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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.

You can subscribe via iTunes, Stitcher, Overcast, Spotify, or wherever you get podcasts! Or listen right here!

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  • Episode 20
  • Posted March 8, 2020

A Comedy of Vain Desire

In a refreshing break from recent difficult conversations, we turn to a kinder, gentler letter to HPL's old friend Rheinhart Kleiner.

Music by Troy Sterling Nies. Our thanks to Arkham House.

Lovecraft addresses Kleiner as "Bolingbroke" in his salutation. Another of HPL's nicknames for Kleiner was "St. John". English politician and political philosopher Henry St. John (1678-1751) was the 1st Viscount Bolingbroke.

Jason Thompson, who created the feature-length animated film version of The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath, also created an RPG based on the never-written story HPL mentions in this letter, The Club of the Seven Dreamers.

If you don't already subscribe to the H.P. Lovecraft Literary Podcast, you should start! Among their hundreds of episodes they have a very fun one about the August Derleth story The Dark Brotherhood, which may or may not have anything to do with the Club of the Seven Dreamers....

Here is a clip from the outstanding 1998 Canadian film Out of Mind: The Stories of H.P. Lovecraft in which some lines from this very letter are quoted. Christopher Heyerdahl plays Lovecraft quite brilliantly.

  • Episode 19
  • Posted March 1, 2020

The Worst Anthropologists in the World

The second of two parts, in which HPL and Robert E. Howard discuss a number of issues of the day. They opine about the Massie Affair, an incident in the Hawaiian Islands which proved a magnet for many of America's ugliest racial views.

Warning: this episode includes awkward discussion of racism.

Music by barbarian fighter Troy Sterling Nies. Our thanks to Hippocampus Press for their two-volume series A Means to Freedom: the Letters of H.P. Lovecraft and Robert E. Howard.

If—like Lovecraft—you would like to have a copy of the complete Necronomicon, then be sure to check out the ongoing work of our dear friend Christian Matzke, and maybe even support it, at his Patreon page.

The Massie partyThe AccusedPictured at left are Thalia Massie, flanked by her mother, Grace Fortescue, and her husband, Lt. Thomas Massie, posing with attorney Clarence Darrow (far left), their fellow defendants, and the High Sheriff Maj. Gordon Ross, after they have served their one hour of punishment for the murder of Joseph Kahahawai. Pictured at right are the five men the Massies and Mrs. Fortescue falsely accused of attacking Thalia: Kahahawai, Horace Ida, David Takai, Henry Chang and Ben Ahakuelo. This article provides a better explanation of the Massie Affair than we do.

Here is the complete movie from 1932 that HPL mentions having recently seen: Law & Order. About six minutes in you can get an early cinema view of the Vasquez Rocks, a popular filming location that appeared in several episodes of the original Star Trek, among many other movies and TV shows.

  • Episode 18
  • Posted February 23, 2020

New Orleans and Other Horrors

The first of two parts, in which HPL writes to Robert E. Howard during his trip to New Orleans. And in which Sean and Andrew grapple with the language of racism and other problems.

Music by Troy Sterling Nies. Our thanks to Hippocampus Press for their two volume series A Means to Freedom: the Letters of H.P. Lovecraft and Robert E. Howard.

  • Episode 17
  • Posted February 16, 2020

Spanking Sonny Part 4: About Art

In the thrilling conclusion of our coverage of Lovecraft's eternal letter, he tells Frank Belknap Long everything he fails to understand about art, history and much more. Lovecraftian opinions abound in this vigorous diatribe. Although we are throwing in the towel after this section, the letter itself does indeed go on for quite a bit longer. Maybe we'll come back to it someday....

Music by Troy Sterling Nies. Our thanks to Arkham House for making this letter available in Selected Letters: Vol. III.

This part of the letter contained more references than we could follow up in the discussion, but here's a specific one. Lovecraft quotes Alfred Galpin as describing the gang as "Epigoni". The Epigoni were figures from Greek mythology, the sons of the soldiers who fought in the first Theban war. They later attacked Thebes to avenge their fallen fathers.

It's true we never get to the part of the letter where HPL mentions Jack Dempsey. Here it is, after he writes for a page or two about his criteria of excellence in homo sapiens and ideal of manly strength, and citing Alexander the Great as an example: "Well, Sir, if my previous letters have wrongly given the impression that I worship the Dempsey or Neanderthal type, the preceding ought to be enough to set things straight. All I need add, is that I make no pretence at all of coming anywhere near the type I admire. That ought to be have been evident from the first — indeed, no one can even begin to be civilised until he ceases to associate himself with this abstract conceptions of excellence. You are perfectly right in saying that it is the weak who tend to worship the strong. That is my case exactly."

  • Episode 16
  • Posted February 9, 2020

Spanking Sonny Part 3: About Religion

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.

The Plains of AbrahamSean 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.

  • Episode 15
  • Posted February 2, 2020

Spanking Sonny Part 2: About Science

In part two of his lengthy letter to friend Frank Belknap Long, Lovecraft speaks his mind about the merits of pure science. Listen as he disdains commercialism and the machine age in his diatribe celebrating knowledge for its own sake. Greeks ahoy!

Music by Troy Sterling Nies. Our thanks to Arkham House for making this letter available in Selected Letters: Vol. III.

  • Episode 14
  • Posted January 26, 2020

Spanking Sonny Part 1: About Literature

In which HPL upbraids, chides and spanks his poor young friend Frank Belknap Long about weird literature (and several other topics to boot!). The first of a four-part series which documents one of HPL's longest and most broad-ranging letters.

Music by Troy Sterling Nies. Our thanks to Arkham House for making this letter available in Selected Letters: Vol. III.

CORRECTION: Andrew was in error in this episode when he said that all of the letters from HPL to Frank Belknap Long have been lost. While it's true that no one knows the location of any letters written after 1931, there is a fabulous trove of letters written from 1920 until 1931 currently in the hands of a private collector. If you happen to have $150,000 to spare, you could buy them! (If so, please donate them to the John Hay Library at Brown University.) Special thanks to HPLHS member Kevin Miller for pointing this out to us.

We did not have time in the episode to talk about all of the many references in this letter. Here are some we had to skip over:

"Bellamy": Lovecraft addresses Long as "Bellamy" in the greeting of this letter. We don't know exactly which Bellamy he was referring to, but it might have been Edward Bellamy, a 19th-century journalist and author who wrote a utopian novel called Looking Backward.

"Chesterbelloc": This nickname was coined by George Bernard Shaw in reference to G. K. Chesterton and Hilaire Belloc, two highly influential writers who were close friends and very famous in the time of Lovecraft.

"Resentment": Lovecraft uses the term "resentment" in this letter in what might well be a specifically philosophical sense. (Or maybe he was just responding to something specific that Long said.) If you're interested you can find out more about ressentiment here.

"Aeson": In the very last sentence of this segment of the letter, HPL makes a reference to an "Aeson-like revival". Just in case you have to look that up the way we did, Aeson is a figure from Greek mythology who came back from the dead.

  • Episode 13
  • Posted January 19, 2020

My Breakfast with Howard

In which Lovecraft describes both his diet and his thrift as he documents his shopping and dining habits in alarming detail. For added fun he walks the wife of sci-fi writer Fritz Leiber through fascinating (and complicated) branches of his family tree.

Music by Troy Sterling Nies

Special thanks to Wildside Press for their book Fritz Leiber and H.P. Lovecraft: Writers of the Dark, edited by Ben J.S. Szumskyj and S.T. Joshi.

StMichaelsWeybossetSt. Michael's Mount in Cornwall, shown at left, is indeed a location of Dunsanian fantasy, and we look forward to visiting one day.

And here's the ad for the Weybosset Pure Food Market where Lovecraft bought his doughnuts!

Click the link below to see a teapot made by Lovecraft's Irish ancestor, the rogue silversmith and counterfeiter Samuel Casey!

  • Episode 12
  • Posted January 12, 2020

Bimbos, Bozos and James F. Morton

At the suggestion of preëminent Lovecraft scholar S.T. Joshi, we read a letter to James Ferdinand Morton, Junior. Brimming with snappy 1920s slang, HPL's letter grapples with his ideas on writing, creativity and the best ways to get your kicks. Lamp it!

Music by Troy Sterling Nies

Special thanks to S.T. Joshi and to Hippocampus Press for their book Letters to James F. Morton.

CraftonMortonCurseOn the left is the ad for Lovecraft and Morton's ambitious joint venture, the Crafton Service Bureau, which appeared in an amateur journal called L'Alouette in September of 1924. On the right is the cover of Morton's book from 1906, "The Curse of Race Prejudice". You can read it online by clicking here.

Lovecraft mentions "Harry Emerson Fosdickism" in this letter. Fosdick was a liberal Protestant minister at the center of the Fundamentalist/Modernist controversy in the 1920s.

He also mentions the "Chiltern Hundreds". Although we don't have the article from the Christian Science Monitor that HPL sent to Morton, it might have explained how British politicians used the Chiltern Hundreds as a backdoor way of resigning from Parliament.

  • Episode 11
  • Posted January 5, 2020

Politics, Poetry and Other Outrages

Howard unfurls his most vigorous inner-cynic as he attacks political ideals and modern poetry in this letter to Washington DC poet Elizabeth Toldridge.

There are lots of poems by Toldridge in the Brown Digital Repository Lovecraft Collection. To see one she wrote about HPL, click here.

Music by Troy Sterling Nies

Special thanks to Hippocampus Press for their book H. P. Lovecraft: Letters to Elizabeth Toldridge & Anne Tillery Renshaw

Be sure to check out Fred Lubnow's Lovecraftian Science blog!

  • Episode 10
  • Posted December 29, 2019

Tidings of Comfort and Joy? (Part 2)

Just before Christmas in 1925, Lovecraft meets Vrest Orton for the first time. Howard is smitten by his young visitor. Is it a blossoming bromance or something more? Don't miss the giddy side of HPL in part two of his Christmas letter to his Aunt Lillian.

You can see this letter for yourself at the Brown Digital Repository. We thank them profoundly for making this and so much other material available online. Music by Troy Sterling Nies.

The ColophonThis was the magazine for book collectors co-founded by Vrest Orton. It was published from 1930 to 1950.

In 1946 Vrest and his wife Mildred co-founded the Vermont Country Store, which is still going strong and still run by the Orton family.

  • Episode 9
  • Posted December 22, 2019

Tidings of Comfort and Joy? (Part 1)

HPL sends his aunt Lillian Clark a very telling Christmas letter. Written while he was living in Brooklyn, the letter is revealing about both HPL and those closest to him. Wishing you and yours a very merry Christmastime and a very Scary Solstice!

You can see this letter for yourself, including all the Christmas verses we left out, at the Brown Digital Repository. We thank them profoundly for making this and so much other material available online. Music by Troy Sterling Nies.

Wendel MansionThis was the Fifth Avenue mansion of the crazy rich Wendel siblings circa 1905. The site is now the location of a huge office/retail building. You might have to have an NYT subscription to see it, but check out this great New York Times article about the Wendels.

And while you're surfing, learn more about the fascinating Byron Khun de Prorok!

Lovecraft hoped to get a job at the Paterson Museum, where his friend James F. Morton was a curator and which was founded in the very year HPL wrote this letter. HPL never got that job, but the museum did eventually get its own new building. It's still going and is worth a visit! Check it out here.

Lovecraft mentioned a number of interesting figures in the letter we didn't have time to talk about in the episode. One was Edward Arnold, whose recent obituary HPL and his aunts had noted. Lovecraft said it was too bad his mother didn't "snap him up". He was a member of one of the founding families of Rhode Island (which also included the infamous Benedict Arnold). HPL mentions astronomical articles by "Brainin" and "Upton". C.S. Brainin was the editor of The Amateur Astronomer in the late 1920s, and Professor Winslow Upton was the director of Ladd Observatory in Providence when HPL was a boy and wrote articles for the Providence Journal. He also mentions enjoying the "Hoppin conceptions", which is a reference to noted 19th-century Providentian book illustrator Augustus Hoppin.

  • Episode 8
  • Posted December 15, 2019

Those Meddling Kids

High school admirers Robert Bloch and Willis Conover both wrote fan letters to Lovecraft. Here we see HPL writing back to these two young writers who will go on to correspond with HPL and have fascinating lives after Lovecraft's death.

Thanks to Hippocampus Press and to Carrollton-Clark Publishing. Music by Troy Sterling Nies.

Here's a little sample of the voice of Willis Conover.

  • Episode 7
  • Posted December 8, 2019

Grief and Other Lugubrious Demonstrations

In which Lovecraft delivers some unexpected bad news. Intellect collides with emotion in this letter to poet Ann Tillery Renshaw.

Thanks to Hippocampus Press for their book H.P. Lovecraft: Letters to Elizabeth Toldridge and Anne Tillery Renshaw. Music by Troy Sterling Nies.

  • Episode 6
  • Posted December 1, 2019

Howard Swears a Blue Streak

In which HPL deploys shocking language in a feisty letter to his friend, Wisconsin schoolteacher Maurice Moe.

Thanks to Arkham House. You can read a much less abridged version of this letter in the book H.P. Lovecraft: Letters to Maurice W. Moe and Others from Hippocampus Press. Music by Troy Sterling Nies.

PitkinNIAPictured at left is the cover of the Walter B. Pitkin book which is apparently still available on eBay to anyone with $1250.00. But eagle-eyed listener Ryan Mullahy pointed out that you can save your money and read it online at the Internet Archive! Although we didn't manage to score it in hardback, the HPLHS library does contain a vintage copy of the handbook from the Newspaper Institute of America, which HPL also mentions in this letter. One of their ads is pictured on the right. You can learn a bit more about John Ronane here. In addition to Maurice Moe and Harry Houdini, a couple of other notable people from Appleton, Wisconsin were HPL's friend Alfred Galpin and acclaimed actor Willem Dafoe!

  • Episode 5
  • Posted November 24, 2019

The Clark Ashton Smythos

In which Lovecraft writes his friend and fellow author of fantastic tales, Clark Ashton Smith. As wildfire threatens Smith's California home we're reminded how nothing ever really changes.... The LA Times has a good interactive map of California fires and you can see the current status of things here.

Special thanks to Clark Ashton Smith guru Scott Connors, and to Hippocampus Press.

We are thankful also to all who have been listening, and wish you all a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Music by Troy Sterling Nies.

  • Episode 4
  • Posted November 17, 2019

My Dearest Mother

In which HPL writes to his mother about his delightful visit to a gathering of amateur press friends for St. Patrick's Day, 1921. Sent a few weeks before her death, it's Howard's final extant letter to his mother.

Special thanks to our friends at the Brown University Digital Repository where they keep and digitally share with the public many of HPL's original manuscripts. You can see a thrilling ad for David Van Bush with Lovecraft's commentary here.

If you want to read some of Bush's books, you can find the one Lovecraft himself worked on here. And click here to read Practical Psychology and Sex Life.

Music by Troy Sterling Nies.

  • Episode 3
  • Posted November 10, 2019

Dipping Our Toes in August Derleth

In which we read a letter from HPL to August Derleth from November 7, 1926. We discuss unique qualities of HPL's correspondence with Derleth, and his essential role in sharing Lovecraft's works with the public.

Music by Troy Sterling Nies.

Our sincere thanks to the helpful team at Hippocampus Press.

  • Episode 2
  • Posted November 3, 2019

Sex, Drugs and Marketing

A set of three shorter letters written one hundred years ago, in which 29-year-old HPL dispenses relationship and life advice to one of his earliest correspondents, Rheinhart Kleiner.

Special thanks to Arkham House. The text of the letters came from their book Selected Letters of H.P. Lovecraft, Volume I.

Music by Troy Sterling Nies.

  • Episode 1
  • Posted October 31, 2019

Dear Mr. Barlow

In his first letter to Robert H. Barlow, written on June 25, 1931, HPL very kindly answers a few important questions of a young fan, and begins what will prove to be a very important relationship.

Special thanks to S.T. Joshi and David E. Schultz. The text of the letter came from their book O Fortunate Floridian, published by the University of Tampa Press.

Music by Troy Sterling Nies. Our thanks to Dan Viafore for his audio expertise. Thanks also to Chris Lackey and Chad Fifer of The H.P. Lovecraft Literary Podcast for their encouragement and suggestions.