Text: E. H. N. Patterson, “Literary Fame,” Oquawka Spectator, vol. II, no. 40 (whole no. 92), November 7, 1849, p. 2, col. 2


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“With considerable capacity for continued mental labor, he yet produced no great works on which to build his name; and the consequence is that in fifty years his reputation, like that of Denny [[Dennie]], will be merely traditional.”

We copy the above from an article relative to Edgar A. Poe which we find in the Saturday Gazette, for the purpose of expressing our disagreement from the conclusion at which the editor of that paper has arrived. That Mr. Poe’s fame will ever become “merely traditional” we cannot believe; so long as our language endures will that remarkable poem — the “Raven” — continue to be read with interest.

An author’s reputation must not be estimated by his capacity for producing voluminous works; the cumbrous folios which have been, from time to time, foisted upon the public, only to be laid aside as useless embodyments of the dullness of the drones who produced them, serve to point out the folly of making mere bulk our criterion in estimating an author’s fame. It is the display of that highest order of intellect — GENIUS — that will insure to its possessor, in its display, an undying fame: Gray, for instance, will never be forgotten while man is capable of appreciating true poetry; and it is not saying too much to assert that his fame rests solely upon his “Elegy in a country churchyard.” There is in this brief poem all the elements of true poetic talent, and it will never cease to be read — nor will it ever be read without eliciting the conviction that its author was a poet of the highest order of talent. The same may be said of Poe’s “Raven;” it bears all the essential marks of greatness, which, combined with its originality of versification, renders it one of the most remarkable poems ever written. That such a poem as this, distinguished for its originality, its beauty of style, its melody of versification, and the extraordinary display of genius made manifest in its composition, can ever be suffered to go out of print, is a supposition founded in an erroneous estimate of the human mind; the “Raven” cannot become obsolete — it is destined to remain coëxistent with our language, and the fame attached to its author will ever be green in the hearts of its readers. — Poe’s “Eureka: or System of the Universe” is another work, not so well known as the “Raven,” but equally deserving of the epithet “great,” — not great in bulk, but in the extraordinary display of the imagination, and for the deep and almost incontrovertible train of reasoning, founded upon the proposition that Beauty and Consistency constitute Truth, which renders probable that which before seemed impossible.

But this subject affords ample room for an essay, which our want of space will not permit us to occupy; it is enough for our present purpose if we are judged to be correct in our proposition that a truly great work is one in which a mighty intellect is displayed — that literary fame rests not upon the size of an author’s books but upon their character. Gray’s “Elegy” is great work — such, the “Raven” — such, Halleck’s “Marco Bozzaris,” which will be read and admired when his other poems are forgotten.

The grave may hide the wasted form of the penury-smitten and unhappy Poe — Heaven may become the resting place of the soul of the gifted poet, but the great intellect which he possessed, the name which he bore, and the great poem which he has left us, no Lethean wave can ever obliterate from the tablets of human memory.



Joseph Dennie (1768-1812) was a prominent American journalist, essayist and editor.


[S:1 - OQS (microfilm), 1849] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Bookshelf - Literary Fame (E. H. N. Patterson, 1849)