Though largely unrecognized in his own lifetime, Howard Phillips Lovecraft (better known as H.P. Lovecraft) is now regarded as one of the most influential writers of the twentieth century. His spooky tales of ghosts, ghouls and alternate worlds arguably kick-started a whole literary genre, and best-selling authors still refer to him and his canon today. But, while he made his readers terrified of things that go bump in the night, there was only really one thing that terrified Lovecraft himself: Sex.
That Lovecraft was no lothario was hardly surprising. After all, not only was he born and raised in the Victorian period – infamous for its atmosphere of prudishness – but his family were strict and suffocating. So, while he did indeed marry, getting hitched to Sonia Greene, whom he met at a convention for aspiring journalists, it wasn’t her physical attributes that first attracted the young Lovecraft. Rather, Sonia helped him escape his hometown and flourish as a writer in New York City. Instead of a loving wife in every sense of the word, she provided him with financial help, moral support and encouragement.
By Sonia’s own account, Lovecraft performed his marital duty, albeit only when asked to, never taking the initiative himself, and without showing any desire, enthusiasm or even competence in the act itself. On his prowess in the bed-chamber, she would later write: “Of course, I did not expect him to be an ample provider, but I did harbor some secret expectations that he might, after all, provide to be normal as a husband and lover. I felt, however, that his inhibitions were provoked more or less by his severe Puritanical upbringing.”
Biographers of Lovecraft largely agree with his wife’s judgment. While he was evidently not celibate, the great writer was almost certainly at best disinterested in the idea of sex or even repulsed by the physical act. There is documented evidence that he hated any talk of sex or sexual matters in general. Unsurprisingly his marriage to Sonia came to an amicable end, with the pair having drifted apart long before they formally separated. While Sonia went on to remarry, Lovecraft remained single for the rest of his life, dying alone and impoverished in 1937.