morphous insects compounded withrnreptiles and crustaceans) but possessedrnof vastly superhuman intelligence andrnpowers, they are hostile to human beingsrnand can be revived, resuscitated, or invokedrnthrough a kind of black magicrnknown to a few and practiced by nonernbut the degenerate (usually nonwhites).rnThe techniques for invoking them are tornbe found in various ancient tomes alsorninvented by Lovecraft, chiefly the Necronomicon,rnwritten in the eighth centuryrnA.D. by “the mad Arab Abdul Alhazred”rnand existing today in only five knownrncopies (one of which is conveniently locatedrnin the Miskatonic University Library)rn. But invokers of the Old Ones arerngenerally destroyed by them, and evenrnthose who become aware of their continuingrnexistence and the implications ofrntheir existence are usually driven mad.rnThe stories in which Lovecraft developedrnthe Mythos most seriously arernamong his best and most mature tales,rnand while they continued to exhibit thernpeculiarities of his style in their lack ofrncharacter development and plot, they arerngems of setting and atmosphere, enlivenedrnby Lovecraft’s own profoundrnknowledge of New England history, topography,rnarchitecture, and antiquities,rnsparingly written and genuinely effectivernin communicating what Lovecraft wantedrnto communicate. Mr. Joshi is right torninsist that Lovecraft should not be faultedrnfor avoiding character and plot sincernboth of these would have detracted fromrnthe larger effect Lovecraft intended torncreate. For, as Mr. Joshi shows, in Lovecraft’srnstories it is neither the humanrncharacters nor their actions that are thernmain interest but the Lovecraftian Cosmosrnitself and the beings or forces thatrnanimate it.rnLovecraft’s juvenile fascination withrnscience alienated him from Christianityrnand drew him into a lifelong worldviewrnthat Mr. Joshi, as far as I know, isrnthe first to recognize as a modern versionrnof Epicureanism—a cosmology that deniesrnthe existence of anything but matterrnand motion and rejects the view that thernuniverse has any purpose or goal. Lovecraftrnprobably derived his Epicureanismrnfrom the Roman poet Lucretius, whomrnhe may have read in Latin, but he alsornadapted that worldview throughout hisrnlife, trying to take account of Einsteinianrnphysics and quantum theory as they becamernknown in the 1920’s. It was thernvery purposelessness of the universe thatrnlay at the heart of Lovecraft’s almost obsessivernconservatism. As he wrote in anrnessay of 1926, reprinted in MiscellaneousrnWritings:rnThe worid, life, and universe wernknow, are only a passing cloud—rnyesterday in eternity it did not exist,rnand tomorrow its existence willrnbe forgotten. Nothing matters—rnall that happens happens throughrnthe automatic and inflexible interactingrnof electrons, atoms, andrnmolecules of infinity according tornpatterns which are co-existent withrnbasic entity itself…. All is illusion,rnhollowness, and nothingnessrn—^but what does that matter?rnIllusions are all we have, so let usrnpretend to cling to them; they lendrndramatic values and comfortingrnsensations of purpose to thingsrnwhich are really valueless and purposeless.rnAll one can logically do isrnto jog placidly and cvnically on, accordingrnto the artificial standardsrnand traditions with which heredityrnand environment have endowedrnhim. He will get most satisfactionrnin the end by keeping faithful tornthese things.rnThis rather dismal creed, repeatedly developedrnin his essays and even more inrnhis letters, was indeed something of arncrutch for an emotional cripple, but itrnwas also a persuasion to which Lovecraftrnwas seriously and intellectually attached;rnotherwise, he would not have argued it asrncarefully as he did or tried to adapt it tornrecent scientific developments thatrnseemed to contradict it. Given the inherentrnmeaninglessness of life and cosmos,rnthe only way for human beings tornextract and preserve meaning is to insistrnon given social and cultural traditionsrnand the political order that enforcesrnthem, and both the given culture as wellrnas the political order are themselves dependentrnon the race and the ruling classrnthat created them.rnLovecraft’s racialism is a persistentrnproblem for his admirers, and most ofrnthem spend a good deal of energy tryingrnto hammer it into the proper psychopathologicalrnpigeonholes. The bigotriesrnLovecraft habitually expresses inrnhis letters and often in his stories are supposedlyrnmerely reflections of his ownrnwounded psyche and his personal failurernto get along like a normal man. For somernreason, however, no one seems compelledrnto attribute his atheism and materialismrnto any psychological flaw, and Mr.rnJoshi is refreshingly free of this sort ofrncant, though he is careful to make it clearrnthat he finds Lovecraft’s racial views “thernone true black mark on his character.”rnLovecraft’s racial opinions were indeedrnstrong even for the decade that sawrnpublication of Madison Grant’s andrnLothrop Stoddard’s work. During his lifernin New York, he wrote to a friend about arnwalk he and his wife took in the Bronx:rn”Upon my most solemn oath, I’ll be shotrnif three out of every four persons—nay,rnfull nine out of every ten—wern’t [sic]rnflabby, pungent, grinning, chatteringrnn~gers.” Similarly, six years later he remarked,rn”The population [of New YorkrnCity] is a mongrel herd with repulsivernMongoloid Jews in the visible majority,rnand the coarse faces and bad mannersrneventually come to wear on one sornunbearably that one feels like punchingrnevery g – d— bastard in sight.” These arernonly two more printable expressions ofrnhis views that are commonplace in hisrnletters. It must be said, however, thatrnthere is no known occasion on whichrnLovecraft offered insult or injury tornthose whom he despised; indeed, bothrnhis wife Sonia Greene and several of hisrncloser friends were Jewish. Decades afterrnhis death, Sonia tried to claim that hisrnanti-Semitism was a major reason for herrnleaving him, but the fact is that Lovecraftrninsisted on the divorce, against herrnwishes. All accounts agree that Lovecraftrnwas a charming, highly courteous,rnand kindly man, a brilliant conversationalistrnand companion, with an agile andrnerudite intelligence. His admiration forrnHitler seems to have ceased after hernlearned of Nazi physical attacks on Jews.rnAlthough Mr, Joshi tries to argue thatrnLovecraft’s racialism was largely irrelevantrnto his writing, that is not quite true.rnHe is entirely correct in seeing that whatrnhe calls Lovecraft’s “cosmicism—the depictingrnof the boundless gulfs of spacernand time and the risible insignificance ofrnhumanity within them”—is the core ofrnhis philosophical thought as well as hisrnliterary work, and he claims that “This isrnsomething Lovecraft expressed morernpowerfully than any writer before orrnsince” (that may not be true either; therernseems to be a strong parallel betweenrnLovecraft’s cosmology and that ofrnJoseph Conrad). Indeed, Lovecraft’srn”cosmicism” is the real horror of his storiesrn—not the grotesque appearance ofrnthe Old Ones and not the gruesome fatern26/CHRONICLESrnrnrn