H. P. Lovecraft Biography

H. P. Lovecraft was an American horror fiction writer. Check out this biography to know about his childhood, family life, achievements and fun facts about him.

Quick Facts

Birthday: August 20, 1890

Nationality: American

Famous: Quotes By H. P. Lovecraft Atheists

Died At Age: 46

Sun Sign: Leo

Also Known As: Howard Phillips Lovecraft

Born Country: United States

Born in: Providence, Rhode Island, United States

Famous as: Writer

Height: 5'11" (180 cm), 5'11" Males

Family:

Spouse/Ex-: Sonia Haft Greene

father: Winfield Scott Lovecraft

mother: Sarah Susan Phillips

Died on: March 15, 1937

place of death: Providence, Rhode Island, United States

U.S. State: Rhode Island

Cause of Death: Cancer

More Facts

education: Hope High School

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H. P. Lovecraft was an American horror fiction writer, credited with starting a trend in fantasy and science fiction (sci-fi) writing. Mostly an autodidact, he never completed school education; he often stayed home due to fragile health, reading books far advanced for his age. Writing his first story at the age of six, he took up writing as his profession at the age of 24. As he was too shy to promote his work, he got little remuneration for his talent and most of his works were published in pulp magazines. All his life, he lived in poverty, often forced to take up ghost-writing to meet his expenses. It was only after his death that two of his friends, August Derleth and Donald Wandrei, collected his stories and made arrangement for their publication. If not for August and Donald, the world would have lost great pieces of writings which are now treasured in the world of literature. Lovecraft’s writings have had a great impact on modern popular culture. They have also influenced and inspired many other writers like August Derleth, Robert E. Howard, Robert Bloch, Fritz Leiber, Clive Barker, Stephen King, Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman, and Mike Mignola.

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Childhood & Early Life
  • Howard Phillips Lovecraft was born on August 20, 1890, in Providence, Rhode Island, USA. His father Winfield Scott Lovecraft, a traveling salesman of jewelry and precious metal, worked for ‘Gorham & Co.’ His mother Sarah Susan was the daughter of Whipple Van Buren Phillips, a noted businessman.
  • In 1893, when Howard was three years old, his father went to Chicago where he suffered a nervous breakdown, possibly from untreated syphilis. Subsequently, he was admitted in ‘Butler Hospital,’ a psychiatric and substance-abuse hospital, in Providence where he lived until his death in 1898.
  • Howard was his parents’ only child. After his father was hospitalized, he moved with his mother into his maternal grandfather’s family home. Here, he lived with his mother, grandparents, and aunts, Lillian Delora Phillips and Annie Emeline Phillips.
  • His maternal grandfather Whipple Phillips was a great influence on young Howard and instilled in him a great appreciation for classical literature and poetry. He encouraged him to read, and gave him many books. He also told him many horror stories, which eventually helped him develop an interest in the horror genre.
  • Born a prodigy, Howard is said to have started reciting whole poetries by the age of two. It is also said that he started reading by the age of three. By five, he had completed ‘The Arabian Nights’ and adopted ‘Abdul Alhazred’ as his pseudonym.
  • At six, he developed an interest in Greek mythology and began to read books like ‘Age of Fable’ by Thomas Bulfinch and the children’s versions of ‘Iliad’ and ‘Odyssey.’ Possibly in the same year, he wrote his first story ‘The Noble Eavesdropper.’ Unfortunately, it has since been lost.
  • At six, he developed an interest in Greek mythology and began to read books like ‘Age of Fable’ by Thomas Bulfinch and the children’s versions of ‘Iliad’ and ‘Odyssey.’ Possibly in the same year, he wrote his first story ‘The Noble Eavesdropper.’ Unfortunately, it has since been lost.
  • Also at the age of six, he lost his maternal grandmother. Thereafter, he started having vivid nightmares, which could have affected his health and interfered with his formal education. Although he was enrolled at ‘Slater Avenue School,’ he barely attended school until the age of eight.
  • Continuing to study at home, Howard wrote his first poem ‘The Poem of Ulysses’ in 1897. It is an internally rhyming verse 88 lines long, based on Homer’s ‘Odyssey.’ It is his earliest surviving work.
  • In 1898, at the age of eight, he was introduced to chemistry and astronomy. He became engrossed in the latter, dreaming of becoming an astronaut after growing up. Around the same time, he also started developing a liking for the writings of Edgar Allen Poe.
  • In 1899, he had to leave school after being plagued by various ailments like headache, nervousness, and fatigue. In the same year, he produced ‘The Scientific Gazette,’ a hectographed journal, which he distributed among his friends.
  • Around 1903, after studying at home for four years, Howard returned to school, gaining admission into ‘Hope High School.’ Also in the same year, he wrote ‘The Rhode Island Journal of Astronomy’ and distributed it among his friends. Like ‘Scientific Gazette,’ it also survived till 1907.
  • In March 1904, his maternal grandfather Whipple Phillips passed away and their financial condition began to deteriorate. Ultimately, they were forced to move to a much smaller house on Angell Street, close to the house where he was born.
  • Finding it hard to accept their financial crunch, Howard contemplated suicide. He would often ride to the river side, thinking about taking the plunge. But soon, he decided to begin normal life, and wrote ‘The Beast in the Cave’ in 1905.
  • In 1906, his letter on a certain astronomical subject appeared in ‘The Providence Sunday Journal.’ It was his first writing in print. Very soon, he started writing a monthly astronomy column for journals like ‘The Pawtuxet Valley Gleaner’ and ‘The Providence Tribune.’
  • In 1908, shortly before his final examination, he suffered a nervous breakdown, which compelled him to leave school without a diploma. It affected him so much that he went into reclusion. For five years, he spent his time sleeping and reading; never going out before nightfall.
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Career
  • In 1913, an incident led H. P. Lovecraft out of this seclusion, helping him to take up writing as his career. A writer named Fred Jackson wrote a series of insipid love stories for a pulp magazine called ‘Argosy.’ Reading them, he became so infuriated that he wrote a letter attacking Jackson.
  • Written in verse, the letter evoked angry response from Jackson’s fans, giving rise to a heated debate between Lovecraft and Jackson’s defenders. Lovecraft’s letters soon caught the attention of Edward F. Daas, President of the ‘United Amateur Press Association’ (UAPA).
  • In 1914, Lovecraft joined UAPA on the invitation of Daas, launching his own paper ‘The Conservative’ in 1915. He ran 13 issues of it, concurrently contributing large number of poems and essays for other journals like ‘The Providence Evening News’ and ‘The Asheville (N.C.) Gazette-News.’
  • After coming out of his seclusion, Lovecraft submitted ‘The Alchemist,’ a short story which he had written in 1908, to ‘United Amateur.’ It was published in the November 1916 issue of the journal. It was his first published short story.
  • Sometime now, he came in contact with W. Paul Cook, a leading figure in the tradition of amateur journalism. He not only widened Lovecraft’s knowledge of supernatural literature by supplying him with books, but also encouraged him to undertake systematic study in the subject and write more fictional works.
  • Encouraged by Cook, Lovecraft began to write fictions, producing ‘The Tomb’ and ‘Dagon’ in the summer of 1917. Thereafter, he produced a number of short stories. However, until 1922, poems and essays remained his preferred mode of literary expression.
  • He also corresponded regularly with friends through letters, eventually becoming the century’s most prolific letter-writer. Over the course of his life, he had written 100,000 letters, consisting of several million words. Many of these were written to fellow writers like Robert Bloch, Henry Kuttner, Robert E. Howard, and Samuel Loveman.
  • In February 1924, he was commissioned by J. C. Henneberger, founder and owner of ‘Weird Tales,’ to ghost-write a story for magician Harry Houdini, and was offered $100 for it. He had been contributing to the magazine since 1923 and agreed to ghost write because of the lucrative offer.
  • In March 1924, H.P. Lovecraft got married and relocated to Brooklyn. After detailed research on pharaohs, he wrote ‘Imprisoned with the Pharaohs.’ It was published in the May-June-July 1924 edition of ‘Weird Tales’ under Houdini’s name. Later, the two collaborated on several other projects.
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  • 1924 also saw the formation of ‘Kalem Club,’ a literary circle, around Lovecraft. Urged by its members, he now began to submit a number of otherworldly stories to ‘Weird Tales.’
  • Although initially he enjoyed life in New York, the good times did not last long. Very soon, he started facing financial problem and discord at home. He even tried to land jobs but failed. Eventually, on April 17, 1926, he returned to Providence without his wife.
  • H.P. Lovecraft spent the last few years of his life in Providence, producing a large body of work. ‘The Call of Cthulhu,’ which was completed in 1926, is one of his most memorable works. He also traveled to many places, looking for perfect locales for his stories.
  • In 1927, he wrote a short novel called ‘The Case of Charles Dexter Ward.’ However, he himself found it to be "cumbrous, creaking bit of self-conscious antiquarianism" and therefore left it unpublished. When it was published posthumously, critics found it to be one of his finest works.
  • Other notable stories which he wrote during this period were ‘Dunwich Horror’ (1928), ‘At the Mountains of Madness’ (1931), ‘The Shadow over Innsmouth’ (1931), and ‘The Shadow out of Time’ (1934-1935). Concurrently, he also continued corresponding with his friends, producing a vast number of letters.
  • In spite of producing a number of masterpieces, H.P. Lovecraft never earned much and spent his last few years in poverty. It was mainly because he was too shy to promote his works; consequently, his works were mostly published in pulp magazines, which did not pay much.
  • The last two or three years of his life were especially hard. During this period, he lived with his aunt in a dingy house, surviving on his income from ghost-writing and a small inheritance which was fast drying up. By then, he had lost interest in selling his works.
  • Along with his financial woes, he also had to put up with the pain caused by intestinal cancer. In spite of such hardships, he continued to write letters, often going without food to pay for the charges of mailing his letters.
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Major Works
  • H.P. Lovecraft is most celebrated for his 1926 short story ‘The Call of Cthulhu.’ Although he himself considered it "rather middling - not as bad as the worst," scholars like Peter Canon appreciated his work, stating “for its dense and subtle narrative in which the horror gradually builds to cosmic proportions.”
  • ‘The Shadow over Innsmouth’ is one of his most important creations. Written in November-December 1931 and published in April 1936, this novel is the only Lovecraft creation to be published in book form during his lifetime.
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Personal Life & Legacy
  • On March 3, 1924, H.P. Lovecraft married Sonia Haft Green, a successful milliner, pulp fiction writer, and amateur publisher. She was seven years his senior and had an apartment in Brooklyn. After the wedding, they settled down in the apartment, but trouble erupted soon after.
  • Green lost her shop and also became ill. Lovecraft tried finding a job, but no one was willing to hire a 34-year-old man without any job experience. Ultimately, Green left New York for a job, while he hired a house in Brooklyn Heights, struggling to make ends meet.
  • On April 17, 1926, H.P. Lovecraft returned to Providence and started living with his aunt. Green also wanted to settle down in Providence. However, Lovecraft’s aunts discouraged Green from doing so, and hence they decided to go for mutual divorce which never materialized.
  • In early 1937, Lovecraft was diagnosed with cancer. On March 10, he was admitted to ‘Jane Brown Memorial Hospital’ in Providence. He died at the hospital on March 15, 1937.
  • On March 18, 1937, his body was buried in Phillips’ family plot at ‘Swan Point Cemetery.’
  • In 1977, his fans erected a headstone on his grave, inscribing his name, dates of his birth and death, and a line from one of his personal letters, which reads "I AM PROVIDENCE."
  • In July 2013, the Providence City Council put a marker at the intersection of Angell and Prospect streets, designating it as ‘H. P. Lovecraft Memorial Square.’ ‘The Providence Athenaeum’ library houses his bronze bust.
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- H. P. Lovecraft Biography
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H. P. Lovecraft

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