Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Why "The Dunwich Horror" Is So Great

[This essay originally appeared in Crypt of Cthulhu # 102, Lammas 1999. Copyright 1999.]

William Shakespeare: Romeo and Juliet. Fyodor Dostoevsky: Crime and Punishment. Herman Melville: Moby-Dick. Jack London: The Call of the Wild. H. P. Lovecraft: "The Dunwich Horror."

In the above list, some notable authors are paired with their single best known work. And I'm sure most would agree that "The Dunwich Horror" is arguably Lovecraft's most celebrated tale, the title evoking nods of recognition among casual readers at times when mention of "The Colour out of Space" and At the Mountains of Madness would be greeted with blank stares. It is no coincidence that, in the standard edition of Lovecraft's work, the volume containing his "best" short fiction is titled The Dunwich Horror and Others.

However, in the list of authors and works cited above, HPL and "The Dunwich Horror" stand out in a very curious way: Shakespeare scholars don't hate Romeo and Juliet, Melville scholars don't hate Moby-Dick, and so on. Okay, maybe Lovecraft scholars don't actually hate "The Dunwich Horror" either. They do, however, have serious problems with it.

S. T. Joshi and Donald Burleson are both known far and wide as leading Lovecraft scholars. Joshi states, ["The Dunwich Horror"] is, certainly, one of Lovecraft's most popular tales, but I cannot help finding serious flaws of conception, execution, and style in it."[1] He adds that "many points of plotting and characterization in the story are painfully inept."[2] Burleson concurs that "The Dunwich Horror" is "oddly flawed by certain crudities of characterization and plot."[3] I'll address specific criticisms concerning plot and character as I proceed. For now, however, it is worth noting that both Joshi's and Burleson's primary objections to the story have to do, not with individual stylistic lapses, but with the basic premise of Lovecraft's story.

To understand this, we must look briefly at the plot of "The Dunwich Horror." In the dreary New England backwater of Dunwich, the freakish Wilber Whateley is born, the spawn of a hapless human female and the demonic entity Yog-Sothoth. Wilbur reaches maturity in little more than a decade, becoming a misshapen eight-foot giant. As he grows, he is groomed by his grandfather, Old Whateley, to be an acolyte of the inhuman Old Ones. Wilbur must obtain the dreaded Necronomicon in order to "clear off" the earth so the Old Ones may take possession of it. Both the inhuman Wilbur Whateley and the related monstrosity known as the Dunwich Horror are opposed by the wise old scholar, Henry Armitage.

Anyone familiar with Lovecraft's basic themes and motifs can grasp the problems critics have here. Donald Burleson sums it up neatly:

[O]ne wonders that the tale can fit at all into a Lovecraft Mythos in which such human concepts as "good" and "evil" are meaningless, and the cosmos is portrayed as awesomely indifferent to human interests, for in "The Dunwich Horror" there appears to be a sort of `stock' struggle between good and evil, between Armitage and the blasphemous monstrosity which he rushes in like a movie hero to quell. [4]

Burleson charitably attempts to get around this by interpreting the story in mythic terms, or even as a parody. To this, S. T. Joshi comments, "An interesting case has been made that the tale is in fact a parody, but my feeling is that `The Dunwich Horror' is simply an aesthetic mistake on Lovecraft's part."[5]

It may seem a bit harsh for Joshi and Burleson to knock "The Dunwich Horror" because it doesn't jibe perfectly with some critical theory, but it must be remembered that the theory is Lovecraft's and not theirs. Throughout his career, in essays and letters, Lovecraft detailed his criteria for successful weird fiction in no uncertain terms. This well-known statement to Farnsworth Wright is representative:

...Now all my tales are based on the fundamental premise that common human laws and interests and emotions have no validity or significance in the vast cosmos-at-large...To achieve the essence of real externality, whether of time or space or dimension, one must forget that such things as organic life, good and evil, love and hate, and all such local attributes of a negligible and temporary race called mankind have any existence at all.[6]

Thus Joshi is moved to conclude , "`The Dunwich Horror' seems to defy Lovecraft's own strictures against a stock good-versus-evil scenario with humans as the self-evident `heroes' and extraterrestrials as self-evident `villains.'"[7]

However, Lovecraft did make allowances for a certain amount of flexibility in regards to his aesthetic criteria. After detailing some of them in "Supernatural Horror in Literature," he adds, "[W]e cannot expect all weird tales to conform absolutely to any theoretical model."[8] In creating his own fiction, Lovecraft's critical theory served him well, but it served him. He didn't serve it.

Some tales do have a life of their own in the sense that they transcend their authors' designs in various ways. In writing "The Dunwich Horror," Lovecraft was guided by his muse more than his critical theory. With so memorable a tale, the only true "aesthetic mistake" HPL could have made would have been to hold himself back.

All that aside, however, is "The Dunwich Horror" really so totally incompatible with the recurrent themes and ideas of Lovecraft's other major works? Did HPL actually succeed in bending his own rules without breaking them? Is it possible, even, that "The Dunwich Horror" might in some way enhance, rather than undermine, the basic philosophical thrust of Lovecraft's bleak "anti-mythology"? To answer these questions, we must look at the story more closely.

In "The Dunwich Horror," one of the most important characters in the Dunwich region itself. Lovecraft regarded a story's setting as the key to establishing the appropriate mood. In this case, an entire opening segment is devoted to setting the stage with a detailed description of the isolated and decaying rural hamlet of Dunwich. Even critics who are cold to the story as a whole give Lovecraft high marks for his vivid portrayal of this setting.

At a farm on the outskirts of Dunwich, Wilber Whateley is born to the deformed albino, Lavinia. By the now-well-known climax of the story, both Wilbur and his even-more-monstrous twin are revealed as the spawn of the nightmarish entity Yog-Sothoth. It took a woman, Joyce Carol Oates, to point out to me what I would have realized in a minute if I had bothered to think about it--that Lavinia must have been brutally coerced by her crazed father for her to mate with a demon and give birth to monsters.

This must surely stand as the most monumental case of domestic abuse in man's sordid history. I can't help feeling a little ashamed that I never gave much thought to Lavinia, and what life with her father must have been like. To those who say that "The Dunwich Horror" is too lurid and blatant, I would point out that Lovecraft leaves much to the imagination that is better unsaid. Writing in the twenties, HPL could only state so much directly, but I'm sure his taste and restraint would have prevailed in any event. A modern author would almost certainly milk Lavinia's ordeal for all it was worth in a novel-length version of the tale.

So what sort of man violates his own daughter in such an appalling manner? Probably the same sort that dabbles in black magic to clear off the earth of its indigenous life so it can be dragged to some nameless place for some nameless purpose. Old Whateley's personal motives here are rather hard to grasp. Perhaps he is deluded enough to think he might benefit in some way, but its more likely he's so craven a soul as to kowtow to the most powerful faction regardless of any other consideration. To do him justice, I have to go out on a limb and use the E-word.

Okay, he's evil. One of those critically-problematic no-no's. Before anyone gets carried away, it might be worth noting that while such terms as "good" and "evil" are meaningless on Yuggoth, they still presumably have meaning in Massachusetts. While Lovecraft regarded love, hate, good, evil, etc. as meaningless in a cosmic sense, he still recognized them as "local attributes of a negligible and temporary race called mankind."[9] Thus Wilbur, Yog-Sothoth, and the Dunwich horror can't really be considered evil, but Old Whateley can. Without question he's the worst traitor in history, selling out not just his nation, or race, or even humanity itself, but all terrestrial life.

Earthly life is portrayed as possessing a certain solidarity in "The Dunwich Horror." Wilbur Whately is abhorred by dogs, so much so that this hulking creature is obliged to carry a gun to defend against their attacks. The dog was the first animal to be domesticated by man, perhaps originally to bark warnings of human and animal marauders. In this story, the dog again proves its worth as man's ally. People regard Wilbur with bewilderment, but the primative instincts of the canine are more sound.

Also woven into this motif is the folk tale of the whippoorwills that lie in wait to catch the souls of the dying. Lovecraft uses this legend to startling effect in the course of the story, but how did the materialist Lovecraft come to ponder the immaterial soul? Critics could point to this as another vexing instance in which HPL seems to ignore his own strictures. But must we take the notion of the "soul" so literally here? As early as "From Beyond" (1920) Lovecraft postulated that reality extends beyond our perception of it. Perhaps the whippoorwills are merely responding to some psychic disturbance or discharge, nature unknown, that coincides with the moment of death. As Blake wrote, "How do you know but ev'ry Bird that cuts the airy way, / is an immense world of delight, clos'd by your senses five?"

None of this is to suggest any sort of mystical bent on Lovecraft's part. The notion that dogs and birds may possess important attributes lacking in humans only serves to undermine humanity's central importance. Lovecraft was well aware of the Darwinian struggle of life. He knew that everything that moves must kill something else to live, and that even plants are nourished by the decay of other organisms. The suggestion of a sort of solidarity among earthly lifeforms, despite this, is present to magnify the alien nature of the Old Ones.

Back to the story. Old Whateley boasts to the Dunwich natives that, "some day yew folks'll hear a child o' Lavinny's acallin its father's name on the top of Sentinel Hill!" Wilbur is being tutored in the religion of the Old Ones, and this includes rites performed among the ancient monoliths on Sentinel Hill. Presumably, Wilbur will invoke Yog-Sothoth there as Old Whateley himself had done, so Old Whateley's pronouncement is not just inept foreshadowing, as has been suggested.

In the meantime, the Whateleys are kept busy feeding and housing the future Dunwich horror. Wilbur and the horror mature at an unnaturally rapid rate. Old Whateley passes away, but not before giving Wilbur his final instructions. Wilbur must consult the complete edition of the Necronomicon. The text is available at the library of Miskatonic University in Arkham. Wilbur travels there, but is thwarted in his attempt to borrow the book by the aged librarian, Dr. Henry Armitage.

Henry Armitage is a character who deserves some special attention, as he has been much maligned by critics. Both Donald R. Burleson and S. T. Joshi really have it in for Armitage. Burleson informs us that, "Armitage sounds like a buffoon because...he is a buffoon."[10] Joshi goes even further, "Armitage is, indeed, the prize buffoon in all Lovecraft."[11]

Excuse me? Dennis Rodman is a "buffoon." Henry Armitage is an esteemed scholar with advanced degrees from Princeton and Johns Hopkins who has devoted his life to the pursuit of knowledge. Yet Joshi and Burleson belittle him mercilessly, referring to him variously as pompous, hokey, and "essentially a cipher."[12] Nevertheless, Joshi admits that "Lovecraft intends us to take him seriously."[13]

It seems clear that Lovecraft intended that we not only take Armitage seriously, but hold him in fairly high esteem. This should come as no surprise. When Lovecraft was a boy, his primary male role model was his grandfather. Throughout his adult life, he affected the dignified mannerisms of an elder gentleman. Lovecraft was barely out of his twenties when he began referring to himself as "Grandpa" when addressing younger colleagues. Little wonder that he told August Derleth that he found himself "psychologically identifying" with Henry Armitage.[14] Lovecraft would never portray an elderly scholar as a joke.

The significance of Armitage as a character lies in his erudition. Armitage's studies for the most part involve such things as ancient writings and dead languages --not the sort of thing with any readily-perceivable application. Yet it is Armitage's pursuit of esoteric knowledge that enables him to put down the Dunwich horror. This is Lovecraft's way of saying that you just never know what sort of knowledge may one day turn out to be valuable. In "The Dunwich Horror," HPL emerges as a staunch advocate of the pursuit of knowledge for its own sake.

Dr. Henry Armitage wisely prohibits Wilbur Whateley from borrowing the Necronomicon, so Wilbur is driven to try to steal it. Wilbur breaks into the library at night, only to be killed by a guard dog. Armitage and some colleagues discover Wilbur as he lies dying. The dog has torn Wilbur's clothing asunder in its attack, and Wilbur's true form is now revealed in one of the most horrific passages in Lovecraft's fiction. Some have felt that Lovecraft's description of Wilbur is too lengthy and precise, but I hold that Lovecraft's technique here is sound. The reader has already guessed that Wilbur is not wholly human, but the revelation of just how inhuman Wilbur actually is comes as a shock.

After Wilbur's death, Armitage studies a secret manuscript found at the Whateley farmhouse. It is Wilbur's diary, kept in code, and Dr. Armitage undertakes the laborious task of deciphering it. Gradually, he learns of the Whateley's plans to surrender the earth to the Old Ones, and of the existence of the Dunwich horror. Mental fatigue and slowly-growing panic cause the elderly scholar to suffer a nervous collapse. In bed, he mutters over and over, "But what, in God's name can we do?"

According to Joshi, this bit of dialogue makes for "painful reading,"[15] and Burleson isn't crazy about it either. Both critics use such terms as hokey, corny, and melodramatic in reference to
Armitage's dialogue. It's worth noting that the most frequently heard last words on black box flight recorders are "Uh oh" and "Oh shit." People can be forgiven inarticulate or trite utterances during moments of extreme stress.

While Armitage learns the truth in Arkham, things come to a head in Dunwich. Without Wilbur to tend to it, his monstrous twin breaks free and begins to blindly ravage the countryside. I consider the destruction of the Elmer Frye family another of the most horrific moments in Lovecraft's work. Learning of these events, Armitage rallies. With his colleagues Rice and Morgan, he heads to Dunwich to deal with the menace.

In Dunwich, Armitage and company join a local posse that is tracking the unknown terror. When the courage of the locals begins to falter, Armitage takes charge. Burleson objects to what he considers the mawkish, moralizing tone of such dialogue as "We have no business calling in such things from outside, and only very wicked people and very wicked cults ever try to." It's important to remember that Armitage is addressing an inbred community of semi-morons. In choosing his words, he must be clear, unwavering, and convincing. "We must follow it, boys," he tells them, "I believe there's a chance of putting it out of business...this thing is a thing of wizardry, and must be put down by the same means." I've worked with guys not much smarter than the Dunwich inhabitants. Armitage's background has not prepared him for such a task, but I personally think he does a splendid job.

The Dunwich horror is finally located atop Sentinel Hill. While the villagers watch from below, Armitage, Rice, and Morgan ascend the hill to deal with it. For this task, they are prepared. Since the horror is invisible to human eyes, they employ a spray of chemical powder to make it visible. Joshi questions the purpose of this action, other than to allow Lovecraft to write a lurid description. Bear in mind, however, that Armitage and company had no idea under what circumstances they would be confronting the horror and, in any event, it is always advisable to know as much as possible about a foe. And besides, no matter how terrifying the Dunwich horror might look, what intellectually-curious person would not wish to behold such a wonder?

Armitage, Rice, and Morgan now use incantations to banish the Dunwich horror. Joshi thinks that they look ridiculous shouting spells and waving their arms. Possibly Lovecraft thought so too. Why else is this scene viewed through a telescope? Perhaps HPL wanted some distance from his protagonists because he was embarrassed for them. In the movie Count Yorga, Vampire, a character complains that, in the atomic age, he has to use pointed sticks for weapons. In "The Dunwich Horror," modern men of reason are reduced to employing methods more appropriate for primitive societies. If Lovecraft's Mythos is intended to take humanity down a peg, it surely does so here.

The story concludes with Armitage's revelation that the Dunwich horror was actually Wilbur Whateley's twin. After the quibbling I've done with Donald Burleson, it seems only fair to acknowledge his fascinating thesis that the Whateley twins, viewed as parts of a single entity, conform to an archetypal pattern present in heroic mythology known as the monomyth. The stages of the monomyth include miraculous conception or birth, initiation, preparation, trial and quest, death of the hero, descent to the underworld, resurrection or rebirth, and ascension. Burleson explains how Wilbur fulfills the early stages of the monomyth, and the Dunwich horror the latter stages. I cannot do justice to his thesis here; it appears in full in Burleson's book, H. P. Lovecraft: A Critical Study and his article, "The Mythic Hero Archetype in `The Dunwich Horror.'" The thesis forms the basis of Burleson's assertion that the Whateley twins, not Armitage, are the hero of "The Dunwich Horror."

While acknowledging that Burleson's well-supported thesis holds water, I'm still not comfortable regarding Wilbur Whateley as the hero. I have my own ideas concerning the hero's identity. Like any really rich literary work, "The Dunwich Horror" yields a variety of possible interpretations. In a brief aside, Burleson mentions the guard dog tha kills Wilbur Whateley, noting, "[I]t is really this dog that saves the world from unthinkable horrors, for in Wilbur's absence, the twin, though capable of much local mischief, is ineffectual in cosmic terms. The dog has saved the world..."[16]

So the dog is the hero of "The Dunwich Horror." I am not being facetious; I mean this in all seriousness. Jack London has demonstrated that a sympathetic protagonist need not be human. Also, consider that from Yog-Sothoth's point of view, one warm-blooded, land-dwelling vertebrate looks pretty much the same as another. Lovecraft was fond of pointing out that the human race is nothing special. That's why he depicted super-intelligent, super-powerful entities as resembling mollusks and crinoids. He wanted to challenge the notion that only the primate order could produce a sapient species. Thus, various species of Old Ones are depicted as resembling creatures from the opposite end of the evolutionary spectrum.

Lovecraft was well-read in the sciences and the literary classics, but it is not known if he ever undertook a systematic study of folklore and mythology. This, of course, does not mean that he couldn't have instinctively tapped into the monomyth. However, in regard to the mythic elements he might consciously have intended to embody in "The Dunwich Horror," we need look no further than the New Testament gospels. In Lovecraft's variation, we see Yog-Sothoth as the Father, Wilbur Whateley as the Son, and the Dunwich horror as the Holy Ghost.

Commentators have also observed that the demise of the Dunwich horror on Sentinel Hill makes for an exquisite parody of the crucifixion. This is the only element of the story that can legitimately be considered parodic. And yet, it may be more accurate to view this as a reinterpretation of the Gospels rather than outright parody.

"The Dunwich Horror" was written after "The Call of Cthulhu" and The Case of Charles Dexter Ward. Lovecraft was well on his way in the systematic development of his anti-mythology. At this point, he may have realized that he needed a demi-god tale to make his mythos more complete. From his reading of the classics, HPL was familiar with stories of the offspring of gods and mortals. He was, of course, aware that Jesus Christ is viewed as an incarnate god by the faithful. Perhaps he wondered what might actually happen if some entity capable of passing as a god should somehow produce offspring with a human female. Surely, the result would more closely resemble "The Dunwich Horror" than the charming legends of antiquity.

"The Dunwich Horror" is so great because in it we find the most emphatic placement of myth in the Lovecraft mythos. It belies the notion that HPL was actually a science fiction writer slumming in the horror genre. Yes, it is true that humans in his stories refer to the Old Ones as "gods" because they don't know what else to call them. In pointing out their error, S. T. Joshi repeatedly uses the phrase "mere extraterrestrials" to explain the Old Ones true nature. However, downgrading these entities to space invaders leads to critical problems no less than the more conventional view.

The Old Ones are meant to inspire awe and dread. But if they're really just a bunch of crummy aliens, then let's kill `em. The counter-argument would assert that there's nothing "mere" about these extraterrestrials. Still, we find ourselves wondering "Would the atom bomb work on Cthulhu?" and I don't think this is a path Lovecraft meant for us to take.

And just how accurate is the "extraterrestrial" label anyway? In some cases, of course, it is apt. However, Robert M. Price has pointed out that certain Old Ones are worshipped by other ones.[17] If not gods, they are in some sense godlike. When in doubt, check the Necronomicon:

Nor is it to be thought that man is either the oldest or the last of earth's masters, or that the common bulk of life and substance walks alone. The Old Ones were, the Old Ones are, and the Old Ones shall be. Not in the spaces we know, but between them. They walk serene and primal, undimensioned and to us unseen...

To me, this sounds like the Old Ones are, in some unfathomable manner, already here and always have been. Price has also suggested that the star-headed Old Ones in At the Mountains of Madness may not have come from space but were the product of an earlier, seperate cycle of evolution.[18] If so, both the star-heads ond the Old Ones cited in the Necronomicon above are as terrestrial as we are, and possibly even more so.

Cultists in the stories call the Old Ones "gods" because they don't know what else to call them. We call the Old Ones "extraterrestrials" because we don't know what else to call them. Centuries from now they may be known by some term not yet invented. The likes of the Old Ones are not so easily pigeon-holed by our puny human intellects. They both are and are not gods, demons, monsters, and/or extraterrestrials.

Lovecraft knew that effective horror fiction must contain an element of ambiguity. An unknown horror becomes an absurdity if you explain it too much. Conversely, Lovecraft also knew that a certain amount of detailed information is needed to enhance realism, and asserted that in this the writer must be as crafty as an actual hoaxer. A prime example in his own fiction is the "autopsy" of the star-headed Old Ones in At the Mountains of Madness. Still, HPL always knew what to keep concealed. Lovecraft has been criticized as a writer lacking in technical skill, yet his instincts concerning when to convey information and when to withhold it are extremely sound.

Lovecraft's later work is customarily viewed as a kind of linear progression from "The Call of Cthulhu" through "The Colour out of Space" to At the Mountains of Madness. In this view, "The Dunwich Horror" fits the pattern only awkwardly. But perhaps Lovecraft saw his fictional cosmology as a central destination to be approached from different directions. Thus the Old Ones are depicted as gods one time, extraterrestrials another, lake Platonic ideals casting their shadows. Eventually, however, the "extraterrestrial" image does tend to predominate. "The Dunwich Horror" is so great because it's a wild card in Lovecraft's fiction that prevents us from too easily dismissing the Old Ones as aliens.

The notion that Lovecraft may have intentionally differed his approach from story to story would also account for stylistic variations. Joyce Carol Oates wonders that "the subtly modulated `The Colour out of Space' [is] followed by the overwrought sensationalism of `The Dunwich Horror.'"[19] Scholars have puzzled over why Lovecraft devoured reams of dime novels and pulp fiction in his youth and beyond, when from a very early age he was also immersed in literary classics. Lovecraft was only too aware of the shortcomings of such fiction, but continued to read it anyway. My guess is that he was attracted to the vital energy of such work, a quality he found so redeeming that he was willing to overlook various flaws. As an author, he attempted to impart this energy to what he considered a more aesthetic mode of literary expression --sort of a "marriage of heaven and hell."

This is a matter of no small importance. It is why H. P. Lovecraft is not a museum piece, but someone acid rockers name their band after. HPL has taken his share of flak from critics like Edmund Wilson, who see stylistic crudities in the bulk of Lovecraft's work, not just "The Dunwich Horror." Lovecraft himself may have opined that writing for Weird Tales corrupted his style, but I think on some level he was aware that subtlety, restraint and suggestion would only get him so far.

Colin Wilson contributed what I consider a key insight into Lovecraft and his work: Lovecraft became a horror writer instead of a science fiction writer because horror expresses aggression and science fiction doesn't. At times Lovecraft was consent to unsettle the reader, insidiously undermining his sense of "at-homeness" in the universe. But sometimes HPL was out to rock the reader's world and leave him lolling in the muck. That's why he wrote "The Dunwich Horror" and not "The Dunwich Malign Suspension of Natural Law." Lovecraft knew when to whisper and when to shout.

This brings me to another reason why "The Dunwich Horror" is so great. The proof of the pudding is in the eating. Lovecraft astounded the readers of Weird Tales, as he astounds new readers today, simply because he makes most other horror writers look like they're asleep. Nowhere is this more evident than in "The Dunwich Horror." I was startled to see the story dismissed by some as an Arthur Machen pastiche. What Lovecraft borrowed from Machen, he altered and improved dramatically. Or to put it bluntly, "The Dunwich Horror" makes "The Great God Pan" look like a joke.

A good part of the value of "The Dunwich Horror" to the Lovecraft canon as a whole lies in its tremendous popular appeal and, more precisely, its accessibility. Lovecraft maintained that a convincing weird story must be grounded in conventional reality and proceed in a gradual, step-by-step manner into the realm of the fantastic. In a similar process, Lovecraft first situates the reader amid the traditional Gothic trappings of horror and leads him step-by-step towards a more complete vista of his, Lovecraft's, own cosmic vision. In this sense, "The Dunwich Horror" may be considered and "entry level" story in terms of Lovecraft's mythos.

Far from being a mistake or an embarrassment, "The Dunwich Horror" is a vital component of Lovecraft's fictional work as a whole. A first-time reader, completing "The Dunwich Horror," is likely want to read more Lovecraft. The same cannot be said with confidence about At the Mountains of Madness. "The Dunwich Horror" has been bringing new readers to Lovecraft for decades. Who can say what Lovecraft's present-day stature would be without it? Were we to go back in time and expunge "The Dunwich Horror," we might well come back to a world without Lovecraft Studies, Selected Letters, and so on.

In conclusion, Lovecraft wouldn't be Lovecraft without "The Dunwich Horror."

And as a postscript, I hope my observations haven't proved too irritating to S. T. Joshi and Donald R. Burleson. My goal has simply been to find some common ground over which fans and critics can join hands. That, and to restore a little of the lost luster to H. P. Lovecraft's great story, "The Dunwich Horror."


[1] S. T. Joshi, H. P. Lovecraft: A Life (West Warwick RI: Necronomicon Press, 1996), p. 448.

[2] Ibid., p. 449.

[3] Donald R. Burleson, H. P. Lovecraft: A Critical Study (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1983), p. 141.

[4] Ibid.

[5] S. T. Joshi, ed., The Annotated H. P. Lovecraft (New York: Dell Trade Paperbacks, 1997), pp.16-17.

[6] H. P. Lovecraft, Selected Letters II (Sauk City, WI: Arkham House, 1968), p. 150.

[7] Joshi, Annotated HPL, p. 16.

[8] H. P. Lovecraft, Supernatural Horror in Literature (New York: Dover Publications, Inc. 1973), p. 15.

[9] Lovecraft, Selected Letters II, p. 150.

[10] Burleson, p. 141.

[11] Joshi, HPL: A Life, p. 450.

[12] Burleson, p. 148.

[13] Joshi, Annotated HPL, p. 16.

[14] Joshi, HPL: A Life, p. 450.

[15] Ibid.

[16] Burleson, p. 148.

[17] Robert M. Price, "The Mythology of the Old Ones," in H. P. Lovecraft Centennial Conference Proceedings, ed. S. T. Joshi (West Warwick, RI: Necronomicon Press, 1991) pp. 72-73.

[18] Robert M. Price, "Patterns in the Snow: A New Reading of At the Mountains of Madness," Crypt of Cthulhu No. 81 (St. John's Eve, 1992), pp. 48-51.

[19] Joyce Carol Oates, Tales of H. P. Lovecraft (Hopewell, NJ: Ecco Press, 1997), p. xiv.


David J. West said...

I couldn't agree more-wonderful essay. Thank you.

Pete Von Sholly said...

YOU tell 'em, Charles! And Dennis Rodman is STILL a buffoon lo these many years later... When I read your comment on him I checked the year of your essay- some things don't change. I like your defense of a great story.