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Supernatural Horror in Literature

4.06  ·  Rating details ·  1,816 ratings  ·  170 reviews
H.P. Lovecraft (1890-1937), the most important American supernaturalist since Poe, has had an incalculable influence on all the horror-story writing of recent decades. Altho his supernatural fiction has been enjoying an unprecedented fame, it's not widely known that he wrote a critical history of supernatural horror in literature that has yet to be superceded as the finest ...more
Paperback, 106 pages
Published June 1st 1973 by Dover Publications (first published 1927)
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Jul 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: horror
Let Lovecraft take you by the hand and lead you through his cosmic universe of universal horror. He refers to all the classics from the past, talks intensively about the gothic novels (Otranto, Radcliffe etc., The Monk, Malmoth, the Wanderer...) and leads you into the modern age (Hope Hodgson, Arthur Machen, Algernon Blackwood). Of course he also talks about many American classics of horror like Poe or Hawthorne. There isn't another overview that great like Lovecraft's essay. If you are looking ...more
Bill Kerwin

In this lengthy essay of literary criticism (first completed in 1927, revised in 1934), H.P. presents his considered opinions of most of the well-known—and more than a few obscure—practitioners of the gothic and the weird. Unlike his own creative works, however, this critical piece, though knowledgeable and useful, is neither original nor essential.

He writes justly of the gothic and early romantic traditions, and the three modern masters Arthur Machen, M. R. James and Algernon Blackwood, and he
ᴥ Irena ᴥ
Oct 13, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
'The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.'
Supernatural Horror in Literature is Lovecraft's take on horror fiction. It is a pretty long essay consisting of ten chapters, each focusing on different things. And it is really good.

The chapters are self-explanatory:
The Dawn of the Horror-Tale
The Early Gothic Novel
The Apex of Gothic Romance
The Aftermath of Gothic Fiction
Spectral Literature on the Continent
J.G. Keely
Sometimes called 'the most important piece of literary criticism in the Horror genre', Lovecraft's essay on the history and method of supernatural horror is a great resource for readers and writers alike, as it mostly consists of a list of his favorite authors and their most notable and unusual stories. Really, an editor should go through the text, collect all the stories and authors Lovecraft mentions, and then make them into a shot story collection, with this essay as an introduction--hard to ...more
Jul 22, 2017 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Serious readers of "horror" and supernatural fiction
Shelves: about-literature
"The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown." --H. P. Lovecraft

The sentence above is often quoted, but many readers aren't aware of its context. It opens this short monograph (really, a very long essay), which Lovecraft originally wrote in 1927, after a three-year stint of intensive reading, in response to the request of a pen pal, W. Paul Cook, for a historical survey of weird fiction to be published in The Recluse, a ma
Alex (The Bookubus)
Dec 21, 2020 rated it really liked it
What a fantastic little book! I had been putting this one off because I stupidly thought it would be dry and boring. (I was wrong!) There is so much crammed into just over 100 pages and it was both informative and enjoyable to read. Lovecraft definitely gives credit where it's due but he also isn't afraid to get a bit sassy regarding particular works that didn't do it for him, which I found very amusing. He discusses so many works within the supernatural genre and it got me so excited to track t ...more
Amy Sturgis
Every time I reread "Supernatural Horror in Literature," I find something new to appreciate. This is an invaluable resource, both for what it tell us of the development of the Gothic, weird fiction, and horror (and, for that matter, science fiction and fantasy) -- Lovecraft is a well informed and insightful critic who grasps context as well as content -- and also for what it tells us of Lovecraft's influences and inspirations. Anyone interested in imaginative literature should consider this a "m ...more
Nicole Cushing
Jul 18, 2010 rated it liked it

Here's the good, the bad, and the ugly about this book:

The Good: If you read this book, you'll get a sense of the historical development of the dark "weird" tale (in the U.S. and Europe). If you're like me, you'll find yourself reading the various descriptions of stories and novels and finding yourself underlining them for future addition to your to be read list. That might be the coolest thing, actually...through this book, I've discovered all sorts of other authors I wouldn't have known about.
Lee Klein
Feb 05, 2013 rated it really liked it
Read this rad, free, typoriffic eBook accessible through goodreads, which led to downloading a dozen ePub files for books listed available via the Gutenberg Project. Not sure how many I'll actually read but, like Bolano's Between Parentheses, this explodes your to-read queue (out of respect for others' update streams, I only added one book I couldn't find at the Gutenberg Project site). Also I found this interesting in terms of going though 2666 again recently and noting bits apparently influenc ...more
Kevin Lucia
Nov 20, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Probably the only downside: SO comprehensive, I have no idea if I'll ever be able to read all the tales suggested. Highly recommended for anyone reading or writing in the horror genre. And highly readable, also. ...more
Marina (Sonnenbarke)
Nov 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is an amazing essay on weird fiction, the only problem with it is that it spoilers lots of books big time. That is extremely annoying and prevented me from giving it 5 stars. It would be a great introduction to weird fiction if not for this. However, this reason alone makes me advice against reading it if you haven't already read a lot of weird literaure. ...more
Jun 07, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
Lovecraft not only wrote very fine horror fiction in his own right, he was a student of the genre and this is an excellent introduction to the topic of supernatural literature, although, of course, it does not deal with later works.
Jun 15, 2014 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Lovecraftians, horror fans, literature students
Recommended to Michael by: Serendipity
Shelves: literary-studies
As someone who loves Lovecraft, but doesn’t care much for most of what passes for “horror” writing, this book is a wonderful readers’ guide for me. I’ve tracked down a number of the stories he recommended, and in general have found them quite enjoyable. Even in cases where I’m not as enthused as HPL was, (eg: Lord Dunsany), I’m interested to see the influences on my favorite writer of weird fiction. For others with as much interest in him as I have, this book is a must-read.

For the rest of you,
Sep 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: audio
The greatest survey of horror and supernatural literature ever, only marred by the author's tragic mortality. Lovecraft was a sensitive soul and true fan of The Weird and this essay appropriately dismisses the works of great writers because they are not The Weird. It's kind of funny, for example, to hear passing reference to Northanger Abbey or a discourse on Nathaniel Hawthorne's House of the Seven Gables with reminders that they're not quite up to snuff.

But they're really not up to snuff, if t
Apr 27, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: writer-reads, 2008
This started as a historical essay on weird fiction that was published in 1927 in a magazine called The Recluse. The edition I was able to find is a 1973 reprint of a 1945 reprint. Interesting that no one since has taken on the task of writing about writers, and that Lovecraft's thoughts have stood the test of time.

I've pulled some names out of this edition. Perhaps I can even find some of the novels mentioned and thereby see into the past in order to more understand supernatural horror today...
May 07, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This should perhaps be more aptly titled "The History of Supernatural Horror in Literature." Lovecraft does an excellent job of listing works that contain cosmically horrific elements and themes – and that's it. If you're looking for a Grand Unifying Theory of supernatural horror, this isn't the place to find it. It's more genre-definition-by-name-dropping than critical combination of theoretical ideas.

Nonetheless, it's an interesting and useful resource. I don't know that I'll ever read it all
Jan 08, 2021 rated it really liked it
This Howard guy seems like he knows what hes talking about!
"The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown." H. P. Lovecraft

Lovecraft's a writer that keeps pulling me in despite the fact that my issues with his work have been frankly clear. Many of my fellow horror aficionados have recommended me this essay that was written by Lovecraft in 1927 and so, after some hesitation, I decided to pick it up. I found that while it was helpful in understanding the roots and history of gothic a
Aug 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
Lovecraft is no doubt the king of the early 20th-century horror genre. I don’t always love his prose style and his (thankfully sparse) dialogue is abominable. But he can evoke an atmosphere that commands attention as he draws from myth, legend, superstition, religion, the occult, faërie, folktale, and rumour to create weird tales and horror stories that readers loved in his day and love still. Lovecraft was terribly influential for Stephen King, who in many ways exceeds Lovecraft in popular appe ...more
Mar 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Lovecraft & horror fans.
This is a short book, but worth the read if you're a HP Lovecraft or horror fan.

Supernatural Horror in Literature is HP Lovecraft's essay on...well, supernatural horror in literature. He breaks his essay into chapters covering The Dawn of the Horror Tale, The Early Gothic Novel, The Apex of Gothic Romance, The Aftermath of Gothic Fiction, Spectral Literature on the Continent, Edgar Allan Poe, The Weird Tradition in America, The Weird Tradition in the British Isles, and The Modern Masters.

While a
Ebster Davis
Jun 25, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I got to geek together with a dead guy, how cool is that?!

Basically this is a large essay where he reviews the history and development of the Gothic-paranormal horror genre (or as he sometimes calls it, "The Weird").

I loved hearing his take on the different stories, he was even a bit critical of Edgar Allan Poe (who he's a fanboy of). He even included a few stories I wouldn't have thought of as belonging to the genre, and some I hadn't heard of and will definitely check out.

I think it's funny
Fernando Suarezserna
Nov 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
I got four key takeaways from this book:

- According to Lovecraft, in the horror genre, creating the right atmosphere is way more important than plot.
- In short stories, character is not that important. Lovecraft mentions Edgar Allan Poe as an example, whose main characters were usually gloomy, mysterious men, and we don't usually get to know anything about them, oftentimes not even their names, yet his short stories were awesome.
- There are authors such as Bram Stoker whose ideas were so good, t
David B
Jun 27, 2014 rated it really liked it
This is HP Lovecraft's assessment of the state of supernatural fiction from its origins in pre-history (much of his celebrated racism figures in these theories) to the 1920s, when this slim volume was written. Since Lovecraft himself is such a titanic figure in American horror, his critical opinions on the genre are naturally of interest to anyone attracted to the topic. Here Lovecraft discourses at great length on his personal favorites, proving himself to be an expert summarizer. Anyone intere ...more
Benjamin Stahl
Mar 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
A very informative and thorough exploration through the greats works of the genre, by one of the masters of the genre. I particularly like that Lovecraft drew particular attention to Bierce's The Spook House and Kipling's The Recrudescence of Imray, as I found those to be the scariest of their respected authors also. I also wonder, if he were still around, what Lovecraft would have to say about Stephen King. ...more
Nov 13, 2011 rated it liked it
Stephen King recommended author and book. King said Lovecraft is the "twentieth-century horror story's dark and baroque prince" in Chapter 2 of Berkley's 1983 paperback edition of Danse Macabre.

King mentioned book in Chapter 3 of Berkley's 1983 paperback edition of Danse Macabre.
Kenn Schubach
Aug 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
Great essay from HPL. You can find almost all of his writing influences mentioned in here . . . then add in the house library he had access to from the time he was a small child . . . especially the sciences . . . voila!
Sep 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
Well written overview of the past centuries of mystical and supernatural writings. The older version of King's Danse Macabre, and shorter as well. Definitely arose curiosity of a few other authors I hope to read from in the future. ...more
Oct 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing

As may naturally be expected of a form so closely connected with primal emotion, the horror-tale is as old as human thought and speech themselves.

Erica Zahn
Aug 25, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: lovecraft
At around 27,000 words the essay is lengthy for the amount of matter covered, though I of course value the opinions given (the subjectivity of the subject is one of the dominant aspects of the piece). Lovecraft, when unedited (as he usually is), admittedly has a tendency to ramble, although this has the advantage of a more natural, conversational feel. Although labelled ‘supernatural horror’, it mostly concerns the gothic, since this provides the most significant precursor to what we would term ...more
Jack Wolfe
Oct 17, 2017 rated it really liked it


H.P. Lovecraft is currently famous in three major ways:

1. Readers of horror fiction recognize him as one of the masters of the "weird tale."

2. People who are vaguely into dark stuff like to buy Cthulu merchandise.

3. Well-meaning lefties think he's a horrible racist scumbag whose name should be scrubbed from he annals of literary history.

"Supernatural Horror in Literature" is Lovecraft's brief history of weird fiction. To people in category (1), it must be counted as essential. It is her
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Howard Phillips Lovecraft, of Providence, Rhode Island, was an American author of horror, fantasy and science fiction.

Lovecraft's major inspiration and invention was cosmic horror: life is incomprehensible to human minds and 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

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