Text: George E. Woodberry, “Poe in the South: Selections from the Correspondence of Edgar Allan Poe,” Century Magazine (New York, NY), vol. XXVI, no. 4, August 1894, pp. 572-583


[page 572:]




NO piece of biography in the annals of literature has so unenviable a reputation as that memoir which Dr. Rufus W. Griswold, acting as Poe's literary executor, prefixed to the first complete edition of his works. Its authenticity has been attacked from the time of its appearance, and no words of objurgation have been too harsh to characterize the man who penned it; at the same time very little of its substance has ever been invalidated. The papers on which it was based passed into the hands of Griswold's own executor, and have never been seen by any of Poe's later biographers. They have recently come, by inheritance, into the possession of Griswold's son, William M. Griswold of Cambridge, Mass., by whose permission the following account of them, with extracts, is given, in anticipation of their publication in full under his own editorship. It falls to his part to show in detail how they affect the reputation of his father as a biographer; but a word or two, in general, must be said here of their bearing on the original memoir.

The delicacy of Griswold's task was well understood at the time. A writer in “Holden's Magazine,” in 1849 (said to be C. F. Briggs, [column 2:] Poe's co-editor in the “Broadway Journal”), stated it very plainly:

A biography of Mr. Poe is soon to be published, with his collected writings, under the supervision of Rev. Rufus W. Griswold; but it will be a long while, if ever, before the naked character of the sad poet will be exposed to public gaze. There is a generous disposition on the part of those who knew him intimately to bury his failings, or rather personal characteristics, in the shade of forgetfulness; while nothing is dwelt upon but his literary productions.

He was a psychological phenomenon, and more good than harm would result from a clear, unprejudiced analysis of his character. But when will any one be found bold enough to incur the risk of an imputation of evil motives, by making such a revelation as the task demands?

The weightiest statement in respect to the actual work done by Griswold in the memoir is that of Mr. J. C. Derby, in “Fifty Years among Authors, Books, and Publishers,” as follows:

The most important of all of Mr. Redfield's publications, however, were the works of Edgar Allan Poe. It was also through Mr. Griswold that he was induced to undertake the publication of Poe's works, now one of the most popular authors of the day. Dr. Griswold had offered the works to nearly all the leading publishers, who declined to undertake the publication. He finally persuaded Mr. Redfield to try the experiment of issuing two volumes first, which were published and had a fair sale — then the third, and finally the fourth, volume were added to complete the [page 573:] works. The sale reached about fifteen hundred sets every year.

... Mr. Redfield thinks great injustice has been done by certain critics to Rev. Dr. Griswold, in reflecting upon him as Poe's biographer. In a recent letter to me [Derby] he says:

“Griswold never received a cent for his labors. Poe named him as his literary executor shortly be fore he died, although they had quarreled not long before. Griswold's labor was no joke. Few men would have undertaken it with no hope of re ward. It is fashionable nowadays to throw mud at him. Knowing, as I did, both of the men, and knowing, also, how assiduously Griswold labored to say everything he could in the biography in Poe's favor, it is very annoying to read these things. The matter of the biography was all read over to me, talked and discussed before printing, and I kiiow he did his best to ‘set down naught in malice.’ He was obliged, as he thought, to state the facts in all cases, and he did state them, favorably as he could to Poe. I know he tried to do so. Now he is accused everywhere, by people who know nothing about it, of vilely slandering Poe. I had a better opportunity than any one else to know all about it, and I know he did not.”

Griswold has not lacked other defenders, who were well acquainted with both men. In writing a biography of Poe some years ago, the present writer had occasion to investigate the charges made against Griswold. The result was a conviction that the documents he quoted were genuine, and that the impression he gave of Poe's character and career was just, while his errors were due to Poe's own falsehoods. The question of Griswold's discretion in his memoir is governed by the fact that Poe's defects and troubles were notorious at the time, and could not be concealed; the question of Griswold's motives is more difficult, but is now more easily to be judged. It is also fair to Griswold to add that the characterization he gave is that which has uniformly prevailed in tradition in the best informed literary circles in this country.

As will be seen, these papers fully vindicate Griswold's veracity in essentials, and sustain Redfield's view of his temper; it must also be allowed that, so far was he from blackening Poe's memory, he might easily have made a worse use of his opportunity had he been actuated by malice. It would seem that Griswold discharged his duty under his own conception of the difficulties and necessities of his task, with entire fidelity and honesty of purpose. It is a gratification that such tardy justice can be done to a man who has so long been vilified, though mainly by English writers, without sound critical grounds. Poe did not make a mistake in his choice. Griswold was by far the best man in the country to do the editorial work, which was, all things considered, the rnost important matter; and as regards the memoir, he is to be charged at most with errors [column 2:] of judgment and lack of tact in stating un pleasant truths.

These papers yield no information in respect to the early years of Poe. A memorandum in his own hand, sent to Griswold, March 29, 1841, as the basis of a biographical sketch of himself, fastens upon Poe direct responsibility for that tissue of positive falsehoods and ungenerous misstatements which he intended to have pass as a true narrative of his youth up to the time of his final breach with Mr. Allan of Richmond, the gentleman who adopted him as a child. This story has already been sufficiently exposed. A letter from William Wirt, May 11, 1829, declining to advise him in respect to a poem, perhaps “Al Aaraaf,” affords the earliest example of his habit of appealing to well-known literary men for counsel and recognition. The new material substantially begins with the correspondence between Poe, Kennedy, his first patron, and White, his first employer, which covers the period of his connection with the “Southern Literary Messenger,” of which White was then editor. The manuscripts here followed are either originals or copies sent to Griswold to be used in his memoir. The letters tell their own story. At the time when they begin Poe had already in 1833 won his first success by taking the prize offered by the Baltimore “Saturday Visiter” for an original tale, and had thus interested Kennedy, the leading literary man of his vicinity, in his fortunes; but by the next spring, the death of Mr. Allan, who left him nothing, had thrown him permanently upon his own resources for support, and he was very poor, dejected, and in need of friendship.


BALTIMORE, November, 1834.

DEAR SIR: I have a favor to beg of you which I thought it better to ask in writing, because, sincerely, I had not courage to ask it in person. I am indeed too well aware that I have no claim whatever to your attention, and that even the manner of my introduction to your notice was at the best equivocal. Since the day you first saw me, my situation in life has altered materially. At that time I looked forward to the inheritance of a large fortune, and, in the mean time, was in receipt of an annuity for my support. This was allowed me by a gentleman of Virginia (Mr. Jno. Allan) who adopted me at the age of two years (both my parents being dead), and who, until lately, always treated me with the affection of a father. But a second marriage on his part, and I dare say many follies on my own, at length ended in a quarrel between us. He is now dead, and has left me nothing. I am thrown entirely upon my own resources, with no profession and very few friends. Worse than all this, I am at length penniless. Indeed, no circumstances less urgent would have induced me to risk your friendship [page 574:] by troubling you with my distresses. But I could not help thinking that if my situation was stated — as you could state it — to Carey & Lea, they might be led to aid me with a small sum in consideration of my MS. now in their hands. This would relieve my immediate wants, and I could then look forward more confidently to better days. At all events receive the assurance of my gratitude for what you have already done.

Most respectfully, your obedient servant,


[NOTE BY MR. KENNEDY: This refers to the volume of tales sent to Carey & Lea — “Tales of the Arabesque,” &c., — being two series submitted for the prize, for which one was chosen, and two others at my suggestion sent to Carey & Lea. — J. P. K.]

The volume was “Tales of the Folio Club,” and was not published. The “Tales of the Arabesque,” etc., was a later book, issued in 1840.


BALTIMORE, December 22, 1834.

DEAR SIR: I have received your note, and should sooner have apprised you of what I had done, but that Carey's letter only reached me a few days ago as I was stepping into a carriage to go to Annapolis, whence I returned only a day or two since.

I requested Carey immediately upon the receipt of your first letter to do something for you as speedily as he might find an opportunity, and to make some advance on your book. His answer let me know that he would go on to publish, but the expectation of any profit from the undertaking he considered doubtful — not from want of merit in the production, but because small books of detached tales, however well written, seldom yield a sum sufficient to enable the bookseller to purchase a copyright. He recommended, however, that I should allow him to sell some of the tales to the publishers of the annuals. My reply was that I thought you would not object to this if the right to publish the same tale was reserved for the volume. He has accordingly sold one of the tales to Miss Leslie for the Souvenir,” at a dollar a page, I think with the reservation above mentioned — and has remitted me a draft for fifteen dollars which I will hand over to you as soon as you call upon me, which I hope you will do as soon as you can make it convenient. If the other tales can be sold in the same way, you will get more for the work than by an exclusive publication.

Yours truly, JOHN P. KENNEDY.


Sunday, March 15, 1835.

DEAR SIR: In the paper which will be handed you with this note is an advertisement to which I most anxiously submit your attention. It relates to the appointment ofateacherin a Public School, and I have marked it with a cross so that you may readily perceive it. In my present circum stances such a situation would be most desirable, and if your interest could obtain it for me, I [column 2:] would always remember your kindness with the deepest gratitude. Havel any hope? Your re ply to this would greatly oblige. The i8th is fixed on for the decision of the commissioners, and the advertisement has only this moment caught my eye. This will excuse my obtruding the matter on your attention to-day.

Very respectfully, E. A. POE.

The following was partly printed with un important variation in the “Life of Kennedy.”


Sunday, March 15, 1835.

DEAR SIR: Your kind invitation to dinner to-day has wounded me to the quick. I cannot come — and for reasons of the most humiliating nature — my personal appearance. You may conceive my deep mortification in making this disclosure to you — but it was necessary. If you will be my friend so far as to loan me $20, I will call on you to-morrow — otherwise it will be impossible, and I must submit to my fate. Sincerely yours,

E. A. POE.


BALTIMORE, May 30, 1835.


DEAR SIR: I duly recd through Mr. Kennedy your favour of the 20th enclosing $5: and an order for $4.94. I assure you it was very welcome. Miscarriages of double letters are by no means unfrequent just now, but yours, at least, came safely to hand. Had I reflected a moment, I should have acknowledged the recd before. I suppose you have heard about Wm. Gwynn Jones of this place, late editor of the “Gazette.” He was detected in purloining letters from the office, to which the clerks were in the habit of admitting him familiarly. He acknowledged the theft of more than $2000 in this w.ay at different times. He probably took even more than that, and I am quite sure that on the part of the clerks themselves advantage was taken of his arrest to embezzle double that sum. I have been a loser myself to a small amount.

I have not seen Mr. Kennedy for some days, having been too unwell to go abroad. When I saw him last he assured me his book would reach Richmond in time for your next number, and un der this assurance, I thought it useless to make such extracts from the book as I wished — thinking you could please yourself in this matter. I cannot imagine what delays its publication, for it has been some time ready for issue... . [The omitted passage was printed by Griswold.]

I read the article in the “Compiler” relating to the “Confessions of a Poet,” but there is no necessity of giving it a reply. The book is silly enough of itself, without the aid of any controversy concerning it. In your private ear, however, I may say a word or two. The writer “l” founds his opinion that I have not read the book simply upon one fact — that I disagree with him concerning it. I have looked over his article two or three times attentively, and can see no other reason adduced [page 575:] by him. If this is a good reason one way, it is equally good another — ergo — he has not read the book because he disagrees with me. Neither of us having read it, then, it is better to say no more about it.

But seriously I have read it from beginning to end, and was very much amused at it. My opinion concerning it is pretty much the opinion of the press at large. I have heard no person offer one serious word in its defense.

My notice of your “Messenger” in the “Republican” was, I am afraid, too brief for your views. But I could command no greater space in its editorial columns. I have often wondered at your preferring to insert such notices in the Republican.” It is a paper by no means in the hands of the first people here. Would not the “American” suit as well? Its columns are equally at your service... . [The omitted passage was printed by Griswold.]

The high compliment of Judge Tucker is rendered doubly flattering to me by my knowledge of his literary character. Very sincerely yours,



BALTIMORE, June 12, 1835.


MY DEAR SIR: I take the opportunity of sending this MS. by private hand. Your letter of June 8th I recd yesterday morning, together with the magazines. In reply to your kind enquiries after my health, I am glad to say that I have entirely recovered — although Dr. Buckler, no longer than 3 weeks ago, assured me that nothing but a sea voyage would save me. I will do my best to please you in relation to Marshall's Washing ton if you will send it on. By what time would you wish the MS. of the Review?

I suppose you have received Mr. Calvert's communication. He will prove a valuable correspondent. I will send you on the “American” & “Republican” as soon as the critiques come out. What I can do farther to aid the circulation of your magazine I will gladly do — but I must insist on your not sending me any remuneration for services of this nature. They are a pleasure to me, and no trouble whatever. Very sincerely,


I congratulate you upon obtaining the services of Mr. S. He has a high reputation for talent.


BALTIMORE, June 22, 1835.

MY DEAR SIR: I recd your letter of the 18th yesterday, and this morning your reprint of the “Messenger” No 3. While I entirely agree with you and with many of your correspondents in your opinion of this number (it being in fact one of the very best issued), I cannot help entertaining a doubt whether it would be of any advantage to you to have the public attention called to this its second appearance by any detailed notice in the papers. There would be an air of irregularity about it — as the first edition was issued so [column 2:] long ago — which might even have a prejudicial effect. For indeed the veriest trifles — the mere semblance of anything unusual or outré — will frequently have a pernicious influence in cases similar to this; and you must be aware that of all the delicate things in the world the character of a young Periodical is the most easily injured. Besides it is undeniable that the public will not think of judging you by the appearance, or the merit, of your Magazine in November. Its present character, whether that be good or bad, is all that will influence them. I would therefore look zealously to the future, letting the past take care of itself. Adopting this view of the case, I thought it best to delay doing anything until I should hear further from you — being fully assured that a little reflection will enable you to see the matter in the same light as myself. One important objection to what you proposed is the insuperable dislike entertained by the Daily Editors to notice any but the most recent publications. And although I dare say that I could, if you insist upon it, overcome the aversion in the present case, still it would be trifling to no purpose with your interest in that quarter. If, however, you disagree with me in these opinions, I will undoubtedly (upon hearing from you) do as you desire. Of course the remarks I now make will equally apply to any other of the back numbers.

Many of the contributors to No. 3 are familiarly known to me — most of them I have seen occasionally. Charles B. Shaw, the author of the “Alleghany Levels” [?] is an old acquaintance, and a most estimable and talented man. I can not say with truth that I had any knowledge of your son. I read the Lines to his memory in No. 9 and was much struck with an air of tenderness and unaffected simplicity which pervades them. The verses immediately following, and from the same pen, gave evidence of fine poetic feeling in the writer. I will pay especial attention to what you suggested in relation to the punctuation &c. of my future MSS... . [The omitted passage was printed by Griswold.]

Immediately after putting my last letter to you in the P. O. I called upon Mr. Wood as you desired — but the Magazine was then completed. Very sincerely yours, EDGAR A. POE.

I have heard it suggested that a lighter-faced type in the headings of your various articles would improve the appearance of the “Messenger.” Do you not think so likewise? Who is the author of the “Doom”?


BALTIMORE, July 20, 1835

MY DEAR SIR: I duly recd both your letters (July 14th and i6th), together with the $20. I am indeed grieved to hear that your health has not been improved by your trip. I agree with you in thinking that too close attention to business has been instrumental in causing your sickness.

I saw the “Martinsburg Gazette” by accident at Mr. Kennedy's — but he is now out of town and will not be back till the fall, and I know not where to procure a copy of the paper. It merely spoke of the “Messenger” in general terms of commendation. [page 576:] Have you seen the “Young Men's Paper” — and the N. Y. “Evening Star”? As might be supposed, I am highly gratified with Mr. Pleasant's notice, and especially with Paulding's. What Mr. Pleasant says in relation to the commencement of “Hans Phaal” is judicious. That part of the Tale is faulty indeed — so much so that I had often thought of remodeling it entirely. I will take care and have the Letter inserted in all the Baltimore papers.

Herewith I send you a “Baltimore Visiter” of October 12th, 1833. It contains a highly complimentary letter from Mr. Kennedy, Mr. Latrobe, and Dr. Miller, of Baltimore, in relation to my self. The “Tales of the Folio Club” have only been partially published as yet. “Lionizing” was one of them. If you could in any manner contrive to have this letter copied into any of the Richmond Papers it would greatly advance a particular object which I have in view. If you could find an excuse for printing it in the “Messenger,” it would be still better. You might observe that as many contradictory opinions had been formed in relation to my Tales, and especially to “Lionizing,” you took the liberty of copying the Letter of the Baltimore Committee. One fact I would wish particularly noticed. The “Visiter” offered two Premiums — one for the best Tale & one for the best Poem — both of which were awarded to me. The award was, however, altered, and the Premium for Poetry awarded to the second best, in consideration of my having obtained the higher prize. This Mr. Kennedy and Mr. Latrobe told me themselves. I know you will do me this favor if you can — the manner of doing it I leave altogether to yourself.

I have taken much pains to procure you the Ink. Only one person in Baltimore had it — and he not for sale. As a great favor I obtained a pound at the price of $1.50. It is mixed with Lin seed oil prepared after a particular fashion, which renders it expensive. I shall go down to the Steamboat as soon as I finish this letter, and if I get an opportunity of sending it I will do so.

It gives me the greatest pain to hear that my Review will not appear in No. 11. I cannot imagine what circumstances you allude to as preventing you from publishing. The Death of the Chief Justice, so far from rendering the Review useless, is the very thing to attract public notice to the Article. I really wish you would consider this matter more maturely, and if possible insert it in No. 11. Look over “Hans Phaal” and the Literary Notices by me in No. 10, and see if you have not miscalculated the sum due me. There are thirty-four columns in all. “Hans Phaal” cost me nearly a fortnight's hard labour, and was written especially for the “Messenger.” I will not, however, sin so egregiously again in sending you a long article. I will confine myself to three or four pages. Very sincerely yours,



RICHMOND, September 11, 1835.

DEAR SIR: ... [The omitted letter, to which the following is a postscript, was printed in the [column 2:] “Life of Kennedy.”] Mr. White desires me to say that if you could send him any contribution for the “Messenger” it would serve him most effectually. I would consider it a personal favor if you could do so without incommoding yourself. I will write you more fully hereafter. I see “The Gift” [Miss Leslie's Annual for 1836] is out. They have published “The MS. found in a Bottle” (the prize tale you will remember), although I not only told Mr. Carey myself that it had been published, but wrote to him to that effect after my return to Baltimore, and sent him another tale in place of it (“Epimanes”). I cannot under stand why they have published it, or why they have not published either “Siope” [“Silence”] or “Epimanes” [“Four Beasts”].

Mr. White is willing to publish my “Tales of the Folio Club” — that is, to print them. Would you oblige me by ascertaining from Carey & Lea whether they would, in that case, appear nominally as the publishers, the books, when printed, being sent to them, as in the case of [Kennedy's] “H[orse] S[hoe] Robinson”? Have you seen the [Locke's] “Discoveries in the Moon”? Do you not think it altogether suggested by “Hans Phaal”? It is very singular, but when I first purposed writing a Tale concerning the Moon, the idea of Telescopic discoveries suggested itself to me, but I afterwards abandoned it. I had, how ever, spoken of it freely, and from little incidents and apparently trivial remarks in those “Discoveries,” I am convinced the idea was stolen from myself. Yours most sincerely,



BALTIMORE, September 19, 1835.

MY DEAR POE: ... [The omitted passage was printed by Griswold.] Can’t you write some farces after the manner of the French Vaudevilles? If you can (and I think you can), you may turn them to excellent account by selling them to the managers in New York. I wish you would give your thoughts to this suggestion. More than your self have remarked the coincidence between “Hans Phaal” & the “Lunar Discoveries,” and I perceive that in New York they are republishing “Hans” for the sake of comparison. Say to White that I am over head in business, and can promise never a line to living man. I wish he would send me the “Richmond Whig” containing the reply to the defense of Capt. Reed. Tell him so.

I will write to Carey & Lea to know if they will allow you to publish the “Tales of the Folio Club” in their name. Of course you will understand that if they do not print them they will not be required to be at the risk of the printing expenses. I suppose you mean that White shall take that risk upon himself, and look for his indemnity to the sale. My own opinion is that White could publish them as advantageously as Carey.

Write to me frequently, and believe me very truly yours,


Part of the following important letter was paraphrased and printed by Griswold. [page 578:]


RICHMOND, September 29, 1835.

DEAR EDGAR: Would that it were in my power to unbosom myself to you in language such as I could on the present occasion wish myself master of. I cannot do it — and therefore must be content to speak to you in my plain way. That you are sincere in all your promises I firmly believe. But, Edgar, when you once again tread these streets, I have my fears that your resolve would fall through, and that you would again sip the juice, even till it stole away your senses. Rely on your own strength, and you are gone! Look to your Maker for help, and you are safe! How much I regretted parting with you is unknown to any one on this earth except myself. I was attached to you — and am still — and willingly would I say return, if I did not dread the hour of separation very shortly again.

If you could make yourself contented to take up your quarters in my family or in any other private family where liquor is not used, I should think there were hopes of you. But if you go to a tavern, or to any other place where it is used at table, you are not safe. I speak from experience.

You have fine talents, Edgar — and you ought to have them respected as well as yourself. Learn to respect yourself, and you will very soon find that you are respected. Separate yourself from the bottle, and bottle-companions, for ever! Tell me if you can and will do so, and let me hear that it is your fixed purpose never to yield to temptation. If you should come to Richmond again, and again should be an assistant in my office, it must be especially understood by us that all engagements on my part would be dissolved, the moment you get drunk. No man is safe that drinks before breakfast. No man can do so and attend to business properly.

I have thought over the matter seriously about the autograph article, and have come to the conclusion that it will be best to omit it in its present dress. I should not be at all surprised, were I to send it out, to hear that Cooper had sued me for a libel. The form containing it has been ready for press three days — and I have been just as many days deciding the question. I am your true friend,



RICHMOND, January 22, 1836.

DEAR SIR: Although I have never yet acknowledged the receipt of your letter of advice some months ago, it was not without great influence upon me. I have since then fought the enemy manfully, and am now in every respect comfortable and happy. I know you will be pleased to hear this. My health is better than for years past, my mind is fully occupied, my pecuniary difficulties have vanished. I have a fair prospect of future success — in a word all is right. I shall never for get to whom all this happiness is, in a great degree, to be attributed. I know that without your timely aid I should have sunk under my trials. Mr. White is very liberal, and besides my salary [column 2:] of $520 pays me liberally for extra work, so that I receive nearly $800. Next year, that is, at the commencement of the second volume, I am to get $1000. Besides this, I receive from Publishers nearly all new publications. My friends in Richmond have received me with open arms, and my reputation is extending — especially in the South. Contrast all this with those circumstances of absolute despair in which you found me, and you will see how great reason I have to be grate ful to God — and to yourself.

Some matters in relation to the death of Mrs. Caroline Clemm, who resided at Mount Prospect, four miles from Baltimore, render it necessary for me to apply to an attorney, and I have thought it probable you would be kind enough to advise me... [so starred in the copy]. I should be glad to have your opinion in regard to my Editorial course in the “Messenger.” How do you like my Critical Notices? I have understood (from the Preface to your Third Edition of “Horseshoe”) that you are engaged in another work. If so, can you not send me on a copy in advance of the publication. Remember me to your family, and believe me with the highest respect and esteem. Yours very truly, EDGAR A. POE.


BALTIMORE, February 9, 1836.

MY DEAR POE: ... [The omitted passage refers to the Mrs. Caroline Clemm affair.] I am greatly rejoiced at your success not only in Richmond but everywhere. My predictions have been more than fulfilled in regard to the public favour for your literary enterprises. Let me beg you to set down this praise at its value. As nothing but an incentive to the utmost care and labour for improvement. You are strong enough now to be criticised. Your fault is your love of the extravagant. Pray beware of it. You find a hundred intense writers for one natural one. Some of your bizarreries have been mistaken for satire — and admired too in that character. They deserved it, but you did not, for you did not intend them so. I like your grotesque — it is of the very best stamp; and I am sure you will do wonders for yourself in the comic — I mean the serio-tragi-comic. Do you easily keep pace with the demands of the magazine? Avoid, by all means, the appearance of flagging. I like the critical notices very well. By the by, I wish you would tell White that he never sent me the November number.

Your letter assures me that you have entirely conquered your late despondency. I am rejoiced at this. You have a pleasant and prosperous career before you, if you subdue this brooding and boding inclination of your mind. Be cheerful; rise early, work methodically — I mean at appointed hours. Take regular recreation every day. Frequent the best company only. Be rigidly temperate both in body and mind — and I will ensure you at a moderate premium all the success and comfort you want. Will you do me a piece of business? ... [The omitted passage refers to the recovery of a portrait.] Yours truly,

JOHN P. KENNEDY. [page 579:]


RICHMOND, February 11, 1836.

DEAR SIR: I received your kind letter of the 9th about an hour ago... . [The omitted passage refers to the portrait mentioned.]

You are nearly, but not altogether right in relation to the satire of some of my Tales. Most of them were intended for half-banter, half-satire — although I might not have fully acknowledged this to be their aim even to myself. “Lionizing” and “Loss of Breath” were satires properly speaking — at least so meant — the one of the rage for Lions, and the facility of becoming one, the other of the extravagancies of “Blackwood.” I find no difficulty in keeping pace with the demands of the magazine. In the February number, which is now in the binder's hands, are no less than forty pages of Editorial — perhaps this is a little de trop. There was no November number issued. Mr. W. has increased my salary since I wrote $104 for the present year. This is being liberal beyond my expectations. He is exceedingly kind in every respect. You did not reply to my query touching the “new work.” But I do not mean to be inquisitive... . [The omitted passage refers to Kennedy's seal.] Most sincerely yours,



January 17, 1837.

MR. POE: If it be possible, without breaking in on any previous arrangement, I will get more than the 1st portion of “Pym” in — though I much fear that will be impossible. If I had read even ten lines of Magruder's manuscript it would have saved me the expense of putting it in type. It is all words [illegible]. He will have to live a little longer in the world before he can write well enough to please the readers of the magazine. Touching Cary's piece, gratitude to him for pecuniary assistance obliges me to insert it.

You are certainly as well aware as I am, that the last $20 I advanced to you was in consideration of what you were to write for me by the piece. I also made you a promise on Saturday that I would do something more for you to-day — and I never make even a promise without in tending to perform it — and though it is entirely out of my power to send you up anything this morning, yet I will do something more sure, before night or early to-morrow — if I have to borrow it from my friends. Truly yours,

T. W. W.

The next persons of literary reputation to be friend Poe after Kennedy were Beverly Tucker of Virginia, the author of The Partizan Leader,” and John K. Paulding of New York. Their interest was called out by Poe's work in the magazine. The letters of Tucker are long and leisurely, and are here abridged by the omission of the less personal passages in which the ways of publishers and the decay of taste are the prominent topics. Those of Paulding are more fully given, as the matter is of biographical [column 2:] interest. There are also letters from Mrs. Sigourney and others, belonging to this period, but space does not permit their insertion.


WILLIAMSBURG, Nov. 29, 1835.

MY DEAR SIR: ... I am much flattered by Mr. Poe's opinion of my lines... . He will take this and other suggestions of mine kindly. I am interested in him, and am glad he has found a position in which his pursuit of fame may be neither retarded, nor, what is worse, hurried by necessity. His history, as I have heard it, reminds me of Coleridge's; with the example of Coleridge's virtues and success before him, he can need no other guide. Yet a companion by the way to hint that more haste makes less speed” may not be amiss. Will he admit me to this office? Without the tithe of his genius, I am old enough to be his father (if I do not mistake his filiation, I remember his beautiful mother when a girl), and I presume I have had advantages the want of which he feels. Now, if by aiding you, I can aid him too to disencumber himself of the clogs that have impeded his progress, I shall kill two birds with one stone. Let me tell you then why in the critique I prepared for Green, I said nothing of his Tale. [“MS. Found in a Bottle.”] It was because I thought that had been already praised as much as was good for him. And why? Because I am sure no man ever attained to that distinction to which Mr. P. may fairly aspire by extravagance. He is made for better things than to cater for the depraved taste of the literary vulgar, the most disgusting and impertinent of all vulgarians. Besides, I was disappointed in the tale; not because of the praises I had heard (for I make light of such things), but because Mr. P. had taught me to expect from him something more than the mere physique of the horrible. I had expected that the author of “Morella” on board the Flying Dutchman would have found a Dutch tongue in his head, would have thawed the silence of his shipmates, and have extracted from them a tale of thrilling interest, of the causes of that aw ful spell which has driven and still drives their ship careering safely through the innumerable horrors he has described. Cannot he rescue her yet from her perils, and send us another bottle full of intelligence of her escape, and of her former history? Cannot he, by way of episode, get himself sent on board of some fated ship, with letters from the spellbound mariners to their friends at home? Imaginations of this sort flocked to my mind as soon as I found him on her decks, and hence I was disappointed. I do not propose that he should work up these materials. He can do better in following the lead of his own fancy. But let him remember that fancy must be servant, not mistress. It must be made the minister of higher faculties... .

Now one word more. If Mr. P. takes well what I have said, he shall have as much more of it whenever occasion calls for it. If not, his silence alone will effectually rebuke my impertinence.

Yours truly, B. T. [page 581:]


WILLIAMSBURG, December 5, 1835.

DEAR SIR: Your letter has just been received, and deserves my thanks. So far from needing apology, it has been taken as a favour, and I have been congratulating myself on the success of my attempt to draw you into correspondence. It is more creditable to your candour than to my criticism that you have taken it so kindly... .

Respectfully, and with the best wishes,

Your obedient servant,

[Signature torn off.]


WILLIAMSBURG, January 26, 1836.

MY DEAR SIR: ... Last night I received a letter from Mr. P. by which I learn that you may not feel as much confidence in his capacity for the duties of his station, as is necessary for your mutual comfort. This doubt he attributes in part to what must have been a misconstruction by you of one of my letters. That I have not ad mired all Mr. P's productions, as much as some others, and that his writings are not so much to my taste as they would be were I (as would to God I were) as young as he, I do not deny. Thus much I expressed, and this so freely as to show that, had I meant more, I would have said more. You only know me on paper, but I think you can read this point in my character at the distance of sixty miles. I was equally sincere, I assure you, in what I said in his praise. ... I do not agree with the reading (or rather the writing and printing) public in admiring Mrs. Sigourney &; Co., or any of our native poets except Halleck. In this I know I shall stand condemned. But I appeal from contemporaneous and reciprocal puffing to the impartial judgment of posterity. Let that pass. I only mention this to say that Mr. P's review of the writings of a leash of these ladies, in your last number, is a specimen of criticism, which for niceness of discrimination, delicacy of expression, and all that shows familiarity with the art, may well compare with any I have ever seen... .

Mr. P. is young, and I thought him rash. I expressed this full as strongly as I thought it. I now repeat it, and apply to him the caution given by the God of Poets and Critics to his son when he permitted him to guide the Chariot that lights the world.

“Parce, puer, stimulis, et fortiter utere loris.” ... I write this letter at his request... .

[Signature torn off.]


January (?) 1836.]

... [The body of the letter relates to his own affairs. ]

P. S. Your Publication is decidedly superior to any Periodical in the United States, and Mr. Poe as decidedly the best of all our young writers.

I don’t know but that I might add all our old ones, with one or two exceptions, among which, I as sure you, I don’t include myself... . [column 2:]


NEW YORK, March 3, 1836.

DEAR SIR: I duly received the Book containing the Tales by Mr. Poe heretofore published in the “Messenger,” and have delayed writing to you on the subject until I could communicate the final decision of the Messrs. Harpers as to their republication. By the way, you are entirely mistaken in your idea of my influence over these gentlemen in the transactions of their business. They have a Reader, by whose judgment they are guided in their publications, and like all other traders are governed by their anticipations of profit or loss, rather than any intrinsic merit of a work or its author. I have no influence in this respect, and indeed ought to have none, for my taste does not exactly conform to that of the Public at present. I placed the work in their hands, giving my opinion of it, which was such as I believe I have heretofore expressed to you more than once, leaving them to their own decision.

The[y] have finally declined republishing it for the following reasons: They say that the stories have so recently appeared before the Public in the “Messenger” that they would be no novelty — but most especially they object that there is a degree of obscurity in their application, which will prevent ordinary readers from comprehending their drift, and consequently from enjoying the fine satire they convey. It requires a degree of familiarity with various kinds of knowledge which they do not possess, to enable them to rel ish the joke; the dish is too refined for them to banquet on. They desire me, however, to state to Mr. Poe that if he will lower himself a little to the ordinary comprehension of the generality of readers, and prepare a series of original Tales, or a single work, and send them to the Publishers, previous to their appearance in the “Messenger,” they will make such arrangements with him as will be liberal and satisfactory.

I regret this decision of the Harpers, though I have not opposed it, because I do not wish to lead them into any measure that might be accompanied by a loss, and felt as I would feel for myself in a similar case. I would not press a work of my own on them, nor do I think Mr. Poe would be gratified at my doing so with one of his.

I hope Mr. Poe will pardon me if the interest I feel in his success should prompt me to take this occasion to suggest to him to apply his fine humor, and his extensive acquirements, to more familiar subjects of satire; to the faults and foibles of our own people, their peculiarities of habits and manners, and above all to the ridiculous affectations and extravagancies of the fashionable English Literature of the day, which we copy with such admirable success and servility. His quiz on Willis, and the Burlesque of “Blackwood,” were not only capital, but what is more, were understood by all. For Satire to be relished, it is necessary that it should be leveled at something with which readers are familiar. My own experience has taught me this, in the failure of some efforts of my own formerly. Be good enough to let me know what disposition I shall make of the work. I am respectfully. Your friend and Servant, J. K. PAULDING. [page 583:]

Harper & Brothers formally declined the volume of tales in a letter to Poe, June, 1836, on the same grounds alleged above.


NEW YORK, March 17, 1836.

DEAR SIR; In compliance with your wishes it would afford me much pleasure to have proposed the publication of your book to some one respectable Bookseller of this city. But the truth is, there is only one other who publishes anything but School Books, religious works, and the like, and with him I am not on terms that would make it agreeable to me to make any proposition of this nature, either in my own behalf or that of an other. I have therefore placed your work in the hands of Messrs. Harpers, to forward with a Box of Books they are sending to Richmond in a few days, and I hope it will come safely to hand.

I think it would be worth your while, if other engagements permit, to undertake a Tale in a couple of volumes, for that is the magical number. There is a great dearth of good writers at present both in England and this country, while the number of readers and purchasers of books is daily increasing, so that the demand is greater than the supply, in mercantile phrase. Not one work in ten published in England will bear republication here. You would be surprised at their [illegible] mediocrity. I am of opinion that a work of yours would at least bring you a handsome remuneration, though it might not re pay your labors, or meet its merits. Should you write such a work, your best way will be to for ward the MS. directly to the Harpers, who will be, I presume, governed by the judgment of their Reader, who, from long experience, can tell al most to a certainty what will succeed. I am destitute of this valuable instinct, and my opinion counts for nothing with publishers. In other respects you may command my good offices. I am Dr. Sir, Your friend and Serv’t,


Poe left the “Messenger” about January 1, 1837, and arrived in New York at some time before June, as appears from a letter addressed to him in that city by Dr. Charles Anthon.


NEW YORK, June 1, 1837.

DEAR SIR: I owe you an apology for not having answered your letter of the 27th sooner, but I was occupied at the time with matters that admitted of no delay, and was compelled therefore to lay your communication on the table for a day or two. I hope you will find what is written below satisfactory. Do not wait to pay me a formal visit, but call and introduce yourself. Yours truly,


“What is written below,” it is interesting to discover, is that passage of Hebrew learning in [column 2:] criticism of Dr. Keith's interpretation of some verses in Isaiah and Ezekiel, which Poe was accustomed to reprint as his own from the time of its first appearance in his review of Stephen's “Travels,” where he inserted it textually as it here stands in MS. In 1838 he published The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym” through Harper & Brothers, who wrote to him in respect to the printed English edition, February 20,1839, when he was already settled in Philadelphia. No other document of this period remains, except a letter from James E. Heath, the author of “Edgehill,” which is a natural pendant to the preceding White correspondence, and illustrates sharply the suspicion with which Poe usually regarded those who had once been his benefactors. The omitted portion contains a criticism of the then recently published “ Fall of the House of Usher,” which Poe had sent to the writer.


RICHMOND, September 12, 1839.

DEAR SIR: ... I have had a conversation with White since the receipt of your letter, and took the liberty to hint to him your convictions of an unfriendly feeling manifested on his part towards you. I am happy to inform you that he disclaims the existence of any unkind feeling; on the contrary, professes that your prosperity and happiness would yield him pleasure. He is not aware of having spoken or written anything with a design to injure you, or anything more in cen sure or disparagement, than what he has said to you in person, when you resided here. I am inclined to think that you entirely mistake the man, if you suppose that a particle of malignity lurks in his composition. My long acquaintance with him justifies me in saying that I have known few men more disposed to cherish kindly and benevolent feelings towards their fellow-men than him self. He informs me that he will with pleasure admit a notice of the “Gentleman's Magazine” [on which Poe was then employed] in the “Messenger,” and if possible in the October number... .

It gives me sincere pleasure to understand that your own good sense and the influence of high and noble motives have enabled you to overcome a seductive and dangerous besetment, which too often prostrates the wisest and best by its fatal grasp. The cultivation of such high intellectual powers as you possess cannot fail to earn for you a solid reputation in the literary world. In the department of criticism especially, I know few who can claim to be your superior in this country. Your dissecting knife if vigorously employed would serve to rid us of much of that silly trash and sickly sentimentality with which puerile and conceited authors, and gain-seeking booksellers are continually poisoning our intellectual food. I hope in relation to all such you will continue to wield your mace without “fear, favor, or affection.” I subscribe myself sincerely your wellwisher.

[Signature cut out.]



[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 572:]

1. The pictures on pages 580 and 582 were drawn by Albert E. Sterner, and are from the forthcoming complete edition of Poe's works to be published by Messrs. Stone & Kimball.










[S:0 - CM, August 1894] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - A Poe Bookshelf - Poe in the South (George E. Woodberry, 1894)