New York, June 1836
Edgar A. Poe, Esq.
We have the honour to acknowledge the receipt of yours, dated the 3d. Inst. Since it was written, the MSS to which you refer have reached you safely, as we learn from Mr[[.]] Paulding, who has been so informed we presume by Mr[[.]] White.
The reasons why we declined publishing them were threefold. First, because the greater portion of them had already appeared in print - Secondly, because they consisted of detached tales and pieces; and our long experience has taught us that both these are very serious objections to the success of any publication. Readers in this country have a decided and strong preference for works, (especially fictions) in which a single and connected story occupies the whole volume, or number of volumes, as the case may be; and we have always found that republications of Magazine articles, known to be such, are the most unsaleable of all literary performances. The third objection was equally cogent. The papers are too learned and mystical. They would be understood and relished only by a very few - not by the multitude. The number of readers in this country capable of appreciating and enjoying such writings as those you submitted to us is very small indeed. We were therefore inclined to believe that it was for your own interest not to publish them. It is all important to an author that his first work should be popular. Nothing is more difficult, in regard to literary reputation, than to overcome the injurious effect of a first failure.
We are pleased with your criticisms generally - although we do not always agree with you in particulars, we like the bold, decided, energetic tone of your animadversions, and shall take pleasure in forwarding to you all the works we publish - or at least such of them as are worthy of your notice. We are obliged to publish works, occasionally, which it would scarcely be expected of the Messenger to make the subject of comment.
The last number of the Messenger came to hand last evening, and in our opinion fully sustains the high character which it has acquired for itself. The notices of the Life of Washington, and Sallust we presume will prove highly pleasing to Mr Paulding and Professor Anthon.
We are, very respectfully,
Your obdt. Servants,
Harper & Brothers
[The letter is addressed "Edgar A. Poe, Esq. [[/]] Richmond, [[/]] Virginia" and postmarked "New-York [[/]] June 19."]
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