H.P. Lovecraft (1890–1937) was born on August 20, 1890, in Providence, Rhode Island. The horror magazine Weird Tales bought some of his stories in 1923. His story “The Call of Cthulhu” came out in 1928 in Weird Tales. Elements of this story would reappear in other related tales. In his final years, he took editing and ghostwriting work to try to make ends meet. He died on March 15, 1937, in Providence, Rhode Island.
A master of fantastical horror stories, H.P. Lovecraft was born Howard Phillips Lovecraft in 1890, in Providence, Rhode Island. Lovecraft had an unusual childhood marked by tragedy. His traveling salesman father developed a type of mental disorder caused by untreated syphilis when he was around the age of three. In 1893, his father became a patient at the Butler Hospital in Providence and there he remained until his death in 1898.
A sickly child, Lovecraft spent many of his school years at home. He became an avid reader, devouring works on a variety of texts. Lovecraft loved the works of Edgar Allan Poe and developed a special interest in astronomy. As a teenager, he did attend Hope High School, but he suffered a nervous breakdown before he could earn his diploma. Lovecraft became a reclusive figure for several years, choosing to stay up late studying and reading and writing and then sleeping late into the day. During this time, he managed to publish some articles on astronomy in several newspapers.
Lovecraft started out as a would-be journalist, joining the United Amateur Press Association in 1914. The following year, he launched his self-published magazine The Conservative for which he wrote several essays and other pieces. While he had reportedly dabbled in fiction early on, Lovecraft became more serious about writing stories around 1917. Many of these early works were influenced by the writings of Lord Dunsany, an Irish author of fantasy tales, as well as Lovecraft’s early favorite Edgar Allan Poe.
The horror magazine Weird Tales bought some of Lovecraft’s stories in 1923, giving him his first taste of literary success. The following year, he married Sonia Greene. The couple lived together in New York City for two years before splitting up. After his marriage failed, Lovecraft returned to Rhode Island and began work on some of his best stories. “The Call of Cthulhu” came out in 1928 in Weird Tales, and it perhaps best illustrated Lovecraft’s efforts at creating an otherworldly type of terror.
Lovecraft introduced readers to the first of many supernatural beings that would wreck havoc on humankind. Elements of this story would reappear in other related tales—collectively known by many as the “Cthulhu Mythos.” These later stories reflected Lovecraft’s own philosophical ideals. According to American Heritage magazine, Lovecraft once wrote, “all of my tales are based on the fundamental premise that common human laws and emotions have no validity or significance in the cosmos-at-large.”
Death and Legacy
In his final years, Lovecraft was barely able to support himself. He took editing and ghostwriting work to try to make ends meet. Lovecraft died of cancer on March 15, 1937, in Providence, Rhode Island. He left behind more than 60 short stories and a few novel and novellas, including The Case of Charles Dexter Ward. Lovecraft’s passing was mourned by his devoted following of colleagues and aspiring writers with whom he corresponded and collaborated. Two of these friends, August Derleth and Donald Wandrei, formed a publishing company called Arkham House to promote and preserve Lovecraft’s work.
Since his death, Lovecraft has earned greater acclaim than he enjoyed during his lifetime. He has been an inspiration to such writers as Peter Straub, Stephen King and Neil Gaiman. His stories have also served as the inspiration for numerous films, including 2011’s Hunters of the Dark and 2007’s Cthulhu. As Stephen King explained to American Heritage magazine, “Now that time has given us some perspective on his work, I think it is beyond doubt that H.P. Lovecraft has yet to be surpassed as the twentieth century’s greatest practitioner of the classic horror tale.”