Text: William E. Burton to Edgar Allan Poe — May 30, 1839


My dear Sir,

I am sorry that you thought necessary to send me such a letter as your last. The troubles of the world have given a morbid tone to your feelings which it is your duty to discourage. I cannot agree to entertain your proposition, either in justice to yourself or to my own interests. The worldly experience of which you speak has not taught me [to] conciliate authors of whom I know nothing and from whom I can expect nothing. Such a supposition is but a poor comment upon my honesty of opinion, or the principles of expediency which you would insinuate as actuating my conduct. I have been as severely handled in the world as you can possibly have been, but my sufferings have not tinged my mind with a melancholy hue, nor do I allow my views of my fellow creatures to be jaundiced by the fogs of my own creation. You must rouse your energies, and conquer the insidious attacks of the foul fiend, care. We shall agree very well, but you must get rid of your avowed ill-feelings towards your brother authors — you see that I speak plainly — indeed, I cannot speak otherwise. Several of my friends, hearing of our connexion, have warned me of your uncalled-for severity in criticism — and I confess that your article on Dawes is not written with that spirit of fairness which, in a more healthy state of mind, you would undoubtedly have used. The independence of my book reviews has been noticed throughout the Union — my remarks upon my friend Bird’s last novel evince my freedom from the trammels of expediency, but there is no need for undue severity. I wish particularly to deal leniently with the faults of genius, and feeling satisfied that Dawes possesses a portion of the true fire, I regretted the word-catching tone of your critique.

Let us meet as if we had not exchanged letters. Use more exercise, write only when the feelings prompt, and be assured of my friendship. You will soon regain a wholesome activity of mind, and laugh at your past vagaries. I am, my dear Sir, Your obedient servant, W E Burton

Phila. May 30, 1839.



In his infamous memoir of Poe (1850, p. xvi; 1853, p. xxxii), Griswold quotes this letter, with several significant differences, presumably made by Griswold.himself.


[S:0 - MS, 18xx] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Misc - Letters - W. E. Burton to Poe (RCL185)