Text: Text: John L. Hervey, “Is Poe ‘Rejected’ in American?,” Dial, February 1, 1899, 47:73


­[page 73, column 1:]


(To the Editor of THE DIAL.)

Mr. Charles Leonard Moore, in his very well-put article on “The American Rejection of Poe” in your last issue, has, I believe, somewhat overstated his case in his eagerness to state it strongly. That Poe is at the present day “to a great extent ignored or repudiated” by the American public seems to me very questionable, instead of unquestionable, an Mr. Moore thinks. In proof of this I need only cite the innumerable editions of his poems and tales, in every conceivable shape, from those in paper covers at five cents a copy to éditions deluxe [column 2:] at fancy or fabulous prices. If Mr. Moore would attempt a collection of even the cheaper editions of Poe, I think he would at least modify his point of view. Nor have I ever yet examined any reputable volume of specimen selections of American prose or verse in which be was unrepresented. And is not “The Raven” as inevitable in every school “reader” or “speaker” as the “Psalm of Life” or “Charge of the Light Brigade”? There can also be small doubt that “The Raven” and “The Bells” have been recited more different times by more different “elocutionists” in these United States than any other two poems by any other American poet. As for the popularity of Poe’s prose, it may be recalled that not long since a literary periodical offered a prize for the best list of ten short stories by American authors, the ten to be selected from those receiving the highest number of votes; and in the prize list there were two of Poe’s tales.

Mr. Moore is undoubtedly correct in his complaint that Poe has never been taken into the heart of his native public as, for instance, Longfellow was. But the man who “never had an intimate friend,” who seemed to have a positive genius for alienating friendship, could hardly be expected to pose as the intimate of his public — which has, nevertheless, both critically and popularly stamped him a classic and quite sui generis. If the acceptance of Poe is in any way doubtful, it is not because of the antique Poe legends, not because his mastery of technic or imaginative power ever fails of appreciation, but because of the apotheosis of the “grotesque and arabesque,” miasmas of the pit and the charnel-house, the ghastly light of the baleful planets from which the work of Poe — the name of Poe — may never be disassociated. Poe’s metier was his of deliberate choice; his atmosphere is of his own creation; there is not a breath of plain air in it. The “fascination of corruption” was strong upon him, — his work reeks of it; and it would be strange indeed if Poe the man were ever to escape from the atmosphere of Poe the artist. The “seeds scattered broadcast” by him have brought forth — the fleurs du mal whose blossom is not the dew-drenched rose with head lifted to the sunshine in the garden of the world.


Chicago, Jan. 21, 1899.





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