Text: Edgar A. Poe (???), “Mr. Poe's Autography,” Public Ledger and Daily Transcript (Philadelphia, PA), vol. XII, no. 82, December 23, 1841, p. 2, col. 3


[page 2, column 3:]

MR. POE'S AUTOGRAPHY. — We have been much amused recently, by the attacks made in the Boston Times upon a “Chapter on Autography,” which appeared in the last number of Graham's Magazine. We were partly inclined to laugh with the Times at some of its comments, which we thought were very justly applied; but its ludicrous blunder, and the prejudice in which its pen was evidently dipped when writing of Mr. Poe, overcame the inclination, and converted the laugh of approbation into one of darkness. We heartily disapprove of the practice so common in the press, of suffering personal feeling to sway the opinions of its editors, and therefore condemn the attempt in the Chapter on Autography, no doubt by friendly motives to give a literary notoriety, by classing their names among the literati of the land, to persons who never had any claims to such distinction, except such as they derived from their over absurd pretensions. While we condemn this in the article alluded to we must also accord to Mr. Poe ths merit of having frankly expressed his opinion in respect to the literary character of the writers who are included in his list. It was, no doubt, a very bold step to comment, under his own name, upon the merits and demerits of no less than one hundred and nine of the chief literary lions, not including the asses, of America. The wonder is, not that one or two papers should dissent from a portion of his views, but that, of the vast number which have mentioned the articles in question, there should have been so mere than one or two who have mentioned them with disapprobation. Let any man attempt to express a fearless opinion of one hundred individuals whose interests are so mixed up with those of the press as are the subjects of this “Autography.”and see what will be the result in his own case. In praising Mr. Irving or Mr. Longfellow, he will run foul of the jealousy of Mr. McDonald Clarke, or Spoons, or Orator Emmons; and in condemning Mr. Thingumbob. he will encounter the contemptuous displeasure of Mr. Thingumbob's ninety-nine disciples; not to speak of Mr. Thingumbob's wife and children.

The Times taken in sober earnest what every body but itself has understood to be at least half meant in jest — we mean the idea of deducing character from penmanship. It accuses Mr. Poe of omitting sundry names, when it is obviously impossible that it should know whether it was in Mr. P's power to procure those names, and when, moreover, it has evidently not seen a chapter on the subject, in which the missing names may, perhaps, be discovered. It charges Mr. P., also, with attempting to assume a censorship over all American literature. How a man can attempt to assume a censorship of this kind, we are at a less to understand. Mr. P does no more than every one has a right to do, who is willing to assume the responsibility of his actions, or words. He simply expresses his opinions, and these opinions no man is bound to adopt. That they are truly honest we believe; and no one has given more constant evidence of impartiality in criticism then himself.

But we can scarcely say so much of the paper which accuses him. It has repeatedly shown a determination to speak ill of Mr. Poe under any and every pretence, without much regard even to consistency. Upon the publication of his “Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque,’‘ about two years ago. it spoke of them (in the face of the very highest and most general testimony in their favor) as “a mass of nonsensical trash;” in the very same number of the paper applying similar words to the magnificent poems of Longfellow. It was nothing to the point io question — (or rather Mr. Cabbage who does the criticism for that print during the occasional absence of its gentlemanly and able editor,) it was nothing, we say, that almost every noted literary person in America had under their own names borne testimony to the unusual merit of these tales; it was nothing that Mr. Willis, Mr. Irving, Mr. Longfellow, Mr. Kennedy, Mr. Neal, Mr. Benjamin, Mr. Anthon, and a host of others, with every paper of note in the country, have spoken of them in terms which have seldom if ever been applied to any American publication; all this was nothing to our Boston commentator It was nothing, for example, that Mr. Irvin [[Irving]] speaks of “the graphic effect” of the tales as “powerful,” or that Mr. Paulding terms their author “the best of all our young writers and possibly of all our old ones;” all this was nothing. Mr. Cabbage had yet to decide upon their merits: and. in the same breath in which he styles Mr. Longfellow an ass, he dubs Mr. Poe a blockhead. This is refreshing — to say no more.

But we presume Mr. Cabbage calls this, and really thinks it, independence. It was independent, too, after thus abusing these Tales, and after “Bentley's Miscellany’‘ had, in its peculiar fashion, appropriated one of the number (“The House of Usher”) to its own use, publishing it without the author's name, and as original: it was independent, we say, and, moreover, it was consistent in the Boston print, is select this very tale for republication in its own columns!

But the best of the joke remains. The paper in question is vehemently indignant with Mr. Poe for some apparently hostile remarks against the “Southern Messenger.” Of this journal Mr. P. is a warm advocate and fast friend. It has, moreover, always maintained the most friendly relations with Mr. P. The gentleman referred to as having vituperated Dickens has long ceased to write for its pages; and, lastly, the autograph article which originally appeared in the “Messenger” and Mr. Poe's severe criticisms against which have aroused the zealous ire of Mr. Cabbage, was written by no other individual than Mr. Edgar A. Poe himself! Mr. Roberts should show Mr. Cabbage the door.



This review was discovered, and first given as likely by Poe, by Kent P. Ljungquist in American Periodicals, vol. 2, Fall 1992, pp. 51-63


[S:0 - PLADT, 1841] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Bookshelf - Review of a Chapter on Autography (Edgar A. Poe (???), 1841)