Text: Cornelia Wells Walter, “A Failure,” Daily Evening Transcript (Boston, MA), October 17, 1845, p. 2, col. 1


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A FAILURE. The anniversary exercises before the Boston Lyceum last evening were heavy and uninteresting, and illy adapted to an introductory to a course of lectures. Mr Cushing's address was one long laudation upon America at the expense of Great Britain — a composition that seemed written rather for popular effect, than for the influence of sound judgment or the development of that high moral tone which should ever characterize all public exercises having form their theme any subject of national importance.

The address had been announced in the papers “to be followed by A POEM,” and, when the orator had concluded, an officer of the society introduced to the assembly a gentleman, who, as we understood him to say, possessed a raven-ous desire to be known as the author of a particular piece of poetry on a celebrated croaking bird well known to ornithologists. The poet immediately arose; but if he uttered poesy in the first instance, it was certainly of the most prosaic order. The audience listened in amazement to a singularly didactic exordium, and finally commenced the noisy expedient of removing from the hall, and this long before they had discovered the style of the measure, or whether it was rhythm or blank verse. We believe, however, it was a prose introductory to a poem on the “Star discovered by Tycho Brahe,” considered figuratively as the “Messenger of the Deity,” out of which idea Edgar A. Poe had constructed a sentimental and imaginative poem. The audience now thinned so rapidly and made so much commotion in their departure that we lost the beauties of the composition. We heard the prefatory exordium, however, (which we took to be in prose) and our thoughts ran as follows.

‘Twixt truth and poesy they say there is a mighty schism

I’d like to be a moral man, and preach “didacticism” —

But as truth and taste do not agree and I do surely know it,

Let truth and morals go and be a critic and a poet!

As in some “lower deeps” their lies another deep, so one poem was found to involve another last evening. The “Star discovered by Tycho Brahe” was no sooner out of sight, than the terrestrials who had watched its disappearance and were about to follow the same course, were officially urged to a further delay, and another small poem succeeded. This was “The Raven” — a composition probably better appreciated by its author than by his auditory, and which has already gone the rounds of the press, followed by a most felicitous, parody from another source. The parody, however, had not been announced as “part of the entertainment,” and was “unavoidably omitted.”

We are sorry to record a failure in these opening exercises of the Lyceum, though if the expression should seem to severe, we will retract the application and announce only a ‘suspension’ — a suspension of interest merely, until the next lecture by Henry Norman Hudson.







[S:0 - DET, 1845] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Bookshelf - A Failure (C. W. Walter, 1845)