My Forebears in the 18th Century

My maternal grandfather—born in 1833—and his generation seemed much closer to me than the generation of my parents, uncles, and aunts, born around the ’60’s; while my forebears in the 18th century (periwigged Devonshire squires and rural Anglican vicars on my father’s side, and New-England planters on my mother’s side) seemed closest of all. That sense of immediate personal kinship with the 18th century—its costume, architecture, literary style, thought, etc.—has never left me or even diminished. It’s that which sends me rambling around the country looking for Vieux Carré’s and Charlestons and Natchezes and Salems and Annapolises and Quebecs!


DESCRIPTION: In a letter to his friend and fellow writer E. Hoffmann Price, Lovecraft describes the affinity, the “sense of immediate personal kinship,” he feels for his maternal grandfather’s generation and for his ancestors in the eighteenth century.

CITATION: Lovecraft, H. P. “To E. Hoffmann Price.” 15 Feb. 1933. Selected Letters. Edited by August Derleth and James Turner, vol. 4, Arkham House, 1976, pp. 149-54.

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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.

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.

His Father’s Illness

In April, 1893, my father was stricken with a complete paralysis resulting from a brain overtaxed with study & business cares. He lived for five years at a hospital, but was never again able to move hand or foot, or to utter a sound. This tragedy dissolved all plans for permanent settlement in Auburndale, & caused the sale of the property recently acquired there. Permanently stricken with grief, my mother took me to the Phillips household, thereby causing me to grow up as a complete Rhode-Islander.


DESCRIPTION: In a letter to his friend Rheinhart Kleiner, Lovecraft claims, incorrectly, that, as a result of “study and business cares,” his father suffered a breakdown in 1893, which rendered him paralyzed.

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.