Text: Anonymous, “Article VII - Edgar Allan Poe,” British Quarterly Review (London, UK), July 1, 1875, vol. LXII, no. 1, pp. 194-218


[page 194:]

ART. VII. — Edgar Allan Poe.

The Works of Edgar Allan Poe. Edited, with Memoir, by JOHN H. INGRAM. In four volumes. Adam and Charles Black.

EDGAR ALLAN POE'S posthumous fate has been a series of paradoxical contradictions, as it would seem that his life was. Even his most friendly biographers have been inclined to draw or to dupe their readers into sympathy by the fullest admission, if not exaggeration, of his faults. It was his excess of sensibility, they said, an overwrought fineness of temperament, an excitability and need of occasional escape from commoner circumstance, that gave the keynote to the weird tremor, the hectic beauty, and haunting, vague despair of his poetry, — the keynote also to that appetite for morbid horrors, that passion for feverish analysis and startling revealments, often fencing itself by what seemed cold calculation, and that glow and flash and unearthly light which make his prose so captivating even where the theme may be repulsive, — as well as the keynote to the sad outbreaks and debaucheries which were to be taken as the recognised and regularly-recurrent episodes of Poe's short and hapless life. His genius and his vices sprang from the same root, and were inseparable. Without the one, the other would not have been, or would have been so different as not to be recognisable. He bore a burden of inherited evil, which made him the slave of society or its outcast; he suffered and died a martyr. We reap the fruit in a series of new intellectual enjoyments; and the measure of our gratitude should be the measure of our hatred to the society which dealt by him so cruelly. It is difficult to think of any sane man so reasoning; but this is the attitude taken by the French Baudelaire; it is (though in a modified way) the attitude of James Hannay and one or two other able and well-meaning Englishmen who have written on the subject.

Here are a few of the most significant sentences from Baudelaire's Essay: —

‘In the history of literature there are many men who bear the word luckless written in mysterious characters in the sinuous folds of their foreheads. The blind angel of expiation hovers ever around them, punishing them with rods for the edification of others. It is in vain that their lives exhibit talents, virtues, or graces. Society has for them a special anathema, accusing them even of those infirmities which its own persecutions have generated.

‘All the documents I have studied strengthen me in the conviction that the United States was for Poe only a vast prison through which he ran, [page 195:] hither and thither, with the feverish agitation of a being created to breathe in a purer world — only a wild, barbarous country — barbarous and gaslit — and that his interior life, spiritual as a poet, spiritual even as a drunkard, was but one perpetual effort to escape the influence of this antipathetical atmosphere. There is no more pitiless dictator than that of “public opinion” in democratic societies. Beseech it not for charity, nor indulgence, nor any elasticity whatever, in the application of its laws to the varied and complex cases of moral life. ....

‘It is incontestable that, like those fugitive and striking impressions — most striking in their repetition when they have been most fugitive — which sometimes follow an exterior symptom, such as the striking of a clock, a note of music, or a forgotten perfume, and which are themselves followed by an event similar to the event already known, and which occupy the same place in a chain previously revealed — like those singular periodical dreams which frequent our slumbers — there exist in drunkenness not only the entanglements of dreams, but whole series of reasonings, which have need to reproduce themselves by the medium which has given them birth. If the reader has followed me without repugnance, he has already divined my conclusion. I believe that, in many cases, not certainly in all, the intoxication of Poe was a mnemonic means, a method of work, a method energetic and fatal, but appropriate to his passionate nature. The poet had learned to drink, as a laborious author exercises himself in filling note-books. He could not resist the desire of finding again those visions marvellous or awful — those subtle conceptions which he had met before in a preceding tempest; they were old acquaintances which imperatively attracted him, and to renew his knowledge of them he took a road most dangerous, but most direct. The works that give us so much pleasure to-day were in reality the cause of his death.’

Mr. Hannay again sets this forth, in a modified way, thus: —

‘Too often, particularly in artificial ages like ours, a man's whole career has to be run, like a race at a fair, in a sack. Many a man never gets fair play — sometimes is born with a constitution that wont permit it — sometimes is born into circumstances that will not. Let us be charitable. Southey's “Doctor” when he heard of a toper, was wont to say compassionately, “Bibulous clay, sir, — bibulous clay!” ’

Mr. Hannay, we fear, had been too deeply influenced by certain schools of opinion to be able to render clear to his own mind the morale of Poe's poetry and influence. In one place he declares that though it appears only too certain that his wild passions carried him into most unhappy self-abandonment, his poetry is all as pure as wild flowers;’ and in another he writes: ‘With all his passion for the beautiful, no poet was ever less voluptuous. He never profaned his genius, whatever else he profaned.’ But sandwiched between these two statements, which lie near the beginning and the [page 196:] end of the Essay, are to be found such deliverances as this: ‘The ‘beauty which he loved with his whole soul, he madly endeavoured ‘to grasp in the forms of sensuous indulgence. Like Marlowe's ‘Faustus, he used his genius to procure him self-gratification; and always at the end of such a career, it is the devil, as our pious ‘old singers believed, who waits for the hero.’ And once more: — ‘Edgar Poe drew a sensual veil across the vision of his soul, and in that blinded way sinned; and sinning, suffered.’ All which gives us a poor idea alike of Mr. Hannay's critical acumen and consistency; but it is not difficult to see from whence he derived the impressions that led to these self-contradictions, — the school of Baudelaire. Owing to influences precisely similar, Mr. Curwen, in his Sorrow and Song,’ errs in the same direction as Baudelaire and Hannay; and his sympathy seems wholly misplaced, because he will drive against Society, instead of acknowledging frankly Poe's faults and perversities.*

Not so would we regard genius — which after all that science and philosophy may do in the way of reducing us to points in the link of material development, by a single sentence once more reveals the heart of the world and makes all hearts throb in unison, dissolving the accretions of thought and logic in rising waves of laughter or tears. If Poe was a great genius, it was in spite of his vices, which, as he himself would have asserted, could only disintegrate and weaken. If by his poetry he imparted a lofty ideal of love — as a passion above all others purifying — that was not because he was drunken and subject to delirium tremens, but because there lay in him, deeper than the fatal temperamental tendency, an imperious thirst for purity, harmony, peace, and reverence, such as at times sufficed to transfigure his meagre life, and touch it with hues of romance; making even his prose work, in its most elevated moments, a protest against the morbidity and feverish extravagance of besetting moods. The man who affirmed deliberately that the four elementary conditions of happiness, are life in the open air, the love of a woman, forgetfulness of all ‘ambition, and the creation of a new ideal of beauty,’ had in him something at once deeper and higher than the Baudelaires were likely to celebrate with frankness and impartiality. They, unfortunately, held a brief for their own errors and outrages of decency, and the case of Poe was held up by way of securing an arrest of [page 197:] judgment. The proof of this is that any fresh facts tending to lift the cloud from the life of Poe could hardly have been welcome to them — such the vested interest they had, so to say, in his vices. Mr. Ingram's new light would have been very ‘dry light’ to them. They denounced Griswold, and yet they ranged themselves with him — a somewhat surprising illustration of Hawthorne's paradox that hatred and love are so like each other at bottom, that some of the evidences of the existence of both are identical. Griswold gloated over poor Poe's excesses, and revenged an old injury, as he deemed it, by striving to show how debauched and degraded and dishonourable he was — how he jeered at humanity as a pack of miserable wretches, and outraged systematically the most sacred obligations. But when once the discriminating reader has detected certain signs of a disposition to find a new point. against Poe — an eager readiness to assign the worst motive and cunningly to detract even from his merit in his successes, he is on his guard, and by instinct, if not more definitively, he gets somehow to the conclusion that in the case of so unsympathetic a biographer there must be a good deal behind. That Poe should have been so moved from his first impressions as to name a man like this his literary executor, and to commit his reputation to such unfriendly hands, is in itself a proof that he remained so simple as to be capable of being woefully imposed upon, and that after all, the cynicism of which Mr. Griswold makes so much was superficial when he so entirely escaped suspicion.

But with the poet's sympathisers to whom we have referred, the case is not so simple. They essay to magnify his genius by dwelling on his sins and weaknesses. They apologise for the one and justify them by the other. They seek to excite admiration without distinguishing what are really conflicting elements. They fail to set forth fairly the contradictious and oppositions which the poet discovered in his own character, and over which he mourned so sincerely, that even his poetry, in its deeper elements, may be regarded as nothing else but the expression and symbol of his hapless, help-less regrets.

Listen to this: it is one of his marginalia, written down merely because it was his sincere thought at the moment-in such circumstances too, that it was impossible he could have any purpose to serve, any double motive, or arrière-pensée: —

‘It is scarcely too much to say that the temperance reformation is the most important which the world ever knew. Yet its great feature has never been made a subject of comment. We mean that of adding to man's happiness (the ultimate object of all reform), not by the difficult [page 198:] and equivocal process of multiplying his pleasures in their external regard, but by the simple and most effectual one of exalting his capacity for enjoyment. The temperate man carries within his bosom, under all circumstances, the true, the only element of bliss. Through the influence of the physical rather than of the moral suggestions against alcohol, the permanency of the temperance reform will be made good. Convince the world that spirituous liquors are poison to the body, and it will scarcely be necessary to add that they are ruin to the soul.’

His life, in a word, was a series of fateful falls, keen remorses, and resolutions to rise again, and to redeem the bitter past. In this, it resembles the lives of others, whose condemnation, compared with his, has been light. Even Mr. Griswold has to admit of one period of his life — the earlier time at Fordham — that he struggled nobly. He writes: —

‘An awakened ambition and the healthful influence of a conviction that his works were appreciated, and that his fame was increasing, led him for a while to cheerful views of life and to regular habits of conduct. He wrote to one friend that he had quite overcome “the seductive and dangerous besetment” by which he had so often been prostrated; and to another friend that, incredible as it might seem, he had become “a model of temperance,” and of “other virtues which it had sometimes been difficult for him to practise.” ’

Another friend — who saw much of Poe at one period of his career — writes: —

“Poe's private letters to his friends offer abundant evidence that he was not insensible to the keenest pangs of remorse. Again and again did he say to the demon that tracked his path, “Anathema maranatha,” but again and again did it return to torture and subdue.’

And the struggle was kept up almost to the bitter end. In a letter written within a year of his death, he confesses: —

‘The agonies which I have lately endured have passed my soul through fire. Henceforth I am strong. This those who love me shall know as well as those who have so relentlessly sought to ruin me. ... I have absolutely no pleasure in the stimulants in which I sometimes so madly indulge. It has not been in the pursuit of pleasure that I have perilled life and reputation and reason. It has been in the desperate attempt to escape from torturing memories — memories of wrong and injustice and imputed dishonour — from a sense of insupportable loneliness, and a dread of some strange impending doom.’

Here certainly Poe's words give no colour to the idea that his vice was but a ‘mnemonic means,’ a method of work, apart from which his genius was unproductive. And it is quite susceptible of proof that his best work was done at those periods during which he bravely braced himself to abstinence. Some effort may [page 199:] be made in this direction by-and-by; meanwhile what we most concerned to make clear is, that Poe, who was in a rare degree a faithful self-analyst, gives no support whatever to the theories of Baudelaire and the rest.

In connection with all this, it may not be out of place to direct attention to his often-expressed conception of genius, in order to see how it will square with that theory which his apologists have been so eager to force his life into illustrating and exemplifying: —

‘What the world calls “genius” he says, ‘is the state of mental disease arising from the undue predominance of some one of the faculties. The works of such genius are never sound in themselves, and, in especial, always betray the general mental insanity. The proportion of the mental faculties in a case where the general mental power is not inordinate, gives that result which we distinguish as talent: and the talent is greater or less, first, as the general mental power is greater or less; and, secondly, as the proportion of the faculties is more or less absolute. The proportion of the faculties, in a case where the mental power is inordinately great, gives that result which is the true genius (but which, on account of the proportion and seeming simplicity of its work, is seldom acknowledged to be so); and the genius is greater or less, first, as the general mental power is more or less inordinately great; and, secondly, as the proportion of the faculties is more or less: absolute. An objection will be made — that the greatest exercise of mental power, however proportionate, does not seem to satisfy our idea of genius, unless we have, in addition, sensibility, passion, energy. The reply is, that the absolute proportion spoken of when applied to inordinate mental power gives, as a result, the appreciation of beauty and horror of deformity, which we call sensibility, together with that intense vitality which is implied when we speak of “energy” or “passion.”

‘In lauding beauty genius merely evinces a filial affection. To genius beauty gives life — reaping often a reward of immortality. .... Not only do I think it paradoxical to speak of a man of genius as personally ignoble, but I confidently maintain that the highest genius is but the loftiest moral nobility.’

Whatever mistakes he may have fallen into in his poetry, his theory, as expressed by himself, was clear. ‘In all noble thoughts, in all holy impulses, in all chivalrous, generous, and self-denying deeds,’ he recognised the elements of poetic emotion — the emotion of the beautiful. We do not say that we endorse every utterance of Poe on this much-debated point, but it is clear that he does not. himself view genius in the same light as his friendly apologists: so ostentatiously do. With him genius is health, strength, morality, no abnormal exercise of any separate organ, or anything due to a false and unhealthily-stimulated activity. Here he gives no quarter to drunken inspiration, nor to delirium tremens. [page 200:]

His strength, on the other hand, the Baudelaires would have us to trace to his defiance of conventionality and respectability, as though his value to literature lay in those lapses from truth and rectitude which set him in reaction against society; and so identified with his work have certain accepted elements in his character become, that an able critic — who however reflects common prejudices rather oftener than he thinks, and industriously repeats hard and misleading commonplaces when he can find a sentence that seems smart, has ventured to sum up Poe's characteristics thus: ‘He is a Nathaniel Hawthorne plus delirium tremens.’ This — which is one of the most perverse and unjust declarations ever seriously made by an accredited English critic — has here and there been highly praised by newspaper reviewers: it would have been beneath notice in our idea, if it had not been for the name of its author. If Poe had had anything really in common with Hawthorne, it would still have remained an indelicacy to leave it to be inferred that that kind of genius could so readily ally itself with delirium tremens. It shall, by-and-by, be our part to show that Hawthorne and Poe have really as little in common as any two writers who have recently adorned English literature.

It seems, however, to be acknowledged on all hands that Poe was a victim of that terrible disease — dipsomania. All his biographers agree in this — even Mrs. Whitman, whose monograph — ‘Poe and his Critics’ is one of the ablest and most effective defences we have read — is compelled to yield this much. Poe himself, at one place, is stung into this bitter confession: — Perhaps even there was an epoch at which it might not have been wrong for me to hint — what by the testimony of medical men I might have demonstrated, had the public, indeed, cared for the demonstration — that the irregularities so profoundly lamented were the effect of a terrible evil rather than its cause.’ Mr. Ingram, whose industry has been untiring, and who has succeeded in bringing together such new facts and documents as render ridiculous and wholly dispose of many of Griswold's charges, is compelled regretfully to allow that towards the end of his life, and after he was deprived of the society of that loving, patient, much-enduring wife, he did find escape from his sorrows in indulgence. It should be borne in mind, too, — what is acknowledged by all his friends — that a very small quantity of wine or spirits set his sensitive brain aflame, made him, in a word, raving mad, and unfit for some time for any kind of work. Taking these circumstances into account, we might well be surprised at the amount of hard, intent mental labour which Poe, who died while yet young, [page 201:] did get through, if it be true that he was an ‘habitual drunkard.’ His criticism alone is a respectable body of writing, and in its closely-knit thought and guarded statement represents a vast amount of mental toil. There is one consideration suggested here, too, which has not, so far as we know, been pointed out. It is this: that running alongside of that line of work, portions of which have been held up as justifying this delirium tremens view, there is this other, at many points of date coincident with the production of specimens of the other class. It may or it may not be marked by jealousy, as the writer of the article, American ‘Literature,’ in the ‘Encyclopædia Britannica,’ asserts and dwells upon, but no one could say that it was otherwise than clear and regardful of rule, and sane in the best sense. Mr. James Russell Lowell, who could quite easily detect what of fudge there was in Poe, said of his criticisms: — They are distinguished for scientific precision and coherence of logic. They have the exactness, and at the same time the coldness, of mathematical demonstrations.’ We are not aware, indeed, that any charge of lack of clearness, or of complete sobriety and sanity of mind, has ever been raised by any writer of note in reference to Poe's criticisms, essays, and marginalia, which belong to the first rank in their several orders of work.

The truth seems to be that for a considerable period of his life Poe, under the stimulus of pure and loved companionship, managed to withstand his demon, and to rise above it, imparting to all his surroundings that air of extreme polish and high breeding which was remarked and confessed to not less by Griswold than by Mrs. Whitman, Mrs. Osgood, and Mr. Willis. It was during this period that the bulk of Poe's work of the highest value was achieved; and the immense importance of Mr. Ingram's biography is evident in nothing more than in this, that it enables us correctly to fix dates, and to see in what a surprising and almost unprecedented way Poe contrived to master his impulses, to control them, indeed, by force of will, so as to brace himself to honourable labour, stirred thereto by faithful love. To make this the more evident to our readers, it is needful that we glance first at some of those points in Mr. Ingram's memoir which most directly contest the commonly accepted view of Poe, and then proceed to exhibit his characteristics, and contrast him with some of those of Hawthorne, with whom he has been most frequently compared.


Paradox and contradiction meet us at every turn in trying to search out the facts of Poe's short life. In opening the edition of [page 202:] the works by Griswold, we find a preface by his mother-in-law, Mrs. Clemm, whose devotion to her darling Eddie’ might of itself have sufficed to temper some of Griswold's statements. In this preface, after mentioning that Poe had requested Griswold to act as his literary executor, and N. P. Willis to write such observations upon his life and character as he might deem suitable, Mrs. Clemm goes on to say: —

‘These requests he made with less hesitation, and with confidence that they would be fulfilled, from his knowledge of these gentlemen; and he many times expressed a gratification of such an opportunity of decidedly and unequivocally certifying his respect for the literary judgment and integrity of Mr. Griswold, with whom his personal relations, on account of some unhappy misunderstanding, had for years been interrupted.

‘In this edition of my son's works, which is published for my benefit, it is a great pleasure for me to thank Mr. Griswold and Mr. Willis for their prompt fulfilment of the wishes of the dying poet, in labours which demanded much time and attention, and which they have performed without any other recompense than the happiness which rewards acts of duty and kindness.’

Had Mrs. Clemm read the memoir when she wrote this preface, or was she so blinded by grief as to fail to perceive the animus it breathed throughout? Either way, her graceful thanks to Griswold sound like severest irony. The misunderstanding referred to arose from some expressions of Poe upon a work of Griswold's. For more than a year they were not on speaking terms. Poe afterwards recalled and apologised for what he had said; and the reconciliation was so complete, that Griswold stood in the most confidential relations with Poe, wrote a sketch of him in a magazine while Poe yet lived, the tone of which was very different indeed from that of the memoir;* lent him money on several occasions, even to the extent of fifty dollars, when Poe had got possession of the ‘Broadway Journal;’ and was, in fact, a familiar and trusted friend of the whole Poe family — as is clearly proved by the tone in which poor Mrs. Clemm speaks in her preface. Now, as we shall point out presently, Griswold's memoir shows such distinct ill-will and desire [page 203:] of depreciation, that he is self-convicted of dishonesty and meanness. Either he, from motives of self-interest or from other reasons, pretended friendly feeling to a man whom he hated at heart, or else Poe was not the person whom he paints in his memoir; friendship for such a man being hardly possible. And even if Griswold could reconcile in his own mind the two positions, there was surely no reason why he should not have excused himself from undertaking a duty which he felt unable to discharge with that sympathy which is essential to success, and the existence of which must have been taken for granted by the dying man in making the request.

Of Poe's early life most readers have a general idea. He came of a good family in Virginia. His father was a student of law, who, falling in love with an actress, eloped, relinquished his own profession, and followed hers; and both parents dying suddenly, three helpless children were left to the tender mercies of the world. Edgar, a boy of singular beauty and quickness, was adopted by a rich merchant — Mr. Allan — an intimate friend of the family, after whom he had been named. Here he was made a ‘show child’ of; his cleverness and power of recitation often serving to amuse the guests; and doubtless he was indulged in many unwise ways. The Allans came to England in 1816, bringing Edgar with them, and he was put to school at Dr. Bransby's, at Stoke Newington, London, where he soon distanced all his fellow-pupils. He returned home in 1821, and was sent to an academy at Richmond, where his allowances were so liberal as to encourage him in gambling. It was while here, as Mrs. Whitman tells us, that he first saw Mrs. Helen Stannard — the mother of one of his fellow-scholars — who spoke such gentle and gracious words to him, that she became the confidant of all his boyish sorrows, and gained such influence over him, as to restrain him from many boyish follies and excesses. It was to her that the early poem, To Helen,’ was addressed; and it is said that after she was buried Poe would go nightly to visit her tomb; and when the nights were dreary and cold, when the autumnal rains fell, and the winds wailed mournfully over the ‘graves, he lingered longest and came away most regretfully.’ Who can say how different might have been Poe's fate if, through his passionate childhood and youth, he had had the love and care of such a mother as this? We have cited these few facts of his early life mainly to show how great were the chances of his being misunderstood, and unrestrained where restraint was most needful, his vanity and headstrong passion excited while yet there was no real sympathy.

Poe's next step was to enter the University of Charlottesville, [page 204:] from which Griswold says that he was expelled. Mr. Ingram proves by documents that this was not the case; that Poe left with the highest honours, but that no arrangements for graduation had yet been made. Then he set out on that Quixotic enterprise of aiding the Greeks in their war of independence, but he never reached the scene of strife, and returned home in 1829. Already, in 1827, however, he had published a volume of poems, which had elicited flattering notice; and this circumstance may have helped to make him the less submissive to the strict discipline of West Point, which he had entered at the wish of Mr. Allan — a thing made all the more probable by the fact that while here he published an enlarged edition. He left West Point and returned home, quarrelled with Mr. Allan and his young wife, and, turned adrift, betook himself to literature in earnest. He won the prize for a tale, and was thus introduced to the well-known author, Mr. Kennedy; who recommended him to Mr. White, of the Southern Literary Messenger,’ in Richmond, on which he acted as editor for nearly two years. Here it was that he married his cousin, Virginia Clemm. Griswold declares that he was dismissed from the ‘Messenger’ for drunkenness; but Mr. White's own testimony may be taken that he had found more remunerative employment. Our space will not permit to follow him in detail — now in New York, now in Philadelphia, back again in New York, and once more in Richmond; writing here and there, and ever and anon producing such works as excited the admiration or the curiosity of the reading public. What we are chiefly concerned to make evident are Griswold's libels. We do not trouble ourselves with points which are doubtful, and if we make animus apparent that will be enough. Our readers can go to Mr. Ingram's Memoir and judge for themselves on the details. Having admitted Poe's besetting weakness, we do not need to claim that he never broke out into excess, nor fell into wild extravagance: our position is that he never sought to defend or to excuse himself for this, and that pity for him in his fatal temperamental weakness is a more suitable feeling than reproach. But Griswold does more than reproach; he is wholly merciless. He cannot even admit merit in the juvenile poems of Poe; and it is more than probable indeed that he intentionally misdated, simply in order to lessen their juvenility, involving himself thus in transparent contradiction. They do not, he says, ‘evince a very ‘remarkable precocity;’ and in the same volume, in perilous proximity to this statement, there is printed the opinion of Lowell, that they were the most remarkable juvenile poems he had ever read; adding, ‘we know of none that can compare with them for [page 205:] ‘maturity of purpose and a nice understanding of the effects of ‘language and metre.’ To detract the more from Poe, Griswold even injures others. He slanders John P. Kennedy and the other judges who awarded that prize to Poe's tale — The MS. found in a Bottle,’ — saying that they did not do their duty, but ‘gave the prize to the first of geniuses who had written legibly, and did not open another MS.’ — a statement which was at once categorically denied. When it suits him, he declares exultingly, as we have seen, that Poe had few friends;’ but when he wishes to lessen Poe's credit for sustained power of production, he manages it by saying that when Poe seemed to be writing almost the whole of the ‘Broadway Journal’ he was dependent on ‘much friendly assistance — which has since been proved to have been limited to a few poems. And when Poe, driven to the sad confession of inherited dipsomania, allows himself even to urge medical testimony, Griswold will not have it so, and grimly declares that ‘its pathology was like that of ‘ninety-nine of every hundred cases of the disease.’ This is candour run to the point of vulgar cruelty, and no more than this needs to be said. But his spite and detraction everywhere appear, both when he is dealing with the man and with his works. ‘Arthur Gordon Pym,’ he says, ‘is his longest story, and it is not without some sort of merit, but it received little attention;’ and the Murders of the Rue Morgue and Marie Roget are not ingenious, but they have been thought more ingenious than they are on account of ‘their method or air of method.’ The subtlety of reasoning’ in ‘The Gold Bug’ is only apparent;’ Griswold can see no genius in inventing mysteries merely to unravel them. ‘He walked ‘the streets,’ says Griswold, ‘in madness or melancholy, with lips moving in indistinct curses, or with eyes upturned in ‘passionate prayer (never for himself, for he felt, or professed to ‘feel, that he was already damned, but) for their happiness who at the moment were objects of his idolatry.’ If this showed something of an ill-balanced mind, it certainly is not a wholly depraved or selfish one. Griswold's jealous hatred blinds him even to the effect of his own words. The man who is, in his own idea, damned, and yet can pray for others, is far from being the hopeless, degraded wretch Griswold would have us believe Poe to have been. Any change in Poe's circumstances is, according to him, in some degree determined by drink. Poe is guilty of plagiarism, of foul assault, of deliberate cruelty towards a lady to whom he had engaged himself, and yet this was the man with whom Griswold was glad to be reconciled, and with whom he remained on the most familiar and confidential terms for years. Mr. Ingram has the merit of clearly [page 206:] proving that Griswold is not reliable — that he was impelled by a secret hate, which he had nursed through years, only to be let loose on the poet after his death.

Another of the irreconcilable paradoxes of Poe's posthumous fate is the presence of Mr. N. P. Willis's tribute alongside of Griswold's revengeful scandals. Poe was for six months employed by Mr. Willis on the ‘Mirror’ newspaper. In a subordinate capacity he did his work faithfully, was unfailing in regularity, cheerful and obliging always, according to Mr. Willis. It was during his service on the ‘Mirror’ that Poe wrote the ‘Raven;’ and if it had been true that on the very day of its issue, as Griswold asserts, he was reeling drunk on the streets, and began a debauch that lasted for weeks, his regularity on the Mirror’ must have been disturbed. We must take either Griswold's assertion or Willis's testimony, for one of them must be worthless. Mr. Willis remained to the end a true friend of Poe, and his testimony has a special value. The note of sympathy is as distinctly struck in his Recollections as is the note of hate in Griswold's Memoir. He says: —

‘The ancient fable of two antagonistic spirits imprisoned in one body, — equally powerful, and having the complete mastery by turns — of one man, that is to say, inhabited by both a devil and an angel — seems to have been realised, if all we hear is true, in the character of the extraordinary man whose name is written above.’

He goes on to say that, according to accounts, Poe's whole nature in certain circumstances seemed to be reversed.

‘In this reversed character it was never our chance to see him. know it from hearsay, and we mention it in connection with this sad infirmity of physical constitution, which puts it upon very nearly the ground of a temporary and almost irresponsible insanity. The arrogance, vanity, and depravity of heart, of which Mr. Poe has been generally accused, seems to us referable altogether to this reversed phase of his character.”

And after giving several of his letters, he proceeds: —

‘Brief and chance-taken as these letters are, we think they sufficiently prove the existence of the very qualities denied to Mr. Poe — humility, willingness to persevere, belief in another's kindness, and capability of cordial and grateful friendship. Such he assuredly was when sane; such only he has invariably seemed to us, in all we have happened personally to know of him, through a friendship of five or six years. And so much easier is it to believe what we have seen and known, than what we hear of only, that we remember him but with admiration and respect — these descriptions of him, when morally insane, seeming to us like portraits, painted in sickness, of a man we have only known in health.’ [page 207:]

One of the worst and most conclusive points against Griswold is that, though some of his statements were disproved during his life in the columns of the ‘New York Tribune,’ no explanation or apology was elicited from him. We are bound, therefore, to conclude such animus on his part as wholly invalidates his report.


Of Poe's genius much has been written, yet there remains room for a brief analysis of his characteristic qualities. The first thing that strikes a careful reader is the supernatural or rather extra-natural atmosphere in which he revels. His eye is ever turned away from earth. The most beautiful of actual landscapes has no charm for him. He is preoccupied with some picture of the mind, which owes all its colour to weird and fatal enchantments. Men and women pass him by, brush clothes with him, but he seldom feels the thrill of brotherhood. In a special sense he walks apart in a world of his own — a world rich, beautiful, even gorgeous; but with glooms and terrors hovering over it, and ever ready to burst upon the creatures of his fancy with whom he has peopled it. The natural passions have no scope in his writings. He celebrates no real and healthy love; his muse's wing droops and flags when it nears earth. It is among phantoms, ghosts, ghouls, echoes of dead joys, that she dwells, seeking to veil the past even as she unfolds it. It has been remarked that Poe has ever dealt with love with absolute purity of feeling. This, however, was easy, for the love he celebrates is love for the disembodied, — a yearning for an individual reunion, denied and hopeless. He is, par excellence, the poet of remorse, and dream, and morbid phantasy.

And yet it would be wrong to say of Poe that he does not write from experiences that originally had their root in natural affections and passions. It is as though a nature, — solicitous of affection, keenly sensitive, seeking a natural ground to repose on, had been disappointed, and, all the genial current turned backward, had exhausted itself in the vain effort to draw satisfaction from images, shadows, phantoms. He conjures up before himself constantly a spiritual world, but one in which the individual affections are nipt and die, and can be recovered only by physical re-embodiment. Therefore he escapes from it as if by sudden rebound, into a gross materialism that regards death as simple separation, with no hope of reunion; while the imagination retreats into mere dream, and establishes for itself there a pseudo-spiritual world, which it forces upon the intellect. Such tales as ‘Ligeia’ and ‘Morella’ are thus definite embodiments of his creed — a creed which found most logical but most mournful exhibition in ‘Eureka’ — a piece of the [page 208:] most painful pantheism ever proclaimed. According to it, the individual life exists merely for the world-soul, and reabsorption into it, with him, as with the Brahmins, is the only rest possible to human creatures — a dull nirwana.* It has been well said that ‘Ligeia’ and ‘Morella’ commemorate a psychical attraction which transcends the dissolution of the mortal body and oversweeps the grave; the passionate soul of the departed transfusing itself through the organ of another, to manifest its deathless love; but it should have been added that this is regarded by Poe as the only form in which it could thus manifest affection or even conscious — Out of this conviction springs that haunting remembrance and that remorseful pity for the dead which form such distinguishing features of Poe's writings; a vein inseparable from his most individual moods. It is the dominating tone which imparts even to the sweetest of his lyrics a haunting horror hardly in keeping, one often feels, with the clear and graceful music of the form. The penchant for the horrible which is thus generated does not exist in him for itself merely, but in default of the natural affections and passions, the instinct of which has escaped from him as if by reaction. When the young student still in his teens haunted the grave-yard where Mrs. Helen Stannard was buried, and crept as near as he could to the corner where she lay, assuring himself of some kind of communion with her by the mere fact of physical proximity, and lingering the longest when the winds roared and the rain fell, we have the first indications of a tendency which remained to the end, and grew till it became excessive by being artificially stimulated and wrought upon for purposes of art, which, we must admit, it occasionally did something to degrade. Let our readers turn to that ‘Ligeia’ to which we have just referred, — where the soul of the dead love takes possession of the body of the dying wife, transforming it to the former bodily likeness of the other, — and we are certain that, in the influence it produces, they will have to confess themselves the victims of a kind of literary legerdemain, which at length will come to use freely for its purposes the most repellent and unallowed secrets of life. The natural result of such a process long persisted in is that the very facts of life that are thus travestied in a pseudo-spiritual atmosphere — the creation of [page 209:] the phantasy — come to be disbelieved in; and sooner or later the cynical element asserts itself, sucking down the last relics of natural reverence — as is all too plainly seen, for instance, in the tale of King Pest’ — a story of the London Plague, in which all the ghastly horrors of that time are made to masquerade in oddest guise before us. The cynicism which, by consciously shutting off the over-stimulated fancy from real life and its concerns, as it had before unconsciously been shut out by the environment of a pseudo-spiritual atmosphere, cannot but empty life at last of its common hopes and softening mysteries, to set in their place a scepticism — which, unfortunately, with Poe issued in an identification of the body with the soul, and a refusal to view them apart, even in view of artistic effect.

Contrast for a single instant the vague delight and charm with which, in the reversal of the action of the senses in the moment of death, he surrounds the tragic change in his dialogue of Monos and Una,’ with the expression in his marginalia, Who ever saw anything but horror on the face of the dead?’ This is very characteristic, as showing, by directest contrast, the difference with him between dream impression and real impression. Yet even in this dream-death, ‘the perceptions were all purely sensuous. The materials furnished the passive brain by the senses ‘were not in the least degree wrought into shape by the deceased ‘understanding.’ And he refuses to separate soul from body.

‘When the noon of the second day came, I was not unconscious of the movements which displaced you from my side, which confined me within the coffin, which deposited me within the hearse, and bore me to the grave; which lowered me within it, which heaped heavily the mould upon me, which thus left me, in blackness and corruption, to my sad and solemn slumbers with the worm. And here, in the prison-house which has few secrets to disclose, there rolled away days and weeks and months, and the soul watched narrowly each second as it flew, and, without effort, took record of its flight — without effort and without object.

‘A year passed. The consciousness of being had grown hourly more indistinct, and that of mere locality had, in great measure, usurped its position. The idea of entity was becoming merged in that of place. The narrow space immediately surrounding what had been the body was now growing to be the body itself. At length, as often happens to the sleeper (by sleep and its world alone is Death imaged) — at length as sometimes happened on Earth to the deep slumberer, when some flitting light half startled him into awaking, yet left him half enveloped in dreams — so to me — in the strict embrace of the Shadow, came that light, which alone might have had power to startle — the light of enduring Love. Men toiled at the grave in which I lay darkling. They upthrew [page 210:] the damp earth. Upon my mouldering bones there descended the coffin of Una.

‘And now all again was void. That nebulous light had been extinguished. That feeble thrill had vibrated into acquiescence. Many lustra had supervened. Dust had returned to dust. The worm had food no more. The sense of being had at length utterly departed, and there reigned in its stead — instead of all things, dominant and perpetual — the autocrats Place and Time. For that which was not — for that which had no form — for that which had no thought — for that which had no sentience — for that which was soundless, yet of which matter formed no portion — for all this nothingness, yet for all this immortality, the grave was still a home, and the corrosive hours, co-mates.’

This — one of the most characteristic and finished of Poe's speculative tales — would have been simply repulsive and horrible, had it not been for the grace, delicacy, and subtle music of the style in which it is written.*

This, at all events, is the source of that weird painfulness and fascination which characterise Poe's greatest poems, as well as the more imaginative of his prose tales. Even in that wonderfully musical, richly-dight lyric of ‘Annabel Lee,’ where regret and despair seem to soften themselves in the uprising conviction of a perpetuated relationship, we find that this materialism obtains to destroy the effect of one of the most graceful fancies in all literature: —

‘And this was the reason that long ago

In this kingdom by the sea,

A wind blew out of a cloud, chilling

My beautiful Annabel Lee;

So that her highborn kinsmen came

And bore her away from me,

To shut her up in a sepulchre

In this kingdom by the sea.

* * * *  

‘For the moon never beams, without bringing me dreams

Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;

And the stars never rise, but I feel the bright eyes

Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;

And so, all the night tide, I lie down by the side

Of my darling — my darling — my life and my bride,

In the sepulchre there by the sea,

In her tomb by the sounding sea.[page 211:]

Here we see it is the soul that is merely poetical and figurative; the body that is real and individual. For be it noted that when, in another stanza, he does make use of the term soul,’ it is strangely to confuse our common ideas of the ministry of angels in relation to the dead and the after-world. Angels and demons are with him alike only messengers of separation and evil. Listen: —

‘But our love it was stronger by far than the love

Of those who were older than we,

Of many far wiser than we;

And neither the angels in heaven above,

Nor the demons down under the sea,

Can ever dissever my soul from the soul

Of the beautiful Annabel Lee.

Heaven and the future were, after all, to Poe, nothing but figure or fancy, a world of dreams, ‘the limbo of lunary souls,’ at the best. He speaks of Aidenn, but lays a light grasp upon it. It is something to be caught hold of by the fancy, used for the sake of symbol, and the drawing forth into sustained sweetness of chosen metaphors and poetic turns of phrase. It is hardly more than this, and his persistent use of it in this way is one of the most characteristic things about his genius and its development. For here we may see how the strange unearthly sweetness of his poems — a rare something indefinable, and only to be named as a troubled glamour of moonlight — traces itself after all to the same root as the ghastly and horrible in his prose tales. This idea once clearly seized leads in our view to the very centre of Poe's secret both in life and work.

He himself significantly confessed that the visions which visited him impressed him with profounder awe than any reality. I regard these visions,’ he says, ‘even as they arise, with an awe which in some measure moderates or tranquillises the ecstasy — I so regard them through a conviction that this ecstasy, in itself, is of a ‘character supernal to the human nature — is a glimpse of the spirit'souter world.’ We have then to regard him as a dreamer, as one who derives what practical rules he recognises, and seeks to live by, from a world that lies apart. Hence that element of solitariness, combined with an idea of unrest, which has struck the most differently — constituted critics on a study of his writings. The cup of bliss — of earthly bliss — may be at his lips, but he dashes it aside in remorseful haste at thought of the dead, who may be wronged by his acquiescence. This is an oft-recurring idea — it is the groundwork of several of his poems; and various actions of his life were far from inconsistent with it. There is therefore a [page 212:] suggestive significance in the words of Mrs. Whitman, which cannot be completely understood unless in such a connection as this: —

‘Sadder, lonelier, and more unbelieving than any of his contemporaries, Poe came to sound the very depths of the abyss. The unrest and faithlessness of the age culminated in him. Nothing so solitary, nothing so hopeless, nothing so desolate as his spirit in its darkest moods, has been instanced in the literary history of the nineteenth century.’

If we take no higher view of Poe than that his was a morbid mind which brought to its service a wonderful command of musical language, and flung it out haphazard, bewitching us now with a ‘Raven,’ and now with a Lenore,’ that had no distinct ethical purpose, then these words of Mrs. Whitman will seem very highflown. But, in opposition to this view, his ethical purport is so unmistakably a part of his art, that, in spite of what has been said about his lack of conscience, we must assert that it is everywhere burdened by the ethos. The reaction against the ecstasy first felt in the awe of the vision constrains him, so that before he can command himself to utter it, his attitude becomes protestful; and the lesson is that the joys of vision are fateful and unsatisfying. His morality is thus a constant warning against the dream-world in which it was his doom to dwell, and out of which he brought for us his music. Take the three last stanzas of ‘Ulalume:’ —

‘I replied, “This is nothing but dreaming:

Let us on by this tremulous light!

Let us bathe in this crystalline light!

Its sibyllic splendour is beaming

With hope and in beauty to night: —

See! it flickers up the sky through the night!

Ah, we safely may trust to its gleaming,

That cannot but guide us aright,

Since it flickers up to heaven through the night.”

‘Thus I pacified Pysche and kissed her,

And tempted her out of her gloom —

And conquered her scruples and gloom;

And we passed to the end of the vista,

But were stopped by the door of a tomb —

By the door of a legended tomb;

And I said, “What is written, sweet sister,

On the door of this legended tomb?“

She replied, “Ulalume — Ulalume —

'Tis the vault of thy lost Ulalume!” [page 213:]

‘Then my heart it grew ashen and sober,

As the leaves that were crispèd and sere —

As the leaves that were withering and sere;

And I cried, “It was surely October

On this very night of last year

That I journeyed — I journeyed down here —

That I brought a dead burden down here —

On this night of all nights in the year,

Ah, what demon has tempted me here?

Well I know, now, this dim lake of Auber —

This misty mid region of Weir —

Well I know, now, this dank tarn of Auber,

This ghoul-haunted woodland of Weir.” ’

More characteristically still, perhaps, is this seen in the closing stanzas of the ‘Bridal Ballad’ — for rhythm and music one of the most perfect things in the language: —

‘And thus the words were spoken,

And thus the plighted vow,

And, though my faith be broken,

And, though my heart be broken,

Behold the golden token

That proves me happy now!

‘Would God I could awaken!

For I dream I know not how,

And my soul is sorely shaken

Lest an evil step be taken —

Lest the dead who is forsaken

May not be happy now.’

The ‘North American Review’ — with which to the end Poe remained in angry feud, heaping sarcasm and contempt so liberally upon all Bostonians, that his array of enemies is not to be wondered at — declared of his poems that they were ‘rich and elaborate pieces of art, wanting in the vis vitæ which alone can make of ‘words living things.’ A short-sighted criticism truly; for, considering the remote and abstract forms of feeling with which he chiefly concerns himself, he has certainly communicated a burning vitality, so that the reader is thrilled precisely as the writer was thrilled when under the first heat of his conception. Mr. Peter Bayne surely shows more of insight when, in his essay on Tennyson, he classes Poe with those who have scattered imaginative spells rather than furnished elaborate imaginative pictures.

‘Imaginative spells,’ — that is the proper word; and not otherwise is it with the more strictly imaginative of his prose tales, where the [page 214:] initiative is distinctly ideal or psychological. Grant his assumption, he is consistent in his development — his mood sustains itself; the spell is adequate and commands you. If you start with him, you must go on to the end, tacitly acknowledging a unity and pervading self-consistency, and relinquishing yourself for the nonce to his guidance. Granted that in some instances his conception is morbid and objectionable, yet his mode of treatment is artistic, and fault is to be found, not with his treatment, but with his theme. Criticism of the kind that fortifies itself by talk of delirium tremens is thus put out of place. If it be said, as Lowell says in his ‘Fable for the Critics,’ that the heart seems squeezed out by the mind,’ that is, ‘ground more relative,’ as founding criticism of individual works on a personal characteristic — which is admissible, though it, too, comes dangerously near to leaving open a right to draw inferences from the work to the author — every way a most dangerous process. Let us illustrate. If Mr. William Gilbert were to be judged merely by his choice of topics in Shirley Hall Asylum’ and ‘Dr. Austen's Guests,’ and without any reference to his purpose and the pervading self-consistency of his treatment, would we not be justified in saying that his penchant for madness proved him to be mad? And all this we may say on grounds of art, without stultifying ourselves when we confess that Poe often overdid the morbid and horrible. The life of literature depends on the return upon common interests — just as amusements and excitements are impossible without common bread; and he is the greatest writer who supplies all. But that is no reason why an author is to be condemned merely because he supplies only one element, and does not concern himself with others.

Some critics, as we have seen, have spoken of Poe as though he had no affinity for the people among whom he dwelt; yet it may be said that, in one respect, he was a representative American. No people on earth view matters more practically, more acutely, than the Americans, — dealing with those around them as so many counters merely, — and yet no people are more prone to find relief and escape from excess of materialistic devotion, and of overweening calculation in spiritualistic rapture and ideal indulgence. Poe's ingenious, if perverted, practicality, which enables him, by dint of symbol, to solve, in his own way, the most difficult problems, while yet he retreats suddenly from them into dream and phantasy, has something more than an individual significance, more especially when taken in connection with his peculiar pantheistic scepticism, and his feverish curiosity and ambition. The dependence of mind on special bodily conditions was never more aptly illustrated. [page 215:] He excels in the power of associating the most exceptional physical conditions with the most exalted and ideal feelings, so as to produce thateeriness’ which can be accepted as a pleasurable relief only by a people of exceptionally high-wrought organization (in which climate may play its own part). In all this — in the cold calculation, in the ‘exalté’ feeling alternating with it, and yet in the solitariness and sudden escape from common interests on a sphere of dream, rather than of spirit proper, Poe is distinctly American; and the form of his work could hardly have been what it is, if he had not been so. He believed more in the realm of fact from which he retreated, than in that of dream into which he made his escape; and the root of his unrest, and self-condemnation, and fevered remorse lay here, precisely as the unrest and dissatisfaction of American life may be said to lie in a materialism which intrudes itself under all its religious, or rather spiritualistic, reactions, and too often makes them seem hollow.

It needs to be said, too, that the fact that Poe so fails at any point sympathetically to touch real life himself, and so to qualify his dominant moods, suggests a defect in him fatal to his taking the highest rank. He is destitute of humour. He sometimes essays wit, but it is only verbal. He is a dreamer, and a dreamer so absorbed in his dream, that real life remains shadowy and distant, and no contact with it can shake him out of his own fancies, or tickle him for a moment into a hearty laugh. They smile, but laugh no more;’ and the smile is a smile of individual self-assertion of the sort that is not hateful only because it is transcendently indifferent. He is an egotist of a kind that would be most unattractive in real life, unless, as in his case, the egotism is associated with peculiar gifts. His lack of interest in ordinary human affairs is physiognomic; he dwells shrouded in a world of fancy and symbol. What concerns him first, even in criticising poetry, is the symbol which stands between him and the essential truth sought to be expressed. The more real and human the truth, the more persistently it would seem does the symbol assert its claim to his attention, precisely as his own vision stood between him and the steady report of the real world. Even when he does receive his initiative from actual occurrences, he must withdraw the facts into the mid region’ of symbol or cipher, and so work out his abstract theory. A lawyer can state a very intricate affair in the form of an A B case, and can give the law upon it; but he certainly cannot take account thus of the emotional elements in which the case had rise, and by which the relations of the parties were constantly qualified. So with Poe. So with Poe. All these tales of his, [page 216:] which are based upon abstract reasonings, may be said to seem more ingenious than they really are; but we can appreciate them fully when saying this, and can, without injustice, condemn Griswold for saying it, as he did, without support of impartial critical reason.

As it is essential for Poe to isolate, and to readjust in this region of symbol what of the facts of life he is content to receive and to deal with, it is inevitable that the more complete and satisfactory his performance, the more should it shut out mystery. and the sense of it from the mind of the producer, and to some extent also from the mind of the reader. Thus it comes about that Poe's analytic art may be said to empty the real world of mystery, and make it half-mechanical, as ‘Eureka’ — in which the universe is treated very much as in one of his sketches he treats the automaton chess-player — incontestably proves. The assumption of the majesty of the individual intellect supervenes. It has been well said therefore that ‘his proud assumption of the superiority of the individual soul was but an expression of its recoil from the haunting phantoms of death and annihilation.’* The only religion possible to Poe was worship of intellect, or self-worship, to which all beauty perceived in nature or in art is tributary. Both as thinker and as artist he was thus materialistic and pantheistic, and stands as the representative of a tendency of the time. Especially is he representative of that assumption of knowledge, that unwillingness to admit mystery, and that individual self assertion, which are more and more becoming characteristic of American life and thought, sucking away the reverence which is so essential to real greatness, national or individual.

That fatal withdrawal from the healthy interest which sympathetic human association affords, was not, with Poe, the result of circumstances. We have seen it pointed out (and apparently Baudelaire had the same idea in his mind when he wrote that passage about the United States being a prison to Poe) that Poe's inherited aristocratic tastes were offended by the lack of grace and beauty in the social circumstances surrounding him. Not so. Place such a nature where you will, for it to live freely is to dream. Circumstances as correctives are repellent to it. Its fatality is to be in opposition; for the ‘powers that be’ are doomed to be contemptuously ignored by it, until they come forward with their demands. Therefore we think ourselves justified in saying that the ‘common-sense order of the world’ would have made any place a prison to Poe as well as the United States. [page 217:]

And we may note that here Poe radically differs from Hawthorne. Hawthorne, along with his wistful, dreamy far-sightedness, had the sagacious patience with fact, the discerning shrewdness and quiet observation that enabled him constantly to seek and to enjoy the verification and correction of his own impressions from new standpoints, and to make canny, humorous note of the disparities of the world and humanity. Hawthorne is no dreamer in the sense we mean when we say that Poe is so. He delighted to recover his normal relations, if we may speak so, after his art-work. Those wonderfully realistic sketches, especially that prefixed to The ‘Scarlet Letter,’ no less than his Note-books, abundantly attest this. The necessity was never so much as felt by Poe. It is in this sense that he is void of conscience, as a man, so far, and not as an artist.

Then, again, the totally different ways in which the two men view the spiritual world, would of itself be conclusive when once pointed out. Who that has ever read that passage in Hawthorne's Note-book, where he relieves a besetting doubt by the conviction that in the next world we shall be able freely to communicate ourselves — where the ‘Babel of words’ will not stand between soul and soul — can forget it? And where in the range of all Poe's writings can you find trace of the expression of such a healthy human religious faith? Poe seems to draw no satisfaction from the thought — if he ever entertains it — of the freedom that shall come to the enfranchised spirit, or from the compensations of Providence and of spiritual relation; he falls back, for fleeting satisfaction rather, on his individual dreams, or if he escapes from them at all, it is only to seek a momentary suggestion from elements of sensuous beauty. Hawthorne, in a word, had faith — faith in men, faith in a future — Poe had not; and the remorse and hoplessness of his prose as well as of his poetry — qualities radical and essential to them — at once and decidedly differentiate his art from that of Hawthorne, in spite of some superficial points of external resemblance.

Another very noticeable point is that, whereas Poe suffered almost chronically from ‘low spirits,’ — ‘blue devils,’ as his friend Mr. White graphically called them — and was hurried by reaction from joy to sorrow, from despondency to ecstasy, Hawthorne, on his own confession, lived a life of equable content, seldom visited by low spirits. And in spite of the problems with which he occupied himself, this is not so surprising when we reflect how he kept himself en rapport with life, eschewed solitude, and regarded nothing as more healthful for a literary man than to have much to do with [page 218:] those who could not sympathize with his peculiar, views and employments:

We had intended to follow out this comparison into much fuller instance and detail. Space forbids; but it is easy to verify the suggestion here given, which we trust many of our readers may be tempted to do for themselves — at the same time gaining more intimate acquaintance with the style and thought of two of the greatest masters of the English language in recent times.


[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 196:]

*The last addition to the Poe biography is ‘An Original Memoir,’ by R. H. Stoddard, a gentleman of New York, who denounces Griswold, and then proceeds simply to surpass him in his own line — raking together such a mass of irrelevant gossip as we never read before.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 202:]

*Mr. Griswold did not wait so long, however, as the production of the memoir for his revenge. In the ‘New York Tribune’ he published a sketch of Poe shortly after his death, in which he wrote: — This announcement will startle many, but few will be grieved by it. The poet was known personally, or by reputation, in all this country: he had readers in England, and in several of the continental states of Europe, but he had but few or no friends.’ Now, to a mind in the least sympathetic, would not the alleged circumstances of Poe's death have been cause enough for grief, and the fewness of his friends a thing to be mourned by the few friends whom he did have?

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 208:]

*The following is a characteristic note to ‘Eureka,’ found pencilled in the poet's copy: — ╩╗The pain of the consideration that we shall lose our individual identity ceases at once when we further reflect that the process, as above described, is neither more nor less than that of the absorption, by each individual intelligence, of all other intelligence (that is of the universe) into its own. That God may be all in all, each must become God.’

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 210:]

*We think that we can detect, among continental writers, some trace of this same process in Heine; certainly we can in Alfred de Musset; while there is one living writer of note in England in whom we can perceive at least a hint of the same tendency. But to name him might be to wrong him, and to expose him to vulgar prejudice, and we refrain.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 216:]

*The italics are ours here, as elsewhere in quotations throughout the article.



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[S:0 - BQR, 1875] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - A Poe Bookshelf - Edgar Allan Poe (Anonymous, 1875)