Text: Anonymous, Sunday World Herald (Omaha, NE), morning edition, August 6, 1911, p. 2-M, cols. 1-5


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­[page 2-M:]

[columns 1-4:]

Friend of Poe to Whom the Young Poet Was Knight Errant and Hero of His Childhood

[columns 1-2:]

Office Boy of the Poet Now 82 Years of Age. His Poetic Mind Still Thilled With Verses of That Genius and Attributing His Splendid Health in Old Age to the Starvation Cure.

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[column 1:]

Hear the sledges with the bells —

Silver bells!

What a world of merriment their melody foretells!

How they tinkle, tinkle, tinkle,

In the icy air of night!

While the stars that oversprinkle

All the heavens, seem to twinkle

With a crystalline delight;

Keeping time, time, time,

In a sort of Runic rhyme,

To the tintinabulation [[sic]] that so musically wells

From the bells, bells, bells, bells,

Bells, bells, bells —

From the jingling and the tinkling of the bells.

 

Hear the tolling of the bells —

Iron bells!

What a world of solemn thought their monody compels!

In the silence of the night,

How we shiver with affright

At the melancholy menace of their tone!

For every sound that floats

From the rust within their throats

Is a groan.

And the people — ah, the people —

They that dwell up in the steeple,

All alone,

And who, tolling, tolling, tolling,

In that muffled monotone,

Feel a glory in so rolling

On the human heart a stone —

They are neither man nor woman —

They are neither brute nor human —

They are Ghouls:

And their king it is who tolls;

And he rolls, rolls, rolls, rolls,

Rolls

A paean from the bells!

And his merry bosom swells

With the paean of the bells!

And he dances, and he yells;

Keeping time, time, time,

In a sort of Runic rhyme,

To the paean of the bells —

Of the bells:

Keeping time, time, time,

In a sort of Runic rhyme,

To the throbbing of the bells —

Of the bells, bells, bells —

To the sobbing of the bells;

Keeping time, time, time,

As he knells, knells, knells,

In a happy Runic rhyme,

To the rolling of the bells —

Of the bells, bells, bells —

To the tolling of the bells,

Of the bells, bells, bells, bells —

Bells, bells, bells —

To the moaning and the groaning of the bells.

(From Poe’s “The Bells.”)

When the name of Edgar Allan Poe was added to those in the hall of fame in New York, there was one Iowa man who had already had an image of Poe enshrined in his heart, who rejoiced in this honor paid to the famous author.

Alexander Taylor Crane, aged 82 years, a farmer who lives six miles from Blencoe, Ia., has had a long eventful career. And yet the yea that he cherishes most in his memory, the year that stands out as one of the greatest of his whole life, was one way back in the 40s,when he was only a sickly lad, but working in the same office with Poe.

He was only an office boy, while Poet [[Poe]] was editor of the paper. And yet he came to almost worship the man, his ideals and his beliefs, his work.

The little sickly office boy would have liked to follow in the footsteps of Poe. He, too, wanted to become a [column 2:] poet, an author. He tried to emulate Poe, and did write some poems, but it was not destined that he shuold become one of the great American writers.

There are probably very few persone [[persons]] living today who are intimately associated with Poe, who knew him as a man and as a friend. Mr. Crane believes that the may be the last living friend of the author.

His Boyhood Days.

Mr. Crane is in Omaha, for a short time, visiting J. P. Roe, 1523 South Fifth street.

“I was born in New Jersey eighty-two years ago,” he said. “In 1844 I obtained a position on the new Broadway Journal, which was just being started in New York. I was the office boy, and later had charge of the mailing out the papers. The Journal never had a very large circulation.

“Poe treated me like a son. He was one of the finest, truest, most knightly gentlemen that I have ever known. Newspaper offices were not so large in those days and I used to see him every day. After a while the paper got along so poorly, that the other two editors drew out, and the printing of the paper was done at a job office, with Poe alone as editor.

“I was not very well as a boy. One hot day, when I was busy preparing the papers to mail out. I fainted. When I came to I was lying on the counter and Poe was working over me, putting water on my face. When I felt better he sent me home in a carriage, and told me that he would send out the papers himself.

“The Journal at that time was running in competition with the Weekly Mirror. The Mirror was edited by N. P. Willis, and George P. Morris, who was the author of ‘Woodman, Spare That Tree,’ and other poems.

“Poe’s writings and poetry inspired me. I wanted to be able to write as he did. Even then as a boy of 14. I used to try to write poetry. I still remember one little poem, a temperance poem, that I wrote at that time. I showed it to Poe, and he read through it, and only made one little change in correcting it.

“I can still remember that poem, and will recite it for you, but remember that it was the work of a boy only 14 years of age.

“Cold water so bright, cold water so free,

Of all other liquids cold water for me.

It is heard in the torrent in thundering roar;

In low murmuring music it springs at your door

“In the broad field of ocean, it is seen in its might

When the clouds lower above it, with darkness of night;

When the tempest sweeps o’er it, in fury it raves

Converting its depths to an ocean of graves

In the day when oppressed by the summer sun’s heat,

When the pulse throbs within us, with languishing beat,

When old Nature seems drooping away in despair,

‘Tis then the cold shower gives a proof of God’s care.”

The one little change that Poe made was to add the word “a” before “proof” in the last line, telling Office Boy Taylor that it was necessary for the meter.

He not only corrected this poem for him, but he told him where he could take it to have it printed. The only Sunday school paper being published at that time, [column 3:] was the Youth’s Cabinet, which was edited by Myron Finch.

“I took it to that paper,” says Mr. Crane, “and it was published.

“I certainly never saw any evidence when I was with him of his being addicted to drink, as some people later claimed. He was a man of a highly sensitive type, and perhaps some of his many misfortunes and hard life may have driven him to drink.

Saw Poe Intoxicated but Once.

But in all of the time that I was at the office of the Journal I only saw him under the influence of liquor once. He had given a lecture on “Poets and Poetry of America,” which had been very well received. He was urged to repeat it, and finally decided to do so. The night it was to be given a second time it was very stormy and disagreeable, and scarcely a dozen people were in the audience to hear him. Poe at length came out to the platform and explained because of this the lecture would not be given and the money would be refunded at the door. He had given me a complimentary ticket, so that I was there anxious to hear him. But I could see that he was even more disappointed than I.

“The next morning he came to the office on the arm of a friend, and he was slightly under the influence of the wine he had drunk.”

However, Mr. Crane is very indignant against some of the charges that have been made against Poe, and maintains that he must always have been a true, kindly, generous man, no matter if he did drink more later.

During the short life of the paper Poe worked faithfully and industriously to make a success of it, according to Mr. Crane, and made a comfortable living [column 4:] out of it, so that he was probably better off at this time than at any time in his rather poverty-stricken career.

Mr. Crane, too, has a version about the first appearance of “The Raven,” which differs from that of the bibliographers, and some of the stories told about it have brought forth indignant denials from him. One of these stories was that Poe’s child-wife, half starved, was lying near death of consumption and that he rushed out and sold the poem to an editor for $10.

When “The Raven” Was First Read.

Mr. Crane’s version of it is as follows:

“One afternoon Poe came into the office, bringing with him Murdock, a great actor, and one of the finest elocutionists of that day. There were only a half a dozen of us in the room. He called us together, and then drawing the manuscript of ‘The Raven’ from his pocket he gave it to Murdock and it was read to us there.

“I was entranced, charmed with it. How could I help it, hearing such a poem read in that manner. It was the first time it had been read publicly. Afterwards it appeared in the Journal being in that paper first.

“The Journal did not survive very long — about eighteen months, I guess. It was too ‘high toned’ a paper to succeed. It wasn’t appreciated.

“And that was the end of my acquaintance with Poe. Think of the awfulness of his death, his mother-in-law having to go around and beg for money for him. Now his name has just been added to the list of those in the hall of fame.

“Right after Poe published ‘The Raven,’ Willis and many others wrote parodies on it, but they were never able to kill it.”

Although he is now 82 years of age, Mr. Crane says that he [[is]] in better health than ever before.

“And I cured myself by starvation,” he says. “I was sick with a complication of diseases, liver trouble and three different times I fell senseless and lay as one dead. They even thought I was dead for a time, as it was over an hour before I came to. I read the book, “Starvation for Health,” and it impressed me very much.

Now I never eat anything at night — [column 5:] just drink a little milk. And I don’t eat so much other times, and have almost stopped eating such things as pastry. I sleep much better now for the small supper and I am in fine health. I am fifteen pounds heavier than I used to be.

“Why, recently I just wanted to show my folks that I cold get out and earn my board if I wished to. So I stated to hoeing. During that very hot weather I cleared the morning glories from 3,500 hills. I can hoe better than anyone they can hire, and the hoe is the most effective weapon against the weeds. But these days the young people don’t like to use the hoe.

Greenhorn on the Farm.

“I came to my farm in 1857, pre-emptying it from the government, and have lived there ever since that time. I didn’t know a thing about farming then, but had to come west for my health. My wife even laughed at the way I swung an ax. She said that she had seen women back in Pennsylvania swing them in much better shape.

“I didn’t know how to milk a cow. She had to show me that, and then I had to milk them all. The few neighbors then laughed at my ignorance and I told them that I was ready to take lessons from everybody, but that maybe in the future they would be coming to me for advice. And in time it came to that because I had the finest farm in that section of the country.

“But I am an agnostic, just as Poe was. Nearly all of the writers and great editors of that day were. There were a great many free thinkers at that time. I have had a number of letters from Robert Ingersoll.”

Mr. Crane has three sons and one daughter, four grandchildren and one great-grandchild. One son lived on the farm and another, Fred M. Crane, is a ditch contractor and lives at Council Bluffs.

Mr. Crane still continues to write some of his poetry, even though he was never able to mount to the same heights as Poe. One of the humorous poems which he has written recently is as follows:

“Oh, the flies, the pestilent files,

Invading your nose, your ears, your eyes,

Playing tag on a bald man’s pate,

Greasing their legs in your butter plate,

Sipping your syrup, tasting your tea,

More pertinacious than bug of [[or]] flea —

Loaded with microbes, they revel in bliss

On the ruby lips of each dainty miss.

Oh, for the big steam hammer of Krupp

And the power to double these insects up

Until a million were merged into one.

I’d smash that fly with that big hammer

While I swore in Dutch like a Rotterdammer.”


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Notes:

Alexander Taylor Crane (1829-1916) was the office boy at the Broadway Journal in 1845, while Poe was an editor there. The original article includes two illustrations: a copy of a the portrait of Poe by Friederich Bruckmann, and a photograph of Mr. Crane as a very old man.

Crane’s poem was published in the Youth’s Cabinet for May 1, 1845 (volume VIII, p. 67). The layout of the present article, as it appears in the original newspaper printing, is somewhat confusing, with a few lines from a different article appearing at the end. That article bears the initials J. H. L., but clearly the present article ends with Mr. Crane’s humorous poem, and has no initials.

A photocopy of the original article was kindly provided by the Omaha Public Library.

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[S:0 - SWHONE, 1911] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - A Poe Bookshelf - [Reminiscences of Alexander T. Crane {Part 02) (Anonymous, 1911)