Text: Lydia H. Sigourney to Edgar Allan Poe — April 23, 1836


Hartford, Connt April 23d 1836.

My dear Sir, — Please to accept my thanks for your letter of the 12th with the January number of the “Southern Literary Messenger,” which I had not before seen. I am happy to discover the present Editor of my favourite periodical, and also to perceive how much it profits by the guidance of that powerful pen, whose versatile and brilliant creations, I have often admired.

With regard to the article which has elicited our correspondence, allow me to premise, that few entertain more exalted opinions of the majesty of criticism than myself, and of its salutary influence on national literature, when independently, yet candidly exercised. I have felt that the living writers of our country, especially those of my own sex, had been too indiscriminately fed on praise. At least, in my own case, the courtesy of the publick has so far transcended my deserts, that were it not for the deep consciousness of imperfection, I should scarcely have retained hope of improvement. With these sentiments, I should not probably be over sensitive on the subject of a review, or be restive under discipline, which I had sought to establish. —

At the same time I confess that there are points in yours, for which I was not perfectly prepared. — The exposition, however severe, of any faults in style, spirit, or construction, which I might have reformed, — would have been held cause of gratitude. But the character of a determined imitator, — and one whose reputation has been greatly assisted by chicanery, — seem to impeach both intellectual and moral integrity. — If founded in justice, they truly demand a “purgation with euphrasy and rue.” — I would be the last to invade your right of fully expressing these opinions, or to cherish the least resentment towards you for holding them. — I simply regret, even to grief, that any course of mine, could have induced you to form them. — I would not for a moment admit the idea that there is ought of equality between my writings, and that of the most gifted poet of the age, so recently reclaimed to her native sphere. — The resemblance, which my friends have imagined to exist, I have resolved into their partiality. The contents of a volume of poems, published in 1814 & selected by a friend from journals, written in early youth, without a thought of publication, & another in 1821, were composed before I had heard of Mrs. Hemans, and likewise one of 1827, — most of whose poems were in existence, before I had enjoyed the pleasure of perusing any of hers, — can therefore not be classed as imitations of that pure model.

But that I have now transgressed a rule long since adopted, not to remark on any unfavorable criticism, — must be imputed to the courtesy of your letter, — which surely merited a friendly reply, and with sincere wishes for the success of the work under your auspices, — and a benedicite on Virginia, which I love, — I remain yours,

with high respect & esteem,
L. H. Sigourney.  

E. A. Poe, Esqr.





[S:0 - MS, 18xx] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Misc - Letters - L. H. Sigourney to Poe (RCL134)