Text: Thomas H. Chivers to Edgar Allan Poe — August 27, 1840


No. 47, Canal Street, N.Y.,
August 27th, 1840.

Dear Sir, — I received your letter this evening, containing a Prospectus of the “Penn Magazine,” which you intend publishing in the City of Philadelphia. My absence from, the City, among the emerald highlands of the beautiful Hudson, prevented my answering it sooner than to-day. In answer to your solicitation for my support for the forthcoming Journal, I must say that I am much pleased with your “Prospectus” — the plan which you have in view — and hope sincerely that you may realize all your anticipations. As it regards myself, I will support you as long as you may continue the Editor of the above-named work. In the Paradise of Literature, I do not know one better calculated than yourself to prune the young scions of their exuberant thoughts. In some instances, let me remark, you seemed to me to lay aside the pruning-knife for the tomahawk, and not only to lop off the redundant limbs, but absolutely to eradicate the entire tree. In such cases there is no hope of its afterwards bearing any fruit. In surgical operations we always use a sharp knife, and wish to be as expeditious as possible; but we never go so far as to cut away so much of a part as to endanger the vitality of the whole. If we find, as in cases of gangrene, that the vital part is so affected that an operation would be unsafe, we then choose to let the patient die a natural death, rather than hasten it by our surgical art. I have seen a little sapling transplanted before now, which had every appearance of dying until it had undergone a gentle pruning and watering, when, to the astonishment of the gardener, it towered above all the rest in the grove, and remained a living monument of his skill and kind attention. The same thing is true in regard to the literary world. Bad treatment to the human economy will make a chronic disease sooner than a functional one, [[and]] by its own process, will terminate in organic derangement.

I consider the publication of such a work as you have suggested infinitely above any other undertaking. There can be no equivalent given to a man for the payment of divine thought. It is as far above every other consideration as the soul is more immortal. He who has never wandered amid the hibyrinthine vistas of the flower-gemed solitudes of thought knows nothing of the capabilities of the soul in its aspirations after the Beautiful in Natural Truth, which it, thereby, perceives will be fully manifested to it, in all its glory, in the enjoyment of the Hereafter. He knows nothing of that delightful Eden which remains immortal in the soul, whose flowers are the amaranths of celestial thought. The fruit of the ignorant seems sweet to the eye, but “turns to ashes on the lips.” The garden of literature, to the wise, is a “Paradise Regained” wherein his thoughts, like the swan of Socrates, can soar up to the celestial regions, and become the soul’s heralds of the divine To-come. For, as thought is the offspring of the spiritual, which is but the unfolding of the soul to itself, — as the disporting of the bud is but the display of its many folds, at the same time that it gives out its fragrance — whereby it becomes cognizant of the external world — so, the more it knows of the spiritual, the more it assimilates itself to the Author of its Spirituality.

What do you think of the “Dial”? The Boston papers have attempted to criticise it; but they have failed entirely. As we all bear definite relations to the external world, so language is the manifestation of these relations. But if we never made use of language in any other sense, we should never soar up from the palpable and the material, to the impalpable, spiritual, and immaterial — which, I think, is one of the chief provinces of human thought. This, the materialist would call “Transcendentalism.” Well, let him call it so — he has no better name for it. And what is it, after all? It is taking the swan of thought, which has floated on the crystalline waters of the familiar in this world, and giving it wings, whereby it may ascend into the regions of the unfamiliar, and there, in that divine altitude become the recipient of that lore which is the harmony of the Angels. All our knowledge comes from the relations which subsist between us and the external world. And wliat is Revelation but Transcendentalism? It is the effect of inspiration. What then is inspiration, if it is not a power given to the soul to recognize the beautiful of a truth which is transcendent in its nature, when compared with other truths? We may convey the idea of a heavenly truth by an earthly one — that is, we may make an earthly truth the representative of a truth beyond expression. This shows the power of language. This shows that language has a higher office than to manifest the relations which subsist between us and the external world — although all our knowledge comes therefrom. We may express the existence of a truth which is beyond expression. We do this whenever we attempt to explain the attributes of God. You see with what presumption vultures will aspire to the dignity of angels. I do not mean by this that everything which the “Dial” asserts is true. Far from it. But I do mean that its sapient Critics know nothing of the power of language in the reflection of ideas, which are the twilight presence of God living in the soul. They know nothing of anything but what amounts to nothing. All that is invisible is spiritual, and all that is spiritual is lasting; and all that is lasting is alone valuable.

You must excuse this digression, for I had no idea of wandering so far into the meanderings of metaphysic thought, when I commenced. In conclusion, therefore, let me assure you that I will do everything in my power to benefit you in the progression of your forthcoming work — hoping, at the same time, that your life may be long and prosperous, and that yon may enjoy in this world all the pleasures that wealth can purchase and fancy can invent.

Yours very truly,
Thos. H. Chivers.





[S:0 - MS, 18xx] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Misc - Letters - T. H. Chivers to Poe (RCL250)