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H.P. Lovecraft (1890-1937), the most important American supernaturalist since Poe, has had an incalculable influence on all the horror-story writing of recent decades. Altho his supernatural fiction has been enjoying an unprecedented fame, it's not widely known that he wrote a critical history of supernatural horror in literature that has yet to be superceded as the finest H.P. Lovecraft (1890-1937), the most important American supernaturalist since Poe, has had an incalculable influence on all the horror-story writing of recent decades. Altho his supernatural fiction has been enjoying an unprecedented fame, it's not widely known that he wrote a critical history of supernatural horror in literature that has yet to be superceded as the finest historical discussion of the genre. This work is presented in this volume in its final, revised text. With incisive power, Lovecraft here formulates the esthetics of supernatural horror & summarizes the range of its literary expression from primitive folklore to the tales of his own 20th-century masters. Following a discussiom of terror-literature in ancient, medieval & renaissance culture, he launches on a critical survey of the whole history of horror fiction from the Gothic school of the 18th century (when supernatural horror found its own genre) to the time of De la Mare & M.R. James. The Castle of Otranto, Radcliffe, "Monk" Lewis, Vathek Charles Brockden Brown, Melmoth the Wanderer, Frankenstein, Bulwer-Lytton, Fouqué's Undine, Wuthering Heights, Poe (full chapter), The House of the Seven Gables, de Maupassant's The Horla, Bierce, The Turn of the Screw , M.P. Shiel, W.H. Hodgson, Machen, Blackwood & Dunsany are among those discussed in depth. He also notices a host of lesser writers--enough to draw up an extensive reading list. By charting so completely the background for his own concepts of horror & literary techniques, Lovecraft throws light on his own fiction as well as on the horror-literature which has followed. For this reason this book will be especially intriguing to those who've read his fiction as an isolated phenomenon. Any searching for a guide thru the inadequately marked region of literary horror, need search no further. Unabridged & corrected republication of 1945 edition. New introduction by E.F. Bleiler.


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H.P. Lovecraft (1890-1937), the most important American supernaturalist since Poe, has had an incalculable influence on all the horror-story writing of recent decades. Altho his supernatural fiction has been enjoying an unprecedented fame, it's not widely known that he wrote a critical history of supernatural horror in literature that has yet to be superceded as the finest H.P. Lovecraft (1890-1937), the most important American supernaturalist since Poe, has had an incalculable influence on all the horror-story writing of recent decades. Altho his supernatural fiction has been enjoying an unprecedented fame, it's not widely known that he wrote a critical history of supernatural horror in literature that has yet to be superceded as the finest historical discussion of the genre. This work is presented in this volume in its final, revised text. With incisive power, Lovecraft here formulates the esthetics of supernatural horror & summarizes the range of its literary expression from primitive folklore to the tales of his own 20th-century masters. Following a discussiom of terror-literature in ancient, medieval & renaissance culture, he launches on a critical survey of the whole history of horror fiction from the Gothic school of the 18th century (when supernatural horror found its own genre) to the time of De la Mare & M.R. James. The Castle of Otranto, Radcliffe, "Monk" Lewis, Vathek Charles Brockden Brown, Melmoth the Wanderer, Frankenstein, Bulwer-Lytton, Fouqué's Undine, Wuthering Heights, Poe (full chapter), The House of the Seven Gables, de Maupassant's The Horla, Bierce, The Turn of the Screw , M.P. Shiel, W.H. Hodgson, Machen, Blackwood & Dunsany are among those discussed in depth. He also notices a host of lesser writers--enough to draw up an extensive reading list. By charting so completely the background for his own concepts of horror & literary techniques, Lovecraft throws light on his own fiction as well as on the horror-literature which has followed. For this reason this book will be especially intriguing to those who've read his fiction as an isolated phenomenon. Any searching for a guide thru the inadequately marked region of literary horror, need search no further. Unabridged & corrected republication of 1945 edition. New introduction by E.F. Bleiler.

30 review for Supernatural Horror in Literature

  1. 4 out of 5

    Peter

    Let Lovecraft take you by the hand and lead you through his cosmic universe of universal horror. He refers to all the classics from the past, talks intensively about the gothic novels (Otranto, Radcliffe etc., The Monk, Malmoth, the Wanderer...) and leads you into the modern age (Hope Hodgson, Arthur Machen, Algernon Blackwood). Of course he also talks about many American classics of horror like Poe or Hawthorne. There isn't another overview that great like Lovecraft's essay. If you are looking Let Lovecraft take you by the hand and lead you through his cosmic universe of universal horror. He refers to all the classics from the past, talks intensively about the gothic novels (Otranto, Radcliffe etc., The Monk, Malmoth, the Wanderer...) and leads you into the modern age (Hope Hodgson, Arthur Machen, Algernon Blackwood). Of course he also talks about many American classics of horror like Poe or Hawthorne. There isn't another overview that great like Lovecraft's essay. If you are looking at proper supernatural reads you should take a look at this masterful depiction. Here you'll find all classics, some heard, some unheard, but all interesting in brilliant synopsis. This is a must read for every horror or supernatural fan!

  2. 4 out of 5

    Bill Kerwin

    In this lengthy essay of literary criticism (first completed in 1927, revised in 1934), H.P. presents his considered opinions of most of the well-known—and more than a few obscure—practitioners of the gothic and the weird. Unlike his own creative works, however, this critical piece, though knowledgeable and useful, is neither original nor essential. He writes justly of the gothic and early romantic traditions, and the three modern masters Arthur Machen, M. R. James and Algernon Blackwood, and he In this lengthy essay of literary criticism (first completed in 1927, revised in 1934), H.P. presents his considered opinions of most of the well-known—and more than a few obscure—practitioners of the gothic and the weird. Unlike his own creative works, however, this critical piece, though knowledgeable and useful, is neither original nor essential. He writes justly of the gothic and early romantic traditions, and the three modern masters Arthur Machen, M. R. James and Algernon Blackwood, and he is often surprising in the writers—both major and minor--whom he praises for their use of the weird: Charlotte Bronte, Mary E. Wilkins Freeman, Edward Lucas White, Rudyard Kipling, and Arthur Conan Doyle, to name a few. His chapter on Poe is particularly fine, for Lovecraft (who saw himself in Poe) praises the older writer for his deliberate, rational artistic choices, not reveling—as too many writers do—in what they suppose to be his frenetic emotionalism: Poe, on the other hand, perceived the essential impersonality of the real artist; and knew that the function of creative fiction is merely to express and interpret events and sensations as they are, regardless of how they tend or what they prove—good or evil, attractive or repulsive, stimulating or depressing—with the author always acting as a vivid and detached chronicler rather than as a teacher, sympathiser, or vendor of opinion. In contrast, he is too dismissive of Hawthorne, who lacks the admirable Poe characteristics: [H]e was not disinterested enough to value impressions, sensations, and beauties of narration for their own sake. He must needs weave his phantasy into some quietly melancholy fabric of didactic or allegorical cast, in which his meekly resigned cynicism may display with naive moral appraisal the perfidy of a human race which he cannot cease to cherish and mourn despite his insight into its hypocrisy. You will find many other interesting opinions here too, almost all of which—however apt they may be—reveal more of Lovecraft himself that they do of the writers he writes about. The worst thing about this essay is that so much of it consists of extensive summaries of the works themselves: spoilers for those who have not read them, unnecessary rehashes for those who have. Even these summaries themselves, however, show us the workings of the Lovecraft mind, and are therefore instructive and welcome to those who—like myself—admire Lovecraft’s world and his works.

  3. 5 out of 5

    ᴥ Irena ᴥ

    'The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.' Supernatural Horror in Literature is Lovecraft's take on horror fiction. It is a pretty long essay consisting of ten chapters, each focusing on different things. And it is really good. The chapters are self-explanatory: Introduction The Dawn of the Horror-Tale The Early Gothic Novel The Apex of Gothic Romance The Aftermath of Gothic Fiction Spectral Literature on the Continent 'The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.' Supernatural Horror in Literature is Lovecraft's take on horror fiction. It is a pretty long essay consisting of ten chapters, each focusing on different things. And it is really good. The chapters are self-explanatory: Introduction The Dawn of the Horror-Tale The Early Gothic Novel The Apex of Gothic Romance The Aftermath of Gothic Fiction Spectral Literature on the Continent Edgar Allan Poe The Weird Tradition in America The Weird Tradition in the British Isles The Modern Masters Lovecraft talks about the beginnings of cosmic horror and weird tale giving examples and his opinions on various authors and their works. If you don't know what to read next, this essay could give you a lot of ideas. Only, Lovecraft retells everything. I don't mind. Some of those stories are from 1700s, so one can't exactly be angry. A lot of Lovecraft's stories end with almost no clear explanation. It's interesting to see (in more places than one) that he honestly hated when authors explain everything in the end ('One great thing may be said of the author; that he never ruined his ghostly visions with a natural explanation' is just one of the examples). Lovecraft lovers would find the following quote on Walpole amusing: 'Walpole in 1764 published The Castle of Otranto; a tale of the supernatural which, though thoroughly unconvincing and mediocre in itself, was destined to exert an almost unparalleled influence on the literature of the weird.' As far as I'm concerned, I am aware of the flaws but he is still one of my favourite authors. Just read his quote on Walpole again and you'll understand why. Plus, Lovecraft's type of horror is my favourite so there's that.

  4. 5 out of 5

    J.G. Keely

    Sometimes called 'the most important piece of literary criticism in the Horror genre', Lovecraft's essay on the history and method of supernatural horror is a great resource for readers and writers alike, as it mostly consists of a list of his favorite authors and their most notable and unusual stories. Really, an editor should go through the text, collect all the stories and authors Lovecraft mentions, and then make them into a shot story collection, with this essay as an introduction--hard to Sometimes called 'the most important piece of literary criticism in the Horror genre', Lovecraft's essay on the history and method of supernatural horror is a great resource for readers and writers alike, as it mostly consists of a list of his favorite authors and their most notable and unusual stories. Really, an editor should go through the text, collect all the stories and authors Lovecraft mentions, and then make them into a shot story collection, with this essay as an introduction--hard to think of a more effective primer to the genre than that. Unfortunately, I wish that Lovecraft had gone into greater depth about the style and methods of horror writers, particularly when he was going through all the example authors. If he had taken certain stories and passages and used them as illustrations for how to achieve this or that effect, then this would be an indispensable analysis. As it is, you get a lot of plot outlines along with generalized bits of praise or condemnation from Lovecraft, himself. He includes many of those longer Gothic works, talking about certain moments which manage to rise above the formulaic melodrama and tacked-on romance that tend to dominate such lengthy, ambling tales, but it's hard to feel that it's worthwhile to wade through all that just to get to the few superlative instances. His discussion of Hawthorne's longer works, in particular, made them sound much more appealing than my actual experience with them, years ago. Then again, Lovecraft, himself is known to indulge in verbose exposition, so he may find that style less off-putting than I do. Likewise, Lovecraft's chapter on Poe is much more laudatory than what I would write, as I find most of his work to be uneven and repetitive to the point of narrowness in terms of images, ideas, themes, and tone. Lovecraft, himself, does acknowledge some of these problems, but as with the rest of the essay, it could have done with more specific examples and laying out of ideas. It looks like I'll have to return to the stories, themselves for instruction, and hope that proves to be enough. Amusing that Lovecraft outright rejects the 'Gothic Explique'--when an author tacks on a bit at the end that tells the reader how all the apparently supernatural events actually have a reasonable explanation such as mass hypnotism, a dog covered in phosphorescent mushroom spores, or a full-sized human skeleton rigged up as a marionette--also known as the 'Scooby Doo Ending'. Then again, I'm not fond of it, myself, especially in a profoundly supernatural tale where the explanation must become absurd in order to account for everything that has happened. But so far, I'm happy to report that my book seems to lie within the guidelines set down by Lovecraft, so that, at least, is a promising sign.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Werner

    "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 The sentence above is often quoted, but many readers aren't aware of its context. It opens this short monograph (really, a very long essay), which Lovecraft originally wrote in 1927, after a three-year stint of intensive reading, in response to the request of a pen pal, W. Paul Cook, for a historical survey of weird fiction to be published in The Recluse, a ma "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 The sentence above is often quoted, but many readers aren't aware of its context. It opens this short monograph (really, a very long essay), which Lovecraft originally wrote in 1927, after a three-year stint of intensive reading, in response to the request of a pen pal, W. Paul Cook, for a historical survey of weird fiction to be published in The Recluse, a magazine Cook hoped to start. It appeared in the first issue, but that was also the only issue. It was later serialized in a fan magazine in the 30s, and Lovecraft sporadically tinkered with revisions and updates during his lifetime; but the amended version was published only in 1939, after his death, and as a free-standing book in 1945. E. F. Bleiler, himself the foremost academic critic of his generation to actually take weird fiction seriously, provides this information in the 5 1/2 page preface to the 1973 Dover reprint edition, which was the one I read. (He also contributed the handful of helpful short footnotes, and apparently the index of authors and titles.) As he notes, this was really the first serious historical-critical survey of this field, a landmark of its type, with continuing value for readers and scholars of the weird. (This, however, doesn't mean that it's an unflawed work.) HPL organized his 106 page treatment into ten chapters. In the introduction, he defines his area of interest as the literature of "cosmic fear," that which posits or hints at mysterious realities alien to humanity and threatening towards it. (By "supernatural" in the title, he means unexplainable by the normal understandings of natural phenomena that we use in day-to-day experience.) He argues for the legitimacy of this literature as an expression of a basic and permanent part of the human psyche. The second chapter is a Eurocentric survey of prehistoric, folkloric, ancient and medieval roots and precursors of literary horror before it begins to appear in prose in the 18th century. In the other eight chapters, he provides an opinionated, and sometimes patronizing, survey of nearly all of the important, and many of the less-known, British, American, German and French authors of literary weird fiction and poetry (mostly the former) down to his own time. (He frequently summarizes the whole plots of novels, so readers should be warned that his discussion may contain major spoilers!) In some cases, such as Ann Radcliffe, he deals with writers who aim to evoke fear or horror, but who admittedly don't resort to cosmic or "supernatural" causes for it. Because his shabby-genteel family couldn't afford to send him to college, Lovecraft had only a high school formal education; he was very well-read as an autodidact, but not being an academic literary major, he doesn't lace his essay with critical jargon. That's a plus; but he also tends to write here in the same kind of "purple prose" he used in his fiction. In the latter context, it's very powerful and atmospheric; in nonfiction, it's sometimes opaque, so with some of his sentences here describing the style or merits of other writers, it can be anybody's guess as to exactly what he means. (He also uses italics for titles both of books and short stories, apparently not being aware of the convention of using normal type and quotation marks for the latter; and he doesn't seem to be aware of the broader periodizations and historical context of Western literature as a whole as a frame for his treatment.) Generally, his meaning is clear, but in the cases where I've read the same works that he has, I don't always agree with his critical judgements, which tend to reflect his own personal preferences. For instance, he's disdainful of any morally didactic purpose in literature (while my view is just the opposite), is tone-deaf to spiritual values and concerns, and disparages the occult detective tradition just because he disliked fictional detectives. (I also have to admit that in many instances I haven't read particular writers or works that he discusses, so can't second-guess him there. He does whet my appetite for reading some of them, and introduces a few I hadn't heard of.) All of that said, though, there are a lot of times that I concur with him, and I do find some of his comments insightful and felicitous. The book also provides a window into his own literary influences; the terms in which he describes and praises particular writers like Robert W. Chambers and Arthur Machen leave no doubt as to where he got some of his own inspiration. (Not surprisingly, Poe has an entire chapter devoted to him --but I disagree with HPL as to whether Poe's horror is of the cosmic sort, and "Mesmeric Revelations" proves IMO that the earlier writer was no "materialist.") Fans of this work have sometimes declared that it's never been superseded. Given the fact that it's dated in several respects, it frankly needs to be. But it's still a groundbreaking work with a lot of solid content, and a basic starting point for looking at an overview of this type of literature. If it ever is superseded, whoever writes the new and updated definitive treatment will be shortchanged if he/she doesn't start by reading this essay, and making use of the foundation that HPL laid here.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Alex (The Bookubus)

    What a fantastic little book! I had been putting this one off because I stupidly thought it would be dry and boring. (I was wrong!) There is so much crammed into just over 100 pages and it was both informative and enjoyable to read. Lovecraft definitely gives credit where it's due but he also isn't afraid to get a bit sassy regarding particular works that didn't do it for him, which I found very amusing. He discusses so many works within the supernatural genre and it got me so excited to track t What a fantastic little book! I had been putting this one off because I stupidly thought it would be dry and boring. (I was wrong!) There is so much crammed into just over 100 pages and it was both informative and enjoyable to read. Lovecraft definitely gives credit where it's due but he also isn't afraid to get a bit sassy regarding particular works that didn't do it for him, which I found very amusing. He discusses so many works within the supernatural genre and it got me so excited to track them down and read them. I flew through this one but definitely need to go back and read it again, this time taking notes.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Amy Sturgis

    Every time I reread "Supernatural Horror in Literature," I find something new to appreciate. This is an invaluable resource, both for what it tell us of the development of the Gothic, weird fiction, and horror (and, for that matter, science fiction and fantasy) -- Lovecraft is a well informed and insightful critic who grasps context as well as content -- and also for what it tells us of Lovecraft's influences and inspirations. Anyone interested in imaginative literature should consider this a "m Every time I reread "Supernatural Horror in Literature," I find something new to appreciate. This is an invaluable resource, both for what it tell us of the development of the Gothic, weird fiction, and horror (and, for that matter, science fiction and fantasy) -- Lovecraft is a well informed and insightful critic who grasps context as well as content -- and also for what it tells us of Lovecraft's influences and inspirations. Anyone interested in imaginative literature should consider this a "must read" work.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Nicole Cushing

    Here's the good, the bad, and the ugly about this book: The Good: If you read this book, you'll get a sense of the historical development of the dark "weird" tale (in the U.S. and Europe). If you're like me, you'll find yourself reading the various descriptions of stories and novels and finding yourself underlining them for future addition to your to be read list. That might be the coolest thing, actually...through this book, I've discovered all sorts of other authors I wouldn't have known about. Here's the good, the bad, and the ugly about this book: The Good: If you read this book, you'll get a sense of the historical development of the dark "weird" tale (in the U.S. and Europe). If you're like me, you'll find yourself reading the various descriptions of stories and novels and finding yourself underlining them for future addition to your to be read list. That might be the coolest thing, actually...through this book, I've discovered all sorts of other authors I wouldn't have known about. If you're a Lovecraft fan, you also will enjoy this because it gives additional insight into how the author thought about his craft. It's impossible not to read the later chapters and realize how strong some of Lovecraft's influences were. The Bad: At its worst, this book is just Lovecraft listing book after book, extolling the virtues or limitations of each. For pages and pages. It gets slow at times. Also, Lovecraft appears convinced that the best writings of dark fiction are those writings who happen to look and think just like H.P. Lovecraft. He whines constantly about the influence of "occultism" and says that materialists write better fantasy, without offering much in the way of evidence. Also, bear in mind that Lovecraft lived over a half-century before the invention of the spoiler alert. He gives away the endings of a lot of stuff that I wish he hadn't. The Ugly: The ugly Lovecraft white supremacism rears its head in this one, mostly with the author attributing stereotypical talents & affinities to people based culture and geography (for example, "...the French genius is more naturally suited to this dark realism than to the suggestion of the unseen; since the latter process requires, for its best and most sympathetic development on a large scale, the inherent mysticism of the Northern mind...").

  9. 4 out of 5

    Lee Klein

    Read this rad, free, typoriffic eBook accessible through goodreads, which led to downloading a dozen ePub files for books listed available via the Gutenberg Project. Not sure how many I'll actually read but, like Bolano's Between Parentheses, this explodes your to-read queue (out of respect for others' update streams, I only added one book I couldn't find at the Gutenberg Project site). Also I found this interesting in terms of going though 2666 again recently and noting bits apparently influenc Read this rad, free, typoriffic eBook accessible through goodreads, which led to downloading a dozen ePub files for books listed available via the Gutenberg Project. Not sure how many I'll actually read but, like Bolano's Between Parentheses, this explodes your to-read queue (out of respect for others' update streams, I only added one book I couldn't find at the Gutenberg Project site). Also I found this interesting in terms of going though 2666 again recently and noting bits apparently influenced by Lovecraft, including the all-important suggestion of the unknown and the abyss, not to mention the essential atmosphere of dread, and mention of a Jewish writer called Ansky who wrote A Dybbuk and Other Tales of the Supernatural, for example. There were a few other convergences with Bolano and also with Mark E. Smith ("The Great God Pan" and use of the word "unutterable"). Loved how he decrees that mystical interest is highest in the Teutonic, Celtic, and Semitic, those who live closest to realms of ice, forests, and ghettos that harbor irrational sensitivities (those in warmer climes are too rational). Also really liked Lovecraft's semi-overblown imagery in this collection of what's essentially a hundred goodreads impressions ordered in chapters by region and era: "The delicate flush of sunset on the ivory minarets of impossible dream-cities;" "Incredible vistas of kaleidoscopic nightmare in the spaces between the stars." With everything known now, there's sort of a fear shortage, or fear is psychological, emotional, political, sociological, apocalyptical, instead of simple fear of the dark, the night sky, the wild, regions of ice, ancient ruined castles etc. Fear drives "weird" stories, which are weird (not like bizarro) if they suggest a sort of mystical dread. Lovecraft loves Poe -- and really knows the history of his genre and relays his knowledge in a way that makes me want to know this stuff too. At the end he says the subtle progression in the genre will be the result of refined technique. So, um, any Stephen King suggestions (I've only read -- and poo-pooed -- 'Salem's Lot back in college)? If I've seen "The Shining" a half-dozen times, will I hate the book?

  10. 4 out of 5

    Kevin Lucia

    Probably the only downside: SO comprehensive, I have no idea if I'll ever be able to read all the tales suggested. Highly recommended for anyone reading or writing in the horror genre. And highly readable, also. Probably the only downside: SO comprehensive, I have no idea if I'll ever be able to read all the tales suggested. Highly recommended for anyone reading or writing in the horror genre. And highly readable, also.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Marina (Sonnenbarke)

    This is an amazing essay on weird fiction, the only problem with it is that it spoilers lots of books big time. That is extremely annoying and prevented me from giving it 5 stars. It would be a great introduction to weird fiction if not for this. However, this reason alone makes me advice against reading it if you haven't already read a lot of weird literaure. This is an amazing essay on weird fiction, the only problem with it is that it spoilers lots of books big time. That is extremely annoying and prevented me from giving it 5 stars. It would be a great introduction to weird fiction if not for this. However, this reason alone makes me advice against reading it if you haven't already read a lot of weird literaure.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Charles

    Lovecraft not only wrote very fine horror fiction in his own right, he was a student of the genre and this is an excellent introduction to the topic of supernatural literature, although, of course, it does not deal with later works.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    As someone who loves Lovecraft, but doesn’t care much for most of what passes for “horror” writing, this book is a wonderful readers’ guide for me. I’ve tracked down a number of the stories he recommended, and in general have found them quite enjoyable. Even in cases where I’m not as enthused as HPL was, (eg: Lord Dunsany), I’m interested to see the influences on my favorite writer of weird fiction. For others with as much interest in him as I have, this book is a must-read. For the rest of you, As someone who loves Lovecraft, but doesn’t care much for most of what passes for “horror” writing, this book is a wonderful readers’ guide for me. I’ve tracked down a number of the stories he recommended, and in general have found them quite enjoyable. Even in cases where I’m not as enthused as HPL was, (eg: Lord Dunsany), I’m interested to see the influences on my favorite writer of weird fiction. For others with as much interest in him as I have, this book is a must-read. For the rest of you, and I think this would even include those of you who hate Lovecraft, you may still find this book interesting. It’s a really good roundup of nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century horror fiction, with informative and tantalizing reviews of many special titles. Lovecraft went to considerable effort to research this essay and make it as complete as it could be at the time. Those who don’t enjoy HPL’s prose style may actually find his non-fiction more palatable, and as a reviewer he has considerable respect for reader and writer, and any goodreads reviewer could pick up a pointer or two from this slender booklet.

  14. 4 out of 5

    blake

    The greatest survey of horror and supernatural literature ever, only marred by the author's tragic mortality. Lovecraft was a sensitive soul and true fan of The Weird and this essay appropriately dismisses the works of great writers because they are not The Weird. It's kind of funny, for example, to hear passing reference to Northanger Abbey or a discourse on Nathaniel Hawthorne's House of the Seven Gables with reminders that they're not quite up to snuff. But they're really not up to snuff, if t The greatest survey of horror and supernatural literature ever, only marred by the author's tragic mortality. Lovecraft was a sensitive soul and true fan of The Weird and this essay appropriately dismisses the works of great writers because they are not The Weird. It's kind of funny, for example, to hear passing reference to Northanger Abbey or a discourse on Nathaniel Hawthorne's House of the Seven Gables with reminders that they're not quite up to snuff. But they're really not up to snuff, if taken from the perspective of The Weird. I think this is my third time through this essay (which is also a great reading list of the serious student of horror) and the love of this particular (admitted) niche has never stood out so clearly. HPL knows he's talking to a small audience, but he's fighting for respect in a terribly materialistic and progressive era which tends to disdain the notion of the mysterious and unknown. A must read for fans of the art.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Donald

    This started as a historical essay on weird fiction that was published in 1927 in a magazine called The Recluse. The edition I was able to find is a 1973 reprint of a 1945 reprint. Interesting that no one since has taken on the task of writing about writers, and that Lovecraft's thoughts have stood the test of time. I've pulled some names out of this edition. Perhaps I can even find some of the novels mentioned and thereby see into the past in order to more understand supernatural horror today... This started as a historical essay on weird fiction that was published in 1927 in a magazine called The Recluse. The edition I was able to find is a 1973 reprint of a 1945 reprint. Interesting that no one since has taken on the task of writing about writers, and that Lovecraft's thoughts have stood the test of time. I've pulled some names out of this edition. Perhaps I can even find some of the novels mentioned and thereby see into the past in order to more understand supernatural horror today...

  16. 4 out of 5

    Curtis

    This should perhaps be more aptly titled "The History of Supernatural Horror in Literature." Lovecraft does an excellent job of listing works that contain cosmically horrific elements and themes – and that's it. If you're looking for a Grand Unifying Theory of supernatural horror, this isn't the place to find it. It's more genre-definition-by-name-dropping than critical combination of theoretical ideas. Nonetheless, it's an interesting and useful resource. I don't know that I'll ever read it all This should perhaps be more aptly titled "The History of Supernatural Horror in Literature." Lovecraft does an excellent job of listing works that contain cosmically horrific elements and themes – and that's it. If you're looking for a Grand Unifying Theory of supernatural horror, this isn't the place to find it. It's more genre-definition-by-name-dropping than critical combination of theoretical ideas. Nonetheless, it's an interesting and useful resource. I don't know that I'll ever read it all the way through again, but it will definitely be useful as a reference.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Perry

    This Howard guy seems like he knows what hes talking about!

  18. 5 out of 5

    Britton

    "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 Lovecraft's a writer that keeps pulling me in despite the fact that my issues with his work have been frankly clear. Many of my fellow horror aficionados have recommended me this essay that was written by Lovecraft in 1927 and so, after some hesitation, I decided to pick it up. I found that while it was helpful in understanding the roots and history of gothic a "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 Lovecraft's a writer that keeps pulling me in despite the fact that my issues with his work have been frankly clear. Many of my fellow horror aficionados have recommended me this essay that was written by Lovecraft in 1927 and so, after some hesitation, I decided to pick it up. I found that while it was helpful in understanding the roots and history of gothic and supernatural horror, I didn't get much out of it asides from Lovecraft's mere opinions on the authors discussed in the essay, as well as a history lesson on the makings and breakings of modern horror as we know it. Now that's not to say that one's opinions are bad, criticism is, in essence, opinions. Well researched and informed opinions, but still opinions nonetheless and I found that Lovecraft's opinions on other horror authors and the state of horror literature as a whole to be utterly fascinating and quite modest in that he doesn't try to say that he's right and that's the end of the story or that because he's written horror that he's an authority on it, he allows you to decide if he's right and wrong, and considering the acclaim that he would later get for this essay, it seems that he did something right. As for the people I have not read that Lovecraft mentions such as Machen, Blackwood, Dunsany, James, etc, I won't comment on, but for the authors I have read, I will comment on. Lovecraft's general analysis of Hawthorne's work is an apt description of his sense of mood and atmosphere, but I found that he was far too forgiving of Hawthorne's flaws, though then again this may be because of Lovecraft's own affinity for verbose, overwrought passages. There's also his analysis of Poe, which I also find to be rather apt in its description, though Lovecraft slides over Poe's deeper sense of dread and horror as well as his emotional sensitivity and the horrors of grief and insanity that Poe very much liked to explore in his works rather than a fleeting thought that he expresses. But then again it also plays into Lovecraft's fundamental misunderstanding of Poe's stories and his general lack of skill with character or with human beings in general. There then comes respectable paragraphs about horror classics such as Shelley's Frankenstein and Bram Stoker's Dracula, which are books that Lovecraft admired and for good reasons, as well as horror and gothic authors that I hadn't heard of or that I hadn't read. But with all of his knowledge of horror and insights into authors that came before him and some of his contemporaries. There were also problems that I found in the piece, such as his somewhat dismissal of one of the more underrated horror authors of all time, one Ambrose Bierce as well as the fact that he's also dismissive and barely mentions Robert Louis Stevenson's classic horror novella The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, if not at all. He gives a Bierce a respectful send up, though he seems to think that Bierce's more lighter touch seems to be beneath his taste for the more verbose macabre that he seeks in his horror, but I'll happily admit that there may be some bias there concerning my fondness for Bierce. With all of his faults, Lovecraft had an insight in horror that few could match, and this essay showcases Lovecraft's endless fascination with the macabre, and its one that I'm happy to endorse.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Brenton

    Lovecraft is no doubt the king of the early 20th-century horror genre. I don’t always love his prose style and his (thankfully sparse) dialogue is abominable. But he can evoke an atmosphere that commands attention as he draws from myth, legend, superstition, religion, the occult, faërie, folktale, and rumour to create weird tales and horror stories that readers loved in his day and love still. Lovecraft was terribly influential for Stephen King, who in many ways exceeds Lovecraft in popular appe Lovecraft is no doubt the king of the early 20th-century horror genre. I don’t always love his prose style and his (thankfully sparse) dialogue is abominable. But he can evoke an atmosphere that commands attention as he draws from myth, legend, superstition, religion, the occult, faërie, folktale, and rumour to create weird tales and horror stories that readers loved in his day and love still. Lovecraft was terribly influential for Stephen King, who in many ways exceeds Lovecraft in popular appeal and breadth of possibilities for the genre. With these strengths in hand, and despite these disadvantages, H.P. Lovecraft provides the reader with an engaging long essay/short book in Supernatural Horror in Literature. Though I am not a critical scholar on the development of the macabre, and remembering that Lovecraft was writing 90 years ago–long before Stephen King and the explosive popularity of horror films–I was surprised by the ease with which Lovecraft tells the story of the development of horror stories. Though the last half of the essay descends into description and summary without thematic connection, and though we have a “tell” rather than “show” author at points–he uses the word “hideous” and variants more than 30 times, rather than actually creating a feeling of hideousness–Lovecraft is convincing in his grasp of the general development of the genre. In particular, this essay shows that Lovecraft was remarkably well read, providing a reading list in his analysis of the genre that would delight and disturb readers for a decade. See full review here: https://apilgriminnarnia.com/2018/08/...

  20. 5 out of 5

    Raechel

    This is a short book, but worth the read if you're a HP Lovecraft or horror fan. Supernatural Horror in Literature is HP Lovecraft's essay on...well, supernatural horror in literature. He breaks his essay into chapters covering The Dawn of the Horror Tale, The Early Gothic Novel, The Apex of Gothic Romance, The Aftermath of Gothic Fiction, Spectral Literature on the Continent, Edgar Allan Poe, The Weird Tradition in America, The Weird Tradition in the British Isles, and The Modern Masters. While a This is a short book, but worth the read if you're a HP Lovecraft or horror fan. Supernatural Horror in Literature is HP Lovecraft's essay on...well, supernatural horror in literature. He breaks his essay into chapters covering The Dawn of the Horror Tale, The Early Gothic Novel, The Apex of Gothic Romance, The Aftermath of Gothic Fiction, Spectral Literature on the Continent, Edgar Allan Poe, The Weird Tradition in America, The Weird Tradition in the British Isles, and The Modern Masters. While a lot of what he has to say is accurate even today, a fair bit of this essay is Lovecraft discussing specific works of horror fiction and giving away the entire plot so...spoiler alert. I'm also jealous from all the works of weird and horror fiction he name-drops that he must have read to research this essay. It's awesome! Yes, there is a little smidge of that Lovecraft Racism, but if "Lovecraft was a racist" is all you know about HP Lovecraft, then this essay isn't for you. Go read some of his short stories first and form an actual opinion on his work. One of the most amusing things about this essay, besides gaining about a down more titles to my TBR list, is that Lovecraft rates cosmic horror as the highest form of horror. But if you're so much of a fan of Lovecraft that you want to read 100+ pages of him talking about cool horror, you probably agree.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Ebster Davis

    I got to geek together with a dead guy, how cool is that?! Basically this is a large essay where he reviews the history and development of the Gothic-paranormal horror genre (or as he sometimes calls it, "The Weird"). I loved hearing his take on the different stories, he was even a bit critical of Edgar Allan Poe (who he's a fanboy of). He even included a few stories I wouldn't have thought of as belonging to the genre, and some I hadn't heard of and will definitely check out. I think it's funny I got to geek together with a dead guy, how cool is that?! Basically this is a large essay where he reviews the history and development of the Gothic-paranormal horror genre (or as he sometimes calls it, "The Weird"). I loved hearing his take on the different stories, he was even a bit critical of Edgar Allan Poe (who he's a fanboy of). He even included a few stories I wouldn't have thought of as belonging to the genre, and some I hadn't heard of and will definitely check out. I think it's funny when he gets to the "modern masters" section and he's critiquing his own contemporaries and they're all pretty obscure now. I'm sure "The Great God Pan" is a good horror book; but I wouldn't have considered it a literary descendant of Radcliff, Conan Doyle, Wilde or Shelly. The only author of household fame from that era is the guy who's doing the critique. Which probably means I should check it out.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Fernando Suarezserna

    I got four key takeaways from this book: - According to Lovecraft, in the horror genre, creating the right atmosphere is way more important than plot. - In short stories, character is not that important. Lovecraft mentions Edgar Allan Poe as an example, whose main characters were usually gloomy, mysterious men, and we don't usually get to know anything about them, oftentimes not even their names, yet his short stories were awesome. - There are authors such as Bram Stoker whose ideas were so good, t I got four key takeaways from this book: - According to Lovecraft, in the horror genre, creating the right atmosphere is way more important than plot. - In short stories, character is not that important. Lovecraft mentions Edgar Allan Poe as an example, whose main characters were usually gloomy, mysterious men, and we don't usually get to know anything about them, oftentimes not even their names, yet his short stories were awesome. - There are authors such as Bram Stoker whose ideas were so good, that we are willing to overlook they were not very good writers. - I definitely need to read more from Lord Dunsany, my impression was that he's the author that Lovecraft seems to admire the most. He calls him "Supreme Master" and "The most cosmic of all".

  23. 4 out of 5

    David B

    This is HP Lovecraft's assessment of the state of supernatural fiction from its origins in pre-history (much of his celebrated racism figures in these theories) to the 1920s, when this slim volume was written. Since Lovecraft himself is such a titanic figure in American horror, his critical opinions on the genre are naturally of interest to anyone attracted to the topic. Here Lovecraft discourses at great length on his personal favorites, proving himself to be an expert summarizer. Anyone intere This is HP Lovecraft's assessment of the state of supernatural fiction from its origins in pre-history (much of his celebrated racism figures in these theories) to the 1920s, when this slim volume was written. Since Lovecraft himself is such a titanic figure in American horror, his critical opinions on the genre are naturally of interest to anyone attracted to the topic. Here Lovecraft discourses at great length on his personal favorites, proving himself to be an expert summarizer. Anyone interested in the history of the horror novel will find many fascinating suggestions to add to his reading list.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Benjamin Stahl

    A very informative and thorough exploration through the greats works of the genre, by one of the masters of the genre. I particularly like that Lovecraft drew particular attention to Bierce's The Spook House and Kipling's The Recrudescence of Imray, as I found those to be the scariest of their respected authors also. I also wonder, if he were still around, what Lovecraft would have to say about Stephen King. A very informative and thorough exploration through the greats works of the genre, by one of the masters of the genre. I particularly like that Lovecraft drew particular attention to Bierce's The Spook House and Kipling's The Recrudescence of Imray, as I found those to be the scariest of their respected authors also. I also wonder, if he were still around, what Lovecraft would have to say about Stephen King.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Debra

    Stephen King recommended author and book. King said Lovecraft is the "twentieth-century horror story's dark and baroque prince" in Chapter 2 of Berkley's 1983 paperback edition of Danse Macabre. King mentioned book in Chapter 3 of Berkley's 1983 paperback edition of Danse Macabre. Stephen King recommended author and book. King said Lovecraft is the "twentieth-century horror story's dark and baroque prince" in Chapter 2 of Berkley's 1983 paperback edition of Danse Macabre. King mentioned book in Chapter 3 of Berkley's 1983 paperback edition of Danse Macabre.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Kenn Schubach

    Great essay from HPL. You can find almost all of his writing influences mentioned in here . . . then add in the house library he had access to from the time he was a small child . . . especially the sciences . . . voila!

  27. 4 out of 5

    Elisabeth

    Well written overview of the past centuries of mystical and supernatural writings. The older version of King's Danse Macabre, and shorter as well. Definitely arose curiosity of a few other authors I hope to read from in the future. Well written overview of the past centuries of mystical and supernatural writings. The older version of King's Danse Macabre, and shorter as well. Definitely arose curiosity of a few other authors I hope to read from in the future.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Mar

    As may naturally be expected of a form so closely connected with primal emotion, the horror-tale is as old as human thought and speech themselves. (4,5/5)

  29. 4 out of 5

    Erica Zahn

    At around 27,000 words the essay is lengthy for the amount of matter covered, though I of course value the opinions given (the subjectivity of the subject is one of the dominant aspects of the piece). Lovecraft, when unedited (as he usually is), admittedly has a tendency to ramble, although this has the advantage of a more natural, conversational feel. Although labelled ‘supernatural horror’, it mostly concerns the gothic, since this provides the most significant precursor to what we would term At around 27,000 words the essay is lengthy for the amount of matter covered, though I of course value the opinions given (the subjectivity of the subject is one of the dominant aspects of the piece). Lovecraft, when unedited (as he usually is), admittedly has a tendency to ramble, although this has the advantage of a more natural, conversational feel. Although labelled ‘supernatural horror’, it mostly concerns the gothic, since this provides the most significant precursor to what we would term ‘horror’, and in Lovecraft’s time horror was not yet a recognised category (and never what he termed his own work, despite holding the provocation of fear as its consistent aims). An important element of the genre that is covered in this essay, but often overlooked today is the minority of horror readers: the genre is designed to appeal to those most willing to entertain the idea of forces diametrically opposed to the logic and normalcy of our everyday lives – this can hardly mean a general audience. In the age of popular horror in literature and rather empty scare content in film, I would consider this one of the most notable aspects of the piece. We have limited other modes of escape from ‘regular’ (material and rational) society, as religion becomes increasingly less relevant and folk beliefs or superstitions become less acceptable in the mainstream. Horror appeals to the same instincts, while withholding the chaotic power of its predecessors through the implicit understanding that these manifestations of our fears are not real, and do not have to be. As for the discussions of the literary tradition that leads up to the modern era of horror, the overview of authors and movements given is very comprehensive but also relies on Lovecraft’s own judgements (though I think this provides a good litmus test – we can’t all be as well-read as him). However, there are also a lot of plot overviews that are perhaps not the most beneficial for those of us intending to peruse the works on our own, and perhaps the discussions could have done with further analysis of how the themes change, though discussion of the approaches and styles given is usually present: sometimes it seems to give one half of the story and not the other, since horror is equally about the approach taken by the author and the response achieved in the reader. Nonetheless, it provides excellent prompting for a reading list on the subject: although the essay can be read by novices in the genre and those more experienced, perhaps a return to the essay itself could be expedient once the reader has formed their own opinions and is more fully versed in the traditions at hand.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Jack Wolfe

    spoopy *** H.P. Lovecraft is currently famous in three major ways: 1. Readers of horror fiction recognize him as one of the masters of the "weird tale." 2. People who are vaguely into dark stuff like to buy Cthulu merchandise. 3. Well-meaning lefties think he's a horrible racist scumbag whose name should be scrubbed from he annals of literary history. "Supernatural Horror in Literature" is Lovecraft's brief history of weird fiction. To people in category (1), it must be counted as essential. It is her spoopy *** H.P. Lovecraft is currently famous in three major ways: 1. Readers of horror fiction recognize him as one of the masters of the "weird tale." 2. People who are vaguely into dark stuff like to buy Cthulu merchandise. 3. Well-meaning lefties think he's a horrible racist scumbag whose name should be scrubbed from he annals of literary history. "Supernatural Horror in Literature" is Lovecraft's brief history of weird fiction. To people in category (1), it must be counted as essential. It is here that the "weird canon" first takes shape. All of the writers who Lovecraft admires are still admired today; all the writers he thinks lesser are still thought lesser today. (Awesomely, the introduction writer's assessment of Lovecraft's taste-- he cannot understand what H.P. finds in Clark Ashton Smith-- is more dated than Lovecraft is-- Clark Ashton Smith now has a Penguin Classics edition to all his own!) More importantly, Lovecraft delineates the very idea of what makes for "good horror," emphasizing fear of the unknown, an amoral narrator, interest in psychology, paranormal elements that are not explained away, and a hesitancy to go full-on gory/gross in favor of something consistently unnerving and disturbing. (This idea is still the idea for "good horror" for many consumers of weird fiction.) People in category (2) are not going to find "Supernatural Horror in Literature" very interesting. This is English major stuff! But who cares about them, anyway. As for category (3)... Lovecraft offers some fuel to that raging liberal fire with his stereotypes of various ethnic groups and his insistence on the darkness of the "Saracen" mind. Maybe my social justice senses have dulled, but I didn't find any of this stuff very offensive. First of all, it's a very small part of the book-- less than one percent of it, I'd say-- and second of all, Lovecraft never really endorses a racial hierarchy or white supremacy or anything obnoxious like that. At worst, he shows discomfort with this idea of racial mixing, and imputes certain "black" (not evil) characteristics with people from the Islamic world. Basically, he's a muddle-headed racial essentialist-- which is to say, he's like 90% of human beings before the 60s. These positions are grotesque and irrational. But they shouldn't invalidate Lovecraft's tremendous contributions to weird literature... Contributions that are totally obvious to anyone who's ever encountered his fiction or read "Supernatural Horror in Literature."

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