The Fruits, Not the Mechanism

I’m all for personal merit, & used to revere aristocracy because it developed personal merit. Just as you revere your kindly plutocrats, so did I revere my kindly & honourable agrarian squires. But seven depression years in a hotbed of blind reactionaries has taught me things! . . . What some of these birds call argument & logick!! Now I’m beginning to wake up & see that what I used to respect was not really aristocracy, but a set of personal qualities which aristocracy then developed better than any other system . . . a set of qualities, however, whose merit lay only in a psychology of non-calculative, non-competitive disinterestedness, truthfulness, courage, & generosity fostered by good education, minimum economic stress, & assumed position, & JUST AS ACHIEVABLE THROUGH SOCIALISM AS THROUGH ARISTOCRACY. It was the fruits, not the mechanism, which were worthy of respect—& today the decadent mechanism functions in vacuo, pavoninely proud of its mere skeletal essence, & no longer producing the fruits which once justify’d its existence. Hell! I’m done with it & its pretences.

DESCRIPTION: In a letter to fellow writer C. L. Moore, Lovecraft explains why he favors socialism over aristocracy, a system he once “revered” for its ability to develop personal merit.

CITATION: Lovecraft, H. P. “To C. L. Moore.” 20 Oct. 1936. Letters to C. L. Moore and Others. Edited by David E. Schultz and S. T. Joshi, Hippocampus Press, 2017, pp. 175-85.


The Greatest Peril to Civilised Progress

The greatest peril to civilised progress—aside from an annihilative war—is some kind of basically reactionary system with enough grudging concessions to the dispossessed to make it really work after a fashion, & thus with the capacity to postpone indefinitely the demand of the masses for the real rights—education, social, & economic—as human beings in a world where the great resources should be cornered by none. Laissez-faire Hoover-Mills-Mellon-Menckenism is simply a joke which can be counted out. Unsupervised capitalism is through. But various Nazi & fascist compromises can be cooked up to save the plutocrats most of their spoils while lulling the growing army of the unpropertied with either a petty programme of panem et circenses, or else a system of artificially created & distributed jobs at starvation wages on the C.C.C. or W.P.A. idea. A regime of that sort, spiced with the right brand of hysterical flag-waving, sloganeering, & verbal constitution-saving, might conceivably be as stable & popular as Hitlerism—& that is what the younger & more astute babbitts of the Republican party are quietly & insidiously working toward. Preferring the more civilised alternative of socialism, I can’t say that I wish them luck!

DESCRIPTION: In a letter to fellow writer C. L. Moore, Lovecraft theorizes that a fascistic party could, by combining patriotism with “grudging concessions to the dispossessed,” win the support of the American working class and delay the seemingly inevitable triumph of socialism.

CITATION: Lovecraft, H. P. “To C. L. Moore.” 20 Oct. 1936. Letters to C. L. Moore and Others. Edited by David E. Schultz and S. T. Joshi, Hippocampus Press, 2017, pp. 175-85.

The Truth about Democracy

Democracy—as distinguished from universal opportunity and good treatment—is today a fallacy and impossibility so great that any serious attempt to apply it cannot be considered as other than a mockery and a jest…. Government “by popular vote” means merely the nomination of doubtfully qualified men by doubtfully authorised and seldom competent cliques of professional politicians representing hidden interests, followed by a sardonic farce of emotional persuasion in which the orators with the glibbest tongues and flashiest catch-words herd on their side a numerical majority of blindly impressionable dolts and gulls who have for the most part no idea of what the whole circus is about.

DESCRIPTION: In a letter to fellow writer Robert E. Howard, Lovecraft describes modern democracy as a farce, which conceals the power of hidden interests from the masses.

CITATION: Lovecraft, H. P. “To Robert E. Howard.” 7 Nov. 1932. Selected Letters. Edited by August Derleth and James Turner, vol. 4, Arkham House, 1965, pp. 101-8.

The Red Tide

Virtually all the reputable authors & critics in the United States are political radicals—Dreiser, Sherwood Anderson, Hemingway, Dos Passos, Eastman, O’Neill, Lewis, Maxwell Anderson, MacLeish, Edmund Wilson, Fadiman—but the list is endless…. The cream of human brains—the sort of brains not wrapped up in personal luxury & immediate advantage is slowly drifting away from the blind class-loyalty toward a better-balanced position in which the symmetrical structure & permanent stability of the whole social organism is a paramount consideration.

DESCRIPTION: In a letter to fellow writer C. L. Moore, Lovecraft describes the spread of socialism among the nation’s intellectuals.

CITATION: Lovecraft, H. P. “To C. L. Moore.” 7 Feb. 1937. Selected Letters. Edited by August Derleth and James Turner, vol. 5, Arkham House, 1976, pp. 393-408.

Patrick von Flynn

Now all at once a magic seem’d to creep into me bones—
Me whisky-mellow’d Oirish voice burst forth in Prussian tones!
Oi felt a sthrange sinsation, and in fancy seem’d to see
Instad of dear ould Shannon’s banks, the gently rippling Spree—
No, not the Spree ye think Oi mane, but that which softly flows
Through glorious Deutschland’s grassy leas, where warr an’ kultur grows.
Ochone! Ochone! Where am Oi now? What conflict am Oi in?
Do Oi belong in Dublin town or back in Ould Berlin?
A week ago me son was borrn; his christ’nin’s not far off;
Oi wonther will I call him Mike, or Friedrich Wilhelm Hoff?
’Tis hard indade fer one loike me to know jist where he’s at;
Oi wonder if me name is Hans or if it shtill is Pat?

DESCRIPTION: In his poem “Ye Ballade of Patrick von Flynn,” Lovecraft mocks Irish-Americans who, with Ireland’s interests in mind, supported Germany rather than England in World War I.

CITATION: Lovecraft, H. P. “Ye Ballade of Patrick von Flynn.” The Ancient Track: The Complete Poetical Works of H. P. Lovecraft. Edited by S. T. Joshi, Hippocampus Press, 2013, pp. 215-7.

Concessions to the Masses

All that I care about is the civilisation—the state of development and organisation which is capable of gratifying the complex mental-emotional-aesthetic needs of highly evolved and acutely sensitive men. Any indignation I may feel in the whole matter is not for the woes of the down-trodden, but for the threat of social unrest to the traditional institutions of the civilisation. The reformer cares only for the masses, but may make concessions to the civilisation. I care only for the civilisation, but may make concessions to the masses. Do you not see the antipodal difference between the two positions? Both the reformer and I may unite in opposing an unworkably arrogant piece of legislation, but the motivating reasons will be absolutely antithetical. He wants to give the crowd as much as can be given them without wrecking all semblance of civilisation, whereas I want to give them only as much as can be given them without even slightly impairing the level of the national culture.

DESCRIPTION: In a letter to his friend Woodburn Harris, Lovecraft claims that his political philosophy is based, not on the welfare of the populace, but on the preservation of its high culture.

CITATION: Lovecraft, H. P. “To Woodburn Harris.” 25 Feb. 1929. Lord of a Visible World: An Autobiography in Letters. Edited by S. T. Joshi and David E. Schultz, Ohio University Press, 2000, pp. 226-9.

Gift of Bacchus

Hail! gift of Bacchus; red, delicious Wine,
To raise the soul, and ev’ry thought refine;
What blissful transports can thy pow’r impart,
And fill us with Anacreontic Art!
Unhappy man above the beast was plac’d;
Stript of his joys, and with mere Reason grac’d:
Sweet Wine alone his pleasures can restore;
Let him but quaff, and he’s a beast once more!

DESCRIPTION: In his poem “The Power of Wine: A Satire,” Lovecraft expresses his contempt for alcohol and those who imbibe it.

CITATION: Lovecraft, H. P. “The Power of Wine: A Satire.” The Ancient Track: The Complete Poetical Works of H. P. Lovecraft. Edited by S. T. Joshi, Hippocampus Press, 2013, pp. 212-3.

The Disturbed Political State of Germany

During my stay of five days in Wiesbaden I had opportunities to observe the disturbed political state of Germany, and the constant squabbles between various dismally uniformed factions of would-be patriots. Of all the self-appointed leaders, Hitler alone seems to retain a cohesive and enthusiastic following; his sheer magnetism and force of will serving—in spite of his deficiencies in true social insight—to charm, drug, or hypnotise the hordes of youthful “Nazis” who blindly revere and obey him. Without possessing any clear-cut or well-founded programme for Germany’s economic reconstruction, he plays theatrically on the younger generation’s military emotions and sense of national pride; urging them to overthrow the restrictive provisions of the Versailles treaty and reassert the strength and supremacy of the German people. He is fond of such phrases as: “Germany, awaken and take your rightful heritage with your own strong hands!”—and when speaking of elections usually intimates that in case of defeat he will consider an armed march on Berlin corresponding to Mussolini’s Roman coup d’état of 1922.

DESCRIPTION: In his essay “European Glimpses,” which recounts a trip his ex-wife, Sonia H. Greene, took in 1932, Lovecraft describes her impressions, formed at a rally in Wiesbaden, of Adolf Hitler and his fellow National Socialists.

CITATION: Lovecraft, H. P. “European Glimpses.” Collected Essays. Edited by S. T. Joshi, vol. 4, Hippocampus Press, 2005, pp. 232-52.

The Valiant Knights of Peace

We are the valiant Knights of Peace
Who prattle for the Right:
Our banner is of snowy fleece,
Inscribed: “TOO PROUD TO FIGHT!”

By sweet Chautauqua’s flow’ry banks
We love to sing and play,
But should we spy a foeman’s ranks,
We’d proudly run away!

When Prussian fury sweeps the main
Our freedom to deny;
Of tyrant laws we ne’er complain,
But gladsomely comply!

We do not fear the submarines
That plough the troubled foam;
We scorn the ugly old machines—
And safely stay at home!

They say our country’s close to war,
And soon must man the guns;
But we see naught to struggle for—
We love the gentle Huns!

What tho’ their hireling Greaser bands
Invade our southern plains?
We well can spare those boist’rous lands,
Content with what remains!

Our fathers were both rude and bold,
And would not live like brothers;
But we are of a finer mould—
We’re much more like our mothers!

DESCRIPTION: In his poem “Pacifist War Song—1917,” Lovecraft satirizes the pacifists of his generation who were protesting America’s entry into the First World War.

CITATION: Lovecraft, H. P. “Pacifist War Song—1917.” The Ancient Track: The Complete Poetical Works of H. P. Lovecraft. Edited by S. T. Joshi, Hippocampus Press, 2013, p. 401.

A Reversion to Savagery

The most alarming tendency observable in this age is a growing disregard for the established forces of law and order. Whether or not stimulated by the noxious example of the almost sub-human Russian rabble, the less intelligent element throughout the world seems animated by a singular viciousness, and exhibits symptoms like those of a herd on the verge of stampeding. Whilst long-winded politicians preach universal peace, long-haired anarchists are preaching a social upheaval which means nothing more or less than a reversion to savagery or mediaeval barbarism. Even in this traditionally orderly nation the number of Bolsheviki, both open and veiled, is considerable enough to require remedial measures. The repeated and unreasonable strikes of important workers, seemingly with the object of indiscriminate extortion rather than rational wage increase, constitute a menace which should be checked.

DESCRIPTION: In his essay “Bolshevism,” Lovecraft recommends that the government suppress working-class agitation in order to prevent “social upheaval” and class warfare.

CITATION: Lovecraft, H. P. “Bolshevism” Collected Essays. Edited by S. T. Joshi, vol. 5, Hippocampus Press, 2006, p. 37.