Text: Rufus Wilmot Griswold, “Memoir of the Author,” The Works of the Late Edgar Allan Poe (1850), 3:vii-xxxix


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­ [page vii, continued:]

MEMOIR.

THE family of EDGAR A. POE was one of the oldest and most reputable in Baltimore. David Poe, his paternal grandfather, was a Quartermaster-General in the Maryland line during the Revolution, and the intimate friend of Lafayette, who, during his last visit to the United States, called personally upon the General’s Widow, and tendered her acknowledgments for the services rendered to him by her husband. His great-grandfather, John Poe, married in England, Jane, a daughter of Admiral James McBride, noted in British naval history, and claiming kindred with some of the most illustrious English families. His father, David Poe, jr., the fourth son of the Quartermaster-General, was several years a law student in Baltimore, but becoming enamored of an English actress, named Elizabeth Arnold, whose prettiness and vivacity more than her genius for the stage made her a favorite, he eloped with her, and soon after a short period, having married her, became himself an actor. They continued six or seven years in the theatres of the principal cities, and finally died, within a few weeks of each other, in Richmond, leaving three children, Henry, Edgar, and Rosalie, in utter destitution.

Edgar Poe, who was born in Baltimore, in January, 1811, was at this period of remarkable beauty, and precocious wit. Mr. John Allan, a merchant of large fortune and liberal disposition, who had been intimate with his parents, having no children of his own, adopted him, and it was generally understood among his acquaintances that he intended to make him the heir of his estate. The proud, nervous irritability of the boy’s nature was fostered by his guardian’s well-meant but ill-judged indulgence. Nothing was permitted which could “break his spirit.” He must be the master of his masters, or not have any. An eminent and most estimable gentleman of Richmond has written to me, that when Poe was only six or seven years of age, he went to a school kept by a widow of excellent character, to whom was committed the instruction of the children of some of the principal families in the city. A portion of the grounds was used for the cultivation of vegetables, and its invasion by her pupils strictly forbidden. A trespasser, if discovered, was commonly made to wear, during school hours, a turnip or carrot, or something of this sort, attached to his neck as a sign of disgrace. On one ­[page viii:] occasion Poe, having violated the rules, was decorated with the promised badge, which he wore in sullenness until the dismissal of the boys, when, that the full extent of his wrong might be understood by his patron, of whose sympathy he was confident, he eluded the notice of the schoolmistress, who would have relieved him of his esculent, and made the best of his way home, with it dangling at his neck. Mr. Allan’s anger was aroused, and he proceeded instantly to the school-room, and after lecturing the astonished dame upon the enormity of such an insult to his son and to himself, demanded his account, determined that the child should not again be subjected to such tyranny. Who can estimate the effect of this puerile triumph upon the growth of that morbid self-esteem which characterized the author in afterlife?

In 1816, he accompanied Mr. and Mrs. Allan to Great Britain, visited the most interesting portions of the country, and afterwards passed four or five years in a school kept at Stoke Newington, near London, by the Rev. Dr. Bransby. In his tale, entitled “William Wilson,” he has introduced a striking description of this school and of his life here. He says:

“My earliest recollections of a school-life, are connected with a large, rambling, Elizabethan house, in a misty-looking village of England, where were a vast number of gigantic and gnarled trees, and where all the houses were excessively ancient. In truth, it was a dream-like and spirit-soothing place, that venerable old town. At this moment, in fancy, I feel the refreshing chilliness of its deeply-shadowed avenues, inhale the fragrance of its thousand shrubberies, and thrill anew with undefinable delight, at the deep hollow note of the church-bell, breaking, each hour, with sullen and sudden roar, upon the stillness of the dusky atmosphere in which the fretted Gothic steeple lay imbedded and asleep. It gives me, perhaps, as much of pleasure as I can now in any manner experience, to dwell upon minute recollections of the school and its concerns. Steeped in misery as I am — misery, alas! only too real — I shall be pardoned for seeking relief, however slight and temporary, in the weakness of a few rambling details. These, moreover, utterly trivial, and even ridiculous in themselves, assume, to my fancy, adventitious importance, as connected with a period and a locality when and where I recognise the first ambiguous monitions of the destiny which afterwards so fully overshadowed me. Let me then remember. The house, I have said, was old and irregular. The grounds were extensive, and a high and solid brick wall, topped with a bed of mortar and broken glass, encompassed the whole. This prison-like rampart formed the limit of our domain; beyond it we saw but thrice a week — once every Saturday afternoon, when, attended by two ushers, we were permitted to take brief walks in a body through some of the neighboring fields — and twice during Sunday, when we were paraded in the same formal manner to the morning and evening service in the one church of the village. Of this church the principal of our school was pastor. With how deep a spirit of wonder and perplexity was I wont to regard him from our remote pew in the gallery, as, with step solemn and slow, he ascended the pulpit! This reverend man, with countenance so demurely benign, with robes so glossy and so clerically flowing, with wig so minutely powdered, so rigid and so vast, — could this be he who, of late, with sour visage, and in snuffy habiliments, administered, ferule in hand, the Draconian Laws of the academy? Oh, gigantic paradox, too utterly monstrous for solution! At an angle of the ponderous wall frowned a more ponderous gate. It was riveted and studded with iron bolts, and surmounted with jagged iron spikes. What impressions of deep awe did it inspire! It was never opened save for the three periodical egressions and ingressions already mentioned; then, in every creak of its mighty hinges, we found a plenitude of mystery — a world of matter for solemn remark, or for more solemn meditation. The extensive enclosure was irregular in form, having ­[page ix:] many capacious recesses. Of these, three or four of the largest constituted the play-ground. It was level, and covered with fine hard gravel. I well remember it had no trees, nor benches, nor any thing similar within it. Of course it was in the rear of the house. In front lay a small parterre, planted with box and other shrubs; but through this sacred division we passed only upon rare occasions indeed — such as a first advent to school or final departure thence, or perhaps, when a parent or friend having called for us, we joyfully took our way home for the Christmas or Midsummer holy-days. But the house! — how quaint an old building was this! — to me how veritably a palace of enchantment! There was really no end to its windings — to its incomprehensible subdivisions. It was difficult, at any given time, to say with certainty upon which of its two stories one happened to be. From each room to every other there were sure to be found three or four steps either in ascent or descent. Then the lateral branches were innumerable — inconceivable — and so returning in upon themselves, that our most exact ideas in regard to the whole mansion were not very far different from those with which we pondered upon infinity. During the five years of my residence here, I was never able to ascertain with precision, in what remote locality lay the little sleeping apartment assigned to myself and some eighteen or twenty other scholars. The school-room was the largest in the house — I could not help thinking, in the world. It was very long, narrow, and dismally low, with pointed Gothic windows and a ceiling of oak. In a remote and terror-inspiring angle was a square enclosure of eight or ten feet, comprising the sanctum, “during hours,” of our principal, the Reverend Dr. Bransby. It was a solid structure, with massy door, sooner than open which in the absence of the “Dominie,” we would all have willingly perished by the peine forte et dure. In other angles were two other similar boxes, far less reverenced, indeed, but still greatly matters of awe. One of these was the pulpit of the “classical” usher, one of the “English and mathematical.” Interspersed about the room, crossing and recrossing in endless irregularity, were innumerable benches and desks, black, ancient, and time-worn, piled desperately with much-bethumbed books, and so beseamed with initial letters, names at full length, grotesque figures, and other multiplied efforts of the knife, as to have entirely lost what little of original form might have been their portion in days long departed. A huge bucket with water stood at one extremity of the room, and a clock of stupendous dimensions at the other.

Encompassed by the massy walls of this venerable academy, I passed, yet not in tedium or disgust, the years of the third lustrum of my life. The teeming brain of childhood requires no external world of incident to occupy or amuse it; and the apparently dismal monotony of a school was replete with more intense excitement than my riper youth has derived from luxury, or my full manhood from crime. Yet I must believe that my first mental development had in it much of the uncommon — even much of the outre. Upon mankind at large the events of very early existence rarely leave in mature age any definite impression. All is gray shadow — a weak and irregular remembrance — an indistinct regathering of feeble pleasures and phantasmagoric pains. With me this is not so. In childhood I must have felt with the energy of a man what I now find stamped upon memory in lines as vivid, as deep, and as durable as the exergues of the Carthaginian medals. Yet in fact — in the fact of the world’s view — how little was there to remember! The morning’s awakening, the nightly summons to bed; the connings, the recitations; the periodical half-holidays, and perambulations; the play-ground, with its broils, its pastimes, its intrigues; — these, by a mental sorcery long forgotten, were made to involve a wilderness of sensation, a world of rich incident, an universe of varied emotion, of excitement the most passionate and spirit-stirring. “Oh, le bon temps, que ce siecle de fer!

In 1822, he returned to the United States, and after passing a few months at an Academy in Richmond, he entered the University at Charlottesville, where he led a very dissipated life; the manners which then prevailed there were extremely dissolute, and he was known as the wildest and most reckless student of his class; but his unusual opportunities, and the remarkable ease with which he mastered the most difficult studies kept him all the ­[page x:] while in the first rank for scholarship, and he would have graduated with the highest honors, had not his gambling, intemperance, and other vices, induced his expulsion from the university.

At this period he was noted for feats of hardihood, strength and activity, and. on one occasion, in a hot day of June, he swam from Richmond to Warwick, seven miles and a half, against a tide running probably from two to three miles an hour. He was expert at fence, had some skill in drawing, and was a ready and eloquent conversationist and declaimer.

His allowance of money while at Charlottesville had been liberal, but he quitted the place very much in debt, and when Mr. Allan refused to accept some of the drafts with which he had paid losses in gaming, he wrote to him an abusive letter, quitted his house, and soon after left the country with the Quixotic intention of joining the Greeks, then in the midst of their struggle with the Turks. He never reached his destination, and we know but little of his adventures in Europe for nearly a year. By the end of this time he had made his way to St. Petersburgh, and our Minister, in that capital, the late Mr. Henry Middleton, of South Carolina, was summoned one morning to save him from penalties incurred in a drunken debauch. Through Mr. Middleton’s kindness he was set at liberty and enabled to return to this country.

His meeting with Mr. Allan was not very cordial, but that gentleman declared himself willing to serve him any way that should seem judicious; and when Poe expressed some anxiety to enter the Military Academy, he induced Chief Justice Marshall, Andrew Stevenson, General Scott, and other eminent persons, to sign an application which secured his appointment to a scholarship in that institution.

Mrs. Allan, whom Poe appears to have regarded with much affection, and who had more influence over him than any one else at this period, died on the twenty-seventh of February, 1829, which I believe was just before Poe left Richmond for West Point. It has been erroneously stated by all Poe’s biographers, that Mr. Allan was now sixty-five years of age, and that Miss Paterson, to whom he was married afterward, was young enough to be his grand-daughter. Mr. Allan was in his forty-eighth year, and the difference between his age and that of his second wife was not so great as justly to attract any observation.

For weeks the cadet applied himself with much assiduity to his studies, and he became at once a favorite with his mess and with the officers and professors of the Academy; but his habits of dissipation were renewed; he neglected his duties and disobeyed orders; and in ten months from his matriculation he was cashiered. ­[page xi:]

He went again to Richmond, and was received into the family of Mr. Allan, who was disposed still to be his friend, and in the event of his good behavior to treat him as a son; but it soon became necessary to close his doors against him forever. According to Poe’s own statement he ridiculed the marriage of his patron with Miss Paterson, and had a quarrel with her; but a different story,* scarcely suitable for repetition here, was told by the friends of the other party. Whatever the circumstances, they parted in anger, and Mr. Allan from that time declined to see or in any way to assist him. Mr. Allan died in the spring of 1834, in the fifty-fourth year of his age, leaving three children to share his property, of which not a mill was bequeathed to Poe.

Soon after he left West Point Poe had printed at Baltimore a small volume of verses, (”Al Aaraaf,” of about four hundred lines, “Tamerlane,” of about three hundred lines, with smaller pieces,) and the favorable manner in which it was commonly referred to confirmed his belief that he might succeed in the profession of literature. The contents of the book appear to have been when he was between sixteen and nineteen years of age; but though they illustrated the character of his abilities and justified his anticipations of success, they do seem to me to evince, all things considered, a very remarkable precocity. The late Madame d’Ossoli refers to some of them as productions of a boy of eight or ten years, but I believe there is no evidence that anything of his which has been published was written before he left the university. Certainly, it was his habit so constantly to labor upon what he had produced — he was at all times so anxious and industrious in revision — that his works, whenever first composed, displayed the perfection of his powers at the time when they were given to the press.

His contributions to the journals attracted little attention, and his hopes of gaining a living in this way being disappointed, he enlisted in the army as a private soldier. How long he remained in the service I have not been able to ascertain. He was recognized by officers who had known him at West Point, and efforts were made, privately, but with prospects of success, to obtain for him a commission, when it was discovered by his friends that he had deserted.

He had probably found relief from the monotony of a soldier’s life in literary compositions. His mind was never in repose, and without some such resort the dull routine of the camp or barracks would have been insupportable. ­[page xii:] When he next appears, he has a volume of MS. stories which he desires to print under the title of “Tales of the Folio Club.” An offer by the proprietor of the Baltimore “Saturday Visiter,” of two-prizes, one for the best tale and one for the best poem, inducing him to submit the pieces entitles “MS. found in a Bottle,” “Lionizing,” “The Visionary,” and three others, with “The Coliseum,” a poem, to the committee, which consisted of Mr. John P. Kennedy the author of “Horse Shoe Robinson,” Mr. J. H. B. Latrobe, and Dr. James H. Miller. Such matters are usually disposed of in a very offhand way: Committees to award literary prizes drink to the payer’s health in good wines, over unexamined MSS., which they submit to the discretion of publishers with permission to use their names in such a way as to promote the publisher’s advantage. So perhaps it would have been in this case, but that one of the committee, taking up a little book remarkably beautiful and distinct in caligraphy, was tempted to read several pages; and becoming interested, he summoned the attention of the company to the half-dozen compositions it contained. It was unanimously decided that the prizes should be paid to “the first of geniuses who had written legibly.” Not another MS. was unfolded. Immediately the “confidential envelope” was opened, and the successful competitor was found to bear the scarcely known name of Poe. The committee indeed awarded to him the premiums for both the tale and the poem, but subsequently altered their decision, so as to exclude him from the second premium, in consideration of his having obtained the higher one. The prize tale was the “MS. found in a Bottle.” This award was published on the twelfth of October, 1838. The next day the publisher called to see Mr. Kennedy, and gave him an account of the author, which excited his curiosity and sympathy, and caused him to request that he should be brought to his office. Accordingly he was introduced; the prize-money had not yet been paid, and he was in the costume in which he answered the advertisement of his good fortune. Thin, and pale even to ghastliness, his whole appearance indicated sickness and the utmost destitution. A well-worn frock coat concealed the absence of a shirt, and imperfect boots disclosed the want of hose. But the eyes of the young man were luminous with intelligence and feeling, and his voice and conversation and manners all won upon the lawyer’s regard. Poe told his history, and his ambition, and it was determined that he should not want means for a suitable appearance in society, nor opportunity for a just display of his abilities in literature. Mr. Kennedy accompanied him to a clothing store, and purchased for him a respectable suit, with changes of linen, and sent him to a bath, from which he returned with the suddenly regained style of a gentleman.

His new friends were very kind to him, and availed themselves of every opportunity to serve him. Near the close of the year 1834 the late Mr. T. W. White established in Richmond the “Southern Literary Messenger.” He was a man of much simplicity, purity and energy of character, but not a writer, and he frequently solicited of his acquaintances literary assistance. On receiving from him an application for an article, early in 1835, Mr. Kennedy, ­[page xiii:] who was busy with the duties of his profession, advised Poe to send one, and in a few weeks he had occasion to enclose the following answer to a letter from Mr. White.

“BALTIMORE, April 13, 1835.

Dear Sir: Poe did right in referring to me. He is very clever with his pen- classical. and scholarlike. He wants experience and direction, but I have no doubt he can be made very useful to you. And, poor fellow! he is very poor. I told him to write something for every number of your magazine, and that you might find it to your advantage to give him some permanent employ. He has a volume of very bizarre tales in the hands of ——, in Philadelphia, who for a year past has been promising to publish them. This young fellow is highly imaginative, and a little given to the terrific. He is at work upon a tragedy, but I have turned him to drudging upon whatever may make money, and I have no doubt you and he will find your account in each other.”

In the next number of the “Messenger” Mr. White announced that Poe was its editor, or in other words, that he had made arrangements with a gentleman of approved literary taste and attainments to whose especial management the editorial department would be confided, and it was declared that this gentleman would “devote his exclusive attention to the work.” Poe discontinued, however, to reside in Baltimore, and it is probable that he was engaged only as a general contributor and a writer of critical notices of books. In a letter to Mr. White, under the date of the thirtieth of May, he says:

“In regard to my critique of Mr. Kennedy’s novel I seriously feel ashamed of what I have written. I fully intended to give the work a thorough review, and examine it in detail. Ill health alone prevented me from so doing. At the time I made the hasty sketch I sent you, I was so ill as to be hardly able to see the paper on which I wrote, and I finished it in a state of complete exhaustion. I have not, therefore, done anything like justice to the book, and I am vexed about the matter, for Mr. Kennedy has proved himself a kind friend to me in every respect, and I am sincerely grateful to him for many acts of generosity and attention. You ask me if I am perfectly satisfied with your course. I reply that I am — entirely. My poor services are not worth what you give me for them.”

About a month afterward he wrote:

“You ask me if I would be willing to come on to Richmond if you should have occasion for my services during the coming winter. I reply that nothing would give me greater pleasure. I have been desirous for some time past of paying a visit to Richmond, and would be glad of any reasonable excuse for so doing. Indeed I am anxious to settle myself in that city, and if, by any chance, you hear of a situation likely to suit me, I would gladly accept it, were the salary even the merest trifle. I should, indeed, feel myself greatly indebted to you if through your means I could accomplish this object. What you say in the conclusion of your letter, in relation to the supervision of proof-sheets, gives me reason to hope that possibly you might find something for me to do in your office. If so, I should be very glad — for at present only a very small portion of my time is employed.”

He continued in Baltimore till September. In this period he wrote several long reviewals, which for the most part were published with others, “Hans Pfall,” a story in some respects very similar to Mr. Locke’s celebrated account of Herschell’s Discoveries in the Moon. At first he appears to have been ill satisfied with Richmond, or with his duties, for in two or three weeks after his removal to that city we find Mr. Kennedy writing to him:

“I am sorry to see you in such plight as your letter shows you in. It is strange that just at this time, when everybody is praising you, and when fortune is beginning to smile ­[page xiv:] upon your hitherto wretched circumstances, you should be invaded by these blue devils. It belongs, however, to your age and temper to be thus buffeted — but be assured, it only wants a little resolution to master the adversary forever. You will doubtless do well henceforth in literature, and add to your comforts as well as to your reputation, which it gives me great pleasure to assure you is everywhere rising in popular esteem.”

But he could not bear his good fortune. On receiving a month’s salary he gave himself up to habits which only necessity had restrained at Baltimore. For a week he was in a condition of brutish drunkenness, and Mr. White dismissed him. When he became sober, however, he had no resource but in reconciliation, and he wrote letters and induced acquaintances to call upon Mr. White with professions of repentance and promise of reformation. With his usual considerate and judicious kindness that gentleman answered him:

My dear Edgar: I cannot address you in such language as this occasion and my feelings demand: I must be content to speak to you in my plain way. That you are sincere in all your promises I firmly believe. But when you once again tread these streets, I have my fears that your resolutions will fail, and that you will again drink till your senses are lost. If you rely on your strength you are gone. Unless you look to your Maker for help you will not be safe. How much I regretted parting from you is known by Him only and myself. I had become attached to you; I am still; and I would willingly say return, did not a knowledge of your past life make me dread a speedy renewal of our separation. If you would make yourself contented with quarters in my house, or with any other private family, where liquor is not used, I should think there was some hope for you. But, if you go to a tavern, or to any place where it is used at table, you are not safe. You have fine talents, Edgar, and you ought to have them respected, as well as yourself. Learn to respect yourself, and you will soon find that you are respected. Separate yourself from the bottle, and from bottle companions, forever. Tell me if you can and will do so. If you again become an assistant in my office, it must be understood that all engagements on my part cease the moment you get drunk. I am your true friend. T.W.W.”

A new contract was arranged, but Poe’s irregularities frequently interupted the kindness and finally exhausted the patience of his generous though methodical employer, and in the number of the “Messenger” for January, 1837, he thus took leave of its readers:

Mr. Poe’s attention being called in another direction, he will decline, with the present, number, the editorial duties of the Messenger. His Critical Notices for this month end with Professor Anthon’s Cicero — what follows is from another hand. With the best wishes to the magazine, and to its few foes as well as many friends, he is now desirous of bidding all parties a peaceful farewell.”

While in Richmond, with an income of but five hundred dollars a year, he had married his cousin, Virginia Clemm, a very amiable and lovely girl, who was as poor as himself, and little fitted, except by her gentle temper, to be the wife of such a person. He went from Richmond to Baltimore, and after a short time, to Philadelphia, and to New-York. A slight acquaintance with Dr. Hawks had led that acute and powerful writer to invite his contributions to the “New-York Review,” and he had furnished for the second number of it (for October, 1837) an elaborate but not very remarkable article upon Stephen’s then recently published “Incidents of Travel in Egypt, Arabia Petrea, and the Holy Land.” His abilities were not of the kind demanded for such a work, and he never wrote another paper for this or for ­[page xv:] any other Review of the same class. He had commenced in the “Literary Messenger,” a story of the sea, under the title of “Arthur Gordon Pym,”* and upon the recommendations of Mr. Paulding and others, it was printed by the Harpers. It is his longest work, and is not without some sort of merit, but it received little attention. The publishers sent one hundred copies to England, and being mistaken at first for a narrative of real experiences, it was advertised to be reprinted, but a discovery of its character, I believe prevented such a result. An attempt is made in it, by simplicity of style, minuteness of nautical descriptions, and circumstantiality of narration, to give it that air of truth which constitutes the principal attraction of Sir Edward Seaward’s Narrative, and Robinson Crusoe; but it has none of the pleasing interest of these tales; it it as full of wonders as Muchausen, has as many atrocities as the Book of Pirates, and as liberal an array of paining and revolting horrors as ever was invented by Anne Radcliffe or George Walker. Thus far a tendency to extravagance had been the most striking infirmity of his genius. He had been more anxious to be intense than to be natural; and some of his bizarreries had been mistaken for satire, and admired for that quality. Afterward he was more judicious, and if his outlines were incredible it was commonly forgotten in the simplicity of his details and their exhaustive cumulation.

Near the end of the year 1838 he settled in Philadelphia. He had no very definite purposes, but trusted for support to the chance of success as a magazinist and newspaper correspondent. Mr. Burton, the comedian, had recently established the “Gentleman’s Magazine,” and of this he became a contributor, and in May, 1839, the chief editor, devoting to it, for ten dollars a week, two hours every day, which left him abundant time for more important labors. ln the same month he agreed to funish such reviewals as he had written for the “Literary Messenger,” for the “Literary Examiner,” a new magazine at Pittsburg. But his more congenial pursuit was tale writing, and he produced about this period some of his most remarkable and characteristic works in a department of imaginative composition in which he was henceforth alone and unapproachable. The “Fall of the House of Usher,” and “Legeia,” are the most interesting illustrations of his mental organization — his masterpieces in a peculiar vein of romantic creation. They have the unquestionable stamp of genius. The analyses of the growth of madness in one, and the thrilling revelations of the existence of a first wife in the person of a second, in the other, are made with consumate skill; and the strange and solemn and fascinating beauty which informs the style and ­[page xvi:] invests the circumstances of both, drugs the mind, and makes us forget the improbabilities of their general design.

An awakened ambition and the.healthful influence of a conviction that his works were appreciated, and that his fame was increasing, led him for a while to cheerful views of life, and to regular habits of conduct. He wrote to a friend, the author of “Edge Hill,” in Richmond, that he had quite overcome “the seductive and dangerous besetment” by which he had so often been prostrated, and to another friend that, incredible as it might seem, he had become a model of temperance,” and of “other virtues,” which it had sometimes been difficult for him to practise. Before the close of the summer, however, he relapsed into his former courses, and for weeks was regardless of everything but a morbid and insatiable appetite for the means of intoxication.

In the autumn he published all the prose stories he had then written, in tow volumes, under the title of “Tales of the Grotesque and the Arabesque.” The work was not saleable, perhaps because its contents were too familiar from recent separate publication in magazines; and it was not so warmly praised, generally, as I think it should have been, though in point of style the pieces which it embraced are much less perfect than they were made subsequently.

He was with Mr. Burton until June, 1840 — more than a year. Mr. Burton appreciated his abilities and would gladly have continued the connextion; but Poe was so unsteady of purpose and so unreliable that the actor was never sure when he left the city that his business would be cared for. On one occasion, returning after the regular day of publication, he found the number unfinished, and Poe incapable of duty. He prepared the necessary copy himself, published the magazine, and was proceeded with arrangements for another month, when he received a letter from his assistant, of which the tone may be inferred from this answer:

“I am sorry you have thought it necessary to send me such a letter. Your troubles have given a morbid tone to your feelings which it is your duty to discourage. I myself have been as severely handled by the world as you can possibly have been, but my sufferings have not tinged my mind with melancholy, nor jaundiced my views of society. You must rouse your energies, and it care assail you, conquer it. I will gladly overlook the past. I hope you will as easily fulfil your pledges for the future. We shall agree very well, though I cannot permit the magazine to be made a vehicle for that sort of severity which you think is so “successful with the mob.” I am truly much less anxious about making a monthly “sensation” than I am upon the point of fairness. You must, my dear sir, get rid of your avowed ill-feelings toward your brother authors. You see I speak plainly: I cannot do otherwise upon such a subject. You say the people love havoc. I think they love justice. I think you yourself would not have written the article on Dawes, in a more healthy say the state of mind. I am not trammelled by any vulgar consideration of expediency; I would rather lose money than by such undue severity wound the feelings of a kind-hearted and honorable man. And I am satisfied that Dawes has something of the true fire in him. I regretted your word-catching spirit. But I wander from design. I accept your proposition to recommence your interrupted avocations upon the Maga. Let us meet as if we had not exchanged letters. Use more exercise, write when feelings prompt, and be assured of my friendship. You will soon regain a healthy activity of mind, and laugh at your past vagaries.” ­[page xvii:]

This letter was kind and judicious. It gives us a glimpse of Poe’s theory of criticism, and displays the temper and principles of the literary comedian in an honorable light. Two or three months afterward Burton went out of town to fulfil a professional engagement, leaving material and directions for completing the next number of the magazine in four days. He was absent nearly a fortnight, and on returning he found that his printers in the meanwhile had not received a line of copy; but that Poe had prepared the prospectus of a new monthly, and obtained transcripts of his subscription and account books, to be sued in a scheme for supplanting him. He encountered his associate late in the evening at one of his accustomed haunts, and said, “Mr. Poe, I am astonished: Give me my manuscripts so that I can attend to the duties you have so shamefully neglected, and when you are sober we will settle.” Poe interrupted him with “Who are you to presume to address me in this manner? Burton, I am — the editorof the Penn Magazine — and you are — hiccup — a fool.” Of course this ended his relations with the “Gentleman’s.”

In November, 1840, Burton’s miscellany was merged in “The Casket,” owned by Mr. George R. Graham, and the new series received the name of its proprietor, who engaged Poe in its editorship. His connexion with “Graham’s Magazine” lasted about a year and a half, and this was one of the most active and brilliant periods of his literary life. He wrote in it several of his finest tales and most trenchant criticisms, and challenged attention by his papers entitled “Autography,” and those on cryptology and cyphers. In the first, adopting a suggestion of Lavater, he attempted the illustration of character from handwriting; and in the second, he assumed that human ingenuity could construct no secret writing which human ingenuity could not resolve: a not very dangerous proposition, since it implied no capacity in himself to discover every riddle of this kind that should be invented. He however succeeded with several difficult cryptographs that were sent to him, and the direction of his mind to the subject led to the composition of some of the tales of ratiocination which so largely increased his reputation. The infirmities which induced his separation from Mr. White and Mr. Burton at length compelled Mr. Graham to seek for another editor; but Poe still remained in Philadelphia, engaged from time to time in various literary occupations, and in the vain effort to establish a journal of his very own to be called “The Stylus.” Although it requires considerable capital to carry on a monthly of the description he proposed, I think it would not have been difficult with his well-earned fame as a magazinist, for him to have found a competent and suitable publisher, but for the unfortunate notoriety of his habits, and the failure in succession of three persons who had admired him for his genius and pities him for his misfortunes, by every means that tact or friendship could suggest, to induce the consistency and steadiness of application indispensible to success in such pursuits. It was in the spring of 1848 [[1843]] — more than a year after his dissociation from Graham — that he wrote the story of “The Gold Bug,” for which he was paid a prize of one hundred dollars. ­[page xviii:] It has relation to Captain Kyd’s treasure, and is one of the most remarkable illustrations of his ingenuity of construction and apparent subtlety of reasoning. The interest depends upon the solution of an intricate cypher. In the autumn of 1844 Poe removed to New-York.

It was while he resided in Philadelphia That I became acquainted with him. His manner, except during his fits of intoxication, was very quiet and gentlemanly; he was usually dressed with simplicity and elegance; and when once he sent for me to visit him, during a period of illness caused by protracted and anxious watching at the side of his sick wife, I was impressed by the singular neatness and the air of refinement in his home. It was in a small house, in one of the pleasant and silent neighborhoods far from the centre of the town, and though slightly and cheaply furnished, everything in it was so tasteful and so fitly disposed that it seemed altogether suitable for a man of genius. For this and for most of the comforts he enjoyed in his brightest as in his darkest years, he was chiefly indebted to his mother-in-law, who loved him with more than maternal devotion and constancy.

He had now written his most acute criticisms and his most admirable tales. Of tales, besides those to which I have referred, he had produced “The Descent into the Maelstrom,” “The Premature Burial,” “The Purloined letter,” “The Murders of the Rue Morgue,” and its sequel, “The Mystery of Marie Roget.” The scenes of the last three are in Paris, where the author’s friend, the Chevalier Auguste Dupin, is supposed to reveal to him the curiosities of his experience and observation in matters of police. “The Mystery of Marie Roget” was first published in the autumn of 1842, before an extraordinary excitement, occasioned by the murder of a young girl named Mary Rogers, in the vicinity of New-York, had quite subsided, though several months after the tragedy. Under the pretense of relating the fate of a Parisian grisette, Mr. Poe followed in minute detail the essential while merely paralleling the inessential facts of the real murder. His object appears to have been to reinvestigate the case and to settle his own conclusions as to the probable culprit. There is a great deal of hair-splitting in the incidental discussions by Dupin, throughout all these stories, but it is made effective. Much of their popularity, as well as that of other tales of ratiocination by Poe, arose from their being in a new key. I do not mean to say that they are not ingenious; but they have been thought more ingenious than they are, on account of their method and air of method. In “The Murders of the Rue Morgue,” for instance, what ingenuity is displayed in unravelling a web which has been woven for the express purpose of unravelling? The reader is made to confound the ingenuity of the supposititious Dupin with that of the writer of the story. These works brought the name of Poe himself somewhat conspicuously before the law courts of Paris. The journal, La Commerce, gave a feuilleton in which “The Murders of the Rue Morgue” appeared in translation. Afterward a writer for La Quotidienne served it for that paper under the title of “L’Orang-Otang.” A third party accused La Quotidienne of plagiary from La Commerce, and in the course of the legal investigation ­[page xix:] which ensued, the feuilletoniste of La Commerce proved to the satisfaction of the tribunal that he had stolen the tale entirely from Mr. Poe,* whose merits were soon after canvassed in the “Revue Deux Mondes,” and whose best tales were upon this impulse translated by Mme. Isabelle Meunier for the Democratie Pacifique and other French gazettes.

In New-York Poe entered upon a new sort of life. Heretofore, from the commencement of his literary career, he had resided in provincial towns. Now he was in a metropolis, and with a reputation which might have served as a passport to any society he could desire. For the first time he was received into circles capable of both the appreciation and the production of literature. He added to his fame soon after he came to the city by the publication of that remarkable composition “The Raven,” of which Mr. Willis has observed that in his opinion “it is the most effective single example of fugitive poetry ever published in this country, and is unsurpassed in English poetry for subtle conception, masterly ingenuity of versification, and consistent sustaining of imaginative lift,” and by that of one of the most extraordinary instances of the naturalness of detail — the versimilitude of minute narrative — for which he was preeminently distinguished, his “Mesmeric Revelation,” purporting to be the last conversation of a somnambule, held just before death with his magnetizer; which was followed by the yet more striking exhibition of abilities in the same way, entitled “The facts in the Case of M. ­[page xx:] Valdemar,” in which the subject is represented as having been mesmerized in articulo mortis. These pieces were reprinted throughout the literary and philosophical world, in nearly all languages, everywhere causing sharp and curious speculation, and where readers could be persuaded that they were fables, challenging a reluctant but genuine admiration.

He had not been long in New-York before he was engaged by Mr. Willis and General Morris as critic and assistant editor of “The Mirror.” He remained in this situation about six months, when he became associated with Mr. Briggs in the conduct of the “Broadway Journal,” which in October, 1845, passed entirely into his possession. He had now the long-sought but never before enjoyed absolute control of a literary gazette, and, with much friendly assistance, he maintained it long enough to show that whatever his genius, he had not the kind or degree of talent necessary to such a position. His chief critical writings in the “Broadway Journal,” were a paper on Miss Barrett’s Poems and a long discussion of the subject of plagiarism, with especial reference to Mr. Longfellow. In March, 1845, he had given a lecture at the Society Library upon the American Poets, composed, for the most part, of fragments of his previously published reviewals; and in the autumn he accepted an invitation to read a poem before the Boston Lyceum. A week after the event, he printed in the “Broadway Journal” the following account of it, in reply to a paragraph in one of the city papers, founded upon a statement in the Boston “Transcript.”

“Our excellent friend, Major Noah, has suffered himself to be cajoled by that most beguiling of all beguiling little divinities, Miss Walter, of  ‘The Transcript.’ We have been looking all over her article with the aid of a taper, to see if we could discover a single syllable of truth in it — and really blush to acknowledge that we cannot. The adorable creature has been telling a parcel of fibs about us, by way of revenge for something that we did to Mr. Longfellow (who admires her very much) and for calling her ‘a pretty little witch’ into the bargain. The facts of the case seem to be these: We were invited to ‘deliver’ (stand and deliver) a poem before the Boston Lyceum. As a matter of course, we accepted the invitation. The audience was ‘large and distinguished.’ Mr. Cushing* preceded us with a very capital discourse: he was much applauded. On arising, we were most cordially received. We occupied some fifteen minutes with an apology for not ‘delivering, as is usual in such cases, a didactic poem: a didactic poem, in our opinion, being precisely no poem at all. After some farther words — still of apology — for the ‘indefinitiveness’ and ‘general imbecility’ of what we had to offer — all so unworthy a Bostonian audience — we commenced, and, with many interruptions of applause, concluded. Upon the whole the approbation was considerably more (the more the pity too) than that bestowed upon Mr. Cushing. When we had made an end, the audience, of course, arose to depart; and about one-tenth of them, probably, had really departed, when Mr. Coffin, one of the managing committee, arrested those who remained, by announcement that we had been requested to deliver ‘The Raven.’  We delivered ‘The Raven’ forthwith — without taking a receipt) — were very cordially applauded again — and this was the end of it — with the exception of the sad tale invented to suit her own purposes, by that amiable little enemy of ours, Miss Walter. We shall never call a woman ‘a pretty little witch’ again, as long as we live.

“We like Boston. We were born there — and perhaps it is just as well not to mention that we are heartily ashamed of that fact. The Bostonians are very well in their way. Their hotels are bad. Their pumpkin pies are delicious. Their poetry is not so good. ­[page xxi:] Their common is no common thing — and the duck-pond might answer — if its answer could be heard for the frogs. But with all these good qualities the Bostonians have no soul. They have always evinced towards us, individually, the basest ingratitude for the services we rendered them in enlightening them about the originality of Mr. Longfellow. When we accepted, therefore, an invitation to ‘deliver’ a poem in Boston — we accepted it simply and solely, because we had a curiosity to know how it felt to be publicly hissed — and because we wished to see what effect we could produce by a neat little impromptu speech in reply. Perhaps, however, we overrated our own importance, or the Bostonian want of common civility — which is not quite so manifest as one or two of their editors would wish the public to believe. We assure Major Noah that he is wrong. The Bostonians are well-bred — as very dull persons very generally are. Still, with their vile ingratitude staring us in the eyes, it could scarcely be supposed that we would put ourselves to the trouble of composing for the Bostonians anything in the shape of an original poem. We did not. We had a poem (of about 500 lines) lying by us — one quite as good as new — one, at all events, that we considered would answer sufficiently well for an audience of Transcendentalists. That we gave them — it was the best that we had — for the price — and it did answer remarkably well. Its name was not ‘The Messenger Star’ — who but Miss Walter would ever think of so delicious a little bit of invention as that? We had no name for it at all. The poem is what is occasionally called a ‘juvenile poem’ — but the fact is, it is anything but juvenile now, for we wrote it, printed it, and published it, in book form, before we had fairly completed our tenth year. We read it verbatim, from a copy now in our possession, and which we shall be happy to show at any moment to any of our inquisitive friends. We do not, ourselves, think the poem a remarkably good one: — it is not sufficiently transcendental. Still it did well enough for the Boston audience — who evinced characteristic discrimination in understanding, and especially applauding, all those knotty passages which we ourselves have not yet been able to understand.

“As regards the anger of the ‘Boston Times’ and one or two other absurdities — as regards, we say, the wrath of Achilles — we incurred it — or rather manifestation — by letting some of our cat out of the bag a few hours sooner than we had intended. Over a bottle of champagne, that night, we confessed to Messrs. Cushing, Whipple, Hudson, Fields, and a few other natives who swear not altogether by the frog-pond — we confessed, we say, the soft impeachment of the hoax. Et hinc illae irae. We should have waited a couple of days.”

It is scarcely necessary to suggest that this must have been written before he had quite recovered from the long intoxication which maddened him at the time to which it refers — that he was not born in Boston, that the poem was not published in his tenth year, and that the “hoax” was all an afterthought. Two weeks later he renewed the discussion of the subject in the “Broadway Journal,” commenting as follows upon allusions to parties:

“Were the question demanded of us — ‘What is the most exquisite of sublunary pleasures?’ we should reply, without hesitation, the making a fuss, or, in the classical words of a western friend, the ‘kicking up a bobbery.’ Never was a ‘bobbery’ more delightful than which we have just succeeded in ‘kicking up’ all around Boston Common. We never saw the Frogpondians so lively in our lives. They seem absolutely to be upon the point of waking up. In about nine days the puppies may get open their eyes. That is to say they may get open their eyes to certain facts which have long been obvious to all the world except themselves — the facts that there exist other cities than Boston — other men of letters than Professor Longfellow — other vehicles of literary information than the ‘Down-East Review.’

“We had tact enough not to be ‘taken in and done for’ by the Bostonians. Timeo Danos et dona ferentes — (for timeo substitute contemno or turn-up-o-our-nose-o) . We knew very well that among a certain clique of the Frogpondians, there existed a predetermination to abuse us under any circumstances. We knew that, write what we would, ­[page xxii:] they would swear it to be worthless. We knew that were we to compose for them a ‘Paradise Lost,’ they would pronounce it an indifferent poem. It would have been very weak in us, then, to put ourselves to the trouble of attempting to please these people. We preferred pleasing ourselves. We read before them a ‘juvenile’ poem — a very ‘juvenile’ poem — and thus the Frogpondians were had — were delivered up to the enemy bound hand and foot. Never were a set of people more completely demolished. They have blustered and flustered - but what have they done or said that has not made them more thoroughly ridiculous? — what, in the name of Momus, is it possible for them to do or say? We ‘delivered’ them the ‘juvenile poem’ and they received it with applause. This accounted for by the fact that the clique (contemptible in numbers as in everything else) were overruled by the rest of the assembly. These malignants did not dare to interrupt by their preconcerted hisses, the respectful and profound attention of the majority. We have been told, indeed, that as many as three or four of the personal friends of the little old lady entitles Miss Walter, did actually leave the hall during the recitation — but, upon the whole, this was the very best thing they could do. We have been told this, we say — we did not see them take their departure: — the fact is they belong to a class of people that we make it a point never to see. The poem being thus well received, in spite of this ridiculous little cabal — the next thing to be done was to abuse it in the papers. Here, they imagined, they were sure of their game. But what have they accomplished? The poem, they say, is bad. We admit it. We insisted upon this fact in our prefatory remarks, and we insist upon it now, over and over again. It is bad — it is wretched — and what then? We wrote it at ten years of age — had it been worth even a pumpkin-pie undoubtedly we should not have ‘delivered’ it to them. ‘To demonstrate its utter worthlessness, ‘The Boston Star’ has copied the poem in full, with two or three columns of criticism (we suppose) by way of explaining that we should have been hanged for its perpetration. There is no doubt of it whatever — we should. ‘The Star,’ however, (a dull luminary) has done us more honor than it intended; it has copied our third edition of the poem, revised and improved. We considered this too good for the occasion by one-half, and so ‘delivered’ the first edition with all its imperfections on its head. It is the first — the original edition — the delivered edition — which we now republish in our collection of Poems.”

When he accepted the invitation of the Lyceum he intended to write an original poem, upon a subject which he said had haunted his imagination for years; but cares, anxieties, and feebleness of will, prevented; and a week before the appointed night he wrote to a friend, imploring assistance. “You compose ‘with such astonishing facility,’’ he urged in his letter, “that you can easily furnish me, quite soon enough, a poem that shall be equal to my reputation. For the love of God I beseech you to help me in this extremity.” The lady wrote him kindly, advising him judiciously, but promising to attempt the fulfilment of his wishes. She was, however, an invalid, and so failed.* At last, instead of pleading illness himself; as he had previously done on a similar occasion, he determined to read his poem of “Al Aaraaf,” the original publication of which, in 1829, has already been stated.

The last number of the “Broadway Journal” was published on the third of January, 1846, and Poe soon after commenced the series of papers entitled “The Literati of New-York City,” which were published in “The Lady’s Book” in six numbers, from May to October. Their spirit, boldness, and occasional causticity, caused them to be much talked about, and three ­[page xxii:] editions were necessary to supply the demand for some numbers of the magazine containing them. They however led to a disgraceful quarrel, and this to their premature conclusion. Dr. Thomas Dunn English, who had at one time sustained the most intimate relations with Poe, chose to evince his resentment of the critic’s unfairness by the publication of a card in which he painted strongly the infirmities of Poe’s life and character, and alleged that he had on several occasions inflicted upon him personal chastisement. This was not a wise confession, for a gentleman never appeals to his physical abilities except for defence. But the entire publication, even if every word of it were true, was unworthy of Dr. English, unnecessary, and not called for by Poe’s article, though that, aa every one acquainted with the parties might have seen, was entirely false in what purported to be its facts. The statement of Dr. English appeared in the New-York “Mirror” of the twenty-third of June, and on the twenty-seventh Mr. Poe sent to Mr. Godey for publication in the “Lady’s Book” his rejoinder, which would have made about five of the large pages of that miscellany. Mr. Godey very properly declined to print it, and observed, in the communication of his decision, that the tone of the. article was regarded as unsuitable for his work and as altogether wrong. In compliance with the author’s wishes, however, he had caused its appearance in a daily paper. Poe then wrote to him:

“The man or men who told you that there was anything wrong in the tone of my reply were either my enemies, or your enemies, or asses. When you see them, tell them so, from me. I have never written an article upon which I more confidently depend for literary reputation than that Reply. Its merit lay in its being precisely adapted to its purpose. In this city I have had upon it the favorable judgments of the best men. All the error about it was yours. You should have done as I requested — published it in the ‘Book.’ It is of no use to conceive a plan if you have to depend upon another for its execution.”

Nevertheless, I agree with Mr. Godey. Poe’s article was as bad as that of English. Yet a part of one of its paragraphs is interesting, and it is here transcribed:

— “Let me not permit any profundity of disgust to induce, even for an instant, a violation of the dignity of truth. What is not false amid the scurrility of this man’s statements, it is not in my nature to brand as false, although oozing from the filthy lips of which a lie in the only natural language. The errors and frailties which I deplore, it cannot at least be asserted that I have been the coward to deny. Never, even, have I made attempt at extenuating a weakness which is (or, by the blessing of God, was) a calamity, although those who did not know me intimately had little reason to regard it otherwise than as a crime. For, indeed, had my pride, or that of my family permitted, there was much — very much — there was everything — to be offered in extenuation. Perhaps, even, there was an epoch at which it might not have been wrong in me to hint — what by the testimony of Dr. Francis and other medical men I might have demonstrated, had the public, indeed, cared for the demonstration — that the irregularities so profoundly lamented were the effect of a terrible evil rather than its cause. — And now let me thank God that in redemption from the physical ill I have forever got rid of the moral.”

Dr. Francis never gave any such testimony. On one occasion Poe borrowed fifty dollars from a distinguished literary woman o.’south Carolina, promising to return it in a few days, and when he failed to do so, and was asked for a written acknowledgment of the debt that might I exhibited to the ­[page xxiv:] husband of the friend who had thus served him, he denied all knowledge of it, ami threatened to exhibit a correspondence which he said would make the woman infamous, if the said any more on the subject Of course there had never been any such correspondence, but when Poe heard that a brother of the slandered party was in quest of him for the purpose of taking the satisfaction supposed to be due in such cases, he sent for Dr. Francis and induced him to carry to the gentleman his retraction and apology, with a statement which seemed true enough at the moment, that Poe was “out of his head.” It is an ungracious duty to describe such conduct in a person of Poe’s unquestionable genius and capacities of greatness, but those who are familiar with the career of this extraordinary creature can recall but too many similar anecdotes; and as to his intemperance, they perfectly well understand that its pathology was like that of ninety-nine of every hundred cases of the disease.

As the autumn of 1846 wore on Poe’s habits of frequent intoxication and big inattention to the means of support reduced him to much more than common destitution. He was now living at Fordham, several miles from the city, so that his necessities were not generally known even among his acquaintances; but when the dangerous illness of his wife was added to his misfortunes, and his dissipation and accumulated causes of anxiety had prostrated all his own energies, the subject was introduced into the journals. The “Express” said:

“We regret to learn that Edgar A. Poe find his wife are both dangerously ill with the consumption, and that the hand of misfortune lies heavy upon their temporal affairs. We are sorry to mention the fact that they are so far reduced as to be barely able to obtain the necessaries of life. This is indeed a hard lot, and we hope that the friends and admirers of Mr. Poe will come promptly to his assistance in his bitterest hour of need.”

Mr. Willis, in an article in the “Home Journal” suggesting a hospital for disabled laborers with the brain, said —

“The feeling we have long entertained on this subject, has been freshened by a recent paragraph in the ‘Express,’ announcing that Mr. Edgar A. Poe and his wife were both dangerously ill, and suffering for want of the common necessaries of life. Here is one of the finest scholars, one of the most original men of genius, and one of the most industrious of the literary profession of our country, whose temporary suspension of labor, from bodily illness, drops him immediately to a level with the common objects of public charity. There was no intermediate stopping-place — no respectful shelter where, with the delicacy due to genius and culture, he might secure aid, unadvertised, till, with returning health, he could resume his labors and his unmortified sense of independence. He must either apply to individual friends — (a resource to which death is sometimes almost preferable) — or suffer down to the level where Charity receives claimants, but where Rags and Humiliation are the only recognised Ushers to her presence. Is this right? Should there not be, in all highly civilized communities, an Institution designed expressly for educated and refined objects of charity — a hospital, a retreat, a home of seclusion and comfort, the sufficient claims to which would be such susceptibilities as are violated by the above mentioned appeal in a daily newspaper.”

The entire article from which this paragraph is taken, was an ingenious apology for Mr. Poe’s infirmities; but it was conceived and executed in a generous spirit, and it had a quick effect in various contributions, which ­[page xxv:] relieved the poet from pecuniary embarrassments. The next week he published the following letter:

My Dear Willis: — The paragraph which has been put in circulation respecting my wife’s illness, my own, my poverty, etc., is now lying before me; together with the beautiful lines by Mrs. Locke and those by Mrs. —— , to which the paragraph has given rise, as well as your kind and manly comments in ‘The Home Journal.’ The motive of the paragraph I leave to the conscience of him or her who wrote it or suggested it. Since the thing is done, however, and since the concerns of my family are thus pitilessly thrust before the public, I perceive no mode of escape from a public statement of what is true and what erroneous in the report alluded to. That my wife is ill, then, is true; and you may imagine with what feelings I add that this illness, hopeless from the first, has been heightened and precipitated by her reception at two different periods, of anonymous letters, — one enclosing the paragraph now in question; the other, those published calumnies of Messrs. ———, for which I yet hope to find redress in a court of justice.

“Of the facts, that I myself have been long and dangerously ill, and that my illness has been a well understood thing among my brethren of the press, the best evidence is afforded by the innumerable paragraphs of personal and of literary abuse with which I have been latterly assailed. This matter, however, will remedy itself. At the very first blush of my new prosperity, the gentlemen who toadied me in the old, will recollect themselves and toady me again. You, who know me, will comprehend that I speak of these things only as having served, in a measure, to lighten the gloom of unhappiness by a gentle and not unpleasant sentiment of mingled pity, merriment and contempt. That, as the inevitable consequence of so long an illness, I have been in want of money, it would be folly in me to deny — but that I have ever materially suffered from privation, beyond the extent of my capacity for suffering, is not altogether true. That I am ‘without friends’ is a gross calumny, which I am sure you never could have believed, and which a thousand noble hearted men would have good right never to forgive me for permitting to pass unnoticed and undenied. Even in the city of New York I could have no difficulty in naming n hundred persons, to each of whom — when the hour for speaking had arrived — I could and would have applied for aid with unbounded confidence, and with absolutely no sense of humiliation. I do not think, my dear Willis, that there is any need of my saying more. I am getting better, and may add — if it be any comfort to my enemies — that I have little fear of getting worse. The truth is, I have a great deal to do; and I have made up my mind not to die till it is done. Sincerely yours.

“December 30th, 1846. EDGAR A. POE.”

This was written for effect. He had not been ill a great while, nor dangerously at all; there was no literary or personal abuse of him in the journals; and his friends in town had been applied to for money until their patience was nearly exhausted. His wife, however, was very sick, and in a few weeks she died. In a letter to a lady in Massachusetts, who, upon the appearance of the newspaper articles above quoted, had sent him money and expressions of sympathy, he wrote, under date of March 10, 1847:

“In answering your kind letter permit me in the very first place to absolve myself from a suspicion which, under the circumstances, you could scarcely have failed to entertain — a suspicion of discourtesy toward yourself, in not having more promptly replied to you... I could not help fearing that should you see my letter to Mr. Willis — in which a natural pride, which I feel you could not blame, impelled me to shrink from public charity, even at the cost of truth, in denying those necessities which were but too real — I could not help fearing that, should you see this letter, you would yourself feel pained at having caused me pain — at having been the means of giving further publicity to an unfounded report — at all events to the report of a wretchedness which I had thought it prudent (since the world regards wretchedness as a crime) so publicly to disavow. In a word, venturing to judge your noble nature by my own, I felt grieved lest my published denial might cause ­[page xxvi:] you to regret what you had done; and my first impulse was to write you, and assure you even at the risk of doing so too warmly, of the sweet emotion, made up of respect and gratitude alone, with which my heart was filled to overflowing. While I was hesitating, however, in regard to the propriety of this step, I was overwhelmed by a sorrow so poignant as to deprive me for several weeks of till power of thought or action. Your letter, now lying before me, tells me that I had not been mistaken in your nature, and that I should not have hesitated to address you; but believe me, my dear Mrs. L —— , that I am already ceasing to regard those difficulties or misfortunes which have led me to even this partial correspondence with yourself.”

For nearly a year Mr. Poe was not often before the public, but he was as industrious, perhaps, as he had been at any time, and early in 1848 advertisement was made of his intention to deliver several lectures, with a view to obtain an amount of money sufficient to establish his so-long-contemplated monthly magazine. His first lecture — and only one at this period — was given at the Society Library, in New-York, on the ninth of February, and was upon the Cosmogony of the Universe; it was attended by an eminently intellectual auditory, and the reading of it occupied about two hours and a half; it was what he afterwards published under the title of “Eureka, a Prose Poem.”

To the composition of this work he brought his subtlest and highest capacities, in their most perfect development. Denying that the arcana of the universe can be explored by induction, but informing his imagination with the various results of science, he entered with unhesitating boldness, though with no guide but the divinest instinct, — that sense of beauty, in which our great Edwards recognises the flowering of all truth — into the sea of speculation, and there built up of according laws and their phenomena, as under the influence of a scientific inspiration, his theory of Nature. I will not attempt the difficult task of condensing his propositions; to be apprehended they must be studied in his own terse and simple language; but in this we have a summary of that which he regards as fundamental: “The law which we call Gravity,” he says, “exists on account of matter having been radiated, at its origin, atomically, into a limited sphere of space, from one, individual, unconditional, irrelative, and absolute Particle Proper, by the sole process in which it was possible to satisfy, at the same time, the two conditions, radiation and equable distribution throughout the sphere — that is to say, by a force varying in direct proportion with the squares of the distances between the radiated atoms, respectively, and the particular centre of radiation.”

Poe was thoroughly persuaded that he had discovered the great secret; that the propositions of’’ Eureka” were true; and he was wont to talk of the subject with a sublime and electrical enthusiasm which they cannot have forgotten who were familiar with him at the period of its publication. Ha felt that an author known solely by his adventures in the lighter literature, throwing down the gauntlet to professors of science, could not expect absolute fairness, and he had no hope but in discussions led by wisdom and candor. Meeting me, he said, “Have you read ‘Eureka?’ “I answered “Not yet: I have just glanced at the notice of it by Willis, who thinks it ­[page xxvii:] contains no more fact than fantasy, and I am sorry to see — sorry if it be true — suggests that it corresponds in tone with that gathering of sham and obsolete hypotheses addressed to fanciful tyros, the ‘Vestiges of Creation;’ and our good and really wise friend Bush, whom you will admit to be of all the professors, in temper one of the most habitually just, thinks that while you may have guessed very shrewdly, it would not be difficult to suggest many difficulties in the way of your doctrine.” “It is by no means ingenuous,” he replied, “to hint that there are such difficulties, and yet to leave them unsuggested. I challenge the investigation of every point in the book. I deny that there are any difficulties which I have not met and overthrown. Injustice is done me by the application of this word ‘guess:’ I have assumed nothing and proved all.” In his preface he wrote: “To the few who love me and whom I love; to those who feel rather than to those who think; to the dreamers and those who put faith in dreams as in the only realities — I offer this book of truths, not in the character of  Truth-Teller, but for the beauty that abounds in its truth: constituting it true. To these I present the composition as an Art-Product alone: — let us say as a Romance; or, if it be not urging too lofty a claim, as a Poem. What I here propound is true: therefore it cannot die: or if by any means it be now trodden down so that it die, it will rise again to the life everlasting.”

When I read “Eureka” I could not help but think it immeasurably superior as an illustration of genius to the “Vestiges of Creation;” and as I admired the poem, (except the miserable attempt at humor in what purports to be a letter found in a bottle floating on the Mare tenebrarum, ) so I regretted its pantheism, which is not necessary to its main design. To some of the objections to his work he made this answer iu a letter to Mr. C. F. Hoffman, then editor of the “Literary World:”

Dear Sir: — In your paper of July 29, I find some comments on “Eureka,” a late book of my own; and I know you too well to suppose, for a moment, that you will refuse me the privilege of a few words in reply. I feel, even, that I might safely claim, from Mr. Hoffman, the right, which every author has, of replying to his critic tone for tone — that is to say, of answering your correspondent, flippancy by flippancy and sneer by sneer — but, in the first place, I do not wish to disgrace the “World;” and, in the second, I feel that I never should he done sneering, in the present instance, were I once to begin. Lamartine blames Voltaire for the use which he made of (ruse) misrepresentation, in his attacks on the priesthood; but our young students of Theology do not seem to be aware that in defence, or what they fancy to be defence, of Christianity, there it anything wrong in such gentlemanly peccadillos as the deliberate perversion of an author’s text — to say nothing of the minor indecora of reviewing a book without reading it and without having the faintest suspicion of what it is about.

“You will understand that it is merely the misrepresentations of the critique in question to which I claim the privilege of reply: — the mere opinions of the writer can be of no consequence to me — and I should imagine of very little to himself — that is to say if he knows himself, personally, as well as I have the honor of knowing him. The first misrepresentation is contained in this sentence: — ‘This letter is a keen burlesque on the Aristotelian or Baconian methods of ascertaining Truth, both of which the writer ridicules and despises; and pours forth his rhapsodical ecstasies in a glorification of the third mode — the noble art of guessing.’ What I really say is this: — That there is no absolute certainty either in the Aristotelian or Baconian process — that, for this reason, neither ­[page xxviii:] Philosophy is so profound as it fancies itself — and that neither has a right to sneer at that seemingly imaginative process called Intuition by which the great Kepler attained his laws;) since ‘Intuition,’ after all, ‘is but the conviction arising from those inductions or deductions of which the processes are so shadowy as to escape our consciousness, elude our reason or defy our capacity of expression.’ The second misrepresentation runs thus; —’The developments of electricity and the formation of stars and suns, luminous and non-luminous, moons and planets, with their rings, &c., is deduced, very much according to the nebular theory of Laplace, from the principle propounded above.’ Now the impression intended to be made here upon the reader’s mind, by the’student of Theology,’ is, evidently, that my theory may all be very well in its way, but that it is nothing but Laplace over again, with some modifications that he (the Student of Theology) cannot regard as at all important. I have only to say that no gentleman can accuse me of the disingenuousness here implied; inasmuch as, having proceeded with my theory up to that point at which Laplace’s theory meets it, I then give Laplace’s theory in full, with the expression of my firm conviction of its absolute truth at all points. The ground covered by the great French astronomer compares with that covered by my theory, as a bubble compares with the ocean on which it floats; nor has he the slightest allusion to the ‘principle propounded above,’ the principle of Unity being the source of all things — the principle of Gravity being merely the Reaction of the Divine Act which irradiated all things from Unity. In fact, no point of my theory has been even so much as alluded to by Laplace. I have not considered it necessary, here, to speak of the astronomical knowledge displayed in the’ stars and suns’ of the Student of Theology, nor to hint that it would be better grammar to say that ‘development and formation’ are, than that development and formation is. The third misrepresentation lies in a footnote, where the critic says: —’ Further than this, Mr. Poe’s claim that he can account for the existence of all organized beings — man included — merely from those principles on which the origin and present appearance of suns and worlds are explained, must he set down as mere bald assertion, without a particle of evidence. In other words we should term it arrant fudge.’ The perversion at this point is involved in a wilful misapplication of the word ‘principles.’ I say ‘wilful;’ because, at page 63, I am particularly careful to distinguish between the principles proper, Attraction and Repulsion, and those merely resultant sub-principles which control the universe in detail. To these sub-principles, swayed by the Immediate spiritual influence of Deity, I leave, without examination, all that which the Student of Theology so roundly asserts I account for on the principles which account for the constitution of suns, &c.

’’In the third column of his ‘review’ the critic says: — ‘He asserts that each soul is its own God — its own Creator.’ What I do assert is, that ‘each soul is, in part, its own God — its own Creator.’ Just below, the critic says: — ‘After all these contradictory propoundings concerning God we would remind him of what he lays down on page 28 — ‘of this Godhead in itself he alone is not imbecile — he alone is not impious who propounds nothing. A man who thus conclusively convicts himself of imbecility and impiety needs no further refutation.’ Now the sentence, as I wrote it, and as I find it printed on that very page which the critic refers to and which must have been lying before him while he quoted my words, runs thus: — ‘Of this Godhead, in itself, he alone is not imbecile, &c., who propounds nothing.’ By the italics, as the critic well knew, I design to distinguish between the two possibilities — that of a knowledge of God through his works not that of a knowledge of Him in his essential nature. The Godhead, in itself, is distinguished from the Godhead observed in its effects. But our critic is zealous. Moreover, being a divine, he is honest — ingenuous. It is his duty in pervert my meaning by omitting my italics — just as, in the sentence previously quoted, it was his Christian duty to falsify my argument by leaving out the two words ‘in part,’ upon which turns the whole force — indeed the whole intelligibility of my proposition.

“Were these ‘misrepresentations’ (is that the name for them?) Made for any less serious a purpose than that of branding my book as ‘impious’ and myself as a ‘pantheist,’ a ‘polytheist,’ a Pagan, or a God knows what (and indeed I care very little so it be not a’student of Theology,’) I would have permitted their dishonesty to pass unnoticed, ­[page xxix:] through pure contempt for the boyishness — for the turn-down-shirt-collar-ness of their tone: — but, as it is, you will pardon me, Mr. Editor. that I have been compelled to expose a ‘critic’ who, courageously preserving his own anonymosity, takes advantage of my Absence from the city to misrepresent, and thus villify me, by name. “Fordham, September 20. 1848.” “EDGAR A. POE.”

From this time Poe did not write much; he had quarrelled with the conductors of the chief magazines for which he had previously written, and they no longer sought his assistance. In a letter to a friend, he laments the improbabilities of an income from literary labor, saying:

“I have represented —— to you as merely an ambitious simpleton, anxious to get into society with the reputation of conducting a magazine which somebody behind the curtain always prevents hirn from quite damning with his stupidity; he is a knwve and a beast. I cannot write any more for the Milliner’s Book, where T ——— n prints his feeble and very quietly made dilutions of other people’s reviews; and you know that —— can afford to pay but little, though I am glad to do anything for a good fellow like ——. In this emergency I sell articles to the vulgar and trashy ———————— , for $5 a piece. I enclose my last, cut out, lest you should see by my sending the paper in what company I am forced to appear.”

His name was now frequently associated with that of one of the most brilliant women of New England, and it was publicly announced that they were to be married. He had first seen her on his way from Boston, when lie visited that city to deliver a poem before the Lyceum there. Restless, near the midnight, he wandered from his hotel near where she lived, until he saw her walking in a garden. He related the incident afterward in one of his most exquisite poems, worthy of himself, of her, and of the most exalted

[[To Helen [Whitman], in two columns:]]

I SAW thee once — once only — years ago: I must not say how many — but not many. It was a July midnight; and from out A full-orbed moon, that, like thine own soul, soaring, Sought a precipitate pathway up through heaven, There fell a silvery-silken veil of light, With quietude, and sultriness, and slumber, Upon the upturn’d faces of a thousand Roses that grew in an enchanted garden, Where no wind dared to stir, unless on tiptoe — Fell on the upturn’d faces of these roses That gave out, in return for the love-light, Their odorous souls in an ecstatic death — Fell on the upturn’d faces of these roses That smiled and died in this parterre, enchanted By thee, and by the poetry of thy presence. Clad all in white, upon a violet bank I saw thee half reclining; while the moon Fell on the upturn’d faces of the roses, And on thine own, upturn’d — alas, in sorrow! Was it not Fate, that, on this July midnight — Was it not Fate, (whose name is also Sorrow,) That bade me pause before that garden-gate, To breathe the incense of those slumbering roses? No footstep stirred: the hated world all slept, Save only thee and me. (Oh, Heaven! — oh, God! How my heart beats in coupling those two words!) Save only thee and me. I paused — I looked — And in an instant all things disappeared. (Ah, bear in mind this garden was enchanted!) The pearly lustre of the moon went out: The mossy banks and the meandering paths, The happy flowers and the repining trees, [column 2:] Were seen no more: the very roses’ odors Died in the arms of the adoring airs. All — all expired save thee — save less than thou: Save only the divine light in thine eyes — Save but the soul in thine uplifted eyes. I saw but them — they were the world to me. I saw but them — saw only them for hours — Saw only them until the moon went down. What wild heart-histories seemed to lie enwritten Upon those crystalline, celestial spheres! How dark a wo!, yet how sublime a hope! How silently serene a sea of pride! How daring an ambition! yet how deep — How fathomless a capacity for love! “But now, at length, dear Dian sank from sight, Into a western couch of thunder-cloud; And thou, a ghost, amid the entombing trees Didst glide away. Only thine eyes remained. They would not go — they never yet have gone. Lighting my lonely pathway home that night, They have not left me (as my hopes have) since. They follow me — they lead me through the years. They are my ministers — yet I their slave. Their office is to illumine and enkindle — My duty, to be saved by their bright light, And purified in their electric fire, And sanctified in their elysian fire. They fill my soul with Beauty (which is Hope,) And are far up in Heaven — the stars I kneel to In the sad, silent watches of my night; While even in the meridian glare of day I see them still — two sweetly scintillant Venuses, unextinguished by the sun! [[:To Helen [Whitman], in two columns]]

They were not married, and the breaking of the engagement affords a striking illustration of his character. He said to an acquaintance in New-York, who congratulated with him upon the prospect of his union with a person of so much genius and so many virtues — “It is a mistake: I am not ­[page xxix:] going to be married.” “Why, Mr. Poe, I understand that the banns have been published.” “I cannot help what you have heard, my dear Madam: but mark me, I shall not marry her.” He left town the same evening, and the next day was reeling through the streets of the city ‘which was the lady’s home, and in the evening — that should have been the evening before the bridal — in his drunkenness he committed at her house such outrages as made necessary a summons of the police. Here was no insanity leading to indulgence: he went from New- York with a determination thus to induce an ending of the engagement; and he succeeded.

Sometime in August, 1849, Mr. Poe left New-York for Virginia. In Philadelphia he encountered persona who had been his associates in dissipations while he lived there, and for several days he abandoned himself entirely to the control of his worst appetites. When his money was all spent, and the disorder of his dress evinced the extremity of his recent intoxication, he asked in charity means for the prosecution of his journey to Richmond. There, after a few days, he joined a temperance society, and his conduct showed the earnestness of his determination to reform his life. He delivered in some of the principal towns of Virginia two lectures, which were well attended, and renewing his acquaintance with a lady whom he had known in his youth, he was engaged to marry her, and wrote to his friends that he should pass the remainder of his days among the scenes endeared by all his pleasantest recollections of youth.

On Thursday, the fourth of October, he set out for New-York, to fulfil a literary engagement, and to prepare for his marriage. Arriving in Baltimore he gave his trunk to a porter, with directions to convey it to the cars which were to leave in an hour or two for Philadelphia, and went into a tavern to obtain some refreshment Here he met acquaintances who invited him to drink; all his resolutions and duties were soon forgotten; in a few hours he was in such a state as is commonly induced only by long-continued intoxication; after a night of insanity and exposure, he was carried to a hospital; and there, on the evening of Sunday, the seventh of October, 1849, he died, at the age of thirty-eight years.

It is a melancholy history. No author of as much genius had ever in this country as much unhappiness; That Poe’s unhappiness was in an unusual degree the result of infirmities of nature, or of voluntary faults in conduct. A writer who evidently knew him well, and who comes before us in the “Southern Literary Messenger” as his defender, is “compelled to admit that the blemishes in his life were effects of character rather than of circumstances.” How this character might have been modified by a judicious education of all his faculties I leave for the decision of others, but it will bo evident to those who read this biography that the unchecked freedom of his earlier years was as unwise as its result” were unfortunate.

It is contended that the higher intelligences, in the scrutiny to which they appeal, are not to be judged by the common laws; but I apprehend that ­[page xxxi:] this doctrine, as it is Likely to be understood, is entirely wrong. All men are amenable to the same principles, to the extent of the parallelism of these principles with their experience; and the line of duty becomes only more severe as it extends into the clearer atmosphere of truth and beauty which is the life of genius. De mortuis nil nisi bonum is a common and an honorable sentiment, but its proper application would lead to the suppression of the histories of half of the most conspicuous of mankind; in this case it is impossible on account of the notoriety of Mr. Poe’s faults; and it would be unjust to the living against whom his hands were always raised and who had no resort but in his outlawry from their sympathies. Moreover, his career is full of instruction and warning, and it has always been made a portion of the penalty of wrong that its anatomy should be displayed for the common study and advantage.

The character of Mr. Poe’s genius has been so recently and so admirably discussed by Mr. Lowell, with whose opinions on the subject I for the most part agree, that I shall say but little of it here, having already extended this notice beyond the limits at first designed. There is a singular harmony between his personal and his literary qualities. St Pierre, who seemed to be without any nobility in his own nature, in his writings appeared to be moved only by the finest and highest impulses. Poe exhibits scarcely any virtue in either his life or his writings. Probably there is not another instance in the literature of our language in which so much has been accomplished without a recognition or a manifestation of conscience. Seated behind the intelligence, and directing it, according to its capacities, Conscience is the parent of whatever is absolutely and unquestionably beautiful in art as well as in conduct. It touches the creations of the mind and they have life; without it they have never, in the range of its just action, the truth and naturalness which are approved by universal taste or in enduring reputation. In Poe’s works there is constantly displayed the most touching melancholy, the most extreme and terrible despair, but never reverence or remorse.

His genius was peculiar, and not, as he himself thought, various. He remarks in one of his letters:

“There is one particular in which I have had wrong done me, and it may not be indecorous in me to call your attention to it. The last selection of my tales was made from about seventy by one of our great little cliquists and claquers, Wiley and Putnam’s reader, Duyckinck. He has what he thinks a taste for ratiocination, and has accordingly made up the book mostly of analytic stories. But this is not representing my mind in its various phases — it is not giving me fair play. In writing these tales one by one, at long intervals, I have kept the book unity always in mind — that is, each has been composed with reference to its effect as part of a whole. In this view, one of my chief aims has been the widest diversity of subject, thought, and especially tone and manner of handling. Were all my tales now before me in a large volume, and as the composition of another, the merit which would principally arrest my attention would be their wide diversity and variety. You will be surprised to hear me say that, (omitting one or two of my first efforts) I do not consider any one of my stories better than another. There is a vast variety of kinds, and, in degree of value, these kinds vary — but each tale is equally good of its kind. The loftiest kind is that of the highest imagination — and for this reason only ‘Ligeia’ may be called my best tale.” ­[page xxxii:]

But it seems to me that this selection of his tales was altogether judicious Had it been submitted to me I might indeed have changed it in one or two instances, but I should not have replaced any tale by one of a different tone. One of the qualities upon which Poe prided himself was his humor, and he has left us a large number of compositions in this department, but except a few paragraphs in his “Marginalia,” scarcely anything which it would not have been injurious to his reputation to republish. His realm was on the shadowy confines of human experience, among the abodes of crime, gloom, and horror, and there he delighted to surround himself with images of beauty and of terror, to raise his solemn palaces and towers and spires in a night upon which should rise no sun. His minuteness of detail, refinement of rea.wning, and propriety and power of language — the perfect keeping (to borrow a phrase from another domain of art) and apparent good faith whh which he managed the evocation and exhibition of his strange and spectral and revolting creations — gave him an astonishing mastery over his readers, so that his books were closed as one would lay aside the nightmare or the spells of opium. The analytical subtlety evinced in his works has frequently been overestimated, as I have before observed, because it has not been sufficiently considered that his mysteries were composed with the express design of being dissolved. When Poe attempted the illustration of the profounder operations of the mind, as displayed in written reason or in real action, he frequently failed entirely.

In poetry, as in prose, he was eminently successful in the metaphysical treatment of the passions. His poems are constructed with wonderful ingenuity, and finished with consummate art. They display a sombre and weird imagination, and a taste almost faultless in the apprehension of that sort of beauty which was most agreeable to his temper. But they evince little genuine feeling, and less of that spontaneous ecstacy which gives its freedom, smoothness and naturalness to immortal verse. His own account of the composition of “The Raven,” discloses his methods — the absence of all impulse, and the absolute control of calculation and mechanism. That curious analysis of the processes by which lie wrought would be incredible if from another hand.

He was not remarkably original in invention. Indeed some of his plagiarisms are scarcely paralleled for their audacity in all literary history: For instance, in his tale of “The Pit and the Pendulum,” the complicate machinery upon which the interest depends is borrowed from a story entitled “Vivenrio, or Italian Vengeance,” by the author of “The First and Last Dinner,” in “Blackwood’s Magazine.” And I remember having been shown by Mr. Longfellow, several years ago, a .series of papers which constitute a demonstration that Mr. Poe was indebted to him for the idea of “The Haunted Palace,’’ one of the most admirable of his poems, which he so pertinaciously asserted had been used by Mr. Longfellow in the production of his “Beleaguered City.” Mr Longfellow’s poem was written two or three years before the first publication of that by Poe, and it was during a portion of this tune in Poe’s possession; but it was not printed, I believe, until a few weeks after the appearance of ­[page xxxiii:] “The Haunted Palace.” “It would be absurd,” as Poe himself said many times, “to believe the similarity of these pieces entirely accidental.” This was the first cause of all that malignant criticism which for so many years he carried on against Mr. Longfellow. In his “Marginalia” he borrowed largely especially from Coleridge, and I have omitted in the republication of these papers, numerous paragraphs which were rather compiled than borrowed from one of the profoundest and wisest of our own scholars.*

In criticism, as Mr. Lowell justly remarks, Mr. Poe had “a scientific precision and coherence of logic;” he had remarkable dexterity in the dissection of sentences; but he rarely ascended from the particular to the general, from subjects to principles: he was familiar with the microscope but never looked through the telescope. His criticisms are of value to the degree in which they are demonstrative, but his unsupported assertions and opinions were so apt to be influenced by friendship or enmity, by the desire to please or the fear to offend, or by his constant ambition to surprise, or produce a sensation, that they should be received in all cases with distrust of their fairness. A volume might be filled with literary judgments by him as antagonistical and inconsistent as the sharpest antitheses. For example, when Mr. Laughton Osbom’s romance, “The Confessions of a Poet,” came out, he reviewed it in “The Southern Literary Messenger,” saying:

“There is nothing of the vates about the author. He is no poet — and most positively he is no prophet. He avers upon his word of honor that in commencing this work he loads a pistol and places it upon the table. He further states that, upon coming to a conclusion, it is his intention to blow out what he supposes to be his brains. Now this is excellent. But even with so rapid a writer as the poet must undoubtedly be, there would be some little difficulty in completing the book under thirty days or thereabouts. The best of powder is apt to sustain injury by lying so long’ in the load.’ We sincerely hope the gentleman took the precaution to examine his priming before attempting the rash act. A flash in the pan — and in such a case — were a thing lo be lamented. Indeed there would be no answering for the consequences. We might even have a second series of the ‘Confessions.’ “— Southern Literary Messenger, i. 459.

This review was attacked, particularly in the Richmond “Compiler,” and Mr. Poe felt himself called upon to vindicate it to the proprietor of the magazine, to whom he wrote:

“There is no necessity of giving the ‘Compiler’ a reply. The book is silly enough of itself, without the aid of any controversy concerning it. I have read it, from beginning ­[page xxxiv:] to end, and was very much amused at it. My opinion of it is pretty nearly the opinion of the press at large. I have heard no person offer one serious word in its defence.” — Letter to T. W. White.

Afterwards Mr. Poe became personally acquainted with the author and be then wrote, in his account of “The Literati of New-York City,” as follows:

“The Confessions of it Poet made much noise in the literary world, and no little curiosity was excited in regard to its author, who was generally supposed to be John Neal .... The “Confessions,” however, far surpassed any production of Mr. Neal’s.... He has done nothing which, us a whole, is even respectable, and “The Confessions” are quite remarkable for their artistic unity and perfection. But on higher regards they are to be commended. I do not think, indeed, that a better book of its kind has been written in America. Its scenes of passion are intensely wrought, its incidents are striking and original, its sentiments audacious and suggestive at least, if not at all times tenable. 1n a word, it is that rare thing, a fiction of power without rudeness.”

I will adduce another example of the same kind. In a notice of the “Democratic Review,” for September, 1846, Mr. Poe remarks of Mr. William A. Jones’s paper on American Humor:

“There is only one really bad article in the number, and that is insufferable: nor do we think it the less a nuisance because it inflicts upon ourselves individually a passage of maudlin compliment about our being a most ‘ingenious critic’ and ‘prose poet,’ with some other things of a similar kind. We thank for his good word no man who gives palpable evidence, in other cases than our own, of his incapacity to distinguish the false from the true — the right from the wrong, if we are an ingenious critic, or a prose poet, it is not because Mr. William Jones says so. The truth is that this essay on’ American Humor’ is contemptible both in a moral and literary sense — is the composition of an imitator and a quack — and disgraces the magazine in which it makes its appearance.” — Broadway Journal, Vol. ii. No. 11.

In the following week he reconsidered this matter, opening his paper for a defence of Mr. Jones; but at the close of it said — “if we have done Mr. Jones injustice, we beg his pardon: but we do not think we have.”

Yet in a subsequent article in “Graham’s Magazine,” on “Critics aud Criticism,” he says of Mr. Jones — referring only to writings of his that had been for years before the public when he printed the above paragraphs:

“Our most analytic, if not altogether our best critic, (Mr. Whipple, perhaps, excepted.) is Mr. William A. Jones, author of ‘The Analyst.’ How he would write elaborate criticisms I cannot say; but his summary judgments of authors are, in general, discriminative and profound. In fact, his papers on Emerson and on Macauley, published in ‘Arcturus,’ are better than merely ‘profound,’ if we take the word in its now desecrated sense; for they are at once pointed, lucid, and just: — as summaries, leaving nothing to be desired.”

I will not continue the display of these inconsistencies. As I have already intimated, a volume might be filled with passages to show that his criticisms were guided by no sense of duty, and that his opinions were so variable and so liable to be influenced by unworthy considerations as to be really of no value whatever.

It was among his remarkable habits that he preserved with scrupulous care everything that was published respecting himself or his works, and everything that was written to him in letters that could be used in any way for the establishment or extension of his reputation. In Philadelphia, in 1843, he prepared with his own hands a sketch of his life for a paper called “The ­[page xxxv:] Museum.” Many parts of it are untrue, but I refer to it for the purpose of quoting a characteristic instance of perversion in the reproduction of compliments:

“Of ‘William Wilson,’ Mr. Washington Irving says: ‘It is managed in a highly picturesque style, and its singular and mysterious interest is ably sustained throughout. In point of mere style, it is, perhaps, even superior to’ The House of Usher.’ It is simpler. In the latter composition, he seems to have been distrustful of his effects, or, rather, too solicitous of bringing them forth fully to the eye, and thus, perhaps, has laid on too. much coloring. He has erred, however, on the safe side, that of exuberance, and the evil might easily be remedied, by relieving the style of some of its epithets:’ [since done.] ‘There would be no fear of injuring the graphic effect, which is powerful.’ The italics are Mr. Irving’s own.”

Now Mr. Irving had said in a private letter that he thought the “House of Usher” was clever, and that “a volume of similar stories would be well received by the public.” Poe sent him a magazine containing “William Wilson,” asking his opinion of it, and Mr. Irving, expressly declining to publish a word upon the subject, remarked in the same manner, that “the singular and mysterious interest is well sustained,” and that in point of style the tale was “much better” than the “House of Usher,” which, he says, “might be improved by relieving the style from some of the epithets: there is no danger of destroying the graphic effect, which is powerful.” There is not a word in italics in Mr. Irving’s letter, the meaning of which ia quite changed by Mr. Poe’s alterations. And this letter was not only published in the face of an implied prohibition, but made to seem like a deliberately expressed judgment in a public reviewal. In the same way Mr. Poe published the following sentence as an extract from a letter by Miss Barrett:

“Our great poet, Mr. Browning, author of Paracelsus, etc. is enthusiastic in his admiration of the rhythm.”

But on turning to Miss Barrett’s letter I find that she wrote:

“Our great poet, Mr. Browning, the author of’ Paracelsus,’ and ‘Bells and Pomegranates,’ was struck much by the rhythm of that poem.”

The piece alluded to is “The Raven.”

It is not true, as has been frequently alleged since Mr. Poe’s death, that hia writings were above the popular taste, and therefore without a suitable market in this conntry. His poems were worth as much to magazines as those of Bryant or Longfellow, (though none of the publishers paid him half as large a price for them,) and his tales were as popular as those of Willis, who has been commonly regarded as the best magazinist of his time. He ceased to write for “The Lady’s Book” in consequence of a quarrel induced by Mr. Godey’s justifiable refusal to print in thut miscellany his “Reply to Dr. English,’’ and though in the poor fustian published under the signature of “ George R. Graham,” in answer to some remarks upon Poe’s character in “The Tribune,” that individual is made to assume a passionate friendship for the deceased author that would have become a Pythias, it is known that the personal ill-will on both sides was such that for some four or five years not a line by Poe was purchased forGraham’s Magazine.” To quote again the “Defence of Mr. Poe” in the “Southern Literary Messenger:” ­[page xxxvi:]

“His changeable humors, his irregularities, his caprices, his total disregard of everything and body, save the fancy in his head, prevented him from doing well in the world. The evils and sufferings that poverty brought upon him, soured his nature, and deprived him of faith in human beings. This was evident to the eye — he believed in nobody, and cared for nobody. Such a mental condition of course drove sway all those who would otherwise have stood by him in his hours of trial. He became, and was, an Ishmaelite.’’

After having, in no ungenerous spirit, presented the chief facts in Sir. Poe’a history, not designedly exaggerating his genius, which none held in higher admiration, not bringing into bolder relief than was just and necessary his infirmities, I am glad to offer a portraiture of some of liis social qualities, equally beautiful, and — so changeable and inconsistent was the man — as for as it goes, truthful . Speaking of him one day soon after his death, with the late Mrs. Osgood, the beauty of whose character had made upon Poe’s mind that impression which it never failed to produce upon minds capable of the apprehension of the finest traits in human nature, she said she did not doubt that my view of Mr Poe, which she knew indeed to be the common view, was perfectly just, as it regarded him in his relations with men; but to women he was different, and she would write for me some recollections of him to be placed beside my harsher judgments in any notice of his life that the acceptance of the appointment to be his literary executor might render it necessary for me to give to the world. She was an invalid — dying of that consumption by which in a few weeks she was removed to heaven, and calling for pillows to support her while she wrote, she drew this sketch:

“You ask me, my friend, to write for you my reminiscences of Edgar Poe. For you, who knew and understood my affectionate interest in him. and my frank acknowledgment of that interest to all who had a claim upon my confidence. for you, I will willingly do so. I think no one could know him — no one has known him personally — certainly no woman — without feeling the same interest. I can sincerely say, that although I have frequently heard of aberrations on his part from ‘the straight and narrow path,’ I have never seen him otherwise than gentle, generous, well-bred, and fastidiously refined. To a sensitive and delicately-nurtured woman, there was a peculiar and irresistible charm in the chivalric, graceful, and almost tender reverence with which he invariably approached all women who won his respect. It was this which first commanded and always retained my regard for him.

“I have been told that when his sorrows and pecuniary embarrassments had driven him to the use of stimulants, which a less delicate organization might have borne without injury, he was in the habit of speaking disrespectfully of the ladies of his acquaintance. It is difficult for me to believe this; for to me, to whom he came during the year of our acquaintance for counsel and kindness in all his many anxieties and griefs, he never spoke irreverently of any woman save one, and then only in my defence, and though I rebuked him for his momentary forgetfulness of the respect due to himself and to me, I could not but forgive the offence for the sake of the generous impulse which prompted it, [[.]] Yet even were these sad rumors true of him, the wise and well informed knew how to regard, us they would the impetuous anger of a spoiled infant, bulked of its capricious will, the equally harmless and unmeaning phrenzy of that stray child of Poetry and Passion. For the few unwomanly and slander-loving gossips who have injured him and themselves only by repeating his ravings, when in such moods they have accepted his society, I have only to vouchsafe my wonder and my pity. They cannot surely harm the true and pure, who, reverencing his genius and pitying his misfortunes and his errors, endeavored, by their timely kindness and sympathy, to soothe his sad career.

“It was in his own simple yet poetical home that, to me the character of Edgar Poe appeared in its most beautiful light. Playful, affectionate, witty, alternately docile and ­[page xxxvii:] wayward as a petted child — for his young, gentle and idolized wife, and for all who came, he had even in the midst of his most harassing literary duties, a kind word, a pleasant smile, a graceful and courteous attention. At his desk beneath the romantic picture of his loved and lost Lenore, he would sit, hour after hour, patient, assiduous and uncomplaining, tracing. in an exquisitely clear chirography and with almost superhuman swiftness, the lightning thoughts — the ‘rare and radiant’ fancies as they flashed through his wonderful and ever wakeful brain. I recollect, one morning, towards the close of his residence in this city, when he seemed unusually gay and light-hearted. Virginia, his sweet wife, had written me a pressing invitation to come to them; and I, who never could resist her affectionate summons, and who enjoyed his society far more in his own home than elsewhere, hastened to Amity-street. I found him just completing his series of papers entitled ‘The Literati of New-York.’ ‘See,’ said he, displaying, in laughing triumph, several little rolls of narrow paper, (he always wrote thus for the press,)’ I am going to show you, by the difference of length in these, the different degrees of estimation in which I hold all you literary people. In each of these, one of you is rolled up and fully discussed. Come, Virginia, help me!’ And one by one they unfolded them. At last they came to one which seemed interminable. Virginia laughingly ran to one corner of the room with one end, and her husband to the opposite with the other.’ And whose lengthened sweetness long drawn out is that?’ said I.’ Hear her!’ he cried, ‘just as if her little vain heart didn’t tell her it’s herself!’

“My first meeting with the poet was at the Astor House. A few days previous, Mr. Willis had handed me, at the table d’hote, that strange and thrilling poem entitled ‘The Raven,’ saying that the author wanted my opinion of it. Its effect upon me was so singular, so like that of  ‘wierd, unearthly music,’ that it was with a feeling almost of dread, I heard he desired an introduction. Yet I could not refuse without seeming ungrateful, because I had just heard of his enthusiastic and partial eulogy of my writings, in his lecture on American Literature. I shall never forget the morning when I was summoned to the drawing-room by Mr. Willis to receive him. With his proud and beautiful head erect, his dark eyes flashing with the elective light of feeling and of thought, a peculiar, an inimitable blending of sweetness and hauteur in his expression and manner, he greeted me, calmly, gravely, almost coldly; yet with so marked an earnestness that I could not help being deeply impressed by it. From that moment until his death we were friends; although we met only during the first year of our acquaintance. And in his last words, ere reason had forever left her imperial throne in that overtasked brain, I have a touching memento of his undying faith and friendship.

“During that year, while travelling for my health, I maintained a correspondence with Mr. Poe, in accordance with the earnest entreaties of his wife, who imagined that my influence over him had a restraining and beneficial effect. It had, as far as this — that having solemnly promised me to give up the use of stimulants, he so firmly respected his promise and me. as never once, during our whole acquaintance, to appear in my presence when in the slightest degree affected by them. Of the charming love and confidence that existed between his wife and himself, always delightfully apparent to me, in spite of the many little poetical episodes, in which the impassioned romance of his temperament impelled him to indulge; of this I cannot speak too earnestly — too warmly. I believe she was the only woman whom he ever truly loved; and this is evidenced by the exquisite pathos of the little poem lately written, called Annabel Lee, of which she was the subject, and which is by far the most natural, simple, tender and touchingly beautiful of all his songs. I have heard it said that it was intended to illustrate a late love affair of the author; but they who believe this, have in their dullness, evidently misunderstood or missed the beautiful meaning latent in the most lovely of all its verses — where he says,

“A wind blew out of a cloud, chilling

My beautiful Annabel Lee,

So that her high-born kinsmen came,

And bore her away from me.”

“There seems a strange and almost profane disregard of the sacred purity and spiritual tenderness of this delicious ballad, in thus overlooking the allusion to the kindred angels and the heavenly Father of the lost and loved and unforgotten wife. ­[page xxxviii:]

“But it was in his conversations and his letters, far more than in his published poetry and prose writings, that the genius of Poe was most gloriously revealed. His letters were divinely beautiful, and for hours I have listened to him, entranced by strains of such pure and almost celestial eloquence as I have never read or heard elsewhere. Alas! in the thrilling words of Stoddard,

“He might have soared in the morning light,

 But he built his nest with the birds of night!

 But he lies in dust, and the stone is rolled

 Over the sepulchre dim and cold;

 He has cancelled all he had done or said,

 And gone to the dear and holy dead.

 Let us forget the path he trod,

 And leave him now, to his Maker, God.”

The influence of Mr. Poe’s aims and vicissitudes upon his literature, was more conspicuous in bis later than in his earlier writings. Nearly all that be wrote in the last two or three years — including much of his best poetry, — was in some sense biographical; in draperies of his imagination, those who take the trouble to trace his steps, will perceive, but slightly concealed, the figure of himself. The lineaments here disclosed, I think, are not different from those displayed in this biography, which is but a filling up of the picture. Thus far the few criticisms of bis life or works that I have ventured have been suggested by the immediate examination of the points to which they referred. I add but a few words, of more general description.

In person he was below the middle height, slenderly but compactly formed, and in his better moments he had in an eminent degree that air of gentlemanliness which men of a lower order seldom succeed in acquiring.

His conversation was at times almost supra-mortal in its eloquence. His voice was modulated with astonishing skill, and his large and variably expressive eyes looked repose or shot fiery tumult into theirs who listened, while his own face glowed, or was changeless in pallor, as his imagination quickened his blood or drew it back frozen to his heart. His imagery was from the worlds which no mortals can see but with the vision of genius. Suddenly starting from n proposition, exactly and sharply defined, in terms of utmost simplicity and clearness, he rejected the forms of customary logic, and by a crystalline process of accretion, built up his ocular demonstrations in forms of gloomiest and ghastliest grandeur, or in those of the most airy and delicious beauty — so minutely and distinctly, yet so rapidly, that the attention which was yielded to him was chained till it stood among his wonderful creations — till he himself dissolved the spell, and brought his hearers back to common and base existence, by vulgar fancies or exhibitions of the ignoblest passion.

He was at all times a dreamer — dwelling in ideal realms — in heaven or hell — peopled with the creatures and the accidents of his brain. He walked the streets, in madness or melancholy, with lips moving in indistinct curses, or with eyes upturned in passionate prayer, (never for himself, for he felt, or professed to feel, that he was already damned, but) for their happiness who at the moment were objects of his idolatry; — or, with his glances introverted to a heart gnawed with anguish, and with a face shrouded in gloom, he would brave the wildest storms; and all night, with drenched garments and arms beating the winds and rains, would speak as if to spirits that at such times ­[page xxxix:] only could be evoked by him from the Aidenn, close by whose portals his disturbed soul sought to forget the ills to which his constitution subjected him — close by the Aidenn where were those he loved — the Aidenn which he might never see, but ill fitful glimpses, as its gates opened to receive the less fiery and more happy natures whose destiny to sin did not involve the doom of death.

He seemed, except when some fitful pursuit subjugated his will and engrossed his faculties, always to bear the memory of some controlling sorrow. The remarkable poem of “The Raven” was probably much more nearly than has been supposed, even by those who were very intimate with him, a reflection and an echo of bis own history. He was that bird’s

“—— unhappy master whom unmerciful Disaster

 Followed fast and followed faster till his songs one burden bore —

 Till the dirges of his Hope that melancholy burden bore

Of ‘Never — never more.’”

Every genuine author, in a greater or less degree, leaves in hia works, whatever their design, traces of his personal character: elements of his immortal being, in which the individual survives the person. While we read the pages of the “Fall of the House of Usher,” or of “Mesmeric Revelations,” we see in the solemn and stately gloom which invests one, and in the subtle metaphysical analysis of both, indications of the idiosyncracies — of what was most remarkable and peculiar — in the author’s intellectual nature. But we see here only the better phases of hia nature, only the symbols of his juster action, for his harsh experience had deprived him of all faith, in man or woman. He had made up his mind upon the numberless complexities of the social world, and the whole system with him was an imposture. This conviction gave a direction to his shrewd and naturally unamiable character. Still, though he regarded society as composed altogether of villains, the sharpness of his intellect was not of that kind which enabled him to cope with villany, while it continually caused him by overshots to fail of the success of honesty. He was in many respects like Francis Vivian, in Bulwer’s novel of “The Caxtons.” Passion, in him, comprehended many of the worst emotions which militate against human happiness. You could not contradict him, but you raised quick choler; you could not speak of wealth, but his cheek paled with gnawing envy. The astonishing natural advantages of this poor boy — his beauty, his readiness, the daring spirit that breathed around him like a fiery atmosphere — had raised his constitutional self-confidence into an arrogance that turned his very claims to admiration into prejudices against him. Irascible, envious — bad enough, but not the worst, for these salient angles were all varnished over with a cold repellant synicism [[cynicism]], his passions vented themselves in sneers. There seemed to him no moral susceptibility; and, what was more remarkable in a proud nature, little or nothing of the true point of honor. He had, to a morbid excess, that desire to rise which is vulgarly called ambition, but no wish for the esteem of the love of his species; only the hard wish to succeed — not shine, not serve — succeed, that he might have the right to despise a world which galled his self-conceit.


[[Footnotes]]

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page x:]

* This statement was first printed during Mr. Poe’s life-time, and its truth being questioned in some of the journals, the following certificate was published by a distinguished gentleman of Virginia:

“I was one of several who witnessed this swimming feat. We accompanied Mr. Poe in boats. Messrs. Robert Stannard, John Lyle, (since dead) Robert Saunders, John Munford, I think, and one or two others, were also of the party. Mr. P. Did not seem at all fatigued, and walked back to Richmond immediately after the feat — which was undertaken for a wager. “ROBERT G. CABELL.”

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page xi:]

* The writer of an eulogium upon the life and genius of Mr. Poe, in the Southern Literary Messenger, for March, 1850, thus refers to this point in his history: “The story of the other side is different; and if true, throws a dark shade upon the quarrel, and a very ugly light upon Poe’s character. We shall not insert it, because it is one of those relations which we think with Sir Thomas Browne, should never be recorded. — being “verities whose truth we fear and heartily wish there were no truth therein . . . . . whose relations honest minds do deprecate. For of sins heteroclital, and such as want name or precedent, there is oft-times a sin even in their history. We desire no record of enormities: sins should be accounted new. They omit of their monstrosity as they fall from their rarity; for men count it venial to err with their forefathers, and foolishly conceive they divide a sin in its society. . . . . In things of this nature, silence commendeth history: ‘tis the veniable part of things lost; wherein there must never arise a Pancirollus, nor remain any register but that of hell.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page x:]

* THE NARRATIVE OF ARTHUR GORDON PYM, OF NANTUCKET; comprising the  Details of a Mutiny and Atrocious Butchery on Board the American Brig Grampus, on Her Way to the South Seas — with an Account of the Re-capture of the Vessel by the Survivors; their Shipwreck and Subsequent Horrible Sufferings from Famine; Their Deliverance by means of the British Schooner Jane Guy; the Brief Cruise of this Latter Vessel in the Antarctic Ocean; her Capture, and the Massacre of Her Crew among a Group of Islands in the 84th parallel of southern latitude; together with the incredible Adventures and Discoveries still further South, to which that distressing Calamity gave rise. — 1 vol. 12mo. Pp. 198. New-York, Harper & Brothers. 1838.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page xix:]

* The controversy is wittily described in the following extract from a Parisian journal, “L'Entr Acte,   of the twentieth of October, 1846:

“Un grand journal acusait l’autre jour M. Old-Nick d’avoir volé un orang-outang. Cet intéressant animal fiâuait dans le feuilleton de la Quotidienne, lorsque M. Old-Nick ie vit, le trouva à son goût et s’en empara. Notre confière avait sans doute besoin d’un groom. On sait que les Anglais ont depuis long-temps colonisé les orangs-outangs, et les bottes. Il paraîtrait, toujours suivant le même grand journal, que M. Old-Nick, après àvoie derobé cet orang-outang à la Quotidienne, l’aurait easuite cédé au Commerce, comme propriété à lui appartenant. Je sais que M. Old-Nick est un garçon plein d’espirt et plein d’honneur, assez riche de son propre fonds pour ne pas s’approprier les orangs-outangs des autres; cette accusation me surprit. Après tout, me dis-je, il y a éu des monomanies plus extraordinares que celle-là; le grand Bacon ne pouvait voir un bâton de cire à cachetere sans se l’approprier: dans une conférence avec M. De Metternic aux Tuileries, l’Empereur s’aperçut que le diplomate autrichîen glissait des pains à cacheter dans sa poche. M. Old-Nick a une autre manie, il fait les orangs-outangs. Je m’attendais toujours à ce que la Quotidienne jetât few et falmmes et demandât à grands cris son homme des bois. Il faut vous dire que j’avais lu son historie dans le Commerce, elle était charmante d’esprit et de style, pleine de rapidité et de désinvolture; la Quotidienne l’avait également publiée, mais en trois feuilletons. L’orang-outang du Commerce n’avait que neuf colonnes. Il s’agissait done d’un autre quadrunmane littéraire. Ma foi non! c’était le même; seulement il n’appartenait ni a la Quotidienne, ni au Commerce. M. Old-Nick l’avait empruaté à un romancier Americain qu’il est en train d’inventer dans la Revue des Deux-Mondes. Ce romancier s’appelle Pöe; je ne dis pas le contraire. Voilà done un écrivain qui use du droit légitime d’arranger les mouvelles d’un romancier Américain qu’il a inventé, et on l’accuse de plagiat, de vol au feuilleton; on alarme ses amis en leur faisant croire que cet écrivain est possédé de la monomanie des orangs-outangs. Par la Courchamps! voilà que me paraît léger. M. Old-Nick a écrit au journal en question une réponse pour rétablir sa moralité, attaquée à l’endroit des orangs-outangs. Cet orang-outang a mis, ces jours derniers, tout la littérature en émoi; personne n’a cru un seul instant à l’accusation qu’on a essayé de fair peser sur M. Old-Nick, d’autant plus qu’il aviat pris soin d’indiquer luimême la cage où il avait pris son orang-outang. Ceci va fournir de nouvelles armes à la secte qui croit aux romanciers Américains. Le préjugé de l’existence de Cooper en prendra de nouvelles forces. En attendant que la vérité se découvre, nous sommes forcés de convenir que ce Pöe est un gaillard bien fin, bien spirituel, quand il est arrangé par M. Old-Nick.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page xx:]

* Hon. Caleb Cushing, then recently returned from his mission to China.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page xxii:]

* This lady was the late Mrs. Osgood, and a fragment of what she wrote under these circumstances may be found in the last edition of her works under the title of “Lulin, or the Diamond Fay.”

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page xxx:]

* Southern Literary Messenger, March 1850, p. 179

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page xxxiii:]

* I have neither space, time, nor inclination for a continuation of this subject, and I add but one other instance, in the words of the Philadelphia “Saturday Evening Post,” — published while Mr. Poe was living:

“One of the most remarkable plagiarisms was perpetrated by Mr. Poe, late of the Broadway Journal, whose harshness as a critic and assumption of peculiar originality, make! the fault, in his case, more glaring. This gentleman, a few years ago, in Philadelphia published a work on Conchology as original, when in reality it was a copy, nearly verbatim of ‘The Text Book of Conchology, by Capt. Thomas Brown,’ printed in Glasgow in 1833, a duplicate of which we have in our library. Mr. Poe actually lookout a copyright for the American edition of Capt. Brown’s work, and, omitting all mention of the English original, pretended, in the preface, to have been under great obligations to several scientific gentlemen of this city. It is but justice to add, that in the second edition of this book, published lately in Philadelphia, the name of Mr. Poe is withdrawn from the title-page, and his initials only affixed to the preface. But the affair is one of the most curious on record.”


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Notes:

The memoir by Griswold is a singular example of betrayal and self-serving misrepresentation. It is a document of revenge unlike anything else in the literary record. Nothing Griswold states that cannot be verified by other sources is to be trusted. Among many other problems, Griswold attempts to dismiss George R. Graham with the claim that “for some four or five years not a line by Poe was purchased forGraham’s Magazine’,” a claim that is demonstrably false. Poe died in October of 1849. If we go back five years from this date, we find ourselves at October 1844. Poe’s Tales “The Imp of the Perverse” and “The System of Doctor Tarr and Professor Fether” both appear in 1845. The essay “The Philosophy of Composition” appears in 1846. Three installments of “Marginalia” were printed in 1846, and three more in 1848. Poe’s “Fifty Suggestions” appears in two installments in 1849, and Poe’s article “About Critics and Criticism” was printed in the issue for January 1850. It is possible that Griswold is implying that Graham did not “pay” for these contributions, but it seems more likely that he is just comfortable in making the accusation with some assurance that readers will not take the time to check for themselves. Also, it should be noted that Poe was indeed born in Boston, in 1809 (not 1811 or 1813), although Griswold may be forgiven this error as Poe himself seems to have preferred to let people assume that he was born in Baltimore, and was inclined to alter his birth year as it suited his purposes.


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[S:0 - Works, 1850] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Articles - Memoir of the Author (R. W. Griswold, 1850)