Text: Arthur Hobson Quinn, “Chapter 13,” Edgar Allan Poe: A Critical Biography (1941), pp. 346-404


[page 346:]

Following the Illusion

In contrast to the cloudy and often doubtful course of Poe’s professional career, there was one shining certainty. Whatever might be thought or said of him by the men with whom he came in contact and conflict, there was always the love of Virginia, steadfast and unalterable. As she matured, the adoration of the child he had married grew into the devotion of the woman, and the physical attraction for the handsome young cousin she worshipped blossomed into a spiritual passion which his love had nurtured and which, in its turn, sent its roots deeper and deeper into his life. How deeply those roots were planted can be measured only in terms of “Eleonora,” of “The Raven,” of “Ulalume” and of “Annabel Lee.” His constant presence has deprived us of the letters which might have told us of their mutual affection, but Poe’s distraught appeal from Richmond in 1835 tells us clearly what they would have been. To a husband who was always hovering over her to protect her from the threatening dangers of her illness, she had no need to write.

So much emphasis has been placed upon Virginia, the “child wife,” that biographers have apparently forgotten that children grow up and that the woman of twenty might possibly be a little girl no longer. While Mrs. Clemm’s statement that Virginia was an accomplished musician and spoke Italian like a native of Italy must be taken with several grains of salt, like all her utterances, it is correct at least concerning Virginia’s competence in music. When Thomas sent Poe a song he hoped to publish, Poe replied, “I have delayed answering [your letter] in hope that I might say your song was out, and that I might give you my opinion and Virginia’s about its merits.”(1)

Captain Mayne Reid, the Irish novelist, was a constant visitor to the Poe home in 1843, and later painted a vivid portrait of her. In speaking of pleasant hours spent at Poe’s cottage, he said: “They were passed in the company of the poet himself and his wife — a lady angelically beautiful in person and not less beautiful in spirit. No one who [page 347:] remembers that dark-eyed, dark-haired daughter of Virginia — her own name, if I rightly remember — her grace, her facial beauty, her demeanour, so modest as to be remarkable — no one who has ever spent an hour in her company but will endorse what I have above said. I remember how we, the friends of the poet, used to talk of her high qualities.”(2)

In speaking of Poe’s attraction for women, which Reid thought overestimated, he added, “It was enough for one man to be beloved by one such woman as he had for his wife.” Even Thomas Dunn English, who heartily disliked Poe, spoke of Virginia’s “air of refinement and good breeding.”(3) Although some of the feminine visitors to the Poe home did not estimate so highly the charm or mentality of Virginia, that is, perhaps, only more conclusive proof that her attraction for the men friends like Thomas and Reid was shared by her husband.

This love of Poe for Virginia brought soon its tragedy. Some time in January, 1842, Virginia, while singing at her piano in the Coates Street house, broke a blood-vessel. Poe’s own words tell best of the event, and of its consequence. Six years later he wrote to George Eveleth:

January 4, 1848

You say — “Can you hint to me what was the terrible evil which caused the irregularities so profoundly lamented?” Yes; I can do more than hint. This “evil” was the greatest which can befall a man. Six years ago, a wife, whom I loved as no man ever loved before, ruptured a blood-vessel in singing. Her life was despaired of. I took leave of her forever & underwent all the agonies of her death. She recovered partially and I again hoped. At the end of a year the vessel broke again — I went through precisely the same scene. Again in about a year afterward. Then again — again — again & even once again at varying intervals. Each time I felt all the agonies of her death — and at each accession of the disorder I loved her more dearly & clung to her life with more desperate pertinacity. But I am constitutionally sensitive — nervous in a very unusual degree. I became insane, with long intervals of horrible sanity. During these fits of absolute unconsciousness I drank, God only knows how often or how much. As a matter of course, my [page 348:] enemies referred the insanity to the drink rather than the drink to the insanity. I had indeed, nearly abandoned all hope of a permanent cure when I found one in the death of my wife. This I can & do endure as becomes a man — it was the horrible never-ending oscillation between hope & despair which I could not longer have endured without total loss of reason. In the death of what was my life, then, I receive a new but — oh God! how melancholy an existence.(4)

If ever drinking were excusable, it was certainly in this desperate effort to forget. A sorrow can be borne, when it is final, by any one who pretends to be a man. But the daily load of apprehension, which one takes on at waking, and from which even sleep is no refuge, is hardest to bear. Yet in one sense Virginia was Poe’s protector, as we shall see. And no matter how hard life was for them all, a great devotion filled it with beauty. The impression it made upon Graham was a lasting one:

His love for his wife was a sort of rapturous worship of the spirit of beauty which he felt was fading before his eyes. I have seen him hovering around her when she was ill, with all the fond fear and tender anxiety of a mother for her first-born — her slightest cough causing in him a shudder, a heart-chill that was visible. I rode out one summer evening with them, and the remembrance of his watchful eyes eagerly bent upon the slightest change of hue in that loved face, haunts me yet as the memory of a sad strain. It was this hourly anticipation of her loss, that made him a sad and thoughtful man, and lent a mournful melody to his undying song.(5)


View of Philadelphia about 1840 [thumbnail]

[Illustration facing page 348]
Philadelphia, near the home of Poe in “Fairmount”

There were intervals, naturally, when Virginia’s health seemed restored. In August, 1842, Poe despaired of her recovery; in September her health was “slightly improved,” and he wrote Thomas “my spirits are proportionately good.” In these brighter days there were no doubt picnics in Fairmount Park and on the Wissahickon, and there were visits from friends who have left testimony as to the neatness and self-respecting atmosphere, for which all three of the family were responsible. [page 349:]

Reid’s description of Poe “during two years of intimate, personal association” speaks of his “analytic reasoning such as few men possess,” of his “original character” and of his personal habits:

I feel satisfied that Edgar A. Poe was not, what his slanderers have represented him, a rake. I know he was not; but in truth the very opposite. I have been his companion in one or two of his wildest frolics, and can certify that they never went beyond the innocent mirth in which we all indulge when Bacchus gets the better of us. With him the jolly god sometimes played fantastic tricks — to the stealing away his brain, and, sometimes, too, his hat — leaving him to walk bareheaded through the streets at an hour when the sun shone too clearly on his crown, then prematurely bald.

While acknowledging this as one of Poe’s failings, I can speak truly of its not being habitual; only occasional, and drawn out by some accidental circumstance — now disappointment; now the concurrence of a social crowd, whose flattering friendship might lead to champagne, a single glass of which used to affect him so much that he was hardly any longer responsible for his actions.

Reid adds how he knew Poe to be a whole month in his own house, working hard at his writing.

Some of these visitors, unlike Reid, were to bring trouble to Poe in his lifetime and to cloud his memory after death. Dr. Thomas Dunn English, a Philadelphian who graduated from the School of Medicine of the University of Pennsylvania in 1839, met Poe in the same year. English contributed verse to Burton’s, and his graduation thesis upon phrenology, in which he defended the theories of Gall and Spurzheim, gave him mutual interests with Poe, who had been reading up on phrenology for some time. English, however, was only twenty years old when he met Poe first on the corner of Sixth and Chestnut Streets, and since his description of their cottage tallies most definitely with the house in Spring Garden, his intimacy must have been later in the Philadelphia period. He was a tall, well built man, and when I met him in 1895 at a gathering of Pennsylvania alumni, he was of rather distinguished appearance. Unfortunately, I lost the opportunity to obtain his informal opinion of Poe, for Du Maurier had just published Trilby, and revived interest in English’s sentimental ballad, “Ben Bolt.” Dr. English would talk of nothing but the harm that song had done his reputation as a poet. An examination of his Select Poems, however, will confirm Poe’s unfavorable strictures upon them, though the manner of his attack was hardly justified. English published in 1896 his [page 350:] Reminiscences of Poe (6) a fairly clever account written with apparent frankness, which, by hinting at scandals that he was too much of a gentleman to reveal, gave a worse impression than if he had presented the supposed facts for possible refutation. In view, however, of his general tone of animosity, the testimony of Dr. English concerning the much discussed question of Poe’s use of drugs is valuable: “Had Poe the opium habit when I knew him (before 1846) I should both as a physician and a man of observation, have discovered it during his frequent visits to my rooms, my visits at his house, and our meetings elsewhere — I saw no signs of it and believe the charge to be a baseless slander.”(7) He and Poe were probably companions on occasions when Poe yielded to temptation to drink the one glass which was too much for him, but in view of English’s comparative youth, the blame can hardly be allotted to him. Their relations are of much greater importance during the later period in New York.

It was also in Philadelphia that Poe met his evil genius, the Reverend Rufus Wilmot Griswold. Griswold was born in Rutland, Vermont, in 1815. He was a printer and a newspaper man, and was licensed in 1837 as a Baptist clergyman, though he seems not to have had any permanent charge. After editorial work in New England and New York, where he made influential friends like Horace Greeley and Park Benjamin, he came to Philadelphia on November 27, 1840, to join the staff of the Daily Standard, and while he returned to Boston for a few months, he was once more in Philadelphia in September, 1841.(8)

Griswold at this time was one of those unattached writers who are called “free lances” by those they praise and “literary scavengers” by those whom they attack. His Biographical Annual, containing memoirs of thirty-six “eminent persons recently deceased,” and his Gems from American Female Poets, With Brief Biographical Notices, will indicate how he was living on the work of others, with a definite slant toward the desire of human beings to see themselves or their dead friends given publicity. Griswold had the sense for publicity well developed. For some years he was planning the first of his major anthologies, The Poets and Poetry of America. He was not troubled by the woes of [page 351:] the anthologists of today in this field. Poets, who had usually been paid nothing for their verses by the magazines, were only too willing to give Griswold carte blanche to select from their works. By this anthology, which appeared in April, 1842, and by his later Prose Writers of America, and Female Poets of America, he acquired a position as a species of literary dictator, whose favor it was advisable to seek and whose power to hurt the vanity of literary aspirants steadily grew.

Griswold met Poe first, according to his own statement,(9) in the spring of 1841 in connection with the Poets and Poetry of America. In a letter of March 29, 1841, Poe offered several poems to Griswold, and said he would be proud to see “one or two of them in the book.”(10) He also sent a memorandum of his biography, containing, incidentally, several errors. Griswold selected “The Coliseum,” “The Haunted Palace,” and “The Sleeper” for the anthology, devoting two pages to Poe, including a brief biographical notice. Since he gave three to Lowell, four to Longfellow, nineteen to Whittier, twelve to Charles Fenno Hoffman, seven to J. G. C. Brainard, eight to Lydia Sigourney, and ten to R. C. Sands, Griswold’s critical taste in poetry or his impartiality cannot be ranked very high.

Poe spoke of Griswold in his “Autography” in December, 1841, as “a gentleman of fine taste and sound judgment,” and in the Boston Miscellany for November, 1842, he published a favorable review of The Poets and Poetry of America, although he differed with Griswold as to certain of his selections.

Poe quoted with approval Griswold’s definition of poetry, which agreed with his own, stated that, “The book should be regarded as the most important addition which our literature has for many years received,” and concluded that Griswold had shown himself “a man of taste, talent, and tact.”(11) [page 352:]

Griswold’s appointment to the staff of Graham’s was announced in the July number,(12) although he had probably been employed before then. In writing to Thomas in May, Poe had expressed no resentment at Griswold’s becoming his successor. But in Poe’s letters during the summer there are cutting remarks about Griswold’s book. On June 4th, he wrote to Snodgrass, “Have you seen Griswold’s Book of Poetry? It is a most outrageous humbug, and I sincerely wish you would ‘use it up.’ ”(13)

In a letter to Thomas of September 12, 1842, Poe relates an incident which, if true, points to growing ill feeling. The letter contains other information of importance:

My Dear Thomas,

I did not receive yours of the 2d until yesterday — why God only knows, as I either went or sent every-day to the P. Office. Neither have I seen Mr. Beard, who, I presume, had some difficulty in finding my residence — since you were here I have moved out in the neighborhood of Fairmount. I have often heard of Beard, from friends who knew him personally, and should have been glad to make his acquaintance.

A thousand sincere thanks for your kind offices in the matter of the appointment. So far, nothing has been done here in the way of reform. Thos. S. Smith is to have the Collectorship, but it appears has not yet received his commission — a fact which occasions much surprise among the quid-nuncs.

Should I obtain the office — and of course I can no longer doubt that I shall obtain it — I shall feel that to you alone I am indebted. You have shown yourself a true friend, and I am not likely to forget it, however impotent I may be, now or hereafter, to reciprocate your many kindnesses. I would give the world to clasp you by the hand & assure you, personally, of my gratitude. I hope it will not be long before we meet.

In the event of getting the place, I am undetermined what literary course to pursue. Much will depend upon the salary. Graham has made me a good offer to return. He is not especially pleased with Griswold — nor is any one else, with the exception of the Rev. gentleman himself, who has gotten himself into quite a hornet’s nest by his “Poets & Poetry.” It appears you gave him personal offence by delay in replying to his demand for information [page 353:] touching Mrs. Welby, I believe, or somebody else. Hence his omission of you in the body of the book; for he had prepared quite a long article from my MS. and had selected several pieces for quotation. He is a pretty fellow to set himself up as an honest judge, or even as a capable one. — About two months since, we were talking about the book, when I said that I had thought of reviewing it in full for the “Democratic Review,” but found my design anticipated by an article from that ass O’Sullivan, and that I knew no other work in which a notice would be readily admissible. Griswold said, in reply — “You need not trouble yourself about the publication of the review, should you decide upon writing it; for I will attend to all that. I will get it in some reputable work, and look to it for the usual pay; in the meantime handing you whatever your charge would be.” This, you see, was an ingenious insinuation of a bribe to puff his book. I accepted his offer forthwith, wrote the review, handed it to him and received from him the compensation: — he never daring to look over the M. S. in my presence, and taking it for granted that all was right. But that review has not yet appeared, and I am doubtful if it ever will. I wrote it precisely as I would have written under ordinary circumstances; and be sure there was no predominance of praise.

Should I go back to Graham I will endeavor to bring about some improvements in the general appearance of the Magazine, & above all, to get rid of the quackery which now infects it.

If I do not get the appt. I should not be surprised if I joined Foster in the establishment of a Mag. in New-York. He has made me an offer to join him. I suppose you know that he now edits the “Aurora.”

Touching your poem. Should you publish it, Boston offers the best facilities — but I feel sure that you will get no publisher to print it, except on your own account. Reason — Copy-Right Laws. However, were I in your place, and could contrive it in any way, I would print it at my own expense — of course without reference to emolument, which is not to be hoped. It would make only a small volume, & the cost of publishing it even in such style as Hoffman’s best poems, could not be much, absolutely. It should be handsomely printed or not at all.

When is Rob. Tyler to issue his promised poem?

Have you seen how Benjamin & Tasistro have been playing Kilkenny cats with each other? I have always told Graham that [page 354:] Tasistro stole everything, worth reading, which he offered for sale.

What is it about Ingraham? He has done for himself, in the opinion of all honest men, by his chicaneries.

I am happy to say that Virginia’s health has slightly improved. My spirits are proportionably good. Perhaps all will yet go well. Write soon & believe me ever your true friend


It is hard to see how the two men could have remained friends after such an incident. According to C. F. Briggs, Griswold told him “shocking bad stories” about Poe, which Poe’s “whole demeanor contradicts.”(15) These may have been of later occurrence. Poe and Griswold were both suspicious, and both had caustic tongues. On January 28, 1843, in the Philadelphia Saturday Museum appeared a review of the Poets and Poetry of America, unsigned. It is a blistering attack upon Griswold as a poet and an anthologist, and if he believed it to be by Poe, anyone of his vindictive nature would have long remembered it. There are sharp differences of opinion concerning its authorship.(16)

In the criticism are certain traces of Poe, such as the elaborate analysis of the rules of versification, and the definition of poetry, which make it clear that if he was not the author of the entire review, he was at least a collaborator. The most striking sentence is the last, which, in view of Griswold’s treachery as Poe’s literary executor, [page 355:] sounds like a prophecy: “Forgotten, save only by those whom he has injured and insulted, he will sink into oblivion, without leaving a landmark to tell that he once existed; or, if he is spoken of hereafter, he will be quoted as the unfaithful servant who abused his trust.”

The two men saw little of each other for two years, and it was inevitable that a breach should occur. With the evangelical abolitionist, Poe had no intellectual kinship.

Poe’s resignation from Graham’s did not interrupt his creation of fiction, but he found it more difficult to place his stories. A letter to Snodgrass reveals this, and also his method of writing, and how strong was his desire for publicity:

Philadelphia — June 4. 1842.

My Dear Snodgrass,

How does it happen that, in these latter days I never receive an epistle from yourself? Have I offended you by any of my evil deeds? — if so how? Time was when you could spare a few minutes occasionally for communion with a friend.

I see with pleasure that you have become sole proprietor of the “Visiter;” and this reminds me that I have to thank your partiality for many flattering notices of myself. How is it, nevertheless, that a Magazine of the highest class has never yet succeeded in Baltimore? I have often thought, of late, how much better it would have been had you joined me in a Magazine project in the Monumental City, rather than engage with the “Visiter” — a journal which has never yet been able to recover from the mauvais odeur imparted to it by Hewitt. Notwithstanding the many failures in Baltimore, I still am firmly convinced that your city is the best adapted for such a Magazine as I propose, of any in the Union. Have you ever thought seriously upon this subject.

I have a proposition to make. You may remember a tale of mine published about a year ago in “Graham” and entitled the “Murders in the Rue Morgue.” Its theme was the exercise of ingenuity in detecting a murderer. I am just now putting the concluding touch to a similar article, which I shall entitle “The Mystery of Marie Rogêt — a Sequel to ‘The Murders in the Rue Morgue.’ ” The story is based upon that of the real murder of Mary Cecilia Rogers, which created so vast an excitement, some months ago, in New York. I have handled the design in a very singular and entirely novel manner. I imagine a series of nearly exact coincidences occurring in Paris. A young grisette, one Marie Rogêt, has been [page 356:] murdered under precisely similar circumstances with Mary Rogers. Thus under pretence of showing how Dupin (the hero of the Rue Morgue) unravelled the mystery of Marie’s assassination, I, in fact, enter into a very rigorous analysis of the real tragedy in New-York. No point is omitted. I examine, each by each, the opinions and arguments of our press on the subject, and show (I think satisfactorily) that this subject has never yet been approached. The press has been entirely on a wrong scent. In fact, I really believe, not only that I have demonstrated the falsity of the idea that the girl was not the victim of a gang as supposed, but have indicated the assassin. My main object, however, as you will readily understand, is the analysis of the principles of investigation in cases of like character. Dupin reasons the matter throughout.

The article, I feel convinced, will be one of general interest, from the nature of its subject. For reasons which I may mention to you hereafter, I am desirous of publishing it in Baltimore, and there would be no channel so proper as the paper under your control. Now the tale is a long one — it would occupy twenty-five pages of Graham’s Magazine — and is worth to me a hundred dollars at the usual Magazine price. Of course I could not afford to make you an absolute present of it — but if you are willing to take it, I will say $40. Shall I hear from you on this head — if possible by return of mail?

Have you seen Griswold’s Book of Poetry? It is a most outrageous humbug, and I sincerely wish you would “use it up.”

If you have not yet noticed my withdrawal from Graham’s Magazine, I would take it as a great favor if you would do so in something like the following terms. Even if you have noticed it, this might go in.

We have it from undoubted authority that Mr. Poe has retired from the editorship of “Graham’s Magazine,” and that his withdrawal took place with the May number, notwithstanding the omission of all announcement to this effect in the number for June. We observe that the “Boston Post” in finding just fault with an exceedingly ignorant and flippant review of “Zanoni” which appears in the June number, has spoken of it as from the pen of Mr. Poe. We will take it upon ourselves to say that Mr. P. neither did write the article, nor could have written any such absurdity. The slightest glance would suffice to convince us of this. Mr. P. would never be guilty of the grammatical blunders, to say nothing [page 357:] of the mere twattle, which disgrace the criticism. When did he ever spell liaison, liason, for example, or make use of so absurd a phrase as “attained to” in place of attained? We are also fully confident that the criticism in question is not the work of Mr. Griswold, who (whatever may be his abilities as the compiler of a Book of Poetry) is at all events a decent writer of English. The article appears to be the handiwork of some underling who has become imbued with the fancy of aping Mr. Poe’s peculiarities of diction. A pretty mess he has made of it! Not to announce Mr. P’s withdrawal in the June number, was an act of the rankest injustice; and as such we denounce it. A man of talent may occasionally submit to the appropriation of his articles by others who insinuate a claim to the authorship, but it is a far different and vastly more disagreeable affair when he finds himself called upon to father the conceit, ignorance and flippant impertinence of an ass.

Put this in editorially, my dear S., and oblige me eternally. You will acknowledge that it will be an act of justice.

Write immediately and believe me your friend.


If you put in the paragraph send me the No. of the Visiter.(17)

Poe must have been in desperate need for money, for he offered the story on the same day to the Boston Notion, one of the mammoth weeklies of that time, for fifty dollars.(18) Neither magazine accepted the offer, for “Marie Rogêt” was published in Snowden’s Ladies’ Companion in November and December, 1842, and February, 1843.

Poe’s own explanation in his letter to Snodgrass of his method in writing “The Murder [[Mystery]] of Marie Rogêt” is clear. By placing the murder in Paris, he could alter details, since he does not claim to solve the Mary Rogers case, but only to show how such a case should be approached. He kept quite close to the facts as known.(19) Mary Cecelia Rogers, a clerk in the tobacconist’s shop of John Anderson, 114-116 [page 358:] Liberty Street, New York, was murdered in August, 1841.(20) She was last seen alive at the Lossburg Steps in Weehawken, New Jersey, with a man, apparently a naval officer. Her body was found floating in the Hudson River, and the mystery of her death baffled the police. Poe made clear that his principal interest was the character study of Dupin, his detective, and Dupin sleeps behind dark glasses while the Prefect of Police is explaining his theory of the crime, and then proceeds to examine all the newspapers for accidental and collateral information. He has become the model for detectives in fiction, whose contempt for official sources has hardened into a convention. Dupin analyses the statements of police and press and destroys them. His main effort is to prove that the murder was not the action of a gang of ruffians as the press indicated, but was the work of one man. Several years later Poe stated to Eveleth that “ ‘The naval officer’ who committed the murder (or rather the accidental death arising from an attempt at abortion) confessed it.”(21)

“Marie Rogêt,” while ingenious, is not as interesting as any of the three other great stories of ratiocination. It is too long and too much time is spent on upsetting false theories. Poe probably recognized that it was growing out of proportion, for he did not follow out the clues suggested by Dupin. In a paragraph attributed to the editors of the magazine, the statement is made that the portion of the Ms. dealing with the following up of the clues was omitted. But, of course, as Poe admitted to Eveleth, that paragraph is part of the story. Here really lies the reason for the comparative failure of Marie Rogêt. It is just in Dupin’s method of solution, step by step, from the clues he has discovered, that Poe is supreme. Again the fact that he was following a real case hampered him. It was only when his imagination had complete sway that he excelled.

“The Landscape Garden” had been published in October, 1842, [page 359:] in the Ladies’ Companion. In “The Landscape Garden,” Poe expressed again his love of natural beauty. There is something pathetic in Poe’s creation of a hero, Seabright Ellison, who, owing to the inheritance of a vast fortune,(22) can indulge his love of beauty by devoting himself to landscape gardening, on a large scale. Poe took occasion to present his theory that while the loveliness of natural objects cannot be improved by art, the composition or arrangement of the elements of the landscape may well add greatly to the beauty of the whole. Poe was consistent, in his theory of beauty — the landscape artist who merely restored the scene to its original beauty was not as great an artist as the man who added creatively a new charm. One can be taught — the other must spring from the flame of inspiration. “The Landscape Garden” ended abruptly with the plans of Ellison; later Poe amplified the story as “The Domain of Arnheim.”

“The Pit and the Pendulum” belongs also to 1842, since it appeared in the Gift for 1843, which came out in the fall. It is a remarkable study of the effect of terror upon a man imprisoned in a dungeon of the Inquisition. Of greatest interest is the analysis of the different strata of dreams through which we pass from sleep into waking. Any competent dreamer will recognize the truth of Poe’s statement: “In the return to life from the swoon there are two stages: first, that of the sense of mental or spiritual; secondly, that of the sense of physical existence.” Any one who has lain, powerless to move, in the first of these stages, will remember how every faculty of his mental powers struggled to attain the second stage.

“The Pit and the Pendulum” is a fine example of Poe’s use of several sources in a combination of his own. In Brockden Brown’s Edgar Huntly (1799) the hero falls in a pit, believes he is a victim of a tyrant and is to be buried alive, is tormented by thirst, and is especially stricken with fear because, like Poe’s hero, he is deprived through darkness and unfamiliar surroundings of his usual experiences. The Inquisition probably came from Poe’s reading Leonard Gallois’ translation of Juan Antonio Llorente’s Critical History of the Spanish Inquisition (23) in which a prisoner lies tightly bound in the path of a slowly descending pendulum. From “The Iron Shroud,” by the author of “First and Last,”(24) Poe may have taken the idea of a [page 360:] dungeon whose walls become heated and close in on the victim. But, as before, the best way to appreciate Poe’s excellence in the creation of a mood is to note his superiority in the combination of these incidents into something new, and his own.

Poe continued his efforts to obtain a government post, this time in the Custom House in Philadelphia. He had some encouragement from Thomas,(25) who engaged the interest of Robert Tyler, the son of the President. Poe as usual began to consider the appointment as already made. Two letters to Poe’s friend, James Herron,(26) a civil engineer in Washington, reveal not only Poe’s optimism concerning the appointment but also his despairing mental condition. In the first letter, an undated fragment, he speaks of his abandonment of all mental exertion and his determination to take advantage of the Bankruptcy Act. After mentioning the appointment as certain, Poe concludes, “Mrs. Poe is again dangerously ill with hemorrhage from the lungs. It is folly to hope.”

The second letter speaks for itself:

Philadelphia, June 30, 1842.

My dear Mr. Herron,

Upon return from a brief visit to New York, last night, I found here your kind letter from Washington, enclosing a check for $20, and giving me new life in every way. I am more deeply indebted to you than I can express, and in this I really mean what I say. Without your prompt and unexpected interposition with Mr. Tyler, it is by no means improbable that I should have failed in obtaining the appointment which has become so vitally necessary to me; but now I feel assured of success. The $20, also, will enable me to overcome other difficulties — and, I repeat, that I thank you from the bottom of my heart. You have shown yourself a true friend.

My wife’s health has slightly improved and my spirits have risen in proportion, but I am still very unwell — so much so that I shall be forced to give up and go to bed. [page 361:]

Your own brilliant prospects must be realized; for it is not Fate which makes such men as yourself. You make your own Fate. There is such a thing as compelling Fortune, however reluctant or averse. As regards myself — I will probably succeed too. So let us both keep a good head.

Wishing you the high success which you deserve,

I am your sincere friend,


Jas. Herron Esqre (27)

Even in his despair, in both letters Poe congratulates his friend on his own success. Herron evidently did what he could, but nothing happened. Then on September 2nd, Thomas evidently wrote to Poe reopening the question and Poe replied on September 12th.(28) Before Thomas received this letter, he had come to Philadelphia(29) and visited the family at the Coates Street home. Poe wrote to Thomas apologizing for his failure to meet him:

Philadelphia, Sep. [21?] 1842.

My dear Thomas,

I am afraid you will think that I keep my promises but indifferently well, since I failed to make my appearance at Congress Hall on Sunday, and I now, therefore, write to apologise. The will to be with you was not wanting — but, upon reaching home on Saturday night, I was taken with a severe chill and fever — the latter keeping me company all next day. I found myself too ill to venture out, but, nevertheless, would have done so had I been able to obtain the consent of all parties. As it was I was quite in a quandary, for we keep no servant and no messenger could be procured in the neighborhood. I contented myself with the reflection that you would not think it necesary to wait for me very long after 9 o’clock, and that you were not quite as implacable in your resentments as myself. I was much in hope that you would have made your way out in the afternoon. Virginia & Mrs. C. were much grieved at not being able to bid you farewell.

I perceive by DuSolle’s paper that you saw him. He announced your presence in the city on Sunday, in very handsome terms. [page 362:]

I am about going on a pilgrimage, this morning, to hunt up a copy of “Clinton Bradshaw” & will send it to you as soon as procured.

Excuse the brevity of this letter, for I am still very unwell, & believe me most gratefully & sincerely your friend,


F. W. Thomas, Esq.(30)

On November 19th, however, he wrote Thomas again showing how little fitted Poe was to cope with a politician:

Philadelphia, November 19, 1842.

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

Mr. Smith has excited the thorough disgust of every Tyler man here. He is a Whig of the worst stamp, and will appoint none but Whigs if he can possibly avoid it. People here laugh at the idea of his being a Tyler man. He is notoriously not such. As for me, he has treated me most shamefully. In my case, there was no need of any political shuffling or lying. I proffered my willingness to [page 363:] postpone my claims to those of political claimants, but he told me, upon my first interview after the election, that if I would call on the fourth day he would swear me in. I called and he was not at home. On the next day I called again and saw him, when he told me that he would send a messenger for me when ready: this without even inquiring my place of residence, showing that he had, from the first, no design of appointing me. Well, I waited nearly a month, when, finding nearly all the appointments made, I again called. He did not even ask me to be seated — scarcely spoke — muttered the words “I will send for you, Mr. Poe” — and that was all. My next and last interview was to-day — as I have just described. The whole manner of the man, from the first, convinced me that he would not appoint me if he could help it. Hence the uneasiness I expressed to you when here. Now, my dear Thomas, this insult is not to me, so much as to your friend Mr. Robert Tyler, who was so kind as to promise, and who requested, my appointment.

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

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

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

Believe me ever your true friend,

EDGAR A. POE.(31) [page 364:]

It is pleasant to turn from these “hopes deferred” to Poe’s early association with Lowell. Several of Lowell’s poems had been printed in Graham’s while Poe was an editor, and when Poe heard that Lowell was about to found The Pioneer, a monthly magazine, he wrote to him:

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

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

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

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

Most Cordially yours,


James Russell Lowell, Esqre.
Philadelphia, November 16 1842.(32)

Lowell in reply offered ten dollars for any article Poe sent him, promising more if his venture succeeded and asking especially for stories. The prospectus for the Pioneer(33) is not unlike those which Poe issued for the Penn Magazine or the Stylus. It emphasizes the need for a “natural” rather than a “national” literature. Lowell and Carter, his partner, owned as well as edited the Pioneer.

Poe had evidently sent “The Tell-Tale Heart” to the Boston Miscellany, which had printed his review of Griswold’s anthology, but H. T. Tuckerman had become its editor and declined it, possibly because Poe’s description of him in his “Autography” as “insufferably tedious and dull” did not appeal to him. He turned the story over to Lowell who printed it in the first number of the Pioneer in January, 1843. Lowell’s letter telling Poe of this transfer closes with the words “Wishing you all happiness, I remain your true friend.”(34) [page 365:]

Poe sent Lowell on December 23rd,(35) his poem, “Lenore,” a revision of “A Pæan,” with some caustic remarks on Tuckerman, and Lowell printed it in the issue of February, 1843, with the short lines which spread it over two pages. It was greatly improved by the changes, which are so many as to forbid retelling here. How careful Poe was concerning the appearance of his verses is shown in a letter to Lowell:

My dear Sir,

If not too late, I would be glad to substitute the lines here given, for what I sent you some days since.

Should the long line “To friends above etc.” not come conveniently within the breadth of the page, it may be made to commence farther to the left, so as to correspond with “But waft the angel &c.”

Most truly yours,


James Russell Lowell, Esqr.
  Dec. 27. 42.(36)

Poe wrote a letter of congratulation to Lowell concerning the Pioneer:

Philadelphia, February 4, 1843.

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

Thank you for the compliment in the footnote. Thank you, also, for your attention in forwarding the Magazine.

As far as a $3 Magazine can please me at all, I am delighted with yours. I am especially gratified with what seems to me a certain coincidence of opinion and of taste, between yourself and your humble servant, in the minor arrangements, as well as in the more important details of the journal. For example, — the poetry in the same type as the prose — the designs from Flaxman — &c. As regards the contributors our thoughts are one. Do you know that when, some time since, I dreamed of establishing a Magazine of my own, I said to myself — “If I can but succeed in engaging, as [page 366:] permanent contributors, Mr. Hawthorne, Mr. Neal, and two others, with a certain young poet of Boston, who shall be nameless, I will engage to produce the best journal in America.” At the same time, while I thought, and still think highly of Mr. Bryant, Mr. Cooper, and others, I said nothing of them.

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

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

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

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

Truly your friend,

E. A. POE.(37)

Alas, the Pioneer died with the March issue. Lowell’s severe disease of the eyes, which took him to New York for treatment for some time, and the rather impossible conditions of the contract with his printers were the immediate causes of the failure. But the general conditions which operated against the success of the Pioneer were those which defeated Poe. The “Notes on English Verse” appeared in the March number, but I shall postpone discussion of them until Poe’s theories of versification are treated in connection with “The Rationale of English Verse.”

Poe’s intercourse with Charles Dickens in Philadelphia in March, 1842, was also pleasant, but led to nothing definite. Dickens evidently tried to secure the publication of a volume of Poe’s stories in England, but was unsuccessful. Poe must have made a favorable impression [page 367:] upon Dickens, for on the British novelist’s second trip to the United States, he hunted up Mrs. Clemm and made a contribution to her support.

During the Philadelphia period there developed also a correspondence between Poe and a strange being whose importance, except as it contributes to our knowledge of Poe, seems to me to have been greatly exaggerated. Thomas Holley Chivers was a Georgian, born in 1807, who wrote poetry which is thought by some to resemble Poe’s work, and even to anticipate it. Poe asked him to obtain subscriptions for the Penn Magazine in 1840, and Chivers replied with an assurance of support, but no definite financial aid.(38)

In his “Autography”(39) Poe gave him more than adequate notice:

Dr. Thomas Holley Chivers, of New York, is at the same time one of the best and one of the worst poets in America. His productions affect one as a wild dream — strange, incongruous, full of images of more than arabesque monstrosity, and snatches of sweet unsustained song. Even his worst nonsense (and some of it is horrible) has an indefinite charm of sentiment and melody. We can never be sure that there is any meaning in his words, — neither is there any meaning in many of our finest musical airs, — but the effect is very similar in both. His figures of speech are metaphor run mad, and his grammar is often none at all. Yet there are as fine individual passages to be found in the poems of Dr. Chivers as in those of any poet whatsoever.

The correspondence lapsed, at least on Poe’s part, but in July, 1842, seeing possibly a chance to interest Chivers in his projected periodical, Poe wrote him, giving what could hardly have been a sincere tribute, and Chivers resumed the correspondence. Poe’s letter in September is illuminating in revealing undaunted his hopes for the magazine:

Sep. 27. 1842.

My Dear Sir,

Through some accident, I did not receive your letter of the 15th inst: until this morning, and now hasten to reply. [page 368:]

Allow me, in the first place, to thank you sincerely for your kindness in procuring me the subscribers to the Penn Magazine. The four names sent will aid me most materially in this early stage of the proceedings.

As yet I have taken no overt step in the measure, and have not even printed a Prospectus. As soon as I do this I will send you several. I do not wish to announce my positive resumption of the original scheme until about the middle of October. Before that period I have reason to believe that I shall have received an appointment in the Philadelphia Custom House, which will afford me a good salary and leave the greater portion of my time unemployed. With this appointment to fall back upon, as a certain resource, I shall be enabled to start the Magazine without difficulty, provided I can make an arrangement with either a practical printer possessing a small office, or some one not a printer, with about $1000 at command. It would, of course, be better for the permanent influence and success of the journal that I unite myself with a gentleman of education & similarity of thought and feeling. It was this consciousness which induced me to suggest the enterprise to yourself. I know no one with whom I would more readily enter into association than yourself.

I am not aware what are your political views. My own have reference to no one of the present parties; but it has been hinted to me that I will receive the most effectual patronage from Government, for a journal which will admit occasional papers in support of the Administration. For Mr. Tyler personally, & as an honest statesman, I have the highest respect. Of the government patronage, upon the condition specified, I am assured and this alone will more than sustain the Magazine.

The only real difficulty lies in the beginning — in the pecuniary means for getting out the two (or three) first numbers; after this all is sure, and a great triumph may, and indeed will be achieved. If you can command about $1000 and say that you will join me, I will write you fully as respects the details of the plan, or we can have an immediate interview.

It would be proper to start with an edition of 1000 copies. For this number, the monthly expense, including paper (of the finest quality) composition, press-work & stitching will be about 180$. I calculate all expenses at about $250 — which is $3000 per annum — a very liberal estimate. 1000 copies at $5 = 5000$ — leaving a nett profit of 2000$, even supposing we have only 1000 subscribers. [page 369:] But I am sure of beginning with at least 500, and make no doubt of obtaining 5000 before the expiration of the 2d year. A Magazine, such as I propose, with 5000 subscribers will produce us each an income of some $10,000; and this you will acknowledge is a game worth playing. At the same time there is no earthly reason why such a Magazine may not, eventually, reach a circulation as great as that of “Graham’s” at present — viz. 50,000.

I repeat that it would give me the most sincere pleasure if you would make up your mind to join me. I am sure of our community of thought & feeling, and that would accomplish much.

In regard to the poem on Harrison’s death,(40) I regret to say that nothing can be done with the Philadelphia publishers. The truth is that the higher order of poetry is, and always will be, in this country, unsaleable; but, even were it otherwise, the present state of the Copy-Right Laws will not warrant any publisher, in purchasing an American book. The only condition, I am afraid, upon which the poem can be printed, is that you print at your own expense.

I will see Griswold and endeavour to get the smaller poems from him. A precious fellow is he!

Write as soon as you receive this & believe me

Yours most truly


The magazine, as we know, did not appear in October. Chivers’ personal association with Poe belongs more definitely to the later period.(42)

As this letter indicates, Poe was never forgetful of his project for a magazine of his own. On January 31, 1843, he entered into an agreement with Thomas C. Clarke and Felix O. C. Darley concerning the publication of a magazine to be called “The Stylus.” Darley was to furnish the illustrations at seven dollars apiece. This document, which seems to be in Poe’s handwriting,(43) betrays a certain familiarity with [page 370:] legal terms, although it may have been dictated by his friend Henry B. Hirst, who was completing his law studies at this time.

In order to secure Clarke’s interest in the Stylus, Poe permitted the announcement to be made that he had joined the staff of the Saturday Museum of Philadelphia, a weekly paper published by Clarke and Company at 101 “Chesnut” Street. In the issue of February 25, 1843, an extensive biography of Poe with his portrait and with reproductions of many of his poems, was published in this sheet.(44)

This biography was reprinted in the issue of March 4th(45) together with an editorial note:


The Spirit of the Times, of Friday, says: — “The Saturday Museum of this week contains a very fair likeness of our friend, Edgar A. Poe, Esq. with a full account of his truly eventful life. We look upon Mr. Poe as one of the most powerful, chaste, and erudite writers of the day, and it gives us pleasure to see him placed, through the public spirit of our neighbor of the Museum, in his proper position before the world.”

We are glad to hear so good a paper as the Times speak thus highly of Mr. Poe, not only from the justice which it renders that powerful writer, but because we have been so fortunate as to secure his services as assistant Editor of the Saturday Museum. We have the pleasure of announcing this week, this association, from which our paper cannot fail to reap the most brilliant advantages. The arrangement will be commenced with some splendid typographical improvements, that we are about introducing, and which will put the Museum where we intend it shall be placed — beyond the reach of competition.

So great was the interest excited by the Biography and Poems of Mr. Poe, published in the Museum of last week, that to supply those who were disappointed in obtaining copies, we shall be at the expense of an extra Museum, in which the whole article will be re-printed, with corrections and additions. Of this extra we [page 371:] shall publish an edition on fine white paper. It will be ready for delivery at this office on Saturday morning.(46)

The biography fills the entire first page of the large sheet, fifteen by twenty inches, printed in that infinitesimal type with which our ancestors tried their eyes. It is stated to be based on information given by T. W. White, of the Messenger, and F. W. Thomas, but as will be seen, it was really by Henry B. Hirst. Thomas wrote Poe on February 1st, excusing himself on the grounds of his labors at the Department from compiling the article from the memoranda Poe had sent him.(47)

Thomas sent Poe a letter of introduction to Robert Tyler on February 8, 1843,(48) explaining that he was too ill to present Poe in person. Poe did not go down to Washington, however, in February, but his letter to Thomas makes a number of points clear:

Philadelphia, February 25, 1843.

My dear Thomas, — Herewith I forward a “Saturday Museum” containing a Biography and caricature, both of myself. I am ugly enough, God knows, but not quite so bad as that. The biographer is H. B. Hirst of this city. I put into his hands your package, as returned, and he has taken the liberty of stating his indebtedness for memoranda to yourself — a slight extension of the truth for which I pray you to excuse him. He is a warm friend of yours, by the by — and a warm friend is a matter of moment at all times, but especially in this age of lukewarmness. I have also been guilty of an indiscretion in quoting from a private letter of yours to myself — I could not forego the temptation of letting the world know how well you thought of me.

On the outside of the paper you will see a Prospectus of “The Stylus” — my old “Penn” revived and remodelled under better auspices. I am anxious to hear your opinion of it. I have managed at last to secure, I think, the great object — a partner possessing ample capital, and, at the same time, so little self-esteem, as to allow me entire control of the editorial conduct. He gives me, also, a half interest, and is to furnish funds for all the business [page 372:] operations — I agreeing to supply, for the first year, the literary matter. This will puzzle me no little, but I must do my best — write as much as possible myself, under my own name and pseudonyms, and hope for the casual aid of my friends, until the first stage of infancy is surpassed. The articles of copartnership have been signed and sealed for some weeks, and I should have written you before, informing you of my good luck, but that I was in hope of sending you, at the same time, a specimen-sheet. Some little delay has occurred in getting it out, on account of paper. In the mean time, all arrangements are progressing with spirit. We shall make the most magnificent Magazine as regards externals, ever seen. The finest paper, bold type, in single column, and superb wood-engravings (in the manner of the French illustrated edition of “Gil Bias” by Gigoux, or “Robinson Crusoe” by Grandville).

There are three objects I would give a great deal to accomplish. Of the first I have some hope — but of the two last exceedingly little, unless you aid me. In the first place, I wish an article from yourself for my opening number — in the second, one from Mr. Rob Tyler — in the third, one from Judge Upshur. If I could get all this, I should be made — but I despair. Judge Upshur wrote some things for “The Messenger” during my editorship, and if I could get him interested in the scheme he might, by good management, be induced to give me an article, I care not how brief, or on what subject, with his name. It would be worth to me at least $500, and give me caste at once. I think him, as a reasoner, as a speaker, and as a writer, absolutely unsurpassed. I have the very highest opinion of his abilities. There is no man in America from whom I so strongly covet an article. Is it procurable?

In a few weeks, at farthest, I hope to take you by the hand. In the mean time write, and let me know how you come on.

About a week since I enclosed an introductory letter to yourself in one to a friend of mine (Professor Wyatt) now in Washington. I presume you have seen him. He is much of a gentleman, and I think you will be pleased with him.

Virginia and Mrs. Clemm beg to be remembered.

Truly your friend,


P.S. Smith not rejected yet. Ah if I could only get the inspectorship, or something similar, now — how completely it would put me out of all difficulty. [page 373:]

This biography in the Philadelphia Museum has, therefore, unusual importance since Poe furnished the material and evidently edited the poems. It included, and in some cases, was the primary source of information, correct and incorrect, concerning Poe’s ancestry and personal history. The myths concerning the elopement of Poe’s parents, their death “on a visit to Richmond,” Poe’s journey to Greece and St. Petersburg, his return from Europe on the night after Mrs. Allan’s burial, are mingled with more authentic accounts of the West Point episode, and the University of Virginia. No mention of the army service is made. Poe’s connection with the Messenger is correctly stated, and the account proceeds:

With Mr. Graham (with whom he has always maintained the most friendly relations) he remained as critical editor, for a period of some fourteen or fifteen months; but is not to be considered responsible, (as some have held him) either for the external appearance, or the general internal character of that periodical.

It has often been a subject for wonder that with the preeminent success which has attended his editorial efforts, Mr. Poe has never established a magazine, in which he should have more than a collateral interest, and we are now happy to learn that such is at length, his intention. By reference to another page of our paper, it will be seen that he has issued the Prospectus of a Monthly, to be entitled “The Stylus,” for which, it is needless to say, we predict the most unequivocal success. In so saying, we but endorse the opinion of every literary man in the country.

The account then proceeds with thirty-two laudatory criticisms of Poe’s stories, including quotations from all the leading writers of the day. Poe did not hesitate to quote from private letters like those from Irving or Longfellow, turning them into the third person, as though they had been printed. From Hawthorne he quoted the passage from “The Hall of Fantasy” as it first appeared in the Pioneer in February, 1843: “Mr. Poe gained ready admission [into the Hall of Fantasy] on account of his imagination, but was threatened with ejection as belonging to the obnoxious class of critics.” This passage was omitted in later versions of the “Hall of Fantasy.”

Of greater significance, however, is that portion of the article which deals with Poe’s poetry. Those who, like the present writer, believe that it is as a poet that Poe will ultimately be remembered, are supported by the statement: “But notwithstanding his success as a prose writer, it is as a poet we now wish chiefly to consider him.” [page 374:]

Although Poe had constantly made changes in his poems for the magazines in which he republished them since the appearance of his volume of 1831, the Saturday Museum text is important because it contains an extensive revision of his poetry up to that time.(50)

Poe did not make these changes merely for the sake of more pleasing sounds. On the most important of the poems, like “To Helen” and “Israfel,” Poe lavished the care which still further enhanced the beauty of verses that might have seemed perfect to a lesser poet. In “To Helen” by changing “that shadowy window niche” in which Psyche stands, to “yon brilliant window niche” and the “folded scroll” which she holds to “the agate lamp,” Psyche becomes not a shrouded figure, but a shining beacon to light the “weary way worn wanderer” back to his “native shore.” In “Israfel” “He might not sing one half so well” became “He might not sing so wildly well.” In “Romance,” the long passage of the Poems of 1831 referring to “the idle boy, who read Anacreon and drank wine” was omitted. Poe had probably begun to feel the criticisms of his habits, and thought it discreet to give his enemies no support. The lines themselves are not self-revelation, but an early and Byronic assumption of the easy distinction of dissipation. The textual changes were usually preserved in the 1845 edition of Poe’s poems with the exception of those in “Al Aaraaf,” where Poe reverted to the 1829 version.(51)

The biography lists among Poe’s works “a work of fiction, in two volumes, under a nom-de-plume, never acknowledged; — also two papers, on American topics, for a Parisian critical journal — with one or two anonymous articles in a British periodical, and several also anonymous, in an American Quarterly.” The novel and the foreign articles have so far baffled research.

The biography closes with a description of Poe:

He is now but little more than thirty years of age; in person, he is somewhat slender, about five feet, eight inches in height, and [page 375:] well proportioned; his complexion is rather fair; his eyes are grey and restless, exhibiting a marked nervousness; while the mouth indicates great decision of character; his forehead is extremely broad, displaying prominently the organs of Ideality, Casualty [sic], Form, Constructiveness, and Comparison, with small Eventuality and Individuality. His hair is nearly black, and partially curling. Our portrait, conveys a tolerably correct idea of the man.

The Prospectus of the Stylus resembled closely in some of its paragraphs the announcement of the Penn Magazine, and so these need not be repeated. There are, however, a few remarks pertaining only to the new magazine:




A Monthly Journal of General Literature

to be edited by


And Published, in the City of Philadelphia, by


—— unbending that all men

Of thy firm Truth may say — “Lo! this is writ

With the antique iron pen.”

Launcelot Canning.

To the Public. — The Prospectus of a Monthly Journal to have been called “The Penn Magazine,” has already been partially circulated. Circumstances, in which the public have no interest, induced a suspension of the project, which is now, under the best auspices, resumed, with no other modification than that of the title. “The Penn Magazine,” it has been thought, was a name somewhat too local in its suggestions, and The STYLUS has been finally adopted. . . .

As, for many reasons, it is inexpedient to commence a journal of this kind at any other period than the beginning or middle of [page 376:] the year, the first number of “The Stylus” will not be regularly issued until the first of July, 1843. In the meantime, to insure its perfect and permanent success, no means will be left untried which long experience, untiring energy, and the amplest capital, can supply. The price will be Five Dollars per annum, or Three Dollars per single volume, in advance. Letters which concern only the Editorial management may be addressed to Edgar A. Poe, individually; all others to Clarke & Poe. . . .

The new journal will endeavor to be at the same time more varied and more unique; — more vigorous, more pungent, more original, more individual, and more independent. It will discuss not only the Belles-Lettres, but, very thoroughly, the Fine Arts, with the Drama; and, more in brief, will give, each month, a Retrospect of our Political History. It will enlist the loftiest talent, but employ it not always in the loftiest — at least not always in the most pompous or Puritanical way. It will aim at affording a fair and not dishonorable field for the true intellect of the land, without reference to the mere prestige of celebrated names. It will support the general interests of the Republic of Letters, and insist upon regarding the world at large as the sole proper audience for the author. It will resist the dictation of Foreign Reviews. It will eschew the stilted dulness of our own Quarterlies, and while it may, if necessary, be no less learned, will deem it wiser to be less anonymous, and difficult to be more dishonest, than they.

An important feature of the work, and one which will be introduced in the opening number, will be a series of Critical and Biographical Sketches of American Writers. These Sketches will be accompanied with full length and characteristic portraits; will include every person of literary note in America; and will investigate carefully and with rigorous impartiality, the individual claims of each.

It shall, in fact, be the chief purpose of “The Stylus,” to become known as a journal wherein may be found, at all times, upon all subjects within its legitimate reach, a sincere and a fearless opinion. It shall be a leading object to assert in precept, and to maintain in practice, the rights, while, in effect, it demonstrates the advantages, of an absolutely independent criticism; — a criticism self-sustained; guiding itself only by the purest rules of Art; analyzing and urging these rules as it applies them; holding itself aloof from all personal bias; and acknowledging no fear save that of outraging the Right.

CLARKE & POE(52) [page 377:]

In another part of the Museum the statement is made that Poe will begin his connection with the paper on May 1, 1843, “at a high salary,” but no record of his salary has come down to us, because, apparently, there was none.

Notwithstanding all the trumpeting in the Saturday Museum, Poe did not join the staff(53) at least in any active way, although he did write occasionally for it. He republished his “Conversation of Eiros and Charmion” as “The Destruction of the World,” and printed some conundrums.(54) He went to Washington early in March, unfortunately as it proved, partly to solicit subscriptions for the Stylus and partly to keep an open eye upon an appointment under the Tyler Administration. Two letters tell sufficiently the story of this visit. The first was to T. C. Clarke:

Washington — March 11. 1843.

My Dear Sir,

I write merely to inform you of my will [sic] — doing — for, so far, I have done nothing. My friend Thomas, upon whom I depended, is sick. I suppose he will be well in a few days. In the meantime, I shall have to do the best I can. I have not seen the President yet.

My expenses were more than I thought they would be, although I have economised in every respect, and this delay (Thomas’ being sick) puts me out sadly. However all is going right. I have got the subscriptions of all the Departments — President, [erasure] &c I believe that I am making a sensation which will tend to the benefit of the Magazine.

Day after to-morrow I am to lecture.

Rob. Tyler is to give me an article — also Upsher. Send me $10 by mail, as soon as you get this. I am grieved to ask you [erasure] for money, in this way. — but you will find your account in it — twice over.

Very truly yours


Thos. C. Clarke Esqre.(55) [page 378:]

Poe did not lecture, however, for on the next day his friend, J. E. Dow, wrote to Clarke:

Washington, March 12, 1843.

Dear Sir, — I deem it to be my bounden duty to write you this hurried letter in relation to our mutual friend E.A.P.

He arrived here a few days since. On the first evening he seemed somewhat excited, having been over-persuaded to take some Port wine.

On the second day he kept pretty steady, but since then he has been, at intervals, quite unreliable.

He exposes himself here to those who may injure him very much with the President, and thus prevents us from doing for him what we wish to do and what we can do if he is himself again in Philadelphia. He does not understand the ways of politicians, nor the manner of dealing with them to advantage. How should he?

Mr. Thomas is not well and cannot go home with Mr. P. My business and the health of my family will prevent me from so doing.

Under all the circumstances of the case, I think it advisable for you to come on and see him safely back to his home. Mrs. Poe is in a bad state of health, and I charge you, as you have a soul to be saved, to say not one word to her about him until he arrives with you. I shall expect you or an answer to this letter by return of mail.

Should you not come, we will see him on board the cars bound to Phila., but we fear he might be detained in Baltimore and not be out of harm’s way.

I do this under a solemn responsibility. Mr. Poe has the highest order of intellect, and I cannot bear that he should be the sport of senseless creatures who, like oysters, keep sober, and gape and swallow everything.

I think your good judgment will tell you what course you ought to pursue in this matter, and I cannot think it will be necessary to let him know that I have written you this letter; but I cannot suffer him to injure himself here without giving you this warning.

Yours respectfully,

J. E. DOW.

To Thomas C. Clarke, Esq.,
   Philadelphia, Pa.(56)

Poe was in good enough shape to return to Philadelphia alone, but the vigilant Mrs. Clemm met him at the train. His letter to his two [page 379:] friends in Washington is that of a man deeply mortified and trying to believe that he had not disgraced himself:

March 16. 1843.

My Dear Thomas, & Dow

I arrived here, in perfect safety, and sober, about half past four last evening — nothing occurring on the road of any consequence. I shaved and breakfasted in Baltimore and lunched on The Susquehannah, and by the time I got to Phila. felt quite decent. Mrs. Clemm was expecting me at the car-office. I went immediately home, took a warm bath & supper & then went to Clarke’s. I never saw a man in my life more surprised to see another. He thought by Dow’s epistle that I must not only be dead but buried & would as soon have thought of seeing his Great-great-great grandmother. He received me, therefore, very, cordially & made light of the matter. I told him what had been agreed upon — that I was a little sick & that Dow, knowing I had been, in times passed, given to spreeing upon an extensive scale, had become unduly alarmed &c. &c. — that when I found he had written I thought it best to come home. He said my trip had improved me & that he had never seen me looking so well!!! — and I don’t believe I ever did.

This morning I took medicine, and, as it is a snowy day, will avail myself of the excuse to stay at home — so that by to-morrow I shall be really as well as ever.

Virginia’s health is about the same — but her distress of mind had been even more that I had anticipated. She desires her kindest remembrances to both of you — as also does Mrs. C.

Clarke, it appears, wrote to Dow, who must have received the letter this morning. Please re-inclose the letter to me, here — so that I may know how to guide myself. — and, Thomas, do write immediately as proposed. If possible, enclose a line from Rob. Tyler — but I fear, under the circumstances, it is not so — I blame no one but myself.

The letter which I looked for & which I wished returned, is not on its way — reason, no money forthcoming — Lowell had not yet sent it — he is ill, in N. York of opthalmia. Immediately upon receipt of it, or before, I will forward the money you were both so kind as to lend — which is 8 to Dow and 3½ to Thomas — What a confounded business I have got myself into, attempting to write a letter to two people at once! [page 380:]

However — this is for Dow. My dear fellow — Thank you a thousand times for your kindness & great forbearance, and don’t say a word about the cloak turned inside out, or other peccadilloes of that nature. Also, express to your wife my deep regret for the vexation I must have occasioned her. Send me, also, if you can the letter to Blythe. Call, also, at the barber’s shop just above Fuller’s and pay for me a levy which I believe I owe. And now God bless you — for a nobler fellow never lived.

And this is for Thomas. My dear friend. Forgive me my petulance & don’t believe I think all I said. Believe me I am very grateful to you for your many attentions & forbearances and the time will never come when I shall forget either them or you. Remember me most kindly to Dr. Lacey — also to the Don, whose mustachios I do admire after all, and who has about the finest figure I ever beheld — also to Dr. Frailey. Please express my regret to Mr. Fuller for making such a fool of myself in his house, and say to him (if you think it necessary) that I should not have got half so drunk on his excellent Port wine but for the rummy coffee with which I was forced to wash it down. I would be glad, too, if you would take an opportunity of saying to Mr. Rob. Tyler that if he can look over matters and get me the Inspectorship, I will join the Washingtonians forthwith. I am as serious as a judge — & much [more] so than many. I think it would be a feather in Mr. Tyler’s cap to save from the perils of mint julap [sic] — & “Port wines” — a young man of whom all the world thinks so well & who thinks so remarkably well of himself.

And now, my dear friends, good bye & believe me

Most truly yours


Mess. Dow & Thomas.

Upon getting here I found numerous letters of subscribers to my Magazine — for which no canvass has yet been made. This was unexpected & cheering. Did you say, Dow that Commodore Elliot had desired me to put down his name? Is it so or did I dream it? At all events, when you see him present my respects and thanks. Thomas, you will remember that Dr. Lacey wished me to put him down — but I don’t know his first name — please let me have it.(57) [page 381:]

On this letter Thomas wrote a note of sympathetic understanding.

This letter explains itself. While his friends were trying to get Poe a place he came on to Washington in the way he mentions. He was soon quite sick, and while he was so Dow wrote to one of his friends in Philadelphia about him. Poor fellow, a place had been promised his friends for him, and in that state of suspense which is so trying to all men, and particularly to men of imagination, he presented himself in Washington certainly not in a way to advance his interests. I have seen a great deal of Poe, and it was his excessive and at times marked sensibility which forced him into his “frolics,” rather than any mere morbid appetite for drink, but if he took but one glass of weak wine or beer or cider, the Rubicon of the cup was passed with him, and it almost always ended in excess and sickness. But he fought against the propensity as hard as ever Coleridge fought against [it], and I am inclined to believe, after his sad experience and suffering, if he could have gotten office with a fixed salary, beyond the need of literary labour, that he would have redeemed himself — at least at this time. The accounts of his derelictions in this respect when I knew him were very much exaggerated. I have seen men who drank bottles of wine to Poe’s wine-glasses who yet escaped all imputations of intemperance. His was one of those temperaments whose only safety is in total abstinence. He suffered terribly after any indiscretion. And, after all, what Byron said of Sheridan was truer of Poe: —

“. . . Ah, little do they know

That what to them seemed vice might be but woe.”

And, moreover, there is a great deal of heartache in the jestings of this letter.


Clarke seems not to have been unduly disturbed by the incident, and Thomas wrote Poe on March 27th that he was still trying to interest President Tyler. But nothing came from his efforts.

Poe sent his poem “Eulalie” to Carter on February 16, 1843, but was too late, as the Pioneer died in March.(58) [page 382:]

Lowell wrote to Poe on March 24, 1843, apologizing for his failure to pay Poe for his contributions to the Pioneer, and Poe, while depending upon this money to repay Dow and Thomas, replied:

Philadelphia, March 27, ’43.

My Dear Friend, — I have just received yours of the 24th and am deeply grieved, first that you should have been so unfortunate, and, secondly, that you should have thought it necessary to offer me any apology for your misfortunes. As for the few dollars you owe me — give yourself not one moment’s concern about them. I am poor, but must be very much poorer, indeed, when I even think of demanding them.

But I sincerely hope all is not so bad as you suppose it, and that, when you come to look about you, you will be able to continue “The Pioneer.” Its decease, just now, would be a most severe blow to the good cause — the cause of a Pure Taste. I have looked upon your Magazine, from its outset, as the best in America, and have lost no opportunity of expressing the opinion. Herewith I [page 383:] send a paper, “The Phil. Sat. Museum,” in which I have said a few words on the topic.

I am not editing this paper, although an announcement was prematurely made to that effect; but have the privilege of inserting what I please editorially. On the first of July next I hope to issue the first number of “The Stylus,” a new monthly, with some novel features. I send you, also, a paper containing the Prospectus. In a few weeks I hope to forward you a specimen sheet. I am anxious to get a poem from yourself for the opening number, but, until you recover your health, I fear that I should be wrong in making the request.

Believe me, my dear friend, that I sympathize with you truly in your affliction. When I heard that you had returned to Boston I hoped you were entirely well, and your letter disappoints and grieves me.

When you find yourself in condition to write, I would be indebted to you if you could put me in the way of procuring a brief article (also for my opening number) from Mr. Hawthorne — whom I believe you know personally. Whatever you gave him, we should be happy to give. A part of my design is to illustrate, whatever is fairly susceptible of illustration, with finely executed wood-engravings — after the fashion of Gigoux’s “Gil Bias” or “Grandville’s Gulliver” [sic] — and I wish to get a tale from Mr. Hawthorne as early as possible (if I am so fortunate as to get one at all), that I may put the illustration in the hands of the artist.

You will see by the Prospectus that we intend to give a series of portraits of the American literati, with critical sketches. I would be glad if I could so arrange matters as to have you first, provided you yourself have no serious objection. Instead of the “full-length portraits” promised in the Prospectus (which will be modified in the specimen sheet), we shall have medallions about three inches in diameter. Could you put me in possession of any likeness of yourself? — or would you do me the same favor in regard to Mr. Hawthorne? — You perceive I proceed upon the ground that you are intimate with Mr. H., and that making these inquiries would not subject you to trouble or inconvenience.

I confess that I am by no means so conversant with your own compositions (especially in prose) as I should be. Could you furnish me with some biographical and critical data, and tell me when or how I could be put in possession of your writings generally? — but I fear I am asking altogether too much. [page 384:]

If the 4th number of “The Pioneer” is printed, I would be obliged if you would send me an early copy through the P. O.

Please remember me to Mr. Carter, and believe me

Most sincerely your friend,


J. Russell Lowell, Esqre.(59)

In view of the insistence upon Poe’s applications for loans, this generosity should be remembered in his behalf. Lowell tried to secure the story from Hawthorne, sent one of his own poems, and signed his letters as an “affectionate friend.” Poe’s note to him on June 20, 1843, tells him that the Stylus had to be abandoned:

Philadelphia, June 20, 1843.

My Dear Friend, — I owe you fifty apologies for not having written you before — but sickness and domestic affliction will suffice for all.

I received your poem, which you undervalue, and which I think truly beautiful — as, indeed, I do all you have ever written — but alas! my Magazine scheme has exploded — or, at least, I have been deprived, through the imbecility, or rather through the idiocy of my partner, of all means of prosecuting it for the present. Under better auspices I may resume it next year.

What am I to do with the poem? I have handed it to Griswold, subject to your disposition.

My address is 234 North Seventh St., above Spring Garden, West Side. Should you ever pay a visit to Philadelphia, you will remember that there is no one in America whom I would rather hold by the hand than yourself.

With the sincerest friendship I am yours,



Poe's Home in Spring Garden, Phiadelphia [thumbnail]

[Illustration facing page 384]
Poe’s home in “Spring Garden,” Philadelphia

This letter gives Poe’s address for the first time as 234 North Seventh Street, now 530. It was in the district known as Spring Garden. This cottage has a special interest, since it is the only actual [page 385:] home of Poe, maintained as a Poe museum, which contains any large amount of associated literary material.(61)

This house, on the corner of Seventh Street and Brandywine Alley, a small street running parallel to Spring Garden Street, was a three-story brick cottage, with a garden toward the east, and a porch in the rear. The garden is now occupied by the front buildings on Seventh Street, which were added after Poe left Philadelphia. Even now when the cottage is simply the back building of a larger house, it is not hard to picture a comfortable home in 1843. The living room and kitchen have good light and open fireplaces, where Poe sat with Virginia and Mrs. Clemm, reading and writing. There are pleasant rooms on the second and third floors, although the roof is low.

We do not know exactly when the family moved to North Seventh Street. Poe told Thomas in September, 1842, that he had moved out “in the neighborhood of Fairmount” and since the Directory for 1843, gave him as a resident of the Coates Street house, it was probably for only one year or less that he lived at North Seventh Street.(62)

They were probably settled there in the spring of 1843, and Virginia’s health was good enough to permit her to take care of the flower garden, even if the “rose-covered cottage” as it is often called, must have been an exaggeration. While it was still on the outskirts of the city, is [[it]] was much nearer the centre than Fairmount. As Poe went down Seventh Street, he passed the houses of respectable families whose names are still well known today, although the neighborhood has radically changed, and they have moved away. Poe passed Buttonwood Street next, where Graham had lived; but just about the time Poe moved to Spring Garden, Graham departed to Arch Street. At the next street, Callowhill, Poe could see the home of George Lippard, the novelist of scandal and history who was later to help save him from disaster. Continuing down to High or Market Street, he was near [page 386:] the publishing house of Haswell, Barrington and Haswell, who had printed his Conchologist’s First Book. Turning left at Chestnut Street, he was within a block of the law office of his friend Henry B. Hirst, at 40 South Sixth Street. One of Poe’s biographers states that he registered for the study of law, with Hirst as a sponsor, at the University of Pennsylvania.(63) I should be delighted to claim Poe as an alumnus of my own University, but, unfortunately, the old Law School, founded in 1790, had lapsed temporarily before Poe came to Philadelphia, and was revived only in 1850.

It would be pleasant to imagine that the comparative comfort in the appearance of the house on Seventh Street reflected some measure of prosperity for the Poe family. On the contrary, there was evidently the spectre of care ever present. Though Poe wrote bravely to Lowell, there is a letter to Griswold on June 11, 1843, which it must have galled him to send, if indeed he did write it:

Dear Griswold: — Can you not send me $5? I am sick, and Virginia is almost gone. Come and see me. Peterson says you suspect me of a curious anonymous letter. I did not write it, but bring it along with you when you make the visit you promised to Mrs. Clemm. I will try to fix that matter soon. Could you do anything with my note?

Yours truly,

E. A. P.(64)

After having written as Poe did to Lowell in June, it must have been dire want which made him appear to dun his friend in September:

Philadelphia, September 18, 1843.

My Dear Friend, — Since I last wrote you I have suffered much from domestic and pecuniary trouble, and, at one period, had nearly succumbed. I mention this by way of apology to the request I am forced to make — that you would send me, if possible, $10 — which, I believe, is the amount you owe me for contribution. You cannot imagine how sincerely I grieve that any necessity can urge me to ask this of you — but I ask it in the hope [page 387:] that you are now in much better position than myself, and can spare me the sum without inconvenience.

I hope ere long to have the pleasure of conversing with you personally. There is no man living with whom I have so much desire to become acquainted.

Truly your friend,


J. R. Lowell, Esqre.(65)

Poe’s letter to Lowell in October shows that Carter and Lowell were dividing the debts of the Pioneer. It has other interesting information:

Philadelphia, October 19, 1843.

My Dear Friend, — I was upon the point of fulfilling a long neglected duty and replying to Mr. Carter’s letter, enclosing $5, when I received yours of the 13th, remitting $5 more. Believe me I am sincerely grateful to you both for your uniform kindness and consideration.

You say nothing of your health — but Mr. C. speaks of its perfect restoration, and I see, by your very MS., that you are well again, body and mind. I need not say that I am rejoiced at this — for you must know and feel that I am. When I thought of the possible loss of your eyesight, I grieved as if some dreadful misfortune were about happening to myself.

I shall look with much anxiety for your promised volume. Will it include your “Year’s Life,” and other poems already published? I hope that it may; for these have not yet been fairly placed before the eye of the world. I am seeking an opportunity to do you justice in a review, and may find it in “Graham,” when your book appears. No poet in America has done so much. I have maintained this upon all occasions. Mr. Longfellow has genius, but by no means equals you in the true spirit. He is moreover so prone to imitation that I know not how to understand him at times. I am in doubt whether he should not be termed an arrant plagiarist. You have read his “Spanish Student”? I have written quite a long notice of it for Graham’s December number. The play is a poor composition, with some fine poetical passages. His “Hymn to the Night,” with some strange blemishes, is glorious. — How much I should like to interchange opinions with you upon poems and [page 388:] poets in general! I fancy that we should agree, usually, in results, while differing frequently, about principles. The day may come when we can discuss everything at leisure, in person.

You say that your long poem has taught you a useful lesson, — “that you are unfit to write narrative — unless in a dramatic form.” It is not you that are unfit for the task — but the task for you — for any poet. Poetry must eschew narrative — except, as you say, dramatically. I mean to say that the true poetry — the highest poetry — must eschew it. The Iliad is not the highest. The connecting links of a narrative — the frequent passages which have to serve the purpose of binding together the parts of the story, are necessarily prose, from their very explanatory nature. To color them — to gloss over their prosaic nature — (for this is the most which can be done) requires great skill. Thus Byron, who was no artist, is always driven, in his narrative, to fragmentary passages, eked out with asterisks. Moore succeeds better than anyone. His “Alciphron” is wonderful in the force, grace, and nature of its purely narrative passages: — but pardon me for prosing.

I send you the paper with my life and portrait. The former is true in general — the latter particularly false. It does not convey the faintest idea of my person. No one of my family recognized it. But this is a point of little importance. You will see, upon the back of the biography, an announcement that I was to assume the editorship of the “Museum.” This was unauthorized. I never did edit it. The review of “Graham’s Magazine” was written by H. B. Hirst — a young poet of this city. Who is to write your life for “Graham”? It is a pity that so many of these biographies were entrusted to Mr. Griswold. He certainly lacks independence, or judgment, or both.

I have tried in vain to get a copy of your “Year’s Life” in Philadelphia. If you have one, and could spare it, I would be much obliged.

Do write me again when you have leisure, and believe me,

Your most sincere friend,


J. R. Lowell, Esqre.(66)

If Poe wrote the review of Longfellow’s “Spanish Student” it did not appear in Graham’s in December, and this episode may prove that Poe was not able to place his criticisms at will. Lowell tried to help [page 389:] him obtain lectures in Boston. Poe proposed to him a scheme for a new form of magazine:

Philadelphia, March 30, 1844.

My Dear Friend, — Graham has been speaking to me, lately, about your Biography, and I am anxious to write it at once, always provided you have no objection. Could you forward me the materials within a day or two? I am just now quite disengaged — in fact positively idle.

I presume you have read the Memoir of Willis, in the April number of G. It is written by a Mr. Landor — but I think it full of hyperbole. Willis is no genius — a graceful trifler — no more. He wants force and sincerity. He is very frequently far-fetched. In me, at least, he never excites an emotion. Perhaps the best poem he has written is a little piece called “Unseen Spirits,” beginning “The Shadows lay — Along Broadway.”

You inquire about my own portrait. It has been done for some time — but is better as an engraving, than as a portrait. It scarcely resembles me at all. When it will appear I cannot say. Conrad and Mrs. Stephens will certainly come before me — perhaps Gen. Morris. My Life is not yet written, and I am at a sad loss for a Biographer — for Graham insists upon leaving the matter to myself.

I sincerely rejoice to hear of the success of your volume. To sell eleven hundred copies of a bound book of American poetry, is to do wonders. I hope everything from your future endeavors. Have you read “Orion”? Have you seen the article on “American Poetry” in the “London Foreign Quarterly”? It has been denied that Dickens wrote it — but, to me, the article affords so strong internal evidence of his hand that I would as soon think of doubting my existence. He tells much truth — although be evinces much ignorance and more spleen. Among other points he accuses myself of “metrical imitation” of Tennyson, citing, by way of instance, passages from poems which were written and published by me long before Tennyson was heard of: — but I have at no time made any poetical pretension. I am greatly indebted for the trouble you have taken about the lectures, and shall be very glad to avail myself, next season, of any invitation from the “Boston Lyceum.” Thank you, also, for the hint about the “North American Review”; — I will bear it in mind. I mail you, herewith, a “Dollar Newspaper,” containing a somewhat extravagant tale of my own. I fear it will prove little to your taste. [page 390:]

How dreadful is the present condition of our Literature! To what are things tending? We want two things, certainly: — an International Copy-Right Law, and a well-founded Monthly Journal, of sufficient ability, circulation, and character, to control, and so give tone to, our Letters. It should be, externally, a specimen of high, but not too refined Taste: — I mean, it should be boldly printed, on excellent paper, in single column, and be illustrated, not merely embellished, by spirited wood designs in the style of Grandville. Its chief aims should be Independence, Truth, Originality. It should be a journal of some 120 pp. and furnished at $5. It should have nothing to do with Agents or Agencies. Such a Magazine might be made to exercise a prodigious influence, and would be a source of vast wealth to its proprietors. There can be no reason why 100,000 copies might not, in one or two years, be circulated; but the means of bringing it into circulation should be radically different from those usually employed.

Such a journal might, perhaps, be set on foot by a coalition, and, thus set on foot, with proper understanding, would be irresistible. Suppose, for example, that the élite of our men of letters should combine secretly. Many of them control papers, &c. Let each subscribe, say $200, for the commencement of the undertaking; furnishing other means, as required from time to time, until the work be established. The articles to be supplied by the members solely, and upon a concerted plan of action. A nominal editor to be elected from among the number. How could such a journal fail? I would like very much to hear your opinion upon this matter. Could not the “ball be set in motion”? If we do not defend ourselves by some such coalition, we shall be devoured, without mercy, by the Godeys, the Snowdens, et id genus omne.

Most truly your friend,


This plan has been described as absurd, and it has not been tried. But the Playwrights’ Theatre, recently established, in which five of the leading American playwrights combined successfully to produce their own plays, may indicate that Poe’s idea was not so chimerical.

The year 1843 was more fruitful of quality than quantity in Poe’s poetry and fiction. “The Conqueror Worm,” the only new poem by Poe during this period, appeared first in Graham’s Magazine in January, [page 391:] 1843. The association of the worm with death had appeared in “The Sleeper” and is, of course, an ancient idea. The title was probably suggested by “The Proud Ladye,” a poem by Spencer Wallis Cone, which was reviewed in Burton’s in June, 1840. This contained the lines

“Let him meet the conqueror worm

With his good sword by his side.”(68)

The poem is very uneven in its merit. The conception of the tragedy of mankind, conquered by the Worm, who symbolizes the Serpent, the spirit of evil, is powerful. But in its expression, the fourth stanza transcends the limits which separate the horror that is awe-inspiring from the horror that becomes banal through its excess. In the last stanza Poe explains the meaning of the poem so carefully that it seems as though he were afraid we should miss the moral. This flavor of the didactic is alien to his poetry.

“The Conqueror Worm” is important, however, historically, as marking one step in the poetic treatment in America of the relations of God and man. Here the “mimes, in the form of God on high,” that is, human beings, are destroyed by the Serpent, and the “Angel throng” are helpless to prevent the tragedy.

Many years later, William Vaughn Moody, in his “Masque of Judgment” took the next step. God is no longer simply indifferent to the struggle. Having failed to make the best use of the good in man, He also is attacked by the Serpent, and the Angelic host fight to the last in His defence, but are defeated. Man is justified by Moody in his struggle for free will, whether he sin or not. Eugene O’Neill went further, in his own words,(69) in treating “the one eternal tragedy of Man in his glorious, self-destructive struggle to make the Force (God, or his biological past) express him, instead of being, as an animal is, an infinitesimal incident in its expression.” O’Neill has gone further even than this, in Lazarus Laughed, where he pictures dying as a return to a full communion with Eternal Life, in which, however, the individual human will is preserved. Poe was ahead of his time, as usual, in his conception of this relation between God and man, but it was not in “The Conqueror Worm,” but rather in his later story, “Mesmeric Revelation,” that he shows his undoubted influence on later writers. In this story, he rejected the idea of the absorption of [page 392:] the individual in God. That would be “an action of God returning upon itself — a purposeless and futile action. Man is a creature. Creatures are thoughts of God. It is in the nature of thought to be irrevocable.”

While there are differences in their treatment of this problem, Poe, Moody, and O’Neill, each in his own way, insist on the essential dignity of man, through the freedom of his will. Their kinship is only one of the many instances which prove Poe to be in the main stream of American thought. That he was one of the fountainheads of that stream has unfortunately caused him to be dubbed an “exotic” by those who have not traced the stream to its sources.

Poe also sent Graham’s his most famous story of this year. Graham paid Poe fifty-two dollars for “The Gold Bug.” Poe learned, however, that the Dollar Newspaper, one of the blanket sheets, was offering a prize of one hundred dollars for the best short story, so he asked Graham to return it. That friendly editor did so, and evidently took his repayment in reviews. As the first of these, “Flaccus,” appeared in March, 1843, “The Gold Bug” must have been written quite early in that year. It won the prize and was published in the Dollar Newspaper, June 21 and 28, 1843. It was reprinted in The Saturday Courier of Philadelphia on June 24th, July 1st, and July 8th, the last installment including the two woodcuts by F. O. C. Darley.(70) This reprint, which must have been arranged before the story was published, indicates Poe’s growing reputation in Philadelphia. It was the first time that one of his stories received practically simultaneous publication in two journals. The positions of the story in the Courier indicate the immediate popularity of “The Gold Bug.” On June 24 it appeared on the third page. On July 1, it was promoted to the first page, where it remained on July 8. The Dollar Newspaper also reprinted it on July 12th, evidently to meet a continuous demand. It was dramatized by Silas S. Steele, a prolific playwright of Philadelphia, and played on August 8th, at the Walnut Street Theatre. As Steele’s three-act verse drama, Clandare, was also given, The Gold Bug; or, the Pirate’s Treasure, was probably a short melodrama. The play has not survived, but we know that it had four characters.(71) “Friendling” is the name given by Steele to the narrator of the story, [page 393:] whom Poe left nameless, and who was evidently the chief character, since he was played by the leading man, J. S. Charles. In addition to Legrand and Jupiter, Steele gave the old woman who led Legrand to the high seat the name of “Old Martha.”

I have already discussed the setting of “The Gold Bug” on Sullivan’s Island.(72) The continued popularity of the story has been due to Poe’s skill in building up the anticipation of the finding of the treasure and by the very immensity of the sum. At once the reader begins to speculate, consciously or unconsciously, upon what he would do with so much money. When Legrand begins his explanation of the parchment which has led him to the discovery, the reader is again held by the thought that all this wealth might have been lost except for an accident. If the narrator had not brought the parchment near the fire, the secret drawing of the skull and the cipher which had lain so long concealed from the eyes of man might never have been discovered. In the solution of the cipher, Poe again shows his constant effort to limit the strain on the attention of the reader. He chose a very simple form of cipher, that in which a letter is represented always by the same character. His explanation and substitutions are clear, and he stops when he has secured ten letters and wisely remarks that it is unnecessary to proceed further with the details of the solution. Legrand finds the tree by the same power of analysis that had solved the cipher. There is even more connection between the characters and the incidents than in the “Murders in the Rue Morgue,” or in “Marie Rogêt.” Legrand is an enthusiast, and a visionary, and both the narrator and Jupiter become real characters.

When “The Gold Bug” was reprinted in the Tales of 1845, Poe made some verbal changes,(73) and later in the Lorimer Graham copy(74) of the Tales he added two paragraphs toward the end of the story, defending his choice of a skull on the ground that the “object, if small, should be white,” and that a skull would increase its whiteness when exposed to the weather. Evidently he was feeling some criticism! He also changed the elevation of the glass from forty-one to twenty-one degrees, with that careful attention to reality which even in his wildest dreams did not desert him.(75) [page 394:]

“The Tell Tale Heart,” which Lowell welcomed for The Pioneer in January, 1843, is in one sense a companion piece to “The Pit and the Pendulum.” It is also a study of terror, but this time it is related, partially, in terms of the memory of terror. The madman who tells the story of his murder of the old man whose eye is so repellent to him, paints a remarkable picture of the fright of his victim. But it is vivid because he has himself suffered causeless terrors in the night and he enters, therefore, with sympathy into those of the old man, even as he is preparing to murder him. The transition to the supernatural takes place, also, in the imagination of the narrator. With his faculties keyed up beyond the mental register, he believes he hears the old man’s heart beating, first when he is alive, and finally when he is dead. The complete unity of the story disarms the critical faculties until the imagination of the madman seems for the moment reality. It is an almost perfect illustration of Poe’s own theory of the short story, for every word contributes to the central effect.

Poe may have read Charles Dickens’ story of “The Clock-Case,” included in Master Humphrey’s Clock (76) in 1840-1841, in which a retired lieutenant kills his nephew, a child whose death would enrich him and whose gaze maddens him. The murderer even sits on the child’s grave when visitors come. But the discovery is made not by the conscience of the murderer, but by bloodhounds who scent the concealed corpse. Here, as usual, if Poe took a suggestion he wove it into his own pattern.

“The Black Cat,” which appeared in August(77) is even more closely related to “The Tell-Tale Heart” than the latter is to “The Pit and the Pendulum.” Again the preservation of the tone makes the tale a complete unity. The narrator is afflicted with that spirit of perverseness, of which Poe himself was so aware. His sadistic passion tortures the very animal he loves best, and he murders his wife in a fit of [page 395:] maniacal rage. The disclosure of the crime, as in “The Tell-Tale Heart,” is caused by the conscience of the murderer. “The Black Cat” is one of the most powerful of Poe’s stories, and the horror stops short of the wavering line of disgust.

From this mood of horror, Poe turned to his satirical treatments of cheats and impostures in “Raising the Wind; or, Diddling Considered as One of the Exact Sciences,” published in the Saturday Courier on October 14, 1843. It is another of his grotesque trifles and is simply a succession of incidents whose only unity consists in their portraying of the success of clever scoundrels in preying upon the unsuspecting. Poe is said with some reason to have been lacking in humor. Still, I heard recently one of the episodes in this story told over the radio as a new joke!

Another tale of 1843 represents Poe in his quest for beauty, and he found it in Philadelphia in one of its loveliest forms. He may have been attracted to the Wissahickon River by Fannie Kemble’s Journal, or by some verses which had appeared in Burton’s, or he may have discovered the stream in one of his many walks. When he first saw it we do not know, but certainly on more than one summer day, Poe left the Coates Street house and struck across Fairmount Park until he joined the Ridge Road. This is one of the long avenues which defied Philadelphia’s love of rectangles and insisted upon leading the pedestrian or coach rider by a shorter route to the country. Poe has given us his own impressions in the sketch, “Morning on the Wissahiccon,” as it was then spelled, which appeared in The Opal for 1844, ornamented by a picture of an elk, standing on a rock overlooking the stream. But Poe’s own words are better than any paraphrase. After a general discussion of American scenery, he proceeds:

I have already said, or should have said, that the brook is narrow. Its banks are generally, indeed almost universally, precipitous, and consist of high hills, clothed with noble shrubbery near the water, and crowned at a greater elevation, with some of the most magnificent forest trees of America, among which stands conspicuous the liriodendron tulipiferum. The immediate shores, however, are of granite, sharply-defined or moss-covered, against which the pellucid water lolls in its gentle flow, as the blue waves of the Mediterranean upon the steps of her palaces of marble. Occasionally in front of the cliffs, extends a small definite plateau of richly herbaged land, affording the most picturesque position for a cottage and garden which the richest imagination could conceive. The windings of the stream are many and abrupt, as is [page 396:] usually the case where banks are precipitous, and thus the impression conveyed to the voyager’s eye, as he proceeds, is that of an endless succession of infinitely varied small lakes, or, more properly speaking, tarns. The Wissahiccon, however, should be visited, not like “fair Melrose,” by moonlight, or even in cloudy weather, but amid the brightest glare of a noonday sun; for the narrowness of the gorge through which it flows, the height of the hills on either hand, and the density of the foliage, conspire to produce a gloominess, if not an absolute dreariness of effect, which, unless relieved by a bright general light, detracts from the mere beauty of the scene.

Not long ago I visited the stream by the route described, and spent the better part of a sultry day in floating in a skiff upon its bosom. The heat gradually overcame me, and, resigning myself to the influence of the scenes and of the weather, and of the gently moving current, I sank into a half slumber, during which my imagination revelled in visions of the Wissahiccon of ancient days — of the “good old days” when the Demon of the Engine was not, when pic-nics were undreamed of, when “water privileges” were neither bought nor sold, and when the red man trod alone, with the elk, upon the ridges that now towered above. And, while gradually these conceits took possession of my mind, the lazy brook had borne me, inch by inch, around one promontory and within full view of another that bounded the prospect at the distance of forty or fifty yards. It was a steep rocky cliff, abutting far into the stream, and presenting much more of the Salvator character than any portion of the shore hitherto passed. What I saw upon this cliff, although surely an object of very extraordinary nature, the place and season considered, at first neither startled nor amazed me — so thoroughly and appropriately did it chime in with the half-slumberous fancies that enwrapped me. I saw, or dreamed that I saw, standing upon the extreme verge of the precipice, with neck outstretched, with ears erect, and the whole attitude indicative of profound and melancholy inquisitiveness, one of the oldest and boldest of those identical elks which had been coupled with the red men of my vision.

I say that, for a few moments, this apparition neither startled nor amazed me. During this interval my whole soul was bound up in intense sympathy alone. I fancied the elk repining, not less than wondering, at the manifest alterations for the worse, wrought upon the brook and its vicinage, even within the last few years, by the stern hand of the utilitarian. But a slight movement of the animal’s head at once dispelled the dreaminess which invested me, and aroused me to a full sense of the novelty of the adventure. I arose upon one knee within the skiff, and, while I hesitated [page 397:] whether to stop my career, or let myself float nearer to the object of my wonder, I heard the words “hist! hist!” ejaculated quickly but cautiously, from the shrubbery overhead. In an instant afterwards, a negro emerged from the thicket, putting aside the bushes with care, and treading stealthily. He bore in one hand a quantity of salt, and, holding it towards the elk, gently yet steadily approached. The noble animal, although a little fluttered, made no attempt at escape. The negro advanced; offered the salt; and spoke a few words of encouragement or conciliation. Presently, the elk bowed and stamped, and then lay quietly down and was secured with a halter.

Thus ended my romance of the elk. It was a pet of great age and very domestic habits, and belonged to an English family occupying a villa in the vicinity.

Poe really saw an elk, and the “villa” still stands.(78) On the rock where the elk was poised, a statue of William Penn, erected by John Welsh, with the words “Toleration” cut deep in it, crowns the east bank of the stream. Poe was evidently floating down from the northwest, and the morning sun lit up his favorite tulip poplars, which must have carried his thoughts back to the luxuriant woods near Charleston. On the Wissahickon, however, they were set against a contrast of the evergreens which line the shores. Little has been done to spoil the beauty of the Wissahickon, and if Poe should return today, he could look up or down the stream from the spot past which he was drifting, and find it hard to decide which view is the lovelier.


Title page of The Prose Romances [thumbnail]

[Illustration on page 398]
Title page of The Prose Romances of 1843

Undiscouraged by his failure to secure a publisher for his Phantasy Pieces, Poe attempted to issue his tales in pamphlet form. William H. Graham, a Philadelphia publisher, printed in 1843 The Prose Romances of Edgar A. Poe, in what was hopefully described on the title page as a “Uniform Serial Edition.” “No. 1” contained “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” and “The Man That Was Used Up.” These were [page 399:] the two stories which had led the Table of Contents in the Phantasy Pieces, and if the first issue had been successful, Poe would probably have proceeded in that order to continue the publication of his stories. But no further issues appeared, and the pamphlet has become one of the rarest of all Poe’s publications. The volume in the Library of Congress, which Poe gave to Francis J. Grund, the Bohemian traveller and writer upon American life, is insured for $50,000. On the same title-page on which his autograph has enhanced the present value, there is clearly printed — “Price 12½ Cents.”

Poe revised the stories with his usual care. A comparison with the earlier versions shows constant verbal alterations, usually improvements, which were generally retained in the edition of 1845.(79)

Notwithstanding Poe’s retirement, Graham’s continued to be his principal outlet for criticism, some of which was repayment for the sum Graham had paid for “The Gold Bug.” Reviews of “The Poetry of Rufus Dawes” in October, 1842, of “Flaccus” (Thomas Ward) in March, 1843, and of William Ellery Charming, the younger, in August, were examples of that destructive criticism which was so easy for Poe and which, at least in the case of Channing, was undeserved. He closed the castigation of Dawes with the sentence: “The laudation of the unworthy is to the worthy the most bitter of all wrong.” But Poe could have permitted time to take care of Dawes and “Flaccus.” They were harmless, and, indeed, Dawes’ “Athenia of Damascus,” a play in verse, is not bad. But the review of Ellery Channing’s poetry represents Poe at his worst in criticism. Stickler for accuracy as he was, he begins and ends with the mistaken idea that Ellery Channing was the son of the essayist of the same name, while, of course, he was his [page 400:] nephew. Then Poe tears the verses apart and subjects the poetry to that unfair test of demanding a realistic explanation of individual lines of poetry separated from their context. It would seem that Poe had a sadistic delight in torturing a poet somewhat akin to the spirit in which the hero of “The Black Cat” maltreated his equally innocent victim.

The account of Fitz-Greene Halleck in September is in better taste. It repeats, however, much of the matter in Poe’s earlier review. In his discussion of Cooper’s Wyandotté, in November, he showed unusual lack of discrimination in placing Cooper among those writers who are popular but will not achieve fame, while he placed Brockden Brown, John Neal, Simms, and Hawthorne, in a group above Cooper in permanent appeal. On the other hand, he anticipated W. C. Brownell for many years in his appreciation of Cooper’s women, and rightly placed Maud Meredith among those characters that have reality. In his lengthy review of Orion, by the English poet R. H. Home, he lost control of his critical faculties and pronounced portions of that poem the most “sublimely imaginative in the wide realm of poetical literature.” In the same number of Graham’s for March, 1844, he was on surer ground in his brief criticism of Lowell’s second volume of verse, for he revealed his insight into qualities in Lowell which had hardly as yet been recognized.

The two stories which appeared in the spring of 1844 were of quite different calibre. “The Spectacles,” which found a market in the Dollar Newspaper for March 27, 1844, is one of the most absurd of the Grotesques. The story of Mr. Talbot, who is so near-sighted that he falls in love with his great-great-grandmother, defies criticism. “A Tale of the Ragged Mountains” which appeared in Godey’s for April, 1844, has much more significance. For the setting Poe returned to Charlottesville, and the strange adventure of Bedloe takes place in the mountains toward the South. But the University of Virginia does not enter into the story. Before taking a walk in the mountains, Bedloe has swallowed his usual morning dose of morphine, which, combined with the fact that Dr. Templeton, his attendant physician, has been hypnotising Bedloe for neuralgia, leaves a possible natural explanation for what follows. Bedloe sees an Eastern city in insurrection, believes that he takes part in the defence of a citadel held by British soldiers, and is killed while leading a sally. Then his spirit returns to the place in the mountains where he had begun the vision, and he resumes his natural body and his normal faculties. The skill of Poe is shown first in the handling of Bedloe’s dream, which is quite in keeping with the normal dream state. In creating dreams in fiction, the authors, if they [page 401:] are not competent dreamers, are unaware that they may describe the strangest of incidents, provided that these incidents are consistent with themselves. One must also preserve the dreamer’s belief in the validity of the dream. Poe truly says: “When one dreams, and in the dream suspects that he dreams, the suspicion never fails to confirm itself, and the sleeper is almost immediately aroused.” Bedloe’s dream proceeds in accordance with these rules. Poe succeeds also in preserving an atmosphere of the supernatural through the tale of Dr. Templeton, who reveals his knowledge of Bedloe’s dream before he tells it. Templeton has taken part in this very defence of Benares under Hastings in 1780, and the reader may believe if he likes, that Bedloe was the re-incarnation of Oldeb, the officer whom Templeton knew, and who had led the disastrous sally. The realistic treatment of the supernatural was rarely better done by Poe.

In this period we see, as usual, the two natures in Edgar Poe coming out in response to circumstances. On one side there is Poe’s demand of his correspondent, John Tomlin, a poet of Tennessee, that he break the seal of confidence in which Lambert Wilmer had written to Tomlin, and send Wilmer’s letter to Poe. Tomlin did so, requesting Poe in a postscript to “return Wilmer’s letter.” Wilmer’s note has rarely been quoted fully, only the paragraph concerning Poe being given. But the entire letter retails gossip of an unfavorable character, and his description of Poe must be read in that light:

Philadelphia, May 20, 1843.

Dear Sir:

I have not heard from you for several weeks. I sent on in various packages, a dozen copies of Recantation which I hope came to hand. Any number of that, or the “Quacks” always at your service.

Literary affairs are at a very low ebb in this city at present. Sumner Lincoln Fairfield, who once ranked high among the writers of our country, has become a common loafer about the streets. It is distressing to view such a change.

Edgar A. Poe (you know him by character, no doubt, if not personally), has become one of the strangest of our literati. He and I are old friends, — have known each other since boyhood, and it gives me inexpressible pain to notice the vagaries to which he has lately become subject. Poor fellow! he is not a teetotaller by any means, and I fear he is going headlong to destruction, moral, physical and intellectual.

T. S. Arthur, another old friend of mine, has acquired great popularity by a certain kind of writing and is getting along prosperously. [page 402:]

The “Philadelphia Clique” as it is called, composed of Robt. C. Conrad, R. Morris, J. C. Neale and several others, has seen its palmiest days and is falling into disrepute; — their association to hold each other up will not avail them. Jos. C. Neale, nevertheless, is a man of splendid talents, and Conrad has some excellent points; but the political unpopularity of the latter affects his literary reputation. Neale is indolent.

My next publication will be “Preferment,” a political satire, not partisan or very slightly so. Much of it is already written and I expect to bring it out sometime within the present year. Favor me with a few lines whenever you have time to waste.

Your obliged and sincere friend,

L. A. WILMER.(80)

What Poe did with the letter, we do not know. When we remember Wilmer’s account of Poe’s sobriety in Baltimore, and his defence of Poe after his death, this letter evidently points to some lapses of Poe, caused by anxiety and poverty. On the other hand, a letter which Poe wrote to Cornelius Mathews in March, 1844, represents the other Poe, manly in his apology for a mistake and written in the clear, firm hand of a man quite in control of himself:

March 15, 1844.

Dr. Sir,

I have a letter and small parcel for Mr. Home, your friend, and the author of “Orion.” Would you be so kind as to furnish me with his address? — and put me in the best way of forwarding the package securely?

I am reminded that I am your debtor for many little attentions, and embrace this opportunity of tendering you my especial thanks for your able pamphlet on the International Copy-Right Question, and for the admirable Adventures of Puffer Hopkins.

Could I imagine that, at any moment, you regarded a certain impudent and flippant critique as more than a matter to be laughed at, I would proffer you an apology on the spot. Since I scribbled the article in question, you yourself have given me fifty good reasons for being ashamed of it.

With the Highest Respect & Esteem

Yr Ob St.


To Cornelius Mathews Esqre.(81) [page 403:]

Poe referred to his review of Mathews’ Wakondah in Graham’s Magazine for February, 1842, in which he had described the poem as “trash.”

What determined Poe to leave Philadelphia for New York in April, 1844, may never be known. It seems idle to recount the vague rumors of scandal hinted at by those who retailed them at second hand. Even to deny them is to dignify them. Among other qualities which made Edgar Poe unfit to cope with the world was his inability to see that the best way to kill a scandal is to ignore it. This is all the more noteworthy since he could give to a friend good advice in this regard which he was unable to profit by himself.(82) On February 18, 1844, Poe wrote to George Lippard the novelist —

And as for these personal enemies, I cannot see that you need put yourself to any especial trouble about THEM. Let a fool alone — especially if he be both a scoundrel and a fool — and he will kill himself far sooner than you can kill him by any active exertion. Besides — as to the real philosophy of the thing — you should regard small animosities — the animosities of small men — of the literary animalculae (who have their uses, beyond doubt) — as so many tokens of your ascent — or, rather, as so many stepping stones to your ambition. I have never yet been able to make up my mind whether I regard as the higher compliment, the approbation of a man of honor and talent, or the abuse of an ass or a blackguard. Both are excellent in their way — for a man who looks steadily up.

If my opinion of “The Ladye Annabel” can be of any service to you whatever, you have my full permission to publish this letter, or any portion of it you may deem proper.

With respect and friendship,



There need, perhaps, be no other reason given for the change of residence than Poe’s constant restlessness and his realization of the steadily growing importance of New York. His six years in Philadelphia marked the summit of his achievement as a man of letters. Thirty-one of his short stories had been published while he was living [page 404:] there, and among them “Ligeia,” “The Fall of the House of Usher,” “William Wilson,” “Eiros and Charmion,” “The Murders in the Rue Morgue,” “Eleonora,” “The Masque of the Red Death,” “The Tell-Tale Heart,” and “The Gold Bug.” He had been the Editor of the foremost monthly journal in the United States, and had published there some of the few pieces of constructive criticism that this country had so far seen. While little new poetry had come from him, he had perfected his earlier poems in many cases through his revisions, and in “The Haunted Palace” at least had reached the heights. He had become widely known, and if he had made enemies, he also had made friends. For part of his stay in Philadelphia he was even happy, and when he left it, it is not too much to say that he left happiness behind him.


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

(1)  Poe to Thomas, October 27, 1841. Lewis Chase, “A New Poe Letter,” American Literature, VI (March, 1934), 67.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 347:]

(2)  Mayne Reid, Edgar Allan Poe. Taken from a Memoir of Mayne Reid, written by Elizabeth Reid, his widow, and published in London, 1890. Edited by Vincent Starrett (Ysleta, Texas, 1933), pp. 3-4. First printed as “A Dead Man Defended” in Reid’s Magazine, Onward, for April, 1869.

(3)  Independent, XLVIII (1896), 1,415.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 348:]

(4)  Ms. of original letter in possession of Dr. A. S. W. Rosenbach, through whose courtesy it is reproduced here in part. For the complete letter, see Chapter XVII.

(5)  “The Late Edgar Allan Poe,” Graham’s Magazine, XXXVI (March, 1850), 225.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 350:]

(6)  Independent, XLVIII (October 15, 22, 29, November 5), 1,381-82; 1,415-16; 1,448; 1,480-81.

(7)  Independent, XLVIII (October 15, 1896), 1,382.

(8)  For information concerning Griswold’s career, see W. M. Griswold, Passages from the Correspondence . . . . of Rufus W. Griswold (Cambridge, 1898); J. L. Neu, “Rufus Wilmot Griswold,” University of Texas Studies in English, V (1925), 101-165. Also, D. A. B.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 351:]

(9)  Preface to “Memoir,” Griswold’s edition of The Literati — by Edgar A. Poe (New York, 1850), p. v.

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

(11)  “Griswold’s American Poetry,” “By Edgar A. Poe.” Boston Miscellany, II (November, 1842), 218-221. This review contains a list of the authors treated by Griswold, usually omitted in reproductions. There was a very brief but laudatory notice of the book in the May number of Graham’s. There is also a review of the book in Graham’s for June, 1842, which has been attributed to Poe. It does not have any marked characteristics of his style. Since Poe had left Graham’s and since he repudiated the leading review in the June number, on Bulwer’s Zanoni, in a letter to Snodgrass of June 4, 1842, Poe’s authorship of these two reviews is doubtful.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 352:]

(12)  Graham’s Magazine, XXI (1842), 60.

(13)  Original Autograph Ms., Pierpont Morgan Library.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 354:]

(14)  Original Autograph Ms., Anthony Collection, New York Public Library. According to Thomas’s endorsement, he did not receive the letter until he returned to Washington.

(15)  Briggs to Lowell, quoted by Woodberry, II, 123, as of January 6, 1845.

(16)  Woodberry and Harrison accept it on internal evidence. Killis Campbell does not. He lays stress upon the fact that Poe does not mention it among the articles he states he has written upon Griswold’s work. But since that list is given in a letter from Poe to Griswold, “undated, but in 1849” printed in Griswold’s “Preface” but not found among the Griswold Mss., that evidence, unsupported, is not important. Campbell thinks it might be by Hirst, and there is a certain plausibility here, as Hirst is not mentioned among the Philadelphia poets who should have been treated. Dr. Mabbott believes it is a collaboration between Poe and Hirst, mostly by the former. He has called my attention to the suggested substitution for “In the greenest of our valleys” of “In a sunny, smiling valley,” which is in a poem by Hirst, “To a Ruined Fountain,” Snowden’s Ladies’ Companion, September, 1842. Poe would hardly have made such a suggestion, unless of course, he did it to throw people off the scent.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 357:]

(17)  Original Autograph Ms., Pierpont Morgan Library.

(18)  Poe to George Roberts, June 4, 1842. Original Autograph Ms., Collection of J. K. Lilly, Jr.

(19)  Mary’s betrothed, Daniel C. Payne, of 47 John Street, probably killed himself at the supposed site of the murder, in October, 1841. He had been drinking and death may have been caused by laudanum or exposure. Dr. T. O. Mabbott quotes Brother Jonathan, October 16, 1841, in sending me these facts.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 358:]

(20)  See New York Mail and Express, April 19, 1900, where a picture of the store is given. The steps have only recently been destroyed through the widening of the road between Nineteenth and Gregory Streets, a W. P. A. project.

(21)  Poe to Eveleth, January 4, 1848, Chapter XVII. In a footnote to the story as it appeared in the Tales of 1845, Poe claimed that the confession of two persons established the truth of his deduction. See, however, R. V. Costello, “Poe and Marie Rogêt,” New York Evening Post, January 10, 1920, who claims the gang really committed the murder. W. K. Wimsatt, Jr., in Proceedings of the Modern Language Association, LVI (March, 1941), 230-248, collects the newspaper accounts and reviews the situation, but arrives at no conclusion.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 359:]

(22)  Poe called attention to the Thelluson will, which suggested the accumulation of “ninety million pounds.”

(23)  See Margaret Alterton, Modern Language Notes, XLVIII (June, 1933), 349-356.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 359, continuing to the bottom of page 360:]

(24)  Blackwood’s Magazine, XXVIII (August, 1830), 364-371. See D. L. [page 360:] Clark, Modern Language Notes, XLIV (June, 1929), 349, whose other suggestions I do not follow.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 360:]

(25)  Thomas to Poe, May 21, 1842. Original Autograph Ms., Griswold Collection, Boston Public Library.

(26)  Herron was well known for his inventions, among them a trellis railway structure. He won the gold medal of the American Institute in 1846. The Philadelphia Directory for 1844 shows he was a resident of that city.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 361:]

(27)  Both letters, Autograph Mss., are in the W. H. Koester Collection.

(28)  See letter on pp. 352-354, in connection with Griswold.

(29)  Thomas’s notation on the letter — “Did not get this until my return. Saw Poe in Philadelphia.”

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 362:]

(30)  Original Autograph Ms., Huntington Library.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 363:]

(31)  Woodberry, Century Magazine, XLVIII (September, 1894), 733-734, quotes from a Ms. in possession of C. W. Frederickson. Harrison checks through independent copying of a letter said to be in the Lenox Library. It is not now in the New York Public Library, which absorbed the Lenox.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 364:]

(32)  Original Autograph Ms., Harvard College Library.

(33)  See Horace E. Scudder’s James Russell Lowell, I, 103-105.

(34)  Woodberry, I, 347.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 365:]

(35)  Autograph Ms., Harvard College Library. This letter has the signature and possibly the date torn off. The postmark is December 25th. C. E. Norton noted “December 23, 1842,” on the letter.

(36)  Original Autograph Ms., W. H. Koester Collection.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 366:]

(37)  Original Autograph Ms., Harvard College Library.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 367:]

(38)  His letter of August 27, 1840, in the Boston Public Library may be consulted by the curious. One sentence will suffice, “He who has never wandered amid the labyrinthine vistas of the flower-gemmed solitudes of thought knows nothing of the capabilities of the soul in its aspirations after the Beautiful in Natural Truth.”

(39)  Graham’s Magazine, XIX (December, 1841), 284-285.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 369:]

(40)  The Mighty Dead. [Note inscribed in Chivers’ hand, on the Ms. letter.]

(41)  Original Autograph Ms., Huntington Library.

(42)  Woodberry printed Poe’s letters to Chivers in the Century, LXV (1903), 435-447; 545-558, and reprinted this account in part in the Life of Poe (1909) in the Appendix. Harrison had in the meantime published the letters of Chivers in the Virginia Edition. S. Foster Damon, in Thomas Holley Chivers, Friend of Poe (New York, 1930), wrote the standard biography.

(43)  Original agreement is in the Huntington Library.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 370:]

(44)  An issue of February 25th, apparently unique, was in possession of the late Mr. J. H. Rindfieisch, of Richmond, to whose courtesy I owe a photostat of the original. It does not contain Poe’s “Song of the Newly Wedded” (Bridal Ballad), which was added in the reprint of March 4th, and there are other verbal differences. The dates have been cut out. It may have been a dummy for the printer, who was to fill in the new dates.

(45)  For this issue, I am indebted to Dr. James S. Wilson, who owns one of the rare copies, and to Mr. John C. Wyllie, also of the University of Virginia, for the photostat in enlarged type which enabled me to read it. Mr. J. H. Rindfieisch also sent me a photostat copy of this issue.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 371:]

(46)  Page 2 of the issue of March 4, 1843. This editorial does not mention the reprinting on its own first page. There was an Extra which contained a reprint of the notice concerning the Stylus, but not the biography. This is in the American Antiquarian Society. There were probably two Extras, but I have not found the one announced in the notice in the Museum.

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

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

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 372:]

(49)  Original Autograph Ms., Griswold Collection, Boston Public Library[[.]]

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 374:]

(50)  Revised versions of the following poems: “To Helen,” “Al Aaraaf” (partially), “Sonnet — To Science,” “Romance,” “To the River,” “The Conqueror Worm,” “Lenore,” “Sonnet to Zante,” “The Sleeper,” “To One in Paradise,” “Sonnet — Silence,” “Israfel,” “Song of the Newly Wedded (Bridal Ballad),” “To One Departed,” “The Coliseum,” and “The Haunted Palace.” The omitted poems of importance are, “Tamerlane,” “A Dream Within a Dream,” “The Lake,” “Fairyland,” “The City in the Sea,” “The Valley of Unrest,” and the “Hymn.”

(51)  For a detailed textual comparison, which would be out of place here, see Dudley Hutcherson, “The Philadelphia Saturday Museum Text of Poe’s Poems,” American Literature, V (March, 1933), 38-48.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 376:]

(52)  Saturday Museum, March 4, 1843, p. 3.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 377:]

(53)  See his letters to Lowell, March 27 and October 19, 1843.

(54)  April 1, 1843. I owe these two items to Dr. T. O. Mabbott, who examined this issue in the Library of the University of North Carolina.

(55)  Original Autograph Ms., Young Collection, New York Public Library. The handwriting of this letter shows that Poe was not himself when he wrote it.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 378:]

(56)  Gill’s Life, pp. 120-122.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 380:]

(57)  Original Autograph Ms., Griswold Collection, Boston Public Library. There is another form in the Pratt Library, Baltimore, which is probably a first draft. It does not contain the annotation by Thomas, and there is no sure indication that it was sent through the mail.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 381, running to the bottom of page 382:]

(58)  Original Autograph Ms., Collection of J. K. Lilly, Jr. This early version of “Eulalie” differs from the first printed form in the American Review for July, 1845, in the second stanza:

“And ah! less bright

The stars of the night

Than the eyes of the radiant girl, [page 382:]

And never a flake

Their lustre can make

Of the vapor and gold and pearl,

Can vie with the sweet young Eulalie’s most humble and careless curl —

Can compare with the bright-eyed Eulalie’s most vagrant and careless curl.”

The sixth line of the third stanza read:

“The Moon in the purple sky,”

but “the Moon” was crossed out and “Astart” [sic] inserted. This may mean that Astarté was substituted for the moon, and represented Venus, or it may help settle the question whether Astarté in “Ulalume” meant Venus or the moon. Another Ms. of “Eulalie,” in the W. H. Koester Collection, is identical with this early form, except that the line

“Astarté within the sky,”

indicates that it is a stage between the first form and the later one. The number of manuscripts of “Eulalie” probably reflect the difficulty Poe had in placing it. These early forms also do away with several supposed “sources” of “Eulalie,” which appeared in 1845 — and are a warning to those who attribute to Poe inspiration from others’ work without knowing the date of first composition of his poems. [[One of those who maintained several sources of “Eulalie” dated from after the letter to Carter, although in 1843 rather than 1845, was T. O. Mabbott (see Poems, 1969, 1:347 and 1:349). As a result, Mabbott dismissed the letter to Carter as a forgery, without further explanation, although the letter was accepted by Ostrom in his The Letters of Edgar Allan Poe (1958) and retained in the revised edtion of The Collected Letters of Edgar Allan Poe (2008).]]

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 384:]

(59)  Original Autograph Ms., Harvard College Library.

(60)  Copy of letter, Griswold Collection, Boston Public Library. Harrison XVII, 149, prints it as to J. T. Fields from the Fields Collection.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 385:]

(61)  It was purchased in 1933 by Mr. Richard Gimbel, who has collected a large library of magazines containing articles by Poe, all the well known biographies, and works dealing with Poe, including manuscript material. An attractive brochure, The Rose Covered Cottage by Mr. Anthony Frane, Custodian of the house, gives full information concerning its history.

(62)  The descriptions given by Graham and Griswold evidently refer to the Coates Street residence. Mayne Reid’s description of “a lean-to of three rooms (there may have been a garret with a closet) of painted plank construction, supported against the gable of the more pretentious dwelling” can apply to neither the Coates Street nor the Spring Garden Street houses, both of which were built of brick. The Directory for 1844 reads “Poe, E. A., editor 7th ab. S. Garden.”

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 386:]

(63)  Mary E. Phillips, Poe the Man, p. 289.

(64)  The original letter, so far as I can ascertain, is not in existence. It was printed in Griswold’s “Preface” to his “Memoir” of Poe, in The Literati, etc., of 1850, p. v. In view of Griswold’s forgeries, such unsupported evidence is not trustworthy.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 387:]

(65)  Original Autograph Ms. Letter, Norton Collection, Harvard College Library. Norton wrote on the margin that the money was paid.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 388:]

(66)  Original Autograph Ms., Harvard College Library.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 390:]

(67)  Original Autograph Ms., Harvard College Library.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 391:]

(68)  Killis Campbell, Poems of Poe, p. 242, quoting Ingram’s article in London Bibliophile, May, 1909.

(69)  See his letter to the present writer in 1925. History of the American Drama from the Civil War to the Present, II, 199.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 392:]

(70)  In collection of William H. Koester, of Baltimore. A copy of “The Gold Bug,” also in this collection, is a pamphlet published in London, without date, but apparently early. It contains thirty-six pages, and was “No. 1” of a projected issue of “The Thousand and One Romances.”

(71)  See A. H. Wilson, A History of the Philadelphia Theatre, 1835 to 1855 (Philadelphia, 1935).

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 393:]

(72)  See Chapter VI.

(73)  A detailed comparison by T. O. Mabbott of the text in the Dollar Newspaper and in the Tales may be found in a special edition of “The Gold Bug,” New York, 1929.

(74)  Now in the Century Association in New York City. [[Now at the HRCL, University orf Texas, at Austin.]]

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 393, continuing to the bottom of page 394:]

(75)  The source hunters have been busy, of course, with “The Gold Bug.” [page 394:] There may have been some remembrance of his friend, Dr. Robert M. Bird’s Sheppard Lee, which Poe had reviewed in The Messenger in September, 1836. In that novel a Negro, Jim Jumble, dreams three nights of finding a treasure at the foot of a beech tree in a swamp and his master digs for it. But since Jupiter in “The Gold Bug” does not dream, and his master does not dig on account of anything the Negro says or does, the connection between Sheppard Lee and “The Gold Bug” seems very uncertain.

(76)  See E. S. Krappe, “A Possible Source for Poe’s ‘The Tell-Tale Heart’ and ‘The Black Cat,’ ” American Literature, XII (March, 1940), 84-88.

(77)  Published August 19, 1843, in the United States Saturday Post, a temporary substitution for its old title, The Saturday Evening Post.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 397:]

(78)  The house, known as “Spring Bank” was in 1838 a sanitarium conducted by Samuel Mason, who kept a number of pets for the amusement of his patients. While the house was sold in May, 1838, to George Wilson, a farmer, he, in turn, sold it in 1840 to Dr. Edward Lowber, who also had a sanitarium and probably inherited the elk with the property. The rock was known as “Mom Rinker’s Rock,” in honor of an American spy who sat on it and dropped her letters over the brink, concealed in a ball of yarn, which found its way to Washington at Valley Forge. John Welsh purchased the place in 1870 and his descendant, Mr. J. Somers Smith, still owns it. I am indebted to him and to my colleague, Dr. Cornelius Weygandt, for facts concerning “Spring Bank,” and also to the Portrait of a Colonial City, by H. D. Eberlein and C. Van D. Hubbard (Philadelphia, 1939), pp. 200-203.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 399:]

(79)  There are fifty-two alterations in “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” of the text as given in Graham’s. The quotation from Sir Thomas Browne is inserted, at the beginning, and the reference of the last quotation to Rousseau’s Nouvelle Héloise is added. The most interesting text addition occurs in the last paragraph. As this edition is so rare that Harrison could not collate the changes in the Virginia Edition, I give it here: “Nevertheless, that he [the Prefect] failed in the solution of the mystery, is by no means, that matter for wonder which he supposes it. Nil sapientiae odiosius acumine nimio, is, perhaps, the only line in the puerile and feeble Seneca not absolutely unmeaning; and, in truth, our friend the Prefect is somewhat too cunning to be profound.” In Graham’s the Prefect had been “too cunning to be acute.” The quotation from Seneca was omitted in the 1845 revision.

“The Man That Was Used Up” contains for the first time in print the motto from Corneille which Poe wrote into the Phantasy Pieces. It has fifteen corrections of the 1840 text, but the trivial nature of the story makes any comparison superfluous.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 402:]

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

(81)  Original Autograph Ms., Huntington Library.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 403:]

(82)  Lippard published the letter of which this is a part, on pages 167 and 168 of his novel Herbert Tracy, or the Legend of the Black Rangers (Philadelphia, 1844). Lippard quoted the letter in “A Word to the Reader,” in which he refers to Poe as “universally confessed one of the most gifted men in the land.” The novel is in the William H. Koester Collection.





[S:1 - EAP:ACB, 1941] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Articles - E. A. P.: A Critical Biography (A. H. Quinn) (Chapter 13)