Text: Horace Greeley (???), “Review of Poe’s Lecture on the Poets and Poetry of America,” New-York Daily Tribune, vol. IV. No. 280 (whole no. 1211), March 1, 1845, p. 2, col. 4


[page 2, col. 4, continued:]

☞ EDGAR A. POE delivered a remarkable Lecture on American Poets and Poetry last evening, at the Society Library. It embodied much acute and fearless criticism, with some that did not strike us so favorably. The worst portion of the Lecture was the introduction, wherein Mr. P. indulged in indiscriminate and often unjust censure on whatever has hitherto aspired to be criticism in this Country, whether in the shape of Reviews, Magazines or Newspapers. We do not believe there is more puffery or less honest criticism here than elsewhere, and we believe that no intellignet person can fail to imbibe a pretty accurate notion of the merits of a new work from reading the notices of it in the current periodicals. Mr. Poe indulged in considerable small smartness on the character of our average criticism, and still more pointedly with reference to the Transcendentalists, so styled, whom he assailed with a coarse vulgarity quite out of place in such a Lecture. But what he said of American Poetry, his proper theme, was generally well said, and was very direct and hearty. We object to his intimation that Sprague, and his broad assertion that Longfellow is a plagiarist. Of all critical cant, this hunting after coincidence of idea or phrase, often unavoidable, between authors, is the least endurable. It would be surprising that a poem in structure and scope like ‘Curiosity’ should not remind the reader of Pope, or that passages resembling some of Longfellow’s might not be found in other Poems. On Bryant, Halleck, Dana, and Mrs. Osgood, Mr. P. discoursed satisfactorily, but we do think his quarter of an hour employed in demolishing the Poetical reputation of the Misses Davidson might have been better bestowed. The kind of things said of those sisters have had their day and answered their end; there can be no need now of telling the world that neither of them was a rare poet.

Mr. Poe writes better than he reads. His Lecture gained nothing from the graces of his elocution, and in one or two instances we thought the Poets suffered more from his recitation of their verses than from his most savage criticism. “Florence Vane” was especially ill done. And this reminds us that Mr. P. closed with three citations — “Unseen Spirits” by Willis, “Florence Vane,” (two admirable poems) and a “Heavenly” something by Dr. Thomas Holley Chivers, which seemed to us very middling sing song. As the latter was so prefaced as to show that the lecturer considered it a genuine poem, we must say that our estimate of his critical appreciation of Poetry was considerably let down by it.

— We are rather ashamed to add that this Lecture by a Poet and critic of genius and established reputation, was listened to but by some three hundred of our four hundred thousand people. Any dancing dog or summerseting monkey would have drawn a larger house. Why is this? Have we no taste? Merely as a source of information with regard to our National Poetry, the bare announcement should have sufficed to crown the house. — Shall we not have a repetition?




The poem “Florence Vane” was by Philip Pendleton Cooke. The poem by Thomas Holley Chivers, described as a “Heavenly something” was “The Heavenly Vision.”


[S:0 - NYDT, 1845] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Bookshelf - Review Poe's Lecture on the Poets and Poetry of America (H. Greeley, 1845)