Text: Thomas H. Chivers to Edgar Allan Poe — June 15, 1844


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Oaky Grove, Ga. June 15th, 1844.

My Dear Sir, — I wrote you two letters about one year ago, to which I have received no answer up to this time. I directed my Boy, who carried them to the Post office, to have the postage paid on them, but, as the Post Master was not at home, at the time, it was not done. As the postage was not paid, I presume you did not trouble yourself to take them out of the Office, and that is the reason why you did not answer them. They, no doubt, contained a great deal of nonsense, and it is well, perhaps, that you did not pay any attention to them. They contained not only the information of the death of my little Angel-child, but the kindest expression of my regard for you. I requested you to tell me whether you intended to relinquish the idea of publishing the “Penn Magazine” or not. If you intend to execute your former design, it would be well for you not only to let me know it, but to publish a Prospectus, and send it on to me, that I may obtain as many subscribers in this State as possible. I expect to receive my part of my father’s estate in July next, and should like to unite with you, provided it would be to my interest to do so. I should like for you to make a perfect exposition of the manner in which you wish me to join you. Would not the publication of such a Magazine as Graham’s, be more profitable to us ? I should like very much to know your opinion about the matter. I shall return to New York as soon as I receive my part of the estate.

When I wrote to you last, I believe it was strawberry-time. I said something about strawberries and cream. I have just been eating strawberries and honey. You will not think me an epicure when I say to you, that, in this Country, at this time of the year, such a delicious compound is the Nepenthe of my life. I am induced to believe that such a delicious, life-imparting compound was the original of the Grecian idea of the Nectar and Ambrosia of the immortal gods,

I see you still write for Graham’s Magazine. He ought to give you ten thousand dollars a year for supervising it. It is richly worth it. I believe it was through your editorial ability that it was first established. If so, he is greatly indebted to you. It is not my opinion that you ever have been, or ever will be, paid for your intellectual labours. You need never expect it, until you establish a Magazine of your own. This I would do, if I were you, as soon as possible. Then you can do as you please. You have friends in the South and West, who will support you in the undertaking. As for myself, you know I will do all I can to aid you in any enterprise of the kind. I would have joined you long ago, but for the case now in Court against the Administrator, which has kept me out of my part of the estate up to this hour.

Your criticism of “ Orion” pleased me very much. I have not yet seen the work. I should like very much to see it. Some of your remarks have long ago staggered the minds of many, although they are true in the main. Your conception of the uses or excellence of Poetry is the loftiest I have seen. There is, in the perspicuous flow of your pure English, a subtle delicacy of expression which always pleases me — except when you tomahawk people.I cannot say that I like very much your dislike to Transcendentalism. All truePoetry is certainly transcendental — although it is the beautiful expression of that which is most true. I see that H Orion “ is a reflection of that divine light. You might have said of him, in the finale of your criticism, what Shelley, the goldenmouthed Swan of Albion, says of the writings of a certain person

“Let his page
Which charms the chosen spirits of the age,
Fold itself up for a serener clime
Of years to come, and find its recompense
In that just expectation.”

In general, your criticisms are very just. I can read a Poem with greater delight after your criticism than before. I consider your definition of Poetry far superior to Lord Bacon’s -although I consider him one of the greatest men that ever existed. This I say with the utmost sincerity, because, although he was a very great man, yet he did not know everythingNo one but a Poet can know what true Poetry is. No man ever understood the spiritual beautyof Milton’s Paradise Lostas well as he did himself. The same may be said of Shakespeare, — although Mr. Knight would make us believe otherwise. A critic may know how to analyze the artistical synthesis of a Poem, without understanding the immortal soul [illegible] this divine spirit which you unfold in your criticism [illegible] them so beautiful. The artistical skill of a Poem [illegible] it invests, what the perfected body of a man is to the soul. It is the Shekinah or visible manifestation of the divinity within. Poetry is, therefore, the perfection of literature. It is the perfected artistical symbol of the most perfect wisdom of the most exalted mind. It is the Apollonian body of the truth-revealing spirit of Genius.

The Present is the “Olden time.” The World is older to-day than it was yesterday. As it is the oldest, so is it the most experienced, epoch of the world. As it is the most experienced, so is it the most wise. It is the harvest of the past. We are the Reapers of this harvest. Out of this harvest we are to sow the seeds of the one to come. That harvest is to make the world fat. Our children shall be the Reapers. They shall rejoice in the intellectual echoes of our souls. Antiquity was the childhood of mankind. The Present is the manhood of Antiquity. The Future will be the prime of life of the manhood of the Present. After this -a long time after this — will commence our perfect manhood in the eternity of the soul. Then will the word Manbe changed to that of Angel

If Plato could rise from the dead, what do you suppose he would say to this ? He would dispute it with a voice as loud as that of Jupiter Tonans, by referring me to Homer, the Nightingale of Antiquity, who is to make all coming time musical with his immortal song. He might, perhaps, call me a fool, and ask me if I had never heard of Socrates, the son of Sophroniscus. But, as Plato’s soul is now an Angel, as well as that of his Preceptor, — and, no doubt, looks down from Heaven upon me while I write — he knows, very well,that what I say is true.

I wish you would send my Poem on here, if you can by some private individual, before I return to New York, as I wish to correct it, and make it passable, if possible.I did not wish you to sell it — I only wished you to supervise it, and then, if it were worthy,to have it published. I know very well that Poetry will not sell. Nothing, in a corrupt age, will sell but corruption.How do you reconcile the intellectual improvements of this age with its immorality ?

If anything of great merit has been published lately, let me know it. I see you speak well of Lowell’s Poems. It would break my heart to be praised as he is.

Yours very truly,
[[T. H. Chivers.]]

E. A. Poe, Esqr.


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Notes:

Chiver’s signature has been clipped from the original letter. In printing this letter in 1902, Harrison misdates it as May 15, 1844.


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[S:0 - MS, 18xx] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Misc - Letters - T. H. Chivers to Poe (RCL488)