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Lovecraft's Burial
Posted by: Roger (IP Logged)
Date: 14 July, 2008 11:34AM
Knowing of Lovecraft's beliefs and atheism, I'm a little surprised he was buried rather than cremated. I know, atheism and cremation hardly go hand-in-hand, but as all he sought was oblivion (I forget the quote, I know it's a bit overdramatic and maybe not representative of his later beliefs, but he said it), it seems cremation would have been the choice.

My question: did HPL leave instructions to be buried? Or did his survivors do so on their own? I know unless he left specific instructions to be cremated he'd be buried. Anybody know his belief or wishes on this topic?

thanks,
Roger

Re: Lovecraft's Burial
Posted by: Scott Connors (IP Logged)
Date: 14 July, 2008 06:19PM
Lovecraft was a traditionalist, and would have wanted his remains interred besides those of his parents. His aunt, Annie Gamwell, was responsible for the arrangements, and I suspect that cremation was simply not something that was "done" by her sort of people. She also had a clergyman officiate at the service, which I am surprised didn't cause HPL to get up out of his casket and say "Excuse me...." (Of course, if he did do that, then just maybe he might have agreed that the presence of clergy might not be such a bad idea....)

Scott

Re: Lovecraft's Burial
Posted by: Ken K. (IP Logged)
Date: 15 July, 2008 07:46PM
Of course, it's also possible that HPL didn't want any future sorcerors monkeying around with his "essential salts" conveniently packaged in an easily portable urn...

Re: Lovecraft's Burial
Posted by: Roger (IP Logged)
Date: 29 July, 2008 05:20PM
Scott Connors Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Lovecraft was a traditionalist, and would have
> wanted his remains interred besides those of his
> parents. His aunt, Annie Gamwell, was responsible
> for the arrangements, and I suspect that cremation
> was simply not something that was "done" by her
> sort of people. She also had a clergyman
> officiate at the service, which I am surprised
> didn't cause HPL to get up out of his casket and
> say "Excuse me...." (Of course, if he did do
> that, then just maybe he might have agreed that
> the presence of clergy might not be such a bad
> idea....)
>
> Scott

Thanks Scott, that certainly makes perfect sense now. So much for oblivion!

I picked up a fanzine recently, having no idea it was one of yours: Kappa Alpha Tau (Vol 2, No 3) with a great CAS photo cover. Your article on why it's so important to publish HPL as he intended, word for word, was enlightening and entertaining. The importance of the corrected texts seem clearer to me now. The other contents were also superb. I wish I had more issues of this!

Roger

Re: Lovecraft's Burial
Posted by: calonlan (IP Logged)
Date: 29 July, 2008 06:17PM
Re the burial: I would seriously doubt there were crematoria in L's immediate vicinity at the time of his death - this form of disposition was in substantial disfavor until after WWII in most parts of the country, and New England in particular. Could be an interesting bit of research to find out if indeed there were any within a convenient distance. It might also be interesting to note whether he was buried with his head at the West end of the Grave. Tradition dictated that the head be in such a position that when the body rose at the Last Day, it would be facing East so as not to be overlooked by the Archangel gathering souls for everlasting bliss - this odd bit of superstition accounts for the orientation of all cemetaries in America, only in earlier times, suicides were buried so they would rise facing west -- and, of course, I do not know if the official records list him as a suicide - Clark did not think so.

Re: Lovecraft's Burial
Posted by: Martinus (IP Logged)
Date: 29 July, 2008 09:01PM
calonlan Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> -- and, of course, I do not know
> if the official records list him as a suicide -
> Clark did not think so.

No, why would they? The cause of death was intestinal cancer and Bright's disease.

Re: Lovecraft's Burial
Posted by: Brian (IP Logged)
Date: 31 July, 2008 02:14PM
It is clear from HPL's letters that he did prefer cremation to burial. Of course we know he was buried in the family plot in Swan Point Cemetery in a grave presumably part of an earlier family purchase. While he preferred cremation, the matter was evidently of no real importance to him one way or the other:

"To my mind cremation is the only sane & tasteful way to dispose of a body...I'd advocate cremation, & a non-religious memorial service for family & very close friends only."

"...What does it matter what happens to the cast-off reliquiae of any one atom in the cosmos? The person himself no longer exists -- so the business is of no primary concern to him. They can dump my carcass down the sewer for all I care..."

[Letter dated June 28, 1934, to Miss Helen V. Sully, Selected Letters, Vol. IV, Arkham House, 1976]

Re: Lovecraft's Burial
Posted by: Roger (IP Logged)
Date: 1 August, 2008 09:21AM
Thanks for those quotes Brian! They are precisely what I was looking for.

That pretty much sums up my philosophy on what to do with my carcass ;)

Cremate, no funeral, get on with things.

I've half-jokingly said several times that any that survive me are welcomed to flush my ashes down the toilet as at that point it just doesn't matter. I had no idea how close I was to HPL on that one ;)

I guess his illness took him off-guard, he had probably not had a living will?

Re: Lovecraft's Burial
Posted by: calonlan (IP Logged)
Date: 1 August, 2008 02:35PM
There was and persists a rumor of suicide (which may have happened because of the pain of his illness) to which Clark responded on several occasion as more than doubtful. With the medications
available at that time it is relatively simple to "one's own quietus make" and quicken the pace of an already terminal diagnosis - just speculation, but not lightly dismissed. Clark's eagerness to
respond to the rumor is rooted in the Victorian sense of shame associated with suicide - this was taught as doctrine even in my childhood to represent a one-way ticket to Hell - Clark's protest was as much to squelch to rumor as a kind of defense of one he admired greatly - of course, he had the example of Sterling in his past.

Re: Lovecraft's Burial
Posted by: Martinus (IP Logged)
Date: 1 August, 2008 03:22PM
I never heard that, and yet I've paid close attention to Lovecraftiana over the past 16 years. Not even De Camp, who never misses an opportunity to bash Lovecraft, has mentioned this.

Re: Lovecraft's Burial
Posted by: priscian (IP Logged)
Date: 1 August, 2008 03:31PM
There's something in a letter sent shortly after his marriage about keeping a vial of cyanide around in case the money ever ran out, but for what it's worth I've never heard it suggested that Lovecraft was a suicide, either.

-- Jim

Re: Lovecraft's Burial
Posted by: Martinus (IP Logged)
Date: 1 August, 2008 04:09PM
Hmmm... I think the only source of that information is Samuel Loveman, in the article he wrote after finding out that HPL had anti-semitic views. Not quite reliable.

Re: Lovecraft's Burial
Posted by: jdworth (IP Logged)
Date: 1 August, 2008 04:47PM
I don't recall anything like that being in "Of Gold and Sawdust", though I'd have to dig out my copy of that piece to be sure. As I recall, however, it was a personal communication, rather than in a letter, that this comment about him carrying the cyanide surfaced, and the information wasn't first-hand then, either. Unless I'm mistaken (which is quite possible, as it's been a while since I've looked at the information on this) it was Long relaying something Loveman had supposedly told him. Not to be harsh, but Long was not always the most reliable of sources for information, having a tendency to fictionalize things a bit for drama's (or melodrama's) sake... whether this was unconscious or not is another question entirely....

Re: Lovecraft's Burial
Posted by: Brian (IP Logged)
Date: 1 August, 2008 06:20PM
In his letters, HPL does speak light-heartedly about his pending suicide once all his financial reserves are used-up. He did not consider suicide an "evil" or humiliation. While saddened by the suicide of his friend, Robert E. Howard, there was never a word of judgement or condemnation on his part regarding the manner of REH's death. The same was true of other suicides he knew like the poet Hart Crane. I believe he felt suicide to be a "gentleman's" option.

I think it's worth considering Roger's suggestion that the sudden increase in severity of Lovecraft's symptoms may have taken him off-guard preventing suicide. I'm not sure he realized he was terminal even when a last visitor to 66 College Street, in a misguided attempt at encouragement, reminded HPL of his beloved Stoics and Epicureans and their teachings on the endurance of pain. HPL merely smiled weakly as if to say "Oh yes, but you have no idea...". He was in agony.

Lovecraft had no access to opiates until he was sent to the hospital where morphine was then administered. Recall he didn't consult a doctor until it was far too late. It must also be remembered that HPL being HPL, he became intensely interested in his illness at the end and kept a hospital diary regarding its progression until he could no longer write. I think it entirely possible that he became so fascinated by his own dying, the morphine alleviating enough pain to allow him to keep writing, that he may well have abandoned any thought of suicide he had earlier entertained. In any case, he was shutting-down pretty fast at that point.

The suicide theory is new to me but anything beyond the known facts is suspect considering the many myths surrounding the man in general.

Re: Lovecraft's Burial
Posted by: priscian (IP Logged)
Date: 1 August, 2008 07:38PM
Martin, do you have a copy of "Of Gold and Sawdust"? Joshi & Schultz chose not to include it in "Out of the Immortal Night," though it's quoted briefly in the introduction. Their source is "The Occult Lovecraft" (Gerry de la Ree, 1975), which I'm wholly unfamiliar with. I'm sorta interested in what Loveman says about Lovecraft's "suicide."

-- Jim Java

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