Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
Grant Wilson, John Fiske and Stanley L. Klos. Six volumes, New York: D. Appleton
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DENNIE, Joseph, journalist, born in Boston, 30 August 1768; died in Philadelphia, 7 January 1812. He was graduated at Harvard in 1790, and studied law at Charlestown, New Hampshire, where he was admitted to the bar, but ultimately devoted himself to literature. In 1795 he published a series of essays on life and literature, called "The Farrago," and edited in Boston " The Tablet," a weekly journal. In three months he removed to Walpole, New Hampshire, where he edited "The Farmers' Weekly Museum," which attained much popularity under his management. He gathered around him a number of writers, each of whom contributed to a special department. Among his compositions was "The Lay Preacher," a series of essays, which gave their author reputation as a graceful and humorous writer, and were widely copied. In 1798 the publisher became bankrupt, and Dennie was persuaded to become a candidate for congress. He was defeated, and in 1799 went to Philadelphia to become private secretary to Thomas Pickering, secretary of state. He remained here a few months, and, after editing the " United States Gazette," became editor of the "Portfolio" in Philadelphia in 1801, in connection with Asbury Dickens. This was originally a weekly quarto, but in the course of five years it became a monthly octavo. Dennie continued to be its editor until his death, under the pen name of "Oliver Old School." The staff of able writers, among who were Charles Brockden Brown and John Quincy Adams (whose "Letters from Silesia" were originally published in it), maintained the "Portfolio's" high reputation for many years. It was said, after the death of Brockden Brown, that Dennie was the only man in the country that made literature a profession. His appearance was described by Buckingham in this manner: "He was rather above the average height, and of slender frame; was attentive to his dress, appearing one May morning at the office in a pea green coat, white vest, nankeen smallclothes, white silk stockings and pumps, fastened with silver buckles which covered at least half the foot from the instep to the toe." He wrote very rapidly, and deferred the preparation of his "copy" until the last moment. One of the best of his lay sermons was written at the village tavern, where he and his friends were amusing themselves with cards. It was delivered by piecemeal, at four or five different times, and if he happened to be engaged in a game, he would ask some one to play his hand for him while he "gave the devil his due." Dermic founded in Philadelphia the "Tuesday Club," which included most of the contributors to the "Portfolio." His work was confined principally to periodicals, but two collections of his writings were published "The Lay Preacher, or Short Sermons for Idle Readers" (Walpole, New Hampshire, 1796), and a volume of "The Lay Preacher," collected by John E. Hall (Philadelphia, 1817). He aimed to unite "the familiarity of Franklin with the simplicity of Sterne" in these ingenious essays.
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