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Literature / Old Bugs

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"Old Bugs" is a short story by H. P. Lovecraft. It's believed to have been written sometime in the late 1910's but went unpublished until 1959, over two decades after Lovecraft's death.

The story is set in a tavern during the age of prohibition, and the title refers to the nickname of an old drunk who lingers around the place and tries warn a young newcomer to the tavern not to go down the same path he did.


A somewhat more comedic tale than what Lovecraft is known for, the story is also a bit of an outlier due to its lack of any supernatural elements.

Tropes found in this story include:

  • The Alcoholic: Old Bugs has a reputation for being one, and he is hellbent on keeping Alfred from turning out the same way.
  • Anti-Alcohol Aesop: "Old Bugs" was written by Lovecraft, a well-known teetotaler, as an unsubtle warning to his friend who liked to drink by portraying that friend as a decrepit alcoholic who lost the favor of the woman he loved due to his habits.
  • The Future: The story was written in 1919, but takes place in 1950.
  • The One That Got Away: Eleanor Wing turns out to be this for Old Bugs, as it was his alcoholism that drove them apart.
  • Historical Domain Character: Eleanor Wing was a real person
  • Luke, I Am Your Father: Old Bugs turns out to be Alfred's father.
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  • Real-Person Fic: Old Bugs turns out to be an older version of Alfred Gelpin, a close friend of Lovecraft's in real life.
  • Wham Line: "For the gentle and noble features were those of his own mother."