Howard Phillip Lovecraft’s father Winfield Scott Lovecraft was committed to Butler Hospital in 1893, and died there five years later. Sarah Susan Lovecraft and her son returned to the home of her parents in Providence, Rhode Island, and it appears that little connection was retained between Howard and his father’s side of the family—but there was at least some correspondence between members of the extended Lovecraft clan and their nephew in Providence. While none of this correspondence is known to survive, and there are too few mentions in HPL’s published correspondence to guess much at the real scope of it, we can at least confirm he did share some communication with his paternal aunts…and they are interesting women, worth taking a look at.
Eliza Allgood (b. 1833 d. 1898)
Winfield Scott Lovecraft was the son of George Lovecraft (b. 1814 d. 1895) and Helen (Allgood) Lovecraft (b. 1820 d. 1881); census records for 1860 and 1880 show that three of Helen’s sisters (who would be Winfield’s aunt and Howard’s great aunts) were living with the Lovecraft family: Eliza Allgood, Sarah Allgood, and Augusta Charlotte Allgood (b. 1842? d. 1884). Richard D. Squires in Stern fathers ‘neath the mould: The Lovecraft Family in Rochester suggests that George Lovecraft may actually have adopted Augusta, but the census doesn’t record this. The 1880 census does record an adopted daughter Rosa Ramesdal, but how she fit into the family and what became of her is unclear. In any case, of Lovecraft’s great aunts, the only two who may have interacted with Lovecraft were Eliza and Sarah—Augusta died before HPL was born, and it isn’t clear what happened with Rosa.
Little is known of Eliza’s life. There is no record of her marrying, and she is listed in the 1880 census as a schoolteacher, which suggests some education. She had no children.
While it is possible a young H. P. Lovecraft might have sent a holiday card or letter to his great-aunt Eliza, there is no record of this. However, Eliza had not forgotten her nephew or grandnephew. In 1895 she registered a will that on her death Winfield S. Lovecraft would receive $1,000—and that if he was dead, this money was to be paid to Howard Phillips Lovecraft. So we know the family was at least still aware of the young Howard. Both Eliza Allgood and Winfield S. Lovecraft would pass away in 1898, within a few months of one another.
Sarah Allgood (b. 1830? d. 1908)
H. P. Lovecraft’s other great-aunt was Sarah Allgood, who was a teacher in Mt. Vernon, New York for sixty years before retiring. Like her sister Eliza, she never married and had no children. Sarah lived with her sister’s family for what appears to be most of that time, having particularly close relations with her nieces, the sisters of Winfield S. Lovecraft: Emily (“Emma”) Jane Lovecraft and Mary Louise Lovecraft.
While we may speculate as to whether H. P. Lovecraft ever wrote to Eliza, we know that when he was 14 or 15 years old, Howard wrote to his great-aunt Sarah for genealogical information, which the elder Allgood provided:
There was a chart—one of those partitioned, compartment affairs with broad spaces for one’s parents and little narrow spaces for one’s remote forbears. I had copied it from my late great-aunt Sarah Allgood’s chart (plus a chart of the Lovecraft side) in 1905, and it had nearly fallen to pieces.
—H. P. Lovecraft to Frank Belknap Long, Nov 1927, Selected Letters 2.179
While the information about the family tree doesn’t appear to have made much of an impact on Lovecraft in 1905—he was going through a rough period following the death of his grandfather Whipple Van Buren Phillips in 1904, which forced Howard and his mother to relocate into smaller quarters—it’s interesting to note that the information would later be of much greater interest and important to Lovecraft. All of the Celtic connections in his family tree are through his father’s side of the family; and given Lovecraft’s anti-Irish prejudices during World War I (being a lifelong Anglophile, he was on the side of the British during the Irish War of Independence 1919-1921), this may have something to do with a gradual lessening of his prejudice in that regard. How much other family lore that Sarah may have passed on to her grandnephew is unclear; the legend of the “Luck of Edenhall” that HPL might have picked it up anywhere, but one particular anecdote had to have come from someone on the Allgood side of the family:
The only duel in my family of which I have any knowledge was fought in 1829, in upper New York State, by my father’s maternal grandfather William Allgood (of the Allgoods of Nunwick and Brandon White House, near Hexham—an old Roman station not far south of Hadrian’s Wall—in Northumberland)—who was born in England in 1792, graduated from Oxford, and came to the U.S. by way of Canada in 1817. The affray, as reported by family tradition, was the outgrowth of unpleasant remarks on national differences (memories of the War of 1812, in which the Americans vainly tried to conquer and annex Canada, were then fresh in Northern N.Y.) exchanged with a citizen of Rochester. Pistols were used, both participants were slightly grazed, and everybody appears to have been satisfied, since no more of the matter had been reported to posterity. It appears that my forebear was the challenger in this matter—though not without reasonable provocation. He died a peaceful natural death in 1840.
—H. P. Lovecraft to Robert E. Howard, 10 Nov 1932, A Means to Freedom 1.480
In 1903, Sarah Allgood registered a will dividing her property among her surviving nieces and nephews, which included George Lovecraft Taylor (son of Augusta Allgood and John Lovecraft Taylor), Emma Jane (Lovecraft) Hill, Mary Louise (Lovecraft) Mellon, and Howard Phillips Lovecraft—who, being a rather distant grandnephew, was bequeathed the modest sum of $50. It is unclear how long any correspondence with her grandnephew lasted before her death in 1908.
Mary Louise (Lovecraft) Mellon (b.1855 d. 1916)
The younger sister of Winfield S. Lovecraft, Mary Louise Lovecraft was a teacher like her aunts Sarah and Eliza. Unlike them, she married: her husband was Paul Mellon (b. 1863 d. 1910), and they were wed 8 July 1893 in Illinois. We can only speculate what kind of a marriage it was; Mary L. Mellon was listed as living with her aunt Sarah Allgood and cousin George Lovecraft Taylor in New York in 1900, and when Paul Mellon died he was in California. A clue to the strained nature of the relationship may be read in Eliza Allgood’s 1895 will, where she specifies as a condition of inheriting any property that:
[…] shall forfeit the principal thereof in event she shall give or devise any part of said estate or proceeds to Paul Mellon her husband.
Whether or not this condition ever came into play is unknown; perhaps Paul Mellon skipped out on the marriage, or was dissolute in some fashion. Mary L. Mellon remained with her surviving aunt Eliza until the latter’s death, probably as her caretaker. Mary herself would pass away in 1916. While I have not been able to find a copy of her will, L. Sprague de Camp write in H. P. Lovecraft: A Biography (156) that on her death she left $2,000.00 to her nephew H. P. Lovecraft. As with the other bequests, there is no record of this in Lovecraft’s letters, but 1916 isn’t a particularly well-attested year in the letters, and he might be forgiven for not mentioning the death of distant relatives with whom he may not have been in regular contact to such friends as he had. Like her aunts, Mary L. Mellon died without children.
Emily (“Emma”) Jane (Lovecraft) Hill (b. 1849 d. 1925)
My paternal grandfather, George by name, (whom I never saw) emigrated to Rochester, N.Y., in the first half of the nineteenth century, and engaged in a remunerative occupation. He later removed to Mount Vernon, N.Y., and married Helen, daughter to Lancelot Allgood, Esq., another English emigrant, of a family whose ancestral seat is the manor of Nunwick, near Hexham, in Northumberland. This union was blessed with three children: Emma, now wife of Mr. Isaac Hill, Principal of the Pelham, N.Y. High School; Mary; and Winfield, father of the present writer.
—H. P. Lovecraft to Maurice W. Moe, 1 Jan 1915, Letters to Maurice W. Moe 43
Like her aunts and sister, Emma Lovecraft was a schoolteacher. On 13 Sep 1872 she married Isaac C. Hill, who would become principal of the high school in Pelham, N.Y. Their daughter, Mary Ida Emily Hill, was born in 1874…and being sixteen when Howard was born, it is perhaps not surprising that there’s no indication the cousins were ever close. Indeed, Howard may have been unaware of his cousin, since he wrote:
George also had daughters, whose childless next generation complete the dead-ending.
—H. P. Lovecraft to Maurice W. Moe, 5 Apr 1931, Letters to Maurice W. Moe 294
In 1899, Ida married David Lyon, and the joint Allgood-Hill-Lovecraft-Lyon plot at Woodlawn Cemetery in Mt. Vernon, New York is the resting place for several members of the family.
The only suggestion that Howard was in correspondence with his aunt Eliza is the date of her death. Rather later in life, Lovecraft wrote:
His whereabouts were unknown in 1921, when I was last in correspondence with such paternal relatives as survive.
—H. P. Lovecraft to Edward H. Cole, 24 Oct 1934, Letters to Alfred Galpin & Others 96
Howard was referring to another male relative who had disappeared out west some decades before; he believed himself at the time to be the only male member of the Lovecraft family to still carry the name. Since his last communication was 1921, that would rule out his aunt Mary (d. 1916), so the most likely suspect was his aunt Emma (d. 1925)—while it is possible he was in touch with his cousins Ida Lyon or George Lovecraft Taylor, their general absence in his sketches of the Lovecraft/Allgood side of the family suggests against it. At least, if he was in touch with Ida, he should have received notice at the death of her mother in 1925. More than likely, his aunt Emma’s death severed the final strand of connection with between H. P. Lovecraft and his father’s side of the family.
Bobby Derie is the author of Weird Talers: Essays on Robert E. Howard and Others and Sex and the Cthulhu Mythos.
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