Text: William Doyle Hull II, “Part II, Chapter I,” A Canon of the Critical Works of Edgar Allan Poe (1941) , pp. 200-222


[page 200:]


I send the ‘Gentleman’s Magazine’ (July, August, September) . Do not think of subscribing, The criticisms are not worth your notice. Of course I pay no attention to them — for there are two of us. It is not pleasant to be taxed with .the twaddle of other people, or to let other people be taxed with ours. Therefore, for the present, I shall remain upon my oars — merely penning an occasional paragraph, without care . . . As soon as fate allows I will have a Magazine of my own — and will endeavor to kick up a dust.(1)

Here is sounded a leitmotif — fateful, dominant — foreshadowing in tone and content the climax of a relationship entered into only three months earlier. After the inevitable development the motif is stated again — baldly:

I . . . entered . . . into an engagement with The Gentleman’s Magazine . . . my object being merely to keep by head above mater as regards money, until a good opportunity should appear of establishing a magazine of my own, in which I should be able to carry out my plans to full completion could in time have the satisfaction of feeding that my exertions be used to my oven advantage.(2)

Burton’s Gentleman’s Magazine was founded in July, 1837, and edited by its proprietor without assistance until July, 1839. Of him the Dictionary of National Biography has this [page 201:] account:

William Evans Burton . . . was born in London September 1802, received a classical education at St. Paul’s School; and is said to have matriculated at Christ’s College, Cambridge, with the intention of entering the church; but at the age of eighteen he was obliged to undertake the charge of his father’s printing business. His success in some amateur performances led him to adopt the stage as a profession . . . In February 1831 he made his first appearance In London . . . and in 1833 was engaged at the Haymarket . . .

He went soon to America

where he came out at the Arch Street Theatre, Philadelphia, 3 September 1834 . . . Burton was subsequently lessee and manager of theatres in Philadelphia and Baltimore, and on 13 April 1841 essayed management in New York at the National Theatre, which was consumed by fire on 29 May following . . . His humor was broad and deep, and sometimes approached coiarseness, but at the same time was always genial and hearty, and generally truthfully natural; while in homely pathos and earnest expression of blunt, uncultivated feeling, he has never, been excelled . . . his decease . . . took place at 174 Hudson Street, New York., 9 February 1860, from a fatty degeneration of the heart, in the fifty-eighth year of his age.(2)

Our knowledge of Poe’s association with William E. Burton, Comedian, comes almost entirely from a few letters. The first of these Mr. Burton sent to Mr. Poe, both gentlemen then residing in Philadelphia, on May 10, 1839:

Edgar A. Poe, Esq.:

Mr. dear Sir, — I have given your proposal a fair consideration. I wish to form such an engagement as that which you have proposed, and know of no one more likely to suit my views than yourself. The expenses of the Magazine are already wofully heavy; more so than my circulation warrants. I as certain that my [page 202:] expenditure exceeds that of any publication nor extant, including the monthlies which are double in price. Competition is high — new claimants are daily rising, I am therefore compelled to give expensive plates, thicker paper, and better printing then my antagonists, or allow them to grin the goal. My contributors cost me something handsome, and the losses upon credit, exchange, etc., are becoming frequent and serious. I mention this list of difficulties as some slight reason why I do not close with your offer, which is indubitably liberal, without any delay.

Shall we say ten dollars per week for the remaining portion of this year? Should we remain together, which I see no reason to negative, your proposition shall be in force for 1840. A month’s notice to be given on either side previous to a separation.

Two hours a day, except occasionally, will, I believe, be sufficient for all required, except in the production of any article of your own. At all events you could easily find time for any other light avocation) — supposing that you did not exercise your talents in behalf of any publication interfering with the prospects of the G. M.

I shall dine at home to-day at 3. If you will cut your mutton with me, good. If not, write or see me at your leisure.

I am, my dear Sir, your obedt, Servt,

W. E. Burton.(2)

Nothing more is heard for twenty-days; then appears this letter, as yet unpublished in its correct form:(3) [page 203:]

My dear Sir,

I am sorry that you thought necessary to send me such a letter — as your last, the troubles of the world have given , e morbid tone to your feelings which it is your duty to discourage, I cannot agree to entertain your proposition, either in justice to yourself or to my own interests. The worldly experience o-f which you speak has not taught me conciliate (sic) authors of whom I know nothing; and from whom I can expect nothing, Such a supposition is but a poor comment upon my honesty of opinion, or the principles of expediency which you would insinuate as actuating my conduct. — I have been as severely handled, in the world as you can possibly have been, but my sufferings have not tinged my mind with a melancholy hue, nor do I allow my views of my fellow creatures to be jaundiced by the fogs of my own creation. You must rouse your energies, and conquer the insidious attacks of the foul fiend, care. We shall agree very well, but you must get rid of your avowed ill-feelings toward your brother authors —— you see. that, I speak plainly — indeed, I cannot speak otherwise. Several of my friends, hearing of our connexion, have warned me of your uncalled-for severity in criticism —— and I confess that your article on Dawes(1) is not written with that spirit of fairness which, in a more healthy state: of mind, you would undoubtedly have used, The independence of my book reviews has been noticed throughout the Union — my remarks upon my friend Bird’s last novel evince my freedom from the trammels of expediency, but there is no necessity for undue severity. I wish particularly to deal leniently with the faults of genius, and feeling satisfied that Dawes possesses a portion of the true fire, I regretted the word-catching tone of your critique.

Let us meet as if we had not exchanged letters. Use more exercise, write only when feelings prompt, and be assured of my friendship. You will soon regain a whole some activity of mind, and laugh at your past vagaries.

I am, my dear Sir,

Your obedient Servant,

W. E. Burton.

Phila. May 30, 1839 [page 204:]

Neither of the Poe letters to which these two seem replies is known. It is clear, however, that feeling a need to secure a regular income until the time when he could establish his own magazine, Poe applied to Burton for the position of assistant editor, asking a salary which Burton felt he could not afford to pay, though he considered the offer “indubitably liberal.” That he was really sincere in stating the necessity which compelled him to offer a smaller salary is witnessed by a Poe-Snodgrass letter of November 11, 1839:

It grieves me much that I can say not a word touching compensation for articles in maga. The intense pressure has obliged Mr. B. with nearly every, if not with every, publisher in the country, to discontue [[discontinue]] paying for, contributions. Mr. B. pays for nothing — and we are forced to fill up as we can.(1)

Writing in March, 1889, John Sartain illuminates the first two lines of the May 10th letter:

Burton had been too much occupied with his professional duties as a member of the Stock-company at the old Chestnut Street Theatre, above Sixth Street, to have time left for editing his periodical unaided . . .(2)

What happened at the cutting of the mutton remains a matter of conjecture; but it is probable, since both gentlemen were equally desirous of coming to an agreement, [page 205:] that a definite arrangement was immediately concluded. The question then must be asked, why Poe did not begin his duties with the June issue. It seems that Burton was in the habit of bringing out the magazine around the first of the month; by the 10th of May, then, the ground-work of the June number would have been well laid. Burton seems to have preferred to wait until the first of June:, when work would begin on the fifth volume, to start paying his assistant’s salary. At any rate a definite agreement had been reached before May 30, for Burton writes: “Several of my friends, hearing of our connexion;” and Poe is obviously doing no work in the office, since his communications with Burton are by letter.

It was agreed, however, for Poe to do at least one review for the June number(2) —— and this seems to have been the cause for the exchange of the second pair of letters. Poe submitted a review of Dawes which Burton rejected because of its “undue severity.” Poe then wrote accusing Burton of being guided by expediency in the critical department. It is from this attack that Burton is defending himself in the May 30 letter. The “proposition” mentioned in the third sentence [page 206:] can, I think, be understood in only one way. Disgusted at what he regarded as Burton’s dishonesty and determined not again to submit to the sort of restraint under which he had chafed on the Messenger, Poe suggests that they break their contract. This interpretation is supported by the conciliatory tone of the whole, by the gentle repudiation of the charge of toadying, by the careful explanation of the reason for rejecting the Dawes review, and by the four key sentences:

I as sorry that you thought it necessary to send me such a letter as your last . . . I cannot agree to entertain your proposition, either in justice to yourself(1) or to my own interests . . . We shall agree very well, but you must get rid of your avowed ill-feelings towards your brother authors — you see that I speak plainly — indeed, I cannot speak otherwise . . . Let us meet as if we had not exchanged letters.

Poe accepted the situation: his name appears on the title page of the first issue of volume five as assistant editor. Poe accepted the situation realizing that he would have no more, if as much, freedom than he had had under Mr. White. He accepted, waiting for the propitious time to declare his independence through his dream-magazine.

In January, 1840, Poe wrote Snodgrass:

I seize the opportunity afforded by a temporary lull in a storm of business . . . I am obliged to decline saying any thing of the ‘Museum’ in the Gent’s Mag; however much I feel anxious to oblige yourself, and [page 207:] to express; my own views. You will understand me when I say that I have no proprietary interest in the Mag: and that Mr. Burton is a warm friend of Brooks — verb.sap.sat,

I have heard, indirectly, that an attempt is to be made by some one of capital in Baltimore, to get up a magazine. Have you heard anything about it? If you have, shall you be kind enough to let me know all about it by return mail — if you can spare the time to oblige me — I am particularly desirous of understanding how the matter stands — who are the parties, &c.(1)

Brooks and Snodgrass had edited the Museum together; after some misunderstanding Brooks had withdrawn, and there was ill-feeling between the two. The restraint implied by this answer makes for a precarious situation. Apparently Poe had submitted quietly, biding his time — but this was an attitude that he could not long maintain without great effort. The inquiry about the Baltimore magazine may indicate that he was on the look-out for another position; more probably he was asking in interest of his own projected magazine. On several occasions he said that he should like to publish it in Baltimore.

The break came finally around the first of June. The situation is given most light by a letter — the June, 1, 1840, Poe-Burton letter — which has had a curious history. A copy of it exists in the Ingram Collection in the University of Virginia Library — a folded sheet, written closely on all four sides in purple ink, the bottom of the first page almost [page 208:] illegible from wear. Two letters from Mrs. Richmond to Mr. Ingram make clear where it came from:

I enclose a copy of a letter I gave to a friend long ago, which I know is correct in every particular —— I regret that the date is not given — the year I meant — perhaps you can find out taken in connection with other letters in your possession. — I urged him to send you the original, that you might copy it, but he did not like to trust it out of his sight — I am sure it is a perfect copy, for he is most reliable, & he assured me that every erasure & indeed everything, was precisely like the original — he called to see Mr. Davidson (at my request to show him both, the original and the copy, but did not find him.(3)

You speak of the ‘Burton letter,’ and ask if there are any more — Mr. Rouse has nothing except that letter, which I gave him many years ago as a souvenir — could I have known you previous to Mrs. Clemm’s death, I could have done you a real service, for she would have given me all her letters and papers.(4)

The last suggests that originally Mrs. Richmond got the letter from Mrs. Clemm. It is patently the original draft of a carefully composed letter. Mr. Ingram printed it with no explanations, making the revision indicated in the draft; Woodberry, unwittingly, followed him. This letter may have never been sent, or it may have reached Burton in a form quite different from that suggested by the drift which Mrs. Richmond gave to Mr. Rouse.(5) That fact, however, does not decrease its value in illuminating the background of Poe’s withdrawal from Burton’s Gentleman’s Magazine. This is the [page 209:] first correct printing of the letter:

Sir: I find myself at leisure this Monday morning, June 1, to notice your very singular letter of Saturday. I sent George home yesterday without a reply to your letter, for I felt somewhat too angry to make one, — I have followed the example of victorine and slept upon the matter, & you shall now hear what I have to say. In the first place — your attempts to bully me excite in my mind nothing scarcely any other sentiment than mirth. When you address me again preserve if you can, the dignity of a gentleman. If by accident you have taken it into your head by any sad accident that I am to be insulted with impunity I can only assume that you are an ass. This one point being distinctly understood we shall be the better able to enter into some arrangement and in regard to myself individually I shall feel myself more at liberty to be explicit. As for the rest, you do me gross injustice; and you know it. as usual you have wrought yourself into a passion with me on account of some imaginary wrong; for no real injury, or attempt at injury, have you ever received at my hands, As I live, I am utterly unable to say why you are angry, or what true grounds of complaint you have against me. You are a man of high passions impulses; have made yourself, in consequence, some enemies; have been in many respects ill treated by those whom you have looked upon as friends — and these things hav (e) rendered you suspicious. You once wrote in your magazine a (s) h (ar) p (cr) itique upon a book of mine — a (very sill) y book — (Pym, Had I wri) tten a (simi) lar criticism) upon a book of yours, you feel that you would (have been) my enemy for Life, and (you there) fore ima (gine in my) (1) bosom a latent hostility towards yourself. This has been a mainspring in your whole conduct towards me since our first acquaintance. It has acted to prevent all cordiality. In a general view of human nature your idea is just — but you will find yourself puzzled in judging me by ordinary motives. Your criticism was essentially correct and therefore, although severe, it did not occasion in me one solitary emotion either of anger or dislike. But even while I write these words, I am sure you will not believe them. Did I not still think you, in spite of the exceeding littleness of some of your hurried actions, a man of many honorable impulses, I should not now take the trouble to send you this letter. I cannot myself to suppose that you [page 210:] would say to me in cold blood what you said in your letter of yesterday. You are, of course, only mistaken, in asserting that I owe you a hundred dollars, and you will rectify the mistake at once when you come to look at your accounts. Soon after I joined you, you made(1) me an offer of money, and I accepted $20. Upon another occasion, at your request, you sent me enclosed in a letter $30. Of this 30, I repaid $20 within the next fortnight (drawing no salary for that period) (2) I was thus still in your debt $30, when not long ago I again asked a loan of $30, which you promptly handed to me at your own house. Within the last 3 weeks, 3$ each week have been retained from my salary, an indignity which I have felt deeply but did not resent. You state the sum retained as $8, but this I believe is through a mistake of Morrell. My postage bill at a guess, might be 9 or 10$ — and I therefore am indebted to you, upon the whole, in the amount of about $60. More than this sum I shall not pay. You state that you can no longer afford to pay $50 per month for 2 or 3 pp. of M. S. Your error here can be shown by reference to the (Magaz) ine. Diring [[During]] my year with you I have writ (ten —)

July ——— 5 pp (.)

August 9

Sept 26

Octo. 4

Nov. 5

Dec, 12

Jan 9

Feb 12

Mar 11

April 17

May 14 + 5 copied — Miss McMichael’s M. S.

June 9 + 3 ” Chandlers.


Dividing this sum by 12 we have an average of 11 pp per month —— not 2 or 3. And this estimate leaves out of question everything in the way of extract or compilation. Nothing is counted but bona fiede (sic) composition. 11 pp. at $3 per p. would be $33, at the usual Magazine prices. Deduct this from $50, my monthly salary, and we have left: 173 per month, or $4 25/100 per week, for the services of proof-reading; general superintendence at [page 211:] the printing office; reading, alteration, & preparation Of M. S. S., with compilation of various articles, such as Plate articles, Field Sports &c. Neither has anything been said of my name upon your title page, a small item you will say — but still something as you know. Snowden pays his editresses $2 per week each for their names solely. Upon the whole I am not willing; to admit that you greatly overpaid me, that 1 did not do 4 times as much as I did for the Magazine, was your own fault. At first I wrote long articles which you deemed inadmissable, never did I suggest any to test which you had not some immediate and decided objection. Of course I grew discouraged & could feel no interest in the Journal. I am at a loss; to know why you call me selfish. If you mean that t borrowed money of you — you know that you offered it —— if and you know that I am poor. In what instance has anyone ever found me selfish? “Was there selfishness in the affront I offered to ben4amin (whom I respect, and who spore well of me.) because I deemed it e duty not to receive from any one commendation at your expense? I had no hesitation in making him my enemy (which he nor must be) through a sense of my obligations as your coadjutor. No man can call me selfish & not be I have said that I could not tell why you were angry. Place yourself in my situation & see whether you would not have acted as I have done. You first ‘enforced‘, as you stay, a deduction of salary; giving me to understand thereby that you thought of parting company — You next spoke disrespectfully of me behind my back — this is a habitual thing — to those whom you supposed your friends, and who punctually retailed me, as a matter of course, every ill-matured cord which you uttered, Lastly you advertised your magazine for sale without saying; a word to me about it. I felt no anger at what you did — none in the world — had I not believed it your design to give up your Journal with a view of attending to the Theatre, I should never have dreamed of attempting one of my own. The opportunity of doing something for myself seemed a good one —— (I was about to be thrown out of business) —— and I embraced it. Now I ask you as a man of honor and as a man of sense — what is there wrong in all this? What have I done at which you have any right to take offense? I can give you no definite answer (respecting the continuation itodman’s (sic) journal.) until I hear from you again. The charge of $100 I shall not admit for an instant. If you persist, [page 212:] in it our intercourse is at an end, and I shall refer you to an attorney. But I cannot bring myself to believe that you will we can each adopt our own measures.

In the meantime, I am Yr Obt St.

Edgar A Poe

Wm E. Burton Esgr.

It seems that Burton and his young editor had “parted company” before he w rote the non-extant letter of May 30 (?) ,(1) 1840. Two passages support this assumption:

I can give you no definitive answer (respecting the continuation Rodman’s Journal) until I hear from you again;

and from a Poe-Snodgrass letter of June 17, 1840:

Mr. Carey’s book on slavery was received by me not very long ago, and in last Month’s number, I wrote, at some length, a criticism upon it, in which I endeavored to do justice to the author whose talents I highly admire. But this critique, as well as some six or seven others, were (sic) refused admittance into the Magazine by Mr. Burton, upon his receiving my letter of resignation. (You allude) (2) to the number for June — the last one issued. I fancy, moreover, that he has some private pique against Mr. Carey (as he has against every honest man) for not long ago he refused admission to a poetical address of his which I was anxious to publish.(3)

If, as ordinarily seems to have been the case, the June number appeared around the first of June, Poe’s “Letter of resignation,” must have preceded the pair of letters. [page 213:]

Upset by his young assitant’s [[assistant’s]] leaving him(1) with the entire work of the magazine when he had little time for that work and when only a few months more would have relieved him of that responsibility, Burton apparently charge Poe with owing him a hundred dollars, with not having done sufficient work for his salary, and with being selfish. This last charge, one may deduce from the evidence in the Poe letter, is in reference to Poe’s activity in trying to establish his Penn Magazine, and to his having deserted the sinking ship; for Burton was trying to sell his magazine. There has long been a legend that Poe took Burton’s subscription list for his own use; no proof exists for this accusation.

Several reasons for Poe’s “resignation” are to be found in the June 1 letter: a salary which he felt inequal to his services, ‘‘an enforced deduction of salary;“(2) the limitations and irritating restraint under which he was forced to work; the knowledge that Burton was planning to dispose of the magazine and the belief that he was to be dismissed; and Burton’s slander — of this more later. At least two other causes were operative: to one Poe gives the importance of the immediate cause; the other was perhaps the controlling cause. [page 214:]

To stimulate interest and circulation, perhaps to secure material, Mr. Burton offered prizes for the best essays submitted for the magazine.(1) In the Poe-Snodgrass correspondence, this scheme is discussed at some length:

Touching the Premiums. The Adtvertisement respecting them was written by Mr. Burton, and is not, I think as explicit as might (be) I can give you no information about their desig (nation furth) (2) er than is shown, in the advertisement itself. The tru (th is,) I object, in tote, to the whole scheme. — but merely follow (ed(3) in) Mr. B’s wake upon such matters of business.(4)

Touching your Essay. Burton not only lies, but deliberately and wilfully lies; for the last time but one that I saw him I called his attention to the M.S. which was then at the top of a pile of other M. S. S. sent for premiums, in a drawer of the office desk. The last day I was in the office I saw the Essay in the same position, and I am perfectly sure it is there still. You know it is a peculiar looking M. S. and I would not mistake it. In saying it was not in his possession his sole design was to vex you, and through you myself. Were I in your place I would take some summary method of dealing with the scoundrel, whose infamous line of conduct in regard to this whole premium scheme merits, and shall receive exposure. I am firmly convinced that it was never his intention to pay one dollar of the money offered; and indeed his plain intimations to that effect, made to me personally an directly, were the immediate reasons of my cutting the connexion as abruptly as I did. If you could, in any way, spare the time to come to Philadelphia, I think I could put you in the way of detecting this villain in his rascality. I would go down with you to the office, open the drawer in his presence, and take the MS. from beneath his very nose. I think this would be a good deed done, and would act as a caution to such literary swindlers in the future. What think you of this plan? Will you come on? Write immediately in reply.(5) [page 215:]

The assertion that he left Burton because he discovered him in an action which. he regarded as dishonest I am willing to believe; it is in keeping with Poe’s character.

What appears to me to be the controlling cause must be given equal weight. In the summer of 1840 Poe began the first definite drive to put over a magazine of his own;(1) by December he had made such progress that he planned to bring out the first number on the first of January. One feels that it was to enable him to devote the whole of his energies to this project, for which he felt the time favorable, that he left Burton, as well as out of repugnancy for Burton’s conduct in the premium affair. In relation to these two causes the others assume merely a contributive value; running; through them all, however, is undeniably the conflict of the trio personalities.

Griswold gave currency to a legend that Poe was summarily discharged by Burton for continual drunkeness and negligence of duty. Woodberry quotes an account by Mr. Rosenbach, printed in The American, February 26, 1887:

He says that Burton, having an engagement to play in New York, left the magazine in the associate editor’s hands, and on returning, found that nothing had been done, and continues: ‘Burton immediately sought my father at his house, and it was about midnight when he found him. He came in a carriage with a large bundle of manuscripts, from which they made some selection. Then worked until morning, when they sent one with copy to the printer, Charles Alexander, in Franklin Place, Chestnut Street. Alexander hunted up some extra compositors, and by dint of hard work and hurried proof-reading, the ‘Gentleman’s Magazine’ appeared as usual. Poe was discharged for his negligence.(2) [page 216:]

In his copy of Woodberry, Ingram has this note pencilled in the margin;

Is completely refuted by C. Alexander as well as by the letter which follows from Poe. It is only a Griswold legend, as Woodberry must know.(1)

Mr. Alexander‘s statement is also printed by Woodberry. It occurs in a letter(2) to Mr. T. C. Clarke, of Philadelphia, “in answer to the question whether Poe’s alleged irregularities at that time were such as to interfere with his work:“(3)

The absence of the principal editor on professional duties left the matter frequently in the hands of Mr. Poe, whose unfortunate failing may have occasioned some disappointment in the preparation of a particular article expected from him, but never interfering with the regular publication of the ‘Gentleman’s Magazine, ’ as its monthly issue was never interrupted upon any occasion, either from air, Poe’s deficiency, or from any other cause, during my publication of it, embracing the whole time of Mr. Poe’s connection with it. That Mr Poe had faults seriously detrimental to his own interests, none, of course, will deny. They were, unfortunately, too well known in the literary circles of Philadelphia, were there any disposition to conceal them. But he alone was the sufferer, and not those who received the benefit of his preeminent talents, however irregular his habits or uncertain his contributions may occasionally have been.(4)

Woodberry follows the printing with this observation:

It is possible that Mr. Alexander, writing ten years after the event, may have confused his recollections and antedated the intemperance of Poe, which became frequent and notorious during the next year.(5) [page 217:]

The clearest refutation is a letter to Dr. Snodgrass, April 1, 1841, Burton has slandered Poe as a drunkard to an acquaintance of Dr. Snodgrass. On being advised of it Poe writes:

In regard to Burton, I feel indebted to you for the kind interest you express, but scarcely know how to reply. My situation is embarrassing. It is impossible, as you say, to notice a buffoon and a felon as one gentleman would notice another. The law, then, is my only resource. Now, if the truth of a scandal could be admitted in justification — I mean what the law terms a scandal —— I would have matters all my own way. I would institute a suit forthwith for his personal defamation of myself. He would be unable to prove the truth of his allegations. I could prove their falsity and their malicious intent by witnesses who, seeing me at all hours of the day, would have the best right to speak — I mean Burton’s own clerk, Morrell, and the compositors of the printing office. In fact I could prove the scandal almost by aclamation. I should obtain damages. But on the other hand I have never been scrupulous in regard to what I have said of him. I have always told him to his face, and everybody else, that I looked upon him as a blackguard and a villain. This is notorious lie would meet me with a cross action. The truth of the allegation — which I could easily prove, as he would find it difficult to prove the truth of his own respecting me — would not avail me. The law will not admit as justification of my called Billy Burton a scoundrel, that Billy Burton is really such. What, then, can I do? If I sue, he sues; you see how it is.

At the same time — as I may, after further reflection, be induced to sue — I would take it as an act of kindness, not to say Justice, on your part if you would see the gentleman of whom you spoke and ascertain with accuracy all that may legally avail me — that is to say, what and when were the words used, and whether your friend would be willing for your sake, for my sake, and for the sake of truth to give evidence if called upon. Will you do this for me?

So far for the matter inasmuch as it concerns Burton. I have now to thank you for your defence of myself, as stated. You are a physician, and I presume no physician can have difficulty in detecting the drunkard at a glance. [page 218:] You are, moreover, a literary roan, well read in morals. You will never be brought to believe that I could write what I daily write, as I write it, were L as this villain would induce those who know me not, to believe. In fine, I pledge you, before God, the solemn word of a gentleman that I am temperate even to rigor. From the hour in which I first sage this basest; of calumniators to the hour in which I retired from his office in uncontrollable disgust at his chicanery, arrogance, ignorance and brutality, nothing stronger than water ever passed my lips.

It is however, due to candor that I inform you upon what foundation he has erected his slanders. At no period of my life was I ever what men call intemperate. I never was in the habit of intoxication, I never drunk drams, &c, But for a brief period, which I resided in Richmond and edited the Messenger, I certainly did give way, at long intervals, to the temptation held out on all sides bar the spirit of Southern conviviality. My sensitive temperament could not stand an excitement which was an everyday matter to my companions. In short, it sometimes happened that I was completely intoxicated. For some days after each excess I was invariably confined to bed. But it is now quite four years since I have abandoned every kind of alcoholic drink — four years with the exception of a single deviation, which occurred shortly after by leaving Burton, and when I was induced to resort to the occasional use of cider with the hope of relieving a nervous attack.

You will thus see, frankly stated, the whole amount of my sin. You will see the blackness of that heart which could revive a slander of this nature. Neither can you fail to perceive hour desperate the malignity of the slanderer must be — how resolute he must be to slander, and how slight the grounds upon which he would build up a defamation — since he can find nothing better with which to charge me than an accusation which can be disproved by each and every man with whom I am in the habit of daily intercourse.

I have now often to repeat to you, in general, my solemn assurances that my habits are as far removed from intemperance as the day from the night. My sole drink is water.

Will you do me the kindness to respect this assurance to such of your friends as happen to speak of me in your hearing?

I feel that nothing is more requisite, and youwill [[you will]] agree with me upon reflection.(1) [page 219:]

The letter is, I think, marked with sincerity.

All connection between Poe and Burton was certainly ended before the 17th of June. Burton’s ill-feeling lasted for a time; he wrote on the cover of the September, 1840, magazine:

Our friend at Portland may rest assured that we were ignorant of the non-transmission of his numbers. His name was erased from our list by the person whose infirmities have caused us much annoyance.(1)

Sartain writes of the sale of the magazine to Graham:

Burton sold his subscription list to Graham, because, having quarrelled with Maywood, the lessee of the theatre, he determined to build one of his own in a spirit of rivalry, which he accomplished. . . .This enterprise demanded a concentration of all his mind and means, and with so much requiring his attention it would have been impossible for him to continue his Gentleman’s Magazine.(2)

The December number, 1840, had a new title. Mr. Albert H. Smyth, to whom Graham gave details of the affair, says that Burton concluded the conversation: “There is one thing more . . . I want you to take care of my young editor.“(3) Burton was apparently too kind and genial a man to bear long grudges. It would seem that the slander of which Poe writes so bitterly had been spread in the summer and fall. Though there is no evidence, it seems unlikely that, supposing Mr. Smyth’s anecdote is correct, Burton was still hostile in the spring. [page 220:]

Aside from the instances noted, Poe mentions his former employer three times:

Have you heard that that illustrious graduate of St. John’s College, Cambridge (Billy Barlow (Burton) has sold his magazine to Graham, of the Casket?‘(1)

Burton that illustrious ‘graduate of St. John’s College, Cambridge’ is going to the devil with the worst grace in the world, but with a velocity truly astounding. The press here, in a body, have given him the cut direct. So be it —— suum cuique. We have said quite enough about this genius.

Mr. Graham is a very gentlemanly personage, I will see him tomorrow, and speak to him in regard to you essay; although to prevent detection, Burton may have destroyed it;(2)

and later in a kinder mood:

Mr. Burton is better known as a comedian than as a literary man; but he has written many short prose articles of merit, and his quondam editorship of the Gentleman’s Magazine would, at all events, entitle him to a place in this collection. lie :ass, moreover, published one or two books. An annual issued by Carey and Hart in 1840, consisted entirely of prose contributions from himself, with poetical ones from Charles West Thompson, [[Thomson]] Esq. In this work many of the tales are good. Mr. Burton’s MS. is scatchy [[scratchy]] and petite, betokening indecision or caution.(3)

In many respects Poe’s situation as assistant editor of Burton’s magazine was similar to that of his assistantship to T. W. White. In both instances his salary was scarecly [[scarcely]] sufficient for actual necessities, though it was larger on the Messenger. There he began at five hundred and twenty dollars a year, with [page 221:] about two hundred and eighty for extra writing; through gradual raises, he supposedly got, from November, 1836, to January, 1837, almost eight-fight dollars a month. From July, 1839, to at least December Burton paid him only forty dollars a month, with nothing for extra writing; in May, 1840, he was getting fifty-dollars, six hundred a year.

Under both he was responsible for the mechanical duties of an editor, while at every turn he seems to have been restrained by the restricted vision of his employers. Under White he struggled; apparently the wiser for that experience, he submitted, as much as he could, to Burton, losing as a consequence, all interest in the magazine. After the revealing Dawes review affair, he admittedly took no pains with his notices.

The two proprietors were alike in many ways; thou, Burton was a better educated man than White, their testes were on the same level. Both were venial, easy-going men with hot tempers and tendencies, towards pettiness. The attitude of both to Poe in the early stages of the association seems to have been almost indulgently paternal with a tinge of patronage. Each inordinately proud of his magazine and rather jealous of the brilliant young editor whom the world began to accredit for the success of the magazine. This [page 222:] feeling was in no way Mitigated by the obvious superiority and scorn which that young man must have taken no great pains to hide. At the climax of the relationships both White and Burton were infuriated with Poe, and both soon after lost all feeling of bitterness; and these two men failed to recognize the father of American criticism and American journalism.



[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 200:]

1.  Poe-P. P. Cooke, Philadelphia, September 21, 1839. H, XVII, 53.

2.  Poe-William Poe, Philadelphia, August 15, 1840. H, XVII, 55.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 201:]

1.  DNB, VIII, 20-21.

2.  DNB, VIII, 20-21.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 202:]

1.  From letters described in American Book-Prices Current, 1896, 457; and 1930, 688; it seems that Poe contributed to the Pittsburgh Literary Examiner throughout the summer and perhaps the fall of 1839. [[These letters are E. B. Fisher to Poe, June 10, 1839 and E. B. Fisher to Poe, November 17, 1839. A third letter from E. B. Fisher to Poe, July 9, 1839 is in the Boston Public Library, Griswold Collection. None of Poe’s letters to Fisher survive. See pp. 704-705.]]

2.  Burton-Poe, Philadelphia, May 10, 1839. Woodberry, op. cit. I, 202-203. From the Griswold MSS.

3.  Burton-Poe, May 30, 1839. Griswold MSS. Boston Public Library. I obtained an accurate copy of this letter, which has caused much trouble, through the kindness of Dr. Arthur Hobson Quinn. Griswold suppressed the date and took liberties with the text to make it appear as an answer to Poe’s letter of June 1, 1840. Later writers have followed his printing.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 203:]

1.  Mr. Robertson mistakenly believes the Dawes review referred to here to be that of Nix’s Mate, which appeared in December, 1839, See J. W. Robertson, The Bibliography of Edgar Allan Poe, II, 196-197.

[The following footnotes appeared at the bottom of page 204:]

1.  Poe-Snodgrass, Philadelphia, November 11, 1839. Ostrom, op. cit., p. 14.

2.  John Sartain, “Reminiscences of Edgar Allan Poe, ” Lippincott’s Monthly Magazine , XLIII, 411-415.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 205:]

1.  Despite the fact that Poe did not assume his new duties before the July number (see announcement on the back cover of the June, 1839 number and June 1, 1840 letter) there is evidence suggesting that two notices in the June number are his.

2.  It could have scarcely been for the July number, for Burton rejected the review, at the least, several days before May 30.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 206:]

1.  Note in particular this phrase.

[The following footnote appeas at the bottom of page 207:]

1.  Poe-Snodgrass, ‘Philadelphia, January, 1840. Ostrom, op. cit. pp. 19-420

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 208:]

1.  Examine the letter, printed below.

2.  Examine the letter.

3.  Mrs. Richmond-Ingram, May 27, 1877, Ingram Collection, UVL.

4.  Mrs. Richmond-Ingram, October 8, 1877, Ingram Collection, UVL.

5.  This copy is the only known version of the letter. I am indebted for these discoveries to Dr. James Southall Wilson.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 209:]

1.  This is the worn section at the bottom of page 1.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 210:]

1.  This error, the “d” over the “x” occurs in the letter.

2.  the parentheses are Poe’s.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 212:]

1.  In the Monday, June 1 letter Poe contradicts himself: “Your very singular letter of yesterday.”

2.  “I” here seems to me more logical then “you.”

3.  Ostrom, op. cit., p. 23.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 213:]

1.  is no evidence to contradict Poe’s repeated statement that it was he who broke the relationship. I am here inclined to believe him.

2.  This may refer to the $9 retained from the salary.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 214:]

1.  Not having access to the covers of the Magazine, I do not have the details.

2.  Poe habitually uses “further‘’ in this sense.

3.  It seems more logical to leave this verb in the present tense.

4.  Poe-Snodgrass, Philadelphia, December 19, 1838. Ostrom, op. cit., p. 16.

5.  Poe-Snodgrass, Philadelphia, June 17, 1840. Ibid. p, 22.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 215:]

1.  Cf. the Poe correspondence for the summer and autumn of 1840.

2.  G. Woodberry, Edgar Allan Poe, I, 242.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 216:]

1.  The June 1, 1849, letter,

2.  Alexander-Clarke, October 20, 1850. Originally printed in Gill’s Life, 97.

3.  Woodberry, op. cit., 1, 256.

4.  Woodberry, op. cit., 250-257.

5.  Ibid., 257.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 218:]

1.  Poe-Snodgrass, Philadelphia, April l, 1841. Ostrom, op. cit., pp. 23-30.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 219:]

1.  Woodberry, op. cit., I, 236-237.

2.  John Sartain, Loc. cit.

3.  A. H. Smyth, The Philadelphia Magazine, etc., 217.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 220:]

1.  Poe-Thomas, Philadelphia, November 23, 1840. H, XVII, 64.

2.  Poe-Snodgrass, Philadelphia, January 17, 1841, Ostrom op. cit., p. 26-27.

3.  “Autography,” GM, December, 1841. H, XV, 236.


[S:0 - CCWEAP, 1941] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Articles - A Canon of the Critical Works of EAP (W. D. Hull) (Part II, Chapter I)