Text: Arthur Hobson Quinn, “Chapter 10,” Edgar Allan Poe: A Critical Biography (1941), pp. 218-262


∞∞∞∞∞∞∞


[page 218:]

CHAPTER X
 
The Editor of the Messenger

It was in the heat of a Richmond summer that Poe returned to his early surroundings.(1) His engagements with the Southern Literary Messenger were tentative. White wrote to his friend, Lucian Minor, on August 18, 1835: “Mr. Poe is here also — He tarries one month — and will aid me all that lies in his power.”(2) White did not at once give to Poe the title of editor, and it is evident from his correspondence that he intended to keep personal control of the Messenger.

­ ­ ­

Letter from Poe to Mrs. Clemm and Virginia (page 1) [thumbnail] Letter from Poe to Mrs. Clemm and Virginia (page 2) [thumbnail] Letter from Poe to Mrs. Clemm and Virginia (page 3) [thumbnail]

[Illustrations on pages 220-222]
 
Poe’s plea to Mrs. Clemm and Virginia urging a speedy marriage

It needs little power of imagination to understand why Poe was at this time desperately unhappy. There were before him in Richmond at every turn scenes which called up memories of happiness, and of sorrows which only childhood can suffer and only youth can remember in their bitter intensity. Above all, he was lonely and he missed the womanly sympathy without which he could never be quite a man. His thoughts turned naturally back to Baltimore where that sympathy was always at his command. His grandmother, Mrs. David Poe, had died on July 7, 1835, in the seventy-ninth year of her age.(3) As he had followed her to her grave from the Amity Street house, accompanied by Mrs. Clemm and Virginia, perhaps the uppermost thought in the minds of his aunt and himself was the question of their future. Mrs. Poe’s annual pension of two hundred and forty dollars(4) died with her, and Poe would have been more than callous if he had not felt anxious [page 219:] concerning their well being. He was in constant correspondence with Mrs. Clemm, and sent her money, all he could spare. Then he received a letter from Mrs. Clemm in which she asked his advice concerning the offer of Neilson Poe to provide for Virginia’s education and support. Virginia was just thirteen, having been born August 15, 1822, and Neilson Poe, who had married her half-sister, Josephine Clemm, and was her own second cousin,(5) might well have felt that she was too young to marry Edgar. Evidently the marriage had been discussed among the growing Poe connections. It has usually been supposed that Mrs. Clemm arranged the marriage between Edgar and Virginia in order to keep the little family together. But a letter from Poe to Mrs. Clemm, written on August 29, 1835, which appears for the first time in a biography, makes clear that Edgar Poe loved his little cousin not only with the affection of a brother, but also with the passionate devotion of a lover and a prospective husband. The letter reveals Poe’s situation so completely that it becomes one of the most important documents in his biography:

Aug: 29th

My dearest Aunty,

I am blinded with tears while writing this letter — I have no wish to live another hour. Amid sorrow, and the deepest anxiety your letter reached [me] — and you well know how little I am able to bear up under the pressure of grief — My bitterest enemy would pity me could he now read my heart — My last my last my only hold on life is cruelly torn away — I have no desire to live and will not. But let my duty be done. I love, you know I love Virginia passionately devotedly. I cannot express in words the fervent devotion I feel towards my dear little cousin — my own darling. But what can [I] say. Oh think for me for I am incapable of thinking. All [my] thoughts are occupied with the supposition that both you & she will prefer to go with N. Poe; I do sincerely believe that your comforts will for the present be secured — I cannot speak as regards your peace — your happiness. You have both tender hearts — and you will always have the reflection that my agony is more than I can bear — that you have driven me to the grave — for love like mine can never be gotten over. It is useless to disguise the truth that when Virginia goes with N. P. that I shall never behold her again — that is absolutely sure. Pity me, my dear Aunty, pity me. I have no one now to fly to — I am [page 223:] among strangers, and my wretchedness is more than I can bear. It is useless to expect advice from me — what can I say? Can I, in honour & in truth say — Virginia! do not go! — do not go where you can be comfortable & perhaps happy — and on the other hand can I calmly resign my — life itself. If she had truly loved me would she not have rejected the offer with scorn? Oh God have mercy on me! If she goes with N. P. what are you to do, my own Aunty?

I had procured a sweet little house in a retired situation on Church hill — newly done up and with a large garden and [ever]y convenience — at only $5 per month. I have been dreaming every day & night since of the rapture I should feel in [seeing] my only friends — all I love on Earth with me there; the pride I would take in making you both comfor [table] & in calling her my wife. But the dream is over [G]od have mercy on me. What have I to live for? Among strangers with not one soul to love me.

The situation has this morning been conferred upon another. Branch T. Saunders. but White has engaged to make my salary $60 a month, and we could live in comparative comfort & happiness — even the $4 a week I am now paying for board would support us all — but I shall have $15 a week & what need would we have of more? I had thought to send you on a little money every week until you could either hear from Hall or Wm. Poe, and then we could get [a little?] furniture for a start — for White will not be able [to] [a]dvance any. After that all would go well — or I would make a desperate exertion & try to borrow enough for that purpose. There is little danger of the house being taken immediately. I would send you on $5 now — for White paid me the $8 2 days since — but you appear not to have received my last letter and I am afraid to trust it to the mail, as the letters are continually robbed. I have it for you & will keep it until I hear from you when I will send it & more if I get any in the meantime. I wrote you that Wm. Poe had written to me concerning you & has offered to assist you asking me questions concerning you which I answered. He will beyond doubt aid you shortly & with an effectual aid. Trust in God.

The tone of your letter wounds me to the soul — Oh Aunty, Aunty you loved me once — how can you be so cruel now? You speak of Virginia acquiring accomplishments, and entering into society — you speak in so worldly a tone. Are you sure she would be more happy — Do you think any one could love her more dearly [page 224:] than I? She will have far — very far better opportunity of entering into society here than with N.P. Every one here receives me with open arms.

Adieu my dear Aunty. I cannot advise you. Ask Virginia. Leave it to her. Let me have, under her own hand, a letter, bidding me good bye — forever — and I may die — my heart will break — but I will say no more.

E A P.

Kiss her for me — a million times

For Virginia,

My love, my own sweetest Sissy, my darling little wifey, think well before you break the heart of your cousin Eddy.

[Illegible. Probably “Dear Aunty”] I open this letter to inclose the 5$ — I have just received another letter from you announcing the rec’t of mine. My heart bleeds for you. Dearest Aunty consider my happiness while you are thinking about your own. I am saving all I can. The only money I have yet spent is 50 cts for washing — I have now 2.25 left. I will shortly send you more. Write immediately. I shall be all anxiety & dread until I hear from you. Try and convince my dear Virg’a. how devotedly I love her. I wish you would get me the Republican wh: [ich] noticed the Messenger & send it on immediately by mail. God bless & protect you both.(6)

If it were not so necessary to correct the errors that have constantly been made with regard to Poe’s feeling for Virginia, the publication of this letter might almost be deemed a violation of the privacy to which even a dead man is entitled. We seem to be looking into a naked soul, pouring out his passion, his craving for sympathy, his weakness of will, his willingness to sacrifice himself, his appeal that Mrs. Clemm will decide for him and for Virginia, the destiny of their lives. Poe’s incoherency at times, even his self-contradiction in the matter of his reception at Richmond, might be attributed to drink, but his exact statements concerning his receipts from White and his plans for the house could not have been written by a drunken man, or a man addicted to the drug habit. [page 225:]

This nervous depression continued into September, and in his distress Poe turned to the man who had helped him most. On September 11, 1835, he wrote to Kennedy from Richmond:

Dear Sir, — I received a letter yesterday from Dr. Miller, in which he tells me you are in town. I hasten, therefore, to write you — and express by letter what I have always found it impossible to express orally — my deep sense of gratitude for your frequent and effectual assistance and kindness. Through your influence Mr. White has been induced to employ me in assisting him with the Editorial duties of his Magazine at a salary of $520 per annum. The situation is agreeable to me for many reasons — but alas! it appears to me that nothing can now give me pleasure — or the slightest gratification. Excuse me, my dear Sir, if in this letter you find much incoherency. My feelings at this moment are pitiable indeed. I am suffering under a depression of spirits such as I have never felt before. I have struggled in vain against the influence of this melancholy — You will believe me, when I say that I am still miserable in spite of the great improvement in my circumstances. I say you will believe me, and for this simple reason, that a man who is writing for effect does not write thus. My heart is open before you — if it be worth reading, read it. I am wretched, and know not why. Console me, — for you can. But let it be quickly — or it will be too late. Write me immediately. Convince me that it is worth one’s while — that it is at all necessary to live, and you will prove yourself indeed my friend. Persuade me to do what is right. I do not mean this. I do not mean that you should consider what I now write you a jest — oh, pity me! for I feel that my words are incoherent — but I will recover myself. You will not fail to see that I am suffering under a depression of spirits which will (not fail to) ruin me should it be long continued. Write me then, and quickly. Urge me to do what is right. Your words will have more weight with me than the words of others — for you were my friend when no else was. Fail not — as you value your peace of mind hereafter.

E. A. POE

Mr. White desires me to say that if you could send him any contribution for the “Messenger” it would serve him most effectually. I would consider it a personal favor if you could do so [page 226:] without incommoding yourself. I will write you more fully hereafter.

John P. Kennedy, Esquire.

I see the “Gift” [Carey and Hart’s Annual for 1836] is out. They have published “The Ms. found in a Bottle” (the prize tale you will remember), although I not only told Mr. Carey myself that it had been published, but wrote him to that effect after my return to Baltimore, and sent him another tale in place of it (“Epimanes”) [“Four Beasts in One”]. I cannot understand why they have published it — or why they have not published either “Siope” [“Silence”] or “Epimanes.”

Mr. White is willing to publish my Tales of the Folio Club — that is, to print them. Would you oblige me by ascertaining from Carey & Lea whether they would, in that case, appear nominally as the publishers, the books, when printed, being sent on to them, as in the case of “H [orse] S [hoe] Robinson”? Have you seen the “Discoveries in the Moon”? Do you not think it altogether suggested by Hans Phaal? It is very singular, but when I first purposed writing a Tale concerning the Moon, the idea of Telescopic discoveries suggested itself to me — but I afterwards abandoned it. I had, however, spoken of it freely, and from many little incidents and apparently trivial remarks in those Discoveries, I am convinced that the idea was stolen from myself.

Yours most sincerely,(7)

EDGAR A. POE

In order to understand Poe, his duality, revealed by these two letters to Mrs. Clemm and to Kennedy, must always be remembered. With the surface of his mind he wrote of details of the publication of his stories. Within his inner and deeper consciousness he was fighting the most desperate conflict any man can face, the struggle for sanity. He tells Kennedy that he does not know the cause of his wretchedness. Evidently he must have had a satisfactory reply from Mrs. Clemm, or he could hardly have failed to find a reason for his depression. But the highly sensitive natures like Poe need no cause for their unhappiness, and he had reason enough for his. The recent death of his brother through mental and physical exhaustion, the reminder, through Rosalie’s lack of mental growth, of the heritage that was his, [page 227:] must have brought up over and over again the fear that one day he himself would pass over the line that divides the sane from the insane. Only those who have known such a fear or have been associated with those who have been subject to such a terror can understand how real a suffering Edgar Poe was experiencing in the drab surroundings of a cheap boarding house in Richmond. If he drank at times to relieve his cares, he did so for no love of liquor. He drank because he could forget for a short time who and where he was. His physical condition was weakened, too, by privation and anxiety and he could not throw off the dread that even he could have dismissed in earlier times. It must be remembered, too, that in those days sanity and insanity were final terms and the possibility of returning across that line into mental health had hardly begun to be understood.

Kennedy replied:

Baltimore, September 19, 1835.

My dear Poe, — I am sorry to see you in such plight as your letter shows you in. — It is strange that just at the time when every body is praising you and when Fortune has begun to smile upon your hitherto wretched circumstances you should be invaded by these villainous blue devils. — It belongs, however, to your age and temper to be thus buffeted, — but be assured it only wants a little resolution to master the adversary forever. — Rise early, live generously, and make cheerful acquaintances and I have no doubt you will send these misgivings of the heart all to the Devil. — You will doubtless do well henceforth in literature and add to your comforts as well as to your reputation which, it gives me great pleasure to tell you, is every where rising in popular esteem. Can’t you write some farces after the manner of the French Vaudevilles? if you can — (and I think you can —) you may turn them to excellent account by selling them to the managers in New York. — I wish you would give your thoughts to this suggestion.(8)

Whether Poe was helped by this sane and friendly advice or not, he had returned to Baltimore by September 22, 1835, when a license was taken out for his marriage to Virginia. The rumors that a secret marriage took place at this time could be dismissed without discussion if the most widely circulated of the recent biographies of Poe did not assert their validity.(9) The only affirmative evidence is an unsupported statement made by Eugene L. Didier: “Before leaving Baltimore [page 228:] he [Poe] persuaded Mrs. Clemm to allow him to marry Virginia, and on the 2nd of September, 1835, they were married, at Old Christ Church, by the Rev. John Johns, D. D., afterward the Protestant Episcopal Bishop of Virginia. The next day he went to Richmond, and did not see his darling little wife for a year, when she and her mother joined him in that city.”(10)  Harrison proved in 1902 that there was no record of the marriage in the books of St. Paul’s Church, where the records of old Christ Church would be kept, and that there was no supporting tradition in the family of the Rev. John Johns.(11) Woodberry, however, revived the rumor by repeating in 1909 his statement, made in 1885,(12) “It has been said, on the authority of Mrs. Clemm’s conversation taken down in shorthand, that the ceremony was performed by the Rev. John Johns, at old Christ Church.” Woodberry referred to “Didier, p. 58.” But it will be noticed that Didier says nothing in this connection about a statement of Mrs. Clemm “taken down by him in shorthand.” There is a shorthand record now in the Harvard College Library, of a conversation between Mrs. Clemm and Didier but in it Mrs. Clemm makes no mention of the marriage. The rumor rests, therefore, entirely upon the authority of Didier. Since every other item of his account, even the date, has been proved to be incorrect, and since Didier himself in his later memoir of Poe omits any reference to the “secret marriage,” and mentions only the 1836 wedding,(13) it is obvious that the rumor may be dismissed.

Poe did not return immediately to Richmond, for on September 29th, T. W. White wrote him a fatherly letter which reveals Poe’s earlier lapses from sobriety, and also shows clearly White’s attitude toward his “assistant.”

Richmond, Sept. 29, 1835.

Dear Edgar,

Would that it were in my power to unbosom myself to you, in language such as I could on the present occasion, wish myself master of. I cannot do it — and therefore must be content to speak to you in my plain way.

That you are sincere in all your promises, I firmly believe. But, Edgar, when you once again tread these streets, I have my fears that your resolve would fall through, — and that you would again [page 229:] sip the juice, even till it stole away your senses. Rely on your own strength, and you are gone! Look to your Maker for help, and you are safe!

How much I regretted parting with you, is unknown to any one on this earth, except myself. I was attached to you — and am still, — and willingly would I say return, if I did not dread the hour of separation very shortly again.

If you could make yourself contented to take up your quarters in my family, or in any other private family where liquor is not used, I should think there was hopes of you. — But, if you go to a tavern, or to any other place where it is used at table, you are not safe. I speak from experience.

You have fine talents Edgar, — and you ought to have them respected, as well as yourself. Learn to respect yourself, and you will very soon find that you are respected. Separate yourself from the bottle, and bottle companions, for ever!

Tell me if you can and will do so — and let me hear that it is your fixed purpose never to yield to temptation.

If you should come to Richmond again, and again should be an assistant in my office, it must be especially understood by us that all engagements on my part would be dissolved, the moment you get drunk.

No man is safe who drinks before breakfast! No man can do so, and attend to business properly.

I have thought over the matter seriously about the Autograph article, and have come to the conclusion that it will be best to omit it in its present dress. I should not be at all surprised were I to send it out, to hear that Cooper had sued me for a libel.

The form containing it has been ready for press three days — and I have been just as many days deciding the question.

I am your true Friend,

T. W. WHITE.

E. A. Poe, Esq.(14)

What promise Poe gave, we do not know, but by October 20th he was once more assisting White.(15) He had brought Mrs. Clemm and [page 230:] Virginia to Richmond early in October,(16) and soon all three were living at the boarding house of Mrs. James Yarrington, on the corner of Twelfth and Bank Streets fronting the Capitol Square. It must have been a fairly respectable but modest house, for the total cost of board for the week was nine dollars.(17) The companionship of Virginia and Mrs. Clemm restored Poe to a better frame of mind. He had for the first time, apparently, a definite employment of a character suited to his tastes, and his stories were being published in the Messenger. According to the policy of the Messenger, while “Shadow — A Fable” and “King Pest the First” which were new stories, were published anonymously in the September number, “Loss of Breath,” which had appeared in the Courier, was announced as by Edgar A. Poe. “Lines written in an Album,” beginning “Eliza, let thy generous heart” was also signed. “Eliza” may have been his cousin Elizabeth Herring, or Eliza White, the daughter of the proprietor, but since he dedicated the poem much later to Mrs. Osgood, it does not matter much. Poe also wrote all the critical and literary notices.(18) No wonder that White took him back!

­

Richmond about 1830 [thumbnail]

[Illustration facing page 230]
 
Richmond in Poe’s day

That White hoped to keep Poe in a dependent position is shown in his letter to Minor on October 24th. “You may introduce Mr. Poe’s name as amongst those engaged to contribute for its columns taking care not to say as editor.” There were no issues of the Messenger for October and November, 1835, and in the December number, White ventured so far as to announce that the “intellectual department of the paper is now under the conduct of the proprietor assisted by a gentleman of distinguished literary talents.” Then after expressing his assurance that the paper would succeed, when he (White) was “seconded” by this gentleman, he proceeded: “Some of the contributors, whose effusions have received the largest share of praise from critics, and (what is better still) have been read with most pleasure by that larger, unsophisticated class, whom Sterne loved for reading and being pleased ‘they knew not why, and care not wherefore’ — may be expected to continue their favors. Among these, we hope to be pardoned [page 231:] for singling out the name of Mr. Edgar A. Poe; not with design to make any invidious distinction, but because such a mention of him finds numberless precedents in the journals on every side, which have rung the praises of his uniquely original vein of imagination, and of humorous, delicate satire.” From this time Poe did practically all the editorial work but he was not given the recognition or even the authority he deserved.

In the December, 1835, issue of the Messenger, Poe included three “Scenes from an Unpublished Drama,” and added two more in January, 1836. Since “Politian,” as it was afterwards called, was Poe’s only attempt at drama and was based on actual occurrences in the United States which were used frequently by other writers, it has unusual importance. It was founded on the so-called “Kentucky Tragedy” which took place in Frankfort, Kentucky, in 1825. Solomon P. Sharp, a lawyer of some prominence, had seduced Anne Cooke, a few years before the tragedy. After many refusals, she finally agreed to marry Jereboam Beauchamp, but insisted that her husband revenge her upon her betrayer. Beauchamp challenged Sharp, who refused to meet him, and finally Beauchamp stabbed him fatally on November 7, 1825. Beauchamp and his wife were convicted of murder, and both attempted suicide in prison. She was successful, but Beauchamp was revived and executed July 7, 1826. The tragedy attracted wide attention, and soon passed into drama and fiction. Thomas Holley Chivers, later to become associated with Poe, wrote in 1834 his Conrad and Eudora; or, The Death of Alonzo, a drama in five acts. It is in verse, and is laid in Frankfort, but the characters really might live anywhere or rather nowhere, for a more absurd production would be hard to find. It had no influence upon Poe, in any event. Neither this nor “Politian” saw the stage, but in 1837 Charlotte Barnes produced a successful tragedy, Octavia Bragaldi, at the National Theatre, New York, and later played it in London. Charles Fenno Hoffman’s novel, Greyslaer (1840) touched upon the theme, although the crime was abduction, not seduction. William Gilmore Simms based his novel Beauchampe in 1842 upon the actual deeds of the characters(19) and used their real names.

When John Savage dramatized Beauchampe as Sybil in 1858 he [page 232:] laid the scene in Kentucky. While the novelists did not hesitate to use real places and names, Poe changed the scene to Rome, and while the time is not indicated, a quotation from Comus places it not earlier than the Seventeenth Century. In thus changing the scene and century, Poe was simply following a literary convention of the time. Miss Barnes placed her Octavia Bragaldi in Milan in the Fifteenth Century. Payne’s Brutus, Bird’s Gladiator and Broker of Bogota, Willis’s Tortesa the Usurer, successful tragedies of that day in America, all illustrate the belief that for the stage, it was best to remove the scene to a distance, so that liberties could be taken with the plot and the characters.

Poe published only five of the eleven scenes, but the entire drama has been edited from the original manuscript(20) by Dr. T. O. Mabbott. For his names and characters Poe used Italian history. Politian, the hero of the play, who corresponds to Colonel Beauchamp, was suggested by the Florentine scholar, Angelo Poliziano; Alessandra whom Castiglione is to marry, is the name of Alessandra Scala, a woman friend of Poliziano. Castiglione, the villain of the play, who represents Colonel Sharp, and Baldazzar, Politian’s friend, are derived from Baldassare Castiglione, the author of the Book of the Courtyer. Lalage, the heroine, was probably suggested by Horace. Di Broglio is probably an Italianized form of De Broglie, a French name prominent in the early Nineteenth Century.(21)

Poe made several changes in the characters of the principal actors in the drama. Politian is an Englishman, the Earl of Leicester, on a visit to Rome, and instead of being acquainted with the heroine as in Kentucky, he is so attracted by her voice as she sings in another room of the castle, that he falls in love with her before he sees her. In the descriptions of Politian’s nature by the other characters, there is evidently a reflection of the varying opinions concerning Poe himself of which he probably by that time was quite aware. The Count di Broglio has heard of Politian as “a man quite young in years but grey in fame.” Alessandra knows of him

“As of one who entered madly into life,

Drinking the cup of pleasure to the dregs.” [page 233:]

Castiglione, who has actually known Politian, insists that he is “a dreamer, shut out from common passions.” Castiglione is not quite as deep dyed a villain as Sharp has been represented by the other authors who have used the plot. His refusal to fight Politian is due to his remorse at his own treatment of Lalage, and is made quite dramatic by Poe. Lalage is, however, hopeless; her humility before even her maid servant and her constant weeping tend to remove her from sympathy.

Why did Poe omit the first, second, fifth, eighth, tenth, and eleventh scenes? The last, which is made up almost entirely of the verses known as “The Coliseum,” he probably felt was a repetition since he had already published that poem twice. The others are low comedy, often ironic, and introduce servants and another patrician character, San Ozzo, who have little to do with the action. Poe’s constant desire to preserve unity, and his realization that these scenes are not poetry, probably caused him to omit them. From the theatrical point of view, they would probably act quite well. We do not know whether Poe, like so many other writers of that time, hoped to see his drama presented on the stage, for he makes no mention of such a desire in his letters. Probably he considered it simply as a poem. It waited for stage production until 1933 when it was produced, apparently with success, by the Virginia Players at the University of Virginia.

“Politian” is not one of Poe’s great poems, and he did not return to the dramatic form. That he was wise is proved by the way in which the descriptive lyric, “The Coliseum” at once takes its place in a different order of poetry. It was injected into the drama and Poe wisely withdrew it. Viewed as an invocation to a great symbol of the past, it has a majesty and a powerful rhythmical sweep which reveal Poe’s mastery over blank verse, not often his chosen medium. It is not merely the description of an ancient building, it is the revelation of an imaginative soul, inspired by the ruins of a great race to the recreation of a picture of that race in the time of its glory. Poe undoubtedly knew Byron’s description of the Coliseum in Childe Harold, but the verbal resemblances are few and faint. Indeed the reactions of the two poets are quite opposite — Byron sums up with

“Rome and her Ruin past Redemption’s skill,

The World, the same wide den — of thieves, or what ye will”(22) [page 234:]

Poe puts the question to himself whether these stones are all that is left — and his reply has a loftier tone than Byron:

“Not all” — the Echoes answer me — “not all!

Prophetic sounds and loud, arise forever

From us, and from all Ruin, unto the wise,

As melody from Memnon to the Sun.

We rule the hearts of mightiest men — we rule

With a despotic sway all giant minds.

We are not impotent — we pallid stones.

Not all our power is gone — not all our fame —

Not all the magic of our high renown —

Not all the wonder that encircles us —

Not all the mysteries that in us lie —

Not all the memories that hang upon

And cling around about us as a garment,

Clothing us in a robe of more than glory.”

Poe continued to print or reprint his short stories, which had been written before he left Baltimore, if we are to believe his own statement to Kennedy. They have been discussed and no new fiction appeared during 1836. Several of the poems were also reprinted with alterations. “A Pæan” was changed to include a reference to “Helen” which later was withdrawn again. “Irene” was rewritten, with some decided improvements, most of which were preserved when it became “The Sleeper.”

While his connection with the Messenger was still in a tentative state, Poe entered into correspondence with other authors, discussing principles of composition which reveal his constant preoccupation with methods of writing. One of the most interesting of these correspondences was initiated by Nathaniel Beverley Tucker, Professor of Law at William and Mary College, and author of George Balcombe and The Partisan Leader. Tucker wrote first to White:

Williamsburg, November 29, 1835.

My dear Sir, — . . . I am much flattered by Mr. Poe’s opinion of my lines. Original thoughts come to me “like angels’ visits few and far between.” To Mr. P. they come thronging unbidden, crowding themselves upon him in such numbers as to require the black rod of that master of ceremonies, Criticism, to keep them in order. I hope he will take this and other suggestions of mine kindly. I am interested in him, and am glad he has found a [page 235:] position in which his pursuit of fame may be neither retarded, nor, what is worse, hurried by necessity. His history, as I have heard it, reminds me of Coleridge’s, — With the example of Coleridge’s virtues and success before him, he can need no other guide. Yet a companion by the way to hint that “more haste makes less speed” may not be amiss. Will he admit me to this office? Without the tithe of his genius, I am old enough to be his father (if I do not mistake his filiation, I remember his beautiful mother when a girl), and I presume I have had advantages the want of which he feels. . . . He may perhaps demur to what I have said of the metre of his drama, and quote some of Shakspear’s [sic] rough lines in vindication of his. But a man of genius should imitate no one, especially in his faults. . . .

Now one word more. If Mr. P. takes well what I have said, he shall have as much more of it whenever occasion calls for it. If not, his silence alone will effectually rebuke my impertinence.

Yours truly,

B. T.(23)

Poe’s reply may now be fitted into its proper place:

Richmond  
Dec: 1. 35.

Dear Sir,

Mr. White was so kind as to read me some portions of your letter to himself, dated Nov. 29, and I feel impelled, as much by gratitude for your many friendly expressions of interest in my behalf, as by a desire to make some little explanations, to answer, personally, the passages alluded to.

And firstly — in relation to your own verses. That they are not poetry I will not allow, even when judging them by your own rules. A very cursory perusal enabled me, when I first saw them, to point out many instances of the ποιησις you mention. Had I the lines before me now I would particularize them. But is there not a more lofty species of originality than originality of individual thoughts or individual passages? I doubt very much whether a composition may not even be full of original things, and still be pure imitation as a whole. On the other hand I have seen writings, devoid of any new thought, and frequently destitute of any new expression — writings which I could not help considering as full of creative power. But I have no wish to refine, and I dare say that you have little desire that I should do so. What is, or [page 236:] is not, poetry must not be told in a mere epistle. I sincerely think your lines excellent. . . .

Your opinion of “The MS. found in a Bottle” is just. The Tale was written some years ago, and was one among the first I ever wrote. I have met with no one, with the exception of yourself & P. P. Cooke of Winchester, whose judgment concerning these Tales I place any value upon. Generally, people praise extravagantly those of which I am ashamed, and pass in silence what I fancy to be praise worthy. The last tale I wrote was Morella and it was my best. When I write again it will be something better than Morella. At present, having no time upon my hands, from my editorial duties, I can write nothing worth reading. What articles I have published since Morella were all written some time ago. I mention this to account for the “mere physique” of the horrible which prevails in the “MS. found in a Bottle.” I do not think I would be guilty of a similar absurdity now. One or two words more of Egotism.

I do not entirely acquiesce in your strictures on the versification of my Drama. I find that versification is a point on which, very frequently, persons who agree in all important particulars, differ very essentially. I do not remember to have known any two persons agree, thoroughly, about metre. I have been puzzled to assign a reason for this — but can find none more satisfactory than that music is a most indefinite conception. I have made prosody, in all languages which I have studied, a particular subject of inquiry. I have written many verses, and read more than you would be inclined to imagine. In short — I especially pride myself upon the accuracy of my ear — and have established the fact of its accuracy — to my own satisfaction at least, by some odd chromatic experiments. I was therefore astonished to find you objecting to the melody of my lines. Had I time just now, and were I not afraid of tiring you, I would like to discuss this point more fully. There is much room for speculation here. Your own verses (I remarked this, upon first reading them, to Mr. White) are absolutely faultless, if considered as “pure harmony” — I mean to speak technically — “without the intervention of any discords.” I was formerly accustomed to write thus, and it would be an easy thing to convince you of the accuracy of my ear by writing such at present — but imperceptibly the love of these discords grew upon me as my love of music grew stronger, and I at length came to feel all the melody of Pope’s later versification, and that of the [page 237:] present T. Moore. I should like to hear from you on this subject. The Dream was admitted solely thro’ necessity. I know not the author.

In speaking of my mother you have touched a string to which my heart fully responds. To have known her is to be an object of great interest in my eyes. I myself never knew her — and never knew the affection of a father. Both died (as you may remember) within a few weeks of each other. I have many occasional dealings with Adversity — but the want of parental affection has been the heaviest of my trials.

I would be proud if you would honor me frequently with your criticism. Believe me when I say that I value it. I would be gratified, also, if you write me in reply to this letter. It will assure me that you have excused my impertinence in addressing you without a previous acquaintance.

Very respy. & sincerely

Y. ob. st.

EDGAR A. POE

Judge Beverly Tucker.(24)

Poe’s reference to his study of versification shows that he was only partially aware of the principles upon which English verse was established. What he speaks of as “discords” were his variations from a preconceived metrical pattern which are responsible for some of his finest effects, and which are, of course, in accord with the accentual nature of English verse. His statement that he never knew his mother is important and his repetition of his belief that his parents died within a few weeks of each other is equally significant. Here he is not writing for publication but to a gentleman who could have known the facts and whom he would have had no purpose in deceiving.

Tucker replied in a long letter(25) on December 5th, dealing largely with questions of versification. Tucker believed that the time element in English verse was all important, and made the same errors as Sidney Lanier did later. Tucker’s estimate of Poe’s criticism is valuable because, as is shown in a letter to White on January 26, 1836,(26) he makes clear that he does not admire all of Poe’s writing. Yet in the [page 238:] same letter he speaks of his lack of admiration of “Mrs. Sigourney & Co.” and adds, “I only mention this to say that Mr. P’s review of the writings of a leash of these ladies, in your last number, is a specimen of criticism, which for niceness of discrimination, delicacy of expression, and all that shows familiarity with the art, may well compare with any I have seen.” Tucker refers to Poe’s review of volumes of poems by Mrs. Sigourney, Mrs. H. F. Gould and Mrs. E. F. Ellet, in the January, 1835, number of the Messenger. Mrs. Ellet was to give him trouble in later years.

A letter to Mrs. Sigourney, who had evidently objected to Poe’s review of her poems in the January number, indicates his tact in dealing with a delicate question, for his strictures had been a bit severe, though not unfair:

Richmond, Va.  
April 12th, 1836.

Mrs. L. H. Sigourney,

Madam,

At the request of Mr. T. W. White, I take the liberty of replying to your letter of the 6th ult.

I am vexed to hear that you have not received the Messenger regularly, and am confident that upon reception of the January number (now again forwarded to your address) you will be fully convinced that your friends, in their zeal for your literary reputation, have misconceived the spirit of the criticism to which you have alluded. To yourself, personally, we commit our review, with a perfect certainty of being understood. That we have evinced any “severity amounting to unkindness” is an accusation of which you will, I sincerely hope, unhesitatingly acquit us. We refer you, especially, to the concluding sentences of the critique.

Mr. White desires me to express his regret at the mistake in relation to your package of books. He would have placed them immediately in the hands of some bookseller here, but was not sure that your views would be met in so doing. They are now properly disposed of.

You will, I hope, allow us still to send you the Messenger. We are grieved, and mortified to hear that you cannot again contribute to its pages, but your objection in respect to receiving a copy without equivalent is untenable — any one of your pieces already published in our Journal being more than an equivalent to a subscription in perpetuo. This we say as publishers, without [page 239:] any intention to flatter, and having reference merely to the sum usually paid, to writers of far less reputation, for articles immeasurably inferior.

In respect to your question touching the Editor of the Messenger, I have to reply that, for the last six months, the Editorial duties have been undertaken by myself. Of course, therefore, I plead guilty to all the criticisms of the Journal during the period mentioned. In addition to what evidence of misconception on the part of your friends you will assuredly find in the January number, I have now only to say that sincere admiration of the book reviewed was the predominant feeling in my bosom while penning the review.

It would afford me the highest gratification should I find that you acquit me of this “foul charge.” I will look with great anxiety for your reply.

Very respy. & truly

Yr. Ob. St.

EDGAR A. POE (27)

This letter is proof, if we needed it, that Poe had been writing all the reviews since the magazine resumed publication in December, 1835. Mrs. Sigourney’s reply,(28) on April 23rd, reveals a mollified poetess, who respects Poe’s judgments.

Poe’s letters to Kennedy continue and contain both personal and literary matters of interest:

Richmond, Jan. 22, 1836.

Dear Sir, — Although I have never yet acknowledged the receipt of your kind of letter of advice some months ago, it was not without great influence upon me. I have, since then, fought the enemy manfully, and am now, in every respect, comfortable and happy. I know you will be pleased to hear this. My health is better than for years past, my mind is fully occupied, my pecuniary difficulties have vanished, I have a fair prospect of future success — in a word all is right. I shall never forget to whom all this happiness is in great degree to be attributed. I know without your timely aid I should have sunk under my trials. Mr. White is very liberal, and besides my salary of 520$ pays me liberally for extra work, so that I receive nearly $800. Next year, that is at the [page 240:] commencement of the second volume, I am to get $1000. Besides this I receive, from Publishers, nearly all new publications. My friends in Richmond have received me with open arms, and my reputation is extending — especially in the South. Contrast all this with those circumstances of absolute despair in which you found me, and you will see how great reason I have to be grateful to God — and to yourself.

Some matters in relation to the death of Mrs. Catherine Clemm, who resided at Mount Prospect, four miles from Baltimore, render it necessary for me to apply to an attorney, and I have thought it probable you would be kind enough to advise me. . . [the omitted passage refers to family history.] Mrs. Clemm, the widow of William Clemm, Jr., is now residing under my protection at Richmond. She has two children who have an interest in this one fifth [of the Clemm Estate] — one of them, Virginia, is living with her here — the other, Henry, is absent (at sea). . . . Mrs. Clemm wishes me (if possible) to be appointed the guardian of her two children. Henry is seventeen and Virginia fifteen. . . . I should be glad to have your opinion in regard to my Editorial course in the “Messenger.” How do you like my Critical Notices? I have understood (from the Preface to your 3d Edition of “Horseshoe”) that you are engaged in another work. If so, can you not send me on a copy in advance of the publication. Remember me to your family, and believe me with the highest respect and esteem,

Yours very truly,

EDGAR A. POE.(29)

John P. Kennedy, Esqre

Kennedy’s reply on February 9, 1836, indicates the impression Poe’s grotesque stories made upon another writer: “You are strong enough now to be criticised. Your fault is your love of the extravagant. Pray beware of it. You find a hundred intense writers for one natural one. Some of your bizarreries have been mistaken for satire — and admired too in that character. They deserved it, but you did not, for you did not intend them so. I like your grotesque — it is of the very best stamp; [page 241:] and I am sure you will do wonders for yourself in the comic — I mean the serio-tragicomic.” Then he concludes with a repetition of some good advice as to Poe’s habits.(30)

Poe only partially agreed with Kennedy as to the artistic purpose of his grotesques. In a letter of February 11, 1836, he says:

You are nearly, but not altogether right in relation to the satire of some of my Tales. Most of them were intended for half banter, half satire — although I might not have fully acknowledged this to be their aim even to myself. “Lionizing” and “Loss of Breath” were satires properly speaking — at least so meant — the one of the rage for Lions, and the facility of becoming one — the other of the extravagancies of Blackwood. I find no difficulty in keeping pace with the demands of the Magazine. In the February number, which is now in the binder’s hands, are no less than 40 pages of Editorial — perhaps this is a little de trop.

There was no November number issued — Mr. W. having got so far behind hand in regard to time, as to render it expedient to date the number which should have been the November number December.

I am rejoiced that you will attend to the matters I spoke of in my last. Mr. W. has increased my salary, since I wrote, 104$., for the present year — This is being liberal beyond my expectations. He is exceedingly kind in every respect. You did not reply to my query touching the ‘new work.’ But I do not mean to be inquisitive.

Most sincerely yours,

EDGAR A. POE.(31)

While the readers of the Messenger were having an opportunity to read his stories and poems, it was as a critic that Poe made his definite impression upon a public as yet not quite aware of him. Historians of our criticism have usually credited Poe with being the first American critic in time as well as in merit. This statement is by no means accurate,(32) and Poe’s achievement will not suffer if we are acquainted with the real characteristics of American criticism before [page 242:] his day. To a certain degree he continued the critical methods of his predecessors, and in other respects he differed from them.

Literary criticism takes four general forms, descriptive, destructive, analytic, and constructive. The vast mass of criticism is descriptive; it merely tells about the book in question, gives the critic’s personal praise or blame, and is seldom of value. Destructive criticism is easily written by a clever phrase maker and Poe, who could succeed brilliantly in this form, yielded too often to the temptation. Analytic criticism, which seeks really to understand what the author has been trying to accomplish, then goes to the heart of the work in question, refusing to deal with nonessentials, and presents to the reader a clear picture of the accomplishment of the writer, is much rarer than the two first forms. Poe shone here.

Constructive criticism is extremely rare. In order to write it, a critic must be widely read, he must have a keen sense of comparative values, an innate knowledge of the capacity and limitations of a literary form. Just as a literary historian must be a critic if he is to make any real contribution, so a constructive critic must have the historian’s perspective even if he does not write history. He can then establish general principles of criticism, as Poe did in his definition of the short story, which will become permanent contributions, and by whose standard other critics will be judged.

Before and during Poe’s day criticism in America was institutional rather than personal. Little criticism was signed; the weight it carried was that of the periodical in which it appeared and back of the periodical was the class in the community which it represented. Dr. Charvat has called attention to the fact that out of forty important critics of the period 1810 to 1835, eight of the ten most significant, George Bancroft, W. C. Bryant, E. T. Charming, W. E. Channing, R. H. Dana, Senior, Joseph Dennie, A. H. Everett, W. H. Prescott, Robert Sands, and Robert Walsh, were trained for the law. Naturally, they would be judicial, and defenders of social law. They were guides of morals as well of taste; the social implications of literature rather than the ideals of art, were their concern. They usually disliked the mob, and here Poe was akin to them. They distrusted the mystical and here he differed from them. Scottish philosophy, beginning with Karnes and affecting Blackwood’s Edinburgh Review, had a great influence upon American thinking in this period, and with Blackwood’s Poe was well acquainted. In 1817, the year of the foundation of Blackwood’s, Dennie’s Portfolio printed extracts from the works of A. W. Schlegel [page 243:] and in 1818 a translation of Friedrich Schlegel’s Lectures was published in Philadelphia.

Since critics like Prescott knew and assimilated the principles of the Schlegels and yet did not slavishly follow them, his essays in the North American Review may well have given Poe direction, if not inspiration. Prescott’s analysis and history of the essay in the North American Review(33) could have shown Poe the way to his famous essay on the short story, twenty years later.

In their liberal views upon the structure of verse, Bryant and the elder Dana prepared the way for Poe.(34) Critics generally, especially in the South, favored the general and abstract term, as opposed to the specific and concrete. Perhaps this attitude accounted for Poe’s use of abstract terms in his poetry and his deliberate dropping of names from his verse in his revisions of “Tamerlane” and other early poems.

Poe was independent, but was not our first independent critic. The magazines of this early period did not contain advertisements of books, and on the whole the criticism of the American Quarterly, of the Portfolio, of the North American Review, was honest. If it was too dependent, it was dependent upon a self-imposed standard rather than upon personal likes or dislikes. Poe’s independence, as we shall see, lay rather in his refusal to accord with earlier standards, unless he agreed with them. He was prompt to see merit in new writers, in fact he overpraised some that have hardly justified his encomiums.

Poe had contributed a number of criticisms beginning with the February, 1835, number of the Messenger, in which he reviewed Calavar, Robert Montgomery Bird’s stirring novel of the conquest of Mexico. Poe began his review with an answer to Sydney Smith’s taunt, “Who reads an American book?” and thus identified himself at once with those who refused to apologize, even implicitly, for American literature. In this review, as also in his notice of Bird’s sequel to Calavar, The Infidel, Poe showed his discrimination in praising judiciously the early work of a writer who is only recently beginning to be appreciated. In the December, 1835, issue, when he really became editor, he increased greatly the number of his reviews. His savage attack on Norman Leslie, a novel by Theodore S. Fay, while it was, in one sense, justified by the absurd conversation and melodramatic incident of the book, is an example of Poe’s destructive criticism which [page 244:] does him little credit. Fay was one of the Editors of the New York Mirror, and the journalistic group of which he was one of the most prominent, remembered the attack and revenged him upon Poe when the latter went to New York. If Poe’s critique had been a dignified but stinging protest against the kind of puffery and log-rolling which, he claimed, had preceded the publication of Norman Leslie, we could only admire his courage in attacking one of the most powerful literary cliques in America. But to spend nearly four thousand words to prove that Norman Leslie was not worth reading, and that Fay was ignorant of the rules of grammar, was unworthy of Poe. He descended to the level of those who worship mere smartness and he won the easy distinction of unsuitable language. Worst of all, the superficial cleverness of the review attracted attention and Poe learned how easy it was to win notoriety by such means. Again and again through his career he made enemies and alienated friends by the viciousness of his attacks, often unfair, and apparently made to satisfy some bitterness of spirit which demanded expression.

Even more unfortunate was his descent into personalities. In his review of William Gilmore Simms’ The Partisan, in January, 1836, he began with a totally unnecessary burlesque of Simms’ modest dedication to Richard Yeadon. Then, imagining a sycophantic visit by Simms to Yeadon, he concluded with the sentence, “Mr. Y. feels it his duty to kick the author of The Yemassee downstairs.” Insufferably bad taste like this is hard to overlook, and it discounts some excellent analysis of The Partisan such as that which pronounced Porgy, the comic character, as “an insufferable bore.” What Poe needed was a friendly critic like Sophia Hawthorne, some good angel like Olivia Clemens, to advise him. But much as Virginia or Mrs. Clemm adored him, they were no check at this time, upon his besetting sin.

It is pleasant to turn from this destructive criticism to those analyses in which Poe continued to discuss the nature of poetry. In January, 1836, he chose the occasion of his review of several volumes of recent verse to question the effect of a long poem upon the reader, and to continue: “But in pieces of less extent — the pleasure is unique, in the proper acceptation of that term — the understanding is employed, without difficulty, in the contemplation of the picture as a whole — and thus its effect will depend in a very great degree, upon the perfection of its finish, upon the nice adaptation of its constituent parts, and especially upon what is rightly termed by Schlegel, the unity or totality of interest.” It is one of his earliest statements of the principle of unity which became a cardinal doctrine of his critical theory. [page 245:]

In April, 1836, Poe wrote the best of his early critical analyses in his review of Joseph Rodman Drake’s The Culprit Fay; and Other Poems, and Fitz-Greene Halleck’s Alnwick Castle with Other Poems. He began with a comparison of the earlier state of American criticism with its “subserviency” to English opinion, and the “boisterous and arrogant” tone of the newer criticism which likes “a stupid book the better because sure enough, its stupidity is American.” These statements are generalities, of course, and are, as we have already seen, only half true. But the extent of Poe’s influence is manifest in the fact that nearly every historian of our literature has accepted them as gospel, simply because he said them. Poe insists that it has been his constant endeavor “to stem a current so disastrously undermining the health and prosperity of our literature.”

He quotes in order to combat them, attacks upon his own criticisms, from New York and Philadelphia journals,(35) in which the weaknesses of his destructive criticisms are fairly pointed out. Today this discussion is of value mainly as showing the extent of his influence. Returning to the matter in hand, Poe created one of the most eloquent of his definitions of poetry.

Poetry has never been defined to the satisfaction of all parties. Perhaps, in the present condition of language it never will be. Words cannot hem it in. Its intangible and purely spiritual nature refuses to be bound down within the widest horizon of mere sounds. But it is not, therefore, misunderstood — at least, not by all men is it misunderstood. Very far from it. If, indeed, there be any one circle of thought distinctly and palpably marked out from amid the jarring and tumultuous chaos of human intelligence, it is that evergreen and radiant Paradise which the true poet knows, and knows alone, as the limited realm of his authority — as the circumscribed Eden of his dreams. But a definition is a thing of words — a conception of ideas. And thus while we readily believe that Poesy, the term, it will be troublesome, if not impossible to define — still, with its image vividly existing in the world, we apprehend no difficulty in so describing Poesy, the Sentiment, as to imbue even the most obtuse intellect with a comprehension of it sufficiently distinct for all the purposes of practical analysis. [page 246:]

Poe speaks of Veneration and Ideality as two of the most potent Faculties creating poetry.

Poesy [he continues], is the sentiment of Intellectual Happiness here, and the Hope of a higher Intellectual Happiness hereafter.

Imagination is its soul. With the passions of mankind — although it may modify them greatly — although it may exalt, or inflame, or purify, or control them — it would require little ingenuity to prove that it has no inevitable, and indeed no necessary co-existence.

After a tribute to Coleridge, who owes his preeminence “rather to metaphysical than poetical powers,” Poe made his criticism of Drake’s poetry an occasion to discuss the difference between Imagination and Fancy. “The Culprit Fay” had been given additional interest by Drake’s early death. Poe quotes copiously to prove his first point, that Drake’s lines, charming as the description of the fairy world may be, are the result of a talent for comparison, not of an imaginative power, springing “from the brain of the poet, enveloped in the moral sentiments of grace, of color, of motion — of the mystical, of the august — in short of the ideal.” In order to prove what he means by this abstract conception, he names some of the great poems of the world, which do spring from imaginative power, including the Inferno, Comus, Christabel, and Queen Mab. That this contrast is hardly fair to Drake did not seem to occur to Poe. Nor is it fair to demand a close adherence to human relations in what is intended by the poet as a departure from them. The detailed criticism of Drake’s lines is not, however, the important element in the review. It is Poe’s recognition that great poetry springs not from mere comparison, which leaves the objects compared still separate and distinct, but in that imaginative process which fues their qualities into some new creation, springing from their union in the poet’s mind. He does not say this in so many words, but his definition of Ideality means it implicitly, and he could have derived it from Coleridge’s Biographia Literaria(36) which he had undoubtedly read.

It would be a brave critic, however, who would attempt to give the exact source of any particular passage in Poe’s critical writing. He read Coleridge surely and he refers to Schlegel, meaning probably A. W. Schlegel, but in view of Poe’s well known habit of referring to a primary source an idea he has taken from a secondary one, it is dangerous to assume that he has read a book or known an author [page 247:] because he quotes from them. Moreover, he was a constant reader of magazines, and the English and American journals frequently discussed both A. W. and Friedrich Schlegel. Friedrich Schlegel’s Lectures on the History of Literature Ancient and Modern was published in translation in Philadelphia in 1818, and while the translation of A. W. Schlegel’s Lectures on Dramatic Art and Literature, published in Philadelphia in 1833, seems to be the first American edition, James Black’s English translation in 1815 must have been easy of access to American critics, judging from the references to the Schlegels in magazines after 1817. To attribute, therefore, Poe’s theory that a long poem is a contradiction in terms to A. W. Schlegel, simply because Poe refers to him, is hardly judicious, to say the least. Moreover, when we remember that before Poe, Bryant expressed the opinion that there is no such thing as a long poem, that it is as impossible as long ecstasy,(37) and think of the occasions on which Bryant might have expressed this opinion anonymously in his own journal or elsewhere, it becomes apparent that Poe’s sources as a critic must be identified only in the most general terms. Woodberry is unfair, therefore, in speaking of Poe’s “constant parroting of Coleridge.”(38) Poe was an assimilative critic. He took what he pleased, where he pleased, and his use of the material was by no means consistent. At times, he made a parade of learning he did not possess, but when he was dealing with a matter of vital concern to him, he thought things through and he enriched the suggestions of others by the insight and power of clear expression until the process became a creative one.

His taste in selecting from the work of another poet the verses most worthy of praise is shown well in the review of Halleck’s Alnwick Castle with Other Poems. He chooses the “Lines on the Death of Joseph Rodman Drake,” one of the most simple and heartfelt elegies in our language, as Halleck’s best poem, and selects unerringly that stanza of “Marco Bozzaris,” the sixth, in which Halleck rises momentarily from rhetoric to poetry. Yet his objection to Halleck’s lines in “Alnwick Castle” such as

“True as the steel of their tried blades”

because “the proper course of the rhythm would demand an accent upon syllables too unimportant to sustain it,” shows that Poe still did not understand the true basis of English versification, although he [page 248:] had already in his own verse, disregarded mere syllable counting and preconceived metrical schemes.

Poe’s critical discrimination was also shown in his appreciation of Longstreet’s Georgia Scenes, and in his early recognition of Dickens’ Watkins Tottle and Other Sketches. By Boz. In this latter review, he expressed his preference for the “brief article” as opposed to the novel, because of the unity possible in the shorter form. His favorable review of Dr. Bird’s Sheppard Lee, published anonymously, gave him an opportunity for some interesting speculations upon the transmigration of souls, although his usual penetration was not present, for he failed to recognize that the novel was written by Dr. Bird, with whose work he was familiar.

In the April issue of the Messenger, Poe analyzed the famous chess player, supposed to be a purely mechanical device, which had been invented by Baron Wolfgang von Kempelen in 1769 and sold to a Bavarian mechanic, J. N. Maelzel, who exhibited the Turkish figure throughout various cities in the United States. It was finally purchased by Dr. John K. Mitchell of Philadelphia, and stood in the Chinese Museum at Ninth and Sansom Streets until it was destroyed by fire in 1854. When Maelzel first exhibited it in Baltimore in 1827, two boys, secreted on a roof, saw the human figure of Maelzel’s assistant come out of the machine. An article, “The Chess-Player Discovered,” appeared in the Baltimore Gazette on Friday, June 1, 1827, exposing the matter.(39) Whether Poe saw the article we cannot tell, but as he was in the army at Fort Independence, it is unlikely. Rumors of the exposure, however, may still have been extant in Baltimore when he returned. Many attempts had been made to solve the puzzle, especially by Sir David Brewster, in his Letters on Natural Magic in 1832, to which Poe refers in his own article. Poe’s achievement lay in his ability to use material already in print and to prove by clear reasoning that the machine must be operated by human agency. He pursued his usual method of selecting the unusual elements in the problem, among others that the Turk always used his left hand.

Those who speak of Poe as a stranger in a land where he was an accident, have evidently never read his criticisms in the Messenger upon books dealing with public affairs. In his review of Lucian [page 249:] Minor’s Address on Education,(40) he did not hesitate to call attention to the lack of free public education in Virginia. “Her once great name is becoming, in the North, a bye-word for imbecility” was strong language to say the least. He was equally willing, however, to defend a Southern institution like Slavery. In his review of Paulding’s Slavery in the United States and an anonymous work, The South Vindicated from the Treason and Fanaticism of the Northern Abolitionists,(41) he drew a parallel between the anti-slavery agitation, which about 1835 was renewing its efforts, and the revolutions of Cromwell and the French Revolution, all being an attack upon property; and all being prompted, he says, by a desire to free those who have been enslaved. “Recent events in the West Indies and the parallel movement here, give an awful importance to these thoughts in our minds.” The possibility of a slave insurrection was, of course, fresh in the minds of Southerners. Poe defends slavery mainly on the ground of the loyalty of the slave, and the reciprocal sense of responsibility on the master’s part. He relates some affecting incidents illustrating these sentiments. Poe’s article, for it is rather his own defence of slavery than a review, is calmly and sanely written from the point of view of a Southerner who had grown up in a family which owned slaves and who had sold a slave himself. It shows also that Poe had been thinking a good deal about the matter, and his knowledge of the actual conditions was much more accurate than that of Emerson or Whittier. Throughout his editorship of the Messenger he continually made reference to affairs of the day.

In the August number of the Messenger, Poe published a collection of paragraphs containing miscellaneous information, usually dealing with ancient history, which he called “Pinakidia or Tablets.” In the introductory paragraphs, as Woodberry has shown,(42) he unfortunately, through a misprint, was led to say that most of the matter was “original” when he meant “not original,” for Poe adds: “Some portions of it may have been written down in the words, or nearly in the words, of the primitive authorities.” But Woodberry also showed that the authorities of which Poe speaks as providing similar collectors with material, are examples of his quoting from secondary sources as though they were primary. The most amusing is his reference to the “Melanges Literaires’ [sic] of Suard and André” where he copied an incorrect reference from the translation of Schlegel’s Lectures on Dramatic [page 250:] Art and Literature, the original reference being to “Suard und andere.” This slip incidentally is illuminating in its revelation of how much, or rather how little, German, Poe knew. Recent investigation has revealed the sources of much of the “Pinakidia,” which are drawn largely from Isaac Disraeli’s Curiosities of Literature, Baron Bielfeld’s Elements of Universal Erudition, Jacob Bryant’s Mythology, James Montgomery’s Lectures on Poetry and General Literature, and J. F. Cooper’s Excursions in Switzerland.(43) Eighty of the one hundred and seventy-two items have been identified. Poe may have intended them originally for “fillers” or short paragraphs used to complete pages of the magazine, in which custom he would have followed the earlier editors of the Messenger.

Poe naturally took advantage of his widening reputation as a critic in his attempts to secure a publisher for a volume of his short stories, Carey and Lea having declined to assume the risk. Through White he secured the good offices of James K. Paulding with Harper and Brothers, but Paulding wrote White in March that the firm had decided against the project. Paulding took occasion to suggest to Poe that “he apply his fine humor, and his extensive acquirements to more familiar subjects of satire; to the faults and foibles of our own people and above all to the ridiculous affectations and extravagancies of the fashionable English Literature of the day.” Paulding also gave him the good advice that satire, if it is to be relished, should be levelled at something familiar to American readers. Harpers finally returned the manuscript with a letter which has some importance in the history of American publishing, and shows the respect with which Poe’s reviews were received:

New York, June, 1836.

Edgar A. Poe, Esq.
  Richmond, Va.

Dr. Sir,

We have the honour to acknowledge the receipt of yours dated the 3d Inst. Since it was written, the MSS. to which you refer have reached you safely, as we learn from Mr. Paulding, who has been so informed we presume by Mr. White. [page 251:]

The reasons why we declined publishing them were threefold. First, because the greater portion of them had already appeared in print — Secondly, because they consisted of detached tales and pieces; and our long experience has taught us that both these are very serious objections to the success of any publication. Readers in this country have a decided and strong preference for works (especially fiction) in which a single and connected story occupies the whole volume, or number of volumes, as the case may be; and we have always found that republications of magazine articles, known to be such, are the most unsaleable of all literary performances. The third objection was equally cogent. The papers are too learned and mystical. they would be understood and relished only by a very few — not by the multitude. The numbers of readers in this country capable of appreciating and enjoying such writings as those you submitted to us is very small indeed. We were therefore inclined to believe that it was for your own interest not to publish them. It is all important to an author that his first work should be popular. Nothing is more difficult, in regard to literary reputation, than to overcome the injurious effect of a first failure.

We are pleased with your criticisms generally — although we do not always agree with you in particulars, we like the bold, decided, energetic tone of your animadversions, and shall take pleasure in forwarding to you all the works we publish — or at least such of them as are worthy of your notice. We are obliged to publish works occasionally, which it would scarcely be expected of the Messenger to make the subject of comment.

The last number of the Messenger came to hand last evening, and in our opinion fully sustains the high character which it has acquired for itself. The notices of the Life of Washington, and Sallust we presume will prove highly pleasing to Mr. Paulding and Professor Anthon.

We are, very respectfully,

Your Obdt. Servant,

HARPER & BROTHERS.(44)

It was also through White that Edward Johnston, a writer in New York, interested Saunders and Otley, the English publishers. But though this firm was receptive, even to the extent of offering to send the manuscript to the home office, in London, nothing came of it.(45) [page 252:]

It must have been galling to Poe to realize that the door to recognition was shut in his face. During the same year, 1836, Hawthorne was having a similar discouraging reception in his efforts to have Twice Told Tales published. In consequence, he had been going through a nervous depression that made his friend, Horatio Bridges, caution him against suicide. But no biographer of Hawthorne has in consequence treated him as a pathological case! Bridges risked two hundred and fifty dollars to secure the issue of Twice Told Tales in 1837, and a little later Hawthorne’s classmate, Longfellow, helped materially with his cordial critique in the North American Review. But Poe had no friend who would risk the money and no classmate to give the book a push. Twice Told Tales had only a moderate success at the time, but in view of the fact that probably no two volumes of short stories have ever had the large and steady sale of those of Poe and Hawthorne, it is at least open to question whether the fault lay in the material or in the lack of courage and skill in the firms that refused them. The irony of publishing is exemplified by the payment of thirty thousand francs by Harper and Brothers to Gustave Doré for his illustrations for “The Raven,” which was published as an art book for the holiday season of 1883!(46)

­

Marriage Bond of E. A. and Virginia Poe [thumbnail]

[Illustration on page 253]
 
Marriage bond of Edgar Poe and Virginia Clemm

Meanwhile Poe was endeavoring to aid Mrs. Clemm in her efforts, which were perennial, to obtain some help from her relatives. William Poe, of Augusta, Georgia, assisted her, and George Poe, Jr., who had declined to help David Poe, Jr., in 1809 and who was the cashier of a bank in Mobile, Alabama, was appealed to on January 12, 1836, for one hundred dollars, to assist Mrs. Clemm in establishing a boarding house. On this letter George Poe(47) endorsed the laconic statement: “Sent check — $100.” But there seems to have been no boarding house in consequence.

On May 16, 1836, a marriage bond was filed in the office of the Clerk of the Hustings Court for the City of Richmond by Edgar A. Poe and Thomas W. Cleland, in connection with the marriage of Edgar Poe and Virginia Clemm. Mr. Cleland also made an affidavit that Virginia was “of the full age of twenty-one years,” while, of course, she was not quite fourteen. The ceremony was performed in the evening of the same day(48) at Mrs. Yarrington’s house by the [page 254:] Reverend Amasa Converse, a Presbyterian minister, who apparently asked no questions. Poe and his bride spent a brief honeymoon at Petersburg, Virginia. This ceremony seems to be the best evidence that no secret marriage took place in 1835. With this marriage, Poe’s responsibility for Virginia and Mrs. Clemm passed from a voluntary assistance, to an obligation. The result was the revival of the plan for a boarding house and Poe turned for help to Kennedy:

Richmond, Va. June 7, 1836.

Dear Sir,

Having got into a little temporary difficulty I venture to ask you, once more, for aid, rather than apply to any of my new friends in Richmond.

Mr. White, having purchased a new house, at $10,000, made propositions to my aunt to rent it to her, and to board himself and family with her. This plan was highly advantageous to us, and, having accepted it, all arrangements were made, and I obtained credit for some furniture &c to the amount of $200, above what little money I had. But upon examination of the premises purchased, it appears that the house will barely be large enough for one family, and the scheme is laid aside — leaving me now in debt (to a small amount) without those means of discharging it upon which I had depended.

In this dilemma I would be greatly indebted to you for the loan of $100 for 6 months. This will enable me to meet a note for $100 due in 3 months — and allow me 3 months to return your money. I shall have no difficulty in doing this, as beyond this 100$, I owe nothing, and I am now receiving 15$ per week, and am to receive $20 after November. All Mr. White’s disposable money has been required to make his first payment.

Have you heard anything further in relation to Mrs. Clemm’s estate?

Our Messenger is thriving beyond all expectation, and I myself have every prospect of success.

It is our design to issue, as soon as possible, a number of the Magazine consisting entirely of articles from our most distinguished literati. To this end we have received and have been promised, a variety of aid from the highest source — Mrs. Sigourney, Miss Sedgwick, Paulding, Flint, Halleck, Cooper, Judge Hopkinson, Dow, Governor Cass — J. Q. Adams, and many others. Could you not do me so great a favor as to send a scrap, however [page 255:] small from your portfolio? Your name is of the greatest influence in that region where we direct our greatest efforts — in the South. Any little reminiscences, tale, jeu d’esprit, historical anecdote — anything, in short, with your name, will answer all our purposes.

I presume you have heard of my marriage.

With sincere respect and esteem

Yours truly

EDGAR A. POE.(49)

J. P. Kennedy

There is no record of Kennedy’s reply, and Mrs. Weiss’s(50) statement that “they lived in a cheap tenement on Seventh Street” must be received with that doubt that unfortunately is to be attached to any statement which that lady made at second hand. In any event, they could not have lived there long.

Since practically all the many speculations concerning the relations of Poe and his “child wife” have been written in ignorance of his letter of August 29, 1835, they can be disregarded. Poe loved her and she adored him. Being fourteen, she was naturally immature, but that she remained so or that she “very closely resembled Rosalie,” as is stated so positively in a recent biography,(51) is unsupported by any good evidence. Poe’s life-long devotion to Virginia is beyond question, and his own answer to the criticisms which his marriage created in Richmond and elsewhere is given in “Eleonora” and “Annabel Lee.” It is, incidentally, the only answer a gentleman could make. “Eleonora” is, of course, an ideal picture, but its description of the passing of cousinship into passion has more verity than the testimony of feminine friends whose emphasis upon Virginia’s mental immaturity was perhaps based upon a wish rather than a fact. Such evidence as there is can be taken up at a later time. But of one thing we can be sure. If Virginia was the prototype of Eleonora she was not the model for Morella or Berenice or Ligeia. They were of a different breed.

Poe was acting as the head of the family in more than one way. The following letter reveals his ability to express clearly a legal claim, even if, apparently, it came to nothing: [page 256:]

Richmond, Va.  
June 8, 1836.

Dr Sir,

Understanding that you have been engaged, at different times, in the prosecution of private claims against the Government of the U. S. I have taken the liberty of addressing you on a subject of this nature.

I believe you were personally acquainted with some branches of my family in Baltimore. I am the son of David Poe Jr. of that city. It appears to me (and to some others to whom I have mentioned the subject) that my aunt, Mrs. Maria Clemm (who now resides with me in Richmond, I having married her daughter) has a claim against the U. S. to a large amount which might be carried to a successful issue if properly managed. I will state, as briefly as possible, the nature of the claim, of which I pretend to give merely an outline, not vouching for particular dates or amounts.

During the war of the Revolution, Mrs. C’s father, Gen: David Poe, was a quarter-master in what was then called the Maryland line. He, at various times, loaned money to the State of Maryland, and about seventeen years ago died, while engaged in making arrangements for the prosecution of his claim. His widow, Mrs. Elizabeth Poe, applied to the State Government, which, finding itself too impoverished to think of paying the whole amount (then nearly $40,000) passed a bill, for the immediate time, granting Mrs. Poe an annuity of $240 — thus tacitly acknowledging the validity of the vouchers adduced. Mrs. Poe is now dead, and I am inclined to believe, from the successful prosecution of several claims of far less promise, but of a similar nature, that the whole claim might be substantiated before the General Government — which has provided for a liberal interpretation of all vouchers in such cases. Among these vouchers (now in proper form at Annapolis) are, I believe, letters from Washington, La Fayette, & many others speaking in high terms of the services and patriotism of Gen: Poe. I have never seen the bill granting the annuity to Mrs. Poe, but it may possibly contain a proviso against any future claim. This however, would be of little moment, if the matter were properly brought before Congress.

My object in addressing you is to inquire if you would be willing to investigate and conduct this claim — leaving the terms for [page 257:] your own consideration. Mrs. C. authorizes me to act for her in every respect. I would be glad to hear from you as soon as you can make it convenient.

Very respy, Yr. Ob. St.

EDGAR A. POE (52)

James H. Causten Esq.

Nothing came of this application, for Henry Herring, who had married Elizabeth Poe, and was therefore a son-in-law of David Poe, Senior, submitted in 1837 a claim in behalf of all the heirs. That claim was not allowed, as Elizabeth Poe had died prior to the act of July 4, 1836, under which he had applied.(53)

In September, 1836, the issue of the Messenger was delayed, owing to “the illness of both Publisher and Editor.” According to White, he notified Poe in September that the connection was dissolved.(54) We do not have Poe’s version of the break, which was temporary. In October Poe was back at his post. In a letter to Mrs. Sarah J. Hale, Editor of the Ladies’ Book in Boston, misdated October 20, 1837, but clearly referring to 1836, he shows his reluctance to compose hastily, and refers to his late illness:

Richmond  
Oct 20 1837. [1836]

Dear Madam

I was somewhat astonished to day at receiving a letter addressed to “W. G. Simms Esqr. Editor of the S. L. Messenger” and hesitated about my right to open it, until I reflected that, in forwarding it to Mr. S., I should place him in a similar dilemma. I therefore broke the seal — but the address, even within, was “W. G. Simms.” I could arrive, therefore at no other conclusion than that, by some missapprehension, you have imagined Mr. S. to be actually Editor of the Messenger, altho’ I wrote you, but lately, in that capacity myself. [page 258:]

Of course, under the circumstances, it is difficult to reply to one portion of your letter — that touching the prose article desired. If however, it was your wish I should furnish it, I am grieved to say that it will be impossible for me to make a definite promise just now, as I am unfortunately overwhelmed with business, having been sadly thrown back by late illness. I regret this the more sincerely as I would be proud to find my name in any publication you edit, and as you have been so kind as to aid the Messenger so effectually in a similar manner yourself. To send you a crude or hastily written article would be injurious to me, and an insult to yourself — and I fear that I could, at present, do little more.

As Editor of the Messenger I can however say that it will afford me sincere pleasure to do you any service in my power. I shall look anxiously for the “Ladies’ Wreath.”

I am surprised and grieved to learn that your son (with whom I had a slight acquaintance at W. Point) should have been vexed about the autographs. So mere nonsense it was hardly worth while to find fault with. Most assuredly as regards yourself, Madam, I had no intention of giving offence — in respect to the “Mirror” I am somewhat less scrupulous.

With the highest regard

I am

Yr obdt.

EDGAR A. POE (55)

Mrs. Sarah J. Hale

Poe wrote the critical notices for October and November. In his review of Peter Snook, he expressed his opinion of originality. “To originate’ he said “is carefully patiently and understandingly to combine.” But the break was inevitable. White’s attitude toward Poe is revealed clearly not only in letters to Minor, but also in a hitherto unpublished correspondence with William Scott(56) the proprietor of the New York Weekly Messenger. On August 25, 1836, White wrote Scott concerning a proposed contribution: “Courtesy to Mr. Poe whom I employ to edit my paper makes it a matter of etiquette with me to [page 259:] submit all articles intended for the Messenger to his judgment and I abide by his dicta.”

White’s letters in November and December explain why there was no December issue. He complains that “we are all without money in Richmond,” and laments his own illness and a printers’ strike.(57) These disturbed conditions may well have been contributing causes for Poe’s resignation.

White’s letter to Minor of December 27, 1836, already referred to, begins,

Highly as I really think of Mr. Poe’s talents, I shall be forced to give him notice in a week or so at farthest that I can no longer recognize him as editor of my Messenger. Three months ago I felt it my duty to give him a similar notice, — and was afterwards over-persuaded to restore him to his situation on certain conditions — which conditions he has again forfeited.(58)

Added to all this, I am cramped by him in the exercise of my own judgment, as to what articles I shall or shall not admit into my work. It is true that I neither have his sagacity, nor his learnning — but I do believe I know a handspike from a saw. Be that as it may, however, — and let me even be a jackass, as I dare say I am in his estimation, I will again throw myself on my own resources — and trust my little bark to the care of those friends who stood by me in my earlier, if not darker days. You, my friend, are my helmsman.  And I again beg you to stand by the rudder.(59)

The second paragraph of this letter really explains the matter. White recognized Poe’s ability, but refused to give him authority. Poe, too, was dissatisfied. In a letter to William Poe, at Augusta, Georgia, dated from Philadelphia, August 15, 1840, Poe, in speaking of his reasons for leaving the Southern Literary Messenger, said, “The drudgery was excessive, the salary was contemptible. In fact, I soon found that whatever reputation I might personally gain, this reputation would be all. I stood no chance of bettering my pecuniary condition, while my best energies were wasted in the service of an illiterate and vulgar, although well meaning man, who had neither the capacity to appreciate my labors, nor the will to reward them.”(60) [page 260:]

The January number of the Messenger contained in very small type, Poe’s “Valedictory:”(61) “Mr. Poe’s attention being called in another direction, he will decline with the present number, the Editorial duties of the ‘Messenger.’ His critical notices for this month end with Professor Anthon’s Cicero — what follows is from another hand. With the best wishes to the Magazine, and to its few foes as well as to its many friends, he is now desirous of bidding all parties a peaceable farewell.” Poe ceased to be Editor on January 3, 1837, but he continued editorial services until late in the month. White’s letter to Scott shows how he still depended on Poe’s judgment:

Richmond, Jan. 23, ‘37.

(Private)

Previous to writing you I had submitted your manuscript to Mr. Poe, who handed it back to me as being suitable for the Messenger. After I had it put in type, I sent a corrected proof of it to him. He returned it as you will see, making several corrections — and amongst other things, striking out your first paragraph, or exordium. He also struck out your two concluding paragraphs, but I thought them worth preserving — and therefore took upon myself the responsibility of retaining them. I have no doubt whatever, that Mr. Poe done [!] what he has done for the best. Be that as it may, I assure you there was not the slightest intention on my part (nor do I believe there was on that of Mr. Poe) to mar your productions. . . . Mr. Poe retired from the editorship of my work on the 3d inst. I am once more at the head of affairs. Nevertheless I have private friends to whom I submit all articles — and I have consented to abide by their judgment.(62)

Notwithstanding the separation, the number for January, 1837, contained several important contributions from Poe. There were two new poems, “Ballad,” later “Bridal Ballad,” and “Zante.” “Ballad” is a lament for a dead lover by a bride on her wedding day. It is not one of Poe’s best poems, but it is unique in his poetry in that it is a lyric in which the speaker is a woman. “Zante” is a sonnet addressed to an island close to Greece. It is noteworthy for the repetition of “no more” which was becoming a favorite phrase with Poe. The initial installment of “Arthur Gordon Pym” introduced Poe’s first attempt at a long story. He was taking Harpers’ advice, in all probability, for that firm published the story in book form in 1838.

Poe wrote five critical reviews for the January number. His clear, [page 261:] forcible analysis of Irving’s Astoria is remarkable for the way in which he selects from that fascinating account of the struggle for the Northwest fur trade the right details to make a connected narrative, even if he paraphrased too often the very language of Astoria. Even more important, however, was his review of Bryant’s Poems, one of his major critical documents. In this critique he again illustrated that combination of fine taste in the selection of those individual poems which seemed best to him, with that curious lapse in humor which permitted him to rewrite some of Bryant’s lines in order to improve them. Poe took up the poems individually and first analyzed their metrical structure. This caused him to enunciate a principle of versification which he believed to be new. In suggesting the addition of a syllable in one of Bryant’s lines, and defending Willis against a charge of “incorrectness,” he proceeds:

The excesses of measure are here employed (perhaps without any definite design on the part of the writer, who may have been guided solely by ear) with reference to the proper equalization, of balancing, if we may so term it, of time, throughout an entire sentence. This, we confess, is a novel idea, but, we think, perfectly tenable. Any musician will understand us. Efforts for the relief of monotone will necessarily produce fluctuations in the time of any metre, which fluctuations, if not subsequently counterbalanced, affect the ear like unresolved discords in music. The deviations then of which we have been speaking, from the strict rules of prosodial art, are but improvements upon the rigor of those rules, and are a merit, not a fault. It is the nicety of this species of equalization more than any other metrical merit, which elevates Pope as a versifier above the mere couplet-maker of his day; and, on the other hand, it is the extension of the principle to sentences of greater length which elevates Milton above Pope.

This is another striking instance of Poe’s appreciating the subtle, harmonious effects of Pope while attributing them to the wrong cause. Pope’s effects were secured not by deviating from rules, but by ignoring them, and following the fundamental laws of English verse. Poe was just then riding this theory of equalization hard. He attributes the “sonorous grandeur” of Pope’s line

“Luke’s iron crown and Damien’s bed of steel”

to the fact that there is an “extra” syllable in “Damien.” Of course, the sonorous quality arises from the contrast of open and close vowel sounds, a contrast which Poe often employs in his own verse. The [page 262:] absurdity of this theory is shown at its worst in Poe’s rewriting of the concluding verses of Bryant’s “Forest Hymn”:

“And to the beautiful order of thy works,

Learn to conform the order of our lives”

to read:

“And to the perfect order of thy works

Conform, if we can, the order of our lives”

in order to admit an “extra syllable” in the last verse!

The sonnets of Bryant led Poe to announce the qualities a sonnet should possess — “point, strength, unity, compression, and a species of completeness.” He rightly praises “November” because “A single thought pervades and gives unity to the piece.” That Poe chose to use the English form of sonnet deliberately is evidenced by the remark “Mr. Bryant has very wisely declined confining himself to the laws of the Italian poem.” The wisdom of this choice is, of course, open to question, but Poe had good authority. It is a relief to turn from this meticulous and often misguided analysis of the metrical effects of Bryant’s verse to the general appraisal of his poetry, in which Poe, while recognizing Bryant’s limitations, still saw that “as far as he appreciates her [Nature’s] loveliness or her augustness, no appreciation can be more ardent, more full of heart, more replete with the glowing soul of adoration.”

There was a second installment of Arthur Gordon Pym in the February Messenger, carrying the story to the point when the crew are pinioned and thrown on their backs by the mutineers. But no more installments were published.

It is obvious from the letter of January 28, 1837, that White was relieved to be once more “at the head of affairs.” That he gave up the services of one of the best editors then living in the United States, who had brought up the circulation of the paper from about five hundred to thirty-five hundred copies, and had made it nationally known, seems to prove that White was not a competent publisher. There were good reasons why Poe was willing to break the relation. His earlier gratitude to White for his meagre salary had given place to a restless feeling that he was not being fully repaid for his skill and industry. The disturbed conditions in Richmond, his longing for a wider sphere, the pressure of financial necessity, may have caused him to feel that the risk lay not in leaving but in staying as the Editor.

On April 5, 1837, White wrote to Scott: “Tell me when you write what Poe is driving at. . . . I have not heard from him since he left here.” Perhaps he was already beginning to regret.


[[Footnotes]]

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 218:]

(1)  Poe’s letter to White from Baltimore, July 20th, and T. W. White’s letter to Lucian Minor of August 18th, from Richmond, show that Poe went to Richmond between those dates. Poe’s letter to William Poe, August 20, 1835, is written from Richmond.

(2)  For White’s correspondence with his friends and advisers, Lucian Minor, Beverley Tucker, and John M. Speed, see David K. Jackson, Poe and the Southern Literary Messenger (Richmond, 1934).

(3)  Died yesterday, morning, July 7th in the 79th year of her age, Mrs. Elizabeth Poe, relict of General Poe of this city. Her friends are requested to attend her funeral without further invitation, from the residence of her daughter Mrs. William Clemm, in Amity Street, at 9 o’clock this morning.” Baltimore American (July 8, 1835), p. 2.

(4)  See Poe’s letter to J. H. Causten, June 3, 1836, pp. 256-257.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 219:]

(5)  See Appendix II.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 224:]

(6)  This letter was first published in Edgar Allan Poe Letters and Documents in the Enoch Pratt Library, ed. by A. H. Quinn and R. H. Hart (New York, 1941). Permission to reprint it has been given by Dr. Joseph Wheeler, Librarian of the Pratt Library.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 226:]

(7)  Original Autograph Ms. in Peabody Institute, Baltimore. The words “(not fail to)” are crossed out in the Ms.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 227:]

(8)  Griswold Manuscripts, Boston Public Library.

(9)  Hervey Allen, Israfel, I, 384. Mr. Allen repeats the statement in the revised edition of 1934, p. 309, and defends his position in his Preface, p. vii. He presents no new evidence.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 228:]

(10)  E. L. Didier, The Life and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe (New York, 1877), p. 58.

(11)  Virginia Edition, I, 114-115.

(12)  Life of Poe (1885), p. 77; repeated in the edition of 1909, I, 143.

(13)  Didier, The Poe Cult (New York, 1909), p. 24, also p. 127.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 229:]

(14)  Original Autograph Ms., Griswold Collection, Boston Public Library. When Griswold published this letter in his “Memoir,” p. xiv, he altered several sentences, in order to distort the degree of Poe’s intemperance. “Sip the juice, even till it stole away your senses” became “Drink till your senses are lost.” After “return” (third paragraph) Griswold inserted “did not a knowledge of your past life make me dread a speedy renewal of our separation.”

(15)  White to Minor, October 20, 1835.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 230:]

(16)  According to a letter from Mrs. Clemm to William Poe, dated October 7, 1835, they had arrived in Richmond “on Saturday evening last.” “Saturday last” must have been October 3, 1835. In the Virginia Edition, XVII, 379, the letter is dated “1836,” but a certified copy of the original autograph, sent me by the courtesy of Mr. H. T. Poe, Jr., gives the correct date.

(17)  Poe to George Poe, January 12, 1836. Original Autograph Ms., [[Enoch]] Pratt Library.

(18)  White to Minor, September 8, 1835.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 231:]

(19)  Contrary to the usual statements, Simms wrote only one novel upon the tragedy. The first edition of Beauchampe (1842) is in two volumes. The first volume was revised and published in 1856 as Charlemont, and the second volume became Beauchampe, a Sequel to Charlemont, also republished in 1856.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 232:]

(20)  Politian, an Unfinished Tragedy, by Edgar A. Poe, edited from the Original Sources, including the Autograph Ms. in the Pierpont Morgan Library by Thomas Ollive Mabbott (Richmond, 1923).

(21)  For these identifications and other suggestions not quite so certain, we are indebted to Killis Campbell in the notes to his edition of the Poems of Edgar A. Poe, p. 229. See also Dr. Mabbott’s notes to Politian.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 233:]

(22)  Childe Harold, Book IV, Stanza CXLV.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 235:]

(23)  Original Autograph Ms., Boston Public Library.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 237:]

(24)  See James Southall Wilson, “Unpublished Letters of Edgar Allan Poe,” Century Magazine, LXXXV (March, 1924), 652-656.

(25)  Original Autograph Ms., Griswold Collection, Boston Public Library. The letter is given complete in the Virginia Edition, XVII, 21-24.

(26)  Original Autograph Ms., Griswold Collection, Boston Public Library.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 239:]

(27)  Original Autograph Ms., W. H. Koester Collection. Published here for the first time.

(28)  Virginia Edition, XVII, 33-35.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 240:]

(29)  Original Autograph Ms., Peabody Institute, Baltimore. Catherine Clemm was the widow of William Clemm, Sr. His son William, Jr. had married Maria Poe, and Mrs. Clemm was evidently claiming a share of her husband’s interest in the estate. The omitted portions of the letter give in detail the family history.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 241:]

(30)  Original Autograph Ms., Peabody Institute.

(31)  Original Autograph Ms., Peabody Institute. The letter begins with a long account of Poe’s efforts to obtain a picture for Kennedy, of no interest to this narrative.

(32)  For a scholarly discussion of American criticism before Poe, see William Charvat, American Critical Thought, 1810-1885 (Philadelphia, 1936).

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 243:]

(33)  Vol. XIV (1822), pp. 319-350.

(34)  See Bryant’s Lectures on Poetry, delivered in New York in 1825, or Dana’s review of Pollok’s Course of Time, Spirit of the Pilgrims, I (1828), 523, quoted in Charvat, p. 96.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 245:]

(35)  The New York Commercial Advertiser, quoting and agreeing with the Philadelphia Gazette; also from The New York Mirror. The Philadelphia Gazette was edited by Willis Gaylord Clark, and this may be the beginning of the feud between Poe and Lewis Gaylord Clark, twin brother of Willis.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 246:]

(36)  Chapter XIV.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 247:]

(37)  Parke Godwin, A Biography of William Cullen Bryant, I, 186.

(38)  Life of Poe, I, 177.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 248:]

(39)  For an interesting account of the chess player, and Bibliography of the attempted solutions, see Henry R. Evans, Edgar Allan Poe and Baron von Kempelen’s Chess-Playing Automaton (Kenton, Ohio, 1939). Also W. K. Wimsatt, Jr., “Poe and the Chess Automaton,” American Literature, XI (May, 1939), 138-151.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 249:]

(40)  Southern Literary Messenger, II (December, 1835), 50-51.

(41)  Southern Literary Messenger, II (April, 1836), 336-339. [[Note: Although this review was printed as by Poe in the editon of his works edited by James A. Harrison in 1902, it has since been determined as the work of Beverly Tucker. It is, therefore, unfair to use the review as a statement of Poe’s own views on slavery.]]

(42)  Life of Poe, I, 179, For Introduction, see Messenger, II, 573-574.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 250:]

(43)  For a thorough discussion, see Earl L. Griggs, “Five Sources of Edgar Allan Poe’s ‘Pinakidia,” American Literature, I (May, 1929), 196-199; also David K. Jackson, ‘Poe Notes: ‘Pinakidia’ and’some Ancient Greek Authors,” American Literature, V (November, 1933), 258-267. Dr. Mabbott writes he has also identified some of Schlegel’s Lectures and an anonymous book called Antediluvian Antiquities, as well as Malone’s notes in Boswell’s Johnson.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 251:]

(44)  Original Autograph Ms., Griswold Collection, Boston Public Library.

(45)  Johnston to White, Autograph Ms. letter, October 4, 1836, Koester Collection. Johnston urges Poe to complete the writing of the tales in their finished form, which is a curious statement, considering Poe’s scrupulous care in submitting manuscripts.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 252:]

(46)  J. Henry Harper, The House of Harper (New York, 1912), p. 514.

(47)  Original Autograph Ms., [[Enoch]] Pratt Library, Baltimore.

(48)  The Richmond Enquirer of Friday, May 20th, has under “Marriages”: “Married, on Monday, May 16th, by the Reverend Mr. Converse, Mr. Edgar A. Poe to Miss Virginia Eliza Clemm.”

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 255:]

(49)  Original Autograph Ms., Bradley Martin Collection. The letter in the Griswold Collection is a copy.

(50)  Home Life of Poe, p. 85.

(51)  Hervey Allen, Israfel, p. 387; 1934, Rev. Ed., p. 311.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 257:]

(52)  Original Autograph Ms., Koester Collection. The record to which Poe refers is as follows: “Poe, Captain, of Baltimore. Passed February 1822, No. 23, p. 176. Treas. Western Shore pay to Elizabeth Poe, of Baltimore, a sum of money equal to the halfpay of a captain of the Md. Line.” Gaius M. Brumbaugh, Maryland Records, II, 382.

(53)  Letter from Dr. P. M. Hamer, Chief, Division of Reference, National Archives.

(54)  Letter of White to Minor, December 27, 1836. See J. S. Wilson, as above.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 258:]

(55)  The original manuscript in the Bradley Martin Collection is clearly dated “1837,” but Poe had no connection with the Messenger at that time.

(56)  Manuscripts are in the Abernethy Library of American Literature at Middlebury College. I am indebted to the courtesy of the Curator, Dr. Viola C. White, and the Library, for permission to print them.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 259:]

(57)  Ms. Letters, November 24 and December 15, 1836, Middlebury College Library.

(58)  There can be no doubt that Poe drank at intervals during his Richmond residence. See his own frank statements to Snodgrass in his letter of April, 1841.

(59)  J. S. Wilson, Century, LXXXV, 656.

(60)  Original Autograph Ms., Huntington Library. P. O. stamp is Aug. 14.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 260:]

(61)  Vol. III, p. 72.

(62)  Ms., Middlebury College Library.


∞∞∞∞∞∞∞


Notes:

None.


∞∞∞∞∞∞∞

[S:1 - EAP:ACB, 1941] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Articles - E. A. P.: A Critical Biography (A. H. Quinn) (Chapter 10)