The Lovecraft series continues with a long look at a title S. T. Joshi still considers one of his most important works on Lovecraft.
For those who want something else of mine touching on some of the themes of this book, check out my review of Lovecraft’s Letters to James Morton.
Raw Feed (2005): H. P. Lovecraft: The Decline of the West, S. T. Joshi, 1990.
This was a fascinating, illuminating book.
It is not that Lovecraft’s individual ethics, philosophical notions of materialism, politics, and notions of aesthetics were that unique. It is the combination that was somewhat unique and, most importantly — as Joshi convincingly shows — how those views consistently show up in his fiction.
In the first half of the book, Joshi documents (mostly through Lovecraft’s voluminous correspondence) the development of Lovecraft’s philosophy and how it was influenced by others — philosophers ancient and modern and science.
Lovecraft, descendant of a wealthy New England family that, in his childhood, fell on hard times, was a lifelong aristocrat. Always suspicious of democracy, Joshi shows how he moved from notions of an aristocracy of birth to (with relapses expressed in his letters and often involving race) an aristocracy of intellect. Thus he moved from a sentimental “royalist” (of course America has no official royalty but Anglophiliac Lovecraft earlier expressed, in his associated love for 18th Century England and Colonial America, a love of English royalty — or, at least, Queen Anne) and Republican to an advocate of “fascistic socialism” and voter for Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Continue reading