Text: George E. Woodberry, “Chapter 07,” The Life of Edgar Allan Poe: Personal and Literary (1909), vol. I, pp. 260-355


[page 260:]

Chapter VII


“THE PENN MAGAZINE” was publicly(1) announced, June 13, 1840, to appear January 1, 1841; as early as August the prospectus was sent to the press, and to Poe’s relatives and other friends, new and old, in the South and West. The most notable of these new friends, all — prospective contributors, — whose correspondence now enters into Poe’s biography, were Dr. Thomas Holley Chivers, a Georgia poet, John Tomlin, a Tennessee poet, and Frederick William Thomas, a poet born in Rhode Island but claiming to be wholly a Southerner, as he was bred in Charles ton, South Carolina. The correspondence of the last, like that of Snodgrass, best illuminates the condition of the literary times and of Poe’s career in his environment. It is noticeable for an element of comradery which is seldom met with in his letters. Thomas continued faithful to the end, and was plainly attached to Poe. At this time he was living in St. Louis, but in the following [page 261:] March removed to Washington, where he was in the employ of the government. He was a novelist as well as a poet, author of “Clinton Bradshaw,” “Howard Pinckney,” “East and West,” and other minor writings, and was interested in the magazine literature of the day. His letters are many and voluminous; their topics were the things of the moment; but in all that concerned Poe the writer was genuinely in earnest and took pains to serve him. He gave him unstinted praise and encouragement; he endeavored to aid him by obtaining newspaper advertisements of his various schemes for a magazine, and by urging him to renewed efforts to start it; but only the entire text of Thomas’s letters would do justice to his devotion to Poe’s interests, and his constant and affectionate personal feeling. He as well as Chivers, whose close connection with Poe was of a later date, responded kindly to the prospectus, and Tomlin sent on the names of nine subscribers.

Poe had become acquainted with Thomas just as he was announcing the “Penn,” on the occasion of the latter’s visit east as delegate to the presidential convention at Baltimore in May, 1840, and as author of “Howard Pinckney,” which he was then publishing; and Poe, as was [page 262:] apparently his custom, had shown him hospitality. He wrote to him, after his return to St. Louis, with regard to a promised contribution:

PHILADELPHIA, November 23, 1840.

MY DEAR THOMAS, — I only received yours of the sixth about an hour ago, having been out of town for the last ten days. Believe me, I was very glad to hear from you for in truth I had given you up. I did not get the [St. Louis] “Bulletin” you sent, but saw the notice at the Exchange. The “Bulletin” has always been very kind to me, and I am at a loss to know who edits it — will you let me into this secret when you write again? Neither did “Howard Pinckney” come to hand. Upon receipt of your letter, just now, I called at Congress Hall — but no books. Mr. Bateman had been there, and gone, forget ting to leave them. I shall get them on his return. Meantime, and long ago, I have read the novel, with its predecessors. I like “Howard P[inckney]” very well — better than “E[ast] and W[est],” and not nearly so well as “C[linton] B[radshaw].” You give yourself up to your own nature (which is a noble one, upon my soul) in “Clinton Bradshaw”; but in “Howard Pinckney” you abandon the broad rough road for the [page 263:] dainty by-paths of authorism. In the former you are interested in what you write, and write to please, pleasantly; in the latter, having gained a name, you write to maintain it, and the effort becomes apparent. This consciousness of reputation leads you so frequently into those literary and other disquisitions about which we quarrelled at Studevant’s. If you would send the public opinion to the devil, forgetting that a public existed, and write from the natural promptings of your own spirit, you would do wonders. In a word, abandon is wanting in “Howard Pinckney,” — and when I say this you must know that I mean a high compliment — for they to whom this very abandon may be safely suggested are very few indeed, and belong to the loftier class of writers. I would say more of “Howard Pinckney,” but nothing in the shape of criticism can be well said in petto, and I intend to speak fully of the novel in the first number of the “Penn Magazine” — which I am happy to say will appear in January. I may just observe now, how ever, that I pitied you when I saw the blunders, typographical and Frostigraphical, — although, to do Frost justice, I do not think he looked at the proofs at all. Thank you a thousand times for your good [page 264:] wishes and kind offers. I shall wait anxiously for the promised article. I should like to have it, if possible, in the first sheet, which goes to press early in December. But I know that I may depend upon you, and therefore say no more upon this head. For the rest, your own experience and friendship will suggest the modes by which you may serve me in St. Louis. Perhaps you may be able to have the accompanying “Prospectus” (which you will see differs from the first) inserted once or twice in some of the city papers — if you can accomplish this without trouble I shall be greatly obliged to you. Have you heard that that illustrious graduate of St. John’s College, Cambridge (Billy Barlow [Burton]), has sold his magazine to Graham, of the “Casket”?

Mrs. Clemm and Virginia unite with me in the kindest remembrance to yourself and sister — with whom your conversation (always turning upon the “one loved name”) has already made us all so well acquainted. How long will it be before I see you again? Write immediately. Yours most truly, E. A. P.(1)

Meanwhile George R. Graham, editor of a feeble monthly, the “Casket,” had bought out [page 265:] Burton in October, and now merged the two under the name, soon to become famous, of “Graham’s Magazine.” He was also one of the proprietors of “The Saturday Evening Post,” a weekly, in which Poe had been praised with increasing warmth and frequency for the past year. By such means, apparently, Poe and Graham had come to a better acquaintance in the fall of 1840. It is also reported by Graham that Burton said to him in connection with the sale, and referring to Poe, “There is one thing more; I want you to take care of my young editor.”(1)

Poe’s publications after leaving “Burton’s” were of the slightest and most obscure. He may have written for “Alexander’s Weekly Messenger,” in which his sensational articles on cryptography had formerly appeared, and for other papers, as he had done on first coming to Philadelphia, and possibly it was now that he contributed to the “United States Military Magazine,” in which at one time he had an article of considerable length;(2) but no work of his has been traced [page 266:] except one tale, in the December “Gentleman’s,” after Graham’s purchase, in which he published one of the most striking of the tales of con science, “The Man of the Crowd.” He fell ill in December, and consequently the issue of the “Penn” was postponed to March i, 1841. He was, however, still enthusiastic for his project, and wrote to Kennedy to secure his aid: —

PHILADELPHIA, December 31, 1840.

MY DEAR SIR, — I am about to commence, in this city, a Monthly Magazine somewhat on the plan of the “Southern Messenger,” and of which you may have seen a Prospectus in some of the Baltimore papers. The leading feature proposed is that of an absolutely independent criticism. Since you gave me my first start in the literary world, and since indeed I seriously say that with out the timely kindness you once evinced towards me, I should not at this moment be among the living — you will not feel surprise that I look anxiously to you for encouragement in this new enterprise — the first of any importance which I have undertaken on my own account. What I most seriously need, in the commencement, is [page 267:] caste for the journal — I need the countenance of those who stand well in the social not less than in the literary world. I know that you have never yet written for Magazines — and this is a main reason for my now begging you to give me something for my own. I care not what the article be, nor of what length — what I wish is the weight of your name. Any unused scrap lying by you will fully answer my purpose.

The Magazine will be issued on the first of March, and, I believe, under the best auspices. May I ask your influence among your personal friends.

I shall look with great anxiety for your reply to this letter. In the mean time believe me, my dear Sir,

Yours ever gratefully & respectfully,



In January he discloses to Snodgrass the state of his plans: —

PHILADELPHIA, January 17, 1841.

MY DEAR SIR, — Your letters are always welcome — albeit “few and far between” (what an infamous tautology is that, by the bye, for visits that are few must be far between) — and your [page 268:] last letter was especially so. I thought you had forgotten me altogether.

You write to know my prospects with the “Penn.” They are glorious, notwithstanding the world of difficulties under which I labored and labor. My illness (from which I have now entirely recovered) has been, for various reasons, a benefit to my scheme rather than a disadvantage; and, upon the whole, if I do not eminently succeed in this enterprise the fault will be altogether mine own. Still, I am using every exertion to insure success, and, among other manœuvres, I have cut down the bridges behind me. I must now do or die — I mean in a literary sense.

Thank you for your offer of aid. I shall be delighted to receive any prose article from your pen. As for poetry, I am overstocked with it. I am particularly anxious for a paper on the International Copy Right law, or on the subject of the Laws of Libel in regard to Literary Criticism; but I believe these topics are not “in your line.” Your friend, David Hoffman, Esqr has been so kind as to promise me his aid; and perhaps he would not be unwilling to send me something on one or the other of the heads in question. Will you oblige me by speaking to him on this subject? Above all things it is necessary that whatever be [page 269:] done, “if done, be done quickly”; for I am about to put the first sheet to press immediately, and the others will follow in rapid succession.

In regard to my plans,&c., the Prospectus will inform you in some measure. I am resolved upon a good outward appearance — clean type, fine paper,&c., — double columns, I think, & brevier, with the poetry running across the page in a single column. No steel engravings; but now and then a superior wood cut in illustration of the text. Thick covers. In the literary way, I shall endeavor, gradually (if I cannot effect the purpose at once) , to give the Magazine a reputation for the having no articles but from the best pens a somewhat negative merit, you will say. In criticism I will be bold and sternly, absolutely just, with friend & foe. From this purpose no thing shall turn me. I shall aim at originality in the body of the work, more than at any other especial quality. I have one or two articles of my own in statu pupillari that would make you stare, at least on account of the utter oddity of their conception. To carry out the conception is a difficulty which — may be overcome.

I have not seen the January “Messenger”; but “Quotidiana” is a very good title. “Quadlibetica” is also good, and even more inclusive [page 270:] than the other. I am fond of such articles as these; and in good hands they may be made very interesting.

Mr. Burton, that illustrious “graduate of St. John’s College, Cambridge, is going to the devil with the worst grace in the world, but with a velocity truly astounding. The press here in a body have given him the cut direct. So be it — suum cuique. We have said quite enough about this genius.

Mr. Graham is a very gentlemanly personage. I will see him to-morrow, and speak to him in regard to your essay; although to prevent detection, Burton may have destroyed it.

And now, my dear Snodgrass, will you do me a favor? I have heard some mention of a new magazine to be started in Baltimore by a Virginian & a practical printer. I am anxious to know all the details of the project. Can you procure and send me (by return of mail) a Prospectus? If you cannot get one, will you write me all about it the gentleman’s name,&c.,&c.,&c.?

I have underscored the word “anxious” be cause I really mean what I say, and because, about a fortnight ago, I made to the Hon. N. C. Brooks, A. M., a request just such as I now [page 271:] make to yourself. He did not reply; and I, expecting of course the treatment which one gentle man naturally expects from another, have been put to the greatest inconvenience by the daily but fruitless expectation.

Very truly & respectfully yours,


On the back of this letter was printed the prospectus of “The Penn Magazine,” which forms the basis of Poe’s many subsequent notices of a similar kind, and explains the aims and purposes that he continued to cherish as peculiarly his own. It read as follows: —




A MONTHLY LITERARY JOURNAL, To be edited and published in the city of Philadelphia,


TO THE PUBLIC. — Since resigning the con duct of the “Southern Literary Messenger,” at the commencement of its third year, I have always had in view the establishment of a Magazine which should retain some of the chief [page 272:] features of that journal, abandoning or greatly modifying the rest. Delay, however, has been occasioned by a variety of causes, and not until now have I found myself at liberty to attempt the execution of the design.

I will be pardoned for speaking more directly of the “Messenger.” Having in it no proprietary right, my objects too being at variance in many respects with those of its very worthy owner, I found difficulty in stamping upon its pages that individuality which I believe essential to the full success of all similar publications. In regard to their permanent influence, it appears to me that a continuous definite character, and a marked certainty of purpose, are requisites of vital importance; and I cannot help believing that these requisites are only attainable when one mind alone has the general direction of the undertaking. Experience has rendered obvious — what might indeed have been demonstrated a priori — that in founding a Magazine of my own lies my sole chance of carrying out to completion whatever peculiar intentions I may have entertained.

To those who remember the early days of the Southern periodical in question, it will be scarcely necessary to say that its main feature [page 273:] was a somewhat overdone causticity in its department of Critical Notices of new books. “The Penn Magazine” will retain this trait of severity insomuch only as the calmest yet stern est sense of justice will permit. Some years since elapsed may have mellowed down the petulance without interfering with the rigor of the critic. Most surely they have not yet taught him to read through the medium of a publisher’s will, nor convinced him that the interests of letters are unallied with the interests of truth. It shall be the first and chief purpose of the Magazine now proposed to become known as one where may be found at all times, and upon all subjects, an honest and a fearless opinion. It shall be a leading object to assert in precept, and to maintain in practice, the rights, while in effect it demonstrates the advantages, of an absolutely independent criticism; — a criticism self-sustained; guiding itself only by the purest rules of Art; analyzing and urging these rules as it ap plies them; holding itself aloof from all personal bias; acknowledging no fear save that of out raging the right; yielding no point either to the vanity of the author, or to the assumptions of antique prejudice, or to the involute and anonymous cant of the Quarterlies, or to the arrogance [page 274:] of those organized cliques which, hanging like nightmares upon American literature, manufacture, at the nod of our principal book sellers, a pseudo-public-opinion by wholesale. These are objects of which no man need be ashamed. They are purposes, moreover, whose novelty at least will give them interest. For assurance that I will fulfill them in the best spirit and to the very letter, I appeal with confidence to those friends, and especially to those Southern friends, who sustained me in the “Messenger,” where I had but a very partial opportunity of completing my own plans.

In respect to the other characteristics of the “Penn Magazine” a few words here will suffice.

It will endeavor to support the general interests of the republic of letters, without reference to particular regions — regarding the world at large as the true audience of the author. Beyond the precincts of literature, properly so called, it will leave in better hands the task of instruction upon all matters of very grave moment. Its aim chiefly shall be to please — and this through means of versatility, originality, and pungency. It may be as well here to observe that nothing said in this Prospectus should be construed into a design of sullying the Magazine with any tineture [page 275:] of the buffoonery, scurrility, or profanity, which are the blemish of some of the most vigorous of the European prints. In all branches of the literary department, the best aid, from the highest and purest sources, is secured.

To the mechanical execution of the work the greatest attention will be given which such a matter can require. In this respect it is proposed to surpass, by very much, the ordinary Magazine style. The form will somewhat resemble that of “The Knickerbocker”; the paper will be equal to that of “The North American Review”; pictorial embellishments are promised only in the necessary illustration of the text.

“The Penn Magazine” will be published in Philadelphia, on the first of each month: and will form, half-yearly, a volume of about 500 pages. The price will be $5 per annum, payable in advance, or upon the receipt of the first number, which will be issued on the first of March, 1841. Letters addressed to the Editor and Proprietor,


PHILADELPHIA, January 1, 1841.

Graham, however, made him a good offer, and the coincidence of this with the financial depression through the country and his own [page 276:] entire lack of resources temporarily balked his own scheme. In joining “Graham’s,” nevertheless, he did not abandon his ambition to found a magazine, or even his particular project; his state of mind was the same as that with which he had joined “Burton’s,” except that Graham was well aware of his wishes, and even held out hopes of satisfying them in the future. The “Saturday Evening Post,” February 20, 1841, announced that the scheme of the “Perm Magazine” had been suspended, owing to the disturbance in monetary affairs, in which periodicals were always the first to suffer; it was added that its editor had the finest prospects of success, the press, and particularly the South and West, being warm in his cause, and an excellent list of subscribers having been already secured; this “stern, just, and competent critic,” it concluded, would now take the editorial chair of “Graham’s.” Thomas, who was now in Washington, heard the news, and immediately offered a serial novel to the new editor, and Tomlin also wrote, warmly expressing the disappointment of Poe’s friends in Tennessee and placing himself at his service at all times.

Poe, whose hand may be clearly seen in the critical department of “Graham’s” as early as [page 277:] February, took charge of the magazine with the April issue. In the same month he wrote to Snodgrass, as has been seen, “The Penn, I hope, is only scotched, not killed,” and added that the project would “unquestionably be resumed hereafter.” He acted on the understanding he had with Graham in regard to the future; and within two months wrote to his old friend, Kennedy, then in Congress, on the subject, and also to Fitz Greene Halleck, Cooper, and Long fellow. These letters are of the same tenor and similar in language, and were of the nature of a private prospectus. The one to Longfellow is as follows: —

PHILADELPHIA, June 22, 1841.

DEAR SIR, — Your letter of the igth May was received. I regret to find my anticipations con firmed, and that you cannot make it convenient to accept Mr. Graham’s proposition. Will you now pardon me for making another?

I need not call your attention to the signs of the times in respect to magazine literature. You will admit that the tendency of the age lies in this way — so far at least as regards the lighter letters. The brief, the terse, the condensed, and the easily circulated will take place of the diffuse, the ponderous, and the inaccessible. Even our [page 278:] reviews (lucus a non lucendo) are found too massive for the taste of the day: I do not mean for the taste of the tasteless, but for that of the few. In the mean time the finest minds of Europe are beginning to lend their spirit to magazines. In this country, unhappily, we have not any journal of the class which either can afford to offer pecuniary inducement to the highest talent, or which would be, in all respects, a fitting vehicle for its thoughts. In the supply of this deficiency there would be a point gained; and in the hope of at least partially supplying it, Mr. Graham and myself propose to establish a monthly Magazine. The amplest funds will be embarked in the undertaking. The work will be an octavo of 96 pages. The paper will be of excellent quality possibly finer than- that upon which your “Hyperion” was printed. The type will be new (always new) , clear, and bold, with distinct face. The matter will be disposed in a single column. The printing will be done upon a hand-press in the best manner. There will be a broad margin. There will be no engravings, except occasional wood cuts (by Adams) when demanded in obvious illustration of the text; and, when so required, they will be worked in with the type not upon separate pages as in “Arcturus.” The [page 279:] stitching will be done in the French style, permitting the book to lie fully open. Upon the cover, and throughout, the endeavour will be to preserve the greatest purity of taste consistent with decision and force. The price will be five dollars.

The chief feature in the literary department will be that of contributions from the most distinguished pens (of America) exclusively: or if this plan cannot be wholly carried out, we propose, at least, to make arrangements (if possible) with yourself, Mr. Irving, Mr. Cooper, Mr. Paulding, Mr. Bryant, Mr. Halleck, Mr. Willis, and one or two others. In fact, our ability to make these arrangements is a condition without which the Magazine will not go into operation; and my object in writing you this letter is to as certain how far I may look to yourself for aid.

In your former note you spoke of present engagements. The proposed journal will not be commenced until January 1, 1842.

It would be desirable that you should agree to furnish one paper each month, — prose or poetry, absolute or serial, — and of such length as you might deem proper. Should illustrations be desired by you, these will be engraved at our expense, from designs at your own, superintended [page 280:] by yourself. We leave the matter of terms, as be fore, to your own decision. The sums agreed upon would be paid as you might suggest. It would be necessary that our agreement should be made for one year — during which period you should be pledged not to write for any other (American) Magazine.

With this letter I despatch one of the same tenor to each of the gentlemen before named. If you cannot consent to an unconditional reply, will you be kind enough to say whether you will write for us upon condition that we succeed in our engagements with the others — specifying what others.

With high respect, your obedient,


The letter to Kennedy is more personal and contains in nearly identical words the entire letter to Longfellow: —


MY DEAR SIR, — Mr. George R. Graham (of this city) and myself desire to establish a Monthly Magazine upon certain conditions one of which is the procuring your assistance in the enterprise. Will you permit me to send a [page 281:] few words on the subject? . . . [The omitted passage is the second paragraph of the letter to Longfellow].

Mr. Graham is a lawyer, but for some years past has been occupied in publishing. His experience of the periodical business is extensive. He is a gentleman of high social standing, and possessed of ample pecuniary means. Together we would enter the field with a full knowledge of the difficulties to be encountered, and with perfect assurance of being able to overcome them. . . . [The omitted passage is the third paragraph to Longfellow].

I believe I sent you, some time ago, a Prospectus of the “Penn Magazine,” the scheme of which was broken up by the breaking up of the banks. The name will be preserved — and the general intentions, of that journal. A vigorous independence shall be my watchword still — truth, not so much for truth’s sake, as for the sake of the novelty of the thing. . . . [The omitted passage is the fourth and sixth para graphs to Longfellow.]

I look most anxiously for your answer, for it is of vital importance to me, personally. This you will see at once. Mr. Graham is to furnish all supplies, and will give me merely for editorial [page 282:] service and my list of subscribers to the old “Perm” a half interest in the proposed Magazine — but he will only engage in the enterprise on the conditions before stated — on condition that I can obtain as contributors the gentlemen above named or at least the most of them — giving them carte blanche as to terms. Your name will enable me, I know, to get several of the others. You will not fail me at this crisis! If I get this Magazine fairly afloat, with money to back me as now, I will have everything my own way. . . . [The omitted passage is the seventh paragraph to Longfellow].

Most truly yours,



N. B. If you have a novel on the tapis, you could not dispose of it in any way so advantageously as by selling it to us. You would get more for it than L. & B. would give. It would be printed in finer style than they could afford to print it — and it would have a far wider circulation in our Magazine than in book form. We will commence with an edition of 3000.

A letter to Snodgrass discloses Poe at work: [page 283:]

PHILADELPHIA, July, 12, 1841.

MY DEAR SNODGRASS, — I have this moment received yours of the zoth and am really glad to find that you have not quite given me up. A let ter from you now is a novelty indeed.

The “Reproof of a Bird” will appear in the September number. The last sheet of the August no: has already gone to press.

I am innocent of the elision in your quoted lines. Most probably the syllables were left out by our proof-reader, who looks over the articles after me, for such things as turned’s’s and o’s, or battered type. Occasionally he takes strange liberties. In the forthcoming number he has substituted, (I see) , a small for a capital R in Rozinante. Still — the lines read very well as they are, and no great harm is done. Every one is not to know that the last one is a finale to a stanza.

You say some of your monumental writers “feel small,” — but is not that, for them, a natural feeling? I never had much opinion of Arthur. What little merit he has is negative. McJilton I like much better. He has written one or two very good things. As a man, also, I like him better. Do you know, by the bye, that W. G. Clark reproved me in his “Gazette,” for speaking too favorably of McJilton? [page 284:]

I reenclose the notice . . . [illegible]. It was unavoidably crowded from the July no: and we thought it out of date for the August. I have not read the book but I would have been willing to take his merits upon your word.

You flatter me about the “Maelström.” It was finished in a hurry, and therefore its conclusion is imperfect. Upon the whole it is neither so good, nor has it been one half so popular as “The Murders in the Rue Morgue.” I have a paper in the August no: which will please you.

Among the Reviews (for August) I have one which will, at least, surprise you. It is a long notice of a satire by a quondam Baltimorean, L. A. Wilmer. You must get this satire and read it it is really good — good in the old-fashioned Dryden style. It blazes away, too, to the right & left — sparing not. I have made it the text from which to preach a fire-&-fury sermon upon critical independence, and the general literary humbuggery of the day. I have introduced in this sermon some portion of a review formerly written by me for the “Pittsburg Examiner,” a monthly journal which died in the first throes of its existence. It was edited by E. Burke Fisher, Esqre — than whom a greater scamp never walked. He wrote to me offering 4$ per page for [page 285:] criticisms, promising to put them in as contributions — not editorially. The first thing I saw was one of my articles under the editorial head, so altered that I hardly recognized it, and inter larded with all manner of bad English and ridiculous opinions of his own. I believe, however, that the number in which it appeared, being the last kick of the maga: was never circulated.

I presume you get our Mag: regularly. It is mailed to your address.

Very cordially your friend,


Will you do me the favor to call at the Baltimore P. O. and enquire for a letter addressed to John P. Kennedy at Baltimore. By some absence of mind I directed it to that city in place of Washington. If still in the P. O. will you forward it to Washington?

This was followed by another letter in September, which shows that he still looked hopefully for Graham’s coöperation: —

PHILADELPHIA, September 19, 1841.

MY DEAR SNODGRASS, — I seize the first moment of leisure to say a few words in reply to yours of Sep. 6. [page 286:]

Touching the “Reproof of a Bird,” I hope you will give yourself no uneasiness about it. We don t mind the contre-temps; and as for Godey, it serves him right, as you say. The moment I saw the article in the “Lady’s Book,” I saw at once how it all happened.

You are mistaken about “The Dial.” I have no quarrel in the world with that illustrious journal, nor it with me. I am not aware that it ever mentioned my name, or alluded to me either directly or indirectly. My slaps at it were only in “a general way.” The tale in question is a mere extravaganza levelled at no one in particular, but hitting right and left at things in general.

The “Knickerbocker” has been purchased by Otis Broadus & Co. of Boston. I believe it is still edited by Clark, the brother of W. Gaylord.

Thank you for attending to the Kennedy mat ter. We have no news here just yet — something may turn up by & bye. It is not impossible that Graham will join me in the “Penn.” He has money. By the way, is it impossible to start a first-class Mag: in Baltimore? Is there no publisher or gentleman of moderate capital who would join me in the scheme? — publishing the work in the City of Monuments? [page 287:]

Do write me soon & tell me the news. Yours most cordially,


To Poe’s office work also belongs the beginning, so far as is known, of his personal relations with Willis, who was afterwards to prove so kind a friend. Willis writes upon a matter of busi ness, and his postscript indicates previous correspondence: —

GLENMARY, November 30, 1841.

MY DEAR SIR, — You cannot have received my letter written in answer to yours some time since (say a month ago) in which I stated that I was under contract to Mr. Godey to write for no other periodical in Philadelphia than the “Lady’s Book,” for one year — 1842. I said also that if he were willing, I should be very happy to send you poetry (he bargaining for prose) , but that without his consent I could no nothing. From a very handsome notice of “Graham’s Magazine” which I saw in the “Lady’s Book,” I presumed Godey and Graham were the best of friends and would manage it between them. Still, I do not understand your request — for the “Lady Jane” will be published (all they agreed for — 100 stanzas) in their own paper before January 1, and, of [page 288:] course, any extract would not be original. Any periodical is at liberty to copy, for though Wilson has taken out a copyright, I should always consider copying it too much of a compliment to be resented.

Mr. Godey has been very liberal with me, and pays me quite enough for the exclusive use of my name in Philadelphia, and I can do nothing un less you procure his written agreement to it, of course. I am very sorry to refuse anything to a writer whom I so much admire as yourself, and to a magazine as good as “Graham’s.” But you will acknowledge I am “in a tight place.”

Begging my compliments to Mr. Graham, I remain, Yours very truly.

N. P. WILLIS.(1)

Did you ever send me the magazine contain ing my autograph? I have never seen it.

The real feeling of Poe, in his situation, comes out plainly in the long-continued attempt he had begun to obtain office by presidential appointment. The death of Harrison and the accession of Tyler had fluttered the office-seekers, who swarmed about the new administration. Poe had [page 289:] hardly entered on his duties when Thomas made the first suggestion, from his post of observation at Washington.

WASHINGTON, May 20, 1841.

. . . How would you like to be an office-holder here at $1500 per year payable monthly by Uncle Sam, who, however slack he may be to his general creditors, pays his officials with due punctuality? How would you like it? You stroll to your office a little after nine in the morning leisurely, and you stroll from it a little after two in the afternoon homeward to dinner and return no more that day. If, during office hours, you have anything to do, it is an agreeable relaxation from the monotonous laziness of the day. You have on your desk everything in the writing line in apple-pie order, and if you choose to lucubrate in a literary way, why you can lucubrate.

Come on and apply for a clerkship; you can follow literature here as well as where you are — and think of the money to be made by it — “Think of that, Master Brook,” as Sir John sayeth. Write to me, if you love me, on the reception of this . . . .

My kindest regards to your mother and wife. Your friend, F. W. THOMAS. [page 290:]

Thomas himself immediately obtained an office, which he described as temporary, and the incident naturally excited Poe’s hopes at the same time that it drew forth his congratulations: He wrote, June 26, 1841: —

“I have just heard through Graham, who obtained his information from Ingraham, that you have stepped into an office at Washington, salary $1000. From the bottom of my heart I wish you joy. You can now lucubrate at your ease, and will infallibly do something worthy yourself.

“For my own part, notwithstanding Graham’s unceasing civility and real kindness, I feel more and more disgusted with my situation. Would to God I could do as you have done. Do you seriously think that an application on my part to Tyler would have a good result? My claims, to be sure, are few. I am a Virginian — at least I call myself one, for I have resided all my life, until within the last few years, in Richmond. My political principles have always been, as nearly as may be, with the existing administration, and I battled with right good-will for Harrison, when opportunity offered. With Mr. Tyler I have some slight personal acquaintance, although it is a matter which he has possibly forgotten. For the [page 291:] rest I am a literary man, and I see a disposition in Government to cherish letters. Have I any chance? I would be greatly indebted to you if you would reply to this as soon as you can, and tell me if it would, in your opinion, be worth my while to make an effort; and, if so, put me on the right track. This could not be better done than by detailing to me your own mode of proceeding.”(1)

To this Thomas replied immediately: —

WASHINGTON, July 1, 1841.

MY DEAR POE, — Yours of June 26(1) received yesterday. I trust, my dear friend, that you can obtain an appointment. President Tyler I have not even seen except in passing in his carriage — never having called at the White House since the death of Harrison, except to see the sons of the President, and then they were not in. Could n t you slip on here, and see the President yourself? Or if you would prefer it, I will see him for you. But perhaps your application had better be made through some one who has influence with the executive. I have heard you say that J. P. Kennedy had a regard for you. He is here a Congressman, and would serve you — would he not? [page 292:]

. . . [The omitted passage refers to his own employment.] Your friend,


On July 4 Poe followed up the matter by an other more urgent request: —

“I received yours of the ist this morning, and have again to thank you for the interest you take in my welfare. I wish to God I could visit Washington, but the old story, you know I have no money; not enough to take me there, saying nothing of getting back. It is a hard thing to be poor; but as I am kept so by an honest motive I dare not complain.

“Your suggestion about Mr. Kennedy is well-timed, and here, Thomas, you can do me a true service. Call upon Kennedy — you know him, I believe; if not, introduce yourself — he is a perfect gentleman, and will give you cordial welcome. Speak to him of my wishes, and urge him to see the Secretary of War in my behalf, or one of the other Secretaries, or President Tyler. I mention in particular the Secretary of War, be cause I have been to W. Point, and this may stand me in some stead. I would be glad to get almost any appointment, even a $500 one, so [page 293:] that I have something independent of letters for a subsistence. To coin one’s brain into silver, at the nod of a master, is, to my thinking, the hardest task in the world. Mr. Kennedy has been, at all times, a true friend to me — he was the first true friend I ever had — I am indebted to him for life itself. He will be willing to help me now, but needs urging, for he is always head and ears in business.”(1)

Thomas did as he was asked, but with no visible good result, though he was still hopeful: —

WASHINGTON, August 30, 1841.

MY DEAR POE, —. . . I wrote you that I saw Kennedy, and that he expressed his willing ness to aid you in any way in his power. Since, I have conversed with the President’s sons about you; they think the President will be able and willing to give you a situation, but they say, and I felt the truth of the remark before it was made, that at the present crisis, when every thing is “hurly-burly,” it would be of no avail to apply to him. He is much perplexed, as you may suppose, amidst the conflicting parties, the anticipated cabinet break up,&c. As soon as times get a little more quiet I will wait on the [page 294:] President myself, and write you of the interview.

Your cryptography makes quite a talk here. Hampton tells me he had quite a demand for your August number containing it.

Your friend,

F. W. THOMAS.(1)

Besides indulging in this plan, Poe now remembered his old publishers, Lea & Blanchard, and entertained the hope that they would undertake a new edition of his “Tales,” including the best of those written since 1839. He was still, perhaps, as he had written Snodgrass, under the impression that the earlier edition was exhausted.



Gentlemen, — I wish to publish a new collection of my prose Tales with some such title as this: —

The Prose Tales oj Edgar A. Poe, including The Murders in the Rue Morgue, the Descent into the Maelstrom and all his later pieces, with a second edition of the Tales of the Grotesque & Arabesque.”

The later pieces will be eight in number, making [page 295:] the entire collection thirty-three, which would occupy two thick novel volumes.

I am anxious that your firm should continue to be my publishers, and, if you would be willing to bring out the book, I should be glad to accept the terms which you allowed me before, that is, you receive all profits, and allow me twenty copies for distribution to friends.

Will you be kind enough to give me an early reply to this letter, and believe me Yours, very respectfully,


PHILADELPHIA, Office Graham’s Magazine, August 13, 41.

Whatever doubt he had regarding the matter was dissipated by the reply of the firm: —

August(1) 6, 1841.


We have yrs of i5th inst in which you are kind enough to offer us a “new collection of prose Tales.”

In answer we very much regret to say that the state of affairs is such as to give little encouragement to new undertakings. As yet we have not got through the edition of the other work, and up [page 296:] to this time it has not returned to us the expense of its publication. We assure you that we regret this on your account as well as on our own — as it would give us great pleasure to promote your views in relation to publication.(1)


But if during his first summer on “Graham’s” Poe could not start his own magazine, nor get a public office, nor publish a new volume of “Tales,” his lot was to all outward appearance fortunate; his prospects were brilliant, his reputation steadily growing, his associates friendly, and, especially, his home, where he exercised a simple hospitality, was in a condition of greater comfort than ever before; he brought his friends Thomas and Hirst there, the two ladies whom he had courted in Baltimore in his youth visited him, and there were other guests and callers, so that the life of the family seems to have been by no means unsocial. Whatever practical difficulties it was his lot to encounter, he found a true home when he crossed the threshold of the little cottage where he lived with his wife and her mother. Mrs. Clemm, a vigorous woman of about fifty years, who is said to have had the [page 297:] face, size, and figure of a man, was the head of the household, received and expended Poe’s wages, and kept things in order; and, as always, both she and Virginia contributed what they could to the earnings of the family by taking in needlework or in other ways. The few men of letters who called on the family sometimes wondered, as did Mayne Reid, how this masculine matron should have been the mother of the child-like girl, still under twenty-one, who seemed rather the pet than the wife of the family. “She hardly looked more than four teen,” writes Miss Amanda Harris, who had her information from a Philadelphia friend, “fair, soft, and graceful and girlish. Every one who saw her was won by her. Poe was very proud and very fond of her, and used to delight in the round, childlike face and plump little figure, which he contrasted with himself, so thin and half-melancholy looking, and she in turn idolized him. She had a voice of wonderful sweet ness, and was an exquisite singer, and in some of their more prosperous days, when they were living in a pretty little rose-covered cottage on the outskirts of Philadelphia, she had her harp and piano.”(1) The description by Mrs. Weiss is [page 298:] most exact. Virginia had, she says, “a round, full face and figure, full, pouting lips, a forehead too high and broad for beauty, and bright black eyes and raven-black hair, contrasting almost startlingly with a white and colorless complexion.”(1) The third member of this strangely-con sorted group, Poe himself, was the same man that he had been in youth, — now thirty- two, high-strung, capricious, resentful, sensitive to the point of retorting with angry insolence when wounded, but kindly to his familiars; and within living a life like a secret, brooding, nervous, accessible to motives of dread; if he was not the monomaniac of fear he knew in Roderick Usher, he was haunted by vague apprehension. He did not like to go out in the dark, and with such jocularity as he was capable of said that he believed evil demons had power then. In his home he found unceasing care.

One evening when Virginia was singing at a home party at which both of the ladies from Baltimore seem to have been present, she ruptured a blood-vessel: her life was despaired of, and although she partially recovered it was only who stated to the late W. M. Griswold that her information was at second hand, from a friend’s report, [page 299:] to sink again and again. The sick-bed became the centre of the secluded home. Mr. Graham tells how he saw Poe hovering around the couch with fond fear and tender anxiety, shuddering visibly at her slightest cough: and he continues, “I rode out one summer evening with them, and the remembrance of his watchful eyes, eagerly bent upon the slightest change of hue in that loved face, haunts me yet as the memory of a sad strain.”(1) But for Poe the subtle influence which moves in a poet’s heart raised the transitory elements of his common story and transformed them, and made them a part of the world’s legend of love and loss. In “Eleonora,” which was published in this fall, 1841, in the “Gift” for 1842, his dreaming power turned thought and affliction to favor and to prettiness. The myth — for such it is — is pictorial, like a mediaeval legend: the child-lovers are set in one of those preternatural landscapes which his genius built in the void: but on this sequestered Paradise there fell no shadow save that of loveliness curtaining, in innocent peace behind thick forests and innumerable flowers, the Valley of the Many-Colored Grass, through which the River of Silence flowed noiselessly, and watered the [page 300:] slender, white-barked trees that leaned toward the light, and mirrored the scented lawns be sprinkled with lilies and a thousand bright blossoms. Here love came to the boy and girl, be neath the fantastic trees suddenly bursting into bloom, with bright star- shaped flowers, and they wander, like a new Aucassin and Nicolette, along the river that now murmurs musically, and over the ruby-red asphodels that spring up ten by ten in the place of the fallen white lilies: and the valley is rilled with marvelous light and life and joy, as if glory and sweetness were imprisoned within its vaporous limits. Symbolism has seldom been more simple and pure, more imaginative, childlike, and direct, more absolute master of the things of sense for the things of the spirit, than in this unreal scene. Burne- Jones might have painted it, for it is the very spirit that sang of the “Romaunt of the Rose.” Rossetti might have sung its sad conclusion: for now the lady died: —

“The star-shaped flowers shrank into the stems of the trees, and appeared no more. The tints of the green carpet faded: and, one by one, the ruby-red asphodels withered away: and there sprang up, in place of them, ten by ten, dark, eye-like violets, that writhed uneasily and were [page 301:] ever encumbered with dew. And Life departed from our paths: for the tall flamingo flaunted no longer his scarlet plumage before us, but flew sadly from the vale into the hills, with all the gay glowing birds that had arrived in his company. And the golden and silver fish swam down through the gorge at the lower end of our domain and bedecked the sweet river never again. And the lulling melody that had been softer than the wind harp of ├ćolus, and more divine than all save the voice of Eleonora, it died little by little away, in murmurs growing lower and lower, until the stream returned, at length, utterly, into the solemnity of its original silence. And then, lastly, the voluminous cloud uprose, and, abandoning the tops of the mountains to the dimness of old, fell back into the regions of Hesper, and took away all its manifold golden and gorgeous glories from the Valley of the Many-Colored Grass.”(1)

Poe’s life was full of glaring contrasts, just such as there is between this exquisite foreboding and the reality. To this experience he attributed the beginning, and to its continuance the increase, of his recourse to stimulants in his later life. Six years afterwards, in answer to [page 302:] the question whether he could hint the “terrible evil” which was the cause of his “irregularities,” he wrote: —

“Yes, I can do more than hint. This evil was the greatest which can befall a man. Six years ago, a wife, whom I loved as no man ever loved before, ruptured a blood-vessel in singing. Her life was despaired of. I took leave of her for ever, and underwent all the agonies of her death. She recovered partially, and I again hoped. At the end of a year, the vessel broke again. I went through precisely the same scene. . . . Then again — again — and even once again, at varying intervals. Each time I felt all the agonies of her death — and at each accession of the disorder I loved her more dearly and clung to her life with more desperate pertinacity. But I am constitutionally sensitive nervous in a very unusual degree. I became insane, with long intervals of horrible sanity. During these fits of absolute unconsciousness I drank — God only knows how often or how much. As a matter of course, my enemies referred the insanity to the drink, rather than the drink to the insanity.”(1)

The cousin, formerly Miss Herring, who as has [page 303:] been noticed was intimate with the family at the time of Virginia’s seizure, says that he then frequently refused wine in her presence, and adds that at that time his fits of intoxication were due to the excessive use of opium.(1) This is the earliest mention of Poe’s use of the drug, but his acquaintance with its effects is noticeable in his earliest tales and it plays the same part in his romances as in the other imaginative literature of the period. When he first had recourse to it, for what purpose or with what effect, is a fruitless inquiry; but from this period, at least, no candid mind can exclude the suggestion, however shadowy, of its share in the morbid side of Poe’s life.

From April, 1841, to June, 1842, Poe had contributed to every number of “Graham’s,” much of what he wrote being of his best work. This period of his authorship is especially distinguished by a remarkable quickening of his powers of analytical reasoning, by virtue of which he struck out a new vein of fiction. The first notable sign of this mental development is in the articles contributed to “Alexander’s Weekly Messenger,” about January, 1840, while he was still engaged on Burton’s magazine, on the subject [page 304:] of cryptography, to which reference has al ready been made. In July, 1841, he returned to this popular subject, in “Graham’s,” and again received and translated several intricate crypto graphs. On the 1st of May previous, when Graham’s weekly, the “Saturday Evening Post,” appeared in an enlarged and improved form, he gave distinction to the number by an analogous exercise of his analytical powers, — his successful exposure of the plot of “Barnaby Rudge” from the material afforded by the introductory chapters. Dickens is said to have been so surprised as to ask Poe if he were the devil. It was in April, 1841, however, in the very first number of his editing, that “Graham s” contained his earliest story in which this interest, the employment of method in disentangling a plot by mere ratiocination, is principally involved. It was “The Murders of the Rue Morgue,” perhaps the most famous of his tales. It has been objected that really there is no analysis in unraveling a web woven for that purpose; and, in a sense, this is true. Acute as Poe’s penetrative powers were, the ratiocinative tales (with the possible exception of “The Mystery of Marie Roget”) do not illustrate them. The primary gift employed in these ingenious narratives is constructiveness; they [page 305:] differ from their predecessors, from “The Fall of the House of Usher,” for example, not in the intellectual faculties exercised, but in their aim and conduct. In the earlier group Poe gradually worked up to the dénouement of a highly complicated series of facts and emotions; in the later one, stating only the dénouement of a similar series, he gradually worked back to its origins: in both cases he first constructed the story, but in telling it he reversed in one the method used in the other. The main difference is that in the old process the emotional element counts for more, while in the new one the incidents are necessarily the important part; indeed, they almost absorb attention. That the ratiocinative tales are on a lower level than the imaginative ones hardly needs to be said, since it is so conclusively indicated by the fact that later writers have far sur passed Poe in the complexity of this sort of mechanism, and therefore in the apparent miracle of the solution. They come short of Poe only in the original invention of the plot; that is to say, they fail by defects of imagination in the selection, and of artistic power in the grouping, of their facts, for it would be a mistake to suppose that the interest in “The Murders of the Rue Morgue” is simply the puzzle of detection. [page 306:]

The other tales that appeared during his connection with “Graham’s” are, in the “Post,” the insignificant “A Succession of Sundays” (“Three Sundays in a Week”) , and in “Graham’s” “The Descent into the Maelström,” which is to be classed with the “MS. Found in a Bottle,” and is the best of its kind; “The Island of the Fay,” the earliest of the simple landscape pieces, and a study, as it proved, for “Eleonora”; an arabesque in his old manner, “The Colloquy of Monos and Una,” noticeable as the first open expression of dissatisfaction with mod ern institutions; the two inferior sketches, “Never Bet the Devil your Head,” a satire on tales with a moral, and “Life in Death” (“The Oval Portrait”) , a theme after Hoffmann; and the fine color study, “The Masque of the Red Death,” in which the plot is managed almost exclusively by merely decorative effects.

In nearly all these tales, and particularly in this last one, the constructive genius of their author is most distinctively exercised; they are thus admirable illustrations of his theory as he developed it in his critical writings of this period, and fully reach the high standard of literary art by which he measured the works of others. Poe preferred the form of the short story to that of [page 307:] the novel, for the same reason that he thought brevity an essential in purely poetic composition, because length is inconsistent with a single effect, or, as he termed it, with the unity or totality of interest. Both his aim and his method in narrative prose are succinctly described in his own words: —

“A skillful literary artist has constructed a tale. If wise, he has not fashioned his thoughts to accommodate his incidents; but having conceived, with deliberate care, a certain unique or single effect to be wrought out, he then invents such incidents — he then combines such events as may best aid him in establishing this preconceived effect. If his very initial sentence tend not to the out-bringing of this effect, then he has failed in his first step. In the whole composition there should be no word written, of which the tendency, direct or indirect, is not to the one preestablished de sign. And by such means, with such care and skill, a picture is at length painted which leaves in the mind of him who contemplates it with a kindred art, a sense of the fullest satisfaction. The idea of the tale has been presented unblemished, because undisturbed; and this is an end unattainable by the novel.”(1) [page 308:] In Poe’s best tales it is this ideal absolutely realized that has made them immortal.

Of his old poetry he contributed to the “Post” “The Coliseum” and “The Bridal Ballad,” and to “Graham s” “To Helen,” “Israfel,” and “To One Departed,” the last two much revised. The bulk of his writing, however, was critical, and consisted of notices of new books. In the course of the fifteen months he passed in review, at greater or less length, and with various de grees of care, works by Bulwer, Dickens, Macaulay, Marryat, Lever, and James, and, of American authors, Longfellow and Hawthorne, besides others of only local notoriety, such as Brainard, the Davidson sisters, Seba Smith, Wilmer, and Cornelius Mathews. There were shorter notices of many others, both at home and abroad, contemporary and classic; and in par ticular there was a concise view, which attracted great attention, of over a hundred native writers in three papers, entitled “Autography,” an ex pansion of similar articles in the “Messenger” for 1836. Without entering in this place on the question of Poe’s powers and influence as a critic (and throughout this period of his life, it must always be kept in mind he was more loudly known in America as a critic than as either a [page 309:] romancer or a poet) , his attitude toward his contemporaries cannot be even momentarily neglected at any stage of his career.

This attitude had not changed since he was editor of the “Messenger.” He still remembered his review of “Norman Leslie” as inaugurating the new age in American criticism, and Theodore’s. Fay continued to be his favorite example of the bepuffed literary impostor. His general view of our literary affairs at this time was expressed in a review of the satire by his friend Wilmer, “The Quacks of Helicon,” in which he had incorporated his article written two years before and revamped by the editor of the “Pittsburg Examiner” in that short-lived periodical: —

“We repeat it: — it is the truth which he has spoken; and who shall contradict us? He has said unscrupulously what every reasonable man among us has long known to be ‘as true as the Pentateuch’ — that, as a literary people, we are one vast perambulating humbug. He has asserted that we are clique -ridden; and who does not smile at the obvious truism of that assertion? He maintains that chicanery is, with us, a far surer road than talent to distinction in letters. Who gainsays this? The corrupt nature of our [page 310:] ordinary criticism has become notorious. Its powers have been prostrated by its own arm. The intercourse between critic and publisher, as it now almost universally stands, is comprised either in the paying and pocketing of blackmail, as the price of a simple forbearance, or in a direct system of petty and contemptible bribery, properly so-called — a system even more injurious than the former to the true interests of the public, and more degrading to the buyers and sellers of good opinion, on account of the more positive character of the service here rendered for the consideration received. We laugh at the idea of any denial of our assertions upon this topic; they are infamously true. . . .

“We may even arrive, in time, at that desirable point from which a distinct view of our men of letters may be obtained, and their respective pretensions adjusted, by the standard of rigorous and self-sustaining criticism alone. That their several positions are as yet properly settled; that the posts which a vast number of them now hold are maintained by any better tenure than that of the chicanery upon which we have commented, will be asserted by none but the ignorant, or the parties who have best right to feel an interest in the good old condition of things. No two [page 311:] matters .can be more radically different than the reputation of some of our prominent littérateurs, as gathered from the mouths of the people, (who glean it from the paragraphs of the papers) , and the same reputation as deduced from the private estimate of intelligent and educated men. We do not advance this fact as a new discovery. Its truth, on the contrary, is the subject, and has long been so, of every-day witticism and mirth.

. . . “Is there any man of good feeling and of ordinary understanding — is there one single individual among all our readers — who does not feel a thrill of bitter indignation, apart from any sentiment of mirth, as he calls to mind instance after instance of the purest, of the most unadulterated quackery in letters, which has risen to a high post in the apparent popular estimation, and which still maintains it, by the sole means of a blustering arrogance, or of a busy wriggling conceit, or of the most bare-faced plagiarism, or even through the simple immensity of its assumptions — assumptions not only unopposed by the press at large, but absolutely supported in proportion to the vociferous clamor with which they are made — in exact accordance with their utter baselessnes and untenability? We should have [page 312:] no trouble in pointing out, to-day, some twenty or thirty so-called literary personages, who, if not idiots, as we half think them, or if not hardened to all sense of shame by a long course of disingenuousness, will now blush, in the perusal of these words, through consciousness of the shadowy nature of that purchased pedestal on which they stand — will now tremble in thinking of the feebleness of the breath which will be adequate to the blowing it from beneath their feet. With the help of a hearty good- will, even we may yet tumble them down.”(1)

From this general condemnation Poe excepted an editor or two, and he reminded Wilmer, in deprecating indiscriminate abuse, that there were a few poets among us: —

“Mr. Bryant is not all a fool. Mr. Willis is not quite an ass. Mr. Longfellow will steal, but, perhaps, he cannot help it (for we have heard of such things) , and then it must not be denied that nil tetigit quod non ornavit.”(2)

In his own glance at the literary republic, in the “Autography,” he had dispensed praise very freely, nine tenths of the verdicts being favor able and many flattering. The principal exceptions were among the New England writers, [page 313:] especially those whom he believed to belong to the clique of the “North American Review”: Emerson, in particular, as being, moreover, a transcendentalist, he treated contemptuously, and Longfellow, whom he generously declares “entitled to the first place among the poets of America,” but adds, on jealous reflection, “certainly to the first place among those who have put themselves prominently forth as poets,” he strikes at with the old cut, as being guilty of the sin of imitation, — “an imitation sometimes verging upon downright theft.”(1)

In more detailed criticisms of current books, Poe, as was to be expected, merely made specifications of his general strictures regarding the low character of our literature. Whether he dealt with poetry or prose, with the dunces or the geniuses, his estimate, after he had first asked the absorbing question, “Was the writer a literary thief?” was that of a craftsman, and had almost exclusive reference to the workmanship. It consisted, as he would have said, in the application of principles of composition, in minute detail, instead of in the enunciation of them. Consequently, the criticism is, as a rule, so bound up with the work to which it relates as to have no [page 314:] value by itself, and has now no vitality. He spoke the truth in describing his reviews as neither wholly laudatory nor wholly defamatory, even in the most exasperating cases of stupidity. To the reader it will not infrequently seem that he used a giant’s force to crush a fly, or in too many passages was guilty of the worst taste, or even now and then became scurrilous, blustering, and vituperative, or, especially when he at tempted humor, very flat. The traits of his style were always the same, whether he was pricking a reputation or confining himself to mere criticism; he attended to one, or another, or all, of certain points, the chief being originality in idea, handling, construction, keeping, rhetorical and grammatical rules; and he exemplified by citation whatever defects or merits he found. Very seldom he felt able to give unstinted praise, as to Hawthorne, whose tales he said belonged “to the highest region of Art — an Art subservient to genius of a very lofty order,” and whose mind he declared “original in all points”;(1) but even this notice, in which his insight and his justice are both conspicuous, he could not forbear to blot with the suggested charge that in “Howe’s Masquerade” the New Englander had stolen [page 315:] directly from some passages in his own “William Wilson.”

In none of these articles does Poe develop any principles except in that on Longfellow’s “Ballads and other Poems.” He barely touched the old topic of plagiarism, but made his attack in a new quarter by attempting to show that Longfellow’s “conception of the aims of poesy is all wrong,” for the reason that “didacticism is the prevalent tone of his song.” In his proof Poe restated his poetic theory, which had become freed from its metaphysics since five years be fore, and in the course of his argument he struck out the happy phrase that remained his pet definition of poetry ever after: —

“Its [Poetry s] first element is the thirst for supernal BEAUTY — a beauty which is not afforded the soul by any existing collocation of earth’s forms — a beauty which, perhaps, no possible combination of these forms would fully produce. Its second element is the attempt to satisfy this thirst by novel combinations among those forms of beauty which already exist, or by novel combinations of those combinations which our predecessors, toiling in chase of the same phantom, have already set in order. We thus clearly deduce the novelty, the originality, [page 316:] the invention, the imagination, or lastly, the creation of BEAUTY (for the terms as here employed are synonymous) as the essence of all Poesy.”(1)

With a slight change (which summed up in one word a succeeding paragraph, embodying his view that music was a necessary constituent) , this definition of poetry as being “the rhythmical creation of beauty” became the first principle of his poetic criticism, as indeed, however obscurely made out, it had always been. His former doc trine that a poem should have complete unity within itself he reiterated by reprinting un changed the passage already quoted from the “Messenger” of 1836. In accordance with these canons, Longfellow, whom under all circum stances Poe ranked at the head of our poets, was judged to fail by making truth either a pri mary end or one secondary to mere beauty, and to succeed by confining his poems each to one idea.

Whether Poe’s piquant criticisms and powerful tales made “Graham’s” popular, or whether its success was due to the shrewd business sagacity and generous advertisement of its owners, the magazine had a brilliant run. It had opened [page 317:] with a circulation of eight thousand in January, 1841; in July it had risen to seventeen thousand; in December (at which time the names of Mrs. Emma C. Embury and Mrs. Ann’s. Stephens were added to those of George R. Graham, C. J. Peterson, and Edgar A. Poe, as editors) it was twenty-five thousand, and in March forty thousand, — in each case according to the public announcement in the magazine itself. Poe was the working editor during this time, and is fairly entitled to a considerable share in the success of the undertaking. This very success, it may be believed, put an end to the other scheme which Poe had most at heart, and it also rendered less likely his hope that he would be allowed, at least, a proprietary share in the magazine: but if an editor’s work ever deserved such recognition from the owner, certainly Poe’s merited it. He was thus, it is true, the editor of the leading American magazine and might have been thought fortunately placed; he had jealous enemies, but he also had a high spirit and kindly friends; he remained, however, discontented, and was more and more chafed as, in the success of the magazine, he discerned ever more distinctly the failure of his own ambition. He was ripe to give up his place. His mind, both with regard to [page 318:] a magazine of his own and to holding office, had not changed with the months, and Thomas encouraged him in both these feelings.

WASHINGTON, February 6, 1842.

MY DEAR FRIEND, — Yours of the 4 inst I duly received. It was not from forgetfulness, I assure you, that I have delayed writing so long. I was in hopes that I could make some suggestions to you with regard to a Magazine on your “own hook.” Mr. Robert Tyler would assist you with his pen all he could, but I suppose he could not assist you in any other way, unless government patronage in the way of printing blanks,&c., could be given to you. Anything that I could do for you, you know will be done. Robert Tyler expressed himself highly gratified with your favorable opinion of his poem which I mentioned to him. He observed that he valued your opinion more than any other critic’s in the country — to which I subscribed. I am satisfied that any aid he could extend to you would be extended with pleasure. Write me frankly upon the subject.

Poe, if an enterprising printer was engaged with you, a magazine could be put forth under your control which would soon surpass any in [page 319:] the United States. Do you not know of such a man? Certainly with your reputation there are many printers who would gladly embrace such an opportunity of fortune.

In whatever magazine you are engaged editorially you should have an interest. Working at a salary, an editor feels not half the motive that he would if his emolument increased with the popularity of the work, the permanent success of which would be to him a source of pecuniary capital and support.

Speaking of the autographs: I must confess that I was more than surprised at the eulogistic notices which you took of certain writers but I attributed it to a monomania partiality. I am glad to see that you still retain the unbiassed possession of your mental faculties. But, Poe, for the sake of that high independence of character which you possess you should not have let Graham influence you into such notices. There, that in complete imitation of your frankness. Truly I thought your notice of me a handsome one.

Ingraham is here. He is trying hard to get a situation abroad — and I trust he may succeed. I have not read “Barnaby Rudge” — and therefore I determined not to read your criticism on [page 320:] it until I had. Nor have I read the “Curiosity Shop.” To speak the truth, I glanced at several chapters of those works and did not get interested in them. “Nickleby,” “The Pickwick Papers,” and the “Sketches” I think Boz’s best works.

It gave me sincere sorrow to hear of the illness of your “dear little wife.” I trust long ere this she has entirely recovered. Though I have no wife, yet I have sisters, and have experienced the tenderness of woman’s nature. I can there fore, in part, sympathise with you. Express my regard to your lady and mother. Poe, I long to see you. I assure you I never canvass a literary opinion in my mind without saying to myself: “I wonder what Poe will say of the book.”

Dow is well — I saw him at the theatre last night. What are the prospects of the book trade for the spring? Have you heard, or have you formed an opinion? Judge Breckenridge’s biography of his father was, as I suppose you have seen, published in the “Messenger.” It took amazingly.

White of the “Messenger” is here. He called to see me yesterday. He has been very ill. What kind of a chap is he? as Sam Weller would ask.

Write a long letter, Poe, on the reception of [page 321:] this. If you have any prospect of starting a magazine on your “own hook” let me know so that I may help you on in this quarter.

Your friend, F. W. THOMAS.(1)


Poe now approached Robert Tyler with an application for his assistance in obtaining an appointment in the Philadelphia Custom House, and received this reply: —

WHITE HOUSE, March 31, 1842.

MY DEAR SIR, — I have received your letter in which you express your belief that Judge Blythe will appoint you to a situation in the Custom House, provided you have a reiteration of my former recommendations of you. It gives me pleasure to say to you that it would gratify me very sensibly to see you appointed by Judge Blythe. I am satisfied that no one is more competent, or would be more satisfactory in the dis charge of any duty connected with the office. Believe me, my dear sir,

Truly yours, [Signature cut out].(2)

Thomas continued his good offices, in the same line: — [page 322:]

WASHINGTON, May 21, 1842.

MY DEAR POE, — I fear you have been reproaching me with neglect in not answering yours of March 13 before. If you have, you have done me injustice.

I knew it would be of no avail to submit your proposition to Robert Tyler, with regard to any pecuniary aid which he might extend to your undertaking, as he has nothing but his salary of $1500, and his situation requires more than its expenditure. In a literary point of view he would gladly aid you, but his time is so taken up with political and other matters that his contributions would be few and far between.

I therefore thought I could aid you better by interesting him in you personally, without your appearing, as it were, personally in the matter. In consequence I took occasion to speak of you to him frequently in a way that friendship and a profound respect for your genius and aquirements dictated. He thinks of you as highly as I do.

Last night I was speaking of you, and took occasion to suggest that a situation in the Custom House, Philadelphia, might be acceptable to you, as Lamb (Charles) had held a somewhat similar appointment, etc., etc., and as it would [page 323:] leave you leisure to pursue your literary pursuits. Robert replied that he felt confident that such a situation could be obtained for you in the course of two or three months at farthest, as certain vacancies would then occur.

What say you to such a plan? Official life is not laborious — and a situation that would suit you and place you beyond the necessity of employing your pen, he says he can obtain for you there.

Let me hear from you as soon as convenient upon this subject.

I assure you, Poe, that not an occasion has offered when in the remotest way I thought I could serve you, that I did not avail myself of it — but I would not write upon mere conjectures that something available was about to occur. So my motives must be an apology, my friend, for my long silence.

Besides, I could not obtain for you, and I have tried repeatedly, Clay’s report on the copy right question. I may be yet successful. If I had obtained it I might have written sooner — having that to write about.

Yes, I saw Dickens, but only at the dinner which a few of us gave him here — I liked him very much, though. You certainly exhibited [page 324:] great sagacity in your criticism on “Barnaby Rudge.” I have not yet read it but I mean to do so, and then read your criticism, which I have put by for that purpose.

Somebody told me, for I have not seen it in print, that you and Graham had parted company. Is it so? . . .

Your friend, F. W. THOMAS.(1)

Poe immediately replied: —

PHILADELPHIA, May 25, 1842.

MY DEAR THOMAS, — Through an accident I have only just now received yours of the 21st. Believe me, I never dreamed of doubting your friendship, or of reproaching you for your silence. I knew you had good reasons for it; and, in this matter, I feel that you have acted for me more judiciously, by far, than I should have done for myself. You have shown yourself, from the first hour of our acquaintance, that rara avis in terris — “a true friend.” Nor am I the man to be unmindful of your kindness.

What you say respecting a situation in the Custom House here gives me new life. Nothing could more precisely meet my views. Could I obtain such an appointment, I would be enabled [page 325:] thoroughly to carry out all my ambitious projects. It would relieve me of all care as regards a mere subsistence, and thus allow me time for thought, which, in fact, is action. I repeat that I would ask for nothing farther or better than a situation such as you mention. If the salary will barely enable me to live I shall be content. Will you say as much for me to Mr. Tyler, and express to him my sincere gratitude for the interest he takes in my welfare?

The report of my having parted company with Graham is correct; although in the forth coming June number there is no announcement to that effect; nor had the papers any authority for the statement made. My duties ceased with the May number. I shall continue to contribute occasionally. Griswold succeeds me. My reason for resigning was disgust with the namby-pamby character of the Magazine — a character which it was impossible to eradicate. I allude to the contemptible pictures, fashion-plates, music, and love-tales. The salary, moreover, did not pay me for the labour which I was forced to bestow. With Graham, who is really a very gentlemanly, although an exceedingly weak man, I had no misunderstanding. I am rejoiced to say that my dear little wife is much better, and I have strong [page 326:] hope of her ultimate recovery. She desires her kindest regards — as also Mrs. Clemm.

I have moved from the old place — but should you pay an unexpected visit to Philadelphia, you will find my address at Graham’s. I would give the world to shake you by the hand; and have a thousand things to talk about which would not come within the compass of a letter. Write immediately upon receipt of this, if possible, and do let me know something of your self, your own doings and prospects: see how excellent an example of egotism I set you. Here is a letter nearly every word of which is about myself or my individual affairs. You saw White — little Tom. I am anxious to know what he said about things in general. He is a character if ever one was. God bless you —


Poe’s acquaintance with Dickens began at Philadelphia. He introduced himself by sending his writings to the hotel, doubtless the “Tales” and the analysis of “Barnaby Rudge”; he called, and had two long interviews with the novelist, and seems to have asked his intervention in obtaining a London edition of his “Tales” and [page 327:] possibly a connection with some London magazine or journal, as contributor. Copyright, which Dickens had made a lively subject, was, perhaps, another topic. The following letters are the only record of the occasion.


MY DEAR SIR, — I shall be very glad to see you whenever you will do me the favor to call. I think I am more likely to be in the way between half past eleven and twelve than at any other time. I have glanced over the books you have been so kind as to send me, and more particularly at the papers to which you called my attention. I have the greater pleasure in expressing my desire to see you on this account. Apropos of the “construction” of “Caleb Williams,” do you know that Godwin wrote it backwards, — the last volume first, — and that when he had produced the hunting down of Caleb and the catastrophe, he waited for months, casting about for a means of accounting for what he had done?

Faithfully yours always,

CHARLES DICKENS.(1) [page 328:]



November 27, 1842.

DEAR SIR, — By some strange accident (I presume it must have been through some mistake on the part of Mr. Putnam in the great quantity of business he had to arrange for me) , I have never been able to find among my papers, since I came to England, the letter you wrote to me at New York. But I read it there, and think I am correct in believing that it charged me with no other mission than that which you had already entrusted to me by word of mouth. Believe me that it never, for a moment, escaped my recollection; and that I have done all in my power to bring it to a successful issue — I regret to say, in vain.

I should have forwarded you the accompanying letter from Mr. Moxon before now, but that I have delayed doing so in the hope that some other channel for the publication of our book on this side of the water would present itself to me. I am, however, unable to report any success. I have mentioned it to publishers with whom I have influence, but they have, one and all, declined the venture. And the only consolation I can give you is that I do not believe any collection of detached pieces by an unknown [page 329:] writer, even though he were an Englishman, would be at all likely to find a publisher in this metropolis just now.

Do not for a moment suppose that I have ever thought of you but with a pleasant recollection; and that I am not at all times prepared to forward your views in this country, if I can. Faithfully yours, CHARLES DICKENS.(1)

Poe had now left “Graham’s.” One explanation given by the proprietor is that one day, on returning from an unusual absence from his duties, Poe found Mr. Rufus Wilmot Griswold in his chair, and at once turned and left the office, never to return.(2) That could hardly have been more than an incident in the truth. A man even so impulsive as Poe does not thus surrender through pique his main source of support, especially when he has a sick wife and is poor; nor, on the other hand, would a business man like Graham allow an editor, who had at least been instrumental in placing his magazine easily at the head of all competitors, and had a name of distinction, to depart for any such trivial display of temper. Poe had found only disappointment in the success of the magazine, [page 330:] and Graham had found his editor, for one and another reason, impracticable. The office seems to have been friendly: Peterson, one of the editors, writes to Lowell at the very moment, “Poe is a splendid fellow, but as unstable as water”;(1) and at all times Poe’s immediate associates were kindly disposed to him. If he fell into bad ways temporarily, they were forbearing; it was the incidents associated with his ways that made him a difficult person in the end. There is no trace of bad feeling against Poe among those companions who knew him well or had daily intercourse with him. Yet at last in all cases the connection terminated. On the other hand, upon his side, there was always discontent with a subordinate situation. In the present instance the causes of this discontent will be clearly seen.

Poe returned to his favorite project, the “Penn Magazine,” and he told the business side of his story to a “Graham” contributor: —

PHILADELPHIA, July 6, 1842.

MY DEAR SIR, — Upon my return from a brief visit to New York a day or two since, I found your kind and welcome letter of June 27. [page 331:]

What you say in respect to “verses” enclosed to myself has occasioned me some surprise. I have certainly received none. My connection with “Graham’s Magazine” ceased with the May number, which was completed by the 1st of April — since which period the editorial conduct of the journal has rested with Mr. Griswold. You observe that the poem was sent about three weeks since. Can it be possible that the present editors have thought it proper to open letters addressed to myself, because addressed to myself as “Editor of Graham’s Magazine”? I know not how to escape from this conclusion; and now distinctly remember that, although in the habit of receiving many letters daily before quitting the office, I have not received more than a half dozen during the whole period since elapsed; and none of those received were addressed to me as “Editor of G.’s Magazine.” What to say or do in a case like this I really do not know. I have no quarrel with either Mr. Graham or Mr. Griswold — although I hold neither in especial respect. I have much aversion to communicate with them in any way, and, perhaps, it would be best that you should address them yourself, demanding the MS. [page 332:]

Many thanks for your kind wishes. I hope the time is not far distant when they may be realized. I am making earnest although secret exertions to resume my project of the “Penn Magazine,” and have every confidence that I shall succeed in issuing the first number on the first of January. You may remember that it was my original design to issue it on the first of January, 1841. I was induced to abandon the project at that period by the representations of Mr. Graham. He said that if I would join him as a salaried editor, giving up for the time my own scheme, he himself would unite with me at the expiration of six months, or certainly at the end of a year. As Mr. G. was a man of capital and I had no money, I thought it most prudent to fall in with his views. The result has proved his want of faith and my own folly. In fact, I was continually laboring against my self. Every exertion made by myself for the benefit of “Graham,” by rendering that Mag. a greater source of profit, rendered its owner at the same time less willing to keep his word with me. At the time of our bargain (a verbal one) he had 6000 subscribers — when I left him he had more than 40,000. It is no wonder that he has been tempted to leave me in the lurch. [page 333:]

I had nearly 1000 subscribers with which to have started the “Perm,” and, with these as a beginning, it would have been my own fault had I failed. There may be still three or four hundred who will stand by me, of the old list, and, in the interval between this period and the first of January, I will use every endeavor to procure others. You are aware that, in my circumstances, a single name, in advance, is worth ten after the issue of the book; for it is upon my list of subscribers that I must depend for the bargain to be made with a partner possessing capital, or with a publisher. If, therefore, you can aid me in Alexandria, with even a single name, I shall feel deeply indebted to your friend ship.

I feel that now is the time to strike. The de lay, after all, will do me no injury. My conduct of “Graham” has rendered me better and (I hope) more favorably known than before. I am anxious, above all things, to render the journal one in which the true, in contradistinction from the merely factitious, genius of the country shall be represented. I shall yield no thing to great names — nor to the circum stances of position. I shall make war to the knife against the New England assumption of “All [page 334:] the decency and all the talent” which has been so disgustingly manifested in the Rev. Rufus W. Griswold’s “Poets and Poetry of America.” But I am boring you with my egotism. May I hope to hear from you in reply?

I am, with sincere respect and esteem, Your ob t Servt, EDGAR A. POE.(1)

DANL. BRYAN, Esq., Alexandria, D. C.

P.’s. I have not seen the “attack” to which you have reference. Could it have been in a Philadelphia paper?

A month previously, on June 6, Poe had written to Chivers the same account of the mat ter. Their correspondence had languished be cause of an unfavorable notice of Chivers in “Autography”; but to his remonstrances, even when repeated, Poe had not replied. Now he apologized, and suggested that Chivers should join in the enterprise, and furnish the capital. Chivers was about to take possession of his share of his father’s estate, and postponed decision as to the matter of investment, at the same time thanking Poe, for whom he had an [page 335:] intense admiration; meanwhile he limited his support to a promise to secure subscribers.

Poe publicly announced(1) the “Penn” at once, and addressed his friends and acquaintances through a new Prospectus, and besought them to obtain subscriptions, of which he needed five hundred. As before, “The Penn Magazine” was to be original, fearless, and independent, and would in particular open its columns to merit instead of mushroom reputations, and would be distinguished by criticism instead of puffery. To Washington Poe, another of his Georgia relatives, he wrote, in August, that he would issue the first number in the next Jan uary, with the hope that he might serve truth and advance American literature, and that for tune and fame would now come to him hand in hand.(2)

Meanwhile Poe still sought office, though de spondently, and again wrote Thomas: —

PHILADELPHIA, August 27, 42.

MY DEAR THOMAS, — How happens it that I have received not a line from you for these four months? What in the world is the matter? I [page 336:] write to see if you are still in the land of the living, or have gone your way to the “land o the leal.”

I wrote a few words to you, about two months since, from New York, at the importunate demand of W. Wallace, in which you were requested to use your influence,&c. He over looked me while I wrote, & therefore I could not speak of private matters. I presume you gave the point as much consideration as it demanded, & no more.

What have you been doing for so long a time? I am anxious to learn how you succeed in Washington. I suppose Congress will have adjourned by the time you get this. Since I heard from you I have had a reiteration of the promise, about the Custom-House appointment, from Rob Tyler. A friend of mine, Mr. Jas. Herron, having heard from me casually, that I had some hope of an appointment, called upon R. T., who assured him that I should certainly have it & desired him so to inform me. I have, also, paid my respects to Gen. J. W. Tyson, the leader of the T. party in the city, who seems especially well disposed — but, notwithstanding all this, I have my doubts. A few days will end them. If I do not get the office, I am just where I started. Nothing [page 337:] more can be done to secure it than has been already done. Literature is at a sad dis count. There is really nothing to be done in this way. Without an international copyright law, American authors may as well cut their throats. A good magazine, of the true stamp, would do wonders in the way of a general revivification of letters, or the law. We must have — both if possible.

What has become of Dow? Do you ever see him?

Write immediately & tell me the Washington news.

My poor little wife still continues ill. I have scarcely a faint hope of her recovery.

Remember us all to your friends & believe me your true friend,


F. W. THOMAS, Esq.

Thomas soon visited the Poes in Philadelphia, and received a parting note: —

PHILADELPHIA, September [21], 1842.

MY DEAR THOMAS, — I am afraid you will think that I keep my promises but indifferently [page 338:] well, since I failed to make my appearance at Congress Hall on Sunday, and I now, therefore, write to apologize. The will to be with you was not wanting — but, upon reaching home on Saturday night, I was taken with a severe chill and fever — the latter keeping me company all next day. I found myself too ill to venture out, but, nevertheless, would have done so had I been able to obtain the consent of all parties. As it was, I was quite in a quandary, for we kept no servant and no messenger could be procured in the neighborhood. I contented myself with the reflection that you would not think it necessary to wait for me very long after nine o clock, and that you were not quite so implacable in your resentments as myself. I was much in hope that you would have made your way out in the afternoon. Virginia and Mrs. C[lemm] were much grieved at not being able to bid you farewell.

I perceive by Du Solle’s paper that you saw him. He announced your presence in the city on Sunday in very handsome terms. I am about going on a pilgrimage this morning, to hunt up a copy of “Clinton Bradshaw,” and will send it to you as soon as procured.

Excuse the brevity of this letter, for I am still [page 339:] very unwell, and believe me most gratefully and sincerely, Your friend,


On his return to Washington, Thomas interested himself further in the old scheme to obtain an appointment in the Custom House at Philadelphia. The dénouement was now at hand. Poe told it to his friend.

PHILADELPHIA, November 19, 1842.

MY DEAR FRIEND, — Your letter of the 14th gave me new hope — only to be dashed to the ground. On the day of its receipt, some of the papers announced four removals and appoint ments. Among the latter I observed the name — Pogue. Upon inquiry among those behind the curtain, I soon found that no such person as — Pogue had any expectation of an appointment, and that the name was a misprint or rather a misunderstanding of the reporters, who had heard my own name spoken of at the Custom House. I waited two days, without calling on Mr. Smith, as he had twice told me that “he would send for me when he wished to swear me in.” To-day, however, hearing nothing from him, I called. I asked him if he had no good [page 340:] news for me yet. He replied, “No, I am instructed to make no more removals.” At this, being much astonished, I mentioned that I had heard, through a friend, from Mr. Rob Tyler, that he was requested to appoint me. At these words he said roughly, — “From whom did you say?” I replied, “From Mr. Robert Tyler.” I wish you could have seen the scoundrel, — for scoundrel, my dear Thomas, in your private ear, he is, “From Robert Tyler!” says he — “Hem! I have received orders from President Tyler to make no more appointments, and shall make none.” Immediately afterward, he acknowledged that he had made one appointment since these instructions.

Mr. Smith has excited the thorough disgust of every Tyler man here. He is a Whig of the worst stamp, and will appoint none but Whigs if he can possibly avoid it. People here laugh at the idea of his being a Tyler man. He is notoriously not such. As for me, he has treated me most shamefully. In my case, there was no need of any political shuffling or lying. I proffered my willingness to postpone my claims to those of political claimants, but he told me, upon my first interview after the election, that if I would call on the fourth day he would swear [page 341:] me in. I called and he was not at home. On the next day I called again and saw him, when he told me that he would send a messenger for me when ready: this without even inquiring my place of residence, showing that he had, from the first, no design of appointing me. Well, I waited nearly a month, when, finding nearly all the appointments made, I again called. He did not even ask me to be seated — scarcely spoke — muttered the words “I will send for you, Mr. Poe” — and that was all. My next and last interview was to-day — as I have just described. The whole manner of the man, from the first, convinced me that he would not appoint me if he could help it. Hence the uneasiness I expressed to you when here. Now, my dear Thomas, this insult is not to me, so much as to your friend Mr. Robert Tyler, who was so kind as to promise, and who requested, my appointment.

It seems to me that the only way to serve me now is to lay the matter once again before Mr. Tyler, and, if possible through him, to procure a few lines from the President, directing Mr. Smith to give me the place. With these credentials he would scarcely again refuse. But I leave all to your better judgment. [page 342:]

You can have no idea of the low ruffians and boobies — men, too, without a shadow of political influence or caste — who have received office over my head. If Smith had the feelings of a gentleman, he would have perceived that, from the very character of my claim, — by which I mean my want of claim, — he should have made my appointment an early one. It was a gratuitous favor intended me by Mr. Rob Tyler, and he (Smith) has done his best to deprive this favor of all its grace by delay. I could have forgiven all but the innumerable and altogether unnecessary falsehoods with which he insulted my common sense day after day.

I would write more, my dear Thomas, but my heart is too heavy. You have felt the misery of hope deferred, and will feel for me.

Believe me ever your true friend,


Write soon, and if possible relieve my suspense. You cannot imagine the trouble I am in, and have been in for the past two months — unable to enter into any literary arrangements, or in fact to do anything, being in hourly expectation of getting the place. [page 343:]

The published work of Poe after he left “Graham’s” was slight, as was always the case when he was an unattached writer and could not command an immediate channel of publication. He contributed to Miss Leslie’s annual, “The Gift,” for 1843, “The Pit and the Pendulum,” a tale of no striking originality, and in October to “Graham’s” his long delayed article on “Rufus Dawes,” in which at last he took satirical vengeance on that poetaster. “Snowden’s Lady’s Companion,” a weaker and less prominent magazine, was a new resource; there he published in the same month “The Landscape Garden,” and in November, December, and February “The Mystery of Marie Roget.”

He had turned his attention to Boston and was desirous to make his name better known there. He sent the last-named tale, in the preceding June, 1842, to the “Boston Mammoth Notion,” expressing this desire to the editor,(1) and later a tale “The Tell-Tale Heart,” to the “Boston Miscellany”; and in the fall he addressed James Russell Lowell, who had several times been praised by him incidentally and who was about to issue a new periodical, “The Pioneer,” in that city. This correspondence now takes [page 344:] the place of that of Snodgrass and Thomas as a source of light upon his affairs and character: —

DR SIR, — Learning your design of commencing a Magazine in Boston, upon the first of January next, I take the liberty of asking whether some arrangement might not be made by which I should become a regular contributor.

I should be glad to furnish a short article each month — of such character as might be suggested by yourself — and upon such terms as you could afford “in the beginning.”

That your success will be marked and permanent I will not doubt. At all events, I most sincerely wish you well: for no man in America has excited in me so much admiration — and, therefore, none so much of respect and esteem — as the author of “Rosaline.”

May I hope to hear from you at your leisure? In the meantime, believe me

Most cordially yours,



PHILADELPHIA, November, 16, 1842.

Lowell immediately replied: — [page 345:]

BOSTON, November 19, 1842. No. 4 Court St.

MY DEAR FRIEND, — Your letter has given me great pleasure in two ways: — first, as it assures me of the friendship and approbation of almost the only fearless American critic, and second (to be Irish) since it contains your acquiescence to a request which I had already many times mentally preferred to you. Had you not written you would soon have heard from me. I give you carte blanche for prose or verse as may best please you — with one exception — namely, I do not wish an article like that of yours on [Rufus] Dawes, who, although I think with you that he is a bad poet, has yet I doubt not tender feelings as a man which I should be chary of wounding. I think that I shall be hardest pushed for good stories (imaginative ones) & if you are inspired to anything of the kind I should be glad to get it.

I thank you for your kind consideration as to terms of payment, seeing that herein my ability does not come near my exuberant will. But I can offer you $10 for every article at first with the understanding that, as soon as I am able, I shall pay you more according to my opinion of your deserts. If the magazine fail, [page 346:] I shall consider myself personally responsible to all my contributors. Let me hear from you at your earliest convenience & believe me always your friend,

J. R. LOWELL.(1) E. A. POE, Esq.

I am already (I mean my magazine) in the press — but anything sent “right away “ will be in season for the first number, in which I should like to have you appear.

Poe appears to have replied by placing “The Tell-Tale Heart” at Lowell’s disposal, and received the following answer: —

BOSTON, December 17, 1842. No. 4 Court St.

MY DEAR FRIEND, I ought to have written to you before, but I have had so much to distract me, & so much to make me sick of pen & ink I could not. Your story of “The Telltale Heart” will appear in my first number. Mr. [Henry Theodore] Tuckerman (perhaps your chapter on Autographs is to blame) would not print it in the “Miscellany,” & I was very glad to get it for myself. It may argue presumptuousness in me to dissent from his verdict. I should be glad [page 347:] to hear from you soon. You must send me an other article, as my second number will soon go to press.

Wishing you all happiness I remain your true friend torn to pieces with little businesses(1)

[Signature cut out.]

The correspondence was continued by Poe: —

[Not dated — mailed December 25, 1842.]

MY DEAR FRIEND, — I send you a brief poem for No. 2, with my best wishes.

I duly received yours of the igth and thank you for reversing the judgment of Mr. Tuckerman, — the author of the “Spirit of Poesy,” which, by the way, is somewhat of a misnomer — since no spirit appears.

Touching the “Miscellany” — had I known of Mr. T.’s accession, I should not have ventured to send an article. Should he, at any time, accept an effusion of mine, I should ask myself what twattle I had been perpetrating, so flat as to come within the scope of his approbation. He writes, through his publishers, — “If Mr. Poe would condescend to furnish more quiet articles he would be a most desirable correspondent.” All I have to say is that if Mr. T. persists in his [page 348:] quietude, he will put a quietus on the Magazine of which Mess. Bradbury & Soden have been so stupid as to give him control.

I am all anxiety to see your first number. In the meantime believe me,(1)

[Signature torn off.]

PHILADELPHIA, February 4, 1843.

MY DEAR MR. LOWELL, — For some weeks I have been daily proposing to write and congratulate you upon the triumphant début of the “Pioneer,” but have been prevented by a crowd of more worldly concerns.

Thank you for the compliment in the foot note. Thank you, also, for your attention in for warding the Magazine.

As far as a $3 Magazine can please me at all, I am delighted with yours. I am especially gratified with what seems to me a certain coincidence of opinion and of taste, between yourself and your humble servant, in the minor arrangements, as well as in the more important details of the journal, for example, — the poetry in the same type as the prose — the designs from Flaxman — &c. As regards the contributors our thoughts are one. Do you know that when, some time [page 349:] since, I dreamed of establishing a Magazine of my own, I said to myself — “If I can but succeed in engaging, as permanent contributors, Mr. Hawthorne, Mr. Neal, and two others, with a certain young poet of Boston, who shall be nameless, I will engage to produce the best journal in America.” At the same time, while I thought, and still think highly of Mr. Bryant, Mr. Cooper, and others, I said nothing of them.

You have many warm friends in this city — but the reforms you propose require time in their development, and it may be even a year before “The Pioneer” will make due impression among the Quakers. In the meantime, persevere.

I forwarded you, about a fortnight ago I believe, by Harnden’s Express, an article called “Notes upon English Verse.” A thought has struck me, that it may prove too long, or perhaps too dull, for your Magazine — in either case, use no ceremony, but return it in the same mode (thro Harnden) and I will, forthwith, send something in its place.

I duly received, from Mr. Graham, $10 on your account, for which I am obliged. I would prefer, however, that you would remit directly to myself through the P. Office.

I saw, not long ago, at Graham’s, a poem [page 350:] without the author’s name — but which for many reasons I take to be yours — the chief being that it was very beautiful. Its title I for get, but it slightly veiled a lovely Allegory — in which “Religion” was typified, and the whole painted the voyage of some wanderers and mourners in search of some far-off isle. Is it yours? Truly your friend,

E. A. POE.(1)

To this period belongs the story of Poe’s early relations with Griswold, his successor in “Graham’s,” in May, 1842. Rufus Wilmot Griswold was then a young man of twenty-seven years, who had sometime before left the Baptist ministry for the more attractive walks of literature. He had published both sermons and songs, and had served on several newspapers in Boston, New York, and Philadelphia: latterly he had been engaged in compiling and publishing his popular volume, “The Poets and Poetry of America,” — that Hic Jacet of American mediocrities of the first generation. Poe had just become the editor of “Graham’s” when he heard of Griswold’s intention to set in order the “American Parnassus”: but he was not widely [page 351:] known as a poet, — in fact, he had practically abandoned poetry in late years. He was, how ever, fond of his early verses, and he was never known to omit any opportunity of public notice. It was natural, therefore, that shortly after the announcement of Griswold’s venture early in 1841 he should call on him for the purpose of securing admission among Apollo’s candidates.

PHILADELPHIA, March 29, 1841.


My dear Sir, — On the other leaf I send such poems as I think my best, from which you can select any which please your fancy. I should be proud to see one or two of them in your book. The one called “The Haunted Palace” is that of which I spoke in reference to Professor Long fellow’s plagiarism. I first published the “H. P.” in Brooks “Museum,” a monthly journal at Baltimore, now dead. Afterwards I embodied it in a tale called “The House of Usher,” in Bur ton’s Magazine. Here it was, I suppose, that Professor Longfellow saw it: for, about six weeks afterwards, there appeared in the “Southern Literary Messenger” a poem by him called “The Beleaguered City,” which may now be found in his volume. The identity in title is [page 352:] striking; for by “The Haunted Palace” I mean to imply a mind haunted by phantoms — a disordered brain — and by the “Beleaguered City,” Prof. L. means just the same. But the whole tournure of the poem is based upon mine, as you will see at once. Its allegorical conduct, the style of its versification and expression — all are mine. As I understood you to say that you meant to preface each set of poems by some biographical notice, I have ventured to send you the above memoranda — the particulars of which (in a case where an author is so little known as myself) might not be easily obtained elsewhere. “The Coliseum” was the prize poem alluded to. With high respect, I am your obedient servant,


When, a year later, the unexpected meeting in Graham’s office took place, the incident caused no rupture in the friendly relations of the two men. In April Griswold’s long-expected volume had been issued, and Poe offered to review it for him. What then occurred is told by Poe. September 12, 1842, he wrote to Thomas as follows: —

“Graham has made me a good offer to return. [page 353:]

He is not especially pleased with Griswold, nor is any one else, with the exception of the Rev. gentleman himself, who has gotten himself into quite a hornet’s nest by his ‘Poets and Poetry.’ It ap pears you gave him personal offence by delay in replying to his demand for information touching Mrs. Welby, I believe, or somebody else. Hence his omission of you in the body of the book; for he had prepared quite a long article from my MS., and had selected several pages for quotation. He is a pretty fellow to set himself up for an honest judge, or even as a capable one. About two months since, we were talking of the book, when I said that I thought of reviewing it in full for the Democratic Review, but found my design anticipated by an article from that ass O Sullivan, and that I knew no other work in which a notice would be readily admissible. Griswold said, in reply: ‘You need not trouble yourself about the publication of the review, should you decide on writing it, for I will attend to all that. I will get it in some reputable work, and look to it for the usual pay, in the meantime handing you whatever your charge would be.’ This, you see, was an ingenious insinuation of a bribe to puff his book. I accepted his offer forth with, and wrote the review, handed it to him, [page 354:] and received from him the compensation; he never daring to look over the MS. in my presence, and taking it for granted that all was right. But that review has not yet appeared, and I am doubtful if it ever will. I wrote it precisely as I would have written under ordinary circum stances, and be sure there was no predominance of praise.”(1)

The incident did not break their relations, and Poe again wrote to Griswold with regard to re viewing the volume during the winter: —

[Undated, 1842-43.]

MY DEAR SIR, — I made use of your name with Carey & Hart, for a copy of your book, and am writing a review of it, which I shall send to Lowell for “The Pioneer.” I like it decidedly. It is of immense importance, as a guide to what we have done; but you have permitted your good nature to influence you to a degree. I would have omitted at least a dozen whom you have quoted, and I can think of five or six that should have been in. But with all its faults — you see I am perfectly frank with you — it is a better book [page 355:] than any other man in the United States could have made of the materials. This I will say. With high respect, I am your obedient servant,


The project of the “Penn,” which seems to have languished, was perhaps the occasion of a proposal vaguely entertained by Foster, editor of the “Aurora,” to start a magazine in New York under Poe’s charge; and Poe apparently considered Graham’s offer for his return. None of these plans came to anything; but in the winter Poe succeeded in interesting Mr. Thomas C. Clarke, the owner of the Philadelphia “Saturday Museum,” a weekly paper, and about the be ginning of the new year, 1843, the two entered into a partnership for the publication of a new periodical, which it was thought best to call “The Stylus.”


[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 260:]

1  Philadelphia Saturday Chronicle, June 13, 1840.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 264:]

1  Griswold MSS.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 265:]

1  The Philadelphia Magazines and their Contributors, 1741-1850. By Albert H. Smyth, Philadelphia, p. 217.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 265, running to the bottom of page 266:]

2  P.’s. Duval to the author, August 4, 1884. This magazine was printed in Duval’s lithographing establishment, in which Wilmer, in his Recollections, says Poe at one time, despairing of literature as a means of support, undertook to learn lithography. [page 266:] Mr. Duval writes that there is no truth whatever in this statement.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 280:]

1  Griswold MSS.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 282:]

1  Kennedy MSS.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 288:]

1  Griswold MSS.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 289:]

1  Griswold MSS.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 291:]

1  Poe to Thomas, Stoddard, xciii.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 292:]

1  Griswold MSS.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 293:]

1  Poe to Thomas, Stoddard, xciv, xcv.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 294:]

1  Griswold MSS.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 295:]

1  The Library of George W. Childs, described by F. W. Robinson. Philadelphia, 1882: pp. 13, 14.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 296:]

1  Letter-book of Lea & Blanchard.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 297:]

1  Hearth and Home, Jan. 9, 1875, by Miss Amanda Harris,

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 299:]

1  Graham’s Magazine, March, 1850.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 301:]

1  Works, i, 208.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 302:]

1  Poe to Eveleth, Ingram, i, 125.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 303:]

1  Miss A. F. Poe to the author.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 307:]

1  Works, vii, 31.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 312:]

1  Works, viii, 248 et seq.

2  Ibid.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 313:]

1  Works, ix, 199.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 314:]

1  Works, vii, 34.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 316:]

1  Works, vi, 124.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 321:]

1  Griswold MSS.

2  Ibid.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 324:]

1  Griswold MSS.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 326:]

1  Griswold MSS.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 327:]

1  Griswold MSS.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 329:]

1  Griswold MSS.

2  Gill, pp. no, in.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 330:]

1  Peterson to Lowell, May 31, 1842. Lowell MSS.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 334:]

1  The Critic, April 16, 1892. The original is in the Iowa State Library.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 335:]

1  The New York Mirror, July 30, 1842.

2  Poe to Washington Poe, August 15, 1842, Gill p. 114.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 337:]

1  Poe to Thomas, MS.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 339:]

1  Griswold MSS.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 342:]

1  Frederickson MSS.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 343:]

1  Poe to Roberts, The Virginia Poe, xvii, 112, 113.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 344:]

1  Lowell MSS.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 346:]

1  Griswold MSS.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 347:]

1  Griswold MSS.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 348:]

1  Lowell MSS.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 350:]

1  Lowell MSS.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 352:]

1  Griswold, xxi.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 354:]

1  Poe to Thomas, Stoddard, xcvii, xcviii. The same story is told by English, who had it from Poe. English to W. M. Griswold, January 10, 1895, The Virginia Poe, xviii, 437.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 355:]

1  Griswold MSS. The remainder of the story belongs to the end of the year.





[S:0 - LEAPPL, 1909] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Bookshelf - The Life of EAP (G. E. Woodberry) (Chapter 07)