Text: Burton R. Pollin, “Forward and Acknowledgments (Introduction),” The Collected Writings of Edgar Allan Poe — Vol. IV: Broadway Journal (Annotations) (1986), pp. ix-xi (This material is protected by copyright)


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[page ix:]

INTRODUCTION

All students of the life of Edgar Allan Poe know of his difficulties with the proprietors of the three journals which used his editorial skills from 1835 to 1842: the Southern Literary Messenger, Burton’s Gentleman’s Magazine, and Graham’s Magazine. In consequence he resolved to found his own magazine, based on the highest principles of taste and criticism. These were spelled out in the series of prospectuses which he issued from 1840 through 1849, for the Penn Magazine, punningly named, and then The Stylus (the name of 1843). They were really manifestoes declaring the need of objective, fearless criticism (although less severe than Poe’s had been in the Messenger) and of fine literary material with numerous “pictorial embellishments” bearing a “continuous, definite character” (see Dwight Thomas, Poe in Philadelphia, pp. 142-144). His rebuffs in job-hunting and lack of patronage led him to plan an expanded role for the Stylus, which was described in the prospectus of March 4, 1843 (see Pollin [C], pp. 214-229). This is less than two years prior to the founding of the Broadway Journal by Charles Frederick Briggs. Certainly Briggs knew the contents of Poe’s new prospectus, stressing the need for engravings of outstanding quality illustrating the texts which are, in general, “vigorous, pungent, original” with criticism that is “independent” and always a reflection of the editor-proprietor’s primary and sole “intentions.” Poe’s assumption of his role as an arbiter of American taste and creativity is evidenced at the end in his hope for “a criticism self-sustained, guiding itself only by the purest rules of Art . . ., aloof from all personal bias.” The journal must discuss “the belles lettres, . . . the Fine Arts, with the Drama” and give “a Retrospect of our Political History.” Important will be a “series of Critical and Biographical Sketches of American Writers,” such as Poe wrote for Godey’s Lady’s Book in 1846.

Meanwhile, despite his unceasing efforts to sign up Stylus backers and subscribers, Poe’s “imminent” journal failed to appear. He sent fine contributions (“The Tell-Tale Heart” and “Notes on English Verse”) to the short-lived monthly Pioneer of James Russell Lowell. The latter would have shown the plan for the Stylus to Briggs, his close friend. Poe, meanwhile, won fame with the prizewinning “Gold-Bug,” and, upon moving from Philadelphia to New York City, with “The Balloon-Hoax,” as it was later called. Poe’s projected pamphlet series, The Prose Romances, came out in July 1843 with critical, but not financial, success. The second number was never issued. At the end of 1843 Poe’s provocative lecture on “The Poetry of America” in Philadelphia and Delaware, and early in 1844, in Baltimore, brought him some public attention, but he remained indigent and lacking in patronage for his cherished magazine.

In October 1844 Poe accepted a position as “mechanical [page x:] paragraphist” charitably offered by his friends Nathaniel P. Willis and George Pope Morris, the founders and editors of the Evening Mirror. This replaced their own weekly New Mirror, a victim of high postal charges (see Mott, pp. 320-330). Poe was to be a subeditor, responsible for short articles and reviews. The partners’ insight into Poe’s genius and originality of ideas and approaches bore abundant fruit with the publication of “The Raven” in the 1/29/45 issue of the Mirror, from advance sheets for February of the monthly the American Review, to which Poe had sold it. At once, it became a sensational success.

Meanwhile, Briggs had fulfilled his long-planned ambition to issue a New York weekly, called the Broadway Journal (Saturday, January 3, 1845). It was not only Poe’s widespread reputation as a litt6rateur and critic that brought the invitation to review the important new book of Elizabeth Barrett’s poems in the first two weekly issues and to write a sketch of editor Willis himself for the third. Briggs must have felt a need for some sort of assistant on the densely printed, two-column journal that still had to set its basic direction, format, and policies. In the brief “prospectus” that Briggs printed in each of the first issues, there was little that disagreed with Poe’s earlier magazine “platforms.” Here is a copy of Briggs’ statement:

Prospectus of the Broadway Journal

To be Published every Saturday.

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THE BROADWAY JOURNAL will differ from any of the weekly Periodicals now published in this city, as it will be made up entirely of original matter, consisting of Essays, Criticisms on Art and Literature, Domestic and Foreign Correspondence, and Literary and Scientific Intelligence.

ILLUSTRATIONS will be given as often as good original Designs can be procured, and drawings and plans of all new public buildings that have either elegance or novelty to recommend them to notice. Particular attention win be given to this department, and no pains Spared to make it worthy of patronage.

Efficient aid has already been secured in the services of some of the best writers in the country; but it is hoped that a free channel being opened through which true-hearted men may “let loose their thoughts,” will be the means of drawing out some of the slumbering talent amongst m which has not yet been seen afloat on the surface of our periodical literature.

THE BROADWAY JOURNAL will espouse the came of no political party, but will hold itself free to condemn or approve any men or measures, that a patriotic regard for the welfare of the country may dictate. It will be printed on fine paper with clear type, in the Octavo form of 16 pages, double columns.

TERMS $3,00 per annum — Single numbers 6 1-4 cts.

A liberal discount to Periodical Agents.

All Communications for the Editor must be addressed to the EDITOR OF THE BROADWAY JOURNAL, and all letters on business to

JOHN BISCO, PUBLISHER,153 BROADWAY.

JOHN DOUGLAS, PRINTER, 68 ANN STREET

[page xi:]

We note that the separate departments of the projected magazine correspond closely to those outlined by Poe, with the same stress on originality and independence. It was the latter issue, according to Bette S. Weidmann (see Bibliography), that made the journal “A Casualty of Abolition Politics,” since Briggs refused to support the abolitionists blatantly through his columns. More significant, I feel, is the lack of provision for creative or imaginative work, implied only through reference to “illustrations” and also services of . . . the best writers in the country” and “slumbering talent.” In the third issue of January 18, Briggs as “Harry Franco” sought to supply this missing element through his own absurd tale, “The False Ringlet” (pp. 42-44). Clearly the pressure of editing duties prevented him from turning out more fiction. Surely, this department was ill supplied by the serialized oriental romance “The Great Tower of Tarudant” by Lowell’s coeditor on the Pioneer, Robert Carter (called “Robert Oliver”). The dreary installments begin on these pages: 117, 137, 170, and 202. Poe, as new associate editor, was almost immediately able to raid his Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque of 1839 for “Lionizing” in the March 17 issue (1:164-66), continuing with “Berenice” (April 5), “Bon Bon” (April 19), “The Oval Portrait” (April 26), and others almost every week. Poe’s name, with that of Watson, was added to that of Briggs in the March 8 issue (1:144). Coincidentally, this was also the last to carry the prospectus of Briggs in the advertising section (1:160). It may also be that Poe received extra pay for extra columns of tales or poems, used in the first volume (June 28 issue), but neither the separate contracts among the editorial partners nor any other preserved data throw light on this matter. In the second volume, Poe’s inability to pay for contributions and, perhaps, his desire to disseminate tales not included in the twelve selected by Duyckinck for publication (save for “Lionizing”) in the Tales (June 1845) led him to publish a larger number of his revised works in volume 2. (see lists more complete in Quinn, 456-57 and Woodberry, 2:148-49, TOM, Tales, pp. 1396-98 and separate headnotes).

These and other theories about Poe’s motives and policies are treated by Heyward Ehrlich in his adroitly condensed and detailed history of the Broadway Journal, which he has graciously allowed to be inserted at this point in my Introduction.

 


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Notes:

None.


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[S:0 - BRP4J, 1986] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Editions - The Collected Writings of Edgar Allan Poe (B. R. Pollin) (Forward and Acknowledgments)