Text: Edgar Allan Poe to John Pendleton Kennedy — June 21, 1841 (LTR-114)


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Philadelphia — June 1841

My Dear Sir,

Mr George R. Graham, of this city, and myself, design to establish a Monthly Magazine upon certain conditions — one of which is the procuring your assistance in the enterprise. Will you permit me to say a few words on the subject?

I need not call your attention to the signs of the times in respect to Magazine literature. You will admit the tendency of the age in this direction. The brief, the terse, and the readily-circulated will take place of the diffuse, the ponderous, and the inaccessible. Even our Reviews (lucus a non lucendo) are found too massive for the taste of the day — I do not mean merely for the taste of the tasteless, the uneducated, but for that also, of the few. The finest minds of Europe are beginning to deal with Magazines. In this country, unhappily, we have no journal of the class, which can either afford to compensate the highest talent, or which is, in all respects, a fitting vehicle for its thoughts. In the supply of this deficiency there would be a point gained, and the project of which I speak has originated in the hope of supplying it.

Mr Graham is a lawyer, but, for some years past, has been occupied in publishing. His experience of the periodical business is extensive. He is a gentleman of high social standing, and possessed of ample pecuniary means. Together, we would enter the field with a full knowledge of the difficulties to be encountered, and with perfect assurance of being able to overcome them.

The work will be an octave of 96 pages. The paper will be excellent — far superior to that of the N. A. Review [the North American Review ]. The type will be new (always new) clear and bold, with distinct face. The matter will be disposed in single column. The printing will be done upon a hand-press, in the best manner. There will be a broad margin. We shall have no engravings except occasional wood-cuts (by Adams) when demanded in obvious illustration of the text; and, when so required, [page 2:] they will be worked in with the type. The stitching will be done in the French style, permitting the book to lie fully open. Upon the cover, and throughout, the endeavour will be to preserve the greatest purity of taste, consistent with force and decision. The price will be $5.

I believe I sent you, some time ago, a Prospectus of the “Penn Magazine”, the scheme of which was broken up by the breaking up of the banks. The name will be preserved — and the general intentions, of that journal. A rigorous independence shall be my watchword still — truth, not so much for truth’s sake, as for the sake of the novelty of the thing. But the chief feature will be that of contributions from the most distinguished pens (of America) exclusively; or if this plan cannot be wholly carried out, we propose at least to procure the aid of some five or six of the most distinguished — admitting few articles from other sources — none which are not of a high order of merit. We shall endeavour to engage the permanent services of yourself, Mr Irving, Mr Cooper, Mr Paulding, Mr Longfellow, Mr Bryant, Mr Halleck, Mr Willis, and, perhaps, one or two more. In fact, as before said; our success in making these engagements, is a condition, without which the Magazine will not go into operation; and my immediate object in addressing you now, is to ascertain how far we may look to yourself for aid.

It would be desirable that you agree to furnish one paper each month — either absolute or serial — of such length as you might think proper. The terms are left entirely to your own decision. Whatever sum you may specify will be paid as you suggest. An agreement should be made for one year, during which period you should be pledged not to write for any other (American) Magazine. The journal will be commenced on the first of January 1842, and (should [page 3:] we be so fortunate as to obtain your consent to our proposal) it would be necessary that we should have in hand, by the first of December next, at least two articles from each contributor.

I look most anxiously for your answer; for it is of vital importance to me, personally. This you will see at once. Mr Graham is to furnish all supplies, and will give me, merely for editorial service, and my list of subscribers to the old “Penn”, a half interest in the proposed Magazine — but he will only engage in the enterprize on the conditions before stated — on condition that I can obtain as contributors the gentlemen above named — or at least the most of them — giving them carte blanche as to terms. Your name will enable me, I know, to get several of the others. You will not fail me at this crisis! If I get this Magazine fairly afloat, with the money to back me as now, I will have every thing my own way.

With this letter I despatch one of similar tenor to each of the gentlemen named. If you cannot reply unconditionally — will you be so kind as to say whether you will write for us if we succeed with others — specifying what others?

Most truly Yours,
Edgar A Poe.

John P. Kennedy, Esqr


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Notes:

This letter is printed here with permission from the Archives of the Peabody Institute of The Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland.


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[S:0 - MS, 18xx] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Works - Letters - Poe to J. P. Kennedy (LTR114/RCL294)