Fear Unknown: H.P. Lovecraft's Macabre Origins

Art by Mister Sam Shearon

At age seven, Lovecraft began writing his fictional stories, reworking tales from the Odyssey and other mythological works into poems. He felt a special connection to Roman mythology and its pantheon of gods. He also felt an affinity towards astronomy and science. Reviewing recollections of his school peers, they recall Lovecraft as being somewhat withdrawn and introspective, but always warm and welcoming, especially in regards to those interested in using his prized possession– a telescope. Towards the end of high school, Lovecraft appeared to enter into a traumatic depression that left more of an impact than previous incidents. The circumstances remain unknown to this day, though the depression was so severe, he was said to have suffered from a “nervous collapse”, and that he “could hardly bear to see or speak to anyone, & liked to shut out the world by pulling down dark shades & using artificial light.”

His depression left him with suicidal ideation. Harry Brobst, with a Ph. D. in psychology, believed Lovecraft had a case of chorea minor, or Sydenham’s chorea, a condition associated with Group A Streptococcus. In writings found from Lovecraft himself, he admits to bouts of chorea as a child. Family trauma and unrest, medical conditions, and subsequent depressions all begin to create a clear picture of Lovecraft and the origins of his posthumous bestsellers. Life up to this point had to feel like a terrifying journey into the unknown for Lovecraft. He himself realized the unknown was the most uncomfortable experience for all humanity: 

“The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.” – H.P. Lovecraft

Necronomicon, a popular compilation of some of Lovecraft’s most loved stories. Amazon.com.

Lovecraft was originally meant to attend after his high school graduation Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, but after his extreme depressive episode, he did not complete high school, nor did he continue on to attend university. He frequently stated high school as a responsible party to his depression, stating “I was and am prey to intense headaches, insomnia, and general nervous weakness which prevents my continuous application to any thing”. It is likely that the physical manifestations of a disease and the mental effects of mental illness created such a troublesome classroom environment for Lovecraft he was simply unable to be productive.

Despite his rocky experience with education, Lovecraft continued to educate himself with both arts and sciences. He revived his self published scientific periodicals, showcasing his love for organic chemistry. Although he had quite the fascination for organic chemistry, the needed components of mathematics were missing. He declared mathematics as puzzling and tedious, likely due to his choppy education in his previous years. It was not until 1912 that his first poem was published in a publication that was not his own. “Providence in 2000 A.D.” was a work of fiction that envisioned a world where those of white, English descent were displaced by immigrants. Other unpublished works of Lovecraft were found implicating him of the racism and xenophobic mindset many modern readers accuse him of.