Edgar Allan Poe’s last project before his death was an effort to raise money for The Stylus, his own literary magazine. Poe made a living, albeit an often impoverished one, by working as a contributor and editor to several magazines.
Poe’s first editorial job was at The Literary Messenger, where he was able to turn his occasional contributions to a full-time position at the age of 26. He continued to contribute his own fictional works and reviews until quitting the Messenger in 1837. This two year stint presaged the often short period of time Poe maintained each editorial position.
1837 – “Arthur Gordon Pym” in The Southern Literary Messenger
For two years, Poe struggled to find an editorial position in New York. He finally secured one at Burton’s Gentleman’s Magazine and briefly worked there until being dismissed in 1840. A restless and combative spirit plagued Poe’s editorial work, causing frequent disputes with the proprietor of the magazine.
1839 – Title page of Burton’s Gentleman’s Magazine, Volume 5
Tired of endlessly working for the reputation of another man’s journal, Poe decided to raise money to found his own Penn Magazine. It was his “sole chance of carrying out to completions whatever particular intentions [he] may have entertained” while working for other proprietors.
1840 – Prospectus for the Penn Magazine in The Daily Chronicle and General Advertiser
Unfortunately, Poe failed to secure enough subscribers and was forced to return to his editorial position at Burton’s Gentleman’s Magazine, now under new ownership as Graham’s Magazine.
1840 – Cover, with “The Man in the Crowd”, in Burton’s Gentleman’s Magazine/The Casket/ Graham’s Magazine
After several prolific years at Graham’s, Poe worked briefly for the New York Evening Mirror and for The Broadway Journal. With loaned money, Poe managed to buy The Broadway Journal, becoming sole proprietor of a journal for the first and only time of his life. His name was printed boldly at the top of each cover page, above the singular title “Editor and Proprietor” and publications of his own work. Ever plagued with financial trouble, Poe ran The Broadway Journal for less than a year.
1845 – First page and “The Oblong Box” in The Broadway Journal
The last item in this exhibition of Poe’s quest for proprietorship represents a final fall in his success. Having lost his own journal, Poe was forced to publish works through his former employer, Graham’s Magazine. “The Philosophy of Composition” was first published in 1846, followed by “Marginalia”. Poe did manage to keep one notable work, “The Poetic Principle”, wholly his own by sharing it on the lecture circuit rather than publishing the text in Graham’s.
1846 – “Marginalia” in Graham’s Magazine
Edgar Allan Poe died while on that lecture circuit, long before he raised sufficient funds to open his own literary magazine. Regardless of Poe’s failure to establish The Stylus, the notoriety of his fictional work and editorial prowess lives on.
Biographical information included in this article can be found in the “Introduction” to The Annotated Poe, edited by Kevin J. Hayes. The images included in this article are from The Susan Jaffe Tane Collection, as presented in the The Enigmatic Edgar A. Poe in Baltimore and Beyond at Johns Hopkins University.