Text: Laughton Osborn to Edgar Allan Poe — August 14, 1845


219, Eighth Avenue,
Thursday morn’g [[morning]], Aug. 14th, ‘45.


I left the other night by misadventure at yr.[[your]]  lodgings the draught [[draft]] of the preface for the comedy. I had wrapped it around the parcel of the Journal which I held in my hand, & must have laid them down together [[on]] your table.  Will you have the goodness to search for it, & return it at yr. convenience with the comedy? To lose it would give me the trouble of a new composition, >>and<< which, you may easily conceive, might not result so much to my satisfact. [[satisfaction.]] Yesterday when I rec’d the parcel itself at yr. door, I supposed, seeing the latter had apparently been opened & then tied up, that I should find the notes within: a mistake I greatly regret, because otherwise I should have simply written my request on a card, & thus been spared the pain of writing what now follows.

With the copy of Arthur Cl. [[Arthur Carryl]] which you had permitted me to present you, I took the liberty of enclosing likewise the Confess. of a Poet, this being the novel whose misfortune, following a similar one of its predecessor, Jery. Jevis [[Jeremy Jevis]], was the immediate cause of the penning of the Vision, (Stone (Rubeta,) [[)]] who had abused Jeremy, having said of the Confess., — I hope he has not gone to answer for it, — that it had all the immorality of Falkland, without any of its redeeming traits & was worse even than ludicrous itself; King (Petron.), that it was a record of >>liberalism<< licentiousness & infidelity (I had to tear out his notice from the American, lest my sister should see it!); & Waldies’ critic (Margites), that it was mere balderdash, & a disgrace to the city where it was published.)  To this  >>bok<< book, which (because it has never been corrected, & therefore in parts offends me) I never present to any but those I confide in & love, I added 3 copies of a little episode <which was> published (only to be withdrawn a week afterwards, not one copy selling) to test if possible the nature of the persecution with which my books are visited. The ingenious author of the Gold-Bug would not, I thought, be puzzled to decypher the cryptograph of the first motto, & thus understand the wherefore of the D. D. [page 2:] appended to the assumed name on the title page, as well as of the pomposity of the two solemn mottoes which follow & give additional mystifict. [[mystification]] to the false one. When enclosing these books I was under the delusion that Mr. Poe would take an interest in them because of their connection with the  Vision. You may judge then my surprise, when the first thing, that  struck my eyes, on opening the nos. of the “Journal”, was that delectable  & <very> dainty passage: —

. . . . “What is the ‘Vision of Rubeta’ but an illimitable gilded swill trough overflowing with Dunciad and water?”  above which stands with its associate names the name of “Edgar A. Poe” as editor. Whoever the writer of this squib, I arranged myself simply by drawing a pencil-line from it to the motto from Locke in the  adjoining column, & another from the rhymes of P. Benjamin to the unconsidered or else interested eulogy that precedes them; & my letter was made. Whoever of yr. associates was the writer (for I will not do you the injustice to suppose that you were more than cognizant of the matter) I shall never take any public notice of it though I should now be able to complete the Vision, but I can no more forget it than I can any other act of <wilful> injustice & >>[[indeciperable]]<< <ejection> of curious banter, by which so many of my countrymen have chosen to wrong me who never yet wronged any man, & to libel a critic who even now bears so little malice in his nature that he has several times now missed & to refer to his book to know what he had written of certain >>persons<< <[[indecipherable, one word of 2 characters]] principal characters> lest he should be betrayed with a display of friendliness that would have been very ill received.

Was it a part of my evil-fortune that prevented me from turning over the nos. of the Journal at the publishers & thus led me into the irretrievable error of calling, as an alleged friend in letters (though an unknown one), as a man who if not my literary foe was at least in league with them who were such? Yet I am not afraid to say to you, that I feel not so much mortification from this innocent error, as melancholy in finding still another of my pleasant delusions vanish, What object (if any) has Heaven in separting [[separating]] >>f<< me from all the world, when I have the heart to love all the world? (This, remember, is not the rhapsody [page 3:] of a romantic boy, but the utterance of a serious & often-recurring thought, without the least passion, by a man who in five days will enter his 36th year:) not one man in the world who will suffer me to love him, or who will have the heart to give me the smallest portion of affection & sympathy, and not, saving my mother (who cannot sympathize with me, & who has, as a mother, kindred affections,) not one woman, young or old! Absolutely and terribly alone — with a head full of muttered thoughts, and a heart fuller still >> — <<; for — you may smile to hear it (& well you may,  since what concern is it of yours?) — should I die to-morrow & anybody there is worth while to notice, at some future day, my obscure career,  I should be seen only as a coldblooded satirist! Yet God, and the Angel-spirits of my dead sisters know that my heart is ten times >>fuller than<< better than my head — for while I find other men as gifted in talent as myself, I find none so prone to love, & none (it is a big word; but it shall out) none so honest — But a truce to an egotism which nothing could excuse but the singularity of my visit to you, — a visit so entirely misplaced and so oddly delusion; for, while >>were<< we were exchanging the most sugared compliments, and I had opined that I, a gentleman-poet I had ever believed myself & an honorable writer, and conversing with an admired brother-bard, I held in my <own> hand  the printed certificate under the latter’s sanctions, circulated among thousands, <that I> was but a hog in letters & the mere pilferer & sophisticator (waterer) of swill that was stronger in an older trough (the image is not nice; but that is no fault of mine; I cannot help people & partialities.) The companions of Ulysses could not have been more astonished when they woke to their new condition than I was at this sudden literary — metamorphosis; & very sure am I that not the best of them could have grunted (the bestiality again is not mine) to a [[portion cut out by the removal of the signature on the back of the page]] of the hand that has brought the [[missing portion, losing the end of the final sentence of this paragraph.]] [page 4:]

Our former positions towards each other must now be restored: as I sought yr. acquaintance under the impressn [[impression]] that you were one of my truest defenders, I cannot of course profit by what was so mere a mistake. With what sadness this is said you may conceive, when I assure you, without the least reluctance, that had I had the choice, of all the literary men of my country there is none, with the exception of the author of Ferdinand & Isaba [[Isabella]], whose friendship I should have preferred to yours. The want of >>of<< it will make no difference in my estimation of the author, & I am still reading your “Tales” with unalloyed satisfaction. Not was it without gratification that, in the very >>page<< no. of yr. mag. [[magazine]] where I met with such an outrage to my feelings as a gentleman & an honest man (as a writer a thousand such squibs and now  [[illegible]]  <we>, for they prove & attempt to prove, nothing), I can assure you [[illegible]]  to  [[illegible]], which I shall be at, & have  [[illegible]] , >>with the Raven<< & recognized by new acquaintance Lionizing, this I found not overflowing with Voltaire & water, but >>pungent  [[illegible]] << <saturated> in the spirit of Voltaire himself, & were it my fortune to review it I should still notice it, as it struck me when I had read it, as such a sketch as if found in French in company with Candide, L’Ingenue, & their fellow Zonand, shall have been able to justify its place <& new found quite at home> in their society. You will, then, as the poet, philosopher, & critic, still retain the volumes lent you by the author of the Visions, while I shall treasure the volume of >>the<< Tales by Edgar A. Poe, as I do the many souvenirs of my many happy delusions. Believe, sir, in yr. certainly to be distinguished career the truest felicitations that will accompany you will not be >>by<< those that will be loudest; and if it be a pleasure to you, as it must be, to ask yourself, whenever you publish a new performance, who are its readers, and what do they think of it, you may always reckon upon one who though of the obscurest should not be held the most despicable of your admirers, seeing that, whatever his faults as a writer & a man, no one can as yet convict him of any thing mercenary, envious, unjust, & hypocritical And as such he has the honor to remain, with kind consideration, <ever> your cordial well-wisher,

[[Laughton Osborn, signature cut off]]

Edgar A. Poe, Esq.  



Osborn’s handwriting is so careless, and his choice of abbreviations, diction and phrasing so curious, that deciphering his manuscript is quite a challenge. Some words have, thus far, eluded reading and some which have been accepted here are not certain. In a few cases, even though the words seem clear, Osborn’s meaning remains obscure.

The article in the Broadway Journal which so offended Osborn was a review of Park Benjamin’s poem “Infatuation.” The notice was called “Satirical Poems” and was the first item for the March 15, 1845 issue, on page 161. The specific comment referred to by Osborn appears in the second column. Although Poe denied to Osborn personally that he wrote the notice, he accepted it in 1848 by signing the article in pencil with a “P” in the copy of the Broadway Journal that he gave to Mrs. Whitman.

The author of Ferdinand & Isabella was William Hickling Prescott.

”Arthur C” was Arthur Carryl and Other Poems.

Stone was Colonel Stone, editor of the “Commercial Advertiser,” who was apparently the harshest of the public critics of “Jeremey Jevis” and “Confessions of a Poet.”

The “little episode” was The Dream of Alla-Ad-Deen, from the Romance of “Anastasia,” by Charles Erskine White, D. D., a pamphlet of 32 pages.


[S:0 - MS, 18xx] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Misc - Letters - L. Osborn to Poe (RCL559)