Text: Phillip P. Cooke to Edgar Allan Poe — September 16, 1839


My Dear Sir, — I received your friendly letter a long time ago but have scarcely been at home since its receipt. My wife enticed me off to visit her kins-people in the country, and I saw more of guns & horses and dogs than of pens and paper. Amongst dinners, barbecues, snipe shooting, riding parties Ax. I could not gain my brains into the humour for writing to you or to any body else. I reached home two days ago, & now “hasten slowly” to assure you of my undiminished regard & 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 Genns. Magae [[Burton’s 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 & tickled at my fingers-ends has been considerably cured by a profession & matrimony — money-cares and domestic squabbles — buying beef & mutton, and curing my child’s croups, colicks, &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 impertinent 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 & 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 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 cut 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. Crummles 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, & where, you first saw her — with which you begin your narrative, is usual, & not at all wondered at, in dreams. Such dimness of recollection does not 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 Gentlemn’s Mag. shortly & also “contribute” to it.

Yrs. sincerely
P. P. Cooke.

Charlestown, Sep. 16, 1839

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





[S:0 - MS, 18xx] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Misc - Letters - P. P. Cooke to Poe (RCL200)