Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Was Lovecraft Suicidal?

Hi, HPL fans. Chrispy has just opened his copy of Letters to Samuel Loveman [1, p.13], March 24, 1923] and found this to share.

“My perception of cosmic futility is so unalloyed with blind emotion that I frankly admit that my object in life is to keep fed, warm, & amused till death comes to end the boredom. I admit brutally that death is better than life, and would commit suicide tomorrow with genuine cheerfulness & and unforced jest on my lips if I had any perfectly easy, painless, & certain means at my disposal. The only reason I haven't long ago is that I am too lazy to look up a good way, & have never had sufficient discomfort to make life really unbearable.”

So, was HPL just pulling Samuel Loveman's leg? This is not the first time he talked of suicide, but all evidence shows he only talked about it.

Recently, worry and anxiety were found to be predicters of suicide. http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/9042444. Lovecraft, in 1923, showed no more signs of stress than at other times in his life. In 1904 He lost Grandfather, home, legacy, money, a career in astronomy, and standing in the community. As a teen, that would have been a critical time factor and high risk - and he did say he thought about it.

The NIMH says, “If someone tells you they are thinking about suicide, you should take their distress seriously, listen non-judgmentally, and help them get to a professional for evaluation and treatment.

"People consider suicide when they are hopeless and unable to see alternative solutions to problems. Suicidal behavior is most often related to a mental disorder (depression) or to alcohol or other substance abuse. Suicidal behavior is also more likely to occur when people experience stressful events (major losses, incarceration).

"Some right-to-die advocacy groups promote the idea that suicide, including assisted suicide, can be a rational decision. Others have argued that suicide is never a rational decision and that it is the result of depression, anxiety, and fear of being dependent or a burden. Surveys of terminally ill persons indicate that very few consider taking their own life, and when they do, it is in the context of depression."

In 1937, even as the pain increased, HPL seemed not to reach out and ask his friends to assist him to suicide then. He succumbed naturally, and in pain.

"It is estimated that about 60 percent of people who commit suicide have had a mood disorder (e.g., major depression, bipolar disorder, dysthymia).Risk factors include mental illness, substance abuse, previous suicide attempts, family history of suicide, history of being sexually abused, and impulsive or aggressive tendencies. http://www.nimh.nih.gov/suicideprevention/suicidefaq.cfm

While Lovecraft's father died of syphilis complications and his mother had mental erosion, there seemed little tendency toward suicide in the family. As far as I can tell, the only addiction Lovecraft had was to ice cream – he was a sworn prohibitionist and only wrote about drugs in his stories.

He was indeed sick, and had many ailments over the years. None of them drove him to suicide - or even attempted suicide, as far as any friend has reported, or scholar uncovered.

It seems clear that while he talked about suicide, he never attempted it, and the dialogue in the letter above was merely to make a philosophical – nihilistic - point.

1 comment:

Tom Lera said...

Chris:

You state "As far as I can tell, the only addiction Lovecraft had was to ice cream", however he was also addicted to writing letters (over 100,000 in his lifetime, from one reference I read).

Maybe he felt suicidial because he did not get that many returned to him. :)

EBay has several items in auction regarding his letters. I am sure you have them.

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