Text: “Edgar Allan Poe,” Richmond Enquirer (Richmond, VA), vol. LIII, no. 61, November 25, 1856, p. 2


[page 2, column 6:]


[From the Springfield Argus.]

Will the small critics never have done mumbling over the remains of a child of genius, who, years since has

“Gone before

To that unseen and silent shore,”

Where, we believe, equal and exact justice is done to all! It seems as if the envious crew who persecuted Edgar A. Poe while living, could not be contented to let him rest in his nameless grave, in the Potter’s Field at Baltimore.* It is not enough that Willis and Griswold, to whom the generous task of literary executors was committed, should have pilloried in his own works the gifted man, against whom they would not have dared to write a strong while living? Must a whole drove of asses be allowed to invade the cemetery in order to kick the dead lion? So it seems — Years cannot pail the infinite variety of abuse which is poured upon the memory of a gifted poet, whose chief faults were an exquisite sensibility, temper high saw around him, and a soul too deep for the common-place grubbers in the field of literature to understand. These all envied him the ease with which he made the most splendid flights, or with the fleetness and grace of an antelope sped by them as they painfully plodded along. There were but very few of his literary contemporaries besides, who had not, at some time, felt the caustic points of his critical pen, and no one forgot the pain of his terrible onslaught. Bardlings and reviewers alike failed to escape impalement; and many a pretentious poet or arrogant critic went upon Poe’s dissecting table only to come off after his thorough surgery had amputated all wen-like exerescenses.

The envious clique who controlled the North American Review, in particular, often came under Poe’s lashing criticisms. These gentlemen, it appears, still retain a smarting remembrance of the circumstance which, we now recall. We do not see the Review, and, in fact, were hardly aware, that its very tedious and respectable existence was still prolonged; but a very near contemporary has trust under our eyes an extract taken from a late number of that periodical, precisely of the character we should have expected from it, had we expected anything. In this extract the reviewer has the refreshing impudence to designate N. P. Willis as Mr. Poe’s “champion,” galvanizes the poet’s corpse in order to put him in the prisoner’s box, and then reads a long indicted against him, filled with bitter personal abuse, harsh epithets, and old whispered slanders. Save us from the championship of N. P. Willis, if his “execution” of Poe’s literary bequest can be called such! How very magnanimous it was in the dapper and natty Mr. Willis to pronounce that “there was goodness in Edgar A. Poe!” How kind thus to face the stern judgement of this world in defence of a friend! Can we sufficiently admire the generosity which prompted the rendering of such lofty and impartial justice by one who stood on an eminence so much above our poet, after he was dead! We fear not. Indeed, it surpasses our power, and exhausts our appreciation of the sublime.

Let us make no complaint that Poe’s literary efforts are subjected to criticism. When this writer asserts, however, that they poet “failed to make friends of his readers,” he claims quite too broad a jurisdiction over the sphere in which Mr. Poe moved and wrote. It is true of a part, but it is not true of the whole. Poe wrote for a small class of readers, certainly, and was never exactly what is meant by the term — popular poet. Burns and Barry Cornwall have ten thousand admirers and friends where Poe has one. That proves that their sympathies were with the masses, and that they wrote the poetry of the heart. It does not prove, however, that Poe’s compositions were any the less beautiful and true. Reflect how few even of educated persons fully understand the sublime splendors of astronomy, and how far off from popular appreciation are its grand results. Poe was a Newton in the realm of poetry, and those who have studied deeply the rolling spheres, can understand the enthusiasm which his splendid flight-awakened in the bosoms of hundred of his admirers. The music of his rythm, too, was an exquisit charm; and the cold, pale lights of the aurora borealis are not more chaste than his fancy was.

Let us suppose, however, that it was equally devoid of warmth. There are several little pieces of his which fill the soul with tenderest visions. We do not envy the man who can declare, as this writer does, that, “rather than remember all, we would choose to forget all that he was written.” We at once turn his legal phraseology upon himself, and pronounce him an incompetent witness in the case. Call the friends of Mr. Poe, and let us tell the North American Review that he had friends, personally unknown to him, who mourned him as a brother when he died — friends who knew him through his writings only, and yet who loved him well, and deeply.

It has been Poe’s fate, however, to be left, since his death, entirely in the hands of his enemies.

Did we feel competent, we should ourselves undertake the task of doing him justice; and it has long been our earnest wish that some friend to his memory would erect a monument over his remains — not like that of his literary executors, which makes a minute catalogue of his vices, and faintly adds, “There was goodness in him” — but one that shall bring out his admirable qualities, and only add that, like other men he had faults.


* Our Springfield cotemporary is doubtless mistaken as to Poe’s burial place. The clergyman (Dr. Snodgrass) who attended Poe in his last sickness, says that the remains of the author of “The Raven” do not lie mouldering in a corner of Potter’s Field, of Baltimore. He was interred in an old Presbyterian burying ground in Green street, which has not been used much for many years. — On a portion of it his church has since been erected, but not over the grave. In the removal of the dead, which will sooner or later take place, it is quite probable that the bones of “Poor Poe:” will be collected among the remains of one friendless and unknown, and removed beyond recognition, for nothing but a couple of pine boards were placed at his grave, in lieu of grave stones. — [Hartford Times.




The present article was brought to the attention of the Poe Society by Ton Fafianie, in an e-mail dated December 13, 2019.

The Springfield Daily Argus was a short-lived newspaper published in Springfield, MA. It started in 1856 and ceased in 1857. The Hartford Times was the Hartford Weekly Times, published in Hartford, CT. The issues from which this article was reprinted have not been located.

The article by Willis noted is “Letter from Idlewild,” Home Journal (New York, NY), series for 1856, no. 42, October 18, 1856. The article in the North American Review was a Review of The Works of the Late Edgar Allan Poe, North American Review (Boston, MA), vol. 83, whole no. 173, October 1856.



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