Midnight Rambles: H.P. Lovecraft in Gotham
By David J. Goodwin
Fordham University Press, 288 pages, $29.95
Howard Phillips Lovecraft, the subject of David J. Goodwin’s new biography, Midnight Rambles: H.P. Lovecraft in Gotham, is a dispiriting figure in literary history. As a friend of mine remarked, “the least depressing thing about Lovecraft is his fiction.” This of the man who wrote in his most famous story, “The Call of Cthulhu”: “I have looked upon all that the universe has to hold of horror, and even the skies of spring and the flowers of summer must ever afterward be poison to me.” The world as poison: This is the horror of Lovecraft’s fiction—and of his life.
“The world as poison: This is the horror of Lovecraft’s fiction—and of his life.”
Born in 1890 to a blue-blooded Yankee family in Providence, RI, Lovecraft came down in the world at a young age. His father was committed to a psychiatric hospital when he was 3 years old. He and his mother subsequently resided with his maternal grandparents until 1904, when his grandfather, Whipple Van Buren Phillips, suffered a disastrous business failure and died shortly thereafter. Lovecraft would live in financial precarity for the rest of his life.
After dropping out of high school following a nervous breakdown, he began submitting stories and letters to the emergent crop of pulp magazines, cultivating a remote circle of acquaintance not unlike a group of online friends. In his 30s, he moved to New York City with ambitions of literary success. After a disastrous two-year residence there, he returned to Providence, where he was supported by his aunts. He spent the rest of his brief life in obscurity and isolation, while also penning some of the most uniquely horrifying stories ever written.