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I Am Providence: The Life and Times of H. P. Lovecraft (2 VOLUMES), page 1


I Am Providence: The Life and Times of H. P. Lovecraft (2 VOLUMES)
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I Am Providence: The Life and Times of H. P. Lovecraft (2 VOLUMES)

  I Am Providence

  I Am Providence

  The Life and Times of

  H. P. Lovecraft

  S. T. Joshi

  Hippocampus Press


  New York

  Copyright © 2013 by S. T. Joshi

  Published by Hippocampus Press

  P.O. Box 641, New York, NY 10156.

  All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced in any form or by any means without the written permission of the publisher.

  Hippocampus Press logo by Anastasia Damianakos.

  Cover design by Barbara Briggs Silbert.

  First Ebook Edition, 2013

  EPUB Edition ISBN: 978-1-61498-077-3

  Kindle Edition ISBN: 978-1-61498-078-0

  The Library of Congress has cataloged the hardcover edition as follows:

  Joshi, S. T., 1958-

  I am Providence : the life and times of H.P. Lovecraft / S. T. Joshi. — 1st ed.

  p. cm.

  Complete in 2 volumes.

  In 1996, S. T. Joshi's H.P. Lovecraft: a life was published. The edition was abridged by more than 150,000 words. This new version I am Providence: the life and times of H.P. Lovecraft restores every word of Joshi's original manuscript. The text has been revised and updated in light of the new information on Lovecraft that has emerged since 1996—Provided by publisher.

  Includes bibliographical references and index.

  ISBN 978-0-9824296-7-9 (alk. paper)

  1. Lovecraft, H. P. (Howard Phillips), 1890-1937. 2. Authors, American—20th century—Biography. 3. Fantasy fiction—Authorship. 4. Horror tales—Authorship. I. Title.

  PS3523.O833Z72 2010




  Kenneth W. Faig, Jr

  Donald R. Burleson


  David E. Schultz


  I don’t imagine that the publication of so large a biography of H. P. Lovecraft needs a defence today: his ascent into the canon of American literature with the publication of the Library of America edition of his Tales (2005), and, concurrently, his continued popularity among devotees of horror fiction, comics, films, and role-playing games suggest that Lovecraft will remain a compelling figure for decades to come. What may perhaps require some justification is my decision to issue this unabridged version of a biography that I wrote in 1993–95 and that was published in truncated form in 1996. In the nearly fifteen years since that time, a surprising amount of new information about Lovecraft—his life, his work, and his milieu—has emerged, necessitating some significant revisions in various portions of this book. Foremost in this regard must be cited Kenneth W. Faig, Jr, who with others has dug even deeper than before into Lovecraft’s paternal and maternal ancestry. Other research by Steven J. Mariconda, David E. Schultz, T. R. Livesey, Robert H. Waugh, and any number of others has resulted in changes both large and small. I believe I have also benefited from the pertinent criticisms of a number of reviewers of the truncated edition.

  A reader of the earlier version might ask: Exactly what is new about this edition aside from the bare addition of more than 150,000 words? In all humility I am now unable to answer this question in any detail. My pruning of the version I wrote in 1993–95—comprising more than 500,000 words—was on the level of both individual words, phrases, and sentences and some entire sections. One gauge of the kind and degree of omissions can be gauged by the number of footnotes in the trimmed and the full version; to choose a chapter at random, Chapter 14 in the earlier version had 75 footnotes; the current version has 98. In this version, therefore, I am even more determined to specify the documentary basis for my assertions.

  In the past decade and a half, important publications by and about Lovecraft have made the biographer’s life much simpler, at least in terms of citations. Far and away the most significant in this regard is Peter Cannon’s exemplary compilation of memoirs of Lovecraft, Lovecraft Remembered (1998), a volume so close to definitive that it scarcely ever need be done over again. I have some small quibbles with Cannon’s selections: for example, I wish he had not included the truncated version of Sonia Davis’s memoir of her husband, successively edited by Winfield Townley Scott and August Derleth, and had included the first of Muriel Eddy’s memoirs rather than a later one; as a result I have cited these (and a few other) items from sources other than Lovecraft Remembered.

  The most radical development is the extensive publication of Lovecraft’s letters, especially to important correspondents such as August Derleth, Robert E. Howard, and Donald Wandrei. And yet, because the Arkham House edition of Selected Letters (1965–76) is still the most widely available and convenient compendium of Lovecraft’s letters, I have in general cited it even in cases where it has been superseded by these later editions.

  I have not cited any specific editions of Lovecraft’s fiction, essays, or poetry. In terms of the fiction, Barnes & Noble has issued for the first time a collection of all Lovecraft’s original fiction (2008); but the first printing was marred by many typographical errors. As of this writing, I have received a promise from the in-house editor that these errors will be corrected (perhaps, however, not all at once), so that subsequent printings of the volume should be definitive. The book is, of course, not annotated, and readers interested in the background behind Lovecraft’s stories might wish to consult my three Penguin editions (1999–2004), along with such volumes as From the Pest Zone: Stories from New York (2003).

  Lovecraft’s essays are now conveniently gathered in Collected Essays (2004–06; 5 vols.), and his poetry in The Ancient Track: Complete Poetical Works (2001).

  I would like to repeat the many friends and colleagues who have, over the past thirty years, materially aided me in my research on Lovecraft. Among those who actually knew or corresponded with Lovecraft, I can thank Frank Belknap Long, J. Vernon Shea, Donald Wandrei, Robert Bloch, Mrs. Ethel Phillips Morrish, and Harry K. Brobst; sadly, all but the last of these are no more. Among students and scholars, I have learnt most about Lovecraft’s life and work from the three individuals to whom this book is dedicated—Kenneth W. Faig, Jr, David E. Schultz, and Donald R. Burleson; but other individuals, such as Dirk W. Mosig, Steven J. Mariconda, Peter Cannon, J. Vernon Shea, George T. Wetzel, R. Boerem, Scott Connors, Richard L. Tierney, Matthew H. Onderdonk, Fritz Leiber, M. Eileen McNamara, Donovan K. Loucks, Stefan Dziemianowicz, T. E. D. Klein, Perry M. Grayson, Scott D. Briggs, Marc A. Michaud, Sam Moskowitz, Robert M. Price, A. Langley Searles, and Richard D. Squires should not be overlooked. I am most grateful to Donovan K. Loucks for assembling the photographs for this book

  The John Hay Library of Brown University remains the chief repository of Lovecraft manuscript and printed material, and its Lovecraft Collection is now in the capable hands of Rosemary Cullen. She and her staff have allowed me unprecedented access to its bountiful documents.

  As in so many of my recent projects, I am sincerely grateful to David E. Schultz for his customary care in the design of this book, and to Derrick Hussey for his courage and confidence in publishing it.

  —S. T. JOSHI

  Seattle, Washington

  June 2009



  1. Unmixed English Gentry

  2. A Genuine Pagan (1890–1897)

  3. Black Woods & Unfathomed Caves (1898–1902)

  4. What of Unknown Africa? (1902–1908)

  5. Barbarian and Alien (1908–1914)

  6. A Renewed Wi
ll to Live (1914–1917 [1])

  7. Metrical Mechanic (1914–1917 [II])

  8. Dreamers and Visionaries (1917–1919 [I])

  9. Feverish and Incessant Scribbling (1917–1919 [II])

  10. Cynical Materialist (1919–1921 [I])

  11. Dunsanian Studies (1919–1921 [II])

  12. A Stranger in This Century (1919–1921 [III])

  13. The High Tide of My Life (1921–1922)

  14. For My Own Amusement (1923–1924)

  15. Ball and Chain (1924)

  16. The Assaults of Chaos (1925–1926)

  17. Paradise Regain’d (1926)

  18. Cosmic Outsideness (1927–1928)

  19. Fanlights and Georgian Steeples (1928–1930)

  20. Non-Supernatural Cosmic Art (1930–1931)

  21. Mental Greed (1931–1933)

  22. In My Own Handwriting (1933–1935)

  23. Caring about the Civilisation (1929–1937)

  24. Close to the Bread-Line (1935–1936)

  25. The End of One’s Life (1936–1937)

  26. Thou Art Not Gone (1937–2010)




  Books by S. T. Joshi


  AD August Derleth

  AEPG Annie E. P. Gamwell

  CAS Clark Ashton Smith

  DW Donald Wandrei

  EHP E. Hoffmann Price

  FBL Frank Belknap Long

  JFM James F. Morton

  JVS J. Vernon Shea

  LDC Lillian D. Clark

  MWM Maurice W. Moe

  REH Robert E. Howard

  RHB R. H. Barlow

  RK Rheinhart Kleiner

  CoC Crypt of Cthulhu

  LS Lovecraft Studies

  AHT Arkham House transcripts of Lovecraft’s letters

  JHL John Hay Library of Brown University, Providence

  1. Unmixed English Gentry

  Only an intermittently diligent genealogist, Howard Phillips Lovecraft was unable to discover much about the paternal side of his ancestry beyond the notes collected by his great-aunt Sarah Allgood.[1] Subsequent genealogical research has failed to verify much of this information, especially regarding the Lovecrafts prior to their coming to America in the early nineteenth century. Moreover, some particulars of Lovecraft’s reports concerning both his paternal and maternal ancestry have been proven definitively false. Some details may now be beyond recovery, but still much work remains for anyone wishing to reconstruct Lovecraft’s ancestry.

  According to the Allgood notes, the Lovecraft or Lovecroft name does not appear any earlier than 1450, when various heraldic charts reveal Lovecrofts in Devonshire near the Teign. Collateral lines, of course, can be traced to the Norman Conquest or even earlier. Lovecraft’s own direct line does not emerge until 1560, with John Lovecraft. As he recounts it: “Well—John begat Richard who begat William who begat George who begat Joseph who begat John who begat Thomas who begat Joseph who begat George who begat Winfield who begat your antient Grandpa.”[2]

  Unfortunately, as Kenneth W. Faig, Jr, has recently pointed out, in reference to the Allgood notes, “the most charitable thing that can be said is that it appears to be largely the invention of the creator.”[3] Faig and his collaborators A. Langley Searles and Chris Docherty, were unable to verify any of the male names of the Lovecraft line prior to Joseph Lovecraft (1775–1850), Lovecraft’s great-grandfather. Some evidence exists as to the descent of Joseph from John Lovecraft (1742–1780), and John from Joseph [not Thomas] Lovecraft (1703–1781), but even this is conjectural. Faig goes on to remark, in regard to Lovecraft’s repeated claims of his descent from a number of other collateral lines: “Lovecraft probably did not descend from any of the ‘great’ lines claimed by his charts—Fulford, Edgecombe, Chichester, Carew, Musgrave, and Reed are just a few of the lines probably not actually in Lovecraft’s ancestry.”[4]

  It is, unfortunately, one of these collateral lines that Lovecraft (probably falsely) believed provided the one genuinely weird legend he could claim. The wife of George Lovecraft (Lovecraft’s paternal grandfather) was Helen Allgood, and through her line Lovecraft thought he was related to the Musgraves of Eden Hall, Cumberland. A Musgrave was reputed to have stolen a drinking-glass from the fairies, who, after vain attempts to recover it, pronounced the following prophecy:

  If the glass either break or fall,

  Farewell to the luck of Eden Hall.

  Lovecraft claimed that this glass was on display in the South Kensington Museum in London.[5] This was an informal name for the Victoria and Albert Museum, so renamed in 1899. The object—a 6¼" beaker of Syrian origin dating to the thirteenth century (presumably brought back by a Crusader)—is now in the Islamic Gallery there; it had been on loan from the Musgrave family since 1926, and had been purchased in 1959.[6] Longfellow paraphrased the legend as “The Luck of Edenhall.”[7]

  Late in life Lovecraft, given his strong astronomical interests, was pleased to discover a genuine man of science in his remote maternal ancestry. John Field or Feild (1520–1587), called “The Proto-Copernican of England”, published an Ephemeris for 1557 in 1556 and another one for the years 1558, 1559, and 1560 in 1558; these two volumes contained the first account in English of the Copernican theory.[8] Unfortunately for Lovecraft, the relation of this John Field to a John Field (d. 1686) who was one of the original settlers of Providence, Rhode Island, and from whom Lovecraft actually was descended on the maternal side in a fairly direct line, is now in dispute. Lovecraft, unaware of the uncertainty of the matter, was understandably heartened by this discovery, for as an atheist he found his paternal line in particular “lousy with clergymen but short on straight thinkers,”[9] and said of his ancestry in general: “No philosophers—no artists—no writers—not a cursed soul I could possibly talk to without getting a pain in the neck.”[10]

  Lovecraft was much regaled by accounts (presumably preserved by Helen Allgood) of one Thomas Lovecraft (1745–1826), who apparently lived such a dissolute life that he was forced in 1823 to sell the ancestral estate, Minster Hall near Newton-Abbot. Lovecraft, a little surprisingly given his generally dim view of either sexual or monetary profligacy, found himself strangely attracted to this individual, boasting of owning a book with the inscription “Tho. Lovecraft, Gent. His Book, 1787”[11] and speaking almost approvingly of his dissipation of the estate. Again, it is regrettable that this connexion cannot be verified. Faig reports: “We have not been able to find any Thomas Lovecraft who married Letitia Edgecombe in 1766 and was proprietor of Minster Hall near Newton Abbot. Devon has no record of any estate called Minster Hall.”[12] Lovecraft believed that it was Thomas Lovecraft’s sixth child, Joseph Lovecraft, who decided in 1827 to emigrate, taking his wife Mary Fulford (actually Mary Full, 1782–1864) and their six children, John Full, William, Joseph, Jr, George, Aaron, and Mary, to Ontario, Canada. Finding no prospects there, he drifted down to the area around Rochester, New York, where he was established by at least 1831 as a cooper and carpenter. The details of this migration have not been confirmed, and some parts seem definitely erroneous; for example, Joseph and his children were still in England in 1828. The best one can say is that Joseph Lovecraft is found in the Rochester area around 1830–31.

  Lovecraft was convinced that there were no Lovecrafts left in England, and this seems in the most literal sense of the term to be the case; but individuals with the name Lucraft or Luckraft are found in abundance as late as the end of the nineteenth century,[13] and many are listed in recent London telephone directories;[14] these seem to be either variant spellings or fairly closely related lines. Lovecraft himself, however, was never in touch with any relations in England. It is interesting to note that the 1840 U.S. census for Rochester gives the spelling of Joseph Lovecraft’s sons John F. and William as “Lovecroft,” and the 1840 U.S. census of Peru Township in Clinton County, New York, gives Joseph, Jr’s last name as “Lucraft”.[15]

  Lovecraft’s paternal gran
dfather was George Lovecraft, who was born in 1815.[16] In 1839 he married Helen Allgood (1820–1881) and lived much of his life in Rochester as a harness maker. Of his five children, two died in infancy; the other three were Emma Jane (1847–1925), Winfield Scott (1853–1898), and Mary Louise (1855–1916). Emma married Isaac Hill, principal of the Pelham, N.Y., high school;[17] Mary married Paul Mellon. Winfield married Sarah Susan Phillips and begat Howard Phillips Lovecraft. Several of these individuals—George Lovecraft, Helen Allgood Lovecraft, Emma Jane Hill, Mary Louise Mellon, among other relations—are buried in Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx.[18]

  Lovecraft appears to have been much more industrious in tracking down his maternal ancestry, but again his conclusions are not always to be trusted. In 1915 he maintained that “The first Phillips of [his] branch came to Rhode Island from Lincolnshire in the latter part of the seventeenth century, and established himself in the western part of the colony”;[19] at this point Lovecraft had no name for this first transplanted ancestor. By 1924 he was claiming descent from the Rev. George Phillips (d. 1644), who in 1630 left England on the Arbella and settled in Watertown, Massachusetts (the township directly west of Cambridge).[20] There is reason to doubt this; or, rather, to doubt Lovecraft’s assertion that George was the father of Michael Phillips (1630?–1686?) of Newport, Rhode Island, from whom Lovecraft really is descended. In any event, Asaph Phillips (1764–1829), Michael’s great-grandson (or, more likely, great-great-grandson), headed inland and settled around 1788 in Foster, in the west-central part of the state near the Connecticut border. Asaph and his wife Esther Whipple (collaterally related to Abraham Whipple, the Revolutionary war hero) had eight children, all of whom, incredibly, survived to adulthood. The sixth child, Jeremiah Phillips (1800–1848), built a water-powered grist mill on the Moosup River in Foster and was killed on November 20, 1848, when his flowing greatcoat got caught in the machinery, dragging him into it. As Jeremiah’s wife Roby Rathbun Phillips had died earlier in 1848, their four children (a fifth, the first-born, had died in infancy) were left as orphans. They were Susan, James, Whipple, and Abbie. Whipple Van Buren Phillips (1833–1904) is Lovecraft’s maternal grandfather.

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