Thursday, October 15, 2009

Poe in St. Louis

It's fun to see how many cities have a connection to Poe. St. Louis is on that list too.

Edward Horton Norton Patterson, 19 years Poe's junior, was an editor at the Oquawka Spector, a weekly newspaper in Illinois owned by his father. Apparently a man of wealth, Patterson was one of many potential financiers of Poe's dream project The Stylus. Because both men were already in the publishing world, they had a good understanding of the business and they had their own ideas for how to create this new magazine. Patterson even recommended what size typeface to use and cautioned that at least $1,100 of start-up costs were needed. He recommended Poe find 1000 subscribers to start. Poe wrote of his own expectations:
We must aim high — address the intellect — the higher classes of the country... and put the work at $5 [cover price]: — 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.
To discuss the business deal, Patterson invited Poe to meet him in St. Louis and sent him $50 to cover his travel expenses. A meeting was scheduled for October 15, 1849. Along the way, Poe intended to lecture and solicit subscribers. Poe didn't live long enough to make the appointment, having died just over a week earlier.

Patterson may have been the best hope of getting The Stylus off the ground. But Poe was also distracted by his pursuit of Elmira Royster — and he also had a tendency to miss important appointments. Nevertheless, it is with certainty that I suggest The Stylus would have produced its first issue dated January 1850, marking the beginning of the so-called American Renaissance of the 1850s and making Poe an important part of that movement.

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