I haven’t read all of Arkham House series of H. P. Lovecraft’s letters, but here is a retro review, from October 28, 2011, of the first one. These are not always reprints of complete letters and, since Lovecraft rarely saved letters, one side of the conversation.
In the last several years, Hippocampus Press has been publishing complete letters, organized by correspondents, of Lovecraft’s. I reviewed his letters to James. F. Morton elsewhere.
Review: Selected Letters I. 1911 – 1924, H. P. Lovecraft and edited by August Derleth and Donald Wandrei, 1965.
For some years now, S. T. Joshi has been pushing the idea that Lovecraft may end up being more famous for the letters he spun out, perhaps more than a 100,000, than his poems (his first field of artistic endeavor) or stories. While he was temperamentally attached to Providence, Rhode Island, there were few there who shared his wide ranging interests, so these letters were long, extended conversations with his many correspondents. They range from politics and movies to model trains and the business of ghostwriting, philosophy and aesthetics to cats. Here is Lovecraft’s engaging blend of stoicism and silliness, irritation and wonder. Often tens of pages long in a close, handwritten script, they are an engaging look at an eccentric New England gentleman at the beginning of his career, of a man confronting a bleak, purposeless universe and taking comfort in his friends, the beauty of art, and the truth of science.
Wandrei and Derleth’s introduction is a good, concise introduction to their friend and his life up to 1924. The table of contents helpfully lists each letter’s correspondent, the date, and the topic of the letter.
Those intrigued by the excerpts of Lovecraft’s letters in Joshi’s Lovecraft: A Life or in Lord of a Visible World: An Autobiography in Letters will definitely want to seek this book out. But really anyone with an interest in Lovecraft or just a modern stoic confronting life will enjoy these letters.