"The New Englandeis are a people of God, settled in those which were once the Devil's territories."
S.T. Joshi begins his mammoth biographical study of Howard Phillips Lovecraft by quoting his subject's reaction to a suggestion from a fan that he write his autobiography. With the almost pathological modesty that characterized Lovecraft throughout his life, he snorted in response, "One might as well write the pompously documented biography of a sandwich man or elevator boy in 8 volumes." If there is one theme that runs throughout Lovecraft's voluminous correspondence, it is that he never had any illusions that the obscure life he led was worth writing about or that the supernatural horror fiction he wrote, and on which his fame today rests, was worth reading. It is both fortunate and unfortunate that those who have succeeded in turning H.P. Lovecraft into a cult (in some quarters, almost a religion) as well as an industry have paid no attention.
Born in Providence, Rhode Island, in 1890 to a declining high-bourgeois family of New England old stock, Lovecraft lived, or rather endured, a life and writing career that can only be judged failures. His father, a traveling salesman, died in a local insane asylum from what must have been syphilis when Lovecraft was eight. His mother smothered...