Howard Phillips Lovecraft died of cancer 80 years ago today in his hometown of Providence, Rhode Island. During his lifetime, he primarily supported himself doing editorial work, revising other authors’ manuscripts. Following his death, literary disciples worked to anthologize and publish his work which quickly found a sizeable audience which has continued increasingly steadily ever since. Today, Lovecraft has become a giant of Amercian pop culture with his entire canon readily accessible and cutesy merch like plush Cthulu dolls available for purchase.
A few days ago, the New Yorker published a feature about a little known facet of his life, his longtime friendship with Robert Barlow which started with a fan letter then blossomed into years of extended personal visits, some lasting for months, which began when Barlow was 16 and Lovecraft was in his 40’s. Barlow was one of several teenaged male proteges Lovecraft took under his wing. When H.P. died, Barlow became his literary executor as per Lovecraft’s instructions. This did not turn out well for Barlow:
“Lovecraft had a couple of professionally minded disciples, August Derleth and Donald Wandrei, who wanted to collect their master’s stories in a book. They were not amused when Barlow published Lovecraft’s commonplace book in a letterpress edition of seventy-five copies. They demanded Lovecraft’s papers. They spread rumors that Barlow had pilfered books from Lovecraft’s library. The weird-fiction community was small in those days, and word got around quickly. The macabre writer and artist Clark Ashton Smith sent Barlow a note: ‘Please do not write me or try to communicate with me in any way,’ it read. ‘I do not wish to see you or hear from you after your conduct in regard to the estate of a late beloved friend.'”
This crushed Barlow who eventually moved to Mexico City and became a professor of Mayanology, one of his students being a young man from Lawrence, Kansas named…William Burroughs.
More on Lovecraft here: http://www.biography.com/people/hp-lovecraft-40102#writing-career
Read the New Yorker article here: