Text: Arthur Hobson Quinn, “Chapter 14,” Edgar Allan Poe: A Critical Biography (1941), pp. 405-450


­ [page 405:]

New York — “The Raven” and Other Matters

It was with his usual optimism that Poe took Virginia to a city where he had met disappointment in 1837. It was, he hoped, to be different, and yet it is difficult to see what was the basis for that hope. It is true that the book trade was more flourishing. Poe succeeded in having both his Tales and his Poems published in 1845. But so far as the magazines, to which he must look for support, were concerned, there was no improvement in the situation, which New York had not yet begun to dominate. The leading magazines, the Knickerbocker, the New Mirror, the Democratic Review, were no more prosperous than Graham’s and Godey’s. He could hardly have expected to be helped by the Knickerbocker Magazine, considering what he had said concerning Lewis Gaylord Clark, its editor, and yet it set the tone in New York more than any other periodical. It may be, indeed, that Poe, sensing this lack of leading magazines, hoped to find the opportunity to found his own.

Perhaps it was the atmosphere of the growing metropolis that attracted Poe, rather than any specific advantage. New York had more than 300,000 inhabitants, and had become the great port of entry from Europe. Notwithstanding its poorly paved and poorly lighted streets, the endless throng of people on Broadway, the luxurious dresses of the women, the evidences of wealth, the hurry-scurry that Willis and Dickens described, all these gave an appearance of prosperity. Poe had visited New York during his residence in Philadelphia and like many thousands since his day, he saw opportunity there. He was to experience both the readiness of New York to treat a visitor with open arms if he has any wares to sell, and equal willingness to close its doors to the aspirant who remains to storm the citadel. It was, however, the best place to attract foreign recognition, and in this respect it widened the reputation for which Poe always longed.

Poe’s letter to Mrs. Clemm describing the journey of himself and Virginia from Philadelphia reveals again how much his own vivid account is to be preferred to any paraphrase: [page 406:]

(New York, Sunday Morning,
(  April 7, just after breakfast. 
(  [1844]


My dear Muddy,

We have just this minute done breakfast, and I now sit down to write you about everything. I can’t pay for the letter, because the P. O. won’t be open to-day. — In the first place, we arrived safe at Walnut St. wharf. The driver wanted to make me pay a dollar, but I wouldn’t. Then I had to pay a boy a levy to put the trunks in the baggage car. In the meantime I took Sis in the Depôt Hotel. It was only a quarter past 6 and we had to wait till 7. We saw the Ledger and Times — nothing in either — a few words of no account in the Chronicle. — We started in good spirits, but did not get here until nearly 3 o’clock. We went in the cars to Amboy, about 40 miles from N. York, and then took the steamboat the rest of the way. — Sissy coughed none at all. When we got to the wharf it was raining hard. I left her on board the boat, after putting the trunks in the Ladies’ cabin, and set off to buy an umbrella and look for a boarding house. I met a man selling umbrellas, and bought [o]ne for 62 cents. Then I went up Greenwich St. and soon found a boarding-house. It is just before you get to Cedar St., on the west side going up — the left-hand side. It has brown stone steps, with a porch with brown pillars. “Morrison” is the name on the door. I made a bargain in a few minutes and then got a hack and went for Sis. I was not gone more than ½ an hour, and she was quite astonished to see me back so soon. She didn’t expect me for an hour. There were 2 other ladies waiting on board — so she wasn’t very lonely. — When we got to the house we had to wait about ½ an hour before the room was ready. The house is old & looks buggy — [The signature on the reverse side was cut out so there is a break here] [T]he landlady is a nice chatty ol[d soul — g]ave us the back room on th[e third floor — ]e night & day & attendance, f[or 7$ the] cheapest board I ever knew, taking into consideration the central situation and the living. I wish Kate [the cat Catterina] could see it — she would faint. Last night, for supper, we had the nicest tea you ever drank, strong & hot, — wheat bread & rye bread — cheese — tea-cakes (elegant), a great dish (2 dishes) of elegant ham, and 2 of cold veal, piled up like a mountain and large slices — 3 dishes of the cakes, and everything in the greatest profusion. No fear of starving here. The landlady seemed as if she [page 407:] couldn’t press us enough, and we were at home directly. Her husband is living with her — a fat, good-natured old soul. There are 8 or 10 boarders — 2 or 3 of them ladies — 2 servants. — For breakfast we had excellent-flavored coffee, hot & strong — not very clear & no great deal of cream — veal cutlets, elegant ham & eggs & nice bread and butter. I never sat down to a more plentiful or a nicer breakfast. I wish you could have seen the eggs — and the great dishes of meat. I ate the first hearty breakfast I have eaten since I left our little home. Sis is delighted, and we are both in excellent spirits She has coughed hardly any and had no night sweat. She is now busy mending my pants which I tore against a nail. I went out last night and bought a skein of silk, a skein of thread, 2 buttons, a pair of slippers, & a tin pan for the stove. The fire kept in all night. — We have now got 4$ and a half left. Tomorrow I am going to try & borrow 3$, so that I may have a fortnight to go upon. I feel in excellent spirits, & haven’t drank a drop — so that I hope so[on] to get out of trouble. The very instant I scrape together enough money I will send it on. You can’t imagine how much we both do miss you. Sissy had a hearty cry last night, because you and Catterina weren’t here. We are resolved to get 2 rooms the first moment we can. In the meantime it is impossible we could be more comfortable or more at home than we are. It looks as if it were going to clear up now. Be sure and go to the P. O. & have my letters forwarded. As soon as I write Lowell’s article, I will send it to you, & get you to get the money from Graham. Give our best loves to Catterina.

Be sure and take home the Messenger, [to Hirst] We hope to send for you very soon.

[Signature cut out.](1)

How much they depended upon Mrs. Clemm, who had been left behind to sell such books as she could, how pitiful was Poe’s narrow margin, how almost childlike was his attitude toward the bitter realities of life, this letter makes clear.

Let us hope that the house at 130 Greenwich Street was a more cheerful home than it is today. The brownstone steps and the porch have gone, but the old staircase, now unused, remains, also the dingy [page 408:] rooms, uninhabited now, over the more cheerful ground floor, adorned by the “Old Brokers’ Café.” In 1844 the nearby river on which Virginia looked while she waited for her mother to join them and the more open spaces would have improved the situation of the house, located almost at the lowest point of Manhattan. The old Planters’ Hotel, a few houses below, claims a Poe tradition with much less certainty. It was a well known place in 1844 and would have strained his pocketbook unduly.

The postscript of Poe’s letter to Mrs. Clemm refers to a matter which was later to plague him. Poe had wished to see a volume of the Southern Literary Messenger and Henry B. Hirst had borrowed one for his use from William Duane. Either through dire need or carelessness Mrs. Clemm did not return the Messenger to Hirst, but sold it with other books to Leary, the Philadelphia bookseller. When Duane, some months later, asked for the return of the book, Mrs. Clemm evidently did not tell her nephew the facts, for he wrote to Duane as follows:

New York,  
Octo. 28. 44.

My dear Sir,

Owing to my absence from this city (where I am now residing) I did not receive your letter of the 15th until this morning.

I regret exceedingly that circumstances should have led you to think me negligent, or uncourteous, in not returning the volume of the “Messenger” — for one or the other (perhaps both) you must long since have considered me. The facts are these: some eight months ago, I believe, I chanced to mention, in Mr. Hirst’s hearing, that I wished to look over a particular article in the “Messenger.” He immediately volunteered to procure me the desired volume from you. I would much rather have borrowed it personally — but he seemed to make a point of the matter, and I consented. Soon afterwards he handed me the book, which I retained a very short time. It is now certainly more than seven months since I returned it to Mr. Hirst, through my mother-in-law (Mrs. Clemm) who informs me that she left it at his office, with one of his brothers. Most probably it was deposited in a book-case, and thus overlooked and forgotten. May I trouble you to send for it?

Very truly yours,


William Duane, Esq. [page 409:]

When Duane showed this letter to Hirst, the latter replied that it was “a damned lie.” Duane found out soon after that Leary had sold the volume to a bookseller in Richmond, who sold it to the publishers of the Messenger, who in turn sold it to a friend of Duane, through whom it was recovered. When Duane called Poe’s attention to these facts, Poe replied, with a marked change in the tone of his note:

New York,  
Jan. 28. 45.


Richmond is the last place in which I should have hoped to find a copy of either the 1st 2d or 3d volumes of the Messenger. For this reason I did not apply there. I have been putting myself, however, to some trouble in endeavouring to collect among my friends here the separate numbers of the missing volume. I am glad that your last letter relieves me from all such trouble in future. I do not choose to recognize you in this matter at all. To the person of whom I borrowed the book, or rather who insisted upon forcing it on me, I have sufficient reason to believe it was returned. Settle your difficulties with him, and insult me with no more of your communications.


Mr. Duane

On this letter Duane endorsed the words: “Bombastes Furioso Poe. Dated Jan. 28. 1845. Received, Jan. 31, 1845. Not to be answered.” Then after retailing the events given above, he continues: “Poe had the grace to be ashamed of himself, when he heard of the manner in which I had had to repurchase my own book. He remarked to H. B. Hirst Esqr: ‘What must Mr. Duane think of me?’ ”(2)

I have given this correspondence, not on account of the importance of the incident itself, but because it reveals between the lines one of those occasions in which Mrs. Clemm brought upon Poe lasting trouble. For many years this story, magnified, of course, shadowed his reputation in Philadelphia. But Duane misinterpreted Poe’s second letter. It was written by a man who had been permitted by a woman he loved to place himself in a false position, and who defended her at the cost of his own reputation. Mrs. Clemm might have sold the [page 410:] book by accident before Poe’s letter of April 7th reached her, but with the postscript before her, she should have reclaimed it. Instead, she concealed the sale from Poe, and let him write the letters to Duane. She could by no stretch of imagination confuse a trip to Leary’s with a visit to Hirst’s office. Poe’s remark to Hirst was not a confession of guilt; it was an assumption of the blame for an action of which he was innocent. He could not even have the satisfaction of returning the five dollars it had cost Duane to buy his own property back, for Poe never had it to spare.(3)

Poe’s first activity, after reaching New York City, was to publish in the New York Sun on April 13, 1844, what is now known as the “Balloon-Hoax.” It appeared under the caption, “Astounding News by Express, via Norfolk! The Atlantic Crossed in Three Days, Signal Triumph of Mr. Monck Mason’s Flying Machine! Arrival at Sullivan’s Island, near Charleston, S. C. — After a Passage of Seventy-Five Hours, etc.”

The effect of this clever bit of imaginary narrative is best told in Poe’s own words, written by him to the Columbia Spy, and published on May 25th:

The “Balloon-Hoax” made a far more intense sensation than anything of that character since the “Moon-Story” of Locke. On the morning (Saturday) of its announcement, the whole square surrounding the “Sun” building was literally besieged, blocked up — ingress and egress being alike impossible, from a period soon after sunrise until about two o’clock P. M. In Saturday’s regular issue, it was stated that the news had been just received, and that an “Extra” was then in preparation, which would be ready at ten. It was not delivered, however, until nearly noon. In the meantime I never witnessed more intense excitement to get possession of a newspaper. As soon as the few first copies made their way into the streets, they were bought up, at almost any price, from the news-boys, who made a profitable speculation beyond doubt. I saw a half-dollar given, in one instance, for a single paper, and a shilling was a frequent price. I tried, in vain, during the whole day, to get possession of a copy. It was excessively amusing, however, to hear the comments of those who had read the “Extra.”(4) [page 411:]

Poe’s letters to the Columbia Spy are of unusual importance. They reveal how dependent he was upon some immediate if small return, for the paper was limited in circulation. It was published at Columbia, Pennsylvania, by Bowen and Gossler, while Poe was a correspondent.(5)

The letters give us, at first hand, Poe’s impressions of New York from the time of his arrival until June 25th. The power of description which he often employed in purely imaginative flights, he spent here on reality:

I have been roaming far and wide over this island of Mannahatta. Some portions of its interior have a certain air of rocky sterility which may impress some imaginations as simply dreary — to me it conveys the sublime. Trees are few; but some of the shrubbery is exceedingly picturesque. Not less so are the prevalent shanties of the Irish squatters. I have one of these tabernacles (I use the term primitively) at present in the eye of my mind. It is, perhaps, nine feet by six, with a pigsty applied externally, by way both of portico and support. The whole fabric (which is of mud) has been erected in somewhat too obvious an imitation of the Tower of Pisa. A dozen rough planks, “pitched” together, form the roof. The door is a barrel on end. There is a garden, too; and this is encircled by a ditch at one point, a large stone at another, a bramble at a third. A dog and a cat are inevitable in these habitations; and, apparently, there are no dogs and no cats more entirely happy.

On the eastern or “Sound” face of Mannahatta (why do we persist in de-euphonizing the true names?) are some of the most picturesque sites for villas to be found within the limits of Christendom. These localities, however, are neglected — unimproved. The old mansions upon them (principally wooden) are suffered to remain unrepaired, and present a melancholy spectacle of decrepitude. In fact, these magnificent places are doomed. The spirit of Improvement has withered them with its acrid breath. Streets are already “mapped” through them, and they are no longer suburban residences, but “town-lots.” In some thirty years every noble cliff will be a pier, and the whole island will be densely desecrated by [page 412:] buildings of brick, with portentous facades of brown-stone, or brown-stonn, as the Gothamites have it.(6)

A vivid touch this, of the district in which Edward Harrigan was to lay the scene of his delightful comedy of Squatter Sovereignty. Later, Poe reveals how he sought exercise and pleasure as he had done on the Wissahickon:

When you visit Gotham, you should ride out the Fifth Avenue, as far as the distributing reservoir, near Forty-third Street, I believe. The prospect from the walk around the reservoir is particularly beautiful. You can see, from this elevation, the north reservoir at Yorkville; the whole city to the Battery; with a large portion of the harbor, and long reaches of the Hudson and East rivers. Perhaps even a finer view, however, is to be obtained from the summit of the white, light-house-looking shot-tower which stands on the East river, at Fifty-fifth Street, or thereabouts.

A day or two since I procured a light skiff, and with the aid of a pair of sculls (as they here term short oars, or paddles) made my way around Blackwell’s Island, on a voyage of discovery and exploration. The chief interest of the adventure lay in the scenery of the Manhattan shore, which is here particularly picturesque. The houses are, without exception, frame, and antique. Nothing very modern has been attempted — a necessary result of the subdivision of the whole island into streets and town-lots. I could not look on the magnificent cliffs, and stately trees, which at every moment met my view, without a sigh for their inevitable doom — inevitable and swift. In twenty years, or thirty at farthest, we shall see here nothing more romantic than shipping, warehouses, and wharves.(7)

Poe found the city thronged with strangers, and wearing an aspect of intense life. From the point of cleanliness, it was far below Philadelphia. The change in administration of the city brought reprisals from the officials about to be removed and plunged Third Avenue, “One of the most important thoroughfares,” in darkness. Poe objected from purely constitutional grounds to the new Mayor, Harper, closing the “Rum Palaces” and “Rum Hovels” on the Christian Sabbath. Why, he asks, with connotations of which he could not have been aware, should they not be closed on Saturday also? The Magazines, he remarks, “are dragging their slow length along.” Of the Knickerbocker he “hears little and sees less,” probably because of his relations with [page 413:] Lewis Gaylord Clark, the Editor. The Ladies’ Companion, which had bought “Marie Rogêt” was “the ne plus ultra of ill-taste, impudence and vulgar humbuggery.” He scoffs at the winner of a ten-mile race, in an hour and four minutes; remarking that he had done it himself in less time and that at least a thousand men in the West could do twelve miles an hour. His constant impatience with the dogmatic speculations of science comes to the surface in his account of Wilkes’ expedition to the Antarctic region:

Let Mr. Wilkes say what he will, the Expedition was a failure. This is the gentleman who picked up, on an iceberg at sea, a few morsels of rock, and brought them home (wrapped in Cotton) as specimens of an Antarctic Continent — after the fashion of the skolastikos in Hierocles. By the examination of these specimens, a committee, appointed by Mr. W., will determine the soil, climate, extent, geological condition, population, governmental policy, religion, and literature of the new country, which is to be entitled “Wilkesland,” after its illustrious discoverer.(8)

By June 12th he had become a regular New Yorker for the letter is devoted to a scathing criticism of the architecture of Brooklyn. The street cries in New York and the noise of the wagons over the cobblestones drive him mad, and his sane suggestions about street paving prove again how close his observation was of things near at hand. His keen critical sense shows in his notice of Willis’s poems, when he regrets that Willis had to leave Glen Mary “and the tranquility and leisure he might there have found. In its retirement he might have accomplished much, both for himself and for posterity; but, chained to the oar of a mere weekly paper, professedly addressing the frivolous and the fashionable, what can he now hope for but a gradual sinking into the slough of the Public Disregard?”(9)

Was it his own situation Poe had in mind when he was writing about the man who chose to be the most popular writer in the United States in 1844, and is now almost forgotten? Poe devotes much of the next letter to Willis, and to Graham’s. Then the letters cease. It was not his forte to be a columnist, but they give a valid pen picture of New York of a century ago, as well as a revelation of Poe’s interests. They also indicate other contributions by Poe that have not been reprinted. In the letter of May 21st, Poe speaks of the biography of [page 414:] Robert T. Conrad in Graham’s for June, 1844, which was “already out” — as being “by a friend of yours” and doing Conrad no more than justice. The review has a resemblance to Poe’s critical style, but if it was by him, it is curious that he should speak of Judge Conrad’s Jack Cade or Aylmere, as it was variously called, as “perhaps the best American play.” For in a later article on the American drama he does not mention Conrad. Why he should not have signed the article is not clear.

Poe may also have contributed three editorials to the Public Ledger of Philadelphia on July 17, 18, 19, 1844, of a satirical nature, two on the “Omnibus” and one on “Cats.” The second was reprinted in the Columbia Spy of August 14th, with a note by Eli Bowen, which implied it was by Poe. The articles are pleasant reading, but are of interest mainly as evidence of his dependence upon newspapers for support.(10)

In one of his strolls in upper New York, Poe saw the home of Patrick Brennan, surrounded by a farm of two hundred and sixteen acres, extending from the Hudson River to a point about two hundred feet west of the Bloomingdale Road, later called the Boulevard, and now Broadway. If the house were standing today, it would be in the neighborhood of 84th Street between Amsterdam Avenue and Broadway. It was a comfortable “double framed” dwelling of two stories. With Virginia’s health in mind, Poe asked Mrs. Brennan to take the family to board. Although the neighborhood had some reputation as a summer resort, they were the first guests Mrs. Brennan received, and she became much attached to them. She always denied the charges concerning Poe’s drinking, and insisted that she never saw him under the influence of liquor. She also paid tribute to his devotion to Virginia.

Poe was in the habit of taking long rambles in the neighborhood, especially to a rock overlooking the Hudson, known as “Mount Tom,” where he would spend hours gazing at the river. He was fond of children and took some of the Brennan family, especially Thomas, one of the boys, with him at times to the river side, where he would draw figures of all sorts to amuse them.

One of the Brennan girls, later Mrs. James R. O’Beirne, was a witness of his long hours of work, when she was permitted to sit in his room while he was composing. She seems to have made the most acute test of a writer’s patience by rearranging his manuscripts in accordance [page 415:] with her own feminine sense of order. So far, the traditions rest on solid foundation.(11)

General O’Beirne’s identification of a room in the Brennan house as the identical one described by the poet in “The Raven,” and the arrangement of a plaster cast of Pallas, on a high shelf in front of a few smoky panes of glass, seem fanciful, notwithstanding Poe’s own statement about the plaster cast. If Poe read the poem to Mrs. Brennan, she said nothing about it to Gill, who was keen to pick up matters of that sort. There can be little doubt, however, that “The Raven” was completed, if not begun, in the Brennan home.

Poe’s only new poem to be published in 1844 was “Dreamland,” in Graham’s for June, but it is one of his finest creations. Dangerous as subjective interpretations are, it is hard to believe that this poem does not reflect Poe’s own remarkable power of projection “Out of Space — Out of Time.” He produces the effect of vastness and desolation by his usual methods of denying limitations:

“Bottomless vales and boundless floods

.   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .

Mountains toppling evermore

Into seas without a shore.

.   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .

Lakes that endlessly outspread

Their lone waters, lone and dead.”

Notwithstanding its unholy aspect, and the shrouded forms that greet the traveller:

“For the heart whose woes are legion

‘Tis a peaceful, soothing region, —

For the spirit that walks in shadow

‘Tis — oh, ‘tis an Eldorado!”

These shrouded figures are not to return, and by comparison with this life they are progressing apparently to a happier state: [page 416:]

“But the traveller, travelling through it

May not — dare not, openly view it;

Never its mysteries are exposed

To the weak human eye unclosed.”

And so the dreamer returns:

“By a route, obscure and lonely,

Haunted by ill angels only,

Where an Eldolon, named NIGHT,

On a black throne reigns upright.

I have wandered home but newly

From this ultimate dim Thule.”(12)

Every phrase tends to the one effect, the description of the reaction of a human traveller to this land between Death and Life. As ever, the vowels and consonants are chosen by a master of sounds and the poet strikes with the fingers of harmony a note that resounds in any understanding ear with the inevitability of great poetry.

A letter from Poe to Lowell deals with the projected biography of Poe to be written by Lowell and gives a list of Poe’s still unpublished stories:

New York, May 28, ‘44.

My dear Friend, — I received yours last night, forwarded from Philadelphia to this city, where I intend living for the future. Touching the Biography — I would be very proud, indeed, if you would write it, and did, certainly, say to myself, and I believe to Graham — that such was my wish; but as I fancied the job might be disagreeable, I did not venture to suggest it to yourself. Your offer relieves me from great embarrassment, and I thank you sincerely. You will do me justice; and that I could not expect at all hands.

Herewith, I mail you a Life written some time since by Hirst, from materials furnished principally by Thomas and Mr. T. W. White. It is correct, I think, in the main (barring extravagant eulogy), and you can select from it whatever you deem right. The limit is 6 pp. of Graham — as much less as you please. Besides the Tales enumerated in the foot-note, I have written “The Spectacles”; “The Oblong Box”; “A Tale of the Ragged Mountains”; [page 417:] The Premature Burial”; “The Purloined Letter”; “The System of Doctors Tar and Fether”; “The Black Cat”; “The Elk”; “Diddling Considered as one of the Exact Sciences”; “Mesmeric Revelation”; “The Gold Bug”; “Thou art the Man”; about 60 altogether, including the “Grotesque and Arabesque.” Those italicized are as yet unpublished — in the hands of different editors. Of the “Gold Bug” (my most successful tale), more than 300,000 copies have been circulated.

There is an article on “American Poetry” in a late number of the “London Foreign Quarterly,” in which some allusion is made to me, as a poet, and as an imitator of Tennyson. I would like you to say (in my defense) what is the fact: that the passages quoted as imitations were written and published, in Boston, before the issue of even Tennyson’s first volume. Dickens (I know) wrote the article — I have private personal reasons for knowing this. The portrait prepared does not in the least resemble me.

I wrote you a long letter from Philadelphia about seven weeks since — did you get it? You make no allusion to it. In great haste,

Your most sincere friend,


Poe was evidently having difficulties in placing his fiction. He had offered “The Oblong Box” to Willis for the New Mirror, but Willis had suggested that the Opal would be a better place to print it. Poe’s letter of May 29th to Mrs. Hale, who was the editor both of the Opal and Godey’s, urges her to accept an article from him, and “to take it unseen, upon Mr. Willis’s testimony in its favor. It cannot be improper to state, that I make the latter request to save time, because I am as usual, exceedingly in need of a little money.”(14)

Mrs. Hale evidently gave him encouragement, for he wrote on May 31st:

May 31st 44.

My Dear Madam,

I hasten to reply to your kind and very satisfactory letter, and to say that, if you will be so good as to keep open for [page 418:] me the ten pages of which you speak, I will forward you, in 2 or 3 days, an article which will about occupy that space, and which I will endeavour to adapt to the character of “The Opal.” The price you mention — 50 cts per page — will be amply sufficient; and I am exceedingly anxious to be ranked in your list of contributors.

Should you see Mr. Godey very soon, will you oblige me by saying that I will write him in a few days, and forward him a package?

With sincere respect,
Yr Ob. St.  

Mrs. Sarah J. Hale.(15)

Poe probably referred to “A Chapter of Suggestions” which appeared in the Opal for 1845. In this “Chapter of Suggestions” Poe repeated his earlier views on Dickens, Bulwer, and Macaulay, and discussed his favorite subject of dreams. He also paid his respects to “those little people who habitually sneer at greatness.” It hardly needs comment that Poe, already well known, was more than glad to write for fifty cents a page and that he was still depending upon a Philadelphia editor to take his contributions. Mrs. Hale also bought “The Oblong Box” and “Thou Art the Man” for Godey’s.

Notwithstanding the slowness of editors in accepting or publishing his contributions, Poe kept on hard at work with his fiction, some of which must have been written before he left Philadelphia. “The Premature Burial” which the Dollar Newspaper printed on July 31, 1844, was another story of terror. Poe began by establishing the general truth that in a tale of horror the recital of actual fact is more impressive than any fictional treatment, because the reader believes it. Then by reciting certain actual cases of premature burial,(16) he built up that willingness to believe which prepared the reader to accept the main story. Poe’s narrator has suffered from catalepsy, and returns to consciousness slowly through an intermediate stage of helplessness. [page 419:] He goes through all the terrors of one who is buried alive, especially acute because the many precautions he has taken against such an event seem to have been neglected by those who should have seen to them. When he is awakened to find that he is lying in a berth in a small sloop, and the coffin lid he has imagined is really the bottom of the berth, above him, the story does not become burlesque. The active violent terror has driven the shadows of fear of imaginary danger away, and he is cured of his disease.

“Mesmeric Revelation” which appeared in the Columbian Magazine in August, 1844, is a prelude to Eureka. Poe assumes the validity of mesmerism and tries through placing of a man, ill with phthisis, under such a trance, to ascertain the truth of immortality. Mr. Van Kirk asks to be mesmerized, hoping that the consequent exaltation will permit him to perceive a train of reasoning which has convinced him while in his trance, but of which, when he awakes, he is aware only of the effect, and not of the cause. He asks, therefore, that the narrator who is also the mesmerizer should ask him questions while he is in the trance, thereby noting the origin of Van Kirk’s beliefs. I have already spoken in another connection of this story as an expression of Poe’s certainty of man’s free will and the persistence of his individuality after death.(17)

Van Kirk’s answers tell us that “what we call ‘death,’ is but the painful metamorphosis. Our present incarnation is progressive, preparatory, temporary. Our future is perfected, ultimate, immortal.” Poe bases the distinction between inorganic life and organic beings upon a Creator. Opposed to Emerson’s conception of spirit being the only creator, God, with all the powers attributed to spirit, is but the perfection of matter. If God had so willed it, law could have been inviolate, with its result, perfection. But in order to produce violation of law, impediments, afforded by the number, complexity, and substantiality of the laws of organic life and matter, have been created. Thus pain is produced. Pain is reality and is necessary to happiness. “All things are either good or bad by comparison. — Positive pleasure is a mere idea. To be happy at any one point we must have suffered at the same. Never to suffer would have been never to have been blessed. . . . The pain of the primitive life of Earth is the sole basis of the bliss of the ultimate life of Heaven.” Thus Poe in 1844-45(18) expressed [page 420:] the idea of relativity in human happiness. It was, of course, not original with him, but he put it forcibly. He also made clear that the future life cannot even be described by our terms. We will have to create terms before we can describe it. It was in this essay also that he suggested the indivisibility of matter.

Poe wrote to George Bush, then Professor of Hebrew Language and Literature at New York University, concerning this story:

New York  
Jan. 4, 45.

Dear Sir;

With this note I take the liberty of sending you a newspaper — “The Dollar Weekly” — in which there is an article, by myself, entitled “Mesmeric Revelation.” It has been copied into the paper from a Monthly Magazine — “The Columbian” — in which it originally appeared in July last.

I have ventured to send you the article because there are many points in it which bear upon the subject-matter of your last admirable work on the Future Condition of Man(19) and therefore I am induced to hope that you will do me the honor to look over what I have said.

You will, of course, understand that the article is purely a fiction; — but I have embodied in it some thoughts which are original with myself & I am exceedingly anxious to learn if they have claim to absolute originality, and also how far they will strike you as well based. If you would be so kind as to look over the paper and give me, in brief, your opinion, I will consider it a high favor.

Very Respy. Yr. Ob. St.


Please reply thro’ the P. Office.(20)

What Bush replied is not known. But the reproduction of the story in the Dollar Newspaper of Philadelphia is intriguing, to say the least. The readers who expected another “Gold Bug” must have been puzzled. Perhaps the editor of the Columbian may have asked Poe for a [page 421:] lighter story, for he published “The Angel of the Odd” in October. This is as absurd as “Mesmeric Revelation” is thought-provoking, and is, as Poe said “an Extravaganza.” Viewed even from that point of view, its humor is tiresome and the dialect which the “Angel” speaks, was not spoken anywhere on the globe.

“The Purloined Letter” belongs to this group of stories, mentioned by Poe to Lowell as still in the hands of editors in May, 1844, although it found a place in the Gift for 1845. It is the most unified of the stories of ratiocination, and in motive it is the best. Dupin is given the problem by the Prefect of Police at a point where the detective story usually ends. The robber is known; the problem lies in securing the letter, for its possession by the Minister D—— gives him a power over the owner of the letter, a royal personage, and a woman, which he has been using for political blackmail. Poe scorns the usual obvious details of a search, in which his imitators have revelled. Through the conversation of the Prefect we learn that all known methods have been employed. Dupin proceeds upon his knowledge of the character of the Minister D——, because he, unlike most detectives of fiction, is also a character. He knows that the robber is both a mathematician and a poet, therefore he is a master of mathematical processes of reasoning and also aware of their limitations. Through Dupin, Poe shows that mathematical axioms are not universally, but only relatively, true, and once more announces his doctrine of relativity, a prelude in a sense to Eureka.

Identifying himself with the imaginative processes of such a man as D——, Dupin decides that the Minister will employ the simplest method of concealment, because that will baffle the police. Dupin visits the apartments of D——, notices a letter, soiled and half torn, standing conspicuously on a rack, and decides it is the letter which the police have disregarded. Their reasoning, without imagination, has led them to believe no one would leave exposed such a valuable letter. Here a lesser artist would have concluded the story. But Dupin dislikes the Minister, for an evil turn he has done him. Dupin leaves, prepares a facsimile of the letter, and returns, after arranging that a disturbance shall be created in the street which attracts the Minister’s attention. He then substitutes the false letter for the real one. Thus the Minister D——, believing that he still retains his power, will try to use it, will be defied and will be ruined. Poe created, therefore, two characters, Dupin and the Minister D——. Both of them have characteristics of Poe, the power of analysis and the imagination that transcends analysis. Like Dupin, Poe could long remember an injury; [page 422:] like D—— he could neglect to remember that he had injured a possible enemy.(21)

“The Oblong Box” was suited quite well to Godey’s, where it appeared in September, 1844. Charleston is simply a place to leave for a boat trip to New York, and the devices by which a bereaved husband endeavors to carry secretly the corpse of his wife, are singularly uninteresting. In “Thou Art the Man,” which appeared in Godey’s for November, the great master of ratiocinative stories burlesqued that branch of fiction. There is no attempt to treat the murder seriously. The tale has more significance through Poe’s use of the moral contrast, in which Dickens was so adept, and which they bestowed on Bret Harte as a heritage. The guilty man has the reputation of probity and good fellowship; the innocent party, who is convicted and saved from execution only at the last minute, is a rake.

Poe must have enjoyed writing “The Literary Life of Thingum Bob,” which came out in his old magazine, the Southern Literary Messenger, in December, 1844. It is a grotesque of the better quality. There is the literary charlatan, who sends in contributions to the magazines, made up of quotations from famous authors, and the ignorant editors who fail to recognize them, but criticize such lines as

“Hail! Holy Light, Offspring of Heaven, first born”

on the ground that hail can not be holy light and an offspring at the same time. The absurd verses which are accepted, the log-rolling, the “tomahawking” of poor devil authors, while exaggerated, nevertheless have a verity that makes the satire effective. Of the few real names used, scarcely any were of living men, but in revising the story, Poe included Lewis Gaylord Clark which, of course, made his exclusion from the Knickerbocker secure.

Meanwhile, Poe never forgot his hopes for his magazine. A long letter to Professor Anthon in this connection is of great interest because Poe gives a summary of all his magazine experience up to this time and explains why he has devoted himself to this field. With the letter he sent one of the tales, which one, he does not say. Poe evidently built high hopes upon Anthon’s influence with Harpers, for the [page 423:] manuscript draft was prepared with the greatest care, constant alterations giving it the appearance of a literary composition:

My Dear Sir,

Many years have elapsed since my last communication with you, and perhaps you will be surprised at receiving a letter from me now — if not positively vexed at receiving one of so great a length and of such a character. But I trust to your goodness of heart for a patient hearing, at the least.

You will have already seen that, as usual, I have a favor to solicit. You have, indeed, been to me in many respects a good genius & a friend — but the request I have to make now is one of vital interest to myself — so much so that upon your granting it or refusing it, depends, I feel, much if not all of the prosperity and even comfort of my future life.

I have had few friends. I cannot flatter myself, that you have felt sufficient interest in me to have followed in any respect my literary career, since the period at which you first did me the honor to address me a note while Editor of the Southern Messenger. A few words of explanation on this point will therefore be necessary here.

As I am well aware that your course of reading lies entirely out of the track of our lighter literature, and as I take it for granted therefore that none of the papers in question have met your eye — I have thought it advisable to send you with this letter — a single tale as a specimen. This will no doubt put you in mind of the trick of the skolastikos — but I could not think of troubling you with more than one. I do not think it my best tale — but it is perhaps the best in its particular vein. Variety has been one of my chief aims.

In lieu of the rest, I venture to place in your hands the published opinions of many of my contemporaries. I will not deny that I have been careful to collect & to preserve them. They include, as you will see, the warm commendations of a great number of very eminent men, and of these commendations I should be at a loss to understand why I have not a right to be proud.

Before quitting the Mess: I saw, or fancied that I saw, through a long & dim vista, the brilliant field for ambition which a Magazine of bold & noble aims presented to him who should successfully establish it in America. I perceived that the country from its very constitution, could not fail of affording in a few years, a [page 423:] larger proportionate amount of readers than any upon the Earth. I perceived that the whole energetic, busy spirit of the age tended wholly to the Magazine literature — to the curt, the terse, the well-timed, and the readily diffused, in preference to the old forms of the verbose and ponderous & the inaccessible. I knew from personal experience that lying perdus among the innumerable plantations in our vast Southern & Western Countries were a host of well-educated men, singularly devoid of prejudice, who would gladly lend their influence to a really vigorous journal provided the right means were taken of bringing it fairly within the very limited scope of their observation. Now, I knew, it is true, that some scores of journals had failed (for indeed I looked upon the best success of the best of them as failure) but then I easily traced the causes of their failure in the impotency of their conductors, who made no scruple of basing their rules of action altogether upon what had been customarily done instead of what was now before them to do, but in the greatly changed & constantly changing condition of things.

In short, I could see no real reason why a Magazine, if worthy the name, could not be made to circulate among 20,000 subscribers, embracing the best intellect & education of the land. This was a thought which stimulated my fancy & my ambition. The influence of such a journal would be vast indeed, and I dreamed of honestly employing that influence in the sacred cause of the beautiful, the just, & the true. Even in a pecuniary view, the object was a magnificent one.

The journal I proposed would be a large octavo of 128 pp. printed with clear, bold type, in single column, on the finest paper, and disdaining everything of which is termed “embellishment” with the exception of an occassional [sic] portrait of a literary man, or some well-engraved wood design in obvious illustration of the text. Of such a journal I had cautiously estimated the expenses. Could I circulate 20 000 cop. at 5$ the cost wd be about $30.000, estimating all contingencies at the highest rate. There would be a balance of $70.000 per annum.

But not to trust too implicitly to a priori reasonings, and at the same time to make myself thoroughly master of all details which might avail me concerning the mere business of publication, I entered a few steps into the field of experiment. I joined the “Messenger” as you know, which was then in its 2d year with 700 subscribers & the general outcry was that because a Magazine [page 425:] had never succeeded South of the Potomac therefore a Magazine never c’d succeed. Yet in despite of this & in despite of the wretched taste of its proprietor which hampered & controlled me at all points I (in 15 months) increased the circulation in 15 months to 5,500 subscribers paying an annual profit of 10,000 when I left it. This number was never exceeded by the journal which rapidly went down & may now be said to be extinct. Of “Graham’s Magazine” you have no doubt heard. It had been in existence under the name of the “Casket” for 8 years, when I became its editor with a subscription list of about 5000. In about 18 months afterward its circulation amounted to no less than 50.000 — astonishing as this may appear. At this period I left it. It is now 2 years since, and the number of subscribers is now not more than 25.000 — but possibly very much less. In 3 years it will be extinct. The nature of this journal, however, was such, that even its 50.000 subscribers could not make it very profitable to its proprietors. Its price was $3 — but not only were its expenses immense owing to the employment of absurd steelplates & other extravagances which tell not at all, but recourse was had to innumerable agents who recd it at a discount of no less than 50 per cent & whose frequent dishonesty occasioned enormous loss. But, if 50 000 can be obtained for a 3$ Maga- among a class of readers who really read little, why may not 50.000. be procured for a $5 journal among the true and permanent readers of the land?

Holding steadily in view my ultimate purpose — to found a Magazine of my own, or in which at least I might have a proprietary right, — it has been my constant endeavour in the meantime not so much to establish a reputation great in itself as one of that particular character which should best further my special objects, and draw attention to my exertions as Editor of a Magazine. Thus I have written no books and have been so far essentially a Magazinist. . . . bearing not only willingly but cheerfully sad poverty & the thousand consequent contumelies & other ills which the condition of the mere Magazinist entails upon him in America — where more than in any other region upon the face of the globe to be poor is to be despised.

The one great difficulty resulting from this course is that unless the journalist collects his various articles he is liable to be grossly misconceived & misjudged by men of whose good opinion he would be proud — but who see, perhaps, only a paper here & there, by accident, — often only one of his mere extravaganzas; written to [page 426:] supply a particular demand. He loses, too, whatever merit may be his due on the score of versatility — a point which can only be estimated by collection of his various articles in volume form and altogether. This is indeed a serious difficulty — to seek a remedy for which in my own case is my object in writing you this letter.

Setting aside, for the present, my criticisms[[,]] poems & miscellanies (sufficiently numerous) my tales a great number of which might be termed Phantasy Pieces, are in number sixty-six. They would make, perhaps, 5 of the ordinary novel volumes. I have them prepared in every respect for the press; but, alas, I have no money, nor that influence which would enable me to get a publisher — although I seek no pecuniary remuneration. My sole immediate object is the furtherance of my ultimate one. I believe that if I could get my Tales fairly before the public, and thus have an opportunity of eliciting foreign as well as native opinion respecting them — I should by their means be in a far more advantageous position than at present in regard to the establishment of a Magazine. In a word, I believe that the publication of the work would lead forthwith either directly through my own exertion or indirectly with the aid of a publisher to the establishment of the journal I hold in view.

It is very true that I have no claims upon your attention — not even that of personal acquaintance. But I have reached a crisis of my life, in which I sadly stand in need of aid, and without being able to say why, — unless it is that I so earnestly desire your friendship — I have always felt a half-hope that if I appealed to you you would prove my friend. I know that you have unbounded influence with the Harpers — & I know that if you would exert it in my behalf you could procure me the publication I desire.(22)

Anthon did not reply until November 2nd: [page 427:]

New York, November 2, 1844.

Dear Sir, — I have called upon the Harpers, as you requested, and have cheerfully exerted with them what influence I possess, but without accomplishing anything of importance. They have complaints against you, grounded on certain movements of yours, when they acted as your publishers some years ago; and appear very little inclined at present to enter upon the matter which you have so much at heart. However, they have retained, for a second and more careful perusal, the letter which you sent to me, and have promised that, if they should see fit to come to terms with you, they will address a note to you forthwith. Of course, if you should not hear from them, their silence must be construed into a declining of your proposal. My own advice to you is to call in person at their store, and talk over the matter with them. I am very sure that such a step on your part will remove many of the difficulties which at present obstruct your way.

You do me injustice by supposing that I am a stranger to your productions. I subscribed to the “Messenger” solely because you were connected with it, and I have since that period read and, as a matter of course, admired very many of your other pieces. The Harpers also entertain, as I heard from their own lips, the highest opinion of your talents, but — I remain very sincerely,

Your friend and well-wisher,


P. S. The MSS. which you were kind enough to send can be obtained by you at any time on calling at my residence.

C. A.(23)

The disappointment must have been great, but Poe did not abandon his hopes.

Poe’s correspondence with Lowell and others continues to reveal his personal as well as his literary experiences during 1844. Lowell apologized for his delay in writing the biography of Poe for Graham’s and asked Poe for “a sort of spiritual biography,” written “as to a friend.”(24) Poe replied, in an important letter, in which he combined some of the scientific ideas which he had already written in “Mesmeric Revelation” with his own estimates of his poems and stories:

New York, July 2, ‘44.

My dear Mr. Lowell, — I can feel for the “constitutional indolence” of which you complain — for it is one of my own besetting [page 428:] sins. I am excessively slothful and wonderfully industrious — by fits. There are epochs when any kind of mental exercise is torture, and when nothing yields me pleasure but solitary communion with the “mountains and the woods,” — the “altars” of Byron. I have thus rambled and dreamed away whole months, and awake, at last, to a sort of mania for composition. Then I scribble all day, and read all night, so long as the disease endures. This is also the temperament of P. P. Cooke, of Virginia, the author of “Florence Vane,” “Young Rosalie Lee,” and some other sweet poems — and I should not be surprised if it were your own. Cooke writes and thinks as you — and I have been told that you resemble him personally.

I am not ambitious — unless negatively. I now and then feel stirred up to excel a fool, merely because I hate to let a fool imagine that he may excel me. Beyond this I feel nothing of ambition. I really perceive that vanity about which most men merely prate, — the vanity of the human or temporal life. I live continually in a reverie of the future. I have no faith in human perfectibility. I think that human exertion will have no appreciable effect upon humanity. Man is now only more active — not more happy — nor more wise, than he was 6000 years ago. The result will never vary — and to suppose that it will, is to suppose that the foregone man has lived in vain — that the foregone time is but the rudiment of the future — that the myriads who have perished have not been upon equal footing with ourselves — nor are we with our posterity. I cannot agree to lose sight of man the individual in man the mass. — I have no belief in spirituality. I think the word a mere word. No one has really a conception of spirit. We cannot imagine what is not. We deceive ourselves by the idea of infinitely rarefied matter. Matter escapes the senses by degrees — a stone — a metal — a liquid — the atmosphere — a gas — the luminiferous ether. Beyond this there are other modifications more rare. But to all we attach the notion of a constitution of particles — atomic composition. For this reason only we think spirit different; for spirit, we say, is unparticled, and therefore is not matter. But it is clear that if we proceed sufficiently far in our ideas of rarefaction, we shall arrive at a point where the particles coalesce; for, although the particles be infinite, the infinity of littleness in the spaces between them is an absurdity. — The unparticled matter, permeating and impelling all things, is God. Its activity is the thought of God — which creates. Man, and other thinking beings, are individualizations [page 429:] of the unparticled matter. Man exists as a “person,” by being clothed with matter (the particled matter) which individualizes him. Thus habited, his life is rudimental. What we call “death” is the painful metamorphosis. The stars are the habitations of rudimental beings. But for the necessity of the rudimental life, there would have been no worlds. At death, the worm is the butterfly — still material, but of a matter unrecognized by our organs — recognized occasionally, perhaps, by the sleep-walker directly — without organs — through the mesmeric medium. Thus a sleep-walker may see ghosts. Divested of the rudimental covering, the being inhabits space, — what we suppose to be the immaterial universe, — passing everywhere, and acting all things, by mere volition, cognizant of all secrets but that of the nature of God’s volition — the motion, or activity, of the unparticled matter.

You speak of “an estimate of my life,” — and, from what I have already said, you will see that I have none to give. I have been too deeply conscious of the mutability and evanescence of temporal things to give any continuous effort to anything — to be consistent in anything. My life has been whim — impulse — passion — a longing for solitude — a scorn of all things present, in an earnest desire for the future.

I am profoundly excited by music, and by some poems — those of Tennyson especially — whom, with Keats, Shelley, Coleridge (occasionally), and a few others of like thought and expression, I regard as the sole poets. Music is the perfection of the soul, or idea, of Poetry. The vagueness of exaltation aroused by a sweet air (which should be strictly indefinite and never too strongly suggestive) is precisely what we should aim at in poetry. Affectation, within bounds, is thus no blemish.

I still adhere to Dickens as either author, or dictator, of the review. My reasons would convince you, could I give them to you, but I have left myself no space. I had two long interviews with Mr. D. when here. Nearly everything in the critique, I heard from him, or suggested to him, personally. The poem of Emerson I read to him.

I have been so negligent as not to preserve copies of any of my volumes of poems — nor was either worthy of preservation. The best passages were culled in Hirst’s article.(25) I think my best poems “The Sleeper,” “The Conqueror Worm,” “The Haunted Palace,” “Lenore,” “Dreamland,” and the “Coliseum,” — but all [page 430:] have been hurried and unconsidered. My best tales are “Ligeia,” the “Gold-Bug,” the “Murders in the Rue Morgue,” “The Fall of the House of Usher,” the “Tell-Tale Heart,” the “Black Cat,” “William Wilson,” and “The Descent into the Maelström.” “The Purloined Letter,” forthcoming in the “Gift,” is perhaps the best of my tales of ratiocination. I have lately written for Godey “The Oblong Box” and “Thou art the Man,” — as yet unpublished. With this I mail you the “Gold-Bug,” which is the only one of my tales I have on hand.

Graham has had, for nine months, a review of mine on Longfellow’s “Spanish Student,” which I have “used up,” and in which I have exposed some of the grossest plagiarisms ever perpetrated. I can’t tell why he does not publish it. — I believe G. intends my Life for the September number, which will be made up by the 10th August. Your article should be on hand as soon as convenient.

Believe me your true friend,

E. A. POE.(26)

This letter contains one of Poe’s most striking epigrams: “Man is now only more active — not more happy — nor more wise, than he was 6000 years ago.” Perhaps it is as true today as it was in 1844.

Poe repeated this phrase, with many others, in a letter to Chivers on July 10, 1844, and also urged the latter to join him in the Stylus. “You will find me here — at New York — where I live at present, in strict seclusion, buried with books and ambitious thoughts. . . .” Poe was evidently uncertain about his address, for he asks Chivers to “put a letter to my address [which he does not give] in the P. Office, and we will thus find each other.” Poe also tells him that he has been lecturing on American Poetry.(27)

Poe was working hard on his projected Critical History of American Literature, which never was completed, and he wrote to Lowell on August 18th, telling him of it and sending him “Mesmeric Revelation” asking him to get it reprinted in some paper. “I am living so entirely out of the world, just now,” he continues, “that I can do nothing of the kind myself.”(28)

This seclusion had evidently been constant, for in his letter to Thomas of September 2, 1844, he emphasizes it: [page 431:]

New York, September 8, 1844.

My dear Thomas, — I received yours with sincere pleasure, and nearly as sincere surprise; for while you were wondering that I did not write to you, I was making up my mind that you had forgotten me altogether.

I have left Philadelphia, and am living, at present, about five miles out of New York. For the last seven or eight months I have been playing hermit in earnest, nor have I seen a living soul out of my family — who are well and desire to be kindly remembered. When I say “well,” I only mean (as regards Virginia) as well as usual. Her health remains excessively precarious.

Touching the “Beechen Tree,” I remember it well and pleasantly. I have not yet seen a published copy, but will get one forthwith and notice it as it deserves — and it deserves much of high praise — at the very first opportunity I get. At present I am so much out of the world that I may not be able to do anything immediately.

Thank God! Richard (whom you know) is himself again. Tell Dow so: but he won’t believe it. I am working at a variety of things (all of which you shall behold in the end) — and with an ardor of which I did not believe myself capable.

You said to me hurriedly, when we last met on the wharf in Philadelphia, that you believed Robert Tyler really wished to give me the post in the Custom House. This I also really think; and I am confirmed in the opinion that he could not, at all times, do as he wished in such matters, by seeing —— —— at the head of the “Aurora” — a bullet-headed and malicious villain who has brought more odium upon the Administration than any fellow (of equal littleness) in its ranks, and who has been more indefatigably busy in both open and secret vilification of Robert Tyler than any individual, little or big, in America.

Let me hear from you again very soon, my dear Thomas, and believe me ever

Your friend,


Poe received the critical biography from Lowell, shortly after the receipt of a letter from his friend written on September 27, 1844.(30) [page 432:] Poe’s acknowledgment contains two important paragraphs. The first makes clear that he felt authorized to alter the biography before he gave it to Graham’s, and the second refers to his happiness in his own married life:

New York, October 28, ’44.

My dear Friend, — A host of small troubles growing from the one trouble of poverty, but which I will not trouble you with in detail, have hitherto prevented me from thanking you for the Biography and all the well-intended flatteries which it contains. But, upon the principle of better late than never, let me thank you now, again and again. I sent it to Graham on the day I received it — taking with it only one liberty in the way of modification. This I hope you will pardon. It was merely the substitution of another brief poem for the last you have done me the honor to quote.

I have not seen your marriage announced, but I presume from what you said in your penultimate letter, that I may congratulate you now. Is it so? At all events I can wish you no better wish than that you may derive from your marriage as substantial happiness as I have derived from mine.(31)

Lowell’s critical article on Poe is one of the best appraisals he received during his lifetime. Although it did not appear until February, 1845, in Graham’s, it was written as we have seen, in 1844, before “The Raven” was published. Lowell pronounced Poe “the most discriminating, philosophical, and fearless critic upon imaginative works who has written in America. It may be [he continued], that we should qualify our remark a little and say that he might be, rather than that he always is, for he seems sometimes to mistake his phial of prussic-acid for his inkstand. If we do not always agree with him in his premises, we are, at least, satisfied that his deductions are logical, and that we are reading the thoughts of a man who thinks for himself, and says what he thinks, and knows well what he is talking about. His analytic power would furnish forth bravely some score of ordinary critics. We do not know him personally, but we suspect him for a man who has one or two pet prejudices on which he prides himself. These sometimes allure him out of the strict path of criticism, [page 433:] but, where they do not interfere, we would put almost entire confidence in his judgments. Had Mr. Poe had the control of a magazine of his own, in which to display his critical abilities, he would have been as autocratic, ere this, in America, as Professor Wilson has been in England; and his criticisms, we are sure, would have been far more profound and philosophical than those of the Scotsman. As it is, he has squared out blocks enough to build an enduring pyramid, but has left them lying carelessly and unclaimed in many different quarries.”

In speaking of Poe’s early poems Lowell said with an insight only a poet critic possesses: “They display what we can only express by the contradictory phrase of innate experience.” He dwelt also upon the grace and symmetry of “To Helen.” “There is,” he said, “the smack of ambrosia about it.” He also selected one of the exquisite lyric passages in “Al Aaraaf.” Then he proceeded, “Mr. Poe has that indescribable something which men have agreed to call genius.”(32)

Lowell selected unerringly the two qualities that made Poe a genius — “a faculty of vigorous, yet minute analysis, and a wonderful fecundity of imagination.” These led to a combination of “two faculties which are seldom found united; a power of influencing the mind of the reader by the impalpable shadows of mystery, and a minuteness of detail which does not leave a pin or a button unnoticed.”

The closest rival Edgar Poe had among the critics of that period saw how Poe’s realistic method corrected and held in check the treatment [page 434:] of the romantic material in which he delighted. Lowell paid his tribute also to the form of Poe’s art, selected “The Fall of the House of Usher,” and “The Haunted Palace” for especial praise and one other poem for which Poe, according to his letter of October 28th, substituted “Lenore.”

Poe’s desire for seclusion and the time to write could not be gratified. There was soon urgent need for regular income, and Poe found it with Nathaniel Parker Willis and George Pope Morris, who had revived the New York Mirror, a weekly literary magazine. This became the Weekly Mirror. The high postage rates for magazines caused it to become a daily newspaper, the Evening Mirror, with a weekly supplement, the Weekly Mirror. Poe contributed to both papers, joining the staff either directly or by correspondence in October, 1844. Willis has given clearly the picture of Poe at this time:

“Some four or five years since, when editing a daily paper in this city, Mr. Poe was employed by us, for several months, as critic and sub-editor. This was our first personal acquaintance with him. He resided with his wife and mother, at Fordham, a few miles out of town, but was at his desk in the office, from nine in the morning till the evening paper went to press. With the highest admiration for his genius, and a willingness to let it atone for more than ordinary irregularity, we were led by common report to expect a very capricious attention to his duties, and occasionally a scene of violence and difficulty. Time went on, however, and he was invariably punctual and industrious. With his pale, beautiful, and intellectual face, as a reminder of what genius was in him, it was impossible, of course, not to treat him always with deferential courtesy, and to our occasional request that he would not probe too deep in a criticism, or that he would erase a passage colored too highly with his resentments against society and mankind, he readily and courteously assented, — far more yielding than most men, we thought, on points so excusably sensitive. With a prospect of taking the lead in another periodical, he, at last, voluntarily gave up his employment with us, and, through all this considerable period, we had seen but one presentment of the man, — a quiet, patient, industrious, and most gentlemanly person, commanding the utmost respect and good feeling by his unvarying deportment and ability.

“Residing as he did in the country, we never met Mr. Poe in hours of leisure; but he frequently called on us afterwards at our place of business, and we met him often in the street, — invariably the same sad-mannered, winning and refined gentleman, such as we had always known him. It was by rumor only, up to the day [page 435:] of his death, that we knew of any other development of manner or character.(33)

Poe was not at Fordham, of course, at this time. His letter to Thomas, January 4, 1845, makes clear that he was still out of town at Brennan’s, contrary to the usual statements that he had moved into town in November, 1844:

Jan. 4. 45.

Dear Thomas,

I duly received your two letters and “The Beechen Tree,” for which let me thank you. My reason for not replying instanter was that I was just then making arrangements which, if fully carried out, would have enabled me to do you justice in a manner satisfactory to both of us — but these arrangements finally fell through, after my being kept in suspense for months — and I could find no good opportunity of putting in a word anywhere that would have done you service. You know I do not live in town — very seldom visit it — and, of course, am not in the way of matters and things as I used to be. As for Benjamin’s criticism — although I made all kinds of inquiry about it, I could meet no one who had even heard of it. At the “New-World” Office no paper containing it was even on file. I am disposed to think you were misinformed, and that no such critique appeared, in that paper at least. At all events, if there did, Benjamin, I am assured, did not write it. At the epoch you speak of, he was unconnected with the “New-World.”

In about three weeks, I shall move into the City, and recommence a life of activity under better auspices, I hope, than ever before. Then I may be able to do something.

Virginia & Mrs. Clemm are about as usual and beg to be remembered.

I am truly glad to hear of Dow’s well-doing. If ever man deserved prosperity, he does. Give him my respects — in which one word I mean to include all descriptions of kind feeling.

I remain, Thomas, truly
  Your friend,

POE.(34) [page 436:]

Poe’s statement that he seldom visited the city seems to place his office work on the Mirror after January, 1845. Yet Willis could hardly have imagined Poe’s coming to the office from the country, even if he had confused the two places.(35) In any event, Poe’s distinctive note is seen in the editorial columns. His criticism of the relative returns to authors, publishers, and booksellers in his “Authors’ Pay in America,” and “The Pay for Periodical-Writing”(36) give interesting information on those subjects. According to Poe, the publisher never distributed profits until the printing and binding were paid for, thus playing safe, and the bookseller received from twice to five times as much as the author. In view of the frequent discussions as to what is the matter with the publishing business today, Poe might be called in as an expert. While publishers no longer require writers to wait for royalties until the initial cost has been repaid, booksellers still take forty percent of the sales’ price as compared with the authors’ ten or fifteen. Perhaps Poe was not so unpractical as he seemed, but there is no evidence that his protest was effective.

Poe continued this theme in January and February, 1845, hammering away at the lack of international copyright. Those who minimize his interest in American affairs have evidently not read his protest that “irreparable ill is wrought by the almost exclusive dissemination among us of foreign, that is to say of monarchical or aristocratical sentiment, in foreign books.”(37) Poe also stated that “Any American for eight dollars, may receive any four of the British periodicals for a year.” This was an early example of the “club rate,” and had naturally a discouraging effect upon native periodicals.


Page of Marginalia, Revised by Poe (apge 492) [thumbnail] Page of Marginalia, Revised by Poe (page 493) [thumbnail]

[Illustrations on page 437]
Poe’s revision of pages in the Democratic Review

In November, 1844, Poe published the first installment of his “Marginalia” in the Democratic Review. These are short or long paragraphs of the familiar or expository essay type, usually culled from his reading. Frequently they are repetitions of earlier reviews. Poe continued to publish these “Marginalia” in the Democratic Review, in Godey’s, Graham’s and finally in the Southern Literary Messenger in 1849. From their nature they defy any individual critical appraisement, but Poe treated them quite seriously. There have recently come [page 438:] to light,(38) a number of the pages from the first chapters, which were evidently being prepared for a new printing, or perhaps even for book publication. How well Poe kept up with recent astronomical science, is illustrated by his adding to the list of the planets, in an article on the measurement of time, the name of “Astraea,” the minor planet, discovered December 8, 1845. (39)

In the first installment Poe anticipated Eureka in his definition of a plot. In another passage he suggested that “The orange ray of the spectrum and the buzz of the gnat (which never rises above the second A) affect me with nearly similar sensations.” This is one more illustration of his belief in the identification of the effects of the ‘senses. A long passage concerning the limitations of our eyesight is still worth reading, wherever he obtained the information.

It was in the Evening Mirror that “The Raven” appeared, in the issue of January 29, 1845. It was prefaced by a note by Willis: “We are permitted to copy (in advance of publication) from the 2d No. of the American Review, the following remarkable poem by Edgar Poe. In our opinion, it is the most effective single example of ‘fugitive poetry’ ever published in this country, and unsurpassed in English poetry for subtle conception, masterly ingenuity of versification, and consistent sustaining of imaginative lift and ‘pokerishness.’ ”

Poe had sold the poem to the Review, where it appeared as “The Raven. By — Quarles.”,(40) with an introduction apparently by the editor of the Review, but bearing marks of Poe’s metrical theories.

There has been a great deal of discussion concerning the priority of the publication dates of the Mirror and the Review. Willis’s words seem clear enough, and he did not speak of an “advance copy” as has been suggested, but “in advance of publication.” Poe’s relation with [page 439:] Willis and the Mirror would have suggested his offering the poem in manuscript to his own paper. He evidently did not see the Mirror proof, for there were errors like the repetition of “he” in the fifth line of the tenth stanza. This error was carried over to the Weekly Mirror of February 8th, but it does not appear in the Review. On the other side of the argument it is true that magazines were published in advance of their dates, and the Review may have been out before January 29th. Inasmuch as the Weekly Mirror of February 8th solemnly repeats the statement that it is publishing the poem “in advance of publication,” too much stress need not be laid on Willis’s first notice. Evidently when matter was reprinted for the weekly edition it was simply copied verbatim. In any event, the honor of first accepting the poem belongs to George H. Colton, the editor of the American Review.

“The Raven” made an impression probably not surpassed by that of any single piece of American poetry. It was widely copied, parodied,(41) and one humorist even took over a page of the Mirror to suggest five alternatives as to the relation of Lenore to the poet.(42)

It seems almost certain that “The Raven” was a growth, that the first form began to shape itself before Poe left Philadelphia. Several of the stories about the earlier reading of the poem are undoubtedly apocryphal, but since none of them make any valid contribution to its interpretation or bear any credible testimony concerning vital changes, they are really of little consequence.

With our knowledge of Poe’s methods in writing his other poems, the best argument for the gradual inception of “The Raven” lies in the few changes made by Poe in the many opportunities he had for revision, after publication. They are limited generally to slight verbal alterations. Three lines are materially altered — and these are improved;’ — but there is no such radical progress as in “To Helen” or “Israfel.”(43)

The arch enemy of plagiarism met during his lifetime many claimants for the honor of having provided him with ideas, words, metrical form, and even the raven himself. And since Poe’s death, there have [page 440:] been many more such attributions. These may usually be disregarded. There is no doubt, however, that the bird was suggested by the raven in Dickens’ Barnaby Rudge, especially since Poe called attention to the possible symbolic association between Barnaby and “Grip,” of which Dickens had not made full use. The similarity of the verses in Mrs. Browning’s “Lady Geraldine’s Courtship,”

“With a murmurous stir uncertain in the air the purple curtain”

and Poe’s

“And the silken, sad, uncertain rustling of each purple curtain,”

also the less striking resemblance of her

“Ever evermore the while in a slow silence she kept smiling”

and Poe’s

“Then this ebony bird beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,”

have often been pointed out.

But as Stevenson remarked when he acknowledged his own indebtedness to Poe in the preface to Treasure Island, no one can have a corner in talking birds. And the theme of Mrs. Browning’s rather turgid poem is quite different from that of “The Raven.”

More important is the spiritual ancestry of “The Raven” and here Poe is clearly his own ancestor. Those who have dismissed his account of the construction of the poem in “The Philosophy of Composition,” as an artificial deception, a hoax upon critics and public alike, are only superficially correct.(44) Poe did not write the poem in a series of logical and mathematical operations, of course. But there is no one of the various ideas he describes in his essay which might not have come to him. What his critics have not seen is that he did not have them all at once, in the preparation of one poem, or in the logical order in which he retails them in “The Philosophy of Composition.”

With most of them he had long been familiar. Poe was an artist [page 441:] in the short story, and his method of approach in this field is not at all unlike that which he describes in his account of the genesis of “The Raven.” At the beginning, he looks within himself for an effect. He exceeds his usual number of lines because he has chosen an effect which demands a climax of a nature which takes time to establish. He desires critical as well as popular appreciation. So he chooses an effect which is universal in its appeal. He thinks deliberately of the most universal of all effects, and he decides it is Beauty, beauty of the soul. This choice to Poe is obvious. He had been talking and writing about it all his thinking life, and his first poem “Tamerlane” is based upon the tragedy which springs from the sorrow which comes to a lover on the death of the woman he loves.

His choice of a raven, Poe said, was due to his need for a “non-reasoning creature, capable of speech.” Surely the success of “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” provided him with this suggestion. The choice of a refrain is also quite natural; he had already used it in “Lenore,” and he knew its history in English poetry. “Nevermore,” or its variant, “No more” was in the “Sonnet to Zante” and “The Haunted Palace,” and the sonorous quality of the long “o” was an old story with him. Poe’s use of the refrain “Nevermore,” however it came to him, is masterly. His insight into the perverse nature of man suggested to him the mounting torture of the lover as he puts the questions. First, shall he find peace in forgetfulness; second, is there peace in the future, and at last he cries

“Tell this soul with sorrow laden, if within the distant Aidenn,

It shall clasp a sainted maiden whom the angels name Lenore.

Clasp a rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore.”

He knows the answer beforehand, yet he cannot keep from asking the question. It is one of the most profound impulses of human nature.

Poe spoke of the stanza in which this final appeal to the raven is framed as the climax of the poem, and he said he wrote it first. This again is quite possible, and his remark that even if he had been able to construct more vigorous stanzas preceding this one, he would have purposely enfeebled them, may not have been an afterthought.

It will be noticed that Poe did not include the two final stanzas in this category. There was no enfeebling here. Within them, he said, he [page 442:] established the Raven as “The emblem of Mournful and Never-ending Remembrance.” But Poe in his essay, did not make clear a quality in these two stanzas which marks the poem with greatness. The seventeenth stanza, no longer an appeal, but a defiance, is the climax of action:

“ ‘Be that word our sign of parting, bird or fiend!’ I shrieked, upstarting —

‘Get thee back into the tempest and the Night’s Plutonian shore!

Leave no black plume as a token of that lie thy soul hath spoken!

Leave my loneliness unbroken! — quit the bust above my door!

Take thy beak from out my heart, and take thy form from off my door!’

Quoth the Raven ‘Nevermore.’ ”

A lesser artist would have ended the poem here. But Poe knew that action is transitory, so he wrote another, in which he lifted the poem into a climax of feeling:

“And the Raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting

On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door;

And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon’s that is dreaming,

And the lamp-light o’er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor;

And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor

Shall be lifted — nevermore!”

And there he could safely leave it, for the rest of time.

Reams of print have dealt with the question of whether the sorrow of the poet was described objectively by Poe or whether he was dramatizing a real love. This controversy is really unnecessary. Poe’s dread of the loss of Virginia, born of her recurring danger and nurtured by his devotion, had become a spiritual offspring, as concrete to him as the child he was denied could ever have been. In one sense, therefore, the poet was describing an emotional creation which had become objective to him, and the vivid reality of the poem is a consequence. [page 443:] But the primary inspiration was the abstract love of a beautiful woman — whether she was Helen, Eleonora, Lenore, or any other variant of the same name. Whether she was actually dead, or whether he feared her inevitable doom, is a detail.

There were critics in those days, of course, who found fault with the lamplight and the footfalls — Poe’s own explanation to Eveleth is best:

For the purposes of poetry, it is quite sufficient that a thing is possible — or at least that the improbability be not offensively glaring. It is true that in several ways, as you say, the lamp might have thrown the bird’s shadow on the floor. My conception was that of the bracket candelabrum affixed against the wall, high up above the door and bust — as is often seen in the English palaces, and even in some of the better houses in New-York.

Your objection to the tinkling of the footfalls is far more pointed, and in the course of composition occurred so forcibly to myself that I hesitated to use the term. I finally used it, because I saw that it had, in its first conception, been suggested to my mind by the sense of the supernatural with which it was, at the moment, filled. No human or physical foot could tinkle on a soft carpet — therefore the tinkling of feet would vividly convey the supernatural impression. This was the idea, and it is good within itself; but if it fails (as I fear it does) to make itself immediately and generally felt according to my intention — then in so much is it badly conveyed, or expressed.(45)

The weakest portion of “The Philosophy of Composition” is its discussion of metre. But that must be postponed until it is taken up in a later discussion of “The Rationale of Verse.”

Prompted perhaps by his “Imp of the Perverse,” Poe resumed in January, 1845 his relations with Griswold, who was preparing his Prose Writers of America. According to a letter printed in Griswold’s “Preface,” Poe made the first approaches on January 10, 1845, offering something for the Prose Writers of America, yet expressing doubt concerning Griswold’s feelings for him.(46) As this letter is not extant in Poe’s hand, it may never have been written — at least in this form. Griswold wrote Poe on January 14th. I print in parallel columns the correct text from the autograph Ms. in the Boston Public Library and the text as printed by Griswold in his “Preface”: [page 444:]


New York, Jan 14, 1845.

Although I have some cause of personal quarrel with you, which you will easily enough remember, I do not under any circumstances permit, as you have repeatedly charged, my private griefs to influence my judgment as a critic, or its expression.

I retain, therefore, the early formed and well founded favorable opinions of your works, wh[ich] in other days I have expressed to you, and in a new volume which I have in preparation, I shall endeavor to do you every perfect justice.

Hence this note. Carey & Hart are publishing for me “The Prose Authors of America, and their Works,” and I wish, of course, to include you in the list — not a very large one, — from whom I make selections. And I shall feel myself yr debtor if, there being any writings of yours with wh[ich] I may be unacquainted, you will advise of their titles, and where they may be purchased; and if, in the brief biography of you in my Poets &c of America, there are any inaccuracies, you will point them out to me. If the trouble were not too great, indeed, I should like to receive a list of all your works, with the dates of their production.

Yours &c.


Edgar A. Poe, Esq. (47) [page 445:]


Philadelphia, January 11, 1845

Sir: — Although I have some cause of quarrel with you, as you seem to remember, I do not under any circumstances permit, as you have repeatedly charged, my personal relations to influence the expression of my opinions as a critic. By the inclosed proof-sheets of what I had written before the reception of your note, you will see that I think quite as well of your works as I did when I had the pleasure of being Your friend,


It will be noticed that there is nothing in the real letter to show that it is in response to a letter by Poe. Griswold introduces the subject of the anthology, which he would certainly not have done in a reply to an offer of a contribution. But since he could falsify Poe’s letters, there is no reason to doubt his ability to invent one.

Poe replied:


Letter from Poe to Griswold [thumbnail]

[Illustration on page 447]
Poe’s letter to Griswold, February 24, 1845. Another forgery.


New-York: Jan. 16. 45.

Dear Griswold — if you will permit me to call you so — Your letter occasioned me first pain and then pleasure: — pain because it gave me to see that I had lost, through my own folly, an honorable friend: — pleasure, because I saw in it a hope of reconciliation.

I have been aware, for several weeks, that my reasons for speaking of your book as I did (of yourself I have always spoken kindly) were based in the malignant slanders of a mischief-maker by profession. Still, as I supposed you irreparably offended, I could make no advances when we met at the Tribune office, although I longed to do so. I know of nothing which would give me more sincere pleasure than your accepting these apologies, and meeting me as a friend.

If you can do this and forget the past, let me know where I shall call on you — or come and see me at the Mirror Office, any morning about 10. We can then talk over the other matters, which, to me at least, are far less important than your good will.

Very truly yours,


R. W. Griswold.(49)

Poe would never have written a letter like this in reply to a curt note such as Griswold prints in his “Preface.” Again, there is nothing in Poe’s reply of January 16th which implies any previous note by him. Griswold wished to represent Poe as making the advances toward a reconciliation. As in the case of the forgery of the Burton letter,(50) Griswold knew that the most dexterous method was to print Poe’s [page 446:] letter of January 16th correctly, but to change its whole tenor by implication through his forgery of a letter by himself to which it was ostensibly a reply.

Shortly afterwards they met, superficially at least, on friendly terms, and Poe sent him material for selection. This letter is another specimen of Griswold’s manipulation:

New-York. Feb. 24. 1845.

My Dear Griswold,

Soon after seeing you I sent you, through Zeiber, all my poems worth re-publishing, & I presume they reached you. With this I send you another package, also through Zeiber, by Burgess & Stringer. It contains in the way of Essay “Mesmeric Revelation” which I would like to go in, even if something else is omitted. I send also a portion of the “Marginalia,” in which I have marked some of the most pointed passages. In the matter of criticism I cannot put my hand upon anything that suits me — but I believe that in “funny” criticism (if you wish any such) Flaccus will convey a tolerable idea of my style, and of my serious manner Barnaby Rudge is a good specimen. In “Graham” you will find these. In the tale line I send you “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” and “The Man that was Used Up” — far more than enough, you will say — but you can select to suit yourself. I would prefer having in the “Gold Bug” to the “Murders in the R. M,” but have not a copy just now. If there is [page 448:] no immediate hurry for it, however, I will get one & send it you corrected. Please write & let me know if you get this. — I have taken a 3d interest in the “Broadway Journal” & will be glad if you could send me anything, at any time, in the way of “Literary Intelligence.”

Truly yours.


February 24, 1845

My dear Griswold: — A thousand thanks for your kindness in the matter of those books, which I could not afford to buy, and had so much need of. Soon after seeing you, I sent you, through Zieber, all my poems worth republishing, and I presume they reached you. I was sincerely delighted with what you said of them, and if you will write your criticism in the form of a preface, I shall be greatly obliged to you. I say this not because you praised me: everybody praises me now: but because you so perfectly understand me, or what I have aimed at, in all my poems: I did not think you had so much delicacy of appreciation joined with your strong sense; I can say truly that no man’s approbation gives me so much pleasure. I send you with this another package, also through Zieber, by Burgess & Stringer. It contains, in the way of essay, “Mesmeric Revelation,” which I would like to have go in, even if you have to omit the “House of Usher.” I send also corrected copies of (in the way of funny criticism, but you don’t [page 446:] like this) “Flaccus,” which conveys a tolerable idea of my style; and of my serious manner “Barnaby Rudge” is a good specimen. In the tale line, “The Murders of the Rue Morgue,” “The Gold Bug,” and the “Man that was Used Up,” — far more than enough, but you can select to suit yourself. I prefer the “G. B.” to the “M. in the R. M.” I have taken a third interest in the “Broadway Journal,” and will be glad if you could send me anything for it. Why not let me anticipate the book publication of your splendid essay on Milton?

Truly yours,

Griswold’s changes not only represent Poe in a fawning attitude to a man he wishes to please, but they portray him as conceited and Griswold as a fine critic.

After all this correspondence Griswold published only “The Fall of the House of Usher,” in the prose anthology. Griswold was preparing a new edition of the Poets and Poetry of America, and Poe’s next letter to him is important not only as providing material for another forgery but also because it proves that Poe permitted him to publish “The Raven” in short lines. Here Griswold omitted much of the letter but added another sentence which apparently convicts Poe out of his own mouth of injustice to the forger. The letter is not dated, but the postmark is “New York April 19,” and the reference to the lecture puts it in 1845: [page 449:]

Dear Griswold,

I return the proof, with many thanks for your attentions. The poems look quite as well in the short metre as in the long, and I am quite content as it is. You will perceive, however, that some of the lines have been divided at the wrong place. I have marked them right in the proof; but lest there should be any misapprehension, I copy them as they should be:

Is it possible to make the alteration?

Stanza 11.

Till the dirges of his Hope the Melancholy burden bore

Stanza 12.

Straight I wheel’d a cushion’d seat in

Front of bird and bust and door;

Stanza 12 — again

What this grim, ungainly, ghastly,

Gaunt and ominous bird of yore

Stanza 13.

To the fowl whose fiery eyes now

Burn’d into my bosom’s core;

Near the beginning of the poem you have “nodded” spelt “nooded.” In the “Sleeper” the line

Forever with uncloséd eye

should read [page 450:]

Forever with unopen’d eye.

Very sincerely Yours,

PS) I presume you understand that in the repetion of my Lecture on the Poets (in N. Y.) I left out all that was offensive to yourself? (54)


Dear Griswold: — I return the proofs with many thanks for your attentions. The poems look quite as well in the short metres as in the long ones, and I am quite content as it is. In “The Sleeper” you have “Forever with unclosed eye” for “Forever with unopen’d.” Is it possible to make the correction? I presume you understand that in the repetition of my Lecture on the Poets, (in N. Y.) I left out all that was offensive to yourself. I am ashamed of myself that I ever said anything of you that was so unfriendly or so unjust; but what I did say I am confident has been misrepresented to you. See my notice of C. F. Hoffman’s (?) sketch of you.

Very sincerely yours,



One can smile at the vanity of a man who could thus steal some praise from the most acute critic of his day. But his alteration of the manly and self-respecting attempt of Poe to meet Griswold’s advances, into fawning, sycophantic overtures to a critic whose good word was valuable, is unforgiveable.


[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 407:]

(1)  The Original Autograph Ms. letter has been mutilated for the signature. It is now in the Enoch Pratt Library, Baltimore. I have inserted probable words in brackets.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 409:]

(2)  The original autograph letters are in the Dreer Collection, Historical Society of Pennsylvania.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 410:]

(3)  The Duane copy of the Messenger is now in the collection of Mr. Henry Bradley Martin. There are some notes in Poe’s hand, but none which identify his own work.

(4)  Letter II, New York, May 21, 1844, Doings of Gotham, p. 33.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 411:]

(5)  Copies of this journal are rare. Woodberry published the Letter of June 18th (II, 81-87) from the manuscript in the Ridgeway Library, Philadelphia, without, however, identifying the paper. The Letter of June 4th was published in the New York Times, January 14, 1912, as from the Columbia Spy. It remained for Mr. Jacob E. Spannuth to discover the file containing the seven letters, which he published under the title Doings of Gotham, with Introduction and Comments by Thomas O. Mabbott (Pottsville, 1929).

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 412:]

(6)  Letter I, May 14, 1844, Doings of Gotham, pp. 25-26.

(7)  Letter III, May 27, 1844, Doings of Gotham, pp. 40-41.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 413:]

(8)  Letter IV, June 4, 1844, Doings of Gotham, p. 49.

(9)  Letter VI, June 18, 1844, Original Autograph Ms., Library Company of Philadelphia, Doings of Gotham, p. 68.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 414:]

(10)  For other unsigned articles in the Columbia Spy, which may be by Poe, see Doings of Gotham.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 415:]

(11)  Gill talked to Mrs. Brennan and gave a first-hand account in his Life, pp. 148-150. General James R. O’Beirne, Mrs. Brennan’s son-in-law, added some facts in an interview, “Poe and ‘The Raven,’” in the N. Y. Mail and Express, April 21, 1900. Through the good offices of Dr. T. O. Mabbott, I have checked the personal accounts with Mr. H. Mott Brennan, whose grandfather was the Thomas Brennan whom Poe took with him to Mount Tom.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 416:]

(12)  In Graham’s these six lines are repeated three times, but in later versions they occur only at the beginning and ending of the poem.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 417:]

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

(14)  Ms. Letter, Sales Catalogue of Anderson’s Galleries, January 25, 26, 1917.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 418:]

(15)  Original Autograph Ms., Huntington Library.

(16)  One of these, at least, that of Mdlle. Victorine Lafourcade, had been reported in The Philadelphia Casket for September, 1827 (Campbell’s Mind of Poe, p. 167). Another, possibly imaginary, of a “Mr. Stapleton,” has parallels in a tale “Buried Alive” in Blackwoods, October, 1821 (King, Texas Studies in English, X, 128). As usual, the sources were only incidental to Poe’s story.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 419:]

(17)  See pp. 391-392.

(18)  Poe added a long passage in the revision of this story for the Tales of 1845. In order to avoid confusion, I have dealt with the story in its final form, including quotations which were not printed in 1844.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 420:]

(19)  Poe probably referred to Bush’s Anastasis; or, The Doctrine of the Resurrection of the Body, Rationally and Scripturally Considered (1844).

(20)  Copy of Original Autograph Ms. Through the courtesy of Mrs. Thomas F. Madigan. The journals interested took the matter seriously. See Poe’s comment on The Regenerator, Broadway Journal, II (September 20, 1845), 174.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 422:]

(21)  “The Purloined Letter” was published in Chambers’ Edinburgh Journal in November, 1844 (II, 348 f.) with extensive revision, principally in cutting down conversation. As Poe printed the longer version from The Gift in his Tales of 1845 he evidently preferred it, if indeed he had anything to do with the version as published in Chambers’.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 426:]

(22)  Woodberry prints a letter, dated “June, 1844” (II, 72-79), crediting it to the Griswold Collection. It is not signed and is not at the Boston Public Library. Since Anthon makes no mention in his reply of the delay of five months, I question the date Woodberry assigns to Poe’s Letter, especially since Poe states that he has written “sixty-six tales.” The manuscript draft, now in the Huntington Library, is not dated or signed, and bears no writing on the verso of any of the sheets. I have printed from the Huntington Ms., but have not attempted to print the many crossed-out words, or repetitions, except in one case, “in 15 months,” where it is not clear which phrase Poe intended to omit.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 427:]

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

(24)  Woodberry, II, 87-89, attributing it to the Griswold Ms., among which it is not at present.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 429:]

(25)  In the Philadelphia Saturday Museum, March 4, 1843.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 430:]

(26)  Autograph Ms. Letter, Harvard College Library.

(27)  Original Autograph Ms., Huntington Library.

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

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 431:]

(29)  Woodberry, Century Magazine, XLVIII (October, 1894), 863. “The Beechen Tree” was a poem by Thomas. The editor of the Aurora at this time was probably Thomas Dunn English.

(30)  Original Autograph Ms. Anthony Collection, New York Public Library.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 432:]

(31)  Original Autograph Ms., Harvard College Library. The remainder of the letter repeats the long account of his projected coöperative scheme for a magazine.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 433:]

(32)  This striking phrase is curiously like Poe’s own expression in “The Literary Life of Thingum-Bob, Esq.” “After all what is it? — this indescribable something which men will persist in terming genius?” This story was published in The Southern Literary Messenger in December, 1844, while Lowell’s article appeared in Graham’s in February, 1845. But Poe had Lowell’s biography by October 1, 1844. Did he appropriate the phrase from a manuscript entrusted to him? The Messenger was probably in print by November 15th, and Poe’s stories often lay unpublished for some time in editorial hands. Moreover, his letter to Anthon, if not written in June, 1844, was certainly sent before he received Lowell’s article, and Poe speaks of having written “sixty-six stories,” which would have included “The Literary Life of Thingum-Bob.” The phrase may have been in both men’s minds from an earlier source. Lowell, in his essay on Dryden published in 1868, said, “Cowper, in a letter to Mr. Unwin (5th January, 1782) expressed what I think is the common feeling about Dryden, that with all his defects, he had that indefinable something we call Genius.” I thought the puzzle was solved. But the letter of Cowper, to which Lowell referred, does not contain the phrase! Nor does any other letter of Cowper to Mr. Unwin published in Hayley’s edition (1806), so far as I can see.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 435:]

(33)  N. P. Willis, “The Death of Edgar A. Poe.” Home Journal, October 20, 1849.

(34)  Original Autograph Ms., Huntington Library.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 436:]

(35)  Poe’s letter to Griswold, written January 16, 1845, and one of the authentic notes, invites Griswold to call at the Mirror office.

(36)  Weekly Mirror, I (October 12, 1844), 15, and (October 19), 28. These were reprints of similar articles in the Evening Mirror.

(37)  These articles are unsigned, but the passage quoted, from the Weekly Mirror of February 8, 1845, is in Ms. in the Historical Society of Pennsylvania.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 438:]

(38)  In the papers of the late President Gilman of Johns Hopkins. Dr. J. C. French has kindly furnished me with photostats of the corrected pages. In the first two installments, there are more than twenty corrections. See his article “Poe’s Revision of Marginalia” in Ex Libris, Quarterly Leaflet issued by Friends of the Library, IX (January, 1940), 2-3, containing a facsimile of page 493 of the Democratic Review. [[Note: Quinn also reproduces two of the pages, showing Poe’s manuscript changes.]]

(39)  The “Marginalia” should be read in the Virginia Edition, Vol. XVI. Harrison omitted, however, the installments from the Democratic Review for July, 1846, and from Graham’s for March, 1848. Griswold did not follow the arrangement of the text in the magazines, except for the introductory paragraphs. There is a good deal omitted in his third volume of the Works (1850), and his version was reprinted by Stoddard and others. [[Note: for the full text of the original installments, see the texts listed here.]]

(40)  The American Review. A Whig Journal of Politics, Literature and Science, I (February, 1845), 143-145.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 439:]

(41)  See the Weekly Mirror, II, 62 and 132.

(42)  Weekly Mirror, II (April 26, 1845), 42-43.

(43)  The eleventh stanza was changed by Poe in the Broadway Journal to read as we now have it. In the American Review it had read in part:

“Caught from some unhappy master whom unmerciful Disaster

Followed fast and followed faster — so, when Hope he would adjure,

Stern Despair returned, instead of the sweet Hope he dared adjure —

That sad answer — ‘Nevermore’.”

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 440:]

(44)  Notwithstanding Mrs. Weiss’s statement, quoted by Gill, Life, p. 150.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 443:]

(45)  Poe to Eveleth, December 15, 1846. Original Autograph Ms., Berg Collection, New York Public Library.

(46)  This letter is printed in Virginia Edition, XVII, 196, from the “Griswold Memoir.”

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 444:]

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

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 444, continuing to the bottom of page 445:]

(48)  Griswold’s “Preface” to his “Memoir.” The Literati, 1850, p. vi. I have [page 445:] italicized the words not in Griswold’s real letter. It will be noticed that Griswold also changed the place and date of writing this letter, to make his account in the “Preface” of the meeting more probable.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 445:]

(49)  Original Autograph Ms., Griswold Collection, Boston Public Library. “Confidential” seems to be erased, but it is clearly in Poe’s hand.

(50)  See pp. 279-281.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 448:]

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

(52)  Griswold’s “Preface,” The Literati, 1850, p. vi. I have italicized some of the important additions of Griswold. Notice that he has omitted much that Poe wrote, or has modified it.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 449:]

(53)  Griswold’s “Preface” to Memoir. The Literati, 1850, p. vi. Killis Campbell called attention in his Mind of Poe, page 91, to the fact that Poe’s “Notice” of Hoffman’s sketch did not appear until May 17th!

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 450:]

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





[S:1 - EAP:ACB, 1941] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Articles - E. A. P.: A Critical Biography (A. H. Quinn) (Chapter 14)