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Quotes by H. P. Lovecraft

Quotes by H. P. Lovecraft

Write out the story – rapidly, fluently, and not too critically – following the second or narrative-order synopsis. Change incidents and plot whenever the developing process seems to suggest such change, never being bound by any previous design.
What a man does for pay is of little significance. What he is, as a sensitive instrument responsive to the world’s beauty, is everything!
We should perceive that man’s period of historical existence, a period so short that his physical constitution has not been altered in the slightest degree, is insufficient to allow of any considerable mental change.
We shall see that at which dogs howl in the dark, and that at which cats prick up their ears after midnight.
We must realise that man’s nature will remain the same so long as he remains man; that civilisation is but a slight coverlet beneath which the dominant beast sleeps lightly and ever ready to awake. To preserve civilisation, we must deal scientifically with the brute element, using only genuine biological principles.
We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far.
We call ourselves a dog’s ‘master’ – but who ever dared to call himself the ‘master’ of a cat? We own a dog – he is with us as a slave and inferior because we wish him to be. But we entertain a cat – he adorns our hearth as a guest, fellow-lodger, and equal because he wishes to be there.
Very few minds are strictly normal, and all religious fanatics are marked with abnormalities of various sorts.
Unhappy is he to whom the memories of childhood bring only fear and sadness.
Truth is of no practical value to mankind save as it affects terrestrial phenomena, hence the discoveries of science should be concealed or glossed over wherever they conflict with orthodoxy.
Toil without song is like a weary journey without an end.
To the scientist there is the joy in pursuing truth which nearly counteracts the depressing revelations of truth.
To me, there is nothing but puerility in a tale in which the human form – and local human passions and conditions and standards – are depicted as native to other worlds and universes.
Throw a stick, and the servile dog wheezes and pants and shambles to bring it to you. Do the same before a cat, and he will eye you with coolly polite and somewhat bored amusement.
There be those who say that things and places have souls, and there be those who say they have not; I dare not say, myself, but I will tell of The Street.
There are, I think, four distinct types of weird story: one expressing a mood or feeling, another expressing a pictorial conception, a third expressing a general situation, condition, legend or intellectual conception, and a fourth explaining a definite tableau or specific dramatic situation or climax.
There are not many persons who know what wonders are opened to them in the stories and visions of their youth; for when as children we listen and dream, we think but half-formed thoughts, and when as men we try to remember, we are dulled and prosaic with the poison of life.
The world is indeed comic, but the joke is on mankind.
The sole ultimate factor in human decisions is physical force. This we must learn, however repugnant the idea may seem, if we are to protect ourselves and our institutions. Reliance on anything else is fallacious and ruinous.
The reason why time plays a great part in so many of my tales is that this element looms up in my mind as the most profoundly dramatic and grimly terrible thing in the universe.
The real lover of cats is one who demands a clearer adjustment to the universe than ordinary household platitudes provide; one who refuses to swallow the sentimental notion that all good people love dogs, children, and horses while all bad people dislike and are disliked by such.
The process of delving into the black abyss is to me the keenest form of fascination.
The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.
The most merciful thing in the world… is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents.
The monotony of a long heroic poem may often be pleasantly relieved by judicious interruptions in the perfect succession of rhymes, just as the metre may sometimes be adorned with occasional triplets and Alexandrines.
The man or nation of high culture may acknowledge to great lengths the restraints imposed by conventions and honour, but beyond a certain point, primitive will or desire cannot be curbed.
The end of a story must be stronger rather than weaker than the beginning, since it is the end which contains the denouement or culmination and which will leave the strongest impression upon the reader.
The earliest English attempts at rhyming probably included words whose agreement is so slight that it deserves the name of mere ‘assonance’ rather than that of actual rhyme.
The cat is such a perfect symbol of beauty and superiority that it seems scarcely possible for any true aesthete and civilised cynic to do other than worship it.
The cat is classic whilst the dog is Gothic – nowhere in the animal world can we discover such really Hellenic perfection of form, with anatomy adapted to function, as in the felidae.
The appeal of the spectrally macabre is generally narrow because it demands from the reader a certain degree of imagination and a capacity for detachment from everyday life.
The ‘punch’ of a truly weird tale is simply some violation or transcending of fixed cosmic law – an imaginative escape from palling reality – hence, phenomena rather than persons are the logical ‘heroes.’
That metre itself forms an essential part of all true poetry is a principle which not even the assertions of an Aristotle or the pronouncements of a Plato can disestablish.
Searchers after horror haunt strange, far places.
Science, already oppressive with its shocking revelations, will perhaps be the ultimate exterminator of our human species – if separate species we be – for its reserve of unguessed horrors could never be borne by mortal brains if loosed upon the world.
Plots may be simple or complex, but suspense, and climactic progress from one incident to another, are essential. Every incident in a fictional work should have some bearing on the climax or denouement, and any denouement which is not the inevitable result of the preceding incidents is awkward and unliterary.
Personally, I would not care for immortality in the least. There is nothing better than oblivion, since in oblivion there is no wish unfulfilled. We had it before we were born yet did not complain. Shall we whine because we know it will return? It is Elysium enough for me, at any rate.
Orthodox Christianity, by playing upon the emotions of man, is able to accomplish wonders toward keeping him in order and relieving his mind. It can frighten or cajole him away from evil more effectively than could reason.
One superlatively important effect of wide reading is the enlargement of vocabulary which always accompanies it.
One cannot be too careful in the selection of adjectives for descriptions. Words or compounds which describe precisely, and which convey exactly the right suggestions to the mind of the reader, are essential.
One can never produce anything as terrible and impressive as one can awesomely hint about.
Of our relation to all creation we can never know anything whatsoever. All is immensity and chaos. But, since all this knowledge of our limitations cannot possibly be of any value to us, it is better to ignore it in our daily conduct of life.
Ocean is more ancient than the mountains, and freighted with the memories and the dreams of Time.
Nothing is really typical of my efforts… I’m simply casting about for better ways to crystallise and capture certain strong impressions (involving the elements of time, the unknown, cause and effect, fear, scenic and architectural beauty, and other seemingly ill-assorted things) which persist in clamouring for expression.
No formal course in fiction-writing can equal a close and observant perusal of the stories of Edgar Allan Poe or Ambrose Bierce.
No breed of cats in its proper condition can by any stretch of the imagination be thought of as even slightly ungraceful – a record against which must be pitted the depressing spectacle of impossibly flattened bulldogs, grotesquely elongated dachshunds, hideously shapeless and shaggy Airedales, and the like.
Never should an unfamiliar word be passed over without elucidation, for, with a little conscientious research, we may each day add to our conquests in the realm of philology and become more and more ready for graceful independent expression.
My nervous system is a shattered wreck, and I am absolutely bored and listless save when I come upon something which peculiarly interests me.
Man’s respect for the imponderables varies according to his mental constitution and environment. Through certain modes of thought and training, it can be elevated tremendously, yet there is always a limit.
Life is a hideous thing, and from the background behind what we know of it peer daemoniacal hints of truth which make it sometimes a thousandfold more hideous.
It would not be amiss for the novice to write the last paragraph of his story first, once a synopsis of the plot has been carefully prepared – as it always should be.
It is only the forcible propagation of conventional Christianity that makes the agnostic so bitter toward the church. He knows that all the doctrines cannot possibly be true, but he would view them with toleration if he were asked merely to let them alone for the benefit of the masses whom they can help and succour.
It is no compliment to be the stupidly idolised master of a dog whose instinct it is to idolise, but it is a very distinct tribute to be chosen as the friend and confidant of a philosophic cat who is wholly his own master and could easily choose another companion if he found such an one more agreeable and interesting.
It is easy to remove the mind from harping on the lost illusion of immortality. The disciplined intellect fears nothing and craves no sugar-plum at the day’s end, but is content to accept life and serve society as best it may.
It is absolutely necessary, for the peace and safety of mankind, that some of earth’s dark, dead corners and unplumbed depths be let alone; lest sleeping abnormalities wake to resurgent life, and blasphemously surviving nightmares squirm and splash out of their black lairs to newer and wider conquests.
It is a mistake to fancy that horror is associated inextricably with darkness, silence, and solitude.
Indeed, there is much in pure humanitarian culture, as opposed to rigid scientific training, which encourages absorption in the affairs of mankind, and more or less indifference to the unfathomed abysses of star-strown space that yawn interminably about this terrestrial grain of dust.
In writing a weird story, I always try very carefully to achieve the right mood and atmosphere and place the emphasis where it belongs.
In theory I am an agnostic, but pending the appearance of rational evidence, I must be classed, practically and provisionally, as an atheist.
Imagination is a very potent thing, and in the uneducated often usurps the place of genuine experience.
If religion were true, its followers would not try to bludgeon their young into an artificial conformity; but would merely insist on their unbending quest for truth, irrespective of artificial backgrounds or practical consequences.
If I could create an ideal world, it would be an England with the fire of the Elizabethans, the correct taste of the Georgians, and the refinement and pure ideals of the Victorians.
I never ask a man what his business is, for it never interests me. What I ask him about are his thoughts and dreams.
I have no illusions concerning the precarious status of my tales and do not expect to become a serious competitor of my favorite weird authors.
I have concluded that Literature is no proper pursuit for a gentleman and that Writing ought never to be consider’d but as an elegant Accomplishment to be indulg’d in with infrequency and Discrimination.
I fear my enthusiasm flags when real work is demanded of me.
I do not think that any realism is beautiful.
I couldn’t live a week without a private library – indeed, I’d part with all my furniture and squat and sleep on the floor before I’d let go of the 1500 or so books I possess.
I could not write about ‘ordinary people’ because I am not in the least interested in them.
I am well-nigh resolv’d to write no more tales but merely to dream when I have a mind to, not stopping to do anything so vulgar as to set down the dream for a boarish Publick.
I am not very proud of being an human being; in fact, I distinctly dislike the species in many ways. I can readily conceive of beings vastly superior in every respect.
I am essentially a recluse who will have very little to do with people wherever he may be. I think that most people only make me nervous – that only by accident, and in extremely small quantities, would I ever be likely to come across people who wouldn’t.
I am disillusioned enough to know that no man’s opinion on any subject is worth a damn unless backed up with enough genuine information to make him really know what he’s talking about.
Horrors, I believe, should be original – the use of common myths and legends being a weakening influence.
Horror and the unknown or the strange are always closely connected so that it is hard to create a convincing picture of shattered natural law or cosmic alienage or ‘outsideness’ without laying stress on the emotion of fear.
Heaven knows where I’ll end up – but it’s a safe bet that I’ll never be at the top of anything! Nor do I particularly care to be.
From my experience, I cannot doubt but that man, when lost to terrestrial consciousness, is indeed sojourning in another and uncorporeal life of far different nature from the life we know; and of which only the slightest and most indistinct memories linger after waking.
From even the greatest of horrors, irony is seldom absent.
For correct writing, the cultivation of patience and mental accuracy is essential. Throughout the young author’s period of apprenticeship, he must keep reliable dictionaries and textbooks at his elbow; eschewing as far as possible that hasty extemporaneous manner of writing which is the privilege of more advanced students.
Fear is our deepest and strongest emotion, and the one which best lends itself to the creation of nature-defying illusions.
Even when the characters are supposed to be accustomed to the wonder, I try to weave an air of awe and impressiveness corresponding to what the reader should feel. A casual style ruins any serious fantasy.
Denied anything ardently desired, the individual or state will argue and parley just so long – then, if the impelling motive be sufficiently great, will cast aside every rule and break down every acquired inhibition, plunging viciously after the object wished; all the more fantastically savage because of previous repression.
Cosmic terror appears as an ingredient of the earliest folklore of all races and is crystallised in the most archaic ballads, chronicles, and sacred writings.
Children, old crones, peasants, and dogs ramble; cats and philosophers stick to their point.
Children will always be afraid of the dark, and men with minds sensitive to hereditary impulse will always tremble at the thought of the hidden and fathomless worlds of strange life which may pulsate in the gulfs beyond the stars, or press hideously upon our own globe in unholy dimensions which only the dead and the moonstruck can glimpse.
Certain of Poe’s tales possess an almost absolute perfection of artistic form which makes them veritable beacon-lights in the province of the short story.
Cats are the runes of beauty, invincibility, wonder, pride, freedom, coldness, self-sufficiency, and dainty individuality – the qualities of sensitive, enlightened, mentally developed, pagan, cynical, poetic, philosophic, dispassionate, reserved, independent, Nietzschean, unbroken, civilised, master-class men.
But more wonderful than the lore of old men and the lore of books is the secret lore of ocean.
But are not the dreams of poets and the tales of travellers notoriously false?
Bunch together a group of people deliberately chosen for strong religious feelings, and you have a practical guarantee of dark morbidities expressed in crime, perversion, and insanity.
Blue, green, grey, white, or black; smooth, ruffled, or mountainous; that ocean is not silent.
Atmosphere, not action, is the great desideratum of weird fiction. Indeed, all that a wonder story can ever be is a vivid picture of a certain type of human mood.
An excellent habit to cultivate is the analytical study of the King James Bible. For simple yet rich and forceful English, this masterly production is hard to equal; and even though its Saxon vocabulary and poetic rhythm be unsuited to general composition, it is an invaluable model for writers on quaint or imaginative themes.
All rationalism tends to minimalise the value and the importance of life and to decrease the sum total of human happiness.
All of my tales are based on the fundamental premise that common human laws and emotions have no validity or significance in the cosmos-at-large.
All attempts at gaining literary polish must begin with judicious reading, and the learner must never cease to hold this phase uppermost. In many cases, the usage of good authors will be found a more effective guide than any amount of precept.
Adulthood is hell.
A dog is a pitiful thing, depending wholly on companionship, and utterly lost except in packs or by the side of his master. Leave him alone, and he does not know what to do except bark and howl and trot about till sheer exhaustion forces him to sleep.

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