Text: Sidney P. Moss, “Poe and the Saint Louis Daily Reveille, ” Poe Newsletter­, October 1968, vol. I, no. 2, 1:18-21


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[page 18, column 2:]

Poe and the Saint Louis Daily Reveille

Southern Illinois University

To indicate how well known Poe was in his lifetime and how far gossip about him carried, as well as to spare Poe biographers needless drudgery, I have in this article recorded the notices of Poe in the Saint Louis Daily Reveille from 11 June 1845 to 15 July 1847, a newspaper that no one else seems to have scanned in this respect (1). This period was the time when Poe was most frequently in the public eye because of his polemical conduct of the Broadway Journal, especially of the “Little Longfellow War” he waged in its columns; because of his shock-tactics in regard to the Boston Lyceum and the notoriety that marked him in consequence of his behavior there and afterwards; because of his involvement with Mrs. Elizabeth Ellet and his alibi-ing that he was mad at the time in order to escape a duel with her brother; and because of his libel suit against the owners of the New York Mirror. And it was this period which saw his virtual demise as a practicing critic (2).

Not much is known about Poe’s relation to Joseph M. Field, a founder of the Reveille and its editor (3). From the one extant Poe letter to Field, we know that they had met [”You have seen me and can describe me as I am,” Poe wrote]; that Poe knew about Field’s connection with the New Orleans Daily Picayune; and that they exchanged journals [Field mentioned or quoted from the Broadway Journal on occasion, and Poe in his letter to Field remarked, “I have frequently seen in ‘The Reveille ’ notices of myself . . ] (4).

The first notice of the period surveyed appeared on 24 September 1845 in response to Poe’s statement in the Broadway Journal of 13 September 1845. Poe had charged that the Chambersburg [Pa.] Times had made up the “whole of its first page from a single number” of his magazine. “This,” he commented, “would be all very well, had it not forgotten to give us credit for our articles, contributed and editorial — and had it not forgotten not to make certain improvements in our compositions to suit its own fancy.” Caught by Poe’s wit, the Reveille commented:

Damned let it be. — Edgar A. Poe, in his Broadway Journal, complains not only of a lack of “credit” on the part of a certain editor, but other liberties also: Copying, for example, a little poem of our own called ‘Lenore, ’ the Chambersburg editor alters ‘the damned earth ’ into ‘the cursed earth. ’ Now, we prefer it damned, and will have it so. ’

During the next month [10 October 1845] the Reveille again mentioned Poe’s magazine to this effect: “The Broadway Journal says that Baron Von Raumer’s comments upon American literature are particularly vapid. His work has been translated, but a portion of it only, by Mrs. Ellet.”

Poe in the meantime had been invited to deliver a poem before the Boston Lyceum, which he did on 16 October. Unable to write an original poem for the occasion, he read “Al Aaraaf” under another title. Anticipating exposure of the “hoax,” he told various Bostonians afterwards that he had deliberately foisted off the poem (written, he claimed, before he was twelve) as a new one, because, for the price and “an audience of Transcendentalists,” the poem was [page 19:] good enough. Naturally, he stirred up rancor among Boston newspaper editors, a rancor that he only exacerbated by abusing them in his magazine. Thus on 29 October 1845, the Reveille, apprised by the Boston papers with which it exchanged of the rude treatment accorded Poe, decided to quote an account in Poe’s favor, one that had appeared in the Boston Daily Courier of 18 October:

Mr. Poe. — The Boston papers are rather down upon Poe — a little bit of retaliation, perhaps. The Courier says of his poem, delivered before the Lyceum: “That it was not appreciated by the audience was very evident, by their uneasiness and continual exits in numbers at a time. Common courtesy, we should think, would have suggested to them the politeness of hearing it through, though it should have proven ‘Heathen Greek ’ to them; after, too, the author had expressed his doubts of his ability in preparing a poem for a Boston audience.”

Again, on 9 November 1845, still concerned with the editorial embroilment resulting from Poe’s performance at the Lyceum, the Reveille responded to Poe’s statement in the Broadway Journal of 25 October:

“The Broadway Journal is edited and owned solely by Mr. Edgar A. Poe. If he had as much tact as talent, he would make success for half a dozen papers.”

So says an exchange paper. Poe, reliant upon his talent, has too much contempt for tact; he is wrong, but his error makes his career the more remarkable. He is full of eccentricity. Does he mean, by the following, that his late Boston poem, was intended by him as a hoax?

“We have been quizzing the Bostonians, and one or two of the more stupid of their editors and editresses have taken it in high dudgeon. We will attend to them all in good time.”

In attending to them [Broadway Journal, 22 November 1845], Poe responded to the statement of the Reveille:

We had tact enough not to be “taken in and done for” by the Bostonians . . . . We knew very well that, among a certain clique of the Frogpondians, there existed a predetermination to abuse us under any circumstances . . . . We knew that were we to compose for them a “Paradise Lost,” they would pronounce it an indifferent poem. It would have been very weak in us, then, to put ourselves to the trouble of attempting to please these people . . . . We read before them . . . a very “juvenile” poem — and thus the Frogpondians were had . . . .

On 4 December 1845 the Reveille, apparently satisfied by Poe’s response, noticed his article:

Poe and the Bostonians. — The author of the Raven gives the history of the poem hoax, and says: “In conclusion: — The Frogpondians may as well spare us their abuse. If we cared a fig for their wrath, we should not first have insulted them to their teeth, and then subjected to their tender mercies a volume of our poems [The Raven and Other Poems that appeared in November 1845]; — that, we think, is sufficiently clear. The fact is, we despise them and defy them (the transcendental vagabonds! ) and they may all go to the devil together.”

The Reveille did not mention Poe again until four months later. By that time Poe in his troubled career had accused Mrs. Elizabeth Ellet of having written compromising letters to him, an accusation that caused her brother, Colonel William Lummis, to go gunning for him. To avert a duel with the colonel, Poe claimed that his statement was made during a seizure of madness. Given this opportunity, Poe’s enemies, and they were numerous, began to circulate the rumor that Poe was to be committed to an insane asylum. Thus the Reveille wrote in Poe’s defense on 12 April 1846:

A rumor is in circulation in New York, to the effect that Mr. Edgar A. Poe, the poet and author, has become deranged, and his friends are about to place him under the charge of Dr. Brigham, [column 2:] of the Insane Retreat at Utica. We sincerely hope that this is not true; indeed we feel assured that it is altogether an invention (5).

With the Broadway Journal bankrupt and defunct in January 1846, Poe, to keep himself alive, hit upon an idea that he knew would find avid readers. This was the series of articles he entitled, “The Literati of New York City: Some Honest Opinions at Random Respecting Their Autorial Merits, with Occasional Words of Personality.” Louis A. Godey, anticipating great sales, bought the series, and the articles appeared in Godey’s Lady’s Book [Philadelphia] from May to October 1846. The sketches, as expected, caused quite a furor in New York circles, and editors such as Lewis Gaylord Clark of the Knickerbocker Magazine wrote [May 1846] that Poe was “today in the gutter, tomorrow in some milliner’s magazine,” and that he

seems to invite the ‘Punchy ’ writers among us to take up their pens and impale him for public amusement. Mrs. Louisa Godey [a slur on Louis Godey] has lately taken this snob into her service in a neighboring city, where he is doing his best to prove his title to the distinction of being one of the lowest of his class . . . infesting the literary world.

Similarly, Hiram Fuller, editor of the Evening Mirror, lampooned the sketches and Poe himself in a long article entitled, “Mr. Poe and the New York Literati” [26 May 1846]. Among other things, he said that Poe was “about 39” and “about 5 feet 1 or two inches”; that he weighed “about 110 or 115 pounds”; and described him as if he were a cretin. In desperation Poe wrote to Field to help correct Fuller’s distortion of his image, and even provided him with copy for that purpose. Field on 30 June 1846 proved obliging, as the two versions below demonstrate, but aside from Poe’s use of the statement — he sent copies to Godey and Thomas Chivers — no journal reprinted the Reveille article, though such republication was the object Poe had in mind (6).

Poe’s Letter to Field 

(Confidential )

New-York: June 15. 46 

Dear Field,   

I have frequently seen in “The Reveillé” notices of myself, evincing a kindly feeling on your part which, believe me, I reciprocate in the most cordial manner. This conviction of your friendship induces me now to beg a favor of you. I enclose an article from “The New-York Mirror” of May 26th. headed “Mr. Poe and the N.Y. Literati”. The attack is editorial & the editor is Hiram Fuller . . . .   

All that I venture to ask of you in the case of this attack . . . is to say a few words in condemnation of it, and to do away with the false impression of my personal appearance (7) it may convey, in those parts of the country where I am not individually known. You have seen me and can describe me as I am. Will you do me this act of justice, and influence one or two of your editorial friends to do the same? I know you will. [page 19:]

I think the “N.O. Picayune”, which has always been friendly to me, will act in concert with you.

There is, also, an incidental service of great importance, just now, which you have it in your power to render me. That is, to put the following, editorially, in your paper:   

 

Field’s Statement in the Reveille    

EDGAR A. POE. — Certainly one of the most original geniuses of the country is Edgar A. Poe, and the only fault we have to find with him is, that he is wasting his time at present in giving his “honest opinions” touching his contemporaries — the maddest kind of honesty, in our opinion. Poe’s papers upon the “New York Literati,” published in Godey’s Magazine, have stirred up, as might have been expected, any amount of ill temper. The Evening Mirror takes the lead in the attack upon the author, who is very sick, by-the-bye, and unable to make battle, as is his wont. The Mirror, among other things, seeks to make Poe ridiculous by a false description of his personal appearance. We won ’t stand this. Instead of being “five foot one,” &c, the poet is a figure to compare with any in manliness, while his features are not only intellectual, but handsome. As to his mental [page 19:] “presentment,” the British journals are admitting his merits in the most unequivocal manner.

A long and highly laudatory review of his Tales, written by Martin Farquhar Tupper, author of “Proverbial Philosophy”, “The Crock of Gold” etc., appeared in a late number of “The London Literary Gazette”. “The Athenaeum,” “The British Critic, [”] “The Spectator”, “The Popular Record”[,] “Churton’s Literary Register”, and various other journals, scientific as well as literary, have united in approbation of Tales & Poems. “The Raven” is copied in full in the “British Critic” and “The Athenaeum”. “The Times” — the matter of fact Times! — copies the “Valdemar Case”. The world’s greatest poetess, Elizabeth Barrett Barrett, says of Mr. Poe: — “This vivid writing! — this power which is felt! ‘The Raven ’ has produced a sensation — a ‘fit horror ’ — here in England. Some of my friends are taken by the fear of it and some by the music — but all are taken. I hear of persons absolutely haunted by the ‘Nevermore ’, and one acquaintance of mine who has the misfortune of possessing a ‘bust of Pallas ’ never can bear to look at it in the twilight. Our great poet, Mr. Browning, the author of ‘Paracelsus ’, ‘The Pomegranates ’ etc. is enthusiastic in his admiration of the rhythm.”

 

A long and highly laudatory review of his “Tales,” written by Martin Farquhar Tupper, author of “Proverbial Philosophy,” “The Crock of Gold,” &c., appeared in a late number of “The London Literary Gazette.” “The Athenaeum,” “The British Critic,” “The Spectator,” “The Popular Record,” “Churton’s Literary Register,” and various other journals, scientific as well as literary, have united in approbation of “Tales and Poems.” “The Raven” is copied, in full, in the “British Critic” and “The Athenaeum.” “The Times” — the matter of fact Times! — copies the “Valdemar Case.” The world’s greatest poetess, Elizabeth Barrett says of Mr. Poe: “This vivid writing! — this power which is felt! ‘The Raven ’ has produced a sensation — a ‘fit horror ’ — here in England. All are taken. I hear of persons absolutely haunted by the ‘Nevermore, ’ and one acquaintance of mine, who has the misfortune of possessing a ‘bust of Pallas, ’ never can bear to look at it in the twilight. Our great poet, Mr. Browning, the author of ‘Paracelsus, ’ ‘The Pomegranates, ’ &c, is enthusiastic in his admiration of the rhythm.” 

After all this, Mr. Poe may possibly make up his mind to endure the disapprobation of the editor of the Mirror [Fuller].

 

After all this, Mr. Poe may possibly make up his mind to endure the disapprobation of the editor of the Mirror.

Miss Barrett continues: — “Then there is a tale of his which I do not find in this volume, but which is going the rounds of the newspapers, about Mesmerism (The Valdemar case) throwing us all into ‘most admired disorder ’ or dreadful doubts as to ‘whether it can be true ’ . . . . The certain thing in the tale in question is the power of the writer and the faculty he has of making horrible improbabilities seem near & familiar.”

 

Miss Barrett continues: “Then there is a tale of his which I do not find in this volume, but which is going the rounds of the newspapers about Mesmerism, ( ’The Valdemar Case, ’) throwing us all into ‘most admired disorder, ’ or dreadful doubts as to whether it can be true. . . . The certain thing in the tale in question is the power of the writer, and the faculty he has of making horrible improbabilities seem near and familiar.”

[column 2:]

If you can oblige me in this case, you may depend on my most earnest reciprocation when where & how you please.    Cordially yours 
Edgar A Poe. 

P.S. Please cut out anything you may say and en[close i]t to me in a letter. A newspaper wil[l] not be [li]kely to reach me.   

I have been very seriously ill for some months (8) and, being thus utterly unable to defend myself, must rely upon the chivalry of my friends. Fuller knows of my illness & depends upon it for his security. I have never said a word about the vagabond in my life. Some person, I presume, has hired him to abuse me. 

 

We heartily wish Mr. Poe a speedy restoration to health and “honestly” regarding his literary combats as only tending to harass and weaken energies which were given for nobler struggles, we exclaim with the dramatist:

- - - - - - - - -“Honesty? ‘Tis a ragged virtue; prithee, no more of it.

 

Field, as requested, did Poe a second favor, and exercised his influence upon the editor of the New Orleans Daily Picayune, whose European correspondent he had been in 1840. For on 15 July, about two weeks after Field’s article appeared, the Picayune carried this item:

Mr. Edgar A. Poe has recently been writing for one of the Philadelphia magazines a series of papers upon the New York literati. They are off-hand sketches, and the critical opinions expressed in them appear to be sincere, and in this respect, so far as we know, they are fair enough. But these sketches have involved their author in a series of personal differences of the most rancorous description. He has been assailed in terms of unmeasured severity, and not content with the efforts to impugn his critical judgments and to ridicule his literary pretensions, his enemies have assailed his personal character, and dragged his private affairs before the eyes of the public. So long as literary men confine their controversies to subjects of general interest, the public may laugh at their exhibitions of idle rage; but with their private, personal differences the public has nothing to do. We have seen with extreme regret that the controversy aroused by Mr. Poe’s strictures, has degenerated into a personal persecution of him. With this no right-minded man can sympathize. There are modes of redress for such wrongs, real or imaginary, as he may have committed besides an indiscriminate onslaught upon his character as a man. The public ought not nor does not care to hear what may be the personal failings of those known to it but as authors.

It is moreover quite idle to attempt to depreciate the position which Mr. Poe has attained as an author. He has been one of the most successful contributors to our literary periodicals, and his tales have been extensively copied both here and in England. They are not only copied, but are read and remembered by thousands. They are written with such power, that you cannot forget them if you would. We might cite several of his stories, wrought with an art so consummate, that it costs you an effort of mind to feel that they are fictions, nor can you wholly divest yourself of the idea that they may be or must be truthful narrations. Yet more idle does it appear to us to ridicule the poetry of Mr. Poe. That production of his which critics and his personal enemies have most frequently endeavored to deride is “The Raven,” but the oft repeated efforts have been entirely harmless. The poem is written with extraordinary power, and it is impossible to read it unmoved. This single poem is a complete vindication of his possession of genius of the most sterling quality, and it were to be wished that it might be devoted to themes more worthy of its strength than ephemeral papers for the fashionable magazines.

[page 21:]

Six months later the Reveille had occasion to notice Poe again, for Poe, suffering from protracted illness, was utterly destitute, so destitute, in fact, that concerned newspaper editors called attention to it. The New York Morning Express on 15 December 1846 announced that both Poe and his wife “were dangerously ill with the consumption” and all but starving. The New York Home Journal of 26 December 1846, plumping for a “Hospital for Disabled Labourers with the Brain,” used Poe as its prime example, pointing out that his “temporary suspension of labour” on account of “bodily illness” had dropped him “immediately to a level with the common objects of public charity,” despite the fact that he had proved himself “one of the most original men of genius, and one of the most industrious of the literary profession of our country.” And the Philadelphia Saturday Evening Post reported that “Edgar A. Poe is lying dangerously ill with the brain fever” and that he and his wife “are without money and without friend . . . .” (9).

But not all newspaper editors were sympathetic. Hiram Fuller, to name one, took occasion on the very evening that the Home Journal report appeared to remark in his Evening Mirror that we do not need a “hospital for disabled laborers with the brain,” but rather “an asylum for those who have been ruined by diddlers of the quill.” He added, with his eye on Poe: “We cannot now call to mind a single instance of a man of real literary ability suffering from poverty, who has always lived an industrious, honest and honorable life” (10).

Thus, on 27 December 1846 the Reveille carried this item:

EDGAR A. POE. — If Poe has made enemies, his misfortunes, unhappily, have afforded them ample revenge; and not all of them have had magnanimity enough to forego it. We still see his infirmities alluded to uncharitably. The New York Express has the following painful announcement — enough, we think, to sweeten the bitterest disposition:

We regret to learn that this gentleman and his wife are both dangerously ill with the consumption, and that the hand of misfortune lies heavy upon their temporal affairs. We are sorry to mention the fact that they are so far reduced as to be barely able to obtain the necessaries of life.

The Reveille did not include the passage in the Express which exhorted Poe’s admirers and friends, as well as his publishers, “to start a movement” in his behalf.

The final notice of Poe that appeared in the Reveille for the period surveyed pertains to the verdict in Poe’s lawsuit against Hiram Fuller and Augustus Clason, Jr., owners of the Evening Mirror. They had published an article written by Thomas Dunn English, one of the victims of Poe’s “Literati” lampoons, which had been adjudged libelous by New York Superior Court (11). The Reveille on 3 March 1847 was decidedly curt:

Mr. Edgar A. Poe has recovered in New York $225 and costs in an action for libel against the proprietors of the Evening Mirror, for publishing an article written by T. Dunn English, reflecting severely on the character of Mr. Poe.

The apparent reason for this curtness is that the Evening Mirror exchanged with the Reveille and that the Reveille thought the Mirror “one of the really pleasant papers of the Union” [22 April 1847].

What is obvious in all this is that the Saint Louis Daily Reveille, in seeking to help Poe or in giving its readers the [column 2:] kind of copy they wanted, acted as a seismograph, recording the quakes in Poe’s fragmenting career. Less obvious, perhaps, is the desperation of Poe’s position during the period that required him to seek help from a “western” newspaper that, in the circumstances, could not be anything but ineffectual. Another point that the information presented here corroborates is that Poe, in his literary capacity as a poet and tale-writer, was widely known and highly admired outside of New York and Boston, and that, indeed, his literary reputation gave his criticism credibility. Equally evident is the notoriety of his personal reputation in contrast to his literary one, a reputation that he abetted his enemies in creating by the kind of life he led or that circumstances forced him to lead.


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NOTES

(1)  The Reveille was published every day in the week except Monday. There was also a weekly edition. I wish to thank Mr. C. Kumararatnam for helping me to locate the items presented here.

(2)  These episodes are detailed in Sidney P. Moss’s Poe’s Literary Battles The Critic in the Context of His Literary Milieu, Ch. 6 (Durham, N.C., 1963).

3)  “Joe Field” was called “the talented editor” of the Reveille in the Charleston [S.C.] Daily Courier on 7 July 1846.

(4)  For Poe’s letter to Field, dated 15 June 1846, see John Ward Ostrom, ed., The Letters of Edgar Allan Poe (New York, 1966), II, 318-20. It is also reproduced below. See also Oral Sumner Coad’s article on Field in the DAB.

(5)  The same rumor, for instance, was reported by Simms in a letter dated 15 May 1846: “I see by one of the papers that it was gravely thought to send P. to Bedlam.” See Mary C. Simms Oliphant et al., eds. The Letters of William Gilmore Simms (Columbia, S.C., 1953), II, 163.

(6)  Poe’s quotations from Elizabeth Barrett’s letter are substantially accurate. He did, however, change her use of the second person to the third to create the impression that her letter — written to thank him for dedicating The Raven and Other Poems to her — was really an essay-review; moreover, he italicized certain phrases and omitted others. For Miss Barrett’s letter, dated April 1846, see James A. Harrison, ed., Letters of Edgar Allan Poe (New York, 1965), XVII, 229-30. For Poe’s letter to Field, see note four of this article.

(7)  I am 33 years of age — height 5 ft. 8. [Poe’s note. Poe, of course, was 37 years old at this time.]

(8) — Am now scarcely able to write even this letter — [Poe’s note].

(9)  Quoted by Eveleth without date in his letter to Poe of 18 January 1847. See Thomas O. Mabbott, ed., The Letters of George W. Eveleth to Edgar Allan Poe (New York, 1922), p. 9.

(10)  There were others who were sympathetic to Poe, as indicated by the following statement in the New York Yankee Doodle (I, 172), which appeared under the heading, “Editorial Delicacy”: “We have been inexpressibly delighted with the considerate delicacy and forbearance with which the temporary misfortunes of a distinguished author have been recently dragged before the public by the newspapers. Every mean-spirited cur, who dared not bark when his tormentor had strength, feeds fat his ancient grudge, now that he sees his enemy prostrate and powerless — with heart crushed and brain shattered by the sickness and suffering of those most dear to him in life. This shows in a just and flattering light the prudence and discrimination of the Press, and is a pregnant commentary on the blessings of type-metal.”

(11)  For the full background of Poe’s libel suit against the Mirror, see Sidney P. Moss, “Poe, Hiram Fuller, and the Duyckinck Circle,” American Book Collector, XVIII (October 1967), 8-18.


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[S:1 - PSDR, 1968]