Text: Anonymous, “The Literati,” Public Ledger and Daily Transcript (Philadelphia), vol. XXIX, no. 150, September 16, 1850, p. 2, middle of column 1


[page 2, column 1, continued:]

THE LITERATI. — A volume with this title, being the third volume of Poe’s Works, has been published in New York, and is for sale by Zieber. This volume is filled principally with criticisms by Poe, or rather remarks by him upon writers of the present day; some of which comments are distinguished for most objectionable personality, and evidently written to gratify some merely personal pique. Why the editor should deem it necessary to republish these things we cannot say, unless it is for the purpose of justifying his sketch of the author, which, as a portraiture of character by a “literary executor” is as singular a specimen of biography as one literary friend ever wrote for another. We do not believe that a biographer should always glaze over the faults of the person whose history he writes, but neither should he expose all his foibles, record minutely his weaknesses and exhibit to everybody’s gaze the dark features of his character in such a manner as must necessarily heap infamy upon his memory. Such things may be necessary in the hands of an impartial historian when the object is to paint a moral, and the subject occupies a public position sufficiently exalted to serve as an example; but one who is only known to the world by his writings, in which there is nothing immoral or corrupting, however malevolent, is entitled, by the decent respect which is almost universally paid to the dead, to have his private character and personal history protected from unnecessary public exposure, when the effect of such exposure can only be to make his memory execrable. Poe’s character may be all that it is represented in the sketch of his life — the letters and other evidences which his biographer gives, are tolerably strong proofs of the fact — but the error is in their publication. They can answer no good purpose that we can see, and are not necessary to illustrate the capacities or the genius of the man, the only qualities to which an author owes his reputation, and with which the public have any concern. The opinions of the biographer upon the literary works of the deceased author are unobjectionable. They are candidly given, and are generally just, exhibiting nice critical acumen and good judgment in literary matters.




This review is in regard to volume 3 of The Works of the Late Edgar Allan Poe. The author may be William Moseley Swain (1809-1868), who was an editor of the Public Ledger prior to its sale to George W. Childs and Anthony J. Drexel in December 1864.

The Poe Society is grateful to Dr. Richard Fusco for generously taking the time to seek out and send a copy of the article from microfilm at the Philadelphia Free Public Library. Some problems with the microfilm around the fold of the original newspaper has necessitated that some text in the final sentence are taken from a reprint of the article in Littell’s Living Age, vol. XXVII, no. 341, November 1850, p. 431, col. 1.



[S:1 - PPLDT, 1850] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Bookshelf - Edgar Allan Poe (Anon, 1850)