Text: Various, “Letters from Poets and Authors,” Edgar Allan Poe: A Memorial Volume, Baltimore: Turnbull Brothers, 1877, pp. 67-92


[page 67:]

Isle of Wright


Feb 18th/76


How can so strange & fine a genius & so sad a life be exprest & comprest in one line — would it not be best to say of Poe in a reverential spirit simply Requisecat in Pace[[.]]

A. Tennyson

[page 69:]

Nov. 9th 1875

Dear Madam,

I have heard with much pleasure of the memorial at length raised to your illustrious fellow-citizen. The genius of Edgar Poe has won on this side of the Atlantic such wide & warm recognition that the sympathy which I cannot hope fitly or fully to express in adequate words is undoubtedly shared at this moment by hundreds as far as the news may have spread throughout not England only but France as well; where as I need not remind you the most beautiful & durable of monuments [page 70:] has been reared to the genius of Poe by the laborious devotion of a genius equal & akin to his own; & where the admirable translation of his prose works by a fellow-poet, whom also we have now to lament before his time, is even now being perfected by a careful & exquisite version of his poems, with illustraions full of the subtle & tragic force of fancy which impelled & moulded the original song; a double [page 71:] homage due to the loyal & loving co-operation of one of the most remarkable younger poets & are of the most powerful leading painters in France — Mr. Mallarmé & Mr. Manet. It is not for me to offer any tribute here to the fame of your great countryman, or dilate with superfluous & intrusive admiration on the special quality of his strong & delicate genius, so sure of aim & faultless of touch in all the better & finer portion of [page 72:] work he has left us; I would only, in conveying to the members of the Poe Memorial Committee my sincere acknowledgment of the honour they have done me in recalling my name on such an occasion, take leave to express my firm conviction that surely as the fame of Poe has already spread & deeply as it is already rooted in Europe, it is even now growing wider & striking deeper as time advances; the surest presage that time, the eternal enemy of small & shallow republications, will prove in this case also the constant & trusty friend & sleeper of a true poets full-grown fame.

I remain Dear Madam Yours very truly
A. C. Swinburne

[page 73:]

Ambesbury 9 Mo 21  

To Sara S. Rice

Dear friend,

The extraordinary genius of Edgar Poe is now acknowledged the world over; and the proffered tribute to his memory indicates a full appreciation of his own intellectual gifts on the part of the city of his birth. As a matter of principle, I do not fawn ostentatious [page 74:] monuments for the dead, but sometimes it seems the only way to express the appreciation which circumstances in some measure may have denied to the living man.

I am not able to be present at the inauguration of the monument. Prey express my thanks to the ladies & gentlemen for whom thy letter speaks, for the invitation acknowledging the kind terms in which that invitation was conveyed on thy part. I am very truly thy friend

John G. Whittier

[page 75:]

New York April 19th 1875.

Dear Madam,

I comply with your request so far as to send you the draught of an epitaph for the monument to Edgar A. Poe, which you will adopt, or modify, or change, or reject wholly, as may please you and those who are concerned in the project to which you refer. You do not say whether it is to be erected over his grave. If it is to be so, the addition of the date of his birth and that of his death, which I have left partly in blank, would be necessary.

I am Madam,  
Faithfully yours,
W. C. Bryant.

Prof. S. S. Rice.


[page 76:]

To Edgar Allan Poe

Author of the Raven

and other poems,

And of various works of Fiction,

distinguished alike

for originality in the conception,

skill in word-painting,

and power over the mind of the reader,

The public school teachers

of Baltimore

admirers of his genius,

have erected this monument.

He was born January —— 1811

and died —— —— 1849.

[page 77:]

Camb. Apr. 20.

Dear Madam,

The only lines of Mr. Poe that I now recall as in any way appropriate to the purpose you mention, are from a poem entitled “For [page 78:] Annie.” They are

“The fever called Living

Is conquered at last.”

But I dare say you will be able to find something better.

In great haste,

Yours truly

Henry W. Longfellow.

[page 79:]

Boston Sept. 18th 1875

Dear Miss Rice,

In answer to your kind invitation I regret that I cannot say that I hope to be present at the ceremony of placing a monument over the grave of your poet. Your city has already honored valor and patriotism by the erection of stately columns. Republics are said to be ungrateful, perhaps because they have short memories, forgetting wrongs as quickly as benefits, but your city has shown that it can remember and has taught us all the lesson of gratitude.

No one, surely, needs a mausoleum less than the poet.

His monument shall be his gentle verse

Which eyes not yet created shall o’er read,

And tongues to be his being shall rehearse

When all the breathers of this world are dead.

Yet we would not leave him without a stone to mark the spot where the hand that

waked to ecstasy the living lyre

were laid in the dust. He who can confer [page 80:] an immortality which will outlast bronze and granite deserves this poor tribute, not for his sake so much as ours.

The hearts of all who reverence the inspiration of genius, who can look tenderly upon the infirmities too often attending it, who can feel for its misfortunes will sympathize with you as you gather around the resting place of all that was mortal of Edgar Allan Poe and raise the stone inscribed with one of the few names which will outlive the graven record meant to perpetuate its remembrance.

Believe me

Very truly yours

O. W. Holmes.

[page 81:]


(Author of “Orion,” “Cosmo de’ Medici,” &c.)

LONDON, April 8,1876.

To do adequate justice to a genius so original and so varied as that of Edgar Allan Poe, would require far more space than can be allotted to a mere letter. A few leading features only can be sketched as indicated. This is the more to be regretted, because of the extraordinary pains he bestowed in considering, designing, and elaborating with the highest and most minute finishing, almost every subject he adopted. No cunning barrister preparing an important brief; no great actor studying a new part; no machinist brooding over the invention of an engine, or a change subversive of the old machinery; no analytic chemist seeking to establish the fact of a murder by the discovery and proof of blood or poison in some unexpected substance; no Dutch painter working for months on the minute finish of all sorts of details in the background as well as foreground of his picture, — ever took more pains than did Edgar Allan Poe in the production of most of his principal works. The more impossible his story, the more perseveringly, learnedly, patiently, and plausibly he laboured to prove the facts as he saw them. And, unless you throw the book down, he always succeeds. If you read on steadily, you must go with him. You must believe in his mesmerism, his mummy, and his more than “detective” acumen in tracing a horrible murder to the “escaped convict” of a menagerie; you are with him in the unswamped, frantic little boat, whirling round the interior of the maelstrom; and you most certainly make a voyage with Hans Pfaall to the moon, admiring all his scientific previsions and manoeuvres, and delighted with all the somewhat alarming wonders through which he navigates you. Since the voyage of Mr. Lemuel Gulliver to the island of I aputa, there has been nothing of this class comparable to the reasoned-out story, or lunatic “log” — for it is both — of Hans Pfaall. [page 82:]

Not that the story is any imitation, or bears anything beyond an aërial resemblance to the wonderful narrative of Dean Swift. Among all literary man, Poe stands very much alone, and should be judged by his own standard. It will be well if we tried to do this in all cases of original genius. If it be true that we judge of all things by comparison, still there is, no doubt, a stupid and slavish degree to which this is often carried. In the power of describing imaginary, and even miraculous scenes, actions and events, Poe possesses a kind of similarity to Swift, and also to some of the writers in the “Arabian Nights,” and among the Hebrews, ancient Persians, and other Oriental fabulists; but while Poe’s narratives excite an equally rivetting interest and apprehension, they are not, for the most part, beautiful or poetical, though we must admit several marked exceptions of somewhat depressing loveliness and melancholy fascination. We have heard people say that they wished they had never read some of the stories, so painfully penetrating had been the influence. Let no one endeavour to imitate Edgar Allan Poe. Without his genius and acquirements, such subjects would be intolerable, and the copyist would be discovered and denounced in an instant. The great majority of the fashionable novels of the day are no better than doll-houses by the side of his brain-haunted structures.

During a certain period of Poe’s troubled circumstances, he wrote to me, I being then in London, and inclosed a manuscript, saying that be had singled me out, though personally a stranger, to ask the friendly service of handing a certain story to the editor of one of the magazines, with a view, of course, to some remittance. Without waiting to read the story, I replied at once that I considered his application to me a great compliment, and that I would certainly do the best I could in the business. But when I read the story, my heart of hope sank within me: it was “‘The Spectacles.” I tried several magazines. Not an editor would touch it. In vain I represented the remarkable tact with which the old lady, under [page 83:] the very trying task she had set herself, did, nevertheless, maintain her female deliewy and dignity. I met with nothing beyond a deaf ear, as uplifted eyebrow, or the ejaculations of a gentleman pretending to feel quite shocked. It may be that false modesty, and social, as well as religious, hypocrisy, are the concomitant anA counterpart of our present equivocal state of civilisation; but if I were not an Englishman, it is more than probable I should say that those qualities were more glaringly conspicuous in England than in any other country.

With regard to the poems of Edgar Allan Poe, they have been in certain instances mistaken by admirers in many parts of the world, — not for any rare qualities they really possess, but for something they have not. General readers of poetry, especially youthful readers, have been led away — we will not call it “led astray” — by his weird music. Also by the studied artifice of his selection, or coinage, of liquid and sonorous sounds and words, such as (to spell them phonetically) ullaleumeannabelleells (in the “Bells”) ore, in “The Raven,” which abounds in that longdrawn tone. It is too obviously artificial, and seems to supersede inspiration. The poet himself appears to have taken a strange pleasure in describing the almost mechanical plan and execution of the poem for which he is most celebrated. A critic has suggested that this statement was probably an afterthought. Possibly it was one of Poe’s analytic freaks; and yet, when we see clearly the forethought he must have devoted to the working-out of his stories, I regret to say that I more than half believe his statement about the very unpoetic al hatching of his Raven. “Heresy and schism!” As for the charming melody, liquid flow, and luring pathos of some of his lyrics, there can be no question of the success of the versification, by whatever means produced. Now and then the poems look deep, but that is often owing to their pellucid clearness, and there is not very much at the bottom. It is in the unique invention, and mastery of execution in his prose [page 84:] tales, that the genius of Poe most potently displays itself. There is nothing like them in the English, or any other language.

How I rejoiced when I read the recent refutation of the gross slanders and envenomed detractions with which the name and fame of Edgar Allan Poe had been for rso many years environed I How I clapped my hands when I saw Mr. Ingram dig out the old vipers and burn the hornets’ nests! But my rejoicing was chiefly on account of the rectification of the world’s opinion: as for my own, I had never believed much beyond the accusations of intemperance; and as to the worst of the rest, I had always felt — in the absence of Poe’s own defence — that life, especially in one like hire, was “a mingled yarn,” and that certain natures seldom have fair play.

While congratulating all Poe’s countrymen who have raised a monument to his memory, I am reminded that at this very time there is a movement (originated in Rome) for getting a bust of Beats placed in Westminster Abbey. How Beats was treated while living, we know too well; and how little valued was Poe, we also know. Will these things ever warn. the world of such of its living benefactors as may be in like manner neglected?




. . . . . There is a mournful satisfaction even in this late tribute to one whose rare genius and sensitive nature were accompanied by so many unhappy experiences of life. Poor Poe! his workingday world was more than full of sorrows, — and he seems to have been happy only in his visions outside of real life, or in his dream of a world beyond that in which we all live.

What is now being done by affectionate friends, and by those who feel that injustice has been done to his memory, may prove to [page 85:] be the starting-point of a changed and ,duster view of his life and character. Although it is far too late to be of service to him, it as not too late to be of benefit to ourselves and others. Those of us who may have felt disposed to censure him, can read with profit the following lines from his it Tamerlane,” and especially the last couplet:

— ”I firmly do believe —

I know — for Death who comes for me

From regions of the blest afar,

Where there is nothing to deceive,

Hath left his iron gate ajar;

And rays of truth you can not see

Are flashing through eternity.”




I comply with your request so fair as to send you the draught of an epitaph for the monument to Edgar A. Poe.




Author of the Raven

and other poems,

and of various works of Fiction

distinguished alike

for originality in the conception,

skill in word-painting,

and power over the mind of the reader,




admirers of his genius,

have erected this monument.

[page 86:]



BROOKLYN, N. Y., Oct. 11, 1875.

Allow me, a personal friend and warm admirer of both the genius and the personal worth of our lamented friend, to say to you and to the Association a few words.

I have resided and practised my profession of the law in Brooklyn for about thirty years. Shortly after I moved here, in 1845, Mr. Poe and.I became personal friends. His last residence, and where I visited him oftenest, was in a beautifully secluded cottage at Fordham, fourteen miles above New York. It was there that I often saw his dear wife during her last illness, and attended her funeral. It was from there that he and his “ dear’ Muddie “ (Mrs. Clemm) often visited me at my house, frequently, and at my urgent solicitation, remaining many days. When he finally departed on his last trip south, the kissing and handshaking were at my front-door. He was hopeful; we were sad: and tears gushed in torrents as he kissed his “dear Muddie” and my wife,’s good-bye.” Alas, it proved, as Mrs. Clemm feared, a final adieu.

A few months afterwards, on receipt of the sad news of his death, I offered Mrs. Clemtn a home in my family, where she resided until 1,858, when she removed to Baltimore to lay her ashes by the side of her “darling Eddie.” I hold many of her precious, loving, grateful letters to me from there, up to a few days before her death.

And now as to Mr. Poe. He was one of the most affectionate, kind-hearted men I ever knew. I never witnessed so much tender affection and devoted love as existed in that family of three persons. His dear Virginia, after her death, was his “lost Lenore.” I have spent weeks in the closest intimacy with Mr. Poe, and I never saw him drink a drop of liquor, wine or beer, in my life; and never saw him under the slightest influence of any stimulants whatever. He was, in truth, a most abstemious and [page 87:] exemplary, man. But I learned from Mrs. Clemm that if, on the importunity of a convivial friend, he took a single glass, even of wine, it suddenly flashed through his nervous system and excitable brain; and that he was no longer himself or responsible for his acts. His biographers have not done his virtues or his genius justice; and to produce a startling effect by contrast, have magnified his errors and attributed to him faults which he, never has.

He was always in my presence the polished gentleman, the prfound scholar, the true critic, and the inspired oracular poet — dreamy and spiritual, lofty, but sad. His memory is green and fresh in many admiring and loving hearts; and your work of erecting a monument over his grave, if it adds nothing to his fame, reflects honor on you and your association, and upon all who sympathise or assist in your noble work.

I am proud to assure you, and the association through you, that his many friends are grateful and thank you.

“What recks he of their plaudits now?

He never deemed them worth his care;

And death has twined about his brow

The wreath he was too proud to wear.”





I thank you for the good opinion which led you to propose the writing of a poem on my part, for the prospective inauguration of the Poe memorial. While it is not in my power to comply with the flattering request, or to be present at the ceremonial, I tender to the Committee my thanks, nevertheless, for the honor thus conferred on me. There would semi to be a slight appropriateness in the proposal made to me, inasmuch as my husband (Col. Preston, [page 88:] of the Virginia Military College) was a boyish friend of Poe’s, when they went to school together in Richmond, who used to sit on the same bench with him, and together with him pore over the same pages of Horace. To him, as his earliest literary, critic, — a boy of fourteen — Poe was accustomed to bring his first verses. Even then, youth as he was, he was distinguished by many of the characteristics wUeh marked his after life.




BROOKLYN, N. Y., Oct. 10, 1875.

I avail myself of your friendly note to express my interest in the event and my admiration of the noble-hearted men and women of Baltimore, who, by the erection of a beautiful and appropriate monument to the memory of Edgar A. Poe, perform a patriotic office which was primarily and peculiarly the duty, as it should have been the pride, of the American Literati toward one whose original genius has done so much to adorn and distinguish American literature.




PROVIDENCE, Nov. 5, 1875.

I need not say to you that the generous efforts of the Association in whose behalf you write, have called forth my warmest sympathy and most grateful appreciation.

The work so long delayed has been consummated at the right time, and through the most congenial and appropriate agencies.


[page 89:]



PORTLAND, ME., Nov. 8, 18’75.

You have brought to my recollection, as from their graves, many of my dear old friends; and I aware you that Baltimore is my beloved city, and that nothing would gratify me more than to find myself there. with the wishing-cap of Fortunatus at my elbow, so that I might find myself here again in the twinkling of an eye, if I suddenly wanted.

Edgar A. Poe was a wonderful man, and he has never had justice done him. Most happy should I be, if in my power, to witness the ceremony of the inauguration of his monument; for after all the abominable calumnies that have been circulated against him, both abroad and at home, he stands higher to-lay in the estimation of kindred poets than he ever did while on earth.

He says in one of his letters that I gave him the first push in his upward career, and for that reason was bound to keep him moving.




LONDON, ENGLAND, 16th November, 1875.

I thank you and your Committee for the honor they do me in inviting any expression of my opinion with respect to the object of their labours, but during the last few years my views respecting Edgar Allan Poe have been so frequently brought before the public that I fear a repetition of them upon the present occasion is scarcely likely to prove interesting. I have little faith in “heaps of stones” as memorials of the great, but must confess that a public expression of admiration for an illustrious son whose memory has been so long overclouded by unmerited obloquy does seem fitting on the part of America.


[page 90:]




Your desire to honor Poe’s genius is in the heart of every man of letters, though perhaps no American author stands so little in need of a monument to perpetuate his memory as the author of “The Raven.” His imperishable fame is in all lands.




WASHINGTON, D. C., 23rd Nov., 1875.

My admiration of Poe’s genius is as old as my knowledge of it; and I was roused to indignation in his behalf by the persistent and palpably, malignant efforts to damn him with some drops of faint praise, and some oceans of strong abuse.

The tide has turned. The almost universal favour that Mr. Ingram’s Memoir — which demolishes Mr. Griswold’s — and complete edition of his Works, have met with in England especially, but also in America, clearly indicates the turn. And your monu ment speaks the same gratifying truth. France and Germany also have said the same thing.




Dec. 24, 1875.  

Permit me to transmit a memorial inscription in honor of the great writer whose monument has already been — or is soon to be — through your public-spirited efforts, reared and dedicated in Baltimore. [page 91:]

I am a sincere admirer of Edgar A. Poe. I have long considered him at once the greatest original genius our country has produced; and, beyond all doubt, the greatest genius born, with an English-speaking tongue, in the nineteenth century.




Who, in his Poetry, struck but few Notes,

Yet these, now the tenderest, now the saddest,

That translate human Passions

Into melodious Words,

And so fix them forever;

Who, in his Prose, Master of the Passions and of Style,

Wielding, with equal Skill,

The Brand of Terror and the Wand of Humor,

At his Will, thrilled men to Horror, or stirred them to


In whose Tales

Whether they be sombre, or wild unto grotesqueness,

Religion can find no Offence, Virtue no Wrong,

Nor Innocence take Alarm;

And who, passing a Life chequered enough to serve for Warning,

Censure railing with loud Voice, while Praise came but in Whispers,

Has, through a Genius lifted victoriously above Detraction,

Happily, made sure of



A Tribute to his Memory by Admiring Townsmen,

Has been erected

In his Native City.



CHARLESTON, S. C., March 30,1876.

I embrace gladly the opportunity afforded me of expressing my satisraction at the Memorial you are now preparing to Edgar [page 92:] Allan Poe. It was time that the South should do something to prove her appreciation of the most exquisite and subtle genius she has produced. Of course Poe’s best monument is his own immortal verse; and the tardy justice the world is now doing him is but the inevitable result of the ample vindication of Time. But his fellow-countrymen, to whom his fame is clear, and still more his fellow-craftsmen, who owe him so large a debt, must gratefully recognise the unselfish labours of those who have helped to make the memory, of the man as clear as roust always be the renown of the poet.

I can not help thinking that the final verdict of criticism must confirm the popular feeling, and that Poe will be acknowledged by posterity as an artist almost peerless in his own sphere, however limited that sphere may be adjudged to be.





In the original printing, the letters by Tennyson, Swinburne, Whittier, Bryant, Longfellow and Holmes are provided in facsimile from the respective manuscripts. For the convenience of ht reader, these letters have been transcribed in the current presentation. (The handwriting in the letter by Swinburne is particularly difficult to read.)


[S:0 - EAPMV, 1877] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - A Poe Bookshelf - Edgar Allan Poe: A Memorial Volume [Letters from Poets and Authors] (Various, 1877)