Wright, Farnsworth


Wright, Farnsworth
   (1888–1940)
   editor of WT. Wright took editorship of the magazine in early 1924, replacing Edwin Baird. He had served in World War I and was music critic for the Chicago Herald and Examiner,continuing in this capacity for a time even while editing WT. By early 1921 he had contracted Parkinson’s disease, and by around 1930 he was incapable of signing his letters; ultimately it would prove fatal. Wright was compelled to balance the interests of the magazine’s readers (most of whom were relatively unsophisticated and illeducated) with the search for quality; HPL tended to feel that he was unduly influenced by the readers who wrote to the magazine’s letter column, “The Eyrie.” Wright published a vast amount of rubbish in WTbut managed to keep WTafloat through the Depression, when many other pulp magazines (notably the rival Strange Tales [1931–33]) failed. Wright did not get off on the right foot with HPL by rejecting “The Shunned House” when it was submitted to him in 1925; it was HPL’s first rejection by the magazine, as Edwin Baird previously had accepted everything HPL had submitted. Thereafter Wright tended to accept HPL’s more conventional tales and to reject his more aesthetically challenging ones. He was also greatly concerned about censorship: the May–June–July 1924 issue had almost been banned in Indiana because of the gruesomeness of the HPL–Eddy story “The Loved Dead,” and Wright (according to HPL) was in terror of a repeat of such an incident; accordingly, he rejected HPL’s “In the Vault” and “Cool Air” on the grounds that they were too grisly. Wright also rejected several of HPL’s Dunsanian fantasies. Wright appeared to wish HPL to be more explicit in the matter of the causes of his supernatural phenomena; HPL felt that this repeated plea had a deleterious effect on his later work by making it too obvious and explanatory.
   In late 1926 Wright proposed a collection of HPL’s stories, to be part of a series of books issued by WT. In a long letter to Wright (December 22, 1927; AHT), HPL outlined a proposed table of contents for the book (which he wished to call The Outsider and Other Storiesbecause “I consider the touch of cosmic outsideness—of dim, shadowy non-terrestrialhints — to be the characteristic feature of my writing”): the “ indispensablenucleus” would be “The Outsider,” “Arthur Jermyn,” “The Rats in the Walls,” “The Picture in the House,” “Pickman’s Model,” “The Music of Erich Zann,” “Dagon,” “The Statement of Randolph Carter,” and “The Cats of Ulthar”; to be augmented by one of the following — “The Call of Cthulhu,” “The Horror at Red Hook,” or “The Colour out of Space.” But the Popular Fiction Publishing Company’s first book, The Moon Terrorby A.G.Birch and others, sold so poorly that plans to issue further volumes were dropped.
   In 1931 Wright gravely offended HPL by rejecting At the Mountains of Madness,which HPL considered his most ambitious work. Although HPL felt the short novel was suited for serialization by simply dividing after Chapter 6, Wright felt that it was “‘too long,’ ‘not easily divisible into parts,’ ‘not convincing’—& so on” (SL 3.395). For the next five and a half years HPL submitted only one story to WT,even though Wright repeated asked him to do so and reprinted several earlier tales. (August Derleth submitted “The Shadow over Innsmouth” in 1933 and “The Dreams in the Witch House” in 1934 without HPL’s knowledge or permission; the former was rejected, the latter accepted.) In 1932 Wright further angered HPL by urging him not to deal with Carl Swanson, who was attempting to form a magazine, Galaxy,that Wright regarded as a potential rival to WT. HPL grudgingly submitted “The Thing on the Doorstep” and “The Haunter of the Dark” to Wright in the autumn of 1936; they were promptly accepted. After HPL’s death Wright published many of HPL’s stories that he had previously rejected. He edited WTuntil his death, when Dorothy McIlwraith took the helm. See E.Hoffmann Price, “Farnsworth Wright,” Ghost(July 1944); rpt. AnubisNo. 3 (1968); rpt. Etchings and OdysseysNo. 3 (1983); in Price’s The Book of the Dead(Arkham House, 2001).

An H.P.Lovecraft encyclopedia. .

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