After I had found new details of Arthur Leeds and the Canadian Army in the Bloch letters, another new biographical item has been found in the volume of Moe letters. In September 1930 Lovecraft remarked…
I’d like to see the old boy [Leeds] myself, & certainly hope he’ll look me up if his itinerant outfit traverses this part of the world. Hope his prosperity is permanent — he deserves some peace and freedom from anxiety after the long gruelling years of the past [post-war poverty in New York City]. But what a beastly shame his Old Cap Colliers were not waiting for him. (Letters to Maurice W. Moe, page 515)
From this it appears that Leeds likely departed New York City soon after the Great Depression hit, and went home to Canada. There he found that his precious childhood things had either been thrown out or given away. “Old Cap Colliers” indicates that Leeds had once collected this 1880s-90s dime novel series (a series, incidentally, whose plots and situations were later extensively mined to fuel the 1930s pulp character Nick Carter, Detective).
After that Leeds had evidently once again ‘run away with the circus’ in the form of setting off with some travelling theatre, but this time at a better salary and perhaps as the manager. That’s how I read Lovecraft’s comments, and the new data is bolstered by Lovecraft’s 1931 comment that… “Leeds has come on slightly better times, through his side-line of the drama”. It seems likely this travelling theatre working the eastern Canada / Chicago area, perhaps travelling alongside and shadowing a large circus and thus quite lucrative. That Lovecraft thinks of it as a “side-line” may indicate it was seasonal work.
But the Great Depression deepened and the job probably didn’t last more than a couple of seasons. S.T. Joshi notes that Leeds was back in Brooklyn, New York City, in June 1932. There he appears to have turned to dealing in used correspondence courses. At some point he began to live on the fringes of Coney Island, as I’ve detailed in another recent post. It would be logical to assume that he was able to pick up seasonal work at the famous Coney Island attractions, while having time to write in the winter.
All this augments my Leeds biography and photo, which is to be found in my book Lovecraft in Historical Context #4.