Text: John H. Ingram, “Chapter 09,” Edgar Allan Poe: Life, Letters, and Opinions (1886), pp. 75-109


[page 75:]

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FOR some time after leaving West Point, Poe appears to have lived in New York. A few months after be left the Military Academy, it was announced that a volume of his poems would be published by subscription at the price of two and a half dollars per copy. ” Permission was granted,” says Mr. Gibson, “by Colonel Thayer to the corps to subscribe for the book, and as no cadet was ever known to neglect any opportunity of spending his pay, the subscription was pretty nearly universal. The book was received with a general expression of disgust; . . . . it contained not one of the squibs and satires upon which his reputation at the Academy had been built up. Few of the poems contained in that collection now appear in any of the editions of his works, and such as have been preserved have been very much altered for the better. For months afterwards quotations from Poe formed the standing material for jests in the corps, and his reputation for genius went down at once to zero.” As Mr. Gibson seems to have had to leave West Point at tho same time as Poe, his reminiscences of the effect produced by the little volume are, doubtless, derived from hearsay; but, unlike his inaccurate account of the book itself, they are confirmed by other evidence. General George W. Cullum states,* “As Poe was of [page 76:] the succeeding class to mine at West Point, I remember him very well as a cadet. . . . While at the Academy he published a small volume of poems. . . . These verses were the source of great merriment with us boys, who considered the author cracked, and the verses ridiculous doggerel.”

This 1831 collection does not contain any poem not included in the existing editions, but includes many variations from, and lines extra to, the pieces as now published; the title-pae reads thus: —



Tout le monde a raison.” — ROCHEFOUCAULD.

Second Edition.

New York: Elam Bliss.


The little book contained 124 pages, and was dedicated to the United States Corps of Cadets. Prefixed to the poems was a lengthy letter to a “Mr. B——,” apparently a mythical personage, dated “West Point, 1831.” The poet begins —

“DEAR B——, — Believing only a portion of my former volume to be worthy a second edition-that small portion I thought it as well to include in the present book as to republish by itself. Nor have I hesitated to insert from the ‘Minor Poems,’ now omitted, whole lines, and even passages, to the end that being placed in a fairer light, and the trash shaken from them in which they were embedded, they may have some chance of being seen by posterity.

“It has been said, that a good critique on a poem may be written by one who is no poet himself. This, according to your idea and mine of poetry, I feel to be false — the less poetical the critic, the less just the critique, and the converse. On that [page 77:] account, and because there are but few B——s in the world, I would be as much ashamed of the world’s good opinion as proud of your own. Another than yourself might here observe, ’Shakespeare is in possession of the world’s good opinion, and yet Shakespeare is the greatest of poets. It appears then that the world judge correctly; why should you be ashamed of their favourable judgment?’ The difficulty lies in the interpretation of the word ’ judgment’ or ’ opinion.’ The opinion is the world’s, truly, but it may be called theirs as a man would call a book his; they did not originate the opinion, but it is theirs. A fool, for example, thinks Shakespeare a great poet — yet the fool has never read Shakespeare. But the fool’s neighbour, who is a step higher on the Andes of the mind, whose head [that is to say, his more exalted thought] is too far above the fool to be seen or understood, but whose feet [by which I mean his every day actions] are sufficiently near to be discerned, and by means of which that superiority is ascertained, which that for them would never have been discovered — this neighbour asserts that Shakespeare is a great poet — the fool believes him, and that is henceforward his opinion. This neighbour’s own opinion has, in like manner, been adopted from one above him, and so, ascendingy, to a few gifted individuals, who kneel around the summit, beholding face to face the master spirit who stands upon the pinnacle. . . .

“You are aware of the great barrier in the path of an American writer. He is read, if at all, in preference to the combined and established wit of the world. I say established; for it is with literature as with law or empire — an established name is an estate in tenure, or a throne in possession. Besides, one might suppose that books, like their authors, improve by travel-their having crossed the sea is, with us, so great a distinction. Our antiquaries abandon time for distance; our very fops glance from the binding to the bottom of the title-page, where the mystic characters which spell London, Paris, or Genoa, are precisely so many letters of recommendation.

“I mentioned just now a vulgar error as regards criticism. I think the notion that no poet can form a correct estimate of his own writings is another. I remarked before that in proportion to the poetical talent would be the justice of a critique upon poetry. Therefore a bad poet would, I grant, make a false critique, and his self-love would infallibly bias his little judgment [page 78:] in his favour; but a poet, who is indeed a poet, could not, I think, fail of making a just critique; whatever should be deducted on the score of self-love might be replaced on account of his intimate acquaintance with the subject; in short, we have more instances of false criticism than of just where one’s own writings are the test, simply because we have more bad poets than good. There are, of course, many objections to what I say: Milton is a great example of the contrary; but his opinion with respect to the ‘Paradise Regained’ is by no means fairly ascertained. By what trivial circumstances men are often led to assert what they do not really believe! Perhaps an inadvertent word has descended to posterity. But, in fact, the ‘Paradise Regained’ is little, if at all, inferior to the ‘Paradise Lost,’ and is only supposed so to be because men do not like epics, whatever they may say to the contrary; and reading those of Milton in their natural order, are too much wearied with the first to derive any pleasure from the second

“I dare say Milton preferred Comus either — if so — to justly.

“As I am speaking of poetry, it will not be amiss to touch slightly upon the most singular heresy in its modern history — the heresy of what is called, very foolishly, the Lake School. Some years ago I might have been induced, by an occasion like the present, to attempt a formal refutation of their doctrine; at present it would be a work of supererogation. The wise must bow to the wisdom of such men as Coleridge and Southey, but being wise, have laughed at poetical theories so prosaically exemplified.

“Aristotle, with singular assurance, has declared poetry the most philosophical of all writings* — but it required a Wordsworth to pronounce it the most metaphysical. He seems to think that the end of poetry is, or should be, instruction — yet it is a truism that the end of our existence is happiness; if so, the end of every separate part of our existence — everything connected with our existence — should be still happiness. Therefore the end of instruction should be happiness; and happiness is another name for pleasure therefore the end of instruction should be pleasure; yet we see the above-mentioned opinion implies precisely the reverse.

“To proceed: cœteris paribus, be who pleases is of more [page 79:] importance to his fellow-men than he who instructs, since utility is happiness, and pleasure is the end already obtained which instruction is merely the means of obtaining.

“I see no reason, then, why our metaphysical poets should plume themselves so much on the utility of their works, unless indeed they refer to instruction with eternity in view; in which case, sincere respect for their piety would not allow me to express my contempt for their judgment; contempt which it would be difficult to conceal, since their writings are professedly to be understood by the few, and it is the many who stand in need of salvation. In such case I should no doubt be tempted to think of the devil in Melmoth, who labours indefatigably, through three octavo volumes, to accomplish the destruction of one or two souls, while any common devil would have demolished one or two thousand.

“Against the subtleties which would make poetry a study — not a passion — it becomes the metaphysician to reason — but the poet to protest. Yet Wordsworth and Coleridge are men in years; the one imbued in contemplation from his child hood, the other a giant in intellect and learning. The diffidence, then, with which I venture to dispute their authority would be overwhelming did I not feel, from the bottom of my heart, that learning has little to do with the imagination — intellect with the passions — or age with poetry.

“ ‘Trifles, like straws, upon the surface flow,

He who would search for pearls must dive below,’

are lines which have done much mischief. As regards the greater truths, men oftener err by seeking them at the bottom than at the top;, the truth lies in the huge abysses where wisdom is sought — not in the palpable palaces where she is found. The ancients were not always right in hiding the goddess in a well; witness the light which Bacon has thrown upon philosophy; witness the principles of our divine faith — that moral mechanism by which the simplicity of a child may overbalance the wisdom of a man.

“We see an instance of Coleridge’s liability to err, in his ‘Biographia Literaria’ — professedly his literary life and opinions, but, in fact, a treatise de omni scibili et quibusdam aliis. He goes wrong by reason of his very profundity, and of his error we have a natural type in the contemplation of a star. [page 80:] He who regards it directly and intensely sees, it is true, the star, but it is the star without a ray — while he who surveys it less inquisitively is conscious of all for which the star is useful to us below — its brilliancy and its beauty.

“As to Wordsworth, I have no faith in him. That he had in youth the feelings of a poet I believe — for there are glimpses of extreme delicacy in his writings — (and delicacy is the poet’s own kingdom — his El Dorado) — but they have the appearance of a better day recollected; and glimpses, at best, are little evidence of present poetic fire — we know that a few straggling flowers spring up daily in the crevices of the glacier.

“He was to blame in wearing away his youth in contemplation with the end of poetising in his manhood. With the increase of his judgment the light which should make it apparent has faded away. His judgment consequently is too correct. This may not be understood,-but the old Goths of Germany would have understood it, who used to debate matters of importance to their State twice, once when drunk, and once when sober — sober that they might not be deficient in formality — drunk lest they should be destitute of vigour.

“The long wordy discussions by which he tries to reason us into admiration of his poetry speak very little in his favour: they are full of such assertions as this (I have opened one of his volumes at random) — ‘Of genius the only proof is the act of doing well what is worthy to be done, and what was never done before’ — indeed? then it follows that in doing what is unworthy to be done, or what has been done before, no genius can be evinced; yet the picking of pockets is an unworthy act, pockets have been picked time immemorial, and Barrington, the pickpocket, in point of genius, would have thought hard of a comparison with William Wordsworth, the poet,

“Again — in estimating the merit of certain poems, whether they be Ossian’s or Macpherson’s can surely be of little consequence, yet, in order to prove their worthlessness, Mr. W. has expended many pages in the controversy. Tantœme animis? Can great minds descend to such absurdity? But worse still: that he may bear down every argument in favour of these poems, he triumphantly drags forward a passage, in his abomination of which he expects the reader to sympathise. It is the beginning of the epic poem ‘Temora.’ ‘The blue waves of Erin roll in light. The mountains are covered with day. Trees [page 81:] shake their dusky heads in the breeze.’ And this — this gorgeous, yet simple imagery, where all is alive and panting with immortality — this, William Wordsworth, the author of ‘Peter Bell,’ has selected for his contempt. We shall see what better he, in his own person, has to offer. Imprimis:

And now she’s at the pony’s tail,

And now she’s at the pony’s head

On that side now, and now on this;

And, almost stifled with her bliss,

A few sad tears does Betty shed. . . .

She pats the pony, where or when

She knows not, happy Betty Foy!

Oh Johnny, never mind the Doctor!’


The dew was falling fast, the — stars began to blink;

I heard a voice: it said, drink, pretty creature, drink!

And, looking o’er the hedge, before me I espied

A snow-white mountain lamb, with a — maiden at its side.

No other sheep were near — the lamb was all alone,

And by a slender cord was — tether‘d to a stone.’

“Now, we have no doubt this is all true: we will believe it, indeed, we will, Mr. W. Is it sympathy for the sheep you wish to excite? I love a sheep from the bottom of my heart.

“But there are occasions, dear B——, there are occasions when even Wordsworth is reasonable. Even Stamboul, it is said, shall have an end, and the most unlucky blunders must come to a conclusion. Here is an extract from his preface —

“ ‘Those who have been accustomed to the phraseology of modern writers, if they persist in reading this book to a conclusion (impossible!) will, no doubt, have to struggle with feelings of awkwardness; (ha! ha! ha!) they will look round for poetry (ha! ha! ha! ha!), and will be induced to inquire by what species of courtesy these attempts have been permitted to assume that title.’ Ha! ha! ha! ha! ha!

“Yet, let not Mr. W. despair; he has given immortality to a waggon, and the bee Sophocles has transmitted to eternity a sore toe, and dignified a tragedy with a chorus of turkeys.*

“Of Coleridge, I cannot speak but with reverence. His [page 82:] towering intellect! his gigantic power! To use an author quoted by himself, ‘J‘ai trouvé souvent que la plupart des sectes ont raison dans une bonne partie de ce qu‘elles avancent, mais non pas en ce qu‘elles nient.’ And to employ his oven language, he has imprisoned his own conceptions by the barrier he has erected against those of others. It is lamentable to think that such a mind should be buried in metaphysics, and, like the Nyctanthes, waste its perfume upon the night alone. In reading that man’s poetry, I tremble like one who stands upon a volcano, conscious, from the very darkness bursting from the crater, of the fire and the light that are weltering below,

“What is poetry? — Poetry! that Proteus — like idea, with as many appellations as the nine-titled Corcyra! ‘Give me,’ I demanded of a scholar some time ago, ‘give me a definition of poetry.’ ‘Tres-volontiers;’ and he proceeded to his library, brought me a Dr. Johnson, and overwhelmed me with a definition. Shade of the immortal Shakespeare! I imagine to myself the scowl of your spiritual eye upon the profanity of that scurrilous Ursa Major. Think of poetry, dear B——, think of poetry, and then think of Dr. Samuel Johnson Think of all that is airy and fairy-like, and then of all that is hideous and unwieldy; think of his huge bulk, the Elephant! and then — and then think of the Tempest — the Midsummer:Night’s Dream-Prospero-Oberon-and Titania!

“A poem, in my opinion, is opposed to a work of science by having, for its immediate object, pleasure, not truth; to romance, by having, for its object, an indefinite instead of a definite pleasure, being a poem only so far as this object is attained; romance presenting perceptible images with definite, poetry with indefinite sensations, to which end music is an essential, since the comprehension of sweet sound is our most

indefinite conception. Music, when combined with a pleasurable idea, is poetry; music, without the idea, is simply music; the idea, without the music, is prose, from its very definitiveness.

“What was meant by the invective against him who had no music in his soul?

“To sum up this long rigmarole, I have, dear B ——, what you, no doubt, perceive, for the metaphysical poets as poets, the most sovereign contempt. That they have followers proves nothing —

“No Indian prince has to his palace

More followers than a thief to the gallows.’ ” [page 83:]

Apart from the fact that the theory herein enunciated as to the object and aim of poetry is one which its author never through life deviated from, this letter is valuable and most interesting as the earliest known specimen of Poe’s prose work. In the 1831 volume it is followed by a poetical ” Introduction ” of sixtysix lines, an expansion of the twenty-one lines of the 1829 “Preface.” These additional verses were subsequently suppressed, but a portion of them is well worthy preservation here, not only as a fair sample of their youthful inditer’s poetic powers, but also for

their autobiographical allusions: —

“Succeeding years, too wild for song,

Then rolled like tropic storms along;

Where, though the garish lights that fly

Dying along the troubled sky,

Lay bare, through vistas thunder-riven,

The blackness of the general heaven;

That very blackness yet doth fling

Light on the lightning’s silver wiug.

“For, being an idle boy lang syne,

Who read Anacreon and drank wine,

I early found Anacreon-rhymes

Were almost passionate sometimes —

And by strange alchemy of brain

His pleasures always turned to pain —

His naïveté to wild desire —

His wit to love — his wine to fire;

And so, being young and dipt in folly,

I fell in love with melancholy,

And used to throw my earthly rest

And quiet all away in jest.

I could not love except where Death

Was mingling his with Beauty’s breath

Or Hymen, Time, and Destiny

Were stalking between her and me. . . . [page 84:]

“But now my soul hath too much room

Gone are the glory and the gloom;

The black hath mellowed into gray,

And all the fires are fading away.

“My draught of passion hath been deep —

I revelled, and I now would sleep

And after drunkenness of soul

Succeeds the glories of the bowl

An idle longing night and day

To dream my very life away. . .”

To those acquainted with Poe’s history thus far, the, pathos of the four final lines of the second stanza will not be overlooked. These idiosyncrastic verses are followed by the exquisite lyric “To Helen,”* a poem written in commemoration of Mrs. Stannard, as Poe himself afterwards acknowledged; then comes the earliest known version of “Israfel;” which is succeeded by “The Dogmed City” — a poem afterwards improved and re-christened “The City in the Sea “expanded and weakened versions of “Fairyland,” and “The Sleeper,” follow; next comes “A Paean,” chiefly remarkable as being the germ of that melodious, exultant defiance of death” Lenore” — and then, finally, so far as the “Miscellaneous Poems ” are concerned, some lines entitled ” The Valley Nis “-ultimately revised and published as “The Valley of Unrest.”

The collection concludes with expanded reprints of “Al Aaraaf,” and “Tamerlane,” but the additions and variations are, generally, inferior in poetic value to the earlier versions. Ultimately, upon their next republication, the poet’s more matured judgment caused him to curtail the proportions of most of the pieces in this ” second edition,” by discarding the so strangely [page 85:] added new lines. It should also be noted, in connection with this 1831 volume, that the punctuation is not so good nor so characteristic as in its immediate predecessor, and that the whole book has the appearance of having been very hastily prepared for the press.

The profits, if any, on his “Poems,” could not have sufficed long for Poe’s maintenance, and, indeed, in a very short space of time he appears to have retraced his journey to Richmond. Upon his arrival at Mr. Allan’s he did not receive a very gracious reception, as may be readily imagined, from his godfather’s second wife. Mr. Allan, he was told, was confined to his bed by severe illness, and his request to be admitted to the sick man’s chamber was refused. Excited by the refusal, he quarrelled with Mrs. Allan and left the house — the only home he had ever known — for ever, and in wrath. Mr. Allan was informed of the visit, and his godson’s conduct was, apparently, represented to him in anything but favourable colours, for he wrote an angry letter forbidding him the house. The poet answered in a similar spirit, and never again, it is believed, held any further communication with his adopted father) — with the man whom he had been taught to look to for aid and support, and whose property he had been led to believe was destined to be his own inheritance. All was over now, and he who a short time before had been regarded as the spoilt child of Fortune, was now homeless and penniless!

All attempts hitherto made to explain what Poe did, and whither he wandered, during the next two years succeeding his expulsion from his godfather’s home, have signally failed. The assertion that he was residing at Baltimore with his aunt, Mrs. Clemm, [page 86:] is not in accordance with fact, her correspondence proving that she never did know where her nephew was during this interregnum in his history, and the poet himself does not appear to have ever afforded any reliable clue to the truth. Powell, in his well-meaning, but somewhat imaginative, sketch of Poe, asserts that the chivalrous youth left Richmond with the intention of offering his services to the Poles in their heroic struggle against Russia. Another biographer, of proven unreliability, suggests that Poe enlisted in the army, but after a short service deserted, although, in a previous sketch of the poet, this same writer stated that during the period referred to the youth endeavoured to subsist by author-craft, only ” his contributions to the journals attracted little attention, and his hopes of gaining a livelihood by the profession of literature were nearly ended at length in sickness, poverty, and despair.” Other attempts, all more or less romantic, have been made to bridge over this chasm in Poe’s life, but none possess such probability as that last cited. In no portion of his career did the poet prove the waters of Helicon Pactolian, and in his earliest efforts to obtain a subsistence by literary labour it almost necessarily follows — considering the then position of American letters — that his exertions were fruitless.

Poe’s place of abode has not been discovered from the time he left Richmond in 1831 until the autumn of 1833, when he is again heard of as in Baltimore, and in apparently very straightened circumstances. It has been stated* that Poe was at this time residing with Mrs. Clemm in Cove Street, but, according [page 87:] to the Baltimore Directories — which are far better evidence than any personal memory — that lady resided in Wilks Street in 1831-2, and thence removed to No. 3 Amity Street, whilst extant correspondence proves that her nephew did not reside with her then, and, apparently, that he never lived with her until after his marriage. During this mysterious interval in the poet’s life, it is claimed that he wrote the earlier versions of some of his finest stories, and even had some of them accepted and published, but not paid for, by contemporary editors. He himself stated in a note to the “MS. Found in a Bottle,” that that tale was originally published in 1831, but the last figure is probably a misprint for 3.

In the autumn of 1833, the proprietors of the Saturday Visiter, a weekly literary journal, started in Baltimore the previous year, and then under the editorial charge of Mr. L. A. Winner, offered prizes of one hundred dollars and fifty dollars respectively, for the best story and the best poem. This offer coming to the knowledge of Poe, he selected six of his tales, and some lines — which he christened “The Coliseum” — out of a drama he was writing, and sent them to the committee appointed to inspect the manuscripts. After a careful consideration of the various contributions received, the adjudicators, three wellknown gentlemen, unanimously decided that those by Edgar Poe — a stranger to them all — were entitled to both premiums, but subsequently were induced, it is stated, to award the lesser prize to another competitor, in consideration of Poe having gained the larger amount.

Not content with this award, the adjudicators even [page 88:] went out of their way to draw up and publish the following flattering critique on the merits of the writings submitted by Poe, and published it in the Saturday Visiter, on the 12th of October 1833: —

“Amongst the prose articles were many of various and distinguished merit, but the singular force and beauty of those sent by the author of ‘The Tales of the Folio Club’ leave us no room for hesitation in that department. We have accordingly awarded the premium to a tale entitled the ‘MS. Found in a Bottle.’ It would hardly be doing justice to the writer of this collection to say that the tale we have chosen is the best of the six offered by him. We cannot refrain from saying that the author owes it to his own reputation, as well as to the gratification of the community, to publish the entire volume (‘Tales of the Folio Club’) — These tales are eminently distinguished by a wild, vigorous, and poetical imagination, a rich style, a fertile, invention, and varied and curious learning.





From Mr. Latrobe’s reminiscences of the award and its result, written to a correspondent soon after the poet’s decease, it is learned that he, Mr. Latrobe, was the reader of the manuscripts adjudicated upon, and that the little volume of tales submitted by Poe proved to be so enthralling, and so very far superior to anything else before the committee, that they read it through from beginning to end, and had no hesitation whatever in awarding the first prize to the author.

Our only difficulty,” says Mr. Latrobe, “was in selecting from the rich contents of the volume.”

Mr. Kennedy, the author of “Horse-Shoe Robinson,” and other popular works, was so interested in the successful but unknown competitor, that he invited him to his house. Poe’s response, written in his usual [page 89:] beautiful, clear caligraphy, proves into what a depth of misery he had sunk. How his heart bled to pen these words, few probably can imagine:

“Your invitation to dinner has wounded me to the quick. I cannot come for reasons of the most humiliating nature — my personal appearance. You may imagine my mortification in making this disclosure to you, but it is necessary.”

Impelled by the noblest feelings Mr. Kennedy at once sought out the unfortunate youth, and found him, its he records in his diary, friendless and almost starving. Poe’s wretched condition inspired the kindhearted author with pity, as did his palpable genius with admiration, and henceforward he became a sincere and disinterested friend. So far from contenting himself with mere courtesies, Mr. Kennedy assisted his new protégé to re-establish himself in the world, and in many respects treated him more like an esteemed relative than a chance acquaintance. In his diary he records, “I gave him . . . . . . free access to my table, and the use of a horse for exercise whenever lie chose; in fact, brought him up from the very verge of despair.” Aided by such a friend, Poe’s affairs could not but begin to improve.

On the 27th March 18 Mr. Allan died, in the 54th year of his age, and was interred beside his first wife in Shockoe Hill Cemetery. If Poe retained any lingering hope of inheriting any portion of his godfather’s wealth, he was at last undeceived, as his name was not even mentioned in the will. Aided, however, by his new — made literary friends, and the reputation of his recent success, the young poet now began to earn his own livelihood. Mr. Kennedy relates that he set [page 90:] him “drudging upon whatever may make money,” but Poe, as the moth to the candle, could not altogether refrain from the still “forbidden things” of poesy, and “when an hour with calmer winos” intervened, returned to work upon his long commenced tragedy of “Politian.”

The incidents of this drama were suggested by real events connected with Beauchampe’s murder of Sharp, the Solicitor-General of Kentucky, the facts of which celebrated case are fully as romantic as the poet’s fiction. Poe appears to have written a portion of ‘Politian” as early at least as 1831, and to have first published some fragments of it in the Southern Literary Messenger of 1835-36 as “Scenes from an Unpublished Drama.” From the poet’s manuscript copy* is seen the fact that this tragedy had been nearly, if not quite, completed, and although youthful niaiseries in some parts of this — the first draft, apparently — might have been justifiably excised, it cannot but be a subject for deep regret that the entire drama was not eventually published. As a rule, it must be conceded that the scenes selected and published by Poe were decidedly the most poetical, yet there are several very interesting and even meritorious passages in the manuscript that need not have been discarded. The omission of the humorous characters was no great loss, But the transformation of Politian from “a young and able Roman,” and “his friend,” Baldazzar, into English noblemen, was in no way necessary to, and certainly did not increase the vraisemblance of, the play.

That “Politian” has attracted less attention than its author’s other poetical works is not strange; unequal in execution, a fragment, and a mystery, the [page 91:] public naturally passed it by. Monsieur Hughes, it is true, when he translated it into French, spoke of it as a tragedy “où vivent des caractères vraiment humains,” but he appears to have been the only person who has had a good word to say for it. This same author, moreover, draws attention to the noteworthy fact that the hero of the drama is, to some extent, and in some of his idiosyncrasies, a reflex of the author himself; “comme tons les grands ecrivains,” he remarks, “Edgar Poe prete aux personnages qu‘il met en scene ses sensations et ses sentiments personnel.” In the third (of the published) scenes occur the following words of Politian’s, which M. Hughes draws attention to as words that might well stand for Poe’s own response to advising friends: —

“What would’st thou have me do?

At thy behest I will shake off that nature

Which from my forefathers I did inherit;

Which with my mother’s milk I did imbibe,

And be no more Politian, but some other.”

“Give not thy soul to dreams,” is the counsel of Baldazzar, and he bids him seek befitting occupation in the court or camp. “Speak no more to me” responds Politian, “of thy camps and courts. I am sick, sick, sick, even unto death!” he exclaims, “of the hollow and high-sounding vanities of the populous earth!” And further, when intimating that he is about to engage in a hostile encounter, Poe himself is seen clearly through his hero’s words when he cries —

“I cannot die, having within my heart

So keen a relish for the beautiful.” [page 92:]

And in a later scene are words so intensely Poësque that it needs no stretch of fancy to deem the poet speaking on his own behalf:

“Speak not to me of glory

I hate — I loathe the name; I do abhor

The unsatisfactory and ideal thing. . . .

Do I not love — art thou not beautiful

What need we more? Ha! glory! now speak not of it:

By all I hold most sacred and most solemn

By all my wishes now — my fears hereafter

By all I scorn on earth and hope in heaven

There is no deed I would more glory in,

Than in thy cause to scoff at this same glory

And trample it under foot.”

One of the most interesting facts connected with this early draft — almost as fine a specimen of Poe’s exquisite caligraphy as is his latest manuscript — is that it contains, in the form of a soliloquy uttered by Politian, the lines published as “The Coliseum.”

In August of 18 4, the Southern Literary Messenger, a publication soon to be connected with Poe’s fortunes, was started at Richmond, Virginia, by Mr. Thomas W. White, an energetic and worthy man. Such a magazine was a very hazardous speculation for that time; it was started in opposition to the advice of its promoter’s friends, and, but for a fortunate accident, might have caused his ruin.

After the magazine had passed through an erratic existence of some few months, its proprietor appealed to various well-known writers for literary aid, and amongst others, Mr. Kennedy was solicited; but he, being otherwise engaged, recommended Poe to send something. Acting upon this suggestion, our poet sent his manuscript “Tales of the Folio Club,” and Mr. [page 93:] White’s editor, Mr. James E. Heath, it is believed, greatly pleased with their style, alluded to them in very flattering terms in the Messenger.

In March 1835, “Berenice,” Poe’s first contribution, appeared in the new periodical, and the editor called marked attention to it and its author in these words: ” Whilst we confess that we think there is too much German horror in his subject, there can be but one opinion as to the force and elegance of his style.” This editorial idea of ” Berenice ” was not far from the truth, as regards the mere literary value of the work; but although its horrible denouement is too disgusting for even the genius of Poe to render palatable, for those who have obtained an insight into its author’s mental history it is one of the most remarkable, as it is also one of the earliest, of his tales. No writer of repute has more thoroughly unbosomed the secrets of his imagination, and more clearly disclosed the workings of his brain, than has Edgar Poe, and in none of his writings have these autobiographic glimpses been more abundantly vouchsafed than in this story of ” Berenice; ” indeed, it may be better described as an essay on its author’s idiosyncrasies than as a tale.

Among the various peculiarities of the early draft of this work — some of which disappeared in the later versions — it will be noted by his readers, is the first development of Poe’s assumed belief in metempsychosis, a doctrine that, in subsequent writings, lie recurred to again and again, and which, it is scarcely assuming too much to say, at times lie evidently partially believed in. One of the suppressed passages alludes to its hero’s “immoderate use of opium,” a drug which [page 94:] Poe occasionally resorted to, at least in after years, even if he had not then already essayed its powers. It is noteworthy to find him declaring, in 1845, in connection with De Quincey’s “Confessions of an English Opium-Eater,” ” there is yet room for a book on opium-eating, which shall be the most profoundly interesting volume ever penned.” Returning to an analysis of “Berenice” — that “Berenice” who is depicted as the hero’s cousin — we find, as in so many of his youthful works, constant allusions to hereditary traits and visions of ancestral glories; but these boyish dreams are not, as generally supposed, referable to paternal but to maternal bygone splendours: to Arnheim — to the hold or home of the Arns (i.e., the Arnolds) — to the Arnheim of the first and of the last of his stories. But perhaps the most representative — the almost prophetic — record of its author’s idiosyncrasies, the trait which through after life would have most faithfully portrayed him, is contained in these words of the tale: “In the strange anomaly of my existence, feelings with me had never been of the heart, and my passions always were of the mind.”

In the next month, April, appeared “Morelia,” one of Poe’s favourite stories, and one which elicited from the Editor of the Messenger the comment that, whilst it would unquestionably prove its author’s “great powers of imagination, and a command of language seldom surpassed,” yet called forth the “lament that he has drunk so deep at some enchanted fountain, which seems to blend in his fancy the shadows of the tomb with the clouds and sunshine of life.” “Morella,” amid much that is typical, alludes to that all overpowering and overshadowing horror of Poe’s life, to [page 95:] the notion that the consciousness of our identity is not lost at death, and that sentience survives the entombment. The early version of this tale contained ” a Catholic hymn,” which subsequently, much revised, appeared as a separate poem.

Mr. Kennedy had now had eighteen months’ experience of Poe without discovering anything to alter the favourable opinion he originally formed of him, and he thus expressed himself to Mr. White on the subject: —

“BALTIMORE, April 13, 1835,

“DEAR SIR, — Poe did right in referring to me. clever with his pen-classical and scholar-like. He wants experience and direction, but I have no doubt he can be made very useful to you. And, poor fellow! he is very poor. I told him to write something for every number of your magazine, and that you might find it to your advantage to give him some permanent employ. He has a volume of very bizarre tales in the hands of ——, in Philadelphia, who for a year past has been promising to publish them. This young fellow is highly imaginative, and a little given to the terrific. He is at work upon a tragedy, but I have turned him to drudging upon whatever may make money, and I have no doubt you and he will find your account in each other.”

In the May number of the Messenger appeared “Lionizing,” one of the “Folio Club Tales,” and on the 30th of the same month its author is stated to have said in a letter to Mr. White:

“In regard to my critique of Mr. Kennedy’s novel I seriously feel ashamed of what I have written. I fully intended to give the work a thorough review and examine it in detail. Ill health alone prevented me from so doing. At the time I made the hasty sketch I sent you, I was so ill as to be hardly able to see the paper on which I wrote, and I finished it in a state of complete exhaustion. I have not, therefore, done anything like justice to the book, and I am vexed about the matter; for Mr. [page 96:] Kennedy has proved himself a kind friend to me in every respect, and I am sincerely grateful to him for many acts of generosity and attention. You ask me if I am perfectly satisfied with your course. I reply that I am entirely. My poor services are not worth what you give me for them.”

Besides his intercourse with Mr. Kennedy, Poe, says Mr. Latrobe (who will be recollected as another of the Saturday Visiter’s committee), “at my instance called upon me sometimes, and entered at length into the discussion of subjects on which he proposed to employ his pen. When he warmed up he was most eloquent . . . He seemed to forget the world around him, as wild fancy, logical truth, mathematical analysis, and wonderful combination of facts, flowed in strange commingling from his lips, in words choice and appropriate, as though the result of the closest study. I remember being particularly struck with the power that he seemed to possess of identifying himself with whatever he was describing. He related to me all the facts of a voyage to the moon, I think (which he proposed to put upon paper), with an accuracy of minute detail, and a truthfulness as regarded philosophical phenomena, that impressed you with the idea that he had just returned from the journey.”

The voyage to the moon referred to by Mr. Latrobe is the famous “Hans Pfaall,” or “Phaall,” as it was originally spelt, which appeared in the June number of the Messenger, and created quite a furor at the time. Three weeks after the appearance of Poe’s story, the notorious ” Moon Hoax ” of Richard Adams Locke was published by the New York Sun; and both jeux d‘esprit were presumed, by some journalists, to have been the work of one author. As even now some [page 97:] confusion exists between the respective dates of publication of the ephemeral hoax and the immortal story, Poe’s own version, corroborated by independent evidence, shall be given: —

“About six months before this occurrence,* the Harpers had issued an American edition of Sir John Herschel’s ‘Treatise on Astronomy,’ and I had been much interested in what is there said respecting the possibility of future lunar investigations. The theme excited my fancy, and I longed to give free rein to it in depicting my day-dreams about the scenery of the moon — in short, I longed to write a story embodying these dreams. The obvious difficulty, of course, was that of accounting for the narrator’s acquaintance with the satellite; and the equally obvious mode of surmounting the difficulty was the supposition of an extraordinary telescope. I saw at once that the chief interest of such a narrative must depend upon the reader’s yielding his credence in some measure as to details of actual fact. At this stage of my deliberations, I spoke of the design to one or two friends — to Mr. John P. Kennedy, the author of ’Swallow Barn,’ among others — and the result of my conversations with them was, that the optical difficulties of constructing such a telescope as I conceived were so rigid and so commonly understood, that it would be in vain to attempt giving due verisimilitude to any fiction having the telescope as a basis. Reluctantly, therefore, and only half convinced (believing the public, in fact, more readily gullible than did my friends), I gave up the idea of imparting very close verisimilitude to what I should write — that is to say, so close as really to deceive. I fell back upon a style half plausible, half bantering, and resolved to give what interest I could to an actual passage from the earth to the moon, describing the lunar scenery as if surveyed and personally examined by the narrator. In this view I wrote a story which I called ‘Hans Pfaall,’ publishing it about six months afterwards in The Southern Literary Messenger.

“It was three weeks after the issue of the Messenger containing ’ Hans Pfaall,’ that the first of the ‘Moon Hoax’ editorials made its appearance in the Sun, and no sooner had I seen the [page 98:] paper than I understood the jest, which not for a moment could I doubt had been suggested by my own jeu d‘esprit. Some of the New York journals (the Transcript among others) saw the matter in the same light, and published the ‘Moon Story’ side by side with ’ Hans Pfaall,’ thinking that the author of the one had been detected in the author of the other. Although the details are, with some exception, very dissimilar, still I maintain that the general features of the two compositions are nearly identical. Both are hoaxes (although one is in a tone of mere banter, the other of downright earnest); both hoaxes are on one subject, astronomy; both on the same point of that subject, the moon; both professed to have derived exclusive information frem a foreign country; and both attempt to give plausibility by minuteness of scientific detail. Add to all this, that nothing of a similar nature had ever been attempted before these two hoaxes, the one of which followed immediately upon the heels of the other.

“Having stated the case, bound to do Mr. Locke the having seen my article prior to the publication of his own; I am bound to add, also, that I believe him.

“Immediately on the completion of the ‘Moon Story’ (it was three or four days in getting finished), I wrote an examination of its claims to credit, showing distinctly its fictitious character, but was astonished at finding that I could obtain few listeners, so really eager were all to be deceived, so magical were the charms of a style that served as the vehicle of an exceedingly clumsy invention.

“It may afford even now some amusement to see pointed out those particulars of the hoax which should have sufficed to establish its real character. Indeed, however rich the

however, in this form, I am justice to say, that he denies imagination displayed in this fiction, it wanted much of the force which might have been given it by a more scrupulous attention to general analogy and to fact. That the public were misled, even for an instant, merely proves the gross ignorance which is so generally prevalent upon subjects of an astronomical nature.”

The singular blunders to which he referred included a literal reproduction, in a winged man-bat, of Peter Wilkins’ flying islanders, and it is impossible to refrain [page 99:] from expressing, with foe, our wonder at the prodigious success of the hoax.

“Not one person in ten discredited it,” he says, “and, (strangest point of all!) the doubters were chiefly those who doubted without being able to say why — the ignorant, those uninformed in astronomy — people who would not believe because the thing was so novel, so entirely ‘out of the usual way.’ A grave professor of mathematics in a Virginian college told me seriously that he had no doubt of the truth of the whole affair! The great effect wrought upon the public mind is referable, first, to the novelty of the idea; secondly, to the fancy-exciting and reason-repressing character of the alleged discoveries; thirdly, to the consummate tact with which the deception was brought forth; fourthly, to the exquisite vraisemblance of the narration. The hoax was circulated to an immense extent, was translated into various languages — was even made the subject of (quizzical) discussion in astronomical societies; drew down upon itself the grave denunciations of Dick,* and was, upon the whole, decidedly the greatest hit in the way of sensation — of merely popular sensation — ever made by any similar fiction either in America or in Europe.

“Having read the ‘Moon Story’ to an end,” continues Poe, “and found it anticipative of all the main points of in, ‘Hans Pfaall,’ I suffered the latter to remain unfinished. The chief design in carrying my hero to the moon was to afford him an opportunity of describing the lunar scenery, but I found that he could add very little to the minute and authentic account of Sir John Herschel. The first part of ‘Hans Pfaall,’ occupying about eighteen pages of the Messenger, embraced merely a journal of the passage between the two orbs, and a few words of general observation on the most obvious features of the satellite; the second part will most probably never appear. I did not think it advisable even to bring my voyager back to his parent earth. He remains where I left him, and is still, I believe, ‘the man in the moon.’ ”

Had Poe carried out his design of describing lunar scenery, what a rich feast of fantasy would have been [page 100:] provided for his admirers! A slight glimmering of the gloomy glories he intended to portray is afforded by some passages in what he did complete. “Fancy,” says he,* “revelled in the wild and dreamy regions of the moon. Imagination, feeling herself for once unshackled, roamed at will among the ever-changing wonders of a shadowy and unstable land. Now there were hoary and time-honoured forests, and craggy precipices, and waterfalls tumbling with a loud noise into abysses without bottom. Then I came suddenly into still noonday solitudes where no wind of heaven ever intruded, and where vast meadows of poppies, and slender, lily-looking flowers, spread themselves out a weary distance, all silent and motionless for ever. Then again I journeyed far down, away into another country, where it was all one dim and vague lake, with a boundary line of clouds. And out of this melancholy water arose a forest of tall eastern trees like a wilderness of dreams. And I bore in mind that the shadows of the trees which fell upon the lake remained not on the surface where they fell — but sunk slowly and steadily down, and commingled with the waves, while from the trunks of the trees other shadows were continually coming out, and taking the place of their brothers thus entombed. ‘This then,’ I said thoughtfully, ‘is the very reason why the waters of this lake grow blacker with age, and more melancholy as the hours run on.’ But fancies such as these were not the sole possessors of my brain. Horrors of a nature most stern and most appalling would frequently obtrude themselves upon my mind, and shake the innermost depths of my soul with the bare supposition of their [page 101:] possibility. Yet I would not suffer my thoughts for any length of time to dwell upon these latter speculations.”

After the publication of ” Hans Pfaall,” Mr. White seems to have determined to obtain, if possible, the exclusive services of his talented contributor. Editor after editor had assisted in managing the Messenger for a few months, and had then relinquished the onerous but not very remunerative task: Messrs. Heath, Tucker, Sparhawk, and others had followed in rapid succession, until, in June, Mr. White, again editorless, bethought him of Poe, and in answer to his inquiries, received these words: — “You ask me if I would be willing to come on to Richmond if you should have occasion for my services during the coming winter. I reply that nothing would hive me greater pleasure. I have been desirous for some time past of paying a visit to Richmond, and would be glad of any reasonable excuse for so doing. Indeed, I am anxious to settle myself in that city, and if, by any chance, you hear of a situation likely to suit me, I would gladly accept it, were the salary even the merest trifle. I should, indeed, feel myself greatly indebted to you, if through your means I could accomplish this object. What you say in the conclusion of your letter, in relation to the supervision of proof-sheets, gives me reason to hope that possibly you might find something for me to do in your office. If so, I should be very glad — for at present only a very small portion of my time is employed.”

Meanwhile, Mr. White having succeeded in obtaining the aid of another littérateur, who promised “to devote his exclusive attention” to the editorial work of the Messenger, — vas in no hurry to complete an arrangement with Poe, who, however, contributed to the [page 102:] July number “The Visionary” — a tale afterwards retitled “The Assignation” — and these lines “To Mary: —

“Mary, amid the cares — the woes

Crowding around my earthly path,

(Sad path, alas! where grows

Not ev‘n one lonely rose),

My soul at least a solace hath

In dreams of thee, and therein knows

An Eden of sweet repose.


“And thus thy memory is to me

Like some enchanted, far-off isle,

In some tumultuous sea

Some lake beset as lake can be

With storms — but where, meanwhile,

Serenest skies continually

Just o’er that one bright island smile.”

To the August Messenger Poe contributed the sarcastic sketch of “Bon-Bon,” and “The Coliseum: Prize Poem from the Baltimore Visiter” By this time the new editor, who had assisted at the gestation of two numbers of Mr. White’s magazine, followed the example of his numerous predecessors and retired, whereupon our poet was invited to Richmond to assist in the editorial duties, at a salary of five hundred and twenty dollars per annum.

At the very moment when Poe received this offer, he was arranging with Mr. L. A. Wilmer for the publication, in co-operation with that gentleman, of a literary magazine or newspaper in Baltimore. Some correspondence had already passed between the two young literati, and Poe, says Mr. Wilmer, “proposed to join with me in the publication of a monthly magazine of a superior, intellectual character, and bad written a prospectus, which he transmitted to me for examination.” [page 103:] Mr. White’s proposition completely demolished the project, for, as both the promoters of it were devoid of pecuniary means, Poe immediately accepted the proffered post, and thus, as his intended partner remarks, “the grand intellectual illumination we had proposed to make in Baltimore was necessarily postponed.”*

Upon revisiting the abode of his earlier days, and in circumstances so altered from those of yore, the unfortunate poet was afflicted with a terrible melancholia — an affliction which frequently beset him on his journey through life, and which was, apparently, not merely the natural outcome of privation and grief, but also to some extent hereditary. Writing to his friend Kennedy to acquaint him with the fact of his appointment on the Messenger, he says:

“RICHMOND, September 11, 1835.

“DEAR SIR, — I received a letter from Dr. Miller, in which he tells me you are in town. I hasten, therefore, to write you, and express by letter what I have always found it impossible to express orally — my deep sense of gratitude for your frequent and ineffectual assistance and kindness. Through your influence Mr. White has been induced to employ me in assisting him with the editorial duties of his magazine at a salary of five hundred and twenty dollars per annum. The situation is agreeable to me for many reasons, but, alas! it appears to me that nothing can give me pleasure, or the slightest gratification Excuse me, my dear sir, if in this letter you find much incoherency. My feelings at this moment are pitiable, indeed. I am suffering under a depression of spirits such as I never felt before. I have struggled in vain against the influence of this melancholy; you will believe me when I say that I am still miserable in spite of the great improvement in my circumstances. I say you will believe me, and for this simple reason, that a man who is writing for effect does not write thus. My heart is open before [page 104:] you; if it be worth reading, read it. I am wretched, and know not why. Console me — for you can. But let it be quickly, or it will be too late. Write me immediately; convince me that it is worth one’s while — that it is at all necessary to live, and you will prove yourself indeed my friend. Persuade me to do what is right. I do mean this. I do not mean that you should consider what I now write you a jest. Oh, pity me! for I feel that my words are incoherent; but I will recover myself. You will not fail to see that I am suffering under a depression of spirits which will ruin me should it be long continued. Write me then and quickly; urge me to do what is right. Your words will have more weight with me than the words of others, for you were my friend when no one else was. Fail not, as you value your peace of mind hereafter. E. A. POE.”

To this saddening wail of despair Kennedy responded: —

“I am sorry to see you in such plight as your letter shows you in. It is strange that just at this time, when everybody is praising you, and when fortune is beginning to smile upon your hitherto wretched circumstances, you should be invaded by these blue devils. It belongs, however, to your age and temper to be thus buffeted — but be assured, it only wants a little resolution to master the adversary for ever. You will doubtless do well henceforth in literature, and add to your comforts, as well as to your reputation, which it gives me great pleasure to assure you is everywhere rising in popular esteem.”

Notwithstanding his “blue devils,” as his friend phrased it, the new editor worked wonders with the Messenger. “His talents,” records Kennedy, “made that periodical quite brilliant while he was connected with it,” and indeed, within little more than a twelvemonth from Poe’s appointment in the following December, as sole editor, the circulation increased from seven hundred to nearly five thousand — an increase quite unparalleled at that time in the history [page 105:] of this class of magazines. The success was, of course, due to the originality and fascination of Poe’s stories, and the fearlessness of his trenchant critiques.

The Messenger for September contained the “Loss of Breath,” and “King Pest,” two of Poe’s poorest stories: the latter is one of those quizzical hoaxes upon which he sometimes squandered his genius, and upon which his readers have frequently wasted their time in vain attempts to discover meanings not discoverable because not existent. The same number which completed the first volume also contained “Shadow,” one of its author’s phenomenal prose poems, and these “Lines written in an Album: ” —

“Eliza! let thy generous heart

From its present pathway part not;

Being everything which now thou art,

Be nothing which thou art not.

So with the world thy gentle ways

Thy unassuming beauty

And truth — shall be a theme of praise

For ever — and love a duty.”

The “Eliza,” in whose album these lines were written, was the daughter of Mr. White; after her father’s death in 1842 she was an occasional and esteemed visitor at the house of the poet, spending many months with his wife and aunt at their Fordham home.

In the December number of the Messenger, at Mr. White’s instance apparently, he commenced that system of literary scarification — that crucial dissection of bookmaking mediocrities — which, whilst it created throughout the length and breadth of the States terror of his powerful pen, at the same time raised up against him a host of implacable, although unknown, [page 106:] enemies, who henceforth never hesitated to accept and repeat any story, howsoever improbable, to his discredit. It would have been far better for his future welfare and fame if, instead of affording contemporary nonentities a chance of literary immortality by impaling them upon his pen’s sharp point, he had devoted the whole of his time to the production of his wonderful tales and still more wondrous poems.

The second volume of the Messenger began in December, and, among other contributions by the new editor, contained a crushing critique on a work styled “Norman Leslie.” This was the first of those reviews already alluded to that did their author so much injury — personal and posthumous. In the initial number of 1836 appeared various critical articles, and the singular tale of metempsychosis, “Metzengerstein.” In the early version of this fiction the poet introduced some of those family reminiscences he was wont to intersect his writings with: after stating that the death of the hero’s father was quickly followed by that of his mother, he exclaims, with as much prophetic as retrospective truth, “How could she die? — and of consumption! But it is a path I have prayed to follow. I would wish all I love to perish of that gentle disease. How glorious! to depart in the heyday of the young blood — the heart all passion — the imagination all fire — amid the remembrances of happier days!”

The next issue of the Messenger contained various critiques — including an eulogistic one of Bulwer — the story of the “Duke de l‘Omelette,” and the first part of Poe’s papers on “Autography,” the second appearing in a subsequent number. The amusement, excitement, [page 107:] and ill-temper these articles aroused will be best gathered from the author’s own subsequent account of the jeu d‘esprit:

“Some years ago there appeared, in the Southern Literary Messenger, an article which attracted very general attention, not less from the nature of its subject, than from the peculiar manner in which it was handled. The editor introduces his readers to a certain Mr. Joseph Miller, who, it is hinted, is not merely a descendant of the illustrious Joe of jest-book notoriety, but is that identical individual in proper person: —

“The object of his visit to the editor is to place in his hands the autographs of certain distinguished American literati. To these persons he had written rigmarole letters on various topics, and in all cases had been successful in eliciting a reply. The replies only (which it is scarcely necessary to say are all fictitious) are given in the Magazine with a genuine autograph facsimile appended, and are either burlesques of the supposed writer’s usual style, or rendered otherwise absurd by reference to the nonsensical questions imagined to have been propounded by Mr Miller.

With the public this article took amazingly well, and many of our principal papers were at the expense of reprinting it with the woodcut autographs. Even those whose names had been introduced, and whose style had been burlesqued, took the joke, generally speaking, in good part. Some of them were at a loss what to make of the matter. Dr. W. E. Channing of Boston was at some trouble, it is said, in calling to mind whether he had or had not actually written to some Dr. Joseph Miller the letter attributed to him in the article. This letter was nothing more than what follows: —

” ‘BOSTON, ——.

“DEAR SIR, — No such person as Philip Philpot has ever been in my employ as a coachman, or otherwise. The name is an odd one, and not likely to be forgotten. The man must have reference to some other Doctor Charming. It would be as well to question him closely. — Respectfully yours,


” To JOSEPH X. MILLER, Esq.’ [page 108:]

“The precise and brief sententiousness of the divine is here, it will be seen, very truly adopted or I hit off.’

“In one instance only was the jeu d‘esprit taken in serious dudgeon. Colonel Stone and the Messenger had not been upon the best of terms. Some one of the Colonel’s little brochures had been severely treated by that journal, which declared that the work would have been far more properly published among the quack advertisements in a square corner of the Commercial. The Colonel had retaliated by whole sale vituperation of the Messenger. This being the state of affairs, it was not to be wondered at that the following epistle was not quietly received on the part of him to whom it was attributed: —

“ ‘NEW York, ——.

“ ‘DEAR SIR, — I am exceedingly and excessively sorry that it is out of my power to comply with your rational and reasonable request. The subject you mention is one with which I am utterly unacquainted. Moreover, it is one about which I know very little — Respectfully,

“ ‘W. L. STONE.


“These tautologies and anti-climates were too much for the Colonel, and we are ashamed to say that he committed himself by publishing in the Commercial an indignant denial of ever having indited such an epistle.

“The principal feature of this autograph article, although perhaps the least interesting, was that of the editorial comment upon the supposed MSS., regarding them as indicative of character. In these comments the design was never more than semi-serious. At times, too, the writer was evidently led into error or injustice through the desire of being pungent — not unfrequently sacrificing truth for the sake of a bon mot. In this manner qualities were often attributed to individuals, which were not so much indicated by their handwriting, as suggested by the spleen of the commentator. But that a strong analogy does generally and naturally exist between every man’s chirography and character, will be denied by none but the unreflecting.”

Poe’s contributions to the remaining numbers of the [page 109:] Messenger for 1836 included, besides reprints of his poems, the “Pinakidia,” or commonplace book notes, several critiques on contemporary books and authors, the story of “Epimanes” — now styled “Four Beasts in One,” — a “Tale of Jerusalem,” and a masterly analysis of Maelzel’s soi-disant “Automaton Chess-player.” In this last-named paper, the poet demonstrated by clear, concise, and irrefutable arguments, that the machine then being exhibited before the citizens of Richmond must be regulated in its operations by mind — that, in fact, it was no automaton at all, but simply a piece of mechanism guided by human agency.


[The following footnote appears a the bottom of page 75:]

*  Harper’s New Monthly Magazine, vol. x1v. p. 561.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 78:]

*  Επουδιοτατων και φιλοσοφικοτατον γεος

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 81:]

*  This is a mistake, as turkeys were unknown in Europe before the discovery of America, whence they were imported. — J. H. I.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 84:]

*  Beginning, ” Helen, thy beauty is to me.”

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 86:]

*  E. L. Didier, Life of E. A. Poe, p. 50.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 90:]

*  Now my property, — J. H. I.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 97:]

*  I.e., The publication of Mr. Locke’s Moan Hoax.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 99:]

*  Dr. Thomas Dick, the well-known astronomical writer. — J. H. I.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 100:]

*  Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque, vol. ii. pp. 68, 69. 1840 edit.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 103:]

*  L. A. Wilmer, Our Press Gang, p. 35.





[S:0 - EAP:HLLO, 1886] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Articles - E. A. P.: His Life, Letters and Opinions (J. H. Ingram) (Chapter 09)