As to “Sherlock Holmes”

As to “Sherlock Holmes”—I used to be infatuated with him! I read every Sherlock Holmes story published, and even organised a detective agency when I was thirteen, arrogating to myself the proud pseudonym of S.H. This P.D.A.—whose members ranged between nine & fourteen in years, was a most wonderful thing—how many murders & robberies we unravelled! Our headquarters were in a deserted house just out of the thickly settled area, and we there enacted, and “solved”, many a gruesome tragedy. I still remember my labours in producing artificial “bloodstains on the floor!!!” But in conformity with our settled policy of utter candour, I must admit to you that the entire venture was more dramatic than psychological in objects & essence; and that our “deductions” were generally pretty well provided for in advance.

DESCRIPTION: In a letter to his friend Alfred Galpin, Lovecraft describes his early infatuation with Sherlock Holmes, which led him, at the age of thirteen, to organize the Providence Detective Agency.

CITATION: Lovecraft, H. P. “To Alfred Galpin.” 27 May 1918. Letters to Alfred Galpin. Edited by S. T. Joshi and David E. Schultz, Hippocampus Press, 2003, pp. 14-23.

Forced to Vacate

But my progress had received its severest blow in the spring of 1904. On March 28th of that year my beloved grandfather passed away as the result of an apoplectic stroke, & I was deprived of my closest companion. I was never afterward the same. His death brought financial disaster besides its more serious grief. As President of the Owyhee Land & Irrigation Co., an Idaho corporation with Providence offices, he had struggled hard to achieve vast success in the reclamation of Western land. He had weathered many calamities such as the bursting of his immense dam on Snake River; but now that he was gone, the company was without its brains. He has been a more vital & important figure than even he himself had realized; & with his passing, the rest of the board lost their initiative & courage. The corporation was unwisely dissolved at a time when my grandfather would have persevered—with the result that others reaped the wealth which should have gone to its stockholders. My mother & I were forced to vacate the beautiful estate at 454 Angell Street, & to enter the less spacious abode at 598, three squares eastward. The combined loss of grandfather & birthplace made me the most miserable of mortals. My grandfather was a cheerful man, whose conversation always brightened me; but it was to be heard no more. My home had been my ideal of Paradise & my source of inspiration—but it was to be profaned & altered by other hands. Life from that day has held for me but one ambition—to regain the old place & reëstablish its glory—a thing I fear I can never accomplish. For twelve years I have felt like an exile.

DESCRIPTION: In a letter to his friend Rheinhart Kleiner, Lovecraft describes the “financial disaster” engendered by his maternal grandfather’s sudden death.

CITATION: Lovecraft, H. P. “To Rheinhart Kleiner.” 16 Nov. 1916. Selected Letters. Edited by August Derleth and Donald Wandrei, vol. 1, Arkham House, 1965, pp. 29-42.

Misleading Information

In 1908 I was about to enter Brown University, when my health completely gave way—causing the necessary abandonment of my college career.

DESCRIPTION: In a letter to his friend Rheinhart Kleiner, Lovecraft states, inaccurately, that ill health prevented him from attending Brown University.

CITATION: Lovecraft, H. P. “To Rheinhart Kleiner.” 16 Nov. 1916. Selected Letters. Edited by August Derleth and Donald Wandrei, vol. 1, Arkham House, 1965, pp. 29-42.

Unfulfilled Dreams

In studies I was not bad—except for mathematics, which repelled and exhausted me. I passed in these subjects—but just about that. Or rather, it was algebra which formed the bugbear. Geometry was not so bad. But the whole thing disappointed me bitterly, for I was then intending to pursue astronomy as a career, and of course advanced astronomy is simply a mass of mathematics. That was the first major setback I ever received—the first time I was ever brought up short against a consciousness of my own limitations. It was clear to me that I hadn’t brains enough to be an astronomer—and that was a pill I couldn’t swallow with equanimity.

DESCRIPTION: In a letter to fellow writer Robert E. Howard, Lovecraft describes the depression he experienced when he realized that, due to his inability to master algebra, he could never become an astronomer.

CITATION: Lovecraft, H. P. “To Robert E. Howard.” 29 Mar. 1933. Selected Letters. Edited by August Derleth and James Turner, vol. 4, Arkham House, 1976, pp. 167-73.

Losing the Family Home

My mother & I moved into a 5-room-&-attic flat two squares farther east (598 Angell St., where I dwelt till 1924) & for the first time I knew what a congested, servantless home—with another family in the same house—was…. I felt that I had lost my entire adjustment to the cosmos—for what indeed was HPL without the remembered rooms & hallways & hangings & staircases & statuary & paintings … & yard & walks & cherry-trees & fountain & ivy-grown arch & stable & gardens & all the rest? How could an old man of 14 (& I surely felt that way!) readjust his existence to a skimpy flat & new household programme & inferior outdoor setting in which almost nothing familiar remained? It seemed like a damned futile business to keep on living. No more tutors—high school next September which would probably be a devilish bore, since one couldn’t be as free & easy in high school as one had been during brief snatches at the neighbourly Slater Ave. school…. Oh, hell! Why not slough off consciousness altogether?

DESCRIPTION: In a letter to his friend J. Vernon Shea, Lovecraft describes the sense of loss he felt when, shortly after the death of his maternal grandfather, he and his mother were forced to leave 454 Angell Street and move into a smaller home at 598 Angell Street.

CITATION: Lovecraft, H. P. “To J. Vernon Shea.” 4 Feb. 1934. Selected Letters. Edited by August Derleth and James Turner, vol. 4, Arkham House, 1976, pp. 351-71.

Childhood Home

… I was born in the year 1890 in a small town, & in a section of that town which during my childhood lay not more than four blocks (N. & E.) from the actually primal & open New England countryside, with rolling meadows, stone walls, cart-paths, brooks, deep woods, mystic ravines, lofty river-bluffs, planted fields, white antient farmhouses, barns, & byres, gnarled hillside orchards, great lone elms, & all the authentick marks of a rural milieu unchanged since the 17th & 18th centuries…. My house, tho’ an urban one on a paved street, had spacious grounds & stood next to an open field with a stone wall … where great elms grew & my grandfather had corn & potatoes planted, & a cow pastured under the gardener’s care.

DESCRIPTION: In a letter to his friend Frank Belknap Long, Lovecraft describes his childhood home at 454 Angell Street.

CITATION: Lovecraft, H. P. “To Frank Belknap Long.” 27 Feb. 1931. Selected Letters. Edited by August Derleth and Donald Wandrei, vol. 3, Arkham House, 1971, pp. 290-342.