Text: Thomas H. Chivers to Edgar Allan Poe — September 24, 1844


Oaky Grove, Ga., Sept. 24th, 1844.

My Dear Friend, — I have been looking with great anxiety for another one of your transcendental letters in answer to mine about the intellectual advancement of man; but you have not written to me up to this time. You must write oftener. Your last letter gave me such intellectual delight — the highest pleasure that a man can enjoy on earth — such as the Angels feel in heaven — that I desire, very much, to receive another one from you. 1 have been studying it ever since I received it. There is a great deal of Seraphic wisdom contained in it. I shall say no more about your objections to my ideas of the intellectual advancement of man towards perfection, until you write to me again. I am astonished that you have not written to me before this. If you knew how much pleasure it gives me to receive a letter from you, I know you would write to me every week.

As long as the first Adam partook of the Fruit of the Tree of Life, he not only continued immortal, but increased in knowledge. His language was the dialect of heaven. He conversed with God. As soon as he forfeited that Ambrosial Fruit, he not only became mortal — subject to death — but ignorant. He ceased to hold communion with God. He spoke no more the dialect of heaven, but invented a dialect of his own. This he did out of remembrance of the first. This was the language which he spoke after he was driven out of Paradise. It was a corruption of the Poetry of Paradise, which was the echo of the Primeval World. This language was never spoken in its purity afterwards, except by the Second Adam. The languages of Moses, David, Solomon, Jeremiah and Isaiah, was the vernacular of the Prodigal First Adam.

St. Paul tells us that our redemption consists not only in the perfection of the soul, but of the body. He says, in First Corinthians, 6, 20; “Ye are bought with a price; therefore, glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s” — thereby implying that there is a twofold nature in man which requires a twofold redemption. The personal pronoun “Ye” is divided into two parts — body and soul. It is, therefore, plain that the body, to glorify God, must be redeemed as well as the soul this redemption consists in its perfection. It is the instrument of the soul. Without a perfect instrument, how can the soul elicit its functions? This shows that a physical education is as necessary, for the glorification of God, as an intellectual one. This soul and body, perfected, constitute the beautiful person of man. It is by the glorification of God, in this twofold perfected nature, that his twofold redemption is made perfectly manifest. This twofold nature of man, of body, and soul, was taught by Pythagoras the Samian, and Plato the Divine, long before St. Paul’s time. It is this twofold nature which constitutes the person of man. Without the perfection of his compound nature, it is impossible for him to give perfect glory to God. His glorifying God through his perfected physical and intellectual nature, is not only a perfect manifestation of his twofold redemption, but the highest evidence that he can give of the truth of that sublime eulogy which was pronounced upon him by the hallowed lips of David when he said that he was created “a little lower than the Angles, and crowned with glory and honour.”

My belief in the fall of man is Pelagian. It is through the exercise of the intellectual that the corporeal is perfected. The soul is the heavenly, the body the earthly, of man. As that which is heavenly is immortal, and can never die, and, consequently, must be pure; so, that which is earthly, must be mortal, and, consequently, impure. As that which is heavenly, and, consequently, immortal, must be, like God, wholly One, and, therefore, incapable of change; so, that which is earthly, and, consequently, immortal, can never, through the simple purity of its Oneness, which makes it after the image of God, sin; so, that which is earthly, and, consequently mortal, must, through its compound nature, which makes it susceptible to change, be liable alone to sin. Therefore, sin is in the earthly, not in the heavenly, part of man. Sin is the effect of a compound — not of that which is one. It is the result of mutability. All compound things are liable to change. All changing things are alone liable to err, which is sin. All changing things, being compound, are alone liable to death. Death is the changing of that which is compound, are alone liable to death. Death is the changing of that which is compound into its original elements. It is the analysis of the synthesis of our being. It is this compound nature which fits man for this world. Without this mortal-immortal nature, he could not dwell upon a world like this. As his improvement in knowledge is the exercise of the heavenly, which is the soul, through the body, which is the earthly, is thus raised, by being an instrument of he heavenly, into a dignified fellowship with it. The Venus Pandemos, who presides over the animal feelings, is then elevated, by the wisdom which is shed abroad upon her from the divine countenance of the Venus Urania, who presides over the intellectual faculties. Therefore, he who devotes the most of his time to the procurement of knowledge, tends, just in that proportion, to perfect his nature, or make his earthly-heavenly — his terrestrial-celestial — more like the wholly celestial. Man is a compound of two opposites — the one life, soul, mind — the other body, or death. He is therefore, a living death. We can now see why knowledge is happiness; because it [[assists]] the being, who possesses it, to know how to be. It not only prepares us, by showing us how, to die. Thus it is that knowledge is power. Happiness is the result of the perfection of the physical and intellectual nature. The perfection of the physical and intellectual nature consists in the educated richness of the soul in original thought. It prepares the soul for the enjoyment of immortal happiness.

Wisdom is the Endymion who causes, while lying upon the Latmos of this world, the enamoured Angel Virtue — the Diana of Truth — to come down nightly from heaven to enjoy his company. This Diana of Truth, or the Moon of Peace, is the Urania of the soul, who presides over the constellations of the heaven of wisdom, which shine to light us back again into the Jasper-walled and many-gated City of Pure Gold of the Living God.

The Prophet Elijah was a Man preeminent in holiness, who, as a recompense for his fidelity to God, was translated, without tasting the bitterness of death, into the habitations of the righteous to enjoy the beatitudes of heaven. This could not have been, had he not been a perfect Man. The same may be said of Enoch. His perfection, which mad[[e]] the offering of himself acceptable in the sight of God, consisted in the twofold perfection of his soul and body. He was hailed by a gloriou[[s]] company of Ministering Angels, from the Golden Hills of Immortali[[ty]] as he ascended up to heaven in a fiery Chariot through the parting clouds from an astonished world.

St. Paul says, in speaking of the resurrection, that “mortal shall put on immortality.” Before a many can enjoy the felicities of Paradise, or the Scheol of the departed, he must be purified to enter it. This purification consists in the perfection of the physical and intellectual nature. This is done, as Socrates says, by embracing the True Philosophy. This True Philosophy is that heaven-born wisdom which the Son of Mary brought down from heaven with him when he came on earth to humanize mankind. He who walks in the light of the Sun of Righteousness shall fear no darkness — not even the darkness of the Grave; but he shall be conducted by it into the “Pure Earth” of Plato, to hold communion with the ransomed kings of deathless melody — the mighty Sages of immortal thought. Then shall he unite with them in that sublime chorus which Shelley now makes the Patriots of Antiquity sing with him in heaven —

“Drink! be the nectar circling through your veins
The soul of joy, ye Everliving gods!
Till exultation burst in one wide voice,
Like music from Elysian winds!”

Write to me as soon as you receive this, if you have not written before. Direct to Washington, Wilkes County, Ga. I will be in New York soon.

As Fra Paolo Sorpi said of his native land — Esta perpetua — may you live forever.

Your friend forever more,
Thos. H. Chivers.

Edgar A. Poe, Esq.

P. S . — Why do you call your Periodical the “Stylus”? Would not The Sibyl be more poetical? “The Orion” is the most beautiful title for a Periodical that I have ever seen; but it is a Southern constellation, and, therefore, would not do so well for the North. If you will write me in what number of the “Colombian Magazine” your “Mesmeric Revelation” is published, I can get it in Augusta. Can “The Maid of Brittany,” by J. R. Lowell, be sent by Mail? If it can, if you will write me the price, I will send on the money by the Post Master and get it. It is not in this part of the world.

Write me word what you think of “Brownson’s Quarterly.” I want to get a work on “St. Simonism,” reviewed some years ago by O. A. Brownson of Boston — also another work of a similar nature, by a Frenchman, but I have forgotten his name, reviewed by O. A. Brownson, at, or about, the same time. If you can give me any information on the subject, do so. I have been thinking that I would write on to Brownson about them, but as you probably know as much about such matters as he does, it is of no use, when I would greatly prefer to write to you. I would freely travel from here to New York to hear you lecture on “American Poetry.” You ought to have been here this Summer to have eaten peaches and milk. T. H. C.



In printing this letter in 1902, Harrison omitted paragraphs 2-7, and also the lines from Shelley, of the original letter. A footnote states that the excised material is “a long, rambling discussion on transcendentalism” (p. 189). This missing text has been restored here.


[S:0 - MS, 18xx] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Misc - Letters - T. H. Chivers to Poe (RCL497)