Text: Eugene L. Didier, “The Poe Monument,” New-York Daily Tribune (New York, NY), vol. XXXV, whole No. 10,806, November 18, 1875, p. 2, cols. 1-3


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BALTIMORE, Nov. 17. — The great demonstration in Baltimore to-day in honor of Edgar A. Poe affords a striking contrast with the ceremony on a dreary Autumn morning in this city 26 years ago, when the body of the poet was privately buried among his ancestors in Westminster Churchyard. On the 9th of October, 1849, a single carriage followed the remains of Edgar A. Poe to the grave. To-day a beautiful monument in his honor has been dedicated in the presence of an immense assemblage, comprising the wealth and culture of Baltimore.

Two o’clock was the time appointed for the beginning of the dedicatory ceremonies, but long before that time the spacious hall of the Western Female High School, adjoining Westminster Church, was filled with the fortunate persons who had obtained tickets of admission, limited to 1,000. On Fayette st., in front of the church and in the churchyard, were hundreds of people who, while waiting for the out-door ceremonies to begin, whiled away the time in viewing the graves of the historic dead, among which is that of James Calhoun, the first Mayor of Baltimore. At 1 1/4 p. m. the exercises were begun by Prof. William Elliott, jr., President of the Baltimore City College, reading a historical sketch of the monument.

Miss Sarah S. Rice, Professor of Elocution in the Western High School, then read, with admirable expression, the letters received from eminent persons invited to be present. Mr. Tennyson said: “I have long been acquainted with Poe’s works, and am an admirer of them. I am obliged for your promise to send me a photograph of the poet’s monument.” William Cullen Bryant said that owing to his advanced age he could not be present, but expressed his interest in the occasion. James Russell Lowell said he sympathized very heartily with the sentiment which led to the erection of the monument. Mrs. Sara [[Sarah]] Helen Whitman, author of “Edgar Poe and His Critics,” wrote the following reply to the invitation: “I need not say to you that the generous efforts of the Association in whose behalf you write have called forth my warmest sympathy and most grateful appreciation. The work has been long delayed, and has been consummated at the right time, and through the most congenial and appreciative agencies.” John G. Whittier said: “The extraordinary genius of Edgar Poe is now acknowledged the world over; and the proffered tribute to his memory indicates a full appreciation of his own intellectual gifts on the part of the city of his birth.” Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote: “The hearts of all who reverence the inspiration of genius, who can look tenderly upon the infirmities too often attending it, who can feel for its misfortunes will sympathize with you as you gather around the resting place of all that was mortal of Edgar Allan Poe and raise the stone inscribed with one of the few names which will outlive the graven record meant to perpetuate its remembrance.” Thomas Bailey Aldrich said: “Your desire to honor Poe’s genius is in the heart of every man of letters, though perhaps no American author stands so little in need of a monument to perpetuate his memory as the author of the ‘Raven.’ His imperishable fame is in all lands.” John G. Saxe expressed his admiration of the noble-hearted men and women of Baltimore who, he said, “by the erection of a beautiful and appropriate monument to the memory of Edgar A. Poe, perform a patriotic office which was primarily and peculiarly the duty, as it should have been the pride, of the American Literati toward one whose original genius has done so much to adorn and distinguish American literature.” Letters were also read from Dr. Holland, Mrs. Margaret J. Preston, and Mr. S. D. Lewis of Brooklyn. The last, who was a generous friend of both Poe and Mrs. Clemm, wrote as follows: “Mr. Poe was one of the most affectionate, kind-hearted men I ever knew. I never witnessed so much tender affection and devoted love as existed in that family of three persons. He was always in my presence the polished gentleman, the profound scholar, the true critic, and the inspired oracular poet; — dreamy and spiritual, lofty, but sad. Your work of erecting a monument over his grave, if it adds nothing to his fame, reflects honor on you and your association, and upon all who sympathize or assist in your noble work.” Miss Rice also read the following poem by William Winter:


by William Winter.

Cold is the paean honor sings,

And chill is glory’s icy breath,

And pale the garland memory brings

To grace the iron doors of death.


Fame’s echoing thunders, long and loud,

The pomp of pride that decks the pall,

The plaudits of the vacant crowd —

One word of love is worth them all.


With dews of grief our eyes are dim;

Ah! let the tear of sorrow start,

And honor, in ourselves and him,

The great and tender human heart!


Through many a night of want and woe

His frenzied spirit wandered wild —

Till kind disaster laid him low,

And Heaven reclaimed its wayward child.


Through many a year his fame has grown, —

Like midnight vast, like starlight, sweet, —

Till now his genius fills a throne,

And nations marvel at its feet.


One meed of justice long delayed,

One crowning grace his virtues crave: —

Ah! take, thou great and injured shade,

The love that sanctifies the grave!


God’s mercy guard in peaceful sleep

The sacred dust that slumbers here,

And, while around this tomb we weep,

God bless for us the mourner’s tear!


And may his spirit, hovering nigh,

Pierce the dense cloud of darkness through,

And know, with fame that cannot die,

He has the world’s affection too!

Prof. Henry E. Shepherd next delivered an address upon the Poetic Genius of Poe. Its most noticeable passages were as follows:


LADIES AND GENTLEMEN: lt is my purpose to speak of Edgar A. Poe, principally as a poet, and as a man of genius. I shall abstain for the most part from personal incidents, or biographical details. These, though not devoid of interest, pertain properly to the historian of literature, or to the biographer. Let his “strange, eventful history” be reserved for some American Masson, Boswell, or Morley.

Edgar A. Poe, was born in 1809, the birth year of Alfred Tennyson, and of Mrs. Browning, the most gifted poetess of any age. The third great era in English letters had then fairly commenced. The spirit of the elder day was revived, the delusive splendor that had so long gilded the Augustan age of Addison, of Bolingbroke, and of Johnson, paled before the marvelous intellectual expansion, the comprehensive culture, that distinguished the first thirty years of the present century. The genius of poesy. no longer circumscribed by arbitrary procedures of a reflective age, ranged in unchecked freedom, reviving the buried forms of medieval civilization, the lay of the minstrel, the lyric of the troubadour, the forgotten splendors of the Arthurian cycle. One day was as a thousand years in the growth and development of the human mind.

Edgar was in his childhood when our last great literary epoch had attained the meridian of its greatness. He spent five years at school in England from 1816 to 1821. The term of Edgar’s school life in England was a period of intense poetical activity and creative form, heroic emprise, knightly valor, and brilliant achievement. In 1822, Edgar, then in his fourteenth year, returned to his native land. He attained to manhood at a time when, by a revolution familiar in the history of every literature, the supremacy was reverting from poetry to prose. The cold generalizations of philosophy chilled the glowing ardor of the preceding epoch. The publication of Macaulay’s Essay on Milton in 1825 marks the transition from the sway of the imaginative faculty to the present unsurpassed period in our prose literature. From this desultory outline of English literature during the early years of our poet, you will observe that his intellectual constitution was formed under peculiar conditions. He does not belong chronologically to the age of Shelley, Byron, and Keats: his position is one of comparative isolation, like that of Wyatt, Sackville, or Collins, in the midst of an unpoetic generation, unsustained by the sweet consolations of poetic association, or the tender endearments of poetic sympathy. When he attained to the full consciousness of his great powers, none of these stimulating influences existed, save as matters of history or poetic tradition. Tennyson in England was viewing nature in perspective, and involving his critics in mases as tangled as the web which enveloped the fated Lady of Shallot. Wordsworth had abjured the teachings of his early manhood. Shelley, Keats, and Byron were dead. Morris and Swinburne were yet unborn, and the thrones of the elder gods were principally filled by “the idle singers of an empty day.” American poetry had then produced little that “future ages will not willingly let die.”


Having traced the conditions of the era during which the poet’s mind was blooming into maturity, we are now [column 2:] prepared to appreciate the distinctive characteristics of his genius, as revealed in his prose, and especially in his poetry. It is known to students of our literary history, from the time that our speech was reduced to comparative uniformity by the rare philological discrimination of Chaucer, there have existed two recognized schools of poets, the native or domestic, and the classical. In some poets the classical element is the animating principle, as in Milton, whose pages, “sprinkled with the “diamond dust of classic lore,” “thick as Autumnal leaves, that strew the brooks in Vallombroea,” afford the most impressive illustration of its power. A wonderful impulse was communicated to the development of classical poetry, by that “morning star of modern song” the poet Keats, and since his advent our poetry has tended more and more to divest itself of native sympathies, and to assume an artistic or literary character. Our poetry may have lost pliancy, but it has gained in elaboration and perfection of structure. Genius and imagination are not repressed, but are regulated by the canons of art, and from their harmonious alliance arises the unsurpassed excellence of Poe’s poetry. In the school of literary or classical poets he must be ranked in that illustrious procession which includes the names of Milton, Ben Johnson, Herrick, Shelley, and Keats. Having assigned to Poe an honorable eminence in the school of classical poets, I proceed to speak of the originality, the creative power, displayed in his poetry, as well as his brilliant achievements in metrical combination. Specific points of resemblance may be discovered between his poetry and that of his cotemporaries or predecessors, but no general or well-defined likeness, and few poets have displayed a more surpassing measure of creative power. Some of his maturer poems are almost without precedent in form, as well as in spirit. The Legend of the Raven, related by Roger De Hoveden, and referring to the era of the Latin conquest of Constantinople, nor the Legend of Herod Agrippa, cited by De Quincey in his celebrated Essay on Modern Superstition, furnishes an adequate foundation for the text of Poe’s masterpiece. The raven has constituted a prominent character in English poetry for many ages. In “Hamlet,” in “Macbeth,” in “Sir David Lindsay,” in Tickell’s exquisite ballad of “Colin and Lucy,” the appearance of this ominous bird of yore will readily suggest itself to all lovers of our dramatic and lyric poetry. But none of these can be considered as the precursor of Poe’s “Raven.” The nearest approach to any distinctive feature of “The Raven” is to be found, I suspect, in the dramas of Shakepeare, those unfailing sources of intellectual nutriment. The one word, “Mortimer,” of Harry Percy’s “Starling” presents a marked phonetic resemblance to the “Nevermore” of “The Raven,” whose melancholy refrain seems almost the echo of the “Starling’s” unvarying note. No poem in our language presents a more graceful grouping of metrical appliances and devices. The power of peculiar letters is evolved with a magnificent touch; the thrill of the liquids is a characteristic feature, not only of the refrain, but throughout the compass of the poem, their “linked sweetness, long drawn out,” falls with a mellow cadence, revealing the poet’s mastery of those mysterious harmonies which lie at the basis of human speech. The continuity of the rhythm, illustrating Milton’s ideal of true musical delight, in which the sense is variously drawn out from one verse into another, the alliteration of the Norse minstrel and the Saxon bard, the graphic delineation and sustained interest are some of the features which place the “Raven” foremost among the creations of poetic art in our age and in our clime.

Another distinguishing characteristic of Poe’s poetry is its rhythmical power and its admirable illustration of that mysterious affinity which binds together the sound and the sense. Throughout all the processes of nature a rhythmical movement is clearly discernible. Upon the conscious recognition of this principle are based all our conceptions of melody, all systems of intonation and inflection. In this dangerous sphere of poetry he won a mastery over the properties of verse that the Troubadours might have aspired to emulate.


Permit me next direct your attention to the classic impress of Poe’s poetry, its blending of genius and culture, and to the estimation in which his productions are held in other lands. The Athenian sculptor in the palmiest days of Attic art wrought out his loveliest conceptions by the painful processes of unflagging dilligence. The angel was not evolved from the block by a sudden inspiration or a brilliant flash of unpremeditated art. By proceeding upon a system corresponding to the diatonic scale in music, the luxuriance of genius was regulated and directed by the sober precepts and decorous graces of formal art. No finer illustration of conscious art has been produced in our century than the “Raven.” In all the riper productions of our poet there is displayed the same graceful alliance of genius, culture and taste. He attained a mastery over the most difficult metrical forms, even those to whose successful production the spirit of the English tongue is not congenial. The sonnet, that peculiarly Italian form of verse, in which few English writers have succeeded, has been admirably illustrated in Poe’s “Zante.” Indeed, much of the acrimony of his criticism arose from his painful sensitiveness to artistic imperfection and his enthusiastic worship of the beautiful. The Grecian caste of his genius led to an pantheistic love of beauty, incarnated in palpable or material forms. This striving after sensuous beauty has constituted a distinctive characteristic of those poets who were most thoroughly imbued with the Grecian taste and spirit. It has left its impress deep upon the texture of our poetry, and many of our most silvery symphonies owe their inspirations to this source. In addition to the classic element, his poetry is pervaded by that natural magic of style, that strange unrest and unreality, those weird notes, like the refrain of his own “Raven,” “so musical, so melancholy,” which are traceable to the Celtic influence upon our composite intellectual character. The quick sensibility, the ethereal temper of these natural artists, have wonderfully enlivened the stolid character of our Anglo-Saxon ancestors, and much of the style and constructive power that have reigned in English poetry from the days of Layamon, of Walter Map, and of Chaucer, may be attributed to the Celtic infusion into the Teutonic blood. Conspicuous examples of its power may be discovered in Shakspeare, in Keats, in Byron, and in Poe.


I have thus endeavored to present to you the intellectual character of Edgar A. Poe as it has revealed itself to me from the diligent study of his works, and from many contrasts and coincidences that literary history naturally suggests, I have attempted to show the versatile character of his genius, the consummate as well as conscious art of his poetry, the graceful blending of the creative and the critical faculty — a combination perhaps the rarest that the history of literature affords — his want of deference to prototypes or models, the chaste and scholarly elegance of his diction, the Attic smoothness and the Celtic magic of his style. Much of what he has written may not preserve its freshness or stand the test of critical scrutiny in aftertimes, but when subjected to the severest ordeal of varying fashion, popular caprice, the “old order changing, yielding place to new,” there is much that will perish only with the English language. The maturer productions of Poe have received the most enthusiastic tributes from the sober and dispassionate critics of the Old World. I shall ever remember the thrill of grateful appreciation with which I read the splendid eulogium upon the genius of Poe in the London Quarterly Review, in which he is ranked far above his cotemporaries, and pronounced one of the most consummate artists of our era, potentially the greatest critic that ever lived, and possessing perhaps the finest ear for rhythm that was ever formed. You are, doubtless, familiar with the impressions produced by the “Raven” upon the mind of Mrs. Browning, “Shakspeare’s daughter and Tennyson’s sister.” It is but recently that one of the master spirits of the new poetic schools has accorded to Poe the preëminence among American poets. Alfred Tennyson has expressed his admiration, who, with true poetic ken, was among the first to appreciate the novelty and delicacy of his method, and when at a time when the Laureate’s fame was obscured by adverse and undiscriminating criticism, plainly foresaw the serene splendor of his matured greatness. An appreciative and generous Englishmen has recently added to the treasure of our literature a superb edition of his works, in which ample recognition is accorded to his rare and varied powers, and the slanders of his acrimonous biographer are refuted by evidence that cannot be gainsayed or resisted. No reader of English periodical literature can fail to observe the frequent tributes to his genius, that have appeared in The Athenaeum, The Academy, the British quarterlies, and the transactions of the new Shakespeare Society. Nor is this lofty estimate of his poems confined to those lands in which the English language is the vernacular speech; it has extended into foreign climes, and aroused appreciative admiration where English literature is imperfectly known and slightly regarded.

Let us rejoice that Poe’s merits have found appropriate recognition, and that the Poet’s Corner in our Westminster is rescued from the ungrateful neglect which for a quarter of a century has constituted the just reproach of our State and metropolis. I recognize in the dedication of this monument to the memory of our poet an omen of highest and noblest import, looking far beyond the mere preservation of his fame by the “dull, cold marble” which marks his long-neglected grave. The impulse which led to its erection coincides in form and spirit with those grand movements which the zeal and enthusiasm of scholars and patriots in Great Britain, and in America, have effected within the past ten years for the perpetuation of much that is greatest in the poetry of the English tongue. At last we have the works of Geoffrey Chaucer restored to their original purity by the praiseworthy diligence of Skeat, Furnivall, Child, and Bradshaw. At last we are to add to the golden treasury of our literature genuine editions of Shakespeare, in which the growth of his genius and his art will be traced by the graceful scholarship and penetrating insight of Ingleby, Tennyson, Spedden, and Simpson. Ten years have accomplished what centuries failed to achieve in rescuing from strange and unpardonable indifference the masterpieces of our elder literature, the Sibylline leaves of our ancient poesy. This graceful marble, fit emblem of our poet, is the expression — perhaps unconscious, undesigned, but none the less effective — of sympathy with this grand intellectual movement of our era. I hail these auspicious omens of the future of our literature with gratitude and delight. But while we welcome these happy indications, while we rejoice in the critical expansion of our peerless literature, let us not disregard the solemn injunction conveyed by this day’s proceedings. While we pay the last tributes of respect to the memory of him who alone was worthy among American poets to be ranked in that illustrious procession of bards around whose names is concentrated the glory of so much of the English tongue, from Chaucer to Tennyson, let us cherish the admonition to nurture and stimulate the poesy of our land until it ascend “with no middle flight” into the “brightest heaven of invention” and the regions of purest phantasy.” [[sic]]


Mr. John H. Latrobe, an aged man and a lawyer of distinction, then gave some personal reminiscences of Poe. He said:

About the year 1832 there was a newspaper in Baltimore called The Saturday Visitor — an ephemeral publication that aimed at amusing its readers with light literary productions, rather than the news of the day. One of its efforts was to procure original tales, and to this end it offered on this occasion two prizes, one for the best story, and the other for the best short poem — $100 for the first and $50 for the last. The judges appointed by the editor of The Visitor were the late John P. Kennedy, Dr. James H. Miller, also deceased, and myself; and accordingly we met, one pleasant afternoon in October, [column 3:] in 1833, in the back parlor of my house in Mulberry st., and, seated round a table garnished with some old wine and some good cigars, commenced our critical labors. As I happened then to be the youngest of the three, I was required to open the packages of prose and poetry, respectively, and read the contents. Alongside of me was a basket to hold what we might reject. I remember well that the first production taken from the top of the prose pile was in a woman’s hand, written very distinctly, as, indeed, were all the articles submitted, and so neatly that it seemed a pity not to award it the prize. It was ruthlessly criticised, however, for it was ridiculously bad, namby-pamby in the extreme, full of sentiment, and of the school then known as “the Laura Matilda school.” Of the remaining productions I have no recollection. The committee had about made up their minds that there was nothing before them to which they could award a prize, when I noticed a small quarto bound book that had until then accidentally escaped attention, possibly because so unlike externally the bundles of manuscript it was to compete with. Opening it, an envelope with a motto corresponding with one in the book appeared, and we found that our prose examination was still incomplete. Instead of the common cursive manuscript the writing was in Roman characters — an imitation of printing. I remember that while reading the first page to myself Mr. Kennedy and the Doctor had filled their glasses and lit their cigars, and when I said that we seemed at last to have a prospect of awarding the prize, they laughed as though they doubted it and settled themselves in their comfortable chairs as I began to read. I had not proceeded far before my colleagues became as much interested as myself. I went through the whole volume of tales, interrupted only by such exclamations as “capital,” “excellent,” “how odd,” and the like. There was genius in everything they listened to — there was no uncertain grammar, no feeble phraseology; no ill-placed punctuation, no worn-out truisms, no strong thought elaborated into weakness. Logic and imagination were combined in rare consistency. There was an analysis of complicated facts, an unraveling of circumstantial evidence that won the lawyer judges — an amount of accurate scientific knowledge that charmed their accomplished colleague — a pure classic diction that delighted all three. When the reading was completed there was a difference of choice. Portions of the tales were read again; and, finally, the Committee selected “A MS. Found in a Bottle.” One of the series was called “A Descent into the Maelstrom,” and this was at one time preferred. There must have been six or eight tales in all. The statement in Dr. Griswold’s life, prefixed to the common edition of Poe’s works, that “it was unanimously decided by the Committee that the prize should be given to the first of geniuses who had written legibly — not another MS. was unfolded,” is absolutely untrue. The selection being made, and the $100 prize awarded because of the unquestionable genius and great originality of the writer, we were at liberty to open the envelope that identified him, and there we found, in the note whose motto corresponded with that of the little volume, the name of Edgar A. Poe.

Mr. Poe called at my office the following Monday to thank me, as one of the Committee, for the award in his favor. He was, if anything, below the middle size, and yet could not be described as a small man. His figure was remarkably good, and he carried himself erect and well, as one who had been trained to it. He was dressed in black, and his frock coat was buttoned to the throat, where it met the black stock then almost universally worn. Not a particle of white was visible. Coat, hat, boots, and gloves, had very evidently seen their best days, but so far as mending and brushing could go, everything had been done, apparently, to make them presentable. His features I am unable to describe in detail. His forehead was high, and remarkable for the great development at the temples. Taking a seat, we conversed a while upon ordinary topics. I asked him whether he was then occupied with any literary labor. He replied that he was engaged in a voyyage to the moon! and at once went into a somewhat learned disquisition upon the laws of gravity, the height of the earth’s atmosphere, and the capacities of balloons, warming in his speech as he proceeded. Presently, speaking in the first person, he began the voyage, after describing the preliminary arrangements, as you will find them set forth in one of his tales, called “The Adventure of One Hans Pfaall,” and, leaving the earth and becoming more and more animated, he described his sensations as he ascended higher and higher, until at last he reached the point in space where the moon’s attraction overcame that of the earth, when there was a sudden bouleversement of the car, and a great confusion among its tenants. By this time the speaker had become so excited, spoke so rapidly, gesticulating much, that when the overturn described in his story took place, as it were, and he clapped his hands and stamped with his foot by way of emphasis, I was carried along with him, and for aught to the contrary that I now remember, may have fancied myself the companion of his aerial journey. When he had finished his description he apologized for his excitability, which he laughed at himself. Dr. Griswold’s statement “that Mr. Kennedy accompanied him [Poe] to a clothing store and purchased for him a respectable suit, with a change of linen, and sent him to a bath,” is a sheer fabrication. I never saw Poe more.

At the conclusion of Mr. Labrobe’s address the assemblage withdrew from the hall and went to the churchyard, where the interesting ceremony of unvalling [[unveiling]] the monument took place. This was performed by Miss Sarah S. Rice, who, from first to last, has taken the most active interest in the erection of the monument. She was assisted by the ladies who took part in the first literary entertainment in aid of the Poe Monument Association in the Autumn of 1865. As the drapery gracefully fell from the marble, the Philharmonic Society of Baltimore, composed of 100 of the best singers in the city, chanted a dirge which had been composed for the occasion by Mrs. Eleanor A. Fullerton.

The dirge was listened to in silence, and with bowed heads, by the immense assemblage. As the voices died away, Mrs. James A. Oates, who is now performing at Ford’s Opera House, advanced, and in behalf of the joint companies of the Holliday Street Theater and the Opera House, placed a magnificent floral crown on the top of the monument.

The monument which has just been dedicated is made of the purest white marble from Maryland quarries. It stands upon a granite base about 18 feet high, and is placed over the poet’s grave in the most conspicuous corner of the cemetery. The monument is simple and chaste, having few ornaments. It recalls in some respects the monument to Shakespeare, recently erected at Victoria Park, Bath, England, though it is superior to this, however, in the simplicity of its design. It also bears a slight resemblance to the Wordsworth monument at Grasmere, England. It has on one side a finely executed medallion bust of the poet, taken from a photograph copy of an original daguerreotype. It is said to be an excellent likeness. Beneath the bust is inscribed the name, “Edgar Allan Poe.” On the opposite side is the following inscription:

Born January 20th, 1809.

Died October 7th, 1849.

A place has been left for an epitaph, which it is expected will be written by Alfred Tennyson.




Note: Although the article was published anonymously, the authorship was identified by E. L. Dider in a letter of April 17, 1907 to the New York Times.

Although Poe was actually born on January 19, 1809, the inscription on the monument does indeed bear the error of January 20, 1809, which it is not possible to correct without marring the marble.



[S:0 - NYDT, 1875] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - A Poe Bookshelf - The Poe Monument (Eugene L. Didier, 1875)