Text: Edgar Allan Poe to James Fenimore Cooper — June 21, 1841 (LTR-117a)


Philadelphia — June 21. 1841.

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 pardon me for saying a few words on the subject?

I need not call you 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, the condensed, and the easily circulated will take the place of the diffuse, the ponderous, and the inaccessible. Even our Reviews are found too massive for the taste of the day — I do not mean for the taste of the merely uneducated, but also for that of the few. In the meantime the finest minds of Europe are beginning to lend their spirit to Magazines. In this country, unhappily, we have no journals 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 per[[i]odical business is great. He is a gentleman of high social standing, and possessed of ample pecuniary means. For myself — you will perhaps remember me as the original editor of the South. Lit. Messenger of Richmond, Va.; and I have had, otherwise, much to do with the conduct of Magazines. Together, we would enter the field with a full understanding of the difficulties to be encountered, and, I trust, with entire ability to meet them.

The work will be an octavo of 96 pages. The paper will be excellent — very far superior to that of the N. A. Review. The type will be new (always new) clear and bold, with distinct face. The matter will be disposed in a 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, they will be worked in with the type — not upon separate pages, as in “Arcturus.” 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.

The chief feature in the literary department 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 constant aid of some five or six of the most distinguished; and to admit few articles from other sources — none which are not of a very high order of merit. We shall endeavour to engage the services of yourself, Mr. Irving, Mr. Paulding, Mr. Kennedy, Mr. Longfellow, Mr. Bryant, Mr. Halleck, Mr. Willis, and, perhaps, one or two others. 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 — and of such length as you might deem proper. We leave terms entirely to your own decision. The sums specified will be paid as you may suggest. It would be necessary that an agreement 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 we be so fortunate as to obtain your consent to our proposal) it would be best that we should have in hand, by the first of December next, at least two papers from each contributor.

With this letter I despatch one of similar tenor to each of the gentlemen above named. If you cannot make it convenient to give an unconditional reply, will you be kind enough to say whether you will write for us upon condition that we succeed in our engagements with the others — specifying what others?

With high respect
Yr obt St
Edgar A. Poe





[S:0 - MS, 18xx] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Works - Letters - Poe to James Fenimore Cooper (LTR117a/RCL300)