Text: Edgar Allan Poe, “Prospectus for the Stylus,” Saturday Museum (Philadelphia), vol. I, no. 13, March 4, 1843, p. 3, col. 7





A Monthly Journal of General Literature



And Published, in the City of Philadelphia, by



——— unbending that all men 
Of thy firm TRUTH may say — “Lo!  this is writ
With the antique iron pen.”

Launcelot Canning


To the Public. — The Prospectus of a Monthly Journal to have been called “THE PENN MAGAZINE,” has already been partially circulated.  Circumstances, in which the public have no interest, induced a suspension of the project, which is now, under the best auspices, resumed, with no other modification than that of the title.  “The Penn Magazine,” it has been thought, was a name somewhat too local in its suggestions, and “THE STYLUS“ has been finally adopted.

It has become obvious, indeed, to even the most unthinking, that the period has at length arrived when a journal of the character here proposed, is demanded and will be sustained.  The late movements on the great question of International Copy-Right, are but an index of the universal disgust excited by what is quaintly termed the cheap literature of the day: — as if that which is utterly worthless in itself, can be cheap at any price under the sun.

“The Stylus” will include about one hundred royal octavo pages, in single column, per month; forming two thick volumes per year. In its mechanical appearance — in its typography, paper and binding — it will far surpass all American journals of its kind. Engravings, when used, will be in the highest style of Art, but are promised only in obvious illustration of the text, and in strict keeping with the Magazine character. Upon application to the proprietors, by any agent of repute who may desire the work, or by any other individual who may feel interested, a specimen sheet will be forwarded. As, for many reasons, it is inexpedient to commence a journal of this kind at any other period than at the beginning or middle of the year, the first number of “The Stylus” will not be regularly issued until the first of July, 1843. In the meantime, to insure its perfect and permanent success, no means will be left untried which long experience, untiring energy, and the amplest capital, can supply. The price will be Five Dollars per annum, or Three Dollars per single volume, in advance. Letters which concern only the Editorial management may be addressed to Edgar A. Poe, individually; all others to Clarke & Poe.

The neessity [[necessity]] for any very rigid definition of the literary character or aims of “The Stylus,” is, in some measure, obviated by the general knowledge, on the part of the public, of the editor's connexion, formerly, with the two most successful periodicals in the country — “The Southern Literary Messenger,” and “Graham's Magazine.” Having no proprietary right, however, in either of these journals; his objecs [[objects]], too, being, in many respects, at variance with those of their very worthy owners; he found it not only impossible to effect anything, on the score of taste, for the mechanical appearance of the works, but exceedingly difficult, also, to stamp, upon their internal character, that individuality which he believes essential to the full success of all similar publications. In regard to their extensive and permanent influence, it appears to him that continuity, definitiveness, and a marked certainty of purpose, are requisites of vital importance; and he cannot help thinking that these requisites are attainable, only where a single mind has at least the general direction of the enterprise. Experience, in a word, has distinctly shown him — what, indeed, might have been demonstrated à priori — that in founding a Magazine wherein his interest should be not merely editorial, lies his sole chance of carrying out to completion whatever peculiar intentions he may have entertained.

In many important points, then, the new journal will differ widely from either of those named. It will endeavor to be at the same time more varied and more unique; — more vigorous, more pungent, more original, more individual, and more independent. It will discuss not only the Belles-Lettres, but, very thoroughly, the Fine Arts, with the Drama: and, more in brief, will give, each month, a Retrospect of our Political History. It will enlist the loftiest talent, but employ it not always in the loftiest — at least not always in the most pompous or Puritanical way. It will aim at affording a fair and not dishonorable field for the true intellect of the land, without reference to the mere prestige of celebrated names. It will support the general interests of the Republic of Letters, and insist upon regarding the world at large as the sole proper audience for the author. It will resist the dictation of Foreign Reviews. It will eschew the stilted dulness of our own Quarterlies, and while it may, if necessary, be no less learned, will deem it wiser to be less anonymous, and difficult to be more dishonest, than they.

An important feature of the work, and one which will be introduced in the opening number, will be a series of Critical and Biographical Sketches of American Writers. These Sketches will be accompanied with full length and characteristic portraits; will include every person of literary note in America; and will investigate carefully and with rigorous impartiality, the individual claims of each.

It shall, in fact, be the chief purpose of “The Stylus,” to become known as a journal wherein may be found, at all times, upon all subjects within its legitimate reach, a sincere and a fearless opinion. It shall be a leading object to assert in precept, and to maintain in practice, the rights, while, in effect, it demonstrates the advantages, of an absolutely independent criticism; — a criticism self-sustained; guiding itself only by the purest rules of Art; analyzing and urging these rules as it applies them; holding itself aloof from all personal bias; and acknowledging no fear save that of outraging the Right.


N. B. Those friends of the Proprietors, throughout the country, who may feel disposed to support “The Stylus,” will confer an important favor by sending in their names at once.

The provision in respect to payment ‘in advance ‘, is intended only as a general rule, and has reference to the Magazine when established. In the commencement, the subscription money will not be demanded until the issue of the second number.

C. & P.  



In the original, the spacing between paragraphs varies from no blank line to a very thin one. This variance is certainly for the sake of balancing the text in the columns of the newspaper. The most noticable spaces occur before the third and sixth paragraphs of the text.]

Launcelot Canning is a character of Poe's own creation. Poe gives him also as the author of “The Mad Trist” quoted in his 1839 tale “The Fall of the House of Usher.”

Poe sent copies of the Saturday Museum, containing the prospectus, to Peter D. Bernard (March 4, 1843), James R Lowell (March 27, 1843), and presumably to others. Only two copies of the original full issue of March 4, 1843 appear to have survived, and an apparently unique issue for March 11, 1843. No trace has been found of an original issue of February 25, 1843. One of the two March 4, 1843 issues is presumably the one preserved by Thomas Cotrell Clarke, the publisher of the Saturday Museum, and acquired by W. F. Gill about 1875.


[S:1 - PSM, 1843 (photocopy)] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Works - Misc - Prospectus of the Stylus]