Text: Edgar Allan Poe, “Doings of Gotham [Letter VII],”Columbia Spy (Columbia, PA), vol. XV, no. 11, July 6, 1844, p. 3, col. 2.


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[page 3, column 2:]

Correspondence of the Spy.

NEW-YORK.

New-York, June 25, 1844.  

* The “Columbian Magazine,” for July, has been issued for several days, and, in many respects, is peculiar. All the articles are from the pen of the editor, Mr. John Inman, who is one of the most industrious men of the day. You will find an amusing paper, called “Talking of Birds,” and an excellent account of Holbein’s [[”]]Dance of Death.” Mr. I.’s critical notices are always well done, and in good taste. In the present number of the “Columbian” is a mezzotint portrait of him, by Sadd, from a Daguerreotype by Moraud. As a mezzotint, it is bad — dingy and dirty. As a likeness, it is certainly something — that is to say, the friends of the original might, or might not, recognize it; but it makes Mr. I. too old, and he is altogether a much better-looking person — with a more intellectual head. If there is objection to be had, however, to this picture, there can be no caviling about the one which follows — a portrait of the editor’s daughter, engraved by Ormsby, from a painting by H. Inman. This is an exquisite thing and is followed by a very sweet landscape from a drawing by Bartlett. By the way, Mr. H. I. has gone to England, as you, no doubt, have seen in the papers. His artistical abilities resemble very closely the literary talents of his brother, and in England they will meet with appreciation. Have you seen his “Fanny Ellsler”? It is a full exemplification of his principal merits and defects. His style is just the converse of the Philadelphian Rothermels. The former might be designated, briefly, as the round or perfected, the latter as the massed or suggestive. The one leaves nothing to the imagination — the other very much — sometimes nearly all. Mr. I. is elaborate in his finish — Mr. R. attracts by a broad, dashing handling of his lights and shadows. In the “Fanny Ellsler” nothing can be more exquisitely “brought out” from the canvass, by dint of carefully, touched graduation of shade, than the whole figure of the danseuse, and all the accessories of the painting — the vases in especial. I cannot think, however, that the false tournure should have been introduced; more particularly as it disfigures, in this instance, rather than embellishes the person. — The most striking defect lies in the perspective (ærial and linear) of the floor, which seems to be inclined toward the spectator, so that the chair of the danseuse is in danger of sliding off. A similar error is very noticeable in the “Village School in an Uproar.”

* “Graham’s Magazine” has also been out for some time and contains many admirable papers — among which I prefer Lowell’s “New-Year’s Eve”; “Noon in the Groves of the Huron,” by Louis Legrand Noble; and “Valentine’s Eve,” by Mrs. Osgood. The criticisms  seem to be from different hands. That on Willis is well-written, and, in general, just; but the object — to praise — is too apparent. There is not a word of censure from beginning to end. This is doing injustice not only to the public, but to Mr. Willis, who is more really injured by puffery than by censure, even if severe. I fully agree with the critic in thinking “Lord Ivon and his Daughter” the best of the long poems; but it is remarkable that, although he has made numerous specifications, he has not even mentioned the best of all the author’s poems, whether long or short. Will you pardon me for copying it here?

UNSEEN SPIRITS.

The shadows lay along Broadway —

‘Twas near the twilight tide —

And slowly there a lady fair

Was walling in her pride.

Alone walked she; but, viewlessly,

Walked Spirits at her side.

Peace charmed the street beneath her feet,

And Honor charmed the air,

And all astir looked kind on her,

And called her good as fair,

For all God ever gave to her

She kept with chary care.

She kept with care her beauties rare

From lovers warm and true;

For her heart was cold to all but gold,

And the rich came not to woo.

Ah! honored well are charms to sell

If priests the selling do.

Now walking there was one more fair,

A slight girl, lilly-pale,

And she had unseen company

To make the spirit quail —

‘Twixt Want and Scorn she walked forlorn,

And nothing could avail.

No mercy now can clear her brow

For this world’s peace to pray,

For, as love’s wild prayer dissolved in air,

Her woman’s heart gave way;

And the sin forgiven by Christ in Heaven,

By man is cursed alway.

* In the review of Mr. Horne’s [[”]]New Spirit of the Age,” I am somewhat surprised to find the critic lauding, in especial, the notice of Thomas Ingolsby — a flippant and vain attempt at severity — and one of the three or four papers in the volume not written by Mr. Horne. It is preposterous, also, to hear anything like commendation of that last and greatest of all absurdities, Griswold’s Appendix to D’Israeli’s “Curiosities of Literature.” The engravings are excellent — barring always the lace-work. The view of the “Cave in the Rock” is one of the very finest which ever appeared in a Magazine.

* In point of natural beauty, as well as of convenience, the harbor of New-York has scarcely its equal in the northern hemisphere; but, as in the case of Brooklyn, the Gothamites have most grievously disfigured it by displays of landscape and architectural taste. More atrocious pagodas, or what not — for it is indeed difficult to find a name for them, — were certainly never imagined than the greater portion of those which affront the eye, in every nook and corner of the bay, and, more particularly, in the vicinity of New Brighton. If these monstrosities appertain to taste, then it is to taste in its dying agonies.

Speaking of harbors; I have been much surprised at observing an attempt, on the part of a Philadelphian paper, to compare Boston, as a port, with New-York; and in instituting the comparison, the journal in question is so bold as to assert that the largest class of ships cannot pass the bar of this harbor at low water. I believe this to be quite a mistake; — is it not?

* Foreigners are apt to speak of the great length of Broadway. It is no doubt a long street; but we have many much longer in Philadelphia. If I do not greatly err, Front street offers an unbroken line of houses for four miles, and is, unquestionably, the longest street in America, if not in the world. Grant, the gossiping and twaddling author of “Random Recollections of the House of Lords,” “The Great Metropolis,” &c., &c., in mentioning some London thoroughfare of two miles and three-quarters, calls it, with an absolute air, “the most extensive in the world.” The dogmatic bow-wow of this man is the most amusing thing imaginable. I do believe that out of every ten matters which he gives to the public as fact, eight, at least, are downright lies, while the other two may be classed either as “doubtful” or “rigmarole.”

* I have not yet seen “Godey” for this month — nor the “Knickerbocker” — nor the “Ladies’ Companion”, but will look them over, and, in default of news, give you some account of them in my next.


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Notes:

Of the last four paragraphs, only the final one is original here. The other three are repeated verbatim from Letter VI, probably to fill the article out to the necessary length required for page layout.


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[S:1 - CS, 1844 (photocopy, HRCL)] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Works - Misc - Doings of Gotham [Letter 07]