Lovecraft, Sarah Susan Phillips


Lovecraft, Sarah Susan Phillips
   (1857–1921)
   Mother of HPL; second daughter of Whipple V.Phillips and Robie A.Place Phillips, born in the PlaceBattey house on Moosup Valley Road in Foster, R.I. She spent one academic year at the Wheaton Seminary (Norton, Mass.) in 1871–72; she was otherwise educated in Providence, where she presumably met her friend, the poet Louise Imogen Guiney. It is not known how she met her future husband, Winfield Scott Lovecraft. They married on June 12, 1889, at St. Paul’s Church (Episcopal) in Boston. The couple resided initially in Dorchester, Mass., but Sarah returned to her father’s home in Providence to give birth to HPL on August 20, 1890. According to Sonia H.Davis (“Memories of Lovecraft: I” [1971]; in LR), Sarah had wanted a girl and had started a hope-chest for that eventuality; she dressed HPL in frocks until he was about four, and kept him in long, golden curls until he demanded at the age of six that they be cut. The family apparently lived in various Boston suburbs, renting quarters in the Auburndale home of Louise Imogen Guiney and her mother during the winter of 1892–93 (according to HPL’s testimony); they also spent a vacation in Dudley, Mass., in the summer of 1892. They purchased a home lot in Auburndale, but Winfield’s illness in 1893 forced the sale of the lot and the return of Sarah and her son to her father’s home in Providence. She indulged HPL in many of his youthful interests, purchasing books and toys for him (she gave him Andrew Lang’s translation of the Arabian Nightsfor Christmas 1898), as well as a chemistry set when he became interested in that science in 1898. She vacationed with HPL in Foster at the home of Whipple Phillips’s brother James Wheaton Phillips in 1896 (probably as a relief from the death of HPL’s grandmother earlier that year) and in Westminster, Mass., in 1899. By necessity, she and HPL moved from 454 Angell Street to smaller quarters at 598 Angell Street in 1904 after the death of Whipple Phillips and the subsequent mismanagement of his estate. Sarah and HPL lived alone in this house from 1904 to 1919. A neighbor, Clara L.Hess, in comments written to August Derleth (see Derleth, “Lovecraft’s Sensitivity” [1949]; rpt. LR), says that the house had a “strange and shut-up air” and that Sarah said HPL had a “hideous face.” This is likely to have been around 1908. Sonia H.Davis states that HPL once admitted that his mother’s attitude toward him had been “devastating” (see “Memories of Lovecraft: I”). Appalled by HPL’s attempt to enlist in the R.I. National Guard in May 1917, she pulled strings with the family doctor to have HPL declared unfit to serve. The death of her brother, Edwin E.Phillips, in November 1918 probably increased her feelings of insecurity. Hess reports that Sarah once told her about “weird and fantastic creatures that rushed out from behind buildings and from corners at dark” and that once when riding a trolley Sarah did not seem to know where she was. This was probably shortly before her nervous breakdown during the winter of 1918–19; she was removed to Butler Hospital on March 13, 1919. HPL was initially stunned by her absence from home but eventually grew accustomed to it. He wrote her a few letters (those dating to February 24 and March 17, 1921, survive), as well as short poems on Christmas and on her birthday. It was only during her hospital stay that HPL began traveling modestly, attending amateur gatherings in Boston and elsewhere. Sarah died unexpectedly on May 24, 1921, after undergoing a gall bladder operation. HPL’s initial reaction was shock and even incipient inclinations toward suicide (see SL1.133), but he rapidly recovered his spirits. HPL’s feelings about his mother can be inferred from the opening pages of “The Thing on the Doorstep” (1933), in which the young Edward Derby is said to have been prevented from playing unconstrainedly with other children and was “kept closely chained” to his parents’ side. When he is thirty-four, Derby’s mother dies: “for months he was incapacitated with some odd psychological malady…. Afterward he seemed to feel a sort of grotesque exhilaration, as if of partial escape from some unseen bondage.” True enough, HPL’s emergence from hermitry—as well as his association with Sonia—only began after his mother’s death. HPL frequently made remarks such as “My health improved vastly and rapidly, though without any ascertainable cause, about 1920–21” ( SL3.370), not acknowledging (publicly, at any rate) that his mother’s death was a key to his subsequent emotional maturation.
   See Kenneth W.Faig, Jr, The Parents of Howard Phillips Lovecraft (Necronomicon Press, 1990).

An H.P.Lovecraft encyclopedia. .

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Phillips, Whipple Van Buren —    (1833–1904)    HPL’s maternal grandfather; son of Capt. Jeremiah Phillips (1800–1848) and Robie Rathbun (1797– 1848). He was educated in Foster, R.I., and the East Greenwich Academy. He spent 1852–53 in Delavan, Ill. (a temperance town), on… …   An H.P.Lovecraft encyclopedia

  • Lovecraft, Winfield Scott —    (1853–1898).    Father of HPL; the only son to survive to adulthood of George Lovecraft (c. 1818–1895) and Helen Allgood (1821–1881), of Rochester, N.Y. HPL states that his father attended a military school and made modern languages his… …   An H.P.Lovecraft encyclopedia

  • Lovecraft — mit seiner Frau (1924) Howard Phillips Lovecraft (* 20. August 1890 in Providence, Rhode Island; † 15. März 1937 ebenda) war ein US amerikanischer Schriftsteller. Er gilt als einer der weltweit einflussreichsten Autoren im Bereich der… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Gamwell, Annie E[meline] Phillips —    (1866–1941).    Fifth and last child of Whipple V.Phillips and Robie Alzada Place Phillips; youngest sister of Sarah Susan Phillips Lovecraft, HPL’s mother. Gamwell was educated in Providence and married Edward Francis Gamwell on June 3, 1897; …   An H.P.Lovecraft encyclopedia

  • Clark, Lillian D[elora Phillips] —    (1856–1932)    First child of Whipple V.Phillips and Robie Alzada Place Phillips; elder sister of Sarah Susan Phillips Lovecraft, HPL’s mother. She spent two academic years at the Wheaton Seminary in Norton, Mass. (1871–73), and completed her… …   An H.P.Lovecraft encyclopedia

  • Howard Phillips Lovecraft — Lovecraft mit seiner Frau (1924) Howard Phillips Lovecraft (* 20. August 1890 in Providence, Rhode Island; † 15. März 1937 ebenda) war ein US amerikanischer Schriftsteller. Er gilt als einer der weltweit einflussreichsten Autoren im Bereich der… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • H.P. Lovecraft — Lovecraft mit seiner Frau (1924) Howard Phillips Lovecraft (* 20. August 1890 in Providence, Rhode Island; † 15. März 1937 ebenda) war ein US amerikanischer Schriftsteller. Er gilt als einer der weltweit einflussreichsten Autoren im Bereich der… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Howard Phillips Lovecraft — Para otros usos de este término, véase H. P. Lovecraft (desambiguación). Howard Phillips Lovecraft Howard Phillips Lovecraft Nacimiento …   Wikipedia Español

  • H. P. Lovecraft — This article is about the author. For the rock group, see H. P. Lovecraft (band). H. P. Lovecraft H. P. Lovecraft, circa 1934. Born Howard Phillips Lovecraft August 20, 1890(1890 08 20) Providence, Rhode Island, United States …   Wikipedia

  • H. P. Lovecraft — Howard P. Lovecraft Nom de naissance Howard Phillips Lovecraft Autres noms Lewis Theobald Jr Ward Phillips Activités Romancier, nouvelliste Naissance 20 août 1890 Providence, Rhode Island …   Wikipédia en Français


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