Lovecraft was once recruited by Henneberger as the new editor of The Magazine of Fun, of all things. It appears to be about the closest he came to employment in the period, unless one counts a short stint of envelope-addressing, some small bits of copywriting, and a day as a New York City debt-collector.
“In the fall of 1924 Henneberger provisionally hired HPL to edit a new humor magazine that he was planning (possibly titled the Magazine of Fun) at $40 per week; HPL spent the next several weeks preparing jokes for the magazine, but it never got off the ground. [As pay] Henneberger gave HPL a credit of $60 at the Scribner Book Shop” (Lovecraft Encyclopedia).
“He has — or says he has — hired me for his new magazine at a salary beginning at $40.00 per wk” (letter from Lovecraft)
This was the Magazine of Fun at the end of 1921 / start of 1922, published out of Chicago which was where Henneberger was located. There was much verse in it, probably best described as being “ribald” in a saucy seaside-postcard sort of way, some jokes that are still good, and with occasional touches of dry social satire and pokes at censorship.
One can thus see how Lovecraft ‘the metrical mechanic’ might have used his talents in churning out such light verse, something he could do at the drop of a hat. He also had quite a comic side and a line in ‘snappy-patter’ newly picked up from Sandusky, as one can see in his letters.
In the May 1922 issue Lovecraft’s friend Ernest La Touche Hancock can be found contributing some light verse…
Hancock was a fellow professional light versifier and fellow British Empire loyalist, then getting toward the end of his life. Hancock was working at a time when one could still make a living from such an activity, and had he been younger (he died in 1926) he might have been the one offered the editorship. His verse is also found in other issues of the magazine. His presence suggests that this is the correct Magazine of Fun, and this hunch is confirmed by my finding a 1922 ownership statement that has Henneberger as owner…
The final issue known to collectors appears to have been April 1923, so my guess is that — with Weird Tales successfully launched — the title was given a final big ‘send-off’ issue and then shelved and pencilled in to be re-started under a new editor some 18 months later. There may of course have been plans for a wholly new title in that line, but it seems unlikely — why waste a snappy title that the news-stand buyers recognised?
Its final issue had offered a “French art section with 100 illustrations”. “French art” then being a euphemism for naughty pictures, these presumably helping to justify the cover’s double-price price-tag of 50 cents. One wonders how far its sales helped under-write the bills arising from the first issue of Weird Tales, which was on the news-stands February-March-April 1923. I guess the new book The Thing’s Incredible! The Secret Origins of Weird Tales may well have more details, but its price is staying high and thus I have not yet seen this.
One imagines that, as the new editor, Lovecraft might have tried to take title back toward its 1921/22 approach as seen above. Certainly it’s difficult to imagine Lovecraft helming a magazine of “under-the-counter” girlie drawings, “French art” and explicit limericks. But Lovecraft could probably have managed a ‘snappy verse’ quarterly in the 1921/22 style, perhaps with the likes of ‘wisecrack’ Sandusky and experienced light-versifier Kleiner as contributors. It’s perhaps relevant that he went to see Sandusky in Boston at this time. He could supply the magazine’s anti-liquor comedy-travelogues himself…
It’s delightful to think that a brown folder, somewhere in the world, might yet be found to contain the six weeks of work done by Lovecraft in the Fall/Autumn of 1924, its faded covers opening to reveal an unknown wad of lusty limericks, jaunty jokes, cunning pokes at the censors, and snappy cracks all signed ‘H.P. Lovecraft’.