Monday, December 7, 2009

Or Broadway Something...

Charles Frederick Briggs was mostly known as a writer of satiric novels, particularly the then-famous The Adventures of Harry Franco. To his dismay, his title character also became his nickname (much like Poe was later referred to as "The Raven"). Wanting to do more, Briggs intended to start his own journal. He was struggling, however, with choosing a name.

On December 7, 1844, Briggs wrote his friend,* the literary critic James Russell Lowell: "I shall issue a prospectus in a day or two; the name will be, for the sake of individuality... the Broadway Journal, or Review, or Chronicle, or Broadway Something..."

Briggs wanted to emphasize the distinct New York flavor to his journal. Most periodicals were regional, after all (even Poe original aimed for Pennsylvanian readers when planning The Penn; he later renamed it The Stylus to appeal to a broader audience). The one which Briggs was planning would become The Broadway Journal with the help of his business-minded partner John Bisco.

In the same letter to Lowell, he asks about getting in touch with Poe. Poe came in as a co-editor and business partner. The venture, however, never turned a substantial profit and Bisco eventually bailed out. Oddly enough, Briggs had difficulty working with Poe, in part due to the vitriolic style of criticism which first drew him towards hiring Poe. He soon sold his portion of the business to Poe to break the partnership. By the fall of 1845, The Broadway Journal was solely under the control and ownership of Edgar Poe — it was the only journal and the only business Poe ever owned.

During his tenure there, Poe tweaked and republished a substantial portion of his major works; many of the versions featured in The Broadway Journal became the standard editions. He continued reviewing other writers, noticed newly-published works, updated his readers on local politics, and gave his theories on good literature.

Despite his best intentions (and even a vow to his friend Thomas Holley Chivers to "make a fortune of it yet"), Poe did not succeed in bringing the struggling journal to success. Its final issue was in January 1846. Nevertheless, the experience pushed him closer to producing The Stylus. Despite working in earnest, his plans never came to fruition.

*More work could be done considering their friendship. Lowell turned over all profits from his famous A Fable for Critics directly to Briggs. Certainly, some of the animosity Lowell will begin to feel towards Poe during the "Longfellow War" comes from Briggs's trash-talking, so to speak.

1 comment:

K. L. said...

Rob, Thought you'd enjoy this piece about PD James's book on the history of the mystery -- she admires Poe!