Text: Thomas H. Chivers to Edgar Allan Poe — October 30, 1845


Oaky Grove, Ga., Oct. 30, 1845.

My Dear Friend, — In the first place, I want you to let me know what is the reason you have not written to me before this? You are in the arrears two or three letters at least. In the second place, I want to know if you are unable to write to me? If so, I should like very much for you to get somebody to be your amanuensis. I have a “crow to pick with you “ — as the old saying is. I have felt like quarreling with you ever since I left New York. Solomon says, “There is a time for all things — a time to laugh — a time to weep — and a time to dance.” Well, I verily believe, from the bottom of my heart, that the venerable religious Savant was right. There is not only a time for all this, but a time in which a Man will forget his best friend. As Milton says, “We have fallen upon evil days!” There is no mistake in that. Who would have believed it ? Nobody. If an Angel had descended from Heaven and told me you would have forgotten me this early, I would not have believed him. So much for the incredulity of a friend. Now for the subject matter in hand.

I want you to tell me what you meant by telling me that I had given a false accent to Archytas, in my Poem, entitled “The Wife’s Lament for Her Husband Lost at Sea”? I felt conscious, while you were talking to me, that I was right. How, in the name of Heaven ! did you ever happen to make the mistake ? Were you not conscious, while you were talking to me, that you were wrong ? I cannot believe that you did it wilfully — as I have the highest opinion of you of any man living. It was a most astonishing oversight of your Eagle-eye. The correct accentuation is just as I have it. It is pronounced Archytas — just as I have it in my Poem. In the way that you have altered it, you have entirely changed the rhythm of the line — making a tautology of it, by repeating the words “from out” of the line above. Are not nouns in the Greek, ending as, es, os, &c., short in the last syllable ? Was I not also right in using Orion in the way that I did ? I know, very well, that the best way to use it is to lengthen the penult; but this is not the only way to pronounce it — as it is made long not by nature, but by authority. Ainsworth places a diaeresis over the first vowel of the diphthong -giving it the same pronunciation that Adams does. Adams says, “In Greek words, when a vowel comes before another, no certain rule concerning its quantity can be given.” Sometimes it is short -sometimes it is long — and often it is common — as is the case with Orion, Geryon, Eos, Chorea, &c.

I sent a Poem to Mr. Colton, some time ago, entitled “The Dying Swan,” in which is the following line, which I wish you to correct: “Until great Poseidon did hold his breath,” &c. Poseidon is the Greek God of the sea, as Neptune is of the Romans, and should have been pronounced thus Posidon — with the accent on the pen&. Therefore, I wish you to alter the line, in which you will find the above-named word, thus “ Till great Poseidon held his mighty breath, The tribute of rare audience mutely giving,” &c. I was led to make this mistake by thinking of your pronunciation of the proper name, Archytas. If you are right in regard to Archytas, I am right in the way that I have pronounced Poseidon. I have altered the line, containing Orion, thus “Now like Orion on some cloudless night,” &c. One thing is certain, I am right in regard to the pronunciation of the name of Plato’s master in Astronomy, and the great philosopher of Tarentum, and you are wrong as you said to me once. There are many lines in Horne’s Orion which are Catalectic, and some Hypercatalectic. Of the former, the following is one “ Forceful Biastor — smooth Encolyon.”

Encolyon is not pronounced En-col-y-on.

The following line is Hypercatalectic:

“ In language critical, final, stolid, astute.”

Besides, it is totally destitute of rhythm. I have discovered no such thing as this in Tennyson’s Poems. There is a fine finish — a more elaborate perfection in the Poems of Tennyson than in any Poet that ever lived. Every line is a study. Nevertheless Horne is a glorious genius, and I love him from the bottom of my heart. The “United States Journal “ publishes a mean notice of the “Star of Tycho Brache,” which you delivered in Boston. No man can be the friend of another who would give publicity to any such foul slander. If you will send it on to me, I will not call you “simple-minded,” as you did me; but will give it a handsome notice here in the South. The Hon. H. V. Johnson, in reviewing my book, has changed “simple-minded “ into sincere-minded, as this compound appeared to him to correspond better with your foregoing remarks. You see that I have given you thunder in this letter, and I now wish you to answer it, and enlighten me upon every thing to which I have adverted. Will you do so ? To be sure you will. You are the most punctual correspondent living. Remember the supernal “Oneness,” and let the Devil take the “Infernal Twoness.”

Your sincere friend forever,
Thos. H. Chivers.

E. A. Poe, Esqr.

Do not fail, for God’s sake, to write me if you will continue the B. J. for a year, and I will send you $3.00 more for it from the same person. I will send the money you spoke of soon, $45.00.





[S:0 - MS, 18xx] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Misc - Letters - T. H. Chivers to Poe (RCL577)