Text: James A. Harrison, “Chapter 02,” The Complete Works of Edgar Allan Poe, Vol. XVII: Letters (1902), 17:25-40


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[page 25:]

CHAPTER II.

JANUARY, 1836 - JANUARY, 1837.

EDITOR OF THE MESSENGER.

——————

E. A. POE TO GEORGE POE, ESQR.,

MOBILE, ALABAMA.

[From MSS. in possession of Miss A. F. Poe.]

RICHMOND, Jan. 12, 1836.

DEAR SIR, — I take the liberty of addressing you in behalf of a mutual relation, Mrs William Clemm, late of Baltimore — and at her earnest solicitation.

You are aware that for many years she has been suffering privation and difficulties of no ordinary kind. I know that you have assisted her at a former period, and she has occasionally received aid from her cousins, William and Robert Poe, of Augusta. What little has been heretofore in my own power I have also done.

Having lately established myself in Richmond, and undertaken the Editorship of the Southern Literary Messenger, and my circumstances having thus become better than formerly, I have ventured to offer my aunt a home. She is now therefore in Richmond, with her daughter Virginia, and is, for the present boarding at the house of a Mrs Yarrington. My salary is only, at present, about $800 per ann: and the charge per week for our board (Mrs Clemm’s, her [page 26:] daughter’s, and my own), is $9. I am thus particular in stating my precise situation that you may be the better enabled to judge in regard to the propriety of granting the request which I am now about to make for Mrs Clemm.

It is ascertained that if Mrs C. could obtain the means of opening, herself, a boarding-house in this city, she could support herself and daughter comfortably with something to spare. But a small capital would be necessary for an undertaking of this nature, and many of the widows of our first people are engaged in it and find it profitable. I am willing to advance, for my own part, $100, and I believe that Wm & R. Poe will advance $100. If then you would so far aid her in her design as to loan her, yourself 100, she will have sufficient to commence with. I will be responsible for the repayment of the sum, in a year from this date, if you can make it convenient to comply with her request.

I beg you, my dear Sir, to take this subject into consideration. I feel deeply for the distresses of Mrs Clemm, and I am sure you will feel interested in relieving them.

P. S) — I am the son of David Poe Jr, Mrs C’s brother.

POE TO KENNEDY.

[Griswold Collection.]

RICHMOND, Jany 22, 1836.

DEAR SIR, — Although I have never yet acknowledged the receipt of your letter of advice some months ago, it was not without great influence upon me. I have since then, fought the enemy manfully, and am [page 27:] now, in every respect, comfortable and happy. I know you will be pleased to hear this. My health is better than for years past, my mind is fully occupied, my pecuniary difficulties have vanished, I have a fair prospect of future success — in a word all is right. I shall never forget to whom all this happiness is in a great degree to be attributed. I know that without your timely aid I should have sunk under my trials. Mr White is very liberal, and besides my salary of $520 pays me liberally for extra work, so that I have nearly $800. Next year, that is, at the commencement of the second volume, I am to get $1000. Besides this, I receive, from publishers, nearly all new publications. My friends in Richmond have received me with open arms, and my reputation is extending — especially in the South. Contrast all this with those circumstances of absolute despair in which you found me, and you will see how great reason I have to be grateful to God — and to yourself.

Some matters in relation to the death of Mrs Catherine Clemm, who resided at Mount Prospect, four miles from Baltimore, render it necessary for me to apply to an attorney, and I have thought it probable you would be kind enough to advise me. . . . I should be glad to have your opinion in regard to my Editorial course in the Messenger. How do you like my Critical Notices? I have understood (from the Preface to your 3d Edition of Horse-Shoe), that you are engaged in another work. If so, can you not send me a copy in advance of the publication? Remember me to your family, and believe me with the highest respect & esteem

Yours very truly  
EDGAR A. POE.

J. P. KENNEDY.

[page 28:]

KENNEDY TO POE.

[Griswold Collection.]

MY DEAR POE, — I deferred answering your letter of the 22nd ult. immediately in order that I might see McCulloh who has been absent for a month past from Baltimore. Finding that I am not likely to see him here for a month to come — he is busy at Annapolis — I wait no longer to acknowledge the receipt of yours. As to the business matter in it I will write to you when I have something to say.

I am greatly rejoiced at your success not only in Richmond, but every where. My predictions have been more than fulfilled in regard to the public favour for your literary enterprises. Let me beg you to set down this praise at its value, as nothing, but an incentive to the utmost care and labour for improvement. You are strong enough now to be criticized. Your fault is your love of the extravagant. Pray beware of it. You find a hundred intense writers for one natural one. Some of your bizarreries have been mistaken for satire — and admired too in that character. They deserved it, but you did not, for you did not intend them so. I like your grotesque — it is of the very best stamp, and I am sure you will do wonders for yourself in the comic, I mean the serio tragi comic. Do you easily keep pace with the demands of the magazine? Avoid, by all means, the appearance of flagging. I like the critical notices very well. By the by, I wish you would tell White that he never sent me the Novr number.

Your letter assures me that you have entirely conquered your late despondency. I am rejoiced at this. You have a pleasant and prosperous career before you, if you subdue this brooding and boding inclination of your mind. Be cheerful, rise early, work methodically — I mean, at appointed hours. Take regular recreation [page 29:] every day. Frequent the heft company only. Be rigidly temperate both in body and mind — and I will ensure you at a moderate premium all the success and comfort you covet.

Will you do me a piece of business?

There is a little scapegrace in Richmond, or its vicinity, to whom I have heretofore shown favour. I mean H——d the painter. He carried away from me four years ago nearly, a painting of myself & Mrs. K. and her sister, which I paid him $225 for, and which he never delivered to me. This he took to Richmond, upon a promise to send it back in a month. It has never come. I have written for it, and application has been over and over made for it. Mr. —— has treated me not only ungratefully but most dishonestly. Now, I beg you, if you see this picture any where, claim it from the fellow in my name, or write to me where it is, and I will take steps at law to get it from him. My friend Mr. Hunter from Berkley in the Legislature will bring it up to me if it can be found.

Pray write to me if you can give me any information of H——d or the picture.

Yours truly  
JOHN P. KENNEDY.

BALT. Feby 9, 1936.

POE TO KENNEDY.

[Griswold Collection.]

RICHMOND, Feb. 11, 1836.

DR SIR, — I received your kind letter of the 19th about an hour ago, and went immediately in search of Mr. H——d — but have not been successful in getting the picture. Mr. —— does not live in Richmond, but at Gloucester C. H. Va. By the merest accident, however, he was here to-day having arrived yesterday, [page 30:] and intending to be off to-morrow. Before speaking to him I had ascertained that the picture was not in Richmond. Had it been here, I would have obtained it at all hazards. He says that it is on its way to Baltimore — but I do not believe him. He had forgotten the name of the vessel in which he shipped it, thinks it was the Todsburg — and cannot tell who is her captain. It is possible that the picture is really on its way to Norfolk, where he is bound himself and where he will exhibit it. But my firm impression is that it is at his house in Gloucester — opposite York. He has evidently no intention to give it up. I know a Mr Colin Clarke who resides in Gloucester — a gentleman of high respectability — and have some idea of writing him, and requesting him to get the picture in your name — but on second thoughts determined to write you first. I will go to any trouble in the world to get it for you, if you will direct me in what manner to proceed.

You are nearly, but not altogether right in relation to the satire of some of my Tales. Most of them were intended for half banter, half satire — although I might not have fully acknowledged this to be their aim even to myself. “Lionizing” and “Loss of Breath” were satires properly speaking — at least so meant — the one of the rage for Lions, and the facility of becoming one — the other of the extravagancies of Black wood. I find no difficulty in keeping pace with the demands of the Magazine. In the February number, which is now in the binder’s hands, are no less than, 40 pages of Editorial — perhaps this is a little de trop. There was no November number issued — Mr W. having got so far behind hand in regard to time, as to render it expedient to date the number which should [page 31:] have been the November number — December. I am rejoiced that you will attend to the matters I spoke of in my last. Mr W. has increased my salary, since I wrote, $104., for the present year — This is being liberal beyond my expectations. He is exceedingly kind in every respect. You did not reply to my query touching the “new work.” But I do not mean to be inquisitive. In an article called “Autobiography”(1) in the next Messenger, you will see that I have made a blunder in relation to your Seal. I could decipher only the concluding portion of the motto on one of your letters — (le partout) — and taking the head for a Lion’s head, imagined the words to be “il parle partout.” Your last letter convinces me of my error. I doubt if it is a matter of much importance.

Most sincerely yours  
EDGAR A. POE.

J. P. KENNEDY.

PAULDING TO POE.

[Griswold Collection.]

NEW YORK, 17th March, 1836.

DEAR SIR, — In compliance with your wishes, it would have afforded me much pleasure to propose the publication of your book to some one respectable Bookseller of this city. But the truth is, there is only one other, who publishes anything but School Books, religious works and the like, and with him, I am not on terms that would make it agreeable to me, to make any proposition of this nature, either in my own behalf or that of another. I have therefore placed your work in the hands of Messrs. Harpers to forward with a Box of Books they are sending [page 32:] to Richmond in a few days, and I hope it will come safely to hand.

I think it would be worth your while, if other engagements permit, to undertake a Tale in a couple of volumes, for that is the magical number. There is a great dearth of good writers at present both in England and this country, while the number of readers and purchasers of Books, is daily increasing, so that the demand is greater than the supply, in mercantile phrase. Not one work in ten now published in England, will bear republication here. You would be surprised at their excessive mediocrity. I am of opinion that a work of yours, would at least bring you a handsome remuneration, though it might not repay your labours, or meet its merits. Should you write such a work, your best way will be to forward the MS directly to the Harpers, who will be I presume governed by the judgment of their Reader, also [[who]] from long experience can tell almost to a certainty what will succeed. I am destitute of this valuable instinct, and my opinion counts for nothing with publishers. In other respects you may command my good offices.

I am Dr Sir,  
Your friend & Servt,  
J. K. PAULDING.

MR. EDGAR A. POE,

Richmond.

KENNEDY TO POE.

[W. M. Griswold MSS.]

MY DEAR POE, — I am remiss in so long postponing the performance of my duty to you in regard to the question you propounded in a former letter relating to the estate of Mr. Clemm. The truth is McCulloh has been but little in town, and I have been a great deal out of it, and our incomings and outgoings were completely dove tailed: so I could not see him. Yesterday, however, I [page 33:] was furnished with an opportunity to learn from him all about the matter. We had a long talk, the result of which was to show me that the heirs of Wm. Clemm have no claim to anything. There were debts, advances — and I know not what — that had utterly extinguished the claim of W. Clemm himself. Mr. McCulloh has promised to give me the statement on paper. When he does so I will send it to you.

That rascally little H—d still sets me at defiance. Is it not hard that I should be so cozened by such an ape? I believe he is in Norfolk and my picture perhaps is with him. The devil take him for a false dauber of fair colours — a counterfeit, as he is a counterfeiter, of a gentleman. I have almost a mind to go to Norfolk on purpose just to beard — no to moustache, him, — nature has not given him manliness enough for a beard. — After all, I suppose if I did go he would persuade me that the picture had sailed by the last boat, and I should be cheated again. So I will for the present bear my misfortune. I heartily rejoice to see you thriving so well.

Tell Mr. White that I recd his letter informing me of his daughter’s coming to Baltimore but was in Washington on the day he had named for her arrival.

Very truly Yours  
JOHN P. KENNEDY.

BALT. April 26, 1836.

MRS. SIGOURNEY TO POE.

[Griswold Collection.]

HARTFORD, Connt April 23d 1836.

MY DEAR SIR, — Please to accept my thanks for your letter of the 12th with the January number of the “Southern Literary Messenger,” which I had not before seen. I am happy to discover the present Editor [page 34:] of my favourite periodical, and also to perceive how much it profits by the guidance of that powerful pen, whose versatile and brilliant creations, I have often admired.

With regard to the article which has elicited our correspondence, allow me to premise, that few entertain more exalted opinions of the majesty of criticism than myself, and of its salutary influence on national literature, when independently, yet candidly exercised. I have felt that the living writers of our country, especially those of my own sex, had been too indiscriminately fed on praise. At least, in my own case, the courtesy of the publick has so far transcended my deserts, that were it not for the deep consciousness of imperfection, I should scarcely have retained hope of improvement. With these sentiments, I should not probably be over sensitive on the subject of a review, or be restive under discipline, which I had sought to establish. —

At the same time I confess that there are points in yours, for which I was not perfectly prepared. — The exposition, however severe, of any faults in style, spirit, or construction, which I might have reformed, — would have been held cause of gratitude. But the character of a determined imitator, — and one whose reputation has been greatly assisted by chicanery, — seem to impeach both intellectual and moral integrity. — If founded in justice, they truly demand a “purgation with euphrasy and rue.” — I would be the last to invade your right of fully expressing these opinions, or to cherish the least resentment towards you for holding them. — I simply regret, even to grief, that any course of mine, could have induced you to form them. — I would not for a moment admit the idea that there is ought of equality between my writings, and that of the most gifted poet of the age, so recently reclaimed to her native sphere. — The resemblance, which my friends have imagined to exist, I have resolved into their partiality. The contents of a volume of poems, published in 1814 & selected by a friend from journals, written in early youth, without a thought of publication, [page 35:] & another in 1821, were composed before I had heard of Mrs. Hemans, and likewise one of 1827, — most of whose poems were in existence, before I had enjoyed the pleasure of perusing any of hers, — can therefore not be classed as imitations of that pure model.

But that I have now transgressed a rule long since adopted, not to remark on any unfavorable criticism, — must be imputed to the courtesy of your letter, — which surely merited a friendly reply, and with sincere wishes for the success of the work under your auspices, — and a benedicite on Virginia, which I love, — I remain yours,

with high respect & esteem,  
L. H. SIGOURNEY.

E. A. POE, Esqr.

POE TO DR. ROBERT M. BIRD.

[N. Y. Independent, April 25, 1901.]

RICHMOND, Va., June 7, 1836.

DEAR SIR, — I take the liberty of again addressing you and of calling your attention to what was not precisely a promise on your part, but a kind of demi-promise made some months ago — in relation to an article for our Southern Literary Messenger. It would be, indeed, a matter of sincere congratulation with us if by any means, within our power, we could so far interest you in our behalf as to obtain something from the author of — “Calavar.” We have, just at this moment, a conspiracy on foot, and we would be most happy to engage you in our plans. We wish, if possible, to take the public opinion by storm, in a single number of the Messenger which shall contain a series of articles from all the first pens in the land. Can you not aid us — with a single page, if no more? I will [page 36:] trust to the chivalric spirit of him who wrote the “Infidel” for a reply. With the highest respect,

Your obedient servant,  
EDGAR A. POE.

POE TO KENNEDY.

[Griswold Collection.]

RICHMOND, Va., June 7, 1836.

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

In this dilemma I would be greatly indebted to you for the loan of $100 for six months. This will enable me to meet a note for $100 due in 3 months, and allow me 3 months to return your money. I shall have no difficulty in doing this, as beyond this $100 I owe nothing, and I am now receiving $15 per week, and am to receive $20 after November. All Mr White’s disposable money has been required to make his first payment. [page 37:]

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

Our Messenger is thriving beyond all expectations, and I myself have every prospect of success. It is our design to issue, as soon as possible, a number of the Magazine consisting entirely of articles from our most distinguished literati. To this end we have received, and have been promised, a variety of aid from the highest sources — Mrs. Sigourney, Miss Sedgwick, Paulding, Flint, Halleck, Cooper, Judge Hopkinson, Dew, Governor Cass, J. Q. Adams, and many others. Could you not do me so great a favor as to send me a scrap however small, from your portfolio? Your name is of the greatest influence in that region where we direct our greatest efforts — in the South.

Any little reminiscence, tale, jeu-d‘esprit, historical anecdote, — anything, in short, with your name, will answer all our purposes. I presume you have heard of my marriage.

With sincere respect & esteem  
Yours truly  
EDGAR A. POE.

J. P. KENNEDY.

MRS. SIGOURNEY TO POE.

[Griswold Collection.]

HARTFORD, June 11th, 1836.

MY DEAR SIR, — Yours of the 4th was this morning received, and I hasten to assure you that your apprehension of having forfeited my good-will, is entirely groundless. — It is surely a hard case, if a critic may not express his opinions, freely, and even severely, in this land of [page 38:] freedom. All that — an author can expect, in such a case, is to explain, if he supposes there has been ought of mis. conception. This I ventured to do. — But to cherish vindictiveness, is quite another affair, & I assure you, forms no part of my creed. There is surely, enough of controversy abroad in our land, without its few literati lifting up the tomahawk, and scalping knife against each other. Even if I had cherished some lingerings of resentment, which. I by no means acknowledge, you would have entirely removed every such sombre shadow, by your favorable review of Mellen’s poems.(1) — He is a man of genius, who I think, has not been fully appreciated in New-England, and I give you thanks, for rendering him, what I consider, a just reward.

— I send at your request, what I happen to have by me, — and as you will have it to be a peace offering, you can thus view it, though there is in reality, no truce to be made between us. Do not, however, assume a more lenient style with regard to me, in consequence of any little aid I may have afforded the “Messenger,” since no traffick in civilities is as valuable in my opinion as sincerity Yours, with respect, and in perfect good temper,

L. H. SIGOURNEY.

If it would not be too much trouble, might I ask you to inquire of the bookseller, to whom Mr. White consigned my “Letters to Young Ladies,” if he meets with any difficulty in disposing of them? If so, we would be glad to have them returned, — as the Edition is expended, and there are demands for them here & in New-York, which we have not the means of satisfying, until another edition is issued. I would not burden you with this commission, if I knew the bookseller’s name.

L. H. SIGOURNEY.

[page 39:]

POE TO THE RICHMOND COURIER AND DAILY COMPILER.

Sept. 2, 1836. See Appendix, p. 458.

W. R. DEW TO POE.

[Griswold Collection.]

WILLIAM & MARY COLLEGE, Oct. 17, 1836.

DEAR SIR, — I have just received your kind letter & hasten to answer it by an opportunity which presents itself. If you will read over my address you will be enabled to draw up a few editorial remarks of the character you desire. Our College is the oldest in the Union save one and older than that, if we might date back to the establishment of an Academy in this city of some note prior to the erection of the College. The numbers at Wm & Mary have rarely been great, & yet she has turned out more useful men, more great statesmen than any other college in the world in proportion to her alumni. The high political character of old Va. is due to this college. Some colleges may have equalled ours in Physics and Mathematics, but few have in Morals and Politics, & it is these last subjects that give the highest finish to the mind, and raise it to its greatest elevation. The scenery here, the hospitable population, the political atmosphere all conspire to give a utilitarian character to the mind of the student. Hence the alumni of this college have always been characterized by business minds & great efficiency of character. In conclusion I will say, that we never had more brilliant prospects than now, & I have no doubt that our numbers this year will be as great as have ever been known in this college. An editorial of the kind you mention would be highly [page 40:] gratifying to the friends of the college, & would be of great service. I beg you to hasten the publication of my address, as it is important that it should get before the public as soon as possible. Be sure you let me have the proof sheets as early as possible by steam boat or mail.

With high respect,  
I am Dr Sir,  
Yr obt svt,  
W. R. DEW,(1)

MR. E. A. POE.

N. B. My address will give you all the information you desire in relation to our course of studies, & discipline.

 


[[Footnotes]]

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 31:]

1.  Autography.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 38:]

1.  This review was not by Poe. — ED.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 40:]

1.  Mr. W. R. Dew was president of William and Mary College, Poe printed his address in the Messenger. — ED.


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Notes:

None.


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[S:0 - CWEAP, 1902] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Articles - Complete Works of E. A. Poe (Vol. 17 - Letters) (J. A. Harrison) (Chapter 02)