Text: William Doyle Hull II, “Part III, Chapter II,” A Canon of the Critical Works of Edgar Allan Poe (1941), pp. 357-385


[page 357:]

Chapter II: Commentary on the Critical Writings in Graham’ s Magazine

JANUARY, 1842.



In commending, with the New Year, a New Volume, we shall be permitted to say a few words by way of exordium to our usual chapter of Reviews . . . (GM, XX, 68).

This is evidence enough. Poe, it has been shown, was completely, “exclusively” in charge of the critical department. This article is an important statement of Poe’s conception of the nature and purpose of criticism.


In the March, 1842, review of Charles O‘Malley Poe wrote:

For one Dickens there are five million Smolletts, Fieldings, Marryatts, Arthurs, Cocktons, Bogtons and Frogtons (GM, XX, 187; H, XI, 90);

In this January review he refers to Cockton in the final paragraph as “Bogton” and again as “Frogton”. This sort of trick is typical of Poe — as is this review: Stanley Thorn, and novels like it, depend

for effect upon what gave popularity to ‘Peregrine Pickle‘ — we mean practical joke. To men whose animal spirits are high, whatever may be their mental ability, such works are always acceptable . . . It not only demands no reflection, but repels it, or dissipates it . . . It is not in the least degree suggestive . . . Yet during perusal, there has been a tingling physico-mental exhileration. . .But these things are not letters. . .mere incidents, whether serious or comic, whether occurring or described — mere incidents are not books. Neither are they the basis of books — of which the idiceyncracy is thought in contradistinction from deed. A book without action cannot be; but a book is only such, to the extent of its thought, independently of its deed. Thus of Algebra, which is, or should be, defined as ‘a mode of computing with symbols by means of signs‘. With numbers, as [page 358:] Algebra, it has nothing to do; and although no algebraic computation can proceed without numbers, yet Algebra is only such to the extent of its analysis independently of its Arithmetic. We do not mean to find fault with the class of performances of which ’Stanley Thorn’ is one . . . (we only object) to its claim on our attention as critic . . . Being in no respect a work of, art, they neither deserve, nor are amenable to criticism (GM, XX, 69-70; H, XI, 11-13).

The point of view here coincides exactly with that expressed in the “Exordium”. The review concludes with a descent upon “Mr. Bockton“, the “consummate plagiarist”. Here again is one of those reviews in which the internal evidence is of such force that it may be given to Poe without question.

For only one other of the January reviews is there any external evidence; nevertheless with some confidence I include all of them in the canon.


Asserting that this, “one of the most admirable fictions in the language” no longer requires criticism, Poe turns his attention to the form of the reprint:

We place particular emphasis upon the mechanical style of these reprints. The criticisms which affects to despite those adventitious aids to the enjoyment of a work of art is at best but etourderie. The illustration, to be sure, is not always in accordance with our own understanding of the text; and this fact, although we never hear it urged, is, perhaps, the most reasonable objection which can be urged against pictorial embellishment — for the unity of conception is disturbed; but this disturbance takes place only in very slight measure (provided the work be worth illustration at all) and its disadvantages are far core than counterbalanced by the pleasure (to most minds a very acute one) of comparing our comprehension of the author’s ideas with that of the artist . . . We never knew a man of genius who did not confess an interest in even the worst illustrations of a good book. . .The designs are very nearly what they should be. They are sketchy, spirited cuts, depending for effect upon the [page 359:] higher merits rather than upon the minor morals or art(1) — upon skilful grouping of figures, vivacity, naivete (sic) and originality of fancy, and good drawing in the case — rather than upon finish in details, or too cautious adherence to the text . . . In the, opening page of this Memoir is an error (perhaps typographical) which, as it is upon the opening page, has an awk-ward appearance, and should be corrected. We allude to the word ‘protegee’s which, in the sense, or rather with the reference intended, should be printed protege. This is a very usual mistake (GM, XX, 70-71; H, XI, 8-10).


Barring some. trifling affectations (apparent, for example, in heading a plain English chapter with the French Pensees,) this volume is very creditable to Mrs. Rives . . . A lady-like taste and delicacy (without high merit of any kind) pervade the whole. The style is somewhat disfigured by pleonasms — or rather, overburdened with epithets: a common fault with enthusiastic writers who want experience in the world of letters . . . of mere errors in granmar there are more than sufficient; and we are constrained to say that the very first sentence of the book conveys. a gross instance of faulty construction (GM, XX, 71).


The qualities of Heber arevell understood. His poetry is of a high order. He is imaginative, glowings and vigorous, with a skill in the management of his means unsurapssed by any writer of his time, but without any high degree of originality . . . few fine scholars, such as Heber truly was, are original . . . The minor pieces generally are very naive (sic) and beautiful (GM, XX, 71).


In reviewing this edition Poe takes the attitude we observed in “Vicar of Wakefield”: “As a literary performance it is scarcely necessary to speak of this compilation” (GM, XX, 71) ; it is to make-up that he directs his attention: [page 360:]

The type is, of course, small — a fine nonpareil — hut very clear and beautiful; while the paper is of excellent quality, and the press-work carefully done. . .We make objection, however, and pointedly, to the omission of the biographer’s name. A sketch of the nature here inserted is worth nothing when anonymous. Nine-tenths of the value attached to a certain very rambling collection of Lives, depends upon our cognizance of their having been indited by Plutarch (GM, XX, 71).


No man of his age has shown greater versatility of talent, and few, of any age, richer powers of imagination. ..His scholarship, if not profound, is excursive; his criticism, if not always honest, is analytical, enthusiastic, and original in manner. His wit is vigorous, his humor great, his sarcasm bitter.. His high animal spirits give a dashing, free, hearty and devil-may-care tone to all his compositions — a tone which has done more towards establishing his literary popularity and dominion than any single quality for which he is remarkable . . . He is frequently led into gross injustice through personal feeling — this is his chief sin. His one is often flippant . . . His style is apt to degenerate, or rather rush into a species of bombastic periphrasis and apostrophe, of which our own Mr. John Neal has given the best American specimens. His analysis, although true in principle, (as is always the case with the idealist) and often profound, is nevertheless deficient in that calm breadth and massive deliberateness which are the features of such intellects as that of Verulam. In short, the opinions of Professor Wilson can never be safely adopted without examination (GM, XX, 72).

Poe reviewed Professor Wilson in the Broadway Journal, September 6, 1845: there he reaffirms “that Professor Wilson is one of the most gifted and altogether remarkable men of his day..” (BJ, II, 136; H, XII, 239). He emphasizes there his three prime traits: imagination, or ideality, energy, and audacity. He speculates on the ostent to Which “sheer audacity“, “overbearing impetuosity” were responsible f or his success. A capacity for demonstration, for sound analysis he lack3. The two reviews are completely in accord, though there are no verbal parallels.


Some years age [[ago]] vice had occasion to speak of ‘Zinzendorf and other Poems‘, by Mrs. Sigourney, and at that period we found, or fancied that we found many points, in her general manner, which called for critical animadversion . . . We had accused her of imitation of Mrs. Hemans . . . but this imitation is no longer apparent (GM, XX, 72).

Poe here sakes reference to specific objections he chalked up against Mrs. Sigourney in the January, 1836, Messenger critique of her poems.


. . . a very complete and certainly very piquant commentary on the events of his age . . . It is really superfluous to recommend these books. Every man who pretends to a library will purchase them of course (GM, XX, 72).

This like the following four notices, which have only two sentences each, offers little evidence in itself. All of the five are probably Poe’s.


The title of this volume does not fully explain its character . . . This design, as far as we have been able to judge in a very cursory examination, is well executed (GM, XX, 72).


A magnificent edition — to our taste the most magnificent edition — of Robinson Crusoe. The designs by Grandville are in a very superb style of art — bold, striking, and original — the drawing capital (GM, XX, 72).






On February 3, 1842, Poe wrote Thomas: “Did you read my review of [page 362:] ‘Barnaby Rudge’ in the Feb. No.?”(1) Thomas answered three weeks later: “I have not read Barnaby Rude (sic) — and therefore I determined not to read your criticism on it until I had. . .”.(2) Three months later Thomas again referred to the review: “You certainly exhibited great sagacity in your criticism on ‘Barnaby Budge‘ — I have not yet read it — but I mean to do so and then read your criticism. . .”(3) In 1845 Poe wrote Griswold in reference to critiques for an anthology: ”. . .of my serious manner Barnaby Rudge is a good specimen. In ‘Graham’ you will find these”.(4)

Within the review one finds:

In the number of the ‘Philadelphia Saturday Evening Post‘, for May the 1st, 1841, (the tale having then only begun) (5) will be found a prospective notice of some length, in which we made use of the following words — (GM, XX, 127).

This passage of twenty-seven lines is found in the first column of the Post review. Further on in the Graham’s article: “In the notice before mentioned we thus spoke upon this topic — ” (GM, XX, 128). This sixteen-line passage is found also in the first column of the cost review.

In “Marginalia”(6) Poe made use of a criticism found here: [page 363:]

Here are both Dickens and Bulwer perpetually using the adverb ‘directly’ in the sense of ‘as soon as‘. ‘Directly he came I did so and so (DR, XV, 586; H, XVI, 43) ;

in the Graham’s review:

Mr. Dickens’ English is usually pure. His most remarkable error is that of employing the adverb ‘directly’ in the sense of ‘as soon as! For example — ‘Directly he arrived, Rudge said’ &c. Bulwer is uniformly guilty of the same blunder (GM, XX, 128; H, XI, 60).


In 1844 Poe, asking for the address of the English poet Horne, wrote Mathews:

Could I imagine that, at any moment, you regarded a certain impudent and flippant critique as more than a matter to be laughed at, I would proffer you an apology on the spot. Since I scribbled the article in question, you yourself have given me fifty good reasons for being ashamed of it.(1)

This review of Wakondah is the first Poe did of Mathews, and the only one before 1845. Twice before he mentions the New York litterateur — in “Autography“, Graham’s January, 1842,(2) and in the “Exordium” of the same month.(3) Neither of these references is “impudent and flippant“, while the review of February is about as much so as Poe could be. There is, then, no doubt about the critique to which the letter refers.

The following notices were printed on the back cover; therefore, they do not appear in the bound volume.


Amid a good deal which is trite and imitative, this volume presents many passages of the truest poetry. . . ‘Titania’s Renquet‘, although faulty as a whole, has likewise many richly ideal(1) beauties. The ‘Lyrical Pieces’ are very unequal — but one of diem called ‘Leila’ we shall be pardoned for quoting. Were it not for a certain resemblance which it bears to Pinckney’s ‘Health‘, we should be tempted to speak of in (sic) terms of unqualified admiration . . . on the very title-page the author has failed to perceive the gross blunder is the motto which reads

Quid Pandioniae restant nisi nomen Athenae? These things may as well be corrected in a new edition (GM, XX, February, back cover).

In “Marginalia“, Messenger, April, 1849, Poe quoted “Health” and “Leila“, pointing out the similarity.(2)


About this notice there is nothing distinctive: it may be kept in the canon with a question mark on the basis of position.


Poe always admired and appreciated the work of Miss Sedgwick — and this review is no exception. It seems to me Poe’s.

Its spirit is vigorous and healthy — thoroughly American — its style of composition is chaste, simple and natural, and many of its descriptions are drawn with exquisite grace and beauty . . . This change of place affords abundant opportunity for various and graphic delineation of nature and manners. The plot is developed without violence to probability(3) . . . The moral is obvious enough, without being painfully pounded and laboriously inculcated in terns on every page. It is to be found, es it should be, rather in the incidents and character of the story, than in a prosing comment by the author. . . We can say with sincerity that no juvenile work has recently fallen under our notice which we can commend so heartily as we are happy to commend ‘Worth and Wealth’ (GM, XX, February back cover).

The three remaining notices, ranging from three to six lines in [page 365:] length, are typical of Poe.


He is particularly remarkable for the naivete (sic) and heartiness of his style, as well as for the simplicity of his subjects. Those who love natural homely thoughts, (without originality) expressed in the most unpretending, and in a somewhat rough manner, will be pleased with Thomas Miller (GM, XX, February back cover).

Of Miller Poe wrote in a Burton’s review of Fair Rosamond:

Its writer appears to us to be a man of true genius, but of a somewhat uncultivated intellect — of deficient education (BGM, V, 230).


A neat doudecimo of some 200 pages, in which the thesis of Kindness or Charity is thoroughly, if not ably handled . . .The true value of the book, however, is happily independent of its English (GM, XX, February back cover).


This is a very neatly bound little volume, containing; a well written tale, the object of which is to show the moral worth and dignity of the artisan — to maintain the elevation of the mechanic. The idea is well carried out (GM, XX, February back cover).

MARCH, 1842.


Campbell notes an error in reference to this article:

Professor Harrison lists this (“Imagination”) — perhaps by an oversight — in is bibliography of Poe, but he does not include it in his edition. In the table of contents for the volume of Graham’s in which the article appeared, it is ascribed to Park Benjamin.(1)


“In our review last month“, writes the critic here of Barnaby Rudge, “we presented, through want of space, from showing how Mr. Dickens had so well succeeded in unitize all suffrages” (GM, XX, 186; H, XI, 88) ; and for a half column he continues to speak of Dickens. A fundamental [page 366:] difference between Poe and the Casket reviewer may be here seen. Poe considers this book balderdash — clumsily managed — filled with vulgarisms — exceedingly rough and inartistical — popular in the worst sense. The Casket reviewer: “Charles O‘Malley . . . a rich mine of Irish humor . . . the novel . . . is one of the first class “ (Cas., XVII, October, 1840).


The April, 1842, review of this volume, which a mass of evidence gives to Poe, begins:

In our last number we had some nasty observations on these ‘Ballads‘ — observations which we now propose, in some measure, to amplify and explain (GM, XX, 248; H, XI, 68).

There follows a brief paragraph of reminiscent summary, Later:

In our last number, we took occasion to say that a didactic moral might be happily made the under-current of a poetical theme. . . (GM, XX, 250; H, XI, 79).

In the March notice:

We do not mean to say that a didactic moral may not be well made the under-current of a poetical thesis. . . (GM, XX, 190; H, XI, 68).

Again, in the April review:

In our last number, he objected, to its metre — the ordinary Latin or Greek Hexameter — (Cas., XX, 250; H, XI, 81).


This also is shown to be Poe’s by direct evidence. In the review he writes:

We allude to it, now especially, by way of corroborating what we said, in our January number, touching the ordinary character of the English review-system (GM, XX, 190; H, XI, 101).

The reference is clearly to the “Exordium” in the January issue.


The title of this work explains its nature with accuracy . . . The design is chiefly, to classify, and thus present a dependent and clearly discernible whole (GM, XX, 191).

In reviewing Wyatt’s Synopsis of Natural History for Burton’s Poe wrote:

. . . it must have occurred to many as singular, that in a study whose very existence may be said to depend upon method, there should have been, hitherto, no attempt at coilecting the parts into an easily discernible whole (BGM, V, 61).

The Graham’s reviewer continues:

To those who have paid much attention to Natural History and the endless, unstable, and consequently vexatious classifications which there occur —— (GM, XX, 191).

A Poe review of A Monograph of the Limniades in Burton’s has this phrase: ”. . . in regard to that ever-vexed and ever-vexing question of classification” (BGM, V, 100).

The Graham’s reviewer continues:

— to those, in especial, who have labored over the ‘Conchologies’ of Be Blainville and Lamarck, some faint — some very faint idea of the difficulties attending such a labor as this, will occur (GM, XX, 191).

One is reminded immediately of the Conchology text-book, which appeared bearing on the title-page Poe’s name. The central point of his criticism here — for this is, of course, Poe — is

Mr. Park has chosen a highly artificial scheme of arrangement; and both reason and experience show us that natural classifications, or those which proceed upon broad and immediately recognizable distinctions, are alone practically or permanently successful (GM, XX, 191).

The review ends with a typical outburst:

We must object to nearly all of the belles-lettres portion of the book. tie cannot stand being told, for example, that ‘Barlow’s “Columbiad” is a poem of considerable merit; nor are we rendered more patient under the infliction of this and similar opinions, by the information that ‘Dander Vondel and Vander Loos (the deuce,’) wrote capital Dutch epics, while ‘the poems of Cats are said to be spirited and pious!’ We know nothing, about cats, nor cats about piety.

The volume is sadly disfigured by typographical errors. On the title-page of the very first ‘province’ is a blunder in Greek (GM, XX, 191). (1) [page 368:]

After having demonstrated to my satisfaction that this review was Poe’s, I came across this passage in “Doings of Gotham”:

Now only imagine some of our third or fourth-rate dabblers in criticism, gravely in the Dutch, for example, that their epic poet, Cats, is a fine genius: They — even they! — would not be so besotted as to believe Americans better judges of Dutch than the Dutchmen themselves. They would reply, possibly, that Americans know nothing at all about Cats, nor cats about poetry.(1)

This evidence, taken with the other, is sufficient to give this notice to Poe definitely.


The most of these fifteen notices are perfunctory, and not infrequently merely hurried announcements. It would seem that the reveiwer’s [[reviewer’s]] desk had gotten cluttered with books, and that he chose a summary way to finish them off. Three are two lines long, three, three lines; two, four; one, six; four, seven; and two, the first and last, are nineteen lines long. In accordance with our method they may be given to Poe in a group, the certainty of their attribution varying according to internal evidence.


The Burschondom, of which we have all heard so much, yet so vaguely, is no modern or evanescent eccentricity; but a matter of firm and reverent faith coeval with the universities . . . To the philosopher, to the man of the world, and, especially, to the man of imagination, this beautiful volume will prove a rare treat. Its novelty will startle all (GM, XX, 191).

This, I think, is Poe’s, as well as the next.


Professor Smyth’s system of history is remarkable, if not peculiar . . . The effect is surprising through its force and perspicuity (GM, XX, 191). [page 369:]


There is nothing here of much distinction; it is probably Poe’s.


Originality, however, is not drat we seek in a school-book, and this has the merit of tasteful selection and precision of style (GM, XX, 191).

This, I think, is Poe’s, as well as the next.


This work is republished, we presume, not so much on account of its intrinsic merit, as on account of the present emeute in our immediate vicinity and elsewhere on the subject of Animal magnetism . . . well narrated . . . exceedingly pathetic (GM, XX, 192).


Hereafter we shall endeavor to speak of his tales with that deliberation which is their due (GM, XX, 192).

In the following issues of the magazine, April and May, appeared the two reviews of the Twice-Told Tales. This can be taken as Poe’s, I think, without doubt.


We like Mr. James far better as the historian or biographer than as the novelist. The truth is, it is sheer waste of time to read second-rate fictions by men of merely imitative talent . . . (GM, XX, 192).

This, and the two following which I quote entire, are, I believe, Poe’s.


These volumes are satirical and have some fair hits at Mr. Cooper, against whom they are especially levelled; but we life neither this design of, personal ridicule nor the manner in which it is effected (GM, XX, 192).


This book excited and still excites great attention in England. It is needless to speak of its merits, which are well understood by all students of Physics (GM, XX, 192). [page 370:]


A republication from the Dublin Review of three able articles in defence of Catholicism (GM, XX, 192).

This is all of this notice; it is probably Poe’s.


We need only say of this volume that is a continuation of the ‘First Book’ just noticed, although sufficiently distinct in itself (GM, XX, 192).

The earlier notice was given to Poet with a “probably”.


This is a very passable satirical fiction, in the manner of Gulliver. We should not be surprised if it were the composition of Dr. Beasely of this city (GM, XX, 192).

Nor should we be surprised if this were Poe’s.


This one sentence notice is not distinctive; it is probably Poe’s.


This is a very clever and amusing jeu-d‘esprit, in which the oddities, or what we regard as the oddities of ‘Life in China’ are divertingly caricatured (GM, XX, 192).

This is, I believe, Poe’s, as is the last of these notices.


The plates are not only antique but trashy in other respects. . . Of the poems themselves, we have no space to speak fully this month. Some of them are excellent; and there are many which merit no commendation. Mrs. Sigourney deserves much, but by no means all of the applause which her compositions have elicited. It would be easy to cite, from the volume now before us, numerous brief passages of the truest beauty; but we fear that it would be more difficult to point out an entire poem which would bear examination, as a whole (GM, XX, 192).

APRIL, 1842.


For this critique, in which Poe first defines poetry as “the rhythmical creation of beauty“, it is unnecessary to rely on the abundance of internal evidence. Three times Poe refers here to earlier reviews:

We found fault with the too obtrusive nature of their didacticism. Some years ago we urged a similar objection to one or two of the longer pieces of Bryant (GM, XX, 248; H, XI, 68) ;(1)

In a notice, month before last, of Brainard’s Poems, we took occasion to show . . . (GM, XX, 249; H, XI, 76) ;

In our last number we took occasion to say that a didactic moral might be happily made the under-current of a poetical theme, and in ‘Burton’s Magazine‘, some two years since, we treated this point at length, in a review of Moore’s ‘Alciphron‘, . . . (GM, XX, 250; H, XI, 79) (2)

The relationship of this review to the March Graham’s review of Longfellow has already been indicated. From the January, 1836, Messenger review of Zinzendorf and Other Poems Poe quotes here without comment a passage of fifteen lines; H, XI, 1.22,78 to 1.3979, from H, VIII, 1.31, 125, to 1.13, 126. The only variant is that the later version substitutes “sentiments” for “sensations”.


Externally, this is a beautiful little volume, in which Mr. Longfellow’s ‘Ballads‘, just noticed, are imitated with close precision. Internally no two publications could be more different (GM, XX, 254; H, XI, 114). [page 372:]

Thus in the first sentence this notice is tied with the preceding and shown to be Poe’s. Internal evidence corrobrates [[corroborates]]:

The general air of the whole is -nevertheless commonplace. It has nothing, except its mechanical execution, to distinguish it from the multitudinous ephemera with which our national poetical press is now growing. is regards the minor morals of the Muse,(1) the author is either uninformed or unaffected . . . He is endeavoring too, and very literally, to render confusion worse confounded by the introduction into poetry of Carlyle’s hyper-ridiculous elisions in prose(2) . . . The poet who would bring uninterruptedly together such letters as t h s p and r, has either no ear at all, or two unusually long ones (GM, XX, 254; H, XI, 114-5).


In May we shall endeavor to carry out our intention [a detailed review of Mr. Hawthorne as text for a treatment of “the value of the tale”] . . . We postpone all farther comment until a more favorable opportunity (GM, XX, 254; H, XI, 102, 104).

The May review begins

We said a few hurried words about Mr. Hawthorne in our last number, with the design of speaking more fully in the present (GM, XX, 298; H, XI, 104).

There are in the second review echoes of the first with two verbal parallels.


Mr. Hawthorne’s volumes appear to us misnamed in two respects . . . If in the first collected edition they were twice told, of course now they are thrice-told . . . In the second place, these compositions are by no means all ‘Tales’ . . . (GM, XX, 254; H, XI, 103) ;


The book professes to be a collection of tales, yet is, in two respects, misnamed. These pieces are now in their third republication, and, of course, are thrice-told. Moreover, they are by no means all tales . . . (GM, XX, 298; H, XI, 104).

April. [page 373:]

With rare exception — in the case of Mr. Irving’s ‘Tales of a Traveller’ and a few other works of a like cast — we have had no American tales of a high merit (GM, XX, 254; H, XI, 102) ;


We have had few American tales of real merit — we may say indeed, none, with the exception of ‘The Tales of a Traveller’ of Washington Irving, and these ‘Twice-Told Tales’ of Mr. Hawthorne (GM, XX, 439; H, XI, 109-110).

Since the May review is proved Poe’s by direct evidence, there is no doubt about the April.


The position of this nine-line notice is really sufficient to assure its place in the canon, coming, as it does, at the end of the three preceeding [[preceding or proceeding]] reviews; one sentence, however, strongly enforces the attribution:

Mr. Casserly is, perhaps, chargeable with inflation and Johnsonism as regards his own style — a defect from which we have never known one of his profession free (GM, XX, 254).

In “Roszel’s Address“, Messenger, 1836, Poe wrote:.

We see, or use fancy we see, in the wording of this Address, another instance of that tendency to Johnsonism which is the Scylla on the one hand, while a jejune style is the Charybdis on the other, of the philological scholar (SLM, II, 717; H, IX, 159) .

In “Autography“, Graham’s, November, 1841, he wrote of Dr. Anthon: ”. . . a certain antique Johnsonism of style is perhaps one of his worst (faults) (GM, XIX, 225; H, V, 159) ; and again of Anthon in “Marginalia“, Democratic Review, April, 1846:

The only noticeable demerit of Professor Anthon is diffuseuess, sometimes running into Johnsonism, of style (DR, XVIII, 272; H, XII, 113).

This evidence, in conjunction vita the external of position warrants, I think, the giving of this notice to Poe with as asterisk.

[[There are additional short notices on the inside rear cover of the paper wraps of the issue for April 1842 issue, apparently unseen by Hull — JAS.]]

[page 374:]

MAY, 1842.


In November, 1847, Poe reviewed Hawthorne for Godey’s Lady’s Book; as he so often did, he incorporated into the 1847 critique certain passages from the May, 1842. H, XIII, 151, 11.5-13, is almost exact from H, XI, 106, 11.17-26; H, XIII, 152, 11.6-11, is slightly varied from H, XI, 107, 11.8-13; XIII, 152, 11.13-15, almost exact from XI, 107, 11.13-16; XIII, 152, 11.17-19 is close from XI, 7.07, 11.18-20; XIII, 152, 11.20-26 is close from XI, 107, 11.22-27; XIII, 1.32, 152, to 1.9, 153, is slightly altered from XI, 1.20, 107, to 1.7, 108; XIII, 153, 11.10-27 is slightly altered from XI, 108, 11.10-27; XIII, 153, 11.28, 30, and 34 is roughly from XI, 109, 1.33 and 110, 1.1; XIII, 153, 11.7-14 is elaborated from X1, 110, 11.3-6.

In pointing; out, in “Howe’s Masquerade“, “something which resembles a plagiarism — but which may be a very flattering coincidence of thought” (GM, XX, 299; H, XI, 112), Poe quotes two passages, one from Hawthorne and one from himself, the latter prefaced by

. . . in an article called ‘William Wilson‘, one of the ‘Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque‘, we have not only the same idea, but the same idea similarly presented in several respects (GM, XX, 300; H, XI, 112).


Poe spoke of Hoffman in the “Autography” of January, 1842, as an author of “productions of merit . . . a gentleman of talent“ (GM, XX, 45; H, XV, 250). In this May notice the critic writes:

. . . his poetic abilities have not as yet attracted that attention which is indubitably their due. ‘The Vigil of Faith,” a poem of fifty-two irregular stanzas, embodies a deeply interesting narrative . . . it bears the impress of the true spirit on every line; but appears to be carelessly [page 375:] written. The occasional Poems are scarcely more beautiful, but, in general, am more complete and polished. Now and then, however, we observe, even in these, an inaccurate rhythm . . . Mr. Hoffman is, also, somewhat too fond of a double rhyme, which, unduly employed, never fails to give a flippant air to a serious poem

In the “Literati‘’ article on Hoffman Poe wrote of this volume:

The subject of the poem is happy . . . The incidents interwoven are picturesque, and there are many quotable passages; the descriptive portions are particularly good . . . ‘The Vigil of Faith’ is, upon the whole, one of our most meritorious poems. The shorter pieces in the collection have been more popular . . . (GLB, XXXIII, 157; H, XV, 120). (1)

This notice, I am convinced, is Poe’s; perhaps, however, despite the evidence of position, there is nothing quite definite enough to allow its inclusion in the canon with an asterisk.


This notice is typical enough of Poe’s brief notices; but there is in it nothing distinctive. From its position, however, it is safe to say that it is probably Poe’s.



The “Literati” criticism of Hoffman is of some help here:

‘Greyslaer’ followed, a romance based on the well known murder of Sharp (sic), the Solicitor-general of Kentucky, by Beauchampe. W. Gilmore Simms, (who has far more power, more passion, more movement, more skill than Mr. Hoffman), and treated the subject more of effectively in his novel ‘Beauchampe‘; but the fact is that both gentlemen have positively failed, as might have peen expected. That both books are interesting is no merit either of Mr. H. or of Mr. S. The real events were more impressive than are the fictitious ones. The facts of this remarkable tragedy, as arranged by actual circumstance; would put to shame the skill [page 376:] of the most consummate artist. Nothing was left to the novelist but the amplification of character, and at this point neither the author of “Greyslaer’ nor of ‘Beauchampe’ is especially au fait. The incidents might be better woven into a tragedy (GLB, XXXIII, 157; H, XI, 113).

The notice is Graham’s reads in its entirety:

The events upon which this novel is based are but too real. No more thrilling, no more romantic tragedy did ever the brain of poet conceive than was the tragedy of Sharpe and Beauchampe. We are not sure that the author of ‘Border Beagles’ has done right in the selection of his theme. Too little has been left for invention. We are sure, however, that the theme is skillfully handled. The author of ‘Richard Hurdles’ is one among the best of our native novelists — pure, bold, vigorous, original (GM, XX, 300).

It was this Kentucky incident upon which Poe based his unfinished tragedy, Politian. In the Broadway Journal review of The Wigwam and the Cabin Poe wrote:

‘Beauchampe’ is intensely interesting; but the historical truth has somewhat hampered and repressed the natural strength of the artist (BJ, II, 190; H, XII, 248).

In 1844 Poe wrote of Simms:(1)

Nevertheless, leaving out of the question Brockden Brown and Hawthorne, (who are each a genius,) he is immeasurably the best writer of fiction in America. He has more vigor, more imagination, more movement, and more general capacity than all our novelists (save Cooper), combined (DR, XV, 535; H, XVI, 41).

It is quite safe, I think, reinforcing this evidence with that of position, to assign this to Poe with an asterisk.

JUNE, 1842.


This review, which Harrison prints, is shown not to be Poe’s by the Poe-Snodgrass letter of June 4, 1842.(2) There are certain [page 377:] stylistic traits and attitudes here and in the brief notices of this issue which suggest that this reviewer, who was certainly imitating Poe with some degree of consciousness, is none other than our Ignotus of the Casket. One finds the old favorites “clap-trap” and “graphic”. Again the criticism is on the basis of interest, story, and character. The whole article is of an impression and a looseness in thought, arrangement, and diction — and the whole article, with its insistence on “unity of effect“, its blundering attempt to define the province of poetry, its phrases like ”. . . to of the ideal” (GM, XX, 35, 355). Poe, it will be remembered, left Graham’s immediately on completing his work for the May number. Griswold was not engaged as editor until late in the month of May. The June number would have gone to press by the first of May. Griswold himself says in a letter to James Field that he had little to do with the July issue, for the most of it was prepared before he joined Graham.(1) The Casket reviewer seems to have taken over in the meantime.


In the May issue there is a brief notice of Griswold’s book, which begins:

This is a volume of remarkable beauty externally, and of a very high merit internally (GM, XX, 300).

The first sentence in the June review elaborates that of the May:

This is the best collection of American Poets that has yet been made, whether we consider its completeness, its size, or the judgment displayed in its selections. The volume is issued in a style commensurate with its literary worth. The paper, type and printing are unexceptionable . . . the finest volume of the season (GM, XX, 356; H, XI, 124). [page 378:]

The second sentence of the May notice:

It embraces selections from the poetical works of every true poet in America without exception; and these selections are prefixed, in each instance, with a brief memoir, for whose accuracy we can vouch (GM, XX, 300).

is expanded into the second paragraph of the review. The third and fourth sentences of the May notice:

We know that no pains or expense have been spared in this compilation, which is, by very much indeed, the best of its class — affording, at one view, the justest idea of our poetical literature. Mr. Griswold is remarkably well qualified for the task he has undertaken (GM, XI, 300),

are paralleled in a review Poe wrote for the November, 1842, issue of the Boston Miscellany:

With the meagre published aids existing previously to Mr. Griswold’s book, the labor of such an undertaking; must have been great; and not less great the industry and general information in respect to our literary affairs, which have enabled him so successfully to prosecute it. . . We know no one in America who could or who would, have performed the task here undertaken, at once so well in accordance with the judgment of the critical, and so much to the satisfaction of the public. The labors, the embarrassments, the great difficulties of the achievement are not easily estimated by those before the scenes . . . The work before us is indeed so vast an improvement upon those of a similar character which have preceded it, that we do its author some wrong in classing all together. Having explained, somewhat minutely, our views of the proper mode of compilation, and of the general aims of the species of book in question,(1) it but remains to say that these views have been very nearly fulfilled in the ‘Poets and Poetry of America‘, while altogether unsatisfied by the earlier publications (Boston Miscellany, II, 220; H, XI, 153, 155).

There are other parallels in the June review and the November Boston Miscellany article. Both devote, after an introduction, a long paragraph to a description of the plan of the book; the rest of both is “a word [page 379:] on its merits”. June:

We have said that this volume is superior to any former collection of the American Poets, whether we regard its size, its completeness, or the taste(1) displayed in the selections. Tais is our general opinion of the book. We do not, however, always coincide with the judgment of the editor. There are several writers in the Appendix who have as good claims to appear in the body of the work as others who figure largely in the latter more honorable station. There are many mere versifiers included in the selection who should have been excluded, or else others who have been left out should have been admitted. Perhaps the author, without being aware of it himself, has unduly favored the writers of New England (GM, XX, 356; H, XI, 135) ;


The writer of this article, in saying that, individually, he disagrees with many of the opinions expressed by Mr. Griswold, is merely, suggesting what, in itself, would have been obvious without the suggestion . . . we disagree then, with Mr. Griswold in many of his critical estimates; although in general, we are proud to find his decisions our own. He has omitted from the body of his book, some one or two whom we should have been tempted to introduce. On the other hand, he has scarcely made us amends by introducing some one or two dozen whom we should have treated with contempt. We might complain too of a prepossession, evidently unperceived by himself, for the writers of New England (Boston Miscellany, II, 221; H, XI, 155-56).

On July 5, Poe wrote Daniel Bryan:

I shall make war to the knife against the New England assumption of ‘All the decency and all the talent” which has been so disgustingly manifested in the Rev. Rufus Griswold’s ‘Poets and Poetry of America‘.(2)

In 1909 Campbell assigned three of the May notices, “Vigil of Faith“, “Poets and Poetry“, and “Besuchsempe” to Poe:

Circumstantial evidence supports the assumption in each case, and the notice of Griswold’s book refers forward to Poe’s [page 380:] acknowledged(1) review of that work in the issue of the following month.(2)

In the “Poe Canon” he has changed his mind; of the June, 1844, review he writes:

This article is included in the Harrison edition of Poe; but it does not appear in Griswold’s edition; nor is it attributed to Poe by W. M. Griswold in his edition of his father’s letters. And it is not mentioned by Poe in a list of his publications about Griswold sent the latter in 1849, in the hope; apparently, of placating him in advance of the publication of a forthcoming edition of his anthology, in which Poe was eager to receive favorable notice. Had Poe written the review he would in all likelihood have included it in his list; for it contains nothing that is especially disparaging to Griswold. Finally, there is Poe’s declaration in his letter to Snodgrass of June 4, 1842, that he had withdrawn from Graham’s with the May issue. All this makes Poe’s title extremely questionable.(3)

He adds in a footnote:

The denying of this item to Poe apparently necessitates also the denying to him the brief notice of Griswold’s book in the May issue of Graham’s which I assigned to him in the Nation of December 23, 1909 (p.623). (4)

Mr. Campbell’s objections seem to me not objections at all. W. M. Griswold does not mention this June review; nor does he attribute any specific review to Poe.(5) In the letter to Griswold, printed by Harrison from Griswold’s Memoir — which, as far as I can ascertain, is its sole source — Poe fails also to mention the signed review in the November issue of the Boston Miscellany from which we have just quoted — a review as favorable as the June review. The fact of Poe’s not mentioning [page 381:] this review in the paragraph he sent Snodgrass for publication, announcing his break with Graham’s, seems to me rather to support than contradict Poe’s claim to the review. With some degree of violence he repudiates the idea of his having authored “Zanoni”; yet not a word about another review in the same issue with which he was most likely being credited. Had he considered the review flattering, partial, stupid, had it not been in accord with his own critical estimate of the book, it seems to me almost inevitable that Poe would have taken care that no possibility should exist for its being considered his. Mr. Campbell’s objections seem, as I have said, to support rather than to deny Poe’s claims to the review.

Because of its striking parallels to the June and November reviews and because of its position, the May notice may be given to Poe with little hesitation. Its last sentence looks toward the June review: “We shall speak at length of this book in our next” (GM, XX, 300).

The June reviewer objects to what he considers that slighting of Lowell:

A glaring instance of this is the case of LOWELL, a young poet, to whom others than ourselves have assigned genius of the highest rank. A few years hence, Mr. Griswold himself will be amazed that he assigned no more space to LOWELL, Tuckerman, and others of [[Greek text]] (GM, XX, 356; H, XI, 175-76).

In the ‘Autography’ of December, 1841, Poe had written:

Mr. J. R. Lowell of Massachusetts, is entitled, in our opinion, to at least the second or third place among the poets of America (GM, XIX, 284; H, XV, 239).

In the March, 1842, review of Longfellow Poe wrote of Lowell:

. . .with ideality not richer than that of Longfellow, and with less artistical knowledge, has yet composed far truer poems . . . no American poem equals it (“Rosaliae”) in the [page 382:] higher elements of song (GM, XX, 190; H, XI, 68).

“Rosaline” is mentioned specailly [[specifically]] in the June review, which ends:

Little more can be said in the way of criticism, unless are should follow up these remarks by further examples in detail. For this we have no inclination, since, after all, the book, as a vilole, is one of high merit; and, from the very nature of the work, it is impossible for an editor to produce a faultless volume. A thorough analysis of the book might induce many, whose minds are not comprehensive, to think it a bad, instead of what it reallf is, a food work (GM, XX, 356; H, XI, 126).

This, I think, is Poe; the last sentence is typical and characteristic; and it does not ring false as does the imitation by the reviewer of Zanoni, considering in conjunction the evidence offered by the relationship of this review to the May notice and to the signed Miscellany article of November, and that offered by the tone and attitude of the review itself, I am left in no doubt that this is from Poe’s hand.

There remain, however, a few problems to clear up. Poe’s connection with the magazine ceased with the May number. It is possible that at the time he wrote the May notice of Griswold’s book he wrote also the longer notice and laid it aside for insertion in the neat number. It is even possible that he wrote the brief notice announcing the work, retaining the review for the next number. “We shall speak at. length of this book in our next.” On his departures the, substituting reviewer, probably either Graham or Peterson, may have found the review and decided to make use of it; or more likely, he may have secured Poe’s permission to print it. Or again, the substituting reviewer may have asked Poe to do a review of the book for the June; number. None of these possibilities are, I think, improbable. [page 383:] More difficult perhaps, on the face of it, is the apparent inconsistency in Poe’s attitude to Griswold at this time. In the Snodgrass letter of June 4 he wrote:

Have you seen Griswold’s Book of Poetry? It is a most outrageous humbug, and I wish you would.’ use it; up’ . . . Mr. Griswold who (whatever may be his abilities as the compiler of a Book of Poetry), is at all events a decent writer of English.(1)

To Bryan Poe wrote a month later, in reference to his mail having; been opened in the magazine office:

I have no quarrel with either Mr. Graham or Mr. Griswold — although I hold neither in especial respect.(2)

A month later he wrote Thomas:

Graham has made me a good offer to return. He is not especially pleased with Griswold, nor is any one else, with the exception of the Rev. gentleman himself, who has gotten himself into quite a hornet’s nest by his ‘Poets and Poetry’ . . . He is a pretty fellow to set himself up for an honest judge, or even as a capable one. About two months since, we were talking of the book, when I said that I thought of reviewing is full for the ‘Democratic Review‘(3) , but found my design anticipated by an article from that ass O’Sullivan, and that I knew no other work in which a notice could be readily admissable. Griswold said, in reply: ‘You need not trouble yourself about the publication of the review, should you decide on writing it, for I will attend to all that. I will get it in some reputable work, and look to it for the usual pay, in the meantime handing you what ever your charge would be.’ This, you see, was an ingenious insinuation of a bribe to puff his book. I accepted his offer forthwith, and wrote the review, handed it to him, and received from him the compensation; he never daring to look over the MS. in my presence, and taking it for granted that all was right. But that review has not yet appeared, and I am doubtful if it ever will. I wrote precisely as I would have [page 384:] written under ordinary circumstances, and be sure there was no predominance of praise.(1)

The first letter, the Poe-Snodgrass, dates at least a month, perhaps nearer two months from the writing of the June review. The Poe-Thomas can scarcely have been written: much before the Miscellany, November review.(2) As I have already suggested in another section of this study, Poe must have felt a little bitter about Griswold’s position and salary on Graham’s in relation to what his had been. It would seem then that Poe disliked Griswold personally a:ad had little respect for him, and that he expressed this feeling freely wren writing to friends; at the same time, it seems that he realized the real value of Griswold’s book, and in reviewing it emphasized the major rather than the minor “morals“ — in other words he triad and apparently succeeded in reviewing Griswold justly and sanely. He took a comprehensive view of the book. An undated letter to Griswold, which must have been written in the winter of 1842-1843, repeats the criticism we have seen in the June and November reviews:

I like it (the anthology) decidely. It is of immense importance, as a guide to what we have done; but you have permitted your good nature to influence you to a degree. I would have omitted at least a dozen whom you have quoted, and I can think of five or six that should have been in. But with all its faults — you see I am perfectly frank with you — it is a better book then any other man in the United States could have made of the materials. This I will say.(3) [page 385:]

This evidence, ell in all, is conclusive enough, it seems to me, to permit the attribution of the, May notice and the June review to Poe with finality.


The scenes are described with that graphic force for which our author is distinguished above all writers of sea-tales. . . but there is nothing like character in the tale, and the plot is shamefully commonplace (GM, XX, 356).

Immediately one recognizes the Casket reviewer. A comparison of this with the reviews we have quoted from on Cooper and James from his hand leaves no doubt. The external evidence, however, is even stronger. That Poe should have contributed a group of four very short notices to this number is most improbable. The other three are




In these one finds again the word “graphic”. It is the last of these, though, which supplies the precise conclusiveness sufficient to warrant denying these to Poe with certainty.

Of the merits of the poem we shall not speak until July, when are trust to have leisure and space for the task (GM, XX, 356) .

There is no evidence that Poe contributed any more reviews to Graham’s before October, 1842.



[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 359:]

1.  This expression, from this time on, Poe uses with ever-increasing frequency.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 362:]

1.  Poe-Thomas, Philadelphia, February 3, 1842. “A Unpublished Letter of Edgar Allan Poe“, The Autograph, I, 41.

2.  Thomas-Poe, Washington, February 213, 1842. GR. MSS. Phot. in UVL.

3.  Thomas-Poe, Washington, May 21, 1842. GR. MSS. Phot. in UVL.

4.  Poe-Griswold, New York, February 24, 1845. GR. MSS. Phot. in UVL.

5.  The parentheses are Poe’s.

6.  DR, December, 1844.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 363:]

1.  Poe-Mathews, Philadelphia, March 15, 1844. Gr. MSS. Phot. in UVL. Yet Poe attacks Mathews flippantly on later occasions: “Fifty Suggestions” (GM, June 1845; H, XIV, 185) ; “Fable for Critics” (SLM, March 1849, XV, 190; H, XIII, 169-70). However the review of Big Abel and Little Manhattan is quite favorable (GLB, November, 1845; H, XIII, 77).

2.  GM, XX, 45; H, XV, 249

3.  GM, XX, 69.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 366:]

1.  This is Poe’s usage of the word.

2.  See (SLM, XV, 220; H, X, 143).

3.  Note the phraseology.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 365:]

1.  Campbell, K. The Mind of Poe, 224.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 367:]

1.  Note how often Poe does this sort of thing.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 368:]

1.  “Doings of Gotham“, Letter IV, June 4, 1844. Spannuth and Mabbott (eds) op. cit., 52.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 371:]

1.  Cf. January, 1837, review of Bryant. SLM, III, 41-49; H, IX, 268-305.

2.  Cf. BGM, VI, 53-56; H, X, 60-71.

3.  Harrison has overlooked the pointing in this heading. Graham’s reads: Ideals . . . BY Algernon Henry Perkins, Philadelphia. There was a Philadelphia publisher named Henry Perkins.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 372:]

1.  This phrase Poe used very frequently: cf. the January, 1842, review of Vicar of Wakefield (GM, XX, 7l; H, XI, 9), and 1845 notice of Simms (BJ, II, 190), et passim.

2.  Poe’s atitude [[attitude]] in this direction is well known.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 375:]

1.  GLB, October, 1846.

2.  See pp. 377-405 of this section for the discussion of this notice.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 376:]

l. Democratic Review, December, 1844.

2.  See p. 257 of the first chapter of this section, where the letter is quoted.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 377:]

1.  Griswold-Fields, Philadelphia, July 10, 1842. Griswold, WM., op. cit., 113

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 378:]

1.  “The object, in general terms, may be stated, as the conveying, within moderate compass, a distinct view of our poetry and of our poets“ (Boston Miscellany, II, 219; H, XI, 151).

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 379:]

1.  In the Miscellany Poe praises Griswold for his “taste” (Boston Misc., II, 221; H, XI, 156).

2.  Poe-Bryan, Philadelphia, July 6, 1842. Gr. MSS. Phot. is UVL.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 380:]

1.  The basis for this statement I have been unable to discover; the following paragraph quoted from Campbell indicates that he is in error here.

2.  Campbell, K., Nation, op. cit., LXXXIX, 623.

3.  Campbell, K., The Mind of Poe, 224-25.

4.  Campbell, K., The Mind of Poe, 223, ftn.

5.  See Griswold, W. M., op. cit., pp. 86ff.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 383:]

1.  Poe-Snodgrass, Philadelphia, June 4, 1842. Ostrom, op. cit., pp. 37, 38.

2.  Poe-Bryan, Philadelphia, July 6, 1842. Woodberry, op. cit., I, 331.

3.  This phrase “reviewing it in full” has little bearing one way or another on the June review; for it is only one column in length.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 384:]

1.  Poe-Thomas, Philadelphia, September 12, 1842. Woodberry, op. cit., I, 353-54.

2.  It seems possible that this Miscellany review may be the one he wrote and delivered to Griswold, for the latter had influence with the Miscellany. On June 15, 1842, S. S. Soden, one of the proprietors, wrote Griswold urging him to assume the editorship of the Boston periodical (See Passages, etc., 113). Praise may seem to predominate in it, but examination proves it to be a just review. The circumstances of the letter to Thomas mere perhaps condictive [[sic???]] to a little exaggeration on Poe’s part. It is possible, but, not very likely, I think, that Griswold himself may have touched up the article before sending it off.

3.  Poe-Griswold, Philadelphia, Woodberry, op. cit., 354-55.


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