Wednesday, 14 October 2020

H.P. Lovecraft's The Beast in the Cave

H.P. Lovecraft's work is most accurately understood in its post-World War One milieu. In fiction, the optimism of Scientific Romances and the notions of good and evil in Gothic Horror had largely gone extinct in the conflagration that seized the world in its most devastating mechanized war to date. Horror would be given a reprieve on the silver screen with the Universal Studios series of Gothic monster movies that lasted up to the Second World War, but Lovecraft was ahead of the game on the sense of cosmic nihilism that would pervade much of the 20th century.

Nevertheless, Lovecraft began his writing career prior to the First World War. Though not published until 1918, The Beast in the Cave was drafted in 1905 when Lovecraft was only 14 years old. In it, we already see the nascent themes that he would explore in his literary career. A visitor to Mammoth Cave in Kentucky, now a national park, gets separated from his tour group. In the darkness of the subterranean depths, terror seizes upon him as he hears the fall of footsteps drawing close. A young Lovecraft explores his powers of description leading up to the kind of shock ending that he would become known for.

Without further ado, we present the complete text of The Beast in the Cave...