Supernatural Horror in Literature

"Supernatural Horror in Literature" is a long essay by American writer H. P. Lovecraft, surveying the topic of horror fiction. It was written between November 1925 and May 1927 and revised during 1933–1934. It was first published in 1927 in the one-issue magazine The Recluse.[1] More recently, it was included in the collection Dagon and Other Macabre Tales (1965).

Lovecraft examines the beginnings of weird fiction in the gothic novel (relying greatly on Edith Birkhead's 1921 survey The Tale of Terror) and traces its development through such writers as Ambrose Bierce, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Edgar Allan Poe (who merits his own chapter). Lovecraft names as the four "modern masters" of horror: Algernon Blackwood, Lord Dunsany, M. R. James, and Arthur Machen.

An H. P. Lovecraft Encyclopedia terms the work "HPL's most significant literary essay and one of the finest historical analyses of horror literature."[2] Upon reading the essay, M. R. James proclaimed Lovecraft's style "most offensive".[3] However, Edmund Wilson, who was not an admirer of Lovecraft's fiction, praised the essay as a "really able piece of work...he had read comprehensively in this field—he was strong on the Gothic novelists—and writes about it with much intelligence".[4] David G. Hartwell has called "Supernatural Horror in Literature", "the most important essay on horror literature".[5]

See also


  1. ^ Joshi, S. T. Joshi & Schultz, David E. "Supernatural Horror in Literature". An H. P. Lovecraft Encyclopedia: 255.CS1 maint: Uses authors parameter (link)
  2. ^ Joshi and Schultz, p. 255.
  3. ^ Joshi and Schultz, p. 256.
  4. ^ Wilson, Edmund (1994). "Afterward". H. P. Lovecraft's Book of Horror.
  5. ^ Hartwell, David G. (1989). The Dark Descent. Tor Books. p. 85. ISBN 0-312-93035-6.

External links

Conte cruel

The conte cruel is, as The A to Z of Fantasy Literature by Brian Stableford states, a "short-story genre that takes its name from an 1883 collection by Villiers de l'Isle-Adam, although previous examples had been provided by such writers as Edgar Allan Poe. Some critics use the label to refer only to non-supernatural horror stories, especially those that have nasty climactic twists, but it is applicable to any story whose conclusion exploits the cruel aspects of the 'irony of fate.' The collection from which the short-story genre of the conte cruel takes its name is Contes cruels (1883, tr. Sardonic Tales, 1927) by Villiers de l'Isle-Adam. Also taking its name from this collection is Contes cruels ("Cruel Tales"), a two-volume set of about 150 tales and short stories by the 19th-century French writer Octave Mirbeau, collected and edited by Pierre Michel and Jean-François Nivet and published in two volumes in 1990 by Librairie Séguier.

Some noted writers in the conte cruel genre are Charles Birkin, Maurice Level, Patricia Highsmith and Roald Dahl, the latter of whom originated Tales of the Unexpected. H. P. Lovecraft observed of Level's fiction in his essay Supernatural Horror in Literature (1927): "This type, however, is less a part of the weird tradition than a class peculiar to itself—the so-called conte cruel, in which the wrenching of the emotions is accomplished through dramatic tantalizations, frustrations, and gruesome physical horrors".Brian M. Stableford has observed that, by the 1980s, the conte cruel was the standard narrative form of soft science fiction, in particular the works of Thomas M. Disch and John Sladek.

Dagon and Other Macabre Tales

Dagon and Other Macabre Tales is a collection of stories by American author H. P. Lovecraft, which also includes his essay on weird fiction, "Supernatural Horror in Literature". It was originally published in 1965 by Arkham House in an edition of 3,471 copies. The true first edition, unlike some other first editions of Lovecraft collections issued by Arkham House in the mid-sixties, is bound with head- and tailbands.

The collection was revised in 1986 by S.T. Joshi replacing the introduction by August Derleth for one by Joshi and another by T. E. D. Klein. The bulk of the tales were also reordered chronologically, while some tales were moved to appendices. It was released in an edition of 4,023 copies, designated a 'corrected 5th printing'.

Horrid Mysteries

The Horrid Mysteries, subtitled "A Story From the German Of The Marquis Of Grosse" is a translation by Peter Will of the German Gothic novel Der Genius by Carl Grosse. It was listed as one of the seven "horrid novels" by Jane Austen in her Northanger Abbey and also mentioned by Thomas Love Peacock in Nightmare Abbey. It was first published by the sensationalist Minerva Press in 1796. A later, two-volume edition published by Robert Holden and Co., Ltd. in 1927 includes a new introductory essay by Montague Summers. The books were bound in pictoral boards, and feature a period-style "advertisement" for Pears' Soap on the rear cover.The hero of the tale, the Marquis of Grosse, finds himself embroiled in a secret revolutionary society which advocates murder and mayhem in pursuit of an early form of communism. He creates a rival society to combat them and finds himself hopelessly trapped between the two antagonistic forces. The book has been both praised and lambasted for its lurid portrayal of sex, violence and barbarism. H. P. Lovecraft, in his lengthy essay Supernatural Horror in Literature, dismissed it and others like it as "...the dreary plethora of trash like Marquis von Grosse's Horrid Mysteries..."

Horror fiction

Horror is a genre of speculative fiction which is intended to frighten, scare, disgust, or startle its readers by inducing feelings of horror and terror. Literary historian J. A. Cuddon defined the horror story as "a piece of fiction in prose of variable length... which shocks, or even frightens the reader, or perhaps induces a feeling of repulsion or loathing". It creates an eerie and frightening atmosphere. Horror is frequently supernatural, though it can be non-supernatural. Often the central menace of a work of horror fiction can be interpreted as a metaphor for the larger fears of a society.

Irvin S. Cobb

Irvin Shrewsbury Cobb (June 23, 1876 – March 11, 1944) was an American author, humorist, editor and columnist from Paducah, Kentucky, who relocated to New York in 1904, living there for the remainder of his life. He wrote for the New York World, Joseph Pulitzer's newspaper, as the highest paid staff reporter in the United States.

Cobb also wrote more than 60 books and 300 short stories. Some of his works were adapted for silent movies. Several of his Judge Priest short stories were adapted in the 1930s for two feature films directed by John Ford.

Leonard Cline

Leonard Lanson Cline (11 May 1893-15/16 January 1929) was an American novelist, poet, short story writer, and journalist.

Born in the United States in Bay City, Michigan, he attended the University of Michigan, was married in 1913, published his first book of poetry, Poems, in 1914 and worked for The Detroit News from 1916 until 1922. In 1922 he began a job with the newspaper Baltimore Sun.

His writings were published in a variety of magazines: The New Republic, The American Mercury, The Smart Set, The Nation and Scribner's Magazine. His journalist work was published in the Baltimore Sun, The New York World, The Chicago Daily News, The New York Herald Tribune, and St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

The Viking Press published his first novel, God Head in 1925. It deals with the Kalevala legends in a modern society. The critic Laurence Stallings wrote: "It is the most tempestuous novel of many seasons. It would be eminently fair to believe that Leonard Cline could write rings around a half dozen of our ten best novelists." (The New York World, 21 October 1925)

In 1926 he published the humorous novel Listen, Moon!, which deals with a professor assuming the role of a pirate along the Chesapeake. Time’s reviewer wrote of it, "the commonplace has suddenly, with sublime and innocent vulgarity, comic pedantry, unflagging ebullience, gone stark, raving romantic.... The contrasting humor and whimsy of [Cline’s] new novel is as astonishing as it is joyous."In 1927 he published The Dark Chamber, arguably his most famous work. The novel was described by H.P. Lovecraft in his Supernatural Horror in Literature as "extremely high in artistic stature". A review proclaimed, "he has opened a squamous dungeon of the mind and explored it with the erudite perversity of a cheerier, juicier Poe. Like all horror stories it is belittled by its own theatricality yet it remains an amazingly worded orgy of the more unspeakable human propensities."He also published stories in pulp magazines using the pseudonym "Alan Forsyth". (Six of these stories are collected in The Lady of Frozen Death and Other Weird Tales, published in 1992).Cline was also a translator, translating Thomas Raucat's The Honourable Picnic from the French. His translation of Ramón del Valle-Inclán's La Lampara Maravillosa (The Lamp of Marvels), a book of spiritual exercises, remains unpublished.

In 1927, during a drunken quarrel, Cline shot his friend Wilfred Irwin, who died of his wounds several hours later. Cline was tried and sentenced to a year in prison for manslaughter. He was released after eight months for good behavior. Henry Luce gave Cline a job at Time when he got out of prison. On the evening of 15 January 1929, Cline hosted a party at his New York City apartment to celebrate the sale of a scenario for a play. Cline complained to friends at the party about having chest pains. He was found dead of heart failure in his apartment five days later, not having been seen alive since the night of the party.

Maurice Level

Maurice Level (August 29, 1875 – April 15, 1926) was a French writer of fiction and drama who specialized in short stories of the macabre which were printed regularly in the columns of Paris newspapers and sometimes staged by le Théâtre du Grand-Guignol, the repertory company in Paris's Pigalle district devoted to melodramatic productions which emphasized blood and gore.

Many of Level's stories have been translated into American newspapers since 1903, notably his well-known tale "The Debt-Collector" (at least eight different translations). Between 1917 and 1919 the literary editor of the New York Tribune, William L. McPherson (1865-1930), translated seventeen war tales (three of them anonymously), seven of them being collected in Tales of Wartime France (1918). In 1920, English journalist, editor and publisher Alys Eyre Macklin (ca. 1875-1929) arranged a treaty with Level to be his official literary agent for all English-language countries ., and translated a selection of 26 tales as Crises, Tales of Mystery and Horror (1920). Nine of them have been first published by Hearst's Magazine in New York in 1919-1920. Some other tales appeared later in various newspapers or magazines in England or in the USA, such as Pan (London), or in the well-known pulp magazine Weird Tales.H. P. Lovecraft observed of Level's fiction in his essay Supernatural Horror in Literature (1927): "This type, however, is less a part of the weird tradition than a class peculiar to itself — the so-called conte cruel, in which the wrenching of the emotions is accomplished through dramatic tantalizations, frustrations and gruesome physical horrors". Critic Philippe Gontier wrote: "We can only admire, now almost one hundred years later, the great artistry with which Maurice Level fabricated his plots, with what care he fashioned all the details of their unfolding and how with a master's hand he managed the building of suspense".

Nodens (Cthulhu Mythos)

Nodens (Lord of the Great Abyss or Nuada of the Silver Hand) is a fictional character in the Cthulhu Mythos. Based on the Celtic deity, Nodens, he is the creation of H. P. Lovecraft and first appeared in his short story "The Strange High House in the Mist" (1926).

Pickman's Model

"Pickman's Model" is a short story by H. P. Lovecraft, written in September 1926 and first published in the October 1927 issue of Weird Tales. It was adapted for television in a 1971 episode of the Night Gallery anthology series, starring Bradford Dillman.

The Case of Charles Dexter Ward

The Case of Charles Dexter Ward is a short horror novel (51,500 words) by American writer H. P. Lovecraft, written in early 1927, but not published during the author's lifetime. Set in Lovecraft's hometown of Providence, Rhode Island, it was first published (in abridged form) in the May and July issues of Weird Tales in 1941; the first complete publication was in Arkham House's Beyond the Wall of Sleep collection (1943). It is included in the Library of America volume of Lovecraft's work.

The novel, set in 1928, describes how Charles Dexter Ward becomes obsessed with his distant ancestor, Joseph Curwen, an alleged wizard with unsavory habits. Ward physically resembles Curwen, and attempts to duplicate his ancestor's Qabalistic and alchemical feats. He eventually uses this knowledge to physically resurrect Curwen. Ward's doctor, Marinus Bicknell Willett, investigates Ward's activities and is horrified by what he finds.

The Colour Out of Space

"The Colour Out of Space" is a science fiction/horror short story by American author H. P. Lovecraft, written in March 1927. In the tale, an unnamed narrator pieces together the story of an area known by the locals as the "blasted heath" in the wild hills west of Arkham, Massachusetts. The narrator discovers that many years ago a meteorite crashed there, poisoning every living being nearby; vegetation grows large but foul tasting, animals are driven mad and deformed into grotesque shapes, and the people go insane or die one by one.

Lovecraft began writing "The Colour Out of Space" immediately after finishing his previous short novel, The Case of Charles Dexter Ward, and in the midst of final revision on his horror fiction essay "Supernatural Horror in Literature". Seeking to create a truly alien life form, he drew inspiration from numerous fiction and nonfiction sources. First appearing in the September 1927 edition of Hugo Gernsback's science fiction magazine Amazing Stories, "The Colour Out of Space" became one of Lovecraft's most popular works, and remained his personal favorite of his short stories. It was adapted into feature films in 1965, 1987, and 2010.

The Horla

"The Horla" (French: Le Horla) is an 1887 short horror story written in the style of a journal by the French writer Guy de Maupassant, after an initial, much shorter version published in the newspaper Gil Blas, October 26, 1886.

American horror writer H. P. Lovecraft, in his survey "Supernatural Horror in Literature" (1927), provides his own interpretation of the story:

Relating the advent in France of an invisible being who lives on water and milk, sways the minds of others, and seems to be the vanguard of a horde of extra-terrestrial organisms arrived on earth to subjugate and overwhelm mankind, this tense narrative is perhaps without peer in its particular department.

The story has been cited as an inspiration for Lovecraft's own "The Call of Cthulhu", which also features an extraterrestrial being who influences minds and who is destined to conquer humanity.The word horla itself is not French, and is a neologism. Charlotte Mandell, who has translated "The Horla" for publisher Melville House, suggests in an afterword that the word "horla" is a portmanteau of the French words hors ("outside"), and là ("there") and that "le horla" sounds like "the Outsider, the outer, the one Out There," and can be transliterally interpreted as "the 'what's out there'".

The Man Who Went Too Far

"The Man Who Went Too Far" is a short ghost story by E. F. Benson, collected in his The Room in the Tower, and Other Stories (1912).

The Night Land

The Night Land is a horror novel by William Hope Hodgson, first published in 1912. As a work of fantasy it belongs to the Dying Earth subgenre. Hodgson also published a much shorter version of the novel, entitled The Dream of X (1912).

The Night Land was revived in paperback by Ballantine Books, which republished the work in two parts as the 49th and 50th volumes of its Ballantine Adult Fantasy series in July 1972.

H. P. Lovecraft's essay "Supernatural Horror in Literature" describes the novel as "one of the most potent pieces of macabre imagination ever written". Clark Ashton Smith wrote of it that "In all literature, there are few works so sheerly remarkable, so purely creative, as The Night Land. Whatever faults this book may possess, however inordinate its length may seem, it impresses the reader as being the ultimate saga of a perishing cosmos, the last epic of a world beleaguered by eternal night and by the unvisageable spawn of darkness. Only a great poet could have conceived and written this story; and it is perhaps not illegitimate to wonder how much of actual prophecy may have been mingled with the poesy."When the book was written, the nature of the energy source that powers stars was not known: Lord Kelvin had published calculations based on the hypothesis that the energy came from the gravitational collapse of the gas cloud that had formed the sun and found that this mechanism gave the Sun a lifetime of only a few tens of million of years. Starting from this premise, Hodgson wrote a novel describing a time, millions of years in the future, when the Sun has gone dark.

The Spook House

"The Spook House" is a Gothic short story of a haunted house by American Civil War soldier, wit, and writer Ambrose Bierce. It was first published in The San Francisco Examiner on July 7, 1889.According to H. P. Lovecraft, the story is "told with a severely homely air of journalistic verisimilitude", yet "conveys terrible hints of shocking mystery".

The Thing on the Doorstep and Other Weird Stories

The Thing on the Doorstep and Other Weird Stories is Penguin Classics' second omnibus edition of works by 20th-century American author H. P. Lovecraft. It was released in October 2001 and is still in print.

This edition is the second in Penguin Classics' series of paperback collections. Again, it collects a number of Lovecraft's most popular stories in their latest "definitive" editions as edited by S. T. Joshi. Many of the texts are the same as those from the earlier Arkham House hardcover editions, with the exception of At the Mountains of Madness, which has recently been released in a definitive edition by the Modern Library, with an introduction by China Miéville and also including Lovecraft's essay on the history and evolution of weird fiction, Supernatural Horror in Literature.

Its companion volumes from Penguin Classics are The Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Stories (2001), and The Dreams in the Witch House and Other Weird Stories (2004).

The Willows (story)

"The Willows" is a novella by English author Algernon Blackwood, originally published as part of his 1907 collection The Listener and Other Stories. It is one of Blackwood's best known works and has been influential on a number of later writers. Horror author H.P. Lovecraft considered it to be the finest supernatural tale in English literature. "The Willows" is an example of early modern horror and is connected within the literary tradition of weird fiction.

Weird fiction

Weird fiction is a subgenre of speculative fiction originating in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. John Clute defines weird fiction as a "Term used loosely to describe Fantasy, Supernatural Fiction and Horror tales embodying transgressive material". China Miéville defines weird fiction thus: "Weird Fiction is usually, roughly, conceived of as a rather breathless and generically slippery macabre fiction, a dark fantastic (“horror” plus “fantasy”) often featuring nontraditional alien monsters (thus plus “science fiction”)." Discussing the "Old Weird Fiction" published in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Jeffrey Andrew Weinstock says, "Old Weird fiction utilises elements of horror, science fiction and fantasy to showcase the impotence and insignificance of human beings within a much larger universe populated by often malign powers and forces that greatly exceed the human capacities to understand or control them." Weird fiction either eschews or radically reinterprets ghosts, vampires, werewolves, and other traditional antagonists of supernatural horror fiction. Weird fiction is sometimes symbolised by the tentacle, a limb-type absent from most of the monsters of European folklore and gothic fiction, but often attached to the monstrous creatures created by weird fiction writers such as William Hope Hodgson, M. R. James, and H. P. Lovecraft. Weird fiction often attempts to inspire awe as well as fear in response to its fictional creations, causing

commentators like Miéville to say that weird fiction evokes a sense of the numinous. Although "weird fiction" has been chiefly used as a historical description for works through the 1930s, the term has also been increasingly used since the 1980s, sometimes to describe slipstream fiction that blends horror, fantasy, and science fiction.

Whipple Van Buren Phillips

Whipple Van Buren Phillips (November 22, 1833 – March 28, 1904) was an American businessman from Providence, Rhode Island who also had mining interests in Idaho. He was most notable as the grandfather of H. P. Lovecraft, whom he raised with his daughters and encouraged to have an appreciation of literature, especially classical literature and English poetry.

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