Text: Will. O. A., “Edgar Allen [[Allan]] Poe,” Wheeling Daily Register (Wheeling, WV), November 25, 1876, p. 1, cols. 4-5


[page 1, column 4:]

[For the Wheeling Register.]



His Poetical Works and Views — Honor to Whom Honor is Due.




Respectfully inscribed to Miss E. L. S., as a token of early and lasting friendship.

The character and genius of Poe have been variously estimated by the several writers who have written his biography and sketched his life. Had it not been for the energy and effort of a few who intensely admired the immortal poems which he has left behind him, in erecting to his memory and honor the elegant monument in Baltimore, on the 17th day of last November, (’75), and the consequent newspaper and magazine articles, he would soon have been entirely forgotten by the masses of the people. It is much to the credit of those who subscribed and in any way aided to erect the monument as a lasting token of appreciation of Maryland’s literary genius. We, as Virginians, should feel a deep interest in Poe, and strive to keep the brightest side of his character before us and our children. His waywardness and immoralities we can but deprecate and, if possible, cover up. And while we regret his many sins, it may be that the course of life he pursued was necessary to our present enjoyment — to the inspiration of his poems, so beautiful, so touching, so sublime. But I do not propose an apology for his life — simply a suggestion. He is the poet of our hearthstone, the beautiful and gifted boy of our family, and since he has gone — so sadly gone — let us enjoy the rich and brilliant genius, if we cannot hold up his life as an example of morality and Christian rectitude. He has been so universally condemned by writers that a devoted admirer of his works is tempted to laud his life as a retaliation for the aspersions so constantly heaped upon his memory. And these ascetic criticisms are doing much to consign Edgar A. Poe to oblivion. Let us, at least, have the pleasure of his works without his biography.

Poe was born in Baltimore in January, 1811; a “remarkably bright and beautiful boy.” Upon the death of his parents, who were also profligate and immoral, he was raised by Mr. Allen [[Allan]], a rich merchant in Richmond, Va., and hence his middle name. He was light and slender in person, but full of life and very athletic. At college he was dissolute in the extreme, but was always at the head of his classes. He was ignominously [[ignominiously]] expelled from the University of Virginia, and afterwards from West Point Academy. He married his cousin, Miss Clemm, a tender, trusting, delicate maiden, who died several years afterward. Poe, during this time, was engaged in editing various magazines, and leading a reckless life. He soon became engaged to a wealthy literary widow in Hartford city, but he changed his mind and to extricate himself from the engagement he visited her in such a state of intoxication that the police were called to remove him from the house. This, of course, ended the engagement as he desired. He then engaged himself to an opulent lady in Richmond, and while in Baltimore on business a few days previous to his marriage with this lady he met some old cronies, and after a night of revelry and debauch he was picked up from the gutter literally dying. And thus the brilliant light flickered out. ‘Tis a sad picture from any view. The immortal author of “The Raven” which has been the delight and wonder of millions, really perished in the dismal street, dark and dank, the victim of that arch fiend, Whisky. The future, so great, grand, sublime and happy, was just before him — was within his grasp. Oh! let his melancholly [[melancholy]] end teach a lasting lesson to all who possess a tendency to a similar life! May the gods he worshiped protect him in his rest from any troubles. And with a quotation from his beautiful, passionate “Israfel” we pass to a consideration of his works and views:

“The ecstacies above

With thy burning measures suit —

Thy grief, thy joy, thy hate, they love,

With the fervor of thy lute —

Well may the stars be mute!”

“The Raven” is so well known and so universally admired and praised by those capable of comprehending its beauties that it is useless to attempt any further praise. What the “Raven” personated is variously believed, and ‘tis of little moment whether it is “Remorse” of the embodiment of Dicken’s raven in Barnaby Rudge into a poem. We know it is a rich, rare, and radiant literary gem, and let us be content to enjoy it. Poe worshiped the Beautiful, and the least discrepancy which his nice discernment was so apt to discover, made him furious. And this peculiarity made him a powerful and severe critic, for which he was famous. He criticised [[criticized]] his own productions with the same minute severity, which accounts for the scrupulous rythm [[rhythm]] and nicety of versification throughout all his works. Nothing more exquisite can be found in the English language than Poe’s “Bells,” and we can not forbear giving the reader the first stanza and let it speak for itself and the remainder of the poem. It needs no praises:

Hear the sledges with the bells —

Silver bells!

What a world of merriment their melody foretells!

How they tinkle, tinkle, tinkle,

In the icy air of night!

While the stars that oversprinkle

All the heavens, seem to twinkle

With a crystalline delight;

Keeping time, time, time,

In a sort of Runic rhyme,

To the tintinnabulation that so musically wells

From the bells, bells, bells, bells,

Bells, bells, bells —

From the jingling and the tinkling of the bells.

This is certainly very beautiful in every particular. “Annabel Lee” has not an equal in the world of literature in my estimation, and were it not for the absorbing too much space, would give the reader the whole of it, but will content myself by giving the first stanza. There must be something great and good in the man who could write “Annabel Lee:”

It was many and many a year ago,

In a kingdom by the sea,

That a maiden she lived whom you may know

By the name of ANNABEL LEE;

And this maiden she lived with no other thought,

Than to love and be loved by me.

“The Conqueor [[Conqueror]] Worm” is a poem of beautiful thought and execution; it will pay for a close study. This is the way he sings “To one in Paradise:”

And all my days are trances,

And all my nightly dreams

Are where thy dark eye glances,

And where thy footstep gleams —

In what etherial [[ethereal]] dances,

By what eternal streams.

This is a part of one of his splendid fancies. Any lover of poetry, because it is poetry, must admire this.

The “Eldorado,” is complete versification, and the stanzas, “For Annie,” are passionate and tender breathing the holiest poetry ever written. Take the following and reflect:

She tenderly kissed me,

She fondly caressed,

And then I felt gently

To sleep on her breast —

Deeply to sleep

From the haven of her breast.

When the light was extinguished

She covered me warm

And she prayed to the angles

To keep me from harm —

To the queen of the angels

To shield me from harm.

The quotations made are necessarily limited, but they are characteristic of Poe’s poetical works and I think the context very enjoyable, and poetry of the highest order.

Poe’s lecture on the “Principles of Poetry,” advocates a devotion to the [column 5:] Beautiful, and a rejection of the Didactic. And with him, I think poetry should be written and read because it is poetry, and not because it is supposed to teach some great moral truths. I don’t object to the truths, but in poetry is not the place to get them. Truth needs to be told in the plainest, simplest terms possible. Poe’s lecture was not a popular success, over which he felt much chagrined. He very justly entertained a contempt for the cabal of New England, which refused to acknowledge the worth of any Southern poet. We should revere his memory for his admiration and advocacy of Southern literature. Love was the true subject for poetry with him. He worshipped [[worshiped]] it where seen in lovely woman. His whole soul went out in beholding a pretty girl. He saw poetry in her eyes, tressess [[tresses]], her smiles, her movement, in the very rustle of her robes. All honor to the troubled, ill-fated Southern genius. May his name live and grow brighter year by year.



Many of the biographical details in the article are inaccurate, beginning with the year of Poe’s birth, as they are based on Griswold’s account. The lecture referred to as “Principles of Poetry,” is presumably “The Poetic Principle.” The identity of Will. A. O. is not known, but the introductory dedication and the final paragraph, with its praise of the beauty of women, seems clearly have been intended as a kind of personal appeal.


[S:0 - WDR, 1876] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - A Poe Bookshelf - Edgar Allen [[Allan]] Poe (Will. O. A., 1876)