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.

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The Chief Indictment of a Capitalistic Ideal

But the chief indictment of a capitalistic ideal is perhaps something deeper even than humanitarian principle—something which concerns the profound, subtle & pervasive hostility of capitalism, & of the whole essence of mercantilism, to all that is finest & most creative in the human spirit. As mentioned in the preceding pages, business & capital are the fundamental enemies of human worth in that they exalt & reward the shrewdly acquisitive rather than the intrinsically superior & creative. Pro-capitalists are prone to slobber over the “free competition” in economics which “rewards the worthy & punishes the shiftless”. Very well. Let’s see how the worthy are rewarded. Let us list a few of the most incontestably superior minds & personalities in the modern capitalistic world & see whether capitalism has given them its highest rewards. Albert Einstein. Romain Rolland. Bertrand Russell. H. G. Wells. George Santayana. Thomas Mann. John Dewey. W. B. Yeats. George Bernard Shaw. M. & Mme. Curie-Joliot. Heisenberg. Planck. Eddington. Jeans. Millikan. Compton. Ralph Adams Cram. Sigmund Freud. Ignacio Zuloaga. Theodore Dreiser. Julian & Aldous Huxley. Prof. G. Elliot Smith. Are these the word’s richest people today? And in the past did capitalism award its highest benefits to such admittedly superior persons as Poe, Spinoza, Baudelaire, Shakespeare, Keats, & so on? Or is it just possible that the real beneficiaries of capitalism are not the truly superior, but merely those who choose to devote their superiority to the single process of personal acquisition rather than to social service or to creative intellectual or aesthetic effort . . . . . those, & the lucky parasites who share or inherit the fruits of their narrowly canalised superiority?


DESCRIPTION: In a letter to fellow writer C. L. Moore, Lovecraft criticizes capitalism for rewarding those who “devote their superiority to the single process of personal acquisition” instead of those who contribute to the arts and sciences.

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.

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.

The Wrongs of the Masses

In accordance with this attitude, I am distinctly opposed to visibly arrogant and arbitrary extremes of government—but this is simply because I wish the safety of an artistic and intellectual civilisation to be secure, not because I have any sympathy with the coarse-grained herd who would menace the civilisation if not placated by sops. Surely you can see the profound and abysmal difference between this emotional attitude and the emotional attitude of the democratic reformer who becomes wildly excited over the “wrongs of the masses”. This reformer has uppermost in his mind the welfare of those masses themselves—he feels with them, takes up a mental-emotional point of view as one of them, regards their advancement as his prime objective independently of anything else, and would willingly sacrifice the finest fruits of the civilisation for the sake of stuffing their bellies and giving them two cinema shows instead of one per day. I, on the other hand, don’t give a hang about the masses except so far as I think deliberate cruelty is coarse and unaesthetic—be it toward horses, oxen, undeveloped men, dogs, niggers, or poultry.


DESCRIPTION: In a letter to his friend Woodburn Harris, Lovecraft claims that contemporary reformers care only about the daily needs of Americans while he, in comparison, cares only about the “safety of an artistic and intellectual civilisation.”

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.

The Spirit of England

“Americanism” is expanded Anglo-Saxonism. It is the spirit of England, transplanted to a soil of vast extent and diversity, and nourished for a time under pioneer conditions calculated to increase its democratic aspects without impairing its fundamental virtues. It is the spirt of truth, honour, justice, morality, moderation, individualism, conservative liberty, magnanimity, toleration, enterprise, industriousness, and progress—which is England—plus the element of equality and opportunity caused by pioneer settlement. It is the expression of the world’s highest race under the most favourable social, political, and geographical conditions. Those who endeavour to belittle the importance of our British ancestry, are invited to consider the other nations of this continent. All these are equally “American” in every particular, differing only in race-stock and heritage; yet of all of them, none save British Canada will even bear comparison with us. We are great because we are a part of the great Anglo-Saxon cultural sphere; a section detached only after a century and a half of heavy colonisation and English rule, which gave to our land the ineradicable stamp of British civilisation.


DESCRIPTION: In his essay “Americanism,” Lovecraft describes American culture as the offspring of British civilization.

CITATION: Lovecraft, H. P. “Americanism.” Collected Essays. Edited by S. T. Joshi, vol. 5, Hippocampus Press, 2006, pp. 33-5.