This is quite simply one of the best essays ever written on the history of horror literature. It was written by Lovecraft over a three year period from 1924-1927, on the request of fellow writer W. Paul Cook; and first published in a folio-sized magazine called "The Recluse" in 1927.
Lovecraft continued to make revisions to the essay throughout the '30s, until his death in 1937. It was published with these revisions, posthumously, in 1939 by August Derleth and Donald Wandrei's Arkham House and included in "The Outsider And Others". It was published again in 1945 by Ben Abramson with a Foreword by August Derleth. This current edition that I'm reviewing was originally published by Dover in 1973, and replaces the foreword by Derleth with an Introduction by E. F. Bleiler. In this 128 page essay, Lovecraft not only exposes his influences, but shows a fine critical sense as well. This work provides a virtual checklist of classic literature for horror fans to seek out. Some of the authors covered are well known like Bram Stoker, Joseph Sheridan LeFanu, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Charles Dickens, Mary Shelley, Henry James, and Edgar Allan Poe (who has a whole chapter devoted to him). Others are lesser known today (at least in the mainstream market), but just as important to horror literature; like Charles Robert Maturin, Lord Dunsany, Arthur Machen, and Algernon Blackwood. "Supernatural Horror In Literature" is broken into 10 chapters, arranged chronologically, beginning with the earliest tales of supernatural occurences and continuing up through modern writers that Lovecraft admired.
The chapters are as follows:
2-The Dawn of the Horror Tale
3-The Early Gothic Novel
4-The Apex of Gothic Romance
5-The Aftermath of Gothic Fiction
6-Spectral Literature on the Continent
7-Edgar Allan Poe
8-The Weird Tradition in America
9-The Weird Tradition in the British Isles
10-The Modern Masters.
For Lovecraft fans this is an absolute must, to see the threads of influences that Lovecraft used to sew his own unique vision of cosmic horror. Even for those who are not particularly fans of Lovecraft's style of horror, this is still a fascinating read that traces the supernatural element from man's first written works all the way up to the 1930's.
Supernatural Horror in Literature (1927) Rating: