Text: George E. Woodberry, “Chapter 13,” The Life of Edgar Allan Poe: Personal and Literary (1909), vol. II, pp. 237-264


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­[page 237, unnumbered:]

Chapter XIII

EUREKA

POE began to appear in the world at the opening of the new year, 1848; and concurrently the continuation of Lowell’s sketch of him by Cooke appeared, in January, in the friendly “Messenger.” He brought forward again the great ambition of his life and announced the resurrection of the “Stylus.” He communicated the plan to several correspondents, as the means by which he meant to reëstablish himself in the literary world.

He sent out the old prospectus, with its well-worn announcements that the management was to bear the mark of individuality, the contributions to be selected solely on the ground of merit, the criticism to be independent, sincere, and fear less, and with the promise of “Literary America,” by the editor, being “a faithful account of the literary productions, literary people, and literary affairs of the United States,” to be begun in the first number. Poe’s plan was to make a personal canvass through the country, as had ­[page 238:] been so successfully done by his friend Mr. Freeman Hunt in launching his “Merchants Magazine” a few years previous. With the view of raising the money for this journey he advertised a lecture in the Society Library, on the “Cosmogony of the Universe,” and at his request Willis besought public favor for it in his paper, the “Home Journal,” and added a good word for the projected “Stylus,” the founding of which was said to be the ultimate object of the lecture. On February 3, in response to these notices, about sixty persons assembled, the night unfortunately being stormy, and, it is said, were held entranced for two hours and a half by an abstract of “Eureka,” although the charm must have been exercised by the personality of the poet rather than the substance of what he uttered; and indeed Poe seems to have been an eloquent and impressive speaker, as he had good right to be both by inheritance and by the natural endowments of his voice and person.

The lecture was imperfectly reported by a few of the city papers, but made no impression. Financially it had failed of its purpose, and therefore Poe, seeing no better means of obtaining funds, determined to publish the entire work, and at once offered it to Mr. Putnam, who many ­[page 239:] years afterward wrote an account(1) of the interview which shows very clearly both Poe’s physical and mental state. He says that Poe was in a tremor of excitement and declared with intense earnestness and solemnity that the issue of the book was of momentous interest, that the truths disclosed in it were of more consequence than the discovery of gravitation, and that an edition of fifty thousand copies would be but a beginning. Mr. Putnam confesses that he was im pressed, and two days later accepted the manuscript. An edition of five hundred copies was printed without delay and published early in the summer, in good form, under the title “Eureka; A Prose Poem,”(2) and introduced by the well-known preface: —

“To the few who love me and whom I love — to those who feel rather than to those who think — to the dreamers and those who put faith in dreams as in the only realities — I offer this Book of Truths, not in its character of Truth-Teller, but for the Beauty that abounds in its Truth; constituting it true. To them I present the composition as an Art-Product alone: — ­[page 240:] let us say as a Romance; or, if I be not urging too lofty a claim, as a Poem.

What I here propound is true: — therefore it cannot die: — or if by any means it be now trodden down so that it die, it will rise again to the Life Everlasting. Nevertheless it is as a Poem only that I wish this work to be judged after I am dead.”

It is obviously impossible to grant Poe’s re quest. He has written a physical explanation of the universe and based it on metaphysical principles; he has declared it a true account, and he must stand by his words. Moreover, the speculative activity of Poe’s mind grew out of its analytical activity; the metaphysical essays virtually begin when the ratiocinative tales end, in 1845, and thus in the history of Poe’s mental development, “Eureka,” the principal work of his last years, necessarily occupies a crowning point. The earliest indication that such topics occupied his mind occurs in the review of Macaulay’s “Essays” in June, 1841: “That we know no more to-day of the nature of Deity — of its purposes — and thus of man himself — than we did even a dozen years ago — is a proposition disgracefully absurd; and of this any astronomer could assure Mr. Macaulay. Indeed, to our ­[page 241:] own mind, the only irrefutable argument in support of the soul’s immortality or, rather, the only conclusive proof of man’s alternate dissolution and rejuvenescence ad infinitum — is to be found in analogies deduced from the modern established theory of the nebular cosmogony.”(1) After this utterance the metaphysical tales followed, but the speculations of Poe were not fully developed until the publication of “Eureka.” In the following criticism, which necessarily par takes somewhat of the abstract nature of its subject, only what is peculiar to Poe will be dwelt on; and it may as well be premised that the end in view is not the determination of abstract truth, but simply the illustration alike of Poe’s genius and character by the light of his speculations.

Poe’s hypothesis is as follows: The mind knows intuitively — by inductive or deductive processes which escape consciousness, elude reason, or defy expression — that the creative act of Deity must have been the simplest possible; or, to expand and define this statement, it must have consisted in willing into being a primordial particle, the germ of all things, existing without relations to aught, or, in the technical phrase, unconditioned. This particle, by virtue of the ­[page 242:] divine volition, radiated into space uniformly in all directions a shower of atoms of diverse form, irregularly arranged among themselves, but all, generally speaking, equally distant from their source; this operation was repeated at intervals, but with decreased energy in each new instance, so that the atoms were impelled less far. On the exhaustion of the radiating force, the universe was thus made up of a series of concentric hollow spheres, like a nest of boxes, the crusts of the several spheres being constituted of the atoms of the several discharges. The radiating force at each of its manifestations is measured by the number of atoms then thrown off; or, since the number of atoms in any particular case must have been directly proportional with the surface of the particular sphere they occupied, and since the surfaces of a series of concentric spheres are directly proportional with the squares of their distances from the centre, the radiating force in the several discharges was directly proportional with the squares of the distances to which the several atomic showers were driven.

On the consummation of this secondary creative act, as the diffusion may be called, there occurred, says Poe, a recoil, a striving of the atoms each to each in order to regain their primitive ­[page 243:] condition; and this tendency, which is now being satisfied, is expressed in gravitation, the mutual attraction of atoms with a force inversely proportional with the squares of the distances. In other words, the law of gravitation is found to be the converse of the law of radiation, as would be the case if the former energy were the reaction of the latter as is claimed; furthermore, the distribution of the atoms in space is seen to be such as would result from the mode of diffusion described. The return of the atoms into their source, however, would take place too rap idly, adds Poe, and without accomplishing the Deity’s design of developing out of the original homogeneous particle the utmost heterogeneity, were it not that God, in this case a true Deus ex machina, has interposed by introducing a repelling force which began to be generated at the very inception of the universal reaction, and ever be comes greater as the latter proceeds. Poe names this force electricity, while at the same time he suggests that light, heat, and magnetism are among its phases, and ascribes to it all vital and mental phenomena; but of the principle itself he makes a mystery, since he is intuitively convinced that it belongs to that spiritual essence which lies beyond the limits of human inquiry. In the ­[page 244:] grand reaction, then, the universe is through at traction becoming more condensed, and through repulsion more heterogeneous. Attraction and repulsion taken together constitute our notion of matter; the former is the physical element, the Body, the latter is the spiritual element, the Soul. Incidentally it should be remarked that since in a divine design, being perfect, no one part exists for the sake of others more than the others for its sake, it is indifferent whether repulsion be considered, as hitherto, an expedient to retard the attractive force, or, on the other hand, the attractive force as an expedient to develop repulsion; in other words, it is indifferent whether the physical be regarded as subordinate to the spiritual element, or vice versa. To return to the main thread, Poe affirms that repulsion will not increase indefinitely as the condensation of the mass proceeds, but when in the process of time it has fulfilled its purpose — the evolution of heterogeneity — it will cease, and the attractive force, being unresisted, will draw the atoms back into the primordial particle in which, as it has no parts, attraction will also cease; now, at traction and repulsion constituting our notion of matter, the cessation of these two forces is the same thing with the annihilation of matter, or, ­[page 245:] in other words, the universe, at the end of the reaction which has been mentally followed out, will sink into the nihility out of which it arose. In conclusion Poe makes one last affirmation, to wit, that the diffusion and ingathering of the universe is the diffusion and ingathering of Deity itself, which has no existence apart from the constitution of things.

It is difficult to treat this hypothesis, taken as a metaphysical speculation, with respect. To examine it for the purpose of demolition would be a tedious, though an easy task; but fortunately there is no need to do more than point out a few of its confusions in order to illustrate the worthlessness of Poe’s thought in this field, and to indicate the depth of the delusion under which he labored in believing himself a discoverer of new truth. For this purpose it will be best to take the most rudimentary metaphysical ideas involved. The primordial particle is declared to be unconditioned — “my particle proper is absolute Irrelation,” — or in other words it is the Absolute; but this is incompatible with its being willed into being by Deity, to which it would then necessarily stand related as an effect to its cause; on the contrary, it must itself, being the Absolute, be Deity with which Poe at last identifies ­[page 246:] it. In other words, when Poe has reached the conception of the primordial particle as first defined by him, he is just where he started, that is, at the conception of Deity, and at that point, as has been seen, he had to end. The difficulty which bars inquiry — the inconceivability of creation — remains as insuperable as ever, although Poe may have cheated himself into believing it overcome by the legerdemain of a phrase from physics; in the attempt to describe the generation of the phenomenal universe out of the unknowable, he has been foiled by the old obstacles — the impossibility of making an equation between nothing and something, of effecting a transformation of the absolute into the conditioned. If the primordial particle be material, it is only the scientific equivalent of the old turtle of the Hindoos, on which the elephant stands to support the globe; if it be immaterial, it is the void beneath.

Such a criticism as the above belongs to the primer of thought in this science; but objections as obvious, brief, and fatal may be urged against every main point of the argument. Without entering on such a discussion it is sufficient to observe, as characteristic illustrations of the density of Poe’s ignorance in this department of ­[page 247:] knowledge, that he regards space not as created but as given, explains the condensation of the universe as being a physical reaction upon the immaterial will of God (for the original radiating force cannot be discriminated from and is expressly identified with the divine volition, just as the primordial particle cannot be discriminated from and is expressly identified with the divine essence), and lastly so confuses such simple notions as final and efficient causes that he contradistinguishes the force of repulsion from that of attraction as arising and disappearing in obedience to the former instead of the later sort. In a word, Poe’s theory belongs to the infancy of speculation, to the period before physics was separated from ontology; in this sense, and in no other, Kennedy’s remark that Poe wrote like “an old Greek philosopher, “was just.

What Poe himself most prized in this hypo thesis was its pantheistic portion. The sentence of Baron Bielfeld, — “nous ne connaissons rien de la nature ou de Pessence de Dieu; — pour savoir ce qu il est, il faut être Dieu même,” — had made a deep impression on his mind early in life; it is one of the half-dozen French quotations that he introduces at every opportunity into his com positions; in “Eureka” he translates it, “We ­[page 248:] know absolutely nothing of the nature or essence of God; in order to comprehend what he is, we should have to be God ourselves,” — and he immediately adds, “I nevertheless venture to demand if this our present ignorance of the Deity is an ignorance to which the soul is everlastingly condemned.”(1) Now after reflection he boldly took the only road to such knowledge that was left open by the apothegm, and affirmed that he was God, being persuaded thereto by his memories of an ante-natal and his aspiration for an immortal existence, and in particular by his pride. “My whole nature utterly revolts “ he exclaimed, “at the idea that there is any Being in the Universe superior to myself! “(2) On reading so violent an expression of belief one involuntarily examines the matter more closely and pushes home the question whether Poe did actually so fool himself to the top of his bent; and after some little investigation one finds that, if he was his own dupe, the reason is not far to seek. It is necessary here to summarize the speculations which were put forth elsewhere by Poe, especially in the metaphysical tales, and either led up to or supplemented the views of “Eureka.” ­[page 249:]

According to these other statements, the Uni verse is made up of gross matter sensibly perceived and of fine matter so minutely divided that the atoms coalesce (this is, of course, a contradiction in terms) and form an unparticled substance which permeates and impels all things. This unparticled substance or imperceptible coalescent matter is the universal mind (into such unintelligible phraseology is the keen analyst forced); its being is Deity; its motion, regarded on the material or energetic side, is the divine volition, or, regarded on the mental or conscious side, is the creative thought. Deity and its activity, being such in its universal existence, is individualized, by means of gross matter made for that end, into particular creatures, among which are men; the human being, in other words, is a specialization of the universal, or is God incarnate, as is every other creature what soever. It is superfluous to follow Poe in his fantastic conception of the universe as the abode of countless rudimentary incarnations of the Deity, each a divine thought and therefore irrevocable; the peculiar form of his pantheism would not be more defined thereby. At the first glance one sees that his theory is built out of Cartesian notions, crudely apprehended, and ­[page 250:] rendered ridiculous by the effort to yoke them with thoroughly materialistic ideas. In fact, Poe’s scraps of speculative philosophy came from such opposite quarters that when his mind began to work on such contradictory information he could not well help falling into inextricable confusion. On the one hand he had de rived, early in life, from obscure disciples of the French philosophes, the first truth that a materialist ever learns, — the origin of all knowledge in experience, and the consequent limitation of the mind to phenomena; on the other hand he had at a later period gleaned some of the conceptions of transcendentalism from Coleridge, Schlegel, and other secondary sources; from the union of such principles the issue was naturally monstrous, two-natured, like the Centaur. Essentially Poe was a materialist; whether, by gradually refining and subdividing matter, he reaches the unparticled substance, or by reversing the evolution of nature he arrives at the fiery mist and the primordial particle, he seeks to find out God by searching matter; and even in adopting the radically spiritual idea of pantheism, he is continually endeavoring to give it a materialistic form. He persuaded himself, as it is easy for ignorance to do; subtle as his mind was, well ­[page 251:] furnished for metaphysical thought both by his powers of abstraction and of reasoning, he wrote the jargon that belongs to the babbling days of philosophy because he did not take the pains to know the results of past inquiry and to train himself in modern methods. By his quick perception and adroit use of analogies, and especially by his tireless imagination, he gave his confused dogmatism the semblance of a reasoned system; but in fact his metaphysics exhibit only the shallowness of his learning and the self-delusion of an arrogant mind.

It is probable that few readers of “Eureka “ ever seriously tried to understand its metaphysics. Its power — other than the fascination which some readers feel in whatever makes of their countenances “a foolish face of wonder” — lies in its exposition of Laplace’s nebular theory and its vivid and popular presentation of astronomical phenomena. In this physical portion of the essay it has been fancied that Poe anticipated some of the results of later science; but this view cannot be sustained with candor. His own position that matter came from nihility and consisted of centres of force had been put forth as a scientific theory by Boscovich in 1758-59, had been widely discussed, and had found its ­[page 252:] way into American text-books. The same theory in a modified form had just been revived and brought to the notice of scientists by Faraday in his lecture in 1844. It has not, however, occupied the attention of first-class scientific men since that time. There may be, in the claim that “the recent progress of scientific thought runs in Poe’s lines,” some reference to Sir William Thomson’s vortex theory of the constitution of atoms, but its resemblance to Poe’s theory of vortices is only superficial, for what he puts forth was merely a revival of one of the earliest at tempts to explain the Newtonian law, long since abandoned by science. It is true that in several particulars, such as the doctrine of the evolution of the universe from the simple to the complex, Poe’s line of thought has now been followed out in detail; these suggestions, however, were not at the time peculiar to Poe, were not orignated or developed by him, but on the contrary were common scientific property, for he appropriated ideas, just as he paraphrased statements of fact, from the books he read. He was no more a fore runner of Spencer, Faraday, and Darwin than scores of others, and he did nothing to make their investigations easier. Poe’s purely scientific speculations are mainly ­[page 253:] contained in the Addenda (1) to a report of his lecture on “The Universe “sent to a correspondent, and consist either of mathematical explanations of Kepler’s first and third laws; or of statements, “that the sun was condensed at once (not gradually according to the supposition of Laplace) into his smallest size,” and afterwards “sent into space his substance in the form of a vapor” from which Neptune was made; or of similar theories. They exhibit once more Foe’s tenacity of mind, the sleuth-hound persistence of his intellectual pursuit; but, like his metaphysics, they represent a waste of power. They are, moreover, characterized by extraordinary errors. Some of the data are quite imaginary, it being impossible to determine what are the facts; some of them are quite wrong. The density of Jupiter, for example, in a long and important calculation, is constantly reckoned as two and one half, whereas it is only something more than one fifth, and the densities of the planets are described as being inversely as their rotary periods, whereas in any table of the elements of the solar system some wide departures from this rule are observable. Again, it is stated that Kepler’s first ­[page 254:] and third laws “cannot be explained upon the principle of Newton’s theory”; but, in fact, they follow by mathematical deduction from it. Poe’s own explanation of them is merely a play upon figures. A striking instance of fundamental ignorance of astronomical science is his statement at various places that the planets rotate (on their own axes) in elliptical orbits, and the reference he frequently makes to the breadth of their orbits (the breadth of their paths through space) agree ably to this supposition. Such a theory is incompatible with the Newtonian law of gravitation, according to which any revolution in an elliptical orbit implies a source of attraction at the focus of the ellipse. Examples of bodies which have breadth of orbit in Poe’s sense are found in the satellites of all the planets, each of which, how ever, has its primary as a source of attraction to keep it in its elliptical orbit; the primary by its revolution round the sun gives then the satellite a breadth of orbit. But to make the proper rotation of the planets themselves take place about a focus, which would be merely a point moving in an elliptical orbit about the sun, would be to give them an arbitrary motion with no force to produce it. So far was Poe from being a seer of science, ­[page 255:] that he was fundamentally in error with regard to the generalizations which were of prime importance to his speculations. The one grand assumption of his whole speculation is the universality of the law of inverse squares as applied to attraction and repulsion, whereas it has been known since the beginning of study regarding them that that law does not explain all the forces involved, as, for example, molecular forces; and for this Boscovich himself had provided. Again, to illustrate his scientific foresight, he reproaches Herschel for his reluctance to doubt the stability of the universe, and himself boldly affirms, consistently with his theory, that it is in a state of ever swifter collapse; than this nothing could be more at variance with the great law of the conservation of energy. Undoubtedly Poe had talents for scientific investigation, had he been willing to devote himself to such work; but, so far as appears from this essay, he had not advanced further in science than the elements of physics, mathematics, and astronomy, as he had learned them at school or from popular works, such as Dr. Nichol’s “Architecture of the Heavens,” or from generalizations, such as the less technical chapters of Auguste Comte’s “Philosophic Positive.” Out of such a limited stock ­[page 256:] of knowledge Poe could not by mere reflection generate any Newtonian truth; that he thought he had done so, measures his folly. In a word, for this criticism must be brought to a close, “Eureka” affords one of the most striking in stances in literature of a naturally strong intel lect tempted by overweening pride to an Icarian flight and betrayed, notwithstanding its merely specious knowledge, into an ignoble exposure of its own presumption and ignorance. The facts are not to be obscured by the smooth profession of Poe that he wished this work to be looked on only as a poem; for, though he perceived that his argument was too fragmentary and involved to receive credence, he was himself profoundly convinced that he had revealed the secret of eternity. Nor, were “Eureka” to be judged as a poem, that is to say, as a fictitious cosmogony, would the decision be more favorable; even then so far as it is obscure to the reader it must be pronounced defective; so far as it is understood, involving as it does in its primary conceptions incessant contradictions of the necessary laws of thought, it must be pronounced meaningless. Poe believed himself to be that extinct being, a universal genius of the highest order; and he wrote this essay to prove his powers in philosophy ­[page 257:] and in science. To the correspondent to whom he sent the addenda he declared, “As to the lecture, I am very quiet about it — but if you have ever dealt with such topics, you will recognize the novelty and moment of my views. What I have propounded will (in good time) revolutionize the world of Physical and Metaphysical science. I say this calmly, but I say it.”(1)

Besides “Eureka,” Poe’s publications for the first half year were of the slightest, consisting only of “Marginalia,” in January and February, and “Fifty Suggestions,” a paper of the same character, in May and June, in “Graham’s,” and “An Enigma,” an anagrammatic poem to Sarah Anna Lewis, commonly called “Estelle,” in the “Union,” in March.

The principal events of his private life, while “Eureka” was being published, were the begin ning of his courtship of Mrs. Helen Whitman and the termination of his intercourse with Mrs. Shew. Since the death of Virginia, Mrs. Shew had maintained her intimacy with the family, and had actively befriended him in his literary projects. In the earlier part of the year she had asked him to furnish the music room and library of a new house which she was to ­[page 258:] occupy, and she made him at home when he visited her. One such visit is especially of interest, since to it has been ascribed the first suggestion of Poe’s second great popular poem, “The Bells.” It was early in the summer that he one day called and complained that he had to write a poem, but felt no inspiration. Mrs. Shew persuaded him to drink some tea in a conservatory whose open windows admitted the sound of church-bells, and gave him some paper, which he declined, saying, “I so dislike the noise of bells to-night, I cannot write. I have no subject — I am exhausted.” Mrs. Shew then wrote, “The Bells, by E. A. Poe,” and added, “The Bells, the little silver bells”; on the poet’s finishing the stanza thus suggested, she again wrote, “The heavy iron bells,” and this idea also Poe elaborated, and then copying off the two stanzas, headed it, “By Mrs. M. L. Shew,” and called it her poem.

Such, nearly in Mr. Ingram’s own words, is the story which he derived from Mrs. Shew’s diary. But although the incident is, without doubt, truly related, it may be questioned whether this was the original genesis of the poem. It will be remembered that Poe derived several suggestions from Chateaubriand at the ­[page 259:] very beginning of his career. The parallelism that exists between the completed poem of “The Bells” and a brief chapter of the “Génie du Christianisme”(1) in which he suggests a poem on the same subject and similarly treated, is not likely to be a fortuitous coincidence. In view of Poe’s known habits of composition, this poetic suggestion in a work to which he was in early years under considerable obligations, may have been one of the ideas that haunted him for years, and this is sustained by his frequent reference to the magical sounds of bells through out his literary life. It may well be that this is the poem referred to in Griswold’s memoir as the subject on which he meant to write for the Boston Lyceum — “a subject which he said had haunted his imagination for years.”(2) If there be any plausibility in this inference, the likelihood is that Mrs. Shew, who pleads guilty to Poe’s reproach that she never read his tales or poems, merely recalled to him thoughts and words which she already knew had been running in his mind.

The events immediately subsequent to this incident ­[page 260:] also deserve mention. Word was sent to Mrs. Clemm that Poe would remain in the city, and, going to his room, he slept twelve hours, after which he only faintly remembered what he had done. “This showed,” says the diary, “that his mind was injured, nearly gone out for want of food and from disappointment. He had not been drinking, and had only been a few hours from home. Evidently his vitality was low and he was nearly insane. While he slept we studied his pulse, and found the same symptoms which I had so often noticed before. I called in Dr. Francis (the old man was odd, but very skillful), who was one of our neighbors. His words were, He has heart disease and will die early in life. m On the next day he was taken home by his friend, but did not seem to understand that he was ill. It must have been very soon after this that Mrs. Shew, finding that her protégé was too irresponsible and too romantic to be allowed such freedom with her as he had been accustomed to, broke off the acquaintance. The consequence which, although he had foreseen it, must, in his state of health, have been a deprivation, was the sudden and complete cessation of intercourse between the families. In June Mrs. Shew wrote ­[page 261:] an explanatory letter to him, and he replied as follows, but they never afterwards met on the old terms: —

Can it be true, Louise, that you have the idea fixed in your mind to desert your unhappy and unfortunate friend and patient? You did not say so, I know, but for months I have known you were deserting me, not willingly, but none the less surely — my destiny —

“Disaster, following fast and following faster, till his song one burden bore —

Till the dirges of his Hope that melancholy burden bore —

Of Never — nevermore.”

So I have had premonitions of this for months. I repeat, my good spirit, my loyal heart! must this follow as a sequel to all the benefits and blessings you have so generously bestowed? Are you to vanish like all I love, or desire, from my darkened and “lost soul”? I have read over your letter again and again, and cannot make it possible, with any degree of certainty, that you wrote it in your right mind. (I know you did not without tears of anguish and regret. ) Is it possible your influence is lost to me? Such tender and true natures are ever loyal until death; but you are not dead, you are full of life and beauty! ­[page 262:] Louise, you came in, . . . in your floating white robe “Good morning, Edgar.” There was a touch of conventional coldness in your hurried manner, and your attitude as you opened the kitchen door to find Muddie, is my last remembrance of you. There was love, hope, and sorrow in your smile, instead of love, hope, and courage, as ever before. O Louise, how many sorrows are before you! Your ingenuous and sympathetic nature will be constantly wounded in its contact with the hollow, heartless world; and forme, alas! unless some true and tender, and pure womanly love saves me, I shall hardly last a year longer alive! A few short months will tell how far my strength (physical and moral) will carry me in life here. How can I believe in Providence when you look coldly upon me? Was it not you who renewed my hopes and faith in God? . . . and in humanity? Louise, I heard your voice as you passed out of my sight leaving me . . .; but I still listened to your voice. I heard you say with a sob, “Dear Muddie.” I heard you greet my Catarina, but it was only as a memory . . . nothing escaped my ear, and I was convinced it was not your generous self . . . repeating words so foreign to your nature to your tender heart! I heard you sob out your sense of duty to my ­[page 263:] mother, and I heard her reply, “Yes, Loui . . . yes,” . . . Why turn your soul from its true work for the desolate to the thankless and miserly world? . . . I felt my heart stop, and I was sure I was then to die before your eyes. Louise, it is well — it is fortunate — you looked up with a tear in your dear eyes, and raised the window, and talked of the guava you had brought for my sore throat. Your instincts are better than a strong man’s reason for me — I trust they may be for yourself. Louise, I feel I shall not prevail — a shadow has already fallen upon your soul, and is reflected in your eyes. It is too late — you are floating away with the cruel tide . . . it is not a common trial — it is a fearful one to me. Such rare souls as yours so beautify this earth! so relieve it of all that is repulsive and sordid. So brighten its toils and cares, it is hard to lose sight of them even for a short time . . . but you must know and be assured of my regret and sorrow if aught I have ever written has hurt you. My heart never wronged you. I place you in my esteem — in all solemnity — beside the friend of my boyhood — the mother of my school-fellow, of whom I told you, and as I have repeated in the poem . . . as the truest, tenderest of this world’s most womanly souls, and an angel to my ­[page 264:] forlorn and darkened nature. I will not say “lost soul” again, for your sake. I will try to overcome my grief for the sake of your unselfish care of me in the past, and in life or death. I am ever yours gratefully and devotedly,

EDGAR A. POE.(1)

Poe was sincere in his gratitude, and he wrote very many grateful letters; it is at such moments that he shows some of the qualities that attached him to his own circle of friends; but he was already beginning to weave the best known and most public romance of his life.


[[Footnotes]]

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

1  xxxxxxxxxxxx.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 239:]

1 Putnam’s Magazine, iv, 471, N. S. (October, 1869)

2 Eureka: A Prose Poem. By Edgar A. Poe. New York: George P. Putnam, 1848, pp. 143.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 241:]

1 Works, vii, 126

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 248:]

1 Works, ix, 26.

2 Ingram, ii, 144

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 253:]

1 Addenda MS. enclosed in a letter to G. W. Eveleth, February 29, 1848, and first published, Works, ix, 293 et seq.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 257:]

1 Poe to Eveleth. Ingram, ii, 141.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 259:]

1 Génie du Christianisme. Par M. le Vicomte de Châteaubriand. Paris: P. Pourrat Frères, 1836, tome ii, 261.

2 Griswold, xxxviii.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 260:]

1 Ingram, ii, 156.


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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 13)