- Derleth, August [William]
- (1909–1971)Novelist, poet, biographer, anthologist, correspondent of HPL (1926–37), and later his publisher. Derleth published stories in WT from 1926 onward; he began work on serious regional writing and character studies around 1929 with The Early Years (later published as Evening in Spring ). He graduated from the University of Wisconsin in 1930, writing an honor’s thesis, “The Weird Tale in English Since 1890,” influenced heavily by HPL’s “Supernatural Horror in Literature” (it was published in the Ghost,May 1945). He began writing “Solar Pons” detective stories in 1929; later he wrote Judge Peck detective novels (read by HPL) published by Loring & Mussey. His first serious mainstream work to be published was Place of Hawks (Loring & Mussey, 1935), consisting of four novelettes, all read in manuscript by HPL. Derleth collaborated with Mark Schorer on numerous horror tales, including “Lair of the Star-Spawn” ( WT,August 1932; title suggested by HPL), which introduced the Tcho-Tcho people (mentioned by HPL in “The Shadow out of Time”). He became fascinated with HPL’s mythos around 1931; at that time he urged HPL to name it “The Mythology of Hastur.” A resolute professional writer, he urged HPL to market his work more vigorously. In 1933, without HPL’s permission, he submitted to WT “The Shadow over Innsmouth,” which was rejected, and “The Dreams in the Witch House,” which was accepted. He also tried to interest Loring & Mussey in a collection of HPL’s work in early 1935, but the stories HPL submitted were rejected. Stunned by HPL’s death in 1937, Derleth began immediately with Donald Wandrei (to whom HPL had introduced him in 1927) to compile HPL’s writings into three volumes (fiction, essays and miscellany, and letters). Scribner’s andSimon & Schuster turned down The Outsider and Others, so Derleth and Wandrei published it themselves in 1939 under the imprint of Arkham House. Arkham House published many later volumes by HPL, all compiled by Derleth, including BWS, Marginalia (1944), Cats (1949), SR (1959), Dreams and Fancies (1962), Collected Poems (1963), and DB (1966), some of which contain valuable memoirs by HPL’s colleagues, commissioned by Derleth. He compiled HPL’s Best Supernatural Stories for World Pub. Co. (1945) and later disseminated HPL’s work in England (Victor Gollancz) and in foreign languages (see his article, “H.P.Lovecraft: The Making of a Literary Reputation, 1937–1971,” Books at Brown 25 : 13–25). From 1937 onward he arranged for the transcription of HPL’s letters for the project that was eventually published, with many delays, as Selected Letters(1965– 76; 5 vols.), although Donald Wandrei performed most of the actual editing.Derleth veritably controlled all HPL activity from 1937 to 1971. He wrote many tales of the “Cthulhu Mythos,” veering far from HPL’s original conception, including “The Return of Hastur” (first draft 1931; rewritten 1937; WT, March 1939), The Mask of Cthulhu (Arkham House, 1958), and The Trail of Cthulhu (Arkham House, 1962). He also wrote sixteen “posthumous collaborations” with HPL, most of which were based on brief entries in HPL’s commonplace book (the short novel The Lurker at the Threshold [Arkham House, 1945] contains a small amount of actual prose by HPL); they are gathered in The Watchers out of Time and Others (Arkham House, 1974). He encouraged some writers to contribute to the mythos but discouraged others (e.g., C.Hall Thompson). He compiled Tales of the Cthulhu Mythos (Arkham House, 1969). Derleth wrote many articles attributing his views of the mythos to HPL, among them “H.P.Lovecraft, Outsider” ( River,June 1937; later revised as the introduction to The Outsider and Others), which coined the term “Cthulhu mythology.” He wrote a brief biocritical study, H.P.L: A Memoir (1945); decades later he did considerable work on an expanded edition, H.P.Lovecraft: Notes toward a Biography, but did not complete it (the manuscript survives in SHSW, where the bulk of Derleth’s papers and HPL’s letters to him reside). He also compiled many anthologies of weird and science fiction (many including stories by HPL) and wrote numerous mainstream novels, short stories, poetry, biographies, etc.See 100 Books by August Derleth (Arkham House, 1962); Robert M.Price, “The Lovecraft-Derleth Connection,” LSNo. 7 (Fall 1982): 18–23; Alison M. Wilson, August Derleth: A Bibliography (Scarecrow Press, 1983).
An H.P.Lovecraft encyclopedia. S.T. Joshi, David E. Schultz.