Text: Phillip P. Cooke to Edgar Allan Poe — December 19, 1839


Charles town Jefferson Co. Va.
Dec. 19. 1839.

My dear sir

You must not expect me to make you an exception amongst my correspondents, and write to you “punctually on receipt of yours”; nor must you suspect the nature of my feeling toward you because I do not.

I have read your “Fall of the House of Usher,” your “William Wilson” and your “Conversation of Eiros and Charmion” and I will say something about them, as all authors like praise and compliment.

In the first place I must tell you (what I firmly believe) that your mere style is the very best amongst the first of the living writers; and I must let your know that I regard style as something more than the mere manner of communicating ideas. “Words are used by the wise as counters; by the foolish as coin” is the aphorism of a person who never appreciated Jeremy Taylor or Sir Thomas Browne. You do not, to be sure, use your words as those fine old glowing rhetoricians did, as tints of the pencil-as the colours of a picture — but you mould them into an artful excellence — bestow a care which is pleasantly perceptible, and accomplish an effect which I can only characterize as the Visible presentation of your ideas instead of the mere expression of them.

In your “Fall of the House of Usher., unconnected with style, I think you very happy in that part where you prolong the scene with Roderick Usher after the death of his sister; and the glare of the moon thro’ the sundering house, and the electric gleam visible around it, I think admirably conceived.

Of “William Wilson” I am not sure that I perceive the true clew. From the “whispering voice” I would apprehend that you meant the second William Wilson as an embodying of the conscience of the first; but I am inclined to the notion that your intention was to convey the wilder idea that every mortal of us is attended with a shadow of himself — a duplicate of his own peculiar organization — differing from himself only in a certain angelic taint of the compound, derived from heaven, as our own wild humours are derived from Hell (figuratively); — I cannot make myself understood, as I am not used to the expression of a wild half thought — But, although I do not clearly comprehend, I certainly admire the story.

Of “Eiros & Charmion” I will only say that I consider the whole very singular and excellent, and the skill of one small part of it unapproachable.

“Was I much mourned, my Eiros” — is one of the finest touches in the world. I read, the other day, a small piece in an old messenger entitled “Shadow a Fable” which I take to be yours. Considered apart from some affectation it is very terrible. The Poetry headed “The haunted Palace” which I read in the Balt. Museum where it first appeared, and which I instantly understood as a picture of an intellect, I consider beautiful but grotesque.

By the way you have selected an excellent title for your volume of Tales. “Tales of the Grotesque and the Arabesque” expresses admirably the character of your wild stories — and as Tales of the grotesque & arabesque they were certainly never equalled.

I am writing a Book which I call “Maurice Weterbern” — what it is you will some time or other see. I am bestowing great care, but little labour, upon it.

I send you two pieces of verse (Poetry I dare not call them) which I made a year ago; If you think them worth publishing publish them — if not I am too hacknied to consider your decision an affront.

There is not room for more — so farewell

Yrs sincerely
P P Cooke

E. A. Poe Esq.

P.S. Write to me.



Poe adapted portions of this letter to include as an advertisement for his proposed revised edition of the “Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque.” The roll manuscript copy of Poe’s intended set of notices is now in the Edgar Allan Poe Papers collection, in Rare Books & Manuscripts of the New York Public Library.”


[S:0 - MS, 18xx] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Misc - Letters - P. P. Cooke to Poe (RCL226)