Text: William Wirt to Edgar Allan Poe — May 11, 1829


Baltimore May 11, 1829.

Dear Sir: —

It occurred to me, after you left me this morning, that I was probably losing you a day on your journey to Philadelphia, by proposing to detain your poem even until tomorrow, as I understand the day-boat 1 has commenced her spring trips between the cities. I thought it due to your convenience, therefore, to read the poem at once, and send it tonight.

I am sensible of the compliment you pay me in submitting it to my judgment and only regret that you have not a better counsellor. But the truth is that having never written poetry myself, nor read much poetry for many years, I consider myself as by no means a competent judge [[portion of letter cut out]] poems. This is no doubt an old-fashioned idea resulting from the causes I have mentioned, my ignorance of modern poetry and modern taste. You perceive therefore that I am not qualified to judge of the merits of your poem. It will, I know, please modern readers — the notes contain a good deal of curious and useful information — but to deal candidly with you (as I am bound to do) I should doubt whether the poem will take with old-fashioned readers like myself. But this will be of little consequence — provided it be popular with modern readers — and this, as I have already said, I am unqualified to judge. I would advise you, therefore, as a friend to get an introduction to Mr. Walsh or Mr. Hopkinson or some other critic in Philadelphia, versed in modern [[the rest of the letter, and the signature, have been clipped from the original letter]]



T. O. Mabbott notes “the biographer may like to know that an advertisement from the Baltimore Republican, July 13, 1829 (in NYPL) reads: ‘The Citizens’ Canal Line of Steam Boats, leaves the intersection of Light and Pratt streets, every day, (Sundays excepted) for Philadelphia at 6 o’clock in the morning.” The signature may have been clipped by Poe himself, who noted to E. A. Duyckinck in a letter of April 28, 1846, “I have well-preserved letters from . . . . Wirt . . . . and some others — and I would exchange them for books.”


[S:0 - MS, 18xx] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Misc - Letters - W. Wirt to Poe (RCL022)