I came across a funny article mocking the supposed format of some of Lovecraft's stories where the protagonist continues to write when he really, really, should be running. The article goes like this:

A common tic among the heroes of H. P. Lovecraft's short horror fiction. Many of his works are written in the first person, and are in the form of a journal or a letter left for future generations warning them against meddling in things best left alone. Quite a few end with some unspeakable cosmic monster smashing through the door or window and lurching after the terrified narrator, whom we can be sure will never be seen again.

How do we know that this is happening? Because the narrator tells us. The story will end with something like:

"...even now I can hear the foosteps of that shambling monstrosity, and hear its eerie piping upon the wind. Poor Blakely, he never dreamed - but now the door is being smashed to flinders, and at last I behold what my meddling has awakened! And now it is dragging me across the floor toward its hideous suckered mouths! Ia! Ia! The Goat With a Thousand Young! No!"

One has to wonder if the narrator ever considered running away, or even getting up from his writing desk at some point. Obviously Lovecraft's men are made of sterner stuff than I, and exhibit a dedication to the craft of writing I can only dream of someday emulating.

"No! Unhand my fountain-pen, you fell beast! I'm being paid by the word!"

From here

Has Lovecraft ever actually written a story like that, where:

  1. The story is presented as a written account by the protagonist
  2. The story involves the protagonist chronicling his demise/insanity
  3. The protagonist continues to write during a time when he really, really should be running

I know that the short story Dagon pretty much has that ending, where the narrator writes

The end is near. I hear a noise at the door, as of some immense slippery body lumbering against it. It shall not find me. God, that hand! The window! The window!

as some creature is breaking into his house, but are there any others?

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    "Look, if he was dying, he wouldn't bother to carve 'aarrggh'. He'd just say it!"
    – DavidW
    Commented Jan 29 at 4:41
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    Too bad my memory is so bad, because I just read through all Lovecraft's stories in chronological order so I ought to be able to answer this.
    – pipe
    Commented Jan 29 at 14:25
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    A modern example: stackoverflow.com/questions/1732348/…
    – EvilSnack
    Commented Jan 29 at 20:27
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    @DavidW "Perhaps he was dictating."
    – user73910
    Commented Jan 30 at 7:19
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    @TonyEnnis: AFAIR, Abdul Alhazred, the author of the dread Necronomicon, was killed in broad daylight in the Baghdad bazaar by invisible (but doubtless eldritch) entities. He was presumably not writing while shopping, unless he was updating his shopping list. Commented Jan 31 at 7:34

4 Answers 4


In addition to Dagon I found a few stories that kind of fit this, but only a few from the large number of stories that Lovecraft wrote.

The closest I know of is The Haunter Of The Dark, which ends:

My name is Blake - Robert Harrison Blake of 620 East Knapp Street, Milwaukee, Wisconsin... I am on this planet...
Azathoth have mercy! - the lightning no longer flashes - horrible - I can see everything with a monstrous sense that is not sight - light is dark and dark is light... those people on the hill... guard... candles and charms... their priests...
Sense of distance gone -far is near and near is far. No light - no glass - see that steeple - that tower - window - can hear - Roderick Usher - am mad or going mad - the thing is stirring and fumbling in the tower.
I am it and it is I - I want to get out... must get out and unify the forces... it knows where I am...
I am Robert Blake, but I see the tower in the dark. There is a monstrous odour... senses transfigured... boarding at that tower window cracking and giving way... Iä... ngai... ygg...
I see it - coming here - hell-wind - titan blue - black wing - Yog Sothoth save me - the three-lobed burning eye...

I would guess the quote you supplied refers to The Diary of Alonzo Typer as that mentions The Goat With a Thousand Young and ends:

My courage and curiousity wane. I know the horror that lies beyond that iron door. What if Claes van der Heyl was my ancestor - need I expiate his nameless sin? I will not - I swear I will not! . . . (the writing here grows indistinct) . . . too late - cannot help self - black paws materialize - am dragged away toward the cellar. . .

but this is a revision of a story by William Lumley and I don't know how much Lumley influenced the style.

From early in Lovecraft's writing there is The Green Meadow that reports the discovery of a journal that ends:

And then, as my island drifted closer and the sound of the distant waterfall grew louder, I saw clearly the source of the chanting, and in one horrible instant remembered everything. Of such things I cannot, dare not tell, for therein was revealed the hideous solution of all which had puzzled me; and that solution would drive you mad, even as it al-most drove me …. I knew now the change through which I had passed, and through which certain others who once were men had passed! and I knew the endless cycle of the future which none like me may escape … I shall live forever, be conscious forever, though my soul cries out to the gods for the boon of death and oblivion … All is before me: beyond the deafening torrent lies the land of Stethelos, where young men are infinitely old … The Green Meadow … I will send a message across the horrible immeasurable abyss ….
(At this point the text becomes illegible.)

Though I'm not sure if this counts.

There is a widespread tendency to conflate Lovecraft with the large number of imitators who followed him. The literary device being criticised in your quote is common in the Lovecraftian genre, but I'm not sure it's fair to criticise Lovecraft himself for this.

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    "Notebook Found in a Deserted House" by Robert Bloch is an excellent example of a Cthulhu Mythos story which fits the question.
    – LAK
    Commented Jan 29 at 14:31
  • Agree -- Haunter is definitely the one that pops to mind for me that actually did this, but I'm not sure HPL did it enough to be a "tic". Possibly his imitators did it enough to make it seem like a trope, but that's hardly on him. There were quite a few stories where the author predicts their death "soon" and we get a postscript confirming it, but that's not the same thing since it was clearly an intentional message rather than narrating their end. Commented Jan 29 at 19:26

I offer the ending of "In the Walls of Eryx", published by Weird Tales in October of 1939. This seems to be H. P. Lovecraft's only foray into hard science fiction. The plot is about a mining company on the planet Venus, and a lone prospector who becomes trapped in an invisible labyrinth built by the planet's native race of lizard-beings. The prospector continues his journal until death, missing a rescue mission by moments.

The following quote is from The H. P. Lovecraft Archive:

I am very near death now, and fear I may not be able to throw the scroll when dusk comes. If I cannot, I suppose the man-lizards will seize it, for they will probably realise what it is. They will not wish anyone to be warned of the labyrinth—and they will not know that my message holds a plea in their own behalf. As the end approaches I feel more kindly toward the things. In the scale of cosmic entity who can say which species stands higher, or more nearly approaches a space-wide organic norm—theirs or mine?

I have just taken the great crystal out of my pouch to look at in my last moments. It shines fiercely and menacingly in the red rays of the dying day. The leaping horde have noticed it, and their gestures have changed in a way I cannot understand. I wonder why they keep clustered around the entrance instead of concentrating at a still closer point in the transparent wall.

I am growing numb and cannot write much more. Things whirl around me, yet I do not lose consciousness. Can I throw this over the wall? That crystal glows so, yet the twilight is deepening.

Dark. Very weak. They are still laughing and leaping around the doorway, and have started those hellish glow-torches.

Are they going away? I dreamed I heard a sound . . . light in the sky.

  • This nails the first two requirements, but seems like it may fail requirement #3 - it sounds like the protagonist is hopelessly wasting away after trying and failing to escape the maze. I'm not sure what else the narrator ought to have been doing to try to prevent his own death. Commented Jan 30 at 18:52

While not by Lovecraft himself, The Hounds of Tindalos by Frank Belknap Long is usually considered to be part of the Cthulhu Mythos, contains the following two paragraphs, and is certainly the example which always comes to mind for me of this trope:

"On another sheet of paper, the most badly charred of the seven or eight fragments found by Detective Sergeant Douglas (of the Partridgeville Reserve), was scrawled the following:

“Good God, the plaster is falling! A terrific shock has loosened the plaster and it is falling. An earthquake perhaps! I never could have anticipated this. It is growing dark in the room. I must phone Frank. But can he get here in time? I will try. I will recite the Einstein formula. I will — God. they are breaking through! They are breaking through! Smoke is pouring from the corners of the wall. Their tongues — ahhhhh — "

  • I believe the question is looking for something written specifically by Lovecraft, not for stories that are simply part of the Cthulu Mythos
    – fez
    Commented Jan 30 at 15:12
  • True; I was wondering if perhaps the author of the original article referenced by the OP may not have made or realised that distinction. Or may have ignored it for comedic effect.
    – piersb
    Commented Jan 30 at 18:00
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    Ah very true! I didn't think of that possibility. +1 for out-of-the-box thinking :)
    – fez
    Commented Jan 30 at 18:13
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    "If he was dying, he wouldn't bother to carve "Arrrrrgh!" He'd just say it!" "Maybe he was dictating." "Shut up!"
    – Exal
    Commented Jan 31 at 2:26

In The Temple, über-Teutonic "Karl Heinrich, Graf von Altberg-Ehrenstein, Lieutenant-Commander in the Imperial German Navy and in charge of the submarine U-29", equipped with the appropriate "iron German will", writes his last words, which he will deposit in a bottle while leaving his doomed U-boat at the bottom of the ocean to enter the submerged temple from which he will not return.

The rest is very simple. My impulse to visit and enter the temple has now become an inexplicable and imperious command which ultimately cannot be denied. My own German will no longer controls my acts, and volition is henceforward possible only in minor matters. Such madness it was which drove Klenze to his death, bareheaded and unprotected in the ocean; but I am a Prussian and a man of sense, and will use to the last what little will I have. When first I saw that I must go, I prepared my diving suit, helmet, and air regenerator for instant donning; and immediately commenced to write this hurried chronicle in the hope that it may some day reach the world. I shall seal the manuscript in a bottle and entrust it to the sea as I leave the U-29 forever.

I have no fear, not even from the prophecies of the madman Klenze. What I have seen cannot be true, and I know that this madness of my own will at most lead only to suffocation when my air is gone. The light in the temple is a sheer delusion, and I shall die calmly, like a German, in the black and forgotten depths. This daemoniac laughter which I hear as I write comes only from my own weakening brain. So I will carefully don my diving suit and walk boldly up the steps into that primal shrine; that silent secret of unfathomed waters and uncounted years.

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