My health prevented college attendance; but informal studies at home, and the influence of a notably scholarly physician-uncle, helped to banish some of the worst effects of the lack. In the years which should have been collegiate I veered from science to literature, specialising in the products of that eighteenth century of which I felt myself so oddly a part. Weird writing was then in abeyance, although I read everything spectral that I could find—including the frequent bizarre items in such cheap magazines as The All-Story and The Black Cat. My own products were largely verse and essays—uniformly worthless and now relegated to eternal concealment.
DESCRIPTION: In his essay “Some Notes on a Nonentity,” Lovecraft describes the extent of his informal education.
CITATION: Lovecraft, H. P. “Some Notes on a Nonentity.” Collected Essays. Edited by S. T. Joshi, vol. 5, Hippocampus Press, 2006, pp. 207-11.
I refuse to be taken in by the goddamn bunk of this aera just as totally as I refused to fall for the pompous, polite bull of Victorianism—and one of the chief fallacies of the present is that smoothness, even when involving no sacrifice of directness, is a defect. The best prose is vigorous, direct, unadorn’d, and closely related (as is the best verse) to the language of actual discourse; but it has its natural rhythms and smoothness just as good oral speech has. There has never been any prose as good as that of the early eighteenth century, and anyone who thinks he can improve upon Swift, Steele, and Addison is a blockhead.
DESCRIPTION: In a letter to his friend Maurice W. Moe, Lovecraft defends eighteenth-century prose against contemporary critics.
CITATION: Lovecraft, H. P. “To Maurice W. Moe.” 26 Mar. 1932. Selected Letters. Edited by August Derleth and James Turner, vol. 4, Arkham House, 1965, pp. 31-3.
In prideful scorn I watch’d the farmer stride
With step uncouth o’er road and mossy lane;
How could I help but distantly deride
The churlish, callous’d, coarse-clad country swain?
Upon his lips a mumbled ballad stirr’d
The evening air with dull cacophony;
In cold contempt, I shudder’d as I heard,
And held myself no kin to such as he.
But as he leap’d the stile and gain’d the field
Where star-fac’d blossoms twinkled thro’ the hay,
His lumb’ring footfalls oftentimes would yield,
To spare the flow’rs that bloom’d along the way.
And while I gaz’d, my spirit swell’d apace;
With the crude swain I own’d the human tie;
The tend’rest impulse of a noble race
Had prov’d the boor a finer man than I!
DESCRIPTION: In his poem “Brotherhood,” Lovecraft describes his impressions of a man he, initially, assumes to be a country boor.
CITATION: Lovecraft, H. P. “Brotherhood.” The Ancient Track: The Complete Poetical Works of H. P. Lovecraft. Edited by S. T. Joshi, Hippocampus Press, 2013, p. 119.
Indulgent sir, pray spare an inch or two,
And print the carping critics’ joint adieu.
So long it is since we began the fray
That readers swear we’ve filched your Log away!
Forgive, we beg, the sinners that presume
To fill with venomed verse such precious room.
Inflamed by war, and in a martial rage,
We held a while the centre of the stage
Till, blinded by each other’s furious fire,
We battled on, forgetting to retire.
But fiercest feuds draw sometimes to their ends,
And ancient foemen live to meet as friends:
So do we now, conjoin’d in lasting peace,
Lay down our pens, and mutual slander cease.
What sound is this? ’Tis but a joyous yell
From thankful thousands, as we say farewell.
DESCRIPTION: In his poem “The End of the Jackson War,” Lovecraft promises to end his feud with admirers of Fred Jackson, a popular romance writer.
CITATION: Lovecraft, H. P. “The End of the Jackson War.” In The Ancient Track. The Ancient Track: The Complete Poetical Works of H. P. Lovecraft. Edited by S. T. Joshi, Hippocampus Press, 2013, p. 209.
What vig’rous protests now assail my eyes?
See Jackson’s satellites in anger rise!
His ardent readers, steep’d in tales of love,
Sincere devotion to their leader prove;
In brave defence of sickly gallantry,
They damn the critic, and beleaguer me.
Ingenious Russell, I forgive the slur,
Since in such clever lines your sneers occur.
Your verse, with true Pierian heat inflam’d,
Should be at some more worthy object aim’d.
Think not, good rhymester, that I sought to shew
In my late letter merely what I know,
Nor that I labour’d, with my humble quill,
To bend the universe to suit my will.
My aim, forsooth, was but to do my best
To free these pages from an am’rous pest.
DESCRIPTION: In his poem “Ad Criticos,” Lovecraft responds to those who objected to his criticism of Fred Jackson, a popular romance writer and a frequent contributor to The Argosy.
CITATION: Lovecraft, H. P. “Ad Criticos.” In The Ancient Track. The Ancient Track: The Complete Poetical Works of H. P. Lovecraft. Edited by S. T. Joshi, Hippocampus Press, 2013, pp. 203-7.
My Providence! What airy hosts
Turn still thy gilded vanes;
What winds of elf that with grey ghosts
People thine ancient lanes!
The chimes of evening as of old
Above thy valleys sound,
While thy stern fathers ‘neath the mould
Make blest thy sacred ground.
Thou dream’st beside the waters there,
Unchang’d by cruel years;
A spirit from an age more fair
That shines behind our tears.
Thy twinkling lights each night I see,
Tho’ time and space divide;
For thou art of the soul of me,
And always at my side!
DESCRIPTION: In his poem “Providence,” Lovecraft describes his lifelong attachment to Providence, a place which he felt transcended time.
CITATION: Lovecraft, H. P. “Providence.” The Ancient Track: The Complete Poetical Works of H. P. Lovecraft. Edited by S. T. Joshi, Hippocampus Press, 2013, pp. 303-5.