Text: Edward H. N. Patterson to Edgar Allan Poe — May 7, 1849


Oquawka, May 7, 1849.

Dear Sir, — Yours of April is before me, and I hasten to reply. I feared that my letter had never reached you (and had contempl.), or that other engagements had prevented your replying. You ask me to give (me) you my views upon the subject of our present correspondence “as much in detail as possible; “ this I shall proceed briefly and concisely to do. (Your remarks, especially, as they are strong.) Your opinions, strengthened as they have been by experience, have had their weight in convincing me that it would probably be better to establish at the outset a high-priced, and correspondingly high-toned periodical, which would, without doubt, win a generous and extended patronage from a genius — appreciating public. When I wrote you before, I had not given the subject that consideration (necessary to) which it deserved, — my principal object at that time being to enlist your sympathies and interests in a periodical (to be published by me), the literary contents of which should be exclusively under your control, believing that such an enterprise would prove successful, not doubting that even a cheap Magazine, under your editorial control, could be made to pay well, and at the same time exert a beneficial influence upon American Literature. But I certainly think that a Magazine (upon) such as you suggest, would yield a handsome income — probably a “fortune worth talking about “ — and also subserve the interests of Literature to a much greater extent.

Our Literature is, just now, sadly deficient in the department of criticism. The Boston Reviewers are, generally, too (contracted in their views) much affected by local prejudices to give impartial criticisms; the Philadelphia Magazines (are) have become mere monthly bulletins for booksellers; Willis does not, with his paper, succeed, even tolerably, as a critic; in fact, I seldom find any (review) critique so nearly according with my own idea of the true aim and manner of criticism as were yours, while you had charge of that department in Graham’s and Burton’s. I wish and (am not alone in the wish) to see you at the head of an influential periodical, where you saw (speak at) —

As you do not appear to be pleased with the (plan) name suggested by me, I will leave to you the task of selecting an appropriate name, and would suggest that you make it unique- something that will be at once taking and will sound well. Make out a list of contributors and write a prospectus, and forward to me as soon as you can, so that I may at once commence operations — or, if it would be more consonant with your views, I will visit New York if possible by the first of August, prepared to purchase suitable materials to (comm) fulfill my part of the work, and then consult with you more deliberately upon minutiae.

My plan then (with certain modifications which we may agree upon) is thus:

I will furnish an office, and take upon myself the sole charge and expense of Publishing a Magazine (name to be suggested by you) to be issued in monthly numbers at Oquawka, Illinois, containing, in every number, 96 pages, of the same size of those of Graham’s Magazine, on good paper and new bold-face long primer (literary critical reviews to be set in smaller type) at the rate of (five) $5 per annum. Of this magazine you are to have the entire editorial control, furnishing, at your expense, matter for its pages, which can be transmitted to me by mail or as we may hereafter agree upon. (The profits none.) You can make your own bargains with authors whose contributions you secure, and I am to publish upon the best terms I can — each incurring the expenses consequent upon his own department — and we are to share the receipts equally-the books to be faithfully kept in the publication office at Oquawka, and one-half of all receipts from subscriptions, and private and agency sales to be forwarded to you monthly, by mail or as you may otherwise direct.

If one thousand subscribers can be secured in advance (and I have your assurance that they can), I am desirous of publishing a Magazine of this character. Your plan for procuring subscribers strikes me as having been happily conceived, and from its very “originality,” exclusive of your own extended personal popularity, must succeed admirably. On my part, I think my influence probably would extend to probably 500 subs., but I depend mainly upon your name, which (whatever may be the title you may propose) must form a part thereof. The fact of your editorship must also be well displayed in the prospectus.

Oquawka is comparatively an unimportant point, but I think that such being the case would not injure at all the circulation of the Magazine. Those who would become subscribers, would be induced to do so by their confidence in the abilities of the Editor, and the names of the contributors — and after the appearance of the first number I would guarantee that none will be disposed to cavil at the style or manner of publication. Here I can, situated as I now am, do my work at a less outlay, do it as neatly, and enjoy every mail advantage that I could at St. Louis, being but 30 hours’ travel from that city, and being situated immediately upon the Mississippi, with daily connection with the Northern Canal and St. Louis, and directly upon the great daily mail line from the East, through Penn., Ohio, and Indiana. In short, I could have no advantage in St. Louis that I may not avail myself of herewhile here my expenses would not be so great as they would there, at least not in the beginning; — when the Magazine circulates five thousand copies it may be to our interests to publish it elsewhere-time will tell.

I have decided upon 96 pages — exclusive of cover; thinking that we had better begin with a work of this size. If, at the end of the first year, our circulation should justify, we can make a favorable impression as regards the stability of the work by enlarging to 112 pages or perhaps even to 128 pp.

I should expect you to be at one-half the cost of printing, say, 100 (perhaps a somewhat larger number) copies sent to editors in payment of insertion of prospectus.

If my plan accords with your views, you will immediately select a title, write me to that effect, and we will both commence operations. I will visit you at New York during the latter part of July or 1st of August, when we can settle minutiae and write out prospectus. We ought to put out the first number early in January next. Let me hear from you immediately.

And now that business is over — a word in your private ear. In conversing with a gentleman from Boston last year, upon the relative merits of some of our leading writers, I mentioned your name, and was surprised that he did not at once agree with me in my estimate of your poetic powers. He confessed that he had read areview of some of your poems and concluded that they were scarcely worth his attention. He had not even seen the “Raven.” I lent him this, besides several fugitive pieces of yours in my possession — “William Wilson,” “Murders of the Rue Morgue,” &c., and afterwards “Eureka,” a copy of which (the last in the city) I had just a little while before procured in St. L. The preface of this work he said was sufficient, if he had never read another of your writings, to convince him that Edgar A. Poe was a man of gigantic mind. I was thus the humble instrument in removing for the [[. . .]]

[[The rest of the letter is lost]]





[S:0 - MS, 18xx] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Misc - Letters - E. H. N. Patterson to Poe (RCL787)