H.P. Lovecraft

H.P. Lovecraft

H.P. (Howard Phillips) Lovecraft (1890–1937) was an American author of horror, fantasy, and science fiction, especially the subgenre known as weird fiction. His best-known creations are the Cthulhu Mythos, a series of loosely interconnected fiction featuring a number of mysterious entities, as well as the Necronomicon, a fictional grimoire of magical rites and forbidden lore.

Influence on Bellairs

A comparison of the personalities of Lovecraft and Bellairs would make for an interesting and enlightening study, but since we do not have the time, sanity, or the space here to do such a thing justice, we instead present some initial observations that might prove useful. When comparing the men behind the stories, one may not be surprised to see many similarities between the two surface. Both were precocious and lonely children who loved books and read widely and voraciously. In later years they both shared a great fondness for their youth and much of their fictional output could be argued was meant as a means of memorializing their childhood. As adults both were enthusiastic anglophiles.

Many of Bellairs’ favorite writers were British, such as Charles Dickens and M.R. James. Bellairs managed to also make several trips to England, even living in Bristol for six months in the late 60s. Although Lovecraft never made the pilgrimage, he always considered himself a devoted servant of the crown, even to the extreme of calling himself a Tory and taking the side of the British in the American Revolution. Much to the frustration of American editors, Lovecraft even insisted on using the British spellings of many words. Bellairs, who also shared an interest in British history, never quite went to these extremes, but his appreciation for all things British remained an ardent passion throughout his life.

Both were also avowed antiquarians. Bellairs maintained a life long interest in history (particularly British and ancient) as well as an interest in archeology. He was interested in antiques and knew a great deal about them. He always wrote on the typewriter and never relinquished this tool for composing his manuscripts. And writing well into the age of word processors, Bellairs never gave up using the same typewriter he had had since his college years. Alfred Myers, a close friend of his whom Bellairs had met in college, had this to say about his last meeting with John:

My wife and I were to see John ... in 1987. It was like entering a time warp. There he was in his house, living a life of genteel but comfortable literary poverty, with boxes of books and manuscripts all over the place and the same typewriter he had used in college occupying the place of honor on his desk.

Myers also thinks Bellairs came to Notre Dame already an established H.P. Lovecraft fan.

John did not care for the automobile and later in life gave up driving all together. He had a fear of flying and much preferred the more traditional approach to transatlantic travel - the ship.

It is also somewhat interesting to see Bellairs’ eventual gravitation east, from Marshall, Michigan to Haverhill, Massachusetts. New England had much to offer the sensibilities of these two writers with its quaint, picturesque, and historic surroundings, steeped in tradition and conservative values. Bellairs was in his early thirties when he took up residence in Boston, Cambridge and later Haverhill, feeling quite at home and not at all like a displaced Midwesterner. Lovecraft would only venture forth from his much-loved New England on that rare occasion.

In some ways, it is these authors' shared interest in and respect for the past that makes for the most interesting connections. The earlier tales of Lovecraft seem to have more in common with Bellairs’, than does his latter. But just as these authors shared similarities, they equally had as many dissimilar qualities and among their fictions. Children are all but absent from Lovecraft’s stories, whereas the majority of Bellairs' fictional output revolves around the child and his or her world. Obviously, this difference could be attributed to the different audience each was writing for. Bellairs never failed to exercise his sense of humor in all of his stories, perhaps to create some comfort and security between the more frightening scenes of his stories, as again, his primary audience was the younger reader. Although Lovecraft obviously possessed a sense of humor, as often seen in his prodigious correspondence through letters, one might be hard pressed to find traces of humor in his fiction, as it often tended to be much more subtle.

But where much of Lovecraft’s creative energies in the latter part of his writing career were concerned with developing a sense of cosmic horror (and this is by and large what he will be best remembered for having given us), by implementing extraterrestrial creatures vastly superior to the unsuspecting human race, Bellairs always stayed true to his antiquarian side and peopled his tales with nefarious human monsters, masters of the black arts, steeped in Arcanum, forbidden knowledge in a somewhat more traditional approach to horror and the supernatural. Evil spirits from the past and demons from ancient mythology, but never anything spawned from the darkest reaches of outer space.

Influence on Strickland

Brad Strickland, who completed four of Bellairs' manuscripts and since has penned many of his own adventures using the Bellairs characters, is also no stranger to Lovecraft. He admits to having read Lovecraft as a child, much to the concerns of his parents, and later wrote the script for a radio adaptation of Lovecraft's At the Mountains of Madness.

Cthulhu Mythos (in the Bellairs Corpus)

The Cthulhu Mythos is a shared universe created by author H. P. Lovecraft, coined by Lovecraft's associate August Derleth, and named after Cthulhu, a powerful fictional entity in Lovecraft's stories. Both Bellairs and Strickland were longtime fans of Lovecraft and his stories and so it was only natural for a few references (obvious and otherwise) to sneak their way into their work.

Dr. Andrew Armitage


A friend of Professor Childermass who works at Miskatonic University and has studied sympathetic magic [The Drum, the Doll, and the Zombie; 73].

This person may be related to Dr. Henry Armitage, the chief librarian of Miskatonic University who appears in Lovecraft’s “The Dunwich Horror” (1929).


Coffin-shaped Clock


Lewis finds “...a black marble fireplace with a coffin-like black clock on its mantelpiece [The House with a Clock in its Walls; 17].”

Mere coincidence, we know, but a similarly-shaped clock is mentioned in Through the Gates of the Silver Key (1932-33), where it is thought to be some sort of inter-dimension traveling portal.


Comte d'Erlette


Author who has written on the subject of the Great Old Ones [The Beast under the Wizard's Bridge; 78].

Strickland borrowed the name from the Mythos where it is the title of a French aristocrat (later identified as Francois-Honore Balfour) who is the author of Cultes des Goules. The character, first used by Robert Bloch, was a pun on the name of Lovecraft friend and associate, author August Derleth.


Great Old One


Jedediah Clabbernong believes before humans existed on earth, “a race of creatures...lived here...[and] practiced some kind of diabolical sorcery, and because of that, some great power had banished them to another dimension [The Beast under the Wizard's Bridge; 66]; his journal notes a spell or chant referencing G-O-O [Beast; 64]. Jedediah wishes to call forth the red comet and unleash one or more of these entities, at which time he will transform into a similar such being.

The Great Old Ones are ancient extraterrestrial beings of immense power and colossal size; arguably the most well-known is Cthulhu. Worshipped by deranged human cults, the Great Old Ones are currently imprisoned: some beneath the sea, some inside the Earth, and still others in distant planetary systems and beyond. Though Lovecraft created the most famous of these deities, the vast majority were created by other writers, many after Lovecraft's death.


H.P.Lovecraft


Strange events and creatures seen in New Zebedee prompt Jonathan Barnavelt to note Lovecraft’s stories: “They're supposed to be fiction, but if memory serves, he describes just such creatures” [The Beast under the Wizard's Bridge; 96]. Rose Rita later borrows said books from the local library [103].


Meteorite


Such an item crashed to the earth and turns the Clabbernong farm outside New Zebedee into a gray wasteland [The Beast under the Wizard's Bridge; 11, 45].

In "The Colour Out of Space" (1927) a meteorite falls out of the sky and impacts near the well on Nahum Gardner's farmland in rural Massachusetts. Soon thereafter things take a severe turn for the worse as life is gradually sucked out Garnder’s farmland and family.


Miskatonic University


Professor Childermass consults a friend of his who is on the staff at this university [The Drum, the Doll, and the Zombie; 73, 109].

Miskatonic University is a fictional university located in the equally fictitious Arkham, Massachusetts; it was first identified by Lovecraft in his short story, “Herbert West–Reanimator” (1922).


Necronomicon


  • Lewis and Bertie uncover a French translation of the book collecting dust in Arthur Pelham Barnavelt's library in England [The Vengeance of the Witch-finder; 126].
  • Jedediah Clabbernong’s Mystic Journal notes he once “tried 9th incht. from N’con, tr. From Fr. copy [The Beast under the Wizard's Bridge; 64]. The only source of knowledge about the Great Old Ones is this book, one which Jonathan says is so rare that “we’d never get our hands on a copy” [Beast; 78].

The Necronomicon is a fictional grimoire appearing in the stories by Lovecraft and his followers. It was first mentioned in Lovecraft's 1924 short story "The Hound".


Nyarlathotep


We assume Moote is referencing Nyarlathotep, a deity created by Lovecraft and first mentioned in the short story, "Nyarlathotep" (1920). He is described as a "tall, swarthy man" who resembles an ancient Egyptian pharaoh and frequently walks the Earth in the guise of a human being, usually a tall, slim, joyous man. He has "a thousand" other forms, most of these reputed to be maddeningly horrific.


R'lyeh


R'lyeh is a fictional city that first appeared in Lovecraft's story "The Call of Cthulhu" (1928).


Yog-Shoggoth


  • This is a juxtaposition (either intentional or accidental by Moote and/or Strickland) of two Lovecraft creations, Yog-Sothoth and Shoggoth. Yog-Sothoth is a cosmic entity first mentioned by Lovecraft in "The Case of Charles Dexter Ward" (1941). The being is said to take the form of a conglomeration of glowing spheres. A shoggoth is a monster mentioned in passing in Lovecraft's sonnet cycle "Fungi from Yuggoth" (1929-30) and expounded upon in "At the Mountains of Madness" (1931).
  • We assume the "rule" of Yog somehow involves Yog-Sothoth.


Yuggoth


  • In the curious tower of King Gorm of the South Kingdom a magical model of the solar system is on display, complete with "a couple of planets...doing a horn-pipe [and] Yuggoth...roll[ing] aimlessly in the stupefying darkness" [The Face in the Frost; 50].
  • Lewis remembers seeing "the horrid landscape of the dreaded planet Yuggoth as it rolled through the midnight gulfs between the stars" in the in the mirror on his uncle's magical hat rack [The Doom of the Haunted Opera; 57]. One does have to wonder how young Lewis knows the planet really is the one in question.

The fictional planet Yuggoth was described by Lovecraft as being modeled on the then-recently discovered planet, Pluto - or perhaps some other object further out from Neptune.