Text: Burton R. Pollin, “The Broadway Journal: Advertisements and Publicity Notes (Introduction),” The Collected Writings of Edgar Allan Poe — Vol. IV: Broadway Journal (Annotations) (1986), pp. l-li (This material is protected by copyright)


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[page l, continued:]

THE “LITTLE LONGFELLOW WAR”

Poe carried over from the Evening Mirror a campaign against Longfellow, begun in January and encouraged apparently by Willis, for the sake of the nearly scandalous publicity, that Briggs uneasily tolerated. Poe’s hostility to many aspects of Longfellow’s writing was five years old, commencing with his charge in the 10/39 Burton’s Gentleman’s Magazine that Hyperion was a tasteless, careless farrago of very mixed elements. Opposing the widespread acclaim of the poems in Voices of the Night, Poe had declared them lacking in unity and originality in 1840. He roundly attacked also the obvious and inartistic didacticism of Longfellow’s works in reviews and in lectures, while yet conceding him a very high place for his felicitious diction, clever handling of commonplace ideas, and occasionally graphic or affecting details. His acerbity increased as Longfellow acquired new honors, enjoyed large receipts from sumptuously bound and illustrated volumes, and received the post of Professor at Harvard, while he was luxuriously ensconced in Craigie House (see S. Moss; also, Pollin [G]). It was no more than critical justice for Poe to tell the “truth” about a man of talent who was too popular a model for the creative writer in a developing America; he waged a campaign of bravado and contumacy in crude terms and sarcastic arguments. Thereby he dissipated much of the credit that “The Raven” had brought him early in 1845. For the items relating to the material in the BJ, listed below, please see the commentary-notes in volume two giving details and cross-references for many of Poe’s points.

Chronology of the “Little Longfellow War” (Poe’s title, see p. 28)

1/13-14/45) Poe’s criticism of Longfellow’s anthology Waif appears in the Evening Mirror (hereafter EM).

1/15) “H.” (George Stillman Hillard) writes from Boston to defend his friend Longfellow.

1/18) Willis, in the EM, promises “an argument” on the subject of the attack on the book.

1/20) Hillard’s letter, accompanied by a biting reply from Poe, appears in the EM (also the Weekly Mirror of 1/25) [page li:]

1/25) The Buffalo Western Literary Messenger publishes an attack on Longfellow’s “Good George Campbell” as a plagiarism or distortion of a Scottish ballad, not an alleged translation from the German.

2/5) A second defense of Longfellow, by Charles Sumner, is sent to EM, and appears with a humorous reply from Willis.

2/8) The New York Rover repeats the charge by the Western Literary Messenger, adding a reference to Poe’s first article.

2/14) Willis, in the EM, states that he disagrees with all disparagement of Longfellow (also in the WM of 2/22).

2/15) Briggs publishes a paper against Poe’s attacks, called “Thefts of American Authors,” in the BJ, 1:109.

2/19) Longfellow writes a reply to the “George Campbell” accusation for Graham’s Magazine, published only in the May issue.

2/28) Poe lectures on the “Poets and Poetry of America,” at the New-York Historical Society, alluding to Longfellow’s plagiarism. The lecture was widely reported in the press (see also BJ, p. 35).

3/1) The defense of Longfellow by “Outis” (almost certainly Poe himself) appears in EM.

3/8) Poe replies to “Outis” in the BJ, including the whole of the 3/1 article of the EM (BJ, 28-33).

3/15) Poe’s reply is continued (BJ, 37-41). 3/22) Poe’s reply is continued (BJ, 45-53). 3/29) Poe’s reply is continued (BJ, 58-65).

4/1) Poe reviews Longfellow’s Poems in the Aristidean, in the same strain (pp. 131-142).

4/5) Poe’s reply concluded (BJ, 73-74).

 


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Notes:

None.


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[S:0 - BRP4J, 1986] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Editions - The Collected Writings of Edgar Allan Poe (B. R. Pollin) (The Little Longfellow War)