Text: Edgar Allan Poe to Charles Anthon — about October 31, 1844 (LTR-186)


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>>>My Dear Sir,

Upon glancing your at this letter you will no doubt be surprised at its length, and

Many years have elapsed since I last wrote you, <and had the honor of red and you will >>no doubt<< perhaps be surprized—>>if not exactly<< both at receiving >>this<< a letter >>at at least and<< from me now & receiving one so long. of so great a length. But may I beg your <to> attention for a few moments while I ask of you a favor upon <the> your granting or refusing which I feel that much of my future prosperity will depend.” <<<

<who whose whose>

Many years have elapsed since my last communication with you, and perhaps you will be surprised at receiving a letter from me now—if not positively <discouraged> vexed at receiving one of so great a length and of such a character. But I trust to your goodness of heart for a patient hearing, at the least.

You will have already seen that, as usual, I have a favor to solicit <at your hands>. You have, indeed, been to me in many respects a good genius & a friend—but the request I have to make now is one of vital interest to myself—so much so that upon your granting it or refusing it, depends, I feel, <much if not all of> the >>whole<< prosperity and even comfort of my future life. <I have had few friends,>

I cannot flatter myself, that you have felt sufficient interest in >>my humble self<< me to have followed >>my<< in any respect my literary career, since the period at which you first did me the honor to >>write me a letter communicate with<< address me a note me while Editor of the Southern Messenger. A few words of explanation on this point will therefore be necessary here.<It It> [page 2:]

<The> As I am well aware that your course of reading lies ent[i]rely out of the track of our lighter literature, and as I take it for granted therefore that <yone> none of <my> the papers in question have met your eye—I have thought it advisable to send you with this letter—a single tale as a specimen. <You> wil<l think no doubt> This will no doubt put you in mind of the brick of the sholastikos—but I could not thi[n]k of troubli[n]g you with more than one. I do not thi[n]k it my best tale—but it is perhaps the best in <that> its particular vein. Variety has been one of my chief aims.

In lieu of the rest I venture to place in your hands the published opinions of many of my contemporaries. I will not deny that I have been careful to collect & to preserve them. They include, as you will see, the warm commendations yreat number of very eminent men, and of these commendations, I <am> should be at a loss to understand why I have not a right to be proud.

[page 3:] >>>After a long & desperate struggle with the ills attendant upon orphanage, the total want of relatives, & >>Since quieting the Magazine<< >>Not long<< before quitting the >>Mag just mentioned<< Mess:, I saw, or fancied that I saw, through a long & dim vista, the >>wide and<< brilliant field for >>a true<< ambition which a Magazine of >>proper noble & high &<< bold & noble aims presented to <any> him who should successfully >>accomplish<< establish it in America. I perceived that the country from its very constitution, could not fail of affording in a few years, a larger proportionate amount of readers than any >>country<< upon the Earth. >>I perceive I knew that even then<< I perceived thee the whole >>tendency of the age<< <energetic, busy spirit of the age tended wholly> was to the Magazine literature—to the curt, the terse, the well-timed, and the readily diffused, in preference to the old forms of the verbose and ponderous & the inaccessible. I knew from personal experience that lying perlusamong the innumerable plantations in our vast Southern & Western Countries were a host of well

educated >>& but little prejudiced<< men si[n]gularly devoid of prejudice who would gladly le[n]d their influence to a really vigorous journal provided the right means were taken of bri[n]gi[n]g it fairly within the very limited scope of their observation—per >>A<< Now, >>one of a Magazine Grahams a very true insignifi a journal

Full of I<< I knew, it is true, that some >>dosens<< scores of journals had failed (for indeed I looked upon the best success of the best of them as failure) but then I easily traced the causes of this failure in the impotency of their conductors, who made no scruple of basing their rules of action altogether upon what had been customarily done

in stead of what was now before them to do, in the <bu[t]> [page 4:] greatly >>altered<< changed & constantly >>altring<< changing condition of things.<<<

But not to trust too implicitly to d priorireasonings, I entered a few steps into the field of experiment. I joined the “Messenger” as you know. Ie had then about 7oo subscribers. In short I could see no real reason why a Magazine, if worehy the name, could not be made to <reach a circulation of ‘0.02.000>. circulate among 20,000 subscribers, embracing the bese ineellece & education of the land. This was a thought which stimulated my fancy & my ambition. The influence of such a journal would be vast indeed, and I dreamed of honestly employing that influence in the sacred cause of the beautiful, the just, & the true. Even in a pecuniary view, the object was a <great> magnificent one.

The journal I proposed would be a large octavo of I28 pp. <on the finest> printed with <clear> bold type, in single column, on the finest paper, and disdaining everything of what is termed “embellishn”ene with ehe exception of an occassional portrait of a literary man, or some well-engraved wood design in obvious illustration of the text. Of such a journal I had cautiously estimated the expenses. Could I circulate 20 000 COp. at s$ the cost wd be about $30.ooo, estimating all contingencies at the highest rate. There would be a balance of $70.000 per annum. <I thought of these things & reflected that>t ex

But not to crust too implicitly to d priorireasonings, and at the same time to make myself thoroughly master of all details <which> which might avail me concerni[n]g the mere business of publication, I entered a few steps into the field of experiment. I joined the “Messenger” as you know which was then in its 2d year with <It had then > 700 subscribers & the general outcry was that because a Magazine had never succeeded South of the Potomac therefore a Magazine ne[ver] cd succeed. Yet in despite of this & in despite of the wretched taste [page ‘]of its proprietor which hampered & controlled me at all points I <obtained> in 15 months increased the circulation in I’ months to ‘,Soo. subscribers. <This number the journal had when I left it> paying an annual profit of 10,000 when I left it. This number was never <sur> exceeded by the journal which rapidly went down & <is> may now be said to be extinct. Of “Graham’s Magazine” you have no doubt heard. It had been in existence under the name of the “Casket” for 8 years, when I became its editor with a subscriSption list of about sooo. In about I8months afterward its circulation amounted to no less than 50-000—astonishi[n]g as this may appear. <In> At this period I left it. <an> It is now 2years since, and the number of subscribers is now not morethan 2’ ooo—but possibly very much less. In 3 years it will be extinct. The nature of this journal, however, was such, that even its so.ooo subscribers could not make it <a> very profitable to its proprietor[s]. Its price was $3—but not only were its expenses immense owing to the employment of absurd <plat> steel plates <&other extravagances which tell not at all> but recourse was had to innumerable agents who reed it at a discount of no less th[a]n so per cent & whose [f]reque[n]t dishonesty occasional <great> enormous loss. But, if 50000 canbe obtained for a 3$ Maga- among a class of readers who really read little, why may not 50,000. be procured for a $5 journal among the true and permanent readers of the land? <Astor House>

Holding steadily in view my ultimate purpose—to <establish> fou[n]d a Magazine of my own, or in which at least I might have a proprietary right,—it has been my constant endeavour in the meantime not so much to establish a reputation great in itself as <ef th> one of that particular character which should best further my special object[s], and draw attention to my exertions as Editor of a Magazine Thus I have <thus> written no books and [at this point, running upsile lown anl between anl among the worls, occur two sums:20,000

I2

240000

60000

-anl8|20,000

2tsoo]

have been so far essentially a Magazinist—That That [page 6:] >>putting up not<< bearing not only willi[n]gly but cheerfully >>with the thousand<< sad poverty & the thousand consequent >>ill<<s & contumelies <&other ills> which the >>the<< condition of the mere Magazinist entails upon him in America.—where more than in any other region upon the face of the globe to be poor is to be despised.

The one great di~culty resulting from this course, is that <I am judged by individual papers> unless the journalist collects his various articles he is <very> liable to <gross misjudgement from on the part> be grossly misconceived & misjudged by men of whose good opinion he would be proud—< and > <of > but who <have seen ~ see, perhaps, only a paper here & there, by accident,—often only one of his mere extravaganzas, written <for variety’s sake, or> to

supply a particular demand. He loses, too, <the> whatever merit may be his due on the score of versatility—a point which can only be estimated by <comparison> collection of his various articles in volume form and altogether. This is indeed a serious didiculty—to seek a remedy for which is my object in my own case in writi[n]g you this letter. [Here follow some scribblings:]wh whic extinctioD b by

<It is very true that I h>

Setting aside, for the present, my criticisms poems & miscellanies (sudiciently numerous) my tales a great number of which might be termed Phantasy Pieces, <and> are in number sixty-six. They would make, perhaps, s of the ordinary novel volumes. I have them prepared in every respect for the press; but, alas, I have no money, nor that influence which would enable me to get a publisher—although I seek nopecuniary remuneration. My sole im[m]ediate object is the furtherance of my ultimate one. I believe that if I could get my Tales fairly before the public, and thus have <the> an opportun[i]ty of eliciti[n]g foreign as well as native opinion respecting them—I should <by> by their means [Here occur more scribblings:][a]ct volume volu be [page 7]be in a far more advantageous position than at present in regard to the establishment of a Magazine. In a word, I believe that the publication of the work would lead forthwith <to an arrangement which I have long held in view with> either directly through my own exertion or indirectly with the aid of a publisher to the establishment of the journal I hold in view.

It is very true that <you> I have no claims upon your attention —not even that of personal acquaintance. But I have <a> reached a crisis of my life, in which I sadly stand in need of <a friend> aid, and without being able to say why,—<I have been always filled> u[n]less it is that I so <much wish> earnestly desire your friendship—I have always felt a half-hope that <I> if I appealled to you you would prove my friend. I know that you have unbounde[d] influence with the Harpers—& I know that if you would exert <that> it in my behalf you could procure me the publication I desire.

[Here occur more scribblings:] I [you] scarcely but not onl I b but not


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Notes:

This draft of a letter was not signed.


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[S:0 - MS, 1844] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Works - Letters - Poe to C. Anthon (LTR186/RCL505)