Text: Edgar Allan Poe, “Review of New Books,” from Graham’s Magazine, December 1841, pp. 304-306


[page 304, full page:]


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[[Review of  Poetical Remains of the late Lucretia Maria Davidson]]

[page 306:]

The Seaman’s Friend; Containing a Treatise on Practical Seamanship, with Plates; A Dictionary of Sea Terms; Customs and Usages of the Merchant Service; Laws Relating to the Practical Duties of Masters and Mariners. By R. H. DANA, JR.Author of “Two Years Before the Mast.” Little and Brown: Boston. Carey and Hart: Philadelphia.

The publishers of this neat little volume have very prudently stereotyped it; anticipating an extensive and continuous demand. In truth, the work belongs to the class of the obviously needful, and its circulation and appreciation are matters of certainty. Ever since men “went down to the sea in ships,” there has been a difficulty in procuring exact, compact, and universally intelligible information on the very topics which Mr. Dana now discusses. The necessary knowledge. Was to be gleaned, imperfectly and superficially, from amid a mass of technical jargon, diffused over a world of questionable authority. Books on Seamanship are extant, to be sure — works of the highest scientific merit and ability — and the writings of Captain Basil Hall give, incidentally, a vast fund of intelligence on naval subjects; but the true desideratum was a work which could only be written by an individual placed exactly in the circumstances which surrounded Mr. Dana. It is well known that he is a man of talent and well educated; that ill-health induced him to try a sea-voyage in the capacity of common sailor; and that thus he has been enabled to combine the advantages of theoretical and practical science. His “Two Years Before the Mast” was, very deservedly, one of the most popular books ever published, and proved immensely profitable — at least to his booksellers. It gave, in a rich strain of philosophical observation, all the racy spirit, as the present volume conveys all the exact letter of the sea.

There is only one improvement which we could wish to suggest. An appendix, we think, should be added; embracing, first, in as popular, that is to say, in as untechnical a form as possible, the philosophy of latitude and longitude — the general principles of which may be rendered intelligible to almost any understanding — and, secondly, the formulae employed in the application of these principles to navigation, with concise rules for the use of the sextant and chronometer, and for solar, lunar, and stellar observations.


The Miser, or the Convicts of Lisnamona. By WILLIAM CARELTON, Author of “Traits and Stories of the Irish Peasantry.” Two Volumes. Carey and Hart: Philadelphia.

This story originally appeared in the “Dublin University Magazine,” under the title of “Fardorougha, or The Miser,” It was much copied and admired, and has all the Irish merit for which its author is so famous.


Fragments From German Prose Writers. Translated by SARAH AUSTIN. With Biographical Sketches of the Authors. D. Appleton and Company. New York.

This is a book about which little can be said, except in the way of general and pointed commendation. Its title fully explains its character; although the fair authoress is at the trouble of enlarging upon the nature of the fragmentary contents. These scraps embody specimens of every variety of the prose literature of Germany — convey, in petto, its whole soul. The lives of the authors are invaluable. The volume is, in point of mechanical appearance, one of the most beautiful ever issued, even by the Appletons. [column 2:]


Confession; Or the Blind Heart. A Domestic Story, By the Author of “The Kinsmen,” “The Yemasse,” “Guy Rivers,” etc. Two Volumes. Lea and Blanchard: Philadelphia.

In general, Mr. Simms should be considered as one giving indication, rather than proof of high genius. He puts us in mind of a volcano, from the very darkness issuing from whose crater we judge of the fire that is weltering below. So far, with slight exceptions, he has buried his fine talent in his themes. He should never have written “The Partisan,” nor “The Yemassee,” nor his late book (whose title we just now forget) about the first discovery of the Pacific. His genius does not lie in the outward so much as in the inner world. “Martin Faber” did him honor; and so do the present volumes, although liable to objection in some important respects. We welcome him home to his own proper field of exertion — the field of Godwin and Brown — the field of his own rich intellect and glowing heart. Upon reading the first few pages of “Confession,” the stirring words of Scott arose to our lips — “My foot is on my native hearth, and my name is McGregor.”

It is our design to speak in full of the volumes before us; but we have left ourselves no space for the task, and must defer it, perforce, until the new year.


Cecil; Or the Adventures of a Coxcomb. A Novel. Two Volumes. Lea and Blanchard: Philadelphia.

This work is an obvious but very spirited and excellent imitation of the Pelhams and Vivian Greys. It abounds, even more than either of these works, in point, pungency and vivacity, but falls below them in true wit, and in other higher qualitites. Altogether, it is richly entertaining, and will meet with success. The theme is a good one well managed.



The attribution of the five reviews given here is highly probable, although not absolutely certain. All were considered to be the work of Poe by Heartman and Canny (1943), and attributed to Poe by T. O. Mabbott and William D. Hull. Mabbott’s notes at the University of Iowa list the review of Austin as “sure,” and of the other four reviews as “accept.” For the review of Dana, Hull says, “This notice must be judged wholly on internal evidence” and “I have no hesitation in assigning this to Poe.” For the reviews of The Miser, Fragments of German Prose Writers and Cecil, Hull credits all to Poe, “under the authority of the principle we have adopted for dealing with such notices, since they suggest Poe, even in their brevity, and since there are apparently no longer notices from another hand in this issue.” For the review of Confession, Hull comments that Poe’s phrase “indications of genius” is one he often uses. Hull also notes a letter of November 10, 1841 from F. W. Thomas to Poe, in which Thomas admits “No I have not read Simm’s last work,” which suggests that Poe has read it. Apparently not knowing about Poe’s letter of October 27, 1841 to Thomas, Hull speculates that Poe may have said something to Thomas about the review, but, unfortunately, Poe’s letter refers only to the review by asking in a postscript “Have you read Simm’s new book?”


[S:0 - GM, 1841] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Works - Criticism - Review of New Books [Text-02]