Supernatural Horror in Literature – An Essay by H. P. Lovecraft

In his essay Supernatural Horror in Literature, poet and fiction writer H. P. Lovecraft explains how the horror genre plays on our natural awe of the unknown. He often refers to the fact that some people are more receptive and understanding in their abilities to receive horror and weird fiction, making the essay an indulgent delight for fans of the author and/or genre!

The “cosmic fear” that weird literature can tap in to is exciting and shudder-inducing. The essay basically consists of Lovecraft writing (beautifully) about all his favourite authors, from Stoker to Blackwood, and of course, his beloved Poe. He mentions and clearly admires some of my favourite stories, including Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper.

No, H.P. Lovecraft wasn’t known for his nonfiction, but excelled nonetheless in the critical and bibliographic spheres. Both are richly represented in this short and indispensable study of classic horror fiction, which reaches to the late twenties, the time Lovecraft completed the first draft of SUPERNATURAL HORROR IN LITERATURE (revised versions were published in 1939 and 1945, from which the Dover edition under review was taken). Keep in mind that the author’s opinion was a decidedly biased one. Lovecraft’s idea of horror literature, or the “weird tale”, completely excludes things like romance and “commonplace sentimentality”, and has a definite cosmic angle, as enumerated at length in his introduction…A widely acknowledged classic like Prescott’s VARNEY THE VAMPIRE is completely passed over while Hanz Heinz Ewers’ indispensable Frank Braun trilogy (THE SORCERER’S APPRENTICE, ALRAUNE, VAMPIRE) gets only a passing mention. Fright 

You can read the essay in full for free here.

For most of the 20th century, the definitive editions of Lovecraft’s work (specifically At the Mountains of Madness and Other Novels, Dagon and Other Macabre Tales, The Dunwich Horror and Others, and The Horror in the Museum and Other Revisions) were published by August Derleth’s Arkham House, which Derleth founded for the express purpose of publishing the work of Lovecraft. Lovecraft intentionally used a sesquipedalian style of writing with antiquated spellings, to invoke a tone of seriousness and verisimilitude. His work was influenced heavily by Dunsany’s ancient gods and Machen’s tales of elder evils. In turn, his writings have been acknowledged as influences by a number of major science fiction, fantasy, and horror writers of the late 20thcentury and have been extensively parodied and copied in many media, including dozens of films. Flavorwire

Tales of H. P. Lovecraft

2 thoughts on “Supernatural Horror in Literature – An Essay by H. P. Lovecraft

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.