Strangers to Us All Lawyers and Poetry

Joseph Dennie

New Hampshire & Pennsylvania

Joseph Dennie was born in Boston on August 30, 1768. He was graduated from Harvard in 1790 and then studied law with Benjamin West at Charlestown, New Hampshire, where he was admitted to the bar. He then moved to Walpole, New Hampshire and opened a law office.

According to one account:

Dennie made one attempt at the bar, of which a humorous account was published by his friend and early literary associate Royal Tyler. He spoke like an elegant scholar, with some unnecessary eloquence, on a provisory note case before a crude provincial judge, who did not appreciate his rhetoric, was discomfited by the bluntness of the bench, and did not renew his efforts.

[Evert A. & George L. Duyckinck, 1 The Cyclopaedia of American Literature 583 (Philadelphia: William Rutter & Co., 1880)(2 vols. )]

In 1796, Dennie took on the editorship of The Farmers' Weekly Museum, which according to still another lawyer-poet, Charles J. Fox, was "widely celebrated for its wit, talent and originality." [Joseph Dennie, Biographical Note, in Charles James Fox (ed.), The New Hampshire Book. Being Specimens of the Literature of the Granite State 390 (Nashua, New Hampshire: H. D. Marshall, 1842)]

Dennie wrote and published essays, and he eventually took on the editing of The Tablet, a Boston weekly journal. In 1798, when his publisher became bankrupt, Dennie sought election to the Congress. He was defeated, and in 1799 went to Philadelphia to become private secretary to Thomas Pickering, secretary of state. He became the editor of the United States Gazette, and still later, in Philadelphia, the Portfolio, a position he continued until his death. At the Gazette, Dennie published the work of Charles Brockden Brown and John Quincy Adams. Much of Dennie's work appeared in periodicals.

Joseph Dennie
Cambridge History of English and American Literature

Joseph Dennie
The Lives of Eminent Philadelpians Deceased


Joseph Dennie, A Collection of Essays, on a Variety of Subjects: In Prose and Verse (Newark, New Jersey: Printed by John Woods, 1797)


Laura Green Pedder (ed.), The Letters of Joseph Dennie, 1768-1812 (Orono, Maine: University Press, 1936)


Joseph Dennie, The Farrago (Delmar, New York: Scholars' Facsimiles & Reprints, 1985)(Bruce Granger ed.)

___________, The Lay Preacher (Philadelphia: Harrison Hall, 1817) [online text] (New York: Scholars' Facsimiles & Reprints, 1943)(edited, introduction, and bibliographical note by Milton Ellis)


William C. Dowling, Literary Federalism in the Age of Jefferson: Joseph Dennie and The Port Folio, 1801-1811 (Colombia: University of South Carolina Press, 1999)

Milton Ellis, Dennie and His Circle: A Study in American Literature 1792-1815 (1915) [online text]

Irving N. Rothman Articles on Joseph Dnnie & The Port Folio

Irving N. Rothman, Alexander Wilson's Forest Adventure: The Sublime and the Satirical in Wilson's Poem 'The Foresters.'" Journal of the Society in the Bibliography of Natural History [British Museum] 6142-54 (1973)

______________, "An Imitation of Boileau's Fourth Satire in the American Republic." Revue de Litérature Comparée 53 (Jan.-March): 76-85 (1979)

______________, "John Trumbull's Parody of Spenser's Epithalamium," The Yale University Library Gazette 47 (April): 193-215 (1973)

______________, "Joseph Dennie, a Sceptic, and Philip Freneau, a Celebrant, on Ballooning in Early America.” Y2002 Annual Report of the Institute for Space Systems Operations. Houston: ISSO, 118-23 (2003)

______________, “Niagara Falls and The Port Folio.” Aldus [University of Houston] 11:242-54(1973)

______________, "Structure and Theme in Samuel Ewing's Satire, the 'American Miracle,'" American Literature 40 (November):294-308 (1968)

______________, Verse Satire in The Port Folio, an Early American Magazine, Edited by Joseph Dennie, 1801-1812. Ph.D. Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. i-viii, 1-220 (1967)

[Dr. Rothman's initial study of The Port Folio utilized a complete set available in the University of Pittsburgh rare book collections. The University of Houston where Dr. Rothman is a member of the English Department purchased a complete set of The Port Folio from the Hall family. A note to one of Dr. Hall's articles describes the history of the acquired set of The Port Folio: "The volumes of The Port Folio, in the Special Collections Library of the University of Houston, were purchased in 1969 from Mrs. Elmer J. Rodenberg of Henderson, Kentucky. Mrs. Rodenberg received the volumes from Mary Posey Foote, her cousin. Mrs. Foote and Mrs. Rodenberg’s mother where granddaughters, and she, the great granddaughter, of Judge James Hall, brother of John Elihu Hall, editor of The Port Folio in its final years. The purchase was funded by the Friends of the Library; travel funds for Dr. Rothman to effect the purchase in 1969 were provided by Dr. Alfred Neumann, Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences."]

Research Resources

Joseph Dennie Papers
Houghton Library
Harvard University