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Text: Edgar Allan Poe, "Thomas Dunn Brown [English]," from Literary America, 1848, manuscript

[page 81, continued:]

Thomas Dunn Brown.

I have seen one or two scraps of verse with this gentleman's nom de plume* appended, which had considerable merit. For example:

A sound melodious shook the breeze 
When thy beloved name was heard;
Such was the music in the word 
Its dainty rhythm the pulses stirred,
But passed forever joys like these. 
There is no joy, no light, no day,
But black despair and night al-way
And thickening gloom;
And this, Azthene, is my doom. 

Was it for this, for weary years, 
I strove among the sons of men, 
And by the magic of my pen — 
Just sorcery — walked the lion's den 
Of slander, void of tears and fears — 
And all for thee? For thee!  — alas!
As is the image on a glass 
So baseless seems
Azthene, all my earthly dreams.

I must confess, however, that I do not appreciate the "dainty rhythm" of [page 82:] such a word as "Azthene", and perhaps there is some taint of egotism in the passage about "the magic" of Mr Brown's pen. Let us be charitable, however, and set all this down under the head of the pure imagination, or invention — the first of poetical requisites. The inexcusable sin of Mr Brown is imitation — if this be not too mild a term. When Barry Cornwall, for example, sings about a "dainty rhythm" Mr Brown forthwith, in B flat, hoots about it too. He has taken, however, his most unwarrantable liberties in the way of plagiarism, with Mr Henry B. Hirst, of Philadelphia — a poet whose merits have not yet been properly estimated.

I place Mr Brown, to be sure, on my list of literary people not on account of his poetry (which I presume he himself is not weak enough to estimate very highly) but on the score of his having edited, for several months, "with the aid of numerous collaborators," a magazine called "The Aristidean." This work, although professedly a monthly, was issued at irregular intervals, and was unfortunate, I fear, in not attaining at any period more than about fifty subscribers.

Mr Brown has at least that amount of talent which would enable him to succeed in his father's profession — that of a ferryman on the Skuykill [[Schuylkill]] — but the fate of "The Aristidean" should indicate to him that, to prosper in any higher walk of life, he must apply himself to study. No spectacle can be more ludicrous than that of a man without the commonest school education, busying himself in attempts to instruct mankind on topics of polite literature. The absurdity, in such cases, does not lie merely in the ignorance displayed by the would-be instructor, but in the transparency of the shifts by which he endeavors to keep this ignorance concealed.  The "editor of the Aristidean," for example, was not the public laughing-stock throughout the five months of his magazine's existence, so much on account of writing "lay" for "lie," "went" for "gone," "set" for "sit," etc. etc., or for coupling nouns in the plural with verbs in the singular — as when he writes, above,
       —— so baseless seems
Azthene, all my earthly dreams — 

he was not, I say, laughed at so much on account of his excusable deficiencies in English grammar (although an editor should undoubtedly be able to write his own name) as on account of the pertinacity with which he exposes his weakness, in lamenting the "typographical blunders" which so unluckily would creep into his work. He should have reflected that there  [page 83:] is not in all America a proof-reader so blind as to permit such errors to escape him. The rhyme, for instance, in the matter of the "dreams" that "seems", would have distinctly shown even the most uneducated printer's devil that he, the devil, had no right to meddle with so obviously an intentional peculiarity.

Were I writing merely for American readers, I should not, of course, have introduced Mr Brown's name in this book. With us, grotesqueries such as "The Aristidean" and its editor, are not altogether unparalleled, and are sufficiently well understood — but my purpose is to convey to foreigners some idea of a condition of literary affairs among us, which otherwise they might find it difficult to comprehend or to conceive. That Mr Brown's blunders are really such as I have described them — that I have not distorted their character or exaggerated their grossness in any respect — that there existed in New York, for some months, as conductor of a magazine that called itself the organ of the Tyler party and was even mentioned, at times, by respectable papers, a man who obviously never went to school, and was so profoundly ignorant as not to know that he could not spell — are serious and positive facts — uncolored in the slightest degree — demonstrable, in a word, upon the spot, by reference to almost any editorial sentence upon any page of the Magazine in question. But a single instance will suffice: — Mr Hirst, in one of his poems, has the lines,
Oh Odin ! 'twas pleasure — 'twas passion to see 
Her serfs sweep like wolves on a lambkin like me.

At page 200 of "The Aristidean" for September 1845, Mr Brown, commenting on the English of the passage, says: — "This lambkin might have used better language than 'like me' — unless he intended it for a specimen of choice Choctaw, when it may, for all we know to the contrary, pass muster."  It is needless, I presume, to proceed farther in a search for the most direct proof possible or conceivable, of the ignorance of Mr Brown — who, in similar cases, invariably writes — "like I."

In an editorial announcement on page 242 of the same "number," he says: — "This and the three succeeding numbers brings the work up to January and with the two numbers previously published makes up a volume or half year of numbers."  But enough of this absurdity: — Mr Brown had, for the motto on his magazine cover, the words of Richelieu, [page 84:]
    —— Men call me cruel; 
I am not: — I am just.

Here the two monosyllables "an ass" should have been appended.  They were no doubt omitted through "one of those d——d typographical blunders" which, through life, have been at once the bane and the antidote of Mr Brown.

I make these remarks in no spirit of unkindness. Mr B. is yet young — certainly not more than thirty-eight or nine — and might readily improve himself at points where he is most defective.  No one of any generosity would think the worse of him for getting private instruction.

I do not personally know him. About his appearance there is nothing very remarkable — except that he exists in a perpetual state of vacillation between mustachio and goatee.  In character, a windbeutel.


[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 81:]

* Thomas Dunn English


This text begins on the last page of the manuscript about Laughton Osborn.

S:1 - LTAM, 1848 - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Works - Misc - Thomas Dunn Brown [English]