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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

Re: Lovecraft's Burial
Posted by: Scott Connors (IP Logged)
Date: 1 August, 2008 08:43PM
"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...."

Having known Frank, I'd say it was unconscious. His memory was never the greatest, and he tended to remember things in the most interesting way possible.
Regarding HPL and suicide: the important thing to remember is that he did not. Many, I might go so far as to say most, people consider suicide at some point in their life, although it is usually only a fleeting thought. But it is a taboo subject, and they will usually not mention it unless they feel really comfortable with the other person.
What is amazing is that CAS never seems to have considered suicide seriously, despite the very desperate conditions in which he found himself during the 1940s. Consider all of the people he knew or knew of that took that route: Nora May French, Carrie Sterling, Bierce, Jack London, Herman Schefflauer (sp?), George Sterling, Robert E. Howard, R. H. Barlow.... If he hadn't married Carol and found a degree of security and love late in life, I don't know what might have happened.

Scott

Re: Lovecraft's Burial
Posted by: jdworth (IP Logged)
Date: 1 August, 2008 11:47PM
I by no means dismiss the idea; I just find it rather unlikely, given the evidence. One should also keep in mind that, following Lillian's death, he may have realized what a blow his suicide would be to Annie, as well. This might (I stress the word) have made such less likely an option.

As for him viewing it with shame... no, I don't see any reason to believe he did; certainly nothing in his letters or the statements of friend and correspondents indicates this; if anything, he had made several statements over the years on it being a "gentleman's option"; but given the circumstances and the rapidity of his decline once his condition was diagnosed, I find it quite unlikely without any supporting evidence.

On Long's faulty memory... thanks for the feedback on that. I'd rather thought that might be the case, given the numerous differences in statements over the years. Nor was my comment intended as any sort of insult to Long's memory; simply a cautious note about accepting at face value such statements without additional evidence.

Incidentally, concerning "Of Gold and Sawdust" -- that is the one disappointment I have with that collection. I'd rather hoped it would be included, despite its often vitriolic tone. It is unfortunate that things went the way they did with this, but nonetheless I'd say it merits preservation in more easily accessible form, simply because it is a rather important document, if in a minor way, concerning Lovecraft's relationships with others (or, rather, theirs with him)....

Re: Lovecraft's Burial
Posted by: Scott Connors (IP Logged)
Date: 2 August, 2008 04:34AM
"Incidentally, concerning "Of Gold and Sawdust" -- that is the one disappointment I have with that collection. I'd rather hoped it would be included, despite its often vitriolic tone. It is unfortunate that things went the way they did with this, but nonetheless I'd say it merits preservation in more easily accessible form, simply because it is a rather important document, if in a minor way, concerning Lovecraft's relationships with others (or, rather, theirs with him)...."

One reason why it might not have been included is copyright: everything else by Loveman in that book was in the public domain, and getting permission might not have been possible.

Scott

Re: Lovecraft's Burial
Posted by: Martinus (IP Logged)
Date: 2 August, 2008 05:42AM
Brian Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> 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.

The visitor was Harry K. Brobst, the place was not 66 College Street but the Jane Brown Memorial Hospital and the date was March 13. Lovecraft's doctor Cecil Calvert Dustin claims to have informed him that his condition was terminal on February 27.

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

And the known fact is that he didn't commit suicide.

Re: Lovecraft's Burial
Posted by: Martinus (IP Logged)
Date: 2 August, 2008 05:44AM
No, sorry, Jim, I don't have The Occult Lovecraft, although a friend of mine does. IIRC, "Of Gold and Sawdust" is just a couple of pages long and doesn't add much to our knowledge of HPL.

Re: Lovecraft's Burial
Posted by: Brian (IP Logged)
Date: 2 August, 2008 09:22AM
Martinus writes: "....doctor Cecil Calvert Dustin claims to have informed him that his condition was terminal on February 27."

Thanks for the clarification, Martinus. I was writing from memory.

"And the known fact is that he didn't commit suicide."

Indeed. My (oblique) point exactly. Lovecraft was no more a suicide than he was a practicing occultist or closet believer in the supernatural.

Re: Lovecraft's Burial
Posted by: jdworth (IP Logged)
Date: 2 August, 2008 11:24AM
Scott Connors Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------

> One reason why it might not have been included is
> copyright: everything else by Loveman in that book
> was in the public domain, and getting permission
> might not have been possible.
>
> Scott


I wondered if that might be the case. It remains a disappointment that it wasn't included, but sometimes that is unavoidable....

Martinus is quite correct; "Of Gold and Sawdust" is very brief, but while it does not tell us much more about HPL, it does tell us a great deal about Loveman at that point, and about how he came to view Lovecraft; implicitly, it also reveals just how strong the attachment to HPL was for it to elicit such a response once Loveman knew about his anti-Jewish views.

Re: Lovecraft's Burial
Posted by: Martinus (IP Logged)
Date: 3 August, 2008 05:23AM
Actually, now that I've thought upon it, I've seen the suicide rumour in one place: Derleth's Some Notes on H. P. Lovecraft, where he refutes it. I've never encountered the rumour itself, though.

Re: Lovecraft's Burial
Posted by: deuce (IP Logged)
Date: 15 March, 2017 06:32PM
Just a little remembrance of the Old Gent on this, the 80th anniversary of his transition. I think CAS did a fine job with this poem.

H.P.L.


Outside the time-dimension, and outside
The ever-changing spheres and shifting spaces -
Though the mad planet and its wrangling races
This moment be destroyed - he shall abide
And on immortal quests and errands ride
In cryptic service to the kings of Pnath,
Herald or spy, on the many-spangled path
With gulfs below, with muffled gods for guide.

Some echo of his voice, some vanished word
Follows the light with equal speed, and spans
The star-set limits of the universe,
Returning and returning, to be heard
When all the present worlds and spheres disperse,
In other Spicas, other Aldebarans.



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