The Lovecraft That Dare Not Speak Its Name — Part 3

Michael O. Varhola

The Lovecraft That Dare Not Speak Its Name — Part 1

The Lovecraft That Dare Not Speak Its Name — Part 2

Part of the automatic backlash that seems to come as a result of asking whether or not Lovecraft might have been gay seems to be predicated on the assumption that this is an attack on the character of the author and that homosexuality is a bad thing. I do not consider that to be the case, however, and it would be fair to say that I certainly do not appreciate an author any less because of his sexual orientation (e.g., two of my lifetime favorites include Marcel Proust of Remembrance of Things Past, aka In Search of Lost Time, and W. Somerset Maugham of The Razor's Edge). So sexual orientation is relevant but, in and of itself, no more of a good or bad thing than whether the author is a white Anglo-Saxon Protestant or from Providence, Rhode Island.

Retorts that identifying an author as gay is somehow homophobic are also off the mark, and it is no more homophobic to take this characteristic into consideration that it would be racist to note, for example, that an author was black. Just as the works of James Baldwin, Langston Hughes, or Alex Haley are meaningful because we know their authors were black — and because their relevance would be obscured or questionable if that fact were not taken into consideration — so, too, do we impart additional meaning to the works of authors like Lovecraft when we acknowledge their apparent homosexuality, and diminish that meaning and relevance when we try to deny the obvious.

Quite to the contrary, it is an aversion to discussing an author's sexual orientation that would seem to be indicative of homophobia — perhaps not necessarily a hate for gays, but at the least a distaste for them, or a fear of being or being identified as one of them. One also has to wonder how many of the people who uncritically insist Lovecraft simply could not have been gay are doing so from apprehension of being deemed gay by association because of their interest in a homosexual writer. There is probably a lot to this, as a great many people discover Lovecraft when they are in high school or middle school, precisely when the kids who like to read are most vulnerable to the attentions and attacks of their more stupid and vicious classmates, and when one's peers are inordinately concerned with who among them is or is not gay and, through some diseased thought process, inclined to publicly label them accordingly. 

But, to me, the facts speak for themselves, and in my detailed re-reading of Lovecraft I cannot in good conscience come to any other conclusion than that he was most definitely gay (even if he never actually acted on the associated proclivities). Many examples can be found throughout Lovecraft's work but "Hypnos," a short story that was first published in 1923, provides some of the most profound literary evidence of the author's inclinations. 

... ...

"We met, I recall, in a railway station, where he was the centre of a crowd of the vulgarly curious," Lovecraft writes in the second paragraph of the story. "He was unconscious, having fallen in a kind of convulsion which imparted to his slight black-clad body a strange rigidity. I think he was then approaching forty years of age, for there were deep lines in the face, wan and hollow-cheeked, but oval and actually beautiful; and touches of grey in the thick, waving hair and small full beard which had once been of the deepest raven black. His brow was white as the marble of Pentelicus, and of a height and breadth almost godlike. I said to myself, with all the ardour of a sculptor, that this man was a faun’s statue out of antique Hellas, dug from a temple’s ruins and brought somehow to life in our stifling age only to feel the chill and pressure of devastating years. And when he opened his immense, sunken, and wildly luminous black eyes I knew he would be thenceforth my only friend — the only friend of one who had never possessed a friend before — for I saw that such eyes must have looked fully upon the grandeur and the terror of realms beyond normal consciousness and reality; realms which I had cherished in fancy, but vainly sought. So as I drove the crowd away I told him he must come home with me and be my teacher and leader in unfathomed mysteries, and he assented without speaking a word. Afterward I found that his voice was music — the music of deep viols and of crystalline spheres. We talked often in the night, and in the day, when I chiselled busts of him and carved miniature heads in ivory to immortalise his different expressions."

Even more striking than the words themselves is that Lovecraft actually dedicated this piece to his close male friend poet, publisher, and book dealer Samuel Loveman — whose well-known homosexuality no one is trying to deny. "Hypnos" is, virtually by Lovecraft's admission, an ode to another man, a gay man, and one for whom he clearly had an intimate attraction (albeit quite possibly an unconsummated one). 

Part 4 of "The Lovecraft That Dare Not Speak Its Name" will follow in three or four days and both be hotlinked here and appear on the d-Infinity homepage. 

The Lovecraft That Dare Not Speak Its Name — Part 4

Poet, publisher, and book dealer Samuel Loveman