Text: Thomas Ollive Mabbott (E. A. Poe), “Autography,” The Collected Works of Edgar Allan Poe — Vol. II: Tales and Sketches (1978), pp. 259-291 (This material is protected by copyright)


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[page 259:]

AUTOGRAPHY

Poe’s two early articles called “Autography,” published in the Southern Literary Messenger in 1836, have a fictional setting, and although the signatures were reproduced from genuine originals, the letters are all made up. Some have a humorous or satirical turn, and because of this and their fictional nature it seems desirable to collect these two papers among the Tales and Sketches. “A Chapter on Autography” in two installments and “An Appendix of Autographs,” Poe’s three later articles in Graham’s Magazine for November 1841 to January 1842, are purely factual and critical, and therefore are left for a later volume of this edition.

Poe’s articles, as he specifically indicates, although his ascription is false, were conceived in response to a piece in a British magazine. His original was undoubtedly “The Miller Correspondence,” in Fraser’s Magazine for November 1833. A “Rev. George Miller” is there represented as bringing to the magazine office a collection of autograph letters secured from prominent persons by requesting a “character of an imaginary footman” or other servant. Thirty letters are printed, each preceded by a brief comment, usually on the personality the letter suggests. At the end of the article it is unmistakably acknowledged that the whole thing is fictitious.

Poe changed the format slightly, added facsimile signatures, and commented mainly on the handwriting itself as revelatory. The first installment was set up before September 29, 1835, when T. W. White wrote Poe that he was worried about the item concerning James Fenimore Cooper. On October first White wrote to Lucian Minor: “I also send you sheets of the 7th forme of the Messenger. . . . ‘Autography’ No. 1, I shall not insert . . . I think it unnecessarily severe on Cooper? Read it — and candidly tell me what you think . . . Since scribbling . . . the foregoing . . . I have just seen Mr. Heath . . . He proposes striking out Cooper’s and Irving’s names . . . [page 260:] I should not like to shoot so sarcastic an arrow at poor Cooper — however much he deserves it.”*

Poe’s article appeared in the Messenger for February 1836, with the names of both Irving and Cooper. The squib on the latter is so mild that I believe Poe had revised it in proof.

Poe undoubtedly had access to a good many signatures in the files of the Messenger office. He treated only living authors, with two exceptions — Chief Justice Marshall — whose name was followed by “Paid” in the list of subscribers published in No. 1 of the Messenger — and William Wirt. For the second installment of the series Poe had the assistance of James F. Otis, lawyer, journalist, and occasional contributor to the Messenger, who sent a number of signatures in a letter to Poe from the capital city, June 11, 1836.

The first article was reprinted in the Georgetown Metropolitan, September 21, October 7, 10, and 12, 1836 — probably by an arrangement with T. W. White, since the signatures were included. The articles were first collected by Harrison in 1902, among Poe’s essays.

TEXTS

(A) Southern Literary Messenger, February and August 1836 (2:205-212 and 601-604); (B) Complete Works, ed. Harrison (1902), XV, 139-174.

The Southern Literary Messenger version (A) is followed as it is the sole authorized version. There are no variants, but in the original the title “Autography” [page 261:] was repeated at the beginning of the second installment (Letters XXV-XXXVIII), and to it was appended a footnote: “See Messenger for February last.”

Reprint

The Metropolitan (Washington and Georgetown), September 21, October 7, 10, and 12, 1836, from SLM.

AUTOGRAPHY.

Our friend and particular acquaintance, Joseph Miller, Esq. (who, by the way, signs his name, we think, Joseph A. Miller, or Joseph B. Miller, or at least Joseph C. Miller) paid us a visit a few days ago. His behavior was excessively odd. Walking into our sanctum without saying a word, he seated himself with a dogged air in our own exclusive arm-chair, and surveyed us, for some minutes, in silence, and in a very suspicious manner, over the rim of his spectacles. There was evidently something in the wind. “What can the man want?” thought we, without saying so.

“I will tell you,” said Joseph Miller, Esq. — that is to say, Joseph D. Miller, Joseph E. Miller, or possibly Joseph F. Miller, Esq. “I will tell you,” said he. Now, it is a positive fact that we had not so much as attempted to open any of our mouths.

“I will tell you,” said he, reading our thoughts.

“Ah, thank you!” we replied, slightly smiling, and feeling excessively uncomfortable — “thank you! — we should like to know.”

“I believe,” resumed he — resumed Joseph G. Miller — “I believe you are not altogether unacquainted with our family.”

“Why, not altogether, certainly — pray, sir, proceed.”

“It is one of the oldest families in —— in ——”

“In Great Britain,” we interposed, seeing him at a loss.

“In the United States,” said Mr. Miller — that is, Joseph H. Miller, Esq.

“In the United States! — why, sir, you are joking surely: we thought the Miller family were particularly British — The Jest-Book you know ——”(1)

“You are in error,” interrupted he — interrupted Joseph I. Miller — “we are British, but not particularly British. You should know that the Miller family are indigenous every where, and have [page 262:] little connection with either time or place. This is a riddle which you may be able to read hereafter.(2) At present let it pass, and listen to me. You know I have many peculiar notions and opinions — many particularly bright fancies which, by the way, the rabble have thought proper to call whims, oddities, and eccentricities. But, sir, they are not. You have heard of my passion for autographs?”

“We have.”

“Well, sir, to be brief. Have you, or have you not, seen a certain rascally piece of business in the London Athenæum?”(3)

“Very possible,” we replied.

“And, pray sir, what do you think of it?”

“Think of what?”

“No, sir, not of what,” said he — said Joseph K. Miller, Esq. getting very angry, “not of what at all; but of that absurd, nefarious, and superfluous piece of autographical rascality therein — that is to say in the London Athenæum — deliberately, falsely, and maliciously fathered upon me, and laid to my charge — to the charge of me, I say, Joseph L. Miller.” Here, Mr. M. arose, and, unbuttoning his coat in a great rage, took from his breast pocket a bundle of MSS. and laid them emphatically upon the table.

“Ah ha!” said we, getting particularly nervous, “we begin to understand you. We comprehend. Sit down! You, Joseph M. — that is to say, Joseph N. Miller — have had — that is to say, ought to have had, eh? — and the London Athenæum is — that is to say, it is not, &c. — and — and — and — oh, precisely!”

“My dear sir,” said Mr. Miller, affectionately, “you are a fool — a confounded fool. Hold your tongue! This is the state of the case. I, Joseph O. Miller, being smitten, as all the world knows, with a passion for autographs, am supposed, in that detestable article to which I am alluding, and which appeared some time ago in the London Athenæum, — am supposed, I say, to have indited sundry epistles, to several and sundry characters of literary notoriety about London, with the sinister design, hope, and intention, of thereby eliciting autograph replies — the said epistles, presumed to be indited by me, each and individually being neither more nor less than one and the same thing, and consisting ——”

“Yes sir,” said we, “and consisting ——” [page 263:]

“And consisting,” resumed Mr. Joseph P. Miller, “of certain silly inquiries respecting the character of certain ——”

“Of certain cooks, scullions, and chambermaids,” said we, having now some faint recollection of the article alluded to.

“Precisely,” said our visiter — “of certain cooks, scullions, chambermaids, and boot-blacks.”

“And concerning whose character you are supposed to be excessively anxious.”

“Yes, sir — I — excessively anxious! — only think of that! — I, Joseph Q. Miller, excessively anxious!”

“Horrible!” we ejaculated.

“Damnable!” said Mr. M.

“But what papers are these?” demanded we, taking courage, and eyeing the bundle of MSS. which our friend had thrown upon the table.

“Those papers,” said Mr. Miller, after a pause, and with considerable dignity of manner, “those papers are, to tell you the truth, the result of some — of some ingenuity on the part of your humble servant. They are autographs — but they are American autographs, and as such may be of some little value in your eyes. Pray accept them — they are entirely at your service. I beg leave, however, to assure you that I have resorted to no petty arts for the consummation of a glorious purpose. No man can accuse me, sir, me, Joseph R. Miller, of meanness or of superficiality. My letters have invariably been — have been — that is to say, have been every thing they should be. Moreover, they have not been what they should not be. I have propounded no inquiries about scullions. I wrote not to the sublimated Mr. ——, [here we do not feel justified in indicating more fully the name mentioned by Mr. M.] touching a chambermaid, nor to Mr. ——, in relation to a character. On the contrary, I have adapted my means to my ends. I have — I have — in short, sir, I have accomplished many great and glorious things, all of which you shall behold in the sequel.” We bowed, and our visiter continued.

“The autographs here included are, you will perceive, the autographs of our principal literati. They will prove interesting to the public. It would be as well to insert the letters in your Messenger, [page 264:] with facsimiles of the signatures. Of my own letters eliciting these replies I have unfortunately preserved no copies.” Here Mr. M. handed us the MSS.

“Mr. Joseph S. Miller” — we began, deeply penetrated by his kindness.

“Joseph T. Miller, if you please,” interrupted he, with an emphasis on the T.

“Well, sir,” said we — “so be it; Mr. Joseph V. Miller, then, since you will have it so, we are highly sensible of your noble, of your disinterested generosity. We are ———”

“Say no more,” interrupted our friend, with a sigh — “say no more, I beseech you. The MSS. are entirely at your service. You have been very kind to me, and when I forget a kindness my name is no longer Joseph W. Miller.”

“Then your name is — is positively Joseph W. Miller?” — we inquired with some hesitation.

“It is” — he replied, with a toss of the head, which we thought slightly supercilious —”It is — Joseph X. Miller. But why do you ask? Good day! In a style epistolary and non-epistolary I must bid you adieu — that is to say I must depart (and not remain) your obedient servant, Joseph Y. Miller.”(4)

“Extremely ambiguous!” we thought, as he whipped out of the room — “Mr. Miller! Mr. Miller!” — and we hallooed after him at the top of our voice. Mr. Miller returned at the call, but most unfortunately we had forgotten what we had been so anxious to say.

“Mr. Miller,” said we, at length, “shall we not send you a number of the Magazine containing your correspondence?”

“Certainly!” — he replied — “drop it in the Post Office.”

“But, sir,” said we, highly embarrassed, — “to what — to what address shall we direct it?”

“Address!” ejaculated he — “you astonish me! Address me, sir, if you please — Joseph Z. Miller.”

The package handed us by Mr. M. we inspected with a great deal of pleasure. The letters were neatly arranged and endorsed, and numbered from one to twenty-four. We print them verbatim, and with facsimiles of the signatures, in compliance with our friend’s suggestion. The dates, throughout, were overscored, and [page 265:] we have been forced, accordingly, to leave them blank. The remarks appended to each letter are our own.

LETTER I.

Philadelphia, ———.

Dear Sir, — I regret that you had the trouble of addressing me twice respecting the Review of your publication. The truth is it was only yesterday I enjoyed the opportunity of reading it, and bearing public testimony to its merits. I think the work might have a wider circulation if, in the next edition, it were printed without the preface. Of your talents and other merits I have long entertained a high opinion.

Respectfully, your faithful servant,

Robert Walsh

JOSEPH A. MILLER, ESQ.

There is nothing very peculiar in the physique of this letter. The hand-writing is bold, large, sprawling, and irregular. It is rather rotund than angular, and is by no means illegible. One would suppose it written in a violent hurry. The t’s are crossed with a sweeping scratch of the pen, giving the whole letter an odd appearance if held upside-down, or in any position other than the proper one. The whole air of the letter is dictatorial. The paper is of good but not superior quality. The seal is of brown wax mingled with gold, and bears a Latin motto, of which only the words trans and mortuus are legible.

LETTER II.

Hartford, ———.

My Dear Sir, — Your letter of the — ult. with the accompanying parcel, reached me in safety, and I thank you for that polite attention, which is the more gratifying, as I have hitherto not had the pleasure of your acquaintance. The perusal of the pamphlet afforded me great delight, and I think it displays so much good sense, mingled with so much fine taste, as would render it an acceptable present to readers even more fastidious than myself. The [page 266:] purely Christian opinions with which the work abounds, will not fail of recommending it to all lovers of virtue, and of the truth.

I remain yours, with respect and esteem,

L. H. Sigourney

JOSEPH B. MILLER, ESQ.

Much pains seem to have been taken in the MS. of this epistle. Black lines have been used, apparently. Every t is crossed and every i dotted with precision. The punctuation is faultless. Yet the tout-ensemble of the letter has nothing of formality or undue effeminacy. The characters are free, well-sized, and handsomely formed, preserving throughout a perfectly uniform and beautiful appearance, although generally unconnected with each other. Were one to form an estimate of the character of Mrs. Sigourney’s compositions from the character of her hand writing, the estimate would not be very far from the truth. Freedom, dignity, precision, and grace of thought, without abrupt or startling transitions, might be attributed to her with propriety. The paper is good, the seal small — of green and gold wax — and without impression.

LETTER III.

New York, ——.

Dear Sir, — I have delayed replying to your letter of the — ult. until I could find time to make the necessary inquiries about the circumstances to which you allude. I am sorry to inform you that these inquiries have been altogether fruitless, and that I am consequently unable, at present, to give you the desired information. If, hereafter, any thing shall come to light which may aid you in your researches, it will give me great pleasure to communicate with you upon the subject.

I am, Dear Sir, your friend and servant,

J. K. Paulding

JOSEPH C. MILLER, ESQ.

There is much in the hand-writing here like that of Mrs. [page 267:] Sigourney, and yet, as a whole, it is very different. In both MSS. perfect uniformity and regularity exist, and in both, the character of the writing is formed — that is to say, decided. Both are beautiful, and, at a casual glance, both have a somewhat similar effect. But Mrs. Sigourney’s MS. is one of the most legible, and Mr. Paulding’s one of the most illegible in the world. His small a’s, t’s and c’s are all alike, and the style of the characters generally is French. No correct notion of Mr. Paulding’s literary peculiarities could be obtained from an inspection of his MS. It has probably been modified by strong adventitious circumstances. The paper is of a very fine glossy texture, and of a blue tint, with gilt edges.

LETTER IV.

Boston, ———.

It is due from me to advise you that the communication of the — ult. addressed by you to myself involves some error. It is evident that you have mistaken me for some other person of the same surname, as I am altogether ignorant of the circumstances to which you refer.

I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

J. G. Palfrey

JOSEPH D. MILLER, ESQ.

The handwriting here is of an odd appearance. The capitals and long letters extend far above or below the line, and the rest have a running and diminutive formation, rendering it difficult to distinguish one from another. The words are unusually far apart, and but little matter is contained in much space. At first sight the MS. appears to be hurried — but a few moments’ examination will prove that this is not the case. The capital I’s might be mistaken for T’s. The whole has a clean and uniform appearance. The paper is common, and the seal (of red wax) is oval in shape — probably a shield — the device illegible. [page 268:]

LETTER V.

St. Mark’s Place, New York, ———.

Dear Sir, — Your obliging letter of the —— was received in due course of mail, and I am gratified by your good opinion. At the same time my numerous engagements will render it out of my power to send you any communication for your valuable Magazine; ‘The Humdrum,’ for some months to come at least. Wishing you all success, and with many thanks for your attention.

I remain, sir, your humble servant,

J. Fenimore Cooper

JOSEPH E. MILLER, ESQ.

Mr. Cooper’s MS. is bad — very bad. There is no distinctive character about it, and it appears to be unformed. The writing will probably be different in other letters. Upon reference we find this to be the fact. In the letter to Mr. Miller, the MS. is of a petite and finicky appearance, and looks as if scratched with a steel pen — the lines are crooked. The paper is fine, and of a bluish tint. A wafer is used.

LETTER VI.

New York, ——. My Dear Sir, — I owe you a very humble apology for not answering sooner your flattering epistle of the — ult. The truth is, being from home when your letter reached my residence, my reply fell into the ever open grave of deferred duties.

As regards the information you desire I regret that it is out of my power to aid you. My studies and pursuits have been directed, of late years, in so very different a channel, that I am by no means au fait on the particular subject you mention. Believe me, with earnest wishes for your success,

Very respectfully yours,

C. M. Sedgwick

JOSEPH F. MILLER, ESQ.

The penmanship of Miss Sedgwick is excellent. The characters [page 269:] are well-sized, distinct, elegantly, but not ostentatiously formed; and, with perfect freedom of manner, are still sufficiently feminine. The hair strokes of the pen differ little in thickness from the other parts of the MS. — which has thus a uniform appearance it might not otherwise have. Strong common sense, and a scorn of superfluous ornament, one might suppose, from Miss Sedgwick’s hand writing, to be the characteristics of her literary style. The paper is very good, blue in tint, and ruled by machine. The seal of red wax, plain.

LETTER VII.

New York, ———,

Dear Sir, — I have received your favor of the ——. The report to which it alludes was entirely without foundation. I have never had, and have not now, any intention of editing a Magazine. The Bookseller’s statement on this subject originated in a misunderstanding.

Your Poem on “Things in General,” I have not had the pleasure of seeing. I have not, however, the least doubt of its — of its — that is to say, of its extreme delicacy of sentiment, and highly original style of thinking — to say nothing at present of that — of that extraordinary and felicitous manner of expression which so particularly characterizes all that — that I have seen of your writings. I shall endeavor, sir, to procure your Poem, and anticipate much pleasure in its perusal.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

Fitz Greene Halleck

JOSEPH G. MILLER, ESQ.

Mr. Halleck’s is a free, mercantile hand, and evinces a love for the graceful rather than for the picturesque. There is some force, too, in its expression. The tout ensemble is pleasing, Mr. H.’s letter is probably written currente calamo — but without hurry. The paper is very good, and bluish — the seal of red wax. [page 270:]

LETTER VIII.

Alexandria, Red River, ———, Louisiana.

Dear Sir, — Your polite letter of the — is before me, and the view which you present of the estimation in which you hold my poor labors is every way gratifying. It would afford me great pleasure to send you a few trifles for the Hum-drum, which I have no doubt will prove a very useful periodical if its design is well carried out — but the truth is my time is entirely occupied. Yours,

Timothy Flint

JOSEPH H. MILLER, ESQ.

The writing in this letter has a fidgetty appearance, and would seem to indicate a mind without settled aims — restless and full of activity. Few of the characters are written twice in the same manner, and their direction varies continually. Sometimes the words lie perpendicularly on the page — then slope to the right — then, with a jerk, fly off in an opposite way. The thickness, also, of the MS. is changeable — sometimes the letters are very light and fine — sometimes excessively heavy. Upon a casual glance at Mr. F.’s epistle, one might mistake it for an imitation of a written letter by a child. The paper is bad — and wafered.

LETTER IX.

Philadelphia, ———.

Miss Leslie’s compliments to Mr. Miller. She has no knowledge of the person spoken of in Mr. Miller’s note, and is quite certain there must be some mistake in the statement alluded to.

JOSEPH I. MILLER, ESQ.

Several persons of our acquaintance, between whose mental character and that of Miss Leslie we have fancied a strong similitude, write a hand almost identical with this lady’s — yet we are unable to point out much in the MS. itself according with the literary peculiarities of Miss L. Neatness and finish, without over-effeminacy, [page 271:] are, perhaps, the only features of resemblance. We might, also, by straining a point, imagine (from the MS.) that Miss L. regards rather the effect of her writings as a whole than the polishing of their constituent parts. The penmanship is rotund, and the words are always finished with an inward twirl. The paper tolerable — and wafered.

LETTER X.

Boston, ———.

Dear Sir, — I have your favor of the ——. For the present I must decline replying to the queries you have propounded. Be pleased to accept my thanks for the flattering manner in which you speak of my Lecture.

I am, Dear Sir, very faithfully, yours,

Edward Everett

JOSEPH K. MILLER, ESQ.

Here is a noble MS. It has an air of deliberate precision about it emblematic of the statesman; and a mingled solidity and grace speaking the scholar. Nothing can be more legible. The words are at proper intervals — the lines also are at proper intervals, and perfectly straight. There are no superfluous flourishes. The man who writes thus will never grossly err in judgment or otherwise. We may venture to say, however, that he will not attain the loftiest pinnacles of renown. The paper is excellent — stout yet soft — with gilt edges. The seal of red wax, with an oval device bearing the initials E. E., and surrounded with a scroll, on which are legible only the word cum and the letters c. o. r. d. a.

LETTER XI.

New York, ———.

My Dear Sir, — I must be pardoned for refusing your request touching your MS. “Treatise on Pigs.” I was obliged, some years ago, to come to the resolution not to express opinions of works sent to me. A candid opinion of those whose merit seemed to me small, [page 272:] gave offence, and I found it the best way to avoid a judgment in any case. I hope this will be satisfactory.

I am, my Dear Sir, very respectfully yours,

Washington Irving

JOSEPH L. MILLER, ESQ.

Mr. Irving’s hand writing is common-place. There is nothing indicative of genius about it. Neither could any one suspect, from such penmanship, a high finish in the author’s compositions. This style of writing is more frequently met with than any other. It is a very usual clerk’s hand — scratchy and tapering in appearance, showing (strange to say) — an eye deficient in a due sense of the picturesque. There may be something, however, in the circumstance that the epistle to Mr. Miller is evidently written in a desperate hurry. Paper. very indifferent, and wafered.

LETTER XII.

Boston, ———.

Sir, — In reply to your note of the ——, in which you demand if I am “the author of a certain scurrilous attack upon Joseph M. Miller, in the Daily Polyglot of the — ult.” I have to say that I am happy in knowing nothing about the attack, the Polyglot, or yourself.

John Neal

JOSEPH M. MILLER.

Mr. Neal’s MS. is exceedingly illegible, and very careless. It is necessary to read one half his epistle and guess at the balance. The capitals and long letters, like those of Mr. Palfrey, extend far above and below the line, while the small letters are generally nothing but dots and scratches. Many of the words are run together — so that what is actually a sentence is frequently mistaken for a single word. One might suppose Mr. Neal’s mind (from his penmanship) to be bold, excessively active, energetic, and irregular. Paper very common, and wafered. [page 273:]

LETTER XIII.

Baltimore, ———.

Dear Sir, — I have received your note of the — ult. and its contents puzzle me no little. I fear it will be impossible to give a definitive reply to an epistle so enigmatically worded. Please write again.

Yours truly,

John P. Kennedy

JOSEPH N. MILLER, ESQ.

This is our beau ideal of penmanship. Its prevailing character is picturesque. This appearance is given by terminating every letter abruptly, without tapering, and by using no perfect angles, and none at all which are not spherical. Great uniformity is preserved in the whole air of the MS. — with great variety in the constituent parts. Every character has the clearness and blackness of a bold wood-cut, and appears to be placed upon the paper with singular precision. The long letters do not rise or fall in an undue degree above the line. From this specimen of his hand writing, we should suppose Mr. Kennedy to have the eye of a painter, more especially in regard to the picturesque — to have refined tastes generally — to be exquisitely alive to the proprieties of life — to possess energy, decision, and great talent — to have a penchant also for the bizarre. The paper is very fine, clear and white, with gilt edges — the seal neat and much in keeping with the MS. Just sufficient wax, and no more than sufficient, is used for the impression, which is nearly square, with a lion’s head in full alto relievo, surrounded by the motto “il parle par tout.”

LETTER XIV.

Philadelphia, ———,

Dear Sir, — Enclosed is your letter of the — ult. addressed to Dr. Robert M. Bird, Philadelphia. From the contents of the note it is evidently not intended for myself. There is, I believe, a Dr. Robert Bird, who resides somewhere in the Northern Liberties — also several Robert Birds in different parts of the city. [page 274:]

Very respectfully, your obedient, humble-servant,

Robt. M. Bird

JOSEPH O. MILLER, ESQ.

Dr. Bird’s chirography is by no means bad — still it cannot be called good. It is very legible and has force. There is some degree of nervousness about it. It bears a slight resemblance to the writing of Miss Leslie, especially in the curling of the final letters — but is more open, and occupies more space. The characters have the air of not being able to keep pace with the thought, and an uneasy want of finish seems to have been the consequence. A restless and vivid imagination might he deduced from this MS. It has no little of the picturesque also. The paper good — wafered and sealed.

LETTER XV.

Oak Hill, ———.

Dear Sir, — I have received your polite letter of the ——, and will have no objection to aid you in your enterprise by such information as I can afford. There are many others, however, who would be much better able to assist you in this matter than myself. When I get a little leisure you shall hear from me again.

I am, Dear Sir, with respect, your obedient,

J. Marshall

JOSEPH P. MILLER, ESQ.

The hand writing of the Chief justice is not unlike that of Neal — but much better and more legible. The habit of running two words into one (a habit which we noticed in Neal) is also observable in the Chief Justice. The characters are utterly devoid of ornament or unnecessary flourish, and there is a good deal of abruptness about them. They are heavy and black, with very little hair stroke. The lines are exceedingly crooked, running diagonally across the paper. A wide margin is on the left side of the page, with none at all on the right. The whole air of the MS. in its utter simplicity, is strikingly indicative of the man. The paper is a half sheet of course foolscap, wafered. [page 275:]

LETTER XVI.

Baltimore, ———.

Dear Sir, — I have received your letter of the — ult. in which you do me the honor of requesting an autograph. In reply, I have to say, that if this scrawl will answer your purpose it is entirely at your service.

Yours respectfully,

Wm. Wirt

JOSEPH Q. MILLER, ESQ.

Mr. Wirt’s hand writing has a strong resemblance to that of his friend John P. Kennedy — it is by no means, however, as good, and has too much tapering about it to be thoroughly picturesque. The writing is black, strong, clear, and very neat. It is, upon the whole, little in accordance with the character of Mr. W.’s compositions. The lines are crooked. The paper bluish and English — wafered.

LETTER XVII.

Washington, ———.

Dear Sir — In answer to your kind inquiries concerning my health, I am happy to inform you that I was never better in my life. I cannot conceive in what manner the report to which you allude could have originated.

Believe me with the highest respect, your much obliged friend and servant,

Joseph D. Story

JOSEPH R. MILLER, ESQ.

Judge Story’s is a very excellent hand, and has the air of being written with great rapidity and ease. It is rotund, and might be characterized as a rolling hand. The direction of the letters occasionally varies from right to left, and from left to right. The same peculiarity was observable in Mr. Flint’s. Judge Story’s MS. is decidedly picturesque. The lines are at equal distances, but lie [page 276:] diagonally on the page. The paper good, of a bluish tint, and folded to form a marginal line. The seal of red wax, and stamped with a common compting-house stamp.

LETTER XVIII.

New York, ———.

My Dear Sir, — I thank you for the hints you have been so kind as to give me in relation to my next edition of the “Voyage,” but as that edition has already gone to press, it will be impossible to avail myself of your attention until the sixth impression.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

J. N. Reynolds

JOSEPH S. MILLER, ESQ.

We are not partial to Mr. Reynolds’ style of chirography. It is a common mercantile hand, in which the words taper off from their beginning to their end. There is much freedom, but no strength about it. The paper good, and wafered.

LETTER XIX.

Portland, ———.

Dear Sir, — I have no knowledge of your owing me the small sum sent in your letter of the ——, and consequently I re-enclose you the amount. You will no doubt be able to discover and rectify the mistake.

Very truly yours,

James Brooks

JOSEPH T. MILLER, ESQ.

Mr. Brooks writes a very good hand, strong, bold, and abrupt — highly indicative of the author’s peculiar features of mind. These are nervous common sense, without tinsel or artificiality, and a straight forward directness of conception. The lines are even — and the words at proper intervals. The paper good — and wafered. [page 277:]

LETTER XX.

Washington, ———.

Sir, — I shall be better enabled to answer your letter about “certain mysterious occurrences,” of which you desire an explanation, when you inform me explicitly (and I request you will do this) what are the mysterious occurrences to which you allude.

J. Q. Adams

JOSEPH V. MILLER, ESQ.

The chirography of the Ex-President is legible — but has an odd appearance, on account of the wavering of the capitals and long letters. The writing is clear, somewhat heavy, and picturesque — without ornament. Black lines seem to have been used. A margin is preserved to the right and left. The proportion of the letters is well maintained throughout. The paper common, and wafered.

LETTER XXI.

Philadelphia, ———,

Dear Sir, — I have just received your letter of the ——, in which you complain of my neglect in not replying to your favors of the —— of the —— and of the —— ult. I do assure you, sir, that the letters have never come to hand. If you will be so good as to repeat their contents, it will give me great pleasure to answer them, each and all. The Post Office is in a very bad condition.

Yours respectfully,

Mathew Carey

JOSEPH W. MILLER, ESQ.

Mr. Carey does not write a legible hand — although in other respects a good one. It resembles that of Neal very nearly. Several of the words in the letter to Mr. Miller are run together. The i›quo;s are seldom dotted. The lines are at equal distances, and straight. The paper very good — wafered. [page 278:]

LETTER XXII.

Boston, ———.

Dear Sir, — No such person as Philip Philpot has ever been in my employ as a coachman, or otherwise. The name is an odd one, and not likely to be forgotten. The man must have reference to some other Dr. Channing. It would be as well to question him closely.

Respectfully yours,

W. E. Channing

JOSEPH X. MILLER, ESQ.

Dr. Channing’s MS. is very excellent. The letters are bold, well-sized, and beautifully formed. They are, perhaps, too closely crowded upon one another. One might, with some little acumen, detect the high finish of Dr. C.’s style of composition in the character of his chirography. Boldness and accuracy are united with elegance in both. The paper very good, and wafered.

LETTER XXIII.

Philadelphia, ———.

Dear Sir, — I must be pardoned for declining to loan the books you mention. The fact is, I have lost many volumes in this way — and as you are personally unknown to me you will excuse my complying with your request.

Yours,&c.

Jos. Hopkinson

JOSEPH Y. MILLER, ESQ.

This is a very good MS. — forcible, neat, legible, and devoid of superfluous ornament. Some of the words are run together. The writing slopes considerably. It is too uniform to be picturesque. The lines are at equal distances, and a broad margin is on the left of the page. The chirography is as good at the conclusion as at the commencement of the letter — a rare quality in MSS. — and evincing indefatigability of temperament. [page 279:]

LETTER XXIV.

Washington, ———.

Sir, — Yours of the — came duly to hand. I cannot send you what you wish. The fact is, I have been so pestered with applications for my autograph, that I have made a resolution to grant one in no case whatsoever.

Yours, &c.

Wm. Emmons

JOSEPH Z. MILLER, ESQ.

The writing of the orator is bold, dashing, and chivalrous — the few words addressed to Mr. Miller occupying a full page. The lines are at unequal distances, and run diagonally across the letter. Each sentence is terminated by a long dash — black and heavy. Such an epistle might write the Grand Mogul. The paper is what the English call silver paper — very beautiful and wafered.

[PART II. AUGUST 1836]

Our friend, Joseph A. B. C. D. &c. Miller, has called upon us again, in a great passion. He says we quizzed him in our last article — which we deny positively. He maintains, moreover, that the greater part of our observations on mental qualities, as deduced from the character of a MS., are not to be sustained. The man is in error. However, to gratify him, we have suffered him, in the present instance, to play the critic himself. He has brought us another batch of autographs, and will let us have them upon no other terms. To say the truth, we are rather glad of his proposal than otherwise. We shall look over his shoulder, however, occasionally. Here follow the letters.

LETTER XXV.

Dear Sir, — Will you oblige me by not writing me any more silly letters? I really have no time to attend to them.

Your most obedient servant,

Jared Sparks

JOSEPH A. MILLER, ESQ. [page 280:]

Mr. Sparks’ MS. has an odd appearance. The characters are large, round, black, irregular and perpendicular. The lines are close together, and the whole letter wears at first sight an air of confusion — of chaos. Still it is not very illegible upon close inspection, and would by no means puzzle a regular bred devil. We can form no guess in regard to any mental peculiarities from this MS. From its tout-ensemble, however, we might imagine it written by a man who was very busy among a great pile of books and papers huddled up in confusion around him. Paper blueish and fine — sealed, with the initials J. S.

LETTER XXVI.

My Dear Sir, — It gives me great pleasure to receive a letter from you. Let me see, I think I have seen you once or twice in — where was it? However, your remarks upon “Melanie and other Poems” prove you to be a man of sound discrimination, and I shall be happy to hear from you as often as possible.

Yours truly,

Willis

JOSEPH B. MILLER, ESQ.

Mr. Willis writes a very good hand. What was said about the MS. of Halleck, in the February number, will apply very nearly to this. It has the same grace, with more of the picturesque, however, and, consequently, more force. These qualities will be found in his writings — which are greatly underrated. Mem. Mr. Messenger should do him justice. [Mem. by Mr. Messenger. I have.] Cream colored paper — green and gold seal — with the initials N. P. W.

LETTER XXVII.

Dear Sir, — I have to inform you that “the pretty little poem” to which you allude in your letter is not, as you suppose, of my composition. The author is unknown to me. The poem is very pretty.

Yours, &c.

H. F. Gould

JOSEPH C. MILLER. [page 281:]

The writing of Miss Gould resembles that of Miss Leslie very nearly. It is rather more petite — but has the same neatness, picturesqueness and finish without over-effeminacy. The literary style of one who writes thus is sure to be forcibly epigrammatic — either in detached sentences — or in the tout ensemble of the composition. Paper very fine — wafered.

LETTER XXVIII.

Dear Sir, — Herewith I have the honor of sending you what you desire. If the Essay shall be found to give you any new information, I shall not regret the trouble of having written it.

Respectfully,

W. R. Dew

JOSEPH D. MILLER, ESQ.

The MS. of Professor Dew is large, bold, very heavy, abrupt, and illegible. It is possible that he never thinks of mending a pen. There can be no doubt that his chirography has been modified, like that of Paulding, by strong adventitious circumstances — for it appears to retain but few of his literary peculiarities. Among the few retained, are boldness and weight. The abruptness we do not find in his composition — which is indeed somewhat diffuse. Neither is the illegibility of the MS. to be paralleled by any confusion of thought or expression. He is remarkably lucid. We must look for the two last mentioned qualities of his MS. in the supposition that he has been in the habit of writing a great deal, in a desperate hurry, and with a stump of a pen. Paper good — but only a half sheet of it — wafered.

LETTER XXIX.

Dear Sir, — In reply to your query touching the “authenticity of a singular incident,” related in one of my poems, I have to inform you that the incident in question is purely a fiction.

With respect, your obedient servant,

G. Mellen

JOSEPH E. F. MILLER, ESQ. [page 283:]

The hand-writing of Mr. Mellen is somewhat peculiar, and partakes largely of the character of the signature annexed. It would require no great stretch of fancy to imagine the writer (from what we see of his MS.) a man of excessive sensibility, amounting nearly to disease — of unbounded ambition, greatly interfered with by frequent moods of doubt and depression, and by unsettled ideas of the beautiful. The formation of the G in his signature alone, might warrant us in supposing his composition to have great force, frequently impaired by an undue straining after effect. Paper excellent — red seal.

LETTER XXX.

Dear Sir — I have not the pleasure of your acquaintance, but thank you for the great interest you seem to take in my welfare. I have no relations by the name of Miller, and think you must be in error about the family connection.

Respectfully,

W. Gilmore Simms

JOSEPH G. H. MILLER, ESQ.

The MS. of Mr. Simms resembles, very nearly, that of Mr. Kennedy. It has more slope, however, and less of the picturesque — although still much. We spoke of Mr. K.’s MS. (in our February number) as indicating “the eye of a painter.” In our critique on the Partisan we spoke of Mr. Simms also as possessing “the eye of a painter,” and we had not then seen his hand-writing. The two MSS. are strikingly similar. The paper here is very fine and wafered.

LETTER XXXI.

Dear Sir, — I have received your favor of the — inst. and shall be very happy in doing you the little service you mention. In a few days I will write you more fully. Very respectfully,

Your most obedient servant,

Alexander Lidell

JOSEPH J. K. MILLER, ESQ. [page 283:]

Lieutenant Slidell’s MS. is peculiar — very neat, very even, and tolerably legible, but somewhat too diminutive. Black lines have been, apparently, used. Few tokens of literary manner or character are to be found in this writing. The petiteness, however, is most strikingly indicative of a mental habit, which we have more than once pointedly noticed in the works of this author — we we mean that of close observation in detail — a habit which, when well regulated, as in the case of Lieut. Slidell, tends greatly to vigor of style. Paper excellent — wafered.

LETTER XXXII.

Dear Sir, — I find upon reference to some MS. notes now lying by me, that the article to which you have allusion, appeared originally in the “Journal des Sçavans.”

Very respectfully,

Chas. Anthon

JOSEPH L. M. MILLER, ESQ.

The writing of Professor Anthon is remarkably neat and beautiful — in the formation of particular letters remarkably as in the tout-ensemble. The perfect regularity of the MS. gives it, to a casual glance, the appearance of print. The lines are quite straight and at even distances — yet they are evidently written without any artificial aid. We may at once recognise in this chirography the scrupulous precision and finish — the love of elegance — together with the scorn of superfluous embellishment, which so greatly distinguish the compilations of the writer. The paper is yellow, very fine, and sealed with green wax, bearing the impression of a head of Cæsar.

LETTER XXXIII.

Dear Sir, — I have looked with great care over several different editions of Plato, among which I may mention the Bipont edition, 1781-8, 12 vols. oct.; that of Ast, and that of Bekker, reprinted in London, 11 vols. oct. I cannot, however, discover the passage about which you ask me — “is it not very ridiculous?” You must have mistaken [page 284:] the author. Please write again.

Respectfully yours,

Francis Lieber

JOSEPH N. O. MILLER, ESQ.

The MS. of Professor Lieber has nearly all the characteristics which we noticed in that of Professor Dew — besides the peculiarity of a wide margin left at the top of the paper. The whole air of the writing seems to indicate vivacity and energy of thought — but altogether, the letter puts us at fault — for we have never before known a man of minute erudition (and such is Professor Lieber,) who did not write a very different hand from this. We should have imagined a petite and careful chirography. Paper tolerable and wafered.

LETTER XXXIV.

Dear Sir, — I beg leave to assure you that I have never received, for my Magazine, any copy of verses with so ludicrous a title as “The nine and twenty Magpies.” Moreover, if I had, I should certainly have thrown it into the fire. I wish you would not worry me any farther about this matter. The verses, I dare say, are somewhere among your papers. You had better look them up — they may do for the Mirror.

Sarah J. Hale

Mr. JOSEPH P. Q. MILLER.

Mrs. Hale writes a larger and bolder hand than her sex generally. It resembles, in a great degree, that of Professor Lieber — and is not easily decyphered. The whole MS. is indicative of a masculine understanding. Paper very good, and wafered.

LETTER XXXV.

Dear Sir, — I am not to be quizzed. You suppose, eh? that I can’t understand your fine letter all about “things in general.” You want my autograph, you dog — and you sha’nt have it.

Yours respectfully,

M. M. Noah

JOSEPH R. S. MILLER, ESQ. [page 285:]

Mr. Noah writes a very good running hand. The lines, however, are not straight, and the letters have too much tapering to please the eye of an artist. The long letters and capitals extend very little beyond the others — either up or down. The epistle has the appearance of being written very fast. Some of the characters have now and then a little twirl, like the tail of a pig — which gives the MS. an air of the quizzical, and devil-me-care. Paper pretty good — and wafered.

LETTER XXXVI.

Mister — I say — It’s not worth while trying to come possum over the Major. Your letter’s no go. I’m up to a thing or two — or else my name isn’t

Jack Downing

Mr. JOSEPH T. V. MILLER.

The Major writes a very excellent hand indeed. It has so striking a resemblance to that of Mr. Brooks, that we shall say nothing farther about it.

LETTER XXXVII.

Dear Sir, — I am exceedingly and excessively sorry that it is out of my power to comply with your rational and reasonable request. The subject you mention is one with which I am utterly unacquainted — moreover, it is one about which I know very little.

Respectfully,

W. L. Stone

JOSEPH W. X. MILLER, ESQ.

Mr. Stone’s MS. has some very good points about it — among which is a certain degree of the picturesque. In general it is heavy and sprawling — the short letters running too much together. From the chirography no precise opinion can be had of Mr. Stone’s literary style. [Mr. Messenger says no opinion can be had of it in any way.] Paper very good and wafered. [page 286:]

LETTER XXXVIII.

My Good Fellow, — I am not disposed to find fault with your having addressed me, although personally unknown. Your favor (of the —— ultimo) finds me upon the eve of directing my course towards the renowned shores of Italia. I shall land (primitively) on the territories of the ancient Brutii, of whom you may find an account in Lempriére. You will observe (therefore) that, being engrossed by the consequent, necessary, and important preparations for my departure, I can have no time to attend to your little concerns.

Believe me, my dear sir, very faithfully your

Theo. S. Fay

JOSEPH Y. Z. MILLER, ESQ.

Mr. Fay writes a passable hand. There is a good deal of spirit — and some force. His paper has a clean appearance, and he is scrupulously attentive to his margin. The MS. however, has an air of swagger about it and there are too many dashes — and the tails of the long letters are too long. [Mr. Messenger thinks I am right — that Mr. F. shouldn’t try to cut a dash — and that all his tales are too long. The swagger he says is respectable, and indicates a superfluity of thought.]

 



[page 286, continued:]

NOTES

1.  Joe Miller’s Jests (London, 1739) is believed to be the work of John Mottley, who ascribed the jokes to Joseph Miller (1684-1738), a Drury Lane comedian. It was constantly revised and reprinted.

2.  Compare Politian, I, 74-75, “Why, yes it is / And yet it isn’t, Ugo, there’s a riddle.” [Alexander Hammond in Poe Newsletter, October 1969 and Roger O’Connor, ibid., June 1970, suggest solutions to Poe’s riddle.]

3.  The article was not in the London Athenaeum but in Fraser’s Magazine, November 1833. The autograph collector credited was not Joseph, but a Reverend George Miller. I am indebted to W. T. Bandy for pointing this out to me. See also John W. Robertson, Commentary on the Bibliography of Edgar A. Poe (1934), II, 152, and Bandy in AL, January 1953, p. 536.

4.  The phrases “Your servant” and “Your obedient servant” were often spoken by one taking leave, as well as written to close a letter. [page 287:]

LETTER I.  Robert Walsh, (1784-1859) Was an industrious man of letters, and in 1836 editor of the Philadelphia National Gazette. In 1829 William Wirt had referred Poe to him — Walsh was then editor of the American Quarterly Review — for help in finding a publisher for “Al Aaraaf.” He generally noticed works immediately upon receipt, and as kindly as possible, as the letter Poe wrote in his person suggests.

LETTER II.  Mrs. Lydia Huntley Sigourney (1791-1865), “The Sweet Singer of Hartford,” wrote or edited more than sixty books during her lifetime. A “poetical contribution, previously unpublished” from her pen had graced the first issue of the Messenger. Poe reviewed her Zinzendorff in the issue for January 1836.

LETTER III.  James Kirke Paulding (1778-1860); A prominent New Yorker, a friend of Irving, and one of the Knickerbocker novelists, several times praised Poe’s stories. He was an early subscriber and a frequent contributor to the Messenger. He had strong Southern sympathies.

LETTER IV.  John Gorham Palfrey (1795-1881); professor of sacred literature at Harvard, 1831-1834 was editor and chief proprietor; 1835-1843, of the North American Review, to which for many years he contributed articles. He is best remembered for his four-volume History of New England (1858-75).

LETTER V.  James Fenimore Cooper (1789-1851), the novelist, was not a favorite author for Poe, but on June 7, 1836, at White’s insistence, he wrote to Cooper soliciting “any spare scrap in your port folio” for the Messenger. The letter and comment here are so mild that I suspect they were substituted for more biting earlier versions, referred to in White’s correspondence about Poe’s jes d’esprit.

The Hum-Drum is mentioned also in Letter VIII.

LETTER VI.  Catharine Maria Sedgwick (1789-1867), novelist of New England, was at one time probably the most popular woman writer in America. Her fifth novel, The Linwoods, was reviewed in the Messenger for October 1835.

LETTER VII.  Fitz Greene Halleck (1796-1867); a gifted poet, wrote relatively little after he became Secretary to John Jacob Astor in 1832. In the Messenger, April 1836, Poe reviewed his small volume Alnwick Castle, With Other Poems, together with The Culprit Fay and Other Poems by Joseph Rodman Drake. Nelson Adkins, in Fitz-Greene Halleck (1930), p. 245, mentions a premature announcement that Halleck was to edit a magazine in New York in 1831.

Diogenes Laertius, Lives, VII, “Zeno,” 4, says the founder of the Stoics wrote a treatise On Things in General.

LETTER VIII.  Rev. Timothy Flint (1780-1814), Harvard graduate, spent a decade preaching, teaching, and traveling in the Mississippi Valley. He edited the Western Monthly Review (Cincinnati), 1827-1830, and in 1833-1834 was connected with the Knickerbocker Magazine (New York). He was an early subscriber to the Messenger, and a frequent contributor.

The magazine The Hum Drum was also mentioned in Letter V. The fictional hero of “The Literary Life of Thingum Bob” owned a magazine so named, and the North American Quarterly Humdrum is mentioned in “Never Bet the Devil Your Head.” [page 288:]

LETTER IX.  Miss Eliza Leslie (1787-1858), a Philadelphia magazinist, had written on cookery and the deportment of young ladies. In 1835 she edited The Gift . . . for 1836, including in it Poe’s “MS. Found in a Bottle.” She later wrote much juvenile fiction.

LETTER X.  Edward Everett (1794-1865), noted orator, edited the North American Review, 1820-1824, was a congressman from Massachusetts, 1825-1835, Governor of Massachusetts, 1836-1839, and later President of Harvard.

LETTER XI.  Washington Irving (1783-1859) was generally considered the foremost American author in 1836. In that year he published Astoria, which was reviewed by Poe in the Messenger for January 1837.

LETTER XII.  John Neal (1793-1876) of Portland, Maine, was a critic and novelist, noted for caustic letters. In the Yankee and Boston Literary Gazette for September 1829 he had given Poe his “very first words of encouragement” — kind words about “Fairyland.” Neal had lived in Baltimore for some years between 1815 and 1823; his quarrel with the poet Pinkney, whose challenge to a duel he declined, was treated in detail by F. L. Pleadwell and myself in Life and Works of Edward Coote Pinkney (1926), p. 26.

LETTER XIII.  John Pendleton Kennedy (1795-1870) was Poe’s Baltimore patron. His novel Horse-Shoe Robinson (1835) was reviewed in the Messenger for May 1835. The remark about an artist may be a personal jest, as his correspondence with Poe at the time concerns a quarrel with William James Hubard (1807-1862) who painted a portrait of Kennedy with his wife and her sister. In a letter of February 11, 1836 Poe says he misdescribed Kennedy’s seal, but I can find no clear impression of it.

LETTER XIV.  Robert Montgomery Bird (1806-1854) was a Philadelphia playwright and novelist. Poe had reviewed his Calavar (1834) in the Messenger, February 1835, The Infidel in June, and The Hawks of Hawk-Hollow in December.

The Northern Liberties of Philadelphia was an unfashionable neighborhood.

LETTER XV.  Chief Justice John Marshall (1755-1835) had assisted Poe to his appointment as a cadet. He died on July 6, 1835.

LETTER XVI.  William Wirt (1772-1834) had practiced law in Richmond during Poe’s childhood there. After serving as Attorney General of the United States, 1817-1829, he settled in Baltimore. He gave kindly counsel to Poe in connection with the publication of “Al Aaraaf.”

LETTER XVII.  Joseph Story (1779-1845), Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, 1811-1845, and a professor of law at Harvard from 1829, wrote some poetry. Before Marshall’s death, he had been regarded as a possible successor.

LETTER XVIII.  Jeremiah N. Reynolds (1799?-1858) was noted for his belief in the hollow earth theory of Symmes used by Poe in “MS. Found in a Bottle,” ‘Hans Phaall,” and Arthur Gordon Pym. Reynolds’ Voyage of the U.S. Frigate Potomac was reviewed by Poe in the Messenger for June 1835.

LETTER XIX.  James Brooks (1810-1873) hailed from Maine, was a friend of John Neal, and wrote some of the many imitations of Seba Smith’s original “Downing Letters.” See Mary A. Wyman, Two American Pioneers (1927), pp. 67, 86. See also Letter XXXVI. [page 289:]

LETTER XX.  John Quincy Adams (1767-1848), our sixth President, then currently a member of Congress from Massachusetts, wrote some pleasant poetry. White quoted a letter from him in the first issue of the Messenger: “Your design is so laudable, that I would gladly contribute to its promotion; but the periodical literature of the country seems to be rather superabundant than scanty. The desideratum is of quality rather than quantity.”

LETTER XXI.  Mathew Carey (1760-1839), noted publisher and bookseller of Philadelphia, had recently written an autobiography reviewed by Poe in the Messenger, February 1836. He subsequently sent it numerous short articles.

LETTER XXII.  William Ellery Channing (1780-1842), celebrated Unitarian theologian in Boston, during a short residence in Virginia following his graduation from Harvard had gained some insight into the Southern point of view, and his anti-slavery writings from 1835 on were addressed mainly to the Southern conscience.

LETTER XXIII.  Joseph Hopkinson (1770-1842), a Philadelphia jurist best remembered as the author of “Hail Columbia,” was listed in November 1834 as a subscriber to the Messenger. Poe had been referred to him by William Wirt in 1829 for advice concerning “Al Aaraaf.”

LETTER XXIV.  William Emmons (born 1792), who lived many years in Kentucky, issued a biography of Van Buren in 1835. He spent his last years in Boston. He was a poetaster like his better known brother Richard, called “Pop” Emmons, to whom Poe referred in a review of “Flaccus” (Thomas Ward) in Graham’s for March 1843 and in “The Literary Life of Thingum Bob.”

LETTER XXV.  Jared Sparks (1789-1866), editor of the North American Review, 1817-1818 and 1824-1830, at this time was editing the writings of George Washington (12 volumes, 1834-1837). Volumes II-VI had been reviewed in the Messenger of June 1835. In the comment, the reference to a devil is to a printer’s devil.

LETTER XXVI.  Nathaniel Parker Willis (1806-1867) published Melanie and Other Poems in 1835. “Mr. Messenger” here means the Southern Literary Messenger, which, in its number of November 1834, reprinted from the Norfolk American Beacon, October 10, 1834, a laudatory article on “N. P. Willis” by Hugh Blair Grigsby. Poe from time to time made a good deal of fun of Willis, who later became his good friend.

LETTER XXVII.  Hannah Flagg Gould (1789-1865) was a New England poetess, now little remembered. Poe reviewed her Poems in the Messenger, January 1836; and in Burton’s Gentleman’s Magazine, September 1839, he pointed out the similarity of her work to that of Mary Howitt, in a review of the English author’s Birds and Flowers.

LETTER XXVIII.  Thomas Roderick Dew (1802-1846), political economist and historian, was a professor at the College of William and Mary and became its president in 1836. An article by him on differences between the sexes was published in the Messenger for June 1835, and other contributions followed.

LETTER XXIX.  Grenville Mellen (1799-1841), who moved from New England to New [page 290:] York, was a minor poet and writer of short stories. He was noted for amiability. A volume of his poems was reviewed in the Messenger for May 1836.

LETTER XXX.  William Gilmore Simms (1806-1870), best known for his historical novels of South Carolina, was a prolific contributor to magazines. Poe’s critique of his novel The Partisan is in the Southern Literary Messenger, January 1836.

LETTER XXXI.  Alexander Slidell (1802-1848), a naval officer, wrote several books of travel; his American in England was reviewed in the Messenger, in February, and his Spain Revisited in May 1836. In 1838, by legislative authority, he added “Mackenzie” to his name at the request of a maternal uncle.

LETTER XXXII.  Charles Anthon (1797-1867) was a famous professor of Classics at Columbia College, whose friendship Poe later enjoyed. He had edited Lemprière’s Classical Dictionary — sixth American edition — in 1827 and a revised and enlarged edition in 1833. The Journal des Sçavans, founded in 1665, is mentioned in “Pinakidia,” number 125 (SLM, August 1836, p. 580). This information probably came from Isaac D’Israeli’s article “Literary Journals” in his Curiosities of Literature.

LETTER XXXIII.  Francis Lieber (1800-1872), born and educated in Germany, was a scholar of great attainments. He edited the Encyclopaedia Americana (13 volumes, 1829-1833) and became professor of political economy at South Carolina College in 1835. In the Messenger, October 1836, is an article, “Classical Bibliography,” by Edward William Johnstone, Librarian of South Carolina College. From this, before publication, Poe probably took his description of editions of Plato. The phrase attributed to the philosopher is one of Poe’s better jokes.

LETTER XXXIV.  Sarah Josepha Hale (1788-1879) was the editor of (Godey’s) Lady’s Book, and usually favorable to Poe.

LETTER XXXV.  Mordecai Manuel Noah (1785-1851), journalist, playwright — and politician — later became a good friend to Poe. An encouraging letter “from the pen of Major Noah, editor of the New York Evening Star” was quoted on the inside of the back cover of the Messenger for January 1835, and he subsequently became a contributor.

LETTER XXXVI.  Jack Downing was a pseudonym used by several satirists who wrote letters ridiculing President Andrew Jackson. Poe, in 1836, thought James Brooks was the “original” Jack, though modern scholars all award the palm to Seba Smith. Brooks was in Washington when James Otis procured the “Downing signature” from him. See also Letter XIX above.

LETTER XXXVII.  William Leete Stone (1792-1844), a New York editor, pamphleteer, and historian, was disliked by Poe, who scathingly reviewed his social satire, Ups and Downs in the Life of a Distressed Gentleman in the Messenger for June 1836. Examination of the columns of Stone’s New York Commercial Advertiser has not confirmed a story that he printed a denial of having written this absurdly tautological letter.

LETTER XXXVIII.  Theodore Sedgwick Fay (1807-1898) was connected with the New-York Mirror. In the Berg Collection at the New York Public Library there is a copy of Poe’s Poems (1831) inscribed to “Mr. Theo:e S. Fay, with the author’s [page 291:] compliments.” This suggests that Poe ascribed the slight notice of the book in the New-York Mirror, May 7, 1831, to Fay. Poe disliked Fay, however, and reviewed his Norman Leslie savagely in the Messenger for December 1835.

John Lemprière’s Classical Dictionary (London, 1788) went through many editions, the most recent — in America — being that edited by Charles Anthon in 1833. Poe ridicules Fay for affected and inaccurate learning. The Bruttii occupied the toe of Italy. It is improbable that an American visitor would land at Reggio.

 


[[Footnotes]]

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 260:]

*  See David K. Jackson, Poe and the Southern Literary Messenger (1934), pp. 101-102. Cooper had drawn bitter criticism upon himself by A Letter to His Countrymen (1834) and his satirical novel The Monikins (1835), but the former had received a sympathetic notice in the first issue (August 1834) of the Messenger.

  William Wirt had died in 1834, the Chief Justice in July 1835. On April 28, 1846, Poe wrote Evert A. Duyckinck that he owned, among others, letters of Marshall and Wirt. From the Graham’s series of 1841-42 Poe omitted the deceased Carey, Emmons, and Flint, and apologized for including Mellen, who was alive when the notice of him was set up.

  This letter is now in the Boston Public Library with the signature clipped out. It enclosed those of Willis, Mellen, Noah, Stone, Miss Gould, and “Jack Downing” used in the August Messenger as well as several that Poe used later in Graham’s, where (December 1841) he reproduced that of Otis himself. A New Englander, nephew of Harrison Gray Otis, the prominent Federalist leader, J. F. Otis was in Washington as a newspaper correspondent. His principal connections were with Portland, Maine; Newburyport, Massachusetts; and Boston, where he died in 1867. [His letter was published by Dwight Thomas in Poe Studies, June 1975.]

 


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Notes:

In the original printing, all but the first of the notes for the various letters are prefixed simply with the letter number, with the actual word “LETTER” appearing only for that first entry. The word is provided for all of these notes in the current presentation for the sake of clarity.


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[S:1 - TOM2T, 1978] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Editions - The Collected Works of Edgar Allan Poe (T. O. Mabbott) (Autography)