Howard Phillips Lovecraft was a mama's boy and an awful racist: There's no doubt about it. But his mom obsession got quite a bit creepier than just that...
Lovecraft's dad died while his son was quite young. Winfield Scott Lovecraft, who suffered from paranoia and dementia, was sent to a mental institution when his kid was a toddler; his issues may have been caused by syphilis (although that's unproven), and he kicked the bucket five years later. Similarly, Lovecraft's mother, Sarah Susan Phillips Lovecraft, was sent to the same mental institution decades later; she suffered from psychosis for decades.
As a result of his father's early death, H.P. lived with his maternal relatives and became super-close to his mom, who was herself not the most stable individual and became mired in her grief. A few years later, H.P.'s maternal grandfather died; his business affairs were pretty crappy, so the family had to move out of their mega-mansion.
Lovecraft and his family. Image via Movie Pilot.
Young H.P. suffered from traumatic nightmares at a young age, but his mother didn't seem to help much. In fact, Susie both hated and loved her son, calling him very ugly and making him wear all of his deceased dad's clothes. She rarely showed him any physical affection (he later dubbed her a "touch-me-not") and wound up making him insecure, stuck-up, obsessive kid. Lovecraft claimed that he took after his parents and suffered a nervous breakdown in 1908. He thus had to drop out of high school and withdrew from the world for about five years; for his twenty-first birthday, he rode the trolleys all day...by himself.
Eventually, H.P. got married, but his maternal issues made his relationships suffer. His wife, Sonia, said, "As a married man, he was an adequately excellent lover, but refused to show his feelings in the presence of others. He shunned promiscuous association with women before his marriage..." She added, "Unfortunately, he was conditioned by his poor, demented mother to believe himself bad-looking." As an adult, Lovecraft asked his wife, "How can any woman love a face like mine?"
Lovecraft was a horrible husband - and person. He neglected his wife, who was also his first kiss and supported him financially, and, as a vehement anti-Semite, often expressed hatred for her Jewish heritage. Nurtured by his parents' intense pride in their own British heritage, his racism wasn't just towards the Jewish people; his work demonstrated a disturbing amount of prejudice and xenophobia towards many different groups. Needless to say, their eventual divorce was probably a relief to poor Sonia.
Feature image via Wikimedia/Salon.