Text: Edgar Allan Poe to John Collins McCabe — March 3, 1836 (LTR-058)


My Dear Sir:

A press of other engagements has prevented me, hitherto, from replying to your letter of 24th ult: — but I have not the less borne it in mind.

I need not speak to you of the difficulties I have to encounter daily in selecting from the mass of MSS. handed in for the Messenger. Personal applications from personal friends of course embarrass me greatly. It is indeed almost impossible to refuse an article offered in this manner without giving mortal offence to the friend who offers it. This offence, however, is most frequently taken by those who have the fewest pretensions of merit. In the present instance I feel perfectly sure that I shall neither wound your feelings nor cause you to think less of me as an acquaintance by returning your Poem — which I now enclose.

My reasons for declining it, relate as much to yourself, individually, as to the Magazine. I feel exceedingly desirous that you should be even more favorably known to the public than you are at present, and that this object should be accomplished thro’ the medium of the Messenger. I have frequently seen pieces from your pen which I would have been happy to insert — one long poem, especially, whose title I cannot recall to mind — and some lines lately printed in the Baltimore Athenaeum — that great bowl of Editorial skimmed milk and water. [page 2:] I think you will agree with me that “The Consumptive Girl” is not, by any means, a fair specimen of your talents. Like all I have seen of your composition, it breathes the true spirit of poetic sentiment and feeling — it has fine and original images — and has the proper material of the Muse, but it is deficient in the outward habiliments. The versification, in especial, is not what you can make it. The lines in most instances, are rough, owing to your frequent choice of words abounding in consonants. Thus in the beginning:

“One burning spot blush’d on her smooth fair cheek”.

In some cases the verses are more seriously defective, and cannot be scanned — or even read. For example:

“To the heart — Hope’s death, love’s blight, faded joys”

and again —

“Long hair unbound fell o’er her swan-like neck wildly”

I know you will reply, and with some appearance of justice, that much worse verses have appeared, in the Messenger, since my Editorship, and are still appearing. But these are poems which have been long on hand, and to the publication of which Mr. W. had bound himself by promises to their respective authors, before my time. Such difficulties shall not occur again.

Suppose you were to try a series of brief poems — say sonnets — one to appear regularly in each number of the Magazine. Embodying multum in parvo — laboured out with scrupulous care in their metre — and signed with your initials — they will not fail, (if done as well as I know you can do them) to gain you a high and permanent position.

Your sincere well wisher,
Edgar A. Poe.

John C. McCabe, Esqr Richmond.

March 3d. 1836





[S:0 - MS, 18xx] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Works - Letters - Poe to J. C. McCabe (LTR058/RCL125)