Text: George E. Woodberry, “Chapter 10,” The Life of Edgar Allan Poe: Personal and Literary (1909), vol. II, pp. 125-185


∞∞∞∞∞∞∞


­[page 125:]

Chapter X

THE BROADWAY JOURNAL

AT the beginning of March Poe was announced as co-editor, with Henry S. Watson and Briggs, of “The Broadway Journal.” The correspondence of Briggs with Lowell shows plainly the relations between him and his new chief. The “Journal” was at the time becoming notorious by the “Longfellow war,” which, as Briggs re marked, was “all on one side.” It had been begun by Poe, in the “Mirror,” and had followed with him into the new office. He had long had this bee in his bonnet, and was only repeating a charge that he had made from his first Philadelphia days. He was now endeavoring mightily to sustain the accusation of plagiarism against the poet, and incidentally he glanced at Lowell as guilty of the same offense, whether knowingly or not. On March 8, 1845, Briggs wrote: —

“Poe is only an assistant to me, and will in no manner interfere with my own way of doing things. It was requisite that I should have his or ­[page 126:] some other person’s assistance, on account of my liability to be taken off from the business of the paper, and as his name is of some authority I thought it advisable to announce him as an editor. Mr. Watson’s name will command the support of a good portion of the musical interest in this city and in Boston, and by putting forth his name as musical editor I can gain his time for a pro rata dividend on the amount of patron age which he may obtain. He is the only musical critic in the country and a thorough good fellow. Poe has left the Mirror. Willis was too Willisy for him. Unfortunately for him (Poe), he has mounted a very ticklish hobby just now, Plagiarism, which he is bent on riding to death, and I think the better way is to let him run down as soon as possible by giving him no check. Wiley & Putnam are going to publish a new edition of his tales and sketches. Everybody has been raven-mad about his last poem, and his lecture, which W. Story went with me to hear, has gained him a dozen or two of waspish foes who will do him more good than harm.”(1)

A week later, March 16, he returns to the same subject: —

“Poe is a monomaniac on the subject of plagiarism, ­[page 127:] and I thought it best to allow him to ride his hobby to death in the outset and be done with it. It all commenced with myself. When he was in the Mirror office he made what I thought a very unjustifiable charge against my friend Aldrich [James Aldrich], who is one of the best fellows in the world, and I replied to it as you saw. Somebody in Boston, Outis, whose name I forget, replied to P. on behalf of Long fellow and Aldrich, and so the war began. It will end as it began, in smoke. But it will do us some good by calling public attention to our paper. Poe is a much better fellow than you have an idea of. . . . The Journal gains strength every day, and I am very sanguine of success.”(1)

Three days later he writes again more fully: “I thought it best to gain Poe’s services as a critic because he already has a reputation for reviewing, and I could gain them by allowing him a certain portion of the profits of the paper. He thought it would gain the Journal a certain number of subscribers immediately if his name were published in connection with it. I did not much like the plan, but he had had more experience than myself in the matter, so I consented. ­[page 128:]

. . . I retain precisely the same authority I did in the beginning. . . . Poe’s fol-de-rol about plagiarism I do not like, but the replies which it provokes serve us as advertisements, and help us along. As he dealt more severely by me and my friend Aldrich than anybody else I do not think that anybody has any right to complain of his thumps. I think that you are too sensitive in regard to Longfellow; I really do not see that he has said anything offensive about him. . . . Poe has indeed a very high admiration for Longfellow, and so he will say before he is done. For my own part I did not use to think well of Poe, but my love for you and implicit confidence in your judgment led me to abandon all my prejudices against him when I read your account of him. The Rev. Mr. Griswold, of Philadelphia, told me some abominable lies about him, but a per sonal acquaintance with him has induced me to think highly of him. Perhaps some Philadelphian has been whispering foul things in your ear about him. Doubtless his sharp manner has made him many enemies. But you will think better of him when you meet him.”(1)

While Briggs was thus explaining his own position and defending Poe from the strictures of

­[page 129:] Lowell, who had now ceased to correspond with him, the “Broadway Journal” was pressing the attack. The attitude of Poe toward Longfellow has become sufficiently clear in the course of the preceding narrative; he was a jealous admirer. The present, and most notorious, imbroglio was occasioned by the publication of “The Waif,” a collection of fugitive pieces by minor authors, edited by Longfellow. In the “Mirror” Poe had said, —

“We conclude our notes on the ‘Waif’ with the observation that, although full of beauties, it is infected with a moral taint — or is this a mere freak of our own fancy? We shall be pleased if it be so; — but there does appear, in this little volume, a very careful avoidance of all American poets who may be supposed especially to interfere with the claims of Mr. Longfellow. These men Mr. Longfellow can continuously imitate (is that the word?) and yet never incidentally commend.”(1)

The discussion thus begun was followed up in succeeding issues with the protests of Longfellow’s friends and the editorial comment in reply, extenuating on Willis’s part, vindicatory on Poe’s, until Willis withdrew from the discussion ­[page 130:] in a card in which he stated his entire dissent from “all the disparagement of Longfellow “ that had been published in the “Mirror”; and soon he admitted to its columns a lengthy defense of him by one “Outis,” just after Poe left the office to join Briggs.

On March 1 the new editor of the “Broadway Journal” began his reply to “Outis,” which was continued in weekly installments through five numbers. So far as it related to Longfellow it repeated textually the charge made in “Burton’s” in regard to the “Midnight Mass for the Dying Year”; discredited a letter in which Longfellow had personally explained the error in consequence of which he had translated a song of Motherwell’s back into English from the German of Wolff, under the impression that it was original with the latter; and finally charged new plagiarisms, particularly in the case of “The Spanish Student,” some scenes of which Poe traced to his own “Politian” in a violent passage in which probably the old review is incorporated.

To sum up Poe’s strictures as urged here and in earlier and later writings, Longfellow was a plagiarist, a didactic poet, and a writer of hexameters. In this there is so much truth as is involved ­[page 131:] in the milder statement that he belonged to the poets of cultivation rather than of irresistible original genius, that he frequently wrote to illustrate or enforce morality, and that his ear was not offended by the English hexameter. That Poe was sincere in his opinions, though he enforced them rudely and with the malicious pleasure of an envious rival, there can be little question; that Longfellow never pilfered from Poe, and that in the unconscious adaptations natural to a poet of culture he never imitated him, there can be no doubt at all. In the elusive search for motives in the case, it is best to remain content with Longfellow’s charitable opinion: “The harshness of his criticisms I have never attributed to anything but the irritation of a sensitive nature, chafed by some indefinite sense of wrong.”(1)

Poe’s other contributions to the “Journal” during the time that he had “a third interest” (as he described to Griswold his salary of a third of the profits) were plentiful, but not fresh.(2) The ­[page 132:] very early grotesque, “Peter Snook,” and the long-rejected tale, “The Premature Burial,” of which no earlier publication is found, were the freshest stories. But it should be remembered that his tales were salable, and therefore reserved for the magazines. He also utilized passages from old book reviews by incorporating them in new notices. His new papers were for the most part hack-work articles on anastatic printing, street-paving, magazine literature, etc., etc.; the only noteworthy pieces being a critical baiting of W. W. Lord, who had committed the unpardonable sin of plagiarizing from the author of “The Raven,” and the exhaustive review of some volumes of Mrs. Browning’s, already mentioned. In this last, although nearly all the space is taken up with unfavorable comment in detail, Miss Barrett is at the conclusion lifted to the highest pinnacle but one: “She has surpassed all her poetical contemporaries of either sex (with a single exception),” that exception being Tennyson.

The state of Poe’s mind at this time is best seen in a characteristic letter to Thomas: — ­[page 133:]

May 4, 1845

MY DEAR THOMAS, — In the hope that you have not yet quite given me up as gone to Texas, or elsewhere, I sit down to write you a few words. I have been intending to do the same thing ever since I received your letter before the last — but for my life and soul I could not find, or make, an opportunity. The fact is, that being seized of late with a fit of industry, I put so many irons in the fire all at once that I have been quite unable to get them out. For the last three or four months I have been working fourteen or fifteen hours a day, — hard at it all the time, — and so, whenever I took pen in hand to write, I found that I was neglecting something that would be attended to. I never knew what it was to be a slave before.

And yet, Thomas, I have made no money. I am as poor now as ever I was in my life — except in hope, which is by no means bankable. I have taken a third pecuniary interest in the “Broadway Journal,” and for everything I have written for it have been, of course, so much out of pocket. In the end, however, it will pay me well — at least the prospects are good. Say to Dow for me that there never has been a chance for my repaying him, without putting myself to greater inconvenience ­[page 134:] than he himself would have wished to subject me to, had he known the state of the case. Nor am I able to pay him now. The Devil him self was never so poor. Say to Dow, also, that I am sorry he has taken to dunning in his old age — it is a diabolical practice, altogether unworthy “a gentleman and a scholar” — to say nothing of the Editor of the “Madisonian.” I wonder how he would like me to write him a series of letters, — say one a week, — giving him the literary gossip of New York, or something of more general character. I would furnish him such a series for whatever he could afford to give me. If he agrees to this arrangement, ask him to state the length and character of the letters — how often — and how much he can give me. Remember me kindly to him, and tell him I believe that dunning is his one sin — although at the same time, I do think it is the unpardonable sin against the Holy Ghost spoken of in the Scriptures. I am going to mail him the “Broadway Journal regularly, and hope he will honor me with an exchange.

My dear Thomas, I hope you will never imagine, from any seeming neglect of mine, that I have forgotten our old friendship. There is no one in the world I would rather see at this moment ­[page 135:] than yourself; and many are the long talks we have about you and yours. Virginia and Mrs. Clemm beg to be remembered to you in the kindest terms. Do write me fully when you get this, and let me know particularly what you are about.

I send you an early number of the “B. Journal” containing my “Raven.” It was copied by Briggs, my associate, before I joined the paper. The “Raven” has had a great “run,” Thomas — but I wrote it for the express purpose of running — just as I did the “Gold Bug,” you know. The bird beat the bug, though, all hollow.

Do not forget to write immediately, and believe me,

Most sincerely your friend, POE.(1)

During the year 1844, from his arrival in New York, Poe was abstemious. Mrs. Barhyte, Willis, and others, who saw him daily, bear testimony to this. It was a time when he, for the most part, kept apart from general association with men by his residence and work in the country. He had returned to the city, 15 Amity Street, in November, 1844, and had since led a more social life, but without excesses; after the publication ­[page 136:] of “The Raven” he began to fall into old habits. The first information of this sort comes from the reminiscent office-boy of the “Journal,” who idolized him. He relates that Poe was invited to repeat the lecture of February 28, and gives the only account of what happened on that evening late in March: —

“The night set for the second lecture was a very bad one. It stormed incessantly, with mingled rain and hail and sleet. In consequence there were scarcely a dozen persons present when Poe came upon the platform and announced that, under the circumstances, the lecture could not be given, and those in the audience would receive their money back at the door. I was one of those present, as Poe had given me a complimentary ticket to the lecture, and badly as I was disappointed, I could see upon his face that my master was much more so. It was a little thing, it is true, but he was a man easily upset by little things. The next morning he came to the office, leaning on the arm of a friend, intoxicated with wine.”(1) The same authority states that this was the only occasion on which he saw any thing of the sort. ­[page 137:]

Toward the last of May Lowell passed through the city on his way from Philadelphia, where he had for a few months been on the staff of the “Pennsylvania Freeman,” and called on Poe. Neither of them was much pleased. Lowell thus describes the meeting: —

“I saw Poe only once. . . . I suppose there are many descriptions of him. He was small; his complexion of what I should call a clammywhite; fine, dark eyes, and fine head, very broad at the temples, but receding sharply from the brows backwards. His manner was rather formal, even pompous, but I have the impression he was a little soggy with drink — not tipsy — but as if he had been holding his head under a pump to cool it.”(1)

Mrs. Clemm herself described the interview in a letter to Lowell, after Poe’s death: —

LOWELL, 9th March, 1850.

DEAR SIR, —. . . How much I wish I could see you! how quickly I could remove your wrong impression of my darling Eddie! The day you saw him in New York he was not himself. [Italics in letter.] Do you not remember that I never left the room? Oh, if you only knew his ­[page 138:] bitter sorrow when I told him how unlike himself he was while you were there, you would have pitied him! he always felt particularly anxious to possess your approbation. If he spoke unkindly of you (as you say he did), rely on it, it was when he did not know of what he was talking. . . . Most respectfully,

MARIA CLEMM.(1)

Poe, on his part, said to Chivers: “He [Lowell] called to see me the other day, but I was very much disappointed in his appearance as an intellectual man. He was not half the noblelooking person that I expected to see.”(2)

Chivers had come to New York on the occasion of the publication of his volume, “The Lost Pleiad, and Other Poems,” and also with a desire to confer with Poe as to his association with him in the “Stylus,” with a view to furnishing ­[page 139:] the capital for that enterprise. He arrived either in June or July, and met Poe l on Nassau Street in an intoxicated condition. Chivers went home with him — he was then living at 195 Broadway — and narrates the incidents of the walk, chief of which was an en counter with Lewis Gaylord Clark, editor of the “Knickerbocker,” whom Poe threatened to attack; but Clark, seeing how matters stood, bowed himself out of the way. Chivers gives a detailed account of Poe’s reception by Mrs. Clemm. The next day when Chivers called, Poe was not to be found. On the next he was in bed, feigning illness, as Chivers thought, in order to excuse himself for not delivering a poem he en gaged to give before a meeting of the societies of New York University. Chivers continued to see him, during his stay, and Poe noticed his new book of poems, August 2, in the “Journal.”

A pleasant anecdote of Poe, and the lasting impression he made on a working-boy during the year, are given in Mr. Crane’s reminiscences, already quoted: —

“Poe was a quiet man about the office, and was uniformly kind and courteous to every one, and, with congenial company, he would grow ­[page 140:] cheerful and even playful. I saw him every day, for, as you may imagine, our office rooms did not consist of a great many compartments, and office-boy and editor were pretty close together. He came to the office every day about nine o clock and worked until three or four in the afternoon, and he worked steadily and methodically too.

“Not a great while after I had gone to work on the paper, on a hot August afternoon, while wrapping and addressing Journals, I was over come with the heat and fainted dead away. Poe was writing at his desk. When I recovered consciousness I was stretched out on the long table at which I had been at work and Poe was bending over me bathing my wrists and temples in cold water. He ministered to me until I was able to stand up, and then he sent me home in a carriage.

“This act of kindness, coupled with his uniform gentle greetings when he entered the office of a morning, together with frequent personal inquiries and words of encouragement, made me love and trust my editor.”(1)

The history of the “Broadway Journal” in the mean time was interesting. When the first volume ­[page 141:] was approaching its end, Briggs wrote to Lowell, June 29, 1845, reviewing his plans: —

“I have arrangements on foot with a new publisher for the ‘Journal’ who will enable me to give it a fresh start, and I trust very soon to be able to give you an earnest of its profits. I shall haul down Poe’s name; he has latterly got into his old habits and I fear will injure himself irretrievably. I was taken at first with a certain appearance of independence and learning in his criticisms, but they are so verbal, and so purely selfish that I can no longer have any sympathy with him.”(1)

Lowell’s own interview, however, in the previous month had prepared him for the following passage in Briggs’s next letter, in explanation of what seemed a sudden demise of the “Journal”:

“The non-appearance of the Broadway Journal has probably surprised you. I had made arrangements with a new publisher, — a very good business man, — and had agreed upon terms with Bisco to buy his interest; but when I came to close with him he exacted more than I had stipulated for, and finding that he was deter mined to give me trouble I refused to do any thing with the Journal. I had the first number ­[page 142:] of the new volume all ready to be issued, with a handsomely engraved title, etc.; but, as I could not put the new publisher’s name upon it with out Bisco’s consent, I let it go a week, meaning to issue a double number — not doubting that I could agree with him upon some terms; but he had fallen into the hands of evil advisers, and became more extortionate than ever. Poe in the mean time got into a drunken spree, and conceived an idea that I had not treated him well, for which he had no other grounds than my having loaned him money and persuaded Bisco to carry on the ‘Journal’ himself. As his doing so would give me a legal claim upon him, and enable me to recover something from him, I allowed him to issue one number, but it is doubtful whether he issues another. Mr. Homans, the publisher, with whom I had agreed to undertake the publication of the ‘Journal,’ is an educated man and a thorough good fellow, with a very extensive book-selling connection. He is still desirous of taking hold of the ‘Journal,’ and has made me a very liberal offer to go on with him if he can purchase Bisco’s share. But I do not yet know how the affair will terminate.

“Poe’s mother-in-law told me that he was quite tipsy the day that you called upon him, and ­[page 143:] that he acted very strangely; but I perceived no thing of it when I saw him in the morning. He was to have delivered a poem before the societies of the New York University a few weeks since, but drunkenness prevented him. I believe he had not drunk anything for more than eighteen months until within the past three months, but in this time he has been very frequently carried home in a wretched condition. I am sorry for him. He has some good points, but, taken altogether, he is badly made up. I was deceived by his superficial talents when I first met him, and relied too much upon the high opinion which you had expressed of him. His learning is very much like that of the famous Mr. Jenkinson in the ‘Vicar of Wakefield.’ He talks about dactyls and spondees with surprising glibness; and the names of metres being caviare to nine men out of ten, he has gained a reputation for erudition at a very cheap rate. He makes quotations from the German, but he can’t read a word of the language.”(1)

Some further explanation of the matter was given August 1: —

“I did not give you sufficient particulars to enable you to understand my difficulties with

­[page 144:] Bisco and Poe. Neither has done anything with out my full consent, and I have nothing to com plain of but their meanness, which they could n’t help. I had told P. a month before that I should drop his name from the ‘Journal.’ He said I might keep it there if I wanted to, although he intended to go into the country and devote his time to getting up books, and would not therefore be able to assist me. I had also told Bisco that I would have nothing more to do with him after the close of the first volume, and that I would not carry it on unless I could find a publisher to my mind. I did find such a publisher, and Bisco, thinking that I was very anxious to go on with it, was more exacting in his demands for his share of the ‘Journal’ than I thought just, so I told him I would not take it; and he, thinking to spite me, and Poe, thinking to glorify himself in having overmastered me, agreed to go on with it. I laughed at their folly, and told them to go ahead; but I still hold the same right that I ever did. and could displace them both if I wished to do so. But seeing so much poltroonery and littleness in the business gave me a disgust to it, and I let them alone, hoping to get back from Bisco some money which I had advanced him.”(1) ­[page 145:]

Three weeks later he wrote a characterization of Poe more in detail: —

“You have formed a correct estimate of Poe’s characterless character. I have never met a per son so utterly deficient of high motive. He can not conceive of anybody’s doing anything, except for his own personal advantage; and he says, with perfect sincerity, and entire unconscious ness of the exposition which it makes of his own mind and heart, that he looks upon all reformers as madmen; and it is for this reason that he is so great an egoist. He cannot conceive why the world should not feel an interest in whatever interests him, because he feels no interest himself in what does not personally concern him. Therefore, he attributes all the favor which Longfellow, yourself, or anybody else receives from the world as an evidence of the ignorance of the world, and the lack of that favor in himself he attributes to the world’s malignity. It is too absurd for belief, but he really thinks that Long fellow owes his fame mainly to the ideas which he has borrowed from his (Poe s) writings in the Southern Literary Messenger. His presumption is beyond the liveliest imagination. He has no reverence for Homer, Shakespeare, or Milton, but thinks that Orion is the greatest poem in ­[page 146:] the language. He has too much prudence to put his opinions into print, — or, rather, he can find nobody impudent enough to print them, — but he shows himself in his private converse. The Bible, he says, is all rigmarole. As to his Greek, — you might see very well if it were put in your eye. He does not read Wordsworth, and knows nothing about him.”(1)

As has been incidentally mentioned above, the “Journal” was suspended for one week; and when the first number of the second volume appeared, a week later, it bore Poe’s name as sole editor. Since he describes himself as “one third proprietor,” in his old terms, it seems probable that he agreed to go on with Bisco for one third of the profits, just as before, but having entire charge. Bisco himself declared that he meant to get rid of Briggs, and, in order to do so, took up with Poe. There was from the first some financial tangle between the parties, which, fortunately, there is no need to unravel. The result of the difference was to install Poe in full control. One of his acts was to have a fling at Briggs, in connection with which a last extract from the latter’s correspondence has its interest:

“You take Poe’s niaiseries too seriously. I ­[page 147:] only cared for his unhandsome allusion to me in the B. J. because it proved him a baser man than I thought him before. . . . The truth is that I have not given him the shadow of a cause for ill-feeling; on the contrary he owes me now for money that I lent him to pay his board and keep him from being turned into the street. But he knows that I am possessed of the secret of his real character and he no doubt hates me for it. Until it was absolutely necessary for me to expose some of his practices to save myself from contempt, I never breathed a syllable of his ill habits, but I tried in vain to hide them from ob servation out of pure compassion, for I had not known him long before I lost all respect for him and felt a loathing disgust for his habits. I did not much blame him for the matter of his remarks about Jones, although the manner of them was exceeding improper and unjust; the real cause of his ire was Jones neglecting to enumerate him among the humorous writers of the country, for he has an inconceivably extravagant idea of his capacities as a humorist. The last conversation I had with Poe he used all his power of eloquence in persuading me to join him in the joint editorship of the’stylus.’”(1) ­[page 148:]

Poe remained simply editor, with his third interest for pay, until October. In the first number of his editing was a review of his own “Tales,”(1) just published by Wiley & Putnam as No. 2 in their “Library of American Books,” and selected by Duyckinck from the seventy previously sent to Anthon and declined by the Harpers in the previous November. Duyckinck certainly had chosen from Poe’s numerous and uneven stories those on which his fame has proved itself to be founded. Poe, however, declared in private, “Those selected are not my best, nor do they fairly represent me in any respect.”(2) He meant that they were too much of one kind, whereas he had aimed at diversity in his writings; in other words, the grotesque tales were slighted, and hence the universality of his genius and the versatility of his talents were not illustrated. During the first months of his sole editorship he reprinted, as before, his ­[page 149:] old tales and poems,(1) as now revised for book publication and one paper whose previous issue, before June, 1844, is unknown, “Diddling Considered as one of the Fine Arts;” of criticism there was nothing noteworthy except a flattering review of Hirst and a satirical one of Hoyt, both poetasters.

In October occurred one of the best known incidents of Poe’s life. In the summer he had visited Boston, and now was invited to give a poem before the Boston Lyceum (it will be remembered that Lowell had at Poe’s request formerly interested himself to obtain an engagement for him to lecture before the same organization), and he accepted. On the evening appointed, October 16, a lecture, which was the ­[page 150:] second of the course, having been given by Caleb Gushing, Poe came forward on the platform of the Odeon, and, after some prefatory remarks about the foolishness of didacticism, read “Al Aaraaf.” The audience, the hour being late, began to disperse, but enough persons remained to enjoy his recitation of “The Raven,” with which the entertainment closed. The audience was disappointed, and afterwards some Boston papers commented somewhat severely on the performance, especially when the truth came out that the poem given was a juvenile production, written years before. Poe, when he returned to New York, declared that he had acted of malice prepense.

“It would scarcely be supposed that we would put ourselves to the trouble of composing for the Bostonians anything in the shape of an original poem. We did not. We had a poem (of about five hundred lines) lying by us — one quite as good as new — one, at all events, that we considered would answer sufficiently well for an audience of transcendentalists. That we gave them — it was the best that we had — for the price — and it did answer remarkably well. Its name was not ‘The Messenger Star’ — who but Miss Walter would ever think of so delicious a little bit of ­[page 151:] invention as that? We had no name for it at all. The poem is what is occasionally called a ‘juvenile poem’ — but the fact is, it is anything but juvenile now, for we wrote it, printed it, and published it, in book form, before we had fairly completed our tenth year. We read it verbatim, from a copy now in our possession, and which we shall be happy to show at any moment to any of our inquisitive friends.”(1) He goes on to say, “Over a bottle of champagne that night, we confessed to Messrs. Gushing, Whipple, Hudson, Fields, and a few other natives who swear not altogether by the frog-pond — we confessed, we say, the soft impeachment of the hoax.”

This was Poe’s explanation. The fact was, that he had undertaken an engagement, and being unable to write a poem for the occasion he resorted to his old compositions, and selected “Al Aaraaf “as the most available. He then at tempted to extricate himself from the situation by turning the incident into burlesque.

Poe became sole proprietor of the “Journal” October 24. Mr. Bisco says that he made over his rights to Poe for the consideration of a promissory note for $50, signed by Poe, and indorsed by Horace Greeley, who had at one time ­[page 152:] written on political topics for the paper; and when it came due Bisco collected it, as was to be anticipated, from the indorser. It is plain, how ever, that there were also other notes given in this transaction or afterwards. Greeley himself refers to the incident, with sharp pleasantry: —

“A gushing youth once wrote me to this effect: —

“DEAR SIR, — Among your literary treasures, you have doubtless preserved several autographs of our country’s late lamented poet, Edgar A. Poe. If so, and you can spare one, please inclose it to me, and receive the thanks of yours truly.

“I promptly responded as follows: —

“DEAR SIR, — Among my literary treasures, there happens to be exactly one autograph of our country’s late lamented poet, Edgar A. Poe. It is his note of hand for fifty dollars, with my in dorsement across the back. It cost me exactly $50.75 (including protest), and you may have it for half that amount. Yours, respectfully.

“That autograph, I regret to say, remains on my hands, and is still for sale at first cost, de spite the lapse of time and the depreciation of our currency.”(1) ­[page 153:]

Thus Poe at last owned and edited the “Journal,” but he needed capital to run it. In August he had written to Neilson Poe,(1) with whom he had reestablished connections, that he should start a magazine in January; but this was probably only a reference to the “Stylus,” which he may have hoped to float with the financial aid of Chivers, who had set that date as the time when he would be ready to undertake it. He wrote to Chivers, August 11, “my prospects about Maga are glorious”(2) and that there was “a fortune” in the “Broadway Journal,” for whose immediate needs he asked a loan of fifty dollars for two months; and again, August 29, reminding him of this request; and to Kennedy, October 26, in the same strain: —

NEW YORK, Octo. 26, 45.

MY DEAR MR. KENNEDY, — When you were in New York I made frequent endeavours to meet you — but in vain — as I was forced to go to Boston.

I stand much in need of your aid, and beg you to afford it me, if possible — for the sake of the position which you already have enabled me to obtain. By a series of manœuvres, almost

­[page 154:] incomprehensible to myself, I have succeeded in getting rid, one by one, of all my associates in “The Broadway Journal,” and (as you will see by last week’s paper) have now become sole editor and owner. It will be a fortune to me if I can hold it — and if I can hold it for one month I am quite safe — as you shall see. I have exhausted all my immediate resources in the purchase — and I now write to ask you for a small loan — say $50. I will punctually return it in 3 months.

Most truly yours,

EDGAR A. POE.(1)

Hon. J. P. KENNEDY.

Chivers continued to put him off, but Kennedy declined, and this letter from his old friend is interesting, as probably the last and also as showing the writer’s temper toward his protégé: —

DEAR POE, — I was in Virginia when your letter came to Baltimore and did not return until very recently, which will account for my delay in acknowledging it. I take great pleasure in hearing of your success in your career, and am an attentive reader of what comes from your pen. ­[page 155:] You have acquired a very honorable reputation in letters, but nothing less than I predicted at the time of our first acquaintance. When in New York, a month ago, I called at your “Broadway Journal” establishment in the hope of meeting you, but was told you were just setting out for Providence, and as I received your card the same day I took it for granted you had left it only in the moment of your departure and I therefore made no further effort to see you. I trust you turn the “Journal” to a good account. It would have given me pleasure to assist you in this enterprise in the manner your letter suggested, but that I could not do. Good wishes are pretty nearly all the capital I have for such speculations. I hear of you very often, and although I perceive you have some enemies, it may gratify you to know that you have also a good array of friends. When it falls in your way to visit Baltimore both Mrs. Kennedy and myself would be much pleased to receive you on our old terms of familiar acquaintance and regard.

Very truly yours,

J. P. KENNEDY.(1)

EDGAR A. POE, Esqr.

BALT. December 1, 1845. ­[page 156:]

Poe also appealed to his publishers, Wiley & Putnam. He had placed in their hands, apparently in September, the material for a volume of poems for immediate issue, and was also preparing for them a volume, the “American Parnassus,” probably a variant title of that work on his contemporaries which occupied his attention continuously. In consequence of these engagements, as well as of their issue of his “Tales” in the summer, he had financial deal ings with them, and their representative, Duyckinck, was now his chief adviser in literary ways. He seems to have already drawn the fifty dollars mentioned in the following letter, pre vious to his visit to Boston in October.

Thursday Morning.

MY DEAR MR. DUYCKINCK, — I am still dreadfully unwell, and fear that I shall be very seriously ill. Some matters of domestic affliction have also happened which deprive me of what little energy I have left — and I have resolved to give up the B. Journal and retire to the country for six months, or perhaps a year, as the sole means of recruiting my health and spirits. Is it not possible that yourself or Mr. Matthews might give me a trifle for my interest in the ­[page 157:] papers. Or, if this cannot be effected, might I venture to ask you for an advance of $50 on the faith of the “American Parnassus”? — which I will finish as soon as possible. If you could oblige me in this manner I would feel myself under the deepest obligation. Will you be so kind as to reply by the bearer?

Truly yours, EDGAR A. POE.(1)

Poe now wrote again: —

Thursday Morning 13th [November, 1845].

85 Amity St.

MY DEAR DR. DUYCKINCK, — For the first time during two months I find myself entirely myself — dreadfully sick and depressed, but still myself. I seem to have just awakened from some horrible dream, in which all was confusion and suffering — relieved only by the constant sense of your kindness, and that of one or two other considerate friends. I really believe that I have been mad — but indeed I have had abundant reason to be so. I have made up my mind to a step which will preserve me, for the future, ­[page 158:] from at least the greater portion of the troubles which have beset me. In the mean time, I have need of the most active exertion to extricate myself from the embarrassments into which I have already fallen — and my object in writing you this note is (once again), to beg your aid. Of course I need not say to you that my most urgent trouble is the want of ready money. I find that what I said to you about the prospects of the B. J. is strictly correct. The most trifling immediate relief would put it on an excellent footing. All that I want is time in which to look about me; and I think that it is your power to afford me this.

I have already drawn from Mr. Wiley, first $30 — then 10 (from yourself) — then 50 (on account of the “Parnassus”) — then 20 (when I went to Boston) — and finally 25 — in all 135. Mr. Wiley owes me, for the “Poems,” 75, and admitting that 1500 of the “Tales” have been sold, and that I am to receive 8 cts a copy — the amount which you named, if I remember — admitting this, he will owe me $120. on them: — in all 195. Deducting what I have received there is a balance of 60 in my favor. If I understood you, a few days ago, Mr. W. was to settle with me in February. Now, you will already have ­[page 159:] anticipated my request. It is that you would ask Mr. W. to give me, to-day, in lieu of all farther claim, a certain sum whatever he may think advisable. So dreadfully am I pressed, that I would willingly take even the $60 actually due (in lieu of all farther demand) than wait until February: — but I am sure that you will do the best for me that you can.

Please send your answer to 85 Amity St. and believe me — with the most sincere friendship and ardent gratitude

Yours, EDGAR A. POE.(1)

On November 15 Poe again appealed to Chivers and said that he had paid entirely the price of the “Journal” except one hundred and forty dollars, which would fall due January 1, 1846.

The lack of capital continuing to be a press ing trouble, he wrote to his cousin, George Poe, touching the matter: —

NEW YORK, November 30, 45.

DEAR SIR, — Since the period when (no doubt for good reasons) you declined aiding me with the loan of $50, I have perseveringly struggled against a thousand difficulties, and have succeeded, ­[page 160:] although not in making money, still in attaining a position in the world of letters, of which, under the circumstances, I have no reason to be ashamed.

For these reasons — because I feel that I have exerted myself to the utmost — and because I believe that you will appreciate my efforts to elevate the family name — I now appeal to you once more for aid.

With this letter I send you a number of “The Broadway Journal,” of which, hitherto, I have been merely editor, and one third proprietor. I have lately purchased the whole paper, and, if I can retain it, it will be a fortune to me in a short time; — but I have exhausted all my resources in the purchase. In this emergency I have thought that you might not be indisposed to assist me.

I refrain from saying any more — for I feel that if your heart is kindly disposed toward me, I have already(1)

[Rest, with signature, cut off.]

On the next day, December 1, he wrote(2) to Halleck, who seems to have assisted him at ­[page 161:] other times in a spirit of generous friendship, and asked a loan of one hundred dollars for three months. Halleck sent the money, and, as in Greeley’s case, the note was preserved as an autograph.

While these embarrassments were annoying him, Poe used his paper for the reproduction of his works l as formerly, the only tale not else where known being “The Spectacles,” which he had formerly sent to Home. Of his original work, since he left the “Mirror,” he had published in the “Democratic,” — “The Power of Words,” a metaphysical tale: in the “Whig,” — “Some Words with a Mummy,” a grotesque on the old theme that “there is nothing new under the sun,” with some unusual satire on politics; “The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar,” that tale which for mere physical disgust and foul horror has no rival in literature; a new poem, “Eulalie,” and a review of “The American Drama,” in which he dealt mainly with Willis’s “Tortesa,” and once more with Longfellow’s “Spanish Student” at great length: in “Graham’s,” — “The Imp of the Perverse,” the last ­[page 162:] of the tales of conscience, and the absurd mad house grotesque, “Dr. Tarr and Prof. Fether”; and, in “Godey’s,” two installments of the clippings from old magazines, called “Marginalia.” These publications include all his new writings during the year, outside of the “Journal.”

The “Journal” showed vigorous management; its advertisements had been largely in creased, and its circulation is said to have lessened. The last numbers of December are full of promises regarding the future; but George Poe not responding, the Greeley note becoming due, and other friends than Halleck being obdurate, the demise of the paper suddenly took place. Its last expenses appear to have been paid by T. H. Lane, who through a long life remembered with pleasure this brief association with Poe and always spoke in his behalf. On December 26 was published the following: —

VALEDICTORY

Unexpected engagements demanding my whole attention, and the objects being fulfilled so far as regards myself personally, for which “The Broadway Journal” was established, I now, as its editor, bid farewell — as cordially to foes as to friends. EDGAR A. POE. ­[page 163:]

What other objects Poe achieved, except the republication of much that he had previously written in prose and verse, it is hard to see. One more number was issued, January 3, with the assistance of Thomas Dunn English, with which the “Journal” expired.

Just at the close of the year, apparently on December 31, Poe’s collected poems had been issued by Wiley & Putnam, under the title “The Raven, and Other Poems.”(1) He dedicated the volume to Mrs. Browning, then Miss Barrett, and sent her a copy, which drew forth this reply:

5 WIMPOLE ST., April, 1846.

DEAR SIR, — Receiving a book from you seems to authorize or at least encourage me to ­[page 164:] try to express what I have felt long before — my sense of the high honor you have done me in [illegible] your country and of mine, of the dedication of your poems. It is too great a distinction, conferred by a hand of too liberal a generosity. I wish for my own sake I were worthy of it. But I may endeavour, by future work, to justify a little what I cannot deserve anywise, now. For it, meanwhile, I may be grateful — because gratitude is the virtue of the humblest.

After which imperfect acknowledgment of my personal obligation may I thank you as another reader would thank you for this vivid writing, this power which is felt! Your “Raven” has produced a sensation, a “fit horror,” here in Eng land. Some of my friends are taken by the fear of it and some by the music. I hear of persons haunted by the “Nevermore,” and one acquaintance of mine who has the misfortune of possessing a “bust of Pallas” never can bear to look at it in the twilight. I think you will like to be told that our great poet, Mr. Browning, the author of “Paracelsus “and the “Bells and Pomegranates,” was struck much by the rhythm of that poem.

Then there is a tale of yours [“The Case of M. Valdemar”] which I do not find in this volume,

­[page 165:] but which is going the round of the news papers, about mesmerism, throwing us all into “most admired disorder,” and dreadful doubts as to whether “it can be true,” as the children say of ghost stories. The certain thing in the tale in question is the power of the writer, and the faculty he has of making horrible improbabilities seem near and familiar.

And now will you permit me, dear Mr. Poe, as one who though a stranger is grateful to you, and has the right of esteeming you though unseen by your eyes — will you permit me to remain Very truly yours always,

ELIZABETH BARRETT BARRETT.(1)

The volume contained nearly all the poetry he had ever written, and the versions are those now established in the text. In the preface he speaks in dispraise of his work, saying that he thinks nothing in this volume of much value to the public, or very creditable to himself. “Events not to be controlled,” he continues, in the well-known words, “have prevented me from making at any time any serious effort in what, under happier circumstances, would have been the field of my choice. With me poetry has been not ­[page 166:] a purpose, but a passion; and the passions should be held in reverence; they must not — they can not at will be excited, with an eye to the paltry compensations, or the more paltry commendations, of mankind.”(1)

The poems which this proud apology prefaced comprise the poetic labors of their author up to the close of this year, and although a few were to be added before his death, they illustrate fully his poetic powers. In attempting an estimate of their worth, it is useful to recur once more to the theory which Poe had now completely developed regarding the aims and scope of poetry; for it is his own comment on his own text. To put it in the fewest words, Poe believed that of the pleasures that spring from Truth, which satisfies the intellect, or from Passion, which excites the heart, or from Beauty, which elevates the soul, the latter is the most pure, keen, and absorbing; and this because it appeals to that sense of harmony and feeds that yearning for its manifestation which belongs to the immortal part of man. In the moods aroused through the sentiment of beauty man is most clearly conscious of his eternal nature, and in the lifting up of his spirit under such influences penetrates (so ­[page 167:] Poe thought) to the divine. This subtle power is possessed by all beauty in its sensible forms as built by God in nature; but the suggestions of something fairer beyond and above nature, which arise in its presence, stimulate man to at tempt to reach this unknown loveliness by recombining the elements he perceives, and thus in imagination (which repeats the creative act of God) to fashion by art, under the guidance of his own instinct, an ideal beauty which shall be a new and purer source of spiritual emotion. This creation of beauty is the end of all the fine arts, but in music and in poetry it is most directly accomplished. It would, however, be an error to suppose that Poe, in thus adopting the doctrines of Coleridge and rejecting passion and truth and morality as poetic themes, meant to sever poetry by distinct boundaries from those regions of life; on the contrary, he expressly states that “the incitements of Passion, the precepts of Duty, and even the lessons of Truth” may be advantageously introduced into a poem, if they are only subordinated and blended in by the skill of the artist who understands how to use them for the heightening of the effect of mere beauty; and furthermore, it should be observed that to beauty itself Poe assigns both a moral ­[page 168:] value, as lending attraction to virtue, and an intellectual value, as leading out to the mystical province of that truth which, withdrawn from the probing of the reason, is fathomed by the imagination alone. Such a speculation may be regarded as a baseless reverie or as profound philosophy; but it is essential to keep in mind the fact, not only that Poe made beauty the theme of poetry, but also that he found its value in intimations of the divine; or, in other words, that he was devoted to a mystical aestheticism. Of the minor articles of his creed it is necessary to recall only those which assert that a poem should be brief; should aim at a single artistic effect, but not to the exclusion of a secondary suggested meaning; and should be touched, if possible, by a certain quaintness, grotesqueness, or peculiarity of rhythm or metre, to give it tone. One who reflects upon the character of mind implied by the holding of this theory, the elements of which assimilated and united only very slowly in Poe’s case, cannot be surprised at the objections ordinarily urged against Poe’s verses. They are said to be vague, destitute of ideas, in substantial, unreal, full of artifice, and trenching on the domain of music. That these phrases accurately describe the impression made by the ­[page 169:] poems on many minds by no means strangers to the poetic sentiment may be granted without hesitation; and if any one maintains that from certain points of view such words are justly ap plied, it would be futile to dissent. The diversity of criticism upon Poe’s verse is largely due to the assumption that it can be measured intelligibly by any other than his own standard. The poet strives, Poe thought, to bring about in others the state felt in himself; and in his own case that was one of brooding reverie, a sort of emotional possession, full of presentiment, expectancy, and invisible suggestion, the mood that is the habitat of superstition; vagueness was the very hue in which he painted. Again, if in his prose tales he declares repeatedly that he meant not to tell a story, but to produce an effect, much more is it to be thought that in poetry he aimed not to convey an idea, but to make an impression. He was a dreamer. When he came to poetic expression which must needs be the genuine manifestation of the soul’s secret, he had no wisdom and no romance to disclose, of any earthly reality, and he was forced to bring out his meagre store of visionary facts, to which his random and morbid feelings alone gave credibility. To say of such works that they are destitute of ideas and ­[page 170:] insubstantial is not criticism, — it is mere description. Even for that slight framework of the things of sense which Poe had to shape in order to allegorize his moods at all, he seems but little indebted to nature. The purely imaginary character of his landscape has been touched on, again and again, hitherto; it is indicative of the obvious fact that he never regarded nature as anything but the crucible of his fancies. To qualify his conceptions as unreal is merely to gather into a colorless word the quivering eastern valley, the flaming city isled in darkness, the angel- thronged, star-lighted theatre of the Worm’s conquest, the wind-blown kingdom by the sea, the Titanic cypress alley, the night’s Plutonian shore, or any other of those dim tracts,

“Out of space, out of time,”

where his spirit wandered. So, too, if any one presses the charge of artifice home, it must be allowed just, though it attaches only to the later poems and is the excess of art. No poet was ever less spontaneous in excellence than Poe. When one reads, at successive stages of his career, the same old stanzas in new versions, and notices how they grew out of rudeness of many different descriptions into such perfection as they reached, ­[page 171:] he perceives before him an extraordinary example of growth in the knowledge and exercise of the poetic art, — the pulse of the machine laid bare. The changes are minute and almost in numerable, the approaches to perfection are exceedingly gradual, the last draft is sometimes only slightly related to the earliest; but — and this is the point that proves Poe primarily a careful artist rather than an inspired poet in every instance the alteration is judicious, the step is a step forward. One who achieves success mainly by self-training in art comes to rely on art over much; and so he degenerates into artifice, or visible art, puts his faith in mechanism, and trusts his fame to cogs and levers of words and involutions of sounds; or it may happen, as was perhaps finally the case with Poe, that a weakened hand keeps facility with the tools when the work slips from his grasp. At least, so much truth lies in this last objection of the artificiality of Poe’s work as to justify the more expressive statement that he was, in verse as in prose, essentially a skillful literary artist. And further more, music was an essential element of his art. It is true that his ear for verbal melody was at first very defective, and was never perfect, but in much of his best work the rhythmic movement ­[page 172:] is faultless in its flow and its simplicity. This is not, however, all that is meant by saying that he borrowed effects from music. In his verses sonorousness counts independently of its relation to the meaning of the words, and the poem seems at intervals to become merely a volume of sound, in which there is no appeal to the mind at all, but only a stimulation of the feelings as by the tones of an instrument. In the management of the theme, too, particularly in his later verse, the handling of the refrain, the recurrence to the same vocal sounds and the same order of syllabic structure, the movement of the whole poem by mere new presentations of the one idea, as in “The Raven,” or of the same group of imagery, as in “Ulalume,” par takes of the method of musical composition. In these ways Poe did appropriate the effects of music, and they blended with the other characteristics of his art as sound and color in nature, to make that vague impression on the mind of which he sought the secret. It belongs to his originality that he could thus exercise his mastery in the borderland between poetry and music, where none before him had power.

After all, to meet the last circumscription of his praise, he did not write a dozen poems of the ­[page 173:] best rank. Those of his youth, already sufficiently characterized, were works of promise in a boy, but they would not have made a bubble as they sank in the waters of oblivion. Of those composed in manhood (and as such should be reckoned the present versions of “The Sleeper,” “The Valley of Unrest,” “The City in the Sea,” “To One in Paradise,” and possibly “Israfel”) the first fine one was “The Haunted Palace,” nor was that to be free from later improvements; and from its appearance until his death Poe’s poems of the same level can be counted on the fingers. To the world, indeed, he is the genius of one poem only, “The Raven”; unless, to sup port his name, the fame of “The Bells” and of “Ulalume” be added. There is no occasion to examine either these three or any others of the dozen that are justly immortal; they all belong to the class of poems that make their way at once or not at all. Yet it may serve to define and possibly to elucidate Poe’s genius if it be incidentally noticed that, except in his single lyric “Israfel,” the theme of his imagination is ruin; and that in the larger number of these few best poems it is the special case of ruin which he declared the most poetic of all, the death of a beautiful woman. It is of no concern that the ­[page 174:] treatment was radically different, so that in each instance a poem absolutely unique was created; the noteworthy fact is, at present, that Poe’s genius was developed in its strength by brooding over a fixed idea, as the insane do; and when, under great excitement, some other mode of expression was imperative, it was found only in such objective work as the marvelous allegory of “The Conqueror Worm,” or in such spiritbroken confession as that other allegory of “The Haunted Palace,” which in intense, imaginative self-portraiture is scarcely excelled in literature. The secret life, the moments of strongest emotion, the hours of longest reach, implied by such motives as these, make that impenetrable background of shadow against which in these poems the poet stands relieved forever, the object of deep gloom, whether his sufferings were imaginary or real, inevitable or self-imposed, the work of unregarding fate or the strict retribution of justice.

But when the utmost has been said adversely, the power of these dozen poems is undiminished even over those who admit their vagueness, their lack of ideas, their insubstantial and unreal quality, their sometimes obvious artifice, their like ness to musical compositions, and their scant ­[page 175:] number. Poe would himself have considered such censures as praises in disguise, and scoffed at their authors as dull-mettled rascals, like Partridge at the play. The power, after all, remains; first and foremost a power of long-practiced art, but also of the spell itself, of the forms evoked independently of the magic that compels them, — a fascination that makes the mind pause. If one is not subdued by this, at least at moments, there are some regions of mortality unknown to him; he will never disembark on No Man’s Land. If one is not sensible of the exquisite construction here shown, the poetic art is as much a mystery to him as was Prospero’s to Caliban. But if one with the eye to see and the heart to understand remains fascinated by these poems, he forgets Poe’s own gospel of the ends of art, and does not perceive the meaning of the irony that made the worshiper of beauty the poet of the outcast soul.(1) If it be the office of poetry to intimate the divine, it must be confessed these works of Poe intimate the infernal; they ­[page 176:] are variations struck on the chord of evil that vibrates in all life, throbs of the heart of pain, echoes of ruin that float up from the deep within the deep, the legend and pæan and ritual of hopeless death; they belong to the confusions of a superstitious mind, the feebleness of an unmanned spirit, the misery of an impotent will. Profound in knowledge of the obscure sources of feeling; almost magical in the subtlety of their lure; bold, clear, and novel in imagination; ideal, startlingly original, married to strange and revealing music, these poems fulfill all conditions of Poe’s standard save one, and that the supreme one.

A fresh phase of Poe’s fascination for women emerged in the period of which the other incidents have now been detailed, — his relations with the poetesses of the New York coterie and their circle. After the publication of “The Raven “he had attended, from time to time, most often alone, but sometimes in company with his invalid wife, the receptions at which the littérateurs of the metropolis, particularly the ladies, used to meet. These gatherings took place commonly at Dr. Orville Dewey’s, the eloquent preacher; or at James Lawson’s, distinguished in Poe’s mind as a man interested ­[page 177:] in our literature although a Scotchman, and as an enthusiast in all matters of taste although himself devoid of it; or at Miss Anne Charlotte Lynch’s, a poetess of the Willis group, whose weekly receptions in Waverley Place were thronged by literary men, artists, poetesses, and others of like pursuits. At such resorts, in the midst of a variously constituted company, Poe would sit, dressed in plain black, but with the head, the broad, retreating white brow, the large, luminous, piercing eyes, the impassive lips, that gave the visible character of genius to his features; and if the loud, bluff pleasantry of the humorist physician, Dr. Francis, or the high-keyed declamation of Margaret Fuller in her detested transcendentalist Boston dialect, would permit, he would himself, in his ordinary subdued, musical tones exercise his charm on women of lesser note, among whom — to mention only a few that come within the scope of this narrative — were Mrs. Elizabeth Oakes Smith, once known as the author of “The Sinless Child” (which Poe thought the most original long American poem excepting Maria del Occidente’s “Bride of Seven”); Mrs. Eliza beth Frieze Ellet, whose hand Poe took in an evil hour; and Mrs. Mary Gove, afterwards ­[page 178:] Mrs. Nichols, “a Mesmerist, a Swedenborgian, a phrenologist, a homoeopathist, and a disciple of Priessnitz,” and, adds Poe, “what more lam not prepared to say.”(1) Notwithstanding his natural reserve his manners were pleasing, and his conversation, although said to be best when but one or two were present, was engaging and impressive even in the constraint and inconsequence of general talk. Upon women his voice and look had a magical power, partly the social charm peculiar to the Virginia society in which he was bred, but also flowing from his own personality, idealized now through his author ship of “The Raven,” and often pathetic by the pallor of illness and poverty. He fascinated wo men from his youth, and his relation to them had always been romantic, so far as it existed at all; he now appealed to sentimental women by his figure, history, and actions, and to kind-hearted women by his sufferings. Early in 1845 he had formed such an attachment with Mrs. Francis Sargent Osgood, a poetess of thirty and the wife of an American artist, who on publishing her first volume, seven years before, in London, had been taken up as a protégée by Mrs. Norton. Poe had noticed her verses with great favor, and ­[page 179:] in his New York lecture, in February, especially, eulogized her in warm terms. Shortly after this latter incident Willis one day handed her “The Raven,” with the author’s request for her judgment on it, and for an introduction to herself. She assented, and a few days later Poe called at the Astor House to see her.

“I shall never forget,” she wrote, “the morn ing when I was summoned to the drawing-room by Mr. Willis to receive him. With his proud and beautiful head erect, his dark eyes flashing with the electric light of feeling and of thought, a peculiar, an inimitable blending of sweetness and hauteur in his expression and manner, he greeted me, calmly, gravely, almost coldly, yet with so marked an earnestness that I could not help being deeply impressed by it. From that moment until his death we were friends; although we met only during the first year of our acquaintance.”(1)

Some verses addressed to Poe, in the character of Israfel, by Mrs. Osgood, were published in the “Broadway Journal” April 5; and to these Poe replied April 26, with a version of his stanzas, originally written for the “Messenger,” and here entitled “To F ——”and signed ­[page 180:] “E.”; and he later addressed her again in the “Journal/ 7 September 13, with four lines of the eight originally written for Miss Eliza White at Richmond. The course of this friendship, how ever, by her own statement, had not run smooth from the start. He sought her with the characteristic vehemence of his nature. “I never thought of him till he sent me his Raven and asked Willis to introduce him to me, and immediately after I went to Albany, and afterwards to Boston and Providence to avoid him, and he followed me to each of those places and wrote to me, imploring me to love him, many a letter which I did not reply to, until his wife added her entreaties to his and said that I might save him from infamy, and her from death, by showing an affectionate interest in him.”(1) The young poetess thus became intimate with the Poes now at 85 Amity Street, and to her pen is due the only description of the family, at this time, that has been preserved: —

“It was in his own simple yet poetical home that to me the character of Edgar Poe appeared in its most beautiful light. Playful, affectionate, ­[page 181:] witty, alternately docile and wayward as a petted child, for his young, gentle, and idolized wife, and for all who came, he had, even in the midst of his most harassing literary duties, a kind word, a pleasant smile, a graceful and courteous attention. At his desk beneath the romantic picture of his loved and lost Lenore, he would sit, hour after hour, patient, assiduous, and uncomplaining, tracing, in an exquisitely clear chirography and with almost superhuman swiftness, the lightning thoughts — the ‘rare and radiant fancies’ — as they flashed through his wonder ful and ever-wakeful brain. I recollect, one morning, toward the close of his residence in this city, when he seemed unusually gay and lighthearted. Virginia, his sweet wife, had written me a pressing invitation to come to them; and I, who never could resist her affectionate summons, and who enjoyed his society far more in his own home than elsewhere, hastened to Amity Street. I found him just completing his series of papers entitled ‘The Literati of New York.’’see,’ said he, displaying in laughing triumph several little rolls of narrow paper (he always wrote thus for the press), ‘I am going to show you by the difference of length in these the different degrees of estimation in which I hold all you literary people. ­[page 182:] In each of these one of you is rolled up and fully discussed. Come, Virginia, help me!’ And one by one they unfolded them. At last they came to one which seemed interminable. Virginia laughingly ran to one corner of the room with one end, and her husband to the opposite with the other. And whose lengthened sweet ness long drawn out is that?’ said I. ‘Hear her!’ he cried. ‘Just as if her little vain heart did n’t tell her it’s herself!’”(1)

Mrs. Osgood was a kind friend, and while her indulgence in sentimentality is sufficiently evident in these reminiscences, and plainly affected her more than she was conscious of, she was pleased to think, with Virginia, that her influence over Poe was for his good. If on his part there were in this Platonic friendship, as she declares, “many little poetical episodes, in which the impassioned romance of his temperament impelled him to indulge,” they were not new to the family circle that encouraged them; and on her own part, his devoted admirer obtained from him a solemn promise not to use stimulants, and, she naïvely states, he so far observed his word as never to appear before her when affected by them. ­[page 183:]

The correspondence between the two was fraught with evil consequences; for, one day, after the Poes had removed to the village of Fordham, whither they went when the cherry trees blossomed in 1846, Mrs. Ellet, who was calling on them, saw an open letter from Mrs. Osgood to Poe, couched in language which in her judgment required friendly interference. This lady consulted with her friends, and the scandalized bevy of interlopers prevailed on Mrs. Osgood to commission some of them to demand the return of her portion of the too-sugared correspondence. It seems strange that Mrs. Os good did not herself make the request quietly, if she thought she had committed herself improperly; instead of doing so, however, she sent Margaret Fuller and a companion, who astonished the poet with their credentials. In a moment of exasperation he is said to have remarked that Mrs. Ellet had better come and look after her own letters, — a chance word that seems to have canceled all his considerate flattery of that versifier in the past ten years. The ladies re turned to New York with their bundle; and Poe says that he gave Mrs. Ellet her own packet without awaiting her application, and hence was surprised when her brother demanded of him, a few ­[page 184:] days later, what he had no longer in his possession. Mrs. Osgood did not meet Poe after the first year of their acquaintance, but precisely when she ceased to do so is obscure.(1)

While this romance was verging to its catastrophe, immediately after the issue of his poems, Poe offered to Wiley & Putnam on January 6, 1846, another selection from his tales, asking fifty dollars for the copyright: he had made the selection himself, and describes it as “a far better one than the first containing for instance ‘Ligeia,’ which is undoubtedly the best story I have written”; but this offer was fruit less.(2) Duyckinck was his trusted adviser, and he submitted to him correspondence before sending it, and requested his services in placing notices of him in the papers; as, for instance, on April 28, 1846, when he solicited a notice of his ­[page 185:] declining an invitation of the literary societies of the University of Vermont to read a poem in the following August.(1) He still occasionally contributed to “Graham’s,” which in March published an installment of “Marginalia” and in April “The Philosophy of Composition” with its notorious analysis of the genesis of “The Raven”; but “Godey’s” had become the main stay of his support, where he had written criticisms in each number since the previous November, noticing Mathews, Mrs. Smith, Simms, Mrs. Hewitt, Mrs. Osgood, and Bryant, and now published “The Literati.”


[[Footnotes]]

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

1  xxxxxxxxxxxx.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 126:]

1 Briggs to Lowell. MS.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 127:]

1 Briggs to Lowell. MS.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 128:]

1 Briggs to Lowell. MS.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 129:]

1 Evening Mirror, January 14, 1845.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 131:]

1 Southern Literary Messenger, November, 1849. Cf. Monats-Hefte, liii, pp. 119, 538, 677, Edgar Poe gegen Henry Longfellow, von Fr. Spielhagen.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 131, running to the bottom of page 132:]

2 He reprinted, sometimes with slightly changed names and other revision, representing the Anthon copy, Lionizing, Berenice, Bon-Bon, The Oval Portrait, The Philosophy of Furniture, ­[page 132:] Three Sundays in a Week, The Pit and the Pendulum, Eleonora, Shadow, The Assignation, and Morella; and of his poems, To F —— , The Sleeper, To One in a Paradise, and The Conqueror Worm.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 135:]

1 Griswold MSS.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 136:]

1 Sunday World-Herald, Omaha (by Alexander T. Crane), July 13, 1902.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 137:]

1 Lowell to the author, March 12, 1884

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 138:]

1 Mrs. Clemm to Lowell. Lowell MSS. The author would not have printed these passages had not his account of the interview been called in question by Professor Harrison. The Virginia Poe, i, 203, 204.

2 The Poe-Chivers Papers, the Century Magazine (by the author), August-September, 1903. The author is not at liberty to quote from the Chivers papers themselves. The habits of Poe during these months are abundantly shown by this and other testimony, and the brief statement in the former biography sufficiently substantiated.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 139:]

1 Ibid.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 140:]

1 Sunday World-Herald, Omaha, July 13, 1902.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 141:]

1 Briggs to Lowell. MS.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 143:]

1 Briggs to Lowell, July 16, 1845. MS.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 144:]

1 Briggs to Lowell. MS.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 146:]

1 Briggs to Lowell, August 21, 1845. MS.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 147:]

1 Briggs to Lowell, October 13, 1845. MS.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 148:]

1 Tales. By Edgar A. Poe. New York: Wiley & Putnam, 1845, pp. 228. The contents are, in order: The Gold Bug, The Black Cat, Mesmeric Revelation, Lionizing, The Fall of the House of Usher, The Descent into the Maelström, The Colloquy of Monos and Una, The Conversation of Eiros and Charmion, The Murders of the Rue Morgue, The Mystery of Marie Roget, The Purloined Letter, The Man in the Crowd.

2 Poe to Eveleth, Ingram, ii, 24.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 149:]

1 How to write a Blackwood Article, The Masque of the Red Death, The Literary Life of Thingum Bob, The Business Man, The Man who was Used Up, Never Bet the Devil your Head, The Tell-Tale Heart, William Wilson, Why the Little Frenchman wears his Hand in a Sling, The Landscape Garden, The Tale of Jerusalem, The Island of the Fay, MS. Found in a Bottle, The Duc de L’Omelette, King Pest, and The Power of Silence, Science, Bridal Ballad, Eulalie, Lenore, A Dream, The Valley of Unrest, To F —— , To —— (“The bowers whereat”), Song (“I saw thee”), and Fairyland. He had also reprinted, in the Whig, The Doomed City and The Valley Nis.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 151:]

1 The Broadway Journal, November 1, 1845.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 152:]

1 Recollections of a Busy Life. By Horace Greeley, pp. 196, 197.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 153:]

1 Poe to Neilson Poe, August 8, 1845. MS.

2 Poe to Chivers. The New York Observer, April 26, 1900.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 154:]

1 Kennedy MSS.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 155:]

1 Griswold MSS.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 157:]

1 Poe to Duyckinck. Bulletin of the New York Public Library, VI, i (January, 1902). The letter is undated, but, read in connection with the next letter and the context, may be safely referred to the late summer of 1845.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 159:]

1 Poe to Duyckinck, loc. cit.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 160:]

1 Poe to George Poe. MS.

2 Poe to Halleck. The New York Observer, April 26, 1900.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 161:]

1 Some Words with a Mummy, The Devil in the Belfry, A Tale of the Ragged Mountains, Four Beasts in One, The Oblong Box, Mystification, Loss of Breath.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 163:]

1 The Raven and Other Poems. By Edgar A. Poe. New York: Wiley & Putnam, 1845. The contents were, in order, The Raven, Valley of Unrest, Bridal Ballad, The Sleeper, The Coliseum, Lenore, Catholic Hymn, Israfel, Dream-land, Sonnet — To Zante, To F —— s S. O —— d, To F —— , Sonnet — Silence, The Conqueror Worm, The Haunted Palace, Scenes from Politian. Then followed, with the foot-note still published, Poems in Youth: Romance, Fairy-land, To —— , To the River —— , The LakeTo —— , Song, To Helen. It is scarcely necessary to add that the youthful poems are not printed exactly “verbatim, without alteration from the original edition,” but the changes, nevertheless, are not important.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 165:]

1 Griswold MSS.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 166:]

1 Works, x, 4.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 175:]

1 “L’adorateur de la beauté devint le poète de l’âme damnée. C’est vrai: mais si Poe n’atteignit guère cette beauté extatique à laquelle il aspirait, n’atteignit-il pas en son inspiration mélancholique à une perfection artistique qui est aussi de la beauté?” Edgar Poe, sa vie et son œuvre par Emile Lauvrière, Paris, 1904, p. 434.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 178:]

1 Works, viii, 62.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 179:]

1 Griswold, liii.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 180:]

1 Mrs. Osgood to Griswold. Griswold MSS. A version of Poe’s pursuit of Mrs. Osgood, quite different in tone, is given by her brother-in-law. The Critic, October 3, 1885.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 182:]

1 Griswold, lii, liii.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 184:]

1. Mrs. Weiss (p. 127 et seq. ) connects with the final scenes the tale told by Rosalie Poe, who visited her brother toward the end of June. On her arrival he was absent from the cottage, “on a business trip,” said Mrs. Clemm, and in such difficulties that money had to be scraped together to send him for his return. He was “scolded” at first, but nursed through a night of illness and partial delirium during which “he begged for morphine,” and it was some days before he recovered. The evidence which connects this incident with Mrs. Osgood seems inconclusive.

2 Poe to Duyckinck, loc. cit. p. 8

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 185:]

1 Poe to Duyckinck, loc. cit. p. 8.


∞∞∞∞∞∞∞


Notes:

None.


∞∞∞∞∞∞∞

[S:0 - LEAPPL, 1909] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Bookshelf - The Life of EAP (G. E. Woodberry) (Chapter 10)