Text: Richard Henry Stoddard, “Life of Edgar Allan Poe,” Select Works of Edgar Allan Poe, 1880, pp. xv-clxx


[page xv:]



THE most democratic American, if it were left to his choice, would prefer to have been well born rather than ill born. We are not solicitous about our ancestors, however; for whoever they were, we care more for ourselves than for them. We have adopted as our social motto the couplet of the poet:

“Honor and shame from no condition rise:

Act well your part, there all the honor lies.”

Another English poet, earlier and better than Pope, has summed up the creed of manhood in a vigorous passage, which ought to be written in letters of gold:

“”Tis poor, and not becoming perfect gentry,

To build their glories at their fathers’ cost;

But at their own expense of blood or virtue

To raise them living monuments. Our birth

Is not our own act; honor upon trust

Our ill deeds forfeit; and the wealthy sums

Purchased by others’ fame or sweat will be

Our stain; for we inherit nothing truly,

But what our actions make us worthy of.”

Another poet, the dramatist Thomas Middleton, discoursing upon fame, touches indirectly upon the question of ancestry:

“The fame that a man wins himself is best;

That he may call his own; honors put to him [page xvi:]

Make him no more a man than his clothes do,

And are as soon ta’en off; for in the warmth,

The heat comes from the body, not the weeds;

So man’s true fame must strike from his own deeds.”

If there is any one man who has no need of ancestors, it is the poet, yet he is the one above all others for whom his biographers determine to discover a distinguished ancestry. They fail to do so, of course; but they persist, nevertheless, not being able to understand how a poet can be the first as well as the last of his line. That such is the fact, though, we learn from the biographers of all the great English poets — in fact, from the biographies of all the English poets, except Coleridge; and that such is the fact I should have said from the biographers of all the American poets with which I am acquainted, if I did not remember reading within the past year that three of the most eminent of these poets are descendants of the old Puritan trooper John Alden; and if I did not read to-day that another, not so eminent, was descended from an ancient. Italian family.

This family, which was called De la Poe, must have been very old, if it bo true, as we are assured it was, that the name antedated the river Po. It was migratory, passing from Italy into France, where it became Le Poer, and from France into England, Wales, and Ireland. It was in good repute in England in the last half of the twelfth century, for Sir Roger le Poer accompanied Prince John as a marshal in his expedition into Ireland in 1185; and it was well established in Ireland in the first quarter of the fourteenth century (1324), when it was powerful enough to withstand the Church, which brought an accusation of sorcery against Lady Alice Kyteler, who had for her fourth husband Sir John le Poer, and for her defender Arnold le Poer, seneschal of Kilkenny Castle, who seized the person of Richard, Bishop of Ossory, by whom the accusation was brought, and confined him in that stronghold. It was involved in the internal dissensions [page xvii:] of Ireland at a later period; and when that unfortunate country was invaded by Cromwell, in 1649. only one of its three leading branches escaped his vengeance. Its name gradually changed, as I have remarked, De la Poe becoming le Poer, and le Poer Power, and Poe; and with its change of name there was a change of its employments, the marshals and seneschals of old time subsiding in the last century into a country gentleman, who was the father of Lady Blessington; of an attorney, who wrote the song of Gramachree (“As down on Banna’s banks I strayed”); and a certain Mr. John Poe, whose only claim to remembrance is that he was the great-grandfather of Edgar Allan Poe.

Twenty years have passed since the ancestry of Poe was traced back to French and Italian origins, the authenticity of which I am not able to vouch for. That Sir John le Poer and Arnold le Poer were historic characters, is evident from Wright and Eunemoser, both of whom relate the episode of Lady Alice Kyteler; and that we stand upon firm biographic ground when we reach John Poe I see no reason to doubt. We know less of him, however, than of a naval officer named MacBride, with whom he was connected by marriage, of Scottish descent, though his early years were passed in Ireland. John MacBride entered the naval service of Great Britain, in which he was a lieutenant in 1758. He was the commander of an armed cutter in 1761, and in 1799 Admiral of the Blue. An able, energetic officer, he distinguished himself in the naval warfare of the time, and in 1785 was returned to Parliament for Plymouth. He died in the last year of the last century. The age of John MacBride, whom Poe’s biographers have hitherto styled James McBride, is nowhere stated; but he must have lived nearly a hundred years, to have had a daughter old enough to marry John Poe before 1743, the year in which his son David, the grandfather of the poet, was born in Londonderry. I conclude, therefore, that Jane MacBride was his sister, not his daughter. [page xviii:]

John and Jane Poe emigrated to America about the middle of the last century, and settled in Pennsylvania, where their son David grew up to manhood, and married a Miss Carnes. Of the family of this lady, who is said to have been beautiful, we know nothing, nor of the circumstances under which David Poe married her. The American Poes could hardly have ranked among the gentry of the time, whatever the Irish Poes may have done, for in the first historic mention of David Poe he figures as “one Poe, a wheelwright.” It occurs in a letter written on the 10th of December, 1776, by Robert Christie, sheriff of Baltimore, who was driven from his post for loyalty by a rebellious uprising of the citizens of that place, among whom was this Mr. Poe, “who seemed at the head of the lower class.” In the next mention of Mr. Poe (March 25th, 1777) he assists in an attack upon Mr. William Goddard, editor of the Maryland Journal, who had become obnoxious to the sensitive citizens of Baltimore generally, and particularly to the Whig Club, of which Mr. Poe was a member. He seems to have been of a military turn of mind, for on the 17th of September, 1779, he was appointed Assistant Deputy-Quartermaster for Baltimore, by the Governor and Council of Maryland; and he was certainly patriotic, for when the State funds in his hands were exhausted he embarrassed himself by drawing upon his private means. When Lafayette was in Baltimore, in 1781, he supplied him with five hundred dollars to aid in clothing his troops; and, not to be behind her husband, Mrs. Poe cut out with her own hands five hundred pairs of pantaloons for them, the making of which she superintended. His patriotism outran his discretion, for he not only crippled his finances for the time, but accepted vouchers (mostly, it is said, in the shape of letters from Washington and Lafayette), which the military authorities refused to accept, on account of their technical informalities. Gathering together what was left of his property after Peace was declared, the ex-quartermaster and ex-wheelwright engaged [page xix:] in the dry goods business in Baltimore. Public sentiment brevetted him General Poe as the years went on, and elected him a member of the First Branch of the City Council. This was in 1799-1800, his fifty-seventh year. Fourteen years later, when the city was threatened by the British, he volunteered in its defense, and took an active part in the battle of North Point, where they were defeated by the Maryland militia. He died on the 17th of October, 1816, in the seventy-fourth year of his age, leaving his widow as a legacy to his country, which declined to repay what he had advanced in its extremity, but granted her — at least the Legislature of Maryland did — a small pension, as a recognition of the equity of her claim. She was living in the autumn of 1834, when she was waited upon by Lafayette, who was then on his second visit to America. “The last time I embraced you, madame,” he said, with tears in his eyes, “you were younger and more blooming than now.” He then spoke of her husband, who he declared was his friend, and said that the aid that ho had received, both from him and her, was greatly beneficial to his troops. When his visit was over, he went with his staff to the grave of General Poe in the First Presbyterian Churchyard, and, kneeling on the ground, kissed the sod above him, and exclaimed, “Here lies a noble heart.”

General Poe was the father of six children, the names of four of whom have reached us, — David, George, Samuel, and Maria. David Poe, jr., is said by one authority to have been the first, and by others to have been the fourth, child of General Poe. It is not stated when or where he was born, but probably duriug the Revolution, and at Baltimore. He is described as having been a handsome, clever young fellow, and as having received the best education that could be procured in Baltimore; and he is known to have studied law in the office of William Gwynne, Esq., an eminent member of the Maryland Bar, and the editor of the Federal Gazette, and to have united himself with a Thespian [page xx:] Club. His passion for theatricals seems not to have been discouraged by his father, for the Club to which he belonged acted in a large room in a house owned by that gentleman in Baltimore Street.

While General Poe was handling the yardstick in his dry goods store in Baltimore, there arrived in New York, from England, a company of comedians who had been engaged by a Mr. Solee for the City Theatre, Charleston, South Carolina. They remained in New York long enough to fill an engagement at the old John Street Theatre; and among the pieces which they played was the popular farce of “The Spoiled Child,” in which a Miss Elizabeth Arnold performed the part of Maria. Who Miss Arnold was, except that she was an English actress, and what was her rank in the theatrical profession in the last decade of the last century, can only be conjectured now. There is a vague tradition that she was young and beautiful, and that her success, whatever it was, depended more upon her vivacity than her talents. I assume that she proceeded to Charleston with the company to which she belonged; that they played there; and that, when their usual seasons were over, they played in other Southern cities, in Richmond, Baltimore, and the like. She is said to have appeared in Baltimore while David Poe, jr., was a member of the Thespian Club, and is also said to have been a Mrs. Hopkins at the time. But however this may have been, it is certain that he became enamored of her, and resolved to adopt the stage as a profession. He left Baltimore secretly, and went to Charleston, whither I have no doubt she had preceded him, and where he was announced to make his “first appearance on any stage.” The newspapers carried the intelligence to his uncle, William Poe, who was living in Augusta, Georgia, and who hastened at once to Charleston. He succeeded in rescuing his nephew from the degradation into which he had fallen; and, taking him ‘back with him to Augusta, placed him in the law office of the Hon. John [page xxi:] Forsyth, whose sister he had married; but he did not succeed in destroying his infatuation for his inamorata. They were married in the spring of 1806, greatly to the disgust of General Poe; and, being discarded by that irascible old tradesman, they were obliged to lay in the bed they had made for themselves. We hear of them next in New York, where Miss Arnold had appeared nine years before in “The Spoiled Child,” and where Mrs. Poe now appeared with the spoiled child to whom she had given her heart and hand. It was a summer season at the new Vauxhall Garden (July 16th, 1806), and she played the part of Priscilla Tomboy. Her lord and master appeared two nights afterward as Frank in “Fortune’s Frolic.” We have to imagine, for we cannot trace at this late day, the theatrical career of the Poes. There is no reason to think that it differed from the average career of men and women in their profession. They shared the fortunes of the company in which they were engaged; resided in the city, or cities in which it was stationed; journeyed with it to provincial towns where it enchanted the rustic mind; attended rehearsals during the day, and performed their parts at night; led, in short, a wandering, unsettled, exciting life, which was not conducive to the domestic virtues. A child was born to them, a boy, whom they named William Henry, and whose coming is said to have healed the breach with General Poe.

We lose sight of the Poes until the winter of 1809, when we find them engaged at the Boston Theatre. It appears from the Boston Gazette, which was published twice a week, and contained the bills of the theatre, that Mrs. Poe played in January on the evenings of the 5th, 9th, 12th, and 20th; in February on the evenings of the 10th, 13th, and 24th; in March on the evenings of the 6th, 13th, 20th, and 24th; in April on the evenings of the 3d, 7th, 10th, 15th, 17th, 21st, and 24th; and on the evenings of the 1st, 8th, and 12th of May. She appeared at first in pantomimes and minor parts, but on the 7th of April she played Juliet, and [page xxii:] on the 17th and 21st of the same month Ophelia. The birth of their second son, Edgar, occurred during this Boston engagement of the Poes. A glance at the dates just given, shows, I think, that it could not well have been on the 19th of January, but that it might have been on the 19th of February; I fix upon that day, therefore, as his birthday.

The lives of actors and actresses have a glamour about them before the footlights which disappears when one is behind the scenes. Theatrical anecdotes are often entertaining, but theatrical memoirs are always dull. I recall no exception to the rule, from the days of Cibber, whose Apology for his Life contains the best examples of theatrical portraiture that we have, to the days of Macready, who has contrived to bestow all his tediousness upon us in his Reminiscences. If the great names of the stage are little to us after they are dead, the little names are surely less. If we feel any interest in the parents of Poe, it is not on their account, but on his, for they were by no means distinguished in their profession. His mother was considered to have talent as an actress and a singer, but from the silence that has been preserved about his father it is probable that he was merely tolerated on account of his wife. What we know of him does not impress us in his favor. He had wasted in amateur theatricals the time he should have spent studying law; he had left his home secretly to become an actor; and he had married an actress in defiance of the wishes of his parents. It was not a good beginning for a young man, but it was not so bad that he might not hope to live it down, and he accordingly set to work to do so. His father forgave him, and his wife helped him to maintain himself and his children.

The fictitious life of the stage interferes, I think, with the real life of its followers, and destroys the attachments which cluster about home. They have no time to become rooted anywhere; they are the luxuries not the necessities of civilization, and when [page xxiii:] they cease to amuse in one place there is nothing left for them but to amuse in another,

“For those that lire to please, must please to live.”

Elizabeth Arnold played at New York and at Charleston, and as Mrs. Poe at New York and at Boston. From the latter city she proceeded with her husband and her two children to New York again, and filled an engagement at the Park Theatre. ‘We lose sight of her until the autumn of 1811, when she was attached to the Richmond Theatre. She was now the mother of three children — William Henry, who was in his fourth or fifth year; Edgar, who was in his third year; and Rosalie, who was a babe in arms. She was ill, she was destitute, and if the recollections of those who knew her at this time are to be trusted, she was abandoned by her husband.

Her situation was discovered by several ladies of Richmond, who visited her and assisted her, and who remarked upon her refinement of manner and the neatness of her surroundings. She was a lady to the last. Her public record closed with a paragraph in the Richmond Enquirer of Tuesday, December 10th, 1811: “Died on Sunday last, Mrs. Poe, one of the actresses of the company at present playing on the Richmond boards. By the death of this lady the stage has been deprived of one of its chief ornaments. And to say the least of her, she was an interesting actress, and never failed to catch the applause and command the admiration of the beholder.” A mystery hangs over the end of David Poe, who has already disappeared from the scene forever, and over the conduct of his parents, who do not appear to have concerned themselves about his children. It is difficult not to convict them of heartlessness, for whatever their son and his wife may have been, their children were certainly guiltless. They had committed no fault, except the involuntary fault of being born, which is so common that it is usually condoned. [page xxiv:] It would have gone hard with the three little orphans if their future had depended upon their kin, but fortunately for them it did not. Their helplessness made them friends, who supplied the places of the parents they had lost. Edgar was adopted by Mr. John Allan, a Richmond merchant, Rosalie by a Mr. McKenzie, another Richmond merchant, while William Henry was placed under the charge of Mr. Henry Didier, a Baltimore merchant, who was his godfather.

The childhood of Edgar, who was now called Edgar Allan, was a very happy one. His adopted parents, who had no children of their own, admired his beauty and cleverness, and petted and indulged him to a dangerous extent. Nothing was too good for him. They dressed him like a young prince, and took him with them to the fashionable watering-places year after year. To correct him was to break his spirit, and correction was accordingly prohibited. This prohibition was either not known, or was disregarded, on one occasion by a widow who kept a school to which he was sent. Attached to the playground of this school was a garden in which vegetables, were raised, and into which the scholars were forbidden to enter, the penalty for so doing being the suspension around the neck, during school-hours, of one of these vegetables — a turnip, a carrot, or possibly a cabbage. Master Edgar Allan was detected in violating this rule, and, like other offenders, was compelled to wear this esculent decoration. He submitted sullenly, and when school was over ran home with it hanging around his neck. Mr. Allan was so angry when he saw him that he went instantly to the school-room, gave the mistress a piece of his mind, paid her what was due her for tuition, and ended for the time the education of Master Edgar Allan.

Mr. Allan was called to Europe, either to transact business for the mercantile house of which he was a member (“Ellis and Allan”), or to obtain possession of a large fortune which had been left him by an old uncle. He set sail for England in the [page xxv:] summer of 1816, accompanied by his wife and by his adopted sou, who was in his eighth year, and whom he placed in the Manor House School at Stoke-Newington. The memory of this school and its master, Dr. Bransby, impressed itself so vividly upon the mind of the child that he was able to reproduce it years after in his story of “William Wilson.” Stoke-Newington is somewhat changed from what it was sixty-four years ago, but the Manor House School still remains substantially as he described it. It was an old and irregular building, with extensive grounds, surrounded with a high and solid brick wall, topped with a bed of mortar and broken glass. At an angle of this ponderous wall frowned a more ponderous gate, which was riveted and studded with iron bolts, and surmounted with jagged iron spikes, and which was opened but thrice a week — once every Saturday afternoon, when the boys, attended by the ushers, were permitted to take brief walks in a body through some of the neighboring fields, and twice during Sunday, when they were paraded in the same formal manner to the morning and evening service of the one church in the village, of which their master was pastor. “With how deep a spirit of wonder and perplexity was I wont to regard him from our remote pew in the gallery, as, with step solemn and slow, he ascended the pulpit! This reverend man, with countenance so demurely benign, with robes so glossy and so clerically flowing, with wig so minutely powdered, so rigid and so vast — could this be he who, of late, with sour visage, and in snuffy habiliments, administered, ferule in hand, the Draconian laws of the academy? Oh, gigantic paradox, too utterly monstrous for solution!”

It was, indeed, a quaint old building in which the little American boy passed his school-days in England — there was really no end to its windings, to its incomprehensible subdivisions. It was difficult for him, at any given time, to say with certainty upon which of its two stories he happened to be, nor was he ever [page xxvi:] able to ascertain with precision in what remote locality lay the little sleeping apartment assigned to himself and some eighteen or twenty other scholars. From each room to every other room there were three or four steps, either in ascent or descent, and the lateral branches were innumerable, inconceivable, and perpetually returning in upon themselves. The school-room, which was the largest in the house, was long, narrow, and dismally low, with pointed Gothic windows and a ceiling of oak. In a remote angle was a small inclosure with a massy door, which was the sanctum of Dr. Bransby. In other angles were two similar boxes, one being the pulpit of the classical, the other the pulpit of the English and mathematical tutor. “Interspersed about the room, crossing and re-crossing in endless irregularity, were innumerable benches and desks, black, ancient, and time-worn, piled desperately with much-bethumbed books, and so besmeared with initial letters, names at full length, grotesque figures, and other multiplied efforts of the knife, as to have entirely lost what little of original form might have been their portion in days long departed. A huge bucket with water stood at one extremity of the room, and a clock of stupendous dimensions at the other.”

The reminiscences of Master Edgar Allan Poe, which colored the reminiscences of Mr. William Wilson in his description of his old school-house, are autobiographic to that extent, and no further. He was not born on the 19th of January, 1813, as Mr. William Wilson claims to have been, and he did not pass at Stoke-Newington the years of the third lustrum of his life. He could not have remained there more than two years, if so long, for the Allans returned with him to America in the summer of 1818. There was at that time in Richmond an academy of repute, kept by Mr. Joseph H. Clarke, a graduate of Trinity College, Dublin, in whose charge he was placed in September of that year. Such, at any rate, was the belief of that gentleman, yrho was living in Baltimore four years ago. The boy was [page xxvii:] brought to him by Mr. Allan, and he questioned him in regard to his Latin. He had studied in the grammar as far as the irregular verbs he said, and he declined penna, domus, fructus, and res. He was then asked if he could decline the adjective bonus, and he did so in a way that struck his future master, i. e., bonus, a good man; bona, a good woman; bonum, a good thing. If the recollection of Mr. Clarke is to be trusted, Edgar Allan was in his school five years. He read Ovid, Cæsar, Virgil, Cicero and Horace, and Xenophon and Homer; he preferred the poets to the prose writers, but was averse from mathematics. He was ambitious to excel as a scholar, and acquitted himself well in his classes, though he was not conspicuously studious. His poetical compositions were superior to those of his school-fellows, and so well thought of by Mr. Allan that he brought a manuscript volume of them one day to his master, and asked his advice in the matter of printing them. He was told that the lad possessed a good deal of self-esteem, and that it would be very injurious to him to be talked about as the author of a printed book at his age, which Mr. Clarke believed to be about ten. Mr. Allan appeared to feel the force of the objection, but he retained his admiration for Master Edgar’s poetry, which he was in the habit of reading to his friends — prosaic souls, no doubt, who looked upon it in the light of an infliction.

One of Poe’s school-fellows, Colonel J. T. L. Preston, now or late of the Virginia Military Institute, says that Poe was among the first in the school in Latin exercises, and that he excelled in “capping verses” — an exercise which is so obsolete in this country that he explains it. “Before the close of the school all the Latinists, without regard to age or advancement in the language, were drawn up in a line for ‘capping verses;’ just as in the old-fashioned schools all scholars had to take their place in the spelling-line before dismission. At the head of the line stood the best scholar, who gave, from memory, some verse of Latin poetry [page xxviii:] to be ‘capped’ — that is, he challenged all the line to give, from memory, another verse beginning with the same initial letter. Whoever was able to do this took the place of the leader, and in his turn propounded another verse, to be capped in like manner. This was called ‘simple copping.’ ‘Double capping’ was more difficult, inasmuch as the responding verse must at once begin and also end with the same letter as the propounded verse.” Colonel Preston remembered a “double capping” which was propounded by one of Mr. Clarke’s best scholars, who was a formidable rival of Poe — a verse beginning with the letter d, and ending with the letter m, which passed Poe and other good scholars, until it reached him, a tyro away down the line, and his astonishment when there popped into his head a line of Virgil which fulfilled the difficult conditions, and placed him where he never was before — above Poe, and above the boy who propounded the “double capping” that he had accomplished.

One of Poe’s favorite authors while he was at this school was Horace, whose Odes he repeated so often in the hearing of Master Preston that the latter learned by sound the words of many before he understood their meaning. Besides his proficiency in “the pure Latinity of the Augustan age,” upon which his master prided himself, he had the reputation of being a good French scholar, as well as the reputation of a poet. He spent much of his time, in school and out, in writing verses, which he used to show to his young friend Preston, whose seat was beside his own, and whose opinion and assistance he sometimes sought.

Poe remained at the academy of Mr. Clarke until he had completed the lustrum of Mr. William Wilson’s imaginary schooldays, and when Mr. Clarke removed to Richmond he continued there under his successor, Mr. William Burke. He was so advanced in scholarship that there was no class for him except the highest, and he was still addicted to poetry. His poetic genius had changed since he had filled the manuscript volume which [page xxix:] Mr. Allan had shown his old master, and which is said to have consisted chiefly of pieces addressed to different little girls in Richmond who had from time to time engaged his childish affections — for he had now become a satirist. Ovid had ripened into Juvenal, and his little lash was much applauded by Mr. Allan, who was in a fair way to spoil the clever boy whom he had adopted.

It is difficult at this late day to evolve a consistent character of young Edgar Allan Poe from the contradictory impressions of his contemporaries. They agree that he was a handsome lad, with bright eyes, soft, clustering hair, and a face alive with expression. His figure was slight, but he was well-made, active, sinewy, and graceful. Mr. Preston recalls that he was a swift runner, a wonderful leaper, and something of a boxer. None of his schoolfellows would dare as much as he in the rapids of James River, and his feat of swimming in it a distance of six or seven miles against a tide running two or three miles an hour was long remembered by those who witnessed it. He had a decided talent for extemporaneous story-telling, and was fond of declamation, his favorite “piece” being the part of Cassius in the dialogue between Brutus and Cassius, in the second scene of the first act of “Julius Cæsar.” He was conscious that he possessed talents, and was not averse from displaying them — few clever boys are. His self-esteem could not have endeared him to his companions. He was very tenacious of his views, Mr. Clarke says, in any difference of opinion which arose between him and them, and would not yield until his judgment was convinced; at the same time he was so just that he was a general favorite. Mr. Preston says, on the contrary, that he was self-willed, capricious, inclined to be imperious, and, though of generous impulses, not steadily kind, or even amiable, and so what he exacted was refused to him. He says further, that in the Richmond of that day, which was one of the most aristocratic cities on this side of the Atlantic, boys bore [page xxx:] about the odor of their fathers’ notions, good or bad, and that the knowledge that Poe’s parents were players, and that he was dependent on the bounty of Mr. Allan, made them decline his leadership, and probably gave him a fierceness that he would not otherwise have had. The indulgence which Mr. and Mrs. Allan lavished upon him was not approved of by their acquaintances, who saw him with other eyes than theirs, and, comparing him with their own darlings, declared that he was a very bad boy. If the best of men had not suffered under similar imputations when they were boys, we might perhaps allow ourselves to be influenced by the opinion of Poe’s elderly contemporaries; but experience has taught us in the long run that boys are very much alike, and our sympathies are rather with those who are considered wild than with the faultless ideals of goody stories. We do not believe therefore that Master Edgar Allan Poe was worse than other boys of his age.

Among the anecdotes of his early life, which are neither numerous nor important, there is one which endows him with mofe sensibility than he is usually credited with. It concerns his affection for the mother of one of his school-fellows, Mrs. Helen Stannard, who took him by the hand when her son brought him to her house for the first time, and spoke to him in the most winning manner. He was so penetrated by her kindness that he was deprived of the power of speech, almost of consciousness, and he returned home in a dream, with but one thought, one hope in life — to hear again the sweet and gracious words that had made the desolate world so beautiful to him, and filled his lonely heart with the oppression of a new joy. She became the confidant of all his boyish sorrows, and her’s was the one redeeming influence that saved and guided him in the earlier days of his turbulent and passionate youth. After the visitation of strange and peculiar sorrows she died, and for months after her decease it was his habit to visit nightly the cemetery where she was buried; and [page xxxi:] when the nights were dreary and cold — when the autumnal rains fell and the winds wailed mournfully over the graves, he lingered longest, and came away most regretfully. I give this anecdote as I find it, substantially in the language of its first narrator, who has cast over it the glamour of sympathy and genius. That it describes, in an exaggerated way, a real incident, I see no reason to doubt, nor that Mrs. Stannard may not have indirectly suggested, at a later period, the lines “To Helen.”

We touch firm ground again in the winter of 1826, when we find Edgar Allan Poe at the University of Virginia at Charlottesville. He signed the matriculation book on the 14th of February, five days before his seventeenth birthday, and entered the schools of ancient and modern languages. He was tolerably regular in his attendance, and was a successful student, especially in Latin and French, in which he had been well grounded at the Richmond academy, and in which he obtained distinction at the final examination at the close of the session. He also belonged to the Italian class, the master of which requested its members on one occasion to turn into English verse a portion of the lesson in Tasso which he assigned for the next lecture. He did not require this as a regular class exercise, but recommended it as one that would be likely to benefit them. His recommendation was unheeded, except by Poe, who at the next lecture was highly complimented for his voluntary performance.

We have a glimpse of him at this time, as it lingered in the memory of one of his fellow-students thirty-four years later. They had spent the evening at a private house in Charlottesville, and when it was finished he was invited by Poe into his room. It was a cold night in December, and the fire was nearly gone out. It was soon rekindled by the aid of some candles and the wreck of a table, and by its comfortable blaze they passed a pleasant hour. Poe spoke with regret of the money that he had wasted, and of the debts that he had incurred, which he estimated at two [page xxxii:] thousand dollars. They were mostly gambling debts, and he declared that he was in honor bound to pay every cent of them at the earliest opportunity. He had an ungovernable passion for cards, but did not appear to be addicted to drinking. At any rate he escaped suspicion, and had the reputation of being a sober, quiet, orderly young gentleman. The session closed on the 15th of December, and with the highest honor that he could receive from the University, which had then made no provisions for conferring degrees of any kind, he returned to Richmond.

I have confined myself so far to what appear to me the facts of Poe’s early life, separating them as well as I could from the fancies with which they have been overlaid. I come now to a period which has been slurred over by his biographers, and concerning which I can merely state probabilities. They are — that a stormy scene occurred between him and Mr. Allan after he had left Charlottesville; that he paid the debts which he had contracted there; and that he continued to bestow his affections upon him. The lad had been rather wild, it is true, but not more so than other lads of his age. His adopted father was rich, and he had a right to consider himself his heir, and to spend money accordingly. Such I conceive to have been his reasoning, and such was certainly his practice. “Mr. Gilliet,” said Mrs. Allan one day to a visitor, “what do you think of Edgar? His father lias just paid an enormous sum for his debts at Charlottesville, and now here is a bill for quantities of champagne, and seventeen broadcloth coats which he has gambled away.” “Yes,” answered the willful boy; “I went to see how much of the old man’s money I could spend, and I have done it.” It was not a pleasant reply for the young prodigal to make, nor for his adopted mother to hear; but it was probably uttered in a spirit of bravado, which she understood and forgave. There can be no doubt but that she and her husband were really attached to him, and that the latter admired his brilliant parts. He had been so [page xxxiii:] taken with his boyish verse that he was induced at one time to publish a volume of it; and he retained this inclination, which he now proceeded to carry out. Its result was a booklet, which was printed in Boston, and suppressed before publication. This work, which I have not seen, is said to have borne the title of “Tamerlane and Other Poems,” and the date of 1827, and to have consisted of forty pages. “Tamerlane” occupied seventeen of these pages, the remaining twenty-three being filled with the “other poems,” which were nine in number. The object of the writer in “Tamerlane” was to expose the folly of even risking the best feelings of the heart at the shrine of Ambition. He was conscious of many faults, which he nattered himself he could, with little trouble, have corrected; but, unlike many of his predecessors, he had been too fond of his early productions to amend them in his old age. He would not say that he was indifferent to the success of those poems — it might stimulate him to other efforts — but he could safely assert that failure would not at all influence him in a resolution already adopted. “This is challenging criticism: let it be so. Nos hœc novimus esse nihil.”

If the volume was chiefly written in the years 1821-2 (as it purports to have been in the Preface), it was a clever production for a boy of twelve or thirteen. That he had read the narrative poems of Byron, and had caught their movement and their rhetoric, was evident in “Tamerlane,” and his misanthropic influence was perceptible in some of the smaller pieces, which were overshadowed by imaginary sorrows. It is reflected, I think, in this little poem, which bears the significant title of “Imitation.”

“A dark unfathomed tide

Of interminable pride —

A mystery and a dream

Should my early life seem;

I say that dream was fraught [page xxxiv:]

With a wild and waking thought

Of beings that have been,

Which my spirit hath not seen,

Had I let them pass me by

With a dreaming eye!

Let none of earth inherit

That vision of my spirit;

Those thoughts I would control,

As a spell upon his soul:

For that bright hope at last

And that light time have past,

And my worldly rest hath gone

With a sigh as it passed on:

I care not though it perish

With a thought I then did cherish.”

There was also, I think, a Byronic inspiration in these stanzas, which were printed without a heading:

“The happiest day — the happiest hour

My scared and blighted heart hath known,

The highest hope of pride and power,

I feel hath flown.

Of power! said I? yes! such I ween;

But they have vanished long, alas!

The visions of my youth have been —

But let them pass.

And, pride, what have I now with thee?

Another brow may ev’n inherit

The venom thou hast poured on me —

Be still, my spirit.

The happiest day — the happiest hour

Mine eyes shall see — have ever seen,

The brightest glance of pride and power

I feel — have been; [page xxxv:]

But were that hope of pride and power

Now offered with the pain

Ev’n then I felt — that brightest hour

I would not live again:

For on its wing was dark alloy,

And as it fluttered, fell

An essence, powerful to destroy

A soul that knew it well.”

As I have not seen the volume from which these extracts are quoted, I am not able to compare the version of “Tamerlane,” with which it opens, with the versions of that poem in the later editions of Poe’s writings, further than to say that it differs largely from them, and is more loosely versified. How the young poet came to select this grim old Tartar conqueror for a hero, can only be conjectured; if the poem was written at a later period than the date given in the Preface (1821-2), I should say that he might have been suggested to him by a passage in Byron’s “Deformed Transformed.” It falls from the lips of the hunchback when the stranger offers him beauty and strength:

“I ask not

For valor, since deformity is daring.

It is its essence to o’ertake mankind

By heart and soul, and make itself the equal —

Ay, the superior of the rest. There is

A spur in its halt movements, to becoma

All that the others cannot, in such things

As still are free to both, to compensate

For stepdame’s Nature’s avarice at first.

They woo with fearless deeds the smiles of fortune,

And oft, like Timour the lame Tartar, win them.”

If Poe’s first volume had been published, instead of being suppressed, [page xxxvi:] it would not, I think, have attracted much attention. It was imitative, as I have said, and it was crude and misanthropic. It would have been indifferent reading after “The Buccaneer” of Mr. Richard Henry Dana, which was published in the same year, and after the dozen or more of fugitive pieces which Mr. Henry W. Longfellow had published in the United States Literary Gazette about two years before. If the reader is inclined to compare the early poems of Poe with those of Longfellow, he has but to read the two of the former quoted above, and turn to five of the latter, which he will find in the “Voices of the Night,” and draw his own conclusions. There was no appreciable difference in the worldly circumstances of the two young poets, which were comfortable, and a difference of less than two years in their respective ages, the difference being in favor of Mr. Longfellow.

Poe’s relations with his adopted parents must have been pleasant at this time, or he could not have printed his volume of juvenile verse, the expenses of which were undoubtedly borne by Mr. Allan, and they appear to have continued so a year or two longer. His social position was a passport to the best society in Richmond; his person was agreeable, his manners good, and his talents undeniable. He had a large acquaintance among the young gentlemen of the town, many of whom had been his school-fellows a few years before, and an acquaintance (large or otherwise) among the young ladies. He had been attached to one of the latter, a Miss Royster, who was a year or two younger than he, and whose parents lived opposite the house of the Allans, and had written to her frequently from Charlottesville. Her father had intercepted the letters, however, ostensibly because the young, people were too young for lovers, but really, it would seem, because he had fixed upon another as a more desirable son-in-law than Master Edgar. Miss Royster, whose Christian name was Elinira, or Sarah, or perhaps both, was married when she was [page xxxvii:] seventeen to a Mr. Shelton, and her early lover was left to his own devices.

There is a blank in the life of Poe from this time till late in 1828, or early in 1829, when we find him in Baltimore. Whether he was there because the Allans were estranged from him, or because he was visiting his relatives, we can only conjecture. It can hardly have been for the former reason, I think, for he had in press a second volume of poems, which we cannot suppose any publisher rash enough to bring out at his own risk, and which it is safe to assume was paid for by Mr. Allan, as the suppressed Boston booklet had been. Here he made the acquaintance of his father’s sister, Maria, the wife of Mr. William Clemm, who was teaching school; of her daughter, Virginia, a delicate girl of six or seven; and of other members of his father’s family, not forgetting his brother, William Henry. The reputation of this young man was not of the best. He was handsome, and possessed of talents, but of irregular habits. He had disappointed by his habits a lady to whom he had been engaged, and who had dismissed him; and he cultivated the Muse by writing Byronic verses, which were printed in a little weekly sheet entitled The Minerva. It was while he was at Baltimore that Poe was overtaken by the first great misfortune of his life. This was the loss of Mrs. Allan, who died at Richmond on the 27th of February, 1829, and was buried before he could be present at her funeral. If he quitted Baltimore for that purpose, he soon returned, and devoted himself to correcting his proofs.

Poe’s second volume, “Al Aaraaf, Tamerlane, and Minor Poems” (Hatch & Dunning), was published at Baltimore in 1829. It contained fifty pages of verse, but by the insertion of blank, or partially blank, leaves it was spaced out to seventy-two pages, which were tolerably printed on good paper. It opened with a nameless sonnet, since addressed “To Science,” which was followed by “Al Aaraaf” and “Tamerlane.” An advertisement of [page xxxviii:] two lines prefixed to the latter informed the reader that it was printed in Boston two years before, but suppressed through circumstances of a private nature; and on a displayed page opposite it was respectfully dedicated to John Neal. The minor poems, or miscellaneous poems, as they were re-christened on the fly-leaf before them, were ten in number. First came a “Preface” of twenty-one lines, which was followed by three poems of a personal character, each inscribed “To —— ——.” The first consisted of forty lines, the second of four four-line stanzas, and the third of three four-line stanzas. The personal character assumed in these pieces was continued in fourteen lines, “To the River,’‘ but lost in the next twenty-three lines, “The Lake. To ——.” A darker mood succeeded in twenty-eight lines, entitled “Spirits of the Dead.” Personal assumption inspired “A Dream,” which extended to four four-line stanzas, and “To —— M —— ,” which extended to five stanzas of the same length. The volume concluded with forty-six lines on “Fairy Land.” The introductory sonnet (“Science! meet daughter of old Time thou art,”) was published substantially as it stands in the later editions, as was also “AlAaraaf” and “Tamerlane.” I have not seen the first version of the last in its entirety, so I am not able, as I have already said, to compare it with the second version; but, judging from the extracts from it which I have seen, I should say that it was largely rewritten, considerably shortened, and very much improved. I perceive the movement of Byron’s narrative poetry more strongly in the amended than in the original version of this poem, and if there was any doubt about Poe’s having read “The Deformed Transformed” before he wrote it, there is no doubt, I think, that he read it before he wrote “Al Aaraaf,” for the melodious measure of the song of the soldiers in the second scene of that striking drama is exactly reproduced in the song of the maiden in the second part of the poem. A short extract from each may interest the admirers of Byron and Poe. [page xxxix:]

Thus Byron, in 1831:

“The black bands came over

The Alps and their snow;

With Bourbon, the rover,

They pass’d the broad Po.

We have beaten all foemen,

We have captured a king,

We have turned back on no men,

And so let us sing!”

And thus Poe, in 1829:

“‘Neath the blue bell or streamer —

Or tufted wild spray,

That keeps, from the dreamer,

The moonbeam away —

Bright beings! that ponder

With half-closing eyes,

On the stars which your wonder

Hath drawn from the skies,

Till they glance thro’ the shade, and

Come down on your brow

Like — eyes of the maiden

Who calls on you now.”

Poe declared in a note that the rhyme in one of the verses of this song had an appearance of affectation, and admitted that it was imitated from Scott, or rather from Claud Halcro, in whose mouth he admired its effect. He referred to the song entitled “Mary” (“Farewell to Northmaven”), in the twelfth chapter of “The Pirate,” which was written in the same year as “The Deformed Transformed.”

To return, however, to the bibliography of Poe’s second volume. The “Preface” before the miscellaneous poems appears in the later editions under the title of “Romance,” as well as the second and third of the three personal poems (“I saw thee on thy [page xl:] bridal day,” and “The bowers whereat, in dreams, I see”), the former being now a “Song.” “To the River — “and “The Lake. To — ,” have come down to us with a few verbal alterations, and we have “A Dream” (“In visions of the dark night”) as it was originally printed. The five four-line stanzas, “To M — ,” have dwindled down to a single eight-line stanza, beginning, “I heed not that my earthly lot;” but “Fairy Land” remains unchanged. “Spirits of the Dead” is a corrected copy of a poem of the same length printed in the Boston edition, where it was entitled “Visit of the Dead,” and the first of the personal poems, “To — — “(“Should my early life seem”), is somewhat based upon the “Imitation” in the Boston edition already quoted. As I shall have occasion to speak of this last poem hereafter, I will conclude the bibliographical analysis of this volume by copying the stanzas “To M —.”

“O! I care not that my earthly lot

Hath — little of Earth in it —

The years of love have been forgot

In the fever of a minute —

I heed not that the desolate

Are happier, sweet, than I —

But that you meddle with my fate

Who am a passer-by —

It is not that my founts of bliss

Are gushing — strange! with tears —

Or that the thrill of a single kiss

Hath palsied many years —

‘Tis not that the flowers of twenty springs

Which have wither’d as they rose

Lie dead on my heart-strings

With the weight of an age of snows — [page xli:]

Nor that the grass — o! may it thrive!

On my grave is growing or grown —

But that, while I am dead yet alive,

I cannot be, lady, alone.”

What reception this little volume met with we are not informed, but it could not have been a warm one. There was no literary criticism to speak of in the country fifty years ago — at any rate there was no recognized literary authority except the North American Review, which occupied itself with graver considerations than are usually bestowed upon volumes of juvenile verse by unknown authors, and there was but one paper in Baltimore which made any pretension to literature. This was The Minerva, to which William Henry Poe was an occasional contributor, and which is said to have handled his brother Edgar Allan rather roughly. It was not a remarkable book that this young gentleman had produced, and he would have been an acute as well as a good-natured critic who could have seen much promise in it. The writer could hardly be said to be imitative, and could hardly be said to be original: style or manner there was none. “Al Aaraaf” is a boy’s poem, ambitious but uninteresting, and “Tamerlane” is defective, as a whole, in that it gives no clear idea of the life and character of its hero, though it is not without spirit in parts. The best of the minor poems is “Fairy Land,” which is at once melodious and suggestive. If it were possible to separate the real from the assumed personality of the part, I should say that the former colored the second of the two poems addressed “To —— —— “(“I saw thee on thy bridal day”), and that it commemorated the marriage of Miss Royster.

Belonging to this period of Poe’s life is a short poem not hitherto included in his Poetical Works. It was first published in fac-simile in Scribner’s Magazine for September, 1875, and purports to have been written at Baltimore, March 17th, 1829, [page xlii:] and to be entitled “Alone.” I say purports, for the title, the locality, and the date are certainly not in the hand-writing of Poe, which is rather unskillfully imitated. That the poem is his, however, there is no doubt, and that it was written about the time in question. I give it as I find it, leaving the reader to punctuate it, if he can.

“From childhood’s hour I have not been

As others were — I have not seen

As others saw — I could not bring

My passions from a common spring —

From the same source I have not taken

My sorrow — I could not awaken

My heart to joy at the same tone —

And all I lov’d — I lov’d alone —

Then — in my childhood — in the dawn

Of a most stormy life — was drawn

From ev’ry depth of good and & ill

The mystery which binds me still —

From the torrent, or the fountain —

From the red cliff of the mountain —

From the sun that ‘round me roll’d

In its autumn tint of gold —

From the lightning in the sky

As it pass’d me flying by —

From the thunder, & the storm —

And the cloud that took the form

(When the rest of Heaven was blue)

Of a demon in my view — “

If I were capable of writing Imaginary Biographies, like Sir Egerton Brydges, or Imaginary Conversations, like Walter Savage Landor, I could fill the interval between the publication of Poe’s second volume in 1829, and his entrance to West Point in 1830, with greater circumstantiality than I can now pretend to. [page xliii:] As this delightful talent has been denied me, however, I can only state the probable events of this interval, which are that Poe returned to Richmond and the house of his adopted father, which had been so lately darkened by death; that he passed his days among young men of his own age and station, and his evenings in visiting ladies of his acquaintance; and that his future was a subject of serious consideration — if not with him, at least with Mr. Allan. What shall I do with this young man? was a question which that gentleman could not shirk, and which he had no right to shirk. He had taken him into his house when a child, and if his affection had not spoiled, it had gone nigh to spoil him. He had had him educated by the best masters in Richmond, and had sent him to college, where he had had his fling. He was a handsome fellow, with fine talents, but he was not grateful, and not considerate. Still, he must be provided for, and soon. He was no longer a boy, but was old enough to choose a profession. ‘What profession should it be? It is not to draw upon one’s imagination very largely to say that some such thought as this passed through the mind of Mr. Allan, and that the result of it was impressed upon the mind of Poe. He chose the profession of arms: interest was made by Mr. Allan, and backed by the influence of Chief Justice Marshall, General Scott, and John Randolph, he received the appointment of a cadet, and in the summer of 1830 went to West Point.

The half century which has passed since Poe was at West Point has not obliterated his career from the memory of his fellow-cadets. They remember him for his talents and for his idleness. “I doubt if he ever studied a page of Lacroix,” one of them wrote in 1867, “unless it was to glance hastily over it in the lecture-room while others of his section were reciting. It was evident from the first that he had no intention of going through with the course, and both the professors and cadets of the older classes set him down for a ‘January colt’ before the corps had [page xliv:] been in barracks a week.” His room (No. 28 South Barracks) was generally regarded as a hard room. “Cadets who aspired, to high standing on the merit roll were not much given to visiting it, at least in daytime. To compensate in some measure for this neglect, however, the inspecting officer was uncommonly punctual in his visits, and rarely failed to find some subject for his daily report of demerit.” Poe turned his talent for versifying to the manufacture of local squibs, one of which embraced all the officers of the Academy, including this obnoxious inspecting officer, who is thus immortalized:

“John Locke was a very great name:

Joe Locke was a greater in short;

The former was well known to Fame

The latter well known to Report.”

That he was a critic as well as a poet was evident to the cadet from whom I am quoting, and who was an occupant with him of the much-reported room. “The first conversation I had with Poe after we became installed as room-mates was characteristic of the man. A volume of Campbell’s poems was lying upon my table, and he tossed it contemptuously aside, with the curt remark, ‘Campbell is a plagiarist;’ then, without waiting for a reply, he picked up the book, and turned the leaves over rapidly until he found the passage he was looking for. ‘There,’ said he, ‘is a line more quoted than any other passage of his: “Like angel visits, few and far between,” and he stole it bodily from Blair’s Grave. Not satisfied with the theft, he has spoiled it in the effort to disguise it. Blair wrote, “Like angel visits, short and far between.” Campbell’s “few and far between “is mere tautology.” If our military reminiscent had been more literary than he was, he would have known that the charge of plagiarism which Poe brought against Campbell was an old one; and if Poe himself had been a greater reader than he was, he could [page xlv:] have brought the charge of plagiarism against Blair as well as against Campbell. If he had read the Miscellanies of Norris of Bemerton, for example, he would have remembered, I think, to quote a stanza from a poem therein entitled “The Parting,” as the original of both.

“How fading are the joys we doat upon,

Like apparitions seen and gone:

But those which soonest take their flight

Are the most exquisite and strong.

Like angel visits, short and bright,

Mortality’s too weak to bear them long.”

Accusations of plagiarism against writers of eminence, which are frequently mistaken for evidence of acute critical power, were Poe’s strong, or weak, point at West Point. “The whole bent of his mind at that time seemed to be toward criticism, — or, more properly speaking, caviling. Whether it was Shakespeare or Byron, Addison or Johnson — the acknowledged classic or the latest poetaster — all came in alike for his critical censure. He seemed to take especial delight in caviling at passages that had received the most unequivocal stamp of general approval. I never heard him speak in terms of praise of any English writer, living or dead.”

Poe was now in his twenty-second year, but he appeared much older, and had a worn, weary, and discontented look. His aged appearance was accounted for by a report that he had procured a cadet’s appointment for his son, and that on the death of the boy he had substituted himself in his place. It was not a brilliant joke, but it annoyed him, for he was not largely gifted with a sense of humor. He was rather pleased, however, with another report, which was based upon a knowledge of his parentage, and which one would think would have offended him seriously. It was that he was a grandson of Benedict Arnold, — a saturnine fancy which has since found its way into print as a fact. [page xlvi:]

It was not a good school in which he found himself, though he might have made it such, if he had only been industrious and prudent. Hundreds of young men have gone to West Point, with no greater temptations than his; have yielded to their temptations, as he did; and have come out triumphantly. Unfortunately for him, he was not of the number. He was idle, he was lawless, and he drank. He had not profited by his experience at the University, except that he had given up gaming, and had exchanged champagne for brandy. His room was seldom without a bottle of it — a circumstance which was known to his bibulous fellow-cadets, and of which they used to avail themselves, for when their own bottles were emptied, they stole into the room between tattoo and taps, and sampled the ebbing supply. It was smuggled in from Benny Haven’s — a feat which demanded address, in that it had to be accomplished without detection, and the possession of certain moneys, or their equivalent in salable commodities — blankets, candles, and what not.

The prognostications of Poe’s tutors were fulfilled on the 7th of January, 1831, when the “January colt” was roughly curried down. He was brought before a general court-martial on that day, and was charged with gross neglect of all duties and disobedience of orders, the specifications setting forth time and place. He pleaded guilty to both charges, and was sentenced to be dismissed the service of the United States, which sentence was afterward approved at the War Department, and carried into effect on the 6th of March.

Poe’s next step, after his expulsion from West Point, was not, I think, in the direction of Richmond, which he could hardly have been impatient to revisit, or only so far in that direction as New York, where he made his second serious attempt at authorship, and his first serious attempt to earn money by literature. The poetic reputation which he had acquired at West Point now stood him in good stead, for it led him to announce [page xlvii:] the publication of a volume of his poems by subscription. Permission to subscribe was granted to the cadets, and as no cadet was ever known to neglect any opportunity of spending his pay, the subscription was nearly universal. They had admired the effusions of their late comrade, and seeing that his lines had not fallen in pleasant places, they were willing to aid him to the extent of two dollars and a half each. They were disappointed, however, when they received his volume, for instead of the satires and squibs which they had expected, they found that they had been imposed upon with poetry! They were disgusted, so much so that for months afterward the standing material of their jests consisted of quotations from this expensive little book.

It was published by Mr. Elam Bliss, a well-known publisher of New York, who had had the sagacity to detect the drift of the popular current toward Annuals, as well as the enterprise to supply it before it was exhausted, and who had issued for three years in succession (1827-28-29) one of the best — if not best American contribution to this ephemeral branch of literature. This was “The Talisman,’‘ which was edited and furnished by three eminent hands (to adopt the nomenclature of Tonson and Lintot), Mr. Gulian G. Verplanck, Mr. Robert C. Sands, and Mr. William Cullen Bryant. The last two enjoyed a high reputation as journalists, the former being one of the editors of the Commercial Advertiser, the latter one of the editors of the Evening Post. Mr. Bryant stood by common consent at the head of all the American poets; and while Mr. Edgar Allan Poe was seeing his little book through the press, he was preparing a volume which should contain all the poems that he had hitherto written, and which was published by Mr. Bliss in the following year. The literary market was not very active. The most famous American author, Mr. Washington Irving, who had been abroad about fifteen years, was enjoying his laurels in London; Mr. N. P. Willis, who had made a sensation by his Scriptural poems, and was one of [page xlviii:] the editors of the New York Mirror, had sailed for Europe in order to correspond with that elegant journal; Mr. Nathaniel Hawthorne, who had published an anonymous prose romance three years before, was dreaming at Salem, and writing tales for “The Token,” an Annual which had been started in Boston by Mr. S. G. Goodrich, a year after the “Talisman.” Mr. Goodrich was seeking contributions for his Annual, and manufacturing books for the young under the nom de plume of Peter Parley; the Reverend John Pierpont had hung up his lyre, and was preaching in the Hollis Street Unitarian Church in Boston; Mr. J. G. Whittier, who had recently edited the New England Weekly Review in Hartford, and written a Life of his poetic friend Brainard, was rusticating and farming at Haverhill; Mr. Oliver Wendell Holmes was studying medicine at Cambridge; Mr. Park Benjamin was studying law at the same place; Mr. H. W. Longfellow was Professor of Modern Languages in Bowdoin College; and Mr. Sumner Lincoln Fairfield was resting on his oars, after struggling through his delugic epic, “The Spirit of Destruction.” There was room for a new poet.

Poe’s third book was published, as I have said, by Mr. Elam Bliss, in 1831. It was entitled “Poems, by Edgar A. Poe,” and it purported to be — what, strictly speaking, it was not — a second edition. It bore on the title-page, in small capitals, the following motto: “Tout le monde a raison — Rochefoucault,” and was dedicated on the fifth page “To the U. S. Corps of Cadets.” The seventh page was devoted to the contents, viz.: “Dedication,” “Letter to Mr. —— ,” Introduction,” “To Helen,” “Israfel,” “The Doomed City,” “Fairy Land,” “Irene,” “A Pæan,” “The Valley Nis,” “Al Aaraaf,” and “Tamerlane.” There was a rivulet of text in a meadow of margin on the eleventh page, the text being four lines from the famous old poem, “The Lie,” which has been variously attributed to Sylvester, Davison, and Raleigh, and which is here ascribed unhesitatingly to the last: [page xlix:]

“Tell wit how much it wrangles,

In fickle points of nicenesa —

Tell wisdom it entangles

Itself in overwiseness.”

“Letter to Mr. —— ,” is dated “West Point, —— , 1831,” and addressed to “Dear B ——.” It begins on the thirteenth and ends on the twenty-ninth page. “Introduction” begins on the thirty-third and ends on the thirty-sixth page. “To Helen,” occupies the thirty-ninth page. ‘’Israfel” begins on the fortythird and ends on the forty-fifth page. “The Doomed City” begins on the forty-ninth and ends on the fifty-first page. “Fairy Land” begins on the fifty-fifth and ends on the fiftyeighth page. “Irene” begins on the sixty-first and ends on the sixty-fourth page. “A Pæan” begins on the sixty-seventh and ends on the seventieth page. “The ‘Valley Nis” begins on the seventy-third and ends on the seventy-fifth page. “Al Aaraaf” begins on the eightyrthird and ends on the one hundred and eighth page; and “Tamerlane” begins on the one hundred and eleventh and ends on the one hundred and twenty-fourth page. The spacing of this booklet was liberal, so very liberal, indeed, that if its blank and half blank pages, extra titles, interleaves, and so on, were thrown out, it would be reduced to about eighty pages. It contained eleven hundred and thirteen lines of verse, which was only one hundred and ninety-six lines more than were in Poe’s second volume, which was published two years before, and was here partially reprinted. The “Preface” of this volume, which, for example, originally consisted of twenty-three lines, was extended to sixty-six lines, and rechristened “Introduction,” and “Fairy Land,” which consisted of forty-six lines, was extended to sixty-four lines, forty-eight of which were added to the first version, of which only sixteen lines were retained. The poetic character of this last poem was entirely changed during its revision, the rambling hints of elfin scenery which [page l:] were its motif dwindling away before a rambling description of a maiden in the moonlight. This description tickled the fancy of some of the young gentlemen to whom the volume was dedicated, one of whom was able to recall some lines of it with tolerable accuracy after a lapse of forty years.

There was a difference of fourteen lines between the first and second versions of “Al Aaraaf,” the difference being an addition to the latter, at the commencement of the poem, where the first fifteen lines of the former version were replaced by twenty-nine new lines, which could hardly be said to be an improvement. There was also a difference of nine lines between the first and. second versions of “Tamerlane,” the difference in this case being also in favor of the latter, in which there were numerous changes, consisting of suppressions and additions. The most important of the additions was the insertion between the seventh and eighth stanzas of twenty-one of the twenty-three lines entitled, “The Lake. To —— ,” and a second conclusion to the poem, consisting of fourteen lines taken from “To — — ,” the first of the personal poems in the second volume. The only portion of Poe’s third volume which had never been in print before, and which might therefore be considered new, were the poems entitled “To Helen,” “Israfel,” “The Doomed City,” “Irene,” “A Paean,” and “The Valley Nis,” which contained altogether just two hundred and eighty-one lines.

“To Helen” is the poem which is said to have been suggested by Mrs. Helen Stannard, the mother of one of Poe’s early schoolfellows, who had such an influence over him, and over whose grave he used to linger in the windy and rainy nights of autumn, and a very curious poem it is, all things considered. It stands as in the later editions of his Poetical Works, except that the fourth and fifth lines of the second stanza, which now read,

To the glory that was Greece,

And the grandeur that was Rome,” [page li:]

originally ran,

‘To the beauty of fair Greece,

And the grandeur of old Rome.”

“Israfel,” which consisted of forty-four lines, is substantially the same as the revised version of that poem, which consists of fifty-one lines; “The Doomed City,” which consisted of fifty-eight lines, is substantially the same as “The City in the Sea,” which consists of fifty-three lines; “Irene,” which consisted of seventy-four lines, is the first draft of the poem now called “The Sleeper,” which consists of sixty-one lines; “A Pæan,” which consisted of forty-four lines (eleven four-line stanzas, in short lines), is the first draft of the poem now called “Lenore,” which consists of twenty-six lines (four stanzas of irregular length, in long lines); and “The Valley Nis,” which consisted of forty-four lines, is the first draft of the poem now called “The Valley of Unrest,” which consists of twenty-seven lines.

I have devoted considerable space to Poe’s early volumes (which have become scarce), partly to add my mite to American bibliography, and partly to enable the reader to compare them with what purports to be a reprint of them in the collected edition of Poe’s Works, where they are stated to be printed verbatim — without alteration from the original edition. The alterations which really exist, and which I have in a measure indicated, are curious as evidences of an intellectual activity that alternated between dissatisfaction and complacency, and that was as tenacious of first impressions as if they were the last it was ever to have. They betray a want of confidence on the part of the writer, who has not convinced himself that his mind is a fertile one, however much he may have tried to, but who more than suspects it is a sterile one. He hoards up the smallest coin, not because he is rich, or likely to be, but because he is poor, and may be poorer. The interval of two years between the publication of these volumes was not so remarkable for productivity as noticeable for the [page lii:] value of what it produced. It witnessed a growth of mental power, an enlargement of poetic intuition, and a diminution of morbid personality. It developed an objective element, as in “The Valley Nis,” “A Pæan,” “Irene,” “The Doomed City,” and the exquisite lines “To Helen,” of which any poet might be proud; it increased the imaginative faculty of the poet, and testified to his originality. If he was influenced by other poets, it is impossible, I think, to detect their influence. He was certainly not influenced by the poets of his own land, who were little besides imitators of two of the most prominent of their number, Bryant and Willis. There is not a line in his verse which suggests even remotely the Nature-worship and the meditative gravity of the first, or the ornate descriptive talent of the last.

If Poe’s third volume found many readers other than those who had so confidingly subscribed for it, it does not seem to have found one who read it with any critical sagacity, or dreamed that I in its writer a new poet had appeared. The prefatory letter, addressed to “Dear B —— “(who was understood to be Bulwer), was not calculated to beget consideration. It was flippant, confident, opinionated, destructive. There was offense in the opening paragraph, which referred to a former volume (the existence of which the reader would have to take on trust), a portion of which was believed to be worthy of a second edition; and a greater offense in the declaration that no good criticism of a poem could be written by one who was not a poet himself. It was a vulgar error that a poet could not form a correct estimate of his own writings. It was true that a bad poet would make a false critique, and his self-love would blind his little judgment in his favor; but a poet, who was indeed a poet, could not 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 [page liii:] 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 fully 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 to either — if so, justly.” After setting the world right about epics, the young iconoclast proceeds to assail the Lake School, and to demolish Wordsworth. “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 an avalanche. He was to blame in wearing away his youth in contemplation with the end of poetizing 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 vigor.” His judgment of Coleridge is more favorable and more just. “Of Coleridge I cannot speak but with reverence. His towering intellect! his gigantic power! To use an author quoted by himself, ‘Jai trouve souvent que la plupart des sects [page liv:] ont raison dans une bonne partie dece quelles avancent, mais non pas en ce quelles nient,’ and, to employ his own language, he has imprisoned his 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!” He sums up what he not inaptly calls his long rigmarole with a definition of poetry. “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.”

If the death of Mrs. Allan had been unfortunate for Eoe, the marriage of Mr. Allan to a second wife was equally so. Precisely when it occurred no one seems to know. If within a year after the death of Mrs. Allan, as it has been stated lately, it was some months before Poe went to West Point, and it might have had something to do with his going there. There is no good reason, however, for believing that the funeral baked meats did coldly furnish forth the marriage supper; but, on the contrary, that sufficient time elapsed for them to be nicely warmed over. I am inclined to think that they were partaken of while Poe was at West Point, and that they were anything but a savory morsel to him. But however this may be, married Mr. Allan was to a Miss Patterson, whose Christian names were Louise Gabrielle, who was [page lv:] reputed beautiful, and who was younger than himself. The marriage was a blow to Poe, who could not but feel that the hold he had had upon Mr. Allan was weakened, and liable at any moment to be broken. He was not endeared to him by his extravagance at college, and his conduct at West Point: he had no right to expect a continuance of affection from him, and the most that he could hope for was forgiveness. Brought up to consider himself as his heir, it was natural that he should resent a marriage which might install another heir in his place. It was natural also that Mr. Allan should resent this resentment, and still more natural that Mrs. Allan should do so. She had no reason to like Mr. Poe. He had never been anything to her, and but little to her husband, except a trouble and an expense. Given the situation and the characters — a wild, reckless, disappointed young man, and an elderly gentleman with a young wife — what could be looked for but dissensions and heart-burnings and separation? It is not worth while to inquire into the whys and the wherefores: they were human, and they separated. Mrs. Allan was prolific, for she bore three boys, and expeditious, if they were all born before the death of her husband, which is said to have taken place in 1834. They inherited the estate of their father, which was large, but Poe inherited nothing.

From Richmond, to which he appears to have returned after the publication of his third volume of verse, and which he could no longer consider his home, Poe went, as nearly as I can make out, to Baltimore. Where, indeed, could the homeless young man go except to the birthplace of his father, and the residence of his relatives? His relatives would do something for him, however little — at any rate they would give him shelter until he could do something for himself. If he had done nothing hitherto, it was because nothing was expected of him. He could write poetry — he had proved that — and, of course, he could write prose, and would do so. Such I conceive to have been the reasoning of [page lvi:] Poe when he betook himself to the home of his aunt, Mrs. Clemm, and it must be confessed it was not without force. His circumstances were not more unfavorable than those of many authors hud been at the beginning of their career; they might even be said to be favorable, he was so well equipped for the literary profession. He possessed scholarship as well as talents; all that he needed was practice and experience. What direction his first attempts to earn money by writing took we have to conjecture; but it could hardly have been journalism, I think; for what I know of American journalism fifty years ago does not lead me to suppose that he could find any Baltimore editor who was anxious for his contributions, or willing to pay for them. Readers of newspapers were so little exacting that if they had conventional editorials such as they were accustomed to, and clippings from other newspapers, they were contented. Dismissing journalism, then, as unremunerative, he cast his eye over the field of American Prose, and noting the sort of seed that had been cultivated therein with most success, he began to sow the same. The most popular prose writer in America was Irving, and the most popular of all his writings were the stories in the “Sketch-Book” and “Bracebridge Hall,” with which he was probably familiar. He would write stories, therefore — not such as Irving had written, and in which there was but little of the creative element, but such as should be characteristic of himself, and should be imaginative. Before coming to this conclusion he had sought a position in a school which had recently been opened at Reisterstown, in Baltimore county, but there was no vacancy in which he could be placed. There was no vacancy anywhere except in literature, where there is always room for a man of genius, and to literature he accordingly turned. He was dependent on the kindness of Mrs. Clemm, who was poor, though he may have been occasionally assisted by his uncles, of whom, I believe, two were in Baltimore, and, possibly, by his brother William Henry — if that [page lvii:] eccentric scapegrace was still in the land of the living. His only, or his most literary acquaintance was Mr. L. A. Wilmer, with whom he used to take long walks in the environs of Baltimore, with whom he had long talks about books and authors, and to whom he no doubt read the stories that he was now writing.

Little is known of Mr. Wilmer, who appears to have belonged in a humble way to the great body of American journalists, and in a humbler way to the small band of American authors. The compilers of biographical dictionaries have hitherto omitted his name from the rolls of the illustrious obscure; he has even escaped the notice of the bibliographers, although one of their number (for such we must perhaps consider the industrious Mr. Allibone, from the nature if not the character of his voluminous work) informs us that he wrote several books, the names of which he specifies, and the dates of which he gives. It is to be regretted that our knowledge of Mr. Wilmer consists of a few names and dates, for whatever he was or was not in American literature, he possesses a certain biographical interest as being one of the earliest, if not the earliest, of Poe’s literary friends, and of editing the first publication to which he is known to have contributed. This was the Saturday Visitor, a weekly paper which was started in Baltimore in 1832, with Mr. Wilmer as its editor. It aimed at amusing its readers with literary productions rather than with the news of the day, and it succeeded so well or so ill in this aim that its proprietors resolved, in the summer or early autumn of 1833, to offer a prize of one hundred dollars for the best prose story that should be offered, and a prize of fifty dollars for the best poem. To insure fairness, as well as to avoid the responsibility of the decision both for themselves and their editor, they persuaded three gentlemen of Baltimore to act as a committee to award the prizes. Three professions were represented in this committee — medicine, by Dr. James H. Miller; law, by Mr, J. H. [page lvii:] B. Latrobe; and literature, by Mr. John P. Kennedy. There was a flutter among the minor literati of America — or such of them as saw the Saturday Visitor — for the amounts offered were munificent for the time, and the honor to be obtained considerable. So at least thought Poe, who entered the lists as a competitor for both prizes.

The time set for the reception of manuscripts closed, and the committee met to endure the infliction of reading them, and the opprobrium of deciding which was not the worst. It was an important meeting, so important, indeed, as an epoch in the life of Poe, that one of the committee contrived to remember what occurred at it after a lapse of more than forty years. This was Mr. Latrobe, in the back parlor of whose house they gathered one pleasant afternoon, and seated themselves round a table with their bane and their antidote before them. The banc consisted of the manuscript stories and poems, the antidote of wine and segars. As the host happened to be the youngest, he was requested to open the packages of prose and poetry, and to read their contents to his fellow-sufferers. The first thing that he took from the top of the prose pile was in a woman’s hand, and if writing alone could have gained the prize it would probably have gained it, it was so neat and distinct. It was bad, however — so bad that but for its being the work of a woman its first page would have consigned it to the basket which was placed beside the reader, and into which, after it was read through, he finally tossed it. It was followed by several other stories, which were speedily condemned on their demerits. One or two were laid aside for reconsideration, but they failed to pass muster, and the committee had about made up their minds that there was nothing before them to which they would award a prize, when Mr. Latrobe noticed a small quarto-bound book which had until then accidentally escaped attention, no doubt because it was so externally unlike the bundles of manuscript it had to compete with. [page lix:] He opened it, and saw it was written in Roman characters, instead of the common cursive manuscript, and was entitled “Tales of the Folio Club.” He read a page to himself while his colleagues were filling their glasses and lighting their scgars (probably not for the first time), and said that it seemed at last as if they had a prospect of awarding the prize. They laughed as if they doubted it, and settled themselves in their easy-chairs as he began to read aloud. It was not loug before they were as much interested as he was, and as he read through tale after tale he was only interrupted by their exclamations of surprise and admiration. There was genius in everything they listened to; there was no uncertain grammar, no feeble phraseology, no ill-placed punctuation, no worn-out truisms, no strong thoughts elaborated into weakness. Logic and imagination were combined in rare consistency; and the world which the writer sometimes created in his mind was so weird, so strange, and so wonderfully graphic that it seemed for the moment to have all the truth of a reality. There was, besides, an analysis of complicated facts, and an unraveling of circumstantial evidence that attracted Mr. Kennedy and himself, an amount of accurate scientific knowledge that charmed Dr. Miller, and a pure classical diction that delighted all three. Mr. Latrobe discovered these rare intellectual qualities in the tales of Poe (or persuaded himself that he did forty years afterward), and was to be congratulated on the discovery. When the reading was completed, and the general verdict reached, the difficulty of making a choice had still to be met. Portions were read over, and the preference which had once been given to “A Descent into the Maelstrom” was finally bestowed on “A MS. Found in a Bottle.” The prize being thus awarded, the sealed envelope which accompanied the book was opened, aud the name of its writer ascertained. It was Edgar Allan Poe. Relieved of one of their burdens, the committee again refreshed themselves by refilling their glasses and relighting their segars, and Mr. [page lx:] Latrobe manfully attacked the pile of poetry. It was better, on the whole, than the prose, but still so bad that, after it had all beeu read, only two pieces were deemed worthy of consideration. One, a small poem in blank verse, entitled “The Coliseum,” was at once seen by the handwriting to be the production of the same Edgar Allan Poe; the other, the title and subject of which have perished, was found, when the envelope which accompanied it was opened, to be the production of Mr. John H. Hewitt, a musical composer of Baltimore. If the committee had not decided upon giving the one-hundred-dollar prize to Poe, they would probably have given him the fifty-dollar prize, but thinking that the excellence of Mr. Hewitt’s poem deserved a reward, they concluded to give him the latter. Mr. Latrobe believed that none of the committee had seen Poe when the award was made, and was under the impression that he was the only one of the number who had ever heard his name, which he recalled in connection with a poem which had been shown him by Mr. William Gwynne, and which proved to be a manuscript copy of “Al Aaraaf.” Mr. Gwynne, it will be remembered, was the gentleman with whom David Poe, jr., had played at studying law, and it was curious that a juvenile poem of his son’s should fall into his hands some twenty years after his death. Mr. Gwynne did not appear to be struck with “Al Aaraaf,” for his opinion of its writer had not prepared Mr. Latrobe for the productions which he had sent to the committee, and which had revealed a new story-teller and a new poet.

On the Monday following the publication of the Saturday Visitor which contained “A MS. Found in a Bottle,” as Mr. Latrobe was sitting in his office, Poe introduced himself to him as the author of that story, and thanked him, as one of the committee, for the award in his favor. He was rather below the middle size, though he could not be described as a small man: his figure was goou, and he carried himself erect and well, the effect, [page lxi:] no doubt, of his training at ‘West Point. He was dressed in black, his frock-coat was buttoned to the throat, where it met the hlack stock, and not a particle of white was visible. Coat, hat, boots, and gloves had so evidently seen their best days that on most men they would have looked shabby and seedy, but there was something about their wearer that prevented one from criticising them, for gentleman was written all over him. His forehead was high, and noticeable for the development at the temple: the expression of his face was grave, almost sad, except when he was conversing, when it became animated and changeable: his voice was agreeable and well modulated, and his words were well chosen and unhesitating. They seated themselves, and in the course of the conversation which followed, Poe informed Mr. Latrobe that he had called upon Mr. Kennedy, who had given him, or had promised to give him, a letter to the publisher of the Southern Literary Messenger, which he hoped would procure him employment. Mr. Latrobe asked him if he was engaged upon any literary labor, and he told him that he was writing a voyage to the moon, and entered into a disquisition upon the laws of gravity, the height of the earth’s atmosphere, the capacities of balloons, and the like. He narrated the preliminary arrangements of this journey, and, speaking in the first person, described his sensation as he ascended higher and higher, until at last he reached a point in space where the moon’s attraction overcame that of the earth, when there was a sudden bouleversement of the car, and a great confusion among its tenants. He became so excited as he proceeded that he spoke rapidly, and gesticulated, and when the overturn took place, he slapped his hands and stamped his foot, carrying Mr. Latrobe along with him in his imaginary journey to the moon. When he had finished, he apologized for his excitability, at which he laughed, and, the conversation turning upon other subjects, he soon afterward took his leave. Such was Edgar Allan Poe, clad [page lxii:] in his habit as he lived, in his twenty-fifth year, and such was his avatar in American literature.

, The reminiscences of Mr. Latrobe, which I have mostly given in his own words, are interesting, and as accurate, perhaps, as one could expect, after a lapse of forty-two years. He was no doubt correct in stating that Poe told him he had already called upon Mr. Kennedy, but his memory was at fault when he stated that he told him that Mr. Kennedy had given him, or had promised to give him, a letter to the proprietor of the Southern Literary Messenger, for that periodical was not in existence until nearly a year afterward. Mr. Latrobe assisted in discovering Poe, but his interest in him could not have been very warm, for he confesses that he never saw him again. Not so Mr. Kennedy, who from the first became his friend. There was no particular reason why he should have been so, for, socially, they were on an entirely different footing. Poe, it is true, was a young man of genius, but the world had not acknowledged him as such, and he was decidedly out at elbows. Mr. Kennedy was a well-to-do gentleman of thirty-eight, a lawyer in good practice, who had represented his State in the House of Delegates, and who held a certain position among American men of letters, as one of the writers of “The Red Book,” a periodical publication in which social questions were discussed in a light, gossipy fashion, and which, so far as I can make out, anticipated Irving’s “Sketch-Book,” and as the author of “Swallow Barn” (1832), a collection of sketches of rural life in Virginia at the beginning of the present century. The first and most natural evidence of good feeling on the part of Mr. Kennedy towards Poe was an invitation to dinner. It gratified him, of course, but it humiliated him still more, for he had only the shabby black suit which he wore when he called upon Mr. Latrobe, and that was clearly unfit for a dinner party. He declined the invitation, therefore, and gave the true reason — his personal appearance. His frankness [page lxiii:] was appreciated by Mr. Kennedy, who supplied him with the clothing that he needed, gave him free access to his table, and a horse for exercise whenever he chose.

This occurred in the fall of 1833 and the winter of 1834. As we know nothing of the life of Poeat this time, other than what is implied by these pleasant attentions of Mr. Kennedy, we have to conjecture what it really was. He probably made his home with Mrs. Clemm and her daughter Virginia, and devoted himself to writing other Tales of the Folio Club, and possibly articles for the Baltimore journals, with the editors of which it is natural to suppose that Mr. Kennedy had some influence that he exercised on his behalf. It was not a propitious season for one who was desirous of earning money by literary pursuits, particularly one who was so little known as Poe. There were no periodicals that were worth speaking of. Mr. N. P. Willis had commenced the American Monthly Magazine four or five years before, but it was now merged into the New York Mirror, which was flourishing on his “Pencilings by the Way.” Mr. Charles Fenno Hoffman had commenced the Knickerbocker Magazine the previous year (1833), and had edited a few numbers of it when it passed into the hands of the Rev. Timothy Flint, a Congregational minister of Massachusetts, who had spent ten years as a missionary in the Valley of the Mississippi, and had written a volume of Recollections of that region, besides three or four forgotten novels and romances, and a history of Indian Ware in the West. There may have been other ventures whose names have dropped out of our literary history, but these, with two or three heavy quarterlies, the North American Review, the Christian Examiner, and so on, represented the periodical literature of the country. It was doubtless honorable to write for them, but it was certainly not profitable, for the prices which they paid (when they paid at all), would hardly have satisfied the copyists of the authors’ manuscripts: there was more money in the legal [page lxiv:] narratives of John Doe and Richard Roe than in the dissertations of the North American Review, whose honorarium for years was two dollars per printed page. It was not a propitious season for writers, as I have said, and it could not be considered a very promising one for publishers. So it seems to us now, but so it did not seem to Mr. Thomas W. White, a printer of Richmond, who projected a new magazine — a magazine which should represent the literature of the South, Which so far had escaped recognition in the magazines of the East. He was not encouraged by his friends, we are told, but being a determined man, he refused to be discouraged, and set resolutely to work to obtain the indorsement of some of the leading authors of America. He was backed by the good wishes and the promised support of such men as Irving, Cooper, Paulding, Kennedy, and John Quincy Adams.

It is instructive to turn from the American magazines of to-day, popular or otherwise, to the first number of the Southern Literary Messenger, which bears the date of August, 1834, and the imprint of T. W. White, Printer and Proprietor. It consisted of thirty-two double-column octavo pages, and its subscription price was five dollars per annum. I am not prepared to say that it was worse thau the average periodical literature of the time, but it was pretty bad, though it contained a piece of verse by Mrs. Lydia H. Sigourney — “Columbus at the University of Salamanca” — and Mr. Richard Henry Wilde’s best known lyric, “My life is like the summer rose,” the authorship of which was attributed to, though not fixed upon him. It contained, also, a number of dull book-notices, the perfunctory work of some unintelligent hack-writer. Two months passed before the second number appeared, and it could hardly be said to be superior to its predecessor. Mrs. Sigourney contributed another poem, “Death among the Trees,” and Mr. William Wirt a [[“]]Letter to a Law Student.” Unintelligent hack furnished a [page lxv:] dull notice of Bulwer’s “Pilgrims of the Rhine,” nnd padded it out with an extract seven or eight pages in length. The third number, which was extended to sixty-four pages, was instructive, if not entertaining.’ The piece de resistance was the first of a series of papers on the “Present Condition of Tripoli;” the sidedishes were a “Letter from a Virginian in New England,” and an article on Mr. N. P. Willis (copied from the Norfolk Beacon); the dessert was a sonnet on Byron, attributed (and justly) to Mr. Wilde, “Byron! ‘tis thine alone on eagle’s pinions.” Why Mr. Wilde did not acknowledge his verse can only be conjectured; perhaps it was because he was a member of Congress, and preferred the reputation of a legislator to that of a poet. The fourth number must have gratified its poetical contributors, for it was weighted with no less than twenty-five of their effusions, among which was a parody on Bryant’s “Death of the Flowers,” and a translation of one of the sonnets of Camoens, by Mr. Wilde. The fifth number curtailed its ambitious poets to the extent of nine, among whom was Mr. Wilde, who celebrated “Napoleon’s Grave” in a pensive elegy. A review of Bulwer’s “Last Days of Pompeii” was followed by a long letter from Mr. Sumner Lincoln Fairfield, who accused the British novelist of plagiarizing that story from a poem of Mr. Fairfield’s entitled “The Last Night of Pompeii,” and published two years before (1832). In the sixth number more than a score of the contributors were allowed to drop into poetry again. Mr. Wilde was represented by a translation from the Italian; Mr. George P. Morris by “The Miniature,” a copy of commonplace verses selected from the Spirit of the Times, and Sir William Blackstone by his “Farewell to the Muse.” These contributions, with further installments of the papers on Tripoli, the letters from New England, and the customary book-notices, brought the Southern Literary Messenger up to February, 1835.

By whatever standard it was measured, it was a failure, as anyone [page lxvi:] but Mr. White would have seen, and as he probably saw, though he determined to continue it. He had not been sustained by the leading writers of America, further than by their good wishes, for not one of them had contributed a line to his luckless periodical. Among those who had promised to do so. and no doubt meant to keep his promise, was Mr. Kennedy, who, early in the winter of 1835 recommended Poe to him as a contributor. How Poe had lived during the twelve or fifteen months which had elapsed since he gained the prize of one hundred dollars for his story in the Saturday Visitor, has not been ascertained; but, as I before suggested, he probably resided with Mrs. Clemm, and added what he could to her scanty income by any literary work that came in his way. Poe’s first contribution to the Southern Literary Messenger must have created a sensation in the editorial office after it had been read, for it was considered worthy of an honorable mention. It was his uncanny story, “Berenice,” which was published in the number for March, 1835, with the following introduction: “‘Berenice,’ a tale, by Edgar A. Poe, will be read with interest, especially by the patrons of the Messenger in this city, of which Mr. Poe is a native, and where he resided until manhood. 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. He discovers a superior capacity and a highly cultivated taste in composition.”

Poe’s second contribution to the Messenger confirmed the editor’s belief in the genius of his contributor, and confirmed, also, his belief that it was not a healthy kind of writing. “‘Morella’ will unquestionably prove that Mr. Poe has great powers of imagination, and a command of language seldom surpassed. Yet we cannot but lament that he has drank 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. [page lxvii:] We doubt, however, if anything in the same style can be cited which contains more terrific beauty than this tale.” The writer of this paragraph, whoever he was, was wiser in his day and generation than many who have since written about Poe, for he divined clearly the intensely morbid character of his work. Nor was he alone in his dislike of it, for the April number of the Messenger, in which “Morella” appeared, contained an extract from the Augusta Courier, which admitted the beauty and elegance of style of “Berenice,” though it stigmatized it as altogether too full of the wild, mysterious, horrible, and improbable. Poe’s first poetic contribution to the Messenger was in “Morella,” which originally contained a Hymn, which may now be found in a shortened form in his poetical works, “At mom, at noon, at twilight dim.”

We are brought nearer to Poe at this time than by any extant writing of his own by a brief note of Mr. Kennedy’s, which was dated at Baltimore, April 13th, 1835, and addressed to the proprietor of the Messenger, who had written to him in regard to his protégé: “Dear Sir — Poe did right in referring to me. He is very clever with his pen — classical and scholarlike. 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 and a half 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.” The proprietor of the Messenger certainly found his account in the “young fellow,” whom he proceeded to eulogize for the third time: “‘Lionizing,’ by Mr. [page lxviii:] Poe, is an inimitable piece of wit nnd satire; and the man mast be far gone in a melancholic humor whose risibility is not moved by this tale. Although the scene is laid in the foreign city of ‘Fum-Fudge,’ the disposition which it satirizes is often displayed in the cities of this country, even in our own community, and will probably continue to exist, unless ‘Mrs. Butler’s Journal’ should have disgusted the world with lions.” “Mrs. Butler’s Journal” was reviewed in this number, as was also Mr. Kennedy’s novel of “Horse-Shoe Robinson,” the latter by Poe, who was much dissatisfied with his review, as he signified 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. 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 for them.”

The critics of the provincial press were somewhat divided in their opinions of Poe, whose genius, however, they freely acknowledged. The Aristarchus of the Augusta Chronicle, for example, characterized his “Morella” as one of the best of those wild and gloomy exhibitions of passion heretofore belonging almost peculiarly to the genius of the German school of romance. “We cannot but think that such over-wrought delineations of the passions are injurious to correct taste, however attractive they may be to the erratic mood and unnatural imaginings of a poetically vivid mind. Mr. Poe is capable of higher and more useful flights, and will no doubt reach an enviable eminence if he does not suffer the current of his genius to be choked up by a morbid sensibility, or diverted from its natural channel by the destructive freshet of a superabundant fancy.” Still more severe was the Zoilus of the Charlottesville Advocate, who could not subscribe to the praise which had been lavished upon Mr. Poe’s “palpable obscure” effusions. “His ‘Lionizing’ is a feeble imitation of Slawkenbergius, and makes a very pedantic display of authors, whom he may, or may not, have read, but of whom no one else lias ever heard. It is, nevertheless, better than his ‘Morella,’ of the preceding number.”

Poe’s fourth contribution to the Messenger was the “Journey to the Moon,” which he was writing when he paid his solitary but memorable visit to Mr. Latrobe — “Hans Phaall.” It was highly thought of by the proprietor, or editor, who considered it his duty to give to it his own high indorsement. “Mr. Poe’s story of ‘Hans Phaall’ will add much to his reputation as an imaginative writer. In these ballooning days, when every ‘puny whipster’ is willing to risk his neck in an attempt to ‘leave dull earth behind him,’ and we hear so much of the benefits which science is to derive from the art of aerostation, a journey to the moon may be considered a matter of mere moonshine. Mr. Poe’s scientific Dutch bellows-mender is certainly a prodigy, and the more to be admired as he performs impossibilities, and details them with a minuteness so much like truth that they seem quite probable. Indeed, the cause of his great enterprise is in admirable harmony with the exploits which it encourages him to perform. There are thousands who, to escape the pertinacity of uncivil creditors, would be tempted to a flight as perilous as that of Hans Phaall. Mr. Poe’s story is a long one, but it will appear short to the reader, whom it bears along with irresistible interest through a region of which, of all others, we know least, but [page lxx:] which his fancy has invested with peculiar charms. We trust that a future missive from the lunar voyager will give us a narrative of his adventures in the orb that he has been the first to explore.” Poe’s fifth contribution to the Messenger, “The Visionary,” was published in the number for July, and contained a poem afterward relegated to his poetical works, under the title “To One in Paradise.” The concluding stanza of the original is omitted in the later version:

“Alas! for that accursed time,

They bore thee o’er the billow,

From love to titled age and crime,

And an unholy pillow,

From me and from our misty clime,

Where weeps the silver willow!’

We obtain a personal glimpse of Poe about this time in a letter which he wrote in answer to one received from Mr. White: “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 give 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 may 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.”

The August number of the Messenger was, in a certain sense, a Poe number, in that it contained “Bon-Bon,” the longest paper [page lxxi:] that he had yet furnished; his poem, “The Coliseum,” which was credited to the Baltimore Visitor, and what may be called an editorial card in reference to Poe and his critics. It was as follows: “As one or two of the criticisms in relation to the tales of our contributor, Mr. Poe, have been directly at variance with those generally expressed, we take the liberty of inserting here a letter (signed by three gentlemen of the highest standing in literary matters), which we find in the Baltimore Visitor. This paper having offered a premium for the best Prose Tale, and the best Poem, both these premiums were awarded by the committee to Mr. Poe. The award was, however, subsequently altered so as to exclude Mr. Poe from the second premium, in consideration of his having taken the higher one. Here follows the extract: ‘Among the prose articles offered were many of various and distinguished merit, but the singular force and beauty of those sent by the author of Tales of the Folio Club leave us no room for hesitation in that department. We have accordingly awarded the premium to a Tale entitled MS. Found in a Bottle. It would hardly be doing justice to say that the Tale we have chosen is the best of 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 (the 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.

‘John P. Kennedy,

‘J. H. B. Latrobe,

‘James H. Miller.’

“We presume this letter must set the question at rest. ‘Lionizing’ is one of the tales here spoken of; ‘The Visionary’ is another. The Tales of the Folio Club are sixteen in all, and we believe it is the author’s intention to publish them in the autumn. When such men as Miller, Latrobe, Kennedy, Tucker, and [page lxxii:] Paulding speak unanimously of any literary productions in terms of exalted commendation, it is nearly unnecessary to say that we are willing to abide by their decision.”

What was the nature of these criticisms which were so directly at variance with those generally expressed, we are left to conjecture; they must have been very irritating, however, to have called forth this card, which by no means confirms the impression of Mr. Latrobe as to the general worthlessness of the contributions upon which he and his fellow-committeemen had sat in judgment. About the time it was written Poe was offered the position of assistant editor of the Messenger, at a salary of ten dollars a week. He accepted it, and on the strength of the support which it seemed to assure, persuaded Mrs. Clemm to let him marry her daughter Virginia. They were married at Baltimore on the 2d of September, 1835, at the old Christ Church, by the Rev. John Johns, and the next day he departed for Richmond alone.

Poe’s return to Richmond was a hazardous experiment. He had lived there as boy and man for upwards of twenty years, and was known to many of its inhabitants. His playmates and school-fellows were living; the friends of Mr. Allan, who had been dead about a year and a half, were living; and, worst of all, Mrs. Allan and her children were living, possessors of the noble old mansion in which his childhood was passed, and of the goodly estate which might have descended to him. Why he had been desirous of revisiting Richmond, as he wrote to Mr. White a few months before, I cannot understand. Surely he must have known that nothing pleasant awaited him there — nothing, indeed, but humiliation and remorse and bitterness of spirit. He described his condition in a letter to Mr. Kennedy, to whom he expressed his gratitude for his frequent and ineffectual assistance and kindness, and his acceptation of the situation of assistant editor of the Messenger, which was due to his [page lxxiii:] influence. “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 hare 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 you; if it be worth reading, read it. I am wretched, and know not why. Console me, if 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 mean this. I do not mean that you should consider what I now write you n 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 ine 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.”

This letter of Poe’s, which was dated only nine days after his marriage, must have been a puzzle to Mr. Kennedy, who could not be expected to understand the sudden and mysterious sorrow of its writer. His answer, which was kind and sensible, was no doubt considered commonplace by Poe, as it has been by his admirers since, but I do not well see how he could have written otherwise. “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 [page lxxiv:] 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 forever. You will doubtless do well henceforth in literature, and add to your comforts as well as reputation, which, it gives me great pleasure to assure you, is everywhere rising in popular esteem.” Besides the private view of Poe afforded by the two notes which I have just quoted, there was a public view of him at the same time which was more worthy of his talents. It was in the September number of the Messenger, which contained two of his characteristic stories, “Loss of Breath, a Tale à la Blackwood,” and “King Pest,” besides a copy of verses purporting to have been written in an album. I copy them, not on account of any merit which they possess, but because they are the first of three versions of a trifle which was afterwards dedicated to Mrs. Frances Sargent Osgood:

“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

Forever, and love a duty.”

The first number of the second volume of the Messenger (December, 1835,) opened with a flourish of trumpets on the part of the publisher, who made the usual promises in regard to his intentions, and of favors received from his distinguished contributors, among whom he hoped to be pardoned for singling [page lxxv:] out the name of Mr. Edgar A. Poe. “Not with a design to make any invidious distinction, but because such a mention of Mm finds numberless precedents in the journals on every side, which have rung with the praises of his uniquely original vein of imagination, and of humorous, delicate satire.” We must consider Poe from this time, I suppose, the editor of the Messenger. He does not appear to have prepared himself for the position by writing anything new, for his first contribution was a portion of the tragedy upon which he was engaged eight or nine months before, but which he had laid aside at the suggestion of Mr. Kennedy. It was entitled “Scenes from an Unpublished Drama,” the scenes being three, and the drama the fragment known as “Politian.” It was not a propitious beginning for the new editor, for it possessed no dramatic, and but little poetic merit — nothing, in short, that might not have been written by any clever amateur in verse. He was represented in prose by the tale which had taken the prize from the Saturday Visitor — “MSS. Found in a Bottle “ — which was credited to The Gift, an annual edited by Miss Eliza Leslie, and by several pages of book-notices, which were noticeable for severity. Poe’s practice of copying old compositions, which was begun by the reprint of the “MSS. Found in a Bottle,” was continued in the next number of the Messenger by the reprint of “A Pæan,” from the New York edition of his poems, which, however, was not mentioned. It was followed by “Metzengerstein, a Tale in Imitation of the German,” and by another and concluding portion of “Politian.” The book-notices, which extended to seventeen pages, were smart but flippant. Poe’s critical contemporaries are quoted from, as in the earlier numbers of the Messenger. The Charleston Courier, for example, informs its readers that Poe’s genius delights in the creation of strange possibilities, and in investing the most intangible romances in an air of perfect verisimilitude. The Charlottesville Jeffersonian, on the contrary, does not accept the justness [page lxxvi:] of the praise which has been bestowed upon some of his pieces, but admits that he is a writer of great originality, and one who promises well. The New York Spirit of the Times traces an imaginary resemblance between him and a magazinist with whom he had nothing in common — Mr. N. P. Willis — and discovers that he needs condensation of thought!

The New York edition of his poems was useful to Poe in giving out copy for the February number of the Messenger, for it furnished him with “The Valley Nis,” the substance of which we have now in his poetical works in “The Valley of Unrest,” the forty-six lines of the original version having shrunk in the process of correction to the twenty-seven lines by which they are now represented. His prose contribution to this number consisted of the curious sketch, “Le Duc de l’Omelette,” a paper on “Autography,” and thirty-two pages of book-notices.

The New York volume was drawn upon again in the March number of the Messenger, which contained the poem beginning “Helen, thy beauty is to me,” with no notification that it was a reprint and not an original contribution, the only original contribution therein, except the book-notices, being the curious story of “Epimanes.” The April number displayed Poe’s talent as a humorist in a grotesque sketch entitled “A Tale of Jerusalem;” his talent as an analyist [[analyst]] in a long paper on Maelzel’s Chess-Player; and his talent as a critic in fourteen pages of book-notices of American authors, among whom were Drake and Halleck, whose “Culprit Fay” and whose “Alnwick Castle” were carefully reviewed. The New York volume was again drawn upon in the May number, where Poe reprinted its opening poem, the sonnet beginning, “Science, meet daughter of old Time thou art” (which originally appeared in the Baltimore volume), and a revised version of “Irene,” which now figures in his poetical works as “The Sleeper.” The June and July numbers of the Messenger contain nothing from the pen of Poe, [page lxxvii:] except the book-notices, which amounted to nearly thirty pages. Poe, the contributor, may have been idle at this time, but it is not certain that Poe, the editor, was equally idle, for there is a world of work in the editing of a magazine which is not visible to its readers, and of which the editor himself is not always conscious.

About this time, though it may have been at an earlier period, there was an interruption of the friendly relations between Poe and Mr. White. The tradition of this interruption might possibly have reached us, but the circumstance which occasioned it could hardly have done so but through Poe himself, and his curious habit of preserving every letter that he received, as well as every mention of himself that he ever saw in print. By preserving the following letter from Mr. White he preserved the memory of an episode in his life, which might otherwise have escaped his biographers, the least friendly of whom, I think, would willingly have remained in ignorance of it. “My dear Edgar, — I cannot address you in such language as this occasion and my feelings demand: I must be content to speak to you in my plain way. That you are sincere in all your promises I firmly believe. But when you once again tread these streets, I have my fears that your resolutions will fail, and that you will again drink till your senses are lost. If you rely on your strength you are gone. Unless you look to your Maker for help you will not be safe. How much I regretted in parting from you is known to Him only and myself. I had become attached to you; I am still; and I would willingly say return, did not a knowledge of your past life make me dread a speedy renewal of our separation. If you would make yourself contented with quarters in my house, or with any private family where liquor is not used, I should think there was some hope for you. But if you go to a tavern, or to any place where it is used at table, you are not safe. You have fine talents, Edgar, and you ought to have them [page lxxviii:] respected as well as yourself. Learn to respect yourself, and you will soon find that you are respected. Separate yourself from the bottle, and from bottle companions, forever. Tell me if you can and will do so. If you become again an assistant in my office, it is to be understood that all engagements on my part cease the moment you get drunk. I am your true friend. T. W. W.” It was after this episode, I presume, and probably in consequence of it, that Poe was joined at Richmond by his young wife and her mother.

Poe’s poetical powers revived before the publication of the August number of the Messenger, which contained his poem of “Israfel.” The New York volume was drawn upon for the fourth time in a revised version of “The Doomed City,” which was shortened six lines, and re-christened ‘’The City of Sin.” His note-book yielded nine pages of literary scraps, culled from a variety of sources, and tumbled together under the heading of “Pinakidia.” There was an assumption of scholarship about this paper which was doubtless acceptable to provincial readers forty-four years ago, but upon which a magazinist of to-day would hardly venture. He charges Campbell with stealing from Blair (as he did five or six years before at West Point), and he finds in a passage of Gray’s Hymn to Adversity (which he miscalls an Ode) an imitation of Milton, which imitation had been pointed out long before. He also found (what I believe had not before been pointed out) a resemblance between two lines of “Hudibras” and Gray’s description of the hoary hair of his Bard. He accuses Young with pilfering a thought from the same poem, and accuses Goldsmith with pilfering from Young. He fails to remember, however, any poet who was in the habit of passing off his old poems as new ones, and, considering that the practice was becoming habitual with him, it is not perhaps to be wondered at.

The three concluding numbers of the second volume of the [page lxxix:] Messenger were enriched with no contribution from Poe, other than the usual notices of books. The first number of the third volume (January, 1837,) contained evidences of his industry in an installment of the “Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym,” the longest of his prose works; and of his poetical talents, in a ballad, which now figures, in a shortened form, in his poetical works as a “Bridal Ballad,” and in the sonnet, “To Zante,” the suggestion of which appears to have been derived from two lines in the first part of “Al Aaraaf”:

“And thy most lovely purple perfume, Zante,

Isola d’oro! Fior di Levante!”

It also contained evidence that something had occurred by which his connection with the Messenger was severed. It was iti a card, and was as follows: “Mr. Poe’s attention being called in another direction, he will decline with the present number the editorial duties of the Messenger. His critical notices for the month end with Prof. Anthon’s Cicero — what follows is from another hand. With the best wishes for the magazine, and to its few foes, as well as many friends, he is now desirous of bidding all parties a peaceable farewell.” On the last page of the magazine Mr. White states over his own signature that Poe retired from the editorial department on the 3d instant, but that he would continue to furnish its columns from time to time with the effusions of his vigorous pen. The promise of the last paragraph was kept in the next number in a second installment of “Arthur Gordon Pym,” of whom the readers of the Messenger heard no more.

Why did Poe leave the Messenger at the beginning of a new volume, for which he had undertaken to furnish what would now be called a serial story, a portion of which was already in print? We are told that he had received an invitation from Dr. [page lxxx:] Francis Lister Hawks, a North Carolina divine, who was then residing in New York, where he was Rector of St. Stephen’s Church, to come to that city and assist him on the New York Review, a quarterly which he had projected, and that on the strength of this invitation he severed his connection with Mr. ‘White, and started for New York. Dr. Hawks and his publishers must have been sanguine as to the success of their inchoate periodical if they insured Poe a better salary than he was receiving as editor of the Messenger, and paid it while they were preparing for the first number, which was not published until the following July. Such an arrangement appears to me extremely improbable. The fact remains, however, that Poe and his wife and his mother-in-law removed to New York (apparently in the winter of 1837), and that they remained thereuntil the summer of 1838. How they lived during this period we have to conjecture. There is extant no literary work which Poe is known to have produced, except a paper upon Stephens’s “Incidents of Travel in Egypt, Arabia Petrea, and the Holy Land,” which was published in the October number of the New York Review, the payment for which at the highest rates would not have supported his family long. They are said to have resided at 113 Carmine Street, where Mrs. Clemm endeavored to add to their income by keeping boarders. We have a faint glimpse of Poe at this time in the wordy reminiscences of Mr. William Gowans, an illiterate Irishman who dealt in old books, and who boarded with Mrs. Clemm fot upwards of eight months. He preferred his opinion of this gifted but unfortunate man to that of his biographers and critics, which he pronounced an excess of exaggeration, and he claimed that while it may have been worth little, it had the merit of coming from an eye and ear witness, which is the very highest of legal evidence. He saw much of Poe (mostly, it would seem, at table), and had an opportunity of conversing with him often, and he declared that he never saw [page lxxxi:] him in the least affected by liquor, and that he was one of the most courteous, gentlemanly, and intelligent companions he had ever met with in his journeyings and halting through divers divisions of the globe. “He had an extra inducement to be a good man, as well as a good husband, for he had a wife of matchless beauty and loveliness. Her eyes could match those of any houri, and her face defy the genius of Canova to imitate; a temper and disposition of surpassing sweetness. She seemed, withal, as much devoted to him and his every interest as a young mother is to her first-born.”

When I said that there was extant no work that Poe is known to have produced at this time, I did not forget “The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym,” which came to an abrupt ending in the February number of the Messenger, and which he finished before the summer of 1838, when it was published by Harper & Brothers. Concerning this book, which does not appear to have been successful in this country, the late Mr. George P. Putnam, who was then a publisher in London, relates the following anecdote, which may be found in the second series of the magazine which bears his name (October, 1869): “At our London office we received, about 1840, a volume called ‘The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym, of Nantucket,’ which in a long title-page purported to describe sundry veritable voyages, ending with one in which the author had reached the eighty-fourth parallel of southern latitude. The late Mr. D. Appleton was sitting in our office in Paternoster Row. ‘Here is an American contribution to geographical science,’ I said to him. ‘This man has reached a higher latitude than any European navigator. Let us reprint this for the benefit of Mr. Bull.’ He assented, and took a half share in the venture. The grave particularity of the title and of the narrative misled many of the critics, as well as ourselves, and whole columns of these new ‘discoveries,’ including the hieroglyphics (!) found on the rocks, were copied by many of the [page lxxxii:] English country papers as sober historical truth. Whether such a book were as justifiable as Robinson Crusoe may be questioned — it was certainly ingenious and skillful.”

Poe and his family removed to Philadelphia in the summer of 1838; so, at least, I gather from a letter of his to Mr. Nathan C. Brooks, to whom he had applied, after his separation from Mr. Allan, for a situation in a school which he had recently established at Reisterstown, Maryland, and who was now the editor of a periodical which he was about to start in Baltimore, under the title of the North American Magazine. Mr. Brooks had applied to him for a contribution to it, and had suggested as a subject the writings of Washington Irving. To this application Poe replied as follows:

“PHILADELPHIA, September 4, 1838.

“MY DEAR SIR: — I duly received your favor with the $10. Touching the review, I am forced to decline it just now. I should be most unwilling not to execute such a task well, and this I could not do at so short a notice, at least now. I have two other engagements which it would be ruinous to defer. Besides this, I am just leaving Arch Street for a small house, and, of course, somewhat in confusion.

“My main reason, however for declining is what I at first alleged, viz.: I could not do the review well at short notice. The truth is, I can hardly say that I am conversant with Irving’s writings, having read nothing of his since I was a boy, save his ‘Grenada.’ It would be necessary to give his entire works a reperusal. You see, therefore, the difficulty at once. It is a theme upon which I would like very much to write, for there is a vast deal to be said upon it. Irving is much overrated, and a nice distinction might be drawn between his just and his surreptitious and adventitious reputation — between what is due to the pioneer solely, and what to the writer. [page lxxxiii:]

“The merit, too, of his tame propriety and faultlessness of style should be candidly weighed. He should be compared with Addison, something being hinted about imitation, and Sir Roger De Coverley should be brought up in judgment. A bold and à priori investigation of Irving’s claims would strike home, take my word for it. The American literary world never saw anything of the kind yet. Seeing, therefore, the opportunity of making a fine hit, I am unwilling to hazard your fame by a failure, and a failure would assuredly be the event were I to undertake the task at present.

“The difficulty with you is nothing; for I fancy you are conversant with Irving’s works, old and new, and would not have to read for the task. Had you spoken decidedly when I saw you, I would have adventured. If you can delay the ‘Review’ until the second number, I would be most happy to do my best. But this, I presume, is impossible.

“I have gotten nearly out of my late embarrassments. Neilson could not aid me, being much pushed himself. He would, no doubt, have aided me if possible. Present my respects if you see him. Very truly yours,


“Suppose you send me proofs of my articles; it might be as well — that is, if you have time. I look anxiously for the first number, from which I date the dawn of a fine literary day in Baltimore.

“After the 15th I shall be more at leisure, and will be happy to do you any literary service in my power. You have but to hint.

“E. A. P.”

The proofs which Poe desired to have sent him were those of two or three stories, notably of “Ligeia,” and of his poem “The Haunted House,” the former of which appeared in the September number of the new magazine. [page lxxxiv:]

There were three literary events in the life of Poe in 1839 — the publication of a volume on conchology, the collection of his stories, and his connection with the Gentleman’s Magazine. A good deal of ink as well as temper has been wasted over this conchological book of Poe’s, concerning which his biographers have shown a world of vast and varied misinformation, few of them having seen it, or the work of which it was a reprint. This was “The Conchologist’s Text-Book” of Captain Thomas Brown. It was a standard work in Great Britain, where it passed through several editions, the one which was used by Poe bearing the imprint of Glasgow, and the date of 1833. Poe copyrighted and published this work as his own, probably because he needed money, and was willing to run the risk of detection.*

Poe’s intention to collect his stories, which was mentioned by Mr. Kennedy in a letter to Mr. White, written in April, 1835, was now carried into effect by the publication of two volumes entitled “Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque.” Before the publication of this collection was finally determined upon (it appeared, I believe, in the autumn or winter of 1839), Poe had formed an editorial connection with Mr. William Evans Burton. Mr. Burton was an English comedian, who had migrated to the United States about five years before. Originally intended for the church, his talents as an amateur led him to become an actor on the Norwich circuit, and afterwards at the Haymarket Theater. He had dabbled in literature in England, in the Reflector and the Cambridge Quarterly Review, and, being a pushing man, [page lxxxv:] was ambitious to do the same in America; so he started a periodical in Philadelphia, which he christened the Gentleman’s Magazine, and edited himself, after a fashion. This, I believe, was in 1837. He had made the acquaintance of Poe in the spring of 1839, and he engaged him to assist him in his editorial duties, at the same salary which had been paid him for similar duties on the Messenger, i. e., ten dollars a week. It was not a munificent salary, judged by the standards of to-day, but it satisfied Poe for his services, which demanded only two hours a day, and left him leisure for other literary employment.

Poe’s first contributions to the Gentleman’s Magazine were not remarkable for originality or quantity. He reprinted, under the title “To Ianthe in Heaven,” the poem which he had inserted in “The Visionary,” in the Messenger for July, 1835, and reprinted, also, from his Baltimore volume, “Spirits of the Dead.” The first of these was acknowledged, the last was not. They were followed in the next number by “Fairyland” and “To the River,” — both of which were copied verbatim from the same useful little volume, and by the lines which purported to be written in an album, and were published in the Messenger for September, 1835, — the “Eliza” of the opening line of the first version being now transformed into “Fair maiden.” The next two numbers contained “The Fall of the House of Usher,” and “William Wilson,” the latter being credited to the annual in which it was about to appear, “The Gift for 1840.” This story has always interested the biographers of Poe, who have found, or fancied they have found, a resemblance between the school-life of William Wilson and that of Poe himself. It is a remarkable story, and no doubt original with Poe, although its counterpart is believed to exist (or to have existed) among the plays of Calderon. At any rate, Irving mentions a similar story which was narrated to him by Captain Medwin, who claimed that it was by Calderon, though it was rarely to be found in the edition [page lxxxvi:] of his works. “It is called sometimes El Embozado,” Irving wrote to his brother Peter, in March, 1825, “and sometimes El Capitado (i. e., The man muffled, or disguised). The story is of a young man who has been dogged through life by a mysterious masked man; who thwarts all his plans, and continually crosses his path, and blasts his hopes at the moment of fruition. At length he is in love with a lady, and on the point of entering her house to be made happy. The Embozado issues out of it. They fight. The mask of the unknown falls off, and he discovers the very counterpart of himself! He dies with horror at the sight. Such is Medwin’s mere recollection of the plot. Lord Byron was so much struck with it, that he intended to make something of it, and repeatedly mentioned the way he thought of treating it. Medwin wrote a sketch of it, and Lord Byron’s ideas about it, which he had intended to append to a new edition of his Memoirs, but he has promised to hand it to me. It is certainly very striking, and something fine might be struck out from the mere idea. The Embozado is supposed to be a personification of the young man’s passions. I mean to search for the play.” Irving sought carefully for this play in the libraries of Spain, but was never able to find it. It is not likely that Poe ever saw it, and its resemblance to “William Wilson” was probably one of those curious coincidences with which all literature abounds.

The story of “Morella,” Poe’s second contribution to the Messenger, did duty for the second time in the Gentleman’s Magazine, in the shape of an extract from his “Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque,” which were then passing through the press, and was succeeded in the following number by “The Conversation of Eiros and Charmion.” His name figured with that of Mr. Burton on the title-page of the next volume, but his labors therein were scanty, consisting of “The Business Man,” a slight story, a paper on “The Philosophy of Furniture,” and [page lxxxvii:] the book-reviews, which for the most part were slashing, one on Mr. Longfellow’s “Voices of the Night” being especially so, for it accused him of plagiarizing his “Midnight Mass for the Dying Year” from Tennyson’s “Death of the Old Year.”

We owe to Poe’s habit of preserving the letters which were written to him a record of the difference between himself and Mr. White, and the cause which led to it; and we owe to the same habit a letter which was written to him by Mr. Burton, in reply to a communication of his own. Their friendly relations had come to an end, why, it is useless to inquire now, but they were about to be resumed. “I am sorry that you have thought it necessary to send me such a letter. Your troubles have given a morbid tone to your feelings, which it is your duty to discourage. I myself have been as severely handled by the world as you can possibly have been, but my sufferings have not tinged my mind with melancholy, nor jaundiced my views of society. You must rouse your energies, and if care assail you, conquer it. I will gladly overlook the past. I hope you will as easily fulfill your pledges for the future. We shall agree very well, though I cannot permit the magazine to be made a vehicle for that sort of severity which you think is so ‘successful with the mob.’ I am truly much less anxious about making a monthly ‘sensation’ than I am upon the point of fairness. You must, my dear sir, get rid of your avowed ill-feelings toward your brother authors. You see I speak plainly: I cannot do otherwise upon such a subject. You say the people love havoc. I think they love justice. I think you yourself would not have written the article on Dawes in a more healthy state of mind. I am not trammeled by any vulgar consideration of expediency: I would rather lose money than by such undue severity wound the feelings of a kind-hearted and honorable man. Now I am satisfied that Dawes has something of the true fire in him. I regretted your word-catching spirit. But I wander from my design. I accept [page lxxxviii:] your proposition to recommence your interrupted avocations upou the Maga. Let us meet as if we had not exchanged letters. Use more exercise, write when feelings prompt, and be assured of my friendship. You will soon regain a healthy activity of mind, and laugh at your past vagaries.”

Mr. Burton’s letter, which seems to me a manly one, touches upon a trait which distinguished Poe from the beginning — I mean his hostility to other writers. We had a glimpse of it in one of his conversations at West Point, in which he charged Campbell with plagiarism, and in the impression which he created in the mind of his listener that the whole bent of his mind was toward caviling, especially at passages which had received the most unequivocal stamp of general approval — a habit which impelled him to withhold praise alike from the living and dead. Tenacious of his opinions when a child, self-esteem grew with his growth and strengthened with his strength, until confidence became audacity. Deficient in reverence, he questioned authority, and derided achievement. Like Iago, he was nothing if not critical, and the motto of his self-sufficient spirit was Nil admirari. Literary history abounds with instances of young writers who have delighted to run amuck at established reputations, and with other (but fewer) instances of old writers who have persisted in the same dangerous amusement. It is a weakness incident to youth and ambition, but it is one which sound minds outgrow, sooner or later — the sooner the better for their happiness, and the intellectual value of their work. I do not think that Poe ever outgrew it, or sought to outgrow it. He believed that his readers loved havoc; Mr. Burton, on the contrary, believed that they loved justice. And he was right, as the criticisms of Poe have proved, for they have failed to commend themselves to the good sense of his countrymen. His narrow but acute mind enabled him to detect the verbal faults of those whom he criticised, but it disqualified him from perceiving [page lxxxix:] their mental qualities. He mastered the letter, hut the spirit escaped him. Ho advanced no critical principle which he established; he attacked no critical principle which he overthrew. He broke a few butterflies ou his wheel, but he destroyed no reputation. He was a powerless iconoclast.

Poe’s connection with Mr. Burton is said to have lasted about a year, and to have ceased in June, 1840. We know next to nothing about him personally at this time, the little that has reached us being exceedingly vague and colorless. He had one acquaintance, Captain Mayne Reid, a voluminous Irish writer of books of adventure for juvenile readers, by whom he was often visited at his residence in Spring Garden, a pleasant suburb of Philadelphia. His house, which was a small one, was beautified by flowers, enlivened by the singing of birds, and illuminated by the presence of his young wife, who is described as angelically beautiful in person, and not less beautiful in spirit. “No one who remembers that dark-eyed, dark-haired daughter of the South; her face so exquisitely lovely; her gentle, graceful demeanor; no one who has ever spent an hour in her society, but will indorse what I have said of this lady, who was the most delicate realization of the poet’s ideal. But the bloom upon her cheek was too pure, too bright for earth. It was consumption’s color — that sadly beautiful light that beckons to an early grave.” Watching over these unfortunate Babes in the Wood was the poet’s mother-in-law, Mrs. Clemm, whom Captain Reid described as one of our grand American mothers. “She was the ever-vigilant guardian of the house, watching over the comfort of her two children, keeping everything neat and clean, so as to please the fastidious eyes of the poet; going to market, and bringing home the little delicacies that their limited means would allow; going to publishers with a poem, a critique, or a story, and often returning without the much-needed money.” Such was Mrs. Clemm, as she lingered in the shadowy memory of Captain Reid, [page xc:] who unconsciously added to her employments, I think, the tradition of what she was to Poe in the latter years of his life. I do not see, at any rate, why she should have tried to peddle his manuscripts while he was the editor of the Gentleman’s Magazine, nor who was likely to have purchased them in the brief interval between his leaving it and becoming the editor of Graham’s Magazine, which was a consolidation, so to speak, of that periodical with a lesser one, entitled The Casket, which was owned by Mr. George R. Graham, a Philadelphia editor, who naturally bestowed his name upon his new intellectual offspring. This was in November, 1840.

The editor of Graham’s Magazine was as notable a personage forty years ago as the editor of the Atlantic or Scribner’s to-day. Judged by the present standard, it was rather an indifferent publication, but it was the best there was then, and to contribute to it was a distinction, as it was once to contribute to the North American Review. For what he was and had done, the choice of Poe as its editor was a good one. He was known as a writer of short stories — much better known, indeed, than Hawthorne, who might have been a dangerous rival, if anybody had happened to discover his genius in that direction — and he was known as a merciless critic. His reputation in this last capacity did not endear him to his brother authors, but it did not disincline the crowd from reading his criticisms. They loved justice, no doubt, but they were in no hurry to have it administered.

I shall not follow Poe, while he was editor of Graham’s Magazine, further than to say that the quickening of his ratiocinative faculties at that time led him to write three of his most ingenious stories, “The Murders of the Rue Morgue,” “The Mystery of Marie Roget,” and “The Purloined Letter,” and to engage in the profitless task of unriddling writings in cipher. He was brought in contact with the authors of Philadelphia, which occupied an intellectual position to which it has no claim at [page xci:] present, among others with the Rev. Rufus Wilmot Griswold, who was coming into notice as a man of letters. A native of Vermont, and a descendant on the mother’s side from Thomas May hew, the first governor of the spacious domain entitled Martha’s Vineyard, Dr. Griswold had forsaken his vocation as a Baptist minister, and had attached himself to literature, as he understood it, and had published a volume of poems, and a volume of sermons, which last he is declared to have delivered from the pulpit with taste and eloquence. He was a man of considerable talent and great industry, with a passion for compiling from the works of his betters, and when Poe made his, acquaintance, in the spring of 1841, he was engaged upon a bulky volume on “The Poets and Poetry of America.” They met one morning, either at the office of Graham’s Magazine, or at Poe’s bouse, and had a long conversation about American writers, especially those who were to be represented in this volume, in which Poe was naturally desirous to appear. A few days later (March 29th), he sent to Dr. Griswold a collection of liis poems, from which he was to select any that pleased his fancy, and called his attention to one in particular, “The Haunted Palace,” which he declared that Mr. Longfellow had plagiarized. It was first published, he said, in Brooks’ Museum, a monthly journal of Baltimore, and was afterwards embodied by him in “The House of Usher,” which was printed in the Gentleman’s Magazine about a year and a half before. “Here it was, I suppose, that Professor Longfellow saw it; for, about six weeks afterwards, there appeared in the Southern Literary Messenger a poem by him called ‘The Beleaguered City,’ which may now be found in his volume. The identity in title is striking, for by ‘The Haunted Palace’ I mean to imply a mind haunted by phantoms — a disordered brain — and by ‘The Beleaguered City’ Prof. L. means just the same. But the whole tournure of the poem is based upon mine, as you will see at once. The allegorical [page xcii:] conduct, the style of its expression and versification — all are mine. As I understood you to say that you meant to preface each set of poems by some biographical notice, I have ventured to send you the above memoranda, the particulars of which (in a case where an author is so little known as myself) might not be easily obtained elsewhere.” I cannot believe that Poe really believed in the truth of the charge which he brought against Mr. Longfellow in this letter, for to do so would shake my faith in the soundness of his mind. I can see no resemblance in the allegorical conduct of the poems in question, and certainly in the style of their versification and expression they are as unlike as two poems well can be.

Dr. Griswold published his magnum opus, which Poe obtained from its publishers in order to review it. “I like it decidedly,” he wrote to its compiler. “It is of immense importance as a guide to what we have done; but you have permitted your good nature to influence you to a degree. I would have omitted at least a dozen whom you have quoted, and I can think of five or six that should have been in. But with all its faults — you see I am perfectly frank with you — it is a better book than any other man in the United States could have made of the materials. This I will say.” Not long after writing this note, which was without date, Poe wrote a letter to Mr. Frederick William Thomas, an industrious man of letters, who considered himself a Southerner, though he was born in Rhode Island, and who was known as the author of three novels, the latest of which, “Howard Pinckney,” was published in 1840. The letter explains itself, but does not explain the circumstances of its writer, whose salary as the editor of Graham’s Magazine ought to have been large enough to preclude him from seeking clerical employment in Washington.

“MY DEAR THOMAS: — With this I mail you the July No. of the [page xciii:] Mag. If you can get us a notice in the Intelligencer, as you said, I will take it as a particular favor; but if it is inconvenient, do not put yourself to trouble about it.

“I have just heard through Graham, who obtained his information from In graham, that you have stepped into an office at Washington, salary $1,000. From the bottom of my heart I wish you joy. You can now lucubrate at your ease, and will infallibly do something worthy yourself.

“For my own part, notwithstanding Graham’s unceasing civility and real kindness, I feel more and more disgusted with my situation. Would to God I could do as you have done. Do you seriously think that an application on my part to Tyler would have a good result? My claims, to be sure, are few. I am a Virginian — at least I call myself one, for I have resided all my life, until within the last few years, in Richmond. My political principles have always been, as nearly as may be, with the existing administration, and I battled with right good will for Harrison, when opportunity offered. With Mr. Tyler I have some slight personal acquaintance, although it is a matter which he has possibly forgotten. For the rest, I am a literary man, and I see a disposition in Government to cherish letters. Have I any chance? I would be greatly indebted to you if you would reply to this as soon as you can, and tell me if it would, in your opinion, be worth my while to make an effort; and, if so, put me on the right track. This could not be better done than by detailing to me your own mode of proceeding.

“It appears that Ingraham is in high dudgeon because I spoke ill of his ‘Quadroone.’ I am really sorry to hear it; but it is a matter that cannot be helped. As a man, I like him much, and whenever I could do so, without dishonor to my own sense of truth, I have praised his writings. His ‘South-West,’ for example, I lauded highly. His ‘Quadroone,’ is, in my honest [page xciv:] opinion, trash. If I must call it a good book to preserve the friendship of Prof. Ingraham, Prof. Ingraham may go to the devil.

“I am really serious about the office. If you can assist me in any way, I am sure you will. Remember me kindly to Dow, and believe me. Yours most truly,


At the end of this letter, which was dated “Philadelphia, June 26, ‘41,” he added the following words in pencil: “It is not impossible that you could effect my object by merely showing this letter yourself personally to the President, and speaking of me as the original editor of the Messenger.”

Eight days later (July 4), Poe wrote again to Mr. Thomas:

“MY DEAR THOMAS: — I received yours of the 1st, this morning, and have again to thank you for the interest you take in my welfare. I wish to God I could visit ‘Washington, but — the old story, you know — I have no money; not enough to take me there, saying nothing of getting back. It is a hard thing to be poor; but as as I am kept so by an honest motive I dare not complain.

“Your suggestion about Mr. Kennedy is well-timed, and here, Thomas, you can do me a true service. Call upon Kennedy — you know him, I believe; if not, introduce yourself — he is a perfect gentleman, and will give you cordial welcome. Speak to him of my wishes, and urge him to see the Secretary of War in my behalf, or one of the other Secretaries, or President Tyler. I mention in particular the Secretary of War, because I have been to W. Point, and this may stand me in some stead. I would be glad to get almost any appointment, even a $500 one, so that I have something independent of letters for a subsistence. To coin one’s brain into silver, at the nod of a master, is, to my [page xcv:] thinking, the hardest task in the world. Mr. Kennedy has been, at all times, a true friend to me — he was the first true friend I ever had — I am indebted to him for life itself. He will be willing to help me now, but needs urging, for he is always head and ears in business. Thomas, may I depend on you! By the way, I wrote to Mr. K. about ten days ago on the subject of a magazine, a project of mine in connection with Graham, and have not yet heard from him. Ten to one I misdirected the letter, or sent it to Baltimore, for I am very thoughtless about such matters.

“So you will set me down as ‘a magician’ if I decipher your friend’s cryptograph. No sooner suggested than done. Tell him to read this: ‘In one of those peripatetic circumrotations I obviated a rustic whom we subjected to a catechetical interrogation respecting the characteristics of the edifice to which he was approximate. With a volubility uncongealed by the fiigorific powers of vallatin bashfulness, he ejaculated a voluminous replication, from the universal tenor of whose contents I deduct the subsequent amalgamation of heterogeneous facts without dubiety,’” etc.

Poe then proceeded to give the key-note of the cryptograph, and a number of the abbreviations used by its composer, — triangles, brackets, and what not in the way of arbitrary characters, which cannot be reproduced here, — and resumed the thread of his letter. “This, you will admit, is altogether beyond the limit of my challenge, which extended only to ciphers such as that of Berryer. You will also admit that phrases constructed for purposes of deception (as your friend’s) are infinitely more difficult of perusal than a cipher intended for actual conveyance of one’s natural ideas. The truth is, that Dr. Fraley’s cryptograph is inadmissible as such, because it cannot be readily deciphered by the person to whom it is addressed, and who possesses the key. In proof of this, I will publish it in the Mag., [page xcvi:] with a reward to any one who shall read It with the key, and I am pretty sure that no one will be found to do it.

“I have not meddled with the first cryptograph, for I thought the Dr.’s scepticism would be sufficiently set at rest by my solution of the longer one, and, to say truth, I am exceedingly busy just now. Let him insist, however, and read is the word. Nothing intelligible can be written, which, with time, I cannot decipher. No more difficult cipher can be constructed than the one he has sent. It embodies all the essentials of abstruseness, and is very clever.

“As I mean to publish it this month, will you be kind enough to get from his hand an acknowledgment of my solution, adding your own acknowledgment, in such form that I may append both to the cipher by way of note? I wish to do this because I am seriously accused of humbug in this matter, a thing I despise. People will not believe I really decipher the puzzles. Write by return of mail. Yours truly,

“E. A. Poe.

“State that I deciphered it by return of mail, — as I do.”

The idea of an office under Government, which was entertained by Poe when he wrote the two letters just quoted, was entertained by him for more than a year later, during which time he seems to have been buoyed up by the hope that he would obtain it. He had ceased to be the editor of Graham’s Magazine when he wrote his third letter to Mr. Thomas.

“PHILADELPHIA, Sept. 12, 1842.

“MY DEAR THOMAS: — I did not receive yours of the 2d until yesterday, why, God only knows, as I either went or sent every day to the Post-Office. Neither have I seen Mr. Beard, who, I presume, had some difficulty in finding my residence. Since you were here I have moved out in the neighborhood of Fairmount. [page xcvii:] I have often heard of Beard, from friends who know him personally, and should have been glad to make his acquaintance.

“A thousand sincere thanks for your kind offices in the matter of the appointment. So far, nothing has been done here in the way of reform. Thos. S. Smith is to have the Collectorship, but it appears has not yet received his commission, a fact which occasions much surprise among the quid-nuncs.

“Should I obtain the office — and, of course, I can no longer doubt that I shall obtain it — I shall feel that to you alone I am indebted. You have shown yourself a true friend, and I am not likely to forget it, however impotent I may be, now or hereafter, to reciprocate your many kindnesses. I would give the world to clasp you by the hand and assure you personally of my gratitude. I hope it will not be very long before we meet.

“In the event of getting the place, I am undetermined what literary course to pursue; much will depend upon the salary. Graham has made me a good offer to return. He is not especially pleased with Griswold, nor is any one else, with the exception of the Rev. gentleman himself, who has gotten himself into quite a hornet’s nest by his ‘Poets and Poetry.’ It appears you gave him personal offence by delay in replying to his demand for information touching Mrs. Welby, I believe, or somebody else. Hence his omission of you in the body of the book; for he had prepared quite a long article from my MS., and had selected several pages for quotation. He is a pretty fellow to set himself up for an honest judge, or even as a capable one. About two months since, we were talking of the book, when I said that I thought of reviewing it in full for the Democratic Review, but found my design anticipated by an article from that ass O’Sullivan, and that I knew no other work in which a notice would be readily admissible. Griswold said, in reply: ‘You need not trouble yourself about the publication of the review, should you decide upon writing it, for I will attend to all that. I will [page xcviii:] get it in some reputable work, and look to it for the usual pay, in the meantime handing you whatever your charge would be.’ This, you see, was an ingenious insinuation of a bribe to puff his book. I accepted his offer forthwith, and wrote the review, handed it to him, and received from him the compensation; he never daring to look over the MS. in my presence, and taking it for granted that ah was right. But that review has not yet appeared, and I am doubtful if it ever will. I wrote it precisely as I would have written under ordinary circumstances, and be sure there was no predominance of praise.

“Should I go back to Graham, I will endeavor to bring about some improvements in the general appearance of the magazine, and above all to get rid of the quackery which now infects it.

“If I do not get the appointment, I should not be surprised if I joined Foster in the establishment of a Mag. in New York. He has made me an offer to join him. I suppose you know that he now edits the Aurora.

“Touching your poem. Should you publish it, Boston offers the best facilities; but I feel sure that you will get no publisher to print it, except on your own account. Reason — Copy-Right Laws. However, were I in your place, and could contrive in any way, I would print it et my own expense — of course without reference to emolument, which is not to be hoped. It would make only a small volume, and the cost of publishing it, even in such style as Hoffman’s last poems, could not be much, absolutely. It should be handsomely printed, or not at all.

“When is Rob. Tyler to issue his printed poem?

“Have you seen how Benjamin and Tasistro have been playing Kilkenny cats with each other? I have always told Graham that Tasistro stole everything worth reading which he offered for sale.:

“What is it about Ingraham? He has done for himself, in the opinion of all honest men, by his chicaneries. [page xcix:]

“I am happy to say that Virginia’s health has slightly improved. My spirits are proportionately good. Perhaps all will yet go well. ‘Write soon, and believe mc ever your true friend,


The difference of temperament between Poe and Dr. Griswold prevented any friendship between them, particularly after Poe had been supplanted, as he conceived himself to be, by Dr. Griswold as the editor of Graham’s Magazine. Neither could like the other personally, and intellectually they were as far asunder as the poles. It was natural that Dr. Griswold should believe in the excellence of his “Poets and Poetry of America,” and it was equally natural that Poe should question it. It was his business as a critic to find fault, at any rate it was his habit to do so, and Dr. Griswold did not escape his censure, as well as that of most of the living poets whom he had included in his book, to say nothing of those whom he had excluded from it. Poe seems to have expressed his opinions of it freely, and, at a later period, to have delivered a lecture upon the subject which it professed to cover, and to have reviewed it sharply.

We have three glimpses of Poe at this time (or near it), one by Dr. Griswold, another by Mr. Graham, and a third by Mr. T. C. Clarke. “His manner,” Dr. Griswold wrote, “except during his fits of intoxication, was very quiet and gentlemanly; he was usually dressed with simplicity and elegance; and when once he sent for me to visit him, during a period of illness, caused by protracted and anxious watching at the side of his sick wife, I was impressed by the singular neatness and the air of refinement in his home. It was in a small house, in one of the pleasant and silent neighborhoods far from the center of the town, and though slightly and cheaply furnished, everything in it was so tasteful and so fitly disposed, that it seemed altogether suitable for a man of genius. For this, and for most of the comforts he [page c:] enjoyed in his brightest as well as his darkest years, he was chiefly indebted to his mother-in-law, who loved him with more than maternal devotion and constancy.”

Mr. Graham informs us that he saw him almost daily for eighteen months, much of the time writing or conversing at the same desk, and knowing all his hopes, his fears, and little annoyances of life, as well as his high-hearted struggle with adverse fate, and that he was always the same polished gentleman, the quiet, unobtrusive, thoughtful scholar, the devoted husband, frugal in his personal expenses, punctual and unwearied in his industry, and the soul of honor in all his transactions. “I shall never forget how solicitous of the happiness of his wife and mother-in-law he was whilst one of the editors of Graham’s Magazine; his whole efforts seemed to be to procure the comfort and welfare of his home. Except for their happiness, and the natural ambition of having a magazine of his own, I never heard him deplore the want of wealth. The truth is, he cared little for money, and knew less of its value, for he seemed to have no personal expenses. What he received from me, in regular monthly installments, went directly into the hands of his mother-in-law, for family comforts, and twice only I remember his purchasing some rather expensive luxuries for his house, and then he was nervous to the degree of misery until he had, by extra articles, covered what he considered an imprudent indebtedness. His love for his wife was a sort of rapturous worship of the spirit of beauty, which he felt was fading before his eyes. I have seen him hovering around her when she was ill, with all the fond fear and tender anxiety of a mother for her first-born, her slightest cough causing him a shudder, a heart-chill that was visible. I rode out, one summer evening, with them, and the remembrance of his watchful eyes eagerly bent upon the slightest change of hue in that loved face, haunts me yet as the memory of a sad strain. It was the hourly anticipation of her loss that [page ci:] made him a sad and thoughtful man, and lent a mournful melody to his undying song.”

The description of Poe’s residence by Mr. Clarke, Poe’s third reminiscent, hardly bears out the idea of the poverty which we associate with him at this time, and to which he referred so feelingly in his letter to Mr. Thomas. The house in which he lived had a garden-like space in front, which, in summer, was overflowing with vines, while the house itself in winter was ornamented with choice flowers. The hospitality of Poe made his home the home of his friends, and endeared his household to that of Mr. Clarke, who were much attached to Mrs. Poe, whose hours of sickness were a source of anxiety to all who knew her. Patient in her loneliness, her face was lighted with a smile of resignation, and with a cheerful greeting to her friends. Mr. Clarke mentions an instance of her playful buoyancy of spirits which it is pleasant to remember: “Our little daughter passing the day with her favorite friend, enlivened the hours with her childish songs. There was one which she hinted knowledge of, but positively refused to sing, and it was not until after repeated solicitations from Virginia that the child ventured upon —

‘I never would be married, and be called Mistress Poe, Goody Poe.’

‘Mistress Poe’ received the song with peal upon peal of laughter, and insisted, in her exuberance of spirits, on having the homely melody repeated. Upon parting, Virginia gave the child a keepsake, which the recipient, no longer a child, now cherishes in memory of the fair and gentle donor. On leaving Philadelphia for New York, when breaking up their simple, fairy-like home, we were favored with some of their pet flowers, which, preserved and framed, remain in our household to this day as interesting relics of those happy days with Edgar and Virginia.”

Poe had, for several years, cherished what Mr. Graham called the natural ambition of having a magazine of his own, and, after [page cii:] he had ceased to be the editor of Graham’s Magazine, he set to work to accomplish that object. The first title which suggested itself for the projected periodical, “The Penn Magazine,” was finally abandoned as being somewhat too local in its suggestions, and “The Stylus” adopted in its stead. Poe drew up a prospectus in which the necessity of a monthly journal like “The Stylus” was set forth; its size, typography, and so on were described; and its general intentions defined. It would discuss the Belles Letters, the Pine Arts, and the Drama, and give every month a Retrospect of our Political Situation. It would support the general interests of the Republic of Letters, would resist the dictation of Foreign Reviews, and would eschew the stilted dullness of our own Quarterlies. An important feature, and one which would be introduced in the opening number, would be a series of Critical and Biographical Sketches of American Writers, which would be accompanied with full-length and characteristic portraits; would include every person of literary note in America; and would investigate carefully, and with vigorous impartiality, the individual claims of each. This prospectus, which was signed by “Clarke & Poe,” was preceded, or followed, by an agreement between these parties and Mr. Felix O. C. Darley, the artist, who agreed to furnish, not more than five, nor less than three, original designs for “The Stylus” monthly, for a certain sum per drawing, the amounts to be paid quarterly, beginning from the date of the agreement, which was “this thirty-first day of January, A.D. one thousand eight hundred and forty-three (1843).”

The impracticability of Poe (and I cannot but think of Mr. Clarke also) was shown in a visit which Poe made to Washington in the spring of this year (March, 1843), in order to interest President Tyler and his Cabinet in the success of “The Stylus.” It was an absurd idea, and it resulted in nothing but in the sending of Poe back to Philadelphia by his friends. Disappointed in his [page ciii:] editorial aspirations, he returned to literature, and obtaining from Mr. Graham a story entitled “The Gold Bug,” which he had sold him for his periodical, he sent it to The Dollar Magazine [[Dollar Newspaper]], of Philadelphia, which had offered a prize of one hundred dollars for the best prose story, which prize he immediately carried off from all competitors, as he had carried off the prize of the Saturday Visitor some nine or ten years before. This, I believe, was shortly after his return from Washington. In the following autumn he made his appearance as a lecturer in Baltimore and Philadelphia, his subject being the thorny one of American Poetry. His lecture, which aroused the ire of Dr. Griswold, was kindly mentioned in print by his friend, Mr. Clarke, who was connected with a publication called The Museum. ‘’We have not leisure this week,” he wrote, “to give even a brief outline of the lecture, the character of which may be inferred from the reputation which Mr. Poe has so extensively enjoyed as a severe and impartial critic. Added to this important qualification, the fact of the lecturer himself possessing talents as a poet of a high order, and therefore more capable of more truly appreciating his subject with great analytical power, and that command of language and strength of voice which enables a speaker to give full expression to whatever he may desire to say, it will readily be perceived that the lecturer, on Tuesday evening, combined qualities which are rarely associated in a public speaker. With the exception of some occasional severity, which, however merited, may have appeared somewhat too personal, the lecturer gave general satisfaction, especially the portions in which the eloquent sonnets of Judge Conrad on the Lord’s Prayer were introduced. The judicious reading of these created a marked sensation.” It was, no doubt, an honor to Judge Conrad to have his sacred effusions read by so distinguished a critic as Poe, but it was of no avail to his reputation, such as it was, which was based upon a melodrama which was written by him for Mr. Edwin Forrest, and which is [page civ:] seldom or never played now. He was one of Poe’s successors on Graham’s Magazine, and died in 1858, in his forty-eighth year.

Poe and his family flitted back to New York late in the summer, or early in the autumn, of 1844. Precisely what led to his change of residence is not intelligently stated; but it was probably the hope of more literary employment than he could obtain in Philadelphia. It was certainly a reasonable hope, for, not to speak of the journals of New York, the number of which largely exceeded that of Philadelphia, it maintained several periodicals, among which may be mentioned the Democratic Review, The Knickerbocker, Hunt’s Merchants’ Magazine, The Columbian, and The Lady’s Companion. Where he first set up his household (minus the pet flowers, which he had left with the family of Mr. Clarke) I am unable to state, for during his five years’ residence in New York, his name at no time appears in the City Directory. It is safe to say that he was as well known as any American magazinist, and that he stood well with the literary brotherhood, in spite of his reputation as a savage critic. If any of the craft had reason to complain of his criticisms, it was Mr. Longfellow, who was too popular, however, to be affected by them. He was on the best of terms with Mr. James Russell Lowell, who wrote at his suggestion a biography of him for a future number of Graham’s Magazine, and announced the fact in the following letter, which is the first that I have seen addressed to Poe at this period.

“ELMWOOD, Sept. 27, 1844.

“MY DEAR FRIEND: I kept back the biography a short time in order to send it on by a private hand. It is not half so good as it ought to be, but it was written under many disadvantages, not the least of which was depression of spirits which unfits a man for anything. I wish you to make any suggestions about it that may occur to you, and to reject it entirely if you do not like it. [page cv:]

“I have mentioned Chatterton in it rather too slightingly; will you be good enough to modify what I say of him a little? His ‘Minstrel’s Song in Ella’ is better than the rest of his writings.

“You will find the package at No. 1 Nassau Street, up stairs. It was addressed to the care of C. F. Briggs. If his name is not upon the door, you will probably see the name of ‘Dougherty’ or ‘Jones.’ As ever, your friend,


The first known literary employment of any account which Poe is known to have obtained in New York was upon the New Mirror, of which Mr. ‘Willis and Mr. George P. Morris were the nominal editors. It was, I believe, a continuation of the New York Mirror, an entertaining literary miscellany for which Mr. Willis had written his famous “Pencillings by the Way” about ten years before, and which, in its new form held a good place among the evening journals of America. Poe was engaged as a critic and sub-editor by Messrs. Willis and Morris, who now made their first personal acquaintance with him, and he was associated with them for several months, which covered, I imagine, the latter part of the autumn of 1844 and the early part of the winter of 1845. If the recollections of Mr. Willis were accurate, Poe was a suburban citizen of New York. “He resided with his wife and mother at Fordham, a few miles out of town, but was at his desk in the office from nine in the morning till the evening paper went to press. With the highest admiration for his genius, and a willingness to let it atone for more than ordinary irregularity, we were led by common report to expect a very capricious attention to his duties, and occasionally a scene of violence and difficulty. Time went on, however, and he was invariably punctual and industrious. With his pale beautiful and intellectual face, as a reminder of what genius was [page cvi:] in him, it was impossible, of course, not to treat him with deferential courtesy; and, to our occasional request that he would not probe too deep in a criticism, or that he would erase a passage colored too highly with his resentments against society and mankind, he readily and courteously assented — far more yielding than most men, we thought, on points so excusably sensitive. With the prospect of taking the lead in another periodical, he at last voluntarily gave up his employment with us, and, through all this considerable period, we had seen but one presentment of the man — a quiet, patient, industrious, and most gentlemanly person, commanding the utmost respect and good feeling by his unvarying deportment and ability.”

Poe’s reputation when he came to New York the second time depended mostly on his tales, a walk of literature in which he may be said to have stood alone — for Hawthorne, who had published the second series of his “Twice-Told Tales” two years before, was still the most obscure man in America — and upon his critical notices, which continued to hit the taste of the reading public; but his reputation as a poet had yet to be determined. Reputation of a certain sort he had no doubt, but it was confined among a few, and was inferior to that of Mr. Bryant, Mr. Longfellow, and Mr. Hallack, and possibly, to that of Mr. Willis and Mr. Morris. He had yet to show what he could do — to write one poem about which there could be no dispute, and which would make him famous. It appeared anonymously in the American Review, for February, 1845, but was at once attributed by the judicious to the only man in America who could have written it. Of course I refer to “The Raven,” which was credited to an unknown versifier. — “Quarles,” whose effusion was commended to the readers of the American Review in this clumsy fashion: ‘’ The following lines from a correspondent, besides the quaint strain of the sentiment, and the curious introduction of some ludicrous touches amidst the serious and [page cvii:] impressive, as was doubtless intended by the author — appear to us one of the most felicitious specimens of unique rhyming which has for some time met our eye. The resources of English rhythm for variations of melody, measure, and sound, producing corresponding diversities of effect, have been thoroughly studied, much more perceived, by very few poets in the language. While the classic tongues, especially the Greek, possess, by power of accent, several advantages for versification over our own, chiefly through greater abundance of spondaic feet, we have other and very great advantages of sound by the modern usage of rhyme. Alliteration is nearly the only effect of the kind which the ancients had in common with us. It will be seen that much of the melody of ‘The Raven’ arises from alliteration, and the studious use of similar sounds in unusual places. In regard to its measure, it may be noted that, if all the verses were like the second, they might possibly be placed in short lines, producing a not uncommon form; but the presence in all the others of one line — mostly the second in the verse — which flows continuously, with only an aspirate pause in the middle, like that before the short line in the Sapphic Adonic, while the fifth has at the middle pause no similarity of sound with any part beside, gives the versification an entirely different effect. We could wish the capacity of our noble language in prosody, were better understood.” This curious, not to say bewildering introduction, which was signed by the editor of the American Review, if not written by, was certainly inspired by Poe.

“The Raven” was published anonymously, as I have said, but Mr. Willis, who was in the secret of its authorship, transferred it to his journal as the production of Poe, and gave it the following send-off: “We regard it as the most effective single example of fugitive poetry ever published in this country, and it is unsurpassed in English poetry for the subtle conception, masterly [page cviii:] ingenuity of versification, and consistent sustaining of imaginative lift.” It was widely copied in the papers of the day, and, if anything can ever be said to be talked about, in so commercial a country as this, it was a frequent subject of conversation. It enlarged Poe’s circle of acquaintance among the literati of New York, and introduced him to a new set of admirers. Among others whom it drew to him was Mrs. Frances Sargent Osgood, the most airy and graceful of American female poets, whose reminiscences of Poe are extant in print. “My first meeting with the poet was at the Astor House. A few days previous, Mr. Willis had handed me, at the table d’hote, that strange and thrilling poem entitled ‘The Raven,’ saying that the author wanted my opinion of it. Its effect upon me was so singular, so like that of ‘wierd, unearthly music,’ that it was with a feeling almost of dread I heard he desired an introduction. Yet I could not refuse without seeming ungrateful, because I had just heard of his enthusiastic and partial eulogy of my writings, in his lecture on American Literature. I shall never forget the morning when I was summoned to the drawingroom by Mr. Willis to receive him. With his proud and beautiful head erect, his dark eyes flashing with the elective light of feeling and thought, a peculiar, an inimitable blending of sweetness and hauteur in his expression and manner, he greeted me calmly, gravely, almost coldly; yet with so marked an earnestness that I could not help being deeply impressed by it. From that moment until his death we were friends; although we met only during the first year of our acquaintance. And in his last words, ere reason had forever left her imperial throne in that overtasked brain, I have a touching memento of his undying faith and friendship.”

Poe’s introduction to Mrs. Osgood must have taken place several weeks after the original publication of “The Raven,” for the lecture on American Literature to which she referred was delivered [page cix:] at the Society Library in the following month (March, 1845). About this time, or probably a little later, the Raven had taken flight to England, where it met the eye of Miss Elizabeth Barrett Barrett, who had recently published the first collected edition of her poetical writings, and who expressed her opinion of this ominous bird of yore in a letter addressed, I believe, to Poe. “This vivid writing “ — she remarked, ‘’ this power which is felt — has produced a sensation here in England. Some of my friends are taken by the fear of it, and some by the music. I hear of persons who are haunted by the ‘Nevermore,’ and an acquaintance of mine who has the misfortune of possessing a bust of Pallas cannot bear to look at it in the twilight.” Miss Barrett Barrett’s private opinion of “The Raven,” which she communicated freely May 12, 1845, to Mr. Richard Hengist Home, the author of “Orion,” was less favorable. “Your friend, Mr. Poe, is a speaker of strong words in both kinds. But I hope you will assure him from me that I am grateful for his reviews, and in no complaining humor at all. As to the ‘Raven’ tell me what you think about it! There is certainly a power — but it does not appear to me the natural expression of a sane intellect in whatever mood; and I think this should be specified in the title of the poem. There is a fantasticalness about the ‘sir or madam,’ and things of the sort, which is ludicrous, unless there is a specified insanity to justify the straws. Probably he — the author — intended it to be read in the poem, and he ought to have intended it. The rhythm acts excellently upon the imagination, and the ‘nevermore’ has a solemn chime with it. Don’t get me into a scrape. The ‘pokerishness’ (just gods! what Mohawk English!) might be found fatal, peradventure. Besides — just because I have been criticised, I would not criticise. And I am of opinion that there is an uncommon force and effect in the poem.” Miss Barrett Barrett declined to criticise, because she had been criticised, but she could not resist telling her correspondent [page cx:] that Poe seemed to her in a great mist on the subject of metre, and that he sat somewhat loosely on his classics, inasmuch as he had attributed the “Œdipus Colonoeus” to Æschylus. If she had cared to dwell upon the subject of metre, she might have intimated that the measure of “The Raven” (in spite of the difference between them) had evidently been suggested by the measure of her “Lady Geraldine’s Courtship,” and might have produced a verbal proof that Poe had read that poem before writing his own. The resemblance between one of her lines and one of his lines is too close to be accidental. Here it is.

“With a rustling stir, uncertain in the air, the purple curtain.”

(E. B. B.)

“And the silken sad uncertain rustling of each purple curtain.”

(E. A. P.)

Poe has told us how he came to write “The Raven,” in a prose paper entitled ‘’ The Philosophy of Composition,’‘ but for one, I have never been able to persuade myself that it was so written. The vocal value of the refrain “Nevermore,” upon which he lays so much stress, is undoubted; but unfortunately for him, its vocal value had been discovered four or five years before by Mr. Lowell in his ‘’ Threnodia,” of which it is the refrain. The use of the refrain, by the way, is not so universal as Poe would have us believe in “The Philosophy of Composition,” nor do I think it ever likely to become so, for the more it is used the more artificial its effect becomes. If one could fix the date of the old English and Scottish ballads of which it is so important a feature, one might approximate to the date of its origin. A very early use of it, in what may be called poetic as distinguished from ballad literature, occurs in the old poem of ‘’ The Nut-Brown Maid,” which goes back to the beginning of the sixteenth century. Readers of Shakespeare will recall it in the delightful songs of Hiems and Ver at the end of “Love’s Labor Lost”; in the ditty [page cxi:] sung by Balthazar in the second act of “Much Ado about Nothing” (“Sigh no more, ladies”); in the Clown’s Song at the end of “The Twelfth Night” (“When that I was and a little tiny boy”); in the songs of Amiens in “As You Like it” (“Under the greenwood tree,” and “Blow, blow, thou winter wind”); and in the willow song of Desdemona in the fourth act of “Othello.” It twinkles, in easy French, in the song of Infida in Greene’s “Never too late” (1590); it is radiant in the perfect little hymn to Diana in Jonson’s “Cynthia’s Revels” (1600); and it lends a pastoral charm to one of Sedley’s lyrics in praise of his Phillis:

“Phillis, without frown or smile,

Sat and knotted all the while.”

It was more highly valued, I think, by the poets of Scotland than those of England, among whom it gradually fell into disuse, the most prominent modern exception to the rule being the young Tennyson, in his two songs to the Owl, the “Recollections of the Arabian Nights,” “The Sisters,” and “The Ballad of Oriana.” The young Longfellow transplanted it into American literature in a spirited translation of a little German song (“I know a maiden fair to see”), in his “Hyperion,” which was published in the year that Mr. Lowell wrote his “Threnodia” (1839), and five years before Poe wrote “The Raven.” The most striking of all Poe’s poems, “The Raven,” was originally printed substantially as it stands now, with the exception of the eleventh stanza, which concluded as follows:

“Followed fast and followed faster, so when Hope he would abjure,

Stern Despair returned, instead of the sweet Hope he dared abjure —

The sad answer — ‘Nevermore.’”

The month of February, 1845, was an important epoch in the career of Poe, for in addition to the publication of “The Raven,” [page cxii:] it witnessed the publication of his biography by Mr. Lowell in the pages of Graham’s Magazine. It was a generous tribute from one man of genius to another, but it was singularly in accurate in several important particulars. It stated, for example, that Poe was graduated with the highest honors of his class at the University of Virginia, when he was never graduated at all, no provision for conferring degrees of any kind having been made while he was a student there. It mentioned a boyish attempt on his part to join the fortunes of the insurgent Greeks, which ended at St. Petersburg, where he got into difficulties through want of a passport, from which he was rescued by the American Consul and sent home — a romantic adventure which had no foundation in fact, other than that something of the sort is said to have happened to his brother William Henry. It stated, further, that he obtained a dismissal from ‘West Point on hearing of the birth of n son to his adopted father, the fact being that he was expelled for gross neglect of all duties and disobedience of orders. It stated, also, that the booklet of verse which he printed at Boston in 1827, and which he declared in his Baltimore volume had been suppressed through circumstances of a private nature, soon ran through three editions, and excited high expectations of its author’s future distinction in the minds of many competent judges! It contained a reprint of the lines “To Helen” (“Helen, thy beauty is to me”), the date of which was put back from the year in which they were first printed (1831), to 1823, his fourteenth year; and it purported to quote twelve lines from a poem named “Ligeia,” when they were really quoted from the second part of “Al Aaraaf.” With the exception of these trifling inaccuracies, Mr. Lowell’s paper was calculated to advance the reputation of Poe, and no doubt did so, for not long after it appeared, he made a collection of his poems which was published in New York, as well as a selection from his stories. He was in demand with the American Review, in the April number [page cxiii:] of which he laid his useful New York volume under contribution by reproducing “The Valley of Nis” as “The Valley of Unrest,” and “The Doomed City” as “The City in the Sea.”

His ambition, as we have seen, was to have a periodical of his own, and it was with this intention that he separated from Messrs. Willis and Morris, and became connected with The Broadway Journal. This periodical, a weekly about the size of The Nation, was commenced in January, 1845, and edited by Mr. Henry C. Watson, a young journalist from Philadelphia, whose specialty was musical criticism, and Mr. Charles F. Briggs, well known in New York as a clever journalist, and as the author of “Harry Franco” and “The Trippings of Tom Pepper.” Poe joined forces with them in the spring of 1845, and exploited himself as a metropolitan journalist. Read in the light of today, The Broadway Journal is a curious medley of good and bad writing, the bad, I think, predominating. It was savagely critical and bitterly personal, and dignity was absent from its columns. It astonished and amused its readers, which was probably all that Poe cared for. That he was continually in hot water on account of it could not have surprised and could hardly have amused him. It was useful to him, however, if to be feared is ever useful to a man of letters.

It was while he was one of the editors of The Broadway Journal that I became acquainted with Poe, and my remembrances of him, slight as they are, must be the excuse, if any is needed, for the apparent egotism of what follows. I was a young man, and I had a weakness not wholly confined to young men — I wrote verse, and thought it poetry. Something I had written assumed that pleasing form to my deluded imagination. It was an “Ode on a Grecian Flute.” I have a strong suspicion that I was fresh from the reading of Keats, and that I particularly admired his “Ode on a Grecian Urn.” Be this as it may, I sent my Ode to The Broadway Journal, I presume, with a note addressed to [page cxiv:] Edgar A. Poe, Esq., and waited with fear and trembling. One week, two weeks passed, and it did not appear. Evidently the demand for odes was slack. When I could bear my disappointment no longer, I made time to take a long walk to the office of The Broadway Journal, and asked for Mr. Poe. He was not in. Might I inquire where he lived? I was directed to a street and number that I have forgotten, but it was in the eastern part of the city, a neighborhood now given up to sundry of the tribes of Israel. I knocked at the street-door, and was presently shown up to Poe’s rooms, on the second or third floor. He received me very kindly. I told my errand, and he promised that my Ode should be printed next week. I was struck with his poetic manner, and the elegance of his appearance. He was slight and pale, I saw, with large luminous eyes, and was dressed in black. When I quitted the room I could not but see his wife, who was lying on a bed, apparently asleep. She, too, was dressed in black, and was pale and wasted. “Poor lady,” I thought, “she is dying of consumption.’‘ I was sad on her account, but glad on my own: for had I not seen a real live author, the great Edgar Allan Poe, and was not my Ode to be published at once in his paper?

I bought the next number of the Broadway Journal, but my Ode was not in it. It was mentioned, however, somewhat in this style: “We decline to publish the ‘Ode on a Grecian Flute,’ unless we can be assured of its authenticity.” I was astounded, as almost any young man would have been. I was indignant, also. I made time to take another long walk to the office of the Broadway Journal, and asked again for Mr. Poe. I was told that he was out, but would probably return in half an hour. I sauntered about, heating myself in the hot sun, and went back at the end of an hour. Poe had returned, and was in the inner office. He was sitting on a chair asleep, but the publisher woke him. He was in a morose mood. “Mr. Poe,” I [page cxv:] said, “I have called to assure you of the authenticity of the ‘Ode en a Grecian Flute.’” He gave me the lie direct, declared that I never wrote it, and threatened to chastise me unless I left him at once. I was more indignant and astounded than before; but I left him as he desired, and walked slowly home, ‘’chewing the cud of sweet and bitter fancies.” I could not understand why I had been subjected to such an indignity. I think I can now, when I come to ponder over the matter. I was rather nattered than otherwise, for had not the great Poe declared that I did aot write the poem, when I knew that I did? What a genius I must be!

I had glimpses of Poe afterward in the streets, but we never spoke. The last time that I remember to have seen him was in the afternoon of a dreary autumn day. A heavy shower had come up suddenly, and he was standing under an awning. I had an umbrella, and my impulse was to share it with him on his way home; but something — certainly not unkindness — withheld me. I went on and left him there in the rain, pale, shivering, miserable, the embodiment of his own unhappy master,

“Whom unmerciful Disaster followed fast and followed faster.”

If there had been any quarrel between Poe and Dr. Griswold, it was smoothed over shortly after Poe’s residence in New York, by a bulky volume upon which the reverend compiler was then engaged. This was “The Prose Writers of America,” in which Poe was naturally desirous of being represented. He addressed a note to Dr. Griswold, on January 10, 1845, in which he said, “Unless your opinions of my literary character are entirely changed, you will, I think, like something of mine, and you are welcome to whatever best pleases you, if you will permit me to furnish a corrected copy; but with your present feelings you can hardly do me justice in any criticism, and I shall be glad if you simply say after my name: Born, 1811; published Tales of the [page cxvi:] Grotesque and Arabesque iu 1839; has resided latterly in New York.” Dr. Griswold stated in his reply that he did not, under any circumstances, permit his personal relations to influence the expression of his opinions as a critic, and inclosed to Poe the proof-sheets of what he had written before he received his note. Poe responded becomingly, and invited him to call upon him about ten, any morning, at the office of the Mirror. It is to be presumed he did so, and that a friendly understanding was arrived at. At any rate, letters were exchanged as if nothing had happened, and “copy “was supplied for the forthcoming work. “I send you with this another package,” Poe wrote on February 24th. “It contains, in the way of essay, ‘Mesmeric Revelation,’ which I would like to have go in, even if you have to omit the ‘House of Usher.’ I send also corrected proofs (in the way of funny criticism, but you don’t like this), ‘Flaccus,’ which conveys a tolerable idea of my style; and of my serious manner ‘Barnaby Rudge’ is a good specimen. In the tale line, ‘The Murders in the Rue Morgue,’ ‘The Gold Bug,’ and ‘The Man that was Used Up’ — far more than enough; but you can select to suit yourself. I prefer the ‘G. B.’ to the ‘M. in the R. M.’ I have taken a third interest in the Broadway Journal, and will be glad if you could send me anything for it. Why not let me anticipate the book publication of your splendid essay on Milton?”

The third interest which Poe had taken in the Broadway Journal, when this letter was written, became a complete interest in the following autumn, when he was the sole proprietor. It was a curious medley, as I have said, but it was useful to its editor, in that it enabled him to reproduce what he had published elsewhere. If I may judge of the two volumes to which it extended, by the second, which is the only one that I have seen, he reprinted in it nearly everything that he had written. His old stories turn up continually, some with his name, others without, [page cxvii:] and others, again, over the signature of “Littleton Barry.” The same resurrection awaited his old poems. It was an easy way of supplying “copy,” and it kept him before his countrymen.

About the time that he assumed control of the Broadway Journal, Poe was invited to read a poem before the Boston Lyceum. He accepted the invitation, with the intention of writing a poem before the evening for delivery came, but his mind refused to honor the draft that he presented upon it. In this dilemma he sought the assistance of his friend, Mrs. Osgood, who was known to write verse with great rapidity, and who he was sure could furnish him with a poem that would be equal to his reputation. She promised to assist him, but being an invalid failed, leaving him to extricate himself as best he could. He might have pleaded illness as a reason for not keeping his engagement, and it would have been wise for him, no doubt, to have done so, but he was audacious enough to trust to luck. He went to Boston, therefore, and instead of delivering a poem written for the occasion, read “Al Aaraaf,” and concluded by reciting “The Raven.” This proceeding of his, which he designated a hoax, was not well received by several Boston journals, which commented upon it severely. It was followed by a war of words, in which the Broadway Journal participated, not much to the credit of Poe, I think, but with a certain vulgar smartness that increased the original offense. Poe’s defense of himself was simply an arraignment of the Bostonians for their stupidity, but it contained two remarkable statements, one of which was a fact, the other of which was a fiction, — namely, that he was born in Boston, and that “Al Aaraaf” was written, printed, and published by him in book form before he had fairly completed his tenth year. “Were the question demanded of us, ‘What is the most exquisite of sublunary pleasures?’ we should reply without hesitation, the making a fuss, or, in the classical words of a Western friend, the ‘kicking up a bobbery.’” So wrote Poe, [page cxviii:] who certainly succeeded in kicking up a bobbery with the Broadway Journal, though he did not succeed in keeping it alive, for it dwindled, peaked, and pined, and died on January 3, 1846.

We have pleasanter reminiscences of Poe than are associated with the Broadway Journal, whether he represented himself editorially, as to me, in Ms office in Clinton Hall, or poetically, its on the rostrum at the Boston Lyceum, and they concern his social sweetness and light in New York. We are largely indebted for them to Mrs. Sarah Helen Whitman, who eleven years after his death published a loving defense of his memory. (“Edgar Poe and his Critics.” New York, 1860.) He was often seen, Mrs. Whitman relates, at the brilliant literary circles in Waverley Place, where weekly reunions of noted artists and men of letters, at the house of an accomplished poetess, attracted some of the best intellectual society of the city, and where, shortly before its publication, he electrified the company by reciting “The Raven.” He attended other literary circles at the house of Mr. James Lawson, and Dr. Orville Dewey, a well-known Unitarian clergyman, and was greatly admired by those who assembled there, among others by a woman of fine genius, from whom, without naming her, Mrs. Whitman quotes: “His manners were at these reunions refined and pleasing, and his style and scope of conversation that of a gentleman and a scholar. Whatever may have been his previous career, there was nothing in his appearance or manner to indicate his excesses. He delighted in the society of superior women, and had an exquisite perception of graces of manner and shades of expression. He was an admiring listener, and an unobtrusive observer. We all recollect the interest felt at the time in everything emanating from his pen — the relief it was from the dullness of ordinary writers — the certainty of something fresh and suggestive. His critiques were read with avidity; not [page cxix:] that he convinced the judgment, but that people felt their ability and their courage. Right or wrong, he was terribly in earnest.” Mrs. Whitman recalls an incident which occurred at one of these soirées, and upon which she dwells as an evidence of Poe’s habitual courtesy and good nature in social life. “A lady, noted for her great lingual attainments, wishing to apply a wholesome check to the vanity of a young author, proposed inviting him to translate for the company a difficult passage in Greek, of which language she knew him to be profoundly ignorant, although given to a rather pretentious display of Greek quotations in his published writings. Poe’s earnest and persistent remonstrance against this piece of méchanceté alone averted the embarrassing test.” Mrs. Poe was sometimes seen with her husband in Waverley Place, and was long remembered for her sweet and girlish face, though she seldom took part in the conversation.

After the discontinuance of the Broadway Journal, Poe wrote a series of papers entitled “The Literati of New York,” which ran through six numbers of Godey’s Lady’s Book, a Philadelphia periodical of considerable circulation. It was a risky undertaking, considering the disfavor with which his criticisms were received, but it was thoroughly characteristic of Poe, whom it enabled to kick up another bobbery.

We have a glimpse of him while he was writing these papers, which is not only pleasant in itself, but of biographical interest, in that it localizes him for the first time during his residence in New York. It is from the pen of Mrs. Osgood, to whom he was always all that was good. “It was in his own. simple yet poetical home that, to me, the character of Edgar Poe appeared in its most beautiful light. Playful, affectionate, witty, alternately docile and wayward as a petted child — for his young, gentle, and idolized wife, and for all who came, he had, even in the midst of his most harassing literary duties, a kind [page cxx:] word, a pleasant smile, a graceful and courteous attention. At his desk, beneath the romantic picture of his loved and lost Lenore, he would sit, hour after hour, patient, assiduous, and uncomplaining, tracing, in an exquisitely clear chirography, and with almost superhuman swiftness, the lightning thoughts — the ‘rare and radiant’ fancies as they flashed through his wonderful and ever-wakeful brain. I recollect one morning, toward the close of his residence in this city, when he seemed unusually gay and light-hearted. Virginia, his sweet wife, had written me a pressing invitation to come to them; and I, who never could resist her affectionate summons, and who enjoyed his society far more in his own home than elsewhere, hastened to Amity Street. I found him just completing his series of papers, entitled ‘The Literati of New York.’ ‘See,’ said he, displaying in laughing triumph several little rolls of narrow paper (he always wrote thus for the press), ‘I am going to show you, by the difference of length in these, the different degrees of estimation in which I hold all you literary people. In each of these one of you is rolled up and fully discussed. Come, Virginia, help me.’ And one by one they unfolded them. At last they came to one which seemed interminable. Virginia laughingly ran to one corner of the room with one end, and her husband to the opposite with the other. ‘And whose lengthened sweetness long drawn out is that?’ said I. ‘Hear her!’ he cried, ‘just as if her little vain heart didn’t tell her it’s herself.’”

Poe moved back to Fordham early in the summer of 1846, and no doubt pursued his literary avocations there, though they have not been traced out for us. We know more of Poe, the man, than of Poe, the author, during the rest of this year, and more of his surroundings than of either. His residence has been described by several who appear to have visited it, but whose names have not been preserved with their reminiscences. From one of these anonymous writers (for such we must consider them) I [page cxxi:] quote what follows — I am sorry to say at second or third hand, and with evident omissions which I am not able to supply: “We found him and his wife’s mother, who was his aunt, living in a little cottage at the top of a hill. There was an acre or two of greensward fenced in about the house, as smooth as velvet and as clean as the best kept carpet. There were some grand old cherry-trees in the yard that threw a majestic shade around them. Poe had somehow caught a full-grown bobolink. He had put him in a cage, which he had hung on a nail driven into the trunk of a cherry-tree. The poor bird was as unfit to live in a cage as his captor was to live in the world. He was as restless as his jailer, and sprang continually in a fierce, frightened way from one side of the cage to the other. I pitied him, but Poe was bent on training him. There he stood, with his arms crossed, before the tormented bird, his sublime trust in attaining the impossible apparent in his whole self. So handsome, so impassive in his wonderful, intellectual beauty, so proud and reserved, and yet so confidentially communicative, so entirely a gentleman upon all occasions that I ever saw him; so tasteful, so good a talker was Poe, that he impressed himself and his wishes, even without words, upon those with whom he spoke. . . . . . . Poe’s voice was melody itself. He always spoke low, even in a violent discussion, compelling his hearers to listen if they would know his opinions, his facts, fancies, philosophy, or his weird imaginings. These last usually flowed from his pen, seldom from his tongue. On this occasion I was introduced to the young wife of the poet and to the mother, then more than sixty years of age. She was a tall, dignified old lady, with a most lady-like manner, and her black dress, though old and much worn, looked really elegant on her. . . . . . . . Mrs. Poe looked very young; she had large, black eyes, and a pearly whiteness of complexion which was a perfect pallor. The pale face, her brilliant eyes, and her raven hair, gave her an unearthly look. One felt that [page cxxii:] she was almost a disrobed spirit, and when she coughed it was made certain that she was rapidly passing away. The mother seemed hale and strong, and appeared to be a sort of universal Providence for her strange children. The cottage had an air of taste and gentility that must have been lent it by the presence of its inmates. So neat, so poor, so unfurnished, and yet so charming a dwelling I never saw. . . . . . . . The sitting-room was laid with check matting; four chairs, a light stand, and a hanging book-case completed its furniture. There were pretty presentation copies of books on the little shelves, and the Brownings had posts of honor on the stands. With quiet exultation, Poe drew from his side-pocket a letter that he had recently received from Elizabeth Barrett Browning. He read it to us. It was very nattering. She told Poe that his poem of ‘The Raven’ had awakened a fit of horror in England. . . . . . . He was at this time greatly depressed. Their extreme poverty, the sickness of his wife, and his inability to write, sufficiently accounted for this. . . . . . . We strolled away into the woods and had a very cheerful time, till some one proposed a game of leaping. I think it must have been Poe, as he was expert in the exercise. Two or three gentlemen agreed to leap with him, and though one of them was tall and had been a hunter in times past, Poe still distanced them all. But, alas! his gaiters, long worn and carefully kept, were both burst in the grand leap that made him victor. . . . . . . . I was certain he had no other shoes, boots, or gaiters. . . . . . . . If one had money, who had the effrontery to offer it to the poet?” If the recollection of the writer of this reminiscence is to be trusted, the visit described therein must have been made late in the autumn of 1846, for previous to that time Mrs. Browning was Miss Barrett Barrett. As regards the letter from that lady which Poe read to his visitors, I am inclined to think it was an old one, for I do not see why she should have written him at this late [page cxxiii:] period about “The Raven,” concerning which she had already expressed her opinion.

Another writer who visited the residence of Poe in the summer of this year, described it as buried in fruit-trees, in the neighborhood of a thick grove of pines. Round an old cherry-tree near the door there was a bank of green turf, which the shadow of the tree and the scent of mignonette and heliotrope from beds near by made a pleasant seat. Poor as be was, Poe contrived to have pets about him, in the shape of rare flowers, tropical birds in cages, and a favorite cat, which used to seat itself on his shoulder while he was engaged in composition, and purr its complacent approval of his work.

From causes which are not explained, among which was, no doubt, inability to write — a disease which is more common to the literary profession than well-regulated men of the world are aware of — Poe and his family were now overtaken by distress, which threatened to become want. Their necessities were made public by a paragraph in the Evening Express: “We regret to learn that Edgar A. Poe and his wife are both dangerously ill with the consumption, and that the hand of misfortune lies heavily on their temporal affairs. We are sorry to mention the fact that they are so far reduced as to be barely able to obtain the necessaries of life. This is indeed a hard lot, and we hope that the friends and admirers of Mr. Poe will come promptly to his assistance in his bitterest hour of need.” Mr. Willis made this paragraph the text for a homily in the Home Journal, on the necessity for a hospital for disabled laborers with brain, and gave it an individual application. “Here is one of the finest scholars, one of the most original men of genius, and one of the most industrious of the literary profession of our country, whose temporary suspension of labor, from bodily illness, drops him immediately to a level with the common objects of public charity. There was no intermediate stopping-place — no respectful shelter where, with [page cxxiv:] the delicacy due to genius and culture, he might secure aid, unadvertised, till, with returning health, he could resume his labors and his unmortifled sense of independence. He must, either apply to individual friends (a resource to which death is sometimes almost preferable), or suffer down to the level where Charity receives claimants, but where Rags and Humiliation are the only Ushers to her presence. Is this right? Should there not be, in all highly civilized communities, an institution designed expressly for educated and refined objects of charity — a hospital, a retreat, a home of seclusion and comfort, the sufficient claims to which would be such susceptibilities as are violated by the above-mentioned appeal in a daily newspaper?”

Shortly after the publication of this well-meant appeal, Poe wrote a letter to Mr. Willis, in which he referred to the paragraph in the Express, the motive of which he left to the conscience of him or her who wrote it, or suggested it. It was true that his wife was ill, but this illness, hopeless from the first, had been heightened and precipitated by the reception, at two different periods, of anonymous letters. It was also true that he had been ill, and, as an inevitable consequence, in want of money, but that he had ever suffered from privation, beyond the extent of his capacity for suffering, was not true. That he was without friends was a gross calumny, which he was sure Mr. Willis never could have believed. He concluded by saying that he was getting better, and had little fear of getting worse. “The truth is, I have a great deal to do; and I have made up my mind not to die till it is done.” That Poe should have shrunk from the publicity which had been given to his affairs, and that he should have disclaimed the poverty which had been attributed to him, was natural to a proud man like himself;. but, unhappily, his disclaimer was not true, and, happily, it was not believed to be true by his friends, one of whom (an authoress, concerning whose work he had written rather flippantly in his [page cxxv:] “Literati of New York”) made a pilgrimage to Fordham in’ order to satisfy herself as to the condition of his family. She found Mrs. Poe in her bed-chamber, which was neat and clean, but poverty-stricken. “There was no clothing on the bed, which was only straw, but a snow-white spread and sheets. The weather was cold, and the sick lady had the dreadful chills that accompany the hectic fever of consumption. She lay on the straw bed, wrapped in her husband’s great-coat, with a large tortoise-shell cat in her bosom. The wonderful cat seemed conscious of her great usefulness. The coat and the cat were the sufferer’s only means of warmth, except as her husband held her hands, and her mother her feet. Mrs. Clemm was passionately fond of her daughter, and her distress on account of her illness, poverty, and misery, was dreadful to see.” Saddened by what she saw, this lady, who, I believe, was Mrs. Mary S. Gove Nichols, hastened back to New York, and, not being blessed with an abundance of means, went to one of her friends, a lady in better circumstances than herself, whom she interested in the poverty of the Poes, and who headed a subscription, aud in a few days carried the sufferers sixty dollars, which at that time was no inconsiderable sum. Prom the vagueness of the reminiscences from which I derive these particulars, the personal identity of this good Samaritan remained undiscovered for upward of thirty years, her timely beneficence being attributed to, if not assumed by, a romantic American songstress, now resident in England. The writer of a paper in Appleton’s Journal, for May, 1878 (“Unpublished Correspondence of Edgar A. Poe”), has dissipated the delusion under which the world labored so long, and restored the honor of relieving Poe in his sore distress to the lady to whom it really belonged, — Mrs. Marie Louise Shew, of New York, a kindly gentlewoman, who became a ministering angel to his suffering family, who watched over them continually, and saw Mrs. Poe the day before she died. “When bidding [page cxxvi:] good-bye to Mrs. Poe, the poet’s wife took a portrait of her husband and gave it to Mrs. Shew; she also presented her with a little jewel-case that had belonged to his mother, and gave her two worn letters to read. They were from the wife of Poe’s adopted father, and had been carefully preserved by Virginia as a means of exonerating her husband from the responsibility of domestic dissensions.” This was on Friday, January 29th, 1847. The New York Herald on the following Monday (February 1st) announced the death, on Saturday, 30th of January, of Virginia Eliza, wife of Edgar A. Poe, of pulmonary consumption, in the twenty-fifth year of her age, and that the funeral would take take [[sic]] place on the ensuing day, at Fordham, Westchester county, for which cars would leave New York at 12 M., returning at 4 P. M. If the writer of the obituary notice in the Herald was correctly informed as to the age of Mrs. Poe, and if the date of her marriage (September 2d, 1835), is correctly given, Miss Virginia Eliza Clemm was only in her fourteenth year when she united her fate with that of her cousin, Edgar Allan Poe. Poor child!

Poe’s poverty and sickness in the tragic winter of 1846-7 left him and his dying wife largely dependent on the exertions of Mrs. Clemm, and it was chiefly from what she was at this period, I think, that Mr. Willis drew his recollections of her, the beginning of which he dated back three years before. “Our first knowledge of Mr. Poe’s removal to the city,” he wrote, “was by a call which we received from a lady who introduced herself as. the mother of his wife. She was in search of employment for him, and she excused her errand by mentioning that he was ill, and that her daughter was a confirmed invalid, and that their circumstances were such as compelled her taking it upon herself. The countenance of this lady, made beautiful and saintly with an evidently giving up of her life to privation and sorrowful tenderness, her gentle and mournful voice urging its plea, her long-forgotten but habitually and unconsciously refined manners, and [page cxxvii:] her appealing and yet appreciative mention of the claims and abilities of her son, disclosed at once the presence of one of those angels upon earth that women in adversity can be. It was a hard fate that she was watching over. Mr. Poe wrote with fastidious difficulty, and in a style too much above the popular level to be well paid. He was always in pecuniary difficulty, and, with his sick wife, frequently in want of the merest necessaries of life. Winter after winter, for years, the most touching sight to us in this whole city has been that tireless minister to genius, thinly and insufficiently clad, going from office to office with a poem or an article on some literary subject to sell, — sometimes simply pleading in a broken voice that ‘he was ill,’ whatever might be the reason for his writing nothing — and never, amid all her tears and recitals of distress, suffering one syllable to escape her lips that could convey a doubt of him, or a complaint, or a lessening of pride in his genius and good intentions. Her daughter died a year and a half since, but she did not desert him. She continued his ministering angel, living with him, caring for him, guarding him against exposure, and when he was carried -away by temptation, amid grief and the loneliness of feelings unreplied to, and awoke from his self-abandonment prostrated in destitution and suffering, begging for him still. If woman’s devotion, born with a first love and fed with human passion, hallows its object, as it is allowed to do, what does not a devotion like this — pure, disinterested and holy as the watch of an invisible spirit — say for him who inspired it?” Poe’s feeling towards this angel in the house inspired his quatorzain “To My Mother,” which appears to have been written during this year of sorrow.

Poe’s first traceable poem after the death of his wife was a piece of indifferent blank verse addressed to “M. L. S.” (“Of all who hail thy presence as the morning”), which he sent to Mrs. Shew as a Valentine. She continued her personal exertions in his behalf, and was instrumental in raising a second and larger [page cxxviii:] sum of money for his necessities. How he contrived to live, we have to conjecture, for he is not known to have done any literary work from which he could have derived money as he needed it. His chief task, indeed, during 1847 was the composition of “Eureka,” in the success of which he had a profound belief. His health was so shattered by what he had undergone that Mrs. Shew did not expect him to live long, and she told him, womanlike, that nothing would or could save him from sudden death but a prudent life of calm, with a woman fond enough and strong enough to manage his affairs for him.

From the reminiscences of those who visited Poe at this time, we learn that he was an early riser, and was enamored of the High Bridge, upon whose grassy road he was accustomed to walk at all hours of the day and night. A favorite haunt was a ledge of rocky ground near his cottage, crowned with pines and cedars, under which he used to sit, feasting his eyes upon the quiet beauty of the scene around him. He was wrapt up in “Eureka,” upon which he dwelt incessantly to Mrs. Clemm, who followed him as well as she could, though she could hardly have understood him, I think, and who passed hours with him under the glittering starlight, as he walked up and down the piazza of their little cottage, explaining the Cosmos to her while she shivered with cold, though she would not for the world have confessed it.

In the autumn of this year Poe visited Mrs. Shew at her residence in New York, and said that he had a poem to write, but that he had no feeling, no sentiment, no inspiration. She persuaded him to have tea, which was served in the conservatory, the windows of which were open and admitted the sound of neighboring church bells. After tea she produced pens and paper, but he declined them, saying that he disliked the sound of bells so much that night that he could not write; he had no subject and was exhausted. She took the pen and wrote the head-line, “The Bells, by E. A. Poe,” and for the first line of [page cxxix:] the projected poem, “The bells, the little silver bells.” He finished the stanza. She suggested for the first line of the second stanza, “The heavy iron bells,” and he finished that stanza also. Then he copied the composite poem, and heading it, “By Mrs. M. L. Shew,” handed it to her, saying it was her’s. “My brother came in,” continues Mrs. Shew, whose reminiscences I have followed at second hand, “and I sent him to Mrs. Clemm to tell her that ‘her boy was in town and was well.’ My brother took Poe to his own room, where he slept twelve hours, and could hardly recall the evening’s work. This showed his mind was injured — nearly gone out for want of food and from disappointment. He had not been drinking, and had only been a few hours from home. Evidently his vitality was low, and he was nearly insane. While he slept I studied his pulse, and found the same symptoms which I had so often noticed before. I called in Dr. Francis (the old man was odd, but very skillful), who was one of our neighbors. His words were: ‘He has heart disease, and will die early in life.’ We did not waken him, but let him sleep.” After he had breakfasted the next morning, Mrs. Shew went down town with him and drove him to Fordham in her carriage. He did not seem to realize that he had been ill, and wondered why “Madame Louise” had been so good as to bring him home.

The composition of “Eureka” occupied Poe a considerable portion of 1847, but he somehow managed to write the little blank verse Valentine to Mrs. Shew of which I have spoken; to play at writing the stanzas on “The Bells,” in which she assisted him; and to write “Ulalume.” This last poem was, all things considered, the most singular poem that he ever produced, if not, indeed, the most singular poem that anybody ever produced, in commemoration of a dead woman, which I take to have been Poe’s object, or one of his objects, when he sat down to write it. The mood of mind in which it was conceived was no doubt [page cxxx:] an imaginative one, but it was not, I think, on the hither side of the boundary between sense and madness. I can perceive no touch of grief in it, no intellectual sincerity, but a diseased determination to create the strange, the remote, and the terrible, and to exhaust ingenuity in order to do so. No healthy mind was ever impressed by “Ulalume,” and no musical sense was ever gratified with its measure, which is little beyond a jingle, and with its repetitions, which add to its length without increasing its general effect, and which show more conclusively than anything in the language, the absurdity of the refrain when it is allowed to run riot, as it does here. The gain of a single word and the variation of a single thought are hardly worth such repetitions as these:

“The leaves they were crisped and sere —

The leaves they were withering and sere.”

“Of cypress, I roamed with rny Soul —

Of cypress, with Psyche, my Soul.”

“And star-dials pointed to morn —

As the star-dials hinted of morn.”

“Ulalume” was published anonymously in the American Review for December, 1847, having been previously refused by Mrs. Caroline M. Kirkland for the Union Magazine. It was attributed at first to Mr. Willis, to whose known verse it bore no earthly resemblance, and it concluded with the following stanza, which Poe afterwards omitted at the suggestion of Mrs. Whitman:

“Said vie, then — the two, then — ‘ Ah, can it

Have been that the woodlandish ghouls —

The pitiful, the merciful ghouls —

To bar up our way and to ban it

From the secret that lies in these wolds —

From the thing that lies hidden in these wolds — [page cxxi:]

Have drawn up the spectre of a planet

From the limbo of lunary souls —

This sinfully scintillant planet

From the Hell of the planetary souls?’”

Poe’s next production appears to have been a second piece of blank verse, which was addressed to his good friend, Mrs. Shew (“Not long ago the writer of these lines”), and which confirmed the impression, if it needed confirmation, that with all his practice he had not succeeded in mastering the instrument upon which he attempted to play. To the last day of his life he was a mere tyro in blank verse. About this time (January 22d, 1848) he wrote to Mr. Willis that he was soon to make an effort to re-establish liimself in the literary world, and that he felt he might depend upon his aid. He still clung to the idea of a periodical, which he had entertained five years before with Mr. Clarke. “My general aim,” he wrote, “is to start a magazine, to be called The Stylus; but it would be useless to me, even when established, if not entirely out of the control of a publisher. I mean, therefore, to get up a journal which shall be my own, at all points. With this end in view, I must get a list of at least five hundred subscribers to begin with — nearly two hundred I have already. I propose, however, to go South and West among my personal and literary friends — old college and West Point acquaintances — and see what I can do. In order to get the means of taking the first step, I propose to lecture at the Society Library, on Thursday, the 3d of February, — and that there may be no cause of squabbling, my subject shall not be literary at all. I have chosen a broad text — ‘The Universe.’”

The night of the lecture was stormy, and the audience which assembled to listen to it was a scanty one. It was described by a writer who was present as a rhapsody of the most intense brilliancy: it was certainly a rhapsody of unconscionable length, for [page cxxxii:] it occupied between two and three hours in its delivery. It was not profitable to Poe, however, who was obliged to cast about for other means of establishing his magazine. The most natural thing under the circumstances was to print the substance of what he had read, and he accordingly sought a publisher in the person of Mr. George P. Putnam, of New York, whom he found in his office, and whose attention he claimed in a somewhat nervous and excited manner, upon a subject which he declared was of the highest importance. ‘’ Seated at my desk,” Mr. Putnam wrote, in the paper from which I have already quoted, “seated at my desk, and looking at me a full minute with his ‘glittering eye,’ he at lengtli said, ‘I am Mr. Poe.’ I was ‘all ear,’ of course, and sincerely interested. It was the author of ‘The Raven,’ and of ‘The Gold Bug.’ ‘I hardly know,’ said the poet, after a pause, ‘how to begin what I have to say. It is a matter of profound importance.’ After another pause, the poet seeming to be in a tremor of excitement, he at length went on to say that the publication he had to propose was of momentous interest. Newton’s discovery of gravitation was a mere incident compared to the discoveries revealed in this book. It would at once command such universal and intense attention that the publisher might give up all other enterprises, and make this one book the business of his lifetime. An edition of fifty thousand copies might be sufficient to begin with, but it would be but a small beginning. No other scientific event in the history of the world approached in importance the original developments of this book. All this and more, not in irony or jest, but in intense earnest, for he held me with his eye, like the Ancient Mariner. I was really impressed — but not overcome. Promising a decision on Monday (it was late Saturday p. M.), the poet had to rest so long in uncertainty about the extent of the book — partly remedied by a small loan, meanwhile. ‘We did venture, not upon fifty thousand, but five hundred.’” Mr. Putnam subjoined to this [page cxxiii:] amusing account of his experience with Poe, a note to the effect that the latter proposed to punish him when the book was in type, by giving a duplicate of the MS. to another publisher, because a third little advance was deemed inexpedient.

“Eureka,” which was published in the summer of 1848, could not have been a mercantile success, for the five hundred copies of which the edition consisted more than satisfied the public demand. Criticism upon it was evolved from the inner consciousness of its critics, rather than from a careful analysis of the arguments and a ready understanding of the opinions of the author, and was consequently not satisfactory to him. I have never yet known a critic who was not tetchy when criticised, and Poe was no exception to the rule. His confidence in himself was not shaken, however, nor his belief in the ultimate triumph of his prose-poem, which he carefully corrected for a second edition. The copy which he used is before me, with all his corrections in pencil. They are curious as showing the pains which he bestowed upon his style, but not otherwise important or worthy of quotation. If the book had been reprinted from this copy, it would have ended with the following addition: “Note — The pain of the consideration that we shall lose our own individual identity, ceases at once when we further reflect that the process, as above described, is neither more nor less than that of the absorhtion, by each individual intelligence, of all other intelligences (that is, of the Universe), into its own. That God may be all in all, each must become God.”

Poe performed but little literary work in the summer of 1848, though he is said to have kept himself before the public (at least the provincial public), by his lecture on Poetry, which he delivered in July at Lowell, Mass. About this time — or possibly earlier — he appeared to be seriously interested in finding a successor to his lost Virginia Eliza, and to think that he had discovered her in one of the most brilliant women in New England [page cxxiv:] — a poetess of repute, to whom in his lecture he had assigned a preeminence in refinement of art, enthusiasm, imagination, and genius, properly so called. The lady, Mrs. Sarah Helen Whitman, was six years older than Poe, and was a descendant of the Italian-French-Irish family to which she claimed that he belonged — the Le Poers, or Powers. Married at the age of twenty-five to a lawyer of Boston, she was left a widow at the age of thirty, and was a widow of fifteen years’ standing at the beginning of her love episode with the poetic widower. This incident in the lives of both made a stir in the literary world at the time it occurred, and hasbeen more or less misunderstood and misrepresented ever since. I propose to relate it here, or rather to let Mrs. Whitman relate it herself, for what follows is from the pen of that lady, who was interested in a paper of mine of which Poe was the subject, published in Harper’s Magazine for September, 1872, and who wrote me several letters in reference to it, from one of which, dated at Providence, September 30, 1872, I copy her recollections of what she endured twenty-four years before:

“Early in the summer of 1848, Mr. Poe wrote to Miss Anna Blackwell, then residing in Providence, that, although he had seen me but once, he had a great desire to become acquainted with me, or rather to learn something of my history, etc. Miss Blackwell gave me the letter soon after I had received the anonymous MS. ‘Lines to Helen,’ afterwards published in Graham’s Magazine, and republished by Griswold in his Memoir. For more than two months I made no acknowledgment of the lines, nor did Miss Blackwell ever make any reply to the letter. Toward the end of the summer, feeling that such entire neglect of the beautiful poem must seem ungracious to the author, I sent him in playful acknowledgment two stanzas of a poem, afterwards published in the Home Journal, called ‘A Night in August.’ The stanzas, which ended in a quotation from his poem, were without signature. He received them in Richmond, where [page cxxv:] he had gone, as he afterwards told me, to obtain subscriptions for The Stylus, intending, if successful there, to make a tour of the Southern States before returning to the North.

During this visit to Richmond, late in July, 1848, Mr. Poe had called on Mrs. Shelton, formerly Miss Royster, a lady whom he had admired in his youth, and with whom his intimacy had been broken off by the interference of his adopted father, Mr. Allan. Having been received by her with great kindness, he was urged by one of their mutual friends to renew his addresses to her. He was tempted to follow this advice, as he afterwards told me, when he received the anonymous stanzas, which brought him at once back to New York. On his arrival there, he obtained from Miss Maria J. Mcintosh a letter of introduction which he presented to me in person at Providence on the 21st of September, 1848. During this visit he endeavored, as you will learn from his letters, to persuade me that my influence and my presence would have power to lift his. life out of the torpor of despair which had weighed upon him, and give an inspiration to his genius, of which he had as yet given no token. Notwithstanding the eloquence with which he urged upon me his wishes and his hopes, I knew too well that I could not exercise over him the power which he ascribed to me. I was, moreover, wholly dependent on my mother, and her life was bound up in mine. In parting from him I promised him that I would reply to him and tell him what I could not then say to him. It was in reply to this letter of mine that I received from him the first of the enclosed letters.

I had not answered the second letter when Mr. Poe came again to Providence. He did not keep the promise made to me at the close of it, but again urged me to think of all that he had said on the subject, and to send him my answer in a letter addressed to him in Lowell, to which place he had been invited by some friends to come and deliver a lecture, for which they were making [page cxxxvi:] arrangements. I delayed writing him from day to day, unwilling to give him pain by my refusal, and yet fearing to mislead him and compromise myself by any word of friendly sympathy and encouragement. The excitement attending the presidential election, then pending, had interfered with the proposed arrangement for a lecture, and in returning through Boston to Providence he had fallen under the old temptation, which he vainly endeavored to persuade me was caused only by the restless anxiety my silence had occasioned him.

On the afternoon of the 8th of November, after a prolonged conversation with him on the subject, the result of which seemed to have deeply pained and wounded him, he left me abruptly, and in the course of the evening sent me a wild, incoherent note of renunciation and farewell. Early on the following morning he returned to my mother’s house in a state of wild excitement, telling me that his fate for good or for evil rested solely with me, and calling upon me wildly to save him from the doom that was now awaiting him. It was to me a day of unutterable anxiety and suffering. A physician was sent for, who finding symptoms of cerebral congestion, recommended his removal to the house of his friend, Mr. Wm. J. Pabodie, where he received the kindest care and attention until he was sufficiently recovered to leave the city. This is the simple story of an incident which Griswold has perverted into a scene of insult and outrage, perpetrated on the eve of his approaching marriage, with the assumed intention of breaking off the alliance!

No engagement existed between us at the time. It was not until after the scene just related, and, strange as it may seem, in consequence of it, that, with many misgivings, I consented to a conditional engagement, which was annulled only after I discovered that he had literally lost the power to free himself from the terrible maelstrom that was drawing him down to swift destruction. After the scene which I have described, he came but twice [page cxxxvii:] to Providence. It is true on that last visit, when he came to deliver a lecture before the Franklyn Lyceum, he prevailed upon me, not without the reluctant concurrence of my friends and family, to consent to an immediate marriage. On the morning of Saturday, December 24th, he wrote a note to Dr. Crocker, requesting him to perform the ceremony, which was appointed for the ensuing Monday evening, and a letter to his mother, informing her that he should arrive with me in New York on the morning of Tuesday, December 37th.

My friends, who were naturally anxious to prevent this rash marriage, made strenuous remonstrances against its suddenness, and on Saturday afternoon I received a note informing me that Mr. Poe had that very morning broken the solemn promises he had so recently made, by drinking wine in the bar-room of the Earl House. He had taken but a single glass, and no indication of excitement was visible in his manner or appearance; but this proof of his infirmity of purpose at such a moment proved to me that no influence of mine could avail to save him. He returned to New York that evening in the Stonington express train, accompanied to the cars by Mr. Pabodie, who, with my mother, was present at our last interview.

Of course the incident caused a great deal of gossip, and the wildest and most exaggerated stories were soon in circulation concerning the breaking of the engagement and his reputed expulsion from the house. Three weeks after his return to New York he wrote me a letter filled with expressions of wounded feeling and bitter indignation against my family (to whom ho probably attributed these exaggerated stories), and entreating me s by the love that had subsisted between us to write to him at once, and assure him that /, at least, had not authorized their circulation. Fearing that my answer to this letter might involve a repetition of the harrowing scenes I had passed through, I did not reply to it. I was utterly hopeless of [page cxxxviii:] my power to sustain or console him. I longed to assure him of my unalterable sympathy, and my continued interest in his welfare and happiness, but I dared not incur the consequences of further direct communication with him.

A singular concurrence of circumstances afforded me an opportunity of suggesting to him what I dared not openly express. The publisher of the Union Magazine had in December engaged me to furnish an article or a poem for the February number of the American Metropolitan, a periodical which was to take the place of the Union. I had suffered too much in my health from the exciting scenes just related to prepare anything expressly for the purpose, and when the publisher wrote to remind me of my promise, I found in a hurried search among my MS. and papers a copy of unpublished stanzas, written several years before as an accompaniment to an Italian air for the guitar. Here was an intimation of what Macbeth calls ‘fate and metaphysical aid.’ I felt that Poe would interpret the last verse as a response to the entreaty made to me in his letter — the letter which I had not dared to answer. The verses, which I wilt transcribe for you, were published in the February number of the magazine, which I think did not appear before the middle of March.

I cannot doubt that they were read by Poe in the same sense which I had intended. Nor can I doubt that in writing ‘Annabel Lee,’ the strange, sweet song, so charming in spite of its vagueness and its obscurity, he intended that I should read in it the veiled expression of his undying remembrance. The assertion made in the Memoir prefixed to Redfield’s Illustrated Edition of the Poems, that ‘Annabel Lee’ was addressed to a Rhode Island lady, etc., was doubtless a purely conjectural one. I do not think that Poe would have been likely to authorize any statement of the kind. He would have preferred rather to leave the subject involved in that mysterious atmosphere, ‘out of space, out of time,’ that characterized all his more imaginative stories [page cxxxix:] and poems. Other readers may have found in this poem other meanings and other allusions. Mrs. Osgood, you know, affirms that it was inspired by the memory of his wife; but one of her intimate friends wrote me that Mrs. Osgood confessed to have written this ‘to put down’ a literary lady who claimed on the authority of Mrs. Clemm that the poem was written to herself.”

Such was Mrs. Whitman’s remembrance of this painful episode in her widowed life, which I am the first, I believe, to make public, and in accordance, I believe, with her desire, when the time for publicity should arrive, both for her own sake and that of Poe. “I have long wished,” she continued, in the long and interesting letter from which I have quoted, “I have long wished to relate the true story of this episode to some responsible and unprejudiced person, in the hope that at a future day, and after my death, which cannot now be far distant, something may be said to remove this dark stigma upon his name. Your recent article in Harper’s Monthly, so sensible, genial, and tolerant, induced me to intrust to you this brief outline of facts.”

The MS. “Lines to Helen,” to which Mrs. Whitman referred (“I saw thee once — once only — years ago”), were composed, we are told, from a shadowy glimpse which Poe obtained of her one night in Providence three years before, as he was returning to New York from Boston after his unfortunate poetic fiasco in the latter city. That they were written after the second little poem addressed to Mrs. Shew (which is known to have been written early in 1848), is evident, I think, from the structure and movement of the verse, from the repetition in both of the overpowering presence of womanhood, and from a certain indefinable something which the critics have agreed to call internal evidence. The resemblance between the two is positive in the following passages: [page cxl:]

“And thrilling as I see, upon the right,

Upon the left, and all the way along,

Amid unpurpled vapors, far away

To where the prospect terminates — thee only.”

“All — all expired save thee — some less than thou.”

The lines “To Helen” are imaginative and poetical, informed with the spirit of the summer night which they commemorate, and flushed with the impassioned feeling which was their inspiration. They are the best examples of Poe’s talent in blank verse, the dignity of which they violate, however, I think, by the introduction of the refrain principle in the lines beginning “Pell on the upturned faces of these roses,” and in the couplet:

“And purified in their electric fire,

And sanctified in their elysian fire.”

which recall the worst refrains of “Ulalume.”

“A Night in August,” two stanzas of which were sent by Mrs. Whitman in playful acknowledgment of Poe’s poem, was written in August, 1848. It was published by her five years afterwards (“Hours of Life and other Poems,” Providence, 1853), and republished in the collected edition of her works (“Poems,” Boston, 1879), but it contains, in neither edition, a quotation from Poe’s poem. One would like to know the two stanzas which she inclosed to him, but internal evidence does not enable us — at least does not enable me — to particularize them. The poem which she published in the American Metropolitan for February, 1849, and which she felt that Poe would understand as a response to his last letter — the letter she dared not answer — will be found in the collections I have just named, in both of which it is entitled “Our Island of Dreams.” It consists of eight stanzas in the former, and four stanzas in the latter, which corresponds with the version she sent me, which I copy from her letter: [page cxli:]


“By the foam

Of perilous seas in faery lands forlorn.” — KEATS.

Tell him I lingered alone on the shore

Where we parted in sorrow to meet nevermore;

The night wind blew cold on my desolate heart,

But colder these wild words of doom — ‘Ye must part.’

O’er the dark heaving waters I sent forth a cry:

Save the wail of those waters there came no reply.

I longed, like a bird, o’er the billows to flee,

From my lone Island home, and the moan of the sea.

Away, far away from the dream-haunted shore,

Where the waves ever murmur, ‘No more, nevermore,’

Where I wake in the wild hour of midnight to hear

That lone song of the surges so mournful and drear.

When the clouds that now veil from us heaven’s fair light,

Their soft, silver lining turn forth on the night, —

When time shall the vapors of falsehood dispel,

He shall know if I loved him, but never how well.”

Admirers of Poe, who may wish to trace the influence of his personality in the writings of Mrs. Whitman, are referred to the Boston edition of her Poems, where they will find sixteen different effusions dedicated to his memory, i. e., “Remembered Music,” “Our Island of Dreams,” “The Last Flowers,” “Song,” “Withered Flowers,” “The Phantom Voice,” “Pictures in October,” “Resurgemus,” six (so-called) “Sonnets to —— ,” and “Pictures in April” (pp. 75-98), and “The Portrait” (pp. 195-97). She died on June 27, 1878, in the seventy-sixth year of her age.

I received from Mrs. Whitman, besides the letters which she wrote me in regard to Poe, the letters which she received from Poe himself, and which she naturally valued, so much so that she declined to trust them to the mail, but sent them by a private [page cxlii:] hand. If my recollection is correct, she did not send me all his correspondence, but two of his longest and most characteristic epistles. I presumed, at any rate, that they were characteristic; I saw that they were long, the shortest of the two extending to ten or twelve pages of large-sized letter paper. I read them carefully, and I own frankly that I did not like them. Reading them with all the allowance that should be made for such productions, they struck me as being forced, unnatural, and false — exercises in impassioned writing upon which a good deal of intellectual ingenuity had been expended, but which were destitute of manliness and truth. I could not believe in the sincerity of the writer, and I wondered that Mrs. Whitman could, for she did most religiously. I owe it to myself to say that I do not admire amatory letters, and to the memory of Poe to say that his amatory letters are not more stilted and artificial than those of Sylvander to Clarinda. The object of these effusions, I imagine, is to impress the confiding persons to whom they are addressed with a sense of their own perfections, and of the exalted devotion which they have inspired; and in order to accomplish this object, their writers are not apt to be scrupulous as to the means employed; for in love, as in war, all is fair. It is a casuistry, of course, but there is no arguing against it, it is so inherent in human nature; besides, it is pleasant while it lasts, so pleasant, indeed, as to reconcile us to the ethics of the sarcastic poet, by whom we are assured:

“The pleasure is as great

In being cheated as to cheat.”

If the writers of love-letters were not permitted to romance a little, the world would be more unbearable than it is now — there would be fewer marriages, and the population of the civilized globe would consequently be diminished. Let us write them then, since we must, but let us keep them to ourselves, or, better still, let us destroy them when we have committed them to memory. [page cxliii:] Precious in privacy, they are profaned by publicity, and are laughable, if not worse, as Literature.

Such, at least, is my opinion, though it is not the opinion of the writer of the paper in Appleton’s Journal, which I have already mentioned, and from which I have derived what I have written about Mrs. Shew and her friendship for Poe. It contains extracts from his letters to her, as well as from his letters to two other ladies whose names are not given. They were sisters, and they lived, I believe, at Lowell, Mass., where he made their acquaintance in the summer of 1848, when he visited that city to deliver his lecture on poetry. He was attracted by them, and was enamored of one whose name was Annie, to whom he poured out his soul on paper as fervently as he did to Mrs. Whitman. I have read his correspondence with this lady, and I find the same objection to it that I found with his correspondence with Mrs. Whitman; that it is strained, exaggerated, and unnatural. It is not without value, however, as an assistance toward understanding him, and waiving the amatory portions of it, I shall select from the small residuum whatever will enable me to fill out the scanty outline of his personal biography.

The first extract which I shall make (I am sorry to say it is a garbled one), refers to a painful adventure which had befallen him, the cause of which we are left to conjecture, as well as the time when it occurred, which I imagine to have been not long before the date of the letter, which was written at Fordham, November 16, 1848. “I said to myself — ‘it is for the last time, until we meet in Heaven.’ I remember nothing distinctly from that moment until I found myself in Providence. I went to bed and wept through a long, long, hideous night of despair. When the day broke, I arose and endeavored to quiet my mind by a rapid walk in the cold, keen air — but all would not do — the demon tormented me still. Finally, I procured two ounces of laudanum, and, without returning to my hotel, took the cars back to Boston. [page cxliv:] When I arrived I wrote you a letter, in which I opened my whole heart to you — to you. . . . . . . . I told you how my struggles were more than I could bear. . . . . . . . I then reminded you of that holy promise which was the last I exacted from you in parting — the promise that, under all circumstances, you would come to me on my bed of death. I implored you to come then, mentioning the place where I should be found in Boston. Having written this letter, I swallowed about half the laudanum, and hurried to the post office — intending not to take the rest until I saw you — for, I did not doubt for one moment, that Annie would keep her sacred promise. But I had not calculated on the strength of the laudanum, for, before I reached the Post Office my reason was entirely gone, and the letter was never put in. Let me pass over — my darling sister — the awful horrors which succeeded. A friend was at hand, who aided and (if it can be called saving) saved me, but it is only within the last three days that I have been able to remember what occurred in that dreary interval. It appears that, after the laudanum was rejected from the stomach, I became calm, and — to a casual observer, sane — so that I was suffered to go back to Providence.”

Mrs. Clemm was interested in the fair correspondent of her son-in-law, to whom, on January 11, 1849, she communicated the pleasing intelligence that he was writing most industriously, and that she had every hope that he would, in a short time, surmount most of their difficulties. And he, in turn, on the same date, communicated the pleasing intelligence to his correspondent that he was so happy to think that she really loved him, and added: “If you had lived as long as I, you would understand fully what I mean. Indeed, indeed, Annie, there is nothing in this world worth living for except love — love, not such as I once thought I felt for Mrs. — , but such as burns in my very soul for you — so pure — so unworldly — a love which would make all sacrifices for your sake.” I promised myself to pass over the amatory portions of this curious correspondence, but I could not resist the passage I have just quoted, which shows the facility with which Poe was off with the old love and on with the new. I say old love, for I presume the blank can only refer to Mrs. Whitman, who, by the way, was a new love two months earlier, the old love at that time being the present new love, Annie! Poe’s next letter to this favored lady was written in the same exalted strain, but it occasionally descended to the earth, as when it touched upon his literary employments. “I am so busy now, and feel so full of energy. Engagements to write are pouring in upon me every day. I had two proposals within the last week from Boston. I sent yesterday an article to the American Review about ‘Critics and Criticism.’ Not long ago I sent one to the Metropolitan called ‘Landor’s Cottage:’ it has something about Annie in it, and will appear, I suppose, in the March number. To the S. L. Messenger I have sent fifty pages of ‘Marginalia’ — five pages to appear each month of the current year. I have also made permanent engagements with every magazine in America (except Peterson’s National), including a Cincinnati magazine called The Gentleman’s. So you see that I have only to keep up my spirits to get out of all my pecuniary troubles.” He was wiser than he had been in one respect, for he tells Annie that she may rest assured of one thing, that from that day forth he would shun the pestilential society of literary women. “They are a heartless, unnatural, venomous, dishonorable set, with no guiding principle but inordinate self-esteem.” In his next letter, which was written about three weeks later, he referred again to his literary employments: “I have been so busy, dear Annie, ever since I returned from Providence — six weeks ago. I have not suffered a day to pass without writing from a page to three pages. Yesterday, I wrote five, and the day before a poem considerably longer than ‘The Raven.’ I call it ‘The Bells.’ How I wish my Annie could see it! Her opinion [page cxlvi:] is so dear to me on such topics. On all it is everything to me — but on poetry in especial. And Sarah, too. I told her when we were at W ——— , that I hardly ever knew any one with a keener discrimination in regard to what is really poetical. The five prose pages I finished yesterday are called — what do you think? — I am sure you will never guess — ‘Hop-Frog!’ Only think of your Eddy writing a story with such a name as ‘Hop-Frog!’ You would never guess the subject (which is a terrible one) from the title, I am sure. It will be published in a weekly paper of Boston.”

The reference to “The Bells,” as a poem which he had just written, is singular, in view of the poem with that title which he wrote in conjunction with Mrs. Shew, the existence of which, and of the circumstances attending its composition, he seems to have entirely forgotten. “Sarah” was the sister of “Annie,” upon whom he sometimes bestowed vicariously the affection that was intended for Annie alone. A later letter, which bears the date of March 23, 1849, is not without literary value in that it fixes, or nearly fixes, the date of one of Poe’s most admired poems, of which his correspondent was the heroine, poetically speaking. “I think the lines ‘For Annie’ (those I now send) much the best I have ever written — but an author can seldom depend on Ms own estimate of his own works — so I wish to know what my Annie truly thinks of them — also your dear sister and Mr. C ——. Do not let these verses go out of your possession until you see them in print — as I have sold them to the publisher of the ——.” Another letter, without date, but apparently later, concludes this unique correspondence (with the exception of an unimportant note), as far as it has yet seen the light. It was written under a depression of spirits, which was justified by his circumstances. “You know how cheerfully I wrote to you not long ago — about my prospects — hopes — how I anticipated being soon out of difficulty — well! all seems to be frustrated — at least for the present. As usual, misfortunes never come single, and I have met one disappointment [page cxlvii:] after another. The Columbian Magazine, in the first place, failed — then Post’s Union (taking with it my principal dependence) — then the Whig Review was forced to stop paying for contributions — then the Democratic — then (on account of his oppression and insolence) I was obliged to quarrel, finally, with; —— ; and then, to crown all, the —— —— (from which I anticipated so much, and with which I had made a regular engagement for $ 10 a week throughout the year) has written a circular to correspondents, pleading poverty and declining to receive any more articles. More than this, the S. L. Messenger, which owes me a good deal, cannot pay just yet — and altogether I am reduced to Sartain and Graham — both very precarious.” In the final paragraph he mentions two of his poems, the date of which has not hitherto been known, the sonnet “To My Mother” and “Annabel Lee,” which he calls a ballad.

The history of “The Bells “is worthy of preservation in the history of American literature. As originally written, it consisted of only eighteen lines, which were sent to the editors at Sartain’s Magazine, by whom they were accepted and paid for. They were followed, after a lapse of some time, by a second and longer version, which also was accepted and paid for, and which, in turn, after another lapse of time, was followed by a third and still longer version, which also was accepted and paid for. The poem finally appeared (in the last version, of course,) in Sartain’s Magazine, though not, it would seem, until after it had been rejected by the editor of the American Review. As it stands in the collected edition of Poe’s works, it is ninety-five lines longer than it was in the first version, which strikingly recalls Mrs. Shew’s recollection of the composite poem in which she had a share. Here it is:


The bells! — hear the bells!

The merry wedding bells!

The little silver bells! [page cxlviii:]

How fairy-like a melody there swells

From the silver tinkling cells

Of the bells, bells, bells,

Of the bells!

The bells! — ah, the bells!

The heavy iron bells!

Hear the tolling of the bells!

Hear the knells!

How horrible a monody there floats

Prom their throats —

From their deep-toned throats!

How I shudder at the notes

From the melancholy throats

Of the bells, bells, bells,

Of the bells —

If I were called upon to express my opinion of Poe as a poetic artist, I should say that “The Bells” was the most perfect example of his “power of words,” if not, indeed, the most perfect example of that kind of power in all poetic literature. I should also say that “Alexander’s Feast,” which our ancestors thought so incomparable, was not to be named in the same day with it. I should say further (for I love to be frank), that if “Annabel Lee” and “For Annie” possess any merit other than attaches to melodious jingle, I have not been able to discover it. I am not able to state exactly when and where these, the last poems of Poe, were published; but as I wish to add whatever I can to the bibliography of his poems in general, I will state’ here that one poem, which I have not yet named, “An Enigma” (“‘Seldom we find,’ says Solomon Don Dunce”), was published before the presumed date of Poe’s last letter to Annie, probably in December, 1848. It is in the form of a sonnet (that is to say, it consists of fourteen lines, as does also the poem addressed to his mother, which is no sonnet), the enigma which is inclosed [page cxlix:] therein being the name of the gifted lady in whose honor it was written, which is discoverable by adding the first letter of the first line to the second letter of the second line, and so on, jumping a letter in each line, until the fourteenth and last is reached, and the name is revealed in Sarah Anna Lewis. I mention this poem particularly, because it is an instance of Poe’s singular tendency to mistakes — a tendency which led him to give Dr. Griswold two different years as the dates of his birth, the last happening to be two years after the death of his mother! The mistake in “An Enigma” was unfortunate, as an English writer has pointed out, for the name of the lady is “Estelle,” which might well belong to a poetess, and not “Sarah Anna,” which is not in the least poetical. Poe wrote another enigmatic poem, also in honor of a lady whom he greatly admired. It is entitled “A Valentine,” and was no doubt read as one at the literary parties in Waverley Place, which he at one time frequented, and the “sweet name” which lies nestling in its lines, letter by letter, in a descending scale, as in the “Enigma,” is that of Frances Sargent Osgood.

We have now reached June 29, 1849, the day when Poe left Fordham for Richmond. Why he undertook this journey, at this time, is not clear. He seems to have undertaken it with apprehension, for he arranged his papers before he left, and instructed Mrs. Clemm what to do in case he should die before she saw him again. He reached Philadelphia safely, but while there met with some of his acquaintances, who made much of him, and caused him to forget the object of his journey, whatever it was. One day he turned up at the house of Mr. John Sartain, the publisher of Sartain’s Magazine, in an excited condition of mind, — the victim of a hallucination, which assumed the form of a conspiracy against his person, and asked for a razor that he might shave off his mustache, and so escape his enraged pursuers. Mr. Sartain shaved him, and, persuading him [page cl:] to go to bed, watched over him through the night. He remained with Mr. Sartain the next day, but when night came left the house, followed by his host, to whom, rather than with whom, he talked incessantly as they walked the streets hour after hour. At last he contrived to disappear, worn out with exercise and excitement, and passed the remainder of the night in a dead sleep in an open field. Ten days elapsed, and Mrs. Clemm had not heard of him; but at the end of a month her anxiety was relieved by learning that he was in Richmond.

There are two descriptions of this last visit of Poe’s to Richmond, — one written in 1872 by Mr. John R. Thompson, a former editor of the Southern Literary Messenger, and at that time one of the editors of the New York Evening Post; the other, some five or six years later, by Mrs. Susan Archer Talley Weiss, of Virginia. The substance of Mr. Thompson’s recollections was printed by me in Harper’s Magazine for September, 1872; Mrs. Weiss’s reminiscences were given to the world in Scribner’s Monthly for March, 1878.

When Poe was first heard of by his friends in Richmond, he had been for several days at a common tavern in a portion of the city known as “Rocket’s.” Mr. Thompson took a carriage and drove thither with the intention of fetching him away, but he had disappeared. The tavern-keeper, a man named Jacob Mull, knew nothing of his whereabouts, or who he was, except that he said his name was Poe, and that he had slept for a number of nights on the sanded floor of the bar-room. At the end of a week or ten days Poe appeared at the office of Mr. Thompson, whom he knew only by correspondence, and introduced himself. His garments were old and seedy, but were brushed with scrupulous care, and there were no signs of dissipation in his smooth and well-shaven face. He asked permission to have his letters directed to Mr. Thompson’s box, and room enough in his office to write in, both of which requests were, of course, cheerfully [page cli:] granted. What Mr. Kennedy is reported to have done for him sixteen years before was done now — he was rejuvenated as regards his clothing by Mr. Thompson’s tailor, and made presentable in society. For a time all went well with him, but at last he was missing. At the end of two or three days he returned with a damaged eye. He had been mistaken for some one else by a ruffian in a bar-room, and knocked down without a word. He returned to his work, to disappear again. He was next heard of at a fashionable drinking saloon called “The Alhambra,” where he was found explaining “Eureka” to a motley crowd of bibulous loungers, by whom it was no more understood than by his literary and theological critics. Such in 1872 were the recollections of Mr. Thompson, to whom, when he left Richmond, to cancel a small advance, Poe handed a MS. copy of “Annabel Lee,” for publication in the Messenger, though he had already sent a copy of the same poem to Dr. Griswold before leaving Fordham, with instructions to sell it to Graham or Godey, if he could do so, and place the amount received for it to his credit.

The reminiscences of Mrs. Weiss are among the most interesting, if not, indeed, the most interesting of those of any of Poe’s contemporaries. She had reason to feel kindly toward him, for he. had written pleasantly about her early poems, in a review of Griswold’s “Female Poets of America,” in the Messenger. This was some time before she met him, and when she bore her maiden name, Susan Archer Talley. Her knowledge of Poe did not correspond with that of Mr. Thompson, and other of his male friends, but she was not ignorant of the temptation which beset him — the melancholy folly which laid him low and stained his name.

If the information of Mrs. Weiss was correct, Poe first took a room at the American Hotel, but soon changed his quarters to the Old Swan Tavern, which had once, and probably in his [page clii:] youth, been the fashionable hotel of Richmond. It was cheap and well kept, in the old Virginia style, and was the nearest hotel to Duncan’s Lodge, the residence of Mrs. Mackenzie, the widow of the gentleman who had adopted Rosalie Poe in her infancy. Mrs. Mackenzie, had always been the friend of Poe, who, as well as his sister, was accustomed to call her “Ma,” and to confide in her as in a mother, and he was naturally a good deal at her house, to which the young poetess was a frequent visitor. He desired an introduction to her. “The remembrance of that first meeting with the poet is still as vividlyimpressed upon my mind as though it had been but yesterday. A shy and dreamy girl, scarcely more than a child, I had all my life taken an interest in those strange stories and poems of Edgar Poe; and now, with my old childish impression of their author scarcely worn off, I regarded the meeting with an eager, yet shrinking anticipation. As I entered the parlor, Poe was seated near an open window, quietly conversing. His attitude was easy and graceful, with one arm lightly resting upon the back of his chair. His dark, curling hair was thrown back from his broad forehead — a style in which he habitually wore it. At sight of him, the impression produced upon me was of a refined, high-bred, and chivalrous gentleman. I use this word ‘chivalrous’ as exactly descriptive of something in his whole personnel, distinct from either polish or high-breeding, and which, though instantly apparent, was yet an effect too subtle to be described. He rose on my entrance, and, other visitors being present, stood with one hand resting on the back of his chair, awaiting my greeting. So dignified was his manner, so reserved his expression, that I experienced an involuntary recoil, until I turned to him and saw his eyes suddenly brighten as I offered my hand; a barrier seemed to melt between us, and I felt that we were no longer strangers.

“I am thus minute in my account of my first meeting with [page cliii:] Poe, because I would illustrate, if possible, the manner peculiar to him, and also the indescribable charm, I might almost say magnetism, which his eyes possessed above any others that I have ever seen.” It was this influence, Mrs.- Weiss thinks, which so often attracted strangers to Poe, and which Mrs. Osgood experienced on her first interview with him in the parlors of the Astor House. “From this time I saw Poe constantly,” she continues, “especially during the last weeks of his stay in Richmond. From his sister also, and from intimate common friends, we knew all concerning him, — so that about this portion of his life there is no reserve and no mystery.

“It would be better, indeed, for his fair name, could a veil be drawn over certain dark spots which disfigure this otherwise unusually pure and happy phase of his life. On these, I prefer to touch as lightly as possible. I know that he strove against the evil; but his will was weak; and. having once yielded, in however slight a degree, said his friends, he seemed to lose nil control over himself; and twice during his visit to Richmond, his life was thus seriously endangered. Yet, though I heard something of these things, I did not then, nor until long after, fully understand them. It was his own request that I should not be informed of his weakness; and he was scrupulously careful never to appear in our presence, except when he was, as he expressed it, ‘entirely himself.’

“And as himself, — that is, as he appeared to me in my own home and in society, — Poe was pre-eminently a gentleman. This was apparent in everything about him, even to the least detail. He dressed always in black, and with faultless taste and simplicity. An indescribable refinement pervaded all that he did and said. His general bearing in society, especially toward strangers, was quiet, dignified, and somewhat reserved, even at times unconsciously approaching hauteur. He rarely smiled, and never laughed. When pleased, nothing could exceed the charm of his [page cliv:] manner, — to his own sex cordial, to ladies, marked by a sort of chivalrous, respectful courtesy.

“I was surprised to find that the poet was not the melancholy person I had unconsciously pictured. On the contrary, he appeared, except on one occasion, invariably cheerful, and frequently playful in mood. He seemed quietly amused by the lighthearted chat of the young people about him, and often joined them in humorous repartee, sometimes tinged with a playful sarcasm. Yet he preferred to sit quietly, and listen and observe. Nothing escaped his keen observation. He was extremely fastidious in his idea of feminine requirements, and himself lamented that at slight things in women he was apt to be repelled and disgusted, even against his better judgment. Though in the social evenings with us, or at Duncan’s Lodge, Poe would join in the light conversation or amusement of the hour, I observed that it had not power to interest him for any length of time. He preferred a seat on the portico, or a stroll about the lawn or garden, in company with a friend.

“In his conversations with me, Poe expressed himself with a freedom and unreserve which gave me a clearer insight into his personal history and character than, I think, was possessed by many persons. Indeed, I may say that from the moment of our meeting he was never to me the ‘inexplicable’ character that he was pronounced by others. Young as I was, I had yet by some intuitive instinct of perception, as it were, comprehended the finer and more elevated nature of the man, and it was probably to his own consciousness of this that I owed his confidence. I remember his saying, near the beginning of our acquaintance, and in reply to a remark of my own, ‘I cannot express the pleasure — the more than pleasure — of finding myself so entirely understood by you;’ adding, ‘It is not often that I am so understood.’ Again, he said of Mrs. Osgood, ‘She is the only one of my friends who understands me.’ His own insight into personal character [page clv:] was quick and intuitive, but not deep; and it struck me even then, with all my youthful inexperience, that in knowledge of human nature he was, for a man of his genius, strangely deficient.

“Among other things, Poe spoke to me freely of his future plans and prospects. He was at this time absorbed in his cherished scheme of establishing his projected journal, The Stylus. Nearly all his old friends in Virginia had promised to aid him with the necessary funds, and he was sanguine of success. He intended to spare no pains, no effort, to establish this as the leading literary journal of the country. The plan of it, which he explained in detail, but of which I retain little recollection, was to be something entirely original; and the highest ‘genius, distinctive from talent,’ of the country was to be represented in its pages. To secure this result, he would offer a more liberal price for contributions than any other publisher. This would, of course, demand capital to begin with, which was all that he required; and of that he had the promise. To establish this journal had been, he said, the cherished dream of his life, and now at last he felt assured of success. And in thus speaking he held his head erect, and his eyes glowed with enthusiasm. ‘I must and will succeed!’ he said.

“Much curiosity has been expressed, and many and various statements have been made in regard to the poet’s relations at this time with Mrs. Sarah Shelton, of Richmond. So far as I am certainly informed upon the subject, the story is simply this:

“The two had been schoolmates, and, as such, a childish flirtation had existed between them. When, some years previous to this time, Poe made a brief visit to Richmond, Mrs. Shelton, then a wealthy widow, had invited him to her house and treated him with special attention. Shortly after the death of his wife, intimate friend wrote to him that Mrs. Shelton often inquired after him, and suggested the plan which he somewhat later, when so much in need of money, came seriously to consider. [page clvi:] Certain it is that a correspondence existed between the poet and Mrs. Shelton almost from the time of Mrs. Poe’s death, and that for months before his appearance in Richmond it was understood by his friends that an engagement of marriage existed between them. His attentions to the lady immediately upon his arrival tended to confirm the report. Some friend of hers, however, represented to her that Poe’s motives were of a mercenary nature; and of this she accused him, at the same time declaring her intention of so securing her property as to prevent his having any command of it. A rupture ensued, and thenceforth no further communication took place between them.

‘”Poe never publicly admitted his engagement with Mrs. Shelton, and appeared anxious to keep the matter private. Mr. John M. Daniel, the well-known editor of the Examiner, having in the columns of that paper made some allusion to the reported engagement, Poe resented it as an unwarrantable liberty, and proceeded to the Examiner office to demand an explanation. Mr. Daniel, whose fiery temper was well known to Poe, had been informed of the proposed visit, and on the latter’s entrance advanced to meet him. The two, who had never before met, stood facing each other; but before a dozen words had been spoken, Mr. Daniel, as with a sudden impulse, extended his hand, and Poe, who was quick to respond to any token of good feeling, and doubtless recognized the nobility of the man before him, as readily accepted it, and thus was ratified a friendship which lasted while they lived.

“It will be seen from the above account of the affair with Mrs. Shelton that Poe did not, as is stated by his biographers, leave Richmond for New York with the intention of preparing for bis marriage with that lady. Yet that he had entered into an engagement of marriage with her even previous to his appearance in Richmond, I am assured. It was at a time when, as he himself declared, he stood more in need of money than at any previous [page clvii:] period of his life. It was, to his own view, the turningpoint of his fortunes, depending upon his cherished scheme of establishing The Stylus, through which he was to secure fame and fortune. This could not be done without money. Money was the one thing needful, upon which all else depended; and money he must have, at whatever cost or sacrifice. Hence the affair with Mrs. Shelton. She was a lady of respectability, but of plain manners and practical disposition; older than Poe, and not gifted with those traits which might be supposed capable of attracting one of his peculiar taste and temperament.

“While upon this subject, I venture, though with great hesitation, to say a word in relation to Poe’s own marriage with his cousin, Virginia Clemm. I am aware that there exists with the public but one view of this union, and that so lovely and touching in itself, that to mar the picture with even a shadow inspires almost a feeling of remorse. Yet since in the biography of a distinguished man of genius trutli is above all things desirable, and since in this instance the facts do not redound to the discredit of any party concerned, I may be allowed to state what I have been assured is truth.

“Poets are proverbial for uncongenial marriages, and to this Poe can scarcely be classed as an exception. From the time when as a youth of nineteen he became a tutor to his sweet and gentle little cousin of six years old, he loved her with the tender and protective fondness of an elder brother. As years passed he became the subject of successive fancies or passions for various charming women; but she, gradually budding into early womanhood, experienced but one attachment — an absorbing devotion to her handsome, talented, and fascinating cousin. So intense was this passion that her health and spirits became seriously affected, and her mother, aroused to painful solicitude, spoke to Edgar about it. This was just as he was preparing to leave her house, which had been for some years his home, and enter the world of [page clviii:] business. The idea of this separation was insupportable to Virginia. The result was that Poe, at that time a young man of twenty-eight, married his little, penniless, and delicate childcousin of fourteen or fifteen, and thus unselfishly secured her own and her mother’s happiness. In his wife he had ever the most tender and devoted of companions; but it was his own declaration, that he ever missed in her a certain intellectual and spiritual sympathy necessary to perfect happiness in such an union. It was this need which so often impelled him to ‘those many romantic little episodes’ of which Mrs. Osgood speaks, and which were well known to Poe’s acquaintance. He was never a deliberately unkind husband, and toward the close of Mrs. Poe’s life he was assiduous in his tender care and attention. Yet his own declaration to an intimate friend of his youth was that his marriage ‘had not been a congenial one;’ and I repeatedly heard the match ascribed to Mrs. Clemm, by those who were well acquainted with the family and the circumstances. In thus alluding to a subject so delicate, I have not lightly done so, or unadvisedly made a statement which seems refuted by the testimony of so many who have written of ‘the passionate idolatry’ with which the poet regarded his wife. I have heard the subject often and freely discussed by Poe’s most intimate friends, including his sister, and upon this authority I speak. Lovely in person, sweet and gentle in disposition, his young wife deserved, doubtless, all the love that it was in his nature to bestow. Of his unvarying filial affection for Mrs. Clemm, and of her almost ungelic devotion to himself and his interests, there can be no question.”

I drop the thread of Mrs. Weiss’s narrative here for a moment, to say that her account of Poe’s relations with Mrs. Shelton is at variance with others that have reached us. I think she is mistaken, for example, in stating that he made a visit to Eichmond some years previous to the one she is describing; that he renewed [page clix:] his early acquaintance with, and became engaged to, Mrs. Shelton at that time; and that a rupture ensued between them, occasioned by the belief on her part that his motives were of a mercenary nature. I infer from the recollections of Mrs. Shelton herself (if she is correctly reported in the article in Appletons’ Journal for May, 1878), that she met him during this visit for the first time in many years. She was ready to go to church one Sunday, when a servant entered and told her that a gentleman in the parlor wished to see her. She went down, and was amazed at seeing Poe, whom she knew instantly. He came up to her in the most enthusiastic manner, and said: “Oh! Elmira, is it you?” She told him that she was going to church, that she never let anything interfere with that, and that he must call again. He called again, and renewed his addresses. She laughed, as she well might, if she was the elder, he being then in his forty-first year. He looked serious, and said he was in earnest, and had been thinking about it for a long time. When she found that he was serious, she became serious also, and told him that if he would not take a positive denial, he must give her time to consider. He answered, “A love that hesitated was not a love for him.” He stayed with Mrs. Shelton a long time, however, was very pleasant and cheerful, and came to see her frequently. ‘When he was going away he begged her to marry him, and promised he would be everything she could desire. He said when he left that he was going to l^ew York, to wind up some business matters, and that he would return to Richmond as soon as he had accomplished it, although he said he had a presentiment that he should never see her any more. “I was not engaged to him,” is the declaration of Mrs. Shelton, “but there was a partial understanding.” Having stated the pros and cons of this curious love affair, I return to the reminiscences of Mrs. Weiss.

“I can vividly recall him as he appeared on his visits to us. He always carried a cane, and upon entering the shade of the avenue [page clx:] would remove his hat, throw back his hair, and walk lingeringly, as if enjoying the coolness, carrying his hat in his hand, generally behind him. Sometimes he would pause to examine some rare flower, or to pluck a grape from the laden trellises. He met us always with an expression of pleasure illuminating his counte. nauce and lighting his fine eyes.

“Poe’s eyes, indeed, were his most striking feature, and it was to these that his face owed its peculiar attraction. I have never seen other eyes at all resembling them. They were large, with long, jet-black lashes, — the iris dark steel-gray, possessing a crystalline clearness and transparency, through which the jetblack pupil was seen to expand and contract with every shade of thought and emotion. I observed that the lids never contracted, as is so usual in most persons, especially when talking; but his gaze was ever full, open, and unshrinking. His usual expression was dreamy and sad. He had a way of sometimes turning a slightly askance look upon some person who was not observing him, and, with a quiet, steady gaze, appear to be mentally taking the calibre of the unsuspecting subject. ‘What awful eyes Mr. Poe has!’ said a lady to me. ‘It makes my blood run cold to see him slowly turn and fix them upon me when I am talking.’

“Apart from the wonderful beauty of his eyes, I would not have called Poe a very handsome man. He was, in my opinion, rather distinguished-looking than handsome. What he had been when younger I had heard, but at the period of my acquaintance with him he had a pallid and careworn look, — somewhat haggard, indeed, — very apparent except in his moments of animation. He wore a dark mustache, scrupulously kept, but not entirely concealing a slightly contracted expression of the mouth and an occasional twitching of the upper lip resembling a sneer. This sneer, indeed, was easily excited — a motion of the lip, scarcely perceptible, and yet intensely expressive. There was in it nothing of ill-nature, but much of sarcasm, as when he remarked of a certain [page clxi:] pretentious editor, ‘He can make bold plunges into shallow water;’ and again, in reference to an editor presenting a costly book to a lady whose poems he had for years published while yet refusing to pay for them, Poe observed, ‘He could afford it,’ with that almost imperceptible curl of the lip, more expressive of contempt than words could have been. The shape of his head struck me, even on first sight, as peculiar. There was a massive projection of the broad brow and temples, with the organ of causality very conspicuously developed, a marked flatness of the top of the head, and an unusual fullness at the back. I had at this time no knowledge of phrenology; but now, in recalling this peculiar shape, I cannot deny that in Poe what are called the intellectual and animal portions of the head were remarkably developed, while in the moral regions there was as marked a deficiency. Especially there was a slight depression instead of fullness of outline where the organs of veneration and firmness are located by phrenologists. This peculiarity detracted so much from the symmetrical proportions of’ the head that he sought to remedy the defect by wearing his hair tossed back, thus producing more apparent height of the cranium.”

Mrs. Weiss was convinced that this visit of Poe’s to Richmond was one of the brightest and happiest seasons of his life, or would have been, if he had but possessed a will of sufficient strength to preserve him from his terrible temptation. “As I have said, the knowledge of this weakness was by his own request concealed from me. All that I knew of the matter was when a friend informed me that ‘Mr Poe was too unwell to see us that evening.’ A day or two after this he sent a message by his sister requesting some flowers, in return for which came a dainty note of thanks, written in a tremulous hand. He again wrote, inclosing a little anonymous poem which he had found in some newspaper and admired; and on the day following he made his appearance among us, but so pale, tremulous, and apparently subdued, as to [page clxii:] convince me that he had been seriously ill. On this occasion he had been at his rooms at the ‘Old Swan,’ where he was carefully tended by Mrs. Mackenzie’s family, but on a second and more serious relapse he was taken by Dr. Mackenzie and Dr. Gibbon Carter to Duncan’s Lodge, where during some days his life was in imminent danger. Assiduous attention saved him, but it was the opinion of the physicians that another such attack would prove fatal. This they told him, warning him seriously of the danger. His reply was that if people would not tempt him he would not fall. Dr. Carter relates how, on this occasion, he had a long conversation with him, in which Poe expressed the most earnest desire to break from the thrall dom of his besetting sin, and told of his many unavailing struggles to do so. He was moved even to tears, and finally declared, in the most solemn manner, that this time he would restrain himself — would withstand any temptation.

“The only occasion on which I saw Poe really sad or depressed was on a walk to the ‘Hermitage,’ the old deserted seat of the Mayo family, where he had, in his youth, been a frequent visitor. On reaching the place, our party separated, and Poe and myself strolled slowly about the grounds. I observed that he was unusually silent and preoccupied, and, attributing it to the influence of memories associated with the place, forbore to interrupt him. He passed slowly by the mossy bench called the ‘Lovers’ Seat,’ beneath two aged trees, and remarked, as we turned toward the garden, ‘There used to be white violets here.’ Searching amid the tangled wilderness of shrubs, we found a few late blossoms, some of which he placed carefully between the leaves of a notebook. Entering the deserted house, he passed from room to room with a grave abstracted look, and removed his hat, as if involuntarily, on entering the saloon, where in old times many a brilliant company had assembled. Seated in one of the deep windows, over which now grew masses of ivy, his memory must [page clxiii:] have borne him back to former scenes, for he repeated the familiar lines of Moore:

‘I feel like one

Who treads alone

Some banquet hall deserted,’

and paused, with the first expression of real sadness that I had ever seen on his face. The light of the setting sun shone through the drooping ivy-boughs into the ghostly room, and the tattered and mildewed paper-hangings, with their faded tracery of rose garlands, waved fitfully in the autumn breeze. An inexpressibly eerie feeling came over me, which I can even now recall, and, as I stood there, my old childish idea of the poet as a spirit of mingled light and darkness, recurred strongly to my imagination. I have never forgotten that scene, or the impression of the moment.

“Poe one day told me that it was necessary that he should go to New York. He must make certain preparations for establishing his magazine, The Stylus, but he should in less than two weeks return to Richmond, where he proposed henceforth to reside. He looked forward to this arrangement with great pleasure. ‘I mean to turn over a new leaf; I shall begin to lead a new life,’ he said, confidently. He had often spoken to me of his books, — ‘few, but recherche,’‘ — and he now proposed to send certain of these by express, for my perusal. ‘You must annotate them extensively,’ he said. ‘A book wherein the minds of the author and the reader are thus brought in contact is to me a hundred-fold increased in interest. It is like flint and steel.’ One of the books which he thus desired me to read was Mrs. Browning’s poems, and another, one of Hawthorne’s works. I remember his saying of the latter that he was ‘indisputably the best prose writer in America,’ that ‘Irving and the rest were mere commonplace beside him;’ and that ‘there was more inspiration [page clxiv:] of true genius in Hawthorne’s prose than in all Longfellow’s poetry.’ This may serve to give an idea of his own opinion of what constitutes genius, though some of Longfellow’s poems he pronounced ‘perfect of their kind.’

“The evening of the day previous to that appointed for his departure from Richmond, Poe spent at my mother’s. He declined to enter the parlors, where a number of visitors were assembled, saying he preferred the more quiet sitting-room; and here I had a long and almost uninterrupted conversation with him. He spoke of his future, seeming to anticipate it with an eager delight, like that of youth. He declared that the last few weeks in the society of his old and new friends had been the happiest that he had known for many years, and that when he again left New York he should there leave behind all the trouble and vexation of his past life. On no occasion had I seen him so cheerful and hopeful as on this evening. ‘Do you know,’ he inquired, ‘how I spent most of this morning? In writing a critique of your poems, to be accompanied by a biographical sketch. I intend it to be one of my best, and that it shall appear in the second number of The Stylus,’ — so confident was he in regard to this magazine. In the course of the evening he showed me a letter just received from his ‘friend Dr. Griswold,’ in reply to one but recently written by Poe, wherein the latter had requested Dr. Griswold, in case of his sudden death, to become his literary executor. In this reply Dr. Griswold accepted the proposal, expressing himself as much flattered thereby, and writing in terms of friendly warmth and interest. It will be observed that this incident is a contradiction of his statement that previous to Poe’s death he had had no intimation of the latter’s intention of appointing him his literary executor.

“In speaking of his own writings, Poe expressed his conviction that he had written his best poems, but that in prose he might yet surpass what he had already accomplished. He admitted [page clxv:] that much which he had said in praise of certain writers was not the genuine expression of his opinions. Before my acquaintance with him I had read his critique on Mrs. Osgood in the Southern Literary Messenger, and had in my turn criticised the article, writing my remarks freely on the margin of the magazine. I especially disagreed with him in his estimate of the lines on ‘Fanny Elsler’ and ‘Fanny’s Error,’ — ridiculing his suggested amendment of the latter. This copy of the magazine Mrs. Mackenzie afterward showed to Poe, and upon my expressing consternation thereat, she remarked laughingly, ‘Don’t be frightened; Edgar was delighted.’ On this evening he alluded to the subject, saying, ‘I am delighted to find you so truly critical; your opinions are really the counterpart of my own.’ I was naturally surprised, when he added, ‘You must not judge of me by what you find me saying in the magazines. Such expressions of opinion are necessarily modified by a thousand circumstances, — the wishes of editors, personal friendship, etc.’ When I expressed surprise at his high estimate of a certain lady writer, he said, ‘It is true, she is really commonplace, but her husband was kind to me;’ and added, ‘1 cannot point an arrow against any woman.’

“Poe expressed great regret in being compelled to leave Richmond, on even so brief an absence. He would certainly, he said, be back in two weeks. He thanked my mother with graceful courtesy and warmth for her kindness and hospitality; and begged that we would write to him in New York, saying it would do him good.

“He was the last of the party to leave the house. We were standing on the portico, and after going a few steps he paused, turned, and again lifted his hat, in a last adieu. At the moment a brilliant meteor appeared in the sky directly over his head, and vanished in the east. We commented laughingly upon the incident; but I remembered it sadly afterward. [page clxvi:]

“That night he spent at Duncan’s Lodge; and, as his friend said, sat late at his window, meditatively smoking, and seemingly disinclined for conversation. On the following morning he went into the city, accompanied by his friends Dr. Gibbon Carter and Dr. Mackenzie. The day was passed with them and others of his intimate friends. Late in the evening he entered the office of Dr. John Carter, and spent an hour in looking over the day’s papers; then taking Dr. Carter’s cane he went out, remarking that he would step across to Saddler’s (a fashionable restaurant) and get supper. From the circumstance of his taking the cane, leaving his own in its place, it is probable that he had intended to return; but at the restaurant he met with some acquaintances who detained him until late, and then accompanied him to the Baltimore boat. According to their account, he was quite sober and cheerful to the last, remarking, as he took leave of them, that he would soon be in Richmond again.

“On this evening I had been summoned to see a friend who was dangerously ill. On the way I was met by Miss Poe, who delivered a note left for me by her brother, containing a MS. copy of ‘Annie,’ — a poem then almost unknown, and which I had expressed a wish to see. These strange prophetic lines I read at midnight, while the lifeless body of my friend lay in an adjoining chamber, and the awful shadow of death weighed almost forebodingly upon my spirit. Three days after, a friend came to me with the day’s issue of the Richmond Dispatch. ‘Without a word she pointed to a particular paragraph, where I read, — ‘Death of Edgar A. Poe, in Baltimore.’”

To the reminiscences of Mrs. Weiss, — which not only cover Poe’s visit to Richmond, almost from the day of his arrival to the night of his departure with a cane belonging to one of his friends, — but which present him and his personality with a vividness not to be found elsewhere, — to this last appreciative, affectionate, and most womanly estimate of his life and character, [page clxvii:] little remains to be added. He left Richmond on the night of October 3d or 4th, one account says by the boat, another by the train, and reached Baltimore safely. From this point begins the obscurity which overshadows the last two or three days of his life, — an obscurity which, so far as I know, has never yet been entirely cleared up. It was believed at the time by his relatives in Baltimore that he drank with a friend while waiting between trains, in consequence of which he took a wrong train, and proceeded as far as Havre de Grace, whence he was brought back to Baltimore by the conductor of the Philadelphia train in a state bordering on delirium. It was the eve of an exciting municipal election, and as he wandered up and down the streets he was seized by the lawless agents of a political club, and shut up all night in a cellar. The next morning he was taken out, drugged, and made to vote in eleven different wards. The following day he was found in the back room of a “head-quarters,” and removed to the hospital.

Twenty-six years after Poe’s death, a physician who attended him while in the hospital concluded to publish his recollections of his last moments and dying words. Why it did not occur to this medical person, Dr. J. J. Moran, to do this immediately after his death, when the world, as well as his friends, was more deeply interested in him than at present, and when his recollections could have been corroborated or refuted by living witnesses, we have to conjecture. We only know that his communication first saw the light in the columns of the New York Herald for October 28th, 1875. It seems to have been called forth by the publicity which had been given to the erection of a proposed monument to Poe in Baltimore, a project which was carried into effect on the 17th of November, 1875, and to have been written at greater length than it appeared in the Herald; so, at least, I gather from a letter of Dr. Moran’s, dated “Falls Church, Fairfax Co., Va., Jan. 17, 1875,” and addressed to the [page clxviii:] editor of a New York journal, to whom he was desirous of disposing of his manuscript, the contents of which he roughly described. It contained, as it then stood, — at any rate, he claimed to know, the exact time when Poe left Richmond, when he started for Philadelphia, and when he returned to Baltimore, with other particulars, which were omitted when it was printed in the Herald.

Dr. Moran’s account of the last days of Poe is substantially as follows. I say substantially, and I should add briefly, for I Jiave condensed it, and have rejected his recollection of Poe’s excited and wandering talk, which I do not believe that he, or any other man under the circumstances, could have reproduced verbatim, after a lapse of twenty-five or twenty-six years, the ‘report of which reminds me of the wonderment of Byron after finishing Dunlap’s “Life of George Frederick Cooke,” that so drunken an actor should have found so sober a biographer. Thus then Dr. Moran: — Poe was brought in a hack to the Washington University Hospital, on Broadway, north of Baltimore Street, on the 7th of October, 1849. He had been found lying upon a bench in front of a large mercantile house on Light Street wharf. He was in a stupor, whether from liquor or opium was not at first known. A gentleman passing along the pavement noticed several persons collected about the spot, and looking in through the crowd was suddenly impressed with the face, and on close inspection recognized the poet. He had been there since early dawn. A policeman sent for a hack, and directed the driver to the above-mentioned hospital, of which Dr. Moran was at that time the resident physician. It was about ten o’clock in the morning when he was brought in. He was at once placed in a private room, carefully undressed, and critically examined. There was no smell of liquor upon his person or breath, and no delirium or tremor. His skin was pallid, with slight nausea at the stomach, and a strong disposition to sleep. He was sponged [page clxix:] with lukewarm water, sinapisms were applied to his feet, thighs, and abdomen, and cold to his head, and the room was darkened. An experienced nurse was placed at the threshold of his door, with orders to watch him closely, and prevent the slightest noise from without, and to give Dr. Moran notice of any sign of wakefulness or consciousness on his part. In about half an hour he woke, and inquired where he was. The nurse summoned Dr. Moran, who drew his chair close to the bed, and taking one of his hands while he smoothed his forehead, asked him how he felt. He was miserable; was sick at the stomach, though not thirsty; and had a heavy feeling in the head. He could not say how long he had it. He had been stopping at a hotel at Pratt Street, opposite the depot, where he had left a trunk, containing manuscripts and papers, which he wished should be sent for. He inquired again where he was, and on being told that he was in the care of his friends, remarked that his best friend would be the man who would blow out his brains. Here his conversation, which had been coherent so far, began to grow wild, and Dr. Moran concluded to give him a cordial, which he drank, after which he appeared to sleep. At the end of an hour he awoke, sane enough to decline some liquor which was offered him by Dr. Moran, who, from what he had gathered from those who saw him on the wharf, was impressed with the idea that he was suffering from a too free use of it, and might be benefited by it at this juncture, but otherwise wandering in his mind and speech. He revived sufficiently to give the address of Mrs. Shelton, to whom he thought he was to have been married in ten days (Norfolk, Virginia), and Mrs. Maria Clemm (Lowell, Mass.), and then relapsed into an unconscious state, during which his cousin, Neilson Poe, was sent for. He was partially roused after an hour or more, in order to be given a febrifuge mixture and a stimulant, which he received in a staring, dazed way, while the pupils of his eyes alternately dilated and contracted. [page clxx:] A second physician who was present advised the use of wine, beef-tea, and gentle cordials. The dying man now raised his hand to his mouth as if he wanted to drink, and a small lump of ice was placed upou his tongue. A glass of water was then brought him, but he swallowed it with difficulty, though he managed to drink a wine-glass of beef-tea. This seemed to revive him: he opened his eyes, and fixing them upon a transom over his door he kept them unmoved for more than a moment. At last he whispered feebly, “Doctor, it’s all over; write ‘Eddy is no more.’” His mind wandered, and his words grew wild, as the waves of life and death kept swaying to and fro in his breast. His eyes turned upward until the white balls were all that could be seen; muscular twitching and jerking set in, and with one general tremor all was over. He died about midnight on the 7th of October, 1849. Two days later all that was mortal of him was borne to the Westminster Burying-ground, at the corner of Fayette and Green Streets, Baltimore, the old family burying-ground of the Poes. The spot selected for his grave was near the grave of his grandfather, General David Poe. There was a vacant place left, but it was filled about twenty years afterward by the body of Mrs. Clemm, who died upwards of eighty years old, in the same hospital where her Eddy expired, and was buried, at her own request, by his side.

Such was the brief, brilliant, but unhappy life, and such the melancholy death of Edgar Allan Poe, of whom it may well be said in the words of Dr. Johnson, that the events of his life are variously related, and all that can be told with certainty is, that he was poor.



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

* Not wishing to break the thread of narrative here, I refer the reader who is curious in this matter to the Appendix, which will enable him to settle for himself the question of Poe’s indebtedness to Captain Brown. It is an interesting chapter in the history of “conveying,” for which I am indebted to Mr. George P. Philes, of this city, a careful bibliographer, whose merit is to understand what he is writing about.





[S:0 - SWEAP, 1880] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - A Poe Bookshelf - Life of Edgar Allan Poe (R. H. Stoddard, 1880)