Life and Letters of Joel Barlow, LL.D., Poet, Statesman, Philosopher: With Extracts from His Works and Hitherto Unpublished Poems

By Charles Burr Todd | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER IV.
1783-1788.

HE at once fixed his abode at Hartford, the little capital on the Connecticut, even then the seat of a refined and cultivated society. His career there was a complex one, exhibiting many phases. He soon abandoned the plan of an early publication of his poem, probably from the shortness of his subscription-list, and also perhaps with a view to a more careful revision. He studied law, however, wrote a great deal of poetry, annuals, NewYear's verses, bon mots, political squibs and satires, hymns and paraphrases of the Psalms, and with Elisha Babcock, a substantial printer of the town, established a weekly newspaper, called The American Mercury -- a scholarly, thoroughly respectable sheet, with a mild bias toward republicanism, or what later came to be thus designated. The office copy of this periodical is preserved in the library of Yale College, the first number bearing date July 12, 1784. Modern newspaper readers would regard it much as the archaeologist looks on Cypriote antiquities. Perhaps we cannot better describe it than by presenting the prospectus, which was as follows:

" Barlow and Babcock have established a new printingoffice near the State House in the city of Hartford. They propose publishing a weekly paper, entitled The American Mercury. As they have a prospect of a very extended circulation and constituency they will exert their utmost abilities to furnish a useful and elegant entertainment for the different classes of their customers. The paper will be a sheet of white, demi-imperial, with an elegant new type, published every Monday morning, and delivered to subscribers in the city at eight shillings the year, one

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