Text: Edgar Allan Poe to Edward H. N. Patterson — about April 30, 1849 (LTR-312)


New York: April 1849

Dear Sir,

No doubt you will be surpri[s]ed to learn that your letter dated Dec. 18. has only this moment reached me. I live at the village of Fordham; about 14 miles from New-York on the Harlam Rail-Road — but as there is no Post-Office at the place, I date always from NewYork and get all my letters from the city Post-Office. When, by accident or misapprehension, letters are especially directed to me at Fordham, the clerks — some of them who do not know my arrangements — forward them to West-Farms, the nearest Post-Office town, and one which I rarely visit. Thus it happened with your letter — on account of the request which you made Mr. Putnam, I presume, “to forward it to my residence”. I have thought it proper to make you this explanation, lest you may have been all this time fancying me discourteous in not replying to your very flattering proposition.

I deeply regret that I did not sooner receive it; and had it reached me in due season, I would have agreed to it unhesitatingly. In assuming “originality” as the “keystone of success” in such enterprises, you are right; and not only right, but, in yourself, almost “original” — for there are none of our publishers who have the wit to perceive this vital truth. What the public seek in a Magazine is what they cannot elsewhere procure.

Should you not have changed your mind on the subject, I should be pleased to hear from you again. I do not think — (in fact I am perfectly sure of the contrary) — that a [page 2:] Magazine could succeed, to any great extent, under the precise form, title, and genera plan which (no doubt hurriedly) you have suggested; but your idea of the duplicate publication, East & West, strikes me forcibly. Experience, not less than the most mature reflection on the topic, assures me that no cheap Magazine can ever again prosper in America, We must aim high — address the intellect — the higher classes — of the country (with reference, also, to a certain amount of foreign circulation) and put the work at $5: — giving about 112 pp. (or perhaps 128) with occasional wood-engravings in the first style of art, but only in obvious illustration of the text. Such a Mag. would begin to pay after 1000 subscribers; end with 5000 would be a fortune worth talking about: — but there is no earthly reason why, under proper management, and with energy and talent, the work might not be made to circulate, at the end of a few years — (say 5) 20,000 copies — in which case it would give a clear income of 70 or 80,000 dollars — even if conducted in the most expensive manner, paying the highest European prices for contributions & designs. I need not add that such a Mag. would exercise a literary and other influence never yet exercised in America. — I presume you know that during the second year of its existence, the “S. L. Messenger” rose from less than 1000 to 5000 subs., and that “Graham”, in 18 months after my joining it, went up from 5000 to 52,000. I do not imagine that a $5 Mag. could ever be forced into so great a circulation as this latter; but, under certain circumstances, I would answer for 20,000. The whole income from Graham’s 52,000 [page 3:] never went beyond 15,000 $: — the proportional expenses of the $3 Mags. being so very much greater than those of the $5 ones.

My plan, in getting up such a work as I propose, would be to take a tour through the principal States — especially West & South — visiting the small towns more particularly than the large ones — lecturing as I went, to pay expenses — and staying sufficiently long in each place to interest my personal friends (old College & West Point acquaintances scattered all over the land) in the success of the enterprize. By these means, I would guarantee, in 3 months (or 4) to get 1000 subs. in advance, with their signatures — nearly all pledged to pay on the issue of the first number. Under such circumstances, success would be certain. I have now about 200 names pledged to support me whenever I venture on the undertaking — which perhaps you are aware I have long had in contemplation — only awaiting a secure opportunity

If you will write me your views on the subject — as much in detail as possible — and if they accord in any degree with mine — I will endeavor to pay you a visit at Oquawka, or meet you at any place you suggest, where we can talk the matter over with deliberation. Please direct your reply simply to New-York City.

Very Respy

YrOb. st
Edgar A Poe.





[S:0 - MS, 18xx] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Works - Letters - Poe to E. H. N. Patterson (LTR312/RCL786)