Text: Elizabeth Barrett Barrett to E. A. Poe — April 1846


[page 1:]

50 Wimpole Street
April, 1846 —

Dear Sir,

Receiving a book from you seems to authorize or at least encourage me to try to express what I have felt long before, — my sense of the high honour you have done me, in the eyes of your country & mine, by the dedication of your poems. It is too great a distinction, conferred by a hand of too liberal a generosity — I wish for my own sake I were worthier of it. But I may endeavour, by future work, to justify a little what I cannot deserve anywise, now, — and in the meanwhile I may be grateful — because gratitude is the virtue of the humblest.

After which imperfect acknowledgment of my personal obligation, may I thank you as another reader would — thank you for this vivid writing, this power which is felt? [page 2:] Your ‘Raven’ has produced a sensation — a “fit horror” — here in England. Some of my friends are taken by the fear of it, & some by the music — I hear of persons haunted by the “nevermore” — and one acquaintance of mine <of a creative> who has the misfortune of possessing a “bust of Pallas”, never can bear to look at it in the twilight. I think you will like to be told our great poet Mr. Browning, the author of ‘Paracelsus,’ & the ‘Bells & Pomegranates’ was struck much by the rhythm of that poem.

Then there is a tale of yours which I do not find in this volume, but which is going the round of the newspapers, about mesmerism — throwing us all into “most admired disorder”, or dreadful doubts as to whether “it can be true”, as the children say of ghost stories. The certain thing in the tale in question is the power [page 3:] of the writer, & the faculty he has of making horrible improbabilities seem near & familiar.

And now will you permit me, dear Mr. Poe, as one who though a stranger is grateful to you, & has the right of esteeming you though unseen by your eyes ... will you permit me to remain

Very truly yours always
Elizabeth Barrett Barrett



Miss Barrett’s handwriting is difficult to read, and with some idiosyncracies. For example, she generally does not fully write out “the,” often leaving what looks merely like “th,” without a final “e.” At various points, Miss Barrett uses two dots, which in this presentation have been interpreted as dashes. In the final paragraph, following the word “eyes,” she gives three dots, which could represent ellipses, but which have also been interpreted as a dash (as Harrison also does). What appears to be the phrase “of a creative”s is heavily scratched out in the original, with looping marks of the pen. The title of the tale about mesmerism is almost certainly “Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar,” which was not included in the 1845 Tales. In printing this letter, Harrison inserts that suggestion directly in the text, as if it is part of the original, which it is not. In writing “express” and “possessing,” Miss Barrett uses the old-fashioned long-s.


[S:1 - photograph of the MS, 1846] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Misc - Letters - E. B. Barrett to Poe (RCL630)