In addition to his classics of horror fiction, it is estimated that Lovecraft wrote 100,000 letters — or roughly 15 every day of his adult life — ranging from one-page diaries to seventy-page diatribes. Perhaps 20,000 of those letters have survived, in the hands of private collectors and at the John Hay Library in Providence.
In each episode of this podcast, we'll read one of these letters (or part of it) and then discuss it. In his letters HPL reveals an amazing breadth of knowledge of philosophy, science, history, literature, art and many other subjects, and forcefully asserts some highly considered opinions (some of which can be upsetting).
And of course his letters offer a fascinating window into his personal life and times. Although we've been working with Lovecraftian material for over 30 years, we still find interesting new things in his letters, and while we don't claim to be experts we look forward to sharing them with a wider audience.
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In the third part of his ongoing letter to friend Frank Belknap Long, Lovecraft writes with disturbing candor regarding religion and the Catholic Church in particular. WARNING: This episode contains potentially offensive language.
Music by Troy Sterling Nies. Our thanks to Arkham House for making this letter available in Selected Letters: Vol. III.
Be sure to check out the website of The Museum of Jurassic Technology, and visit in person if you ever get the chance. In the gift shop they have not only the wonderful book No One May Ever Have the Same Knowledge Again, but also the fascinating and delightful Obliscence, Theories of Forgetting and the Problem of Matter.
Frank Belknap Long wrote a memoir of HPL entitled Howard Phillips Lovecraft: Dreamer on the Nightside. In that memoir, he mentions this letter and gives us some insight into what he had said to Lovecraft to provoke HPL's anti-Catholic diatribe. "At one point covering a period of several years," Long writes, "I came close to becoming a convert to a ritualistic Catholic mysticism, perhaps because I have always been in rebellion against what I felt was the beauty-ignoring aspect of Protestantism, even when it repudiated every kind of Bible Belt fundamentalism. Despite his atheism, HPL had a great admiration for the liberal Protestant tradition, as he made plain in one of his middle-period letters to me. It is included in the third volume of Arkham House correspondence and was just about the longest letter he ever wrote to anyone. What he failed to realize was that even at that period I had no real intention of becoming a Trappist monk, and it was only the aesthetic aspects of Roman or Anglo-Catholicism that had made me just a bit less of an agnostic than I had been earlier. Basically, I would never have been able to live for long with any kind of theological orthodoxy, but in challenging some of his most firmly held beliefs, I derived a certain pleasure in playing the part of a Devil's advocate." So it seems Long deliberately tried to get a rise out of HPL by suggesting he might become a monk!
Long's memoir was first published by Arkham House in 1975, but it has been recently released in paperback and digital versions by Wildside Press.
Sean and his wife Leslie made a trip to Quebec early this year, and Sean snapped this photo of the Plains of Abraham just outside the city. This former battlefield is now used by skiers and skaters. You can read HPL's comprehensive essay about Quebec in Collected Essays 4: Travel by our friends at Hippocampus Press.