One of the twentieth century’s most influential horror writers, H.P. Lovecraft, would have celebrated his 125th birthday today, if he hadn’t taken Death’s hand to start a new adventure on the Ides of March, 1937. (Howard Phillips Lovecraft was almost 47 years old when he died.)
Born in Providence, Rhode Island, Lovecraft began writing horror stories at the age of eight. It wasn’t until he turned 31 that he published in a professional magazine. Three years later, he became a regular contributor to “Weird Tales” magazine. Unfortunately, this ingenious author of “The Call of Cthulhu,” “The Shadow Out of Time,” and “At the Mountains of Madness” found supporting himself with the written word illusive.
As a child, Lovecraft experienced hardships. When Lovecraft was three years old, his father Winfield Scott Lovecraft succumbed to psychosis and was institutionalized. Winfield remained in the Butler Hospital until his death in 1898. Young Lovecraft recited poetry by the age of three and wrote complete poems by six. His grandfather Whipple Van Buren Phillips encouraged Lovecraft to read such classics as “The Arabian Nights” and “Bulfinch’s Age of Fable,” and he retold gothic tales of terror to his grandson. Lovecraft suffered Night Terrors.
Lovecraft started school late, and he missed a lot of school due to illness. He left school in 1908 without graduating after having a nervous breakdown caused in part by his aversion to mathematics. After ending his academic pursuits, he lived for five years isolated with his mother. He wrote poetry and in 1913, a pulp magazine published a critique of Fred Jackson’s love stories. The ensuing debate garnered the attention of the United Amateur Press Association, and he joined the UAPA in 1914. He published a story, “The Alchemist” in “The United Amateur” in 1916. He mentored and corresponded with many contemporary writers, including Robert Bloch (Psycho).
His Mother died in Butler Hospital in May, 1921. For two years, he married Sonia Greene and moved to New York. After, he returned to Providence. There, he lived in a Victorian house on Barnes Street. (He used the address in “The Case of Charles Dexter Ward.”) He fostered a friendship with Harry Houdini.
He died impoverished of cancer. In 1977, his fans bought a tombstone of his own in Swan Point Cemetery. Inscribed thereon is the quote, “I am Providence.”
H.P. Lovecraft’s writing continues to influence writers, including Stephen King. He is called upon by modern writers to serve as a character of cunning, occult knowledge, and guile.