Text: Edgar Allan Poe to Nathan Covington Brooks — September 4, 1838 (LTR-078)


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Philadelphia, September 4, 1838.

My Dear Sir:

I duly received your favor with the $10. Touching the review, I am forced to decline it just now. I should be most unwilling not to execute such a task well, and this I would not do at so short notice, at least now. I have two other engagements which it would be ruinous to defer. Besides this, I am just leaving Arch street for a small house, and, of course, somewhat in confusion.

My main reason, however, for declining is what I first alleged, viz.: I could not do the review well at short notice. The truth is, I can hardly say that I am conversant with Irving’s writings, having read nothing of his since I was a boy, save his “Granada.” It would be necessary to give his entire works a reperusal. You see, therefore, the difficulty at once. It is a theme upon which I would like very much to write, for there is a vast deal to be said upon it. Irving is much overrated, and a nice distinction might be drawn between his just and his surreptitious and adventitious reputation — between what is due to the pioneer solely, and what to the writer.

The merit, too, of his tame propriety and faultlessness of style should be candidly weighed. He should be compared with Addison, something being hinted about imitation, and Sir Roger de Coverly should be brought up in judgment. A bold and a prioriinvestigation of Irving’s claims would strike home, take my word for it. The American literary world never saw anything of the kind yet. Seeing, therefore, the opportunity of making a fine hit, I am unwilling to hazard your fame by a failure, and a failure would assuredly be the event were I to undertake the task at present.

The difficulty with you is nothing — for I fancy you are conversant with Irving’s works, old and new, and would not have to read for the task. Had you spoken decidedly when I first saw you, I would have adventured. If you can delay the “Review” until the second number I would be most happy to do my best. But this, I presume, is impossible.

I have gotten nearly out of my late embarrassments. Neilson would not aid me, being much pushed himself. He would, no doubt, have aided me, if possible. Present my respects if you see him.

Very truly yours,
Edgar A. Poe.

Suppose you send me proofs of my articles; it might be as well — that is, if you have time. I look anxiously for the first number, from which I date the dawn of a fine literary day in Baltimore.

After the 15th I shall be more at leisure and will be happy to do you any literary service in my power. You have but to hint.

E.A.P.


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Notes:

“Neilson” was Neilson Poe, Edgar’s Baltimore cousin. “Irving,” of course, was the well-known American writer Washington Irving.


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[S:0 - MS, 18xx] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Works - Letters - Poe to N. C. Brooks (LTR078/RCL178)