Text: H. S. Cornwell, “Another Croak from “The Raven,’ ” Waverley Magazine (Boston, MA), vol. VII, no. 11, September 10, 1853, pp. 168-169


[page 168, column 4, continued:]

Another Croak from “The Raven”

FIAT Justitia — the gentleman who occasionally descends from Olympus to favor the world with his grotesque performances, appears to be greatly agitated. He is “in a bad way,” and we are concerned for his recovery. We never suspected him of any great amount of brain, or we might be led to suppose that organ rather frigacious.

Notwithstanding the Editorial warning by which he might have profited, he allows his temper to master his prudence, and is highly corybantic. We would respectfully recommend him to hide his anger, as undue excitement only tends to exacerbate his wounds.

In his first article he has a Poem which he says was the first that ever possessed the refrain — “Nevermore.” This Poem he says was published in 1839. Concerning the first of these statements, he proved nothing, as his article abundantly shows, and for the simplest of reasons — that he could not; for in order to do so, he must show that no poem with said refrain existed previous to 1836. This he did not even attempt to do; yet “thickheaded” for not perceiving proof where none did, or ever can exist! But we have some verses, written in 1827 — containing this identical refrain, so that here, in the onset, he is prostrated — flatter than his own catachrestical platitudes. He manages, however, to gather sufficient speech to call us a “Hyena,” and a “Crockodile,” which he doubtless imagines to be gentlemanly argumentation: but of this the reader can judge.

We also observed that we thought Poe’s punctuation superior to the Doctor’s. We think so now, as every sensible person must. But at this point, F. J. Luminously asks — “why did he think so? Did he not know so?” We reply — certainly we did, and we thought so because we knew it, as no one can know a thing without thought — except perhaps it be Fiat Justitia, who appears to think so little, that what he knows may possibly arise from instinct, as is the case with others of the genus Sumia. We quoted some verses with the refrain — “Nevermore,” remarking that they had little merit except in the case of possessing the disputed refrain. Here he is again at loss, but concentrating his genius, he asks “why quote them if they have little merit?” — not a very intelligent question, but we will endeavor to explain to him in plain terms, according to his understanding, viz.: Because common sense teaches us that an extract, provided it bear upon the point, may reasonably be quoted, whether it possess great merit or not, — even if it be but mediocre, as is the case with the poem “To Allegra Florence, &c,’[[”]] — or if it be disgusting, as the egg verses, — or decidedly silly and platitudinous, as are these remarks of F. J’s. that we are examining. He quotes our remarks, pretending to think them “of no great merit,” thereby sinning against himself. “The Physician needs physic;” and we recommend him to get Dr. Chivers to administer a dose of crushed eggs.

F. J. says he gives “undeniable proof;” but we, by denying it, prove that it is not undeniable — so that his attempts to reason from these premises are vain.

He tried to prove that Poe had no sad experiences; but when we reminded him of Poe’s Orphanage, he enquires with his usual brilliancy, “what has that to do with the origin of “The Raven?” Nothing; but it has very much to do with sad experiences — the point under notice. And here we would observe that he has an inveterate habit of asking questions; whether from a laudable desire to leans something, or from childish predeliction, does not appear. Perhaps somewhat from both. He misrepresents us in saying that we characterize Poe as being contemptible and vile. Now we dare him to prove this. It was Poe’s faults and errors, which he had in common with all men, and which F. J. Vilely drags before the public gaze, that we called contemptible, and [page 169:] intimated that the action would more properly befit a Hyena than a being pretending to the name of Man; and we are still of that opinion. He has something to say with all the rest about the impenetrable labyrinths of a Pilot; which is all, doubtless, very fine argument.

We proved, and the argument cannot be successfully controverted — that the Dr. was not the first man who ever used trochaic measure on an Elegaic theme, and cited several plaintive Poems of Shelley, and a funeral song, all in said measure, to prove it. He endeavors, here, to make a distinction between a funeral song or hymn, and an Elegy. Now, if he will coax some benevolent person to teach him the meaning of Elegy — according to Webster, he will confess his error.

He charges Poe with having stolen the rhythm of the Raven from Dr. Chivers.

Poe never claimed the rhythm as his own but declared that it was not new, as his own writings show! (vol. 2, p. 267).

But F. J says that we prove that Poe stole the rhythm of the Raven from Shelley. Now here our unlucky critic is caught in his own snare; for, as he admits that we prove the theft from Shelley, he must also admit — and here he cannot escape — that it was not stolen from Dr. Chivers! So that he has ruined his whole argument; and “essentially damned” himself! We shall see if he can writhe around this. Possibly he may do so, being as he is, chief Contortionist and buffoon to his ipecac majesty — Thomas H. Chivers, M. D.

We would advise F. J. to keep quiet for a few days, and when he recovers, buy himself a pointed cap, and join some “Circus and Menagerie” — where his genius can take its natural course, and he can while away his elegant leisure in tickling the “Hyena” with a straw!

We would also kindly suggest that en exhibition of his mental grossness and low breeding can no more amount to argument, than boyish denunciations answer for proof. We trust we shall not be obliged to make farther appeal to his decency.

His conduct of the case is most remarkable. He has neither presented any new proof — fortified his own position, or refuted anything we have said. He has done almost everything else. He has descended from the “Jury of the Gods,” to hunt Crockodiles; and for aught we know to the contrary, returned to give them the result of his Zoological investigations. But we trust that in the Programme of extraordinary performances, he will, for the sake of poor mortals, omit to burn up Boston harbor, or blow out the moon!

But the most absurd feature of his articles, and the one that most palpably reveals his sophistry, is the antagonistic and inconsistent character of one of his remarks, and the intended tendency of his general thesis: He grants Poe an unenviable notoriety, and, at the same time strenuously endeavors to confer this notoriety, as a favor, on his friend, Dr. Chivers!

In taste, his articles are bad; in feeling, inviduous and malignant; and, on the whole, inductive of positive pity for the unlucky author of his own misfortunes. — But why should we linger upon a theme so absurd ? Profounder critics have exhausted words in praise of Poe; a nation is proud to name him among her children; and Genius herself kneels weeping by his grave, and says — “This was my son!”

H. S. C.







[S:0 - WM, 1853] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - A Poe Bookshelf - Another Croak from The Raven (H. S. Cornwell, 1853)