who were HPL's literary influences ?

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#21
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.
I would argue with you on that one, as I think Lovecraft did tend to lapse into the concrete a bit too often to be in quite the same category as regards this particular aspect. This is not to say he couldn't do it; "The Music of Erich Zann", "The Colour Out of Space", and large portions of many others, all show he could. But in a tale as a whole -- even with the magnificent At the Mountains of Madness, which may be my favorite among his tales -- he brought in too much of the concrete to hold to that shadowy borderland for which he strove so diligently so often.

I would caution you not to break down HPL's statements into semantics. We all know what he meant.
Not necessarily. My reading of HPL over the years has taught me that this is by no means always the case. He had a peculiar way of using his vocabulary at times, with subtle shadings which were very much his own (at least, at the period he wrote, though frequently they took elements of both earlier definitions and associations and blended them with those contemporary to himself). Two examples of this come to mind with his Supernatural Horror in Literature. The first is when he calls M. P. Shiel's "Xelucha" a "noxiously hideous fragment" -- a phrase with more than a little ambiguity, to say the least. Yet he is being very precise in his terms here, indicating not only that it was a powerful piece of weird imagination but with especial reference to his use of the word "noxious", or "hurtfull" (from the Latin and related to nocere, to hurt, and nex, destruction); and this relates to his developing theory of the weird tale as expressed in a letter to Edwin Baird of Weird Tales, which reads in part:
"Only a cynic can create horror -- for behind every masterpiece of the sort must reside a driving daemonic force that despises the human race and its illusions, and longs to pull them to pieces and mock them.[...] The normal artist has conventional conceptions of line and detail, light and shade; but the macabre genius has the magic prism, and sees the world in that leeringly twisted, mockingly decorative light which gives rise to the achievements of an Aubrey Beardsley, Sidney Sime, John Martin, Gustave Doré, or -- immortal of immortals -- Francisco Goya y Lucientes.
-- letter from Weird Tales, issue dated March 1924 (from H. P. Lovecraft in "The Eyrie", p. 20)

Lovecraft was intensely aware of subtle nuances and associations when it came to words, and knew their etymologies quite well, often punning on them. In this case, he went on to develop both this theme (as in SHiL and "The Unnamable") and in particular the reference to artists and weird art, influenced by correspondence with Clark Ashton Smith, which he made the focal point of the discussion in "Pickman's Model".

Hence, this reference is a highly positive one, yet acknowledges in no uncertain terms the morbid aspect of such material.

On the other hand, his reference to Bram Stoker's Dracula seems quite positive, when he describes it as "almost the standard modern exploitation of the frightful vampire myth". Yet, according to his correspondence, his view was nowhere near that positive, stating at different points that the novel had a tendency to be rather formless and blaming this on Stoker's working habits, going on a claim from a colleague that she had been given the opportunity of revising Stoker's novel but felt the manuscript was in a jumble, and Stoker was unwilling to pay what she would charge for the job, thus turning to someone else. (The latter part of this account can be found in Selected Letters I, p. 255.)

In such cases, in other words, I've learned to read through the lens of my Lovecraftian explorations. While he was generally quite straightforward, there are times when assuming one "knows what he meant" can lead to a serious misunderstanding of what he really did mean, as clarified in his other writings.

What things?
Which Aickmans and which Onions?
Several things by each, actually; but you might start by reading some of Aickman's earlier pieces, or Onions' Widdershins, especially "The Beckoning Fair One"...
 

Extollager

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#22
JDW, that's a telling quotation about the horror writer as a cynic. But it tells against Lovecraft.

Lovecraft takes the position of seeing through human illusions, despising human vanity, etc. But part of what he needs to do in his stories (no fair to reference private letters and essays to make up the stories' shortcomings), if he is a serious literary artist (and I believe he did want to be one), is represent the human dimension convincingly, make us feel he gives the human dimension something like its full apparent value, but then powerfully relativize it with his evocation of cosmic dread. Lovecraft seems to create, not a genuine sense of the human, but a straw man sense thereof, and whack it down with references to the vast incomprehensible universe. I think his fans sometimes give him credit for what he wanted to achieve, not what he did achieve.
 
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Extollager

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#23
Richard, if you try Aickman, don't miss "Into the Wood" and "The Houses of the Russians."

These are strange stories, not the same thing as weird tales and not Lovecraftian, but fine works of imagination.
 
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#24
JDW, that's a telling quotation about the horror writer as a cynic. But it tells against Lovecraft.

Lovecraft takes the position of seeing through human illusions, despising human vanity, etc. But part of what he needs to do in his stories (no fair to reference private letters and essays to make up the stories' shortcomings), if he is a serious literary artist (and I believe he did want to be one), is represent the human dimension convincingly, make us feel he gives the human dimension something like its full apparent value, but then powerfully relativize it with his evocation of cosmic dread. Lovecraft seems to create, not a genuine sense of the human, but a straw man sense thereof, and whack it down with references to the vast incomprehensible universe. I think his fans sometimes give him credit for what he wanted to achieve, not what he did achieve.
Not quite, I think. This was by no means the full quotation; but in any event, he made it clear in multiple instances that, in dealing with the human portion of the equation in one's tales, one must deal with those humans (and their motivations) with, to use his words, "unsparing realism, not catchpenny romanticism", and I think he strove for that (and succeeded, in many instances). It is when dealing with the weird element, the incursion from "outside", that these illusions you refer to must be left aside, as they would not represent the point of view of any such, and may well interfere with its presentation. Dealing with the human reaction to such, on the other hand, needs (as he was the first to recommend) to be genuinely human.

"Xelucha" is decidedly a piece of malevolent nightmare, all the more powerful because it pays no attention to our expectations, nor has any sympathy with our desires, wishes, nor aims, save insofar as they are things which can be tormented. And what Lovecraft was indicating was the failure of the popular "weird" writer to take into account anything but the hackneyed stance seen in popular (especially magazine) fiction. This was also the letter where he made the suggestion of writing a werewolf tale from the point of view of the werewolf, and sympathizing with the devil responsible, as a contrast to the stories which only viewed the matter from the other side, ad infinitum, ad nauseam.

His entire approach here, as elsewhere, was to point up that the views of human beings were fine for the human sphere, but really had little relevance to the views, concerns, or motivations of anything outside that sphere, save incidentally or accidentally. Hence the enigma of the being(?) in "The Colour Out of Space", which may be malevolent, or may simply be destructive to us because of its basic nature... and may (if it is conscious at all) not even be aware of our existence, even as it destroys. Yet there, as we have discussed before, there is a great deal of sympathy for the Gardners (and even Ammi Pierce and the unnamed surveyor who relates the tale), giving the story the dimensions of pathos and tragedy, while nonetheless having the very points he stresses in that letter to Baird.

(One should also keep in mind that that letter was written at the height of his "Decadent" phase, when he was still evolving his mature theory of the weird tale, and was very much under the influence of the French Decadents; something he modified later.)
 

Extollager

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#25
JDW, I was going to edit my message before seeing your response, because, yes: in "Colour Out of Space," he does evoke the pathos of the victims, tactfully, as I recall, as well as the sheer non-humanness of the visitor from space. I am increasingly convinced that the case for HPL's artistic achievement should begin with this story. It really is formidable, if not wholly compelling for his point of view.

Thanks to all for these good discussions on this Thanksgiving!
 
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