Influences

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#1
Now, those who know much about Lovecraft at all know how wide an influence he's had on both fantasy and horror since he began to publish, and more especially since his death. In fact, the proliferation of media bearing his influence is something that, as Nesacat has said, would surely startle the Old Gent himself, if not at times even dismay him.

But what I'd like to discuss here, if anyone is with me on this, is the influences on HPL. There are the obvious ones: Lord Dunsany, Arthur Machen, Algernon Blackwood, Poe (of course). But there are many, many writers who influenced him in sometimes surprising ways, quite a few of whom are little known at all today; and even those who are well known are either seldom associated with fantasy or horror or, like Mary Shelley with Frankenstein, are usually associated via only one or two tales.

Now, I've no objection to talking about the more well-known cases; in fact, someone may have some interesting light to cast on these that no one else has been aware of. But I'd also like to see if anyone out there is interested in discussing some of these latter, the ones that (aside from Joshi's notes to the annotated editions of HPL's stories) I don't recall ever seeing mentioned as influencing him, save in an essay or two written a long time ago, such as J. Vernon Shea's essay on influences and Supernatural Horror in Literature.

So, to start the ball rolling, I'll open by talking about Thomas Moore: specifically The Epicurean, which I'm currently reading. While this is by no means a supernatural tale, being largely an account of a young, imaginative man taken advantage of by a priestly cult via their "miraculous" impostures, nonetheless there are some interesting examples of obvious influences on at least some of HPL's stories, notably "The Nameless City" and "Under the Pyramids" (usually published as "Imprisoned with the Pharaohs"). The most obvious of these occur in Chapter VII, which describes his descent beneath the pyramid and the subterranean realm he encounters, which strongly calls to mind passages in "The Nameless City", Chapter VI, which quotes lines about Rhodope (from the verse version of the same tale, Alciphron), lines which HPL himself quoted in "Under the Pyramids", and Chapter X, which describes sacred crocodiles as being begemmed as the reptilian originators of "The Nameless City"... Now, all of these are strongly echoed by Lovecraft, but it is also obvious that it was more a case of his being inspired by, and taking his own approach to (and generally improving).

However, before going into more detail on this, I'd like to know if anyone's interested in such a discussion. If so, there's plenty of ground to cover (even Mary Shelley's The Last Man has a couple of passages that must have strongly influenced HPL, or at least show a remarkable case of parallelism, as one, where the protagonist staggers into the ball room showing signs of the plague, which is extremely close to the climactic scene of "The Outsider", and another which seems very close to a passage in "The Other Gods"). So... are there any takers, or does this one simply not have enough interest. (I'll be honest -- I also bring this sort of thing up to see if others might be interested in reading and discussing some of these classic, but now too often forgotten, writers.)

So... for the moment, I'll wait and see.....
 

Jaggy Jai

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#2
William Hope Hodgeson was one of Lovecrafts influences. There are Lovecraftian undertones in the afore mentioned writers, though Hodgesons work pre-dates Lovecrafts, I brand anything to do with cosmic horror as Lovecraft territory.
I liked House On The Borderland a great deal, and the Carnaki series, though I did not favor The NightLand at all. Not as profound as Lovecraft but still works filled with horror from the deep and beyond.
 
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#3
I'm quite ignorant about the influences on HPL apart from the usual suspects. WH Hodges, yes, and I'd be surprised he's not mentioned more often as a possible influence. Most of House on the Borderland could well have been a Lovecraft story (What the man himself says about it is "But for a few touches of commonplace sentimentality this book would be a classic of the first water") and the creepier aspects of the Boats of the Glen Carrig share some kinship with the creatures of Lovecraft's imagination.

I also suspect that HPL may have shared some give and take of ideas with his contemporary Clark Ashton Smith, although Smith's sly sense of humor is something that does not seem to have seeped into Lovecraft's writings.
 
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#4
Jaggy Jai, Ravenus -- thank you very much for posting on here! I was beginning to think this thread had simply gone down the oubliette once and for all! So... many thanks for bringing it back to life!:D

On your particular comments... Yes, there are a lot of similarities (aside from the tendency to romance in WHH's work) between HPL and Hodgson; and I'd say there may have been some influence in HPL's later stories, though how much is hard to say. Unfortunately, Hodgson couldn't have influenced anything before 1934, as that was when he was brought to HPL's attention by H. C. Koenig (there is no mention of Hodgson in the original 1927 version of Supernatural Horror in Literature, and Lovecraft tells about discovering him in the final volume of the Selected Letters). However, he made a big impression on HPL and, had Lovecraft lived longer, I think we'd have seen a major influence there. An interesting sidelight on this one is Hodgson's "The Voice in the Night", which has passages strikingly -- even eerily -- similar to portions of "The Green Meadow", a very early story HPL did with the amateur poet Winifred Virginia Jackson; a story he wrote 15 years before he'd ever read any of Hodgson's work!

And Ravenus: Yes, there were a lot of ideas swapped between the two, as is evident from their correspondence and HPL's Commonplace Book, as well as various comments from Smith over the years. As for the lack of humor in HPL ... don't be too certain. He objected to obvious humor in horror, feeling that it generally diluted the strength of it, and knowing that he couldn't do it well (though he admired those who could pull it off); but there are subtle jokes of various kinds throughout his fiction, as one can see from the more recent annotated editions available through Penguin and Hippocampus Press. One of the best articles evincing his use of such sly humor is Donald Burleson's "Humor Beneath Horror: Some Sources for 'The Dunwich Horror' and 'The Whisperer in Darkness'". CAS, however, was more overt in his use of humor and especially irony, which is one of the most delightful aspects of his fantasies (albeit he could be extremely dark when he chose: "A Night in Malneant", for instance).

Again, thanks for the comments. Keep 'em coming!
 

GOLLUM

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#5
Slightly off topic:

For a minute there I thought you were referring to Thomas Moore of Utopia fame. Others may be confused so I thought it was worth pointing out. You can thank me later.....NOT...:p

Never read The Epicurean by T. More.

What's it like?? Feel free to PM.

PS That's a pretty huge topic you're covering there. If I get the time I'll try to post something useful.
 
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#6
Regarding humor in HPL's work, I thought the Re-animator story I read (I'm told there's a set of them but I'm referring to what I read in the Stephen Jones edited Giant Book of Zombies) had a good deal of camp and winking humor. But then I read of how Lovecraft disowned the stories and claimed he only wrote them for money etc. Frankly I like that story a LOT more than what I conider the overwrought and overrated The Dunwich Horror.
 
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#7
"Herbert West -- Reanimator" was originally published in a semi-professional magazine as a serial, under the simple title "Grewsome Tales" (a legitimate variant of "gruesome" at the time). That may be where the idea of this as a series comes from. He later also did "The Lurking Fear" for the same magazine, and got CAS to illustrate it the four installments of that. (The fact is, Smith put some sly sexual humor into some of the illustrations in the way he drew some of the vegetation, but HPL, being HPL, simply couldn't see it, and argued with correspondents that it wasn't there. CAS, of course, confirmed it was -- but not to HPL.) Yes, "Reanimator" does have humor, and even gets very tongue-in-cheek as it goes on; something he used to keep himself from becoming utterly infuriated and bored with something he'd promised to do. But with both of these tales, he disowned them later in his career -- just as he did quite a lot of his earlier fiction, actually. He seldom had a kind word to say about his own work shortly after it was done, with the exceptions of "The Music of Erich Zann", "The Colour Out of Space" (his own personal favorite) and At the Mountains of Madness.

As for "The Dunwich Horror" -- funny you should say that. I loved that story when I first read it as a young teenager but, save for the atmosphere of the countryside and the earlier portions of the tale, it hasn't really held up that well for me, either -- nor for quite a few other people, I understand. It's too formulaic, I think, and one of the very few instances of "good guys vs. bad guys" in his work. Donald Burleson (again) has written a somewhat controversial and intriguing article looking at this story as an example of the hero myth -- with Wilbur and his twin being a single hero (the twin theme in the hero myth), and Armitage as a buffoon. I can't agree entirely with him, but it is very convincingly argued, and a very interesting read in its own right.
 

w h pugmire esq

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#9
One influence of which Lovecraft complained was that of the pulps; and this isn't probably what you were thinking of, but my mind has been contemplating this because I'm on a panel next month about the writers who influenced HPL (very cosmic of ye to begin this discussion here, j. d.!). We know that Lovecraft read the pulps as a kid, and that he read each and every issue of WEIRD TALES. Perhaps one reason Lovecraft so often complained that writing for the pulps had tainted his style, perhaps even his approach to writing weird fiction, is because it had in fact done so.

I am also wondering if French Literature, Baudelaire in particular, influenced him beyond the short-lived and obvious nod in that direction in "The Hound." I am doing a massive re-reading of Lovecraft, beginning with The Library of America volume, as I want to drink his elixir non-stop in preparation for NecronomiCon Providence 2013.
 
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#10
Sir Thomas Browne? Thomas De Quincey?
It's difficult to say, really... but I think (as with several of the Augustans) the influence in either case would be something other than stylistic. He also expressed strong reservations when it came to De Quincey, and his mentions of Browne were scant... yet (unless memory fails me) he did read Urn-Burial, and at times his periods remind me of some of those in Browne. De Quincey would be more, perhaps, in a certain approach to things now and again, a sort of "circumambient" manner, if you will... though this, too, was something done by Poe as well (albeit in a more perfervid style; what I am thinking of with HPL is some of his more clinical, analytic passages).*

One influence of which Lovecraft complained was that of the pulps; and this isn't probably what you were thinking of, but my mind has been contemplating this because I'm on a panel next month about the writers who influenced HPL (very cosmic of ye to begin this discussion here, j. d.!). We know that Lovecraft read the pulps as a kid, and that he read each and every issue of WEIRD TALES. Perhaps one reason Lovecraft so often complained that writing for the pulps had tainted his style, perhaps even his approach to writing weird fiction, is because it had in fact done so.

I am also wondering if French Literature, Baudelaire in particular, influenced him beyond the short-lived and obvious nod in that direction in "The Hound." I am doing a massive re-reading of Lovecraft, beginning with The Library of America volume, as I want to drink his elixir non-stop in preparation for NecronomiCon Providence 2013.
Thanks, Wilum. French literature, I think, did influence him, as he originally expressed a rather contemptuous (albeit perhaps tongue-in-cheek) attitude toward it when he had read little, and became quite an enthusiast once he explored it. I believe it is in one of his letters to Bobby Barlow that he refers to some of his favorite (largely non-weird) writers, and lists some of the French writers such as Balzac and Maupassant...

Yep! Found it:

For the most part I tend to admire Continental literature without acutely enjoying it. My only real favourites in that field are Balzac, Gautier, Flaubert, de Maupassant, Baudelaire, Leconte de l'Isle, & a few other Frenchmen. Oddly enough for a pure Nordic, I seem to turn to the French the moment I get off the British Isles & their cultural offshoots. This may or may not be because my basic tastes are Graeco-Roman -- hence oriented toward that culture from which French culture is derived.
-- O Fortunate Floridian, p. 346​

On Baudelaire, you shouldn't forget the epigraph for "Hypnos", which was taken from the section titled "Rockets" (sec. IX of "Rockets", specifically) in Baudelaire: His Prose and Poetry, ed. by T. R. Smith (Modern Library, 1919; see p. 214). I think Baudelaire remained a favorite of his because of his touches of weirdness and bizarrerrie, as well as the use of language.... I don't know if he attempted to read Baudelaire in the original (as did CAS), but if he did, I have no doubt that, even with his smattering of French, he'd have been quite favorably impressed with the Frenchman's extremely precise yet impressively associative choice in phrasing.

I also think the French writers mentioned above helped to formulate his increasing approach to "realism" in handling of character and the non-fantastic aspects of a tale, as this seems to have been one of the things he admired most about them.

*I can find no references to Browne in his correspondence at a quick glance, though I find the following relevant passages concerning De Quincey in the Selected Letters:

(from SLI:119):

De Quincey is familiar to me, but impressed me more with his language and erudition than with his fancy. I never took opium, but if I can't beat him for dreams from the age of three or four up, I am a dashed liar!
(from SLII:118):

[concerning Fitzhugh Ludlow's Hasheesh-Eater:] I agree with you in conceding its style a greater freshness than De Quincey's, (a sage young friend of mine once summed up De Q. by saying laconically -- "Poor old boy! he knew too much.") and find a positive delight in its very faults of naiveté and early-American floridness.
(from SLII:189):

Like De Quincey, I derive a profound and inexplicable thrill from such phrases as Consul Romanus, non esse consuetudinum populi Romani, senatus populusque Romanus, etc. -- as if from some intimate, unbreakable and personal link, hard to account for in a man without a single drop of blood from any source save the British Isles.
So he certainly had that thread of sympathy and shared imaginative stimulus.
 
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nerd literature

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#12
I don't know if it's so much an influence but the one thing that I always thought was important in shaping the mythos behind his stories was the myths and legends of the Middle East. It always strikes me, no matter how many times I read his stories, how proficient HPL is in the mythology and legends of that part of the world.

Hope this isn't way off topic
 
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#13
Not at all; and yes, I'd say the influence of various mythological systems certainly applies.... He was more in tune with the Graeco-Roman myths, but fascinated with all....
 

BAYLOR

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#14
Fishhead by Irving Cobb ? written 1912 , it some ways it reminds me of a Lovecraft story.
 

BAYLOR

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#16
Yes, he read it and I think he enjoyed it. It has been considered an important influence on "The Shadow over Innsmouth".
It's a terrific horror story

The Dark Chamber by Leonard Cline.
The Moon Pool and Dwellers in the Mirage both by Abraham Merritt.

Lovecraft seem to have liked those books.:)
 

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