilst it obviously figures less in the psychology of the majority, it is clearly a well-defined & permanent factor from which very few sensitive persons are wholly free. . . . Reason as we may, we cannot destroy a normal perception of the highly limited & fragmentary nature of our visible world of perception & experience as scaled against the outside abyss of unthinkable galaxies & unplumbed dimensions—an abyss wherein our solar system is the merest dot . . . The time has come when the normal revolt against time, space, & matter must assume a form not overtly incompatible with what is known of reality—when it must be gratified by images forming supplements rather than contradictions of the visible & measurable universe. And what, if not a form of non-supernatural cosmic art, is to pacify this sense of revolt—as well as gratify the cognate sense of curiosity?
    • Letter to Frank Belknap Long (27 February 1931), in Selected Letters III, 1929-1931 edited by August Derleth and Donald Wandrei, p. 293
  • All I want is to know things. The black gulph of the infinite is before me . . . I have no use for the machine age or any of its conceptions, methods, & ideals. I have use only for abstract cognition without social or utilitarian connotations; the thing which Thales & Anaxagoras & Heraclitus went after, & which was clearly definable by the word philosophy until those pragmatical puffballs Socrates & Plato threw a monkey-wrench into the works & crippled human thought for the next two millennia. Now it is a matter of perfect indifference to me whether or not baser interests cluster round the search for truth & lick the molasses-drops that ooze out of the fact-barrel. This apelike parasitism of the herd means nothing either for or against the abstract is-or-isn't quest which Thales began, Democritus continued, & Einstein prolongs. If machine-culture chooses to worship "science", that's its own business. It doesn't imply that the abstract process of cognition-craving turns about & reciprocally worships machine-culture! . . . Cognition, as such, is completely without social or aesthetic implications except so far as it places certain obvious contradictions of natural laws, & certain pointless exaltations of empty trivialities, in a light so unfavourable as to encourage obsolescence. It is nobody's tool or handmaiden—it is itself alone. Practically speaking, the mind likely to worship pure cognition most sincerely is that most of all opposed to industrialism & standardisation. Cognition is that branch of human desire & celebration most antipodally removed from anything envisaged or wished by Thomas A. Edison, Henry Ford, & the late Charles P. Steinmetz. It is the enemy of urban civilisation as it is the enemy of all handicaps which cripple the free individualistic excursions of the disinterested intellect into unknown cosmic space. It is the sworn ally of beauty because it is itself one of the supreme forms of beauty—the catharsis of a primal, titanic urge which links man to the uttermost gulfs of dramatic immensity. It is one with the greatest music & the loftiest poetry—being perhaps a glimpse of the liberating & expanding reality which both are blindly seeking.
    • Letter to Frank Belknap Long (27 February 1931), in Selected Letters III, 1929-1931 edited by August Derleth and Donald Wandrei, p. 300
  • As for your artificial conception of "splendid & traditional ways of life"—I feel quite confident that you are very largely constructing a mythological idealisation of something which never truly existed; a conventional picture based on the perusal of books which followed certain hackneyed lines in the matter of incidents, sentiments, & situations, & which never had a close relationship to the actual societies they professed to depict . . . In some ways the life of certain earlier periods had marked advantages over life today, but there were compensating disadvantages which would make many hesitate about a choice. Some of the most literarily attractive ages had a coarseness, stridency, & squalor which we would find insupportable . . . Modern neurotics, lolling in stuffed easy chairs, merely make a myth of these old periods & use them as the nuclei of escapist daydreams whose substance resembles but little the stern actualities of yesterday. That is undoubtedly the case with me—only I'm fully aware of it. Except in certain selected circles, I would undoubtedly find my own 18th century insufferably coarse, orthodox, arrogant, narrow, & artificial. What I look back upon nostalgically is a dream-world which I invented at the age of four from picture books & the Georgian hill streets of Old Providence. . . . There is something artificial & hollow & unconvincing about self-conscious intellectual traditionalism—this being, of course, the only valid objection against it. The best sort of traditionalism is that easy-going eclectic sort which indulges in no frenzied pulmotor stunts, but courses naturally down from generation to generation; bequeathing such elements as really are sound, losing such as have lost value, & adding any which new conditions may make necessary. . . . In short, young man, I have no quarrel with the principle of traditionalism as such, but I have a decided quarrel with everything that is insincere, inappropriate, & disproportionate; for these qualities mean ugliness & weakness in the most offensive degree. I object to the feigning of artificial moods on the part of literary moderns who cannot even begin to enter into the life & feelings of the past which they claim to represent . . . If there were any reality or depth of feeling involved, the case would be different; but almost invariably the neotraditionalists are sequestered persons remote from any real contacts or experience with life . . . For any person today to fancy he can truly enter into the life & feeling of another period is really nothing but a confession of ignorance of the depth & nature of life in its full sense. This is the case with myself. I feel I am living in the 18th century, though my objective judgment knows better, & realises the vast difference from the real thing. The one redeeming thing about my ignorance of life & remoteness from reality is that I am fully conscious of it, hence (in the last few years) make allowances for it, & do not pretend to an impossible ability to enter into the actual feelings of this or any other age. The emotions of the past were derived from experiences, beliefs, customs, living conditions, historic backgrounds, horizons, &c. &c. so different from our own, that it is simply silly to fancy we can duplicate them, or enter warmly & subjectively into all phases of their aesthetic expression.
    • Letter to Frank Belknap Long (27 February 1931), in Selected Letters III, 1929-1931 edited by August Derleth and Donald Wandrei, p. 307
  • You & James Ferdinand simply can't learn to distinguish betwixt intellectual opinion & irrelevant instinctive emotion . . . For instance, he has the idea that I place an exaggerated intellectual valuation on the 18th century merely because my chance emotions have given me a strong but irrational subjective sense of belonging to it. I've told that bird dozens of times that I have no especial intellectual brief for Georgian days . . . He can't understand my ability to class as merely one period among others an age to which random early impressions have so closely bound my emotions & sense of identity . . . the point is that my own personal mess of subjective emotions has nothing whatever to do with my intellectual opinions. I have freely declared myself at all times (like everybody else in his respective way) a mere product of my background, & do not consider the values of that background as applicable to outsiders. The only way for the individual to achieve any contentment or harmonic relationship to a pattern is to adhere to the background naturally his; & that is what I am doing. Others I urge to adhere to their own respective backgrounds & traditions, however remote from mine these may be. When I venture now & then to suggest values of a more general kind, I approach the problem in an entirely different way—speaking not as Old Theobald of His Majesty's Rhode-Island Colony, but as the cosmic & impersonal Ec'h-Pi-El, denizen of the invisible world 'Ui-ulh in the second zone of curved space outside angled space . . . If there is any approach to an absolute value in the cosmos—or at least on this planet—then this is it. Sincerity—is-or-isn't-ness—technical perfection—harmony—coherence—consistency—symmetry—all these things are obviously aspects of one single property of space, energy, & general mathematical harmonics whose universality gives it the deepest possible significance. I have thought this all my life, & that is why to me one Newton or Einstein, one M. Atilius Regulus, M. Porcius Cato, or P. Cornelius Scipio, seems to me in certain ways worth a full dozen of your prattling little Keatses & Baudelaires.
    • Letter to Frank Belknap Long (27 February 1931), in Selected Letters III, 1929-1931 edited by August Derleth and Donald Wandrei, p. 312
to James F. Morton[edit]
  • Of what use is it to please the herd? They are simply coarse animals — for all that is admirable in man is the artificial product of special breeding. We advocate the preservation of conditions favourable to the growth of beautiful things — imposing palaces, beautiful cities, elegant literature, resposeful art and music, and a physically select human type such as only luxury and a pure racial strain can produce. Thus we oppose democracy, if only because it would retard the development of a handsome Nordic breed. We realise that all conceptions of justice and ethics are mere prejudices and illusions — there is no earthly reason why the masses should not be kept down for the benefit of the strong, since every man is for himself in the last analysis.
    • Letter to James F. Morton (10 February 1923), published in Selected Letters Vol. I (1965), p. 208
  • Our modern worship of empty ideals is ludicrous. What does the condition of the rabble matter? All we need do is to keep it as quiet as we can. What is more important, is to perpetuate those things of beauty which are of real value because involving actual sense-impressions rather than vapid theories. "Equality" is a joke — but a great abbey or cathedral, covered with moss, is a poignant reality. If it is for us to safeguard and preserve the conditions which produce great abbeys, and palaces, and picturesque walled town, and vivid sky-lines of steeples and domes, and luxurious tapestries, and fascinating books, paintings and statuary, and colossal organs and noble music, and dramatic deeds on embattled fields — these are all there is of life: take them away and we have nothing which a man of taste or spirit would care to live for. Take them away and our poets have nothing to sing — our dreamers have nothing to dream about. The blood of a million men is well shed in producing one glorious legend which thrills posterity and it is not at all important why it was shed.
    • Letter to James F. Morton (10 February 1923), published in Selected Letters Vol. I (1965), p. 208
  • I am Providence, and Providence is myself—together, indissolubly as one, we stand thro' the ages; a fixt monument set aeternally in the shadow of Durfee's ice-clad peak!
    • Letter to James F. Morton (16 May 1926), quoted in Lord of a Visible World: An Autobiography in Letters edited by S. T. Joshi, p. 192
  • Contrary to what you may assume, I am not a pessimist but an indifferentist—that is, I don't make the mistake of thinking that the resultant of the natural forces surrounding and governing organic life will have any connexion with the wishes or tastes of any part of that organic life-process. Pessimists are just as illogical as optimists; insomuch as both envisage the aims of mankind as unified, and as having a direct relationship (either of frustration or of fulfilment) to the inevitable flow of terrestrial motivation and events. That is—both schools retain in a vestigial way the primitive concept of a conscious teleology—of a cosmos which gives a damn one way or the other about the especial wants and ultimate welfare of mosquitos, rats, lice, dogs, men, horses, pterodactyls, trees, fungi, dodos, or other forms of biological energy.
    • Letter to James F. Morton (1929), quoted in "H.P. Lovecraft, a Life" by S.T. Joshi, p. 483
  • No one thinks or feels or appreciates or lives a mental-emotional-imaginative life at all, except in terms of the artificial reference-points supply'd him by the enveloping body of race-tradition and heritage into which he is born. We form an emotionally realisable picture of the external world, and an emotionally endurable set of illusions as to values and directions in existence, solely and exclusively through the arbitrary concepts and folkways bequeathed to us through our traditional culture-stream. Without this stream around us we are absolutely adrift in a meaningless and irrelevant chaos which has not the least capacity to give us any satisfaction apart from the trifling animal ones . . . Without our nationality—that is, our culture-grouping—we are merely wretched nuclei of agony and bewilderment in the midst of alien and directionless emptiness . . . We have an Aryan heritage, a Western-European heritage, a Teutonic-Celtic heritage, an Anglo-Saxon or English heritage, an Anglo-American heritage, and so on—but we can't detach one layer from another without serious loss—loss of a sense of significance and orientation in the world. America without England is absolutely meaningless to a civilised man of any generation yet grown to maturity. The breaking of the saving tie is leaving these colonies free to build up a repulsive new culture of money, speed, quantity, novelty, and industrial slavery, but that future culture is not ours, and has no meaning for us . . . Possibly the youngest generation already born and mentally active—boys of ten to fifteen—will tend to belong to it, as indeed a widespread shift in their tastes and instincts and loyalties would seem to indicate. But to say all this has anything to do with us is a joke! These boys are the Bedes and Almins of a new, encroaching, and apparently inferior culture. We are the Boëthii and Symmachi and Cassiodori of an older and perhaps dying culture. It is to our interest to keep our own culture alive as long as we can—and if possible to reserve and defend certain areas against the onslaughts of the enemy.
    • Letter to James F. Morton (6 November 1930), in Selected Letters III, 1929-1931 edited by August Derleth and Donald Wandrei, p. 207
  • It is because the cosmos is meaningless that we must secure our individual illusions of values, direction, and interest by upholding the artificial streams which give us such worlds of salutary illusion. That is—since nothing means anything in itself, we must preserve the proximate and arbitrary background which makes things around us seem as if they did mean something. In other words, we are either Englishmen or nothing whatever.
    • Letter to James F. Morton (6 November 1930), in Selected Letters III, 1929-1931 edited by August Derleth and Donald Wandrei, p. 208
  • No anthropologist of standing insists on the uniformly advanced evolution of the Nordic as compared with that of other Caucasian and Mongolian races. As a matter of fact, it is freely conceded that the Mediterranean race turns out a higher percentage of the aesthetically sensitive and that the Semitic groups excel in sharp, precise intellectation. It may be, too, that the Mongolian excels in aesthetick capacity and normality of philosophical adjustment. What, then, is the secret of pro-Nordicism among those who hold these views? Simply this—that ours is a Nordic culture, and that the roots of that culture are so inextricably tangled in the national standards, perspectives, traditions, memories, instincts, peculiarities, and physical aspects of the Nordic stream that no other influences are fitted to mingle in our fabric. We don't despise the French in France or Quebec, but we don't want them grabbing our territory and creating foreign islands like Woonsocket and Fall River. The fact of this uniqueness of every separate culture-stream—this dependence of instinctive likes and dislikes, natural methods, unconscious appraisals, etc., etc., on the physical and historical attributes of a single race—is to obvious to be ignored except by empty theorists.
    • Letter to James F. Morton (18 January 1931), quoted in "H.P. Lovecraft, a Life" by S.T. Joshi, p. 587
  • Now the trickiest catch in the negro problem is the fact that it is really twofold. The black is vastly inferior. There can be no question of this among contemporary and unsentimental biologists—eminent Europeans for whom the prejudice-problem does not exist. But, it is also a fact that there would be a very grave and very legitimate problem even if the negro were the white man's equal. For the simple fact is, that two widely dissimilar races, whether equal or not, cannot peaceably coexist in the same territory until they are either uniformly mongrelised or cast in folkways of permanent and traditional personal aloofness. No normal being feels at ease amidst a population having vast elements radically different from himself in physical aspect and emotional responses. A normal Yankee feels like a fish out of water in a crowd of cultivated Japanese, even though they may be his mental and aesthetic superiors; and the normal Jap feels the same way in a crowd of Yankees. This, of course, implies permanent association. We can all visit exotic scenes and like it—and when we are young and unsophisticated we usually think we might continue to like it as a regular thing. But as years pass, the need of old things and usual influences—home faces and home voices—grows stronger and stronger; and we come to see that mongrelism won't work. We require the environing influence of a set of ways and physical types like our own, and will sacrifice anything to get them. Nothing means anything, in the end, except with reference to that continuous immediate fabric of appearances and experiences of which one was originally part; and if we find ourselves ingulphed by alien and clashing influences, we instinctively fight against them in pursuit of the dominant freeman's average quota of legitimate contentment. . . . All that any living man normally wants—and all that any man worth calling such will stand for—is as stable and pure a perpetuation as possible of the set of forms and appearances to which his value-perceptions are, from the circumstances of moulding, instinctively attuned. That is all there is to life—the preservation of a framework which will render the experience of the individual apparently relevant and significant, and therefore reasonably satisfying. Here we have the normal phenomenon of race-prejudice in a nutshell—the legitimate fight of every virile personality to live in a world where life shall seem to mean something. . . . Just how the black and his tan penumbra can ultimately be adjusted to the American fabric, yet remains to be seen. It is possible that the economic dictatorship of the future can work out a diplomatic plan of separate allocation whereby the blacks may follow a self-contained life of their own, avoiding the keenest hardships of inferiority through a reduced number of points of contact with the whites . . . No one wishes them any intrinsic harm, and all would rejoice if a way were found to ameliorate such difficulties as they have without imperilling the structure of the dominant fabric. It is a fact, however, that sentimentalists exaggerate the woes of the average negro. Millions of them would be perfectly content with servile status if good physical treatment and amusement could be assured them, and they may yet form a well-managed agricultural peasantry. The real problem is the quadroon and octoroon—and still lighter shades. Theirs is a sorry tragedy, but they will have to find a special place. What we can do is to discourage the increase of their numbers by placing the highest possible penalties on miscegenation, and arousing as much public sentiment as possible against lax customs and attitudes—especially in the inland South—at present favouring the melancholy and disgusting phenomenon. All told, I think the modern American is pretty well on his guard, at last, against racial and cultural mongrelism. There will be much deterioration, but the Nordic has a fighting chance of coming out on top in the end.
    • Letter to James F. Morton (January 1931), in Selected Letters III, 1929-1931 edited by August Derleth and Donald Wandrei, p. 253
to E. Hoffmann Price[edit]
  • When I say that I can write nothing but weird fiction, I am not trying to exalt that medium but am merely confessing my own weakness. The reason I can't write other kinds is not that I don't value & respect them, but merely that my slender set of endowments does not enable me to extract a compellingly acute personal sense of interest & drama from the natural phenomena of life. I know that these natural phenomena are more important & significant than the special & tenuous moods which so absorb me, & that an art based on them is greater than any which fantasy could evoke—but I'm simply not big enough to react to them in the sensitive way necessary for artistic response & literary use. God in heaven! I'd certainly be glad enough to be a Shakespeare or Balzac or Turgeniev if I could! . . . I respect realism more than any other form of art—but must reluctantly concede that, through my own limitations, it does not form a medium which I can adequately use.
    • Letter to E. Hoffman Price (29 September 1933), quoted in "H.P. Lovecraft, a Life" by S.T. Joshi, p. 579
  • However—the crucial thing is my lack of interest in ordinary life. No one ever wrote a story yet without some real emotional drive behind it—and I have not that drive except where violations of the natural order . . . defiances and evasions of time, space, and cosmic law . . . are concerned. Just why this is so I haven't the slightest idea—it simply is so. I am interested only in broad pageants—historic streams—orders of biological, chemical, physical, and astronomical organisation—and the only conflict which has any deep emotional significance to me is that of the principle of freedom or irregularity or adventurous opportunity against the eternal and maddening rigidity of cosmic law . . . especially the laws of time. . . . Hence the type of thing I try to write. Naturally, I am aware that this forms a very limited special field so far as mankind en masse is concerned; but I believe (as pointed out in that Recluse article) that the field is an authentic one despite its subordinate nature. This protest against natural law, and tendency to weave visions of escape from orderly nature, are characteristic and eternal factors in human psychology, even though very small ones. They exist as permanent realities, and have always expressed themselves in a typical form of art from the earliest fireside folk tales and ballads to the latest achievements of Blackwood and Machen or de la Mare or Dunsany. That art exists—whether the majority like it or not. It is small and limited, but real—and there is no reason why its practitioners should be ashamed of it. Naturally one would rather be a broad artist with power to evoke beauty from every phase of experience—but when one unmistakably isn't such an artist, there's no sense in bluffing and faking and pretending that one is.
    • Letter to E. Hoffmann Price (15 August 1934) , quoted in Lord of a Visible World: An Autobiography in Letters edited by S.T. Joshi, p. 268
  • I endorse all that you say of the superior intelligence of the felidae. Never have I been able to associate the docile servility and satellitism of the canidae with mental power. Zoölogists seem to consider the cerebration of cats and dogs about 50-50—but my respect always goes to the cool, sure, impersonal, delicately poised feline who minds his business and never slobbers—the aristocratic, epicurean philosopher who knows what he wants and tells interlopers to go to hell. There is no credit in having a dog attached to one—for a dog can be conditioned to become anybody's slave and property. But a cat is nobody's slave. You do not own a cat. If one lives in your home, it is because he regards your way of life favourably, and accepts you as a friend, as one gentleman accepts another. He takes no kicks or insolence from anyone. If you are not worthy to associate with him, he will depart to seek an environment more suited to a gentleman's taste. Therefore he who retains the respect and companionship of a feline has proven himself to be essentially a superior citizen. For a human being, membership in the Kappa Alpha Tau forms a badge of distinction. Many are the eminent names on that member ship list—Mahomet himself, Richelieu, Poe, Baudelaire . . . one could catalogue them endlessly. Certainly, I ask no greater honour than to be accounted a citizen of Ulthar beyond the River Skai!
    • Letter to E. Hoffmann Price (29 July 1936), published in Selected Letters Vol. V, p. 290

Quotes about Lovecraft[edit]

  • Lovecraft opened the way for me, as he had done for others before me.
    • Stephen King, quoted in Necronomicon: The Best Weird Tales of H.P. Lovecraft, Victor Gollancz,

2008.

  • I'd first read Lovecraft when I was a young adolescent, which is perhaps the best time to read Lovecraft. Now, I admire him for his style, his monomaniacal precision, the 'weirdness' of his imagination, and the underlying, intransigent tragic vision that informs all of his work. He's an American original, whose influences on subsequent writers in the field (Stephen King, for instance) is all-pervasive.

External links[edit]

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