Edmund Wilson, esteemed literary critic of the first half of the 20th Century, famously did the first serious critical review of horror writer H.P. Lovecraft. Titled “Tales of the Marvellous and the Ridiculous”, Wilson’s essay was published in The New Yorker in 1945 (Lovecraft died in 1937). The piece was scathing*, saying "the only real horror in most of these fictions is the horror of bad taste and bad art." He then went on to reduce Cthulhu, Lovecraft’s most famous monster, to “a giant whispering octopus.”**
Given that Weird Tales was Lovecraft's primary forum, maybe it shouldn't be surprising that Lovecraft once suffered from guilt by association. Similar prejudice exists today. In its prime Playboy gave attention to many neglected/soon to be famous literary luminaries. But try bringing that up in your next literary conversation and see how quickly you have to explain you're not a porn freak.
Still, maybe Lovecraft is indebted to Wilson. Maybe the mere fact that a major literary critic stooped to bash Lovecraft helped lift his name from the bowels of the pulp world and into more polite company. Maybe Lovecraft fans should be hailing Wilson's contribution to the astonishing posterity that Lovecraft's work now enjoys. Maybe there really is no such thing as bad publicity. It certainly can't be worse than playing second fiddle to "The Ghost Table".
*I don't agree with Wilson's assessment of Lovecraft, but at least the essay is well written and amusing. More importantly, unlike nearly all reviews I read today, IT ACTUALLY PROVIDES YOU WITH A CLEAR IMPRESSION OF LOVECRAFT'S STYLE AND SUBJECTS. Isn't that what reviews are for? Wilson at least cared enough to delve into the particulars of Lovecraft's approach, and he had a point about some of Lovecraft's excesses.
**Lovecraft was in good company. In 1947 Wilson wrote of Kafka: "I find it impossible to take him seriously as a major writer, and have never ceased to be amazed at the number of people who can."
***I have a soft spot for many of these covers, but prolonged exposure to them is worse for the IQ than lead paint, something an aristocrat like Lovecraft would not have endorsed.