Text: George E. Woodberry, “Chapter 09,” The Life of Edgar Allan Poe: Personal and Literary (1909), vol. II, pp. 65-124


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­[page 65, unnumbered:]

Chapter IX

THE AUTHOR OF “THE RAVEN”

POE’s account of his departure is given in a let ter to Mrs. Clemm, which stands by itself in his correspondence as of a purely domestic kind, illustrative of life within doors. Its confiding and familiar tone explains somewhat, too, how he won the devotion of his mother-in-law to that degree which has secured for her the admiration of all who were intimately acquainted with Poe’s home life.

{ NEW YORK, Sunday Morning,

{ April 7, just after breakfast.

MY DEAR MUDDY, — We have just this minute done breakfast, and I now sit down to write you about everything. I can t pay for the letter, because the P. O. won t be open to-day. In the first place we arrived safe at Walnut St. wharf. The driver wanted to make me pay a dollar, but I would n’t . Then I had to pay a boy a levy to put the trunks in the baggage car. In the meantime I took Sis [Virginia] in the Depot Hotel. It was only a quarter past six, and we had ­[page 66:] to wait till seven. We saw the “Ledger” and “Times” — nothing in either — a few words of no account in the “Chronicle.” We started in good spirits, but did not get here until nearly three o clock. We went in the cars to Amboy, about forty miles from N. York, and then took the steamboat the rest of the way. Sissy coughed none at all. When we got to the wharf it was raining hard. I left her on board the boat, after putting the trunks in the Ladies cabin, and set off to buy an umbrella and look for a boardinghouse. I met a man selling umbrellas, and bought one for twenty-five cents. Then I went up Greenwich St. and soon found a boardinghouse. It is just before you get to Cedar St., on the west side going up — the left-hand side. It has brown stone steps, with a porch with brown pillars. “Morrison” is the name on the door. I made a bargain in a few minutes and then got a hack and went for Sis. I was not gone more than half an hour, and she was quite astonished to see me back so soon. She did n’t expect me for an hour. There were two other ladies waiting on board — so she was n’t very lonely. When we got to the house we had to wait about half an hour before the room was ready. The house is old and looks buggy [The letter is cut here for ­[page 67:] the signature on the other side.] the cheapest board I ever knew, taking into consideration the central situation and the living. I wish Kate [Catterina, the cat] could see it — she would faint. Last night, for supper, we had the nicest tea you ever drank, strong and hot, — wheat bread and rye bread — cheese — tea-cakes (elegant), a great dish (two dishes) of elegant ham, and two of cold veal, piled up like a mountain and large slices — three dishes of the cakes and everything in the greatest profusion. No fear of starving here. The landlady seemed as if she could n’t press us enough, and we were at home directly. Her husband is living with her a fat, good-natured old soul. There are eight or ten boarders two or three of them ladies two servants. For breakfast we had excellent-flavored coffee, hot and strong not very clear and no great deal of cream veal cutlets, elegant ham and eggs and nice bread and butter. I never sat down to a more plentiful or a nicer breakfast. I wish you could have seen the eggs — and the great dishes of meat. I ate the first hearty breakfast I have eaten since I left our little home. Sis is delighted, and we are both in excellent spirits. She has coughed hardly any and had no night sweat. She is now busy mending ­[page 68:] my pants which I tore against a nail. I went out last night and bought a skein of silk, a skein of thread, two buttons, a pair of slippers, and a tin pan for the stove. The fire kept in all night. We have now got four dollars and a half left. To-morrow I am going to try and borrow three dollars, so that I may have a fortnight to go upon. I feel in excellent spirits, and have n’t drank a drop — so that I hope soon to get out of trouble. The very instant I scrape together enough money I will send it on. You can t imagine how much we both do miss you. Sissy had a hearty cry last night, because you and Catterina were n’t here. We are resolved to get two rooms the first moment we can. In the meantime it is impossible we could be more comfortable or more at home than we are. It looks as if it were going to clear up now. Be sure and go to the P. O. and have my letters forwarded. As soon as I write Low ell’s article, I will send it to you, and get you to get the money from Graham. Give our best love to C.

[Signature cut out.]

Be sure and take home the “Messenger” to Hirst. We hope to send for you very soon.(1) ­[page 69:]

Poe’s first business in New York after he got settled was presumably to call on the editor of “The Sun” and offer him the well-known “Balloon Hoax.” At least on the following Saturday, April 13, “The Sun” contained a postscript, in double-leaded type, announcing that a balloon had crossed the Atlantic, bringing news, and had arrived at Charleston, South Carolina, and promising that an extra, giving full particulars, should be issued at ten o clock on that morning. The extra duly appeared, with its narrative, in Poe’s usual realistic manner, of a transatlantic voyage by a party of English aeronauts; and at a time when such journalistic fictions were more common and less easily detected than now, it achieved a momentary success.

Lowell now offered to write Poe’s life for the series, “Our Contributors,” then appearing in “Graham’s”; and with this subject Poe’s reply was next mainly concerned.

NEW YORK, May 28, 44.

MY DEAR FRIEND, — I received yours last night, forwarded from Philadelphia to this city, where I intend living for the future. Touching the Biography — I would be very proud, indeed, if you would write it, and did, certainly, say to ­[page 70:] myself, and I believe to Graham — that such was my wish; but as I fancied the job might be disagreeable, I did not venture to suggest it to yourself. Your offer relieves me from great embarrassment, and I thank you sincerely. You will do me justice; and that I could not expect at all hands.

Herewith, I mail you a Life written some time since by Hirst, from materials furnished principally by Thomas and Mr. T. W. White. It is correct, I think, in the main (barring extravagant eulogy), and you can select from it whatever you deem right. The limit is 6 pp. of Graham — as much less as you please. Besides the Tales enumerated in the foot-note, I have written “The Spectacles”; “The Oblong Box “; “A Tale of the Ragged Mountains”; “The Premature Burial “; “The Purloined Letter “; “The System of Doctors Tar and Fether “; “The Black Cat”; “The Elk”; “Diddling Considered as one of the Exact Sciences”; “Mesmeric Revelation “; “The Gold Bug”; “Thou art the Man “; about 60 altogether, including the “Grotesque and Arabesque.” Those italicized are as yet unpublished — in the hands of different editors. Of the “Gold Bug” (my most successful tale), more than 300,000 copies have been circulated. ­[page 71:]

There is an article on “American Poetry” in a late number of the “London Foreign Quarterly,” in which some allusion is made to me, as a poet, and as an imitator of Tennyson. I would like you to say (in my defense) what is the fact: that the passages quoted as imitations were writ ten and published, in Boston, before the issue of even Tennyson’s first volume. Dickens (I know) wrote the article — I have private personal reasons for knowing this. The portrait prepared does not in the least resemble me.

I wrote you a long letter from Philadelphia about seven weeks since — did you get it? You make no allusion to it. In great haste, Your most sincere friend,

EDGAR A. POE.(1)

The list of the tales still in the hands of editors which Poe gives, brings out strongly one source of the discouragement under which he had to bear up. He had been for ten years a writer of untiring industry, and in that time had produced an amount of work large in quantity and excellent in quality, much of it belonging in the very highest rank of imaginative prose; but his books had never sold, and the income from his ­[page 72:] tales and other papers in the magazines when he was not attached to a magazine had never sufficed to keep the wolf from the door. No thing is plainer, in his life, than that he had difficulty in selling his work and was very poorly paid. He had now prepared a revision of all his tales, and he sent them to Anthon, and solicited his influence with the Harpers to secure their publication by that house in five volumes. He accompanied his request with a review of his career.

June, 1844.

MY DEAR SIR, — Many years have elapsed since my last communication with you, and per haps you will be surprised at receiving a letter from me now — if not positively vexed at receiving one of so great a length and of such a character. But I trust to your goodness of heart for a patient hearing at the least.

You will have already seen that, as usual, I have a favor to solicit. You have, indeed, been to me in many respects a good genius and a friend, but the request I have to make now is one of vital interest to myself — so much so that upon your granting it, or refusing it, depends, I feel, much if not all of the prosperity, and even comfort, of my future life. ­[page 73:]

I cannot flatter myself that you have felt sufficient interest in me to have followed in any respect my literary career since the period at which you first did me the honor to address me a note while editor of the “Southern Messenger.” A few words of explanation on this point will there fore be necessary here.

As I am well aware that your course of reading lies entirely out of the track of our lighter literature, and as I take it for granted, therefore, that none of the papers in question have met your eye, I have thought it advisable to send you with this letter a single tale as a specimen. This will no doubt put you in mind of the trick of the Skolastikos — but I could not think of troubling you with more than one. I do not think it my best tale, but it is perhaps the best in its particular vein. Variety has been one of my chief aims.

In lieu of the rest, I venture to place in your hands the published opinions of many of my contemporaries [appended to Hirst’s Sketch of Poe]. I will not deny that I have been careful to collect and preserve them. They include, as you will see, the warm commendations of a great number of very eminent men, and of these commendations I should be at a loss to understand why I have not a right to be proud. ­[page 74:]

Before quitting the “Messenger” I saw, or fancied I saw, through a long and dim vista, the brilliant field for ambition which a Magazine of bold and noble aims presented to him who should successfully establish it in America. I perceived that the country, from its very constitution, could not fail of affording in a few years a larger proportionate amount of readers than any upon the earth. I perceived that the whole energetic, busy spirit of the age tended wholly to Magazine literature — to the curt, the terse, the well-timed, and the readily diffused, in preference to the old forms of the verbose and ponderous and the in accessible. I knew from personal experience that lying perdu among the innumerable plantations in our vast Southern and Western countries were a host of well-educated men peculiarly devoid of prejudice, who would gladly lend their influence to a really vigorous journal, provided the right means were taken of bringing it fairly within the very limited scope of their observation.

Now, I knew, it is true, that some scores of journals had failed (for, indeed, I looked upon the best success of the best of them as failure), but then I easily traced the causes of their failure in the impotency of their conductors, who made no scruple of basing their rules of action altogether

­[page 75:] upon what had been customarily done in stead of what was now before them to do, in the greatly changed and constantly changing condition of things.

In short, I could see no real reason why a Magazine, if worthy the name, could not be made to circulate among 20,000 subscribers, embracing the best intellect and education of the land. This was a thought which stimulated my fancy and my ambition. The influence of such a journal would be vast indeed, and I dreamed of honestly employing that influence in the sacred cause of the beautiful, the just, and the true.

Even in a pecuniary view, the object was a magnificent one. The journal I proposed would be a large octavo of 128 pages, printed with bold type, single column, on the finest paper; and disdaining everything of what is termed “embellishment “with the exception of an occasional portrait of a literary man, or some well-engraved wood-design in obvious illustration of the text. Of such a journal I had cautiously estimated the expenses. Could I circulate 20,000 copies at $5, the cost would be about $30,000, estimating all contingencies at the highest rate. There would be a balance of $70,000 per annum.

But not to trust too implicitly to a priori reasonings, ­[page 76:] and at the same time to make myself thoroughly master of all details which might avail me concerning the mere business of publication, I entered a few steps into the field of experiment. I joined the “Messenger,” as you know, which was then in its second year with 700 subscribers, and the general outcry was that be cause a Magazine had never succeeded south of the Potomac, therefore a Magazine never could succeed. Yet, in spite of this, and in despite of the wretched taste of its proprietor, which hampered and controlled me at all points, I increased the circulation in fifteen months to 5500 subscribers paying an annual profit of $10,000 when I left it. This number was never exceeded by the journal, which rapidly went down, and may now be said to be extinct. Of “Graham’s Magazine” you have no doubt heard. It had been in existence under the name of the “Casket” for eight years when I became its editor, with a subscription list of about 5000. In about eighteen months afterward, its circulation amounted to no less than 50,000 — astonishing as this may appear. At this period I left it. It is now two years since, and the number of subscribers is now not more than 25,000 — but possibly very much less. In three years it will be extinct. The nature of this ­[page 77:] journal, however, was such that even its 50,000 subscribers could not make it very profitable to its proprietor. Its price was $3, but not only were its expenses immense, owing to the employment of absurd steel plates and other extravagances, which tell not at all, but recourse was had to innumerable agents, who received it at a dis count of no less than fifty per cent., and whose frequent dishonesty occasioned enormous loss. But if 50,000 can be obtained for a $3 Magazine among a class of readers who really read little, why may not 50,000 be procured for a $5 journal among the true and permanent readers of the land?

Holding steadily in view my ultimate purpose, — to found a Magazine of my own, or in which at least I might have a proprietary right, — it has been my constant endeavour in the mean time, not so much to establish a reputation great in itself as one of that particular character which should best further my special objects, and draw attention to my exertions as Editor of a Magazine. Thus I have written no books, and have been so far essentially a Magazinist [illegible] bearing, not only willingly but cheerfully, sad poverty and the thousand consequent contumelies and other ills which the condition of the ­[page 78:] mere Magazinist entails upon him in America, where, more than in any other region upon the face of the globe, to be poor is to be despised.

The one great difficulty resulting from this course is unless the journalist collects his various articles he is liable to be grossly misconceived and misjudged by men of whose good opinion he would be proud, but who see, perhaps, only a paper here and there, by accident — often only one of his mere extravaganzas, written to supply a particular demand. He loses, too, whatever merit may be his due on the score of versatility — a point which can only be estimated by collection of his various articles in volume form and all together. This is indeed a serious difficulty to seek a remedy for which is my object in writing you this letter.

Setting aside, for the present, my criticisms, poems, and miscellanies (sufficiently numerous), my tales, a great number of which might be termed fantasy pieces, are in number sixty-six. They would make, perhaps, five of the ordinary novel-volumes. I have them prepared in every respect for the press; but, alas, I have no money, nor that influence which would enable me to get a publisher — although I seek no pecuniary remuneration. My sole immediate object is the ­[page 79:] furtherance of my ultimate one. I believe that if I could get my tales fairly before the public, and thus have an opportunity of eliciting foreign as well as native opinion respecting them, I should by their means be in a far more advantageous position than at present in regard to the establishment of a Magazine. In a word, I believe that the publication of the work would lead forthwith either directly through my own exertion, or indirectly with the aid of a publisher, to the establishment of the journal I hold in view. It is very true that I have no claims upon your attention, not even that of personal acquaintance. But I have reached a crisis of my life in which I sadly stand in need of aid, and without being able to say why, — unless it is that I so earnestly desire your friendship, — I have always felt a half-hope that, if I appealed to you, you would prove my friend. I know that you have un bounded influence with the Harpers, and I know that if you would exert it in my behalf you could procure me the publication I desire.(1)

Anthon replied five months later, his apparent delay being perhaps due to the summer vacation: — ­[page 80:]

NEW YORK, November 2, 1844.

DEAR SIR, — I have called upon the Harpers, as you requested, and have cheerfully exerted with them what influence I possess, but without accomplishing anything of importance. They have complaints against you, grounded on certain movements of yours, when they acted as your publishers some years ago; and appear very little inclined at present to enter upon the matter which you have so much at heart. However, they have retained, for a second and more careful perusal, the letter which you sent to me, and have promised that, if they should see fit to come to terms with you, they will address a note to you forthwith. Of course, if you should not hear from them, their silence must be construed into a declining of your proposal. My own advice to you is to call in person at their store, and talk over the matter with them. I am very sure that such a step on your part will remove many of the difficulties which at present obstruct your way.

You do me injustice by supposing that I am a stranger to your productions. I subscribed to the “Messenger” solely because you were connected with it, and I have since that period read and, as a matter of course, admired very many of your other pieces. The Harpers also entertain, as I ­[page 81:] heard from their own lips, the highest opinion of your talents, but — I remain very sincerely,

Your friend and well-wisher,

CHARLES ANTHON.(1)

P. S. The MSS. which you were kind enough to send can be obtained by you at any time on calling at my residence. C. A.

A letter from a correspondence otherwise unknown, addressed to Bowen and Gossler, editors of “The Columbia Spy,” Columbia, Pennsylvania, throws some light upon Poe’s interests and occupations at this obscure period, and differs markedly from his usual correspondence. It may have been intended for insertion in the paper, and if so is a unique example of a kind of composition to which there is some reason to believe that Poe occasionally resorted to make money when he was otherwise unemployed, either anonymously or semi-anonymously as in this signature.

NEW YORK, June 18, [1844]. In point of natural beauty, as well as of convenience, the harbor of New York has scarcely its equal in the northern hemisphere; but, as in ­[page 82:] the case of Brooklyn, the Gothamites have most greviously [[grievously]] disfigured it by displays of landscape and architectural taste. More atrocious pagodas, or what not, — for it is indeed difficult to find a name for them, were certainly never imagined than the greater portion of those which affront the eye, in every nook and corner of the bay, and more particularly, in the vicinity of New Brighton. If these monstrosities appertain to taste, then it is to taste in its dying agonies. — Speaking of harbors; I have been much surprised at observing an attempt, on the part of a Philadelphian paper, to compare Boston, as a port, with New York; and in instituting the comparison, the journal in question is so bold as to assert that the largest class of ships cannot pass the bar of this harbor at low water. I believe this to be quite a mistake; — is it not? —— Foreigners are apt to speak of the great length of Broadway. It is no doubt a long street; but we have many much longer in Philadelphia. If I do not greatly err, Front Street offers an unbroken line of houses for four miles, and is, unquestionably, the longest street in America, if not in the world. Grant, the gossiping and twaddling author of “Random Recollections of the House of Lords,” “The Great Metropolis,” ­[page 83:]&c.,&c., in mentioning some London thoroughfare of two miles and three quarters, calls it, with an absolute air, “the most extensive in the world.” The dogmatic bow-bow of this is the most amusing thing imaginable. I do believe that out of every ten matters which he gives to the public as fact, eight, at least, are downright lies, while the other two may be classed either as “doubtful” or “rigmarole.” —— The trial of Polly Bodine will take place at Richmond, on Monday next, and will, no doubt, excite much interest. This woman may, possibly, escape; — for they manage these matters wretchedly in New York. It is difficult to conceive anything more preposterous than the whole conduct, for example, of the Mary Rogers affair. The police seemed blown about, in all directions, by every varying puff of the most unconsidered newspaper opinion. The truth, as an end, appeared to be lost sight of altogether. The magistry suffered the murderer to escape, while they amused themselves with playing court, and chopping the technicalities of jurisprudence. Not the least usual error in such investigations, is the limiting of inquiry to the immediate, with total disregard of the collateral, or circumstantial events. It is malpractice to ­[page 84:] confine evidence and discussion too rigorously within the limits of the seemingly relevant. Experience has shown, and Philosophy will always show, that a vast portion, perhaps the larger portion of truth, arises from the apparently irre levant. It is through the spirit of this principle, that modern science has resolved to calculate upon the unforeseen. The history of human knowledge has so uniformly shown that to collateral, or incidental, or accidental events, we are indebted for the most numerous and most valuable discoveries, that it has, at length, become necessary, in any prospective view of improvement, to make not only large, but the largest allowances for inventions that shall arise by chance — out of the range of expectation. It is, thus, no longer philosophical to base upon what has been, a vision of what is to be. Accident is admitted as a portion of the sub structure. We make chance a matter of absolute certainty. We subject the unlooked-for and unimagined to the mathematical formulæ of the schools. But what I wish now to observe is, that the small magistracies are too prone to ape the airs and echo the rectangular precepts of the courts. And, moreover, very much of what is rejected as evidence by a court, is the best of evidence ­[page 85:] to the intellect. For the court, guiding itself by the general principles of evidence, — the recognized and booked principles, — is averse from swerving at particular instances. And this steadfast adherence to principle, with systematic disregard of the conflicting exception, is a sure mode of attaining the maximum of attainable truth, in any long sequence of time. The practice, in mass, is, therefore, philosophical; but it is none the less certain that it engenders, in many extraordinary instances, a vast amount of individual error. I have good reason to believe that it will do public mischief in the coming trial of Polly Bodine. —— The literary world of Gotham is not particularly busy. Mr. Willis, I see, has issued a very handsome edition of his poems — the only complete edition — with a portrait. Few men have received more abuse, deserving it less, than the author of “Melanie.” I never read a paper from his pen, in the “New Mirror,” without regretting his abandonment of Glen-Mary, and the tranquillity and leisure he might there have found. In its retirement he might have accomplished much, both for himself and for posterity; but, chained oar of a mere weekly paper, professedly addressing the frivolous and the fashionable, what can he now hope for but a ­[page 86:] gradual sinking into the slough of the Public Disregard? For his sake, I do sincerely wish the “New Mirror” would go the way of all flesh.

Did you see his Biography in “Graham’s Magazine”? The style was a little stilted, but the matter was true. Mr. W. deserves nearly all, if not quite all, the commendation there be stowed. Some of the newspapers, in the habit of seeing through mill-stones, attributed the article to Longfellow, whose manner it about as much resembled as a virgin of Massaccio does a virgin of Raphael. The real author, Mr. Landor, although a man of high talent, has a certain set of phrases which cannot easily be mistaken, and is as much a uni-stylist as Cardinal Chigi, who boasted that he wrote with the same pen for fifty years. ——

In the “annual” way, little preparation is making for 1845. It is doubtful whether Mr. Keese will publish his “Wintergreen.” Mr. Appleton may issue something pretty, but cares little about adventure, and would prefer, I dare say, a general decay of the race of gift works, their profit is small. Mr. Ricker is getting up the “Opal, “which was first edited by Mr. Griswold, afterwards by Mr. Willis for a very brief period, and now by Mrs. Hale, a lady of fine ­[page 87:] genius and masculine energy and ability. The “Gift,” however, will bear away the palm.

By the way, if you have not seen Mr. Griswold’s “American Series of the Curiosities of Literature, “then look at it, for God’s sake — or for mine. I wish you to say, upon your word of honor, whether it is, or is not, per se, the greatest of all the Curiosities of Literature, or whether it is as great a curiosity as the compiler himself.

P ——.(1)

After a month’s delay, Lowell replied to Poe’s communication with regard to the biography.

ELMWOOD, June 27, 1844.

MY DEAR FRIEND, — I have been stealing a kind of vacation from the pen during the last month, & I hope that my lying fallow for a time will increase my future crops, though I cannot bring myself to use the farmer’s phrase & wish them to be “heavier.” Now I ought by this time to have finished the article to accompany your head in Graham, but I have been unable to write anything. I have fits of this kind too often owing to a Constitutional indolence which was not counteracted by proper training in my child hood. You may be sure I am not one of those ­[page 88:] who follow a fashion which is hardly yet extinct, & call upon the good, easy world to accept my faults in proof of my genius. I can only mention it to ask forgiveness for my dilatoriness which springs from no want of interest but from sheer indolence — a fault — which your acquaintance with Life & Biography must have convinced you is one of the most incurable. However, I am resolved to set about it now in good earnest — & I have one or two preliminary requests to make. I wish you would (if you can) write me a letter giving me in some sort a spiritual autobiography of yourself. The newspaper [“The Saturday Museum” containing Hirst’s sketch of Poe] you sent me will give me enough outward facts — but I want your own estimate of your life. Of course you need not write it as if for my use merely in the writing of this article — but as to a friend. I believe that the opinion a man has of himself (if he be accustomed to self-analysis) is of more worth than that of all the rest of the world. If you have a copy of your first volume (of poems) will you send it to me by Harnden, directing it to be kept till called for & writing me a line by mail to warn me of its being on the way. I will return it to you by the same conveyance — as it must be valuable to you & as you have not probably ­[page 89:] more than one copy. I never saw it, nor can I get it. If you would send at the same time any other of your writings which I could not readily get you will oblige me very much & they shall be safely returned to you.

I agree with you that the article on Griswold’s book in the “Foreign Quarterly Review” was fair enough as far as the Conclusions the author came to were concerned — though at the same time I think him as ignorant in political matters as a man can well be — in short, ignorant to the full to be a Reviewer — But you are mistaken as to the authorship of it. It was not (I am quite sure) written by Dickens, but by a friend of his named Forster (or Foster) — the author of a book named “Statesmen of the time of Cromwell.” Dickens may have given him hints. . . .

I shall send you my sketch of course before it is printed, so that you can make any suggestions you like or suppress it altogether. I wish it to please you rather than the public.

Affectionately your friend,

J. R. L.(1)

Poe’s reply to this request for a “spiritual autobiography” — and especially, what he says ­[page 90:] of his own indolence in view of the whole mass of his writings, of which a large portion was perishable — ought to be taken with some allowance for the tendency he had to idealize his own nature. A poet’s analysis of his original temperament, if it be sincere, is of the highest value; for a man’s conception of his own character, particularly if he be of an introspective turn, counts often as one of the most powerful influences that shape his acts. It should be remembered, too, that in describing himself Poe was not unconscious of the presence of Lowell as his auditor, nor forgetful of the latter’s relation to him as his biographer; but, nevertheless, the account falls in with other more disinterested utterances by Poe regarding himself, and in general it has an idiosyncratic character that marks it as genuine.

NEW YORK, July 2, 44.

MY DEAR MR. LOWELL, — I can feel for the “constitutional indolence” of which you complain — for it is one of my own besetting sins. I am excessively slothful and wonderfully industrious — by fits. There are epochs when any kind of mental exercise is torture, and when no thing yields me pleasure but solitary communion with the “mountains and the woods,” — the ­[page 91:] “altars” of Byron. I have thus rambled and dreamed away whole months, and awake, at last, to a sort of mania for composition. Then I scribble all day, and read all night, so long as the disease endures. This is also the temperament of P. P. Cooke, of Virginia, the author of “Florence Vane,” “Young Rosalie Lee,” and some other sweet poems — and I should not be surprised if it were your own. Cooke writes and thinks as you — and I have been told that you resemble him personally.

I am not ambitious — unless negatively. I now and then feel stirred up to excel a fool, merely because I hate to let a fool imagine that he may excel me. Beyond this I feel nothing of ambition. I really perceive that vanity about which most men merely prate, — the vanity of the human or temporal life. I live continually in a reverie of the future. I have no faith in human perfectibility. I think that human exertion will have no appreciable effect upon humanity. Man is now only more active — not more happy — nor more wise, than he was 6000 years ago. The result will never vary — and to suppose that it will, is to suppose that the foregone man has lived in vain — that the foregone time is but the rudiment of the future — that the myriads who ­[page 92:] have perished have not been upon equal footing with ourselves — nor are we with our posterity. I cannot agree to lose sight of man the individual in man the mass. — I have no belief in spirituality. I think the word a mere word. No one has really a conception of spirit. We cannot imagine what is not. We deceive ourselves by the idea of infinitely rarefied matter. Matter escapes the senses by degrees — a stone — a metal — a liquid — the atmosphere — a gas — the luminiferous ether. Beyond this there are other modifications more rare. But to all we attach the notion of a constitution of particles — atomic composition. For this reason only we think spirit different; for spirit, we say, is unparticled, and therefore is not matter. But it is clear that if we proceed sufficiently far in our ideas of rare faction, we shall arrive at a point where the particles coalesce; for, although the particles be infinite, the infinity of littleness in the spaces between them is an absurdity. — The unparticled matter, permeating and impelling all things, is God. Its activity is the thought of God — which creates. Man, and other thinking beings, are individualizations of the unparticled matter. Man exists as a “person,” by being clothed with matter (the particled matter) which individualizes ­[page 93:] him. Thus habited, his life is rudimental. What we call “death” is the painful metamorphosis. The stars are the habitations of rudimental beings. But for the necessity of the rudimental life, there would have been no worlds. At death, the worm is the butterfly — still material, but of a matter unrecognized by our organs — recognized occasionally, perhaps, by the sleep-walker directly — without organs — through the mesmeric medium. Thus a sleep-walker may see ghosts. Divested of the rudimental covering, the being inhabits space, — what we suppose to be the immaterial universe, — passing everywhere, and acting all things, by mere volition, cognizant of all secrets but that of the nature of God’s volition, — the motion, or activity, of the unparticled matter.

You speak of “an estimate of my life,” — and, from what I have already said, you will see that I have none to give. I have been too deeply conscious of the mutability and evanescence of temporal things to give any continuous effort to anything — to be consistent in anything. My life has been whim — impulse — passion — a longing for solitude — a scorn of all things present, in an earnest desire for the future.

I am profoundly excited by music, and by ­[page 94:] some poems, — those of Tennyson especially — whom, with Keats, Shelley, Coleridge (occasionally), and a few others of like thought and expression, I regard as the sole poets. Music is the perfection of the soul, or idea, of Poetry. The vagueness of exaltation aroused by a sweet air (which should be strictly indefinite and never too strongly suggestive) is precisely what we should aim at in poetry. Affectation, within bounds, is thus no blemish.

I still adhere to Dickens as either author, or dictator, of the review. My reasons would convince you, could I give them to you, but I have left myself no space. I had two long interviews with Mr. D. when here. Nearly everything in the critique, I heard from him, or suggested to him, personally. The poem of Emerson I read to him.

I have been so negligent as not to preserve copies of any of my volumes of poems — nor was either worthy of preservation. The best passages were culled in Hirst’s article. I think my best poems “The Sleeper,” “The Conqueror Worm,” “The Haunted Palace,” “Lenore,” “Dream land,” and the “Coliseum,” — but all have been hurried and unconsidered. My best tales are “Ligeia,” the “Gold-Bug,” the “Murders in the ­[page 95:] Rue Morgue,” “The Fall of the House of Usher,” the “Telltale Heart,” the “Black Cat,” “William Wilson,” and “The Descent into the Maelstrom.” “The Purloined Letter,” forthcoming in the “Gift,” is perhaps the best of my tales of ratiocination. I have lately written for Godey “The Oblong Box” and “Thou art the Man,” — as yet unpublished. With this I mail you the “Gold-Bug,” which is the only one of my tales I have on hand.

Graham has had, for nine months, a review of mine on Longfellow’s “Spanish Student,” which I have “used up,” and in which I have exposed some of the grossest plagiarisms ever perpetrated. I can t tell why he does not publish it. — I believe G. intends my Life for the September number, which will be made up by the loth August. Your article should be on hand as soon as convenient.

Believe me your true friend,

E.A.POE.(1)

The philosophic lucubrations in the foregoing were taken from his metaphysical tale, “Mesmeric Revelation,” about to be published in the “Columbian Magazine” for August, and were ­[page 96:] afterwards more fully developed. Poe returned to the same metaphysical subject in a letter 1 to Chivers, July 10, written in reply to a communication dated May 15, from Oaky Grove, Georgia; but he was more concerned with his correspondent’s inquiry whether the “Penn Magazine,” in which Poe had asked him to join financially two years before, was abandoned, and with the offer which accompanied the question. “I expect,” said Chivers, “to receive my part of my father’s estate in July next, and should like to unite with you, provided it would be to my interest to do so.” Poe answered that the “Stylus” (the change of name was apparently unknown to Chivers) was only postponed, and encouraged him to come on to New York for a consultation. Six weeks later he sent the “Mesmeric Revelation” to Lowell, and gave the noticeable information that he was engaged on his “Critical History of American Literature,” a book at which he kept working until death.

NEW YORK, August 18, 1844.

MY DEAR FRIEND, — With this letter I take the liberty to mail you a number of the “Columbian ­[page 97:] Magazine” in which you will find a paper on “Mesmeric Revelation.” In it I have endeavored to amplify some ideas which I suggested in my last letter.

You will observe many corrections and alterations. In fact the article was wofully misprinted; and my principal object in boring you with it now, is to beg of you the favor to get it copied (with corrections) in the Brother Jonathan — I mean the Boston Notion — or any other paper where you have interest. If you can do this with out trouble, I would be very deeply indebted to you. I am living so entirely out of the world, just now, that I can do nothing of the kind myself.

In what are you occupied? — or is it still the far niente? For myself I am very industrious — collecting and arranging materials for a “Critical History of American Literature.” Do you ever see Mr. Hawthorne? He is a man of rare genius. A day or two since I met with a sketch by him called “Browne’s Wooden Image” — delicious. The leading idea, however, is suggested by Michael Angelo’s couplet: —

Non ha T ottimo artista alcun concetto

Ché un marmo solo in se non circonscriva.

To be sure Angelo half stole the thought from Socrates. ­[page 98:]

How fares it with the Biography? I fear we shall be late.

Most truly your friend,

EDGAR A. POE.(1)

Poe’s correspondence with Thomas had languished, but was now pleasantly resumed, in the old strain, and contains further evidence of the effort Poe made, in the first year of his residence, to establish himself.

NEW YORK, September 8, 1844.

MY DEAR THOMAS, — I received yours with sincere pleasure, and nearly as sincere surprise; for while you were wondering that I did not write to you, I was making up my mind that you had forgotten me altogether.

I have left Philadelphia, and am living, at pre sent, about five miles out of New York. For the last seven or eight months I have been playing hermit in earnest, nor have I seen a living soul out of my family — who are well and desire to be kindly remembered. When I say “well,” I only mean (as regards Virginia) as well as usual. Her health remains excessively precarious.

Touching the “Beechen Tree” [a poem by ­[page 99:] Thomas], I remember it well and pleasantly. I have not yet seen a published copy, but will get one forthwith and notice it as it deserves — and it deserves much of high praise — at the very first opportunity I get. At present I am so much out of the world that I may not be able to do anything immediately.

Thank God! Richard (whom you know) is himself again. Tell Dow so: but he won’t believe it. I am working at a variety of things (all of which you shall behold in the end) — and with an ardor of which I did not believe myself capable.

You said to me hurriedly, when we last met on the wharf in Philadelphia, that you believed Robert Tyler really wished to give me the post in the Custom House. This I also really think; and I am confirmed in the opinion that he could not, at all times, do as he wished in such matters, by seeing ———— at the head of the “Aurora” — a bullet-headed and malicious villain who has brought more odium upon the Administration than any fellow (of equal littleness) in its ranks, and who has been more indefatigably busy in both open and secret vilification of Robert Tyler than any individual, little or big, in America. ­[page 100:]

Let me hear from you again very soon, my dear Thomas, and believe me ever

Your friend, POE.(1)

At the end of the month he received the biography by Lowell: —

ELMWOOD, September 27, 1844.

MY DEAR FRIEND, — I kept back the biography a short time in order to send it on by a private hand. It is not half so good as it ought to be, but it was written under many disadvantages, not the least of which was depression of spirits which unfits a man for anything. I wish you to make any suggestions about it that may occur to you, and to reject it entirely if you do not like it.

I have mentioned Chatterton in it rather too slightingly; will you be good enough to modify what I say of him a little? His “Minstrel’s Song in Ella” is better than the rest of his writings.

You will find the package at No. 1 Nassau Street, up stairs. It was addressed to the care of C. F. Briggs. If his name is not upon the door, you will probably see the name of “Dougherty” or “Jones.” As ever, your friend,

J. R. LOWELL.(2) ­[page 101:]

It was at this time that, according to Willis, Mrs. Clemm called upon him and solicited employment for Poe, who was then, she said, ill. Willis, who was just converting his weekly paper, the “New Mirror,” into the “Evening Mirror,” a daily, with a weekly issue in addition, was in need of a subordinate, and in consequence of Mrs. Clemm’s visit Poe was engaged as an assistant — a “mechanical paragraphist,” to use Willis’s phrase — in the “Mirror” office. There, during the fall, at a desk in a corner, he sat from nine in the morning until the paper went to press, ready for whatever work might befall. He discharged the duties of the daily routine punctually, listened good-humoredly to the request that he would dull the edge of a criticism or soften a misanthropic sentiment, and conformed with entire fidelity to the suggestions made. Such is Willis’s sketch of his subordinate, and he adds in general terms that through a considerable period he saw only “one presentment of the man, — a quiet, patient, industrious, and most gentlemanly person, commanding the utmost respect and good feeling by his unvarying deportment and ability.”(1) It needs no keen eye to read between the lines of this description ­[page 102:] the real facts, — that the pay was small, the labor perfunctory and uninteresting, and the spirit of the poet himself, compelled to subdue his saturnine temper to the geniality of his chief, was chafing within. It was a striking instance of Pegasus in harness.

The first number of “The Evening Mirror” appeared October 7, 1844, and the next day the literary columns contained this passage upon Elizabeth Barrett Browning: —

“Miss Barrett is worth a dozen of Tennyson and six of Motherwell — equal perhaps in original genius to Keats and Shelley.”

Two months later this was followed up by another unmistakable sentence on the same poetess: —

“We do not believe there is a poetical soul embodied in this world that — as a centre of thought — sees further out toward the periphery permitted to angels, than Miss Barrett.”(1)

These critical dicta could have been no one’s but Poe’s; and as his hand is readily discerned in the literary paragraphing at many other points, it is most likely that he was employed on the daily from its start. It is as certain, on the other hand, as internal evidence can make it, that he ­[page 103:] never before this time made, as has been stated,(1) one of Willis’s staff of writers. .

A month after the receipt of the biography from Lowell, Poe acknowledged it, and again reverted to his scheme for the association of authors in a Magazine Company.

NEW YORK, October 28, 44.

MY DEAR FRIEND, — A host of small troubles growing from the one trouble of poverty, but which I will not trouble you with in detail, have hitherto prevented me from thanking you for the Biography and all the well-intended flatteries which it contains. But, upon the principle of bet ter late than never, let me thank you now, again and again. I sent it to Graham on the day I received it — taking with it only one liberty in the ­[page 104:] way of modification. This I hope you will par don. It was merely the substitution of another brief poem for the last you have done me the honor to quote.

I have not seen your marriage announced, but I presume from what you said in your penulti mate letter, that I may congratulate you now. Is it so? At all events I can wish you no better wish than that you may derive from your marriage as substantial happiness as I have derived from mine.

A long time ago I wrote you a long letter to which you have never replied. It concerned a scheme for protecting ourselves from the imposition of publishers by a coalition. I will state it again in brief. Suppose a dozen of the most active or influential men of letters in this country should unite for the purpose of publishing a magazine of high character. Their names to be kept secret, that their mutual support might be the more effectual. Each member to take a share of the stock at $100 a share. Each, if required, to furnish one article each month — the work to be sustained altogether by the contributions of the members, or by unpaid contributions from others. As many of the members as possible to be taken from those connected ­[page 105:] otherwise with the press: — a black-ball to exclude any one suggested as a member by those already conjoined — this to secure unanimity. These, of course, are mere hints in the rough. But suppose that (the scheme originating with yourself and me) we write to any others or, seeing them personally, engage them in the enterprise. The desired number being made up, a meeting might be held, and a constitution framed. A point in this latter might be that an editor should be elected periodically from among the stock holders.

The advantages of such a coalition seem to me very great. The Magazine could be started with a positive certainty of success. There would be no expense for contributions, while we would have the best. Plates, of course, would be disdained. The aim would be to elevate without stupefying our literature — to further justice — to resist foreign dictation — and to afford (in the circulation and profit of the journal) a remuneration to ourselves for whatever we should write.

The work should be printed in the very best manner, and should address the aristocracy of talent. We might safely give, for $5, a pamphlet of 128 pages, and, with the support of the variety ­[page 106:] of our personal influence, we might easily extend the circulation to 20,000, — giving $100,000. The expenses would not exceed $40,000, — if indeed they reached $20,000 when the work should be fairly established. Thus there would be $60,000 to be divided among twelve, — $5000 per annum apiece.

I have thought of this matter long and cautiously, and am persuaded that there would be little difficulty in doing even far more than I have ventured to suggest.

Do you hear anything more about the Lectures? Truly yours,

E. A. POE.(1)

Lowell did not answer until the middle of December, when he wrote to pave the way for Briggs, who was about to start the “Broadway Journal” in New York and desired an introduction.

ELMWOOD, December 12, 1844.

MY DEAR FRIEND, — You will forgive me for not writing sooner & for writing so little now, when I tell you that I have been for some time keeping a printing office agoing at the rate of from eight to twenty pages a day. I am printing ­[page 107:] a volume of prose (in conversation form) about poets and everything else, [“Conversations on Some of the Old Poets”] & not having prepared my copy, am obliged to write & print at once. You will like some parts of the book and dislike others.

My object in writing this is to introduce you to my friend Charles F. Briggs who is about to start a literary weekly paper in New York & desires your aid. He was here a month or two since, & I took the liberty of reading to him what I had written about you & to-day I received a letter from him announcing his plan & asking your address. Not knowing it, & not having time to write him I thought that the shortest way would be to introduce you to him. He will pay & I thought from something you said in your last letter that pay would be useful to you. I also took the liberty of praising you to a Mr. Colton, who has written “Tecumseh” . . . & whom I suspect, from some wry faces he made on first hearing your name, you have cut up. He is publishing a magazine & I think I convinced him that it would be for his interest to engage you permanently. But I know nothing whatever of his ability to pay.

I am not to be married till I have been delivered ­[page 108:] of my book; which will probably be before Christmas, & I shall spend the winter in Philadelphia. I shall only stop one night in New York on my way on. Returning I shall make a longer stay & shall of course see you. You will like Briggs & he will edit an excellent paper. Opposite, I write a note to him.

Yr. affectionate friend,

J. R. LOWELL.(1)

P. S. You must excuse me if I have blundered in recommending you to Colton. I know nothing of your circumstances save what I gleaned from your last letter, &, of course, said nothing to him which I might not say as an entire stranger to you. It is never safe to let an editor (as editors go) know that an author wants his pay.

I was in hopes that I should have been able to revise my sketch of you before it appeared. It was written under adverse circumstances & was incomplete. If you do not like this method of getting acquainted, send Briggs your address. His is No. 1 Nassau St. I never wrote an introductory letter before & do not own a complete letter writer — so you must excuse any greenness about it. ­[page 109:]

Nothing of Poe’s in the “Mirror” during the first three months requires notice. Since his arrival in New York, however, in the preceding April, some of his pieces in editors hands had got published: “A Tale of the Ragged Mountains,” a picturesque story of metempsychosis ascribed to the influence of Hoffmann, in “Godey’s” for June, and the two inferior grotesques, “The Oblong Box” and “Thou art the Man,” also in “Godey’s” for September and October; “Dreamland,” a new poem, in “Graham’s” for June; “The Angel of the Odd,” a title which appears for the first time, in the “Columbian” for October; “The Literary Life of Thingum Bob,” a satirical extravaganza, said to be aimed at Graham, on the ways of editors and the means of popularity, which had at last found its indulgent victim in the “Southern Literary Messenger” for December, where it appeared anonymously; “The Purloined Letter,” in the “Gift” for 1845, closing the series of the ratiocinative tales. In the “Democratic Review,” too, for November and December, the first installments of the miscellaneous notes called “Marginalia” were issued; and as one reads them and the later collections, which continued to be published until Poe died, one cannot but admire the audacity ­[page 110:] of their author, who could thus resell clippings from his old book reviews since the be ginning of his career, by merely giving them a new title. It was a dexterous filching back from Time of the alms for oblivion already given and stored away in that capacious wallet. Doubtless Poe looked on editors as fair game, if they would not buy his new tales, let them purchase his old criticisms. But an event was soon to occur that made any manuscripts by Poe treasure-trove. Probably the editors, who had almost emptied their pigeon-holes of his accumulated contributions, were sorry they had not delayed longer.

In the “Evening Mirror,” January 29, 1845, “The Raven” was published, with a highly commendatory card from Willis; and a few days later “The American Whig Review” for February, from the advance sheets of which this poem had been copied, was the centre of literary inter est and the prey of editorial scissors throughout the length and breadth of the country. In the magazine the author was masked under the pseudonym “Quarles,” but in this journal he had been named as E. A. Poe. The popular response was instantaneous and decisive. No brief poem ever established itself so immediately, ­[page 111:] so widely, and so imperishably in men’s minds. “The Raven” became, in some sort, a national bird, and the author the most notorious American of the hour. It happened — and for this Godey and Graham must have blessed their stars, that in their respective magazines of this same month the former published “The 1002 Tale,” the voyage of Sinbad among the wonders made known by modern science, and the latter Lowell’s sketch of Poe.

The history of the composition of the “Raven” has been variously told, but it is possible to reconcile the different accounts. Mrs. Weiss relates, on Poe’s authority, that the bird was originally an owl, and that the poem “had lain for more than ten years in his desk unfinished, while he would at long intervals work on it.” l Whatever may have been the history of this earlier conception, the true germ is contained in Poe’s review of “Barnaby Rudge,” published in “Graham’s,” February, 1842: —

“The raven, too, intensely amusing as it is, might have been made, more than we now see it, a portion of the conception of the fantastic Barnaby. Its croakings might have been prophetically heard in the course of the drama. Its ­[page 112:] character might have performed, in regard to that of the idiot, much the same part as does, in music, the accompaniment in respect to the air. Each might have been distinct. Each might have differed remarkably from the other. Yet between them there might have been wrought an analogical resemblance, and although each might have existed apart, they might have formed together a whole which would have been imperfect in the absence of either. “This is precisely the relation which exists in the poem between the raven and the lover.

It is related(1) that Poe was, at some time the following summer, at the Barhyte trout-ponds, Saratoga Springs, New York, and mentioned the poem “to be called The Raven “to Mrs. Barhyte, who was a contributor to the “New York Mirror.” The next summer, 1843, accord ing to this same tradition, agreeing with the tale told at Philadelphia of such a visit, he was again at the same resort; and a conversation between him and a lad about the bird in the poem is reported, and it is added that Mrs. Barhyte was shown the written composition. This lady died in April, 1844, and these statements seem ­[page 113:] to be derived from Mr. Barhyte’s recollection of what his wife said. It must have been this draft of the poem which Rosenbach saw in Philadelphia as early as the winter of 1843-44. “I read The Raven long before it was published,” says this writer, “and was in Mr. George R. Graham’s office when the poem was offered to him. Poe said that his wife and Mrs. Clemm were starving, and that he was in very pressing need of the money. I carried him fifteen dollars contributed by Mr. Graham, Mr. Godey, Mr. McMichael, and others, who condemned the poem, but gave the money as a charity.”(1) He had this poem, which may be correctly described as a draft, at least, when, in 1844, he went to New York and boarded at Mrs. Brennan’s, on the Bloomingdale road, near what is now the eastern corner of Eighty-fourth Street and Broadway, where he is also said(2) to have stayed, accompanied by his family, in the previous summer. There he read the poem to his ­[page 114:] landlady before its publication in the “Mirror”; and as he removed, late in the fall of 1844, to 15 Amity Street, it is clear that whatever revision he gave it was done there.(1) He offered the poem to the “Whig Review” anonymously, through John Augustus Shea, an old West Point schoolmate then pursuing literature in the city, to whom he sent the last correction in a note.(2) It will be remembered, however, that Colton, the editor of the “Whig,” had been spoken to by Lowell in Poe’s favor, and it is unlikely that he was ignorant of the authorship. Willis may have taken the text from an advance copy of the magazine or from a proof. Such seems to have been the composition of “The Raven.”

Poe now withdrew from the “Mirror,” much to the regret of his employer. His contributions ­[page 115:] had been of the slightest interest, and contained nothing novel, except his attack on Longfellow’s collection of fugitive poems, called “The Waif,” — the beginning of the “Longfellow war.” His connection with the paper had turned to his own benefit by the frequent puffs of himself, both direct and indirect, which it published, and by the literary introductions which his position afforded him. He was, however, always dissatisfied with his situation, which certainly was a humble one. In the issue of January 20, 1845, in which Lowell’s critical estimate of him was reprinted, he was editorially praised, his capacities as a magazine editor pointed out, and him self described as “ready for propositions.”(1) No proposition of the kind was made, but an arrangement was entered into by which he became associated with Charles F. Briggs, then known as “Harry Franco,” in the management of “The Broadway Journal,” a weekly which had issued its first number on the 4th of January previous.

Briggs was a writer of light literature, from Nantucket, and ambitious of editing a paper. A month before this time he wrote to his friend Lowell, “I have made arrangements for publishing ­[page 116:] the first number of my long-talked-of paper in January. It will be published by John Bisco, a shrewd Yankee from Worcester, who has been a school-teacher in New Jersey, and was once the publisher of the Knickerbocker.” Further on he adds, “If you know Poe’s address, send it on to me when you write.” In consequence of Lowell’s introduction Poe contributed to the first two numbers of the “Journal” a re view of Miss Barrett (Mrs. Browning), and from that time was a regular writer at the rate of one dollar a column. He sent the review, and also a copy of “The Raven” to Home, January 25, 1845, but the reply was delayed till late in the spring, when Home wrote: —

LONDON, May 17, 1845.

MY DEAR SIR, — After so long a delay of my last letter to you, I am at all events glad to hear that it reached you or rather that you, in diving among the shoals at the Post-Office, had contrived to fish it up. But matters do not seem to mend in this respect; for your present letter of the date of January 25, 1845, only reached my house at the latter end of April. In short, we might as well correspond from Calcutta, as far as time is concerned. However, I am glad that the ­[page 117:] letters reach their destination at all, and so that none are lost we must be patient,

I have only just returned from a nine months absence in Germany. I principally resided, during this time, in the Rhine Provinces. I take the earliest opportunity of thanking you for all attentions.

As I thought your letter to me contained more of the bright side of criticism than the Broad way Journal,” I sent it to my friend Miss Barrett. She returned it with a note — half of which I tear off, and send you (confidentially) that you may see in what a good and noble spirit she receives the critique in which, as you say, the shadows do certainly predominate. Well, for my own part, I think a work should be judged of its merits chiefly — since faults and imperfections are certain to be found in all works, but the high est merits only in a few. Therefore the highest merits seem to me to be naturally the first and main points to be considered. Miss Barrett has read the “Raven,” and says she thinks there is a fine lyrical melody in it. When I tell you that this lady “says” you will be so good as to under stand that I mean “writes” — for although I have corresponded with Miss Barrett these five or six years, I have never seen her to this day. ­[page 118:]

Nor have I been nearer to doing so than talking with her father and sisters.

I am of the same opinion as Miss Barrett about the “Raven”; and it also seems to me that the poet intends to represent a very painful condition [of] mind, as of an imagination that was liable to topple over into some delirium, or an abyss of melancholy, from the continuity of one unvaried emotion.

Tennyson I have not seen nor heard from yet, since my return. It is curious that you should ask me for the opinions of the only two poets with whom I am especially intimate. Most of the others I am acquainted with, but am not upon such terms of intellectual sympathy and friend ship, as with Miss Barrett and Tennyson. But I do not at this moment know where Tennyson is.

You mention that an American publisher would probably like to reprint “Orion,” and I therefore send a copy for that purpose, or probability. I also send a copy in which I have written your name, together with a copy of “Gregory VII,” and two copies of “Introductory Comments” (to the second edition of the “New Spirit of the Age”) of which I beg your acceptance. Of “Chaucer Modernized” I do not possess any other copy than the one in my own library, and I ­[page 119:] believe it is out of print; but if you would like to have a copy of SchlegePs lectures on “Dramatic Literature” (to which I wrote an introduction to the second edition), I shall be happy to forward you the volume, and any others of my own you would like to have — that is, if I have copies of them. “Cosmo de Medici,” for instance, I could send you. I have made no revision of “Orion” for the proposed new edition. The fact is, I have not time, and moreover am hardly disposed to do much to it, after so many editions. I had rather write (almost) another long poem. I shall be happy to send you a short poem or two for your magazine, directly it is established, or for the first number, if there be time for you to let me know. I am, dear sir,

Yours truly, R. H. HORNE.(1)

The inclosure, from Mrs. Browning to Home, was as follows: —

58 WIMPOLE ST., May 12, 1845.

You will certainly think me mad, dear Mr. Home, for treading upon my own heels (room for the [illegible], in another letter. But I am uncomfortable about my message to Mr. Poe, lest it should not be grateful enough in the sound of ­[page 120:] it. Will you tell him what is quite the truth, that in my own opinion he has dealt with me most generously, and that I thank him for his candour as for a part of his kindness. Will you tell him also that he has given my father pleasure, which is giving it to me more than twice. Also the review is very ably written — and the reviewer has so obviously and thoroughly read my poems, as to be a wonder among critics. Will you tell Mr. Poe this, or to this effect, dear Mr. Home, all but part of the last sentence, which peradventure may be somewhat superfluous. I heard from dear Miss Mitford this morning, and she talks delightfully of taking lodgings in London soon; of coming not for a day only, nor for a week only [end of sheet(1)].

Poe’s association with Briggs continued in an undefined way. “The Raven “was reprinted in the “Journal,” slightly revised, February 8, and the office-boy of the day, writing fifty-seven years afterwards, gives a scene of the editorial den.

“It was one cold day in winter, when everybody in the ‘Literary Journal’ office from my self on up was busily at work, that Poe came ­[page 121:] into the office, accompanied by the great actor named Murdock. They went to Poe’s desk, and Mr. Poe summoned the entire force, including myself, about him. There were less than a dozen of us, and I was the only boy.

“When we were all together, Poe drew the manuscript of The Raven from his pocket and handed it to Murdock. He had called us to hear the great elocutionist read his newly-written poem. Murdock read, and what with the combined art of two masters, I was entranced. It is the most cherished memory of my life that I heard the immortal poem read by one whose voice was like a chime of silver bells. . . . In the next issue of the Literary Journal The Raven appeared in the place of honor.”(1)

The first trial Poe made of the value of his popularity was to lecture in the library of the New York Historical Society, on February 28, when between two and three hundred persons gathered to hear him. His subject was, as be fore, American Poetry, and in substance the address was the old monologue, sharp, bitter, and grim, on the sins of editors and the stupidity of versifiers, relieved by the elocutionary effect of a ­[page 122:] few fine poems and too generous praise where he thought praise was due. He dealt with Mrs. Sigourney, Mrs. Welby, Mrs. Osgood, Seba Smith, the Davidsons, Bryant, Halleck, Long fellow, Sprague, and Dana. The inference is that the lecture was made up by piecing together his old book reviews, and was probably textually the same with that delivered at Philadelphia, except that he now omitted reference to Griswold, with whom he was endeavoring to renew his acquaintance, plainly from selfish motives. He was still playing the part of the fearless critic, and he found some listeners to follow Lowell’s lead and commend him for his audacity, while they acknowledged the usefulness of his ungracious service; but there were many more in whose minds his words rankled. He was a good speaker, having natural gifts of elocution and an effective manner. Willis, in noticing the lecture, sketches him with the elegant facility that now, to our changed taste, reads so much like nonsense: —

“He becomes a desk, — his beautiful head showing like a statuary embodiment of Discrimination; his accent drops like a knife through water, and his style is so much purer and clearer than the pulpit commonly gets or requires that ­[page 123:] the effect of what he says, besides other things, pampers the ear.”(1)

The impression Poe first made on Briggs is told in the following passages of the latter’s correspondence with Lowell: —

“I like Poe exceedingly well; Mr. Griswold has told me shocking bad stories about him, which his whole demeanor contradicts.”(2)

“Poe tells me that Graham refused to print his tale of the Gold Bug, and kept it in his pos session nine months. I never read it before last week, and it strikes me as among the most ingenious pieces of fiction that I have ever seen. If you have not read it, it will repay you for the trouble when you do. He told me furthermore that the poem which you have quoted from the ‘House of Usher,’ —

“‘In a valley, fair and shady [sic ]

By good angels tenanted,’ etc.,

he sent to O Sullivan for the Democratic/ and it was returned to him. You see by these what the judgments of Magazine editors amount to. . . . I have always strangely misunderstood Poe, from thinking him one of the Graham and Godey species, but I find him as different as possible. I ­[page 124:] think that you will like him well when you come to know him personally.”(1)

Briggs, under this impression, now associated Poe with himself in “The Broadway Journal”; and, under the impetus of the popularity of “The Raven,” Wiley & Putnam undertook to bring out in the summer a selection from his tales, and later an edition of his poems.


[[Footnotes]]

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

1  xxxxxxxxxxxx.

FOOTNOTES

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 69:]

1 Poe to Mrs. Clemm, MS.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 71:]

1 Lowell MSS.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 79:]

1 Griswold MSS.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 81:]

1 Griswold MSS.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 87:]

1 Poe to Bowen and Gossler, MS. copy.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 89:]

1 Griswold MSS.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 95:]

1 Lowell MSS.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 96:]

1 Poe to Chivers. The Poe-Chivers Papers, Century Magazine, January-February, 1903.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 98:]

1 Lowell MSS.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 100:]

1 Griswold MSS.

2 Stoddard, civ, cv.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 101:]

1 The Home Journal, October 13, 1849.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 102:]

1 Evening Mirror, December 7, 1844.

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

1 Ingram, i. 248. The statement that Poe contributed translations from the French to the New Mirror from April, 1843, to its discontinuance (which is wrongly said to have taken place before Poe left Philadelphia), and signed them with his initials, rests on a negligent examination of the files. The translations referred to begin January 3, 1843 (i, 9), and are signed E. P.; they continue to the end, but afterwards they are also signed at the beginning of the articles “By a Lady.” For example, i, 307, 355, etc. The complete list is published in The Virginia Poe, xvi, 368-371. They are, perhaps, from the pen of Emily Percival.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 106:]

1 Lowell MSS.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 108:]

1 Griswold MSS.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 111:]

1 Mrs. Weiss, p. 185.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 132:]

1 Home Journal (by Dr. William Elliot Griffis), November 5, 1884.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 113:]

1 The American, February 26, 1887.

2 Poe and the Raven (by General James R. O Beirne), the New York Mail and Express, quoted in the Augusta Chronicle, April 30, 1900; the earliest account of Poe’s residence in the house and the reminiscences of Mrs. Brennan is given by Gill, 1877. Cf. Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Weekly, September, 1833 (by Tyrrell).

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 114:]

1 It is also related by his tavern companions of Sandy Welsh’s cellar in Ann Street that the poem was a sort of joint-product of all their wits, being “produced stanza by stanza at small intervals, and submitted by Poe piecemeal to the criticism and emendation of his intimates,” until it was “voted complete.” Specific instances of such emendation are reported from Colonel Du Solle. Scribner’s (by F. G. Fairfield), October, 1875. Mrs. Weiss (p. 99), also on Du Solle’s authority, tells the same anecdote with variations.

2 The Virginia Poe, i, 217-220. Judge George Shea, son of J. A. Shea, told the author the entire story some time about 1893 at “The Players,” New York.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 115:]

1 Evening Mirror, January 20, 1845.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 119:]

1 Griswold MSS.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 120:]

1 Griswold MSS.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 121:]

1 Sunday World-Herald, Omaha (by Alexander T. Crane), July 13, 1902.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 123:]

1 Evening Mirror, March 12, 1845.

2 Briggs to Lowell, January 6, 1845. MS.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 124:]

1 Briggs to Lowell, January 27, 1845. MS.


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Notes:

None.


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[S:0 - LEAPPL, 1909] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Bookshelf - The Life of EAP (G. E. Woodberry) (Chapter 09)