OPINIONSrnAt the Heart of Darknessrnby Samuel Francisrn”The New Englandeis are a people of God, settled in thosernwhich were once the Devil’s territories.”rn—Cotton Matherrn• •faiyt”jl i i y f * * !rnH.P. Lovecraft: A Biographyrnby S.T. JoshirnWest Warwick, Rhode Island:rnNecronomicon Press;rn704 pp., $20.00rnH.P. Lovecraft:rnMiscellaneous WritingsrnEdited by S.T. joshirnSauk City, Wisconsin: Arkham House;rn568 pp., $29.95rnS.T. Joshi begins his mammoth biographicalrnstudy of Howard PhillipsrnLovecraft by quoting his subject’s reactionrnto a suggestion from a fan thatrnhe write his autobiography. With the almostrnpathological modesty that characterizedrnLovecraft throughout his life, hernsnorted in response, “One might as wellrnwrite the pompously documented biographyrnof a sandwich man or elevator boyrnin 8 volumes.” If there is one theme thatrnSamuel Francis is a nationally syndicatedrncolumnist and editor of a monthlyrnnewsletter, The Samuel Francis Letter.rnruns throughout Lovecraft’s voluminousrncorrespondence, it is that he never hadrnany illusions that the obscure life he ledrnwas worth writing about or that the supernaturalrnhorror fiction he wrote, andrnon which his fame today rests, was worthrnreading. It is both fortunate and unfortunaternthat those who have succeeded inrnturning H.P. Lovecraft into a cult (inrnsome quarters, almost a religion) as wellrnas an industry have paid no attention.rnBorn in Providence, Rhode Island, inrn1890 to a declining high-bourgeois familyrnof New England old stock, Lovecraftrnlived, or rather endured, a life and writingrncareer that can only be judged failures.rnHis father, a traveling salesman,rndied in a local insane asylum from whatrnmust have been syphilis when Lovecraftrnwas eight. His mother smothered himrnwith possessive and crippling affectionrnand incessantly sought to bind him tornher by insisting he was “hideous.” Sherndied in the same asylum in 1921, afterrntwo years’ confinement. Dependent onrnhis grandfather’s business for their income,rnLovecraft and his family werernobliged to leave their home during hisrnchildhood and take up far more modestrnquarters when the busmess failed. Afflictedrnfrom early youth by nightmares,rnmacabre dreams, and a “nervous temperament,”rnLovecraft was unable to completernhigh school and entered adulthoodrna reclusive and even neurotic young man,rnutterly unprepared to earn his own livingrnand utterly disinclined to try.rnSomething of a child prodigy whorntranslated Ovid into heroic couplets atrnthe age of 10 or 12, Lovecraft succeededrnin inventing his own world as a substituternfor the one in which he was unable orrnunwilling to participate. As a child andrnadolescent, he not only immersed himselfrnin 18th-century English and ancientrnRoman literature and history but acquiredrna genuine expertise in his hobbiesrnof astronomy and chemistry. He wasrnwriting newspaper columns on astronomyrnat an early age and planned a careerrnas a professional astronomer, but his lackrnof mathematical aptitude and his inabilityrnto complete high school made thatrncareer impossible. Instead he turned tornamateur journalism, to crafting dreadfulrnpoetry that was usually little more thanrnclever imitations of the Augustan mastersrnhe adored, and eventually to writingrnshort stories based on his nightmares andrnheavily influenced by the major literaryrn24/CHRONICLESrnrnrn