The thing, he said, would come that night at three
From the old churchyard on the hill below;
But crouching by an oak fire’s wholesome glow,
I tried to tell myself it could not be.
Surely, I mused, it was a pleasantry
Devised by one who did not truly know
The Elder Sign, bequeathed from long ago,
That sets the fumbling form of darkness free.
He had not meant it—no—but still I lit
Another lamp as starry Leo climbed
Out of the Seekonk, and a steeple chimed
Three—and the firelight faded, bit by bit.
Then at the door that cautious rattling came—
And the mad truth devoured me like a flame!
DESCRIPTION: In his poem “The Messenger,” Lovecraft responds to Bertrand K. Hart’s playful suggestion that Lovecraft, who had used Hart’s residence in one of his stories, deserved to be haunted.
CITATION: Lovecraft, H. P. “The Messenger.” The Ancient Track: The Complete Poetical Works of H. P. Lovecraft. Edited by S. T. Joshi, Hippocampus Press, 2013, p. 80.
So if at last a callous age must tear
These jewels from the old town’s quiet dress,
I think the harbour streets will always wear
A puzzled look of wistful emptiness.
And strangers, staring spaciously along
An ordered green that ponderous pylons frame,
Will always stop to wonder what is wrong,
And miss some vital thing they cannot name.
DESCRIPTION: In his poem “The East India Brick Row,” Lovecraft laments the city of Providence’s decision to demolish a row of ancient warehouses along the waterfront.
CITATION: Lovecraft, H. P. “The East India Brick Row.” The Ancient Track: The Complete Poetical Works of H. P. Lovecraft. Edited by S. T. Joshi, Hippocampus Press, 2013, pp. 308-9.
Well—the train sped on, & I experienced silent convulsions of joy in returning step by step to a waking & tri-dimensional life. New Haven—New London—& then quaint Mystic, with its colonial hillside & landlocked cove. Then at last a still subtler magick fill’d the air—nobler roofs & steeples, with the train rushing airily above them on its lofty viaduct—Westerly—in His Majesty’s Province of RHODE-ISLAND & PROVIDENCE-PLANTATIONS! GOD SAVE THE KING!! Intoxication follow’d—Kingston—East Greenwich with its steep Georgian alleys climbing up from the railway—Apponaug & its ancient roofs—Auburn—just outside the city limits—I fumble with bags & wraps in a desperate effort to appear calm—THEN—a delirious marble dome outside the window—a hissing of air brakes—a slackening of speed—surges of ecstasy & dropping of clouds from my eyes & mind—HOME—UNION STATION—PROVIDENCE!!!!
DESCRIPTION: In a letter to his friend Frank Belknap Long, Lovecraft describes the exhilaration he felt when, having spent two years in New York City, he returned home to Providence, Rhode Island.
CITATION: Lovecraft, H. P. “To Frank Belknap Long.” 1 May 1926. Selected Letters. Edited by August Derleth and Donald Wandrei, vol. 2, Arkham House, 1968, pp. 44-9.
To all intents & purposes I am more naturally isolated from mankind than Nathaniel Hawthorne himself, who dwelt alone in the midst of crowds, & whom Salem knew only after he died. Therefore, it may be taken as axiomatic that the people of a place matter absolutely nothing to me except as components of the general landscape & scenery…. My life lies not among people but among scenes—my local affections are not personal, but topographical & architectural…. I am always an outsider—to all scenes & all people—but outsiders have their sentimental preferences in visual environment. I will be dogmatic only to the extent of saying that it is New England I must have—in some form or other. Providence is part of me—I am Providence … Providence is my home, & there I shall end my days if I can do so with any semblance of peace, dignity, or appropriateness…. Providence would always be at the back of my head as a goal to be worked toward—an ultimate Paradise to be regain’d at last.
DESCRIPTION: In a letter to his aunt, Lillian Delora Clark, Lovecraft explains his attachment to New England and his desire to return home to Providence, Rhode Island.
CITATION: Lovecraft, H. P. “To Lillian D. Clark.” 29 Mar. 1926. H. P. Lovecraft: Letters from New York. Edited by S. T. Joshi and David E. Schultz, Night Shade Books, 2005, pp. 287-90.
… 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.
Now, of course, I do not have frequent chances for the special literary conversation I then had—but after all, that formed but a small part of life. It is more important to live—to dream and to write—than to talk, and in New York I could not live. Everything I saw became unreal and two-dimensional, and everything I thought and did became trivial and devoid of meaning through lack of any points of reference belonging to any fabric of which I could conceivably form a part. I was stifled—poisoned—imprisoned in a nightmare—and now not even the threat of damnation could induce me to dwell in the accursed place again.
DESCRIPTION: In a letter to his friend Donald Wandrei, Lovecraft describes the sense of cultural isolation he experienced while living in New York City.
CITATION: Lovecraft, H. P. “To Donald Wandrei.” 10 Feb. 1927. Lord of a Visible World: An Autobiography in Letters. Edited by S. T. Joshi and David E. Schultz, Ohio University Press, 2000, pp. 197-201.
At Break-Neck Hill Road we diverg’d to the eastward and travers’d the winding roads thro’ the exquisite sylvan stretches of Quinsnicket, or Lincoln-Woods, my favourite haunt on fine summer afternoons. It seem’d appropriate to return to my native scenes thro’ this lovely and typical part of them—and this avenue of approach set off very ably the occasional glimpses of the distant spires and domes of OLD PROVIDENCE which hilltop moments afforded. PROVIDENCE—my native land! No sensation at any stage of my travels equall’d that with which I was animated as we drew near the scene of my birth and lifelong memories. Pawtucket was a dingy interlude. Then the line of East Avenue and Hope Street—and the PROVIDENCE urban boundary at the end of Blackstone Boulevard, known to me for thirty years and more, and the scene of my choicest bicycle rides of boyhood! Again my three-corner’d hat was rais’d from the powder’d locks of my periwig. HOME! After that but a little space to Barnes Street, then a turn under shady trees, a square or two westward to where the road touches the brink of the antient hill and vanishes into the golden sunset sky betwixt old houses—and then Number Ten! My own hearthstone at last—and all the remember’d books and furniture of my youth! It was the eighteenth of May, and I had been abroad since the fourth of April! A marvellous, pleasing, and vary’d trip in all its parts, yet providing no sight more agreeable than Old Providence, or any moment so delightful as that of my return to my cherish’d doorstep.
DESCRIPTION: In his essay “Travels in the Provinces of America,” Lovecraft describes his sensations when, after a long trip abroad, he returned home to his beloved Providence.
CITATION: Lovecraft, H. P. “Travels in the Provinces of America.” Collected Essays. Edited by S. T. Joshi, vol. 4, Hippocampus Press, 2005, pp. 32-61.
I never can be tied to raw, new things,
For I first saw the light in an old town,
Where from my window huddled roofs sloped down
To a quaint harbour rich with visionings.
Streets with carved doorways where the sunset beams
Flooded old fanlights and small window-panes,
And Georgian steeples topped with gilded vanes—
These were the sights that shaped my childhood dreams.
Such treasures, left from times of cautious leaven,
Cannot but loose the hold of flimsier wraiths
That flit with shifting ways and muddled faiths
Across the changeless walls of earth and heaven.
They cut the moment’s thongs and leave me free
To stand alone before eternity.
DESCRIPTION: In his poem “Background,” Lovecraft celebrates Providence’s colonial architecture, which had captivated him since childhood.
CITATION: Lovecraft, H. P. “Background.” The Ancient Track: The Complete Poetical Works of H. P. Lovecraft. Edited by S. T. Joshi, Hippocampus Press, 2013, p. 92.
Of all the distant objects on Federal Hill, a certain huge, dark church most fascinated Blake. It stood out with especial distinctness at certain hours of the day, and at sunset the great tower and tapering steeple loomed blackly against the flaming sky. It seemed to rest on especially high ground; for the grimy facade, and the obliquely seen north side with sloping roof and the tops of great pointed windows, rose boldly above the tangle of surrounding ridgepoles and chimney-pots. Peculiarly grim and austere, it appeared to be built of stone, stained and weathered with the smoke and storms of a century or more. The style, so far as the glass could shew, was the earliest experimental form of Gothic revival which preceded the stately Upjohn period and held over some of the outlines and proportions of the Georgian age. Perhaps it was reared around 1810 or 1815.
DESCRIPTION: In this passage from the short story “The Haunter of the Dark” (1935), the narrator describes a “grim and austere” church on Federal Hill, which fascinates Robert Blake.
CITATION: Lovecraft, H. P. “The Haunter of the Dark.” The Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Stories. Edited by S. T. Joshi, Penguin Books, 1999, pp. 336-60.
But the event of the season was the burning of the large Chapman house last Wednesday night—the yellow house across two lawns to the north of #598 Angell.… Where that evening had stood the unoccupied Chapman house, recently sold and undergoing repairs, was now a titanic pillar of roaring, living flame amidst the deserted night—reaching into the illimitable heavens and lighting the country for miles around. The heat was intense—even here in the house—and the glare was stupendous. Awaking my aunt, who watched the rest of the spectacle from the window, I went out to view the disaster at close range.
DESCRIPTION: In a letter to his friend Rheinhart Kleiner, Lovecraft describes a house fire, which he observed “at close range.”
CITATION: Lovecraft, H. P. “To Rheinhart Kleiner.” 10 Feb. 1920. Selected Letters. Edited by August Derleth and Donald Wandrei, vol. 1, Arkham House, 1965, pp. 107-8.