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Howard Phillips Lovecraft - The Picture in the House (94.0 Kb)

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"The Picture in the House" is a short story written by H. P. Lovecraft, connected to the Cthulhu Mythos genre of horror fiction. It was written on December 12, 1920, and first published in the July 1919 issue of The National Amateur-which actually was published in the summer of 1921."The Picture in the House" begins with something of a manifesto for the series of horror stories Lovecraft would write set in an imaginary New England countryside that would come to be known as Lovecraft Country:Searchers after horror haunt stran... More >>>
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Category 1:  Horror Tales
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Author:      Howard Phillips Lovecraft
Format:      eBook
"The Picture in the House" is a short story written by H. P. Lovecraft, connected to the Cthulhu Mythos genre of horror fiction. It was written on December 12, 1920, and first published in the July 1919 issue of The National Amateur-which actually was published in the summer of 1921.

"The Picture in the House" begins with something of a manifesto for the series of horror stories Lovecraft would write set in an imaginary New England countryside that would come to be known as Lovecraft Country:

Searchers after horror haunt strange, far places. For them are the catacombs of Ptolemais, and the carven mausolea of the nightmare countries. They climb to the moonlit towers of ruined Rhine castles, and falter down black cobwebbed steps beneath the scattered stones of forgotten cities in Asia. The haunted wood and the desolate mountain are their shrines, and they linger around the sinister monoliths on uninhabited islands. But the true epicure of the terrible, to whom a new thrill of unutterable ghastliness is the chief end and justification of existence, esteem most of all the ancient, lonely farmhouses of backwoods New England for there the dark elements of strength, solitude, grotesqueness, and ignorance combine to form the perfection of the hideous.

As Lovecraft critic Peter Cannon writes, "Here Lovecraft serves notice that he will rely less on stock Gothic trappings and more on his native region as a source for horror." Lovecraft's analysis of the psychological roots of New England horror is echoed in his discussion of Nathaniel Hawthorne in the essay "Supernatural Horror in Literature".

The story introduces two of Lovecraft Country's most famous elements:

I had been travelling for some time amongst the people of the Miskatonic Valley in quest of certain genealogical data.... Now I found myself upon an apparently abandoned road which I had chosen as the shortest cut to Arkham.

Neither location is further developed in this tale, but Lovecraft had placed the foundations for one of the most enduring settings in weird fiction.

The story is narrated by a traveller in rural New England who seeks shelter from a storm in an apparently abandoned house, only to find that it is occupied by an old, white-bearded, and ragged man, speaking in "an extreme form of Yankee dialect...thought long extinct", whose face is "abnormally ruddy and less wrinkled than one might expect." He shows a disquieting fascination for an engraving in an old book depicting a butcher shop of the "cannibal Anziques" (from the historic Congo kingdom of Anziku), and admits to the narrator (who becomes increasingly nervous and frightened throughout the man's story) that it made him hunger for "something more" - presumably human meat. It is suggested that the old man in the house was murdering men who stumbled upon the shack to satisfy his "craving", but this is not revealed, as before he can finish his story the two men notice blood leaking down from the ceiling and, subsequently, a lightning bolt destroys the house.

About Author:

Howard Phillips Lovecraft (August 20, 1890 - March 15, 1937) was an American author of horror, fantasy, and science fiction, known then simply as weird fiction.

HP Lovecraft was one of the early exponents of horror fantasy, best known for the series of works known collectively as the Cthulhu Mythos. He peppered his books with references to an occult work called The Necronomicon, and, as his fame grew, he was besieged by readers asking where they could find a copy of it. But the truth was that Lovecraft had invented the book and its title. He wrote in a letter of 1937: 'The name Necronomicon (necros, corpse; nomos, law; eikon, image = An Image of the Law of the Dead) occurred to me in the course of a dream, although the etymology is perfectly sound.' So the title came before everything else, and substituted, perfectly reasonably, for the work itself.

This is a game that many writers have played, and the history of literature is full of references to books that don't, in fact, exist. Margaret Atwood, AS Byatt, Dorothy L Sayers, Frank Herbert, Martin Amis, Arthur Conan Doyle and many, many others have all joined in. Some of my favourite fictional titles are from Kurt Vonnegut, who, as Kilgore Trout, writes non-existent works such as The Barring-Gaffner of Bagnialto, or This Year's Masterpiece, which are usually accompanied by helpful plot summaries. Perhaps the most notorious fictional-book-inventors have been writers such as Umberto Eco and Jorge Luis Borges; naturally enough, since their writing often draws attention to literature as itself an artefact.

With the Necronomicon there was a difference, however. Other writers began to treat it as if it really did exist, quoting from the nonexistent work and even composing large sections of it; several Necronomicons were in fact later published, by hoaxers including L. Sprague De Camp and Colin Wilson.

Lovecraft's major inspiration and invention was cosmic horror, the idea that life is incomprehensible to human minds and that the universe is fundamentally alien. Those who genuinely reason, like his protagonists, gamble with sanity. Lovecraft has developed a cult following for his Cthulhu Mythos, a series of loosely interconnected fiction featuring a pantheon of human-nullifying entities, as well as the Necronomicon, a fictional grimoire of magical rites and forbidden lore. His works were deeply pessimistic and cynical, challenging the values of the Enlightenment, Romanticism, and Christian humanism. Lovecraft's protagonists usually achieve the mirror-opposite of traditional gnosis and mysticism by momentarily glimpsing the horror of ultimate reality.

Although Lovecraft's readership was limited during his life, his reputation has grown over the decades, and he is now commonly regarded as one of the most influential horror writers of the 20th century, who together with Edgar Allan Poe has exerted "an incalculable influence on succeeding generations of writers of horror fiction". Stephen King has called Lovecraft "the twentieth century's greatest practitioner of the classic horror tale.