Text: Anonymous, “Ingram in re Poe et. al,” Independent (New York), June 24, 1880, vol. XXXII (whole number 1647), p. 14, cols. 1-4


­[page 14, column 1, continued:]



IF the dead can be said to be fortunate, Edgar Allan Poe is the most fortunate author of modern times. It fell to his lot to have his life written, shortly after his death, by the Rev. Rufus Wilmot Griswold, and, as the event proved, it was the most fortunate thing that could have happened to him. It was by no means a fortunate thing, however, for Dr. Griswold; and, if he had been wiser, he would not have undertaken it, or, undertaking it, would have performed it in a different and more cautious spirit. That Poe sometimes drank more than was good for him and that he borrowed money which he sometimes omitted or declined to pay was not what the world wanted to know; for, granting that the allegations were true, they were merely spots upon the brightness of his genius, and, as such, should have been passed over. This, in plain English, is substantially the ground taken by Poe’s admirers — particularly those who did not know him personally — and it is on this ground and no other that all attacks upon Dr. Griswold have been made. They have been made by those who knew not Poe; for those who knew him knew that Dr. Griswold’s memoir fell short of, rather than exceeded, the truth. In saying this, we do not mean to say that his statements are to be implicitly followed, There are errors of detail in them which he might have avoided, if he had taken more pains, and, no doubt, errors of judgment, which he could not well have avoided, being the man that he was. What we mean is, that his memoir was, in the main, accurate, and, consequently, that Edgar Allan Poe was, in the main, the manner of man that he depicted.

The admirers of Poe denied this then, and deny it now, refuting facts by their fancies and by calling Dr. Griswold all the [column 2:] hard names they can think of — critical ghoul, pedagogue, vampire, and the like. Foremost among these gentlemen is Mr. John H. Ingram, of England, a soi-disant man of letters, whose mission is to whitewash Poe and to blackwash all who do not perceive the divine necessity for his so doing. No one has assailed Dr. Griswold with such severity as he, and, certainly, no one with such ingratitude, for but for Dr. Griswold the world would never have heard of Mr. John H. Ingram. The world has not heard much of him, as it is; but that is not his fault, for he has been doing his best for upward of twenty years to gain a hearing for himself. He began harmlessly by writing verses in the English periodicals, and modestly by withdrawing from circulation after it was published a volume of those verses, on account of its typographical errata. His next literary labor was the humble one of compilation, the result being a “Flora Symbolica,” which was popular enough to be cribbed from. Then he wrote an essay advocating the purchase of the Suez Canal by the British Government, a brilliant idea, which Lord Beaconsfield ruthlessly filched from him. Then, to show his proficiency in languages, he translated novels from the Spanish, and illustrated his historical learning by a series of articles on “Claimants to Royalty.” Upon these productions, and no doubt others, of which tine world has not yet heart), he tried his “‘prentice han”’ until six years ago, when; happening to hear that Miss Rosalie Poe, a surviving sister of Edgar Allan Poe, an elderly lady of sixty-five, was in want he took steps to raise a fund in England for her benefit, and thereby discovered his true vocation, which was to attach himself and his talents (such as they were) to the much-maligned memory of Poe and to whitewash the same forever. The desire to ameliorate the declining years of an aged spinster was commendable in Mr. Ingram; but it was not original with him, for Miss Poe was being helped in America when her supposed poverty was ventilated in England, as, indeed, she bad been for years, for she was not at all backward in getting all she could out of the admirers of her dead brother. She died before Mr. Ingram and his subscribers could be of any practical use to her; but she left intact his mission of which was a handsome Edinburgh edition of the works of Poe, with a brand-new memoir by Mr. Ingram, and whose last fruit, so far, is another brand-new memoir by Mr. Ingram, which has not yet crossed the Atlantic. Mr. Ingram has found and keeps to his vocation, which, singularly enough, was entailed upon him centuries before he was born, for we are assured that the name “Ingram,” which is one of the oldest family names in Europe, is evidently of totem origin, and signifies the “son of” or “akin to the Raven.”

We have collected the literary antecedents of Mr. Ingram in order that American readers may know who it is that has undertaken to enlighten them in regard to Edgar Allan Poe. He started with the assumption that Poe was without reputation in his own country, than which there never was a greater absurdity; but that henceforth he would have an immortal one, now that he had taken him in hand! He seemed to think that he had a monopoly of all that related to Poe, and that no one but himself could possibly know anything about him. He was not allowed to fool himself to the top of his bent, however; for, strange to say, in view of the obscurity which had enveloped his work, the author of “The Raven” somehow succeeded in enlisting the sympathy of other literary men, the last and most conspicuous of whom, Mr. E. C. Stedman, wrote a long paper about his fellow-poet, which was published in the May number of Scribner’s Monthly, and which was so distasteful to Mr. Ingram that he at once opened fire against it in the columns of the London Athenæum. He commenced by saying that Scribner’s Magazine had from time to time published articles depreciatory of Poe, and that the motive of these articles is understood in the United States, though not in the United Kingdom. Now, as a matter of fact, it is not true that Scribner’s Magazine has from time to time published articles depreciatory of Poe, unless, indeed, any and every [column 3:] article not written by Mr. Ingram is necessarily depreciatory; and, as another matter of fact, it is not true that the motive of these articles is understood in the United States — not true, that is, in the mysterious and dreadful sense implied by Mr. Ingram. What motive, pray, has actuated any American who has written about Poe — we will not say in the past, knowing the opinion which Mr. Ingram holds of Dr. Griswold, but — since Mr. Ingram has constituted himself the defender of Poe? We know of no motive except the simple one of telling the truth, so far as it can be ascertained; and our means of detecting and divining motives are equal, if not superior, to any that Mr. Ingram has discovered for himself or has had imagined for him by others. We know, better than he can, the estimation in which Poe’s conduct was held during his life, and the estimation in which his reputation has been held since his death; and we know that the first was generous, rather than just, and that the last is as great as, if not greater than, is warranted by the intellectual value of his work. Mr. Ingram’s enigmatical allusion to motives which do not exist is a rhetorical trick, which he would hardly have used if his case were a good one. He is merely blackguarding the plaintiff’s attorneys.

Mr. Ingram objects, firstly and faintly, to Mr. Stedman for reviving “some réchauffe Calumnies on the dead poet”; and, secondly, but strongly, to his crediting Mr. Gill with “an enthusiastic and diligent exploration of Poe’s early life, in which he has corrected numerous errors of Griswold and brought to light facts of general interest.”

But Mr. Stedman committed a graver offense than the two we have mentioned, and that was in casually referring to a brief paper on Poe by the late Mr. Charles F. Briggs, whom he characterized as a “kindly-hearted” journalist. Hear what Mr. Ingram has to say about Mr. Briggs:

“Of all file persons who have slandered the author of ‘The Raven,’ this man’s slanders were the worst. During Poe’s life-time Briggs published such disgraceful allegations against him that the poet, was compelled to sue this man for libel, and obtained heavy damages. Briggs had his revenge in the ‘pen-portrait’ referred to.”

This may be considered strong writing in England; but it certainly is not so considered in the United States, for it lacks the chief element of any writing, strong or weak, to which a man should put his name — truth. It is not true that Mr. Briggs ever published any allegations, disgraceful or otherwise, against Poe daring his lifetime, and, consequently, it is not true that Poe ever sued him for libel and recovered heavy damages. What Mr. Briggs — who for some years before his death was on our editorial staff — did publish about Poe will be found on page 28, for we have reprinted the “pen-portrait” which so excited the ire of Mr. Ingram, and which we believe to be the most accurate one yet painted, either by the friends or foes of Poe. We say foes in order to accommodate ourselves to the understanding of Mr. Ingram; for, strictly speaking, we do not believe that Poe has a single foe in the United States. We have our opinion of what his life was-an opinion based upon facts within our own knowledge, and not upon the vast and varied misinformation of Mr. Ingram; but we do not judge his work by big life. Literature is one thing and morality another; and, while we rejoice to see them united, as we think they were in Shakespeare and Milton, and are sorry to see them disunited, as we know they were in Byron and Poe, we do not propose to stultify ourselves by confounding the one with the other in our literary judgments. It is the literary career of Poe which interests now. We are not interested in his personal career, further than that nothing should be extenuated nor ought set down in malice. But there is little danger of the last while Mr. Ingram lives; for, clearly, the man who is malicious enough or ignorant enough to confound Mr. Charles F. Briggs with Mr. Thomas Dunn English will stop at nothing as an extenuator of Poe. Poe wrote vinegar about English, and English retorted with lunar caustic. On one of the less-damaging counts in English’s article Poe sued the publisher, and got some three hundred dollars’ damages, if we remember. What kind of a man Mr. [column 4:] Briggs was, whom Mr. Ingram thus attacks, may be seen from what Lowell says of him in his “Fable for Critics.”



One notable typographical error in the original has been corrected here, to make the article more easily read. In the third column, just before the quotation beginning “Of all the persons” appears “est,” on a line by itself, clearly the final part of “interest” started at the end of the previous paragraph.

The following “Editorial Note” appears on p. 15:

WE might almost call this an Edgar A, Poe number of THE INDEPENDENT. We reprint among our “Selections” the important paper on Poe by our late associate, Mr. Charles F. Briggs, who was intimately acquainted with Poe, and who had no more reason than all of Poe’s associates to speak otherwise than as kindly of him as truth would allow. Poe brought his “Raven” to Mr. Briggs for criticism and suggestions, which were made and accepted. We also print a very valuable article by another of his associates, Mr. R. H. Stoddard, as also an editorial discussion of the last defense of Poe by an English apologist who never knew him. There are a plenty of people still living who knew all about Poe, and who know that the half was never told of big false, conscienceless character, whether as a libertine, a blackmailer, or a drunkard. It never can be told. Another of Poe’s associates, Dr. Thomas Dunn English, contributes the poem on our first page. The noticeable fact is the perfect agreement of all who intimately knew Poe as to what sort of a man he was. This cannot be glossed over by blind foreign apologists.

It may be curious to note that the Independent has selected, from among those who knew Poe, one who scarcely knew him at all and was a acolyte of Griswold (Stoddard) and two (Briggs and English) who were criticized by Poe and thus disliked him personally. (It should also be emphasized that Briggs, as noted in the article, served on the staff of the Independent towards the end of his life, and was in a position to bias his fellow editors against Poe.) It could hardly be said that all of those who knew Poe would agree with the statements made about him by these gentlemen. Although it may be admitted that John H. Ingram was a rather irascible gentleman, very possessive of his information about Poe, and quick to lash out at critics or rivals. He is also somewhat guilty of whitewashing Poe’s reputation, but many of his errors are honest ones, and certainly more creditable than the malicious gossip, and distorted view of Poe (supported by knowingly false statements and forged letters) that Griswold has left us.


[S:0 - IND, 1880] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - A Poe Bookshelf - Ingram in re Poe et al (Anonymous, 1880)