Text: James R. Lowell to Edgar Allan Poe — March 6, 1844


Elmwood, Cambridge, March 6, 1844.

My Dear Friend, — When I received your last letter I was very busily employed upon a job article on a subject in which I have no manner of interest. As I had nothing to say, it took me a great while to say it.

I made an expedition to Boston to learn what I could about our lectures there, & found that the lectures for the season are now over. I mean the Society lectures. There are different gentlemen employed diligently in lecturing upon “physical sciences” & “the lungs” &c. &c. admission ninepence, children halfprice, but all the lectures of a more literary class are over. I spoke to the secretary of the Boston Lyceum about the probability of your success if you came experimentally, and he shook his head. It is not a matter in which I feel myself competent to judge — my bump of hope being quite too large. I asked him about engaging you for next year & he seemed very much pleased with the plan & said that the Society would be glad to do it. This course of lectures has (I think) the highest rank here.

To speak for myself I should be delighted both to see & hear you. I like your subject too.

The Boston people want a little independent criticism vastly. I know that we should not agree exactly, but we should at least sympathize. You occasionally state a critical proposition from which I dissent, but I am always satisfied. I care not a straw what a man says, if I see that he has his grounds for it, & knows thoroughly what he is talking about. You might cut me up as much as you pleased & I should read what you said with respect, & with a great deal more of satisfaction, than most of the praise I get, affords me. It is these halfpenny “critics” — these men who appeal to our democratic sympathies by exhibiting as their only credentials the fact that they are “practical printers” & what not, that are ruining our literature — men who never doubt that they have a full right to pronounce upon the music of Apollo’s lute, because they can criticise fitly the filing of a handsaw, & who, making a point of blundering, will commend Hercules (if they commend at all) for his skill at Omphale’s distaff.

It will please you to hear that my volume will soon reach a third edition. The editions are of five hundred each, but “run over,” as printers say, a little so that I suppose about eleven hundred have been sold. I shall write to you again soon, giving you a sketch of my life. Outwardly it has been simple enough, but inwardly every man’s life must be more or less of a curiosity. Goethe made a good distinction when he divided his own autobiography into poetry & fact.

When will Graham give us your portrait? I hope you will have it done well when it is done, & quickly too. Writing to him a short time ago I congratulated him upon having engaged you as editor again. I recognized your hand in some of the editorial matter (critical) & missed it in the rest. But I thought it would do no harm to assume the fact, as it would at least give him a hint. He tells me I am mistaken & I am sorry for it. Why could not you write an article now and then for the North American Review? I know the editor a little, & should like to get you introduced there. I think he would be glad to get an article. On the modern French School of novels for example. How should you like it? The Review does not pay a great deal ($2 a page, I believe) but the pages do not eat up copy very fast.

I am sorry I did not know of your plan to lecture in Boston earlier. I might have done something about it. The Lyceum pays from fifty to a hundred dollars, as their purse is full or empty. I will put matters in train for next year, however.

Affectionately your friend.
[[Signature cut out.]]

P. S. You must not make any autobiographical deductions from my handwriting, as my hand is numb with cold. Winter has come back upon us.





[S:0 - MS, 18xx] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Misc - Letters - J. R. Lowell to Poe (RCL470)