Text: William F. Gill, “Chapter 03”, The Life of Edgar Allan Poe, New York: D. Appleton & Co., 1877, pp. 3-6


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­[page 40:]

CHAPTER III.

EARLY HARDSHIPS.

1827-1834.

Home from School — First Quarrel with Mr. Allan — First Meeting with Virginia Clemm — A Second Edition of Juvenile Poems — A Griswold Fabrication Disproved — William Henry Leonard Poe — Poe and the Milford Bard — An Amusing Poetic Duel — Poe at West Point — A Third Edition of Poems — The True Story of Poe’s Dismissal from West Point — Another Quarrel with Mr. Allan — Second Marriage of Mr. Allan — Poe at Mrs. Clemm’s — A Lie Refuted — The Baltimore Prizes — Mr. J.. H. B. Latrobe’s Account — Poe and Hewitt — Pen Photograph of the Poet at 24 years — “Adventures of Hans Pfaal” — The Heir Expectant Left Penniless.

RETURNING home after completing his college career, Poe, like other spoiled children of pampering fathers, found that the fruits of the heedless indulgence in which he had been reared, were not acceptable to his foster father, when they came in the guise of drafts given to pay gambling debts.

Mr. Allan declining to pay some of these drafts, the high-spirited youth’ left the Allans’ house in high dudgeon, and took refuge, for the ­[page 41:] time being, with his father’s sister, Mrs. Maria Clemm.

Here he first saw his cousin Virginia, then a fairy-like child of six years. He naturally became interested in his pretty little relative, and undertook her education by way of occupation. About his time, he published a second edition of juvenile poems, his estrangement from his foster father and dependence upon his aunt having probably suggested the publication.*

Most authors are more sanguine as to the success of their first book than at a later period, when experience has taught them wisdom; and young Poe was, it is presumed, not an exception in this respect.

Griswold writes that Poe, after quitting the Allans at this time, left the country with the quixotic intention of joining the Greeks, then in the midst of their struggle with the Turks.

According to this unscrupulous writer, “he never reached his destination, and we know but little of his adventures in Europe for nearly a year. ­[page 42:]

“By the end of this time he had made his way to St. Petersburg, and our minister in that capitol, the late Mr. Henry Middleton, of South Carolina, was summoned one morning to save him from penalties incurred in a drunken debauch. Through Mr. Middleton’s kindness, he was set at liberty and enabled to return to this country.” Whether this is, like other statements from this source, a fabrication from beginning to end, or takes its color from a story told of an adventure of William Henry Poe, the brother of Edgar, cannot be determined. Certain it is, however, that our poet never set foot in Europe at all; his cousin, Mr. Neilson Poe, a prominent attorney, now residing in Baltimore, authorizing the statement, that to his positive knowledge Poe never left America at any time, although his brother did make a European trip.

This brother, William Henry Leonard Poe, was a young man of fine appearance, prepossessing countenance, and an intellectual forehead.

A phrenologist at a glance would pronounce his head a fine one, although the animal propensities greatly overbalanced the moral and intellectual. ­[page 43:]

He was a young man of irregular habits, of a sanguine temperament, and a poet of some promise. He died in early manhood. As it has been said, that, had he lived, he would have rivalled his more renowned brother, we give some specimens of his verse contributed to the “Minerva,” a weekly paper conducted by Mr. J. H. Hewitt, of Baltimore:

TO ——.

A bitter tear for thee is shed,

Friend of my soul, fair child of feeling!

The hopes that once existence fed,

Now live no more; the heart that bled

For thee in self-contempt congealing.

Twine not for me a roseate wreath, —

‘T will wither on the brow of care;

But cull from the silent bed of death.

Blossoms that flourish sadly there;

Sighs may expand their hour of bloom.

Tears make them glitter through the gloom,

But oh I the light of smiles may blight

The tender blossoms of the tomb.

Go, and in fashion’s plumage gay.

Though it was won by years of sorrow,

Pluck care from out thy soul, and say,

“I’ll wear the smile of joy to-day.

Though anguish wring my heart to-morrow.” ­[page 44:]

And with thee take my heart; it is thine

Though guilty and too frail to trust;

While I, alone, unknown, shall pine

And banquet on my soul’s disgust.

Live, if thou canst, devoid of art,

Rich in pure tenderness of heart,

And on thy way may Virtue’s ray

With all its soft effulgence dart.

Farewell I thy face is clouded now,

But soon a thousand smiles will flutter

Around thy lips, and that proud brow

Shall wear away the plighted vow

Thy lying lips now softly utter.

Go, and a heaven of peace be thine.

The fairest flowers the eye can find ]

Be on thy path; should mem’ry shine

Upon the friend thou leavest behind,

Give to his fate a heartfelt tear.

But still let pleasure’s sunshine peer

Upon thy heart, where’er thou art, —

It will not make thy form less dear.

———

TO MINNIE.

The rose that gloried on your breast.

And drew life from your glowing heart,

Has oft to mine been closely pressed.

Too close, too fondly e’er to part. ­[page 45:]

Why did you spurn it from its home

The sunshine of those sparkling eyes?

Tis near my heart, yet will not bloom,

But withers in my tears and sighs.

Although its perfume still remains,

Yet every leaf conceals a thorn;

Just like the heart in sorrow’s chains

When every ray of hope is gone.

And like that rose, affection wears.

At first, a tint as pure and gay,

Till ‘neath the tide of worldly cares.

Its smiles of beauty fade away.

But still behind it leaves a pain,

A quick and penetrating smart.

The thorns of blasted hope remain.

And pierce the sad and broken heart.

The publication of Poe’s book of verses excited no especial public comment at the time of their issue.

There were, in fact, but two literary journals in Baltimore at this time, and the only paper that noticed the work critically, “The Minerva,” handled it rather roughly. Many of the verses were crude to a degree, and the enterprise that has led to their recent republication, contrary to ­[page 46:] the expressed dictum of the poet, seems incomprehensible.

An amusing episode, connected with the career of the young poet at this time, is narrated by a Baltimore acquaintance of Poe. The “Milford Bard,” who flourished in Baltimore in these days, was an M.D., upon whom the muses had, it is said, looked with some favor. His verses, however, were couched in a most erratic vein.

The Bard wrote a great number of fugitive pieces in poetry and prose, which appeared in the local journals of the day.

He was very jealous of Edgar Poe, and endeavored, to the best of his ability, to depreciate him in the estimation of the reading public.

He indulged in alcoholic potations, and, not infrequently, would, under this influence, commit acts which would cause him deep mortification in his sober moments.

One day, while Poe was poring over some books at his publisher’s store, the “Bard” entered, shabbily dressed and with unsteady gait.

The poets were unacquainted personally, and did not recognize each other.

The Bard was loquacious and consequential, after the manner of men in his condition. ­[page 47:]

“How does my volume go off?” asked the Bard of the bookseller.

“Pretty fairly, considering all things,” was the reply.

“Considering all things!What do you mean by that?” asked the inebriated rhymester.

“Why, in the first place, the shockingly bad likeness that disfigures the book is complained of,” responded the merchant. “The ladies say it is nothing at all like you — not handsome enough. In the second place, the publication does no credit to the printer.”

“It is a confounded sight neater work than Poe’s,” rejoined the Bard. “That fellow, conscious of his ugliness, hadn’t the temerity to put his phiz in his book, for fear that it might injure the sale of it. Besides being neater, my volume contains true poetry; whereas Poe’s ——”

Here the bookseller, perceiving the threatening storm, vainly endeavored to check the garrulous braggart; but the Bard had got upon his pet hobby, and he must needs ride it to the end.

“Who’s this Poe, anyhow?” continued he; “an upstart, at best. Here have I been writing for years, and what’s my reward? Rags and starvation! ­[page 48:] Why, sir, there’s not a particle of genius in the man; his ideas are wild and disconnected; his verses hobble, and there’s nothing in them that can for a moment excite the sympathy of the reader. Pooh I talk about Poe being a true poet. He may Poe it all his life, and die forgotten.”

The Bard wound up breathless at last, by asking the bookseller to advance him some money on the sales of his book, as he had not eaten a morsel of food for two days.

Poe had listened to the abuse of the maudlin M.D., and as he stopped at last, he threw down the book he had been pretending to peruse, and stepping up to his rival, with face glowing with indignation, addressed him:

“You are the Milford Bard, I presume, sir.”

“That’s me,” answered the Bard; “and I expect you are Edgar Poe.”

“Exactly so,” was the rejoinder. “Now, sir, let me enlighten you on one point on which you appear to be totally ignorant.

“Nature rather missed it when she attempted to instil into your brain even a moiety of true poetry. Write on, and flood the world with your trash. ­[page 49:] but don’t attempt to pass judgment on the efforts of others. You are a worse judge than poet. The Creator didn’t intend you should be either.” The Bard cowered beneath the withering glance of his high-spirited young rival, but, putting on a swaggering air, he retorted, “I’ll bet you five dollars I can write more stanzas in one hour than you can in a whole day.”

Young Poe’s lip curled in scorn, although he seemed half-inclined to pity the wretched inebriate, who, with his hands crammed into his pockets, and an ineffably stupid expression upon his face, stood swaying from one side to the other.

“I don’t think you have five cents to lose, much less five dollars,” he replied; “but,” with a wink to the bookseller, “I’ll accept your challenge.”

“Done!”shouted the Bard.

Pencil and paper were furnished, and the rivals began the tournament of rhymes.

The Bard was strong on his rhyme, although as much cannot be said for his reason. Poe wrote poetry. The Bard wrote the veriest nonsense; but in quantity he tipped the scale. When the particulars of this unique contest got abroad, ­[page 50:] there was many a gibe cracked at the young poet’s expense, among the littérateurs of Baltimore.

In February, 1829, Poe, learning of the mortal sickness of his adopted mother, Mrs. Allan, hastened to Richmond. He was too late to take a last farewell of her, death having claimed her before the poet had reached his former home.

His visit to the Allan’s house seems, however, for the time being, to have reconciled Mr. Allan to Poe, and, through his foster father’s influence, a nomination to a scholarship at West Point was obtained.

Poe entered the military academy at West Point on the 1st of July, 1830.

For a time he pursued the exacting course of studies with enthusiasm, headed every class, and seemed delighted with everything.

But soon the unvarying discipline and irksome routine work began to tell upon his sensitive organization, and he chafed under his. restraint with ill-concealed impatience.

During this restless period of his sojourn at West Point, he published a third and enlarged edition of his juvenile poems.* ­[page 51:]

The volume was dedicated to the’’United States Corps of Cadets,” and although ridiculed by the embryo warriors, was quite generally subscribed for by them at the tolerably high figure of $2.50 for a copy of the book, which was a veiy thin i2mo of 124 pages, printed on paper of a dirty-brown shade.

General Geo. W. Callum, of the United States army, who was a cadet in the class below Poe at this time, writes of him, “He was a heedless boy, very eccentric, and of course preferred writing verses to solving equations.

“While at the academy, he published a small volume of poems dedicated to Bulwer, in a long random letter. These verses were the source of great merriment with us boys, who considered the author cracked, and the verses ridiculous doggerel.

“Even after the lapse of forty years, I can now recall these lines from ‘Isabel:’

“‘Was not that a fairy ray, Isabel?

How fantastically it fell,

With a spiral twist and a swell,

And over the wet grass rippled away.

Like the tinkling of a bell.’ “ ­[page 52:]

His early training, with the petted indulgences of his childhood days, were little calculated to prepare him for the strict regime of our severest military school, and he gradually lost his interest in study there, became abstracted, and shirked his military duties as persistently as he had followed them at first.

Finding himself thus totally unadapted, by training and temperament, to the exigencies of the place, he determined to leave it.

At West Point it is necessary, in order to achieve such a step, to obtain permission from the parent or guardian. For this permission, Poe wrote to Mr. Allan, who flatly refused it; this refusal Mr. Poe presented to Col. Thayer, the superintendent of the “Post,” who declined interfering with the rules, or to accept the resignation. This was about the period that Poland made the desperate and unfortunate struggle for independence, against the combined powers of Russia, Austria and Prussia, which terminated in the capitulation of Warsaw, and the annihilation of the kingdom. All the cadet’s former chivalric vigor had now returned, and with increased vigor. He burned to be a participant in ­[page 53:] the affray. But to do this, it was doubly necessary to leave West Point. There was one resource yet left him; this he took. He positively refused to do duty of any kind, disobeyed all orders, and, keeping closely to his quarters, amused himself with caricaturing and pasquinading the professors. There was a gentleman named Joseph Locke, who had made himself especially obnoxious, through his pertinacity in reporting the pranks of the cadets. At West Point a report is no every-day matter, but a very serious thing. Each “report” counts a certain number against the offender, is charged to his account, and when the whole exceeds a stated sum, he is liable to dismissal. Poe at this time, it seems, wrote a lengthy and audacious lampoon against this Mr. Locke, of which the following are the only stanzas preserved: —

“As for Locke, he is all in my eye,

May the devil right soon for his soul call.

He never was known to lie

In bed at a reveille roll-call.

“John Locke was a notable name:

Joe Locke is a greater; in short,

The former is well known to fame,

But the latter’s well known to report.” ­[page 54:]

The result of this was just what Poe intended it should be. For some time Colonel Thayer, to whose good offices the young cadet had been personally recommended by General Scott, overlooked these misdemeanors. But at length, the matter becoming too serious, charges were instituted against Poe for “neglect of duty, and disobedience of orders” (nothing was said about the lampoons), and he was tried by a court-martial. There were innumerable specifications, to all of which, by way of saving time, he pleaded guilty, although some of them were thoroughly absurd. In a word, he was cashiered nem. con., and went on his way rejoicing.

But not, however, to Poland. The capitulation had been effected, and that unfortunate country was no more.

In spite of statements to the contrary, Poe at this time returned to Mr. Allan’s house at Richmond, and was received by him. Here he met a Miss Royster, to whom he paid attentions, which were favorably received by the lady. But Mr. Allan was determinedly opposed to the match, and a furious quarrel, on this account, occurred between Poe and his foster father. ­[page 55:]

Poe again left Mr. Allan’s house, and took refuge with his aunt, Mrs. Clemm. Shortly after the breach between Mr. Allan and Poe, the poet was amazed by the intelligence that his foster father had married a beautiful young lady, a Miss Patterson, of Richmond.

Dr. Griswold, with a semblance of shame that is unaccountable as emanating from him, relates, in a learned foot-note in his memoir, full of dark suggestions, quoted liberally from Sir Thomas Browne, that there is another side to the story of the final quarrel between Mr. Allan and Poe, in which Miss Patterson is supposed to figure. We regard this innuendo as perhaps the most diabolical of the many unjustifiable besmirchings which Griswold has heaped upon Poe; for, whatever may have been the poet’s faults, that he was chaste as ice, all competent authorities unite in attesting. Honi soit qui mal y pense. He was romantic, chivalrous, not sensual.

But Griswold was a sensualist and a libertine of a very low order. He knew no standard of morality higher than his own.

With the birth of a son to Mr. Allan by his second wife, Poe’s hopes of inheriting received a ­[page 56:] final blow, and in the congenial society of his aunt and his fairy cousin Virginia, to whom he was destined to be a Paul, he devoted himself to literary work, not at the outset, it would seem, for profit, but as a diversion for his otherwise idle hours.

Until very recently, the whereabouts of Poe during this period have been veiled from his biographers, and the gap left unfilled until now, except by the mendacities of Dr. Griswold. The doctor, not having any facts at hand to mortise into this gap, comes to the rescue of his impotent researches, and, after his usual manner, placidly invents another piece of defamatory fiction.

“His contributions,” says Dr. Griswold, “attracted little attention, and his hopes of gaining a living in this way being disappointed, he enlisted in the army as a private soldier. How long he remained in the army I have not been able to ascertain. He was recognized by officers who had known him at West Point, and efforts were made privately, but with prospects, to obtain for him a commission, when it was discovered by his friends that he had deserted.” The facts are, on the written testimony of Mrs. ­[page 57:] Clemm, that at this time his friends were seeking for him a commission, and it is folly to believe, when the prospects were favorable for his securing a higher position, that he would have enlisted as a private, and thus deliberately and unnecessarily have incurred the penalty and disgrace of desertion. That Mrs. Clemm, at least, was in full knowledge of his whereabouts at this time, is evident from her statement made in this regard, that Poe never slept one night away from home until after he was married. It is futile to say, as one of Poe’s friendly contemporaries has said, that such an audacious rumor should never have obtained admission into a memoir of Poe, and that it never would have done so, had proper inquiries been made. Griswold never cared to make inquiries; and if he had, he was not the man ever to have made proper inquiries.

An important event in the poet’s life was his appearance as a competitor for the prizes offered by the proprietor of the “Saturday Visitor,” at Baltimore. The prizes were, one for the best tale and one for the best poem. Dr. Griswold states that, attracted by the beauty of Poe’s penmanship, the committee, without ­[page 58:] opening any of the other manuscripts, voted unanimously that the prizes should be paid to’’the first of geniuses who had written legibly”. “On the contrary, there appeared in the “Visitor,” after the awards were made, complimentary comments over the committee’s own signatures. They said, among other things, that all the tales offered by Poe were far better than the best offered by others; adding “that they thought it a duty to call public attention to them in these columns in that marked manner, since they possessed a singular force and beauty, and were eminently distinguished by a rare, vigorous and poetical imagination, a rich style, a fertile invention and varied and curious learning.”

The committee comprised three of the most prominent citizens of Baltimore at that time, Messrs. John P. Kennedy, James H. Miller and J. H. B. Latrobe.

The story of this award and its sequence has been graphically related by Mr. Latrobe, who is now a hale old gentleman of seventy-six years.

We had the pleasure of hearing the following narrative from Mr. Latrobe’s own lips: — ­[page 59:]

“About the year 1832, there was a newspaper in Baltimore, called’saturday Review’ — an ephemeral publication, that aimed at amusing its readers with light literary productions rather than the news of the day. One of its efforts was to produce original tales; and to this end it offered on this occasion two prizes, one for the best story and the other for the best short poem — one hundred dollars for the first, and fifty dollars for the last. The judges appointed by the editor of the ‘Visitor’ were the late John P. Kennedy, Dr. James H. Miller (now deceased) and myself, and accordingly we met, one pleasant afternoon, in the back parlor of my house on Mulberry Street, and, seated round a table garnished with some old wine and some good cigars, commenced our critical labors. As I happened then to be the youngest of the three, I was required to open the packages of prose and poetry, respectively, and read the contents. Alongside of me was a basket to hold what we might reject.

“I remember well that the first production taken from the top of the prose pile was in a woman’s hand, written very distinctly, as, indeed, were all the articles submitted, and so neady that it ­[page 60:] seemed a pity not to award to it a prize. It was ruthlessly criticized, however, for it was ridiculously bad — namby-pamby in the extreme — full of sentiment, and of the school then known as the Laura Matilda school. The first page would have consigned it to the basket as our critical guillotine beheaded it. Gallantry, however, caused it to be read through, when in it went, along with the envelope containing the name of the writer, which, of course, remained unknown. The next piece I have no recollection of, except that a dozen lines consigned it to the basket. I remember that the third, perhaps the fourth, production was recognized as a translation from the French, with a terrific dénoĆ»ement. It was a poor translation, too; for, falling into literal accuracy, the writer had, in many places, followed the French idioms. The story was not without merit, but the Sir Fretful Plagiary of a translator described the charge of Sheridan in the’ Critic,’ of being like a beggar who had stolen another man’s child and clothed it in his own rags. Of the remaining productions I have no recollection. Some were condemned after a few sentences had been read. Some were laid aside for reconsideration ­[page 61:] — not many. These last failed to pass muster afterwards, and the committee had about made up their minds that there was nothing before them to which they would award a prize, when I noticed a small quarto-bound book that had until then accidentally escaped attention, possibly because so unlike, externally, the bundles of manuscript that it had to compete with. Opening it, an envelope with a motto corresponding with one in the book appeared, and we found that our prose examination was still incomplete. Instead of the common cursive manuscript, the writing was in Roman characters — an imitation of printing. I remember that while reading the first page to myself, Mr. Kennedy and the doctor had filled their glasses and lit their cigars, and when I said that we seemed at last to have a prospect of awarding the prize, they laughed as though they doubted it, and settled themselves in their comfortable chairs as I began to read. I had not proceeded far, before my colleagues became as much interested as myself. The first tale finished, I went to the second, then to the next, and did not stop until I had gone through the volume, interrupted only by such ­[page 62:] exclamations as ‘Capital!’ ‘Excellent!’’ How odd!’ and the like from my companions. There was genius in everything they listened to; there was no uncertain grammar, no feeble phraseology, no ill-placed punctuation, no worn-out truisms, no strong thought elaborated into weakness. Logic and imagination were combined in rare consistency. Sometimes the writer created in his mind a world of his own, and then described it — a world so weird, so strange —

‘Far down by the dim lake of Auber;

In the misty mid-region of Wier;

Far down by the dank tarn of Auber,

In the ghoul-haunted woodland of Wier’ —

and withal so fascinating, so wonderfully graphic, that it seemed for the moment to have all the truth of a reality. There was an analysis of complicated facts — an unravelling of circumstantial evidence that won the lawyer judges — an amount of accurate scientific knowledge that charmed their accomplished colleague — a pure classic diction that delighted all three.

“When the reading was completed, there was a difficulty of choice. Portions of the tales were read again, and finally the committee selected ­[page 63:]

‘A MS. found in a Bottle.’ One of the series was called ‘A Descent into the Maelstrom,’ and this was at one time preferred. I cannot now recall the names of all the tales. There must have been six or eight. But all the circumstances of the selection ultimately made, have been so often since referred to in conversation, that my memory has been kept fresh, and I see my fellow-judges over their wine and cigars, in their easy-chairs — both genial, hearty men, in pleasant mood, as distinctly now as though I were describing an event of yesterday.

“Having made the selection and awarded the one hundred dollar prize, not, as has been said most unjustly and ill-naturedly, because the manuscript was legible, but because of the unquestionable genius and great originality of the writer, we were at liberty to open the envelope that identified him, and there we found in the note, whose motto corresponded with that of the little volume, the name, which I see you anticipate, of Edgar Allan Poe.

“The statement of Dr. Griswold’s life, prefixed to the common edition of Poe’s works, that ‘it was unanimously decided by the committee that ­[page 64:] the prize should be given to the first genius who had written legibly — not another MS. was unfolded,’ is absolutely untrue.

“Refreshed by this most unexpected change in the character of the contributions, the committee refilled their glasses and relit their cigars, and the reader began upon the poetry. This, although better in the main than the prose, was bad enough, and when we had gone more or less thoroughly over the pile of manuscript, two pieces only were deemed worthy of consideration. The title of one was ‘The Colisseum,’ the written printing of which told that it was Poe’s. The title of the other I have forgotten: but upon opening the accompanying envelope we found that the author was Mr. John H. Hewitt, still living in Baltimore, and well known, I believe, in the musical world, both as a poet and composer. I am not prepared to say that the committee may not have been biased in awarding the fifty dollar prize to Mr. Hewitt by the fact that they had already given the one hundred dollar prize to Mr. Poe. I recollect, however, that we agreed that, under the circumstances, the excellence of Mr. Hewitt’s poem deserved a ­[page 65:] reward, and we gave the smaller prize to him with clear consciences.

“I believe that up to this time not one of the committee had ever seen Mr. Poe, and it is my impression that I was the only one that had ever heard of him. When his name was read, I remembered that on one occasion Mr. Wm. Gwynn, a prominent member of the bar of Baltimore, had shown me the very neat manuscript of a poem called’ Al Aaraaf,’ which he spoke of as indicative of a tendency to anything but the business of matter-of-fact life. Those of my hearers who are familiar with the poet’s works will recollect it as one of his earlier productions. Although Mr. Gwynn, being an admirable lawyer, was noted as the author of wise and witty epigrams in verse, ‘Al Aaraaf’ was not in his vein, and what he said of the writer had not prepared me for the productions before the committee. His name, I am sure, was not at the time a familiar one.

“The next number of the’saturday Visitor’ contained the ‘MS. found in a Bottle,’ and announced the author. My office, in those days, was in the building still occupied by the Mechanics’ ­[page 66:] Bank, and I was seated at my desk, on the Monday following the publication of the tale, when a gentleman entered and introduced himself as the writer, saying that he came to thank me, as one of the committee, for the award in his favor. Of this interview, the only one I ever had with Mr. Poe, my recollection is very distinct indeed, and it requires but a small effort of imagination to place him before me now as plainly almost as I see any one of my audience. He was, if anything, below the middle size, and yet could not be described as a small man. His figure was remarkably good, and he carried himself erect and well, as one who had been trained to it. He was dressed in black, and his frock coat was buttoned to his throat, where it met the black stock, then almost universally worn. Not a particle of white was visible. Coat, hat, boots and gloves had very evidently seen their best days, but so far as mending and brushing go, everything had been done, apparently, to make them presentable. On most men his clothes would have looked shabby and seedy; but there was something about this man that prevented one from criticizing his garments, and the details I ­[page 67:] have mentioned were only recalled afterwards. The impression made, however, was that the award made in Mr. Poe’s favor was not inopportune. Gentleman was written all over him. His manner was easy and quiet, and although he came to return thanks for what he regarded as deserving them, there was nothing obsequious in what he said or did. His features I am unable to describe in detail. His forehead was high, and remarkable for the great development of the temple. This was the characteristic of his head which you noticed at once, and which I have never forgotten. The expression of his face was grave, almost sad, except when he was engaged in conversation, when it became animated and changeable. His voice, I remember, was very pleasing in its tone, and well modulated, almost rhythmical, and his words were well chosen and unhesitating. Taking a seat, we conversed a while on ordinary topics, and he informed me that Mr. Kennedy, my colleague in the commitee [[committee]], on whom he had already called, had either given or promised to give him a letter to the’southern Literary Messenger,’ which he hoped would procure him employment. I asked him whether ­[page 68:] he was then occupied with any literary labor. He replied that he was engaged on a voyage to the moon; and at once went into a somewhat learned disquisition upon the laws of gravity, the height of the earth’s atmosphere, and the capacities of balloons, warming in his speech as he proceeded. Presently, speaking in the first person, he began the voyage. After describing the preliminary arrangements, as you will find them set forth in one of his tales called ‘Adventures of one Hans Pfaal,’ and leaving the earth, and becoming more and more animated, he described his sensations as he ascended higher and higher, until at last he reached the point in space where the moon’s attraction overcame that of the earth, when there was a sudden bouleversement of the car, and a great confusion among its tenants. By this time the speaker had become so excited, spoke so rapidly, gesticulating much, that when the turn-upside-down took place, and he clapped his hands and stamped with his foot, by way of emphasis, I was carried along with him, and, for aught to the contrary that I now remember, may have fancied myself the companion of his aerial journey. The climax of the tale was the reversal ­[page 69:] I have mentioned. When he had finished his description, he apologized for his excitability, which he laughed at himself. The conversation then turned upon other subjects, and soon afterward he took his leave. I never saw him more. Dr. Griswold’s statement that ‘Mr. Kennedy accompanied him (Poe) to a clothing store and purchased for him a respectable suit, with a change of linen, and sent him to a bath,’ is a sheer fabrication.”

In the Mr. Kennedy of this jovial committee, Poe found a friend, who continued one of the poet’s staunchest supporters to the day of his death.

At this time he attended to Poe’s material needs, gave him free access to his home and its comforts, the use of a horse for exercise when required, and lifted him out of the depths into which his depression and disappointments had sunk him. Mr.. Hewitt relates that Poe visited the office of the ‘Minerva,” after the announcement of the prizes, and besought him to waive his claim to the prize, but to receive the money, which Poe was willing he should have. He only wanted the honors, which, he had been informed, he ­[page 70:] had fairly earned, for his poetry as well as for his prose. Mr. Hewitt did not, of course, defer to this pardonable but extraordinary request, and Poe’s first laurel wreath was robbed of a bright leaf.

In 1834, Allan died, leaving an infant child, who supplanted Poe in his expected heirship.

Not a penny was left to the heir expectant, who had been permitted to grow to manhood, fed with the delusive hopes that, at the most critical period of his life, turned to dust and ashes, and left him to the mercies of an uncharitable and unsympathizing world.


[[Footnotes]]

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 41:]

* Hatch & Dunning, Baltimore, 1829.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 50:]

* E. Bliss, New York, 1831.


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Notes:

None.

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[S:0 - WFG, 1877] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - A Poe Bookshelf - The Life of Edgar Allan Poe [Chapter 03] (W. F. Gill, 1877)