Text: Edgar Allan Poe to George W. Eveleth — December 15, 1846 (LTR-241)


New-York: Dec. 15 / 46.

My Dear Sir,

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 9 and Oct. 13. 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 publishers’ 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 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:

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

Your objection to the tinkling of the footfalls is far more pointed, and in the course of composition occurred so forcibly to myself that I hesitated to use the term. I finally used it because I saw that it had, in its first conception, been suggested to my mind by the sense of the supernatural with which it was, at the moment, filled. No human or physical foot could tinkle on a soft carpet — therefore the tinkling of feet would vividly convey the supernatural impression. This was the idea, and it is good within itself: [page 2:] — but if it fails (as I fear it does) to make itself immediately and generally felt according to my intention — then in so much is it badly con[v]eyed, or expressed. Your appreciation of “The Sleeper” delights me. In the higher qualities of poetry, it is better than “The Raven” — but there is not one man in a million who could be brought to agree with me in this opinion. The Raven, of course, is far the better as a work of art — but in the true basis of all art The Sleeper is the superior. I wrote the latter when quite a boy.

You quote, I think, the 2 best lines in “The Valley of Unrest” — those about the palpitating trees. There is no more of “Politian”. It may be some years before I publish the rest of my Tales, essays &c. The publishers cheat — and I must wait till I can be my own publisher. The collection of tales issued by W. & P. were selected by a gentleman whose taste does not coincide with my own, from 72, written by me at various times — and those chosen are not my best — nor do they fairly represent me in any respect.

The critique 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 speaking in full — but something prevented me. The criticism on Shelley is not mine; it 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 & Aldrich is myself. See my reply to “Outis” 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 & 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 didn’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 100 pages. Why he had written more himself!

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 [page 3:] the plan into that of a book on American Letters generally, and keeping the publication in my own hands. I am now at this — body & 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 etc. etc. 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 Am. 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 as 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, & must read him carefully again. The Frogpondians (Bostonians) have badgered me so much that I fear I 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 at Phillips. In the meantime let me thank you, heartily, for your name as a subscriber.

Please write — and do not pay the postage.

Truly Your Friend
Edgar A Poe





[S:0 - MS, 18xx] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Works - Letters - Poe to G. W. Eveleth (LTR241/RCL660)