Letters to Family and Family Friends
Edited by S. T. Joshi and David E. Schultz
H. P. Lovecraft is not generally known as a “family man,” but he was in fact very close to his grandfather, Whipple Phillips; his mother, Sarah Susan Lovecraft; and his two aunts, Lillian D. Clark and Annie E. P. Gamwell. His letters to these family members and to friends of the family are among the most revelatory documents he ever wrote, and they provide a unique glimpse of the granular details of his daily life.
Lovecraft’s letters to his mother are few, but they reveal his slow emergence from hermitry after her hospitalization in 1919. After her death in 1921, Lovecraft relied on his two aunts to maintain the household. In 1922 he began traveling more widely, and his accounts of his visits to New York, Cleveland, and elsewhere exhibit a broadening of his horizons as he meets new friends and absorbs new impressions.
His sudden decision in March 1924 to marry Sonia H. Greene resulted in his uprooting from his native Providence, R.I., to the metropolis of New York City. The hundreds of thousands of words he wrote to Lillian and Annie over the next two years chronicle in fascinating and, at times, painful detail the trials and tribulations Lovecraft faced during this difficult time: he was unable to find a job, his wife’s finances collapsed, and he did little creative writing in New York. As [the first] volume ends, we see Lovecraft nearly at the end of his tether, aesthetically and psychologically.
As [the second] volume opens, we see H. P. Lovecraft in desperate straits, stuck in New York City, a city he had come to loathe, and in a marriage that was failing by the day. His aunt Lillian D. Clark extended a lifeline to him by inviting him to return to Providence, R.I., and he jumped at the chance. Where exactly his wife, Sonia H. Greene, fitted into the new scheme was unclear.
Lovecraft’s ecstatic return to his native cit unleashed a burst of creativity over the next year, when he wrote some of his most acclaimed fiction. In addition, he began traveling more and more widely, and each summer saw him venture farther and farther up and down the Eastern Seabord. The letters to Lillian and his other aunt, Annie E. P. Gamwell, chronicle these voyages—to Vermont, New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington, D.C., Richmond, Charleston, St. Augustine, and all the way down to Key West.
After Lillian died in 1932, Lovecraft and Annie were all that was left of the House of Phillips. His later letters to her tell of the extreme economies he had to practice in the wake of his increasing poverty. But his letters to Annie’s friend Marian F. Bonner are delightful epistles in which his love of cats, and also of his hometown, come to the fore. The book concludes with Whipple Phillip’s letters to his toddler grandson in the 1890s.
[These volumes have] been edited by S. T. Joshi and David E. Schultz, two leading authorities on Lovecraft, with careful preparation of the text and exhaustive annotations.
H.P. Lovecraft: Letters to Family and Family Friends. By H. P. Lovecraft, Edited by S. T. Joshi and David E. Schultz. New York, NY: Hippocampus Press; 2020; ISBNs 978-1-61498-247-0 (volume 1), 978-1-61498-301-9 (volume 2), and 978-1-61498-302-6 (set); paperback, 1104 pages.
|Return to Sources of Lovecraft’s Works|