Text: Henry B. Hirst, “Edgar Allan Poe,” McMakin’s Model American Courier, vol. XIX, no. 33 (whole no. 969), October 20, 1849, p. 2, cols. 3-4


[page 2, column 3, continued:]


We had just sat down to pen a notice of EDGAR ALLAN POE, when we received the following communication from one who knew the Poet better than ourself. The initials at the foot mark the writer as the successful author of “Endymion,” “Penance of Roland,” &c.[[,]] &c. We gladly present our readers with Mr. Hirst’s recollections of poor Poe, whose brilliant but erratic genius always commanded our admiration. He knew him well, and in those things in which he was little known by the world. Such a tribute to the deceased, from such a man and such a pen, has something in it which speaks volumes in favor of the “mystic tie” which unites the brotherhood of song.



EDGAR A. POE is no more. We knew him well, perhaps better than any other man living; and loved him, despite his infirmities. He was a man of great and original genius, but the sublime afflatus, which lifted him above his fellows, made him a shining mark for the covert as well as open attacks of literary rivals, and, alas! That it should be so, eventually proved his ruin. So much we gather from the unwritten history of his latter years. His was a life of strange vicissitudes. His father and mother, while he was yet an infant, died within a few weeks of each other, of consumption. He was adopted by Mr. Richard [[John]] Allan, a wealthy gentleman, almost a millionaire, of Richmond, Virginia, who at once announced his intention of educating him as his heir. Mr. Allan took him with him to England, and he received his first rudiments of his fine classical education at Stoke Newington, near London. The Rev. Dr. Bransby was his tutor. Dr. Bransby’s school is very forcibly described in “William Wilson,” one of Mr. Poe’s most powerful stories. He subsequently returned to America, and passed some time at the Jefferson University, in Virginia. He graduated, although a careless student, with the first honors. His life, at that institution, was full of romance. At even-fall he wandered away among the mountains, seeking inspiration:

“In silence, desolation and dim night.”

During the day, frequently for weeks together, he passed his hours in studies which were only pursued in chambers litten with sepulchral lamps, of various-colored chemical fires, which he afterward described in that spirit-haunted apartment of the Lady Rowna of Tremaine, in his terribly imaginative tale of “Ligeia.” He was a poet at the age of twelve, and some of his finest still-existing poems were written at that time.

Shortly after he left college, owing to some pecuniary difficulties with Mr. Allan, he ran off on an expedition to join the Greeks, who were then struggling for their liberty, and actually made his way as far as St. Petersburg, in which place he again became involved in difficulties. He was sent back by the American Consul. On his return home, he found Mr. Allan married to a young wife. The old gentleman was then 65 years of age. Much against his inclination he went to West Point, to which place he was recommended by General Scott. Mr. Allan became the father of a son. Young Poe at once saw that all his hope of fortune had fallen to the ground, and wrote for leave to resign. It was refused. He applied to General Scott, who seconded Mr. Allan. Poe then refused to perform any duty, and covered the walls of the institution with pasquinades on the professors. One, Mr. Joe Locke, was particularly obnoxious to the students, and he became the principal victim. Mr. Locke was rather a Martinet; he never failed to appear on the parade ground, and he invariably reported a delinquent. A report, at West Point, is a matter of no small moment, for whenever the bad marks amount to a certain number, we forget what it is, charges are preferred against the cadet, the consequences of which are expulsion. We quote one of these satires from memory:

John Locke is a notable name,

Joe Locke is a greater in short,

The former was well known to fame,

But the latter’s well known to ‘report.”


“As for Locke — he is ‘all in my eye,’

May the devil right soon for his soul call,

He never was known to lie

In bed, at a reveille roll call.”

Ridicule is a weapon few can withstand, and the affair ended in the way Mr. Poe wished. Charges were preferred against him, the specifications amounting to 152 in number. He at once pleaded guilty, and left the Institution. Mr. Allan instantly abandoned his protege, and Poe was left penniless. Mr. A. soon after died, and without a reconciliation.

Mr. Poe, bankrupt in every thing except genius, entered the arena of authorship. Some time after, in 1831, the proprietor of a literary weekly paper, in Baltimore, offered two premiums, the one for the best prose story, the other for the best poem. Poe entered into the competition, and took both prizes. His “MS. Found in a Bottle,” — such is our recollection — was the tale; the “Coliseum,” the poem. John P. Kennedy, Esq., Author of “Horse Shoe Robinson,” was one of the committee, who unanimously united in publishing a card in the Gazette, expressive of the high sense they entertained of his literary abilities. But Mr. Kennedy did not stop here; he applied to the late Thomas W. White, who was then engaged in publishing the “Southern Literary Messenger,” and Mr. W. immediately wrote to Poe, offering him the editorship of that periodical. Poe accepted, and the Messenger, under his care, took the first rank in American literature. He subsequently left Richmond, and came to Philadelphia to take charge of the “Gentleman’s Magazine,” afterwards “Graham’s.” On its being merged with Graham, he assumed the editorship of the latter Monthly, which attained its present unequalled reputation under his care. When his engagement with “Graham’s Magazine” terminated he removed to New York, where he edited, during its brief but brilliant existence, the “Broadway Journal.” Since that time, some two or three years, he has remained unconnected with the press.

Shortly after the decease of his young and beautiful wife, the “Lenore” of his muse, Mr. Poe removed to a little cottage on the banks of the romantic Bronx, in the vicinity of New York, where he supported himself, and his aged mother-in-law, by the occasional use of his brilliant pen. The death of his wife, who was his cousin, and whom he loved from youth, clouded his fine intellect, and he almost sunk under the blow. Adversity hung like a lean and hungry blood-hound on his trail, and he yielded. On a visit to the South, while on his return home, in Baltimore, he succumbed to the destroying angel, and descended into the charnel, there to become prey to the “Conqueror Worm.”

Poe had his faults — who has not his errors? We are none of us infallible, but had his opportunities equaled his genius and his ambition, he would have died an universally esteemed great man. As it is, the world of authors and author-lovers, with some few pitiful exceptions, will mourn a departed brother. His name, under any circumstances, cannot be forgotten. His tales are without existing equals in English literature, and his “Raven,” the personification of his own despair at the loss of his wife, had made him immortal.

Poor Poe! Hour by hour we have listened to his delightful abstractions, poured forth in a voice so remarkable in the peculiarity of the intonation as to incline to the extraordinary in tone. He was unfortunate in every sense of the word. When miserable authors of still more miserable love stories and puling love poems, were winning gold from the Magazines of the day, he was rarely able to “sell an article,” and was always suffering in the iron grasp of penury, and that, too, when the brilliant coruscations of his genius were eagerly sought for by the public in vain. Poe wielded too formidable a pen; he was no time-server, and as a critic he could not, and would not lie.

What he thought he wrote, and, as a consequence, he made enemies, — little carping muck worms in the barnyards of literature, whose very odors offended the nostrils of his genius. But their number was legion — and he was only one. Gulliver was in the hands of the Lilliputians; they triumphed — he fell. Few would imagine his occasional suffering under the awful wrong of undeserved poverty, for Poe was an industrious man, who would and did toil, delving, when his labors were demanded, imperishable gold from the California of his heart — gold which was exchanged for copper in the Jewry of American literature. And with all his talent how little was he understood. We saw him twice and thrice a day, for two years. We sat night by night, a welcome guest at the often meager, but, when fortune smiled on him, the well-filled board: In all that time, in all our acquaintance, we never heard him express the single word of personal ill-feeling against any man, not even in his blackest hours of poverty.

His criticisms of individuals, and they were nervous enough, referred only to their literary merits, and he was always just and always right. Un-amiable he was not; he was otherwise to a fault; and always ready to forget and forgive. But his philippics against pretenders in literature, which he loved as an art, and for its own sweet sake, [column 4:] have been misunderstood; they were the expression of the artist, not the man; the object of them would have found a brother in the individual who, as a critic, would have weeded him from the garden of song with joy that he had done so much toward piercing its parterres. Poor Poe!

H. B. H.


Since the receipt of the above notice, a brilliant, but not altogether just review, of the late Mr. Poe, appeared in the New York Tribune. It contains his last poem, written just before his departure from New York. It was presented in manuscript to the author of the review. It embodies in an eminent degree Mr. Poe’s peculiarities of style. We have italicized one or two very happy lifts of thought. The whole force of the poem depends, it will be seen, upon the refrain.


It was many and many a year ago,

In a kingdom by the sea

That a maiden there lived whom you may know

By the name of ANNABEL LEE;

And this maiden she lived with no other thought

Than to love and be loved by me.


I was a child and she was a child,

In this kingdom by the sea.

But we loved with a love that was more than love —


With a love that the wingëd seraphs of heaven

Coveted her and me.


And this was the reason that, long ago,

In this kingdom by the sea,

A wind blew out of a cloud, chilling

My beautiful ANNABEL LEE;

So that her highborn kinsmen came

And bore her away from me,

To shut her up in a sepulchre

In this kingdom by the sea.


The angels, not half so happy in heaven,

Went envying her and me

Yes! — that was the reason (as all men know,

In this kingdom by the sea)

That the wind came out of the cloud by night,

Chilling and killing my ANNABEL LEE.


But our love it was stronger by far than the love

Of those who were older than we —

Of many far wiser than we —

And neither the angels in heaven above,

Nor the demons down under the sea,

Can ever dissever my soul from the soul

Of the beautiful ANNABEL LEE:


For the moon never beams, without bringing me dreams

Of the beautiful ANNABEL LEE;

And the stars never rise but I feel the bright eyes

Of the beautiful ANNABEL LEE,

And so, all the night-tide, I lie down by the side

Of my darling — my darling — my life and my bride,

In her sepulchre there by the sea —

In her tomb by the sounding sea.



A copy of the original article was graciously provided to the Poe Society by the John Hay Library of Brown University.

In writing this article, Hirst was pretty clearly relying on a copy of the article he had helped Poe prepare for the Saturday Museum (Philadelphia, PA) in 1843. That article included the “Lines on Joe Locke,” repeated in the present article.

The reprint of Poe’s poem “Annabel Lee” is taken from Griswold’s printing in the New York Tribune, although as the article states, Hirst also had a copy of the manuscript, with a few variations. As noted, the editor has added some italics to the text.


[S:0 - MMAC (photograph), 1849] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Bookshelf - Memoir of Edgar A. Poe (H. B. Hirst, 1849)