POE, Edgar Allan (1809-1849). Autograph letter signed ("Edgar A Poe," with flourish) to J.C. Passmore of Lancaster, Pa.; Philadelphia, 14 February 1840. 1 page, 4to, integral address leaf with panel in Poe's hand and original postmarks, wafer seal, in fine condition.
POE DECLINES A SUBMISSION TO 'BURTON'S GENTLEMAN'S MAGAZINE'
An evidently unpublished letter written by Poe in his capacity as assistant editor of Burton's Gentleman's Magazine during a particularly productive period in his literary affairs. Poe writes to a prospective author: "I Owe you an apology for not sooner replying to your favor of the 23d Jan. in which you propose to furnish a series of papers for the 'Gent's Magazine.' An unusual press of business will, I hope, plead my excuse. I have no doubt whatever that the articles mentioned would prove of high interest -- a perusal of 'The Lectures' has convinced us of that -- but we are forced, at present, for many reasons, to decline allowing compensation, except in very rare cases, where the name of the writer is well known. We cannot hope, of course, that you will send us your communications gratis -- and just now it is not our policy to pay for them."
William Evans Burton (1802-1860), an English actor, settled in the United States and in 1837 established Burton's Gentleman's Magazine, a monthly literary review. Poe, who had edited The Southern Litarary Messenger and just published The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym, was hired as assistant editor in May 1839. In spite of his frequent absences, due to acting engagements, Burton accorded the young author little decision-making authority. To make matters worse, Burton callously published an extraodinarily harsh review of Poe's Pym ("a mass of ignorance and effrontery," "a more impudent attempt at humbugging the public has never been exercised") and refused to publish certain of Poe's own reviews. While Poe was able to contribute quite a number of reviews, serialized articles and several poems to the magazine, his dissatisfaction mounted. During the Fall of 1839, Burton complained that he was losing money on the magazine and instructed Poe to stop paying contributors, as Poe informs his correspondent in the present letter. In December, Poe's important colected stories, Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque appeared, garnering generally favorable reviews, and he bagan to make plans to launch a literary magazine of his own, the Penn Magazine. In May 1840, Burton, who had begun construction of a new theater, announced that his magazine was for sale, but when he learned that Poe had made plans to open a competing litarary journal, and had issued a prospectus, he summarily dismissed his assistant editor. In a later issue, Burton alluded cryptically to Poe's drinking in a reply to a subscriber; the charge was vehemently denied by Poe, asserting that "it is now four years since I have abandoned every kind of alcoholic drink."
Burton's Gentleman's Magazine was sold in October 1840 to publisher George R. Graham, who combined it with another monthly, The Casket, under the title "Graham's Magazine. In February 1841 Poe, disillusioned with the public response to his plan for his own magazine, took the post of book review editor at Graham's. Not in Letters, ed. Ostrom, and apparently unpublished.
Provenance J.C. Passmore, the recipient, later rector of St. Luke's Episcopal Church, Racine, Wisc. -- His son, Eric Passmore -- St. Paul's Episcopal Church, Milwaukee, gift of the preceding.