Text: William Gilmore Simms, “[Review of Poe's Tales],” Southern and Western Magazine (Charleston, SC), vol. II, no. 6, December 1845, pp. 426-427


[page 426:]

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We owe to Wiley & Putnam, a great many very excellent books, apart from the very popular library which is now distinguished by their name. This library is edited by Mr. Evert A. Duyckinck, a gentleman of extensive belles lettres reading, of a correct taste, and a genial sympathy with the delicate and the graceful in authorship. He has himself written numerous essays which evince a correct judgement, and, by his writings in “Arctucus,” won high credit where that work was received, for the possession of these characteristics. Thus far, the excellence of his selections in the “Library of Choice Literature,” is conclusively shown by their sudden, and, to the publishers, surprising circulation. Of these collections, we have had frequent occasion to speak in previous pages. [[. . .] [page 427:] [[. . .]] Of the two first of these issues, the Letters of Mr. Headley from Italy, and the Journal of an African Cruiser, edited by Mr. Hawthorne, we have already spoken. Since then, we have read with delight the fine artistic stories of Mr. Edgar A. Poe, — a writer of rare imaginative excellence, great intensity of mood, and a singularly mathematic directness of purpose, and searching analysis, by which the moral and spiritual are evolved with a progress as symmetrical, and as duly dependent in their data and criteria, as any subject matter however inevitable, belonging to the fixed sciences. Certainly, nothing more original, of their kind, has ever been given to the American reader. Mr. Poe is a mystic, and rises constantly into an atmosphere which as continually loses him the sympathy of the unimaginative reader. But, for those who can go with him without scruple to the elevation to which his visions are summoned, and from which they may all be beheld, he is an acknowledged master — a Prospero, whose wand is one of wonderful properties. That he has faults, are beyond question, and some very serious ones, but these are such only as will be insisted upon by those who regard mere popularity as the leading object of art and fiction. At a period of greater space and leisure, we propose to subject the writings of Mr. Poe, with which we have been more or less familiar for several years, to a close and searching criticism. He is one of those writers of peculiar idiosyncrasies, strongly marked and singularly original, whom it must be of general service to analyse with justice and circumspection. We must content ourselves here, with simply regretting that, in the first tale of this collection, he has been so grievously regardless of the geographical peculiarities of his locale. It is fatal to the success of the tale, in the mind of him who reads only for the story's sake, to offend his experience in any thing that [page 427:] concerns the scene of action. Every Charlestonian, for example, who does not see that the writer is aiming at nothing more than an ingenious solution of what might be held as a strange cryptographical difficulty, will be revolted when required to believe in the rocks and highlands in and about Sullivan's Island. This is a small matter, it is true — Mr. Poe had only to change the scene of his action to more suitable regions, and all would have been right: — but this allowance is never made by a certain class of readers. To show them that you err in one respect, however unimportant to action and the interest, and you afford them a privilege of which they never hesitate to avail themselves. Sure of your weak point, they infer the rest, and away with your fiction, as they would with an ingenious puzzle, the key to which is already within their keeping. [[. . .]]







[S:0 - NYEM, 1845] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Bookshelf - Review of The Raven and Other Poems (W. G. Simms, 1845)