Text: Anonymous, “Edgar Allan Poe; Poet, Critic and Story Writer,” South Bend Daily Tribune (South Bend, IN), October 25, 1899, p. 7, cols. 1-3


[page 7, column 1:]





Anniversary of His Death and Dedication of Zolnay's Bronze Must Create Renewed Interest in Works and Personality of the Celebrated Author.


In the last few years no close observer has failed to note a growth of interest in the works of Edgar Allan Poe. A few of the many things that show this revival of interest are the statues which are being dedicated to him. Last year Zolnay was commissioned to design a bronze bust of Poe for the University of Virginia which was dedicated Oct. 7, the anniversary of Poe's death.

This revival of interest was first shown, says C. Campbell, in the monument erected in Baltimore by the Poe society. Then the Actor's society statue was dedicated May 4, 1885. In 1896 the Shakespeare society, of New York, arranged for a statue of Poe by Partridge, to be placed in Bronx park, and also made great efforts to save the Fordham cottage, where Poe's wife died, and where he passed his last years.

The magazines are anxious to security every bit of unpublished Poe correspondence, and various editions of Poe's works have followed each other on both sides of the Atlantic. In 1887 Routledge, the English publisher of Poe, sold over 29,000 copies of his different works, and the sales have been growing steadily, until now they are at least twice that figure. Andrew Lang once wrote in a copy of Poe belonging to Prof. Brander Matthews: “I wonder when America will come to know, that much her greatest bard is Edgar Allan Poe.” Poe is known to the world as a poet, as a writer of weird tales, and as a critic. He attempted three volumes of poems before he made his first reputation as a writer of tales. But his last and best work was in his poems.

The Work of Poe as a Poet.

Poe left about 40 poems, of which 12 are a great deal more popular. His early poems lacked in the intellectual sense of poetic form, and his later poems are eminent in this quality. Poe shapes every word for effectiveness. In his youth, he struck the keynotes of a few themes and his best works are but variations of these themes played on the chords of ruin and fear. Poe possessed force, subtlety and fire. He gave great value to his emotional moods and used his lyrical gifts to express moods He felt that the object of poetry was pleasure, and that pleasure must be subtle, not definite.

The poet in Poe was born, not made. He improved in his technique, but his individuality was sharply defined from the first. Some one has said that Poe's genius was a sort of spiritual air plant — that no one knew how it derived its sustenance. His imagination was out of proportion to his other faculties, but he never wrote a word that could not be read at any time at any place.

Poe said: “Rhyme first and principally pleases, and like a woman's dress, always sets off a poem.” He always felt that bad rhyme was as bad as poor grammar, and was an untiring student of versification. He used elementary English measures. His poems were original in construction and melodious in rhythm. He had the rare gift of fitting words and meaning together musically. Poe felt that a poem should be brief; should aim at a single artistic effect, and not exclude a secondary meaning. He never wrote poetry world-weariness. His poems are impressions. He thought it was the duty of the poet to bring his readers to the state in which he himself wrote the poem. His verses can only be measured by his own standard.

“Tamarlane [[Tamerlane]]” and “Al Aaraaf” are good examples of his early work. Byron was the model for “Tamarlane [[Tamerlane]]” and Moor for “Al Aaraaf.” “Israfel” was his first great poem. “The Raven” made his fame as a poet. “Annabel Lee” was his last poem. Among his best poems are “Ulalume,” “The Haunted Palace,” “The City in the Sea,” two poems “To Helen,” of which the one with three stanzas is the more famous, and “The Bells.”

The Short Stories of Poe.

Poe left about 60 tales to posterity, 20 of which are more than popular He made his first reputation as a writer of short stories, and is still the master of condensed, thrilling narrative. He felt that length was inconsistent with singleness of interest (his canon), and so preferred the short story to the novel. His greatest intellectual strength, rarest, imagination and wonderful powers of construction are to be seen in his tales. He attained an excellence that no successor can excel. His first successful tale was the “Manuscript Found in a Bottle.” This brought him to the hundred dollars prize money, Kennedy's lifelong friendship, and started him on a literary career. “The Murders in the Rue Morgue,” a story of Paris, was so warmly received in France that he has since been the favorite American author there. He literally deflected French prose into his channel. France acknowledges that he re-created for her the short story, which is the distinctive feature of modern French prose, and which has had such influence on American literature People talk of Maupasant's phycholegy [[psychology]], of Loti landscape effects, and of the work of other Poe disciples, forgetting that they can find the master of such work in American literature — in “The Fall of the House of Usher” or “Lygeia [[Ligeia]].”

Poe holds a peculiar place in literature. France, England, Ital [[Italy]], Russia, Germany, with some few prominent American critics, all hail him as one of the greatest forces in modern literature, irrespective of country. His genius was emotional not muscular, and his energy is expended in leading to one thrilling climax. Richard Wagner is a disciple of Poe, Stevenson, Doyle, Kipling, are all dilutions of Poe. Later writers that have patterned after Poe, have surpassed him in complexity of mechanism, but in invention Poe is still supreme. His phrases are so finely articulated. They themselves almost tell an interesting story.

Vagueness is the distinct Poe quality. In construction Poe oimed [[aimed]] for a single effect. He noted only the broad general features, and used only such description as was necessary to a vivid realization. His short tales are effects — not stories. In his titles, he classes his tales under two heads — arabesque and grotesque. For reading purposes it seems that three classes would more fully cover the field — imaginative, argumentative and psychological.

His first tales were more imaginative. Then followed his ratiocinative tales, which were in turn succeeded by metaphysical tales. “Eureka,” his last work, is nothing but a metaphysical [column 2:] argument, although he himself classed it as a prose poem.

The Author's Work in Criticism.

During his lifetime Poe was chiefly known in America as a critic. His criticisms aimed at the improvement of popular taste. He had the quick and certain ability to detect unknown genius, which is the highest quality in a critic. He brought early appreciation to Browning, Tennyson, Dickens, Hawthorne, Lowell and in a degree to Longfellow, although he always deplored Longfellow's imitativeness. He said Longfellow has wanted good material in “Hyerion [[Hyperion]].”

Poe marked the limitations of Irving, Bryant and Cooper. He reviewed the insincerities of Macaulay, Bulwer and other popular idols. He condemned the work of Margaret Fuller, Emerson and William Ellery Channing. About the only judgement of his that time has not confirmed is that on “Sartor Resartus.”

Poe's mental compass was alert and keen. In May, 1841, he gave an exposition of the quality of his analytical powers by successfully exposing the plot of “Barnaby Rudge,” from the material afforded in the introductory chapters. Dickens was so surprised that he asked Poe if he were the devil. All his life Poe attacked insincerity in literature. He detested what he called the “North American clique,” and especially did he decry the quackery of the New England coterie, with his bombast and puritanism.

With premeditated audacity, he struck a first blow for higher criticism by attacking the crude, overrated novelists of the day. By reviewing satirically “Norman Leslie,” written by a much bepuffed, popular New York novelist, Poe made for great sincerity in American literature. With his absolute fearlessness, it is no wonder that he was not popular with his generation of authors.

Lowell says: “Poe was the most discriminating, fearless and philosophical critic on imaginative prose that America ever knew.” Prof. Woodbery [[Woodberry]] says: “Poe inaugurated a new departure in American criticism by attacking the crude, overrated writers of the day.” Mr. Vance Thomson says: “Poe was a critic incurably just. He pricked bubble after bubble with deftest grace and prettiest sword play imaginable.

In the last five years of his life, Poe published miscellaneous notes called “Marginalia.” They were begun in the Democratic Review in 1844, and continued in different papers and magazines until his death in 1849. They contained much new criticism, and some notes from his old book reviews, which he collected in this form. In these notes he once said that if a man were to put his real thoughts on paper, the paper would actually sizzle.

Characteristics of His Work.

Poe was not a prolific writer, his habits and health interfering. His work was slight and concentrated. He hoarded his themes, and constantly wrote and rewrote them. With a monotony of theme, he was always wavering between Greek form and mystical orientl [[oriental]] coloring. His analytical qualities, his powers of intention, his powers of condensation, have never been surpassed. He was subject to moods of brooding and despair and his genius seemed to develop by brooding over a fixed idea.

Poe was lacking in humor, this quality in him being of the chilly, graveyard kind. He had more intelligence and imagination than he had humor. Some of his best effects are made by abrupt beginnings or endings. His imaginative treatment of landscape is wholly his own. No one can trace his scenes to an exact original, because his imagination controlled his perceptive qualities. His landscapes are all tinges with a sombreness that gives an admirable setting to his vagueness.

By quoting obscure names and learned authorities, he made a great show of his learning. In turn, his models were Byron, Moore, Chateaubriand, Bulwer for landscape, Disraeli and Schlegel, from whom he learned that effect depended on a contemplation as a whole. His byronic model was his first, and used almost to imitation. After a series of influences Poe gradually turned to his own experiences and wrote from his soul.

Poe was every [[ever]] in sympathy with Shelley and Coleridge. Mr. Huneker says there are parallels in the souls as well as the lives of Poe and Chopin. They were both born the same year, and both died the same year. They both improved in their workmanship and technique, but their limitations were sharply defined at the beginnings of their careers. It is not straining a point to find parallels in Poe, Chopin, Heine and Shelley.

Poe was hampered in life by the very dreamy, fitful temperament that made him a poet. There is no moral — no lesson — in any of his writings. His moral is his own sad life. It is hard to tell what caused his ruin, for his hear and mind were singularly pure. But something in that “wire on which the beads are strung” made opium and whisky the instruments of his suffering.

From his cradle, woman's affection played a great part in his life. His parents died when he was two years old. He was reluctantly adopted by a Mr. Allan to please his wife's whim. Mrs. Allan was a young woman of $5 at this time. Until he death in 1829, she remained Poe's most devoted friend but she never possessed a sympathetic insight into his character. The only woman who gave him anything like the sympathy he craved in his boyish days, was a Mrs. Jane Stith Stannard. She was a woman of 30, and Poe was a boy of 13, but Poe was strongly attracted to her. His grief at her death was very great, and the ghouls in some of his early poems, “The Sleeper” for one, were inspirations from her grave.

Poe and his Wife.

Mrs. Clemm was a sister of David Poe, the poet's father, and the mother of his wife, Virginia Clemm. She never wavered in her devotion to Poe, and his eccentricities. Poe's love for his wife was ideal. He was her devoted slave for about 12 years, and after he death was never himself again. During his wife's lifetime they both formed a great friendship with Mrs. Francis Osgood, Mrs. Oakes Smith, Mrs. Shrew [[Shew]], Mrs. Ellet and others.

A Miss Bradley married Mr. Allan shortly after Mrs. Allan's death, and had three children to inherit Mr. Allan's fortune. This probably had some financial effect on his life. The last time Poe went to see Mrs. Allan refused him admission to Mr. Allan's room, but Poe entered anyway. He found Mrs. Allan in no kinder humor than his second wife.

Poe's first sweetheart was a Miss Royster, a neighbor of the Allans, whom he met shortly after his return from England. Her father managed to break the attachment, and the lady shortly after married a man of means named Shelton. A year or so after his wife's death, Poe met Mrs. Shelton in Richmond, Va. She was a widow [column 3:] of means, and a second engagement was made, the ending of which is rumor, as Poe's death occurred shortly after this.

Poe's two poems “To Helen” each had a separate inspiration. Mrs. Richmond was the Helen of the three celebrated stanzas that the critics are always quoting. The other Helen of “The Rose Garden” was a Mrs. Sarah Helen Whitman, a poetess, of Providence, R.I. It is probale [[probable]] Poe saw her in the rose garden during the summer of 1845, as he was returning from Boston to New York. The same incident is also mentioned in one of Mrs. Whitman's poems.



The first “To Helen” was inspired by Mrs. Stannard, of Richmond, not Mrs. Richmond. At various points, the author of this article is careless about the spelling of names.


[S:0 - SBDT, 1899] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - A Poe Bookshelf - Edgar Allan Poe (Anonymous, 1899)