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Among the most significant forces molding Poe’s experience was the dramatic expansion of magazine publishing that coincided with his adult years and shaped what he considered the “ultimate purpose” of his life – what Terence Whalen characterizes as Poe’s “desperate and consuming passion”: his desire to found his own magazine. This chapter will consider this unrealized dream within the context of the antebellum “golden age” of magazine journalism, offering an overview to the development of magazine publishing during the period, considering Poe’s experience as a “magazinist” and his editorial connections to five different periodicals, and concluding with a brief look at how magazine publication surfaces as an important theme within his own writing. MAGAZINES IN ANTEBELLUM AMERICA Poe’s adult life coincided with a remarkable expansion in magazine publication that led one commentator in 1831 in the Illinois Monthly Magazine to characterize the period as “the golden age of periodicals.” At the beginning of the nineteenth century, there were only about a dozen American magazines; by 1810, there were forty or so; and by 1825, nearly 100. That number would increase sixfold in the next twenty-five years, with about 600 by 1850. Frank Luther Mott estimates that for every magazine operating in 1850 another seven or so had failed over the preceding two and a half decades – which means that some four or five thousand magazines in total were published during the period. Taking note of this sudden profusion of periodicals, the New York Mirror commented, “These United States are fertile in most things, but in periodicals they are extremely luxuriant. They spring up as fast as mushrooms, in every corner.” This newspaper added that although hundreds quickly fail, “hundreds more are found to supply their place.”

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEdgar Allan Poe in Context
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages10
ISBN (Electronic)9780511844027
ISBN (Print)9781107009974
StatePublished - Jan 1 2009


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