Text: James A. Harrison, “Editor’s Preface [Chapter 09],” The Complete Works of Edgar Allan Poe, Vol. XVII: Letters (1902), 17:227-276


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[page 227:]

CHAPTER IX.

JANUARY, 1846 - JANUARY, 1847.

FORDHAM: ENGLISH-POE CONTROVERSY; MRS. MARIE LOUISE SHEW; DEATH OF VIRGINIA POE.

——————

POE TO DUYCKINCK.

[Duyckinck Collection.]

Jan 8. 46.

DEAR MR. DUYCKINCK, — For “particular reasons” I am anxious to have another volume of my Tales published before the 1st of March. Do you not think it possible to accomplish it for me? Would not Mr Wiley give me, say $50, in full for the copyright of the collection I now send? It is a far better one than the first — containing, for instance, “Ligeia,” which is undoubtedly the best story I have written — besides “Scheherazade,” “The Spectacles,” “Tarr and Fether,” etc.

May I beg of you to give me an early answer, by note, addressed 85 Amity St?

Truly your  
EDGAR A. POE.

E. A. DUYCKINCK Esq. [page 228:]

POE TO GRISWOLD [[P. P. Cooke]].

[Griswold’s Memoir.]

[Undated, 1846?]

There is one particular in which I have had wrong done me, and it may not be indecorous in me to call your attention to it. The last selection of my tales was made from about seventy by one of our great little cliquists and claqueurs, Wiley and Putnam’s reader, Duyckinck. He has what he thinks a taste for ratiocination, and has accordingly made up the book mostly of analytic stories. But this is not representing my mind in its various phases — it is not giving me fair play. In writing these tales one by one, at long intervals, I have kept the book unity always in mind — that is, each has been composed with reference to its effect as part of a whole. In this view, one of my chief aims has been the widest diversity of subject, thought, and especially tone and manner of handling. Were all my tales now before me in a large volume, and as the composition of another, the merit which would principally arrest my attention would be their wide diversity and variety. You will be surprised to hear me say that, (omitting one or two of my first efforts,) I do not consider any one of my stories better than another. There is a vast variety of kinds, and, in degree of value, the kinds vary — but each tale is equally good of its kind. The loftiest kind is that of the highest imagination — and for this reason only “Ligeia” may be called my best tale. [page 229:]

MISS BARRETT TO POE.

[Century Magazine.]

5 WIMPOLE ST., April 1846.

DEAR SIR, — Receiving a book from you seems to authorize or at least encourage me to try to express what I have felt long before — my sense of the high honor you have done me in [illegible] your country and of mine, of the dedication of your poems. It is too great a distinction, conferred by a hand of too liberal generosity. I wish for my own sake I were worthy of it. But I may endeavour, by future work, to justify a tittle what I cannot deserve anywise, now. For it, meanwhile, I may be grateful — because gratitude is the virtue of the humblest.

After which imperfect acknowledgment of my personal obligation may I thank you as another reader would thank you for this vivid writing, this power which is felt! Your t; Raven” has produced a sensation, a sig fit horror,” here in England. Some of my friends are taken by the fear of it and some by the music. I hear of persons haunted by the “Nevermore,” and one acquaintance of mine who has the misfortune of possessing a ss bust of Pallas “never can bear to look at it in the twilight. I think you will like to be told our great poet, Mr. Browning, the author of “Paracelsus,” and the “Bells and Pomegranates,” was struck much by the rhythm of that poem.

Then there is a tale of yours (“The Case of M. Valdemar”) which I do not find in this volume, but which is going the round of the newspapers, about mesmerism, throwing us all into “most admired disorder,” and dreadful doubts as to whether “it can be true,” as the children say of ghost stories. The certain thing in the tale in question is the power of the writer, and the faculty he has of making horrible improbabilities seem near and familiar. [page 230:]

And now will you permit me, dear Mr. Poe, as one who though a stranger is grateful to you, and has the right of esteeming you though unseen by your eyes will you permit me to remain

Very truly yours always,  
ELIZABETH BARRETT BARRETT.

POE TO ——. [[G. W. Eveleth]]

[Ingram.]

NEW YORK, April 16, ‘46.

MY DEAR SIR, — You seem to take matters very easily, and I really wonder at your patience under the circumstances. But the truth is, I am in no degree to blame. Your letters, one and all, reached me in due course of mail, and I attended to them as far as I could. The business, in fact, was none of mine, but of the person to whom I transferred the Journal, and in whose hands it perished.

Of course, I feel no less in honour bound to refund you your money, and now do so, with many thanks for your promptness and courtesy.

Very cordially yours,  
EDGAR A. POE.

POE TO DUYCKINCK.

[Duyckinck Collection.]

April 28 [1846].

DEAR DUYCKINCK, — Mrs C. tells me that you had some conversation with her about Keese and myself-and I have thought it best to enclose you my letter to him. May I ask of you the favor to look it over and seal it and send it to him? — unless you have [page 231:] anything to suggest — in which case please do not send it until you can communicate with me.

I enclose, also, a letter from the Lit. Societies of the Vermont University. My object is to ask you to get inserted, editorially, in the “Morning News,” or some other paper, a paragraph to this effect: — or something similar.

EDGAR A. POE. — By a concurrent vote of the Literary Societies of the University of Vermont, Mr. Poe has been elected Poet for their ensuing Anniversary in August next — -but we are sorry to hear that continued ill health, with a pressure of engagements, will force hire to decline the office.

Please preserve the letter of the Societies.

It strikes me that, some time ago, Wiley & Putnam advertised for autographs of distinguished Amer. statesmen. Is it so? I have well-preserved letters from John Randolph, Chief justice Marshall, Madison, Adams, Wirt, Duane, E. Everett, Clay, Cass, Calhoun and some others — and I would exchange them for books.

Truly yours  
E. A. POE.

Can either you or Mathews furnish me with autographs of any of the following persons? Cheever — Cary — Cranch — Francis — Mrs Stephens — Clark — Verplanek — Aldrich — Maroncelli — Wetmore — Fay — Greeley — Godwin — I. Willis — Maturin — Deming — Mrs Smith — Raymond — Headley — Brownlee — Kent — Ward — Tellkampf — S. Smith — Mrs Child — G. Spring — Jno. Stephens — Cooley — Mancur — King — T. Irving — Inman — Jones — Tuckerman — Mrs Godwin — Gallatin [page 232:] — Harring — I. Sargent — Prof. Robinson — Channillg — Lewis — Schoolcraft — Dewey — Brisbane — Tasistro.

[Endorsed “April 18, 1846.”]

POE TO MRS. POE.

[Griswold Collection.]

June 12, 1846.

MY DEAR HEART — MY DEAR VIRGINIA, — Our mother will explain to you why I stay away from you this night. I trust the interview I am promised will result in some substantial good for me — for your dear sake and hers — keep up your heart in all hopefulness, and trust yet a little longer. On my last great disappointment I should have lost my courage but for you — my little darling wife. You are my greatest and only stimulus now, to battle with this uncongenial, unsatisfactory, and ungrateful life.

I shall be with you to-morrow . . . P. M., and be assured until I see you I will keep in loving remembrance your last words, and your fervent prayer!

Sleep well, and may God grant you a peaceful summer with your devoted Edgar.(1)

HAWTHORNE TO POE.

[Century Magazine.]

SALEM, June 17, 1845.

MY DEAR SIR, — I presume the publishers will have sent you a copy of “Mosses from an Old Manse” — [page 233:] the latest (and probably the last) collection of my tales and sketches. I have read your occasional notices of my productions with great interest — not so much because your judgment was, upon the whole, favorable, as be cause it seemed to be given in earnest. I care for nothing but the truth; and shall always much more readily accept a harsh truth, in regard to my writings, than a sugared falsehood.

I confess, however, that I admire you rather as a writer of tales than as a critic upon them, I might often-and often do-dissent from your opinions in the latter capacity, but could never fait to recognize your force and originality in the former.

Yours very truly,  
NATH. HAWTHORNE.

THE POE-ENGLISH CORRESPONDENCE.

A MOST interesting though painful chapter is opened in Poe’s life by the following correspondence between the poet and Thomas Dunn English, one of “The Literati” whom Poe had criticised in the famous Godey’s Lady’s Book series, May-October, 1846,(1) It is here reproduced in its entirety for the first time since its appearance in the New York “Mirror” for June 23 and July 13, 1846, and the Philadelphia “Spirit of the Times,” July 10, 1846.

English brought criminal charges of obtaining money under false pretences and of forgery against Poe. The case was tried in a court of justice, and the suit was decided by a verdict of $225 in Poe’s favor, with costs, the whole amounting to the sum of $492.(2) [page 234:]

[From the N. Y. Mirror, June 23, 1846.]

THE WAR ON THE LITERATI. — We publish the following terrific rejoinder of one of Mr. Poe’s abused Literati, with a twinge of pity for the object of its severity. But as Mr. Godey, “for a consideration,” lends the use of his battery for an attack on the one side, it is but fair that we allow our friends an opportunity to exercise a little “self-defence” on the other.

A Card.

MR. ENGLISH’S REPLY TO MR. POE.

As I have not, of late, replied to attacks made upon me through the public press, I can easily afford to make an exception, and still keep my rule a general one. A Mr. Edgar A. Poe has been engaged for some time past in giving to the public, through the medium of the Lady’s Book, sketches of what he facetiously calls the “Literati of New York City.” These he names by way of distinction, I presume, from his ordinary writings, “honest opinions.” He honors me by including me in the very numerous and remarkably august body he affects to describe. Others have converted the paper on which his sketches are printed to its legitimate use — like to like — but as he seems to covet a notice from me, he shall be gratified.

Mr. Poe states in his article, “I do not personally know Mr. English.” That he does not know me is not a matter of wonder. The severe treatment he received at my hands for brutal and dastardly conduct, rendered it necessary for him, if possible, to forget my existence. Unfortunately, I know him; and by the blessing of God, and the assistance of a grey-goose quill, my design is to make the public know him also.

I know Mr. Poe by a succession of his acts — one of which is rather costly. I hold Mr. Poe’s acknowledgment [page 235:] for a sum of money which he obtained of me under false pretences. As I stand in need of it at this time, I am content he should forget to knew me, provided he acquits himself of the money he owes me. I ask no interest, in lieu of which I am willing to credit him with the sound cuffing I gave him when I last saw him.

Another act of his gave me some knowledge of him. A merchant of this city had accused him of committing forgery. He consulted me on the mode of punishing his accuser, and as he was afraid to challenge him to the field, or chastise him personally, I suggested a legal prose cution as his sole remedy. At his request, I obtained a counsellor who was willing, as a compliment to me, to conduct his suit without the customary retaining fee. But, though so eager at first to commence proceedings, he dropped the matter altogether, when the time came for him to act — thus virtually admitting the truth of the charge.

Some time before this, if I mistake not, Mr. Poe accepted an invitation to deliver a poem before a society of the New York University. About a week before the time when this poem was to be pronounced, he called on me, appearing to be much troubled — said he could not write the poem, and begged me to help him out with some idea of the course to pursue. I suggested that he had better write a note to the society, and frankly state his inability to compose a poem on a stated subject. He did not do this, but-as he always does when troubled — drank until intoxicated; and remained in a state of intoxication during the week. When the night of exhibition came, it was gravely announced that Mr. Poe could not deliver his poem, on account of severe indisposition!

His next affair of a similar kind, was still more discreditable. Unmindful of his former act, he accepted an invitation to deliver a poem before a Boston institution — the Lyceum, I think. When I remonstrated with him on undertaking a task he could not perform, he alleged that he was in want of the money they would pay him, [page 236:] and would contrive to “cook up something.” Want of ability prevented him from performing his intention, and he insulted his audience, and rendered himself a laughingstock, by reciting a mass of ridiculous stuff, written by some one, and printed under his name when he was about 18 years of age. It had a peculiar effect on his audience, who dispersed under its infliction; and when he was rebuked for his fraud, he asserted that he had intended a hoax. Whether he did or not is little matter, when we reflect that he took the money offered for his performance — thus committing an art unworthy of a gentleman, though in strict keeping with Mr. Poe’s previous acts.

But a series of events occurred in January last, which, while they led to my complete knowledge of Mr. Poe, has excited his wrath against me, and provoked the exhibition of impotent malice now under my notice.

Mr. Poe having been guilty of some most ungentlemanly conduct, while in a state of intoxication, I was obliged to treat him with discourtesy. Sometime after this, he came to my chambers, in my absence, in search of me. He found there a nephew of one of our ex-presi dents. To that gentleman he stated, that he desired to see me in order to apologize to me for his conduct. I entered shortly after, when he tendered me an apology and his hand. The former I accepted, the latter I refused. He told me that he came to beg my pardon, because he wished me to do him a favor. Amused at this novel reason for an apology, I replied that I would do the favor, with pleasure, if possible, but not on the score of friendship. He said that though his friendship was of little service his enmity might be dangerous. To this I rejoined that I shunned his friendship and despised his enmity. He beseeched a private conversation, so abjectly, that, finally, moved by his humble entreaty, I accorded it. Then he told me that he had vilified a certain well known and esteemed authoress, of the South, then on a visit to New York; that he had accused her [page 237:] of having written letters to him which compromised her reputation; and that her brother (her husband being absent) had threatened his life unless he produced the letters he named. He begged me for God’s sake to stand his friend, as he expected to be challenged. I refused, because I was not willing to mix myself in his affairs, and because having once before done so, I had found him at the critical moment, to be an abject poltroon. These reasons I told him. He then begged the loan of a pistol to defend himself against attack. This request I refused, saying that his surest defence was a retraction of unfounded charges. He, at last, grew exasperated, and using offensive language, was expelled from the room. In a day or so, afterwards, being confined to his bed from the effect of fright and the blows he had received from me, he sent a letter to the brother of the lady he had so vilely slandered, denying all recollection of having made any charges of the kind alleged, and stating that, if he had made them, he was laboring under a fit of insanity to which he was periodically subject. The physician who bore it said that Mr. Poe was then suffering under great fear, and the consequences might be serious to the mind of his patient, if the injured party did not declare himself satisfied. — The letter being a full retraction of the falsehood, he, to whom it was addressed, stopped further proceedings, and the next day Mr. Poe hastily fled from town.

I can, if necessary, give some facts connected with the last mentioned circumstances, which show Mr. Poe’s conduct in a still baser view. And I can detail the history of my assailant’s deeds in Philadelphia and New York. I have not room here, but, if Mr. Poe desires it, he can be accommodated at any future time.

I am not alone in my knowledge of Mr. Poe. The kennels of Philadelphia streets, from which I once kindly raised him, have frequently had the pleasure of his acquaintance; the “Tombs,” of New York, has probably a dim remembrance of his person; and if certain very [page 238:] eminent and able authors and publishers, in this city, do not know him as I do, I am much mistaken — and so are they.

His review of my style and manner is only amusing when contrasted with his former laudation, almost to sycophancy, of my works. Whether he lied then or now, is a matter of little moment. His lamentation over my lack of a common English education is heart-rending to hear. I will acknowledge my deficiencies with pleasure. It is a great pity he is not equally candid. He professes to know every language and to be a proficient in every art and science under the sun — when, except that half Choctaw, half Winebago he habitually uses, and the art and science of “Jeremy-Diddling,” he is ignorant of all. If he really understands the English language, the sooner he translates his notices of the New York literati into it, the better for his readers.

Mr. Poe has announced his determination to hunt me down. I am very much obliged to him, and really wish he would hurry to begin. That he has a fifty fish-woman-power of Billingsgate, I admit; and that he has issued his bull, from his garret of a Vatican, up some six pair of stairs, excommunicating me from the church literary, is evident. But he overrates his own powers. He really does not possess one tithe of that greatness which he seems to regard as an uncomfortable burthen. He mistakes coarse abuse for polished invective, and vulgar insinuation for sly satire. He is not alone thoroughly unprincipled, base and depraved, but silly, vain and ignorant — not alone an assassin in morals, but a quack in literature. His frequent quotations from languages of which he is entirely ignorant, and his consequent blunders expose him to ridicule; while his cool plagiarisms from known or forgotten writers, excite the public amazement. He is a complete evidence of his own assertion, that “no spectacle can be more pitiable than that of a man without the commonest school education, busying himself in attempts to instruct mankind on topics of polite literature.” [page 239:] If he deserves credit for any thing, it is for his frankness in acknowledging a fact which his writings so triumphantly demonstrate.

THOMAS DUNN ENGLISH.

MR. POE’S REPLY TO MR. ENGLISH AND OTHERS.

[Communicated.]

“J. STEPHENSON DUSOLLE, EDITOR.”

(Phila.) Spirit of the Times, July 10, 1846.

NEW YORK, June 27.

TO THE PUBLIC. — A long and serious illness of such character as to render quiet and perfect seclusion in the country of vital importance, has hitherto prevented me from seeing an article headed “The War of the Literati,” signed “Thomas Dunn English,” and published in “The New York Mirror” of June 23d. This article I might, and should indeed, never have seen but for the kindness of Mr. Godey, editor of “The Lady’s Book,” who enclosed it to me with a suggestion that certain portions of it might be thought on my part to demand a reply.

I had some difficulty in comprehending what that was, said or written by Mr. English, that could be deemed answerable by any human being; but I had not taken into consideration that I had been, for many months, absent and dangerously ill — that I had no longer a journal in which to defend myself — that these facts were well known to Mr. English — that he is a blackguard of the lowest order — that it would be a silly truism, if not unpardonable flattery, to term him [page 240:] either a coward or a liar — and, lastly, that the magnitude of a slander is usually in the direct ratio of the littleness of the slanderer, but, above all things, of the impunity with which he fancies it may be uttered.

Of the series of papers which have called down upon me, white supposed defenceless, the animadversions of the pensive Fuller, the cultivated Clark, the “indignant Briggs,‘’ and the animalcula with moustaches for antennae that is in the capital habit of signing itself in full, fs Thomas Dunn English “- of this series of papers all have been long since written, and three have been already given to the public. The circulation of the Magazine in which they appear cannot be much less than 50,000; and, admitting but readers to each copy (while 6 would more nearly approach the truth) I may congratulate myself on such an audience as has not often been known in any similar case — a monthly audience of at least 200,000, from among the most refined and intellectual classes of American society. Of course, it will be difficult on the part of “The Mirror” ( I am not sure whether 500 or 600 be the precise number of copies it now circulates) — difficult, I say, to convince the 200,000 ladies and gentlemen in question that, individually and collectively, they are blockheads — that they do not rightly comprehend the unpretending words which I have addressed to them in this series — and that, as for myself, I have no other design in the world than misrepresentation, scurrility, and the indulgence of personal spleen. What has been printed is before my readers; what I have written besides, is in the hands of Mr. Godey, and shall remain unaltered. The word “Personality,” used in the heading of the series, has of course led astray the quartette of dunderheads who have talked and [page 241:] scribbled themselves into convulsions about this matter — but no one else, I presume, has distorted the legitimate meaning of my expression into that of private scandal or personal offence. In sketching individuals, every candid reader will admit that, while my general aim has been accuracy, I have yielded to delicacy even a little too much of verisimilitude. Indeed, on this score should I not have credit for running my pen through certain sentences referring, for example, to the brandy-nose of Mr. Briggs (since Mr. Briggs is only one third described when this nose is omitted) and to the family resemblance between the whole visage of Mr. English and that of the best-looking but most unprincipled of Mr. Barnum’s baboons?

It will not be supposed, from anything here said, that I myself attach any importance to this series of papers. The public, however, is the best judge of its own taste; and that the spasms of one or two enemies have given the articles a notoriety far surpassing their merit or my expectation — is, possibly, no fault of mine. In a preface their very narrow scope is defined. They are loosely and inconsiderately written — aiming at nothing beyond the gossip of criticism — unless, indeed, at the relief of those “necessities” which I have never blushed to admit and which the editor of “The Mirror” — the quondam associate of gentlemen — has, in the same manner, never blushed publicly to insult and to record.

But let me return to Mr. English’s attack — and, in so returning, let me not permit any profundity of disgust to induce, even for an instant, a violation of the dignity of truth. What is not false, amid the scurrility of this man’s statements, it is not in my nature to brand as false, although oozing from the filthy lips of which [page 242:] a lie is the only natural language. The errors and frailties which I deplore, it cannot at least be asserted that I have been the coward to deny. Never, even, have I made attempt at extenuating a weakness which is (or, by the blessing of God, was) a calamity, although those who did not know me intimately had little reason to regard it otherwise than as a crime. For, indeed, had my pride, or that of my family permitted, there was much — very much — there was everything — to be offered in extenuation. Perhaps, even, there was an epoch at which it might not have been wrong in me to hint — what by the testimony of Dr. Francis and other medical men I might have demonstrated, had the public, indeed, cared for the demonstration — that the irregularities so profoundly lamented were the effect of a terrible evil rather than its cause. — And now let me thank God that in redemption from the physical ill I have forever got rid of the moral.

It is not, then, my purpose to deny any part of the conversation represented to have been held privately between this person and myself. I scorn the denial of any portion of it, because every portion of it may be true, by a very desperate possibility, although uttered by an English. I pretend to no remembrance of anything which occurred — with the exception of having wearied and degraded myself, to little purpose, in bestowing upon Mr. E. the “fisticuffing” of which he speaks, and of being dragged from his prostrate and rascally carcase by Professor Thomas Wyatt, who, perhaps with good reason, had his fears for the vagabond’s life. The details of the “conversation,” as asserted, I shall not busy myself in attempting to understand. The “celebrated authoress” is a mystery. With the exception, perhaps, of Mrs. Stephens, Mrs. [page 243:] Welby, and Miss Gould — three ladies whose acquaintance I yet hope to have the honor of making — there is ne celebrated authoress in America with whom I am not on terms of perfect amity at least, if not of cordial and personal friendship. That I “offered” Mr, English “my hand” is by no means impossible. I have been too often and too justly blamed by those who have a right to impose bounds upon my intimacies, for the weakness of “offering my hand,” without thought of consequence, to any one whom I see very generally reviled, hated, and despised.

Through this mad quixotism arose my first acquaintance with Mr. English, who introduced himself to me in Philadelphia — where, for one or two years, I remained under the impression that his real name was Thomas Done Brown.

I shall not think it necessary to maintain that I am no “coward.” On a point such as this a man should speak only through the acts, moral and physical, of his whole private life and his whole public career. But it is a matter of common observation that your real coward never fails to make it a primary point to accuse all his enemies of cowardice. A poltroon charges his foe, by instinct, with precisely that vice or meanness which the pricking of his (the poltroon’s) conscience, assures him would furnish the most probable and therefore the most terrible ground of.(1) . . .

Now, the origin of the nickname, “Thomas Done Brown,” is, in Philadelphia, quite as thoroughly understood [page 243:] as Mr. English could desire. With even the inconceivable amount of brass in his possession, I doubt if he could, in that city, pronounce aloud that simple word, “coward,” if his most saintly soul depended upon the issue.

“Some have beaten till they know

What wood a cudgel’s of, by the blow

Some kicked until they could tell whether

A shoe were Spanish or neat’s leather.”

These lines in “Hudibras” have reference to the case of Mr. English. His primary thrashing, of any note, was bestowed upon him, I believe, by Mr. John S. DuSolle, the editor of “The Spirit of the Times,” who could not very well get over acting with this indecorum on account of Mr. E.’s amiable weakness — a propensity for violating the privacy of a publisher’s MSS. I have not heard that there was any resentment on the part of Mr. English. It is said, on the contrary, that he shed abundant tears, and took the whole thing, in its proper light — as a sort of favor. His second chastisement I cannot call to mind in all its particulars. His third I was reduced to giving him myself, for indecorous conduct at my house. His fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth, and tenth, followed in so confused a manner and in so rapid a succession that I have been unable to keep an account of them; they have always affected me as a difficult problem in mathematics. His eleventh was tendered him by the Hon. Sandy Harris, who (also for an insult to ladies at a private house) gave him such a glimpse of a Bowie knife as saved the trouble of a kick-having even more vigorous power of propulsion. For his twelfth lesson in this course, I have always heard him express his gratitude to Mr. Henry [page 245:] B. Hirst. Mr. English could not help stealing Mr. Hirst’s poetry. For this reason Mr. Hirst (who gets out of temper for trifles) threw, first, a pack of cards in Mr. English’s face; then knocked that poet down; then pummeled him for not more than twenty minutes; (in Mr. E.’s case it cannot be well done under twenty-five, on account of callosity — the result of too frequent friction on the parts pummeled); then picked him up, set him down, and wrote him a challenge, to come off on the following morning. Of course, this challenge Mr. English accepted; — the fact is he accepts everything, from a kick to a piece of gingerbread — the smallest favors thankfully received. At the hour appointed Mr. Hirst was on the ground. In regard to Mr. English’s whereabouts on the occasion I never could put my hand upon a record that was at all precise. It must be said, however, in his defence, that there is not a better shot in all America than Mr. Hirst. With a pistol, at fifty yards, I once saw him hit a chicken in full flight. Mr. English may have witnessed this identical exploit — if so, as a “bird of a feather” he was excusable in staying at home. My own opinion, nevertheless, is, that he would have been at the rendezvous without fail, if his breakfast could have been got ready for him in time.

I do not think that Mr. English was ever afterwards flogged, or even challenged, in Philadelphia — but I cannot hope that he would ever “take me by the hand” again, were I to omit mention of that last and most important escapade which induced him at length to desert, in disgust, the city of his immense forefathers.

There are, no doubt, one or two persons who have heard of one Henry A. Wise. At all events Mr. [page 246:] English had heard of him, and he resolved that nobody else should ever hear of him — this Mr. Wise — or even think of him, again. That Mr. Wise had never heard of Mr. English (probably on account of his being always called Mr. Brown) was no concern of Mr. English’s. He wrote an “article” — I saw it. He put “the magic of his name” — his three names — at the bottom of it. He printed it. He handed it for inspection to all the inhabitants of Philadelphia. He then buttoned up his coat — took under the tails of it seven revolvers — and despatched the article, duly addressed, with his compliments, to “the Hon. Henry A. Wise,” who then resided at the house of the President.

Now, I never could understand precisely how or why it was that the Hon. Henry A. Wise did not repair forthwith from Washington to Philadelphia, with a company of the U. S. Artillery — the loan of which his interest could have obtained of Mr. Tyler — why he did not come, I say, to Philadelphia, engage Mr. English, take him captive, cut off his goatee, put him on a high stool, and insist upon his reading (upside down) the whole of that “Sonnet to Azthene” in which the poet sings about his “dreams” that “seems” and other English peculiarities. The punishment would have been scarcely more than adequate to the offence. The Philippic written by Mr. E. was, in fact, very severe. It called Mr. Wise “a poltroon “- an “ass,” if I remember — and “a dirty despicable vagabond” — of that I feel particularly sure. There occurs then, of course, a question in metaphysics — “why did not the Hon. Henry A. Wise repair to Philadelphia and take Mr. Thomas Dunn Brown by the nose? Perhaps the legislator had a horror of [page 247:] moustaches. But then neither did he write. Not even one word did he say — absolutely not onenothing! Mr. Brown’s distress was, not altogether that he could not get himself kicked, but that he could not get any kind of a reason for the omission of the kicking.

This affair is to be classed among the “Historical Doubts” — among the insoluble problems of History. However — Mr. Wise felt himself everlastingly ruined, and soon after, as Minister to France, went, a brokenhearted man, into exile.

Mr. Brown abandoned the city of his birth. He has never been the same person since — that is to say he has been a person beside himself. He finds it impossible to recover from a chronic attack of astonishment. When he dies, the coroner’s verdict will be “Taken by Surprise.” This matter will account for Mr. English’s inveterate habit of rolling up the whites of his eyes.

About the one or two other unimportant points in this gentleman’s attack upon myself, there is, I believe, very little to be said. He asserts that I have complimented his literary performances. The sin of having, at one time, attempted to patronize him, is, I fear, justly to be laid to my charge; — but his goatee was so continual a source of admiration to me that I found it impossible ever to write a serious line in his behalf. And then the Imp of Mischief whispered in my ear, telling me how great a charity it would be to the public, if I would only put the pen into Mr. English’s own hand, and permit him to kill himself off by self-praise. I listened to this whisper — and the public should have seen the zeal with which the poet labored in the good cause. If in this public’s estimation Mr. English did not become at once Phoebus Apollo, at [page 248:] least it was no fault of Mr. English’s. I solemnly say that in no paper of mine did there ever appear one word about this gentleman — unless of the broadest and most unmistakable irony — that was not printed from the MS. of the gentleman himself. The last number of “The Broadway Journal” (the work having been turned over by me to another publisher) was edited by Mr. English. The editorial portion was wholly his, and was one interminable Pæan of his own praises. The truth of all this — if any one is weak enough to care a penny about who praises or who damns Mr. English — will no doubt be corroborated by Mr. Jennings, the printer.

I am charged, too, unspecifically, with being a plagiarist on a very extensive scale. He who accuses another of what all the world knows to be especially false, is merely rendering the accused a service by calling attention to the converse of the fact, and should never be helped out of his ridiculous position by any denial on the part of his enemy. We want a Magazine paper on “The Philosophy of Billingsgate.” But I am really ashamed of indulging even in a sneer at this poor miserable fool, on any mere topic of literature alone.

He says, too, that I “seem determined to hunt him down.” He said the very same thing to Mr. Wise, who had not the most remote conception that any such individual had ever been born of woman. “Hunt him down!” Is it possible that I shall ever forget the paroxysm of laughter which the phrase occasioned me when I first saw it in Mr. English’s MS.? “Hunt him down!” What idea can the man attach to the term “down?” Does he really conceive that there exists a deeper depth of either moral or physical [page 249:] degradation than that of the hog-puddles in which he has wallowed from his infancy? “Hunt him down!” By Heaven! I should in the first place, be under the stern necessity of hunting him up — up from among the dock-loafers and wharf-rats, his cronies. Besides, “hunt” is not precisely the word. “Catch” would do better. We say “hunting a buffalo,” “hunting a lion,” and, in a dearth of words, we might even go so far as to say “hunting a pig” — but we say “catching a frog” — “catching a weasel“ — “catching an English“ —— and “catching a flea.”

As a matter of course I should have been satisfied to follow the good example of Mr. Wise, when insulted by Mr. English, (if this indeed be the person’s name) had there been nothing more serious in the blatherskite’s attack than the particulars to which I have hitherto alluded. The two passages which follow, however, are to be found in the article referred to:

“I hold Mr. Poe’s acknowledgments for a sum of money which he obtained from me under false pretenses.”

And again:

“A merchant of this city had accused him of committing forgery, and as he was afraid to challenge him to the field, or chastise him personally, I suggested a legal prosecution as his sole remedy. At his request I obtained a counsellor who was willing, as a compliment to me, to conduct his suit without the customary retaining fee. But though so eager at first to commence proceedings, he dropped the matter altogether when the time came for hi:n to act — thus virtually admitting the truth of the charge.”

It will be admitted by the most patient that these accusations are of such character as to justify me in rebutting [page 250:] them in the most public manner possible, even when they are found to be urged by a Thomas Dunn English. The charges are criminal, and with the aid of “The Mirror” I can have them investigated before a criminal tribunal. In the meantime I must not he under these imputations a moment longer than necessary. To the first charge I reply, then, simply that Mr. English is indebted to me in what (to me) is a considerable sum — that I owe him nothing — that in the assertion that he holds my acknowledgment for a sum of money under any pretence obtained, he lies — and that I defy him to produce such acknowledgment.

In regard to the second charge I must necessarily be a little more explicit. “The merchant of New York” alluded to, is a gentleman of high respectability — Mr. Edward J. Thomas, of Broad Street. I have now the honor of his acquaintance, but some time previous to this acquaintance, he had remarked to a common friend that he had heard whispered against me an accusation of forgery. The friend, as in duty bound, reported this matter to me. I called at once on Mr. Thomas, who gave me no very thorough explanation, but promised to make inquiry, and confer with me hereafter. Not hearing from him in what I thought due time, however, I sent him (unfortunately by Mr. English, who was always in my office for the purpose of doing himself honor in running my errands) a note, of which the following is a copy:

OFFICE OF THE BROADWAY JOURNAL, etc.

EDWARD J. THOMAS, Esq.

SIR, — As I have not had the pleasure of hearing from you since our interview at your office, may I ask of you to state to me distinctly, whether I am to consider [page 251:] the charge of forgery urged by you against myself, in the presence of a common friend, as originating with yourself or Mr. Benjamin?

Your ob. Serv‘t.,  
(Signed) EDGAR A. POE.

The reply brought me was verbal and somewhat vague. As usual, my messenger had played the bully, and, as very usual, had been treated with contempt. The idea of challenging a man for a charge of forgery could only have entered the head of an owl or an English: — of course I had no resource but in a suit, which one of Mr. E’s friends offered to conduct for me. I left town to procure evidence, and on my return found at my house a letter from Mr. Thomas. It ran thus

NEW YORK, July 5, 1845.

E. A. POE, Esq., New York.

DEAR SIR, — I had hoped ere this to have seen you, but as you have not called, and as I may soon be out of the city, I desire to say to you that, after repeated effort, I saw the person on Friday evening last, from whom the report originated to which you referred in your call at my office. (The contemptuous silence in respect to the communication sent through Mr. E. will be observed.) He denies it in toto — says he does not know it and never said so — and it undoubtedly arose from the misunderstanding of some word used. It gives me pleasure thus to trace it, and still more to find it destitute of foundation in truth, as I thought would be the case. I have told Mr. Benjamin the result of my inquiries, and shall do so to —— (the lady referred to as the common friend) by a very early opportunity — the only two persons who know anything of the matter, as far as I know.

I am, Sir, very truly  
Your friend and obed‘t. St.  
(Signed) EDWARD J. THOMAS.

[page 252:]

Now, as this note was most satisfactory and most kind — as I neither wished nor could have accepted Mr. Thomas’ money — as the motives which had actuated him did not seem to me malevolent — as I had heard him spoken of in the most flattering manner by one whom, above all others, I most profoundly respect and esteem — it does really appear to me hard to comprehend how even so malignant a villain as this English could have wished me to proceed with the suit.

In the presence of witnesses I handed him the letter, and without meaning anything in especial, requested his opinion. In lieu of it he gave me his advice: — it was that I should deny having received such a letter and urge the prosecution to extremity. I promptly ordered him to quit the house. In his capacity of hound, he obeyed.

These are the facts which, in a court of justice, I propose to demonstrate — and, having demonstrated them, shall I not have a right to demand of a generous public that it brand with eternal infamy that wretch, who, with a full knowledge of my exculpation from so heinous a charge, has not been ashamed to take advantage of my supposed inability to defend myself, for the purpose of stigmatising me as a felon!

And of the gentleman who also with a thorough knowledge of the facts, as I can and will show) prostituted his filthy sheet to the circulation of this calumny — of him what is it necessary to say? At present — nothing. He heads Mr. English’s article with a profession of pity for myself. Ah yes, indeed! — Mr. Fuller is a pitiful man. Much is he to be pitied for his countenance (that of a fat sheep in a reverie) — for his Providential escapes — for the unwavering conjugal chivalry which, in a public theatre [page 253:] — but I pause. Not even in taking vengeance on a Fuller can I stoop to become a Fuller myself.

The fact is, it is difficult to be angry with this man. Let his self-complacency be observed! How absolute an unconsciousness of that proverbial mental imbecility which serves to keep all the little world in which he moves, in one sempiternal sneer or giggle!

Mr. Fuller has fine eyes — but he should put them to use. He should turn them inwardly. — He should contemplate in solemn meditation, that vast arena within his sinciput which it has pleased Heaven to fill with hasty pudding by way of brains. He needs, indeed, self-study, self-examination — and for this end, he will not think me officious if I recommend to his perusal Heinsius’ admirable treatise “On the Ass.”

EDGAR A. POE.

A Card,

IN REPLY TO MR. POE’S REJOINDER.

[From “N. Y. Mirror,” July 13, 1846.]

Mr. Edgar A. Poe is not satisfied, it would seem. In the “Times,” a Philadelphia journal of considerable circulation, there appears a communication headed, — “Mr. Poe’s reply to Mr. English and others.” As it is dated “27th of June,” and the newspaper containing it is dated 3 oth of July; and as it appears in another city than this, — it is to be inferred that Mr. Poe had some difficulty in obtaining a respectable journal to give currency to his scurrilous article. The following words and phrases, taken at random from the production, will give the public some idea of its style and temper

“Blackguard,” “coward,” — “liar,” “animalcule with moustache for antennæ,” “block-heads,” “quartette of dunderheads,” “brandy-none,” “best-looking, [page 253:] but most unprincipled of Mr. Barnum’s baboons,” “filthy lips,” “rascally carcase,” “inconceivable amount of brass,” “poor miserable fool,” “hog-puddles in which he has wallowed from infancy,” “by Heaven!” “dockloafers and wharf-rats, his cronies,” “the blatherskite’s attack,” “hound,” “malignant a villain,” “wretch,” “filthy sheet,” “hasty pudding by way of brains.”

To such vulgar stuff as this, which is liberally distributed through three columns of what would be, otherwise, tame and spiritless, it is unnecessary to reply. It neither suits my inclination, nor habits, to use language, of which the words I quote make up the wit and ornament. I leave that to Mr. Poe and the ancient and honorable community of fish-venders.

Actuated by the desire for the public good, I charged Mr. Poe with the commission of certain misdemeanors, which prove him to be profligate in habits and depraved in mind. The most serious of these he admits by silence — the remainder he attempts to palliate; and winds up his tedious disquisition by a threat to resort to a legal prosecution. This is my full desire. Let him institute a suit, if he dare, and I pledge myself to make my charges good by the most ample and satisfactory evidence.

To the charlatanry of Mr. Poe’s reply; his play upon my name; his proclamation of recent reform when it is not a week since he was intoxicated in the streets of New York; his attempt to prove me devoid of literary attainments; his sneers at my lack of personal beauty; his ridiculous invention of quarrels between me and others, that never took place; his charges of plagiarism, unsupported by example; his absurd story of a challenge accepted and avoided; his attempt to excuse his drunkenness and meanness on the ground of insanity; in short, to the froth, fustian, and vulgarity of his three-column article, I have no reply to make. My character for honor and physical courage needs no defence from even the occasional slanderer — although, if the gentlemen whose names he mentions, will endorse his charges, I shall [page 255:] then reply to them — much less does it require a shield from one whose habit of uttering falsehoods is so inveterate, that he utters them to his own hurt, rather than not utter them at all; with whom drunkenness is the practice and sobriety the exception; and who, from the constant commission of acts of meanness and depravity, is incapable of appreciating the feelings which animate the man of honor.

THOMAS DUNN ENGLISH.

POE TO DUYCKINCK.

[Duyckinck Collection.]

MONDAY, 29 [June, 1846].

MY DEAR MR. DUYCKINCK, — I am about to send the “Reply to English” (accompanying this note) to Mr. Godey — but feel anxious that some friend should read it before it goes. Will you be kind enough to look it over and show it to Mathews? Mrs. G. will then take it to Harnden. The particulars of the reply I would not wish mentioned to any one: — of course you see the necessity of this.

The no of Littell’s Age contg the notice(1) is 106 — so he writes me.

Most truly yours  
Poe.

[page 256:]

POE TO A FRIEND. [[G. W. Eveleth]]

[Ingram’s Life]

[Undated.]

I do not well see how I could have otherwise replied to English. You must know him (English) before you can well estimate my reply. He is so thorough a “blatherskite” that to have replied to him with dignity would have been the extreme of the ludicrous. The only true plan — not to have answered him at all — was precluded on account of the nature of some of his accusations — forgery, for instance. To such charges, even from the Autocrat of all the Asses, a man is compelled to answer. There he had me. Answer him I must. But how? Believe me, there exists no such dilemma as that in which a gentleman is placed when he is forced to reply to a blackguard. If he have any genius, then is the time for its display. confess to you that I rather like that reply of mine, in a literary sense; and so do a great many of my friends. It fully answered its purpose, beyond a doubt. Would to Heaven every work of Art did as much! You err in supposing me to have been “peevish” when I wrote the reply. The peevishness was all “put on” as a part of my argument — of my plan; so was the “indignation” with which I wound up. How could I be either peevish or indignant about a matter so well adapted to further my purposes? Were I able to afford so expensive a luxury as personal — especially, as refutable — abuse, I would willingly pay any man $2000 per annum to hammer away at me all the year round:

The vagabond, at the period of the suit’s coming on, ran off to Washington, for fear of being criminally [page 257:] prosecuted. The “acknowledgment” referred to was not forthcoming, and the Mirror could not get a a single witness to testify one word against my character. . . . My suit against the Mirror was terminated by a verdict of $225 in my favour. The costs and all will make them a bill of $492. Pretty well — considering that there was no actual “damage” done to me.

POE TO GODEY.

[Griswold Collection.]

NEW-YORK: July 26,46.

MY DEAR SIR, — I regret that you published my Reply in “The Times.” I should have found no difficulty in getting it printed here, in a respectable paper, and gratis. However — as I have the game in my own hands, I shall not stop to complain about trifles.

I am rather ashamed that, knowing me to be as poor as I am, you should have thought it advisable to make the demand on me of the $10. I confess that I thought better of you — but let it go — it is the way of the world.

The man, or men, who told you that there was anything wrong in the tone of my reply, were either my enemies, or your enemies, or asses. When you see them, tell them so from me. I have never written an article upon which I more confidently depend for literary reputation than that Reply. Its merit lay in being precisely adapted to its purpose. In this city I have had, upon it, the favorable judgment of the best men. All the error about it was yours. You should have done as I requested — publish it in the “Book.” [page 258:] It is of no use to conceive a plan if you have to depend upon another for its execution.

Please distribute 20 or 30 copies of the Reply in Phil. and send me the balance through Harnden. What paper, or papers, have copied E’s attack?

I have put this matter in the hands of a competent attorney, and you shall see the result. Your charge, $10, will of course be brought before the court, as an item, when I speak of damages.

In perfect good feeling  
Yours truly,  
POE.

It would be as well to address your letters to West Farms.

Please put Miss Lynch in the next number.

I enclose the Reveillé article. I presume that, ere this, you have seen the highly flattering notices of the “Picayune” and the “Charleston Courier.”

MISS LYNCH TO POE.

[Griswold Collection.]

[Undated.]

MY DEAR MR. POE, — I thank you for your very kind notice of my poems, no less than for your kind and friendly note. Indeed, I thank you more for the last than for the first, for I value literary reputation only for the bread and butter considerations, and friendship to me is in valuable. It is my mental sustenance — as absolutely necessary as the material, and infinitely higher. But I am exceedingly pained at the desponding tone in which you write. Life is too short & there is too much to be done in it, to give one time to despair. Exorcise that devil, I beg of you, as speedily as possible. The ancients, I believe, had a saying, that it was essential to have overcome the fear of death before we could attain true greatness. [page 259:] Now if you have accomplished this, as I dare say you have, what remains to be feared? what to be despaired of? I see nothing. Tell me what you see, & ten to one I can prove to you it is a chimera of your own vivid imagination. At all events come over and see me tomorrow evening (Saturday) & we will talk the matter over. “I have thought — long & darkly,” but out of the “whirling gulf of phantasy & flame” there has sprung a firm will or resolution to meet the realities of life with an iron energy & I find myself the better for it. So do not give up but come & let me talk to you. — Give my very kindest regards to Mrs. Poe. I intended to have seen her before this time, but I have some friends staying with me from the country & next week I am going to leave town for a few days, so I must defer it till my return. — I hope she will be able to come with you tomorrow night.

Very truly yours,    
ANNE C. LYNCH.  
[MRS. BOTTA.]

I am sorry I shall not be in town to hear your poem, on Tuesday evening. Can’t you bring over & read a few passages? — If you do not come tomorrow eve. I shall be at home on Sunday evening & happy to see you then. — I shall take the Tales with me & read them in the country. Many thanks for them.

SIMMS TO POE.

[Griswold Collection.]

NEW YORK, July 30, 1846.

EDGAR A. POE, Esq.

DEAR SIR, — I received your note a week ago, and proceeded at once to answer it, but being in daily expectation of a newspaper from the South, to which, in a [page 260:] Letter, I had communicated a paragraph concerning the matter which you had suggested in a previous letter, I determined to wait until I could enclose it to you. It has been delayed somewhat longer than I had anticipated, and has in part caused my delay to answer you. I now send it you, and trust that it will answer the desired purpose; though I must frankly say that I scarcely see the necessity of noticing the sort of scandal to which you refer. — I note with regret the very desponding character of your last letter. I surely need not tell you how deeply and sincerely I deplore the misfortunes which attend you, — the more so as I see no process for your relief and extrication but such as must result from your own decision and resolve. No friend can help you in the struggle which is before you. Money, no doubt, can be procured; but this is not altogether what you require. Sympathy may soothe the hurts of Self Esteem, and make a man temporarily forgetful of his assailants; — but in what degree will this avail, and for how long, in the protracted warfare of twenty or thirty years? You are still a very young man, and one too largely and too variously endowed, not to entertain the conviction — as your friends entertain it — of a long and manful struggle with, and a final victory over, fortune. But this warfare, the world requires you to carry on with your own unassisted powers. It is only in your manly resolution to use these powers, after a legitimate fashion, that it will countenance your claims to its regards and sympathy; and I need not tell you how rigid and exacting it has been in the case of the poetical genius, or, indeed, the genius of any order. Suffer me to tell you frankly, taking the privilege of a true friend, that you are now perhaps in the most perilous period of your career — just in that position — just at that time of life — when a false step becomes a capital error — when a single leading mistake is fatal in its consequences. You are no longer a boy. “At thirty wise or never!” You must subdue your impulses; &, in particular, let me exhort you to discard all associations [page 261:] with men, whatever their talents, whom you cannot esteem as men. Pardon me for presuming thus to counsel one whose great natural and acquired resources should make him rather the teacher of others. But I obey a law of my own nature, and it is because of my sympathies that I speak. Do not suppose yourself abandoned by the worthy and honorable among your friends. They will be glad to give you welcome if you will suffer them. They will rejoice — I know their feelings and hear their language — to countenance your return to that community — that moral province in society — of which, let me say to you, respectfully and regretfully, — you have been, according to all reports but too heedlessly, and, perhaps, too scornfully indifferent. Remain in obscurity for awhile. You have a young wife — I am told a suffering & an i nteresting one, — let me entreat you to cherish her, and to cast away those pleasures which are not worthy of your mind, and to trample those temptations under foot, which degrade your person, and make it familiar to the mouth of vulgar jest. You may do all this, by a little circumspection. It is still within your power. Your resources from literature are probably much greater than mine. I am sure they are just as great. You can increase them, so that they shall be ample for all your legitimate desires; but you must learn the worldling’s lesson of prudence; — a lesson, let me add, which the literary world has but too frequently & unwisely disparaged. It may seem to you very impertinent, — in most cases it is impertinent — that he who gives nothing else should presume to give counsel. But one gives that which he can most spare, and you must not esteem me indifferent to a condition which I can in no other way assist. I have never been regardless of your genius, even when I knew nothing of your person. It is some years since I counselled Mr Godey to obtain the contributions of your pen. He will tell you this. I hear that you reproach him. But how can you expect a magazine proprietor to encourage contributions which embroil him with all his [page 262:] neighbors? These broils do you no good — vex your temper, destroy your peace of mind, and hurt your reputation. You have abundant resources upon which to draw even were there no Grub Street in Gotham. Change your tactics and begin a new series of papers with your publisher. The printed matter which I send you, might be quoted by Godey, and might be ascribed to me. But, surely, I need not say to you that, to a Southern man, the annoyance of being mixed up in a squabble with persons whom he does not know, and does not care to know, — and from whom no A lexandrine process of cutting loose, would be permitted by society — would be an intolerable grievance. I submit to frequent injuries and misrepresentations, content, though annoyed by the slaves [sic], that the viper should amuse himself upon the file, at the expense of his own teeth. As a man, as a writer, I shall always be solicitous of your reputation & success. You have but to resolve on taking and asserting your position, equally in the social and the literary world, and your way is clear, your path is easy, and you will find true friends enough to sympathize in your triumphs.

Very sincerely though sorrowfully, Yr obdt Servt

W. GILMORE SIMMS.

P. S. If I could I should have been to see you. But I have been and am still drudging in the hands of the printers, kept busily employed night and day. Besides, my arrangements are to hurry back to the South where I have a sick family. A very few days will turn my feet in that direction.

COOKE TO POE.

[Griswold Collection.]

MY DEAR SIR, — Your letter of Apr. 16th is to this day unanswered! I have however the excuse to make [page 263:] that I have been a good deal away from home, and whilst at home greatly drawn off from literature and its adjuncts by business, social interruptions, &c. This much of explanation, no doubt, will satisfy one so well assured as you must be of my regard & admiration.

You propose that I shall take up your memoir where Lowell drops it, and carry it on to the present date of your publications. I will do so, if my long delay has not thrown the work into the hands of some other friend, with en tire pleasure. 1, however, have not Graham’s Mag. for February 1845, and if you still wish me to continue the memoir you must send that number to me. I some months ago procured your Tales & Poems, and have read them collectively with great pleasure. That is a wonderful poem ending —

“Hell rising from a thousand thrones

Shall do it reverence.”

“Lenore,” too, is a great poem. The closing stanza of “To one in Paradise” (I remember it as published in “The Visionary”) is the perfection of melody. “The Raven” is your best poem.

John Kennedy, talking with me about your stories, old & recent, said, “the man’s imagination is as truth-like and minutely accurate as De Foe’s” — and went an to talk of your “Descent into the Maelstrom,” “MS. found in a Bottle,” “Gold Bug,” &c. I think this last the most ingenious thing I ever read. Those stories of criminal detection, “Murders of the Rue Morgue,” &c., a prosecuting attorney in the neighborhood here declares are miraculous. I think your French friend, for the most part, fine in his deductions from over-laid & unnoticed small facts, but sometimes too minute & hair-splitting. The stories are certainly as interesting as any ever written. The “Valdemar Case” I read in a number of your Broadway Journal last winter — as I lay in a Turkey blind, muffled to the eyes in overcoats, &c., and pronounce it without hesitation the most damnable, vraisemblable, horrible, [page 264:] hair-lifting, shocking, ingenious chapter of fiction that any brain ever conceived, or hands traced. That gelatinous, viscous sound of man’s voice! there never was such an idea before. That story scared me in broad day, armed with a double-barrel Tryon Turkey gun. What would it have done at midnight in some old ghostly countryhouse?

I have always found some one remarkable thing in your stories to haunt me long after reading them. The teeth in Berenice — the changing eyes of Morella — that red & glaring crack in the House of Usher — the pores of the deck in the MS. found in a Bottle — the visible drops falling into the goblet in Ligeia, &c. &c. — there is always something of this sort to stick by the mind — by mine at least.

My wife is about to enter the carriage and as I wish to send this to the P.O. by her, I must wind up rapidly. I am now after an interval of months again at work in the preparation of my poems for publication. I am dragging, but perhaps the mood will presently come. I bespeak a review of my Book at your hands when I get it out. I have not time now to copy Rosalie Lee. It is in Griswold’s last edition. I am grateful to you for the literary prop you afford me; and trust to do something to justify your commendations. I talked recently with a little Lady who has heard a lecture of yours in which you praise my poetry — in New York. She had taken up the notion that I was a great poetic roaring Lion.

Do with my MS. as you choose. What do you design as to the Stylus? Write to me without delay, if you can rob yourself of so much time.

[Signature missing.]  
[PHILIP PENDLETON COOKE.]

E. A. POE, Esq.

MILLWOOD, CLARKE CO. VA.

Aug. 4th, 1846. [page 265:]

POE TO COOKE.

[Collection of Mr. F. R. Halsey.]

NEW YORK, August 9, 1846.

MY DEAR SIR, — Never think of excusing yourself (to me) for dilatoriness in answering letters. I know too well the unconquerable procrastination which be sets the poet. I will place it all to the account of the turkeys. Were I to be seized by a rambling fit — one of my customary passions (nothing less) for vagabonding through the woods for a week or a month together — I would not — in fact I could not be put out of my mood, were it even to answer a letter from the Grand Mogul informing me that I had fallen heir to his possessions.

Thank you for the compliment. Were I in a serious humor just now, I would tell you frankly how your words of appreciation make my nerves thrill — not because you praise me (for others have praised me more lavishly) but because I feel that you comprehend and discriminate. You are right about the hair-splitting of my French friend: — that is all done for effect. These tales of ratiocination owe most of their popularity to being something in a new key. I do not mean to say that they are not ingenious — but people think them more ingenious than they are — on account of their method and air of method. In the “Murders in the Rue Morgue,” for instance, where is the ingenuity of unravelling a web which you yourself (the author) have woven for the express purpose of unravelling? The reader is made to confound the ingenuity of the supposititious Dupin with that of the writer of the story. [page 266:]

Not for the world would I have had any one else to continue Lowell’s Memoir until I have heard from you. I wish you to do it (if you will be so kind) and nobody else. By the time the book appears you will be famous, (or all my prophecy goes for nothing) and I shall have the éclat of your name to aid my sales. But, seriously, I do not think that any one so well enters into the poetical portion of my mind as yourself — and I deduce this idea from my intense appreciation of those points of your own poetry which seem lost upon others.

Should you undertake the work for me, there is one topic — there is one particular in which I have had wrong done me — and it may not be indecorous in me to call your attention to it. The last selection of my Tales was made from about 70, by Wiley and Putnam’s reader, Duyckinck. He has what he thinks a taste for ratiocination, and has accordingly made up the book mostly of analytic stories. But this is not representing my mind in its various phases — it is not giving me fair play. In writing these Tales one by one, at long intervals, I have kept the book-unity always in mind — that is, each has been composed with reference to its effect as part of a whole. In this view, one of my chief aims has been the widest diversity of subject, thought, & especially tone and manner of handling. Were all my tales now before me in a large volume and as the composition of another — the merit which would principally arrest my attention would be the wide diversity and variety. You would be surprised to hear me say that (omitting one or two of my first efforts) I do not consider any one of my stories better than another. There is a vast variety of kinds and, in degree of value, these kinds vary — but [page 267:] each tale is equally good of its kind. The loftiest kind is that of the highest imagination — and, for this reason only, “Ligeia” may be called my best tale. I have much improved this last since you saw it and I mail you a copy, as well as a copy of my best specimen of analysis — “The Philosophy of Composition.”

Do you ever see the British papers? Martin F. Tupper, author of — “Proverbial Philosophy,” has been paying me some high compliments — and in deed I have been treated more than well. There is one “British opinion,” however, which I value highly — Miss Barrett’s. She says. — “This vivid writing! — this power which is felt! The Raven has produced a sensation — I a fit horror’ here in England. Some of my friends are taken by the fear of it and some by the music. I hear of persons haunted by the’ Nevermore,’ and one acquaintance of mine who has the misfortune of possessing a — ‘bust of Pallas’ never can bear to look at it in the twilight. . . . Our great poet Mr. Browning, author of Paracelsus, etc., is enthusiastic in his admiration of the rhythm . . . Then there is a tale of his which I do not find in this volume, but which is going the rounds of the newspapers, about Mesmerism,(1) throwing us all into most admired disorder or dreadful doubts as to whether it can be true, as the children say of ghost stories. The certain thing in the tale in question is the power of the writer & the faculty he has of making horrible improbabilities seem near and familiar.” Would it be in bad taste to quote these words of Miss B. in your notice?

Forgive these egotisms (which are rendered in some [page 268:] measure necessary by the topic) and believe me that I will let slip no opportunity of reciprocating your kindness.

Griswold’s new edition I have not yet seen (is it out?) but I will manage to find “Rosalie Lee.” Do not forget to send me a few personal details of yourself — such as I give in “The N. Y. Literati.” When your book appears I propose to review it fully in Colton’s “American Review.” If you ever write to him, please suggest to him that I wish to do so. I hope to get your volume before mine goes to press — so that I may speak more fully.

I will forward the papers to which I refer in a day or two — not by to-day’s mail. Touching “The Stylus:” — this is the one great purpose of my literary life. Undoubtedly (unless I die) I will accomplish it — but I can afford to lose nothing by precipitancy. I cannot yet say when or how I shall get to work — but when the time comes I will write you. I wish to establish a journal in which the men of genius may fight their battles, upon some terms of equality, with those dunces the men of talent. But, apart from this, I have magnificent objects in view — may I but live to accomplish them!

Most cordially your friend,  
EDGAR A. POE.

RAMSAY TO POE.

[Griswold Collection.]

STONEHAVEN, SCOTLAND,
Nov. 30, 1846.

SIR, — As a believer in Mesmerism I respectfully take the liberty of addressing you to know, if a pamphlet lately [page 269:] published in London (by Short & Co., Bloomsbury) under the authority of your name & entitled Mesmerism, in Articulo-Mortis, is genuine.

It details an acc‘t of some most extraordinary circumstances, connected with the death of a M M Valdemar under mesmeric influence, by you. Hoax has been emphatically pronounced upon the pamphlet by all who have seen it here, & for the sake of the Science & of truth a note from you on the subject would truly oblige. In behalf of the Science,

Your very obt Svt  
ARCH RAMSAY.

TO EDGAR A. POE, Esq.,

New York.

Please address A. RAMSAY,
Stonehaven, Scotland.

POE TO —— [[G. W. Eveleth]]

[Ingram.]

Dec. 15th, 1846

MY DEAR ——, — By way of beginning this letter, let me say a word or two of apology for not having sooner replied to your letters of June 9th and October 13th. For more than six months I have been ill — for the greater part of that time, dangerously so, and quite unable to write even an ordinary letter. My magazine papers appearing in this interval were all in the publisher’s hands before I was taken sick. Since getting better, I have been, as a matter of course, overwhelmed with the business accumulating during my illness.

It always gives me true pleasure to hear from you, and I wish you could spare time to write me more frequently. I am gratified by your good opinion of [page 270:] my writings because what you say evinces the keenest discrimination. Ten times the praise you bestow on me would not please me half so much, were it not for the intermingled scraps of censure, or of objection, which show me that you well know what you are talking about. . . .

Let me now advert to the points of your two last letters: —

The criticism on Rogers is not mine — although, when it appeared, I observed a similarity to my ordinary manner.

The notice of Lowell’s “Brittany” is mine. You will see that it was merely a preparatory notice — I had designed repeating it in full, but something prevented me.

The criticism on Shelley is not mine; is the work of Parke Godwin. I never saw it.

The critic alluded to by Willis as connected with the Mirror, and as having found a parallel between Hood and Aldrich, is myself. See my reply to “Qutis,” in the early numbers of the Broadway Journal.

My reference to L. G. Clark, in spirit but not in letter, is what you suppose. He abused me in his criticism — but so feebly — with such a parade of intention and effort, but with so little effect or power, that I — forgave him: — that is to say, I had little difficulty in pardoning him. His strong point was that I ought to write well, because I had asserted that others wrote ill; and that I did n’t write well because, although there had been a great deal of fuss made about me, I had written so little — only a small volume of a hundred pages. Why, he had written more himself! [page 271:]

You will see that I have discontinued the “Literati” in Godey’s Mag. I was forced to do so, because I found that people insisted on considering them elaborate criticisms, when I had no other design than critical gossip. The unexpected circulation of the series, also, suggested to me that I might make a hit and some profit, as well as proper fame, by extending the plan into that of a book(1) on American Letters generally, and keeping the publication in my own hands. I am now at this — body and soul. I intend to be thorough — as far as I can — to examine analytically, without reference to previous opinions by anybody — all the salient points of Literature in general — e. g., Poetry, The Drama, Criticism, Historical Writing, Versification, &c. &c. You may get an idea of the manner in which I propose to write the whole book, by reading the notice of Hawthorne which will appear in the January “Godey,” as well as the article on “The Rationale of Verse,” which will be out in the March or April No. of Colton’s American Magazine or Review.

Do not trust, in making up your library, to the “opinions” in the Godey series. I meant “honest” — but my meaning is not so fully made out as I could wish. I thought too little of the series myself to guard sufficiently against haste, inaccuracy, or prejudice. The book will be true — according to the best of my abilities.

As regards Dana, it is more than possible that I may be doing him wrong. I have not read him since I was a boy, and must read him carefully again. The Frogpondians have badgered me so much that I fear I [page 272:] am apt to fall into prejudices about them. I have used some of their Pundits up, at all events, in “The Rationale of Verse.” I will mail you the number as soon as it appears — for I really wish you to tell me what you think of it.

As regards the “Stylus” — that is the grand purpose of my life, from which I have never swerved for a moment. But I cannot afford to risk anything by precipitancy — and I can afford to wait — at least, until I finish the book. When that is out, I will start the Mag. — and then I will pay you a visit. . . . In the meantime, let me thank you heartily for your name as a subscriber. . . . Truly, your friend,

EDGAR A. POE.

WILLIS TO POE.(1)

[Griswold Collection.]

Wednesday.

MY DEAR POE, — The enclosed speaks for itself — the letter, that is to say. Have I done right or wrong in the enclosed editorial? It was a kind of thing I could only do without asking you, & you may express anger about it ifyou like in print. It will have a good bearing, I think, on your law case. Please write me whether you are suffering or not, & if so, let us do something systematically for you.

In haste  
Yours faithfully  
N. P. WILLIS.

Kindest remembrance to Mrs Clemm. [page 273:]

POE TO DUYCKINCK.

[Duyckinck Collection.]

FORDHAM — Dec. 14. 46.

DEAR DUYCKINCK, — You remember showing me about a year ago, at your house, some English stanzas — by a lady I think — from the rhythm of which Longfellow had imitated the rhythm of the Proem of his “Waif.” I wish very much to see the poem — do you think you could loan me the book, or (which will answer as well) give me the title of the book in full, and copy me the 2 first stanzas? I will be greatly obliged if you can.

I am much in need, also, of Gilfillan’s “Sketches of Modern Literature,” — 2 vols. — published by Appleton. If you could loan me the work (or the vol. containing the sketch of Emerson) I would take it as a great favor.

I am taking great care of your Irving and Arcturus — but, unless you need them, I should like to keep them some time longer — as I have to make constant reference to them.

Truly yours,  
E. A. POE.

[page 273:]

POE TO WILLIS.

[Griswold Memoir.]

MY DEAR WILLIS, — The paragraph which has been put in circulation respecting my wife’s illness, my own, my poverty, etc., is now lying before me; together with the beautiful lines by Mrs. Locke and those by Mrs., to which the paragraph has given rise, as well as your kind and manly comments in,, The Home Journal.” The motive of the paragraph I leave to the conscience of him or her who wrote it or suggested it. Since the thing is done, however, and since the concerns of my family are thus pitilessly thrust before the public, I perceive no mode of escape from a public statement of what is true and what erroneous in the report alluded to. That my wife is ill, then, is true; and you may imagine with what feelings I add that this illness, hopeless from the first, has been heightened and precipitated by her reception at two different periods, of anonymous letters, — one enclosing the paragraph now in question; the other, those published calumnies of Messrs., for which I yet hope to find redress in a court of justice.

Of the facts, that I myself have been long and dangerously ill, and that my illness has been a well understood thing among my brethren of the press, the best evidence is afforded by the innumerable paragraphs of personal and of literary abuse with which I have been latterly assailed. This matter, however, will remedy itself. At the very first blush of my new prosperity, the gentlemen who toadied me in the old, will recollect themselves and toady me again. You, who know me, will comprehend that I speak of [page 275:] these things only as having served, in a measure, to lighten the gloom of unhappiness, by a gentle and not unpleasant sentiment of mingled pity, merriment and contempt. That, as the inevitable consequence of so long an illness, I have been in want of money, it would be folly in me to deny — but that I have ever materially suffered from privation, beyond the extent of my capacity for suffering, is not altogether true. That I am “without friends” is a gross calumny, which I am sure you never could have believed, and which a thousand noble-hearted men would have good right never to forgive me for permitting to pass unnoticed and undenied. Even in the city of New York I could have no difficulty in naming a hundred persons, to each of wham — when the hour far speaking had arrived — I could and would have applied for aid with unbounded confidence, and with absolutely no sense of humiliation. I do not think, my dear Willis, that there is any need of my saying more. I am getting better, and may add — if it be any comfort to my enemies — that I have little fear of getting worse. The truth is, I have a great deal to do; and I have made up my mind not to die till it is done.

Sincerely yours,  
EDGAR A. POE.

December 20th, 1845.

POE TO DUYCKINCK.

[Duyckinck Collection.]

Dec. 30., 46.

DEAR DUYCKINCK, — Mrs Clemm mentioned to me, this morning, that some of the Parisian papers had been speaking about my “Murders in the Rue [page 276:] Morgue.” She could not give me the details merely saying that you had told her. The “Murders in the R. M.” was spoken of in the Paris, Charivari,” soon after the first issue of the tale in Graham’s Mag: — April 1841. By the enclosed letter from Stonehaven, Scotland, you will see that the “Valdemar Case” still makes a talk, and that a pamphlet edition of it has been published by Short & Co. of London under the title of “Mesmerism in Articulo Mortis.” It has fairly gone the rounds of the London Press, commencing with “The Morning Post.” “The Monthly Record of Science” &c gives it with the title “The Last Days of M. Valdemar. By the author of the Last Conversation of a Somnambule” (Mesmeric Revelation).

My object in enclosing the Scotch letter and the one from Miss Barrett, is to ask you to do me a favor which (just at this moment) may be of great importance. It is, to make a paragraph or two for some one of the city papers, stating the facts here given, in connexion with what you know about the “Murders in the Rue Morgue.” If this will not give you too much trouble, I will be deeply obliged. If you think it advisable, there is no objection to your copying any portion of Miss B’s letter. Willis or Morris will put in anything you may be kind enough to write; but as “The Home Journal” has already said a good deal about me, some other paper would be preferable.

Truly yours  
POE.

POE TO MRS. SHEW.

[Jan. 27, 1847.]

See page 265 of Biography.

 


[[Footnotes]]

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 232:]

1.  This is the only known letter addressed by Poe to his wife. — ED.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 233:]

1.  See Vol. XV. p. 64, “Virginia Edition” of Poe’s Works.

2.  See Vol. I. p. 252.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 243:]

1.  Illegible.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 255:]

1.  The notice from the Literary Gazette is of Poe’s Tales under the title of “American Romance.” The notice or review was written on Martin Farquhar Tupper’s suggesting that the Literary Gazette had “neglected a volume of very considerable talent and imagination.”

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 267:]

1.  The Valdemar Case.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 271:]

1.  The MS. of this work disappeared after Poe’s death; all his papers, that had been left in charge of Mrs. Clemm, passed into the possession of Mr. Griswold. — NOTE BY INGRAM.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 272, running to the bottom of page 273:]

1.  This letter is explained by the following extract of a letter from Mrs. Mary E. Hewitt to Mrs. Osgood [Griswold Correspondence], New York, Dec. 20, 1846: as The Poes are in the same state of physical and pecuniary suffering — indeed worse, than they were last summer, for now the [page 273:] cold weather is added to their accumulation of ills. I went to enquire of Mr. Post [publisher of the Columbian Magazine] about them. He confirmed all that I had previously heard of their condition. Although he says Mrs. Clemm has never told him that they were in want, yet she borrows a shilling often, to get a letter from the office — but Mrs. Gore had been to see the Poes and found them living in the greatest wretchedness. I am endeavoring to get up a contribution for them among the editors, and the matter has got into print — very much to my regret, as I fear it will hurt Poe’s pride to have his affairs trade so public.” . . .

MARY.


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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 09)