The Best of H. P. Lovecraft: Bloodcurdling Tales of Horror and the Macabre

The Best of H. P. Lovecraft: Bloodcurdling Tales of Horror and the Macabre


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780345350800
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 05/28/1987
Edition description: Reissue
Pages: 432
Sales rank: 381,794
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.94(d)

About the Author

Almost completely ignored by the mainstream press during his lifetime, H. P. Lovecraft has since come to be recognized as one of the greatest writers of classic horror, on a par with Edgar Allan Poe, Lovecraft's mentor. H. P. Lovecraft's work has been translated into more than a dozen languages, his tales adapted for film, television, and comic books, and he has been the subject of more scholarly study than any other writer of horror fiction save Poe.

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The Rats In The Walls
On July 16, 1923, I moved into Exham Priory after the last workman had finished his labors. The restoration had been a stupendous task, for little had remained of the deserted pile but a shell-like ruin; yet because it had been the seat of my ancestors, I let no expense deter me. The place had not been inhabited since the reign of James the First, when a tragedy of intensely hideous, though largely unexplained, nature had struck down the master, five of his children, and several servants; and driven forth under a cloud of suspicion and terror the third son, my lineal progenitor and the only survivor of the abhorred line.
With this sole heir denounced as a murderer, the estate had reverted to the crown, nor had the accused man made any attempt to exculpate himself or regain his property. Shaken by some horror greater than that of conscience or the law, and expressing only a frantic wish to exclude the ancient edifice from his sight and memory, Walter de la Poer, eleventh Baron Exham, fled to Virginia and there founded the family which by the next century had become known as Delapore.
Exham Priory had remained untenanted, though later allotted to the estates of the Norrys family and much studied because of its peculiarly composite architecture; an architecture involving Gothic towers resting on a Saxon or Romanesque substructure, whose foundation in turn was of a still earlier order or blend of orders—Roman, and even Druidic or native Cymric, if legends speak truly. This foundation was a very singular thing, being merged on one side with the solid limestone of the precipice from whose brink the priory overlooked a desolate valley three miles west of the village of Anchester.
Architects and antiquarians loved to examine this strange relic of forgotten centuries, but the country folk hated it. They had hated it hundreds of years before, when my ancestors lived there, and they hated it now, with the moss and mould of abandonment on it. I had not been a day in Anchester before I knew I came of an accursed house. And this week workmen have blown up Exham Priory, and are busy obliterating the traces of its foundations.
The bare statistics of my ancestry I had always known, together with the fact that my first American forbear had come to the colonies under a strange cloud. Of details, however, I had been kept wholly ignorant through the policy of reticence always maintained by the Delapores. Unlike our planter neighbors, we seldom boasted of crusading ancestors or other mediaeval and Renaissance heroes; nor was any kind of tradition handed down except what may have been recorded in the sealed envelope left before the Civil War by every squire to his eldest son for posthumous opening. The glories we cherished were those achieved since the migration; the glories of a proud and honorable, if somewhat reserved and unsocial Virginia line.
During the war our fortunes were extinguished and our whole existence changed by the burning of Carfax, our home on the banks of the James. My grandfather, advanced in years, had perished in that incendiary outrage, and with him the envelope that had bound us all to the past. I can recall that fire today as I saw it then at the age of seven, with the Federal soldiers shouting, the women screaming, and the negroes howling and praying. My father was in the army, defending Richmond, and after many formalities my mother and I were passed through the lines to join him.
When the war ended we all moved north, whence my mother had come; and I grew to manhood, middle age, and ultimate wealth as a stolid Yankee. Neither my father nor I ever knew what our hereditary envelope had contained, and as I merged into the greyness of Massachusetts business life I lost all interest in the mysteries which evidently lurked far back in my family tree. Had I suspected their nature, how gladly I would have left Exham Priory to its moss, bats, and cobwebs!
My father died in 1904, but without any message to leave to me, or to my only child, Alfred, a motherless boy of ten. It was this boy who reversed the order of family information, for although I could give him only jesting conjectures about the past, he wrote me of some very interesting ancestral legends when the late war took him to England in 1917 as an aviation officer. Apparently the Delapores had a colorful and perhaps sinister history, for a friend of my son’s, Capt. Edward Norrys of the Royal Flying Corps, dwelt near the family seat at Anchester and related some peasant superstitions which few novelists could equal for wildness and incredibility. Norrys himself, of course, did not take them so seriously; but they amused my son and made good material for his letters to me. It was this legendry which definitely turned my attention to my transatlantic heritage, and made me resolve to purchase and restore the family seat which Norrys showed to Alfred in its picturesque desertion, and offered to get for him at a surprisingly reasonable figure, since his own uncle was the present owner.
I bought Exham Priory in 1918, but was almost immediately distracted from my plans of restoration by the return of my son as a maimed invalid. During the two years that he lived I thought of nothing but his care, having even placed my business under the direction of partners.
In 1921, as I found myself bereaved and aimless, a retired manufacturer no longer young, I resolved to divert my remaining years with my new possession. Visiting Anchester in December, I was entertained by Capt. Norrys, a plump, amiable young man who had thought much of my son, and secured his assistance in gathering plans and anecdotes to guide in the coming restoration. Exham Priory itself I saw without emotion, a jumble of tottering mediaeval ruins covered with lichens and honeycombed with rooks’ nests, perched perilously upon a precipice, and denuded of floors or other interior features save the stone walls of the separate towers.
As I gradually recovered the image of the edifice as it had been when my ancestors left it over three centuries before, I began to hire workmen for the reconstruction. In every case I was forced to go outside the immediate locality, for the Anchester villagers had an almost unbelievable fear and hatred of the place. This sentiment was so great that it was sometimes communicated to the outside laborers, causing numerous desertions; whilst its scope appeared to include both the priory and its ancient family.
My son had told me that he was somewhat avoided during his visits because he was a de la Poer, and now I found myself subtly ostracised for a like reason until I convinced the peasants how little I knew of my heritage. Even then they sullenly disliked me, so that I had to collect most of the village traditions through the mediation of Norrys. What the people could not forgive, perhaps, was that I had come to restore a symbol so abhorrent to them; for, rationally or not, they viewed Exham Priory as nothing less than a haunt of fiends and werewolves.
Piecing together the tales which Norrys collected for me, and supplementing them with the accounts of several savants who had studied the ruins, I deduced that Exham Priory stood on the site of a prehistoric temple; a Druidical or ante-Druidical thing which must have been contemporary with Stonehenge. That indescribable rites had been celebrated there, few doubted, and there were unpleasant tales of the transference of these rites into the Cybeleworship which the Romans had introduced.
Inscriptions still visible on the subcellar bore such unmistakable letters as “DIV . . . OPS . . . MAGNA. MAT . . .” signs of the Magna Mater whose dark worship was once vainly forbidden to Roman citizens. Anchester had been the camp of the third Augustan legion, as many remains attest, and it was said that the temple of Cybele was splendid and thronged with worshippers who performed nameless ceremonies at the bidding of a Phrygian priest. Tales added that the fall of the old religion did not end the orgies at the temple, but that the priests lived on in the new faith without real change. Likewise was it said that the rites did not vanish with the Roman power, and that certain among the Saxons added to what remained of the temple, and gave it the essential outline it subsequently preserved, making it the center of a cult feared through half the heptarchy. About 1000 A.D. the place is mentioned in a chronicle as being a substantial stone priory housing a strange and powerful monastic order and surrounded by extensive gardens which needed no walls to exclude a frightened populace. It was never destroyed by the Danes, though after the Norman Conquest it must have declined tremendously; since there was no impediment when Henry the Third granted the site to my ancestor, Gilbert de la Poer, First Baron Exham, in 1261.
Of my family before this date there is no evil report, but something strange must have happened then. In one chronicle there is a reference to a de la Poer as “cursed of God” in 1307, whilst village legendry had nothing but evil and frantic fear to tell of the castle that went up on the foundations of the old temple and priory. The fireside tales were of the most grisly description, all the ghastlier because of their frightened reticence and cloudy evasiveness. They represented my ancestors as a race of hereditary daemons beside whom Gilles de Retz and the Marquis de Sade would seem the veriest tyros, and hinted whisperingly at their responsibility for the occasional disappearances of villagers through several generations.

What People are Saying About This

Stephen King

Now that time has given us some perspective of his work, I think it is beyond doubt that H. P. Lovecraft has yet to be surpassed as the century's greatest practioner of classic horror tales.

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The Best of H. P. Lovecraft: Bloodcurdling Tales of Horror and the Macabre 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 77 reviews.
chevyguy2010 More than 1 year ago
I liked this book enough to go and buy the complete fiction. I gave it four stars instead of five because some of the stories lead in obvious directions. I found myself anticipating the outcomes a few times without any real twists. I enjoyed reading it though and would say Lovecraft is now one of my favorite authors. Next up, Poe.
JudithLA More than 1 year ago
This book is the best in horror to date. It is a must read for lovers of true horror and the eerily strange. I recommend this read to true horror readers.
Eldritch_Pen More than 1 year ago
This was the book that gave me my first taste of Lovecraft. As such, it has an honored place on my shelves (both real and virtual). I read "The Rats in the Walls" first and decided afterward that I was going to have trouble sleeping (it was that scary). If one has never read HPL before (or perhaps is new to horror in general, which is even better), it's obvious why Lovecraft is the model/inspiration for all the other horror writers that came after, Stephen King included. This edition has a few minor content errors (the word "Indian" instead of "Italian" at one point in "The Haunter of the Dark" being an example) but I decided these were overshadowed by the excellent collection of stories. It's been almost a century since HPL did his work, but it's amazing how these tales are just as creepy today as they were when they were penned in a lonely Providence study. Recommended? Definitely!
Guest More than 1 year ago
H.P. Lovercraft is incredible. the man new how to mess with your mind. the best author in the thriller/horror genres... well best author, lets just put it that way. if your a fan of perfect writing and heavy metal you'll love this book!
Ithaqua More than 1 year ago
I love this book. Many of my all time favorite stories are contiained inside its very creepy cover. Many of Lovecraft's stories take place around New England and Westren Massachusetts.
slimikin More than 1 year ago
I'm of two minds about H.P. Lovecraft. On the one hand, he's a classic, a master at creating grotesque, oppressive atmosphere, and I can see certain seeds of modern horror, science fiction, and even fantasy within his writing. But on the other hand, that writing is fixated on one set of ideas and themes, and his stories read as though they are slight variations on one another. Only occasionally in this collection was I surprised by a turn of events or eager to see how Lovecraft would resolve a conflict. Most of the time, I knew exactly what was going to happen, who would be involved, and how it would be described. There was only so much my appreciation for Lovecraft's technique and place in literary history could do to keep me engaged in the text. So, five stars in respect for that technique and impact on the writers that followed, but minus one star for not quite having that impact on me.
SoCalMom More than 1 year ago
Lovecraft surly knows how you give you the creeps. He is a genius when it comes to the macabre. His characters are always on the brink of hysteria and then always end in madness. <br> The Rats in the Walls.Egh! Creepy!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I was told about H.P. Lovecraft a year ago by my father, but never really bothered to look into him. This year, I finally began to read his work, and I wonder why I hesitated!!! This has got to be the greatest collection of horror tales that I have ever read, making Poe seem like a writer for children.
Anonymous 8 months ago
I did not care for these stories of a lover of horror. Did not seem scary at all.
EvilJohn on LibraryThing 11 months ago
An excellent collection of short horror stories.
jseger9000 on LibraryThing 11 months ago
I admire Lovecraft for what he contributed to the horror genre more than I actually like to read his stuff. This book is missing my favorite of his stories: At the Mountains of Madness, but for a novice, it's a good intro and will show you both what's good and bad about his writing.
cyberlemur on LibraryThing 11 months ago
Unique and vocabulary expanding, Lovecraft's verbal explanations of the unexplainable are always a joy.
tairngire on LibraryThing 11 months ago
Lovecraft is the guilty pleasure B-movies of literature. The stories are so intense, so ridiculously over the top, brimming with archaic words and American macabre.
SlySionnach on LibraryThing 11 months ago
If how I love an author is based upon how fast I buy more books by them, Lovecraft may win. Before I was finished with this book, I went out and bought two more of his anthologies, and moved seamlessly from finishing this one and starting the next in the space of a train ride. I've been told to read Lovecraft by just about everyone I know who knows what I like to read. Finally convinced, I picked up the only book I had (because reading the "Best Of" seems like a good place to start) and dove in.I kicked and screamed when I had to rise for air. From story to story, the rough beginning of reading the older writing style became easier and soon the little voice in my head that does my reading even deciphered the phonetic spelling with an accent of its own. I adored every creature I read about from the Mi-Go to the Elder Ones, and I yearned to hear more about the forbidden shoggoth while fearing them at the same time. Though Lovecraft's characters never disclose just what the creatures look like, we certainly know that they're dreadful.What I also enjoyed is how big a role science plays into his stories. It's all physics and traveling through space on bat-like wings and visiting lands beyond the stars.While I abhor learning physics, I'll never hate reading about how we can twist it into helping us find the world of Yuggoth (which has recently been demoted, and I wonder how the Mi-Go feel about this...)I recommend this collection to anyone who wants to see how Lovecraft influenced the horror masters of today. Or anyone wants to read a weird tale.
MikeLancaster on LibraryThing 11 months ago
I am one of those people who finds Lovecraft's tale incredibly rewarding.I loved them when I was a kid, but I've ended up loving them more now I'm not. His narrative vision was -quite simply- astonishing. His often sublime creations prise him head and shoulders above many other practitioners of the weird tale, and the influences of Poe, Dunsany and Machen -although vast- are secondary to the wonderful instinct he had for how much to show and how little to reveal. As a result, the stories ask a reader to imagine along with Lovecraft; to piece together the jigsaw pieces of cosmic horror sometimes from scant hints and thin, but evocative, descriptions. I know there is a lot to wince at in the canon: the inbred country-folk degenerating into savages, or worse; the often jaw-dropping racism that -although tempered in his later works- still provides the reader with an uncomfortable aftertaste; the uneven pace of some of the tales; the stubborn overuse of words like 'gibbous' and 'eldritch'. But somehow Lovecraft's stories manage to transcend their myriad flaws and give us a science-horror that is breathtaking in its scope and depth. You might think that they would have to be truly brilliant to overcome those flaws. And they are.
mikemillertime on LibraryThing 11 months ago
This definiteive collection of Lovecraft's finest easily display how this author is undeservedly underrated and forgotten with his impact on the genres of horror and thriller. His stories may end too quickly and without resolution, he may occasionally suffer from a strange New England snobbishness (against the poor or minorities), but his works are completely original, inhabiting and inventing a strange milieu of alternate dimensions and paranomal sciences, well before any other thinker did. His stories are suberbly written, if not hyperbolic, but all part of the fun in this fantastic calvacade of supernatural and horrific gems.
storyjunkie on LibraryThing 11 months ago
I enjoyed this collection, despite some qualms about certain depictions. I knew going in that non-white ethnicities and women would not be represented well, when they would be represented at all. We are talking semi-canonized literature from the beginning of the 20th century - and such flaws are a staple of what was considered for canonization for a long time.The craftsmanship is good: the language and the handling of tension better than I thought it would be. There's a deftness of prose that sometimes borders on too spare, but I can't tell if the moments of shock that I'm not feeling are because I'm jaded or if Lovecraft actually missed the note (to use a musical analogy).
jcovington on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A collection of his best short fiction. I am forced to confess, I don't really care for Call of Cthulu. Mountains of Madness is a must read though.
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Adam_Gentry More than 1 year ago
Knowledge brings pain. Madness offers release. Lovecraft’s stories focus on the unknown, the alien, and the otherworldly. His stories confront everyday people with this hidden world, sometimes directly, more often through the accounts of the less fortunate. In Lovecraft’s world knowledge is a burden that drives many to madness. He is perhaps one of the most skilled writers when it comes to unreliable and unstable narrators; however, he also has shortcomings. His stories start slowly and with excessive backstory. They only begin to achieve real momentum at the midpoint, before ending abruptly. He often hints at a larger narrative that remains unresolved. Of course this lack of resolution is also part of his general theme, there is no happy ending, and only those ignorant of the truth can live happily. Within his own writing he is quite repetitive. His protagonists are often generic and somewhat flat, and his descriptions tend to be excessive, particularly when describing architecture. He has a bad habit of summarizing a scene rather than showing the reader what happened. In spite of that he remains an accomplished author in the realm of horror, and a good read for anyone with the patience to persevere through the slow starts. +Strong Suspense +Strong Ideas +Strong Descriptions -Weak Plot -Slow 2.5/5 For my full review, go to writet (write thoughts) at wordpress.
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