Text: Francis Gerry Fairfield, “Edgar Allan Poe,” New York Daily Tribune, vol. XXXV, whole no. 10,779, October 18, 1875, p. 2, col. 5


[page 2, column 5, continued:]





To the editor of the Tribune.

SIR: While no one can more thoroughly appreciate the delicacy with which controversy with a lady should be conducted, I must, nevertheless, solicit the opportunity of a brief rejoinder to the communication from “S. H. W.,” printed in to-day’s TRIBUNE concerning the article on Poe. Passing personal matters, it seems clear to me, from my own memoranda, that your correspondent is in error as to the order of Poe’s poems and other literary products. Let me give you a synopsis: “Al Aaraaf, Tamerlane, and Minor Poems, Baltimore, 1829;” “MS. found in a Bottle” took premium in 1833; connected with Southern Literary Messenger from 1835 to 1837; “Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket,” Harper & Brothers, 1838; “Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque,” a collection of scattered magazine stories, Philadelphia, 1840; became editor of Graham’s Magazine, and wrote the “Gold Bug,” the “Murders of the Rue Morgue,” and other singular analytic tales, besides completing a development of the plot of Dickens’s “Barnaby Rudge” for that periodical; removed to New-York in 1844, and was employed by Morris & Willis on The Mirror; “Raven” published in Colton’s Whig Review in February, 1845.

“Annabel Lee” and “The Bells” appear to have been written previous to 1847. The “Fall of the House of Usher” had appeared already, and “Ligeia,” “Morella,” and other psychological tales had been printed. His “Eureka” was delivered as a lecture in 1848. It is words, words, words. Any person who will compare it with the various mesmeric speculations of that day, the prototypes of the literature of modern Spiritualism, will find that it contained scarcely an original thought, although abundant in original expressions. The habit of repetition is one of its peculiar features. The first vestige of Poe’s “Ulalume” I am able to find occurs in The Home Journal, Saturday, Jan. 1, 1848 — the year before his tragic death — under the Willisesque caption of “Epicureanism of Language.” A brief paragraph in the manner of Willis prefaces the ballad, states that it is copied from The American Review, describes it as a poem full of beauty and oddity in sentiment and versification, and inquires, “Who is the author?” The final stanza, elided in the Griswold edition of his poems, is unchanged, and illustrates the vague and empty nature of the poem, and my view of the case more felicitously than all the rest. It runs as follows:

Said we then — the two, then — “Ah, can it

Have been that the woodlandish ghouls —

The pitiful, the merciful ghouls —

To bar up our way and to ban it

From the secret that lies in these wolds —

From the thing that lies hidden in these wolds —

Has drawn up the specter of a planet

From the limbo of lunary souls —

This sinfully scintillant planet

From the Hell of the planetary souls?”

It would require all the poetic insight of a confirmed Spiritualist to find any meaning in this absurd synthesis of sonorous syllables. If your correspondent has such an insight, there is ample verge for exercising it here. As to my own inconsistencies, I shall frankly confess them. Those who know me are well aware that there was a date when my admiration of Poe was rather excessive. But one outgrows some things, and I find myself at 35 denying the jurisdiction of my former gods. The conductor of Scribner’s Monthly, years since, when connected with The Springfield Republican, once returned certain crudities of mine with the remark that “only one man ever wrote in that way, and he was mad.” And having had my attack of Poe fever — and a long one it was — I hope I may be permitted to say that I have recovered, without leaving the delirious ravings of the attack quoted as against my mature and sober opinions. Very respectfully yours, FRANCIS GERRY FAIRFIELD.

New-York, Oct. 13, 1875.






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