By S.T. Joshi
Back Cover Text
“All my tales are based on the fundamental premise that common
human laws and interests and emotions have no validity or significance in the vast
cosmos-at-large.” That was H.P. Lovecraft’s manifesto of weird fiction; but few have
realized that this is a philosophical manifesto, and no one has yet examined the powerful
philosophical ideas that fill Lovecraft’s essays and letters and permeate his fiction. In
this comprehensive study, S.T. Joshi presents the first full-length exposition of Lovecraft’s
great tales of horror and the macabre.
In the first part of this book, Joshi studies Lovecraft’s
philosophical development from his youth to his maturity. We see how Lovecraft abandoned all
religious belief at an early age, regarding science as the sole arbiter of truth. In developing
his “cosmic” philosophy, which reduces mankind to an insignificant atom in infinity,
Lovecraft pondered the proper attitude of the thinking man toward an indifferent cosmos. As a
political thinker, Lovecraft evolved from a naive monarchist to a socialist who supported FDR; but
this seemingly spectacular conversion is shown to be a logical outcome of this developing
In the second part of this volume, Joshi turns to Lovecraft’s
fiction, showing how such philosophical ideas as determinism and free will, trust in science, and
racialism infuse the stories. The one common thread that unites Lovecraft’s philosophy and
his fiction is the notion of the “decline of the West”—the belief that Western
civilization is in a state of inevitable and irreversible decline, so that we can only expect an
eventual collapse and a return to barbarism.
In examining the whole of Lovecraft’s work—stories, essays,
poetry, letters—with minute care, in tracing Lovecraft’s philosophical influences from
ancient Greek rationalism to twentieth-century astrophysics, and in integrating Lovecraft’s
diverse writings into a coherent unity, Joshi has revealed the inexhaustible richness of
Lovecraft’s life, work and thought. It is something we should all remember in this, the
centennial of his birth.
PART I: THE PHILOSOPHY
Introduction: On Methodology
PART II: THE FICTION
- Lovecraft’s Philosophical Development
PART III: THE DECLINE OF THE WEST
- The Decline of the West
H.P. Lovecraft: The Decline of the West. By S.T. Joshi. Berkeley Heights, NJ:
Wildside Press; December 1990; ISBN 1-587150-68-9 (paperback); 172 pages.
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