Text: George E. Woodberry, “Poe in Philadelphia: Selections from the Correspondence of Edgar Allan Poe,” Century Magazine (New York, NY), vol. XXVI, no. 5, September 1894, pp. 725-737


[page 725:]




POE removed from New York to Philadelphia in the summer of 1838. He worked for the booksellers, the magazines, annuals, and newspapers, and won repute by the tales of “The Fall of the House of Usher,” “Ligeia,” and “William Wilson.” He published early in 1839 a manual of conchology, pirating the text, and at the end of the year the two volumes of the “Tales of the Arabesque and Grotesque.” In May, 1839, he was engaged by William E. Burton as assistant editor of “The Gentleman's Magazine,” and held the post until June, 1840, when the two parted un der circumstances of mutual vexation.

The only public reason given by Burton occurs on the cover of “The Gentleman's Magazine” for September, 1840: “Our friend at Portland may rest assured that we were ignorant of the non-transmission of his numbers. His name was erased from our list by the person whose ‘infirmities’ have caused us much annoyance.”

This bears out the statement of C. J. Alexander, the publisher of the magazine, that Poe's habits were one cause of the difficulty. The matter is fully dealt with in the biographies. Poe was anxious to have a magazine of his own, and planned “The Penn Magazine,” which was announced to appear on January 1, 1841. The scheme had been growing in his mind for a year. Lack of funds prevented its realization. Mean while George R. Graham had bought “The [column 2:] Gentleman's Magazine” in October, 1840, and merged it with his own periodical “The Casket”; and having had dealings with Poe in connection with other publications, he offered him a share in the editorship of the new “Graham's Magazine,” which he accepted, as was announced February 20, 1841. Poe remained with Graham until April 1, 1842, when the May number was prepared, and was succeeded in his chair by Griswold, who was offered the post April 20, and had accepted it by May 1. During his connection with “Graham's” Poe had not abandoned his plan of “The Penn Magazine,” but in the latter half of 1841 had hoped to persuade Graham to abandon the present magazine, and join him in the new venture. The reasons for his leaving “Graham's” were of the same nature as those which had occasioned his previous changes of editorial employment, but he remained on terms of intercourse with both Graham and Griswold. He at once advertised “The Penn Magazine,” and solicited subscribers and funds; but when he at last succeeded in making a contract with Thomas C. Clarke, owner of the Philadelphia “Saturday Museum,” about January 1, 1843, it was decided to call the new magazine “The Stylus.” In the interest of this plan his biography by Hirst, with his likeness, was published in the “Saturday Museum” of March 4, 1843, with the announcement of “The Stylus but this scheme also failed. During these years he had made an effort to obtain employment in some government office, and had given some public lectures. Early in 1844 he left [page 726:] Philadelphia, and removed once more to New York.

The facts thus briefly stated are necessary to the understanding of the following letters, which are one of the main sources of his biography for this period. The first important letter contains Burton's offer of the assistant editor ship of “The Gentleman's Magazine.”


PHILADELPHIA, May 10, 1839.

Edgar A. Poe, Esq.

MY DEAR SIR: I have given your proposal a fair consideration. I wish to form some such engagement as that which you have proposed, and know of no one more likely to suit my views than yourself. The expenses of the Magazine are al ready wofully heavy; more so than my circulation warrants. I am certain that my expenditure exceeds that of any publication now extant, including the monthlies which are double in price. Competition is high — new claimants are daily rising. I am therefore compelled to give expensive plates, thicker paper, and better printing than my antagonists, or allow them to win the goal. My contributors cost me something handsome, and the losses upon credit, exchange, etc., are becoming frequent and serious. I mention this list of difficulties as some slight reason why I do not close with your offer, which is indubitably liberal, without any delay.

Shall we say ten dollars per week for the remaining portion of this year? Should we remain together, which I see no reason to negative, your proposition shall be in force for 1840. A month's notice to be given on either side previous to a separation.

Two hours a day, except occasionally, will, I believe, be sufficient for all required, except in the production of any article of your own. At all events you could easily find time for any other light avocation — supposing that you did not exercise your talents in behalf of any publication interfering with the prospects of the G. M.

I shall dine at home to-day at 3. If you will cut your mutton with me, good. If not, write or see me at your leisure. I am, my dear Sir, your obedt. Servt.,


Poe had through life the habit of sending his better tales and poems to distinguished literary men, and soliciting thereby their attention. One or two instances of this have been mentioned. He kept the replies, and was thus enabled to append to Hirst's biography of him in the Philadelphia “Saturday Museum “along list of encomiums, in addition to such as had been publicly made. The following letter from Washington Irving was written in acknowledgment of “William Wilson,” which had followed the “House of Usher,” as a means of introduction, and the substance of it, much altered and somewhat garbled, appeared in the list referred to, and affords a striking instance of how Poe dealt with such correspondence.


NEWBURG, November 6, 1839.

DEAR SIR: The magazine you were so kind as to send me, being directed to New York, instead of Tarrytown, did not reach me for some time. This, together with an unfortunate habit of procrastination, must plead my apology for the tardiness of my reply. I have read your little tale of “William Wilson” with much pleasure. It is managed in a highly picturesque style, and the singular and mysterious interest is well sustained throughout. I repeat what I have said in regard to a previous production, which you did me the favor to send me, that I cannot but think a series of articles of like style and merit would be extremely well received by the public.

I could add for your private ear, that I think the last tale much the best, in regard to style. It is simpler. In your first you have been too anxious to present your picture vividly to the eye, or too distrustful of your effect, and have laid on too much coloring. It is erring on the best side — the side of luxuriance. That tale might be im proved by relieving the style from some of the epithets. There is no danger of destroying its graphic effect, which is powerful. With best wishes for your success, I am, my dear sir, yours respectfully, WASHINGTON IRVING.

Philip Pendleton Cooke was another author to whom Poe introduced himself by means of a tale. On September 16, 1839, Cooke wrote a long and most appreciative letter in answer, with interesting criticism; but there is room here only for Poe's reply.


PHILADELPHIA, September 21, 1839.

MY DEAR SIR: I received your letter this morning — and read it with more pleasure than I can well express. You wrong me, indeed, in supposing that I meant one word of mere flattery in what I said. I have an inveterate habit of speaking the truth — and had I not valued your opinion more highly than that of any man in America I should not have written you as I did.

I say that I read your letter with delight. In fact I am aware of no delight greater than that of feeling one's self appreciated (in such wild matters as “Ligeia”) by those in whose judgment one has faith. You read my most intimate spirit “like a book,” and with the single exception of D’lsraeli, I have had communication with no other person who does. Willis had a glimpse of it — Judge Tucker saw about one half way through — but your ideas are the very echo of my own. I am very far from meaning to flatter — I am flattered and honored. Beside me is now lying a let ter from Washington Irving in which he speaks with enthusiasm of a late tale of mine,”The Fall of the House of Usher,” — and in which he promises to make his opinion public, upon the first opportunity, — but from the bottom of my heart I assure you, I regard his best word as but dust in the balance when weighed with those discriminating [page 728:] opinions of your own, which teach me that you feel and perceive.

Touching “Ligeia” you are right — all right — throughout. The gradual perception of the fact that Ligeia lives again in the person of Rowena is a far loftier and more thrilling idea than the one I have embodied. It offers in my opinion, the widest possible scope to the imagination — it might be rendered even sublime. And this idea was mine — had I never written before I should have adopted it — but then there is Morella.” Do you remember there the gradual conviction on the part of the parent that the spirit of the first Morella tenants the person of the second? It was necessary, since “Morella” was written, to modify Ligeia.” I was forced to be content with a sudden half-consciousness, on the part of the, narrator, that Ligeia stood before him. One point I have not fully carried out — I should have intimated [column 2:] that the will did not perfect its intention — there should have been a relapse a final one — and Ligeia (who had only succeeded in so much as to convey an idea of the truth to the narrator) should be at length entombed as Rowena — the bodily alterations having gradually faded away.

But since “Morella” is upon record I will suffer “Ligeia” to remain as it is. Your word that it is intelligible suffices and your commentary sustains your word. As for the mob — let them talk on. I should be grieved if I thought they comprehended me here. The “saith Verulam shall be put right — your impertinence is quite pertinent.

I send the “Gentleman's Magazine (July, August, September). Do not think of subscribing. The criticisms are not worth your notice. Of course I pay no attention to them for there are two of us. [page 729:] It is not pleasant to be taxed with the twaddle of other people, or to let other people be taxed with ours. Therefore for the present I remain upon my oars — merely penning an occasional paragraph, without care. The critiques, such as they are, are all mine in the July number and all mine in the August and September with the exception of the three first in each — which are by Burton. As soon as Fate allows I will have a Magazine of my own — and will endeavor to kick up a dust. Do you ever see the “Pittsburg Examiner” (a New Monthly)? I wrote a Review of “Tortesa,” at some length in the July number. In the October number of the “Gentleman's Magazine,” I will have “William Wilson” from “The Gift” for 1840. This tale I think you will like — it is per haps the best, although not the last, I have done. During the autumn I will publish all in two volumes — and now I have done with my egotism.

It makes me laugh to hear you speaking about “romantic young persons” as of a race with whom, for the future, you have nothing to do. You need not attempt to shake off or to banter off Romance. It is an evil you will never get rid of to the end of your days. It is a part of yourself — a portion of your soul. Age will only mellow it a little, and give it a holier tone. I will give your contributions a hearty welcome, and the choicest position in the magazine. Sincerely yours,


The correspondence thus begun was continued in a friendly spirit for some years, and a later example is given.

A single letter of Poe to Longfellow was written to solicit his assistance in the magazine projected by Poe in connection with Graham, in 1841, to which reference has been made. It is of the nature of a circular letter, and is nearly the same as a letter to Kennedy, June 22, 1841. The editor has also seen elsewhere a letter of the same tenor to Cooper, the novelist. Longfellow never exhibited toward Poe so appreciative a feeling as did his other contemporaries, and the bitterness with which Poe attacked him at a later period may be partly accounted for on this ground. The letter which follows is an excellent example of the business side of Poe's capacity for literature:


PHILADELPHIA, June 22, 1841.

DEAR SIR: Your letter of the 19th May was received. I regret to find my anticipations con firmed, and that you cannot make it convenient to accept Mr. Graham's proposition. Will you now pardon me for making another?

I need not call your attention to the signs of the times in respect to magazine literature. You will admit that the tendency of the age lies in this way — so far at least as regards the lighter letters. The brief, the terse, the condensed, and the easily circulated will take place of the diffuse, the ponderous, and the inaccessible. Even our [column 2:] reviews (lucus a non lucendo) are found too massive for the taste of the day: I do not mean for the taste of the tasteless, but for that of the few. In the mean time the finest minds of Europe are beginning to lend their spirit to magazines. In this country, unhappily, we have not any journal of the class which either can afford to offer pecuniary inducement to the highest talent, or which would be, in all respects, a fitting vehicle for its thoughts. In the supply of this deficiency there would be a point gained; and in the hope of at least partially supplying it, Mr. Graham and my self propose to establish a monthly Magazine.

The amplest funds will be embarked in the undertaking. The work will be an octavo of 96 pages. The paper will be of excellent quality — possibly finer than that upon which your “Hyperion” was printed. The type will be new (always new), clear, and bold, with distinct face. The matter will be disposed in a single column. The printing will be done upon a hand-press in the best manner. There will be a broad margin. There will be no engravings, except occasional woodcuts (by Adams) when demanded in obvious illustration of the text; and, when so required, they will be worked in with the type — not upon separate pages as in “Arcturus.” The stitching will be done in the French style, permitting the book to lie fully open. Upon the cover, and throughout, the endeavour will be to preserve the greatest purity of taste consistent with decision and force. The price will be five dollars.

The chief feature in the literary department will be that of contributions from the most distinguished pens (of America) exclusively; or if this plan cannot be wholly carried out, we propose, at least, to make arrangements (if possible) with yourself, Mr. Irving, Mr. Cooper, Mr. Paulding, Mr. Bryant, Mr. Halleck, Mr. Willis, and one or two others. In fact, our ability to make these arrangements is a condition without which the Magazine will not go into operation; and my object in writing you this letter is to ascertain how far I may look to yourself for aid.

In your former note you spoke of present engagements. The proposed journal will not be commenced until January 1, 1842.

It would be desirable that you should agree to furnish one paper each month, — prose or poetry, absolute or serial, — and of such length as you might deem proper. Should illustrations be de sired by you, these will be engraved at our expense, from designs at your own, superintended by yourself. We leave the matter of terms, as be fore, to your own decision. The sums agreed upon would be paid as you might suggest. It would be necessary that our agreement should be made for one year — during which period you should be pledged not to write for any other (American) Magazine.

With this letter I despatch one of the same tenor to each of the gentlemen before named. If you cannot consent to an unconditional reply, will you be kind enough to say whether you will write for us upon condition that we succeed in our engagements with the others — specifying what others. With high respect, your obedient,

EDGAR A. POE. [page 730:]

The earliest letter of Willis to Poe, in these papers, is in reply to a request for contributions to “Graham's,” but there had been previous correspondence.


GLENMARY, November 30, 1841.

MY DEAR SIR: You cannot have received my letter written in answer to yours some time since (say a month ago) in which I stated that I was under contract to Mr. Godey to write for no other periodical in Philadelphia than the “Lady's Book,” for one year — 1842. I said also that if he were willing, I should be very happy to send your poetry (he bargaining for prose), but that without his consent I could do nothing. From a very hand some notice of “Graham's Magazine” which I saw in the “Lady's Book,” I presumed Godey and Graham were the best of friends and would manage it between them. Still, I do not understand your request — for the Lady Jane” will be published (all they agreed for — 100 stanzas) in their own paper before January 1, and, of course, any extract would not be original. Any periodical is at liberty to copy, for though Wilson has taken out a copy right, I should always consider copying it too much of a compliment to be resented.

Mr. Godey has been very liberal with me, and pays me quite enough for the exclusive use of my name in Philadelphia, and I can do nothing un less you procure his written agreement to it, of course. I am very sorry to refuse any thing to a writer whom I so much admire as yourself, and to a magazine as good as Graham's.” But you will acknowledge I am ‘rin a tight place.”

Begging my compliments to Mr. Graham, I remain, yours very truly. N. P. Willis.

Did you ever send me the magazine containing my autograph? I have never seen it.

The two following letters from Dickens, which are published by the kind permission of his only surviving literary executor. Miss Hogarth, are self-explanatory. He is said to have been much impressed by Poe's prophetic analysis of the plot of Barnaby Rudge,” which appeared in the Philadelphia “Saturday Evening Post,” May 1, 1841; but no other connection between the two writers is known.



MY DEAR SIR: I shall be very glad to see you whenever you will do me the favor to call. I think I am more likely to be in the way between half past eleven and twelve, than at any other time. I have glanced over the books you have been so kind as to send me, and more particularly at the papers to which you called my attention. I have the greater pleasure in expressing my desire to see you on this account. Apropos of the construction” of “Caleb Williams,” do you know that Godwin wrote it backwards , — the last volume [column 2:] first, — and that when he had produced the hunting down of Caleb, and the catastrophe, waited for months, casting about for a means of accounting for what he had done? Faithfully yours always, CHARLES DICKENS.


LONDON, 1 Devonshire Terrace,

York Gate, Regent's Park, November 27, 1842.

DEAR SIR: By some strange accident (I presume it must have been through some mistake on the part of Mr. Putnam in the great quantity of business he had to arrange for me), I have never been able to find among my papers, since I came to England, the letter you wrote to me at New York. But I read it there, and think I am correct in believing that it charged me with no other mission than that which you had already entrusted to me by word of mouth. Believe me that it never, for a moment, escaped my recollection; and that I have done all in my power to bring it to a successful issue — I regret to say, in vain.

I should have forwarded you the accompanying letter from Mr. Moxon before now, but that I have delayed doing so in the hope that some other channel for the publication of our book on this side of the water would present itself to me.

I am, however, unable to report any success. I have mentioned it to publishers with whom I have influence, but they have, one and all, declined the venture. And the only consolation I can give you is that I do not believe any collection of detached pieces by an unknown writer, even though he were an Englishman, would be at all likely to find a publisher in this metropolis just now.

Do not for a moment suppose that I have ever thought of you but with a pleasant recollection; and that I am not at all times prepared to forward your views in this country, if I can. Faithfully yours, Charles Dickens.

The most important correspondence of Poe in the Philadelphia period, besides that with I^owell and Snodgrass of Baltimore, was conducted with Frederick William Thomas, and it is noticeable for the element of comradery which is seldom met with in the letters of his other correspondents. Thomas continued faith ful to the end, and was plainly attached to Poe. At the time the correspondence begins he was living in St. Louis, but soon removed to Washington, where he was in the employ of the Government. He was the author of “Clinton Bradshaw,” “Howard Pinckney,” “East and West,” and other minor writings, and was interested in the magazine literature of the day. His letters are too many and too voluminous to publish in full; their topics were the things of the day; but in all that concerns Poe the writer was genuinely in earnest, and he took pains to serve him. The praise and encouragement he gave Poe were unstinted; he endeavored to aid him by obtaining newspaper advertisement of his various [page 731:] schemes for a magazine, and by urging him to renewed efforts to start it, as plan after plan failed; and in particular he tried hard to obtain a government appointment for him. The history of this last scheme is here fully told. But only the entire text of Thomas's letters would do justice to his devotion to Poe's interests, and his constant and affectionate personal feeling. Dow, whose name often occurs in the correspondence, was a friend of Poe and Thomas, and a magazine writer of the time. The series here given covers the biographical data. Thomas's first letter was dated August 24,1840. The first letter of importance is the following:


PHILADELPHIA, November 23, 1840.

MY DEAR THOMAS: I only received yours of the sixth about an hour ago, having been out of town for the last ten days. Believe me, I was very glad to hear from you — for in truth I had given you up. I did not get the [St. Louis] Bulletin” you sent, but saw the notice at the Exchange. “The Bulletin” has always been very kind to me, and I am at a loss to know who edits it — will you let me into this secret when you write again? Neither did Howard Pinckney” come to hand. Upon receipt of your letter, just now, I called at Congress Hall — but no books. Mr. Bateman had been there, and gone, forget ting to leave them. I shall get them on his re turn. Meantime, and long ago, I have read the novel, with its predecessors. I like Howard P[inckney]” very well — better than “E[ast] and W[est],” and not nearly so well as “C[linton] B[radshaw].” You give yourself up to your own nature (which is a noble one, upon my soul) in “Clinton Bradshaw”; but in “Howard Pinckney” you abandon the broad rough road for the dainty by-paths of authorism. In the former you are interested in what you write, and write to please, pleasantly; in the latter, having gained a name, you write to maintain it, and the effort be comes apparent. This consciousness of reputation leads you so frequently into those literary and other disquisitions about which we quarreled at Studevant's. If you would send the public opinion to the devil, forgetting that a public existed, and write from the natural promptings of your own spirit, you would do wonders. In a word, abandon is wanting in “Howard Pinckney,” — and wdien I say this you must know that I mean a high compliment — for they to whom this very abandon may be safely suggested are very few indeed, and belong to the loftier class of writers. I would say more of “Howard Pinckney,” but nothing in the shape of criticism can be well said hi petto^ and I intend to speak fully of the novel in the first number of the “Penn Magazine” — which I am happy to say will appear in January. I may just observe now, however, that I pitied you when I saw the blunders, typographical and Frostigraphical — although to do Frost justice, I do not think he looked at the proofs at all.

Thank you a thousand times for your good [column 2:] wishes and kind offers. I shall wait anxiously for the promised article. I should like to have it, if possible, in the first sheet, which goes to press early in December. But I know that I may depend upon you, and therefore say no more upon this head. For the rest, your own experience and friendship will suggest the modes by which you may serve me in St. Louis. Perhaps you may be able to have the accompanying “Prospectus” (which you will see differs from the first) inserted once or twice in some of the city papers — if you can accomplish this without trouble I shall be greatly obliged to you. Have you heard that that illustrious graduate of St. John's College, Cam bridge (Billy Barlow [Burton] ), has sold his magazine to Graham, of the “Casket” }

Mrs. Clemm and Virginia unite with me in the kindest remembrance to yourself and sister — with whom your conversation (always turning upon the “one loved name”) has already made us all so well acquainted. How long will it be be fore I see you again? Write immediately.

Yours most truly, E. A. P.


WASHINGTON, May 20, 1841.

... How would you like to be an office-holder here at $1500 per year payable monthly by Uncle Sam, who, however slack he may be to his general creditors, pays his officials with due punctuality? How would you like it? You stroll to your office a little after nine in the morning leisurely, and you stroll from it a little after two in the afternoon homeward to dinner and return no more that day. If, during office hours, you have anything to do, it is an agreeable relaxation from the monotonous laziness of the day. You have on your desk everything in the writing line in apple-pie order, and if you choose to lucubrate in a literary way why you can lucubrate.

Come on and apply for a clerkship; you can follow literature here as well as where you are — and think of the money to be made by it — “Think of that. Master Brook,” as Sir John sayeth. Write to me, if you love me, on the reception of this ...

My kindest regards to your mother and wife.

Your friend, F. W. Thomas.


WASHINGTON, July 1, 1841.

MY DEAR POE: Yours of June 26 [printed by Stoddard] I received yesterday. I trust, my dear friend, that you can obtain an appointment. President Tyler I have not even seen except in passing in his carriage — never having called at the White House since the death of Harrison, except to see the sons of the President, and then they were not in. Could n’t you slip on here, and see the President yourself? Or if you would pre fer it, I will see him for you. But perhaps your application had better be made through some one who has influence with the executive. I have heard you say that J. P. Kennedy had a regard for you. He is here a Congressman, and would serve you — would he not? Your friend,

F. W. THOMAS. [page 732:]

The reply to the preceding is printed by Stoddard.


WASHINGTON, August 30, 1841.

MY DEAR POE: ... I wrote you that I saw Kennedy, and that he expressed his willingness to aid you in any way in his power. Since, I have conversed with the President's sons about you; they think the President will be able and willing to give you a situation, but they say, and I felt the truth of the remark before it was made, that at the present crisis, when everything is “hurlyburly,” it would be of no avail to apply to him. He is much perplexed, as you may suppose, amidst the conflicting parties, the anticipated cabinet break up, &c. As soon as times get a little more quiet I will wait on the President myself, and write you of the interview.

Your cryptography makes quite a talk here. Hampton tells me he had quite a demand for your August number containing it.

Your friend, F. W. Thomas.


WHITE HOUSE, March 31, 1842.

My dear Sir: I have received your letter in which you express your belief that Judge Blythe will appoint you to a situation in the Custom House, provided you have a reiteration of my former recommendations of you. It gives me pleasure to say to you that it would gratify me very sensiblyio see you appointed by Judge Blythe.

I am satisfied that no one is more competent, or would be more satisfactory in the discharge of any duty connected with the office. Believe me, my dear sir, truly yours, [Signature cut out].


WASHINGTON, May 21, 1842.

MY DEAR POE; I fear you have been reproach ing me with neglect in not answering yours of March 13 before. If you have, you have done me injustice.

I knew it would be of no avail to submit your proposition to Robert Tyler, with regard to any pecuniary aid which he might extend to your undertaking, as he has nothing but his salary of $1500, and his situation requires more than its expenditure. In a literary point of view he would gladly aid you, but his time is so taken up with political and other matters that his contributions would be few and far between.

I therefore thought I could aid you better by interesting him in you personally, without your appearing, as it were, personally in the matter. In consequence I took occasion to speak of you to him frequently in a way that friendship and a profound respect for your genius and acquirements dictated. He thinks of you as highly as I do.

Last night I was speaking of you, and took occasion to suggest that a situation in the Custom House, Philadelphia, might be acceptable to you, as Lamb (Charles) had held a somewhat [column 2:] similar appointment, etc, etc, and as it would leave you leisure to pursue your literary pursuits. Robert replied that he felt confident that such a situation could be obtained for you in the course of two or three months at farthest, as certain vacancies would then occur.

What say you to such a plan? Official life is not laborious — and a situation that would suit you and place you beyond the necessity of employing your pen, he says he can obtain for you there.

Let me hear from you as soon as convenient upon this subject.

I assure you, Poe, that not an occasion has offered when in the remotest way I thought I could serve you, that I did not avail myself of it — but I would not write upon mere conjectures that some thing available was about to occur. So my motives must be an apology, my friend, for my long silence.

Besides, I could not obtain for you, and I have tried repeatedly. Clay's report on the copyright question. I may be yet successful. If I had obtained it I might have written sooner — having that to write about.

Yes, I saw Dickens, but only at the dinner which a few of us gave him here — I liked him very much, though. You certainly exhibited great sagacity in your criticism on “Barnaby Rudge.” I have not yet read it — but I mean to do so, and then read your criticism, which I have put by for that purpose.

Somebody told me, for I have not seen it in print, that you and Graham had parted company. Is it so? ... Your friend, F. W. Thomas.


PHILADELPHIA, May 25, 1842.

MY DEAR THOMAS: Through an accident I have only just now received yours of the 21st. Believe me, I never dreamed of doubting your friendship, or of reproaching you for your silence. I knew you had good reasons for it; and, in this matter, I feel that you have acted for me more judiciously, by far, than I should have done for my self. You have shown yourself, from the first hour of our acquaintance, that rara avis in terris — “a true friend.” Nor am I the man to be un mindful of your kindness.

What you say respecting a situation in the Custom House here gives me new life. Nothing could more precisely meet my views. Could I obtain such an appointment, I would be enabled thoroughly to carryout all my ambitious projects. It would relieve me of all care as regards a mere subsistence, and thus allow me time for thought, which, in fact, is action. I repeat that I would ask for nothing farther or better than a situation such as you mention. If the salary will barely en able me to live I shall be content. Will you say as much for me to Mr. Tyler, and express to him my sincere gratitude for the interest he takes in my welfare?

The report of my having parted company with Graham is correct; although in the forthcoming June number there is no announcement to that effect; nor had the papers any authority for the statement made. My duties ceased with the May [page 733:] number. I shall continue to contribute occasion ally. Griswold succeeds me. My reason for resigning was disgust with the namby-pamby character of the Magazine — a character which it was impossible to eradicate. I allude to the contemptible pictures, fashion-plates, music, and love-tales. The salary, moreover, did not pay me for the labour which I was forced to bestow. With Graham, who is really a very gentlemanly, although an exceedingly weak, man, I had no misunderstanding. I am rejoiced to say that my dear little wife is much better, and I have strong hope of her ultimate recovery. She desires her kindest regards — as also Mrs. Clemm.

I have moved from the old place — but should you pay an unexpected visit to Philadelphia, you will find my address at Graham's. I would give the world to shake you by the hand; and have a thousand things to talk about which would not come within the compass of a letter. Write immediately upon receipt of this, if possible, and do let me know something of yourself, your own doings and prospects: see how excellent an ex ample of egotism I set you. Here is a letter nearly every word of which is about myself or my individual affairs. You saw White — little Tom. I am anxious to know what he said about things in general. He is a character if ever one was. God bless you — Edgar A. Poe.

A letter of Poe to Thomas, September 12, 1842, is printed by Stoddard.


PHILADELPHIA, Sept. [21], 1842.

MY DEAR THOMAS: I am afraid you will think that I keep my promises but indifferently well, since I failed to make my appearance at Congress Hall on Sunday, and I now, therefore, write to apologize. The will to be with you was not wanting — but, upon reaching home on Saturday night, I was taken with a severe chill and fever — the latter keeping me company all next day. I found myself too ill to venture out, but, nevertheless, would have done so had I been able to obtain the consent of all parties. As it was, I was quite in a quandary, for we kept no servant and no messenger could be procured in the neighborhood. I con tented myself with the reflection that you would not think it necessary to wait for me very long after nine o’clock, and that you were not quite so implacable in your resentments as myself. I was much in hope that you would have made your way out in the afternoon. Virginia and Mrs. C [lemm] were much grieved at not being able to bid you farewell.

I perceive by Du Solle's paper that you saw him. He announced your presence in the city on Sunday in very handsome terms. I am about going on a pilgrimage this morning, to hunt up a copy of Clinton Bradshaw,” and will send it to you as soon as procured. Excuse the brevity of this letter, for I am still very unwell, and believe me most gratefully and sincerely your friend,

Edgar A. Poe.

The following letter is from a copy of the original in the possession of C. W. Frederickson. Esq., and was not among those originally in the papers furnished to Griswold.


PHILADELPHIA, November 19, 1842.

MY DEAR FRIEND: Your letter of the 14th gave me new hope — only to be dashed to the ground. On the day of its receipt, some of the papers announced four removals and appointments. Among the latter I observed the name — Pogue. Upon inquiry among those behind the curtain, I soon found that no such person as — Pogue had any expectation of an appointment, and that the name was a misprint or rather a misunderstanding of the reporters, who had heard my own name spoken of at the Custom House. I waited two days, without calling on Mr. Smith, as he had twice told me that he would send for me, when he wished to swear me in.” To-day, however, hearing nothing from him, I called. I asked him if he had no good news for me yet. He replied, “No, I am instructed to make no more removals.” At this, being much astonished, I mentioned that I had heard, through a friend, from Mr. Rob Tyler, that he was requested to ap point me. At these words he said roughly — From whom did you say?” I replied, from Mr. Robert Tyler. I wish you could have seen the scoundrel, — for scoundrel, my dear Thomas, in your private ear, he is, — From Robert Tyler!” says he — Hem! I have received orders from President Tyler to make no more appointments, and shall make none.” Immediately afterward, he acknowledged that he had made one appointment since these instructions.

Mr. Smith has excited the thorough disgust of every Tyler man here. He is a Whig of the worst stamp, and will appoint none but Whigs if he can possibly avoid it. People here laugh at the idea of his being a Tyler man. He is notoriously not such. As for me, he has treated me most shame fully. In my case, there was no need of any political shuffling or lying. I proffered my willing ness to postpone my claims to those of political claimants, but he told me, upon my first inter view after the election, that if I would call on the fourth day he would swear me in. I called and he was not at home. On the next day I called again and saw him, when he told me that he would send a messenger for me when ready: this without even inquiring my place of residence, showing that he had, from the first, no design of appointing me. Well, I waited nearly a month, when, finding nearly all the appointments made, I again called. He did not even ask me to be seated — scarcely spoke — muttered the words I will send for you, Mr. Poe” — and that was all. My next and last interview was to-day — as I have just de scribed. The whole manner of the man, from the first, convinced me that he would not appoint me if he could help it. Hence the uneasiness I expressed to you when here. Now, my dear Thomas, this insult is not to me, so much as to your friend Mr. Robert Tyler, who was so kind as to promise, and who requested, my appointment. [page 734:]

It seems to me that the only way to serve me now is to lay the matter once again before Mr. Tyler, and, if possible through him, to procure a few lines from the President, directing Mr. Smith to give me the place. With these credentials he would scarcely again refuse. But I leave all to your better judgment.

You can have no idea of the low ruffians and boobies — men, too, without a shadow of political influence or caste — who have received office over my head. If Smith had the feelings of a gentle man, he would have perceived that, from the very character of my claim, — by which I mean my want of claim, — he should have made my appointment an early one. It was a gratuitous favor intended me by Mr. Rob Tyler, and he (Smith) has done his best to deprive this favor of all its grace by delay. I could have forgiven all but the innumerable and altogether unnecessary falsehoods with which he insulted my common sense day after day.

I would write more, my dear Thomas, but my heart is too heavy. You have felt the misery of hope deferred, and will feel for me. Believe me ever your true friend, Edgar A. Poe.

Write soon, and if possible relieve my suspense. You cannot imagine the trouble I am in, and have been in for the past two months — unable to enter into any literary arrangements, or in fact to do anything, being in hourly expectation of getting the place.


WASHINGTON, February 1, 1843.

MY DEAR POE: You judged rightly I did not write to you [while] waiting “for some definite action of Congress on Smith's case.” I feel most anxious (?) in the matter for you, my friend. About the biography. [Poe desired Thomas to write the sketch of him afterward done by Hirst]

I duly received your notes, and determined at the earliest moment to take it in hand. Congress is now, you know, in session, and my labors at the department are terrible while it continues. There (?) I have set myself about writing out the notes, and there (?) I have been taken off. It would be a labor of love with me, Poe, as you know, and let who will do it now, some of these days I will do it better unless they do it d — d well. I could not do it until Congress adjourns, and not speedily then — I am so much occupied. I there fore think it best to send you the MS. as you re quest, but I do it with regret. I should be most glad to greet you in the capital. Come on if possible.

Yes, I saw the “Saturday Museum” in Mr. Robert Tyler's room, and happened to light upon the article in which we are mentioned. I read that portion of it to him, and shall take care that he is not misinformed on the subject. I remember Mr. Hirst.

Why the d — l did you not give me an inkling of what your good luck is. I was at a party last night, and came to the department rather dull, but when I opened your letter, and read, ‘Hn high spirits. Yours truly, E. A. Poe,” I rose to “high spirits” myself. I assure you, Poe, that nothing gives me greater pleasure than to know that you are well [column 2:] and doing well. Remember me most affectionately to your mother and lady, and believe me truly your friend, F. W. THOMAS.


PHILADELPHIA, February 25, 1843.

MY DEAR THOMAS: Herewith I forward a “Saturday Museum” containing a Biography and caricature, both of myself. I am ugly enough, God knows, but not quite so bad as that. The biographer is H. W. Hirst of this city. I put into his hands your package, as returned, and he has taken the liberty of stating his indebtedness for memoranda to yourself — a slight extension of the truth for which I pray you to excuse him. He is a warm friend of yours by the by — and a warm friend is a matter of moment at all times, but especially in this age of lukewarmness. I have also been guilty of an indiscretion [in the Hirst biography] in quoting from a private letter of yours to myself —

I could not forego the temptation of letting the world know how well you thought of me.

On the outside of the paper you will see a Prospectus of “The Stylus” — my old “Penn” revived and remodeled under better auspices. I am anxious to hear your opinion of it. I have man aged at last to secure, I think, the great object — a partner [T. C. Clarke, owner of the “Saturday Museum” ] possessing ample capital, and, at the same time, so little self-esteem as to allow me en tire control of the editorial conduct. He gives me, also, a half interest, and is to furnish funds for all the business operations — I agreeing to supply, for the first year, the literary matter. This will puzzle me no little, but I must do my best — write as much as possible myself, under my own name and pseudonyms, and hope for the casual aid of my friends, until the first stage of infancy is surpassed. The articles of copartnership have been signed and sealed for some weeks, and I should have written you before, informing you of my good luck, but that I was in hope of sending you, at the same time, a specimen-sheet. Some little delay has occurred in getting it out on ac count of paper. In the mean time, all arrangements are progressing with spirit. We shall make the most magnificent magazine, as regards externals, ever seen. The finest paper, bold type, in single column, and superb wood-engravings in the manner of the French illustrated edition of “Gil Bias” by Gigoux, or “Robinson Crusoe” by Grandville.

“There are three objects I would give a great deal to accomplish. Of the first I have some hope, but of the two last exceedingly little, unless you aid me. In the first place, I wish an article from yourself for my opening number; in the second, one from Mr. Rob Tyler; in the third, one from Judge Upshur. If I could get all this, I should be be made, but I despair. Judge Upshur wrote some things for “The Messenger” during my editorship, and if I could get him interested in the scheme he anight, by good management, be induced to give me an article, I care not how brief, or on what subject, with his name. It would be worth to me at least $500, and give me caste at once. I think him, as a reasoner, as a speaker, [page 735:] and as a writer, absolutely unsurpassed. I have the very highest opinion of his abilities. There is no man in America from whom I so strongly covet an article. Is it procurable?

In a few weeks, at farthest, I hope to take you by the hand. In the mean time write, and let me know how you come on. About a week since I enclosed an introductory letter to yourself in one to a friend of mine (Professor Wyatt) now in Washington. I presume you have seen him. He is much of a gentleman, and I think you will be pleased with him.

Virginia and Mrs. Clemm beg to be remembered. Truly your friend, EDGAR A. POE.

P. S. Smith not rejected yet! Ah, if I could only get the inspectorship, or something similar, now — how completely it would put me out of all difficulty.

Early in March Poe went to Washington to make a personal appeal for office. The visit became a “spree.” The story of it has been partly told by Gill, who prints a letter from Poe to Clarke, March 11, and one from Dow* to Clarke, March 12. The following letter was used by the present editor, who had received a manuscript copy of it from another source, in his biography of Poe, but the letter was not printed. The note attached to it by Thomas relieves somewhat the impression it might otherwise make.


PHILADELPHIA, March 16, 1843.

MY DEAR THOMAS AND DOW: I arrived here in perfect safety, 2SidiSober^ about half-past four last evening — nothing occurring on the road of any consequence. I shaved and breakfasted in Baltimore, and lunched on the Susquehanna, and by the time I got to Philadelphia felt quite decent. Mrs. Clemm was expecting me at the car-office. I went immediately home, took a warm bath and supper, and then went to Clarke's [his partner in The Stylus”]. I never saw a man in my life more surprised to see another. He thought by Dow's epistle that I must not only be dead but buried, and would as soon have thought of seeing his great-great-great grandmother. He received me, therefore, very cordially, and made light of the matter. I told him what had been agreed upon — that I was a little sick, and that Dow, knowing I had been, in times past, given to spreeing upon an extensive scale, had be come unduly alarmed etc., etc. — that when I found he had written, I thought it best to come home. He said my trip had improved me, and that he had never seen me looking so well! — and I don’t believe I ever did. This morning I took medicine, and, as it is a snowy day will avail my self of the excuse to stay at home — so that by to-morrow I shall be really as well as ever. Virginia's health is about the same; but her distress of mind had been even more than I had anticipated. She desires her kindest remembrances to both of you — as also does Mrs. C.

Clarke, it appears, wrote to Dow, who must have received the letter this morning. Please reinclose [column 2:] the letter to me, here, so that I may know how to guide myself. And, Thomas, do write immediately as proposed. If possible, enclose a line from Rob Tyler — but I fear under the circum stances, it is not so. I blame no one but myself.

The letter which I looked for, and which I wished returned, is not on its way — reason, no money forthcoming — Lowell had not yet sent it. He is ill in New York, of opthalmia. Immediately upon receipt of it, or before, I will for ward the money you were both so kind as to lend, which is eight to Dow, and three and a half to Thomas. What a confounded business I have got myself into, attempting to write a letter to two people at once!

However, this is for Dow. My dear fellow, thank you a thousand times for your kindness and great forbearance, and don’t say a word about the cloak turned inside out, or other peccadilloes of that nature. Also, express to your wife my deep regret for the vexation I must have occasioned her. Send me, also, if you can, the letter to Blythe. Call, also, at the barber's shop just above Fuller's and pay for me a levy which I believe I owe. And now, God bless you, for a nobler fellow never lived.

And this is for Thomas. My dear friend, for give me my petulance and don’t believe I think all I said. Believe me, I am very grateful to you for your many attentions and forbearances, and the time will never come when I shall forget either them or you. Remember me most kindly to Dr. Lacey — also to the Don, whose mustachios I do admire after all, and who has about the finest figure I ever beheld — also to Dr. Frailey. Please express my regret to Mr. Fuller for making such a fool of myself in his house, and say to him (if you think it necessary) that I should not have got half so drunk on his excellent port wine but for the rummy coffee with which I was forced to wash it down. I would be glad, too, if you would take an opportunity of saying to Mr. Rob Tyler that if he can look over matters and get me the inspectorship, I will join the Washingtonians forth with. I am as serious as a judge — and much [more] so than many. I think it would be a feather in Mr. Tyler's cap to save from the perils of mint julep — and “Port wines” — a young man of whom all the world thinks so well and who thinks so remarkably well of himself. And now, my dear friends, good-by, and believe me most truly yours, Edgar A. Poe.

Upon getting here I found numerous letters of subscribers to my magazine — for which no canvass has yet been made. This was unexpected and cheering. Did you say, Dow, that Commodore Elliot had desired me to put down his name? Is it so, or did I dream it? At all events, when you see him, present my respects and thanks. Thomas, you will remember that Dr. Lacey wished me to put him down — but I don’t know his first name — please let me have it.

[Note BY Thomas: This letter explains it self. While his friends were trying to get Poe a place he came on to Washington in the way he mentions. He was soon quite sick, and while he [page 736:] was so Dow wrote to one of his friends in Philadelphia about him! Poor fellow. A place had been promised his friends for him, and in that state of suspense which is so trying to all men, and particularly to men of imagination, he presented himself in Washington certainly not in a way to advance his interests. I have seen a great deal of Poe, and it was his excessive and at times marked sociability [?] which forced him into his “frolics,” rather than any mere morbid appetite for drink, but if he took but one glass of weak wine or beer or cider, the Rubicon of the cup had been passed with him, and it almost always ended in excess and sickness. But he fought against the propensity as hard as ever Coleridge fought against it, and I am inclined to believe, after his sad experience and suffering, if he could have gotten office with a fixed salary, beyond the need of literary labour, that he would have redeemed himself, at least at this time. The accounts of his derelictions in this respect after I knew him were very much exaggerated. I have seen men who drank bottles of wine to Poe's wine glasses who yet escaped all imputations of in temperance. His was one of those temperaments whose only safety is in total abstinence. He suffered terribly after any indiscretion. And, after all, what Byron said of Sheridan was truer of Poe;

... Ah, little do they know

That what to them seemed vice might be but woe.

And, moreover, there is a great deal of heart ache in the jestings of this letter. T.]


WASHINGTON, March 27, 1843.

MY DEAR FRIEND: Yours of the loth I duly received. I would have answered it immediately, but my desk got so behindhand during my illness, when you were here, that every moment of my time has been engaged in bringing it up.

Dow's epistle, I suppose, astounded your folks. He tells me that he mentions a conversation with me in it. Our friend Dow, you know, is an imaginative man, and he thought that you, as we say in the West, had [ word illegible] for high timber.” I have had a hearty laugh at him for his fears. I am glad to learn that you are well.

I rejoice to know that your wife is better. I cannot leave the office at present to see Robert Tyler, as you suggest, to get a line from him. But this I can tell you, that the President yes terday asked me many questions about you, and spoke of you kindly. John Tyler, who was by, told the President that he wished he would give you an office in Philadelphia, and before he could reply a servant entered and called him out. John had heard of your frolic from a man who saw you in it, but I made light of the matter when he mentioned it to me, and he seemed to think nothing of it himself. He seems to feel a deep interest in you — Robert was not by. I feel satisfied that I can get you something from his pen for your Magazine. He lately made a speech here on St. Patrick's day, which has won for him great applause — you will find it in the Intelligencer” of this morning. Read it and tell me what you think [column 2:] of it. I write in the greatest haste, and have not your letter by me, so reply to it from memory. Write as soon as you get this. Be of good cheer.

I trust to see you an official yet. In the greatest haste. Yours truly, F. W. THOMAS.

The other letters of this series belong to a later period.

A second frequent correspondent of Poe in those years was John Tomlin of Jackson, Tennessee, a magazine-writer of no lasting note, but warm in his friendly feeling to Poe. His letters are of slight interest in themselves, but among them is that in which he incloses the letter of L. A. Wilmer, author of the Quacks of Helicon,” which caused a rupture of one of Poe's oldest friendships, already noticed by his biographers. It is interesting to see what Wilmer actually said, for Poe never forgave him.


JACKSON, TENNESSEE, September 10, 1843.

DEAR SIR: My friendship for you, and nothing else, has prevailed on me to enclose you the letter of L. A. Wilmer, Esquire. But I much fear that in doing it I have violated somewhat the rules that govern correspondence in such matters. Believing, however, that your great good sense will but protect my honor in this transaction, I re main with affectionate regard. Yours ever,



PHILADELPHIA, May 20, 1843,

DEAR SIR: ... Literary affairs are at a very low ebb in this city at present.

Edgar A. Poe (you know him by character, no doubt, if not personally) has become one of the strangest of our literati. He and I are old friends — have known each other from boyhood, and it gives me inexpressible pain to notice the vagaries to which he has lately become subject. Poor fellow! he is not a teetotaller by any means, and I fear he is going headlong to destruction, moral, physical, and intellectual... . Your obliged and sincere friend, L. A. Wilmer.


JACKSON, TENNESSEE, February 23, 1844.

Dear Sir: I have had no letter from you since I sent you the libellous letter of L. A. Wilmer. Did you inflict on him a chastisement equal to the injury he designed, by the publication of such slanders? Previous to the reception of that letter, I had entertained a good opinion of the “Quacks of Helicon” man, and it had been brought about in a great measure by your review of the book. In his former letters, he not only spoke kindly of you, but seemed disposed to become your advocate against the litterateurs of Philadelphia. I hope that you will forgive him, and that he will go and “sin no more.” Your review of “Orion” in the February or March number of “Graham's,” I have read with much pleasure. The article is one of great ability. I know of no writer whose success [page 737:] in life would give me more sincere pleasure than that of yourself.

Hoping soon to hear from you, I remain ever, Your friend, Jno. Tomlin.

The following letter is the only one which connects Poe with his relatives during this period.


BALTIMORE, June 15, 1843.

DEAR EDGAR: I wrote you on the 15th ulto. since which time I have received nothing from you; mine was in answer to a letter received giving an account of your many recent reverses, and I fear it was in a style not relished by you, but in great sincerity of feeling for you and yours I wrote it, and the reason why I presumed to be so free in my expressions: was in consequence of the great friendship I feel for you, and interest I take in your welfare, and therefore hoped to hear again from you, and of your wife's being better, and your recovery from the sickness and despondency you were suffering when you last wrote. I still write from the same motives. I observed in the “Baltimore Sun” newspaper in an editorial that you have again lately been successful in having awarded to [column 2:] you a prize of $100 by the Dollar Newspaper” for a tale called the Gold Bug,” which gave me much pleasure, and hope it came in time to relieve you from some of your pecuniary wants. Ought you ever to give up in despair when you have such resources as your well-stored mind to apply to? Let me entreat you then to persevere, for I hope the time is not far distant when a change will take place in your affairs and place you be yond want in this world.

Will you write to me freely, and let me know what are your prospects in getting out “The Stylus,” and how your wife is, and Mrs. Clemm — how is she? It would give me pleasure to hear from her. There is one thing I am anxious to caution you against, and which has been a great enemy to our family, — I hope, however, in your case, it may prove unnecessary, — “a too free use of the Bottle.” Too many, and especially literary characters, have sought to drown their sorrows and disappointments by this means, but in vain, and only, when it has been too late, discovered it to be a deeper source of misery. But enough of this, say you, and so say I: therefore, hoping this may find you in better spirits and better prospects of future happiness, I subscribe myself. Yours affectionately,




[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 725:]

1 The picture on page 727 was drawn by Albert E. Sterner, and is from the forthcoming complete edition of Poe's works to be published by Messrs. Stone & Kimball.











[S:0 - CM, September 1884] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - A Poe Bookshelf - Poe in the Philadelphia (George E. Woodberry, 1884)