Bits and Pieces II —
Selected Quotations about Edgar Allan Poe


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The following items are a few excerpts from the vast library of commentary about Poe, both during his own lifetime and in the many years since his death. It should quickly be evident that professional critics have generally been harsh on Poe, particularly since the 1870s. (That Poe could also be harsh in his reviews seems a poor defense.) Even if they comment favorably upon his writings, they usually feel compelled to condemn the man himself, basing their understanding of Poe on Griswold’s malicious sketch of him. As the school of modern writers rose, bashing Poe seems to have become a favored sport of the literary intelligentsia. It is primarily the public that has enshrined Poe in his high seat in American literature. These excerpts are listed chronologically, with the source noted as appropriate.


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“If E. A. P. of Baltimore — whose lines about ‘Heaven’ . . . are, though nonsense, rather exquisite nonsense — would but do himself justice [he] might make a beautiful and perhaps magnificent poem.” — (John Neal, review of Poe’s Al Aaraaf, Tamerlane and Minor Poems, in Yankee and Boston Literary Gazette, September and December 1829.)

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“His [Poe’s] talents are of an order that can never prove a comfort to their possessor.” — (Comment written by John Allan, Poe’s foster father, on the back of a February 21, 1831 letter from Poe. Allan’s note is dated April 12, 1833.)

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“We cannot accord much praise to ‘Morella,’ a tale, by Edgar A. Poe. It is the creation of a fancy unrestrained by judgement and undirected by design.” — (The Charleston Chronicle, May 30, 1835.)

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“Your Periodical [the Southern Literary Messenger] is decidedly superior to any Periodical in the United States, and Mr. Poe is decidedly the best of all our young writers. I don‘t know but that I might add all our old ones, with one or two exceptions, among which, I assure you, I don‘t include myself.” — (Letter from James Kirke Paulding to Thomas W. White, January 1836.)

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“Mr. Poe is too fond of the wild — unnatural and horrible! Why will he not permit his fine genius to soar into purer, brighter, and happier regions? Why will he not disenthral himself from the spells of German enchantment and supernatural imagery? There is room enough for exercise of the highest powers, upon the multiform relations of human life, without descending into the dark, mysterious and unutterable creations of licentious fancy.” — (From the Richmond Compiler, February 1836, commenting on Poe’s tale “The Duc de L‘Omelette.”)

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“The Critical Notices [in the Southern Literary Messenger, all by Poe] are better by far than those in any other magazine in the country. Paul Ulric is too small game for the tremendous demolition he has received — a club of iron has been used to smash a fly.” — (From the Georgetown Metropolitan, April 1836.)

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“Had Mr. Poe written nothing else but ‘Morella,’ ‘William Wilson,’ ‘The House of Usher,’ and the ‘MS. Found in a Bottle,’ he would deserve a high place among imaginative writers . . . there is scarcely one of the tales published in these two volumes before us, in which we do not find the development of great intellectual capacity, with a power for vivid description, an opulence of imagination, a fecundity of invention, and a command over the elegance of diction which have seldom been displayed, even by writers who have acquired the greatest distinction in the republic of letters.” — (Louis F. Tasistro, [a review of Poe’s Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque], New York Mirror, December 28, 1839.)

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“Poe was born a poet, his mind is stamped with the impress of genius. He is, perhaps, the most original writer that ever existed in America. Delighting in the wild and visionary, his mind penetrates the inmost recesses of the human soul, creating vast and magnificent dreams, eloquent fancies and terrible mysteries. Again, he indulges in a felicitous vein of humor, that copies no writer in the language, and yet strikes the reader with the genuine impression of refined wit; and yet again, he constructs such works as ‘Arthur Gordon Pym,’ which disclose perceptive powers that rival De Foe, combined with an analytical depth of reasoning in no manner inferior to Godwin or Brockden Brown.” — (George Lippard in Citizen Soldier (Philadephia), November 15, 1843. Lippard’s comments were intended to announce Poe’s impending “Lecture on the American Poets.” )

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“Mr. Poe has that indescribable something which men have agreed to call genius. No man could ever tell us precisely what it is, and yet there is none who is not inevitably aware of its presence and its power. . . . It is not for us to assign him his definite rank among contemporary authors, but we may be allowed to say that we know of none who has displayed more varied and striking abilities. . . . Mr. Poe is at once the most discriminating, philosophical, and fearless critic upon imaginative works who has written in America. It may be that we should qualify our remark a little, and say that he might be, rather than that he always is, for he seems sometimes to mistake his phial of prussic-acid for his inkstand.” — (James Russell Lowell, “Edgar Allan Poe,” Graham’s Magazine, February 1845.)

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“It [[‘The Raven’]] is despair brooding over wisdom.” — (Charles Fenno Hoffman, presumably about February 1845, cited by Mrs. E. O. Smith in “Recollections of Poe,“ Home Journal, March 15, 1876, p. 2, col. 1. In the preface to The Lover’s Gift; or, Tributes to the Beautiful — Hartford: Henry S. Parsons, 1848 — appears the comment: “No one doubts the reality of Poe’s Raven, the despair brooding over wisdom, which it shadows forth, for the author was the first to believe.” This preface was written by Mrs. E. O. Smith, who was the editor for the volume, and is dated September 1847.)

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“Edgar A. Poe, one of the Editors of the Broadway Journal. He never rests. There is a small steam-engine in his brain, which not only sets the cerebral mass in motion, but keeps the owner in hot water. His face is a fine one, and well gifted with intellectual beauty. Ideality, with the power of analysis, is shown in his very broad, high and massive forehead — a forehead which would have delighted Gall beyond measure. He would have have [[sic]] made a capital lawyer — not a very good advocate, perhaps, but a famous unraveller of all subtleties. He can thread his way through a labyrinth of absurdities, and pick out the sound thread of sense from the tangled skein with which it is connected. He means to be candid, and labours under the strange hallucination that he is so; but he has strong prejudices, and, without the least intention of irreverence, would wage war with the Deity, if the divine canons militated against his notions. His sarcasm is subtle and searching. He can do nothing in the common way; and buttons his coat after a fashion peculiarly his own. If we ever caught him doing a thing like any body else, or found him reading a book any other way than upside down, we should implore his friends to send for a straitjacket, and a Bedlam doctor. He were mad, then, to a certainty.” — (Thomas Dunn English, “Notes About Men of Note,” The Aristidean, April 1845, p. 153. At this time, Poe and English were still friends, and the tone of this item is happy and jocular. In reviewing this issue of the Aristidean in his own Broadway Journal, for May 3, 1845, Poe comments “. . . the ‘Notes about Men of Note’ are amusing” (BJ, 1845, p. 285, col. 1).)

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“No form of literary activity has so terribly degenerated among us as the tale. . . . In such a state of things, the writings of Mr Poe are a refreshment. . . . His narrative proceeds with vigor, his colours are applied with discrimination, and where the effects are fantastic they are not unmeaningly so. . . . The degree of skill shown in the management of revolting or terrible circumstances makes the pieces that have such subjects more interesting than the others. Even the failures are those of an intellect of strong fibre and well-chosen aim.” — (Margaret Fuller, “[Review of Poe’s Tales],” The New York Daily Tribune, July 11, 1845, p. 1.)

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“Few books have been published of late, which contain within themselves the elements of greater popularity. This popularity it will be sure to obtain, if it be not for the operation of a stupid prejudice which refuses to read, or a personal emnity, which refuses to admire.” — (Evert A. Duyckinck, “[Review of Poe’s Tales],” American Review, September 1845.)

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“Mr. Poe could not possibly send forth a book without some marks of his genius, and mixed up with the dross we find much sterling ore.” — (From a review of Poe’s Tales, the Critic — (London), September 6, 1845.)

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“Your ‘Raven’ has produced a sensation, a ‘fit horror,’ here in England. Some of my friends are taken by the fear of it and some by the music. I hear of persons haunted by the ‘Nevermore,’ and one acquaintance of mine who has the misfortune of possessing a ‘bust of Pallas’ never can bear to look at it in the twilight.” — (Miss Barrett [Elizabeth Barrett Browning] “[Letter to E. A. Poe],” April 1846. Poe had dedicated his The Raven and Other Poems of 1845 to Miss Barrett, from whose 1844 poem “Lady Geraldine’s Courtship” he had borrowed the stanzaic form for “The Raven.”)

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“There comes Poe, with his raven, like Barnaby Rudge
Three-fifths of him genius and two-fifths sheer fudge,
Who talks like a book of iambs and pentameters,
In a way to make people of common sense damn metres,
Who has written some things quite the best of their kind,
But the heart somehow seems all squeezed out by the mind.”
— (James Russell Lowell, A Fable for Critics, New York: George P. Putnam, 1848.)

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“That perfection of horror which abounds in his writings, has been unjustly attributed to some moral defect in the man. But I perceive not why the competent critic should fall into this error. Of all authors, ancient or modern, Poe has given us the least of himself in his works. He wrote as an artist. He intuitively saw what Schiller has so well expressed, that it is an universal phenomenon of our nature that the mournful, the fearful, even the horrible, allures with irresistible enchantment. He probed this general psychological law, in its subtle windings through the mystic chambers of our being, as it was never probed before, until he stood in the very abyss of its center, the sole master of its effects.” — (C. Chauncey Burr, “Character of Edgar A. Poe,” Nineteenth Century, V, February 1852, pp. 19-33. Burr was a minister in the Universalist Church, and had known Poe personally.)

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“As a poet, Poe ranks high, although most of his poetry is unreadable. . . . The school of literature to which Poe belongs, and of which he is certainly the master, is one that we thoroughly dislike.” — (Richard Henry Stoddard, “Edgar Allan Poe,” The National Magazine, March 1853, p. 199.)

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“Oh, you mean the jingle-man! — (Ralph Waldo Emerson, in 1859, referring to Poe, quoted by William Dean Howells, from his personal conversation with Emerson, in “My First Visit to New England [Part IV],” Harper’s New Monthly Magazine, vol. LXXXIX, no. DXXXI, August 1894, p. 450, and later collected in Literary Friends and Acquaintances (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1900). In her article “Recollections of Poe,” Home Journal, March 15, 1876, Mrs. E. O. Smith briefly records a passing conversation with Emerson in regard to “The Raven,” about which she says that Emerson stated “I can see nothing in it.”)

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“Poe, during his life-time, was feared and hated by many newspaper editors and other literary animalcules, some of whom, or their friends, had been the subjects of his scorching critiques; and others disliked him, naturally enough, because he was a man of superior intellect. While he lived, these resentful gentlemen were discreetly silent, but they nursed their wrath to keep it warm, and the first intelligence of his death was the signal for a general onslaught.” — (Lambert A. Wilmer, “Defamation of the Dead,” Our Press Gang, Philadelphia: J. T. Lloyd, 1859, p. 385. Wilmer was one of Poe’s close Baltimore friends for many years, beginning about 1829. The friendship was essentially ended by an unpleasant diasgreement, which came between them in 1842.)

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“I do not need to add, I presume, that American critics have often disparaged his poetry. . . . We are familiar with that kind of sparring. The reproaches that bad critics heap upon good poets are the same in all countries.” — (Charles P. Baudelaire, from the preface to his translations of Poe: Nouvelles Histories Extraordinares, 1857. Translation of Baudelaire’s comments by William Bandy, Baudelaire on Poe, State College, PA: Bald Eagle Press, 1952, p 144.)

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“You might call him [Poe] ‘The Leader of the Cult of the Unusual’.” — (Jules Verne, “Edgard Poe et ses oeuvres [Edgar Poe and His Works, Baudelaire’s translated edition],” Musee des Familles, 1864, pp. 193-208. Translation by I. O. Evans, printed in Peter Haining, ed. , The Poe Scrapbook, New York: Schocken Books, 1978, pp. 56-73.)

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“By wine some vow Poe’s wit inspired to be,
And say that they can prove his verses show it;
More likely, I should fancy, it was tea,
For clearly it is t turns Poe to poet.”
— (Unknown [Tom Hood ?], “Epigram on E. A. Poe; by a Teetotaler,” from The Essence of Fun, New York: George Routledge and Sons, 1872.)

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“The more I read and hear about Poe, the less I make him out. I haven‘t the key to so strange a nature. I dare say it is because I really am a common-place person. I never could understand unusual developments of Genius; therefore I am unfitted to judge of them. I can only admire and wonder. I suppose the angels are wiser. They must be: They can‘t be so stupid as we are when we dissect each other.” — (Richard Henry Stoddard, letter to Sarah Helen Whitman, October 28, 1872. Quoted in Robbins, 1960, pp. 42-43. The comment is both revealing and highly curious given Stoddard’s biographical works on Poe, which tend to follow in the style of Griswold’s attack. Poe seems to have rejected an early poem Stoddard submitted for publication in the Broadway Journal in 1845, an insult Stoddard seems never to have forgotten or forgiven. At some point, he must have decided that he finally had the key, or more likely that having it did not really matter after all.)

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“How can so strange & so fine a genius & so sad a life, be exprest [sic] & comprest in on line — would it not be best to say of Poe in a  reverential spirit simply Requiescat in Pace [?]” — (Alfred Lord Tennyson’s reply to the Poe Memorial committee, February 18, 1876, printed in facsimile in S. S. Rice, Edgar Allan Poe: A Memorial Volume, Baltimore: Turnbull Brothers, 1877, p. 67. The committe had asked him to supply an epitaph for Poe, but limited to one line. The choice of the phrase “Requiescat in Pace” is somewhat ironic given its place as the ending of Poe’s tale “The Cask of Amontillado”: “For the half of a century no mortal has disturbed them. In pace requiescat!” According to Hallam Tennyson, Alfred Lord Tennyson; A Memoir By His Son, New York: Macmillan Co., 1897, vol. II, p. 292, Tennyson once commented that “I know several striking poems by American poets, but I think Edgar Poe is (taking his poetry, and prose together) the most Original American Genuis.”)

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“Through many a year his fame has grown,—
Like midnight, vast, like starlight sweet,—
Till now his genius fills a throne,
And nations marvel at his feet.”
— (William Winter, “At Poe’s Grave,” a poem read at the dedication of the Poe Memorial in Baltimore, November 17, 1875. Reprinted in S. S. Rice, Edgar Allan Poe: A Memorial Volume, Baltimore: Turnbull Bros., 1877, p. 48. Mr. Winter’s pen was so often employed in writing ceremonial verse on the occasion of the death of famous persons that he became known as “Weeping Willie.”)

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“. . . the reader [should not] be surprised if a criticism upon Poe is mostly negative, and rather suggests new doubts than resolves those already existing; for it is Poe’s merit to carry people away, and it is his besetting sin that he wants altogether such scrupulous honesty as guides and restrains the finished artist. He was, let us say it with all sorrow, not conscientious. Hunger was ever at his door, and he had too imperious a desire for what we call nowadays the sensational in literature.” — (Robert Louis Stevenson, “[Review of] The Works of Edgar Allan Poe,” Academy, VII, January, 2, 1875. Reprinted in C. C. Bigelow and Temple Scott, eds., The Works of Robert Louis Stevenson, 10 vols, New York: Greenock Press, 1906, IX, pp. 255-262.)

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“In a dream I once had, I saw a vessel on the sea, at midnight, in a storm. It was no great full-rigg‘d ship, nor majestic steamer, steering firmly through the gale, but seem‘d one of those superb little schooner yachts I had often seen lying anchor‘d, rocking so jauntily, in the waters around New York, or up Long Island sound — now flying uncontroll‘d with torn sails and broken spars through the wild sleet and winds and waves of the night. On the deck was a slender, slight, beautiful figure, a dim man, apparently enjoying all the terror, the murk, and the dislocation of which he was the centre and the victim. That figure of my lurid dream might stand for Edgar Poe, his spirit, his fortunes, and his poems — themselves all lurid dreams.” — (Walt Whitman, The Washington Star, November 16, 1875.)

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“With all due respect to the very original genius of the author of the Tales of Mystery, it seems to us that to take him with more than a certain degree of seriousness is to lack seriousness one’s self. An enthusiasm for Poe is the mark of a decidedly primitive stage of reflection. Baudelaire thought him a profound philosopher, the neglect of whose golden utterances stamped his native land with infamy. Nevertheless, Poe was vastly the greater charlatan of the two, as well as the greater genius.” — (Henry James, “Charles Baudelaire,” The Nation, XXII, 1876 p. 280.)

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“Poe’s judgements [in his criticisms] are pretentious, spiteful, vulgar; but they contain a great deal of sense and discrimination as well, and here and there, sometimes at frequent intervals, we find a phrase of happy insight imbedded in a patch of fatuous pedantry.” — (Henry James, Hawthorne, New York: Harper & Brothers, 1879, pp. 62-63.)

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“Some of the old vindictiveness against Poe still crops up occasionally in the Northern papers — partly because they hate the South and everything Southern, and partly because some of the old ‘mutual-admiration’ set still survives, and have never yet forgiven the man who told them the truth about themselves.” — (William Hand Browne, “[Letter to John H. Ingram],” October 16, 1880. Browne was the editor of The Southern Magazine. Although he had not himself known Poe, Browne had excellent contacts in Baltimore and supplied Ingram with much useful information.)

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“It is really one of the most remarkable phases in Poe’s career how much of his contemporary judgment in literary matters has been verified. Where every one else praised he often condemned unsparingly — to his own injury in many cases — but the test of time has signally confirmed his judgement.” — (Anonymous, “Two Lives of Edgar A. Poe,” the New York Times, October 24, 1880, p. 10.)

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“Poe’s verses illustrate an intense faculty for technical and abstract beauty, with the rhyming art to excess, an incorrigible propensity toward nocturnal themes, a demonic undertone behind every page — and, by final judgement, probably belong among the electric lights of imaginative literature, brilliant and dazzling, but with no heat.” — (Walt Whitman, “Edgar Poe’s Significance,” The Critic, II, June 3, 1882, p. 147.)

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“My dear Horton . . . I do not know why you or indeed anybody should want to illustrate Poe . . . I admire a few lyrics of his extremely and a few pages of his prose, chiefly in his critical essays, which are sometimes profound. The rest of him seems to me vulgar and commonplace . . .” — (William Butler Yeats, “[Letter to W. T. Horton],” September 3, 1899. Yeats was commenting on the 1884 edition of “The Raven” with illustrations by Gustave Dore.)

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“And when one is in the Bad Lands he feels as if they somehow look just exactly as Poe’s tales and poems sound.” — (Theodore Roosevelt, Hunting Trips of a Ranchman, New York and London: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1885, p. 12.)

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“To me his [Poe’s] prose is unreadable — like Jane Austen’s. No, there is a difference. I could read his prose on salary, but not Jane’s. Jane is entirely impossible. It seems a great pity that they allowed her to die a natural death.” — (Mark Twain [Samuel L. Clemens], letter to W. D. Howells, January 18, 1909. Reprinted in Henry Nash Smith and William M. Gibson, eds., Mark Twain-Howells Letters, Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1960, II, p. 841.)

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“[Poe] died . . . and was duly explained away as a drunkard and a failure, though it remains an open question whether he really drank as much in his whole lifetime as a modern successful American drinks, without comment, in six months. . . . Poe constantly and inevitably produced magic where his greatest contemporaries produced only beauty. . . . Poe’s supremacy in this respect has cost him his reputation. . . . Above all, Poe is great because he is independent of cheap attractions, independent of sex, of patriotism, of fighting, of sentimentality, snobbery, gluttony, and all the rest of the vulgar stock-in-trade of his profession.” — (George Bernard Shaw, “Edgar Allan Poe,” the Nation (London), January 16, 1909.)

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“Poe wrote like a drunkard and a man who is not accustomed to pay his debts.” — (Arthur Twining Hadley, President of Yale University (1899-1921) explaining, in 1909, his refusal to support Poe’s election to the Hall of Fame. Without regard to Hadley’s unjust opinions, Poe’s name was admitted in 1910.)

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“Where was the detective story until Poe breathed the breath of life into it?” — (Arthur Conan Doyle, in an address before the Poe Centennial Celebration Dinner of the Author’s Society, March 1909.)

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“He [Poe] was like a wolf chained by the leg among a lot of domestic dogs.” — (Arthur Ransome, Edgar Allan Poe: A Critical Study, London: Martin Secker, 1910, p. 209. In a footnote, Ransome comments “There is surely no need for me to tell Americans that I am not attacking their country for being like others. Perhaps there is a land where the chained wolves outnumber the domesticated dogs. But I do not know it.” One is slightly reminded of Poe’s comment in a February 14, 1849 letter to F. W. Thomas, “. . . living buried in the country makes a man savage — wolfish. I am just in the humor for a fight.”)

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“Poe is a man writhing in the mystery of his own undoing. He is a great dead soul, progressing terribly down the long process of post-mortem activity in disintegration. . . . Yet Poe is hardly an artist. He is rather a supreme scientist.” — (D. H. Lawrence, “Edgar Allan Poe,” English Review, April 1919.)

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“It is surely not without significance that it took ten years of effort to raise money enough to put a cheap and hideous tombstone upon the neglected grave [of Poe] in Baltimore, that it was not actually set up until he had been dead twenty-six years, that no contemporary American writer took any part in furthering the project, and that the only one who attended the final ceremony was Whitman.” — (H. L. Menken, “Poe,” The National Letters, Prejudices: Second Series, 1920, pp. 59-63. Reprinted in A Menken Chrestomathy, New York: Vintage Books, 1982, pp. 479-481. Menken’s opinions of Poe the writer seem to have been generally favorable, although he was substantially less generous in his opinions of Poe the man.)

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“In him [Poe] American literature is anchored, in him alone, on solid ground.” — (William Carlos William, “Edgar Allan Poe,” In the American Grain, 1925.)

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“The best poems of Poe are lovely things, indeed, but they are as devoid of logical content as so many college yells. . . . [Poe was] a genius, and if not of the first rank, then at least near the top of the second — but a foolish, disingenuous and often somewhat trashy man.” — (H. L. Menken, “As H. L. M. Sees it; Newly Published Poe Letters Do the Poet Little Credit,” The Evening Sun (Baltimore), October 31, 1925.)

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“Into the charnel hall of fame
The dead alone shall go.
Then write not there the living name
Of Edgar Allan Poe.”
— (John Bannister Tabb, “Dedication Poem,” Muse Anthology of Modern Poetry: Poe Memorial Edition, New York: Carlyle Straub, 1938, p. 12.)

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“Poe’s fame has been subject to curious undulations, and it is now a fashion amongst the ‘advanced intelligentsia’ to minimize his importance both as an artist and as an influence; but it would be hard for any mature and reflective critic to deny the tremendous value of his work and the persuasive potency of his mind as an opener of artistic vistas. . . . Certain of Poe’s tales possess an almost absolute perfection of artistic form which makes them veritable beaconlights in the province of the short story. . . . Poe’s weird tales are alive in a manner that few others can ever hope to be.” — (H[oward]. P. Lovecraft, “The Master of the Modern Horror Story,” The Recluse, 1927. Reprinted in Peter Haining, ed, The Edgar Allan Poe Scrapbook, New York: Schocken Books, 1978, pp. 126-128, which also reprints Lovecraft’s poem “Where Once Poe Walked,” from Weird Tales, May 1938.)

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“To the most sensitive and high-souled man in the world we should find it hard to forgive, shall we say, the wearing of a diamond ring on every finger. Poe does the equivalent of this in his poetry.” — (Aldous Huxley, “Vulgarity in Literature,” Saturday Review of Literature, VII, September 27, 1930, p. 158.)

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“Poe has long passed casually with me and with most of my friends as a bad writer accidentally and temporarily popular; the fact of the matter is, of course, that he has been pretty effectually established as a great writer while we have been sleeping.” — (Yvor Winters, “Edgar Allan Poe: A Crisis in the History of American Obscurantism,” American Literature, January 1937, p.)

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“That Poe had a powerful intellect is undeniable: but it seems to me the intellect of a highly gifted person before puberty.” — (T. S. Eliot, “From Poe to Valery,” Library of Congress Lecture, November 19, 1948.)

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“It would also be just to say that Poe sacrificed his life to his work, his human destiny to immortality.” — (Jorge Luis Borges, “Edgar Allan Poe,” La Nacion (Buenos Aires), October 2, 1949.)

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“A vast literature has grown up around Poe, much of it earnest and important, much of it superficial, wrong-headed, even absurd.” — (Thomas Ollive Mabbott, “Bibliography,” Selected Poetry & Prose of Edgar Allan Poe, New York: The Modern Library, 1951, pp. xv-xvi.)

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“Poe as a critic has points of resemblance both to Eliot and to Shaw. He deals vigorously and boldly with books as they come into his hands day by day, as Shaw did with the plays of the season, and manages to be brilliant and arresting even about works of no interest; and he constantly insists, as Eliot does, on attempting, in the practice of this journalism, to formulate general principles. His literary articles and lectures, in fact, surely constitute the most remarkable body of criticism ever produced in the United States.” — (Edmund Wilson, The Shock of Recognition, New York: Grosset & Dunlap, 1955, p. 79.)

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“It’s because I liked Edgar Allan Poe’s stories so much that I began to make suspense films.” — (Alfred Hitchcock, from an interview first published in 1960.)

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“. . . the essays of Eliot and Tate . . . both have been influential in creating the image of Poe now most popular with young intellectuals and would-be intellectuals. This image, though in the opinion of this reviewer somewhat distorted, is something every present-day student of Poe must consider. . . . It strikes this reviewer, however, that each of these critques reveals more of its author’s own way of feeling and thinking than it does of Poe’s. In fact, all the essays by brilliant literary men from Lawrence to Wilbur are more exciting than informative. These men read Poe’s poems and tales imaginatively and found it hard to escape from themselves; as a consequence they tended to overlook literal and obvious meanings and often attributed to Poe what at best is only half his.” — (Floyd Stovall, review of Eric Carlson’s The Recognition of Edgar Allan Poe. This review appeared in American Literature, XXXIX, No. 2, May 1967, pp. 226-227. Stovall refers to articles by T. S. Eliot, Allen Tate, D. H. Lawrence, William Carlos Williams, W. H Auden and Richard Wilbur.)

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“The reason for Poe’s relative failure is the discrepancy between the irrational nature of what he wanted to convey and the imperturbably intellectual character of his means of expression. . . . And yet it all works. The charm operates. We cannot read or reread his best tales and poems without a thrill. Though his heroes behave in a Grand Guignol manner in rather inauthentic settings and speak an unreal language, we feel a secret kinship with them. The same nightmarish monsters which haunt them roam the deeper layers of our minds. Their fears and obsessions are ours too — at least potentially. They echo in our souls and make us aware of unplumbed depths in our inmost hearts.” — (Roger Asselineau, “Edgar Allan Poe,” American Writers: A Collection of Literary Biographies, New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1974, vol. III, p. 430.)

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“A man can enter many fields without justifiably claiming the ownership of any. This is not true of Poe. He has a strong claim to the titles of our best poet, our best short story writer, and our best critic. Whether each of these titles be genuine or not, the overall achievement they represent is not easily challenged by any other American author.” — (Vincent Buranelli, Edgar Allan Poe, Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1977, pp. 130-131.)

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“Edgar Allan Poe is considered the great writer of horror stories, perhaps the greatest — I will say the greatest” — (William Friedkin, director of the 1973 classic “The Exorcist,” in “Shadows in the Dark: The Val Lewton Legacy,” 2005. Friedkin makes the statement as part of an assertion that Val Lewton — with his stylish, moody and deeply psychological films for RKO in the 1940s — was the equivalent of Poe in regard to making horror films.)

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“The first principle in writing about Poe is never to discuss how badly he performed in both prose and verse.” (Harold Bloom, “Introduction” to How to Write about Edgar Allan Poe by Susan Amper, New York: Bloom’s Literary Criticism, 2008, p. vii. This statement appears in Bloom’s strangely negative and curiously self-referential introduction to this volume in a series which touts itself as “designed to inspire students to write fine essays on great writers and their works.” Presumably, Bloom did not actually approve of the fact that Poe was to be included in this series, and perhaps Poe — whose reputation is in no need of Bloom’s good opinion — would have preferred to be omitted from the series as well.)

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“At his death, he had no grand houses or money, yet Poe left behind an estate of untold riches, and we are his very fortunate heirs.” — (Jeffrey A. Savoye, from a toast on the occasion of Poe’s Bicentennial Birthday Celebration, Baltimore, MD, January 19, 2009.)


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Bibliography:

The following items reprint commentary and criticism regarding Poe and his works:

  • Carlson, Eric W., ed, The Recognition of Edgar Allan Poe: Selected Criticism since 1829, Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1966.
  • Carlson, Eric W., ed, Critical  Essays on Edgar Allan Poe, Boston: G. K. Hall & Co., 1987.
  • Clarke, Graham, ed., Edgar Allan Poe Critical Assessments, 4 vols, East Sussex, United Kingdom: Helm Information, 1991. (This rather expensive set may be difficult to find, but reprints a great deal of useful material, most of which is also available in other collections listed here.)
  • Kesterson, David B., ed, Critics on Poe: Readings in Literary Criticism, Coral Gables, Florida: University of Miami Press, 1973.
  • Robbins, J. Albert, “Edgar Poe and His Friends: A Sampler of Letters Written to Sarah Helen Whitman,” The Indiana University Bookman, March 1960, pp. 5-45.
  • Thomas, Dwight and David K. Jackson, The Poe Log, Boston: G. K. Hall & Co., 1987. (Includes excerpts from numerous contemporary reviews of Poe’s works.)
  • Walker, Ian M., Edgar Allan Poe: The Critical Heritage, London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1986.

The following items provide indexes to original reviews and notices about Poe and his works.

  • Pollin, Burton R., “Poe ‘Viewed and Reviewed’: An Annotated Checklist of Contemporary Notices,” Poe Studies, XIII, No. 2, December 1980, pp. 17-36
  • Pollin, Burton R., “Poe in the Press: An Posthumous Assessment,” American Periodicals, II, 1992, pp. 6-50. (This checklist contains 418 items.)

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[S:1 - JAS] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - General Topics - Bits and Pieces II (Selected Quotations about Edgar Allan Poe)