Text: Edgar Allan Poe, “Prospectus of the Penn Magazine,” Saturday Evening Post (Philadelphia, PA), June 6, 1840



ROSPECTUS OF THE PENN MAGAZINE, A MONTHLY LITERARY JOURNAL, TO BE EDITED AND PUBLISHED IN THE CITY OF PHILADELPHIA, BY EDGAR A. POE. — To the Public. — Since resigning the conduct of The Southern Literary Messenger, at the commencement of its third year, I have constantly held in view the establishment of a Magazine which should retain some of the chief features of that Journal, abandoning the rest. Delay, however, has been occasioned by a variety of causes, and not until now have I felt fully prepared to execute the intention.

I will be pardoned for speaking more directly of The Messenger. Having in it no proprietary right, my objects too, in many respects, being at variance with those of its very worthy owner, I found difficulty in stamping upon its pages that individuality which I believe essential to the perfect success of all similar publications. In regard to their permanent interest and influence, it has appeared to me that a continuous and definite character, with a marked certainty of purpose, was of the most vital importance; and these desiderata, it is obvious, can never be surely attained where more than one mind has the general direction of the undertaking. This consideration has been an inducement to found a Magazine of my own, as the only chance of carrying out to full completion whatever peculiar designs I may have entertained.

To those who remember the early years of The Messenger, it will be scarcely necessary to say that its main feature was [a] somewhat overdone causticity in its department of Critical Notices. The Penn Magazine will retain this trait of severity in so much only as the calmest and sternest sense of literary justice will permit. One or two years, since elapsed, may have mellowed down the petulance, without interfering with the rigor of the critic. Most surely they have not yet taught him to read through the medium of a publisher’s interest, nor convinced him of the impolicy of speaking the truth. It shall be the first and chief purpose of the Magazine now proposed, to become known as one where may be found, at all times, and upon all subjects, an honest and a fearless opinion. This is a purpose of which no man need be ashamed. It is one, moreover, whose novelty at least will give it interest. For assurance that I will fulfil it in its best spirit, and to the very letter, I appeal with confidence to the many thousands of my friends, and especially of my Southern friends, who sustained me in The Messenger, where I had but a partial opportunity of completing my own plans.

In respect to the other general features of the Penn Magazine, a few words here will suffice. Upon matters of very grave moment, it will leave the task of instruction in better hands. Its aim, chiefly, shall be to please; and this through means of versatility, originality and pungency. It must not be supposed, however, that the intention is never to be serious. There is a species of grave writing, of which the spirit is novelty and vigor, and the immediate object of the enkindling of the imagination. In such productions, belonging to the loftiest regions of literature, the journal shall abound. It may be as well here to observe, that nothing said in this Prospectus should he construed into a design of sullying the Magazine with any tincture of the buffoonery, scurrility, or profanity, which are the blemish of some of the most vigorous of the European prints. In all branches of the literary department, the best aid, from the highest and purest sources, is secured.

To the mechanical execution of the work the greatest attention will be given which such a matter can require. In this respect, it is proposed to surpass, by very much, the ordinary Magazine style. The form will nearly resemble that of The Knickerbocker. The paper will be equal to that of The North American Review. The pictorial embellishments will be numerous, and by the leading artists of the country, but will be only introduced in the necessary illustration of the text.

The Penn Magazine will be published in Philadelphia, on the first of each month, and will form, half yearly, a volume of about 500 pages. The price will be $5 per annum, payable in advance, or upon the receipt of the first number, which will be issued on the first of January, 1841.



Elsewhere in the same issue, a comment about Poe’s prospectus appears. The Poe Log attributes the comment to George R. Graham (p. 299):

By reference to our advertising columns, it will be seen that a new magazine of a large class will be published in this city after the first of January next. The gentleman who issues the prospectus, and proposes to be publisher and editor, is so well known in the literary world, that commendation would be useless. He was for a long time connected with the Southern Literary Messenger, and won for himself an enviable distinction, as an able, vigorous, impartial, and a somewhat over caustic critic. His pen has been visible for some months past in the review department of the Gentleman’s Magazine, of this city, from which he has retired. We wish him success in his new undertaking, and congratulate him; upon the unique title of his magazine. As we circulate widely among the Friends, we wish him no worse luck, than that he may make friends indeed, of many; as he will find none, should he live to have a thousand years’ experience in publishing, who are more prompt, upright, and honest, in the performance of every obligation, and particularly of the one which we consider most imperious — that of paying the Printer.

The text of the prospectus is essentially identical to that of the June 1840 broadsheet, from which it was most likely copied. With the exception of a single word (”a”) in the 1st sentence of the 3rd paragraph, the only differences are minor variations in formatting, made of necessity to fit the text into the columns of the newspaper.

The first half of this prospectus is reproduced in facsimile in Thomas and Jackson, The Poe Log, p. 301.


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