Text: Edgar Allan Poe, “ Pay of American Authors [Part IV]” (A), Evening Mirror (New York), January 31, 1845, p. 2, col. 1


[page 2, column 1, continued:]

Pay of American Authors — Synopsis of the International Copy-Right Question.

A day or two since we spoke of the pay afforded our literary men by the publishers of Magazines. These gentlemen may have every inclination to be liberal; but what can they well do in the face of all the periodical literature of Europe, reprinted here at no father cost than that of the mechanical execution? Any American, for eight dollars, may receive any four of the British periodicals for a year.

The immediate advantage to our people, so far as the pocket is concerned, is of course sufficiently plain. We get more reading for less money than if the International Law existed; but what we mean to say is, that the more remote disadvantages are of infinitely greater weight. In brief they are these: — First we have injury to our national literature by repressing the efforts of our men of genius: — for genius, as a general rule, is poor in worldly goods and cannot write for nothing. Our genius being thus repressed, we are written at only by our “gentlemen of elegant leisure,” and mere gentlemen of elegant leisure have been noted, time out of mind, for the insipidity of their productions. In general, too, they are obstinately conservative, and the feeling leads them into imitation of foreign, especially of British models. This is the true source of the imitativeness with which as literary people, we have been justly charged.

In the second place, irreparable ill is wrought by the almost exclusive dissemination among us of foreign, that is to say of monarchical or aristocratical sentiment, in foreign books: nor is this sentiment less fatal to Democracy because it reaches the people themselves, directly, in the gilded pill of the poem or the novel.

We have next to consider the impolicy of our committing, in the national character, an open and continuous wrong, on the frivolous and altogether untenable pretext of expediency. Of this point we have spoken before.

The last, and by far the most important consideration of all, however, is that sense of insult and injury to which, also, we have already alluded — the animosity aroused in the whole active Intellect of the world — the bitter and fatal resentment excited in the universal heart of Literature — a resentment which will not, and which cannot, make nice distinction between the temporary perpetrators of the wrong, and that Democracy in general which not only permits but glories in its perpetration.




Poe reprinted the text of this item, parts of it almost identically, in his “Marginalia,” from Godey’s Lady’s Book for September 1845.


[S:0 - NYEM, 1845] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Works - Essays - Pay of American Authors [Part IV] (A)