Text: George W. Childs, “Edgar Allan Poe,” Public Ledger (Philadelphia), vol. LXXXX, no. 50, Supplement, November 27, 1875, p. 1, top of col. 3



The Baltimore monument to Edgar Allan Poe, and the ceremonies which accompanied the unveiling of the marble, have invited new attention to his literary merits and his personal character. Of the former it is not the purpose of this article to speak. There are sentences, however, in the letters received from persons invited to be present, but unable to attend, which both mark appreciation of the genius of the poet and give a sufficient reason for the erection of this tribute to his memory. Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes writes: “He who can confer an immortality which will outlast bronze and granite deserves this poor tribute, not so much for his sake as for ours. The hearts of all who can reverence the inspiration of genius, who can look tenderly upon the infirmities attending it too often, who can feel for its misfortunes, will sympathize with you as you gather round the resting place of all that was mortal of Edgar Allan Poe, and raise the stone inscribed with one of the few names which will outlive the graven record raised to perpetuate its remembrance.” Whittier, the Quaker poet, and among “the noblest singers of them all,” says: “As a matter of principle I do not favor ostentatious monuments to the dead, but sometimes it seems the only way to express the appreciation which circumstances may have denied to the living man.”

Another invited guest writes,”What is now being done by affectionate friends and by those who feel that injustice has been done to his memory may prove to be the starting point of a changed and juster view of his character.” To express that appreciation and to lead to a juster view of the poet’s character is the motive of the monument, and, in a subsidiary way, is the motive of this article. Once before the Ledger has sought to vindicate the personal character of Poe from exaggerated blame; and some of the publications which the erection of the monument has called forth seem to require a renewal of the protest against over-charged censure. He has been dead over twenty-five years, and the writers of these unfriendly criticisms cannot be actuated now by personal feeling. There appears to be in the world a very mischievous notion, that the fire of poetical genius is of a phosphorescent character, and that its light must originate from doubtful sources to say the least. Hence, whatever infirmities any poet may have had are exaggerated, partly as a foil to the brilliance of his utterances, and partly as au evidence that the light is of that illusive resplendence which can come only from an unwholesome condition of the mind. It is time this wrong impression were banished. In reference to the immediate subject, the writer of this article, who was in the habit of meeting Edgar Poe, and at some periods frequently, during several years, never saw in his conduct any indication that he was not master of himself; in his manners, anything unbecoming a gentleman; or in his appearance any trace of personal neglect. His face often indicated pre-occupation of mind, but no selfish considerations made him indifferent to what was due to others. In his business transactions his methods were usually exact, as Mr. Godey, of the Magazine, and other gentlemen, testify. The hard judgment which is based upon the exceptions in his life seems, therefore, to do great injustice to Poe’s general character as a man of letters and a gentleman. His letters were often playful, and always readable. And as to his dreadful criticisms, of which we hear so much, the personal animus of Poe was about as ferocious as that of a tilting knight in a Virginia tournament. We have known instances in which the subjects of his critiques were at first considerably vexed, and then laughed at themselves for getting vexed at such harmless comments. Poe, as a critic, was not always judicious, but was generally earnest and honest. His praise was seldom prompted by friendship or offered as a purchase for favor; and his blame was as free from personal enmity. We cannot recall an instance where it was applied where the victim could not defend himself. So much could not be said of the dicta of the voluminous compiler, Rufus W. Griswold. And from Griswold’s ungenerous and ungrateful — not to say mendacious — biography prefixed to a posthumous edition of Poe’s works, the world’s unjust estimation of this man has been mainly drawn.



The article is anonymous, but the personal reference strongly implies that the author was George William Childs (1829-1894), who was the publisher of the newspaper and had been acquainted with Poe. Childs also took particular interest in the new monument to Poe, himself contributing about half of the funds necessary for its creation.

The earlier defense mentioned above is probably the review of volume 3 of The Works of the Late Edgar Allan Poe, where Griswold’s memoir of Poe first appeared. The review was printed in the Public Ledger, September 16, 1850.


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