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Author Topic: H.P. Lovecraft, H.G. Wells "Invisible King," and 19th c. Atheism  (Read 1941 times)
Blissfully Ignorant
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« on: March 07, 2016, 09:04:07 PM »

Hi Folks,

Did H.P. ever look at H.G. Wells' weird theological speculation Invisible King? (1917)

The book itself doesn't seem that promising.

I am way more interested in the criticism that Wells got from literary critic, translator, dramatist, smarty pants Willam Archer (pal of G.B. Shaw and promoter of Ibsen).

Archer dismisses Wells turn from noted agnostic to would-be deist. Archer's atheist materialism doesn't stop him from constructing a sinister alternative theology to Wells'.

It is possible to suppose, in the first place, that the Artificer,
though entirely well-meaning, was not a free agent. We can construct a
myth in which an Elder Power should announce to a Younger Power his
intention of setting a number of sentient puppets dancing for his
amusement, and regaling himself with the spectacle of their antics, in
utter heedlessness of the agonies they must endure, which would,
indeed, lend an additional savor to the diversion. This Elder Power,
with the "sportsman's" preference for pigeons as against clay balls,
would be something like the God of Mr. Thomas Hardy.

So, some knowledge of the old Gnostics and Hume's cynical alternatives to Deism's view of an all-wise creator seem at play here. But Archer's sarcasm really stands out.

Did H.P.L. know the vocal atheists of the 19th c. like Shaw, Huxley, and Archer? Does he ever talk of Wells or Wells' later dabbling with politics and religion?

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« Reply #1 on: September 24, 2016, 09:02:35 PM »

It's been awhile since I checked the boards here, and I'm not sure that you will find my answer still relevant, but here goes:

I did a quick index check of two books. 

According to Lovecraft's Library: A Catalogue, HPL did have the works of Shaw (Back to Methuselah) and Wells (The Outline of History and A Short History of the World) in his library at some point.  He did own an anthology that had one of Archer's stories (Masterpieces of Mystery).   There is nothing listed for Huxley.

Joshi's biography of Lovecraft (HP Lovecraft: A Life) makes it clear that Lovecraft was well aware of Huxley's writings on ethnicity and biology.  Shaw and Archer are not mentioned in the biography.  Wells is briefly mentioned on 3 occasions, and merely as an influence.  Lovecraft considered Wells to be one of the better science fiction writers of the day. 

This is by no means definitive....

"...prayers without sacrifices are only words." - Sallustius
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