Text: Edgar Allan Poe (?), “Review of New Books,” from Graham’s Magazine, June 1841, pp. 294-296


[page 294, full page:]


[column 1:]

[[Review of Macaulay’s Critical and Miscellaneous Essays]]

[page 295, column 1, continued:]

[[The review of G. P. R. James’s Corse de Leon is generally not considered to be by Poe, although it was included by J. A. Harrison in his 1902 edition of Poe’s works.]]

[page 296:]


“Insubordination; An American Story of Real Life.” By the Author of the “Subordinate.” One Volume. Baltimore; Knight & Colman.

The author of the “Subordinate” is Mr. T. S. Arthur, of Baltimore, formerly one of the editors of the “Vistier and Athenaeum,” and now, we believe, connected with “The Budget,” a new monthly journal of that city — with the literature of which, generally, he has been more or less identified for many years past.

“The Subordinate” we have not had the pleasure of reading. The present book, “Insubordination,” is excellently written in its way; although we must be pardoned for saying that the way itself is not of a high order of excellence. It is all well enough to justify works of this class by hyper-democratic allusions to the “moral dignity” of a dissertation upon bed-bugs: for the opening part of “Insubordination” is, if anything, a treatise on these peculiar animalculae.

Some portions of the book are worthy of the author’s ability, which it would rejoice us to see more profitably occupied. For example, a passage where Jimmy, an ill-treated orphan, relates to the only friend he has ever found, some of the poignant sorrows of his childhood, embodies a fine theme, handled in a manner which has seldom been excelled. Its pathos is exquisite. The morality of the story is no doubt good; but the reasoning by which it is urged is decrepid, and far too pertinaciously thrust into the reader’s face at every page. The mode in which all the characters are reformed, one after the other, belongs rather to the desirable than to the credible. The style of the narrative is easy and truthful. We dare say the work will prove popular in a certain sense; but, upon the whole, we do not like it.

“Marathon, and Other Poems.” By Pliny Earle, M. D. Henry Perkins, Philadelphia.

We have long had a very high opinion of the talents of Doctor Earle; and it gives us sincere pleasure to see his poems in book form. The publication will place him at once in the front rank of our bards. His qualities are all of a sterling character — a high imagination, delighting in lofty themes — a rigorous simplicity, disdaining verbiage and meretricious ornament — a thorough knowledge of the proprieties of metre — and an ear nicely attuned to its delicacies. In addition, he feels as a man, and thinks and writes as a scholar. His general manner, puts us much in mind of Halleck. “Marathon,” the longest poem in the volume before us, is fully equal to the “Bozzaris” of that writer; although we confess that between the two poems there exists a similarity in tone and construction which we would rather not have observed.

In the present number of our Magazine will be found a very beautiful composition by the author of “Marathon.” It exhibits all the rare beauties of its author. [column 2:]

“Selections from the Poetical Literature of the West.” U. P. James; Cincinnati.

This handsomely printed volume fills a long-regretted hiatus in our poetical literature, and we are much indebted to Mr. James the publisher; and to Mr. William D. Gallagher, who has superintended the compilation. We are told, in the Preface by Mr. G. that the book “is not sent forth as by any means the whole of the ‘Poetical Literature of the West,’ but that it is believed it will represent its character pretty faithfully, as it certainly contains samples of its greatest excellences, its mediocre qualities, and its worst defects.” it may be questioned, indeed, how far we are to thank the editor for troubling us with the “defects,” or, what in poesy is still worse, with the “mediocre qualities” of any literature whatever. It is no apology to say that the design was to represent “character” — for who cares for the character of that man or of that poem which has no character at all?

By these observations we mean merely to insinuate, as delicately as possible, that Mr. Gallagher has admitted into this volume a great deal of trash with which the public could well have dispensed. On the other hand we recognise many poems of a high order of excellence; among which we may mention an “Ode to the Press” by G. G. Foster, of the St. Louis Pennant; several sweet pieces by our friend F. W. Thomas, of “Clinton Bradshaw” memory; “The Flight of Years” by George D. Prentice; “To the Star Lyra,” by William Wallace; and the “Miami Woods,” by Mr. Gallagher.

We have spoken of this latter gentleman as the editor of the volume — but presume that in so speaking we have been in error. It is probably that the volume having been compiled by some other hand, he was requested by Mr. James to write the Preface merely. We are forced into this conclusion by observing that the poems of William D. Gallagher occupy more room in the book than those of any other author, and that the “Miami Woods” just mentioned — lines written by himself — for the opening article of the work. We cannot believe that Mr. G. would have been so wanting in modesty as to perpetrate these improprieties as editor of the “Poetical Literature of the West.”

“The Quadroone.” A Novel. By the Author of “Lafitte,” &c. Harper & Brothers, New York.

We see no good reason for differing with that general sentence of condemnation which has been pronounced upon this book, both at home and abroad — and less for attempting anything in the way of an extended review of its contents. This was our design upon hearing the novel announced; but an inspection of its pages assures us that the labor would be misplaced. Nothing that we could say — had we even the disposition to say it — would convince any sensible man that “The Quadroone” is not a very bad book — such a book as Professor Ingraham (for whom we have a high personal respect) ought to be ashamed of. We are ashamed of it.



Of these four reviews given here, only the one for Gallagher is certain. The obvious internal clue is the comment about “our friend F. W. Thomas.” External evidence bolsters the case. Thomas wrote to Poe on March 10, 1841, drawing Poe’s attention to Gallagher’s book, and, after ridiculing Gallagher, noting that it contains “seven of your humble servants [Thomas’s] poorest [pieces.]” More tellingly, Thomas wrote again to Poe on May 29, 1841, saying “I am glad you ‘rapped’ Gallagher over the knuckles — He deserved it.” The attribution of the other three reviews given here is highly probable, although not absolutely certain. All four reviews were considered to be the work of Poe by Heartman and Canny (1943) and by T. O. Mabbott. Mabbott’s notes at the University of Iowa list the reviews of T. S. Arthur and Pliny Earle as “accept,” and the reviews of Gallagher and Ingraham as “sure.” William D. Hull credited all four reviews to Poe. For the Arthur review, Hull notes the similarity to Poe’s comments on T. S. Arthur from “Autography” of December 1841, especially the reference to “Low Life.” For the Earle review, Hull finds a similar reference to Halleck’s “Marco Bozzaris.” in “Autography” of December 1841. For the Ingraham review, Hull says “This, I feel sure, is Poe,” noting the similarity in tone to his SLM reviews.


[S:0 - GM, 1842] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Works - Criticism - Review of New Books [Text-02]