who were HPL's literary influences ?

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#2
Lord Dunsany's work inspired the tone of a lot of the earlier Lovecraft works, best exemplified in his rambling long story The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath.
 

Extollager

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#3
He eventually felt that Arthur Machen and Algernon Blackwood raised the weird tale to the highest artistic level it had yet attained, I believe; my impression is that he thought AM's "The White People" and AB's "The Willows" were greater even than the best of Poe, but perhaps he never said that.
 
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#4
Those who influenced him most directly where the weird tale is concerned were (save for Poe) covered in S. T. Joshi's volume, The Weird Tale (University of Texas, 1990), and included Dunsany, Machen, Blackwood, Bierce, and M. R. James. There were many, many others, of course, including: Edgar Rice Burroughs (it has been argued), Abe Merritt (most notably the original short story "The Moon Pool" -- not the novel of that title); Nathaniel Hawthorne, who taught him much about how to construct a "haunted history" of his beloved New England; Hanns Heinz Ewers (most notably the short story, "The Spider"); Mary Shelley; Guy de Maupassant (most notably "The Horla"); Herbert S. Gorman (The Place Called Dagon); Arthur Ransome (The Elixir of Life); Robert W. Chambers (particularly The King in Yellow, but also the original short version of "The Harbor-Master" -- later revised and incorporated into In Search of the Unknown -- and Maker of Moons); Irvin S. Cobb (particularly "Fishhead" and "The Unbroken Chain")... the list goes on and on. And that's not even touching on the Gothics....

A lot of information can be garnered, for instance, from the introductions to the editions of some of these works in the Hippocampus Press Lovecraft's Library editions, which go into parallels and mentions by HPL, which often prove very enlightening. The annotated editions of his works also provide a lot of information on this subject.

The best things to look at to discern which writers influenced him are: his own Supernatural Horror in Literature (I would recommend the Hippocampus Press annotated edition, which provides plenty of helpful material by S. T. Joshi); and an essay by J. Vernon Shea (who was a correspondent of Lovecraft's for many years) titled "On the Literary Influences Which Shaped Lovecraft's Works", and which can be found in S. T. Joshi's H. P. Lovecraft: Four Decades of Criticism. Aside from that, seeking out these works themselves and reading them also provides some major insights into things which helped influence his work. One such example would be The Thing in the Woods, by Harper Williams (better known for writing, under the name Margery Williams Bianco, The Velvetten Rabbit, of all things!)

However, there were dozens, if not hundreds, of influences on him as a writer otherwise, especially the eighteenth-century essayists and versifiers; various philosophers, either directly or in digest form (Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, and Spengler in particular, though there were others; Schopenhauer largely through a slender selection titled Studies in Pessimism, etc.), and so on. Joshi's Lovecraft's Library: A Catalogue, is very helpful in winnowing through a lot of this, as he provides information which supports or denies (where possible in either case) the idea of influence, generally culled from Lovecraft's letters. Bit by bit, I've been tracking down a lot of these things, going (where possible) for editions which Lovecraft himself used (where such is known), and it's been both an enlightening and enjoyable trip... and one would be surprised at the ways some of these writers influenced him, not only in the obvious levels, such as imitation of metre or diction (or manner, as with Dunsany... who actually influenced him much more profoundly on other levels, given that he already had written a tale in the "Dunsanian" manner -- "Polaris" -- nearly a year and a half before discovering Dunsany's work), but in particular views, word choices, rhythm, techniques, etc.

And again, we're not even beginning to talk about the influence of his colleagues in the amateur press, who sometimes made surprising contributions to the growth or particular development of some of his works. (Some of this can be garnered by carefully reading his critical columns in the first volume of his Collected Essays, while others are more obvious, such as the "dialogues" in verse between himself and various amateurs, or his spoofing of them in various pieces such as "Alfredo; a Tragedy" or "Old Bugs", etc.)

Lovecraft was a prodigiously well-read man, and took his influences and inspiration from an enormous number of sources, from the King James Bible (cf. "The Dunwich Horror", "The Shadow Over Innsmouth", "The Colour Out of Space", "Wisdom", "Bells", etc.) to T. S. Eliot (cf. "Waste Paper: A Poem of Profound Insignificance").

So... once again, it depends on how far you wish to take this....
 

Richard--W

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#5
He eventually felt that Arthur Machen and Algernon Blackwood raised the weird tale to the highest artistic level it had yet attained, I believe; my impression is that he thought AM's "The White People" and AB's "The Willows" were greater even than the best of Poe, but perhaps he never said that.
I had better read those two stories post-haste, Extoller. I have a passing acquaintance with The Weird Tales era and its authors, but not a disciplined one, I'm afraid. When I'm satisfied that my Lovecraft library has achieved respectability I will start gathering his influences. I've been wanting to read more extensively into the era and to add a new bookcase to my library for a long time.

J.D. Worthington said:
So... once again, it depends on how far you wish to take this....
Not as far as you've gone, Scholar Worthington. I've collected (and researched) other authors, however. With Lovecraft, his influences and The Weird Tales era of authors, I think I prefer to just read the stories and the scholarship that goes with it, rather than turn it into a job of work.

Thanks for your generous summing-up of Lovecraft's influences, it helps.


Richard
 

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#6
He eventually felt that Arthur Machen and Algernon Blackwood raised the weird tale to the highest artistic level it had yet attained, I believe; my impression is that he thought AM's "The White People" and AB's "The Willows" were greater even than the best of Poe, but perhaps he never said that.
He did say somewhere that he considered "The Willows" the greatest weird story ever written, but I can't remember exactly where.
 

Richard--W

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#7
I know I've read The Willows and other Algernon Blackwood stories, Ambrose Pierce and Arthur Machen stories, but not in the last 30-odd years.

Richard
 
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#8
He did say somewhere that he considered "The Willows" the greatest weird story ever written, but I can't remember exactly where.
The first such I can recall is his letter to Robert E. Howard of 4 October, 1930:
I agree with what you say about suggestion as the highest form of horror-presentation. The basis of all true cosmic horror is violation of the order of nature and the profoundest violations are always the least concrete and describable. In Machen, the subtlest story -- The White People -- is undoubtedly the greatest, even though it hasn't the tangible, visible terrors of The Great God Pan or The White Powder.[...] In the greatest horror-tale ever written -- Blackwood's The Willows -- absolutely nothing takes open and visible form.
-- SLIII.174​

He also makes the same claim for it in "Some Notes on a Nonentity" (1933): The greatest weird tale ever written is probably Algernon Blackwood's "The Willows". (CE5.211)

Not as far as you've gone, Scholar Worthington. I've collected (and researched) other authors, however. With Lovecraft, his influences and The Weird Tales era of authors, I think I prefer to just read the stories and the scholarship that goes with it, rather than turn it into a job of work.
I must say that I don't see it as a job of work... I got into this out of sheer interest, and (with very rare exceptions, such as the Malleus Maleficarum) what I have read as a result has been fascinating and enjoyable... and deepened my appreciation for both fine literature in general and the subtler forms of weird literature specifically.

As far as looking into some of his influences in the weird field... You might also look for Douglas Anderson's anthology, H. P. Lovecraft's Favorite Weird Tales (Cold Spring Press, 2005), which delves into both the classics and the popular branches of the weird tale, using Lovecraft's own statements on those pieces he felt were among the best.

Amazon.com: H.P. Lovecraft's Favorite Weird Tales: The Roots of Modern Horror (9781593600563): Douglas A. Anderson: Books

There are also some very good selections of tales from Weird Tales available (usually second-hand, at this point) out there, and most of these have been listed in a thread here on the Chrons (the title of which escapes me at the moment, I'm afraid). Several of these you could probably pick up for a song via Amazon or similar places. I would especially recommend Marvin Kaye's Weird Tales; Peter Haining's Weird Tales (which was also published as a two-volume pb set: Weird Tales and More Weird Tales) which, though flawed, does give something very close to the feel of an actual issue of the magazine (save for the ads); Leo Margulies Weird Tales and Worlds of Weird; and Weird Tales: 32 Unearthed Terrors, ed. by Stephan Dziemianowicz, Martin H. Greenberg, and Robert Weinberg (again, uneven, but a good overview of the history of the magazine in its classic run). Oh, and if you're at all interested, Ash-Tree Press has done a quite nice volume (supposed to the first of three) of Henry S. Whitehead's short fiction as well: The Passing of a God... Whitehead being a writer for whom HPL had high regard....
 

Richard--W

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#10
... I got into this out of sheer interest, and (with very rare exceptions, such as the Malleus Maleficarum) what I have read as a result has been fascinating and enjoyable... and deepened my appreciation for both fine literature in general and the subtler forms of weird literature specifically.
I'm relieved to hear you didn't enjoy the Malleus Maleficarum. It wasn't written to be enjoyed because it's not a narrative fiction or a weird tale. It was written in 1480 by magistrates -- or rather by Inquisitors -- of the Catholic church to document a then-current social disorder, insofar as they were capable of discerning, and as a manual to route out and punish witches. The horror is that it was actually written seriously and actually put into practice. Cotton Mather and the judges relied on it during the trials in Salem, MA in the 1690s. I have several editions in my history of witchcraft library and I don't find it enjoyable, either. Instructive, but definitely not enjoyable.

Richard
 
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#12
I'm relieved to hear you didn't enjoy the Malleus Maleficarum. It wasn't written to be enjoyed because it's not a narrative fiction or a weird tale. It was written in 1480 by magistrates -- or rather by Inquisitors -- of the Catholic church to document a then-current social disorder, insofar as they were capable of discerning, and as a manual to route out and punish witches. The horror is that it was actually written seriously and actually put into practice. Cotton Mather and the judges relied on it during the trials in Salem, MA in the 1690s. I have several editions in my history of witchcraft library and I don't find it enjoyable, either. Instructive, but definitely not enjoyable.

Richard
Sorry about not giving the full titles of my citations (And Wilum is spot on there). I'm afraid I've become so used to that shorthand that it is second nature these days.

As the Malleus... while all that is true, I did enjoy large portions of Mather's Magnalia Christi Americana, and find his Wonders of the Invisible World fascinating (I also like Reginald Scot's The Discoverie of Witchcraft, which is something of a refutation of the Malleus and books of a similar nature). Perhaps my use of "enjoy" when it comes to these books should be explained. I do not mean it in the same sense I would with a well-crafted tale, but rather in the way someone would when speaking of enjoying a fascinating bit of history or folklore...or a book such as Sabine Baring-Gould's Book of the Werewolf, etc. And, to be honest, the sections of the Malleus which deal with the folkloric beliefs I did find interesting... but the other sections simply drove me nuts....
 

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#13
... Perhaps my use of "enjoy" when it comes to these books should be explained. I do not mean it in the same sense I would with a well-crafted tale, but rather in the way someone would when speaking of enjoying a fascinating bit of history or folklore...
That is how a scholar enjoys his work.


Richard
 

Richard--W

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#15
I read The Willows last night for the first time in my adult life (also read The Empty House and The Damned). It's a masterpiece, alright. Easy to understand why HPL was so impressed with it. Obviously, it's impact on him was profound.

Personally, I think HPL surpassed it. Many times.

Richard
 

Extollager

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#16
Richard, I've been a Lovecraft fan for forty years and I don't think HPL surpassed "The Willows." No desire to quarrel with anyone who wouldn't agree with me. Which would be some HPL stories that you feel surpass "The Willows"?

I admit that "Willows" is flawed. I don't have the text at hand but I remember a sequence in which the two travellers begin discussing occult ideas. I think Blackwood had a failure of art, and perhaps of nerve, there...

I once stood looking at willows protruding into Emigrant Lake near Ashland, Oregon, and was quite reminded of this great story!
 
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#17
I would have to echo Dale on this; I don't think he ever surpassed that tale, though he certainly approached it at times. I think his closest would be "The Colour Out of Space"; in nearly every other instance (save perhaps, for the collaboration -- which was largely by Barlow -- "The Night Ocean") there is too much of definiteness rather than the shadowy unknown.

However, I suppose it depends on how one interprets what is meant by "the greatest weird tale", and perhaps more particularly, just what Lovecraft himself meant by that comment. Based on his own descriptions above (with which I have come more and more to concur over the years, both from my reading of his work and the weird tale in general), I would say "The Willows" stands very highly indeed; though some of the things Robert Aickman and Oliver Onions (to name only two) wrote came very close....
 

Extollager

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#18
A confession: when I think of Lovecraft's work, without checking a handy list, I sometimes forget "The Colour Out of Space" -- such a great weird tale.

I think I know why. I carelessly think of Lovecraft as the writer of New England horror stories/Dunsanian tales/Cthulhu Mythos stories (I use the virgule to indicate that sometimes a story belongs just to one of these categories but sometimes to more than one). I think of him especially as the writer of Cthulhu Mythos stories. But there is no reason to think of "The Colour" as a Cthulhu Mythos story, nor really as settling right in with one of the others.

My bad. But isn't it ironic?
 

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#19
Richard, I've been a Lovecraft fan for forty years and I don't think HPL surpassed "The Willows." No desire to quarrel with anyone who wouldn't agree with me. Which would be some HPL stories that you feel surpass "The Willows"?
You mean aside from The Colour Out of Space and At the Mountains of Madness? HPL surpasses The Willows and Blackwood in general in several pieces and in selected passages of his other stories.

Extollager said:
I admit that "Willows" is flawed. I don't have the text at hand but I remember a sequence in which the two travellers begin discussing occult ideas. I think Blackwood had a failure of art, and perhaps of nerve, there...
Not exactly. The two travelers confront one another when the inexplicable situation they're in can no longer be denied. The Swede must shake the narrator out of his refusal to face the danger they're in. I would not describe their confrontation as discussing occult ideas so much as a realization, taking stock of the situation and planning how to get out of it. It's an entirely believable discussion for them to have under the circumstances. If there's a flaw, it's in the endless description of the geography and foliage, which goes on too long. Blackwood could have tightened up the first act a little, or a lot. The Willows takes a long time to arrive. But once it arrives, the reader know he's into something.


Richard
 

Richard--W

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#20
I would have to echo Dale on this; I don't think he ever surpassed that tale, though he certainly approached it at times. I think his closest would be "The Colour Out of Space"; in nearly every other instance (save perhaps, for the collaboration -- which was largely by Barlow -- "The Night Ocean") there is too much of definiteness rather than the shadowy unknown.
I love Blackwood's stories and hold him in the highest regard, but HPL mastered the power of suggestion, the creation of mood as in dread, and the metamorphosis of the intangible into the tangible, just as potently as Blackwood did if not more so.

j. d. worthington said:
However, I suppose it depends on how one interprets what is meant by "the greatest weird tale", and perhaps more particularly, just what Lovecraft himself meant by that comment. Based on his own descriptions above (with which I have come more and more to concur over the years, both from my reading of his work and the weird tale in general),
I would caution you not to break down HPL's statements into semantics. We all know what he meant.

j. d. worthington said:
I would say "The Willows" stands very highly indeed; though some of the things Robert Aickman and Oliver Onions (to name only two) wrote came very close....
What things?
Which Aickmans and which Onions?
I should read them ...


Richard
 
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