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“A Kind of Bee-Hive”: Thomas Paine and the Pennsylvania Magazine

  • Peter Chapin
  • Kara Nowakowski

Abstract

In January of 1775, less than two months after he arrived in America, Thomas Paine was hired by the printer and bookseller Thomas Aitken to be the editor of his forthcoming journal, the Pennsylvania Magazine, or, American Monthly Museum. Despite his having no editorial experience and only one known published work, the Pennsylvania Magazine soon became under Paine’s editorship the most successful and widely read periodical that had yet been published in the New World. While Paine was not the editor of the inaugural issue, he contributed the lead article, “The Utility of This Work Evinced,” usually referred to today as “The Magazine in America,” on his vision for the new magazine. “America has now outgrown the state of infancy,” Paine argues, and therefore needs the enlarged “opportunities of acquiring and communicating knowledge” that a magazine will provide.1 No publication is, he contends, “more calculated to improve or infect than a periodical one.” “A magazine, when properly conducted, is the nursery of genius … a kind of market of wit and utility.”2

Keywords

Common Sense Parental Authority American Revolution Lead Article Parent Country 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 4.
    On the Gentleman’s Magazine as a model for the Pennsylvania Magazine, see Edward Larkin, Thomas Paine and the Literature of Revolution (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005), 25–30.Google Scholar
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  6. 10.
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    Determining what Paine wrote in the Pennsylvania Magazine presents a number of difficulties. Contributions to the magazine used pseudonyms or were unsigned; Paine always represented his career as a writer as beginning with Common Sense, and he never identified any of the works as his own. While Paine expressed the intention late in life of publishing his collected works, including a volume of miscellaneous essays and poems, he never did so. Aitken later listed ten works, including the magazine’s introductory article, as Paine’s, but the actual number is almost certainly higher. Although it makes a number of questionable assumptions, the first detailed analysis of the question is Frank Smith, “New Light on Thomas Paine’s First Year in America, 1775,” American Literature 1, no. 4 (1930): 347–371. For a more recent, and skeptical assessment, see A. Owen Aldridge, Thomas Paine’s American Ideology (Newark, NJ: University of Delaware Press, 1984), 286–291. The Text Analysis Project at the Institute for Thomas Paine Studies at Iona College is currently using computer analysis to try to identify the author of disputed works, including many in the Pennsylvania Magazine, which will, it is hoped, determine which contributions were written by Paine.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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  16. 49.
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    On the explosion of the Gothic in the 1790s, see Miles, “The 1790s: The Effulgence of Gothic,” 41–62. On the American reception and transformation of the British Gothic in the 1790s, see Sian Silyn Roberts, Gothic Subjects: The Transformation of Individualism in American Fiction, 1790–1861 (Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2014), 1–85.Google Scholar

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© Peter Chapin and Kara Nowakowski 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Peter Chapin
  • Kara Nowakowski

There are no affiliations available

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