Text: Dwight R. Thomas, “Chapter 02: 1838,” Poe in Philadelphia, 1838-1844 (1978), pp. 13-31


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­ [page 13:]

CHAPTER II: 1838

 

Early, 1838

EARLY 1838: Poe, his wife Virginia, and his mother-inlaw Mrs. Maria Clemm leave New York City and move to Philadelphia. They take up residence in a boarding house operated by Mrs. C. Jones at 202 Mulberry (or Arch) Street.

NOTE: The location given for Poe’s first Philadelphia residence differs from those given by previous biographers; it is based upon Poe’s reference to Arch Street in his September 4, 1838, letter to Nathan C. Brooks, his indebtedness to “Mrs Jones” mentioned in his December 6, 1839, letter to John C. Cox, and the 1839 edition of McElroy’s Philadelphia Directory. For additional information, see the directory entry for Mrs. C. Jones.

June, 1838

JUNE 23: The Philadelphia Spirit of the Times, p. 2, col. 1, reports: “JAMES K. PAULDING, Esq., of New York, has been appointed by the President, Secretary of the Navy, vice Mr. Dickerson resigned.”

NOTE: The Spirit of the Times, a lively daily newspaper, was edited by John S. Du Solle, a journalist who became one of ­[page 14:] Poe’s close associates during the Philadelphia period. Du Solle was a Loco-Foco, or radical Democrat, who was inclined to controversy. He imparted his own personality to The Spirit; most unsigned articles in this paper may be safely attributed to him.

July, 1838

JULY 19: Poe writes James Kirke Paulding, apparently in reply to a letter the new Secretary of the Navy had recently sent him:

. . . . pardon me for urging this truth upon your attention, in the present instance, as a slight palliation of my errors.

But in one portion of your note you did me wrong, and here I felt that you had indeed mistaken my nature. Intemperance, with me, has never amounted to a habit; and had it been ten times a habit it would have required scarcely an effort on my part to shake it from me at once and forever. I have been fully awakened to the impolicy and degradation of the course hitherto pursued, and have abandoned the vice altogether, and without a struggle. It was necessary that I should assure you of this before mentioning the request which is the object of this letter — that you would procure me some clerkship or other office in your Department.

Could I obtain the most unimportant Clerkship in your gift — any thing, by sea or land — to relieve me from the miserable life of literary drudgery to which I now, with a breaking heart, submit, and for which neither my temper nor my abilities have fitted me, I would never again repine at any dispensation of God. I feel that I could then, (having something beyond mere literature as a profession) quickly elevate myself to the station in society which is my due. It is needless to say how fervent, how unbounded would be my gratitude to the one who should thus rescue me from ruin, and put me in possession of happiness. ­[page 15:]

I leave my fate in your hands.

Most respy. & gratefully
Edgar A. Poe  

Philadelphia
  July 19. 1838.

NOTE: MS, Gimbel Collection, Philadelphia Free Library. This letter, which exists as a fragment, was first published by John Ostrom in his “Fourth Supplement to The Letters of Poe,” American Literature, 45 (1974), 517-18. It provides the earliest definite evidence of Poe’s presence in Philadelphia. James Kirke Paulding, a prominent author and statesman, was an early supporter of the Southern Literary Messenger; and he had previously corresponded with both Poe and Thomas Willis White, the magazine’s proprietor. In his December 7, 1835, letter to White, Paulding commented: “Your Publication is decidedly superior to any Periodical in the United States, and Mr. Poe as [is] decidedly the best of all our going writers. I dont Know but I might add all our Old Ones, with one or two exceptions . . . . .” Paulding was later to take an especial interest in Poe’s career, and he made an unsuccessful attempt to interest Harper & Brothers in publishing a collection of this young author’s tales. For documentation, see The Letters of James Kirke Paulding, ed. Ralph M. Aderman (Madison, Wis.: University of Wisconsin Press, 1962), pp. 149-50, 170-75, 177-79. The Secretary of the Navy is not known to have answered the present letter, which seems to indicate that he had received disturbing reports of Poe’s drinking, possibly by correspondence with White or someone else associated with the Messenger. Poe’s letter to Paulding apparently represents his first attempt to support himself by obtaining a federal clerkship. During the years 1841, 1842, and 1843, he made ­[page 16:] repeated efforts to win an official situation.

CIRCA JULY 31: The Harpers publish The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym.

NOTE: The reception of this novel has been examined by Burton R. Pollin in “Poe’s Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym and the Contemporary Reviewers,” Studies in American Fiction, 2 (1974), 37-56, and in “Three More Early Notices of Pym and the Snowden Connection,” Poe Studies, 8 (1975), 32-35, and by J. Don Vann, “Three More Contemporary Reviews of Pym,” Poe Studies, 9 (1976), 43-44. Although The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym was welcomed by most reviewers, the Harpers’ February 20, 1839, letter to Poe provides evidence that the novel was not a commercial success.

August, 1838

AUGUST 2: The publication of The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym is briefly noticed by four Philadelphia daily newspapers. The United States Gazette, p. 2, col. 2, reports that it has received “through Mr. Perkins, No. 134 Chesnut street, a volume just from the press of the Harpers, of New York”; the Gazette reproduces the lengthy subtitle of Pym “with a view of setting forth the nature of its contents.” The anonymous reviewer adds: “The work is full of the most wonderful details, which the author assures are wholly true.” Another notice appears in the Public Ledger, p. 2, col. 5, which also copies Pym’s complete title, adding only that the novel is “a work in one volume.” The reviewer of the Pennsylvania Inquirer, p. 2, col. 2, has not himself examined the novel, but has seen a report in “the ­[page 17:] New York Whig, that the Messrs. Harpers have published a duodecimo volume of the most exciting character.” The Inquirer gives Pym’s title in its entirety, “from which the reader will be able to judge somewhat of the work.” Still another notice appears in The Pennsylvanian, p. 2, col. 1:

“The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym, of Nantucket,” is the title of a new work just published by the Harpers, containing the details of the voyages, mutinies and other disastrous chances which befel said Pym in and about the year 1827. We have not yet had time to peruse the volume, which it is hinted is from the pen of an able American writer, but from what report says, we doubt not that it is replete with interest. It may be had of Mr. Perkins, Chesnut street, and of the other booksellers.

NOTE: Poe’s name did not appear on the novel’s title page, and none of these reviewers identified him as the author. The lengthy subtitle, which three of the four reviewers quoted, may be seen in the reproduction of the title page given by Quinn, p. 265.

AUGUST 3: The Pennsylvania Inquirer, p. 2, col. 1, publishes a second notice:

Pym’s Narrative.

We have already noticed this entertaining and exciting narrative at some length, on the faith of paragraphs which have appeared in the columns of our New York contemporaries. The Harpers have favored us with a copy, and the adventures of Pym, though only occupying a small volume, are well calculated to enchain the interest and sympathies of every class of readers.

AUGUST 11: The Saturday Evening Post, p. 1, cols. 5-6, publishes a pseudonymous poem by Lambert A. Wilmer:

For the Saturday Evening Post. ­[page 18:]

HORACE IN PHILADELPHIA — SECOND SERIES.

——————

ODE XXX. — TO EDGAR A. POE.

——————

“Quid dedicatum poscit Apolinem,” &c.

——————

What object has the poet’s prayer?

(If poets have the grace to pray;)

Petitions he for sumptuous fare,

For gold, — for garments rich and rare,

(For which the owners oft forget to pay;)

Asks he for houses or extended lands,

Rich harvests, ripening in the fervid ray

Of August suns; — or credit that commands

Another’s purse, (if back’d by good security

And fair financial prospects in futurity.)

Say do the poet’s ardent wishes seize

On objects such as these?-

 

No: — if the genuine spark is there,

A careless mortal you shall see,

Unfetter’d by the world and free —

Unlike what C—e and W—s are.

 

A sordid mind was never blent

With genius; — such accompaniment

Would be like brazen cow-bells rung

While heavenly Caradori sung.

Praise is the subject of the poet’s sighs;

Neglect, the atmosphere in which he dies.

 

And yet, true genius, (like the sun

With bats and owls,) is little noted;

But when his glorious course is run,

His griefs forgot, his labors done,

Then is he prais’d, admired, and quoted!

 

Dull mediocrity, meanwhile

Along his level turnpike speeds,

And fame and fortune are his meeds;

While merit wants one cheering smile,

How bless’d stupidity succeeds! ­[page 19:]

 

But let the heavenly gifted mind

Not hopeless mourn, if men are blind,

And imbecility prevails;

Time, sternly frowning on the base

Shall sweep the poor ephemeral race

To where oblivion tells no tales.

As autumn’s rapid breezes sweep

Ten thousand insects to the deep.

 

But the same wind whose angry tones

Sends small dull craft to Davy Jones,

Is but an impulse to convey

The nobler vessel o’er the sea; —

So thou dear friend, shalt haply ride

Triumphant through the swelling tide

With fame thy cynosure and guide.

 

So may it be. — tho’ fortune now

Averts her face, and heedless crowds

To blocks, like senseless Pagans, bow; —

Yet time shall dissipate the clouds,

Dissolve the mist which merit shrouds,

And fix the laurel on thy brow.

 

There let it grow; and there ‘twould be

If justice rul’d and men could see.

But reptiles are allow’d to sport

Their scaly limbs in great Apollo’s court.

Thou once did whip some rascals from the fane

O let thy vengeful arm be felt again.

NOTE: In Our Press Gang, pp. 18-19, Lambert A. Wilmer recalled that as a young man he left Baltimore and went to Philadelphia, where he joined the staff of the Saturday Evening Post, “then the most popular weekly paper in the United States.” By early 1832 he had returned to Baltimore and assumed the editorship of the Baltimore Saturday Visiter, a weekly newspaper which commenced publication on February 4 of this year. He seems to have remained a contributor to the Post during his residence in Baltimore. When Poe reviewed Wilmer’s novel Emilia Harrington in the February, 1836, number of the Southern Literary Messenger, he commented: “His [Wilmer’s] Satiric Odes in the Post, over the signature of Horace in Philadelphia, have attracted ­[page 20:] great attention, and have been deservedly admired.” The Saturday Evening Post published a number of odes by “Horace in Philadelphia” during 1838. The poets Wilmer identified as “C — e” and “W — s” in his “Ode XXX. — To Edgar A. Poe” were probably Willis Gaylord Clark and Nathaniel Parker Willis. In his “Ode XXVI. — A Complaint,” published by the Post, July 7, 1838, p. 1, col. 1, Wilmer had regretted “That public taste is much misled — / Pope, Dryden, Milton sleep in dust, / And Willis, Clark and Fay are read!” In Our Press Gang, p. 40, Wilmer stated that he settled in Philadelphia around “A.D. 1839-40”; for additional information, see the chronology for the year 1839.

September, 1838

SEPTEMBER: William E. Burton publishes a long, highly unfavorable review of The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym in his Gentleman’s Magazine. His opening paragraph establishes the tone of his critique:

An Indian warrior pursuing a flying tory, seized his foe by the tail of his peruke, and drew his scalping knife for the purpose of consummating his victory, but the artificial head-covering of the British soldier came off in the struggle, and the bald headed owner ran away unhurt, leaving the surprised Indian in possession of the easily acquired trophy. After gazing at the singular and apparently unnatural formation, he dashed it to the ground in disdain, and quietly exclaimed “A d—d lie!” We find ourselves in the same predicament with the volume before us; we imagined, from various discrepancies and other errors discovered in a casual glance, sufficient also to convince us of the faulty construction and poorness of style, that we had met with a proper subject for our critical scalping-knife-but a steady perusal of the whole book compelled us to throw it away in contempt, with an exclamation very similar to the natural phrase of the Indian. A more ­[page 21:] impudent attempt at humbugging the public has never been exercised; -the voyages of Gulliver were politically satirical, and the adventures of Munchausen, the acknowledged caricature of a celebrated traveller. Sindbad the sailor, Peter Wilkins, and Moore’s Utopia, are confessedly works of imagination; but Arthur Gordon Pym puts forth a series of travels outraging possibility, and coolly requires his insulted readers to believe his ipse dixit, although he confesses that the early portions of his precious effusion were published in the Southern Literary Messenger as a story written by the editor, Mr. Poe, because he believed that the public at large would pronounce his adventures to be “an impudent fiction.” Mr. Poe, if not the author of Pym’s book, is at least responsible for its publication, for it is stated in the preface that Mr. Poe assured the author that the shrewdness and common sense of the public would give it a chance of being received as truth. We regret to find Mr. Poe’s name in connexion with such a mass of ignorance and effrontery.

NOTE: The review is a significant document in the relationship between Poe and Burton. In his June 1, 1840, letter to the proprietor of the Gentleman’s Magazine, Poe emphasized that this criticism had occasioned much ill will between the two:

You once wrote in your magazine a sharp critique upon a book of mine — a very silly book — Pym. Had I written a similar criticism upon a book of yours, you feel that you would have been my enemy for life, and you therefore imagine in my bosom a latent hostility towards yourself. This has been a mainspring in your whole conduct towards me since our first acquaintance. It has acted to prevent all cordiality. In a general view of human nature your idea is just-but you will find yourself puzzled in judging me by ordinary motives. Your criticism was essentially correct and therefore, although severe, it did not occasion in me one solitary emotion either of anger or dislike.

In spite of Poe’s claim of impassivity, it is hard to believe that he was not annoyed by a critic who pronounced his novel “a mass of ignorance and effrontery,” especially after the ­[page 22:] work had received a number of favorable reviews. In retaliation, Poe seems to have included a subtle criticism of Burton in “A Predicament,” a story which first appeared in the American Museum for November, 1838; he alluded sarcastically to “Dr. Ollapod,” an unprepossessing stage character frequently portrayed by the famous comedian. For documentation, see Burton R. Pollin, “Poe’s Dr. Ollapod,” American Literature, 42 (1970), 80-82, and see Rue Corbett Johnson, “The Theatrical Career of William E. Burton,” Diss. Indiana 1967, pp. 68, 521. Poe’s remark that the Pym review had affected Burton’s “whole conduct” toward him since their “first acquaintance” provides strong evidence that the two men did not meet until after September, 1838. They were acquainted by May 11, 1839, when Burton wrote Poe to offer him a position on the Gentleman’s Magazine.

SEPTEMBER: Burton’s Gentleman’s Magazine publishes the first installment of “Unpublished Passages in the Life of Vidocq, the French Minister of Police.”

NOTE: Quinn, pp. 310-11, suggested that these “Passages” are a source for Poe’s “The Murders in the Rue Morgue.” The serial appeared monthly from September, 1838, through May, 1839; it is signed “J. M. B.”

SEPTEMBER: Poe’s story “Ligeia” appears in the opening number of the American Museum, a Baltimore monthly magazine of high literary quality, which is edited by his friends Nathan C. Brooks and Joseph Evans Snodgrass.

NOTE: Poe had known both editors of the American Museum when he lived in Baltimore during the early 1830’s. Brooks was a poet, clergyman, and educator; he was later to serve as the principal of several academies in Baltimore. Snodgrass ­[page 23:] was a physician who later became the editor of the Baltimore Saturday Visiter (see the chronology for November 8, 1841). “Ligeia” is the first work Poe is known to have published during the Philadelphia period; two contemporary reactions to this story are entered in the chronology for December 1, 1838, and September 16, 1839. The September number of the American Museum did not appear until the second week of October (see the chronology for October 10).

SEPTEMBER: The American Museum publishes the first installment of “The Atlantis, a Southern World — or a Wonderful Continent Discovered” by “Peter Prospero.”

NOTE: This satire appeared monthly in the Museum from September, 1838, through June, 1839. Quinn, pp. 757-61, suggested that it might be Poe’s work; additional arguments to support this attribution have been advanced by Burton R. Pollin, Discoveries in Poe (Notre Dame, Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press, 1970), pp. 216-17, 292.

ANTE SEPTEMBER 4: Nathan C. Brooks, in Baltimore, writes Poe, enclosing ten dollars. Brooks invites him to prepare a critique of the writings of Washington Irving for ‘the first number of the American Museum.

NOTE: The contents of this letter are surmised from Poe’s September 4 reply. The ten dollars Brooks enclosed may have been payment for “Ligeia.”

SEPTEMBER 4: Poe replies to Nathan C. Brooks, acknowledging receipt of the “favor with the $10.” He is forced to decline his correspondent’s invitation to review the writings of Washington Irving: “I should be most unwilling not to execute such a task well, and this I would not do at so ­[page 24:] short notice, at least now. I have two other engagements which it would be ruinous to defer. Besides this, I am just leaving Arch street for a small house, and, of course, somewhat in confusion.” Poe gives still another reason: “The truth is, I can hardly say that I am conversant with Irving’s writings, having read nothing of his since I was a boy, save his ‘Granada.’” He believes that this author’s reputation is inflated: “Irving is much overrated, and a nice distinction might be drawn between his just and his surreptitious and adventitious reputation — between what is due to the pioneer solely, and what to the writer.” Since Poe is certain that “A bold and a priori investigation of Irving’s claims would strike home,” and make “a fine hit” for the American Museum, he regrets that he cannot undertake this task for Brooks: “Had you spoken decidedly when I first saw you, I would have adventured. If you can delay the ‘Review’ until the second number I would be most happy to do my best. But this, I presume, is impossible.” Poe asks his correspondent to send him proofs of his articles in the American Museum; he anxiously awaits the publication of the first number, which will mark “the dawn of a fine literary day in Baltimore.” He adds: “After the 15th I shall be more at leisure and will be happy to do you any literary service in my power. You have but to hint.” Poe informs Brooks that his financial situation has improved: “I have gotten nearly out of my late embarrassments. Neilson would not aid me, being much pushed himself. He would, no doubt, have aided me, if possible. Present my respects if you see him.”

NOTE: Letters, I, 111-13. The ,two other engagements” Poe mentioned may have had some relation to his work with Thomas Wyatt on The Conchologist’s First Book, but it is impossible ­[page 25:] to identify them on the basis of this document alone. His letter does provide evidence that during the summer of 1838 he had seen Nathan C. Brooks and discussed with him the possibility of writing a critique of Irving for the American Museum. The “Neilson” he mentioned was Neilson Poe, his cousin, who was then editor of the Baltimore Chronicle. The present letter strongly suggests that during the summer of 1838 Poe had applied to Neilson for financial aid, either in person or by correspondence. For evidence that Neilson was “much pushed himself” financially, see the chronology for December 2, 1839.

POST SEPTEMBER 4: The Poe family moves from a boarding house operated by Mrs. C. Jones at 202 Mulberry (Arch) Street to “a small house,” located on Sixteenth Street near Locust.

NOTE: The date of the family’s change of residence is established by Poe’s September 4 letter to Nathan C. Brooks. The location given for their “small house” is suggested by Anne E. C. Clarke’s reminiscence, published in John Sartain’s Reminiscences of a Very Old Man, 1808-1897 (1899; rpt. New York: Benjamin Blom, 1969), p. 217. Miss Clarke recalled that when her father Thomas C. Clarke lived “at Twelfth and Walnut Streets,” he often received visits from Poe, who “then lived near Locust Street on Sixteenth, at that time named Schuylkill Seventh Street.” Between the years 1837 and 1845, Thomas C. Clarke’s residence is given as 56 South Twelfth Street by most editions of McElroy’s Philadelphia Directory — those issued in 1839, 1840, 1843, 1844, and 1845. [Clarke is not listed, no doubt through inadvertence, by McElroy’s for 1837, 1841, and 1842.] Whatever the location of the “small house” to which the Poe family moved shortly after September 4, 1838, they seem to have resided in this dwelling for almost four years. On December 6, 1839, Poe ­[page 26:] wrote John C. Cox, a Philadelphian whom he had not seen for “nearly a year,” and invited him to visit his family: “We are still where we were.” This letter almost certainly indicates that they remained at one location throughout the calendar year 1839. On April 1, 1841, when Poe wrote Thomas Wyatt, he again invited his correspondent to visit his family: “We are still at the old place.” Poe’s reference to their residence as “the old place” suggests that they had been living in this dwelling for some time. The fact that he uses this phrase to identify his location to Thomas Wyatt may well indicate that the family were already established in this dwelling at the time of his involvement with The Conchologist’s First Book in late 1838 or early 1839. The first evidence that the family had moved from the “small house” mentioned in Poe’s letter to Brooks is provided by his May 25, 1842, letter to Frederick William Thomas: “I have moved from the old place.” One contemporary description of “the old place” seems to be found in the reminiscence which Amanda B. Harris published in Hearth and Home in 1875. This account, which is reprinted in the directory, discusses the Poe family at the time when Virginia first revealed symptoms of tuberculosis. Since her illness occurred around January 20, 1842, the Hearth and Home reminiscence probably refers to the “small house” which Poe familiarly called “the old place.” Miss Harris described the Poe residence as “a pretty little rose-covered cottage on the outskirts of Philadelphia.” This description accords with the information provided by other documents. That the house was in an undeveloped section of Philadelphia is suggested by the fact that Poe, in his April 24, 1840, letter to Hiram Haines, envisioned the possibility of keeping a pet deer, which could nibble the grass before his windows. Moreover, the location given by Miss Clarke would ­[page 27:] have been found “on the outskirts of Philadelphia” during the period from 1838 to 1842. Two contemporary maps reveal that the developed areas of Philadelphia were then concentrated between Broad Street and the Delaware River. In the vicinity of Sixteenth and Locust, there were more vacant lots than buildings. For documentation, see T. G. Bradford’s unbound map of “Philadelphia” (n. p., n. p., 1838), held by the Philadelphia Free Library, and see the unbound map of “Philadelphia, 1840: Tanner’s Universal Atlas” (n. p., n. p., n. d.), held by the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. Two other descriptions of the Poe family’s residence during the early part of the Philadelphia period are reproduced in the directory entries for Thomas Dunn English and Mary Starr.

October, 1838

OCTOBER: The Casket (Vol. 13, p. 463) publishes a temperance poem by a young Philadelphian:

Original.

TOUCH NOT THE BOWL.

——————

BY THOMAS DUNN ENGLISH

——————

Touch not the rosy wine, rash man! nor dare

To place in peril thy immortal soul,

For though its brim be flower-crowned and fair,

Darkest destruction lingers in the bowl.

Who heedless drinks resigns him to despair,

And hurries eager to the fatal goal.

Be warned in time! desist! nor when too late,

Cast thou the odium on thy adverse fate. ­[page 28:]

 

Men of a giant intellect — the master-spirits

Of this, our gloomy, sin-begetting world,

Albeit they possessed all mental merits,

Yielded before its power; and down were hurled

Below, the station which a slave inherits.

Let not thy lip with pride and scorn be curled,

Who drinks is lost, — who shuns may fate deride, —

Then e’er thou perish, cast the bowl aside.

 

Why wouldst thou drink? knowst thou the years of woe,

The dreadful penalty which will be thine,

When thou hash basked in its unholy glow,

And grovelling, worshipped at its bestial shrine.

Hence where the water from the mountains flow,

‘Tis nature’s draught — say — shall it too be thine.

Then fling aside the cup — sorrows and sighs

Are its attendants — cast it down — Be wise!

Blockley, August 4th, 1838

NOTE: English was nineteen years old. “Touch Not the Bowl” illustrates the limitations of his poetic ability, and it reveals his early advocacy of the temperance movement. Shortly after May 11, 1839, English was to meet Poe, a man “of a giant intellect” who suffered from an inability to control his drinking. According to Joseph Jackson, Encyclopedia of Philadelphia, I (Harrisburg, Pa.: National Historical Association, 1931), 301, “Blockley” was a-township on the west bank of the Schuylkill River, which was incorporated into the city of Philadelphia in 1854. English’s habit of affixing his place of residence to his published works was later to be satirized by John S. Du Solle and Jesse E. Dow, two of Poe’s close friends (see the chronology for February 11, 1839, and November 27, 1841). English was also scored for his faulty grammar. In “The Literati” (Works, XV, 64-66), Poe remarked that this author’s “deficiencies in English grammar” were manifested in his habit of “coupling nouns in the plural with verbs in the singular.” The solecism in the third stanza of “Touch Not the Bowl,” ­[page 29:] which contains the poet’s counsel “Hence where the water from the mountains flow,” probably did not result from a typesetter’s error.

OCTOBER 1: The Philadelphia National Gazette and Literary Register announces that the publishing firm of Carey, Lea & Blanchard is dissolved: “The business will be continued by Isaac Lea and William A. Blanchard, who are duly authorized to settle all accounts of the late concern.”

NOTE: The National Gazette is quoted by David Kaser, Messrs. Care & Lea of Philadelphia (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1957), pp. 63, 164. Lea & Blanchard, one of the nation’s foremost publishing houses, were later to publish Poe’s Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque.

OCTOBER 10: The Baltimore Sun, p. 2, col. 1, reviews the September number of the American Museum, which has just appeared: “Baltimore can at length boast of a monthly literary periodical, which, from the specimen before us, bids fair to rival in excellence those of her sister cities. This work . . . . is edited by Nathan C. Brooks and Dr. J. E. Snodgrass, two gentlemen well known in the literary world

NOTE: The first number of the Museum was also noticed by the Baltimore American, October 11, p. 2, col. 1, and the Baltimore Republican, October 13, p. 2, col. 3.

OCTOBER 26: The Philadelphia High School opens its doors for the first time.

NOTE: This date is provided by Franklin Spencer Edmonds, History of the Central High School of Philadelphia (Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1902), p. 42. Dr. Henry McMurtrie, the ­[page 30:] first physics teacher, collaborated with Poe and Thomas Wyatt on The Conchologist’s First Book; John Frost, a Harvard graduate who was the school’s first professor of Literature and Belles-Lettres, wrote perceptive criticisms of “The Fall of the House of Usher,” “William Wilson,” and Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque. The Central High School retains its reputation for academic excellence.

November, 1838

NOVEMBER: Poe’s tandem stories “The Psyche Zenobia” and “The Scythe of Time” appear in the American Museum.

NOTE: The stories were later entitled “How to Write a Blackwood Article” and “A Predicament.” “The Scythe of Time” contains a derisive allusion to Martin Van Buren, whose administration was often held responsible for the nation’s economic woes.

December, 1838

DECEMBER: A notice on the inside front wrapper of Burton’s announces that “The Gentleman’s Magazine has become the sole property of the Editor, William E. Burton, Esq.”

NOTE: This notice is quoted by J. Albert Robbins, “The History of Graham’s Magazine,” Diss. Pennsylvania 1947, p. 96. The monthly numbers of magazines like Burton’s and Graham’s were issued in wrappers (or covers) which carried advertisements, editorial notices, circulation claims, and other information. The wrappers are valuable ­[page 31:] documents; but unfortunately, when the separate numbers of the magazine were bound into volumes for preservation, they were almost always discarded. Unbound copies of Burton’s in the original wrappers are rare.

DECEMBER 1: In the New York Mirror (Vol. 16, p. 180), Nathaniel P. Willis comments on a new magazine: “The ‘American Museum’ . . . . has certainly put out a first number of uncommon cleverness. . . . . It has a paper on the fabulous Atlantis, full of ingenuity and humour; and in a tale called Ligeia, (by Mr. Poe,) there is a fine march of description, which has a touch of D’Israeli’s quality, and is worthy of a more intelligible sequel.”

NOTE: Willis was then the Mirror’s British correspondent; he reprinted these remarks in his Letters from Under a Bridge, And Poems (London: George Virtue, 1840), p. 121. Poe quoted this review in his letter to Philip Pendleton Cooke ante September 16, 1839

CIRCA DECEMBER 25: By making “the most painful sacrifices,” Poe manages to pay “Mrs Jones”; he has apparently been indebted to her for some time.

NOTE: This entry is based upon Poe’s December 6, 1839, letter to John C. Cox. In all probability, the “Mrs Jones” mentioned was Mrs. C. Jones, who operated a boarding house at 202 Mulberry, or Arch, Street; for documentation, see her entry in the directory.


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Notes:

None.


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[S:0 - PIP, 1978] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Articles - Poe in Philadelphia, 1838-1844 (D. R. Thomas) (Chapter 02)