Text: George W. Eveleth to Edgar Allan Poe — January 19, 1847


Perusing your Tales, Poems, Criticisms etc. I set you down a man of mighty intellect, and possessed of a soul which might almost claim kindred with the disembodied spirits of heaven, but wanting somewhat — considerably perhaps — in heart, “that principle in the human breast which constitutes it human — without which man would be a brute or a God — your letter came and I judged you differently. I could call you my friend as well as my favorite author — and I offered up a tribute of thanksgiving that it was permitted me thus to do. I know that it is the truly friendly feeling which you possess, not only from the tone of the letter, but because you have come down so far from your lofty place as to address me in my humble estate, me a poor, unlettered, unknown backwoods youngster. I never hoped to be so favorably noticed by you, and had often feared that you would consider me too presuming for scribbling to you in the manner that I did. It is really a pleasure to me to learn the contrary of this — it will be a pleasure to scribble “more frequently”- three times a pleasure will it be to receive hearty “gossipings” from you in return.

Your letter — I was indeed rejoiced to learn that you had recovered from your illness — and a reason of this rejoicing, though perhaps an unreasonable one, is that the information tended partly to falsify a report which I had seen not long before in a number of the Phil. Sat. E. Post. It was in this wise — “It is said that Edgar A. Poe is lying dangerously ill with the brain fever, and that his wife is in the last stages of consumption — they are without money, and without friends,” etc. — you saw it, I suppose? When I first read it I feared that it contained too much truth, as indeed it did, it appears, for you were sick. But, taking into consideration the misrepresentations an[[d]] excommunications of you at other times by this very sagacious and very upright paper, I thought that it might not be entitled to full credit. No doubt the Post wished the report might be true.

By the way, what about that work on Conchology which the Post  accuses you of purloining from an English author — did you copy it bodily, and put your name to it? If so, it was a “bold step,” and “should be among Mr. Griswold’s “Curiosities of American Literature.”  I wouldn’t wish to encourage plagiarising (Is there any such verb as plagiarise?), but if the act had been mine, I believe I should be proud to have it published to the world. It would show the haughty English that we could borrow as ingeniously (the same kind of ingenuity that Dupin employed in recovering the purloined letter) though we didn’t as often. But it seems strange to me that so daring a deed should have been kept thus secret, and that no more has been said of it since the secret was revealed — will you tell us about it? —

Of plagiarism — the idea touching the subject which you have expressed in your “Opinions” of  James Aldrich is mine also. “What the poet admires does become a portion of his own soul,” whether he find it in a book by a brother or father poet, or in the volume of Nature. His imagination can only combine (footnote to “Opinions” of Willis) — and his productions, however much of originality they may seem to possess, will be but reproductions. Fortunate for him if he reproduce from the Genius who has written the poetry of the flying spheres.

I like your division of intellect, mind, or whatever it may be -into imagination, fancy, fantasy, and humor. It makes it convenient in telling of merit of different kinds. From among your poems I select “The Raven” as a specimen of the fanciful, though occasionally pretty closely verging upon the fantastical, and though in many parts it speaks the pure imagination — for examples of the latter —

“And the silken, sad, uncertain rustling of each purple curtain

Thrilled me filled me with fantastic terrors”

and —

“Then methought the air grew denser, perfumed from an unseen censer

Swung by angels whose faint foot-falls tinkled on the tufted floor.” —

This tinkling business I still consider business done not exactly by the square rule, though I understand your meaning, and though I would by no means like to see it bettered.

Among the other poems are “The Lake —— To ——” “The Valley of Unrest,” and “The Sleeper” which I should put down as especially imaginative. The first mentioned strikes me the most favorably of any of, your youthful pieces, considering its length. “The Sleeper” suits me — inspires me, wouldn’t this be a better term? — beyond any thing I have read of yours. “It seems the very breathing of a soul from out the ethereal world. But I should hardly as quick think of telling wherein lies its beauty, as of telling in what consists that of ocean murmurs or the sighing of the wind among pine-leaves, or of the “last quiver of a bell that dies we know not where.”  There is beauty in these to me. Indeed, it appears to me that only in such as these, the sad, the dreamy, the vague, the far-away — seeming as if just passing the confines of earth to loose itself in heaven — it appears to me that in such alone can be found the beauty with which poetry has to do.

I think it must be this kind of beauty that you have reference to when, you say —”The sole object of the poem is the creation of Beauty.” I like this definition of poetry better than any I have seen by another; still I think it not just the one we ought to have. It is too broad. It cannot be generally comprehended, or, rather, it comprehends too much, regarded by the intellect of the multitude. They would lay claim to the divine title on the production of mere earthly beauty — that of an elegantly fitting coat, or of a pretty doll. It seems to comprehend not enough, looked at with the mind’s eye of Mr. Lowell (Biographical notice of yourself in “Graham” — disagrees with you somewhat, and has something to say about the Goddess of Song’s being accessible to all who bring offerings unto her.). If he understood it as I think you intended it to be understood, he would find that it embraced all he would be willing to call poetry. What has power to stir the soul — not the intellect, nor the passions (none the less my idea -this of the soul’s being separate — if you have expressed a similar one) — whether it be a song or a prayer or the trembling of a harp-string, creates beauty, and may safely be passed as the true coin of poetry. (Quite a task, isn’t there? imposed upon that nominative- to bring up the rear over dashes and among parentheses and against the tails of commas manifold and multiform, “so as to “govern its verb in number and person”). I would like to see, one of these days, this idea about Beauty — its being “not a quality, but an effect, a pure elevation of soul” — carried out more fully — give us “An Essay on Poetry,” which you never have given, I believe? Tell us something concerning the nature of the soul (I like your train of thought in the “Mesmeric Revelations”), how most easily wrought upon, through what medium, whether through sight, sound, feeling; taste, or smell — sound, you think (”music comes nearest the language which speaks to the soul of heaven” — an idea something like this -Review of “Orion,” I believe it is in). Through sound I too say, and, I am half inclined to add, through sound alone. What but sound is it that vibrates in the atmosphere of the soul when reading a poem such as Lowell’s “Rosaline,” or his “Farewell” — (I never have seen a word in praise of this latter, but it seems to me that it would be difficult to find many more beautiful things.)? What but sounds, sweeter than ever rose from the viol or flute, are those “psychal impressions”? (”Maginalia” — Graham’s Mag. for March/46) By the way what do you expect to do with those communings of the soul with its kindred “spirit”

“From the wild weird clime that lieth, sublime,

Out of Space — out of Time”?

It appears to me that you can make no more of them than you could of the breathing of a sea-shell — I am curious to know what kind of a paper you can write upon the subject. When is it going to appear? .

But, your letter — you give me credit for more discrimination than I am entitled to — to more than I claim for myself. As I said before, I think I can feel poetry, — perhaps I should say, I can hear it, carrying out the idea I have advanced above -and this is all the power of discriminating that I wish to have put to my credit. Amost [[almost]] anyone possessing a soul accustomed to reading and thinking somewhat can claim as” great a power. I thank you, nevertheless, for your compliment, and take it as sincerely given.

I supposed there was no more of “Politian” yet it appeared to me that it broke off rather short for a grammatical piece — It seems as though the whole story ought to be told in such.

I didn’t suppose that you wrote the criticism itself on Shelley. By the way the notice was given in the Mirror, I judged that Godwin gave the criticism, which was itself written upon by another. I still think it was so, for the Mirror spoke after this fashion — “When we can sustain a sober sound Review in this country, this writer and E. P. Whipple will be the best to manage its critical department” — (not so bungling as this, I hope, but you will get the meaning even from this, and I can’t stop to be particular, for the mail is being made up, and I wish to get this budget of scribbling into it before it is closed). Now I supposed this writer must be one of ours. Mr. Godwin is an Englishman, isn’t he?

How long before the book will be published and the Stylus started? I am eager to see them. What is to be the character of the Stylus, and who are to be contributors to it? I hope Hawthorne, Lowell, Miss Fuller, T. Buchanan Read, R. A. Locke, Wm. Kirkland, and John Neal will be among them. The notice of Hawthorne didn’t appear in the January “Godey” it seems. Of course there was some reason for the failure. I shall be glad to receive “The Rationale of Verse,” and to give my poor opinion of its merits. It is a fact, I like to see your “usings up” of those “Pundits,” still I should advise you not to nettle them too much — let not prejudice speak too often and too loudly. It will only create you enemies, where if it were otherwise, you would make admirers and friends. You will say, doubtless, that you ask not the good graces of the little things; still you must be aware that these j are necessary to you. These are the dispensers of your destiny in a great measure. Quacks, you know bear rule in this country. —

Tell us the truth about your “Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar.” My organ of Marvelousness is so fully developed that I am inclined to believe almost any thing that can bring reason to bear in the finishing, though the starting be unsupported by good evidence. But the starting here does have evidence of its truth — that one can be put into the mesmeric sleep under certain circumstances there are too many reliable witnesses for me to gainsay it.! Admitting this, then — that the sleep can be produced so that the body will lose all sensation — etc. etc. etc. — it is not so hard to believe the rest. The I crumbling, rotting away into a loathsome liquid so soon after the removal of the magnetic fluid (if it be this) looks like a big one — but in Bell’s Anatomy page 245, I find the following (the Author is speaking of the life of the muscles) — “for the moment this lingering portion of life is gone the body dissolves and falls down — .” Now, why couldn’t it be that there was virtue in the magnetism to preserve this life of the muscles after the life of the nerves had become extinct, after the mind had gone out — and that your mind had somehow or other taken the place of his, and was that which spoke? — in short why couldn’t it be that a portion of the life of your body had been conveyed into his, and that a portion of your mind had become infused into the place of his? I think it is in some such way as this that Mermerism must be accounted for. This is the manner in which I have argued (or talked) about the “Facts” with those that have spoken to me upon the subject — and I have strenuously held that it was true. But I tell you that I strongly suspect it for a hoax in spite of its ingenious management, and of its coloring of truth. If you tell me, in confidence, about it, I shall believe it, let it come on which side it may. — The Balloon Hoax Ive [[I’ve]] seen mention of, and heard it said that you were its author — You were, were you? I have not seen it. — What English Journals have you written articles for — and on what topics were those articles and for what French publications — and on what subjects?

I think your “Opinions” of Willis are correct, his friend Morris’ “say”, to the contrary notwithstanding — there is evidence in almost every thing he does of his propensity to “push” himself, though there does not seem to be any design in his pushing — it seems to be done, as it were, by accident. — I have got Hawthorne’s “Mosses” and I like them. — I have just received, too, Miss Fuller’s “Papers” but haven’t had time to read them as yet. —

Here’s the letter slovenly enough, and long enough! — I’ll try to do better next time.

Yours most respectfully
Geo W. Eveleth

24 Phillips  Tuesday eve. — Jan. 19.



Endorsed Phillips Me. 1 10 Jan’y 20 Edgar A Poe Esquire City New-York New-York


[S:0 - MS, 18xx] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Misc - Letters - G. W. Eveleth to Poe (RCL668)