Howard Phillips Lovecraft (August 20, 1890 – March 15, 1937) was an American poet, journalist, editor, and author. Lovecraft certainly needs no introduction to horror fans; virtually every big name in the genre cites his work as an influence. Numerous film adaptations have been made from his stories, and countless filmmakers, authors, comic creators, and songwriters have borrowed his concepts for their own works. He is one of America’s literary giants, with many volumes and editions of his work in print over the decades, from early collections published by Arkham House to his canonization in the Library of America.
Despite his fame and stature in the modern pantheon of horror authors, Lovecraft met with little success during his career. Compared to his contemporaries — particularly the other authors in what has come to be known as the Lovecraft Circle — he was not very prolific as an author of fiction, and the sales of his stories never netted enough money to make ends meet. He had approximately 60 works of fiction published during his lifetime or shortly after his death. Of those, six were novellas or novelettes, and only one was a full-length novel. He also collaborated with other writers, which yielded another 30 or so short stories. Some of his collaborators (not including posthumous collaborations) included C.L. Moore, Robert E. Howard, Frank Belknap Long, R.H. Barlow, E. Hoffman Price, Robert Bloch, and Harry Houdini. Lovecraft frequently wrote and received letters from long-distance colleagues. He was a poet, as well, with many interests that informed his work. As a journalist, he had many scientific and philosophical articles to his credit.
Lovecraft’s life was beset with difficulty from the beginning. He was born and raised in Providence, Rhode Island. His father became “acutely psychotic” and was admitted to a mental hospital when Lovecraft three years old. He was reportedly a sickly child. His Wikipedia article says he may have been afflicted with some form of parasomnia, possibly night terrors or sleep paralysis. He was raised by his mother and his two aunts. Despite seldom attending school due to his illnesses, he was by all accounts an exceptionally brilliant child interested in science, particularly astronomy. Lovecraft’s maternal grandfather was a successful businessman, and it seems much of the money off which he and his mother lived came from what was left over from his estate after his death in 1904. Lovecraft’s mother was committed to a mental hospital in 1919 for “hysteria and depression.” She died in 1921.
In 1924, Lovecraft traveled to Boston for a convention to meet with a group of amateur journalists. There he met his soon-to-be wife Sonia Greene. They were married the same year and moved to Brooklyn, New York. The marriage lasted several years, but it seems they were separated most of the time, as Greene had moved to Cincinnati for a job opportunity, and Lovecraft eventually returned to Providence. He remained in Providence, living off increasingly meager funds until his death. He died from cancer of the small intestine in 1937.
Lovecraft’s friend and fellow author Frank Belknap Long wrote a book-length memorial, Howard Phillips Lovecraft: Dreamer on the Night Side, which was published by Arkham House in 1975. A great deal of other biographical material exists, of course. The Wikipedia article on Lovecraft seems solid and well-informed.
My personal introduction to Lovecraft’s work came in 1985 at the tender age of 14, when my uncle introduced me to some old pulps that he’d found kicking around St. Louis bookstores. I was already an avid reader of Edgar Allan Poe, Stephen King, and lots of stuff in between. In 1986, I saw the Stewart Gordon/Brian Yuzna adaptation of From Beyond. I suspect Lovecraft would have regarded the film with disdain (probably a kind assessment) for its sexual themes and overt slimy-monsterishness. I loved it. In fact, From Beyond remains one of my favorite films. While it was clear to me that Lovecraft had a style and tone distinctly different from horror fiction being published in the 1980s, I enjoyed the film for the way it used Lovecraft’s ideas in a modern way that appealed to me as a teen. It was a perfect union, and I have to believe it did a great deal for the popularity of Lovecraft’s work at the time. Nevertheless, while his fiction was a stark contrast to the films, I still loved his stories for their creeping fear, hinted-at eldritch horrors, shadowy treatment of arcane subjects, and general comic menace. The descriptions and images hung with me. His work and ideas were an inspiration. Lovecraft quickly took a place next to Stephen King on my bookshelf.
As a collector, my first set of Lovecraft books were paperbacks published by Ballantine, with the black covers and a different strange head on every title. Over the years, I collected the earlier Ballantine Adult Fantasy editions, and finally, as a grown up with a real job, purchased the definitive Arkham House hardcovers. Presented here in the gallery scans is the wonderful paperback artwork of Gervasio Gallardo, published in the Adult Fantasy line around 1970. John Holmes did the “strange heads” series of art around 1973. Later paperback editions feature art by Murray Tinkelman, including pen and ink drawings on the inside covers, published around 1976. The Arkham dust jackets shown here feature art by Tony Patrick, and the edition of Tales of the Cthulhu Mythos included below was published during the time when J. K. Potter did most of the cover art for Arkham House.
For a list of H. P. Lovecraft books currently available in all formats, click here.
The following scans are from the library of Christopher Fulbright.