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[Text: Edgar Allan Poe, "Magazine Literature," from The Weekly Mirror, February 15, 1845, p. 299.]


[page 299, column 2:]

MAGAZINE LITERATURE.

The increase within a few years, of our Magazine literature, is by no means to be regarded as indicating what some critics would suppose it to indicate -- a downward tendency in American taste, or in American letters. It is but a sign of the times -- and indication of an era in which men are forced upon the curt, the condensed, the well-digested -- in a word upon journalism in lieu of dissertation. We need now the light artillery more especially than the Peace-Makers of the intellect. We will not be sure that men at present think more profoundly than half a century ago, but beyond question they think with more rapidity, with more skill, with more tact, and with an infinitely more of methods in the thought. Besides all this they have a vast increase in what Coleridge terms the material for thinking -- they have more facts -- they have more to think about. For this reason they are disposed to put the greatest amount of thought in the smallest compass, and disperse it with the utmost attainable rapidity. Hence the journalism of the age -- hence, in especial, the Magazines. Too many we cannot have, as a general proposition. But we demand that they have sufficient merit to render them noticeable in the beginning, and that they continue in existence sufficiently long to permit us a fair estimation of their value.

It is but a few days since we were called upon to speak of Mr. Colton's very promising "American Review," and now, to-day, we have lying before us a magazine which has this objection (if indeed objection it be), that it is a fac-simile of the "American Review," (as far as the look of the cover goes); in all other respects the new journal is an excellent thing.

We speak of Mr. English's long promised [column 3:] "Aristidean" -- a title, by the way, which is aptly indicative of the temper and tone of the work. We find in it as perfect a dead level of impartiality as ever we dreamed of. Mr. English in this respect is an abstraction if ever man was -- commending his foes and rasping his friends, right and left, with an air of amusing indifference. Now we look upon this sort of candor (shall we call it?) As an especially strong point in the conduct of an American Magazine. We are, in fact, prone to be too solicitous of individuals, and thus we fail in influencing masses. An editor who wishes to exert influence should never be brought to admit that there is such a thing as a mere individual in existence. He should speak the truth, with the air of absolute abstraction, and be ready to "stand from under" if the Heavens should happen to fall.

The articles in this, the opening number of the "Aristidean," are without exception forcible -- pointed and pungent -- rather than declamatory, and rather than particularly profound. Much is done in small compass. "Whom shall we hang?" is a vigorous paper of just the right length, on a topic of precisely the right kind. "The Ropemaker" is in verse, just such a paper as "Whom shall we hand?" is in prose, and by this we intend a compliment, beyond doubt. "Arrow-Tip" is a long story -- too long. The critique on George Jones is powder wasted. The other papers need no individual notice -- if we expect, perhaps, a very beautiful poem beginning "The winds of Heaven," which is quite worthy of Harrington or Carew, and which, therefore, we shall take the liberty of transferring to our columns. It bears about it the traces of the editors own pen.

[The "critique on George Jones," mentioned in the "Aristidean," is of Jones's Ancient America and is by Poe himself.]

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[S:0 - Weekly Mirror, 1845]