Text: Dwight R. Thomas and David K. Jackson, “Chapter 05,” The Poe Log (1987), pp. 247-313


[page 247:]


Philadelphia: Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque

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[Illustration on page 246]
William E. Burton


The Poe family settles in Philadelphia early in 1838. On 30 July Harper & Brothers publish The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym in New York; in October Poe’s novel is issued in England by the London office of Wiley and Putnam. Critics in both countries praise it for verisimilitude, but few regard it as authentic. In the autumn his tale “Ligeia” and other contributions appear in the American Museum, a Baltimore monthly begun by his friends Nathan C. Brooks and Joseph Evans Snodgrass. Still beset by poverty at the year’s end, Poe agrees to assist Thomas Wyatt in preparing The Conchologist’s First Book and A Synopsis of Natural History, two compilations published in April 1839. In the next month he solicits employment from William E. Burton, the popular English actor who owns and edits Burton’s Gentleman’s Magazine. Burton hires him as assistant editor on 11 May, at a salary of $10 a week. Poe performs most of the tiresome chores connected with the monthly’s publication; Burton refuses to let him establish the tone of its book reviews. In September “The Fall of the House of Usher” appears in Burton’s; the October number contains “William Wilson,” reprinted from the Gift for 1840. These two stories and twenty-three others are collected in Poe’s Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque, issued by Lea & Blanchard around 4 December 1839. Although the book receives favorable reviews, few copies are sold. “The Journal of Julius Rodman,” Poe’s unsigned tale of Western exploration, is serialized in Burton’s during the first six months of 1840; it proves a more successful hoax than Pym, being cited in an official report on the Oregon Territory prepared for the United States Senate. By May 1840 Burton is increasingly preoccupied with his National Theatre, then under construction; on 21 May he advertises his Gentleman’s Magazine for sale. When Poe learns of the advertisement, he concludes that he will soon lose his position; he then prepares to announce his own journal, the Penn Magazine. Burton, learning of Poe’s intention, sends him an angry letter of dismissal on 30 May. By 3 June Poe is distributing copies of his Penn prospectus to the Philadelphia newspapers, which comment favorably on the project. During the summer and autumn he enlists contributors and subscribers for the Penn, but fails to find adequate financial backing. Early in December he is bedridden by illness and consequently forced to postpone the first number until 1 March 1841.



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~~ 1838 ~~

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[page 248:]

[1838] EARLY 1838. PHILADELPHIA. Poe, his wife Virginia, and his mother-in-law Mrs. Clemm leave New York and move to Philadelphia, where they take up residence in a boardinghouse operated by Mrs. C. Jones at 202 Mulberry (or Arch) Street (Thomas [1978], pp. 825-828).

[1838] EARLY 1838? Poe is intimate with the English-born writer James Pedder, who lives on Twelfth Street above Mulberry. Pedder’s daughters Anna and Bessie frequently aid the Poe family, who are “literally suffering for want of food” and forced to live “on bread and molasses for weeks together” (Pedder’s 1852 reminiscence quoted in Widener, 2:56).

[1838] SUMMER. BALTIMORE OR PHILADELPHIA. Poe sees Nathan C. Brooks, who solicits his contributions to the forthcoming American Museum. He unsuccessfully attempts to borrow money from his second cousin Neilson Poe, editor of the Baltimore Chronicle (Poe to Brooks, 4 September).

[1838] 19 JULY. PHILADELPHIA. Poe writes James Kirke Paulding, who has been appointed the new Secretary of the Navy. He corrects a mistaken view of his character intimated in a previous letter from Paulding:

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

Could I obtain the most unimportant Clerkship in your gift — any thing, by sea or land — to relieve me from the miserable life of literary drudgery to which I now, with a breaking heart, submit, and for which neither my temper nor my abilities have fitted me, I would never again repine at any dispensation of God. I feel that I could then, (having something beyond mere literature as a profession) quickly elevate myself to the station in society which is my due (PP-G; Ostrom [1974], pp. 517-18).

[1838] 30 JULY. NEW YORK. Harper & Brothers publish a work with this title:


The “Preface” is signed by “A. G. PYM,” who acknowledges the assistance of “Mr. Poe, lately editor of the Southern Literary Messenger,” in preparing this authentic narrative. A “Note” at the end of the text informs the reader of “the late sudden and distressing death of Mr. Pym,” which has already been widely reported by the press. “It is feared that the few remaining chapters which were to have completed his narrative . . . have been irrecoverably lost through the accident by which he perished himself.”

[1838] 30 JULY. Two daily newspapers notice Pym’s publication. The Morning Courier reproduces the lengthy title: “There is certainly an array of horrors set forth in the title; but the volume is highly interesting in the story, well written, and to the lovers of marvellous fiction will be quite a treasure.” The New York Gazette observes: “The Messrs. Harper have published a very extraordinary volume purporting to be a narrative of ‘Arthur Gordon Pym,’ who it is said [is] lately deceased in some melancholy way, and his adventures as well as his death are referred to as of perfect notoriety . . . . It is hinted that Mr. Poe, the accomplished Virginia writer, has something to do about the book. We should be more inclined to think that Mr. Lock[e], the very ingenious author of the Moon Marvel[,] was the author” (Pollin [1978b], pp. 8-9).

[1838] 31 JULY. The New York American carries an advertisement for Israel Post, Bookseller, 89 Bowery, which lists Pym as published on 30 July and now available. The Daily Whig gives the novel’s title, “from which the reader will be able to judge somewhat of the nature of the work” (Pollin [1978b], pp. 9-10; [1981], p. 13).

[1838] AUGUST. The Knickerhocker Magazine reviews Pym: “There are a great many tough stories in this book, told in a loose and slip-shod style, seldom chequered by any of the more common graces of composition, beyond a Robinson Crusoe-ish sort of simplicity of narration. The work is one of much interest, with all its defects, not the least of which is, that it is too liberally stuffed with ‘horrid circumstance of blood and battle.’ ” [page 250:]

[1838] 1 AUGUST. Horace Greeley’s New-Yorker notices Pym: “This is a work of extraordinary, freezing interest beyond anything we ever read. It is more marvelous than the wildest fiction, yet is presented and supported as sober truth . . . . Mr. Edgar A. Poe is understood to have assisted in preparing the work for the press.” In the New Era Richard Adams Locke, author of the “Moon Hoax” published in 1835, corrects the New York Gazette of 30 July: “Now this very ingenious person [Locke], duly thanking the editor of the Gazette for his double compliment, begs to say that he had no hand whatever in this new hoax [Pym], and verily believes that the merit of it, be it what it may, is entirely due to Mr. Edgar A. Poe” (Pollin [1974], p. 43; [1978b], pp. 9-10).

[1838] 2 AUGUST. The Gazette replies to Locke’s disclaimer: “Of course we were not very serious when we made the ascription, but really, the ‘Man of the Moon’ himself might have been willing to be considered the author. Mr. Gordon Pym’s imagination ought to ‘call and see’ its cousin german at the Era Office, for they are as alike as two lumps of chalk, and we believe the one as faithfully as we do the other” (Pollin [1978b], p. 10).

[1838] 2 AUGUST. PHILADELPHIA. The Pennsylvania Inquirer, the Public Ledger, and the United States Gazette notice Pym, quoting the complete title to give their readers an idea of its contents. A fourth daily paper, the Pennsylvanian, comments:

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

[1838] 3 AUGUST. The Pennsylvania Inquirer mentions Pym again: “We have already noticed this entertaining and exciting narrative at some length, on the faith of paragraphs which have appeared in the columns of our New York contemporaries. The Harpers have favored us with a copy, and the adventures of Pym, though only occupying a small volume, are well calculated to enchain the interest and sympathies of every class of readers.”

Title page of The Narrative of A. G. Pym [thumbnail]

[Illustration on page 251]
Title page of Poe’s novel

[1838] 4 AUGUST. The Saturday Courier reviews Pym: “Here is a book with a title page as long as a table of contents, and as full of ‘incredibles’ as man can desire. The Harpers have given us an affair that throws Munchausen into the shade, and Jack the Giant Killer is a fool to ‘Peters.’ Pym professes to have been close to the South Pole, far beyond the 84th parallel of Southern [page 252:] latitude, and to have undergone all manner of adventures . . . . When we can find a respectable endorser for Pym’s statements, we will think of believing them” (Pollin [1974], p. 42).

[1838] 5 AUGUST. NEW YORK. The Sunday Morning News reproduces the title of Pym, commenting: “We cannot pretend to subscribe to the truth of all the wonders therein related but the lovers of the marvellous will have a fine treat for a summer’s day in its perusal” (Pollin [1975b], p. 33).

[1838] 6 AUGUST. HARTFORD, CONNECTICUT. The Daily Courant announces Pym by reproducing the title (Pollin [1980], p. 21).

[1838] 7 AUGUST. PHILADELPHIA. Waldie’s Select Circulating Library notices Pym, quoting the complete title. “Part or all of this was published in the Southern Literary Messenger, and we are free to say it is a very ingenious affair — between Robinson Crusoe and Sir Edward Seaward. The air of truth is much like old Robinson, and the interest is very deep” (Pollin [1974], pp. 42-43).

[1838] 8 AUGUST. NEW YORK. The Evening Post reviews Pym: “The air of reality in the narrative is assumed with no small skill. It is a fictitious journal of a voyage made in the Southern Ocean, in which Mr. Pym meets with adventures almost as surprising as those of Peter Wilkins, or Sinbad the Sailor” (Pollin [1974], p. 45).

[1838] 10 AUGUST. Mordecai M. Noah’s Evening Star summarizes the events described in Pym: “What are we to think of it?” There is “mystification about the author’s trip” which the Star will not attempt to explain: “Let every man fathom Mr. Pym’s secret for himself, say we. He tells some wonderful things, that’s certain” (Pollin [1978b], p. 10).

[1838] 11 AUGUST. The New-York Mirror reviews Pym: “The author would have shown his ingenuity to more purpose, if he had preserved the vraisemblance of his narrative. As it is, the gross improbabilit[i]es and preternatural adventures through which his hero passes, soon destroy the interest of the reader, and revolt the imagination. We are constantly tempted to exclaim: ‘Ferdinand Mendez Pinto was but a type of thee, thou liar of the first magnitude!’ At the same time we must concede to the author, the merit of a fine mastery over language, and powers of description rarely excelled.”

[1838] 11 AUGUST. PHILADELPHIA. The Saturday Evening Post publishes “Ode XXX. — To Edgar A. Poe” signed “Horace in Philadelphia;” a pseudonym of the Baltimore journalist Lambert A. Wilmer. Apparently alluding to [page 253:] Poe’s current poverty, Wilmer observes that “the poet’s prayer” does not petition “for houses or extended lands” or for “fair financial prospects in futurity.” The poet seeks only fame:

And yet, true genius, (like the sun

With bats and owls,) is little noted;

But when his glorious course is run,

His griefs forgot, his labors done,

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


Dull mediocrity, meanwhile

Along his level turnpike speeds,

And fame and fortune are his meeds;

While merit wants one cheering smile,

How bless’d stupidity succeeds!

The “heavenly gifted mind” should not be discouraged by this injustice. The passage of time, “sternly frowning on the base,” will consign inferior poets to oblivion:

So may it be. — tho’ fortune now

Averts her face, and heedless crowds

To blocks, like senseless Pagans, bow; —

Yet time shall dissipate the clouds,

Dissolve the mist which merit shrouds,

And fix the laurel on thy brow.


There let it grow; and there ’twould be

If justice rul’d and men could see.

But reptiles are allow’d to sport

Their scaly limbs in great Apollo’s court.

Thou once did whip some rascals from the fane

O let thy vengeful arm be felt again.

[1838] 18 AUGUST. NEW YORK. The Albion reviews Pym: “We are disposed to believe that the author is a second Capt. Lemuel Gulliver as regards authenticity, and think that although he does not deal in political and moral satire he has fabricated a volume which will be extensively read and very pleasing” (Pollin [1974], p. 45).

[1838] 22 AUGUST. PHILADELPHIA. Alexander’s Weekly Messenger reproduces Pym’s title, commenting:

Think of that, Master Brook! What say you, reader[,] to that for a title page? We assure you the book, if possible, is more marvellous still. Captain Riley’s narrative was a tame affair, compared with it. “Incredible[”] forsooth! The author should have said impossible. What will our nautical friends say to the feat of running a sloop with a jib, when her mast has been carried away in a gale of [page 254:] wind? What will the government say to the discoveries near the south pole? Will they not recal[l] the southern exploring expedition, which is rendered wholly unnecessary by Pym’s discoveries? What will the Nantucket folks say to the miracle of a vessel being fitted out from that port, which had never been heard of there, by a mercantile house that never had an existence any where?

To be serious, this is a very clever extravaganza, after the manner of De Foe, understood to be written by Mr. Poe, of Virginia. It indicates great talent and vivacity, and will be perused with amusement by every class of readers.

[1838] SEPTEMBER. William E. Burton castigates Pym in his Gentleman’s Magazine:

A more impudent attempt at humbugging the public has never been exercised; the voyages of Gulliver were politically satirical, and the adventures of Munchausen, the acknowledged caricature of a celebrated traveller. Sindbad the sailor, Peter Wilkins, and Moore’s Utopia, are confessedly works of imagination; but Arthur Gordon Pym puts forth a series of travels outraging possibility, and coolly requires his insulted readers to believe his ipse dixit, although he confesses that the early portions of his precious effusion were published in the Southern Literary Messenger as a story written by the editor, Mr. Poe, because he believed that the public at large would pronounce his adventures to be “an impudent fiction.” Mr. Poe, if not the author of Pym’s book, is at least responsible for its publication, for it is stated in the preface that Mr. Poe assured the author that the shrewdness and common sense of the public would give it a chance of being received as truth. We regret to find Mr. Poe’s name in connexion with such a mass of ignorance and effrontery.

[1838] SEPTEMBER. NEW YORK. William W. Snowden’s Ladies’ Companion reviews Pym: “There seems to be some diversity of opinion as to the real authorship of this work. It should be a matter of perfect indifference to the public, who the author is; the book has been written and is published, and that, certainly, is knowledge enough. It shows but poor taste that the writer of a book must be known before it can be appreciated. Pym’s narrative is peculiarly amusing, although it borders on the marvellous” (Pollin [1975b], pp. 33-34).

[1838] SEPTEMBER? NEW YORK, BOSTON, PHILADELPHIA. The Family Magazine praises Pym: “Commend us to Arthur Gordon Pym! He is a genius and his adventures rare and wonderful. If the reader would like to take a voyage of discovery, or go on an exploring expedition to the south pole he has only to take up Arthur Gordon Pym’s narrative and if he is not led off to the pole scientifically, he will at least find himself, when he gets there, in a situation where science is no longer useful or necessary, and ready and willing to admit that Arthur Gordon Pym’s adventures have been infinitely more astonishing than any before recorded” (Pollin [1974], p. 46). [page 255:]

[1838] CA. SEPTEMBER. LONDON. The English office of the New York firm Wiley and Putnam decides to issue Pym. George P. Putnam recalls: “The late Mr. D. Appleton was sitting in our office in Paternoster Row. ‘Here is an American contribution to geographical science,’ I said to him. ‘This man has reached a higher latitude than any European navigator. Let us reprint this for the benefit of Mr. Bull.’ He assented, and took half share in the venture. The grave particularity of the title and of the narrative misled many of the critics as well as ourselves, and whole columns of these new ‘discoveries,’ including the hieroglyphics (!) found on the rocks, were copied by many of the English country papers as sober historical truth” (Putnam, p. 471).

[1838] 4 SEPTEMBER. PHILADELPHIA. Poe writes Nathan C. Brooks in Baltimore, acknowledging a “favor with the $10.” He must decline Brooks’s invitation to review Washington Irving’s writings for the forthcoming American Museum: “I should be most unwilling not to execute such a task well, and this I would not do at so short notice, at least now. I have two other engagements which it would be ruinous to defer. Besides this, I am just leaving Arch street for a small house, and, of course, somewhat in confusion . . . . Irving is much overrated, and a nice distinction might be drawn between his just and his surreptitious and adventitious reputation — between what is due to the pioneer solely, and what to the writer.” Since Poe believes that a bold investigation of Irving’s merits “would strike home,” he regrets that he cannot write the critique: “Had you spoken decidedly when I first saw you, I would have adventured. If you can delay the ‘Review’ until the second number I would be most happy to do my best.” Poe’s financial situation has improved: “I have gotten nearly out of my late embarrassments. Neilson [Poe] would not aid me, being much pushed himself” (L, 1:111-13).

[1838] AFTER 4 SEPTEMBER. The Poe family moves to a small house on Sixteenth Street near Locust (Thomas [1978], pp. 25-27).

[1838] 6 SEPTEMBER. BALTIMORE. The will of Poe’s grandmother Elizabeth Caimes Poe, who died on 7 July 1835, is probated. All her belongings are bequeathed to her daughter Mrs. Maria Clemm (Phillips, 1:494).

[1838] OCTOBER. NEW YORK. The New York Review notices Pym, quoting the complete title:

Notwithstanding this circumstantial and veracious looking length of title, the work is all a fiction. It is written with considerable talent, and an attempt is made, by simplicity of style, minuteness of nautical descriptions, and circumstantiality [page 256:] of narration, to throw over it that air of reality which constitutes the charm of Robinson Crusoe, and Sir Edward Seaward’s Narrative. This work has, however, none of the agreeable interest of the two just named. It is not destitute of interest for the imagination, but the interest is painful; there are too many atrocities, too many strange horrors, and finally, there is no conclusion to it; it breaks off suddenly in a mysterious way, which is not only destitute of all vraisemblance, but is purely perplexing and vexatious. We cannot, therefore, but consider the author unfortunate in his plan (Pollin [1974], p. 44).

[1838] OCTOBER. LONDON. Wiley and Putnam publish an English edition of Pym with an abridged subtitle (Pollin [1981], p. 51).

[1838] EARLY OCTOBER. BALTIMORE. The first number of the American Museum, dated September, contains Poe’s tale “Ligeia.” A satire commencing in this issue, “The Atlantis, a Southern World — or a Wonderful Continent Discovered;” may possibly be his work (“Atlantis” attribution in Quinn, pp, 757-61).

[1838] 10 OCTOBER. The Sun notices the Museum: “Baltimore can at length boast of a monthly literary periodical, which, from the specimen before us, bids fair to rival in excellence those of her sister cities. This work . . . is edited by Nathan C. Brooks and Dr. J. E. Snodgrass, two gentlemen well known in the literary world.”

[1838] 13 OCTOBER. LONDON. The Court Gazette notices Wiley and Putnam’s edition of Pym: “We apprehend it [Pym] has been produced as a sort of practical exposition and proof of Byron’s assertion, that ‘truth is stranger than fiction.’ It is, in fact, a book of wonders, originally published in an American periodical, without any warranty of truth. It now appears that the exciting interest of the story which is told, and the intrinsic evidence of its veracity and general accuracy, have induced the London publishers to present it to the public in an entire form. The style of the narrative is not an indifferent imitation of that adopted by De Foe, in his best novel, ‘Robinson Crusoe’ ” (Vann, p. 43).

[1838] 13 OCTOBER. The Torch reviews Pym at length, disputing its authenticity:

Mr. Arthur Pym . . . stands up sturdily for the truth of his narrative; he is determined not to pass for the shadow of a name, for a mere eidolon, if he can help it, and in a preface of some tact maintains his identity against all unbelievers, while, to give a colour to the matter, his supposed editor slily despatches him in a note at the end of the volume. This no doubt is an excellent trick to coax belief, and one not altogether unworthy of Defoe himself; for it is hard to deny that a man has existed, when we see his coffin carried decently to the grave, and buried with all the fitting solemnities. But even this sacrifice will not, we fear, in our [page 257:] unbelieving age, establish the reality of Mr. Arthur Pym though it must be allowed that the eidolon has strung together as wonderful a set of adventures as lounger or invalid can desire to while away an hour at breakfast or on a sofa (Pollin [1974], p. 52).

[1838] 20 OCTOBER. The Naval and Military Gazette notices Pym:

For those who possess a genuine love of the horrible, here is a rich and luxurious banquet; but let not the fastidious, the squeamish, the hypercritical, presume even to glance at such viands as brother Jonathan has in this instance spread forth; for they are to be digested only by the strongest of stomachs.

In this “Narrative” of Mr. Pym’s are many “hair-breath ’scapes;” the incidents — some of them — are of a most appalling character; in parts, we find our feelings excited by powerful painting; but, as a whole, the story is very clumsily put together, and the discrepancies are so numerous, and so palpable, that, in its perusal, not even the merest child could be cheated into a belief of the page of truth being before him. For instance, what are we to think of a country (near the South Pole) where everything is white [black], and — where the inhabitants (jet black) have a horror of everything that is white; — where the water is not water, and yet it is water! . . . .

Here, and in hundreds of other places, we have not only the improbable but the impossible. It was not thus that De Foe wrote his Robinson Crusoe; it was not in such a spirit that Miss Porter conceived and executed her equally sweet and exquisite fiction of Sir Edward Seaward.

As we have intimated, however, this book will not be without its admirers (Vann, p. 43).

[1838] 20 OCTOBER. The Atlas gives a detailed synopsis of Pym, observing that the story “would have been more entertaining, had the writer been a little more careful in subduing his tendency for the marvellous. He has so ridiculously overdone the recital, that the volume cannot impose upon anybody” (Pollin [1974], pp. 50-52).

[1838] 21 OCTOBER. The Era quotes a long passage from Pym. This book “belongs to the species of romance, which, not satisfied with relating probabilities, assumes the outward guise of authentic narrative. Its fault is, that it is too uniformly extravagant; but . . . the story is highly exciting, and leads one to regret that an author who has so evident a penchant for fiction should not lie boldly” (Vann, p. 43).

[1838] 27 OCTOBER. The Spectator excerpts several passages from Pym, praising it as “a fiction of no mean skill; displaying much power, much nautical knowledge, and a Defoe-like appearance of reality. Its ease, simplicity, and natural effects, remind one of Marryat.” The incidents described in the early chapters are “not physically impossible, and that is all: the later [page 258:] discoveries are clearly fable: but both the one and the other are told with great appearance of truth . . . . Interest is also excited in the narrative — that kind of breathless and absorbing interest with which we may suppose our ancestors listened to stories of ‘men whose heads do grow beneath their shoulders,’ or with which we in our youth perused fairy tales. The disgusting though fearful scene of the passing vessel of the dead, the horrors of the tempest and the following famine, and the escape of Pym and Peters from the mountain in whose bowels they are entombed, are all examples of this kind” (Pollin [1974], pp. 53-54).

[1838] LATE OCTOBER? The Monthly Review for October recommends Pym to readers who “will have an out and out romance, and the marvels of an unprecedented voyager.” While the Review praises the author’s “originality, boldness, and skill,” it observes “that some of the most elaborate scenes, and where no mean power is exhibited, are disgustingly horrible” (Pollin [1974], pp. 49-50).

[1838] NOVEMBER. The Metropolitan Magazine criticizes Pym: “The marvellous story — as we learn from the preface — was first published in an American periodical as a work of fiction. It is a pity it was not left as such. As a romance, some portions of it are sufficiently amusing and exciting; but, when palmed upon the public as a true thing, it cannot appear in any other light than that of a bungling business — an impudent attempt at imposing on the credulity of the ignorant.” The New Monthly Magazine comments: “Arthur Pym is the American Robinson Crusoe, a man all over wonders, who sees nothing but wonders, vanquishes nothing but wonders, would, indeed, evidently, scorn to have anything to do but with wonders.” The Gentleman’s Magazine mentions Pym’s publication under “Literary and Scientific Intelligence” (Pollin [1974], pp. 47-49; [1980], p. 21).

[1838] NOVEMBER. BALTIMORE. The American Museum contains Poe’s tandem stories “The Psyche Zenobia” and “The Scythe of Time” (later entitled “How to Write a Blackwood Article” and “A Predicament”).

[1838] DECEMBER. PHILADELPHIA. The inside front cover of Burton’s carries an announcement: “The Gentleman’s Magazine has become the sole property of the Editor, William E. Burton” (Robbins [1947], p. 96).

[1838] 1 DECEMBER. NEW YORK. The New-York Mirror publishes a dispatch from its British correspondent, Nathaniel P. Willis, who comments: “The ‘American Museum’ . . . has certainly put out a first number of uncommon [page 259:] cleverness . . . . It has a paper on the fabulous Atlantis, full of ingenuity and humour; and in a tale called Ligeia, (by Mr. Poe,) there is a fine march of description, which has a touch of D’Israeli’s quality, and is worthy of a more intelligible sequel.”

[1838] CA. 25 DECEMBER. PHILADELPHIA. By making “the most painful sacrifices,” Poe manages to pay Mrs. Jones, landlady of the Arch Street boardinghouse where his family resided earlier in the year (Poe to John C. Cox, 6 December 1839).

[1838] LATE 1838? Professor Thomas Wyatt, an English author and lecturer, engages Poe to assist in preparing The Conchologist’s First Book, paying him $50. Poe writes “the Preface and Introduction,” as well as translating “from Cuvier, the accounts of the animals” (Poe to G. W. Eveleth, 16 February 1847).

[The volume bore Poe’s name on the title page, but was largely the work of Wyatt, whose Manual of Conchology had been issued by Harper & Brothers earlier in the year. John Gould Anthony of Harvard University explained Poe’s role in an 1875 letter to John Parker of the Peabody Institute in Baltimore:

Some time about 1850 [in 1838] I think, there was published in N. Y. a book called Wyatts Manual of Conchology, illustrated by figures of shells and sold at I believe $6 [$8.00]. This price being somewhat above the means of beginners and too high also for a text-book it was soon apparent that a smaller and less costly work was needed and the author was beset to make an abridgement which could be sold for $1.50 and contain all that was actually needed, but no abridgement could be published without consent of the house that held the copy right of the larger work and they would not spoil the sale of their book by issuing a cheaper one so soon after its publication. So the only way was to get up the abridgement and have it published with the name of some irresponsible person whom it would be idle to sue for damages, and Poe was selected for the scape goat — A consideration of course was given for his assumption of paternity. The facts I had from Mr. Wyatt himself who was then lecturing on Conchology and using the abridgement as a help in that business — I think too he had them for sale at his lectures (quoted in Parker to J. H. Ingram, 7 July 1875, ViU-I).

The characterization of Poe as “some irresponsible person” is entirely Anthony’s own. Wyatt was Poe’s constant admirer and friend, as documented by Thomas (1978), pp. 947-56.]

[1838] LATE 1838? Poe assists Wyatt in preparing the latter’s Synopsis of Natural History (implied by Poe’s review in the July 1839 Burton’s).



~~ 1839 ~~

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[page 260:]

[1839] EARLY 1839. PHILADELPHIA. Poe borrows $50 from John C. Cox, a merchant living at 64 North Eleventh Street (Poe to Cox, 6 December 1839).

[1839] JANUARY. BALTIMORE. The American Museum contains Poe’s “Literary Small Talk.”

[1839] 12 JANUARY. PHILADELPHIA. The Saturday Evening Post announces that its publisher Samuel C. Atkinson has given “the Editorial charge of the paper to GEORGE R. GRAHAM, Esq.”

[1839] FEBRUARY. BALTIMORE. The American Museum contains a second installment of Poe’s “Literary Small Talk.”

[1839] 20 FEBRUARY. NEW YORK. Harper & Brothers reply to Poe’s 19 February letter of inquiry: “We are inclined to think that ‘Pym’ has not succeeded or been received as well in this country as it has in England. When we published the work, we sent 100 copies of it to London — And we presume they have been sold. In addition to which we understand that an English edition has been printed. We have not seen any review of it in the English papers yet — Should any come to hand, we will preserve and forward them to you. Are you connected with any of the newspapers in Philadelphia? If so, we should be pleased to send you a book for review occasionally” (MB-G).

[1839] BEFORE APRIL. PHILADELPHIA. Poe sends “The Haunted Palace” to the Democratic Review, then published in Washington. The editor John L. O’Sullivan finds the poem “impossible to comprehend” and rejects it (cited in the Aristidean for October 1845 [see BEFORE 8 NOVEMBER 1845]; corroborated by C. E Briggs to J. R. Lowell, 27 January 1845).

[1839] APRIL. BALTIMORE. The American Museum contains “The Haunted Palace.”

[1839] 13 APRIL. PHILADELPHIA. The Saturday Evening Post carries a prospectus announcing that “GEORGE R. GRAHAM & CO.” have purchased the Casket from Samuel C. Atkinson. The May number of this Philadelphia monthly will be the first issued by the new proprietors.”

[1839] BEFORE 20 APRIL. Haswell, Barrington, and Haswell publish:


In the preface, signed “E. A. P,” Poe acknowledges his “great indebtedness” to the Philadelphia scientist and publisher Isaac Lea and to “Mr. Thomas Wyatt, and his late excellent Manual of Conchology.”

[1839] 20 APRIL. The Saturday Courier notices The Conchologist’s First Book:

The volume before us is from the pen of Edgar A. Poe, who was formerly editor of The Southern Literary Messenger, and who is the author of several works. The object of the present work is to furnish a system of Testaceous Malacology, set forth in a plain way, for a first book. It has been arranged expressly to introduce one of the most beautiful and interesting sciences into our schools, a science so connected with geology, and fraught with material for pleasurable investigation. This little work is based on the anatomy of the animals from Lamarck and Cuvier, and all the new foreign species, as well as our American, brought up to the present time. It is sold for the small sum of $1[.]75, by the principal booksellers in the city.

[1839] 27 APRIL. The Saturday Chronicle notices The Conchologist’s First Book (Pollin [1980], p. 22).

[1839] 30 APRIL. The United States Gazette notices the publication of Wyatt’s Synopsis of Natural History.

[1839] EARLY MAY? Carey & Hart send the Gift for 1840 to the printers. This annual, which contains Poe’s tale “William Wilson,” is prefaced by an advertisement dated 1 May.

[1839] EARLY MAY? Motivated by his continuing financial problems, Poe seeks employment as an assistant editor under William E. Burton.

[1839] 11 MAY. Burton writes Poe: “I have given your proposals a fair consideration. I wish to form some such engagement as that which you have proposed, and know of no one more likely to suit my views than yourself.” He mentions the difficulties his Gentleman’s Magazine is encountering as “some slight reason” for his delay in accepting Poe’s “indubitably liberal” proposal: “The expenses of the Magazine are already wofully heavy; more so than my circulation warrants. I am certain that my expenditure exceeds that of any publication now extant, including the monthlies which are [page 262:] double in price. Competition is high, — new claimants are daily rising. I am therefore compelled to give expensive plates, thicker paper, and better printing than my antagonists, or allow them to win the goal.” Burton offers Poe $10 a week for the remainder of the year: “Should we remain together, which I see no reason to negative, your proposition shall be in force for 1840 . . . . Two hours a day, except occasionally, will, I believe, be sufficient for all required, except in the production of any article of your own. At all events, you could easily find time for any other light avocation — supposing that you did not exercise your talents in behalf of any publication interfering with the prospects of the G. M.” Burton will dine at his home, 100 North Ninth Street, today at 3 PM: “If you will cut your mutton with me, good. If not, write or see me at your leisure” (W, 17:45-46; Quinn, p. 278).

[1839] 18 MAY. The Saturday Chronicle contains Poe’s tale “The Devil in the Belfry.”

[1839] BEFORE 30 MAY. Poe prepares a scathing critique of the Baltimore poetaster Rufus Dawes for the Gentleman’s Magazine. Burton decides not to publish it; Poe then writes him in a state of depression.

[1839] 30 MAY. Burton replies to Poe: “I am sorry that you thought [it] necessary to send me such a letter as your last. The troubles of the world have given a morbid tone to your feelings which it is your duty to discourage.” He advises:

We shall agree very well, but you must get rid of your avowed ill-feelings towards your brother-authors — you see that I speak plainly — indeed, I cannot speak otherwise. Several of my friends, hearing of our connexion, have warned me of your uncalled for severity in criticism — and I confess that your article on Dawes is not written with that spirit of fairness which, in a more healthy state of mind, you would undoubtedly have used. The independence of my book reviews has been noticed throughout the Union — my remarks upon my friend [Robert M.] Bird’s last novel evince my freedom from the trammels of expediency, but there is no necessity for undue severity. I wish particularly to deal leniently with the faults of genius, and feeling satisfied that Dawes possesses a portion of the true fire, I regretted the word-catching tone of your critique (MB-G).

[1839] JUNE. The outside back cover of Burton’s carries an announcement: “William E. Burton, Editor and Proprietor, has much pleasure in stating that he has made arrangements with Edgar A. Poe, Esq., late Editor of the Southern Literary Messenger, to devote his abilities and experience to a portion of the Editorial duties of the Gentleman’s Magazine.” The inside front cover identifies Poe’s position as “Assistant Editor.” This number [page 263:] contains his first contribution, an unsigned review of Frederick Marryat’s The Phantom Ship.

[1839] JUNE OR LATER? Burton introduces Poe to the Philadelphia literati at a dinner held at the home of the playwright Richard Penn Smith, 243 North Sixth Street, above Callowhill: “At this supper party were present Louis A. Godey, then owner and editor of Godey’s Magazine, which had been started about five years previously; Robert M. Bird; Robert T. Conrad, editor of the Daily Intelligencer; Joseph R. Chandler, editor of the United States Gazette; Joseph C. Neal; Morton McMichael, then an alderman in Spring Garden; Adam Waldie, publisher of Waldie’s Circulating Library, and a few others. Owing to the engagements of Mr. Burton at the Chestnut Street Theatre, the supper was not placed upon the table until midnight, at which time Mr. Burton, Mr. Wemyss, Mr. Wood and Mr. John R. Scott made their appearance. Edwin Forrest — who had but lately returned from England with his wife — was also present” (Smith’s son, Horace Wemyss Smith, quoted by Rosenbach, p. 296).

[1839] JUNE OR LATER? Thomas Dunn English, a young poet who frequently contributes to Burton’s, is introduced to Poe at the magazine’s office on Dock Street, near the southeast corner of Walnut and Second:

I was in the office one day when Burton introduced me to Poe, and the two new acquaintances began to talk with each other. I was impressed favorably with the appearance and manner of the author. He was clad in a plain and rather worn suit of black which was carefully brushed, and his linen was especially notable for its cleanliness. His eyes at that time were large, bright and piercing, his manner easy and refined, and his tone and conversation winning. In a short while we went out of the office together and remained in conversation as we walked along the street. We parted in Chestnut Street some few blocks above Third, apparently well pleased with each other. There was no bond of sympathy between Poe and me, except the admiration I had for his undoubted genius; but our intimacy increased as months wore on, and I became a frequent visitor to his family. Mrs. Poe was a delicate gentlewoman, with an air of refinement and good breeding, and Mrs. Clemm had more of the mother than the mother-in-law about her. It was some time before I discovered anything about Poe’s habits that was not proper . . . . I was passing along the street one night on my way homeward, when I saw some one struggling in a vain attempt to raise himself from the gutter. Supposing the person had tripped and fallen, I bent forward and assisted him to arise. To my utter astonishment I found it was Poe. He recognized me, and was very effusive in his recognition. I volunteered to see him home, but had some difficulty to prevent his apparent desire to survey the sidewalk by a series of triangles. I managed to get him through the front gate of his yard to the front door . . . . I knocked at the door, and Mrs. Clemm opened it. Raising her voice, she cried: “You make Eddie drunk, and then you bring him home:” . . . [page 264:]

Three days after when I saw Poe — for if I remember rightly the next two days he was not at the office — he was heartily ashamed of the matter, and said that it was an unusual thing with him, and would never occur again.

For some weeks I saw Poe occasionally at the office and elsewhere, industrious as a beaver. I think it was several weeks before I observed any other aberration. Then I heard through two or three persons that Poe had been found gloriously drunk in the street after nightfall, and had been helped home (English, pp. 1415-16).

[1839] JUNE OR LATER? English introduces Poe to the poet Henry B. Hirst (Woodberry, 2:419).

[1839] 1 JUNE. The Saturday Courier notices the first number of the Literary Examiner, dated May: “A new monthly, published at Pittsburg[h], has just commenced, under the auspices of E. Burke Fisher and Wm. H. Burleigh. They are gentlemen who have been several years known as writers for various periodicals in our country.”

[1839] 10 JUNE. PITTSBURGH. Fisher writes Poe, praising his “mode of handling authors,” and soliciting his contributions for the Examiner: “terms of remuneration are $2 per page. And I shall make your case an exception and make the terms $3, or rather than not meet your favorable consideration $4 per page . . . . I pledge myself to send you the amount due for whatever you may write, immediately on the publication of each article. The quantity is discretionary with yourself. The choice of subjects could not be left in better hands” (Heartman and Canny, pp. 219-20).

[1839] 20 JUNE. PHILADELPHIA. Nathaniel P. Willis’ Tortesa, the Usurer opens at the Walnut Street Theatre, northeast corner of Ninth and Walnut. Poe probably attends the play, which he favorably reviews in the July Examiner and the August Burton’s (Quinn, p. 284).

[1839] 26 JUNE. Poe writes Nathan C. Brooks in Baltimore (cited L, 2:578).

[1839] LATE JUNE? PITTSBURGH. In the Examiner for June Fisher announces that Poe has been engaged as a regular contributor (Hull, p. 706).

[1839] JULY. PHILADELPHIA. Burton’s contains Poe’s poems “To Ianthe in Heaven;” excerpted from his tale “The Visionary,” and “Spirits of the Dead,” formerly entitled “Visit of the Dead.” Poe reviews James Fenimore Cooper’s History of the Navy of the United States, Thomas Wyatt’s Synopsis of Natural History, and other books. “As the work of Mr. Wyatt professes to be simply a translation of the well-known ‘Tableaux’ of M. Lemmonnier [Louis Ceran Lemonnier], we need say little more in the way of recommendation than [page 265:] that all the useful spirit of the original has been preserved — and this we say from personal knowledge, and the closest inspection and collation.”

[On 21 September Poe wrote Philip Pendleton Cooke: “The critiques . . . are all mine in the July No — & all mine in the Aug & Sep. with the exception of the 3 first in each — which are by Burton.”]

[1839] 1 JULY. The Pennsylvania Inquirer reports: “An Ourang Outang. An animal of this species, and of a truly extraordinary character, has just arrived at this port, in the ship Saluda, from Africa. — We are told that it is more perfect in its proportions, and in its resemblance to the human form, than any specimen of the kind, ever seen in this country.”

[Contemporary Philadelphians were captivated by the then unfamiliar animals of Africa and Asia. When Poe wrote “The Murders in the Rue Morgue,” he would have been mindful of the popular sensation caused by the exhibition of the ourang outang at the Masonic Hall, Chestnut Street, during August and September 1839 (Thomas [1978], pp. 50-51, 57-59).]

[1839] 3 JULY. The Inquirer notices Burton’s, reprinting Poe’s “To Ianthe in Heaven” as a “specimen” of the “excellent poetry” in this number.

[1839] 4 JULY. NEW YORK. Burton, who is acting at Niblo’s Gardens during the summer season, writes Poe about the Gentleman’s Magazine:

Will you please see [the engraver Charles N.] Parmelee, and get him to do the enclosed directly, for this next number . . . . Desire [the magazine’s clerk Charles R.] Morrell to obtain Mr. R. P. Smith’s life from Mr. [James] Goodman, if he has not got it yet, but it must be done directly, because we want the matter to begin the September number, and consequently to end the next sheet. If the “Life” will not be ready, we must put in something else, with another plate, for I want the next number out immediately . . . .

I shall endeavor to send you an article (a short one) for this number, if you have three pages to spare. You will receive it by Monday, or not at all. I have so long been absent from the pages of the Maga. that if I do not make my appearance soon my readers will imagine a total absquatulation (MB-G).

[1839] 6 JULY. PHILADELPHIA. The Saturday Courier comments: “We have omitted to name before that Edgar A. Poe has been associated with Mr. Burton, in the editorial control of ‘Burton’s Magazine.’ — Mr. Poe was very favorably known as editor of the Southern Literary Messenger in its early days; and he has produced several works, which prove him a man of letters and industry. His accession is very valuable.” [page 266:]

[1839] 9 JULY. PITTSBURGH. E. Burke Fisher replies to Poe’s letter of 5 July, which contained a review of Willis’ Tortesa, the Usurer: “I am truly obliged by the receipt of your criticism admirable — scarcely severe enough, but still Willis is a kind of national pet and we must regard his faults as we do those of a spoiled stripling, in the hope that he will amend.” Fisher discusses the prospects of the Literary Examiner: “With you to assist me in the department of reviews, that portion of the Magazine shall become what the Messenger was before you quitted . . . . You make the terms of compensation too low, but in my experimental stage I cannot do otherwise than accept the favor . . . of obliging myself to pay $3 per page” (Heartman and Canny, pp. 220-21).

[1839] 10 JULY. PHILADELPHIA. Alexander’s Weekly Messenger reviews Burton’s, praising Poe: “he is a gentleman of superior ability and character, and we are glad to see that his name is associated with Mr. Burton in the future direction of the Gentleman’s Magazine.”

[1839] 14 JULY. Poe writes George W. Poe, his second cousin: “Owing to my absence from Richmond for some time, I did not receive your letter until a few days ago, it having followed me from place to place, and at last caught me here:” He discusses his own career and the history of the Poe family in America; he encloses a genealogical table listing his relatives. Although he will remain in Philadelphia “perhaps for a year,” he considers Richmond his home (L, 2:682-86).

[1839] LATE JULY? PITTSBURGH. The Literary Examiner for July contains Poe’s review of Willis’ Tortesa, the Usurer.

[1839] AUGUST. PHILADELPHIA. Burton’s contains Poe’s tale “The Man that was Used Up,” as well as his poems (all reprints) “Fairyland,” “To ——” (originally entitled “To Elizabeth”), and “To the River ——.” All the reviews are Poe’s, except the first three; the notice of Willis’ Tortesa, the Usurer is a condensation of his critique in the July Examiner. A brief essay, “An Opinion on Dreams,” may be his work.

[1839] 6 AUGUST. BALTIMORE. The Sun notices Burton’s, alluding unfavorably to the proprietor’s lengthy theatrical engagement in New York: “It is evident that the senior editor [Burton] has been busied elsewhere, and consequently, although this number contains many excellent articles, there is a palpable want of tact in the manner in which it has been gotten up.”

[1839] 8 AUGUST. PHILADELPHIA. Poe replies to the Baltimore journalist John Beauchamp Jones, whose 6 August letter cited the criticism in the Sun: “I [page 267:] presume the ‘Sun’ has expressed the opinion that the August No: of the Mag: is not well edited, because it has been more than usually praised in this respect. No number ever issued from this office has recd 1/4 of the approbation which this has elicited. We are run down with puffs especially from the North — the South has not yet been so entirely heard from. Here lies the true secret of the spleen of the little fish.” Since Poe has not seen the other attacks mentioned in the letter, he would be “much obliged” if Jones would forward them to him: “I intend to put up with nothing that I can put down (excuse the pun) and I am not aware that there is any one in Baltimore whom I have particular reason to fear in a regular set-to . . . . You speak of ‘enemies’ — could you give me their names? All the literary people in Baltimore, as far as I know them, have at least professed a friendship” (L, 1:113-14, 2:686; Moldenhauer [1973], pp. 45, 47).

[1839] 17 AUGUST. LONDON. Under the heading “Sufferings from Thirst” Franklin’s Miscellany excerpts “From Gordon Pym’s Narrative,” Chapter XIII, the diary entries for 31 July, 1 and 2 August 1827. This passage is reprinted in the Free Press and Literary Times on 24 August 1839 (Vann, pp. 43-44).

[1839] 22 AUGUST. PETERSBURG, VIRGINIA. In Th’ Time o’ Day Hiram Haines comments: “The lines to ‘Ianthe in Heaven’ from the pen of Edgar A. Poe, Esq., formerly Editor of the Southern Literary Messenger, but now co-Editor of the Gentleman’s Magazine, are deeply touching and ‘true to nature’s feeling.’ ” Haines reprints this poem from the July Burton’s (Ostrom [1942], p. 69).

[1839] LATE AUGUST? PITTSBURGH. The Literary Examiner for August contains Poe’s article “American Novel-Writing.”

[1839] SEPTEMBER. PHILADELPHIA. Burton’s features Poe’s tale “The Fall of the House of Usher;” which incorporates his poem “The Haunted Palace.” He also contributes the gymnastic article “A Chapter on Field Sports,” a lengthy criticism of Friedrich de la Motte-Fouqués romance Undine, and the other reviews (except the first three).

[1839] 3 SEPTEMBER. In the Pennsylvanian Joseph C. Neal comments:

Burton’s Gentleman’s Magazine for September has been received, and as usual with that popular periodical, it contains a great variety of original matter, well written, varied in its character, and calculated to interest the general reader . . . . There is also a sketch of much power and peculiar interest entitled “The House of Usher,” which cannot fail to attract attention. It is of the German cast, and is a remarkable specimen of a style of writing which possesses many attractions for those who love to dwell upon the terrible. It is from the pen of Edgar A. Poe, now [page 268:] the assistant editor of the Gentleman’s Magazine, and well known to the public by his able editorship of the Southern Literary Messenger, to which he gave a high character, particularly by his fearless and independent criticisms.

[1839] 4 SEPTEMBER. Reviewing Burton’s in Alexander’s Weekly Messenger, John Frost praises Poe’s tale as a “finished picture”:

We must say that we derive no small enjoyment from a delineation like this. We like to see the evidences of study and thought, as well as inspiration, in the design, and of careful and elaborate handling in the execution, as well as of grand and striking effect in the tout ensemble. “The Fall of the House of Usher,” is what we denominate a stern and sombre, but at the same time, a noble and imposing picture, such as can be drawn only by a master hand. Such things are not produced by your slip-shod amateurs in composition, some of whom, in the character of critics, perhaps, may display their utter inability to perceive in this very performance any characteristic of its real design.

[1839] 4 SEPTEMBER. Joseph R. Chandler reviews Burton’s in the United States Gazette:

This periodical, the September number of which has been for some days upon our table, is, we perceive, under the editorial direction of Edgar A. Poe, not unknown to fame. The contents of this number of the work bear testimony to the industry of the editor as a writer, and to his judgment in selecting and sanctioning articles for publication . . . .

The story of “The Fall of the House of Usher” is from the pen of Mr. Poe, and is very interesting — a well told tale. Mr. Poe is, in our opinion, not only a good writer, but a good, though (if we ought not rather to say because) a severe judge; and has brought upon himself the ill will of certain writers, who have not, perhaps, the same estimate of their works that others have, and are rather under discipline. We have, we confess, seen some of Mr. Poe’s remarks, that looked as if he had not sat down to coax young writers into correct imaginings or grammatical utterance; and when applying the lash of his criticism, it appeared to us (we may have been mistaken) as if he had determined to waken some dunce to a sensation of literary justice, by tying an extra knot on the lash. The noise made convinced us that justice was satisfied, however mercy may have fared . . . .

Mr. Poe praises when he thinks commendations are due, and censures whenever and wherever he thinks censure deserved; he will thus prove a blessing to the literature of the country, which needs a little wholesome discipline, and we trust that its true friends will treat with kindness and respect the man who has the courage to exhibit his friendship for the cause by sound severity.

[1839] 5 SEPTEMBER. The Public Ledger notices Burton’s: “Poe’s contributions are unusually excellent.”

[1839] 5 SEPTEMBER. Poe sends the September Burton’s to the Richmond author James E. Heath, who is assisting Thomas Willis White in editing the [page 269:] Southern Literary Messenger. Although Poe recognizes that White has reason to harbor resentment toward him, he nonetheless hopes that the Messenger will notice Burton’s and reprint “The Fall of the House of Usher.” Poe assures Heath that he now abstains from alcohol (Heath’s 12 September reply).

[1839] 7 SEPTEMBER. The Saturday Evening Post notices Burton’s: “There are some savage reviews in this number, possibly from the pen of Mr. Poe.”

[1839] 7 SEPTEMBER. NEW YORK. Mordecai M. Noah reviews Burton’s in his Evening Star: “Mr. Poe’s tale of ‘The Fall of the House of Usher,’ would have been considered a chef d’oeuvre if it had appeared in the pages of Blackwood.”

[1839] BEFORE 11 SEPTEMBER. BALTIMORE. Joseph Evans Snodgrass sends Poe an issue of the Saint Louis Commercial Bulletin containing a favorable notice of his editorship of Burton’s: “there are few writers in this country — take Neal, Irving, & Willis away and we would say none — who can compete successfully, in many respects, with Poe. With an acuteness of observation, a vigorous and effective style, and an independence that defies control, he unites a fervid fancy and a most beautiful enthusiasm. His is a high destiny” (Bulletin quoted in Poe’s reply).

[1839] 11 SEPTEMBER. PHILADELPHIA. Poe writes Snodgrass, thanking him for the Bulletin. He asks his friend to write a “rigidly just” notice of the September Burton’s, which will incorporate the Saint Louis paper’s praise: “The critique when written might be handed to Neilson Poe [editor of the Baltimore Chronicle]. If you ask him to insert it editorially, it is possible he may do it — but, in fact, I have no great faith in him. If he refuses — then upon your stating the fact to Mr [Samuel] Harker of the ‘Republican’ — you will secure its insertion there.” Poe is about to publish a collection of his tales; he promises Snodgrass an early copy. “Did you see the ‘Weekly Messenger’ (Alexander’s) or Noah’s Evening Star? They spoke highly of my tale — ‘The House of Usher’. — as also the Pennsylvanian & The U.S. Gazette of this city” (L, 1:115-17).

[1839] 11 SEPTEMBER. Alexander’s Weekly Messenger notices the second edition of Poe’s Conchologist’s First Book:

The first very large edition of this work was exhausted in two months; a fact which speaks strongly in its favor. It has become a text-book in most of the larger Seminaries to the North and East, and is well received every where. It differs from the ordinary small books on the same subject in many essential respects — for example, in particularizing the American species; in the adoption of a modified [page 270:] classification from La Marck and De Blainville; and, especially, in giving a succinct anatomical account of the animal which inhabits each shell — a point never before attended to in a school Conchology. The author’s versatile abilities are too well known to the public to need comment from us; he acknowledges his indebtedness, in many respects, to Mr. Isaac Lea of this city. Colored copies of the work, executed under the superintendence of Mr. James Ackerman, are for sale at our principal bookstores.

[1839] 12 SEPTEMBER. RICHMOND. Heath replies to Poe:

Since the receipt of yours of the 5 inst. I have been so exceedingly occupied and withal so very much indisposed, that I could not until within the last day or two, take a peep into the interesting magazine which you were good enough to send me. I have read your article “The Fall of the House of Usher” with attention, and I think it among the best of your compositions of that class which I have seen. A man need not have a critical judgement nor a very refined taste to decide, that no one could have written the tale, without possessing great scope of imagination, vigorous thought, and a happy command of language; but I am sure you will appreciate my candor when I say that I never could feel much interest in that class of compositions. I mean that I never could experience pleasure in reading tales of horror and mystery however much the narrative should be dignified by genius. They leave a painful and melancholy impression on my mind, and I do not perceive their tendency to improve the heart.

White “disclaims the existence of any unkind feeling” toward Poe; and he will admit a notice of Burton’s in the Southern Literary Messenger, “if possible in the October number. He is apprehensive however that the ‘Fall of the House of Usher’ would not only occupy more space than he can conveniently spare . . . but that the subject matter is not such as would be acceptable to a large majority of his readers. He doubts whether the readers of the Messenger have much relish for tales of the German School although written with great power and ability.” Heath is glad that Poe has overcome “a seductive and dangerous treatment which too often prostrates the wisest and best by its fatal grasp” (W, 17:47-48).

[1839] 14 SEPTEMBER. PHILADELPHIA. The Saturday Courier notices The Conchologist’s First Book: “This is the second edition of a work from the pen of Edgar A. Poe, Esq., which we had occasion favourably to notice not long ago. That the public have so soon demanded a second issue, is an evidence that the book is properly appreciated.”

[1839] 16 SEPTEMBER. CHARLESTOWN, VIRGINIA. Philip Pendleton Cooke replies to Poe’s “friendly letter,” which he received “a long time ago.” He will subscribe to Burton’s and contribute to it occasionally, although “a profession & matrimony” have largely cured his “madness of scribbling.” Complying with Poe’s request, Cooke gives his opinion of “Ligeia”: [page 271:]

The whole piece is but a sermon from the text of “Joseph Glanvil” which you cap it with — and your intent is to tell a tale of the “mighty will” contending with & finally vanquishing Death. The struggle is vigorously described — and I appreciated every sentence as I advanced, until the Lady Ligeia takes possession of the deserted quarters (I write like a butcher) of the Lady Rowena. There I was shocked by a violation of the ghostly proprieties — so to speak — and wondered how the Lady Ligeia — a wandering essence — could, in quickening the body of the Lady Rowena (such is the idea) become suddenly the visible, bodily, Ligeia. If Rowena’s bodily form had been retained as a shell or case for the disembodied Lady Ligeia, and you had only become aware gradually that the blue Saxon eye of the “Lady Rowena of Tremaine” grew daily darker with the peculiar, intense expression of the “look” which had belonged to Ligeia — that a mind of grander powers, a soul of more glowing fires occupied the quickened body and gave an old familiar expression to its motions — if you had brooded and meditated upon the change until proof accumulated upon proof, making wonder certainty, and then, in the moment of some strangest of all evidence of the transition, broken out into the exclamation which ends the story — the effect would not have been lessened, and the “ghostly proprieties” would, I think, have been better observed (W, 17:49-51).

[1839] BEFORE 21 SEPTEMBER. TARRYTOWN, NEW YORK? Washington Irving replies to a letter from Poe, who has sent him the September Burton’s: “I am much pleased with a tale called ‘The House of Usher,’ and should think that a collection of tales, equally well written, could not fail of being favorably received . . . . Its graphic effect is powerful” (quoted in the advertisement bound in the Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque; cf. Poe to Irving, 12 October, and Irving to Poe, 6 November).

[1839] 21 SEPTEMBER. PHILADELPHIA. Poe replies to Cooke’s 16 September letter:

Touching Ligeia, you are right — all right — throughout. The gradual perception of the fact that Ligeia lives again in the person of Rowena, is a far loftier and more thrilling idea than the one I have embodied. It offers, in my opinion, the widest possible scope to the imagination — it might be rendered even sublime. And this idea was mine — had I never written before I should have adopted it — but then there is Morella. Do you remember, there, the gradual conviction on the part of the parent that the spirit of the first Morella tenants the person of the second? It was necessary, since Morella was written, to modify Ligeia. I was forced to be content with a sudden half-consciousness, on the part of the narrator, that Ligeia stood before him. One point I have not fully carried out — I should have intimated that the will did not perfect its intention — there shd have been a relapse — a final one — and Ligeia (who had only succeeded in so much as to convey an idea of the truth to the narrator) should be at length entombed as Rowena — the bodily alterations having gradually faded away.

Poe mentions that he has received a letter from Washington Irving praising “The Fall of the House of Usher,” and that he will publish his tales in two [page 272:] volumes during autumn. He expresses dissatisfaction with Burton and his Gentleman’s Magazine: “Do not think of subscribing. The criticisms are not worth your notice. Of course, I pay no attention to them — for there are 2 of us. It is not pleasant to be taxed with the twaddle of other people, or to let other people be taxed with ours . . . . As soon as Fate allows I will have a Magazine of my own — and will endeavor to kick up a dust” (L, 2:686-88).

[1839] 21 SEPTEMBER. The Saturday Evening Post observes that the Gift for 1840 is “already published.” The annual contains Poe’s “William Wilson.”

[1839] 28 SEPTEMBER. PHILADELPHIA. The publishers Lea & Blanchard, southeast corner of Fourth and Chestnut Streets, write Poe: “As your wish in having your Tales printed is not immediately pecuniary, we will at our own risque & expense print a Small Ed[ition] say 1750 copies. This sum if sold — will pay but a small profit, which if realized is to be ours — The copy right will remain with you, and when ready a few copies for distribution among your friends, will be at your Service.” The tales will make “2 vols. . . . say 240 pages each”; the printer Mr. Haswell will be ready to proceed by Tuesday (MB-G).

[1839] OCTOBER. Burton’s reprints “William Wilson” from the Gift. “A Chapter on Field Sports” and all the reviews are by Poe. He criticizes Longfellow’s Hyperion: A Romance as “a profusion of rich thought” which is “without design, without shape, without beginning, middle, or end.”

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow [thumbnail]

[Illustration on page 273, top]
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

[1839] OCTOBER. RICHMOND. James E. Heath notices the September Burton’s in the Southern Literary Messenger:

We are pleased to find that our old assistant, Edgar A. Poe, is connected with Burton in the editorial management of the “Gentleman’s Magazine.” Mr. Poe, is favorably known to the readers of the Messenger, as a gentleman of fine endowments; possessing a taste classical and refined; an imagination affluent and splendid, and withall, a singular capacity for minute and mathematical detail. We always predicted that Mr. Poe would reach a high grade in American literature, but we also thought and still think, that he is too much attached to the gloomy German mysticism, to be a useful and effective writer, without a total divorce from that sombre school. Take for example, the tale of “the Fall of the House of Usher,” in the September number of the Magazine, which is understood to be the production of his pen. It is written with great power, but leaves on the mind a painful and horrible impression, without any redeeming admonition to the heart. It resembles a finely sculptured statue, beautiful to the eye, but without an immortal spirit. We wish Mr. Poe would stick to the department of criticism; there, he is an able professor, and he uses up the vermin who are continually crawling, unbidden, into the literary arena, with the skill and nonchalance of a [page 273:] practised surgeon. He cuts them up by piece-meal; and rids the republic of letters, of such nuisances, just as a good officer of police sentences to their proper destination, the night-strollers and vagabonds who infest our cities. We sincerely wish Mr. Poe well, and hope that he will take our advice in good part.

[1839] BEFORE 7 OCTOBER. BALTIMORE. Snodgrass writes Poe that he prepared the critique of the September Burton’s, but that Neilson Poe would not print it in the Baltimore Chronicle (Poe’s reply; cf. his 11 September request).

[1839] 7 OCTOBER. PHILADELPHIA. Poe writes Snodgrass: “I felt that N. Poe, would not insert the article editorially. In your private ear, I believe him to be the bitterest enemy I have in the world. He is the more despicable in this, since he makes loud professions of friendship. Was it ‘relationship &c.’ which prevented him saying any thing at all of the 2 or 3 last Nos. of the Gents’ Mag?” Poe is forwarding the current Burton’s: “In the Octo. no: all the criticisms are mine — also the gymnastic article” (L, 1:120-21).

[1839] 12 OCTOBER. Poe replies to Washington Irving’s letter written before 21 September. Enclosing the October Burton’s, he makes “another request,” which he hopes Irving will not find importunate:

Mess: Lea & Blanchard are about publishing a collection of my Tales, in 2 vols, [page 274:] to be issued early next month. As these Tales, in their course of original publication from time to time, have received many high praises from gentlemen whose opinions are of weight; and as these encomiums have already been published in the papers of the day, (being comprised in notices of the Southern Lit: Messenger and other Magazines) Mess. L & B. think there would be nothing objectionable in their reprinting them, in the ordinary form of an advertisement appended to the various books which they may issue before mine. I do not speak altogether of editorial opinions, but of the personal opinions of some of our principal literary men, which have found their way into the papers. Among others, I may mention Mr Paulding, Mr Kennedy & Mr Willis. Now, if, to the very high encomiums which have been lavished upon some of my tales by these & others, I could be permitted to add even a word or two from yourself, in relation to the tale of “William Wilson” (which I consider my best effort) my fortune would be made (L, 2:688-90).

[The Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque contained a four-page advertisement, usually inserted before the title page of the second volume. In it Poe quoted favorable opinions from newspapers and magazines, as well as from letters he had received from Irving and other literati.]

[1839] 16? OCTOBER. John Frost reviews Burton’s in Alexander’s Weekly Messenger: “ ‘William Wilson,’ by Mr. Poe, reminds us of Godwin and Brockden Brown. The writer is a kindred spirit of theirs in his style of art. He paints with sombre Rembrandt-like tints, and there is great force and vigor of conception in whatever he produces.”

[1839] 16 OCTOBER. JACKSON, TENNESSEE. John Tomlin, a minor poet, sends Poe a contribution for Burton’s: “The Manuscript Story of ‘Theodoric of the Amali’ is with diffidence submitted to your better judgement for an opinion. A ‘brither sinners’ [sic] hopes of future celebrity in his yet untrodden paths of Fiction, depends almost entirely on the success of ‘Theodoric of the Amali.’ ” Tomlin “would feel proud in having Edgar A Poe as a correspondent” (MB-G).

[1839] 30 OCTOBER. PHILADELPHIA. Lea & Blanchard reply to Poe: “The printing of a few extra copies of your tales on fine paper would be very troublesome to the printer. But if he is willing we have no objection to six copies being printed at your cost.” They intend to send Poe “20 copies of the edition . . . on publication for private distribution” (Woodberry, 2:376).

[1839] NOVEMBER. Burton’s reprints Poe’s “Morella” from the forthcoming Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque; the story incorporates his poem “Catholic Hymn.” Poe reviews William Gilmore Simms’s novel The Damsel of Darien, as well as Shakespeare and His Friends, The Canons of Good Breeding, and the Literary Souvenir for 1840. [page 275:]

[1839] 2 NOVEMBER. The Saturday Courier reviews Burton’s, praising “Morella” as “decidedly the most finished [story] in this month’s issue.” The weekly’s co-editor, Ezra Holden, gives an advance notice:

Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque.” Lea & Blanchard.

We purposed, a week or two ago, saying that our publishers had in press a collection of tales from the pen of Mr. Edgar A. Poe, now of the Gentleman’s Magazine. It gives us much pleasure that these productions are forthcoming in the more substantial form of book publication. — They are richly worthy of it. Many of them are of a very high order of merit, and have been admired wherever they have been perused by men of mind. Mr. Poe is no imitator in story-telling. He has a peculiarity of his own — dealing often in rather wild imaginings; and yet he always contrives to sustain his plots with so much novelty of incident, that you must read him out in spite of any sober realities that may occasionally flit across the mind. And, as you read you are ever impressed with the truth that he has much fancy — great richness of description, and true poetry for his imagery and colorings.

When Mr. Poe’s tales shall appear, we are sure they will meet high appreciation, and be regarded as valuable contributions to the literature of our country.

[1839] 2 NOVEMBER. The Saturday Evening Post reviews Burton’s, observing that Poe “is deeply imbued with the spirit of German literature, and as one of that class of writers has few equals.” The Pennsylvanian finds that “the editorial and critical department” of Burton’s “is marked with spirit, talent and independence.”

[1839] 6 NOVEMBER. John Frost notices Burton’s in Alexander’s Weekly Messenger: “Morella, a Tale, by Edgar A. Poe, is worthy of the fame of the assistant editor of this Magazine.”

[1839] 6 NOVEMBER. GREENBURGH, NEW YORK. Washington Irving replies to Poe’s 12 October letter: “I have read your little tale of William Wilson with much pleasure. It is managed in a highly picturesque Style and the Singular and Mysterious interest is well sustained throughout — I repeat what I have said in regard to a previous production, which you did me the favor to send me, that I cannot but think a Series of articles of like Style and merit would be extremely well received by the public.” Irving prefers the present story to “The Fall of the House of Usher”: “It is simpler. In your first you have been too anxious to present your pictures vividly to the eye, or too distrustful of your effect, and have laid on too much colouring. It is erring on the best side — the side of luxuriance. That tale might be improved by relieving the Style from some of the epithets” (Irving, 3:24-25). [page 276:]

[1839] 9 NOVEMBER. PHILADELPHIA. The Saturday Evening Post carries a valedictory by its publisher Samuel C. Atkinson, who announces that he has sold the paper to John S. Du Solle and George R. Graham.

[1839] BEFORE 11 NOVEMBER. BALTIMORE. Joseph Evans Snodgrass publishes a critique in the Baltimore Post: “Poe can throw a chain of enchantment around every scene he attempts to describe, and one of his peculiarities consists in the perfect harmony between each locale and the characters introduced. He has certainly written some of the most popular tales of American origin” (quoted in the advertisement bound in the Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque) .

[1839] 11 NOVEMBER. PHILADELPHIA. Poe writes Snodgrass, acknowledging “the reception of two letters . . . one of which . . . has been lying perdu in the P. Office for some 10 days.” Although he has not yet received the copy of the Baltimore Post, he saw Snodgrass’ critique “on file in a friend’s office.” The only fault he can find in the article is that it is entirely too favorable:

I am sure you will be pleased to hear that Washington Irving has addressed me 2 letters, abounding in high passages of compliment in regard to my Tales — passages which he desires me to make public — if I think benefit may be derived. It is needless to say that I shall do so — it is a duty I owe myself — and which it would be wilful folly to neglect, through a false sense of modesty. L & Blanchard also urge the publication upon me — so the passages referred to, with others of a similar nature from Paulding, Anthon, &c will be printed in an Appendix of Advertisement to the book — such as publishers are in the habit of appending. Irving’s name will afford me a complete triumph over those little critics who would endeavor to put me down by raising the hue & cry of exaggeration in style, of Germanism & such twaddle. You know Irving heads the school of the quietists.

Poe regrets that he “can say not a word touching compensation for articles” published in Burton’s: “The intense pressure has obliged Mr B. with nearly every, if not with every, publisher in the country, to discontinue paying for contributions. Mr B. pays for nothing — and we are forced to fill up as we can” (L, 1:121-22).

[1839] 17 NOVEMBER. MOUNT PLEASANT, PENNSYLVANIA. E. Burke Fisher writes Poe, whose draft on the Literary Examiner has been returned unpaid. Fisher explains that the draft would have been honored, except that he has been absent from the office (Hull, p. 708; L, 2:580).

[1839] 20 NOVEMBER. PHILADELPHIA. Lea & Blanchard reply to Poe:

We have your note of today. The copyright of the Tales would be of no value to us; when we undertook their publication, it was solely to oblige you and not with [page 277:] any view to profit, and on this ground it was urged by you. We should not therefore be now called upon or expected to purchase the copyright when we have no expectation of realizing the Capital placed in the volumes. If the offer to publish was [sic] now before us we should certainly decline it, and would feel obliged if you knew and would urge some one to relieve us from the publication at cost, or even at a small abatement (Woodberry, 1:225).

[Because of troubled economic conditions, Lea & Blanchard were to issue an edition of only 750 copies, instead of the “1750 copies” proposed in their 28 September letter to Poe (Thomas [1978], pp. 73-74).]

[1839] 20 NOVEMBER. Alexander’s Weekly Messenger carries a large advertisement for volumes six and seven (1840) of Burton’s, “WILLIAM E. BURTON & EDGAR A. POE, EDITORS.” Poe’s unsigned serial “The Journal of Julius Rodman” is announced in large capitals:

In the course of the next volume, the most interesting record ever written will be given to the public, in the Journal of the


And passed the desert ridges of the Rocky Mountains. This eventful Journey, wherein a handful of men encountered perils scarcely to be believed, occurred a few years before the time of Lewis and Clarke. The MS. is now in the hands of the Editors, and in the January number we shall commence its publication.

In still larger capitals the advertisement describes an elaborate contest:

To render Burton’s Magazine the most desirable monthly publication for the next year, the Proprietor, in addition to the promised articles from his powerful list of Contributors, ensures a series of Papers of Original value, from the pens of the best Authors in the United States. To perfect this arrangement, he offers

A PREMIUM OF $1,000!

In befitting sums, for articles of value, written expressly for the Magazine; and sent in, postage free, before the expiration of the month of February.


For a series of Five Short Tales, illustrating the events of distinct periods in the History of North America, or developing the habits and manners of the present day in various portions of the Union.



For the best Humorous or Satirical Poem.


For the best Essay on any popular subject connected with Science or Belles Lettres. [page 278:]


For the best Tale of pathos or interest.


For the most Humorous Story, or Characteristic Sketch.


For the best Serious Poem, of not less than 200 lines.



For the most graphic Memoir of any living American of celebrity, divested of all political or sectarian doctrines.


For most interesting Sketch of Foreign Travel.

The Editors do not intend to insult the competitors by referring their productions to the scrutiny of “a committee of literary gentlemen,” who generally select, unread, the effusion of the most popular candidate as the easiest method of discharging their onerous duties. Every article sent in will be carefully perused by the Editors alone — and as they have hitherto catered successfully for the taste of their readers, and daily sit in judgment upon literary matters connected with the Review department, it is supposed that they possess sufficient capability to select the worthiest production offered to their notice. All papers, poems, tales, etcetera, sent in with a claim to the Premiums, will become the property of the Magazine — but no article will be printed without some return being made to the writer.

[1839] DECEMBER. On its outside back cover Burton’s carries the same advertisement announcing “The Journal of Julius Rodman” and “A PREMIUM OF $1,000!” which had appeared in the Weekly Messenger. This number contains Poe’s tale “The Conversation of Eiros and Charmion,” as well as his reviews of Charles Dickens’ Nicholas Nickleby, Joseph R. Chandler’s Address, George P. Morris’ National Melodies of America, and James Grant’s Walks and Wanderings in the World of Literature.

[1839] 2 DECEMBER. The Public Ledger reports: “BURTON’S GENTLEMAN’S MAGAZINE for December has come out, and offers a thousand dollars in premiums; which will set some persons to work.”

[1839] CA. 4 DECEMBER. Lea & Blanchard publish Poe’s Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque. The collection of twenty-five stories is dedicated to the prominent Philadelphian Colonel William Drayton “with every Sentiment of Respect, Gratitude, and Esteem.” In a brief preface Poe defends himself against those critics who have charged him “with what they have been pleased to term ‘Germanism’ and gloom. . . . If in many of my productions terror has been the thesis, I maintain that terror is not of Germany, but of the soul, — that I have deduced this terror only from its legitimate sources, and urged it only to its legitimate results.”

The first volume contains fourteen stories: “Morella,” “Lionizing;” “William Wilson,” “The Man that was Used Up,” “The Fall of the House of [page 279:] Usher,” “The Duc de L’Omelette,” “MS. Found in a Bottle,” “Bon-Bon,” “Shadow,” “The Devil in the Belfry,” “Ligeia,” “King Pest,” and “The Signora Zenobia” incorporating “The Scythe of Time.”

The second volume contains these eleven: “Epimanes,” “Slope,” “Hans Phaall,” “A Tale of Jerusalem,” “Von Jung,” “Loss of Breath,” “Metzengerstein,” “Berenice,” “Why the Little Frenchman Wears His Hand in a Sling,” “The Visionary,” and “The Conversation of Eiros and Charmion.”

[1839] AFTER 4 DECEMBER. Poe takes a copy of the Tales [[of the Grotesque and Arabesque]] to Colonel Drayton at his residence, 13 Portico Square; he forwards another copy to Philip Pendleton Cooke in Charlestown, Virginia. The copy presented to Anna and Bessie Pedder, the daughters of James Pedder, is inscribed “from their most sincere friend, The Author” (Thomas [1978], pp. 91-92, 865-66).

[1839] 5 DECEMBER. The Public Ledger lists the Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque under “New Publications.” The Pennsylvania Inquirer observes that several stories in the collection “are capital, while all afford agreeable reading. Indeed the subjects are so various, that few persons can peruse both volumes, without finding much to interest and amuse.” In the United States Gazette Joseph R. Chandler comments: “These two volumes, though exceedingly well executed, and admirably explained by their title, rather show the versatility than the character of Mr. Poe’s talents and while we read them with hearty pleasure, we feel a gratification in the knowledge, that he can do other things in literature equally as well. He is capable of much — and we trust that time and opportunity will be allowed, and ample encouragement afforded him.”

[1839] AFTER 5? DECEMBER. NEW YORK. The Knickerbocker Magazine for December contains a promise (never fulfilled) to review Poe’s Tales [[of the Grotesque and Arabesque]] in the next number.

[1839] 6 DECEMBER. PHILADELPHIA. Joseph C. Neal comments in the Pennsylvanian:

“TALES OF THE GROTESQUE AND ARABESQUE,” is the title of a work just published by Messrs. Lea and Blanchard. It consists of tales and sketches from the pen of Edgar A. Poe, Esq. formerly of the Southern Literary Messenger, and now one of the editors of the Gentleman’s Magazine in this city, a writer who adds to extensive acquirements, a remarkable vigor and originality of mind, the manifestations of which are strikingly displayed in the volumes of which we speak. These grotesque and arabesque delineations are full of variety, now irresistibly quaint and droll, and again marked with all the deep and painful interest of the German school, so that the reader, in whatever mood he may be, cannot fail to find something to suit his temper and absorb his attention. In every page, he will note [page 280:] matter unlike the productions of any other writer. Poe follows in nobody’s track, — his imagination seems to have a domain of its own to revel in.

[1839] 6 DECEMBER. Poe writes the merchant John C. Cox, forwarding a copy of his Tales [[of the Grotesque and Arabesque]]. He regrets both that he has not been able to repay $50 which Cox “so kindly lent nearly a year ago,” and that he has not seen him since that time to apologize for this failure. He invites Cox to visit his family: “We are still where we were. I could then speak to you more fully, and convince you that the embarrassments under which I have labored are not exaggerated.” It was “only with the most painful sacrifices” that Poe managed to pay Mrs. Jones, the landlady of his Arch Street boarding-house, “about last Christmas” (L, 1:122-23).

[1839] 7 DECEMBER. The Saturday Evening Post comments: “ ‘TALES OF THE GROTESQUE AND ARABESQUE’ . . . These volumes contain the republished magazine articles of Mr. Poe. They are strongly infused with the German spirit, a metaphysical style to which the writer is ardently attached.” In the same column the Post notices the December Burton’s: “The reviews of the month, evince the taste, and judgment, and some of them the severity, for which Mr. Poe is distinguished.”

[1839] 9 DECEMBER. Poe writes Edward L. Carey and Abraham Hart, partners in the publishing firm Carey & Hart: “Mr Burton mentioned to me, before going to Charleston, that you were good enough to promise him a Chapter from Marryatt’s forthcoming work [Frederick Marryat’s Diary in America], for the Jan: No. of our Mag: The Chapter was, I believe, one on ‘Migration & Emigration’. Will you please let me have it, if convenient, by the bearer?” (L, 1:123-24).

[Burton had an acting engagement in Charleston, South Carolina, from 28 November to 9 December (Johnson, p. 129).]

[1839] 10 DECEMBER. The North American notices Poe’s Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque: “These tales betoken ability on the part of the author to do better. Let him give up his imitation of German mysticism, throw away his extravagance, think and write in good sound sober English, and leave all touches of profanity to the bar room, and he will employ his talents to much better advantage.”

[1839] 11 DECEMBER. BALTIMORE. The Sun reviews the December Burton’s: “We perceive that premiums, amounting in all to $1,000, are offered for articles of value written expressly for this Magazine. A rich treat may be expected in the January and February numbers.” [page 281:]

[1839] 12 DECEMBER. PHILADELPHIA. Poe writes Snodgrass that he is sending him a copy of Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque. The package, addressed to “the office of the Baltimore American,” also contains a second copy which Poe asks Snodgrass to present to John L. Carey, editor of this paper (L, 1:124-25).

[1839] 12 DECEMBER. NEW YORK. The Evening Star lists Poe’s Tales [[of the Grotesque and Arabesque]] under “New Books.”

[1839] 13 DECEMBER. The Evening Post briefly notices Poe’s collection: “a series of tales, grave and merry, in two duodecimo volumes.”

[1839] 14 DECEMBER. BALTIMORE. John L. Carey comments in the American:

Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque,” by Edgar A. Poe — 2 vols. The Tales comprising this series have before appeared from time to time in different periodicals; they are now given to the world in a more durable form. We know not many effusions of the imaginative class that better deserve such preservation. The impress of genius is marked upon them all — of genius erratic, it may be, but nevertheless of true quality. The several stories as they came forth singly were received with commendations by the press generally. The following will be recognized as familiar names — “The Fall of the House of Usher;’ “Bon Bon,” “Mss. found in a Bottle,” “William Wilson;” “Hans Phaall,” &c. &c. — Without particularizing others we will observe of the story entitled “William Wilson,” that it contains a profounder meaning than will be gathered from regarding it as a mere fanciful invention.

[1839] 14 DECEMBER. PHILADELPHIA. Ezra Holden reviews Poe’s Tales [[of the Grotesque and Arabesque]] in the Saturday Courier: “They are generally wildly imaginative in plot; fanciful in description, oftentimes to the full boundaries of the grotesque; but throughout indicating the polished writer, possessed of rare and varied learning. Some of them will bear good comparison with the productions of Coleridge, and it is not surprising that the author has often been compared with that author. The tale of ‘William Wilson, and that of ‘The House of Usher,’ are, to our judgment, the best in the volumes, and may be quoted as examples of the author’s powers.”

[1839] 14 DECEMBER. NEW YORK. The Spirit of the Times notices the Tales [[of the Grotesque and Arabesque]], expressing a hope that “the premonitory encomiums . . . in the second volume, were placed there by the publisher, and not by the author” (Pollin [1980], pp. 17, 24). [page 282:]

[1839] 14 DECEMBER. The Albion praises the Tales [[of the Grotesque and Arabesque]]: “We have read them with great delight and can assure our readers of great satisfaction in their perusal.”

[1839] 14 DECEMBER. BOSTON. The Boston Notion condemns the Tales [[of the Grotesque and Arabesque]]:

We have read a goodly number of these tales, and verily must say that they fall below the average of newspaper trash. They seem to be the offspring of a distempered, unregulated imagination, which needs a selection rather than “an ounce of civet:” They consist of a wild, unmeaning, pointless, aimless set of stories, outraging all manner of probability, and without anything of elevated fancy or fine humor to redeem them. The style is slipshod, though the author says he has elaborated it carefully; and the congregation of nonsense is merely caricature run mad. But if any one is pleased with such stuff, it lies not in our humor to prevent it. De gustibus, etc (Pollin [1970b], p. 24).

[1839] 17 DECEMBER. The Morning Post castigates the Tales [[of the Grotesque and Arabesque]] (Pollin [1980], p. 23).

[1839] 18 DECEMBER. PHILADELPHIA. John Frost reviews the Tales [[of the Grotesque and Arabesque]] in Alexander’s Weekly Messenger:

To say we have read this production attentively is not enough. We have studied it. It is every way worthy of such a distinction, and whoever shall give it a careful study and a philosop[h]ical analysis, will find in it the evidences of an original, vigorous, and independent mind, stored with rich and various learning and capable of su[c]cessful application to a great variety of subjects. As a writer of fiction, Mr. Poe passes “from grave to gay, from lively to severe,” with an ease and buoyancy not less remarkable than the unfailing vigor of his style and prodigious extent of his resources for illustration and embellishment. He is capable of great things; and beautiful and interesting as the tales before us are, we deem them much less remarkable as actual performances than as evidences of ability for much more serious and sustained efforts. They seem to us the playful effusion of a remarkable and powerful intellect. We counsel the writer not to repose upon his laurels. He has placed himself in the foremost rank of American writers, as it respects ability. Let him maintain his position by untiring exertion and show that he fully deserves it by actual performance. He has raised the highest expectations. We trust he will not fail to fulfil them.

This issue of the Messenger contains two contributions by Poe, “Enigmatical and Conundrum-ical” and an untitled article praising James Pedder’s plan to produce sugar from beets. In the former article Poe offers to solve any cryptogram his readers submit, “however unusual or arbitrary may be the characters employed” (Brigham, pp. 12-19).

[The Messenger was edited by Frost, Professor of Literature and Belles-Lettres in the Philadelphia High School, and published by Charles W. [page 283:] Alexander, who had owned the Gentleman’s Magazine before it was purchased by Burton. The Messenger was friendly to Burton, who would not have objected to the brief articles Poe contributed to it between 18 December 1839 and 6 May 1840.]

[1839] 19 DECEMBER. Poe replies to a 16 December letter from Snodgrass, who inquired about the contest advertised on the covers of the December Burton’s: “Touching the Premiums. The Advertisement respecting them was written by Mr. Burton, and is not, I think as explicit as might [be.] I can give you no information about their desig[nation furth]er than is shown in the advertisement itself. The tru[th is,] I object, in toto, to the whole scheme.” He asks Snodgrass to forward any reviews of his Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque which appear in the Baltimore newspapers: “The Philadelphians have given me the very highest possible praise — I cd desire nothing further. Have you seen the U. S. Gazette, the Pennsylvanian, or Alexander’s Messenger. In the last is a notice by Professor Frost, which I forward you, today, with this. The books have just reached New York. The Star and the Evening Post have both capital notices.” Poe believes “that the edition is already very nearly exhausted” (L, 1:125-26).

[1839] 19 DECEMBER. CHARLESTOWN, VIRGINIA. Philip Pendleton Cooke replies to a letter from Poe, who requested an opinion of several stories collected in the Tales [[of the Grotesque and Arabesque]]:

In your “Fall of the House of Usher”, unconnected with style, I think you very happy in that part where you prolong the scene with Roderick Usher after the death of his sister; and the glare of the moon thro’ the sundering house, and the electric gleam visible around it, I think admirably conceived.

Of “William Witson” I am not sure that I perceive the true clew. From the “whispering voice” I would apprehend that you meant the second William Wilson as an embodying of the conscience of the first; but I am inclined to the notion that your intention was to convey the wilder idea that every mortal of us is attended with a shadow of himself — a duplicate of his own peculiar organization — differing from himself only in a certain angelic taint of the compound, derived from heaven, as our own wild humours are derived from Hell (figuratively); — I cannot make myself understood, as I am not used to the expression of a wild half thought. But, although I do not clearly comprehend, I certainly admire the story.

Of “Eiros & Charmion” I will only say that I consider the whole very singular and excellent, and the skill of one small part of it unapproachable. . . .

By the way you have selected an excellent title for your volume of Tales. “Tales of the grotesque and the Arabesque” expresses admirably the character of your wild stories — and as Tales of the grotesque & arabesque they were certainly never equalled (MB-G).

[1839] 21 DECEMBER. NEW YORK. Timothy O. Porter reviews Poe’s Tales [[of the Grotesque and Arabesque]] in the [page 284:] Corsair: “We have skimmed over the surface of these volumes and found them possessed of a fair claim upon our admiration. A sparkling dash of fancy, sentiment and wit intermingled, — clothed in rich language, and pink’d off with the latest gloss of transcendentalism, with little regard to definite plot or story-like dènouement, with an occasional burst of the ‘grotesque’ admirably sustained, recommend these Tales to those who hail with avidity a novelty in the literary mart.” The book is also noticed by the New-York American and the New-York Mirror (Pollin [1972b], p. 56; [1980], p. 23).

[1839] 25 DECEMBER. PHILADELPHIA. Poe replies to a 15 November letter from Joseph B. Boyd, a Cincinnati watchmaker, who requested a manuscript copy of one of his poems. He copies “Silence — A Sonnet” (L, 1:126-27).

28 DECEMBER. NEW YORK. An anonymous reviewer, possibly Louis F. Tasistro, lauds the Tales [[of the Grotesque and Arabesque]] in the New-York Mirror:

Had Mr. Poe written nothing else but “Morella;” “William Wilson,” “The House of Usher,” and the “MS. found in a Bottle,” he would deserve a high place among imaginative writers, for there is fine poetic feeling, much brightness of fancy, an excellent taste, a ready eye for the picturesque, much quickness of observation, and great truth of sentiment and character in all these works. But there is scarcely one of the tales published in the two volumes before us, in which we do not find the development of great intellectual capacity, with a power for vivid description, an opulence of imagination, a fecundity of invention, and a command over the elegances of diction which have seldom been displayed, even by writers who have acquired the greatest distinction in the republic of letters. It would be, indeed, no easy matter to find another artist with ability equal to this writer for discussing the good and evil — the passions, dilemmas, and affectations — the self-sufficiency and the deplorable weakness, the light and darkness, the virtue and the vice by which mankind are by turns affected. These volumes present a succession of richly-coloured pictures in the magic lantern of invention.

[1839] CA. 1839. PHILADELPHIA. Poe attends informal social gatherings of artists, actors, and writers held in the Falstaff Hotel, Sixth Street above Chestnut. He becomes acquainted with three of the city’s leading artists, Thomas Sully, John Sartain, and George R. Bonfield. Sully paints a portrait of Poe “in the Byron attitude” (Thomas [1978], pp. 805-08).



~~ 1840 ~~

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[1840] JANUARY. PHILADELPHIA. Burton’s publishes the first of six installments of Poe’s unfinished serial “The Journal of Julius Rodman,” as well as his critique of Thomas Moore’s Alciphron: A Poem. This number contains a perfunctory notice of Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque; the outside back cover carries the same advertisement announcing “Rodman” and “A PREMIUM OF $1,000!” found on the December 1839 covers and in Alexander’s Weekly Messenger for 20 November 1839.

[1840] JANUARY. Morton McMichael reviews the Tales [[of the Grotesque and Arabesque]] in Godey’s Lady’s Book:

Mr. Poe is a writer of rare and various abilities. He possesses a fine perception of the ludicrous, and his humorous stories are instinct with the principle of mirth. He possesses also a mind of unusual grasp — a vigorous power of analysis, and an acuteness of perception which have given to him high celebrity as a critic. These same faculties, moreover, aided by an unusually active imagination, and directed by familiar study of metaphysical writings, have led him to produce some of the most vivid scenes of the wild and wonderful which can be found in English literature. The volumes now published, contain favourable specimens of Mr. Poe’s powers, and cannot fail to impress all who read them, with a conviction of his genius.

Burton's Gentleman's Magazine, January 1840, front wrapper [thumbnail]

[Illustration on page 286]
Front wrapper of the January Burton’s

[1840] JANUARY. RICHMOND. James E. Heath reviews the Tales [[of the Grotesque and Arabesque]] in the Southern Literary Messenger:

To say that we admire Mr. Poe’s style, abstractly considered, is more than we can say and speak truly; neither can we perceive any particular beneficial tendency that is likely to flow from his writings. This, of course, is a mere matter of opinion, and we may differ, in saying so, from many. At the same time, the possession of high powers of invention and imagination — of genius — is undoubtedly his. His productions are, many of them, in Literature, somewhat like Martin’s in the Fine Arts. His serious sketches all bear the marks of bold, fertile genius. There is the dark cloud hanging over all — there are the dim, misty, undefined shapes in the back-ground. But amid all these arise huge and magnificent columns, flashing lamps, rich banquetting vessels, gleaming tiaras, and sweet, expressive faces. But the writings of Mr. P. are well known to the readers of the Messenger.

The volumes before us, with a rather singular title, are composed of tales and sketches, which have appeared at different times before the public: many of them, in this journal. We have read but a portion of them. Of these, we like, as a specimen of the authors powers of humor, “The Man that was used Up,” and “Why the Little Frenchman wears his hand in a Sling.” “Siope,” and “The MS. [page 287:] found in a Bottle;’ afford good specimens of the author’s stronger and more graphic powers.

We recommend Hans Phaal to every one who has not already read it — although our remembrance of it remains from a perusal some time since. The “opinions” prefixed to the second volume, are in bad taste. We do not intend to write a critique, but merely to bring to the notice of the public, the productions of a talented and powerful writer.

[1840] 1 JANUARY. PHILADELPHIA. In Alexander’s Weekly Messenger Poe notices the New-York Mirror for 28 December 1839, calling attention to its favorable review of his Tales [[of the Grotesque and Arabesque]] (Brigham, pp. 19-20).

[1840] 4 JANUARY. The Saturday Courier publishes Poe’s “Silence — A Sonnet.” In reviewing the January Burton’s, the Courier remarks: “the most interesting article . . . is . . . a preliminary chapter of the Journal of Julius Rodman, an account of the first passage ever made by white men across the Rocky Mountains, and an exploring tour through a portion of the wilderness, then, and in fact now, entirely unknown. From what we learn, this Journal is one of the most extraordinary narratives ever penned.”

[1840] 4 JANUARY. NEW YORK. The Madisonian notices the publication of Poe’s Tales [[of Grotesque and Arabesque]] (Pollin [1980], p. 23).

[1840] 15 JANUARY. PHILADELPHIA. Alexander’s Weekly Messenger contains Poe’s articles “The Daguerreotype” and “Enigmatical.” In the latter he deciphers a cryptogram a reader has submitted in response to his challenge in the 18 December 1839 issue (Brigham, pp. 20-24).

[1840] BEFORE 20 JANUARY. BALTIMORE. Snodgrass writes Poe. He apparently blames his former partner Nathan C. Brooks for the failure of their American Museum, which expired with its June 1839 number (Poe’s reply; cf. Thomas [1978], pp. 549, 676).

[1840] 20 JANUARY. PHILADELPHIA. During “a temporary lull in a storm of business,” Poe replies to Snodgrass: “I am obliged to decline saying anything of the ‘Museum’ in the Gent’s Mag: however much I feel anxious to oblige yourself, and to express my own views. You will understand me when I say that I have no proprietary interest in the Mag: and that Mr Burton is a warm friend of Brooks.” Poe has heard “that an attempt is to be made by Some one of capital in Baltimore, to get up a Magazine”; and he asks Snodgrass to tell him “all about it by return of mail” (L, 1:127-28).

[1840] 22 JANUARY. In Alexander’s Weekly Messenger Poe deciphers two more cryptograms [page 288:] submitted by readers in “Another Poser” and “Still Another” (Brigham, pp. 24-25).

[1840] 29 JANUARY. Alexander’s Weekly Messenger contains Poe’s essay “Instinct VS Reason — A Black Cat”; he argues that the instinct of animals is in some ways superior to human reason, offering an example from his daily life:

The writer of this article is the owner of one of the most remarkable black cats in the world . . . . That portion of the kitchen which she most frequents is accessible only by a door, which closes with what is termed a thumb-latch; these latches are rude in construction, and some force and dexterity are always requisite to force them down. But puss is in the daily habit of opening the door, which she accomplishes in the following way. She first springs from the ground to the guard of the latch (which resembles the guard over a gun-trigger,) and through this she thrusts her left arm to hold on with. She now, with her right hand, presses the thumb-latch until it yields, and here several attempts are frequently requisite. Having forced it down, however, she seems to be aware that her task is but half accomplished, since, if the door is not pushed open before she lets go, the latch will again fall into its socket. She, therefore, screws her body round so as to bring her hind feet immediately beneath the latch, while she leaps with all her strength from the door — the impetus of the spring forcing it open, and her hind feet sustaining the latch until this impetus is fairly given.

To this issue Poe also contributes a news item “The Bloodhound Story” and a cryptogram solution “Yet Another Poser;” as well as an advance notice of the February Burton’s: “The Journal of Julius Rodman is continued, and a vivid description given of the persons and equipments of the travellers, who proceed up the Missouri as far as the mouth of the Platte. We prophecy that this will prove an intensely interesting narrative.” One of the reviews in Burton’s “shows up Professor Longfellow as a plagiarist of the first water” (Brigham, pp. 26-32).

[1840] FEBRUARY. Burton’s contains the second installment of Poe’s “Rodman” and his satiric tale “Peter Pendulum, the Business Man.” He reviews Longfellow’s Voices of the Night, suggesting that this poet’s “Midnight Mass for the Dying Year” is a “plagiarism, which is too palpable to be mistaken,” from Alfred Tennyson’s “The Death of the Old Year.”

[1840] 1 FEBRUARY. The Saturday Courier reviews Burton’s, describing “Rodman” as “A valuable piece of American history,” and “Peter Pendulum” as “Funny and good, like all of Poe’s writings.”

[1840] 4 FEBRUARY. In the Philadelphia Gazette Willis Gaylord Clark defends Longfellow against the accusation made in Poe’s review of Voices of the Night: [page 289:]

A neighboring periodical [Burton’s], we hear, has been attempting to prove that professor LONGFELLOW’s sublime and beautiful “Midnight Mass for the Dying Year,” has been imitated from a poem by TENNYSON. Preposterous! There is nothing more alike in the two pieces than black and white, with the exception of the personification, — and that was LONGFELLOW’s, long before the Scotch writer thought of “doing” his poem. Who does not remember that striking simile in one of the Professors earlier lyrics,

— “where Autumn, like a faint old man, sits down,

By the wayside, aweary?”

This same beautiful piece was copied in Edinburgh, from an English periodical where it was altered, to suit the scenery of England; and it is fifty times more probable that TENNYSON thus got his idea. . . . We ask the Weekly Messenger, who [which] has repeated the charge of abstraction, to clip this caveat, and give it utterance.

[1840] 5 FEBRUARY. Alexander’s Weekly Messenger contains Poe’s filler “Still Another,” in which he translates “the ugliest hyeroglyphical puzzle we have yet received” (Brigham, p. 32).

[1840] 10 FEBRUARY. WASHINGTON. Robert Greenhow, Translator and Librarian to the Department of State, mentions “Rodman” in his “Memoir, Historical and Political, on the Northwest Coast of North America,” a document submitted to the United States Senate by its Select Committee on the Oregon Territory:

It is proper to notice here an account of an expedition across the American continent, made between 1791 and 1794, by a party of citizens of the United States, under the direction of Julius Rodman, whose journal has been recently discovered in Virginia, and is now in course of publication in a periodical magazine at Philadelphia. The portion which has yet appeared relates only to the voyage of the adventurer[s] up the Missouri during the summer of 1791; and no idea is communicated of their route beyond that river, except in the Introduction by the editor, where it is stated that they traversed the region “west of the Rocky Mountains, and north of the 60th parallel, which is still marked upon our maps as unexplored, and which, until this day, has been always so considered.” From what has been published, it is impossible to form a definitive opinion as to the degree of credit which is due to the narrative, or as to the value of the statements, if they are true; and all that can be here said in addition is, that nothing as yet appears, either in the journal or relating to it, calculated to excite suspicions with regard to its authenticity (Jackson [1974], pp. 47-48).

[1840] 12 FEBRUARY. PHILADELPHIA. In Alexander’s Weekly Messenger Poe reprints the 4 February defense of Longfellow by the editor of the Philadelphia Gazette. He then comments: [page 290:]

In referring to the criticism mentioned [review of Voices of the Night], we find that Mr. Clark has made a little mistake — at which we are not a little astonished. Mr. Poe does not say that Professor Longfellow’s poem is “imitated” from Tennyson. He calls it a bare-faced and barbarous plagiarism “belonging to that worst species of literary robbery, in which, while the words of the wronged author are avoided, his most intangible, and therefore his least defensible and least reclaimable property, is purloined.” In support of this accusation he has printed the poems in question side by side — a proceeding, which, we must acknowledge, has an air of perfect fairness about it. That the reviewer, indeed, has nothing beyond truth as his object, is rendered quite apparent by the fact that nowhere has the fine genius of Professor Longfellow been so fully and so enthusiastically set forth, as in the earlier, portion of the very critique now made the subject of comment. . . .

In “Our Late Puzzles” Poe complains that the Messenger is receiving too many cryptograms: “Will any body tell us how to get out of this dilemma? If we don’t solve all the puzzles forwarded, their concocters will think it is because we cannot — when we can.” Under the heading “Swimming” he recalls his teenage feat of swimming the James River at Richmond for “a distance of seven miles and a half [six miles], in a hot June sun, and against a tide of three miles per hour” (Brigham, pp. 33-37).

[1840] 18 FEBRUARY. PORTLAND, MAINE. Longfellow writes Samuel Ward in New York: “My brother told me yesterday that some paragraphs had appeared in some New York paper saying I stole the idea of the Midnight Mass from Tennison [sic]. Absurd. I did not even know that he had written a piece on this subject” (Longfellow [1966], 2:215-16).

[1840] 19 FEBRUARY. In Alexander’s Weekly Messenger Poe translates another cipher under the heading “Our Puzzles — Again!” (Brigham, pp. 38-40).

[1840] 22 FEBRUARY. The Saturday Evening Post notices the February Burton’s “ ‘The Journal of Julius Rodman, is a singular thing. ‘Peter Pendulum,’ by E. A. Poe, the junior editor, is highly amusing. We like the reviews, with the exception of that of the ‘Midnight Mass of the Dying Year.’ We cannot agree with the reviewers that the poem alluded to is a plagiarism.”

Burton's Gentleman's Magazine, Jnaury 1840, back wrapper [thumbnail]

[Illustration on page 291]
Back wrapper of the January Burton’s

[1840] 26 FEBRUARY. In Alexander’s Weekly Messenger Poe translates additional ciphers under the headings “More of the Puzzles” and “Our Puzzles Once More.” Two fillers, “Thomas Paine” and “Advertising Oddities,” may possibly be Poe’s work (Brigham, pp. 40-52).

[1840] 29 FEBRUARY. Poe writes the prominent physician Dr. John Kearsley Mitchell, 288 Walnut Street: “It will give me great pleasure to accept your invitation for Feb: 29th — this evening” (L, 1:128). [page 292:]

[1840] MARCH. Burton’s contains the third installment of Poe’s “Rodman,” his miscellany “A Chapter on Science and Art,” and his reviews of Henry Duncan’s Sacred Philosophy of the Seasons and Nathaniel P. Willis’ Romance of Travel. On the inside front cover Burton announces a modification to his premium contest advertised on the December 1839 and January 1840 covers:

It is with the utmost regret that we announce to our friends that our liberal offer of Premiums, to the amount of One Thousand Dollars, has not been sufficiently attended to by the auctorial world. That the honesty of our intentions was thoroughly appreciated is evident from the various letters received from some of the most distinguished writers of the day; we have been complimented by the very highest members of the craft for the liberality of our scheme — and many cheering encomiums have been passed upon our plan as one divested of the usual humbug of the day. We have received a few manuscripts of invaluable worth, touching some of the subjects named; but we have nothing in the way of competition; our scheme or scale of premiums embraced a variety of sums and subjects — for various of these items we have no claimants; for others we have no competitors. We cannot award a premium for the best article, when we are without means of comparison. It has been suggested that the time originally allowed (to the end of February) was too short for the production of the articles required; as it is our earnest wish to carry our original plan into execution, we hereby extend the date of reception to the end of March — when, if we should still be unable to obtain a sufficiency of competitors, the articles sent will be returned to their owners, if a negotiation for their insertion should be unsuccessful in its issue.

[1840] 4 MARCH. In Alexander’s Weekly Messenger Poe comments briefly on “Revivals,” which are “very much in fashion just at present in Philadelphia,” and translates ciphers in “More of the Puzzles” and in a filler addressed “To T. S. of Boquet, Essex, N. Y.” (Brigham, pp. 52-54).

[1840] 11 MARCH. Poe solves additional ciphers for the Messenger in “Puzzles Again!” (Brigham, pp. 55-56).

[1840] 18 MARCH. The Messenger contains Poe’s news report “The Rail-Road War;” as well as his favorable notices of the Young Gardener’s Assistant, issued by his friends Henry B. Hirst and Henry A. Dreer “at their Seed store, No. 97 Chesnut street,” and of the Virginia Star, a new paper published at Petersburg, Virginia, by Hiram Haines, “a gentleman of education and of unusually fine talents” (Brigham, pp. 56-60).

[1840] 25 MARCH. The Messenger contains more cipher solutions by Poe under the heading “Puzzles Again!” (Brigham, pp. 60-62).

[1840] 28 MARCH. The Saturday Evening Post announces that John S. Du Solle has [page 293:] disposed of his interest in the paper: “Charles J. Peterson, Esq. will hereafter be associated . . . in the management of this paper. . . . The business will hereafter be conducted under the firm of G. R. GRAHAM & CO.”

[1840] APRIL. NEW YORK. In the Knickerbocker Magazine Lewis Gaylord Clark reviews the March Burton’s: “We observe . . . a continuation of the Journal of JULIUS RODMAN, being a minute account of the first passage across the Rocky Mountains ever achieved by civilized man.’ We think we discover the clever hand of the resident editor of the ‘Gentleman’s Magazine,’ Mr. E. A. POE, in these records; the more, perhaps, that the fabulous narrative of ‘Mr. ARTHUR GORDON PYM, of Nantucket, has shown us how deftly he can manage this species of [Robinson] Crusoe matériel.”

[1840] APRIL. PHILADELPHIA. Burton’s contains the fourth installment of Poe’s “Rodman,” his two miscellanies “A Chapter on Science and Art” and “Omniana,” and his “Silence — A Sonnet” (reprint). On the inside front cover Burton reprints the first four sentences of his statement on the March covers; he then announces the cancellation of his premium contest:

We published the above statement on the cover of our last number, and, conceiving that the time originally fixed for the presentation of the articles was somewhat too brief for the purpose, we extended the date of reception to the end of March — but we might as well have settled the affair at the original period, for we have received but TWO articles during the whole of the month. We have therefore no resource but to acknowledge the failure of our plan, and to return, upon application, the few MSS. to their respective writers, who will individually be addressed by private letter from the editors. . . .

[1840] 1 APRIL. Poe notices the publication of the April Burton’s in Alexander’s Weekly Messenger: “Mr. Poe has a clever Sonnet . . . . The ‘Journal of Julius Rodman’ progresses beautifully. The travellers are far on their way, and will soon enter a tract of country hitherto undescribed. A fine engraving illustrates this chapter.” The Messenger also contains Poe’s articles “The Trial of James Wood” and “Cabs.” An editorial on “Disinterment” may possibly be his work (Brigham, pp. 63-68).

[1840] 8 APRIL. The Messenger carries Poe’s notice headed “Cyphers”: he promises to answer “one or two letters from enigmatical friends” in the next issue (Brigham, p. 68).

[1840] 15 APRIL. The Messenger contains Poe’s articles on “Revivals” and “The Worm” (Brigham, pp. 68-70). [page 294:]

[1840] 20 APRIL THROUGH 6 MAY BALTIMORE. Burton has a successful acting engagement at the American Theatre on Front Street (advertisements and reviews in the Sun, 15 April through 6 May).

[1840] 22 APRIL. PHILADELPHIA. The Messenger contains Poe’s “Cyphers Again,” in which he translates cryptograms submitted by readers. His other contributions are headed “A Long Leap” and “Changing Seats” (Brigham, pp. 7075).

[1840] 24 APRIL. Poe answers a 24 March letter from Hiram Haines of Petersburg, Virginia, who would like to give a pet fawn to Mrs. Poe: “She desires me to thank you with all her heart — but, unhappily, I cannot point out a mode of conveyance. What can be done? Perhaps some opportunity may offer itself hereafter — some friend from Petersburg may be about to pay us a visit. In the meantime accept our best acknowledgments, precisely as if the little fellow were already nibbling the grass before our windows in Philadelphia.” Poe will do “anything in the world” to promote Haines’s Virginia Star (L, 1:128-29).

[1840] 27 APRIL. Poe writes Roland S. Houghton, a fifteen-year-old student at the University of Vermont in Burlington who submitted a story ‘John a’ Combe” in the contest held by Burton’s: “By reference to the last number (for April) you will perceive that the Premium scheme has proved a total failure, and that the M.S.S. sent await the commands of their authors. We should be glad, of course, to publish the piece, but are grieved to say that the absurd condition of our present copyright laws will not permit us to offer any compensation. We shall be pleased to hear from you in reply” (PP-G; Ostrom [1974], pp. 518-19).

[1840] 29 APRIL. In Alexander’s Weekly Messenger Poe solves a cryptogram in “Cyphers” and debunks the Philadelphia fortuneteller Thomas Hague in “A Charlatan!” (Brigham, pp. 75-80).

[1840] MAY. Burton’s contains the fifth installment of Poe’s “Rodman,” his sketch “The Philosophy of Furniture;” his two miscellanies “A Chapter on Science and Art” and “Omniana,” and his “Notice of William Cullen Bryant,” as well as his unsigned reviews of the Memoirs and Letters of Madame Malibran, Mrs. Grey’s novel The Duke, Nathan C. Brooks’s Utility of Classical Studies, Charles West Thomson’s Uncertainty of Literary Fame, and James Pedder’s Frank; or Dialogues between Father and Son.

[1840] EARLY MAY. Construction begins on William E. Burton’s new project, the National Theatre on Chestnut Street near Ninth (Daily Chronicle, 30 May). [page 295:]

[1840] 1 MAY. John S. Du Solle notices Burton’s in the Spirit of the Times, praising Poe’s article on Bryant. “The interesting Journal of Julius Rodman is continued” (Pollin [1981], p. 510).

[1840] 4 MAY. Burton’s is favorably reviewed in the Daily Chronicle, a new paper commenced today by Charles W. Alexander and a young associate, Andrew Scott.

[1840] 4 MAY. A naval court-martial convenes in Philadelphia for the trial of the controversial Commodore Jesse D. Elliott. An important defense witness is Poe’s friend Jesse E. Dow, a clerk in the Post Office Department in Washington who had formerly served as Elliott’s private secretary.

[Dow’s popular “Sketches from the Log of Old Ironsides,” serialized in Burton’s from July 1839 through April 1840, were based upon his experiences aboard Elliott’s flagship, the frigate Constitution.]

[1840] 4-5 MAY. BALTIMORE. The Whig National Convention ratifies the nomination of William Henry Harrison for President, to oppose the Democratic incumbent Martin Van Buren. One of the delegates is the novelist, lawyer, and journalist Frederick William Thomas, lately of Cincinnati, Ohio, who had been a friend of Poe’s brother Henry in 1828.

[1840] AFTER 5 MAY. PHILADELPHIA. Thomas delivers the manuscript of his new novel Howard Pinckney to his publishers Lea & Blanchard. He makes Poe’s acquaintance and solicits his opinion of the novel. Poe introduces Thomas to Dow; the three men become frequent companions, discussing literature, politics, and cryptograms at such fashionable resorts as John Sturdivant’s Congress Hall Hotel, Chestnut and Third Streets, and Robert Harmer’s Cornucopia Restaurant, 44 North Third above High (or Market) Street (Thomas [1978], pp. 125-27).

[In his 3 September 1841 letter to Poe, Thomas recalled: “I was a delegate to the Baltimore May convention in ’40, where I held forth, and after which I made your acquaintance in Philadelphia and got pelted by the people as you remember — or rather by the Locos [Locofocos].” See 19 MAY.]

[1840] 6 MAY. Alexander’s Weekly Messenger contains five short articles by Poe: “Changing Seats,” “Credulity,” “The Daguerreotype;” “Bulwer Used Up,” and “Best Conundrum Yet” (Brigham, pp. 80-83).

[1840] AFTER 6 MAY. Burton returns from his engagement at the American Theatre in Baltimore. He instructs his clerk Charles R. Morrell to withhold [page 296:] three dollars each week from Poe’s salary, until a debt of $100 is repaid (Poe to Burton, 1 June).

[1840] 9 MAY. The Saturday Courier reviews Burton’s: “Rodman’s journey . . . is thought to bespeak the ready pen of Mr. Poe.”

[1840] 16 MAY. The Spirit of the Times reprints Poe’s “Philosophy of Furniture” from Burton’s (Mabbott [1978], 2:495).

[1840] 19 MAY. Poe notices Thomas in Alexander’s Daily Chronicle:

MR. THOMAS. — This gentleman, so well and so favorably known as the author of “East and West,” “The Adventures of a Lawyer,” “Clinton Bradshaw,” and other minor productions of high merit, has now in the hands of Messieurs Lea and Blanchard a new novel called “Howard Pinckney,” of which, from some loose pages which we had the pleasure of glancing at in MS, we entertain a high opinion. “Howard Pinckney,” if we are not much mistaken, will place Mr. Thomas in a position which he should have occupied long ago — a position in the van of our literature. He has only to do himself justice (as he has here done) in his subject, and there is no better writer in America. Let him eschew “Pelham,” and throw all mannerism to the dogs, and he will do honor to his country and to himself. He has the true soul of genius. We here wish to record a prophecy that in ten years from this date his works will be more extensively popular than those of any of our native writers. We would say even more than this — but we have a horror of being suspected of puffery.

In another column Poe comments:

J. E. DOW. — Among the witnesses attendant on the trial of Commodore Elliot[t], we notice Jesse Erskine Dow, Esq., the very clever author of “The Log of Old Ironsides,” and fifty other capital things, in a different vein, which have appeared from time to time at random in our Magazines. “The Log,” it will be remembered, was for many months the “big fish” of Burton’s Gentleman’s Magazine. Mr. Dow, from a sad habit of being always in a hurry, has acquired a certain free and easy slip-shod sort of a style which ought to be amended; but he has true and peculiar talent, and as a man there is no one whom we more highly respect.

[1840] 19 MAY. In the evening Poe attends a large Harrison rally “at the corner of Walnut and Schuylkill Front street,” which is addressed by “Mr. Thomas Fitnam, Dr. Thomas Dunn English, and Mr. Thomas, of Cincinnati.” The proceedings are disrupted “by some Van Buren men,” who “throw brickbats and stones among the people assembled” (United States Gazette, 21 May; see also Thomas [1978], pp. 130-31).

[1840] 21 MAY. Burton advertises his Gentleman’s Magazine for sale. In the Daily Chronicle Alexander, the monthly’s original publisher, comments: “We have [page 297:] an advertisement in to-day’s paper, which presents peculiar advantages to gentlemen of a literary disposition; and from our knowledge of the character of the work, we have no hesitancy in saying, that it is the best speculation in the publishing way, that has been offered to the public for many years.” Burton’s advertisement appears on the next page:


The entire purchase of a monthly publication of great popularity and profit, may now be made for cash, on the most advantageous terms. The price asked is but little more in sum than the profits of the past twelve months. The present publisher, who is about embarking in another business, is prepared to prove that he offers an investment of great eligibility, affording, for a small capital, an income of from three to four thousand dollars a year, to any industrious gentleman of literary acquirements.

Letters, stating real name, addressed box 306, Post Office, Philadelphia, will meet with instant attention.

The United States Gazette carries the same advertisement, which is repeated in subsequent issues of both papers.

[1840] AFTER 21 MAY. Learning of Burton’s advertisement, Poe concludes that his employer intends to devote himself entirely to the National Theatre. Poe now prepares to circulate a prospectus announcing his own journal, the Penn Magazine (Poe to Burton, 1 June; entries for 3, 4 JUNE).

[1840] 23 MAY. The Saturday Courier notices the presence of Thomas and Dow in Philadelphia.

[1840] 30 MAY. The Daily Chronicle describes Burton’s National Theatre, which will accommodate an audience of around two thousand: “we rejoice in the positive certainty of having a first-rate theatre of a larger size than any now in the city. . . . the workmen have been busily employed these three weeks, and in three months, the new theatre will be in operation.” The report is reprinted in Alexander’s other paper, the Weekly Messenger, on 3 June.

[1840] 30 MAY. Burton sends Poe an angry letter of dismissal, rebuking him for attempting to start his own journal (Poe’s reply).

[Burton had reason to be incensed: Poe’s forthcoming announcement of the Penn Magazine would lessen the market value of the Gentleman’s Magazine.]

[1840] 1 JUNE. Poe replies to Burton’s “very singular letter of Saturday.” He resents the fact that three dollars have been retained from his salary each week for “the last 3 weeks.” He does not owe Burton $100; he is indebted [page 298:] “in the amount of about $60”; he will refuse to pay a larger sum. Burton’s assertion that Poe contributes only “2 or 3 pp. of M.S.” to each issue of the Gentleman’s Magazine is also incorrect. He lists the number of pages he has provided each month since last July, claiming “an average of 11 pp per month.” His monthly salary of $50 is not excessive, because he performs many services: “proofreading; general superintendence at the printing-office; reading, alteration, & preparation of M.S.S.” Poe’s plans for the Penn Magazine were prompted by Burton’s own actions during this past month: “You first ‘enforced’, as you say, a deduction of salary: giving me to understand thereby that you thought of parting company — You next spoke disrespectfully of me behind my back — this as an habitual thing — to those whom you supposed your friends, and who punctually retailed me, as a matter of course, every ill-natured word which you uttered. Lastly you advertised your magazine for sale without saying a word to me about it. . . . Had I not firmly believed it your design to give up your Journal, with a view of attending to the [National] Theatre, I should [never] have dreamed of attempting one of my own. The opportunity of doing something for myself seemed a good one — (I was about to be thrown out of business) — and I embraced it.” Poe will not agree to continue “The Journal of Julius Rodman” until he hears from Burton again (L, 1:129-33).

[1840] 2 JUNE. The United States Gazette announces Thomas’ third novel: “HOWARD PINCKNEY, a novel by the author of Clinton Bradshaw, is in the press of Lea & Blanchard and will be published in October next.”

[1840] 3 JUNE. Poe writes John Neal, enclosing a printed prospectus of the Penn Magazine:

As you gave me the first jog in my literary career, you are in a measure bound to protect me & keep me rolling. I therefore now ask you to aid me with your influence, in whatever manner your experience shall suggest.

It strikes me that I never write you except to ask a favor, but my friend Thomas will assure you that I bear you always in mind — holding you in the highest respect and esteem (L, 1:137; Ostrom [1974], p. 519; Moldenhauer [1973], pp. 46-48).

[1840] 3? JUNE. Poe sends copies of his prospectus to the Philadelphia newspapers.

[1840] 4 JUNE. The Pennsylvania Inquirer reports: “Edgar A. Poe, Esq. has just issued proposals for a monthly literary journal, to be called the ‘Penn Magazine.’ ” The Inquirer quotes two paragraphs from the prospectus. In the afternoon Willis Gaylord Clark notices Poe’s plan in the Philadelphia Gazette, alluding to Burton as a “base” association: [page 299:]

Mr. EDGAR A. POE will issue in this city on the first of January next, and continue thereafter in monthly numbers, “The Penn Magazine.” Mr. POE is a clear and vigorous writer; a discriminative and fearless critic, — and we shall be pleased to find him reigning in his own sphere, where his classic power and genuine good taste, untrammeled by base or palsying associations, shall have full scope and play. We do not doubt that the Penn Magazine will add to the reputation of its conductor, and do honor to its name (cf. Clark to Longfellow, 18 July).

[1840] 5 JUNE. The Daily Chronicle reprints Clark’s report. Alexander praises Poe and defends Burton:

We . . . are pleased to learn that Mr. Poe will again enter the field of literature, and give display to his sportive fancy and chaste imaginings. He has a fund of talent, and we ardently hope that he may succeed in his new enterprise, but he must recollect that the times are out of joint. We had understood that the Gentleman’s Magazine was about to lose the benefit of his services.

The editor of the Gazette, in his article above, seems to infer that Mr. Poe, during a short residence in this city, has kept bad company — and been connected with men of no talent or taste. So far as our knowledge extends, it has been quite the contrary. Mr. Poe has, while among us, trod the classic fields with those who are eminent for their talent, good taste, and discernment; and a liberal facility, for a full display of his powers, has been extended to him, and due courtesy always tendered by those with whom he has been connected in business.

[1840] 6 JUNE. In the Saturday Evening Post George R. Graham comments on Poe’s project:

By reference to our advertising columns, it will be seen that a new magazine of a large class will be published in this city after the first of January next. The gentleman who issues the prospectus, and proposes to be publisher and editor, is so well known in the literary world, that commendation would be useless. He was for a long time connected with the Southern Literary Messenger, and won for himself an enviable distinction, as an able, vigorous, impartial, and a somewhat over caustic critic. His pen has been visible for some months past in the review department of the Gentleman’s Magazine, of this city, from which he has retired. We wish him success in his new undertaking, and congratulate him; upon the unique title of his magazine. As we circulate widely among the Friends, we wish him no worse luck, than that he may make friends indeed, of many; as he will find none, should he live to have a thousand years’ experience in publishing, who are more prompt, upright, and honest, in the performance of every obligation, and particularly of the one which we consider most imperious — that of paying the Printer.

The prospectus appears as a paid advertisement on the next page:

PROSPECTUS OF THE PENN MAGAZINE, A MONTHLY LITERARY JOURNAL, TO BE EDITED AND PUBLISHED IN THE CITY OF PHILADELPHIA, BY EDGAR A. POE. — To the Public. — Since resigning the conduct of The Southern Literary Messenger, at the commencement of its third year, I have constantly held in view the establishment [page 300:] of a Magazine which should retain some of the chief features of that Journal, abandoning the rest. . . .

I will be pardoned for speaking more directly of The Messenger. Having in it no proprietary right, my objects too, in many respects, being at variance with those of its very worthy owner, I found difficulty in stamping upon its pages that individuality which I believe essential to the perfect success of all similar publications. . . .

To those who remember the early years of the Messenger, it will be scarcely necessary to say that its main feature was [a] somewhat overdone causticity in its department of Critical Notices. The Penn Magazine will retain this trait of severity in so much only as the calmest and sternest sense of literary justice will permit. One or two years, since elapsed, may have mellowed down the petulance, without interfering with the rigor of the critic. . . . It shall be the first and chief purpose of the Magazine now proposed, to become known as one where may be found, at all times, and upon all subjects, an honest and a fearless opinion. . . .

In respect to the other general features of the Penn Magazine, a few words here will suffice. Upon matters of very grave moment, it will leave the task of instruction in better hands. Its aim, chiefly, shall be to please; and this through means of versatility, originality and pungency. It must not be supposed, however, that the intention is never to be serious. There is a species of grave writing, of which the spirit is novelty and vigor, and the immediate object the enkindling of the imagination. In such productions, belonging to the loftiest regions of literature, the journal shall abound. . . .

To the mechanical execution of the work the greatest attention will be given which such a matter can require. . . . The pictorial embellishments will be numerous, and by the leading artists of the country, but will be only introduced in the necessary illustration of the text.

The Penn Magazine will be published in Philadelphia, on the first of each month, and will form, half yearly, a volume of about 500 pages. The price will be $5 per annum, payable in advance, or upon the receipt of the first number, which will be issued on the first of January, 1841.

Poe's prospectus in the Saturday Evening Post, June 6, 1840 [thumbnail]

[Illustration on page 301]
Poe’s prospectus in the Saturday Evening Post, 6 June

[1840] 8 JUNE. PORTLAND, MAINE. John Neal writes Poe: “Yours of June 4 [3], directed to New York, reached me but yesterday. I am glad to hear of your new enterprize and hope it may be all that you desire; but I cannot help you. I have done with the newspapers — have abandoned the journals — and have involved so many of my friends of late by becoming editor, or associate editor of so many different things, for a few months at a time — and always against my will — that I haven’t the face to ask any person to subscribe for anything on earth” (Neat, p. 2).

[1840] 8 JUNE. PHILADELPHIA. The North American comments: “In the Prospectus of the Penn Magazine, now before us, . . . Edgar A. Poe, Esq. proposes to commence a work, which . . . shall endeavor to unite instruction with amusement. . . . Mr. Poe is himself a gentleman of richly imaginative powers.” [page 302:]

[1840] 9 JUNE. The Public Ledger quotes from the prospectus, praising Poe for his promise to be a rigorous but just critic. “As a writer of fiction, Mr. Poe possesses extraordinary powers, and with respect to originality of genius, he has few equals.”

[1840] BEFORE 11 JUNE. Burton’s for June contains the sixth and final installment of Poe’s unfinished “Rodman,” his plate article “Some Account of Stonehenge,” his “Omniana,” and his reviews of The Youth of Shakspeare and Henry Grattan’s High-Ways and By-Ways. The inside front cover carries this announcement by Burton: “Our readers are respectfully informed that in future Edgar A. Poe will not be connected with this Magazine.”

[1840] 11 JUNE. The United States Gazette notices the publication of Burton’s. In another column the editor Joseph R. Chandler welcomes the Penn Magazine: “There has been handed round a prospectus for a monthly magazine . . . to be published in this city by Edgar A. Poe, Esq., whose contributions to the literature of our country have been abundant and creditable.” Poe is “a sound, and sometimes a severe critic — one who makes the short-coming or over-reaching author feel that he has offended. Wholesome remembrances of this kind are good for the literary prospects of a country.”

[1840] 12 JUNE. The prospectus appears as a paid advertisement in the Spirit of the Times.

[1840] 12 JUNE. BALTIMORE. Joseph Evans Snodgrass writes Poe, requesting his assistance in securing the return of an essay submitted in the Gentleman’s Magazine premium contest. Snodgrass had previously contacted Burton, who wrote him that he could not locate the manuscript (Poe’s 17 June reply).

[1840] 13 JUNE. PHILADELPHIA. The Saturday Chronicle and the Saturday Courier favorably notice the forthcoming Penn Magazine, both papers quoting from Poe’s prospectus.

[1840] 17 JUNE. Poe replies to Snodgrass: “Touching your Essay. Burton not only lies, but deliberately and wilfully lies; for the last time but one that I saw him I called his attention to the M.S. which was then at the top of a pile of other M.S.S. sent for premiums, in a drawer of the office desk. . . . Were I in your place I would take some summary method of dealing with the scoundrel, whose infamous line of conduct in regard to this whole premium scheme merits, and shall receive exposure. I am firmly convinced that it was never his intention to pay one dollar of the money offered.” Poe encloses a prospectus of the Penn Magazine: “I have every hope of success. [page 303:] As yet I have done nothing more than send a few Prospectuses to the Philadelphia editors, and it is rather early to strike — six months in anticipation. My object, at present, is merely to call attention to the contemplated design.” He does not know the “fate” of his Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque, because he has “never spoken to the publishers concerning them since the day of their issue.” He has “cause to think, however, that the edition was exhausted almost immediately” (L, 1:137-39).

[1840] 20 JUNE. COLUMBIA, PENNSYLVANIA. The Columbia Spy quotes the Penn prospectus (Heartman and Canny, pp. 57, 174).

[1840] 26 JUNE. PHILADELPHIA. The poet Charles West Thomson writes Poe, asking him to suggest some literary “employment” (Poe’s reply).

[1840] 27 JUNE. In the evening Poe calls twice at Thomson’s residence, 70 North Tenth Street, in relation to his “note of the 26th,” but fails to find him at home (Poe’s reply).

[1840] 28 JUNE. Poe replies to Thomson, writing on stationery bearing the Penn prospectus:

You may have heard that I have declined a farther connexion with the Gentleman’s Magazine, and propose to establish one of my own. By the Prospectus you will see that the first number will not be issued until the first of January; th[is] delay being rendered necessary by my want of capital. It is, therefore, at present, altogether out of my power to suggest any employment of the nature you designate.

Desperate as my chances of success may appear, where so many have failed with every advantage of money, and monied interest — still I feel a perfect certainty of accomplishing the task I have deliberately undertaken. I am proposing to myself, however, to form a connexion, as soon as possible, with some gentleman of literary attainments, who could at the same time advance as much ready money as will be requisite for the first steps of the undertaking — to defray, for instance, the expences of visiting the chief northern cities, of printing and distributing circulars, of advertising &c &c — items which, altogether, would demand scarcely $500. Upon receipt of your note the idea suggested itself that you might feel willing to join me in the enterprise, and, if so, there is nothing [that] would give me greater pleasure. Will you let me hear from you upon this topic — if possible this afternoon? (L, 1:139-40; Moldenhauer [1973], pp. 46, 48-49).

[1840] JULY. NEW YORK. Lewis Gaylord Clark comments in the Knickerbocker Magazine:

The “GENTLEMAN’s MAGAZINE,” issued monthly at Philadelphia, as we gather from the “Brother Jonathan,” is offered for sale; “the proprietor being about to [page 304:] engage in a more profitable business.” Mr. E. A. POE, a spirited writer, and hitherto the principal editor of the miscellany in question, announces his retirement from its supervision. He has issued proposals for a new monthly magazine, “to be executed in the neatest style, after the manner of the KNICKERBOCKER,” to which he promises to bring great additions to the literary aid he has hitherto diverted into a different channel.

[1840] JULY. LONDON. Bentley’s Miscellany reprints Poe’s “Why the Little Frenchman Wears His Hand in a Sling” under the heading “The Irish Gentleman and the Little Frenchman.” Neither the author nor the source (Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque) is mentioned.

[1840] 5 JULY. CAMBRIDGE, MASSACHUSETTS. Longfellow writes his friend Willis Gaylord Clark, editor of the Philadelphia Gazette, alluding to Poe’s reviews of Hyperion and Voices of the Night: “Pray who is it that is attacking me so furiously in Philadelphia? I have never seen the attacks, but occasionally I receive a newspaper with a defense of [my] writings, from which I learn there has been an attack” (Longfellow [1966] 2:236-38).

[1840] BEFORE 10 JULY. PHILADELPHIA. Burton’s for July contains Poe’s “Omniana.”

[1840] 10 JULY. John S. Du Solle reviews Burton’s in the Spirit of the Times, observing changes occasioned by Poe’s departure: “The Review Department is rather of a more good natured, and less spicy character than usual. We have but one serious fault to find with this magazine; it is generally full of typographical errors.”

[1840] 18 JULY. Clark replies to Longfellow, erroneously attributing Poe’s reviews to Burton: “You ask me who attacks you here? The only ones I have seen against you, have been in Burton’s Magazine — a vagrant from England, who has left a wife and offspring behind him there, and plays the bigamist in ‘this,’ with another wife, and his whore besides; one who cannot write a paragraph in English to save his life. I have answered thoroughly, any attack upon you — and shall continue to do so, whenever they appear” (Clark, pp. 57-59).

[1840] 28 JULY. AUGUSTA, GEORGIA. William Poe writes Poe, inquiring about the Penn Magazine (Poe’s 14 August reply).

[William Poe and his two brothers Robert and Washington were the first cousins of Poe’s father David Poe, Jr., and his aunt Maria Clemm.]

[1840] AUGUST OR BEFORE. PHILADELPHIA. Poe revises the prospectus of the [page 305:] Penn, adding a passage stating that the journal will be characterized by an “absolutely independent” criticism: “a criticism self-sustained; guiding itself only by the purest rules of Art; analyzing and urging these rules as it applies them; holding itself aloof from all personal bias; acknowledging no fear save that of outraging the right; yielding no point either to the vanity of the author, or to the assumptions of antique prejudice, or to the involute and anonymous cant of the Quarterlies, or to the arrogance of those organised cliques, which, hanging like nightmares upon American literature, manufacture, at the nod of our principal booksellers, a pseudo-public-opinion by wholesale” (Quinn, pp. 306-08; Thomas [1978], pp. 158-61).

[1840] AUGUST. Burton’s contains Poe’s “Omniana.”

[1840] AUGUST. LONDON. Bentley’s Miscellany reprints “The Fall of the House of Usher” from the Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque, without identifying the author or his book.

[1840] 14 AUGUST. PHILADELPHIA. Poe replies to William Poe’s 28 July letter, writing on stationery bearing the Penn prospectus. He discusses this project: “The ambition which actuates me [is] now to be no ordinary nor unworthy sentiment, and, knowing this, I take pride in earnestly soliciting your support, and that of your brothers and friends. If I fully succeed in my purposes I will not fail to produce some lasting effect upon the growing literature of the country, while I establish for myself individually a name which that country ‘will not willingly let die.’ ” Poe will rely chiefly “upon the South . . . for aid in the undertaking,” and he has “every hope” that this region will not fail him: “I acknowledge to you that my prospects depend very much upon getting together a subscription list previously to the 1rst of December. If, by this day, I can obtain 500 names, the w[or]k cannot fail to proceed, and I have no fear for the [resu]lt.” He asks William Poe to act as agent for the Penn in Augusta; he is writing “a few lines also by this mail” to William’s brothers, Robert and Washington. Mrs. Clemm is still living with him, “but for the last six weeks has been on a visit to a friend in the State of N. Jersey” (L, 1:140-43; 2:691).

[1840] 14? AUGUST. Poe writes Robert Poe of Augusta, Georgia, requesting his support for the Penn (cited Poe to William Poe).

[1840] 15 AUGUST. Poe writes Washington Poe of Macon, Georgia, using stationery bearing the Penn prospectus: “May I ask you to assist me in the present instance? Your brothers in Augusta have kindly offered me every aid in [page 306:] their power . . . . Upon looking over my Prospectus I trust you will find my purposes, as expressed in it, of a character worthy your support. I am actuated by an ambition which I believe to be an honourable one — the ambition of serving the great cause of truth, while endeavouring to forward the literature of the country. . . . I think it very probable that your influence in Macon will procure for me several subscribers” (L, 1:143-44).

[1840] 18 AUGUST. Poe writes Lucian Minor in Charlottesville, Virginia. Recalling that Minor evinced “many instances of good will” toward him during his editorship of the Southern Literary Messenger, Poe requests his assistance for the Penn: “The permanent success of the Magazine depends, chiefly, upon the number of subscribers I may obtain before the first of December. If, through any influence you will be kind enough to exert in my behalf, at Charlottesville, or elsewhere, you can procure me even one or two names, you will render me a service of the greatest importance, and one for which I shall be very grateful” (L, 1:144-45; Moldenhauer [1973], p. 49).

[1840] 20 AUGUST. Poe writes Joseph B. Boyd of Cincinnati, using stationery with the Penn prospectus: “I believe that the purposes set forth in this Prospectus are such as your candor will approve; . . . the disadvantages under which I labor are, in some respects, exceedingly great — and, for these reasons, I have no hesitation in earnestly soliciting your assistance, even at the risk of being considered importunate” (L, 1:145-46).

[1840] 27 AUGUST. NEW YORK. The eccentric Georgia poet Thomas Holley Chivers writes Poe: “In answer to your solicitation for my support for the forthcoming Journal, I must say, that I am much pleased with your ‘Prospectus’ — the plan which you have in view — and hope, sincerely, that you may realize all your antisipations. As it regards myself, I will support you as long as you may continue the Editor of the above-named work. In the Paradise of Literature, I do not know one better calculated than yourself, to prune the young scions of their exuberent [sic] thoughts.” Chivers does not specify what form his support will take, but gives Poe a specimen of his own “exuberent thoughts”:

I consider the publication of such a work as you have suggested, infinitely above any other undertaking. There can be no equivalent given to a man for the payment of divine thought. It is as far above every other consideration, as the soul is more immortal. He who has never wandered amid the labyrinthine vistas of the flower-gemed solitudes of thought, knows nothing of the capabilities of the soul, in its aspirations after the Beautiful in Natural Truth, which it, thereby, perceives will be fully manifested to it, in all its glory, in the enjoyment of the Hereafter. He knows nothing of that delightful Eden which remains immortal in the soul, [page 307:] whose flowers are the amaranths of celestial thought. The fruit of the ignorant seems sweet to the eye, but “turns to ashes on the lips.’ The garden of literature to the wise, is a “Paradise Regained,” wherein his thoughts, like the swan of Socrates, can soar up to the celestial regions, and become the soul’s heralds of the divine To-come (Chivers [1957], pp. 7-11).

[1840] SEPTEMBER. PHILADELPHIA. Burton alludes to Poe’s drinking in a reply to a Maine subscriber carried on the inside front cover of the Gentleman’s Magazine: “Our friend at Portland may rest assured that we were ignorant of the non-transmission of his numbers. His name was erased from our list by the person whose ‘infirmities’ have caused us much annoyance. The back numbers will be forwarded forthwith.”

[1840] 5 SEPTEMBER. BOSTON. The Boston Notion reprints “The Fall of the House of Usher” without naming the author, “From Bentley’s Miscellany for August” (Pollin [1970b], p. 25).

[1840] 11 SEPTEMBER. PHILADELPHIA. In the Daily Chronicle Charles W. Alexander calls attention to the Penn Magazine, which “Mr. Edgar A. Poe, a gentleman well known in the literary world, will commence . . . on the first of January next. His ability as a writer will make the work interesting to readers and without doubt, cause it to have a large circulation. We wish him success, for he deserves it.” Poe’s revised prospectus appears in the advertising columns, followed by this postscript: “Those friends of the Editor who feel willing to give him their support in this enterprise, will aid his cause most essentially by sending in their names before the 1st of December, 1840.”

[The prospectus was repeated in thirty-six subsequent issues of the Chronicle: eight times in September, five in October, and twenty-three in November.]

[1840] 14 SEPTEMBER. The Chronicle reports that “the subscription list” for the Penn “is receiving rapidly a succession of names. A great number are from the Southern States, which is a proof that Mr. Poe’s talents are appreciated, and that he gave satisfaction when editor of the Southern Literary Messenger. As a strictly chaste, clear, and vigorous writer, Mr. Poe stands preeminent.”

[1840] 16 SEPTEMBER. Poe replies to John Tomlin of Jackson, Tennessee, thanking him for his “kind letter, with the names of nine subscribers to the Penn Magazine.” Tomlin’s tale “The Devil’s Visit to St Dunstan,” offered for the Penn, will assuredly merit “a conspicuous place in the opening number” (L, 1:146-47). [page 308:]

[1840] 30 SEPTEMBER. RICHMOND. Dr. Socrates Maupin, headmaster of the Richmond Academy, writes Poe:

Through the kindness of Miss [Jane] MacKenzie I learn that M[onsieur] C. Auguste Dubouchet, a gentleman of your acquaintance, would accept the situation of Teacher of the French Language at Mr. [Genaro] Persico’s and the Academy but wishes to know the terms etc. definitely. . . .

We are willing to give five hundred dollars for the assistance of an experienced teacher. Three hours daily, say an hour and a half at each school for the session of ten months. Mrs. [Juliet J.] Drew and Miss MacKenzie have engaged a Lady to assist them. There is no gentleman engaged in teaching French in the city, so that the opening is very good for one qualified . . . .

Our session commences on the 1st day of October. May I ask of you the favour therefore to inform M. Dubouchet of our proposition and request of him the earliest answer that may suit his convenience (MB-G).

[1840] CA. OCTOBER. SAINT LOUIS. The Commercial Bulletin welcomes the proposed Penn Magazine: “From the success of this magazine we anticipate the happiest literary results. Mr. Poe is not only a man of genius and a ripe scholar, but he has an upright, a downright, and an outright honesty and fearlessness of purpose, which will guide his pen in the critical department of his work, without fear or favor. . . . Mr. Poe’s career in the editorial department of the Messenger, while it made him some enemies among the pretenders to literature, won him the sincere respect of every man of eminence in the country. High testimonials to this effect were crowded upon him. Mr. Poe is, withal, a beautiful poet; and his late work ‘Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque’ shows that his talents are as varied as they are profound” (Daily Chronicle, 8 October).

[1840] OCTOBER. LONDON. Bentley’s Miscellany reprints “The Duc de L’Omelette” from the Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque, without acknowledgment.

[1840] 3 OCTOBER. PHILADELPHIA. The Saturday Courier and the Saturday Evening Post favorably notice the publication of Frederick William Thomas’ novel Howard Pinckney, issued in two volumes by Lea & Blanchard.

[1840] 8 OCTOBER. The Daily Chronicle reprints a notice of the Penn Magazine “from a late number of the St. Louis Commercial Bulletin,” commenting: “If Mr. Poe does not meet with the fullest success in the establishment of his contemplated Journal, it at least will not be the fault of his friends, who evince any thing but lukewarmness in his cause. The manner in which his attempt is spoken of by the southern and western papers especially, must be highly gratifying to himself.”

[1840] 10 OCTOBER. Poe replies to a 2 October letter from Pliny Earle, a physician [page 309:] and poet in Frankford, Pennsylvania: “I hasten to thank you for the interest you have taken in my contemplated Magazine, and for the beautiful lines ‘By an Octogenarian’. They shall certainly appear in the first number. . . . Believe me that good poetry is far rarer, and therefore far more acceptable to the publisher of a journal, than even that rara avis money itself.” Poe encloses a Penn prospectus, requesting Earle’s aid in enlisting subscribers (L, 1:147; Moldenhauer [1973], pp. 49-50).

[1840] 20 OCTOBER. Burton sells his Gentleman’s Magazine for $3,500 to George R. Graham, publisher of the Casket and principal owner of the Saturday Evening Post. At this time the magazine has thirty-five hundred subscribers (November Burton’s; Smyth, p. 217).

[1840] NOVEMBER. The inside front cover of the Gentleman’s Magazine carries two cards. In the first Burton announces the magazine’s sale; in the second Graham announces his intention to unite it with his monthly the Casket “on the 1st of December.” The outside back cover carries a large advertisement for the first volume of Graham’s Magazine, “The Casket and the Gentleman’s United,” which will commence on 1 January 1841. “The December [1840] number will, however, be a specimen of the New Volume.”

[1840] 6 NOVEMBER. Poe replies to a 10 October letter from Richard Henry Stoddard, a fifteen-year-old admirer in New York. He complies with Stoddard’s “very flattering request” for a manuscript poem by transcribing his sonnet “To Zante” (L, 2:692-93 ).

[1840] 6 NOVEMBER. SAINT LOUIS. Thomas writes Poe, promising an article for the Penn Magazine. He is forwarding, under separate cover, a favorable notice of Poe from the Commercial Bulletin. Mr. Bateman, who will soon visit Philadelphia, is to leave a copy of Thomas’ Howard Pinckney for Poe at John Sturdivant’s Congress Hall Hotel (Poe’s 23 November reply).

[1840] 22 NOVEMBER. JACKSON, TENNESSEE. John Tomlin writes Poe: “As the time will soon be here when the subscribers in this place will have to pay for your Magazine, I must beg of you . . . to inform me, if Tennessee money is current in the ordinary business transactions of your city. . . . If Virginia, N. Carolina or S. Carolina money is more current in Philadelphia, than Tennessee, I shall certainly obtain the one that you may mention, as preferable.” Tomlin is certain that the Penn will succeed: “For the warm-hearted Southerners, by whom you are known, will not let the Work die for the want of patronage. They are your friends — for they know you well, and will sustain you.” He asks Poe whether William Gilmore Simms [page 310:] of Charleston, South Carolina, is doing anything for the Penn: “He can aid you materially, and I have no doubt but what he will. Some years ago, he was my friend and gave me much good advice.” In two or three months Tomlin will visit Nashville: “While there I shall certainly procure other names to your work” (W, 17:61-62).

[1840] 23 NOVEMBER. PHILADELPHIA. Poe replies to Thomas’ 6 November letter. He has not received the Saint Louis Commercial Bulletin, but has seen this paper’s favorable notice at the Merchants’ Exchange: “The ‘Bulletin’ has always been very kind to me, and I am at a loss to know who edits it — will you let me into this secret when you write again? Neither did ‘Howard Pin[c]kney’ come to hand. Upon receipt of your letter, just now, I called at Congress Hall — but no books. Mr Bateman had been there, and gone, forgetting to leave them. I shall get them upon his return.” Poe likes this novel “very well,” but he prefers Thomas’ earlier novel Clinton Bradshaw:

Philadelphia Merchant's Excahnge [thumbnail]

[Illustration on page 310, bottom]
Philadelphia Merchant’s Exchange

You give yourself up to your own nature (which is a noble one, upon my soul) in Clinton Bradshaw; but in Howard Pin[c]kney you abandon the broad rough road for the dainty by-paths of authorism. In the former you are interested in what you write & write to please, pleasantly; in the latter, having gained a name, you write [page 311:] to maintain it, and [the] effort becomes apparent. This consciousness of reputation leads you so freq[uently] into those literary and other disquisitions about which we quarrell[e]d at Studevant’s [Sturdivant’s]. If you would send the public opinion to the devil, forgetting that a public existed, and writing from the natural promptings of your own spirit, you would do wonders. In a word, abandon is wanting in “Howard Pinkney” — and when I say this you must know that I mean a high compliment — for they to whom this very abandon may be safely suggested are very few indeed, and belong to the loftier class of writers.

Poe will review Howard Pinckney in the initial number of the Penn Magazine; he would like to have Thomas’ promised article “in the first sheet, which goes to press early in December.” He asks him to have the revised Penn prospectus “inserted once or twice” in several Saint Louis papers. “Mrs Clemm and Virginia unite with me in the kindest remembrances to yourself and sister [Frances Ann] — with whom your conversation (always turning upon the ‘one-loved name’) has already made us all so well acquainted” (L, 1:148-49; Moldenhauer [1973], p. 50).

[1840] BEFORE 28 NOVEMBER. The first number of Graham’s Magazine contains Poe’s tale “The Man of the Crowd.”

[1840] 28 NOVEMBER. The Saturday Evening Post notices Graham’s: “This Magazine for December is already issued in a superior style of elegance, and contains a variety of beautiful embellishments, and articles from the pens of some of the first writers of the country.”

[1840] BEFORE DECEMBER. ANDALUSIA. Poe calls on Nicholas Biddle, President of the United States Bank, at Andalusia, his country estate on the outskirts of Philadelphia. Biddle subscribes to the Penn Magazine, paying “four years in advance,” but does not volunteer additional financial backing. Poe gives him a copy of the Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque, inscribing it “For Mr. N. Biddle, with the author’s respects” (L, 2:695; see 6 JANUARY 1841).

[1840] DECEMBER. LONDON. Bentley’s Miscellany reprints “The Visionary” from Poe’s Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque, without acknowledgment.

[1840] EARLY DECEMBER. PHILADELPHIA. Poe is bedridden by illness and consequently forced to postpone the Penn Magazine until next March (Daily Chronicle, 29 December; Poe to L. J. Cist, 30 December).

[1840] 7 DECEMBER. SAINT LOUIS. Thomas writes Poe:

Yours of the 23 of last month I received yesterday. I thought if I sat down to weave a tale for you that procrastination or a better apology might keep me from [page 312:] finishing the MS. till it was too late for your first number, for which you seemed to wish the communication. I therefore, as you like my “adventures of a Poet” — you remember I read it to you — thought I would give you extracts from it. Inclosed I send them. The “steamboat story” which I gave you is, you know, an extract from the same MS.

Thomas thanks Poe for his “good opinion” of Howard Pinckney; he admits that Clinton Bradshaw may be the better novel. He is glad that Poe will issue the Penn Magazine in January: “I went today to have an editorial notice &c taken of it and you, but found my friend out; to-morrow . . . I will see to it and duly send you a paper.” Mr. Fowzer, a magazine agent of the firm Fowzer and Woodward, will agree to distribute the Penn in Saint Louis; Thomas transcribes the firm’s “Terms of Agency.” He is writing in the room of his sister Frances Ann: “she is indeed gratified at the kind manner in which Mrs. Clemm and your Lady mention her. She sends her regards while I look up from the paper to say that your letter is just as you talk” (W, 17:65-67).

[1840] 19 DECEMBER. PHILADELPHIA. Graham’s Saturday Evening Post lauds the second number of his monthly:

“GRAHAM’S LADYS’ AND GENTLEMAN’S MAGAZINE for January, 1841.” — This Magazine is already issued and ready for delivery, embellished in a style which has not been equalled in this country before. The opening engraving is an original mezzotint on steel prepared expressly for the work by Mr. Sartain, of Philadelphia, the best engraver of the kind in the United States. . . . Next follows a plate of fashions of three figures, exquisitely colored, and we stake our reputation on the assertion, that they are unequalled by any. Then follow two pages of music, the popular song of “The Indian Maid.” And lastly we have Angling illustrated, making with the three fashion figures eight embellishments. Truly enough for a three dollar magazine.

[For Graham, as for Burton, Louis A. Godey, and other commercial publishers of the day, “embellishments” were the crux of a magazine, even more important than its literary contents. Poe had nothing but contempt for these adventitious and expensive decorations (cf. his 25 May 1842 letter to Thomas). In his Penn prospectus he declared his intention to use engravings only “in the necessary illustration of the text.”]

[1840] 29 DECEMBER. The Daily Chronicle carries this announcement: “THE PENN MAGAZINE. — Owing to the severe and continued illness of Mr. Poe, the issue of the first number of this journal is postponed until the first of March next.”

[1840] 30 DECEMBER. Poe replies to the Cincinnati poet Lewis J. Cist: “Your letter of the 7th found me labouring under a severe illness, which has [page 313:] confined me to bed for the last month, and from which I am now only slowly recovering.” As the “worst result of this illness” he has been forced to postpone the Penn Magazine until the first of March; he asks Cist to mention this delay to Joseph B. Boyd and to insert a brief announcement of it in one of the Cincinnati papers. Cist’s poem “Bachelor Philosophy” will not appear in the Penn until the second number, “as at the time of its reception, all the poetry for the first number was already in type” (L, 1:150).

[1840] 31 DECEMBER. Poe writes John P. Kennedy of Baltimore, soliciting his contributions for the Penn:

Since you gave me my first start in the literary world, and since indeed I seriously say that without the timely kindness you once evinced towards me, I should not at this moment be among the living — you will not feel surprise that I look anxiously to you for encouragement in this new enterprise — the first of any importance which I have undertaken on my own account. What I most seriously need, in the commencement, is caste for the journal — I need the countenance of those who stand well in the social not less than in the literary world. I know that you have never yet written for Magazines — and this is a main reason for my now begging you to give me something for my own. I care not what the article be, nor of what length — what I wish is the weight of your name. Any unused scrap lying by you will fully answer my purpose (L, 1:150-51).

[1840] LATE 1840. NEW YORK. George P. Morris reprints Poe’s “To Ianthe in Heaven” in his anthology American Melodies, from the July 1839 Burton’s (Heartman and Canny, p. 62; Mabbott [1969], 1:214-15, 584).

[1840] CA. 1840? PHILADELPHIA. Silas Weir Mitchell, the future novelist, encounters Poe in the office of his father Dr. John Kearsley Mitchell (A. R. Burr, pp. 21, 298).

[1840] CA. 1840? Henry Herring, who had married Poe’s aunt Eliza Poe, settles in Philadelphia with his daughter by a subsequent marriage, Mary Estelle Herring. They frequently see the Poe family (Thomas [1978], pp. 802-04).

[1840] CA. 1840? Poe’s early Baltimore friend Mary Starr, who is now married to a New York merchant tailor named Jenning, spends “a pleasant evening” with the Poe family while “on a visit to Philadelphia” (Van Cleef, p. 639; Mabbott [1969], 1:232-33).

[1840] CA. 1840? BALTIMORE. Poe visits Baltimore on “legal business” for his wife Virginia, who has inherited a portion of the estate of her grandparents, William Clemm, Sr., and his wife (Phillips, 1:640).






[S:1 - TPL, 1987] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Bookshelf - The Poe Log (D. R. Thomas and D. K. Jackson) (Chapter 05)