Nightingale or a Melange De Litterature (Boston, May 10 - July 30, 1796). An Annotated Catalogue of Contents and Sources

The Nightingale; or, A Melange de Littérature … A Periodical publication (Boston, 10 May – 30 July, 1796) is one of several early American periodicals which were experimental blends of the conventional magazine and the miscellany.

Some weeks after The Nightingale began, it was recognized by a young Bostonian writing in the Farmer’s Weekly Museum 4 No. 171 (July 12, 1796) as being of necessity an abbreviated magazine: “Several numbers of a periodical work intitled [sic]The Nightingale have appeared in Boston … The inhabitants of that mercantile place are so constantly engaged in gazing at the rates of insurance, or the manifest of a ship’s cargo, that they have few reading hours, and prefer a crowd on ‘Change to a lounge in the library … [thus] a Belknap, Minot, Clarke, Gardiner, Elliot, and Philenia will not write, because there are none to read … [reprinted in whole in The Nightingale No. 33 (July, 1796): 387-90].”

The implication was that a periodical that more frequently placed a small cluster of short articles in the hands of the public might have a greater success; at the same time, because The Nightingale’s twelve pages appeared three times a week, the miscellaneous materials were greater in aggregate than those supplied by many contemporary monthly magazines, and were largely reprinted materials acquired at little or no cost. Original contributions from local authors were not discouraged but they were inessential, partly because John Lathrop and John Russell were able contributing editors, and they recruited young writers to assist in their project. For example, Isaac Story contributed familiar essays in Nos. 12, 20 and 28, using the pseudonym “Beri Hesdin” [which, after the Nightingale closed down, he used for a series of contributions to the Massachusetts Magazine, and then following the failure of that periodical in December 1796, he used in the Farmer’s Weekly Museum].

This annotated catalogue demonstrates, however, that when original materials were too few, the editors turned to established writers, reprinting, for example several of Joseph Lathrop’s essays without comment on their prior periodical appearances, or availability in Lathrop’s Miscellaneous Collection of original Pieces (Springfield: Russell 1786). Too often (judging by the failure of subscribers to commit to a continuation of the periodical), the editors turned clandestinely to uninspiring selections from British periodicals, or to miscellanies published much earlier in the century.

Table of Contents

A Register of the Contents
Subject Index
Index of the Prose by Title and Initial Wording
Index of the Poetry by Title and First Line
Index of Authors, Signatures, and Sources
Works Cited and Consulted