Text: George E. Woodberry, “Chapter 06,” The Life of Edgar Allan Poe: Personal and Literary (1909), vol. I, pp. 188-259


[page 188:]

Chapter VI


ON leaving Richmond Poe made his way with his family by slow stages through Baltimore and Philadelphia to New York, where he took up his residence at 113 1/2 Carmine Street. If he had gone there with the expectation of obtaining permanent literary employment from Dr. Hawks on the “New York Review,” he was soon undeceived, nor did Anthon or Paulding avail him much. The first number of the magazine had appeared in March, but the financial panic that then swept over the country made the enterprise more difficult and hazardous, and the second issue was delayed until October. In this was a notice by Poe of Stephens’s “Travels in Arabia Petraea,” prepared at an earlier time and now rewritten. The article, which was attributed to Secretary Cass, is a reviewer’s compilation, by extract and paraphrase, from the book itself and Keith’s lately published work on Prophecy; it is written in a very orthodox vein, but its main point is a criticism of that doctor’s interpretation [page 189:] of a few verses in Isaiah and Ezekiel respecting Idumaea, and turns on a rendering from the Hebrew. He had applied for this to Anthon, who inclosed it with the following note: —

NEW YORK, June 1, 1837.

DEAR SIR, — I owe you an apology for not having answered your letter of the 2jih sooner, but I was occupied at the time with matters that admitted of no delay, and was compelled there fore to lay your communication on the table for a day or two. I hope you will find what is written below satisfactory. Do not wait to pay me a formal visit, but call and introduce yourself. Yours truly,


Poe inserted the passage in his review textually as received; and he reprinted it, as his own, at favorable opportunities afterwards. He appears not to have contributed again to the theological quarterly, and no further connection with Anthon at this time is disclosed. Less is known of Poe at this period than at any other in his career. The only other contemporary publication that has been traced is the grotesque tale, “Mystification,” which appeared under the [page 190:] title, “Von Jung, the Mystific,” in the “American Monthly Magazine,” June, 1837.

Paulding, on his part, was now removing to Washington, but he may have been the medium of offering the “Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym,”(1) when completed, to the Harpers, who announced it in May, 1838, and published it at the end of July. Tales of the sea, under the influence of Cooper and Marryatt, were then at the height of their popularity, and many grew up and withered in a day. In selecting his subject, however, Poe was not merely adopting the literary fashion, but, with the sure journalistic instinct that characterized him, was trading on the momentary curiosity of the public, which was highly interested in Antarctic explorations [page 191:] in consequence of the expedition then fitting out under the auspices of the government. Poe, who was acquainted with the chief projector, J. N. Reynolds, had found some attraction in the scheme from the first. He had reviewed the congressional report on the matter, and twice written editorially about it while still editor of the “Messenger.” In this way his attention was originally drawn to the subject.

The narrative is circumstantial and might well seem plausible to the unreflecting and credulous, although there are a few slips, as where in the fifth chapter Augustus, who died on the voyage, is said to have revealed some matters to Arthur only in later years. Its credibility, how ever, is not so strange, nor the realistic art so ingenious, as might be thought, since portions of it are either suggested from other lately printed books, such as Irving’s “Astoria,” or directly compiled (the detailed account of the South Seas is taken almost textually from Morell’s “Voyages”(1)) by the easy process of close para phrase. What is peculiar to the book is its accumulation of blood-curdling incidents. All the horrors of the deep are brought in and huddled [page 192:] up together; the entombment of Arthur in the hold, where he suffers everything possible to his situation, from starvation to an attack by a mad dog, the butchery of the mutineers, the sickening riot, the desperate fight between the two factions on board, poison, shipwreck, cannibalism among friends, make the staple of the first part of Pym’s adventures; some portions, such as the disguise of Pym as a putrescent corpse, the ship of carrion men with the feeding gull, or the details of Augustus’s death, are so revoltingly horrible, so merely physically disgusting, that one can hardly understand how even Poe could endure to suggest or develop them. Death in every fearful form is the constant theme; even after the ship reaches the southern regions the author diversifies his geographical and botanical extracts only by the apprehension of living inhumation, or the analysis of the sensation of falling down a precipice, or wholesale murder. Poe’s touch is notice able here and there throughout, it is true; but he does not show the distinctive subtlety, force, and fire of his genius until the very end, and then only in a way to discredit the plausibility he had previously aimed at. When the finely imagined isle of Tsalal comes in view, the real tale in its original part begins, and from that point the [page 193:] keeping and gradation of the narrative is exquisite, while a wonderful interest is afforded by the slight intimation and gradual revelation of the white country to the south. The caverns of the hieroglyphs are suggested by the Sinaitic written mountains; but after the voyagers leave the island and are drawn on toward the pole, the startling scenery, by which expectation is raised to the highest pitch without loss of vagueness, forms one of his most original and powerful landscapes.

The volume was noticed by the press, but had little success in this country, and the author, of course, derived no profit from its reprint by Putnam in England, where the country public are said to have been hoaxed by it. The main income of the family at this time seems to have been derived from Mrs. Clemm’s keeping boarders, one of whom, Mr. William Go wans, a book seller, declares that for the eight months or more during which he lived with the family he never saw Poe otherwise than sober, courteous, and gentlemanly.(1) Mrs. Clemm’s earnings seem to have been no more than sufficient, since Poe, when in the summer he decided to remove to Philadelphia, was forced to borrow money. [page 194:]

Thither he went in midsummer, apparently following his market, since in a letter of September 4 to his old acquaintance, Brooks, he declines to write an article upon Irving, on the ground that he has “two engagements which it would be ruinous to neglect.”(1) This may refer to his text-book of Conchology, upon which he was employed during the winter. This volume(2) has given rise to so much discussion that it must receive more notice than it would otherwise deserve. It was charged in his lifetime that the work was a simple reprint of an English book, Captain Thomas Brown’s “Conchology,” which Poe had the effrontery to copyright in this country as his own. He indignantly denied the accusation, and said: —

“I wrote the Preface and Introduction, and translated from Cuvier the accounts of the animals, [page 195:] &c. All school-books are necessarily made in a similar way.”(1)

What Poe’s understanding was of the manner in which authors of school-books use their authorities may be seen from his own words: —

“It is the practice of quacks to paraphrase page after page, rearranging the order of paragraphs, making a slight alteration in point of fact here and there, but preserving the spirit of the whole, its information, erudition, etc., etc., while everything is so completely rewritten as to leave no room for a direct charge of plagiarism; and this is considered and lauded as originality. Now, he who, in availing himself of the labors of his predecessors (and it is clear that all scholars must avail themselves of such labors) — he who shall copy verbatim the passages to be desired, without attempt at palming off their spirit as original with himself, is certainly no plagiarist, even if he fail to make direct acknowledgment of indebtedness, — is unquestionably less of the plagiarist than the disingenuous and contemptible quack who wriggles himself, as above explained, into a reputation for originality, a reputation quite out of place in a case of this kind — the public, of course, never caring a straw whether he be original or not.”(2) [page 196:]

In this passage Poe wrote from experience; for in the parts of the “Conchologist’s First Book” which he claims as his own both methods are pursued. The first is illustrated by the “Introduction” (pp. 3-8), which is a close para phrase from Brown’s(1) volume, the thoughts being identical in both, their sequence similar, and the authorities quoted the same. The second is illustrated by the plates, which are copied from Brown, and by the “Explanation of the Parts of Shells” (pp. 9-20), which is verbatim from the same source, and the “classification,” which is reprinted from Wyatt’s “Conchology,”(2) a large and expensive volume published the preceding year, to which Poe acknowledges his obligations in his preface. In the body of the work, the order, the nomenclature, and the descriptions of the shells are a paraphrase of Wyatt, at first close, but as the writer grew more [page 197:] deft at the phraseology more free; and the description of the animals is, as Poe stated, translated from Cuvier. The volume concludes with an original glossary and an index from Wyatt. These being the facts as they are shown by a direct comparison of all the books involved, there can be no doubt that the real state of the case is given by Professor John G. Anthony, of Harvard College, who received his information from Wyatt. The latter said that as his work of the previous year proved too expensive for the public, and as the Harpers refused to bring it out in a cheaper form, it was determined to publish a new book which should be sufficiently different from the former to escape any suit for the infringement of copyright; and Poe was selected to father it.(1) This is supported by the fact that Wyatt, who went about lecturing on the subject, carried the volume with him for sale. It was copyrighted in Poe’s name, and appeared about April, 1839, when it was favorably noticed by the press.(2) Poe shared the responsibility with others, for it will hardly be maintained that Poe was ignorant of the true character of the book [page 198:] to which he put his name. He is to be credited, too, with a translation and digest of Lemonnier’s “Natural History,” which was published the same spring under Wyatt’s name; but there is no indication that he had any part in this work beyond his own statement, in reviewing it, that he spoke “from personal knowledge, and the closest inspection and collation.”(1)

Meanwhile Poe’s literary career, apart from this hack work, had the casual character that marks the life of the unattached writer. His friend, Brooks, had bought Fairfield’s review, “The North American Quarterly Magazine” of Baltimore, and continued it as a monthly under the name of the “American Museum of Literature and the Arts”; and, being then interested in Poe, who was sending him articles, he saved from the waste basket, he says, the last of the “Tales of the Folio Club,” “Siope” (“Silence”), a fine piece of imaginative prose, which consequently appeared, in the fall of 1838, in the “Baltimore Book for 1839,” an annual edited by Carpenter and Arthur. Brooks himself printed in the first number of the “Museum,” September, 1838, “Ligeia”; and this was followed by the satirical extravaganza, “The Signora Psyche Zenobia [page 199:] — The Scythe of Time” (“How to write a Blackwood Article” and “A Predicament”), in December; two pages of “Literary Small Talk,” in January, 1839; as much more in February; and a poem, “The Haunted Palace,” in April. For these Poe received little or no pay, five or ten dollars, if anything at all. These pieces, together with “Von Jung, the Mystific,” already mentioned, even in conjunction with his work on “Arthur Gordon Pym” and the text-books, seem insufficient to account for Poe’s time between January, 1837, and January, 1839, and it is likely that material was slowly accumulating in the desk.

Poe had slowly begun to establish some connection with the city press, perhaps by the assistance of Wilmer, who was now pursuing his checkered journalistic career in Philadelphia, and on May 8, 1839, he published the grotesque sketch of “The Devil in the Belfry,” in the “Saturday Evening Chronicle.” In one way and another he made his name known locally, and found work to do, however humble and ill paid. E. Burke Fisher, an old contributor to the “Messenger,” who in May of this year had ventured with another sanguine man, Mr. W. Whitney, to start a magazine, “The Literary Examiner and [page 200:] Western Monthly Review,” at Pittsburg, then at the extreme confines of the American literary world, made him an offer of four dollars a page for critical reviews; but as Fisher published editorially, and with emendations of his own, the single article contributed, a review of “Tortesa,” apparently in July, it led only to Poe’s declaring later that u no greater scamp ever lived,” l and congratulating himself that the magazine died the next month without circulating its fourth number. He took the matter probably with a more cheerful if not a higher spirit because he had already obtained permanent employment and a fresh opportunity to distinguish himself as an editor.

In July, 1837, William Evans Burton, an English comedian who was ambitious of winning literary as well as histrionic fame in his adopted country, had launched “The Gentle man’s Magazine” in the very darkest period of the financial depression, and with singular felicity he had succeeded in his venture. At first this periodical, which he both owned and edited, was characterized by the lightest of stories and the most sluggish of poems; it was padded with clip pings, translations, and the usual et caetera of its [page 201:] kind, including the scrappy reviews, made principally by the scissors, that then went under the name of criticism; but Burton devoted himself to developing local talent, and the Philadelphia editors, novelists, and poetasters, male and female, stood by their patron. The fourth volume began, in 1839, with golden promises of better printing, elegant engravings, and contributions from a long list of writers, in which, beside the names of Leigh Hunt, Douglas Jerrold, and James Montgomery, whose wares were presumably stolen, figured the patronymics of thirty-two native authors, for the most part of Philadelphian or Southern extraction, now im partially forgotten. Poe’s friends, Wilmer and Brooks, were among them, but he himself was not mentioned. Once, indeed, in the previous September, he had come under the notice of the magazine, but only anonymously as the author of “Arthur Gordon Pym,” in which capacity he had been flippantly treated. There is no evidence that he wrote anything for Burton until July, when his name was printed in conjunction with the former’s as associate editor of the periodical whose variable title was then “Burton’s Gentleman’s Magazine and American Monthly Review.” This public announcement, he said, [page 202:] was against his will. He had retained, it is plain, firmly rooted in his mind the ambition to have a magazine of his own, and in the mean time was pursuing that policy of hack work and expectation which he had laid down for himself. In making some approaches to Burton, earlier in the year, he was merely seeking employment, — so he represented the matter later, — and did not intend to give up even temporarily the design he cherished, or to return to that scorned position of an underling and salaried editor which he held at Richmond. His application has not been found; but Burton’s answer was as follows: —

PHILADELPHIA, May 10, 1839.


My dear Sir, — I have given your proposal a fair consideration. I wish to form some such engagement as that which you have proposed, and know of no one more likely to suit my views than yourself. The expenses of the Magazine are already wofully heavy; more so than my circulation warrants. I am certain that my expenditure exceeds that of any publication now extant, including the monthlies which are double in price. Competition is high — new claimants are daily rising. I am therefore compelled to give expensive [page 203:] plates, thicker paper, and better printing than my antagonists, or allow them to win the goal. My contributors cost me something handsome, and the losses upon credit, exchange, etc., are becoming frequent and serious. I mention this list of difficulties as some slight reason why I do not close with your offer, which is indubitably liberal, without any delay.

Shall we say ten dollars per week for the remaining portion of this year? Should we remain together, which I see no reason to negative, your proposition shall be in force for 1840. A month’s notice to be given on either side previous to a separation.

Two hours a day, except occasionally, will, I believe, be sufficient for all required, except in the production of any article of your own. At all events you could easily find time for any other light avocation supposing that you did not exercise your talents in behalf of any publication interfering with the prospects of the G. M.

I shall dine at home to-day at 3. If you will cut your mutton with me, good. If not, write or see me at your leisure.

I am, my dear Sir, your obedt. Servt,

W. E. BURTON. (1l) [page 204:]

Poe entered on his duties, presumably on this understanding, shortly after this date, and contributed to the first number that bore his name, for July, a few brief book-notices and some of his old poems. He certainly did not put himself forward with much energy, and at the close of the first six months the only original work done by him exclusively for “Burton’s,” besides numerous but entirely perfunctory reviews, consisted of three tales, “The Man that was Used Up,” for August, “The Fall of the House of Usher,” for September, and “The Conversation of Eiros and Charmion,” for December. The tales for October and November were “William Wilson,” credited to “The Gift” for 1840, and “Morella,” credited to the forthcoming “Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque.”

In this fall, and in evident preparation for the appearance of his collected tales, Poe sent, in their first printed form, “Ligeia,” “The Fall of the House of Usher,” and “William Wilson,” to some men whose good opinion he desired to have. He had through life the habit of sending tales and poems to persons of distinction in the literary world and soliciting thereby their attention. He kept the replies, and it was from this store that he furnished later an appendix of [page 205:] encomiums to the first newspaper biography of him, in addition to such as had been publicly made. He hoped much from these first examples of his peculiar imaginative power, and it was from motives of respect as well as of interest that he now laid them before persons whose judgment, it may be believed, he most regarded and whose position was such as to render their commendation authoritative and useful. James E. Heath, the first editor of the “Messenger,” was one of these; his reply is interesting, not only as a contemporary view of this kind of romance, but also as a natural pendant to Poe’s association with White.

RICHMOND, 12 September, 1839.

DEAR SIR, — Since the receipt of yours of the 5 inst. I have been so exceedingly occupied, and withal so very much indisposed, that I could not until within the last day or two take a peep into the interesting magazine which you were good enough to send me. I have read your article “The Fall of the House of Usher” with attention, and I think it among the best of your compositions of that class which I have seen. A man need not have a critical judgment nor a very refined taste to decide that no one could have written the tale without possessing great scope [page 206:] of imagination, vigorous thought, and a happy command of language; but I am sure you will appreciate my candor when I say that I never could feel much interest in that class of compositions. I mean that I never could experience pleasure in reading tales of horror and mystery, however much the narrative should be dignified by genius. They leave a painful and melancholy impression on my mind, and I do not perceive their tendency to improve the heart.

I have had a conversation with White since the receipt of your letter, and took the liberty to hint to him your convictions of an unfriendly spirit manifested on his part towards you. I am happy to inform you that he disclaims the existence of any unkind feeling; on the contrary professes that your prosperity and happiness would yield him pleasure. He is not aware of having spoken or written anything with a design to injure you, or anything more in censure or disparagement than what he has said to you in person when you resided here. I am inclined to think that you entirely mistake the man if you suppose that a particle of malignity lurks in his composition. My long acquaintance with him justifies me in saying that I have known few men more disposed to cherish kindly and benevolent feelings towards [page 207:]

their fellow men than himself. He informs me that he will with pleasure admit a notice of the “Gentleman’s Magazine” in the “Messenger,” and if possible in the October number. He is apprehensive, however, that the “Fall of the House of Usher” would not only occupy more space than he can conveniently spare (the demands upon his columns being very great), but that the subject-matter is not such as would be acceptable to a large majority of his readers. He doubts whether the readers of the “Messenger” have much relish for tales of the German School, although written with great power and ability, and in this opinion I confess to you frankly I am strongly inclined to concur. I doubt very much whether tales of the wild, improbable, and terrible class can ever be permanently popular in this country. Charles Dickens, it appears to me, has given the final death-blow to writings of that description. Of course, there is nothing I could say on that subject which can or ought to in fluence your own mind. There is no disputing in matters of taste, and there is no infallible standard to which men consider themselves obliged to defer and surrender their own judgments. It gives me sincere pleasure to understand that [page 208:] your own good sense and the influence of high and noble motives have enabled you to overcome a seductive and dangerous treatment (?) which too often prostrates the wisest and best by its fatal grasp. The cultivation of such high intellectual powers as you possess cannot fail to earn for you a solid reputation in the literary world. In the department of criticism especially,! know few who can claim to be your superiors in this country. Your dissecting knife, if vigorously employed, would serve to rid us of much of that silly trash and silly sentimentality with which puerile and conceited authors and gain-seeking book sellers are continually poisoning our intellectual food. I hope in relation to all such you will continue to wield mace without “fear, favor, or affection.”

I subscribe myself sincerely your well-wisher, (Signature missing). [JAS. E. HEATH.](1)

Philip Pendleton Cooke was another author whose opinion Poe sought similarly on “Ligeia”: —

CHARLESTOWN, [VIRGINIA,] September 16, 1839.

MY DEAR SIR, — I received your friendly let ter a long time ago but have scarcely been at [page 209:] home since its receipt. My wife enticed me off to visit her kins-people in the country, and I saw more of guns and horses and dogs than of pens and paper. Amongst dinners, barbecues, snipe-shooting, riding parties,&c., I could not get my brains into the humour for writing to you or to anybody else. I reached home two days ago, and now “hasten slowly” to assure you of my undiminished regard and respect for you and to tell you (as above) the reasons of my neglect in leaving yr. letter so long unanswered.

I do not believe you ingenuous or sincere when you speak in the terms which you use touching the value of my rambling compositions my contributions to the “Messenger,”&c., — yet it of course cannot be disagreeable to me to find myself considered worth flattering. I will send you occasionally — if possible — such matters as I may consider worth inserting in the “Gentleman’s Magazine” with pleasure; I cannot promise anything like the systematic contribution which I was guilty of in White’s case, for the “madness of scribbling” which once itched and tickled at my fingers-ends has been considerably cured by a profession and matrimony — money-cares and domestic squabbles — buying beef and mutton, and curing my child’s croups, colicks, [page 210:] &c. The fever with which I was afflicted has given way to a chill — or, as romantic young persons say, “The golden dream is broken.”

As to “Ligeia,” of which you ask my opinion (doubtless without any intention of being guided by any person’s but your own), I think it very fine. There is nothing unintelligible to my mind in the “sequel” (or conclusion), but I am im pertinent enough to think that it (the conclusion) might be mended. I of course “took” your “idea” throughout. The whole piece is but a sermon from the text of “Joseph Glanvil” which you cap it with — and your intent is to tell a tale of the “mighty will” contending with and finally vanquishing Death. The struggle is vigorously described — and I appreciated every sentence as I advanced, until the Lady Ligeia takes possession of the deserted quarters (I write like a butcher) of the Lady Rowena. There I was shocked by a violation of the ghostly proprieties — so to speak — and wondered how the Lady Ligeia — a wandering essence — could, in quickening the body of the Lady Rowena (such is the idea) become suddenly the visible, bodily Ligeia. If Rowena’s bodily form had been retained as a shell or case for the disembodied Lady Ligeia, and you had only become aware [page 211:] gradually that the blue Saxon eye of the “Lady Rowena of Tremaine” grew daily darker with the peculiar, intense expression of the “look” which had belonged to Ligeia — that a mind of grander powers, a soul of more glowing fires occupied the quickened body and gave an old familiar expression to its motions — if you had brooded and meditated upon the change until proof accumulated upon proof, making wonder certainty, and then, in the moment of some strangest of all evidence of the transition, broken out into the exclamation which ends the story — the effect would not have been lessened, and the “ghostly proprieties” would, I think, have been better observed. You may have some theory of the story, or transition, however, which I have not caught.

As for your compositions of this class, generally, I consider them, as Mr. Crummies would say, “phenomenous.” You write as I sometimes dream when asleep on a heavy supper (not heavy enough for nightmare) . — The odd ignorance of the name, lineage,&c., of Ligeia — of the circumstances, place,&c., under which, and where, you first saw her — with which you begin your narrative, is usual, and not at all wondered at, in dreams. Such dimness of recollection does not [page 212:] whilst we dream excite any surprise or diminish the vraisemblable aspect of the strange matters that we dream of. It is only when we wake that we wonder that so material an omission in the thread of the events should have been unnoticed by the mind at a time when it could dream in other respects so plausibly — with such detailed minuteness — with such self-possession.

But I must come to a conclusion, as I tire myself with this out-of-the-way sort of writing.

I will subscribe to the “Gentleman’s Magazine” shortly and also “contribute” to it. Yrs. sincerely,

P. P. COOKE.(1)

P.’s. I would not say “saith Lord Verulam “ — it is out of the way. I am very impertinent.

To this Poe immediately replied:

PHILADELPHIA, September 21, 1839.

MY DEAR SIR, — I received your letter this morning — and read it with more pleasure than I can well express. You wrong me, indeed, in supposing that I meant one word of mere flattery in what I said. I have an inveterate habit of speaking the truth — and had I not valued your [page 213:] opinion more highly than that of any man in America I should not have written you as I did.

I say that I read your letter with delight. In fact I am aware of no delight greater than that of feeling one’s self appreciated (in such wild matters as “Ligeia”) by those in whose judgment one has faith. You read my most intimate spirit “like a book,” and with the single exception of D Israeli I have had communication with no other person who does. Willis had a glimpse of it — Judge Tucker saw about one half way through — but your ideas are the very echo of my own. I am very far from meaning to flatter — I am flattered and honored. Beside me is now lying a letter from Washington Irving in which he speaks with enthusiasm of a late tale of mine, “The Fall of the House of Usher,” and in which he promises to make his opinion public, upon the first opportunity, — but from the bottom of my heart I assure you I regard his best word as but dust in the balance when weighed with those discriminating opinions of your own, which teach me that you feel and perceive.

Touching “Ligeia” you are right all right — throughout. The gradual perception of the fact that Ligeia lives again in the person of Rowena [page 214:] is a far loftier and more thrilling idea than the one I have embodied. It offers in my opinion the widest possible scope to the imagination it might be rendered even sublime. And this idea was mine — had I never written before I should have adopted it — but then there is “Morella.” Do you remember there the gradual conviction on the part of the parent that the spirit of the first Morella tenants the person of the second? It was necessary, since “Morella” was written, to modify “Ligeia.” I was forced to be content with a sudden half-consciousness, on the part of the narrator, that Ligeia stood before him. One point I have not fully carried out — I should have intimated that the will did not perfect its intention — there should have been a relapse — a final one — and Ligeia (who had only succeeded in so much as to convey an idea of the truth to the narrator) should be at length entombed as Rowena — the bodily alterations having gradually faded away.

But since “Morella” is upon record I will suffer “Ligeia” to remain as it is. Your word that it is “intelligible” suffices — and your commentary sustains your word. As for the mob — let them talk on. I should be grieved if I thought they comprehended me here. The “saith Verulam” [page 215:] shall be put right — your “impertinence” is quite pertinent.

I send the “Gentleman’s Magazine” (July, August, September) . Do not think of subscribing. The criticisms are not worth your notice. Of course I pay no attention to them — for there are two of us. It is not pleasant to be taxed with the twaddle of other people, or to let other people be taxed with ours. Therefore for the present I remain upon my oars — merely penning an occasional paragraph, without care. The critiques, such as they are, are all mine in the July number and all mine in the August and September with the exception of the three first in each — which are by Burton. As soon as Fate allows I will have a Magazine of my own — and will endeavor to kick up a dust. Do you ever see the “Pittsburg Examiner” (a New Monthly) ? I wrote a Review of “Tortesa” at some length in the July number. In the October number of the “Gentle man’s Magazine” I will have “William Wilson” from “The Gift” for 1840. This tale I think you will like — it is perhaps the best, although not the last, I have done. During the autumn I will publish all in two volumes — and now I have done with my egotism.

It makes me laugh to hear you speaking about [page 216:] “romantic young persons” as of a race with whom, for the future, you have nothing to do. You need not attempt to shake off or to banter off Romance. It is an evil you will never get rid of to the end of your days. It is a part of your self — a portion of your soul. Age will only mellow it a little, and give it a holier tone. I will give your contributions a hearty welcome, and the choicest position in the magazine.

Sincerely yours, EDGAR A. POE.(1)

Washington Irving also wrote a letter in acknowledgment of “William Wilson,” which had followed the “House of Usher,” as a means of introduction, and the substance of it, much altered and somewhat garbled, appeared in Poe’s commendatory notices, and affords a striking in stance of how he dealt with such correspondence.

NEWBURG, November 6, 1839.

DEAR SIR, — The magazine you were so kind as to send me, being directed to New York, in stead of Tarrytown, did not reach me for some time. This, together with an unfortunate habit of procrastination, must plead my apology for the tardiness of my reply. I have read your little tale of “William Wilson” with much pleasure. [page 217:]

It is managed in a highly picturesque style, and the singular and mysterious interest is well sustained throughout. I repeat what I have said in regard to a previous production, which you did me the favor to send me, that I cannot but think a series of articles of like style and merit would be extremely well received by the public.

I could add for your private ear, that I think the last tale much the best, in regard to style. It is simpler. In your first you have been too anxious to present your picture vividly to the eye, or too distrustful of your effect, and have laid on too much coloring. It is erring on the best side — the side of luxuriance. That tale might be im proved by relieving the style from some of the epithets. There is no danger of destroying its graphic effect, which is powerful.

With best wishes for your success, I am, my dear sir, yours respectfully,


The most intimate view of Poe, in this earlier period of his stay in Philadelphia, is contained in his correspondence(2) with Dr. J. E. Snodgrass, [page 218:] of Baltimore, who had been Brooks’s associate on the “Museum,” and was afterwards known as an early abolitionist in that city; and the letters as a whole offer an interesting illustration of the literary conditions of the time, — the magazine environment in which Poe’s genius lived. They begin in the fall of this year, 1839, and require little comment: —

PHILADELPHIA, September n, [1839].

MY DEAR SIR, — I have to thank you for your friendly attention in forwarding the “St. Louis Bulletin.” I was the more gratified, as the reception of the paper convinced me that you, of whom I have always thought highly, had no share in the feelings of ill will towards me, which are somewhat prevalent (God only knows why) in Balt:

I should be very much pleased if you would write, and let me know the Balt, news — especially about yourself and Mr. Brooks, and the fate of the “Museum.”

I have now a great favor to ask — and think that I may depend upon your friendship. It is to write a notice (such as you think rigidly just [page 219:] no more) of the Sep: no. of the “Gent’s Mag:” embodying in your article the passage concerning myself, from the “St. Louis Bulletin” — in any manner which your good taste may suggest. The critique when written might be handed to Neilson Poe. If you ask him to insert it editorially, it is possible he may do it — but, in fact, I have no great faith in him. If he refuses — then upon your stating the fact to Mr. Harker of the “Republican” you will secure its insertion there. If you will do me this great favor, depend upon any similar good offer [office?] from me “upon demand.”

I am about to publish my tales collectedly — and shall be happy to send you an early copy. I append the extract from the “Bulletin.”

“The general tone and character of this work (the’s. L. Messenger’) impart lustre to our periodical literature; and we really congratulate its publisher upon the sound and steadfast popularity which it has acquired. Let it never be for gotten, however, that the first impetus to the favor of literary men which it received was given by the glowing pen of Edgar A. Poe, now assistant editor of ‘Burton’s Gentleman’s Magazine,’ and, although, since he has left it, it has well maintained its claims to respectability, yet there [page 220:] are few writers in this country take Neal, Irving, and Willis away and we would say none who can compete successfully, in many respects, with Poe. With an acuteness of observation, a vigorous and effective style, and an independence that defies control, he writes with a fervid fancy and a most beautiful enthusiasm. His is a high destiny.”

Will you be kind enough to drop me a line in reply?

Yours sincerely, EDGAR A. POE.

J. E. SNODGRASS, Esq r .

Did you see the “Weekly Messenger” (Alexander s), or Noah’s “Evening Star”? They spoke highly of my tale, “The House of Usher,” — as also the “Pennsylvanian” and the “U. S. Gazette” of this city.

P.’s. I have made a profitable engagement with “Blackwood’s Mag:” and my forthcoming Tales are promised a very commendatory Review in that journal from the pen of Prof. Wilson. Keep this a secret, if you please, for the present.

Can you not send us something for the “Gent’s Mag.”?

Do you know anything of the “Pittsburg Literary Examiner”? I wrote for it a review of [page 221:] Tortesa in its 3d no. but have not yet recd. No. 4.

All the criticisms in the Mag: are mine, with the exception of the 3 first.

PHILADELPHIA, October 7, 39.

MY DEAR SIR, I rec d your kind letter and now write a few hasty words in reply, merely to thank you for your exertions in my behalf, and to say that I send to-day, the Oct. No. We have been delayed with it for various reasons. . . . [The omitted passage refers to Neilson Poe.]

I sincerely thank you for the interest you have taken in my well-doing. The friendship of a man of talent, who is at the same time a man of honorable feeling, is especially valuable in these days of double-dealing. I hope I shall always deserve your good opinion.

In the Oct. no: all the criticisms are mine also the gymnastic article.

My book will be out in the beg? of Nov r In haste, yours most truly,



Have you any of the Nos of the “S. Lit. Messr” from No. 7, vol. i, to No. 6, vol. 2? both inclusive, or do you know any one who has them? [page 222:]

[December 12, 1839.]

MY DEAR SIR, — I have the pleasure of sending you, through Messrs. Lea & Blanchard, a copy of my tales. Not knowing what better plan to pursue, I have addressed the package to you “at the office of the Baltimore American.” Will you get it? In the same package is a copy for Mr. Carey of the American, which I must beg you to deliver to him with my respects. I have not the pleasure of knowing him personally but entertain a high opinion of his talents. Please write his full name in his copy — “with the author’s respects” — as I forget his praenomen.

I do not believe that Lea & B. have sent any of the books to Baltimore as yet — will you be kind enough to forward me any Bal. papers which may contain notices.

Very truly your friend,



PHILADELPHIA, 12, 1839. [Postmarked December 13.]

The two volumes referred to were issued at the end of the year under the title, “Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque,” x suggested by an [page 223:] article(1) of Sir Walter Scott, acquaintance with which is also shown by some phrases of the pre face and by the traits of the castle in “The Fall of the House of Usher,” clearly derived from Scott’s description of the castle in Hoffmann’s Das Majorat. The preface minimizes the charge of “Germanism” so often brought against Poe, and denies its justice except so far as it describes one vein of contemporary magazine taste and is included in the universal subject of terror which is “not of Germany, but of the soul.” The use of the phrase “phantasy-pieces” also indicates the quality of Poe’s acquaintance with German romance, and suggests the mediation of Carlyle as one of the magazine writers who made him acquainted with it. Poe states also that his tales [page 224:] hitherto had been written with a view to their issue in a collected form, and hence with an endeavor “to preserve, as far as a certain point, a certain unity of design.” The collection is therefore to be regarded as an expansion of “The Tales of the Folio Club,” in which such an idea was involved in the title, and denned by the suppressed introduction.

The new publication included all the tales thus far mentioned, and in addition the grotesque “Why the Little Frenchman wears his Hand in a Sling,” making twenty-five in all. The publishers, Lea & Blanchard, with whom, under the name of Carey & Lea, he had previously had correspondence in 1834-37 in regard to the “Tales of the Folio Club,” engaged, September 28, 1839, to print an edition of seven hundred and fifty copies, on condition that Poe should have the copyright and a few copies (afterwards limited to twenty) for distribution among his friends, and they should have the profits. When the volume was nearly ready Poe endeavored to obtain better terms, and in reply received the following letter, which may account for his professed indifference at a later time regarding the fate of the tales: — [page 225:]

November 20, 1839.

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

The volumes appeared early in December, and were widely and favorably noticed by the city press and in New York. The sale, however, was not large, and after Poe’s own copies were dispatched he broke off intercourse with the firm for some time.

Three of these reprinted stories deserve some further notice. Two of them, “Ligeia” and “The Fall of the House of Usher,” mark the highest reach of the romantic element in Poe’s genius, and for the first time exhibit his artistic [page 226:] powers in full development and under easy command. He had matured in the six years since he printed his first story (he was now thirty), but his growth had been within singularly well-defined limits; his mind pursued the strong attraction that fascinated him in that haunted borderland upon the verge but not beyond the sphere of credibility, as the magnet obeys the pole; but this absorption of his imagination in the preternatural was not more extraordinary than the monotony of the themes that exercised it. In plot “Ligeia” is the same as “Morella,” and “The Fall of the House of Usher” the same as “Berenice”; in each a single dramatic event had gathered about it in Poe’s mind rich accretions of fancy, thought, and suggestiveness, but practically there was no change except in treatment, — in the art by which the effect originally sought was secured more finely, and in an intenser and more elemental form. In all his best work, however, Poe not only told a story, he also developed an idea, and his later renderings of early conceptions are markedly characterized by an increase in this suggested, or, as he designated it, mystic meaning.

In “Ligeia,” which he regarded as his finest tale, he rewrote “Morella,” but for much of its [page 227:] peculiar power he went back to the sources of his youngest inspiration. In “Al Aaraaf” he had framed out of the breath of the night-wind and the idea of the harmony of universal nature a fairy creature, —

“Ligeia, Ligeia, my beautiful one!”

Now by a finer touch he incarnated the motions of the breeze and the musical voices of nature in the form of a woman: but the Lady Ligeia has still no human quality; her aspirations, her thoughts and capabilities, are those of a spirit; the very beam and glitter and silence of her ineffable eyes belong to the visionary world. She is, in fact, the maiden of Poe’s dream, the Eidolon he served, the air-woven divinity in which he believed; for he had the true myth-making faculty, the power to make his senses aver what his imagination perceived. In revealing through “Ligeia” the awful might of the soul in the victory of its will over death and in the eternity of its love, Poe worked in the very element of his reverie, in the liberty of a world as he would have it. Upon this story he lavished all his poetic, inventive, and literary skill, and at last perfected an exquisitely conceived work, and made it, within its own laws, as faultless as humanity can fashion. He did not once lapse into the crude [page 228:] or repulsive; he blended the material elements of the legend, the mere circumstance and decoration of the scene, like married notes of a sensuous accompaniment, and modulated them with minute and delicate care to chime with the weird suggestions of the things above nature, until all unites and vanishes in an impression on the spirit, — in an intimation of the dark possibilities that lie hidden in the eternal secret, adumbrated in the startling event when the raven hair of Ligeia streams down beneath the serpentine flames of the writhing censer, and her eyes open full on her lost lover, as they stand embosomed within the wind-swayed golden hangings whereon the ghastly and sable phantasmagoria keeps up its antic and ceaseless dance. Without striving to unwind the mazes of the spell that confuses the reader into momentary belief in the incredible, one cannot but note the marvelous certainty with which Poe passes from vaguely suggestive and slightly unusual mutations of the senses, and advances by imperceptible gradations to accustom the mind to increasingly strange and complex changes, incessant and seemingly lawless variations, until one is fairly bewildered into accepting the final impossible transformation of the immortal into mortality [page 229:] as merely the final phase of the restless movement in all, and afterwards, on returning to the solid world, can scarcely tell where he overstepped the boundaries of reality.

As in “Ligeia” the idea of change is elaborated, so in “The Fall of the House of Usher” the intellectual theme is fear. For the purposes of this story Poe used again the plot of “Berenice,” but so purified and developed in its accidents as to be hardly recognizable. Not a few would rank this tale more high than “Ligeia”; for, if that be more distinguished by ideality, this is more excellent in the second virtue in Poe’s scale, unity of design. In artistic construction it does not come short of absolute perfection. The adaptation of the related parts and their union in the total effect are a triumph of literary craft; the intricate details, as it were mellowing and reflecting one ground tone, have the definiteness and precision of inlaid mosaic, or, like premonitions and echoes of the theme in music, they are so exactly calculated as to secure their end with the certainty of harmonic law itself. The sombre landscape whose hues Poe alone knew the secret of; the subtle yet not over wrought sympathy between the mansion and the race that had reared it; the looks, traits, and pursuits [page 230:] of Usher, its representative; and the at first scarce-felt presence of Madeline, his worn sister, — all is like a narrowing and ever-intensifying force drawing in to some unknown point; and when this is reached, in the bright copper-sheathed vault in which Madeline is entombed, and the mind, after that midnight scene, expands and breathes freer air, a hundred obscure intimations, each slight in itself, startle and en chain it, until, slowly as obscurity takes shape in a glimmer of light, Usher’s dread discloses itself in its concrete and fearful fulfillment, and at once, by the brief and sudden stroke of death, house, race, and all sink into the black tarn where its glassy image had so long built a shadowy reality.

Where every syllable tells, it is folly to attempt an analysis of the workmanship. By way of illustration, however, it may be well to remark on the mode in which the mind is prepared for the coming of Madeline, and made almost to share Usher’s diseased acuteness of hearing, by the legendary tale, with its powerful and exclusive appeal to the senses; or to observe such a slight touch as the small picture painted by Usher, — the interior of a long rectangular tunnel, deep in the earth, with low, smooth walls, [page 231:] closed and without a torch, yet flooded with intense rays, — so clearly prophetic of Madeline’s vault, gleaming with metallic lustre, of which, too, some reminiscence still survives in the mind when the same unnatural luminous exhalation glows from the under-surface of the storm clouds that press upon the turrets of the trembling house before its fall. Never has the impression of total destruction, of absolute and irremediable ruin, been more strongly given; had the mansion remained, it would seem as if the extinction of Usher had been incomplete. Doom rests upon all things within the shadow of those walls; it is felt to be impending: and therefore, Poe, identifying himself with his reader, places the sure seal of truth on the illusion as he exclaims, “From that chamber and from that mansion I fled aghast.” The mind is already upon the recoil as it turns to view the accomplished fatality.

These two tales deserve more attention in that they are in Poe’s prose what “The Raven” and “Ulalume” are in his poetry, the richest of his imaginative work. On them he expended his spirit. There had been no such art before in America; but, like Hawthorne, he had to wait for any adequate recognition of his genius. His [page 232:] work in this kind was done; it could be left, safe as the diamond.

In “William Wilson” he opened a new vein. It is the first of his studies of the springs of terror in conscience. The idea itself which is developed in the story, the conception of a double dogging one’s steps and thwarting one’s evil designs, is an old fancy(1) of men that has taken many shapes since Zoroaster saw his phantom in the garden. The psychological element in it is less insisted on than is usual in Poe’s finest work, and it consequently lacks the intensity and spiritual power of his later sketches on similar subjects. It has a peculiar interest as containing an autobiographical [page 233:] account of his school-days in England, but in his own life there was little to serve as a basis for other portions of the narrative.

Poe had from the first formed the habit, which no author ever practiced so flagrantly, of republishing old material slightly if at all revised. With the exception of the fine sonnet entitled “Silence,” all his poetic contributions to “Burton’s” were of this sort; the 1829 edition of his poems afforded “Spirits of the Dead,”(1) “Fairy land,”(2) and “To the River ——,”(2) and the “Messenger” yielded “To lanthe in Heaven” and “To ——,”(1) the stanzas originally addressed to Eliza White. At the beginning of the New Year he applied the same convenient aid to the department of criticism, which had hitherto been very feebly conducted, although he had found opportunity to reproach Longfellow for using so crudely, in “Hyperion,” material capable of being highly wrought by art, and had praised Fouque’s “Undine” with delightful appreciation. In the January issue Moore’s “Alciphron” drew from him one of those partial reviews that seem to invalidate the usefulness of any criticism of contemporaries, and in piecing it out he availed himself of his former remarks [page 234:] on Drake and Marvell in the “Messenger,” but openly under the form of self-quotation. In a mediocre notice of Bryant, somewhat later, he again had recourse to the old files, and in other insignificant criticisms he is found airing the Hebrew learning of his article in the “New York Review,” and even enumerating once more the storehouses of literary odds and ends, including the mythical memoirs of “Suard and Andre.” The most noticeable article is that review of Longfellow’s “Voices of the Night” in which he first urged against the New England poet the charge of plagiarism. He instanced in particular Tennyson’s “The Death of the Old Year” as the source of “The Midnight Mass for the Dying Year.” This he characterized as belonging “to the most barbarous class of literary robbery; that class in which, while the words of the wronged author are avoided, his most intangible, and therefore his least defensible and least reclaimable property, is purloined.”(1) In other ways than such book-reviewing as this Poe’s mind was also unprofitably employed. A satirical sketch, “Peter Pendulum, the Business Man,” in February, and the first of his articles [page 235:] respecting decoration, “The Philosophy of Furniture,” in May, were his only signed contributions, for the mere plate or sporting articles may be neglected.

In each number, however, from January to June, appeared an installment of his anonymous work, “The Journal of Julius Rodman, Being an Account of the First Passage across the Rocky Mountains of North America ever achieved by Civilized Man.” This narrative is constructed, like that of “Arthur Gordon Pym,” so as to win credence by circumstantial detail and an affected air of plainness, and Poe would probably have concluded it similarly with weird marvels of nature. Julius Rodman was the son of an Englishman who had settled in Kentucky. Being left alone by his father’s death, he started in his twenty-sixth year professedly on a trapping expedition up the Missouri River, and pushing on for mere adventure crossed the Rocky Mountains in northern regions in 1792, but on returning to Virginia, after three years absence, never conversed respecting his journey, and took great pains to secrete his diary. Unfortunately, al though the characters of the exploring party are much more carefully selected than was the case in “Arthur Gordon Pym,” Poe conducted the [page 236:] travelers only to the head waters of the Missouri. The description of the trip, in which he followed very closely the obvious authorities, such as Sir Alexander Mackenzie, Lewis and Clark, Pike, and Irving, is enlivened only by an attack on the Sioux, the sight of a beaver dam, and a hand-to-hand conflict with a bear. As before, too, he was led to his subject by the public interest which was now especially directed to the exploration of the West. The work as a whole bears no relation to his genius, except in a single passage which contains a faint suggestion of the Valley of the Many-Colored Grass in “Eleonora.”

With the June installment of the “Journal” Poe’s contributions to the magazine ceased, and at the same time his engagement with Burton abruptly terminated. There was evidently a serious quarrel between the two editors. Poe asserted that Burton had acted dishonorably in advertising prizes for contributions, which he never intended to pay, and that this was the ground of his own resignation; Burton, on his side, circulated scandalous reports in regard to Poe’s habits and actions, and described these as the cause of the trouble, and said publicly on the cover of “The Gentleman’s Magazine” for September, 1840: “Our friend at Portland may [page 237:] rest assured that we were ignorant of the nontransmission of his numbers. His name was erased from our list by the person whose infirmities have caused us much annoyance.” The correspondence with Snodgrass throws light upon the subject. In reply to a question regard ing the prizes offered by Burton, Poe wrote as follows: —

PHILADELPHIA, December 19, 1839.

MY DEAR SNODGRASS, —(1) presume that upon the 16th (the date of postmark of your last letter) you received my own, dated(2) days before, in which I mentioned having forwarded(2) copies of the “Grotesque & Arab:” one for yourself and one for Mr. Carey. You will therefore, ere this, have acquitted me of forgetfulness or neglect.

Touching the Premiums. The Advertisement respecting them was written by Mr. Burton, and is not I think as explicit as might [be.] I can give you no information about their desig [nation furth]er than is shown in the advertisement itself. The tr[uth is,] I object, in toto, to the whole scheme — but merely follow[ed in] Mr. B.’s wake upon such matters of business.(1) [page 238:]

Either of your projected Essays would be (as you would do it) a good thing either that upon American Literature, or upon the Hints of Science as connected with every-day Life. The latter would, of course, be entirely remodelled so as to look new.

I am sorry to say that I have been unable to get the “Scenes of Childhood,” in the January number, which is now ready, — but it shall appear in our next. If you look over our columns you will see that we only put in poetry in the odds and ends of our pages — that is, to fill out a vacancy left at the foot of a prose article — so that the length of a poem often determines its insertion. Yours could not be bro’t to fit in and was obliged to be left out.

If you see any of the Bal. papers notice my Tales, will you try and forward them, especially the weeklies, which I never see.

The Philadelphians have given me the very highest possible praise — I c’d desire nothing further. Have you seen the “U.’s. Gazette,” the “Pennsylvanian,” or Alexander’s “Messenger”? In the last is a notice by Professor Frost, which I forward you, to-day, with this. The books have just reached New York. The “Star” and the “Evening Post” have both capital notices. [page 239:] There is also a promise of one in the “New World” — Benjamin’s Paper — which I am anxious to see for praise or for blame. I have a high op[inion of] that man’s ability.

Do not forget to forward [me] the notices if any appear.

Believe me I am truly yours,


Write soon.

P.’s. None of my books have been sent to Richmond as yet — for I am happy to say that the edition is already very nearly exhausted.

PHILADELPHIA, January 21, 1840.

MY DEAR SIR, — I seize the opportunity afforded me by a temporary lull in a storm of business to write you a few hurried words. Your last letter is not before me — but I refer to it in memory. I received the poem through Godey, and retain it as you desire. The “Scenes of Child hood” is in type for the Feb. no: Mr. Carey’s book has not yet reached me. My own was for warded by L. & Blanchard to Joseph Robinson — so they assure me. I presume you have it before this.

I am obliged to decline saying anything of the “Museum” in the “Gent’s Mag:” however [page 240:] much I feel anxious to oblige yourself, and to express my own views. You will understand me when I say that I have no proprietary interest in the Mag: and that Mr. Burton is a warm friend of Brooks — verb. sap. sat.

I have heard, indirectly, that an attempt is to be made by some one of capital in Baltimore to get up a Magazine. Have you heard anything of it? If you have, will you be kind enough to let me know all about it by return of mail — if you can spend the time to oblige me. I am particularly desirous of understanding — how the matter stands who are the parties,&c.

Excuse the abruptness of this letter, & believe me very truly yours, EDGAR A. POE.

The first reference to the breach by Burton is contained in an undated letter from him to Poe: —

“I am sorry you have thought it necessary to send me such a letter. Your troubles have given a morbid tone to your feelings which it is your duty to discourage. I myself have been as se verely handled by the world as you can possibly have been, but my sufferings have not tinged my mind with melancholy, nor jaundiced my [page 241:] views of society. You must rouse your energies, and if care assail you, conquer it. I will gladly overlook the past. I hope you will as easily fulfil your pledges for the future. We shall agree very well, though I cannot permit the magazine to be made a vehicle for that sort of severity which you think’so successful with the mob.’ I am truly much less anxious about making a monthly’sensation’ than I am upon the point of fairness. You must, my dear sir, get rid of your avowed ill-feelings toward your brother authors. You see I speak plainly; I cannot do otherwise upon such a subject. You say the people love havoc. I think they love justice. I think you yourself would not have written the article on Dawes, in a more healthy state of mind. I am not trammelled by any vulgar consideration of expediency; I would rather lose money than by such undue severity wound the feelings of a kindhearted and honorable man. And I am satisfied that Dawes has something of the true fire in him. I regretted your word-catching spirit. But I wander from my design. I accept your proposition to recommence your interrupted avocations upon the Maga. Let us meet as if we had not exchanged letters. Use more exercise, write when feelings prompt, and be assured of my [page 242:] friendship. You will soon regain a healthy activity of mind, and laugh at your past vagaries.”(1) Poe seems to have returned. The final break is described by Mr. Rosenbach, a companion of Poe. He says that Burton, having an engagement to play in New York, left the magazine in the associate editor’s hands, and on returning found that nothing had been done, and he continues: “Burton immediately sought my father at his house, and it was about midnight when he found him. He came in a carriage with a large bundle of manuscripts, from which they made some selection. They worked until morning, when they sent me with copy to the printer, Charles Alexander, in Franklin Place, Chestnut Street. Alexander hunted up some extra compositors, and by dint of hard work and hurried proof-reading, the Gentleman’s Magazine appeared as usual. Poe was discharged for his negligence.”(2)

Poe wrote to Burton as follows: —

SIR, — I find myself at leisure this Monday morning, June 1, to notice your very singular letter of Saturday. . . . I have followed the example of Victorine and slept upon the matter, [page 243:] and you shall now hear what I have to say. In the first place, your attempts to bully me excite in my mind scarcely any other sentiment than mirth. When you address me again, preserve, if you can, the dignity of a gentleman. . . . I shall feel myself more at liberty to be explicit. As for the rest, you do me gross injustice; and you know it. As usual, you have wrought yourself into a passion with me on account of some imaginary wrong; for no real injury, or attempt at injury, have you ever received at my hands. As I live, I am utterly unable to say why you are angry, or what true grounds of complaint you have against me. You are a man of impulses; have made yourself, in consequence, some enemies; have been in many respects ill-treated by those whom you had looked upon as friends — and these things have rendered you suspicious. You once wrote in your magazine a sharp critique upon a book of mine — a very silly book — Pym. Had I written a similar criticism upon a book of yours, you feel that you would have been my enemy for life, and you therefore imagine in my bosom a latent hostility towards yourself. This has been a mainspring in your whole conduct towards me since our first acquaintance. It has acted to prevent all cordiality. [page 244:]

In a general view of human nature your idea is just — but you will find yourself puzzled in judging me by ordinary motives. Your criticism was essentially correct, and therefore, although severe, it did not occasion in me one solitary emotion either of anger or dislike. But even while I write these words, I am sure you will not believe them. Did I not still think you, in spite of the exceeding littleness of some of your hurried actions, a man of many honorable impulses, I should not now take the trouble to send you this letter. I cannot permit myself to suppose that you would say to me in cool blood what you said in your letter of yesterday. You are, of course, only mistaken in asserting that I owe you a hundred dollars, and you will rectify the mistake at once when you come to look at your accounts.

Soon after I joined you, you made me an offer of money, and I accepted $20. Upon another occasion, at my request, you sent me enclosed in a letter $30. Of this 30, I repaid 20 within the next fortnight (drawing no salary for that period) . I was thus still in your debt $30, when not long ago I again asked a loan of $30, which you promptly handed to me at your own home. Within the last three weeks, three dollars each week have been retained from my salary, an [page 245:] indignity which I have felt deeply but did not resent. You state the sum retained as $8, but this I believe is through a mistake of Mr. Morrell. My postage bill, at a guess, might be $9 or $10 — and I therefore am indebted to you, upon the whole, in the amount of about $60. More than this sum I shall not pay. You state that you can no longer afford to pay $50 per month for(2) or 3 pp. of MS. Your error here can be shown by reference to the Magazine. During my year with you I have written —

In July 5 pp

“August 9”

“Sept. 16”

“Oct. 4”

“Nov. 5”

“Dec. 12”

“Jan. 9”

“Feb. 12”

“March 11”

“April 17”

“May 14” +5 copied — Miss McMichael’s MS.

“June 9” + 3 copied — Chandlers.

132 [sic ]

Dividing this sum by 12, we have an average of 11 pp. per month — not 2 or 3. And this [page 246:] estimate leaves out of question everything in the way of extract or compilation. Nothing is counted but bona fide composition, 11 pp. at $3 per p. would be $33, at the usual Magazine prices. Deduct this from $50, my monthly salary, and we have left $17 per month, or $4 25/100 per week, for the services of proof-reading; general superintendence at the printing office; reading, alteration, and preparation of MSS., with compilation of various articles, such as Plate articles, Field sports,&c. Neither has anything been said of my name upon your title-page, a small item — you will say — but still something, as you know. Snowden pays his editresses $2 per week each for their names solely. Upon the whole, I am not willing to admit that you have greatly overpaid me. That I did not do four times as much as I did for the Magazine was your own fault. At first I wrote long articles, which you deemed in admissible, and never did I suggest any to which you had not some immediate and decided objection. Of course I grew discouraged, and could feel no interest in the journal.

I am at a loss to know why you call me selfish. If you mean that I borrowed money of you — you know that you offered it, and you know that I am poor. In what instance has any one ever [page 247:] found me selfish? Was there selfishness in the affront I offered Benjamin (whom I respect, and who spoke well of me) because I deemed it a duty not to receive from any one commendation at your expense? . . . I have said that I could not tell why you were angry. Place yourself in my situation and see whether you would not have acted as I have done. You first “enforced,” as you say, a deduction of salary: giving me to understand thereby that you thought of parting company. You next spoke disrespectfully of me behind my back — this as an habitual thing — to those whom you supposed your friends, and who punctually retailed me, as a matter of course, every ill-natured word which you uttered. Lastly, you advertised your magazine for sale without saying a word to me about it. I felt no anger at what you did — none in the world. Had I not firmly believed it your design to give up your journal, with a view of attending to the Theatre, I should never have dreamed of at tempting one of my own. The opportunity of doing something for myself seemed a good one — (and I was about to be thrown out of business) — and I embraced it. Now I ask you, as a man of honor and as a man of sense — what is there wrong in all this? What have I done at which [page 248:] you have any right to take offence? I can give you no definitive answer (respecting the continuation of “Rodman’s Journal”) until I hear from you again. The charge of $100 I shall not admit for an instant. If you persist in it our intercourse is at an end, and we can each adopt our own measures. In the meantime, I am, Yr. Obt. St.,



This letter seems meant to be conciliatory, but if Poe’s later characterization of his old chief is any sign, it failed of its purpose. Burton sup pressed six or seven criticisms still on hand, and wrote and spoke hard words about his former associate. Nor did Poe lag much behind in returning ill-will. He wrote to Snodgrass with regard to a contribution which he had difficulty in recovering from the magazine: —


MY DEAR SNODGRASS, — Yours of the 12 was duly received but I have found it impossible to answer it before, owing to an unusual press of business which has positively not left me a moment to myself. Touching your Essay, Burton [page 249:] not only lies, but deliberately and wilfully lies; for the last time but one that I saw him I called his attention to the MS. which was then at the top of a pile of other MSS. sent for premiums, in a drawer of the office desk. The last day I was in the office I saw the Essay in the same position, and am perfectly sure it is there still. You know it is a peculiar looking MS. and I could not mis take it. In saying it was not in his possession his sole design was to vex you, and through you my self. Were I in your place I would take some summary method of dealing with the scoundrel, whose infamous line of conduct in regard to this whole Premium scheme merits, and shall receive exposure. I am firmly convinced that it was never his intention to pay one dollar of the money offered; and indeed his plain intimations to that effect, made to me personally and sincerely, were the immediate reason of my cutting the connexion so abruptly as I did. If you could, in any way, spare the time to come on to Philadelphia, I think I could put you in the way of detecting the villain in his rascality. I would go down with you to the office, open the drawer in his presence, and take the MS. from beneath his very nose. I think this would be a good deed done, and would act as a caution to such literary [page 250:] swindlers in future. What think you of this plan? Will you come on? Write immediately — in reply.

Mr. Carey’s book on slavery was received by me not long ago, and in last month’s number I wrote, at some length, a criticism upon it, in which I endeavored to do justice to the author, whose talents I highly admire. But this critique, as well as some six or seven others, were refused admittance into the magazine by Mr. Burton, upon his receiving my letter of resignation. I allude(1) to the number for June the one last issued. I fancy, moreover, that he has some private pique against Mr. Carey (as he has against every honest man), for not long ago he refused admission to a poetical address of his which I was anxious to publish.

Herewith you have my Prospectus. You will see that I have given myself sufficient time for preparation. I have every hope of success. As yet I have done nothing more than send a few Prospectuses to the Philadelphia editors, as it is rather early to strike — six months in anticipation. My object at present is merely to call attention to the contemplated design. In the mean time be assured that I am not idle — and [page 251:] that if there is any impossibility about the matter it is the impossibility of not succeeding. The world is fond of novelty, and in being absolutely honest, I shall be utterly novel.

If you would show the Prospectus to Mr. Carey, or any other editorial friend, when you have done with it, I would be obliged to you.

Touching my tales, you will scarcely believe me when I tell you that I am ignorant of their fate, have never spoken to the publishers concerning them since the day of their issue. I have cause to think, however, that the edition was exhausted almost immediately. It was only six weeks since that I had the opportunity I wished of sending a copy to Professor Wilson, so as to be sure of its reaching him directly. Of course I must wait some time yet for a notice, — if any there is to be. Yours most truly,

E. A. POE.

P.’s. If you would enclose me Burton’s letter to yourself, I will take it as an especial favor.

Dr. Snodgrass, however, heard at second hand the account given by Burton, and nearly nine months later wrote about it to Poe, who was then editor of “Graham’s.” The reply is at length and explicit: — [page 252:]

PHILADELPHIA, April 1, 1841.

MY DEAR SNODGRASS, — I fear you have been thinking it was not my design to answer your kind letter at all. It is now April Fool’s Day, and yours is dated March 8th; but believe me, although, for good reason, I may occasion ally postpone my reply to your favors, I am never in danger of forgetting them.

In regard to Burton. I feel indebted to you for the kind interest you express; but scarcely know how to reply. My situation is embarrassing. It is impossible, as you say, to notice a buffoon and a felon, as one gentleman would notice another. The law, then, is my only resource. Now, if the truth of a scandal could be admitted in justification — I mean of what the law terms a scandal — I would have matters all my own way. I would institute a suit, forthwith, for his personal defamation of myself. He would be unable to prove the truth of his allegations. I could prove their falsity and their malicious intent by wit nesses who, seeing me at all hours of every day, would have the best right to speak I mean Burton’s own clerk, Morrell, and the compositors of the printing office. In fact, I could prove the scandal almost by acclamation. I should obtain [page 253:] damages. But, on the other hand, I have never been scrupulous in regard to what I have said of him. I have always told him to his face, and everybody else, that I looked upon him as a blackguard and a villain. This is notorious. He would meet me with a cross action. The truth of the allegation — which I could [as] easily prove as he would find it difficult to prove the truth of his own respecting me — would not avail me. The law will not admit, as justification of my calling Billy Burton a scoundrel, that Billy Burton is really such. What then can I do? If I sue, he sues: you see how it is.

At the same time — as I may, after further reflection, be induced to sue, I would take it as an act of kindness — not to say justice — on your part, if you would see the gentleman of whom you spoke, and ascertain with accuracy all that may legally avail me; that is to say, what and when were the words used, and whether your friend would be willing for your sake, for my sake, and for the sake of truth, to give evidence if called upon. Will you do this for me?

So far for the matter inasmuch as it concerns Burton. I have now to thank you for your defence of myself, as stated. You are a physician, and I presume no physician can have difficulty [page 254:] in detecting the drunkard at a glance. You are, moreover, a literary man, well read in morals. You will never be brought to believe that I could write what I daily write, as I write it, were I as this villain would induce those who know me not, to believe. In fine, I pledge you, before God, the solemn word of a gentleman, that I am temper ate even to rigor. From the hour in which I first saw this basest of calumniators to the hour in which I retired from his office in uncontrollable disgust at his chicanery, arrogance, ignorance, and brutality, nothing stronger than water ever passed my lips.

It is, however, due to candor that I inform you upon what foundation he has erected his slanders. At no period of my life was I ever what men call intemperate. I never was in the habit of intoxication. I never drunk drams,&c. But, for a brief period, while I resided in Richmond and edited the “Messenger” I certainly did give way, at long intervals, to the temptation held out on all sides by the spirit of Southern conviviality. My sensitive temperament could not stand an excitement which was an every-day matter to my companions. In short, it sometimes happened that I was completely intoxicated. For some days after each excess I was invariably confined [page 255:] to bed. But it is now quite four years since I have abandoned every kind of alcoholic drink — four years, with the exception of a single deviation, which occurred shortly after my leaving Burton, and when I was induced to resort to the occasional use of cider, with the hope of relieving a nervous attack.

You will thus see, frankly stated, the whole amount of my sin. You will also see the blackness of that heart which could revive a slander of this nature. Neither can you fail to perceive how desperate the malignity of the slanderer must be — how resolute he must be to slander, and how slight the grounds upon which he would build up a defamation — since he can find nothing better with which to charge me than an accusation which can be disproved by each and every man with whom I am in the habit of daily intercourse.

I have now only to repeat to you, in general, my solemn assurance that my habits are as far removed from intemperance as the day from the night. My sole drink is water.

Will you do me the kindness to repeat this assurance to such of your own friends as happen to speak of me in your hearing?

I feel that nothing more is requisite, and you will agree with me upon reflection. [page 256:]

Hoping soon to hear from you, I am, Yours most cordially,



There is another witness, Mr. C. W. Alexander, the publisher of the magazine, who wrote to Mr. T. C. Clarke, of Philadelphia, in answer to the question whether Poe’s alleged irregularities at that time were such as to interfere with his work. He says: —

“The absence of the principal editor on professional duties left the matter frequently in the hands of Mr. Poe, whose unfortunate failing may have occasioned some disappointment in the preparation of a particular article expected from him, but never interfering with the regular publication of the ‘Gentleman’s Magazine,’ as its monthly issue was never interrupted upon any occasion, either from Mr. Poe’s deficiency, or from any other cause, during my publication of it, embracing the whole time of Mr. Poe’s connection with it. That Mr. Poe had faults seriously detrimental to his own interests, none, of course, will deny. They were, unfortunately, too well known in the literary circles of Philadelphia, [page 257:] were there any disposition to conceal them. But he alone was the sufferer, and not those who received the benefit of his preëminent talents, however irregular his habits or uncertain his contributions may occasionally have been.”(1)

It is possible that Mr. Alexander, writing ten years after the event, may have confused his re collections and antedated the intemperance of Poe, which became frequent and notorious during the next year. Were it not for this letter there would be little evidence beside Rosenbach’s that Poe was not, as he claimed to be, a sober man from the time he left Richmond to that of his wife’s illness in 1841, and this would agree with Gowan’s account of him in New York and with Mrs. Clemm’s statement, reported by Mr. R. E. Shapley, of Philadelphia, — “For years I know he did not taste even a glass of wine.” To no other period of his mature life are these words applicable. It should be noted, too, that Wilmer, who sometimes met him in Philadelphia, says that during their acquaintance he “did not see him inebriated; no, not in a single instance;”(2) but in his “Recollections” he asserts unqualifiedly that this fault was the cause of all of Poe’s differences with his employers. [page 258:]

The true cause of the trouble was probably mixed, and involved both Poe’s temperament and his acts; it was partly of a business nature, and in the affair each party seems to have had matter for complaint. Burton, who it will be remembered was a comic actor, had got into quarrels with the managers, and he determined to have a theatre of his own; to obtain this he needed funds, and by way of raising them he advertised his magazine for sale without mentioning his intention to Poe. The latter, on his part, arranged to issue a prospectus of a new and rival monthly, “The Penn Magazine,” with out advising Burton. It was his old ambition. In fact, he was always waiting to find some one with capital to embark in the enterprise, and while still on Burton’s was discontented through the indulgence of this hope, which he had mentioned in his letter to Cooke nine months before. He might fairly expect that in the changes about to take place, on the sale of the magazine, some of the subscribers to the “Gentleman’s” would remain with him, who, as its literary editor, had won position and respect, especially with the press of the city, and that they would form a nucleus for the circulation of the “Penn.” Whether in fact, he did, as was charged by Griswold, [page 259:] obtain transcripts of Burton’s subscription list and other valuable papers, for his own use, remains in doubt. It was an obvious thing for him to do; he was out of humor with Burton, and as he believed that the latter would soon sell he may not have regarded it as a dishonorable proceeding. Undoubtedly Burton looked on Poe’s action in advertising his new enterprise at that moment as likely to diminish the selling value of his property; if in addition Poe attempted to secure his subscribers in an underhand way, he would have had cause to be offended, and if he remonstrated Poe may have told him that he “looked upon him as a blackguard and a villain,” in the phrases of his letter to Snodgrass. That there is no explicit mention of the charge in the letter to Burton already given, in which Poe makes his explanation, counts for nothing in view of the points that mark omissions; but the letter proves with sufficient certainty that, whatever contributory circumstances such as Rosenbach relates there may have been, in the beaten way of business the “Penn Magazine” was the apple of discord, as the latent hope of it was the source of Poe’s discontent in his position from the first.


[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 189:]

1  Griswold MSS.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 190:]

1  The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym, of Nantucket; comprising the Details of a Mutiny and Atrocious Butchery on board the American Brig Grampus, on her Way to the South Seas with an Account of the Recapture of the Vessel by the Survivors; their Shipwreck, and subsequent Horrible Sufferings from Famine; their Deliverance by means of the British Schooner Jane Gray; the brief Cruise of this latter Vessel in the Antarctic Ocean; her Capture, and the Massacre of her Crew among a Group of Islands in the 84th parallel of Southern latitude; together with the incredible Adventures and Discoveries still further South, to which that distressing Calamity gave rise. i2mo, pp. 198. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1838.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 191:]

1  Narrative of Four Voyages to the South Seas and Pacific, 1822-31. By Benjamin Morell. New York, 1832: pp. 183 et seq.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 193:]

1  Gowans’ Sale Catalogue, No. 28, 1870, p. 11.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 194:]

1  Poe to Brooks, Didier, p. 65.

2  The Conchologist’s First Book; or, a System of Testaceous Malacology, arranged expressly for the use of schools, in which the animals, according to Cuvier, are given with the shells, a great number of new species added, and the whole brought up, as accurately as possible, to the present condition of the science. By Edgar A. Poe. With illustrations of two hundred and fifteen shells, presenting a correct type of each genus. Philadelphia: published for the author by Haswell, Barrington & Haswell, and for sale by the principal booksellers in the United States. 1839. 12mo, pp. 156.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 195:]

1  Poe to Eveleth, Ingram, i, 168.

2  Works, viii, 36.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 196:]

1  The Conchologist’s Text-Book. Embracing the arrangements of Lamarck and Linnaeus, with a glossary of technical terms. By Captain Thomas Brown, Fellow, etc., etc. Illustrated by 19 engravings on steel. Fourth edition. Glasgow: Archibald Fullarton & Co. 1837.

2  A Manual of Conchology according to the System laid down by Lamarck, with the Late Improvements of De Blainville. Exemplified and arranged for the Use of Students. By Thomas Wyatt, M. A. Illustrated by 36 plates, etc., etc. New York: Harper & Brothers. 1838.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 197:]

1  Professor John G. Anthony to John Parker, June 22, 1875, MS.

2  Saturday Evening Chronicle and Mirror of the Times, Philadelphia, April 27, 1839.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 198:]

1  Burton’s Gentleman’s Magazine, v, 62 (July, 1839).

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 200:]

1  Poe to J. E. Snodgrass, July 12, 1841.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 203:]

1  Griswold MSS.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 208:]

1  Griswold MSS.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 212:]

1  Griswold MSS.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 216:]

1  Griswold MSS.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 217:]

1  Griswold MSS.

2  The Snodgrass Correspondence (partly published in the New York Herald, March 27, 1881), when not otherwise credited, is here given from a very careful MS. copy of the originals, ­[page 218:] made some years ago by Dr. William Hand Browne of Baltimore.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 222:]

1  Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque. By Edgar A. Poe. In two volumes. Philadelphia-. Lea & Blanchard. 1840. 16mo. ­[page 223:] The work was copyrighted in 1839, and was dedicated to Colonel William Drayton. Vol. i (pp. 243) contained a preface and fourteen tales, that is, Morella, Lionizing, William Wilson, The Man that was Used Up, The Fall of the House of Usher, The Duc de L’Omelette, MS. Found in a Bottle, Bon-Bon, Shadow, The Devil in the Belfry, Ligeia, King Pest, The Signora Zenobia (How to write a Blackwood Article), The Scythe of Time (A Predicament) . Vol ii (pp. 228) contained Epimanes, Siope, Hans Pfaall, A Tale of Jerusalem, Von Jung, Loss of Breath, Metzengerstein, Berenice, Why the Little Frenchman wears his Hand in a Sling, The Conversation of Eiros and Charmion. Appendix.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 223:]

1  Foreign Quarterly Review, July, 1827.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 225:]

1  Letter-Book of Lea & Blanchard.

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

1  It has been suggested (Ingram and Stoddard) that this tale was from a rare drama by Calderon, El Embozado or El Capotado, mentioned by Medwin to Irving, and vainly sought for by the latter in Spanish libraries. (Irving’s Life and Letters, ii, 232; iv, 70-72.) Medwin undoubtedly had the plot from Shelley. The reference is plainly to El Purgatorio de San Patricio, a favorite of Shelley’s (from which he took a passage of The Cenci), in which Un Hombre Embozado is a character. Poe read Medwin’s Shelley; but it is extremely unlikely that he ever saw the drama in question, nor is there any reason to seek so far for his knowledge of a superstitious idea common to literature. The immediate source has also been sought in Hoffmann’s Elixiere des Teufels. The Influence of E. T. A. Hoffmann on the Tales of Edgar Allan Poe, by Palmer Cobb, Chapel Hill, the University Press, 1908; this, indirectly, through Blackwoods, July, 1824, is probable.

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

1  Unsigned.

2  Signed “P.”

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 234:]

1  Burton’s Gentleman’s Magazine, vi, 102-103 (February, 1840).

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 237:]

1  Words in brackets undecipherable owing to the state of the MSS.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 242:]

1  Griswold, xxxii.

2  The American, February 26, 1887.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 248:]

1  Poe to Burton, Ingram, i, 175-179.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 250:]

1  “I allude” — almost illegible in original MS.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 256:]

1  Poe to Snodgrass, Baltimore American, April, 1881.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 257:]

1  Alexander to Clarke, October 20, 1850, Gill, p. 97.

2  Our Press Gang, p. 284.





[S:0 - LEAPPL, 1909] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Bookshelf - The Life of EAP (G. E. Woodberry) (Chapter 06)