Text: George E. Woodberry, “Chapter 08,” The Life of Edgar Allan Poe: Personal and Literary (1909), vol. II, pp. 1-64


[page 1, unnumbered:]


Chapter VIII


THE Prospectus of “The Stylus” was issued through the columns of the Philadelphia “Saturday Museum,” March 4, 1843, which called attention to it in an editorial notice, together with a biography of Poe. It was shorter than that of the “Penn Magazine,” but the identity of the two projects is avowed, and in the important parts describing the aims of the editors the same sentences formerly used are incorporated. The “chief purpose” is still declared to be to found a journal distinguished by “a sincere and fear less opinion,” and it is announced as earnest of this intention that “an important feature of the work, and one which will be introduced in the opening number, will be a series of Critical and Biographical Sketches of American Writers,” a plan that afterwards took many forms. [page 2:] “The Stylus” was to be illustrated also, like the “Perm,” and an agreement, signed January 31, 1843, had been entered into between Clarke and Poe on one side and F. O. C. Darley on the other, in accordance with which the latter was to furnish not less than three original designs per month to Clarke and Poe, at seven dollars each, until July 1, 1844, and was not to contribute similar designs for use in any other magazine during that period. The subjects were to be given by the editors; and the first work put into the artist's hands for this purpose was “The Gold Bug,” for which he made and delivered some designs. Poe himself took the story to Mr. Darley, with whom he held pleasant relations. “He impressed me,” writes the latter, “as a refined and very gentlemanly man; exceedingly neat in his person; interesting always, from the intellectual character of his mind, which appeared to me to be tinged with sadness. His manner was quiet and reserved; he rarely smiled. I remember his reading his Gold Bug and Black Cat to me before they were published. The form of his manuscript was peculiar: he wrote on half sheets of note paper, which he pasted together at the ends, making one continuous piece, which he rolled up tightly. As he read [page 3:] he dropped it upon the floor. It was very neatly written, and without corrections, apparently.”(1) Several of these small rolls still exist.

Poe had also asked Thomas to write the biographical sketch of him for the “Museum,” and himself furnished the memoranda. Thomas was obliged to decline: —

WASHINGTON, February 1, 1843.

MY DEAR POE, — You judged rightly I did not write to you [while] waiting “for some definite action of Congress on Smith's case.” I feel most anxious (?) in the matter for you, my friend. About the biography. I duly received your notes, and determined at the earliest moment to take it in hand. Congress is now, you know, in session, and my labors at the department are terrible while it continues. There (?) I have set myself about writing out the notes, and there (?) I have been taken off. It would be a labor of love with me, Poe, as you know, and let who will do it now; some of these days I will do it better unless they do it d——d well. I could not do it until Congress adjourns, and not speedily then — I am so much occupied. I therefore think it best to send you the MS. as you request, [page 4:] but I do it with regret. I should be most glad to greet you in the capital. Come on if possible.

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

Why the d——l did you not give me an inkling of what your good luck is. I was at a party last night, and came to the department rather dull, but when I opened your letter, and read, “In high spirits, Yours truly, E. A. Poe,” I rose to “high spirits” myself. I assure you, Poe, that nothing gives me greater pleasure than to know that you are well and doing well.

Remember me most affectionately to your mother and lady and believe me truly your friend, F. W. THOMAS.(1)

The desired biography was written by a young Philadelphia poet, H. B. Hirst, then an habitual associate of Poe, who breakfasted and went walking with him, and has been represented as a writer in whose work Poe's presence [page 5:] is to be found. The life was written from Poe's memoranda, and a portrait was lithographed from a miniature; both were printed in the “Saturday Museum,” of which it was also announced he was to be editor. He sent the paper(1) to Thomas, and others: —

PHILADELPHIA, February 25, 1843.

MY DEAR THOMAS, — Herewith I forward a “Saturday Museum” containing a Biography and caricature, both of myself. I am ugly enough, God knows, but not quite so bad as that. The biographer is H. W. Hirst of this city. I put into his hands your package, as returned, and he has taken the liberty of stating his indebtedness for memoranda to yourself — a slight extension of the truth for which I pray you to excuse him. He is a warm friend of yours, by the by — and a warm friend is a matter of moment at all times, but especially in this age of lukewarmness. I have also been guilty of an indiscretion in quoting from a private letter of yours to myself — I could not forego the temptation of letting the world know how well you thought of me. [page 6:]

On the outside of the paper you will see a Prospectus of “The Stylus” — my old “Perm” revived and remodelled under better auspices. I am anxious to hear your opinion of it. I have managed at last to secure, I think, the great object — a partner possessing ample capital, and, at the same time, so little self-esteem as to allow me entire control of the editorial conduct. He gives me, also, a half interest, and is to furnish funds for all the business operations — I agreeing to supply, for the first year, the literary matter. This will puzzle me no little, but I must do my best — write as much as possible myself, under my own name and pseudonyms, and hope for the casual aid of my friends, until the first stage of infancy is surpassed. The articles of copartnership have been signed and sealed for some weeks, and I should have written you be fore, informing you of my good luck, but that I was in hope of sending you, at the same time, a specimen sheet. Some little delay has occurred in getting it out on account of paper. In the mean time, all arrangements are progressing with spirit. We shall make the most magnificent magazine, as regards externals, ever seen. The finest paper, bold type, in single column, and superb wood-engravings in the manner of [page 7:] the French illustrated edition of “Gil Bias by Gigoux, or “Robinson Crusoe” by Grandville.

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

In a few weeks, at farthest, I hope to take you by the hand. In the mean time write, and let me know how you come on. About a week since I enclosed an introductory letter to your self in one to a friend of mine (Professor Wyatt) [page 8:] now in Washington. I presume you have seen him. He is much of a gentleman, and I think you will be pleased with him.

Virginia and Mrs. Clemm beg to be remem bered. Truly your friend,


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

Poe himself was shortly after sent to Washington to obtain subscriptions among his political friends, and, if possible, those of the President and Cabinet through his old acquaintance, Rob Tyler. He apparently also meant to lecture, and to look after his prospects of becoming an office-holder. The visit was unfortunate. On the evening of his arrival he began to drink. On the next day, March 11, he wrote to his partner: —

WASHINGTON, March 11, 1843.

MY DEAR SIR, — I write merely to inform you of my well-doing, for, so far, I have done nothing.

My friend Thomas, upon whom I depended, [page 9:] is sick. I suppose he will be well in a few days. In the meantime I shall have to do the best I can.

I have not seen the President yet.

My expenses were more than I thought they would be, although I have economized in every respect, and this delay (Thomas being sick) puts me out sadly. However, all is going right. I have got the subscriptions of all the departments, President,&c. I believe that I am making a sensation which will tend to the benefit of the magazine.

Day after to-morrow I am to lecture. Rob Tyler is to give me an article, also Upshur. Send me $10 by mail as soon as you get this. I am grieved to ask you for money in this way, but you will find your account in it twice over. Very truly yours, EDGAR A. POE.(1)


The next day his friend Dow(2) wrote in his behalf: —

WASHINGTON, March 12, 1843.

DEAR SIR, — I deem it to be my bounden duty to write you this hurried letter in relation to our mutual friend E. A. P. [page 10:]

He arrived here a few days since. On the first evening he seemed somewhat excited, having been over-persuaded to take some port wine.

On the second day he kept pretty steady, but since then he has been, at intervals, quite unreliable.

He exposes himself here to those who may injure him very much with the President, and thus prevents us from doing for him what we wish to do and what we can do if he is himself again in Philadelphia. He does not understand the ways of politicians nor the manner of dealing with them to advantage. How should he?

Mr. Thomas is not well and cannot go home with Mr. P. My business and the health of my family will prevent me from so doing.

Under all the circumstances of the case, I think it advisable for you to come on and see him safely back to his home. Mrs. Poe is in a bad state of health, and I charge you, as you have a soul to be saved, to say not one word to her about him until he arrives with you. I shall expect you or an answer to this letter by return of mail.

Should you not come, we will see him on board the cars bound to Phila., but we fear he might be detained in Baltimore and not be out of harm's way. [page 11:]

I do this under a solemn responsibility. Mr. Poe has the highest order of intellect, and I can not bear that he should be the sport of senseless creatures who, like oysters, keep sober, and gape and swallow everything.

I think your good judgment will tell you what course you ought to pursue in this matter, and I cannot think it will be necessary to let him know that I have written you this letter; but I cannot suffer him to injure himself here without giving you this warning.

Yours respectfully, J. E. DOW.(1)

To THOMAS C. CLARKE, Esq., Philadelphia, Pa.

Poe, however, was sent home by himself, and arrived at Philadelphia March 15, where he was met at the station by Mrs. Clemm. After going home he called on Clarke, and, the next day, wrote to his two friends:

PHILADELPHIA, March 16, 1843.

MY DEAR THOMAS AND DOW, — I arrived here in perfect safety, and sober, about half-past four last evening — nothing occurring on the road of any consequence. I shaved and breakfasted [page 12:] in Baltimore, and lunched on the Susquehanna, and by the time I got to Philadelphia felt quite decent. Mrs. Clemm was expecting me at the car-office. I went immediately home, took a warm bath and supper, and then went to Clarke's. I never saw a man in my life more surprised to see another. He thought by Dow's epistle that I must not only be dead but buried, and would as soon have thought of seeing his great-great-great-grandmother. He received me, therefore, very cordially, and made light of the matter. I told him what had been agreed upon that I was a little sick, and that Dow, knowing I had been, in times past, given to spreeing upon an extensive scale, had become unduly alarmed,&c.,&c. — that when I found he had written, I thought it best to come home. He said my trip had im proved me, and that he had never seen me looking so well! — and I don't believe I ever did. This morning I took medicine, and, as it is a snowy day will avail myself of the excuse to stay at home — so that by to-morrow I shall be really as well as ever. Virginia's health is about the same; but her distress of mind had been even more than I had anticipated. She desires her kindest remembrances to both of you — as also does Mrs. C. [page 13:]

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

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

However, this is for Dow. My dear fellow, thank you a thousand times for your kindness and great forbearance, and don't say a word about the cloak turned inside out, or other peccadilloes of that nature. Also, express to your wife my deep regret for the vexation I must have occasioned her. Send me, also, if you can, the letter to Blythe. Call, also, at the barber's shop just above Fuller's and pay for me a levy which I [page 14:] believe I owe. And now, God bless you, for a nobler fellow never lived.

And this is for Thomas. My dear friend, for give me my petulance and don't believe I think all I said. Believe me, I am very grateful to you for your many attentions and forbearances, and the time will never come when I shall forget either them or you. Remember me most kindly to Dr. Lacey — also to the Don, whose mustachios I do admire after all, and who has about the finest figure I ever beheld — also to Dr. Frailey. Please express my regret to Mr. Fuller for making such a fool of myself in his house, and say to him (if you think it necessary) that I should not have got half so drunk on his excellent port wine but for the rummy coffee with which I was forced to wash it down. I would be glad, too, if you would take an opportunity of saying to Mr. Rob Tyler that if he can look over matters and get me the inspectorship, I will join the Washingtonians forthwith. I am as serious as a judge — and much [more] so than many. I think it would be a feather in Mr. Tyler's cap to save from the perils of mint julep — and “Port wines” — a young man of whom all the world thinks so well and who thinks so remarkably well of himself. [page 15:]

And now, my dear friends, good-by, and believe me most truly yours,


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

[NOTE BY THOMAS: This letter explains itself. While his friends were trying to get Poe a place he came on to Washington in the way he mentions. He was soon quite sick, and while he was so Dow wrote to one of his friends in Philadelphia about him! Poor fellow. A place had been promised his friends for him, and in that state of suspense which is so trying to all men, and particularly to men of imagination, he presented himself in Washington certainly not in a way to advance his interests. I have seen a great deal of Poe, and it was his excessive and at times marked [page 16:] sociability [?] which forced him into his “frolics,” rather than any mere morbid appetite for drink, but if he took but one glass of weak wine or beer or cider, the rubicon of the cup had been passed with him, and it almost always ended in excess and sickness. But he fought against the propensity as hard as ever Coleridge fought against it, and I am inclined to believe, after his sad experience and suffering, if he could have gotten office with a fixed salary, beyond the need of literary labour, that he would have redeemed himself, at least at this time. The accounts of his derelictions in this respect after I knew him were very much exaggerated. I have seen men who drank bottles of wine to Poe's wine-glasses who yet escaped all imputations of intemperance. His was one of those temperaments whose only safety is in total abstinence. He suffered terribly after any indiscretion. And, after all, what Byron said of Sheridan was truer of Poe: —

... Ah, little do they know

That what to them seemed vice might be but woe.

And, moreover, there is a great deal of heartache in the jestings of this letter. T.](1)

Thomas soon replied: — [page 17:]

WASHINGTON, March 27, 1843.

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

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

I rejoice to know that your wife is better. I cannot leave the office at present to see Robert Tyler, as you suggest, to get a line from him. But this I can tell you, that the President yesterday asked me many questions about you, and spoke of you kindly. John Tyler, who was by, told the President that he wished he would give you an office in Philadelphia, and before he could reply a servant entered and called him out. John had heard of your frolic from a man who saw you in it, but I made light of the matter when he mentioned it to me, and he seemed to think nothing of it himself. He seems to feel a deep interest in you — Robert was not by. I feel satisfied [page 18:] that I can get you something from his pen for your Magazine. He lately made a speech here on St. Patrick's day, which has won for him great applause — you will find it in the “Intelligencer” of this morning. Read it and tell me what you think of it. I write in the greatest haste, and have not your letter by me, so reply to it from memory. Write as soon as you get this. Be of good cheer. I trust to see you an official yet. In the greatest haste, yours truly,

F. W. THOMAS.(1)

While the affairs of the “Stylus” were faring thus, the “Pioneer” failed, in March, 1843. The contract bound Lowell and Carter to furnish the publishers five thousand copies on the twentieth of each month under a penalty of five hundred dollars in case of failure and the publishers to take that number at a certain price. The March number was eight days late, and the publishers, in the face of what was probably seen to be an unfortunate speculation, claimed the forfeit, but offered to waive it if the contract should be altered so as to require them to take only so many copies as they could sell. The result was that the editors were obliged to stop printing from a [page 19:] lack of credit, and were left with a large indebted ness for manufacture as well as to contributors. Lowell wrote to Poe about it: —

BOSTON, March 24, 1843.

MY DEAR FRIEND, — I have neglected writing to you too long already, in the hope of being able to remit the money I owe you. When I shall have stated the facts, I think that you will excuse my want of punctuality. The magazine was started on my own responsibility, & I relied on the payments I should receive from my publishers to keep me even with my creditors until the Magazine should be firmly established. You may conceive my distress when the very first note given me by my publishers has been protested for nonpayment, & the magazine ruined. For I was unable to go on any farther, having already incurred a debt of $1800 or more.

I hope soon to make such arrangements as will enable me to borrow this sum — pay all my debts & leave [me] free to go [to] work & apply my earnings to getting the load off my shoulders. The loss of my eyes at this juncture (for I am as yet unable to use them to any extent) adds to my distress. I shall remit to you before long — meanwhile do write me on receipt of this & tell [page 20:] me that you forgive me for what truly is more my misfortune than my fault — & that you still regard me as ever

Your friend in all ways,

J. R. LOWELL.(1)

P. S. I hear you have become an Editor. Is it true? I hope so; if it were only to keep our criticism in a little better trim.

That Clarke had not been implacably offended by the untoward incident at Washington appears from Poe's reply, in which the project of the “Stylus” is announced to Lowell, who was him self ill with ophthalmia.

PHILADELPHIA, March 27, 43.

MY DEAR FRIEND, — I have just received yours of the 24th and am deeply grieved, first that you should have been so unfortunate, and, secondly, that you should have thought it necessary to offer me any apology for your misfortunes. As for the few dollars you owe me — give yourself not one moment's concern about them. I am poor, but must be very much poorer, indeed, when I even think of demanding them.

But I sincerely hope all is not so bad as you [page 21:] suppose it, and that, when you come to look about you, you will be able to continue “The Pioneer.” Its decease, just now, would be a most severe blow to the good cause — the cause of a Pure Taste. I have looked upon your Magazine, from its outset, as the best in America, and have lost no opportunity of expressing the opinion. Herewith I send a paper, “The Phil. Sat. Museum,” in which I have said a few words on the topic.

I am not editing this paper, although an announcement was prematurely made to that effect; but have the privilege of inserting what I please editorially. On the first of July next I hope to issue the first number of “The Stylus,” a new monthly, with some novel features. I send you, also, a paper containing the Prospectus. In a few weeks I hope to forward you a specimen sheet. I am anxious to get a poem from yourself for the opening number, but, until you recover your health, I fear that I should be wrong in making the request.

Believe me, my dear friend, that I sympathize with you truly in your affliction. When I heard that you had returned to Boston, I hoped you were entirely well, and your letter disappoints and grieves me. [page 22:]

When you find yourself in condition to write, I would be indebted to you if you could put me in the way of procuring a brief article (also for my opening number) from Mr. Hawthorne — whom I believe you know personally. Whatever you gave him, we should be happy to give. A part of my design is to illustrate, whatever is fairly susceptible of illustration, with finely executed wood-engravings — after the fashion of Gigoux's “Gil Bias” or Grandville's “Gulliver” — and I wish to get a tale from Mr. Hawthorne as early as possible (if I am so fortunate as to get one at all), that I may put the illustration in the hands of the artist.

You will see by the Prospectus that we intend to give a series of portraits of the American literati, with critical sketches. I would be glad if I could so arrange matters as to have you first, provided you yourself have no serious objection. Instead of the “full-length portraits” promised in the Prospectus (which will be modified in the specimen sheet), we shall have medallions about three inches in diameter. Could you put me in possession of any likeness of yourself? — or would you do me the same favor in regard to Mr. Hawthorne? — You perceive I proceed upon the ground that you are intimate with [page 23:] Mr. H., and that making these inquiries would not subject you to trouble or inconvenience.

I confess that I am by no means so conversant with your own compositions (especially in prose) as I should be. Could you furnish me with some biographical and critical data, and tell me when or how I could be put in possession of your writings generally? — but I fear I am asking altogether too much.

If the 4th number of “The Pioneer” is printed, I would be obliged if you would send me an early copy through the P. O.

Please remember me to Mr. Carter, and believe me

Most sincerely your friend,



Lowell wrote to him, with regard to all these topics three letters: —

BOSTON. April 17, 1843.

MY DEAR FRIEND, — Hawthorne writes me that he shall be able to send an article in the course of a week or two. His terms are $5 a page, but probably, as your pages will “eat up” Copy with a less anaconda-like appetite than [page 24:] the fine print magazines, your best plan would be to pay him so much by the article. His wife will make a drawing of his head or he will have a Daguerreotype taken, so that you can have a likeness of him.

As to my own effigies. Page has painted a head of me which is called very fine, & which is now Exhibiting (I believe) at the National Academy in New York. This might be Daguerreotyped — or I might have one taken from my head as it is now — namely in a more civilized condition — the portrait by Page having very long hair, not to mention a beard and some symptoms of moustache, & looking altogether, perhaps, too antique to be palatable to the gentle public. But you shall use your own judgment about that.

I write now in considerable confusion, being just on the eve of quitting the office which I occupy as “Attorney & Counsellor at Law.” I have given up that interesting profession, & mean to devote myself wholly to letters. I shall live with my father at Cambridge in the house where I was born. I shall write again soon & send you a poem and some data for a biographical sketch. Take my best love in exchange for your ready sympathy & use me always [page 25:] as you may have occasion as your affectionate friend. J. R. L.(1)

My address will be “Cambridge, Mass.” in future. I do hope and trust that your magazine will succeed. Be very watchful of your publishers & agents. They must be driven as men drive swine, take your eyes off them for an instant & they bolt between your legs & leave you in the mire. J. R. L.

CAMBRIDGE, May 8, 1843.

MY DEAR FRIEND, — I have been delaying to write to you from day to day in the expectation that I should have received an article from Hawthorne to send with my letter. I am now domiciled in the country & have been doing nothing but ramble about, gardening, farming, tending an increasing flock of poultry & in short, being out of doors & in active exercise as much as possible in order to restore my eyes effectually.

I have got the idea of Hawthorne's article so fixed in my mind that I forgot that I did not send you a poem in my last. I have such a reluctance to go into the city that though I have been here nearly three weeks I have not even [page 26:] brought out my MSS. yet. But I mean to do it in a day or two & shall then send you something which I hope will be to your liking. You must forgive my dilatoriness, my dear friend, the natural strength of which is increased by the pressure of my debts — a source of constantly annoying thought which prevents my doing almost anything as yet.

With regard to a sketch of my own life, my friend [Robert] Carter thinks that he can give it better than I — and perhaps he will send you one. Meanwhile I give a few dates. I was born Feby 22, 1819, in this house at Cambridge — entered Harvard College in 1834 & took my degree as Bachelor of Arts in regular course in 1838 — my master's degree in 1841. While in college I was one of the editors elected to edit the periodical then published by the undergraduates, & also to deliver the Class poem — a yearly performance which requires a poet every year who is created as easily by the class vote as a baronet or peer of the realm is in England. I was in the Law School under Judge Story for two years & upwards, took a degree of Bachelor of Laws by force of having my name on the books as a student — & published a volume of rather crude productions (in which there is more [page 27:] of everybody else than of myself) in January, 1841. On the Mother's side I am of Scotch descent.

I forgot to thank you for the biographical sketch of your own eventful life which you sent me. Your early poems display a maturity which astonished me & I recollect no individual ( & I believe I have all the poetry that was ever writ ten) whose early poems were anything like as good. Shelley is nearest, perhaps.

I have greater hopes of your “Stylus” than I had of my own magazine, for I think you under stand editing vastly better than I shall for many years yet — & you have more of that quality which is the Siamese twin brother of genius — industry — than I.

I shall write again shortly. Meanwhile, I am your affectionate & obliged friend

J. R. L.(1)

[No date. Postmark, BOSTON, May 16.]

MY DEAR FRIEND, — I send you this little poem with some fears that you will be disappointed therein. But it is on the whole the most likely to please of any that I could lay my hands on — my MSS. being trusted to fortune like the [page 28:] Sybil's leaves, & perhaps, like hers, rising in value to my mind as they decrease in number. You must tell me frankly how you like what I sent & what you should like better. Will you give me your address more particularly so that in case I have a package to send you I can for ward it by express?

With all truth & love I remain your friend,

J. R. L.(1)

A letter from Carter is of the nature of an appendix to all this correspondence: —

CAMBRIDGE, MASS., June 19, 1843.

MY DEAR SIR, — I send you with this letter a copy of the “Boston Notion,” April 29, containing an abridgment which I made of the sketch of your life and writings which appeared in the “Phila. Sat. Museum.” I was absent from the city when it was printed and did not see the proof; consequently it is full of atrocious errors. What has become of the “Stylus”? I trust that it has not been found prudent to relinquish the enterprise, though I fear that such is the case. It would give the friends of pure and elevated literature in this region great pleasure to learn that it is only temporarily delayed. [page 29:]

Mr. Lowell is in excellent health and his eyes have nearly recovered their usual strength. He has entirely abandoned his profession and is living at his father's house in the vicinity of this village. About a fortnight since he began to scribble vigorously and has within that period written about a thousand lines. You will see in the next “Democratic Review,” or at least in the August no., his longest and ... [margin cut] blank verse and is entitled “Prometheus.” It contains nearly four hundred lines I think, and was written in seven or eight hours. At least, I left him one day at 11 A. M. and he had concluded to begin it immediately, and when I saw him again at about 8 1/2 P. M. the same day he read to me up wards of two hundred and fifty lines and he had written besides before he began some stanzas of a long poem in ottava rima which has occupied him chiefly for the last two weeks. Graham has also a poem from him and there will be one in the next “New Mirror.”

Within a week I have read for the first time, “Pym's Narrative.” I lent it to a friend who lives in the house with me, and who is a lawyer, a graduate of Harvard, and a brother of Dr. O. W. Holmes, yet he is so completely deceived by the minute accuracy of some of the details, [page 30:] the remarks about the statements of the press, the names of people at New Bedford,&c. that, though an intelligent and shrewd man he will not be persuaded that it is a fictitious work, by any arguments drawn from the book itself, though ... [margin cut] the latter part of the narrative. I dislike to tell him that I know it to be fictitious, for to test its truthfulness I gave it to him with out remark and he has so committed himself by grave criticisms on its details that I dread to undeceive him. He has crossed the Atlantic twice and commented on an inaccuracy in the description of Pym's midnight voyage with his drunken friend. I have not the book in the house, and knowing nothing of the sea, did not clearly comprehend the objection, but I think it was upon setting a “jib” or some such thing upon a dismasted sloop — I know that the words “jib,” “sloop,” & “only one mast” occurred in his remarks.

To return to a safer subject — I am extremely desirous of knowing the name of your novel in two volumes alluded to in the “Museum” ... and if it be not a secret, or one that can be confided to a stranger, would be obliged by its communication. And while I am in an inquisitive mood, let me beg of you to tell me whether the [page 31:] name of the author of Stanley is Walter or Wm Landor and whether he has recently or will soon publish anything. Also who is the author of “Zoe” and the “Aristocrat “?

My address is still “Boston, care of Rev. Dr. Lowell.”

Truly & respectfully your friend(1)

[Signature cut out.]

At the same time Poe received from one of his Baltimore relatives, William Poe, a letter partly of congratulation and sympathy, partly of warning: —

BALTIMORE, June 15, 1843.

DEAR EDGAR, — I wrote you on the 15th ulto. since which time I have received nothing from you; mine was in answer to a letter received giving an account of your many recent reverses, and I fear it was in a style not relished by you, but in great sincerity of feeling for you and yours I wrote it, and the reason why I presumed to be so free in my expressions was in consequence of the great friendship I feel for you, and interest I take in your welfare, and therefore hoped to hear again from you, and of your wife's being better, and your recovery from the sickness and despondency [page 32:] you were suffering when you last wrote. I still write from the same motives. I observed in the “Baltimore Sun” newspaper in an editorial that you have again lately been success ful in having awarded to you a prize of $100 by the “Dollar Newspaper” for a tale called the “Gold Bug,” which gave me much pleasure, and hope it came in time to relieve you from some of your pecuniary wants. Ought you ever to give up in despair when you have such resources as your well-stored mind to apply to? Let me entreat you then to persevere, for I hope the time is not far distant when a change will take place in your affairs and place you beyond want in this world.

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

[page 33:] it to be a deeper source of misery. But enough of this, say you, and so say I: therefore, hoping this may find you in better spirits and better prospects of future happiness, I subscribe myself, Yours affectionately,


But the “Stylus” had been abandoned. He wrote of its demise to Lowell: —

PHILADELPHIA, June 20, 1843.

MY DEAR FRIEND, — I owe you fifty apologies for not having written you before but sickness and domestic affliction will suffice for all.

I received your poem, which you undervalue, and which I think truly beautiful — as, indeed, I do all you have ever written — but alas! my Magazine scheme has exploded — or, at least, I have been deprived, through the imbecility, or rather through the idiocy of my partner, of all means of prosecuting it for the present. Under better auspices I may resume it next year.

What am I to do with the poem? I have handed it to Griswold, subject to your disposition. (See next page.)

My address is 234 North Seventh St., above [page 34:] Spring Garden, West Side. Should you ever pay a visit to Philadelphia, you will remember that there is no one in America whom I would rather hold by the hand than yourself. With the sincerest friendship I am yours,


But Poe was sick and poor. On June n he had written to Griswold: —

DEAR GRISWOLD, — Can you not send me $5? I am sick and Virginia is almost gone. Come and see me. Peterson says you suspect me of a curious anonymous letter. I did not write it, but bring it along with you when you make the visit you promised to Mrs. Clemm. I will try to fix that matter soon. Could you do anything with my note? Yours truly,

E. A. P.(2)

It was probably in response to this letter that Griswold called upon him at his home, in the outskirts, to which the family had removed from their earlier dwelling-place, in the spring of 1842, probably for the sake of Virginia's health, as the situation was more in the country.(3) Griswold gave a description of it: — [page 35:]

“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 centre 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 enjoyed, in his brightest as in his darkest years, he was chiefly indebted to his mother-in-law, who loved him with more than maternal devotion and constancy.”(1)

To this same period of unusual poverty and suffering Mayne Reid's characterization of Mrs. Clemm probably belongs: —

“She was the ever- vigilant guardian of the home, watching it against the silent but continuous sap of necessity, that appeared every day to [page 36:] be approaching closer and nearer. She was the sole servant, keeping everything clean; the sole messenger, doing the errands, making pilgrim ages between the poet and his publishers, frequently bringing back such chilling responses as ‘The article not accepted,’ or ‘The check not to be given until such and such a day,’ — often too late for his necessities. And she was also the messenger to the market; from it bringing back not ‘the delicacies of the season,’ but only such commodities as were called for by the dire exigencies of hunger.”(1)

He remembered the house as “a lean-to of three rooms (there may have been a garret with a closet), of painted plank construction, supported against the gable of the more pretentious dwelling,” — the latter being a four story red-brick mansion of a wealthy Quaker. But Mr. T. C. Clarke, whose family visited the Poes more or less frequently, describes it as a cottage set back from the street amid luxuriant grape and other vines, and ornamented in winter with flowers. It was a small, humble home with a plot of grass by the side, a porch with a rose-bush and vine, and low eaves; and at times one room was [page 37:] rented to a boarder.(1) There Clarke especially remembered Virginia, slowly wasting away in consumption, but “wearing on her beautiful countenance the smile of resignation, and the warm, even cheerful look with which she ever greeted her friends.”(2) The appearance of the house, however, and the simple hospitality enjoyed in it, must have varied materially; its contents were known to the pawnbroker; and it is said that the family now became the object of charity.

During these trying months Poe won the one-hundred-dollar prize from “The Dollar News paper,” edited by Joseph Sailer, for the story of “The Gold Bug,” originally intended for the “Stylus” and now recovered from Graham by exchanging a critical article for it. This, the most widely circulated of his tales, was published in two parts: the first June 21, 1843, and the second (together with the first, which was reprinted) a week later. On July 12 it was published again with two other prize tales in a supplement. A charge that it was plagiarized from Miss Sherburne's “Imogene, or The Pirate's Treasure,” was made in “The Spirit of the Times,” and was widely circulated, but a [page 38:] refutation was quickly attempted in “The Dollar Newspaper,” July 19. The only other stones of Poe's published during this year were “The Tell-Tale Heart” in the “Pioneer,” the third of the tales of conscience, and “The Black Cat” in the “United States Saturday Post” (as the old “Saturday Evening Post” was now called), August 19, and “Morning on the Wissahiccon,” a quiet landscape sketch of the environs of Philadelphia (evidently “The Elk,” mentioned hereafter), contributed to Willis's annual, “The Opal,” for 1844. In criticism he published in the “Pioneer” “Notes upon English Verse,” a purely metrical discussion, which he afterwards remoulded into the “Rationale of Verse”; and in “Graham's” four critical notices: “Flaccus,”a satirical review of one Thomas Ward, which he afterwards regarded as in his best manner, and “William Ellery Channing,” perhaps the most contemptuous notice he ever seriously wrote, — these being the second and third of the series “Our Amateur Poets”; “Fitz-Greene Halleck,” being No. viii of “Our Contributors”; and Cooper's “Wyandotte,” a perfunctory performance. He also published, in the “Pioneer,” “Lenore,” a greatly revised version of his old “Paean,” and in “Graham's” [page 39:] the fine poem entitled “The Conqueror Worm.” In the fall an edition of his “Tales,” in parts, was undertaken, but only one issue is known.(1)

Poe still interested himself from time to time in the solution of cryptographs, an occupation which the following letter to Tomlin, the Tennessee poet and postmaster, who had taken the greatest interest in the “Stylus,” with its side lights upon other topics, sufficiently illustrates: —

PHILA., August 28, 1843.

MY DEAR SIR, — I have just recd your letter, enclosing one in hieroglyphical writing from Mr. Meek, and hasten to reply, since you desire it; although, some months ago, I was obliged to make a vow that I would engage in the solution of no more cryptographs. The reason of my making this vow will be readily understood. Much curiosity was excited throughout the country by my solutions of these cyphers, and a great number of persons felt a desire to test my powers individually — so that I was at one time absolutely over whelmed; and this placed me in a dilemma; for I had either to devote my whole time to the solutions, [page 40:] or the correspondents would suppose me a mere boaster, incapable of fulfilling my promises. I had no alternative but to solve all; but to each correspondent I made known my intentions to solve no more. You will hardly believe me when I tell you that I have lost, in time, which to me is money, more than a thousand dollars, in solving ciphers, with no other object in view than that just mentioned. A really difficult cipher requires vast labor and the most patient thought in its solution. Mr. Meek's letter is very simple in deed, and merely shows that he misapprehends the whole matter. It runs thus: —

[Here follows the solution.]

This is the whole of Mr. Meek's letter — but he is mistaken in supposing that I “pride my self” upon my solutions of ciphers. I feel little pride about anything.

It is very true, as he says, that cypher writing is “no great difficulty if the signs represent in variably the same letters and are divided into separate words.” But the fact is, that most of the criptographs sent to me (Dr. Frailey's for instance) were not divided into words, and more over, the signs never represented the same letter twice.

But here is an infallible mode of showing Mr. [page 41:] Meek that he knows nothing about the matter. He says cipher writing “is no great difficulty if the signs represent invariably the same letters and are divided into separate words.” This is true; and yet, little as this difficulty is, he cannot surmount it. Send him, as if from yourself, these few words, in which the conditions stated by him are rigidly preserved. I will answer for it, he cannot decipher them for his life. They are taken at random from a well-known work now lying beside me: —

[Here follows Poe's cryptograph.] And now, my dear friend, have you forgotten that I asked you, some time since, to render me an important favor? You can surely have no scruples in a case of this kind. I have reason to believe that I have been maligned by some envious scoundrel in this city, who has written you a letter respecting myself. I believe I know the villain's name. It is Wilmer. In Philadelphia no one speaks to him. He is avoided by all as a reprobate of the lowest class. Feeling a deep pity for him, I endeavoured to befriend him, and you remember that I rendered myself liable to some censure by writing a review of his filthy pamphlet called the “Quacks of Helicon.” He has returned my good offices by slander behind [page 42:] my back. All here are anxious to have him convicted — for there is scarcely a gentleman in Philaa whom he has not libelled, through the gross malignity of his nature. Now, I ask you, as a friend and as a man of noble feelings, to send me his letter to you. It is your duty to do this — and I am sure, upon reflection, you will so regard it. I await your answer impatiently.

Your friend, E. A. POE.(1)

Tomlin answered and sent the desired enclosure:

JACKSON, TENNESSEE, September 10, 1843.

DEAR SIR, — My friendship for you, and no thing else, has prevailed on me to enclose you the letter of L. A. Wilmer, Esquire. But I much fear that in doing it I have violated somewhat the rules that govern correspondence in such matters. Believing, however, that your great good sense will but protect my honor in this transaction, I remain with affectionate regard, Yours ever, JNO. TOMLIN.

PHILADELPHIA, May 20, 1843.

DEAR SIR, — ... Literary affairs are at a very low ebb in this city at present. [page 43:]

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

L. A. WlLMER.(1)

Wilmer, after Poe's death, was one of his most faithful defenders. Scandal, however, was busy with Poe's name, and found its way into print in one of the city papers, in an article of which Poe suspected Griswold to be the author. There is a tradition that he visited Saratoga this summer, as the guest of a wealthy Philadelphia lady, and also in the previous summer; but little is now recollected of the incident.(2)

After the fall came, the main information concerning Poe is derived from his letters to Lowell: — [page 44:]

PHILADELPHIA, September 13, 1843.

MY DEAR FRIEND, — Since I last wrote you I have suffered much from domestic and pecuniary trouble, and, at one period, had nearly succumbed. I mention this by way of apology to the request I am forced to make — that you would send me, if possible, $10 — which, I believe, is the amount you owe me for contribution. You cannot imagine how sincerely I grieve that any necessity can urge me to ask this of you — but I ask it in the hope that you are now in much better position than myself, and can spare me the sum without inconvenience.

I hope ere long to have the pleasure of conversing with you personally. There is no man living with whom I have so much desire to be come acquainted.

Truly your friend,


J. R. LOWELL, Esqre.

PHILADELPHIA, October 19, 1843.

MY DEAR FRIEND, — I was upon the point of fulfilling a long neglected duty and replying to Mr. Carter's letter, enclosing $5, when I received yours of the 13th, remitting $5 more. Believe me [page 45:]

I am sincerely grateful to you both for your uniform kindness and consideration.

You say nothing of your health — but Mr. C. speaks of its perfect restoration, and I see, by your very MS., that you are well again, body and mind. I need not say that I am rejoiced at this — for you must know and feel that I am. When I thought of the possible loss of your eye sight, I grieved as if some dreadful misfortune were about happening to myself.

I shall look with much anxiety for your promised volume. Will it include your “Year's Life,” and other poems already published? I hope that it may; for these have not yet been fairly placed before the eye of the world. I am seeking an opportunity to do you justice in a review, and may find it in “Graham,” when your book appears. No poet in America has done so much. I have maintained this upon all occasions. Mr. Long fellow has genius, but by no means equals you in the true spirit. He is moreover so prone to imitation that I know not how to understand him at times. I am in doubt whether he should not be termed an arrant plagiarist. You have read his “Spanish Student”? I have written quite a long notice of it for Graham's December number. The play is a poor composition, with [page 46:] some fine poetical passages. His “Hymn to the Night,” with some strange blemishes, is glorious. — How much I should like to interchange opinions with you upon poems and poets in general! I fancy that we should agree, usually, in results, while differing, frequently, about principles. The day may come when we can discuss everything at leisure, in person.

You say that your long poem has taught you a useful lesson, — “that you are unfit to write narrative unless in a dramatic form.” It is not you that are unfit for the task — but the task for you — for any poet. Poetry must eschew narrative — except, as you say, dramatically. I mean to say that the true poetry — the highest poetry — must eschew it. The Iliad is not the highest. The connecting links of a narrative — the frequent passages which have to serve the purpose of binding together the parts of the story, are necessarily prose, from their very explanatory nature. To color them — to gloss over their prosaic nature — (for this is the most which can be done) requires great skill. Thus Byron, who was no artist, is always driven, in his narrative, to fragmentary passages, eked out with asterisks. Moore succeeds better than any one. His “Alciphron” is wonderful in the force, grace, [page 47:] and nature of its purely narrative passages: — but pardon me for prosing.

I send you the paper with my life and portrait. The former is true in general — the latter particularly false. It does not convey the faintest idea of my person. No one of my family recognized it. But this is a point of little importance. You will see, upon the back of the biography, an announcement that I was to assume the editor ship of the “Museum.” This was unauthorized. I never did edit it. The review of “Graham's Magazine” was written by H. B. Hirst — a young poet of this city. Who is to write your life for “Graham”? It is a pity that so many of these biographies were entrusted to Mr. Griswold. He certainly lacks independence, or judgment, or both.

I have tried in vain to get a copy of your “Year's Life” in Philadelphia. If you have one, and could spare it, I would be much obliged.

Do write me again when you have leisure, and believe me,

Your most sincere friend,


J. R. LOWELL, Esqre. [page 48:]

At some time during the summer Poe is said to have made his debut as a lecturer in the “Egyptian Hall,” Baltimore. He appeared in Philadelphia in the same role, November 25, and made a favorable impression. His subject was “The Poets and Poetry of America”; and while the lecture was largely compiled from his former book reviews, it was especially distinguished by an attack, which seems to have been unusually severe, on Griswold's volume. At some time before this date there had appeared in the “Saturday Museum” an anonymous review of the third edition of Griswold's work, in which that reverend gentleman was held up to public ridicule in the most scoffing and bitter style, and contrasted with Poe by name, much to the latter's praise and to his own degradation. This mingled expression of pique, wrath, and scorn, with its flaunting self-commendation, is indubitably Poe's own work. Poe afterwards explained the attack to Griswold, which he described as “some absurd jokes at your expense,” as being due to “ ——'s false imputation of that beastly article to you,” referring to the scandalous publication of the summer in a Philadelphia paper. The flagellation Griswold received in the lecture, which does not seem to have displeased his literary [page 49:] associates, caused an open breach between himself and Poe that was not closed, even in appearance, until a year and a half had elapsed. It is worthy of note that Griswold had left his place on “Graham's” about three months be fore the delivery of the address.

The receipts from lecturing could not have been large, and for one cause or another the editors who were accustomed to publish Poe's work either would not buy it or else delayed to print it. After Griswold's retirement from “Graham's,” Poe seems to have contributed freely to the critical department; and there in March, 1844, appeared his only signed article for several months past, a lengthy review of the drama, “Orion,” by Richard Hengist Home, recently published in England. Of this work, which appealed strongly to Poe's delight in pictorial fancy and subdued mystical suggestion, he declared, “It is our deliberate opinion that in all that regards the loftiest and holiest attributes of the true Poetry, Orion has never been excelled. Indeed, we feel strongly inclined to say that it has never been equaled.” After comparing one passage of it with Milton's description of hell, the latter being “altogether inferior in graphic effect, in originality, in expression, in [page 50:] the true imagination,” he concludes more calmly that “Orion will be admitted, by every man of genius, to be one of the noblest, if not the very noblest poetical work of the age.”(1)

Poe entered into correspondence with Home, and endeavored through him to place some of his work in England, as he appears to have done formerly through “Blackwood's” and Dickens; he sent the tale of “The Spectacles,” but if any thing resulted from the plan, it has escaped identification. Home replied in two letters: —

LONDON, April 16, 1844.

MY DEAR SIR, I have received your letter this morning, and shall feel now and at all times happy in forwarding your views here so far as I am able, in these matters of literary engagement. Just at this time, however, and probably for some months to come, I shall not be likely to have the power. If you have seen the “New Spirit of the Age,” you will readily understand that a great many critics here and some authors are far from pleased with me. The attacks and jeers in magazines and newspapers (though several have treated me very fairly) are nearly all written by friends of the angry parties or [page 51:] influenced by them. Perhaps I may say a word on this point in the Second Edition now preparing. I mention this to show you why I can do so little at present. I need not say to an American that when the storm has blown over, those trees that are not blown down nor injured look all the fresher among the wrecks. I dare say I shall be able to do what you wish before long. I should prefer to do this so that you are fairly remunerated; but if the parties are not in a “paying condition,” then I will put you in direct communication with them to arrange the matter yourself.

I could most probably obtain the insertion of the article you have sent in “Jerrold's Illuminated Magazine.” Jerrold has always spoken and written very handsomely and eloquently about me, and there would be no difficulty. But — I fear this magazine is not doing at all well. I tell you this in confidence. They have a large but inadequate circulation. The remuneration would be scarcely worth having — ten guineas a sheet is poor pay for such a page! And now, perhaps, they do not even give that. I will see. My impression, however, is that for the reasons stated previously, I shall not at present be able to assist you in the way I could best wish. [page 52:]

Your name is well known to me in the critical literature of America, although I have not seen any American magazine for some months. I have ordered the last two numbers of “Graham's Magazine,” but have not received them from my booksellers. I am very grateful for the noble and generous terms in which you speak of my works.

I have written you a business-like, and not a very “spiritual,” letter, you will think. Still, as you are kind enough to give me credit for some things of the latter kind, it seemed best at this distance to reply to your wishes practically. I am, dear sir,

Yours truly, R. H. HORNE.(1)

LONDON, April 27, 1844.

MY DEAR SIR, — When I replied to your let ter (which I did by the next post of the day on which I received it) I had not seen the number of “Graham's” for March, containing the review of “Orion.” Mr. C. Matthews, of New York, had been so good as to inform me there would be a review; and he, at the same time, mentioned that he had sent me a copy of the magazine in question. My friend Miss E. B. Barrett also sent me a note to the same effect. But owing, no [page 53:] doubt, to some forgetfulness on the part of the booksellers who were to forward it, the magazine never reached me, nor was it at Wiley & Putnam's when I called the other day. Your MS. of “The Spectacles” is safely lodged in my iron chest with my own MSS. till I find a favorable opportunity for its use.

I have carefully read and considered the re view of “Orion” in the magazine. It would be uncandid in me to appear to agree to all the objections; and, amidst such high praise, so independently and courageously awarded, it would be ungrateful in me to offer any self-justificatory remark on any such objections. I shall, there fore, only observe that there are some objections from which I can derive advantage in the way of revision — which is more than I can say of any of the critiques written on this side of the water. One passage, in particular, I will mention. It is that which occurs at p. 103. “Star-rays that first” — needlessly obscure, as you truly say. For, in fact, I did allude to Sleep, as the antecedent — and it should have been printed with a capital letter. What I meant by the passage, if rendered in prose, would be something like this: “The God Sleep, lying in his cave by the old divine sea, feeleth the star-rays upon his eyelids at [page 54:] times; and then his sleep is not perfect, and he dreams, or for a brief interval awakes. Without which awaking he would never have known surprise, nor hope, nor useful action. Because (your poet herein bewitched by a theory he fancies original) we are never surprised at anything, however wonderful, in a dream; neither do we hope; nor do we perform any action with an idea of its being at all useful.” A pretty condition, you see, my imagination had got into while writing this passage. The explanation, if it does not make you angry, will, I think, greatly amuse you.

Are there any of my works which you do not possess, and would like to have? I shall be very happy to request your acceptance of any, if you will let me know how to send them. It strikes me (from some remarks of yours on versification and rhythm) that you do not know my introduction to “Chaucer Modernized.” Do you? Would any American bookseller like to reprint “Orion,” do you think? If so, I would willingly super intend the sheets, by a slight revision in some half-dozen places, and would write a brief Introduction or Preface addressed to the American Public; and certainly I should at the same time be too happy to express my obligations to the [page 55:] boldness and handsomeness of American criticism. I am, dear sir,

Your obliged, R. H. HORNE.(1)

P. S. In the remark I have made at the close of my letter, as to a reprint of “Orion” by an American bookseller, I forgot to say that I was not particular as to terms; and if they would give me nothing, I was still ready to give them the thing I proposed.

Poe's hand was recognized in “Graham's” by his correspondents, and both Tomlin and Lowell wrote him their compliments: —

JACKSON, TENNESSEE, February 23, 1844.

DEAR SIR, — I have had no letter from you since I sent you the libellous letter of L. A. Wilmer. Did you inflict on him a chastisement equal to the injury he designed, by the publication of such slanders? Previous to the reception of that letter, I had entertained a good opinion of the “Quacks of Helicon” man, and it had been brought about in a great measure by your review of the book. In his former letters, he not only spoke kindly of you, but seemed disposed to become your advocate against the littérateurs [page 56:] of Philadelphia. I hope that you will forgive him, and that he will go and “sin no more.” Your review of “Orion” in the February or March number of “Graham's,” I have read with much pleasure. The article is one of great ability. I know of no writer whose success in life would give me more sincere pleasure than that of yourself.

Hoping soon to hear from you, I remain ever, Your friend, JNO. TOMLIN.(1)

ELMWOOD, CAMBRIDGE, March 6, 1844.

MY DEAR FRIEND, — When I received your last letter I was very busily employed upon a job article on a subject in which I have no manner of interest. As I had nothing to say, it took me a great while to say it.

I made an expedition to Boston to learn what I could about our lectures there, & found that the lectures for the season are now over. I mean the Society lectures. There are different gentlemen employed diligently in lecturing upon “physical sciences” & “the lungs,”&c.,&c., ad mission ninepence, children half price, but all the lectures of a more literary class are over. I spoke to the secretary of the Boston Lyceum about the [page 57:] probability of your success if you came experimentally, & he shook his head. It is not a matter in which I feel myself competent to judge — my bump of hope being quite too large. I asked him about engaging you for next year & he seemed very much pleased with the plan & said that the Society would be glad to do it. This course of lectures has (I think) the highest rank here.

To speak for myself I should be delighted both to see & hear you. I like your subject too.

The Boston people want a little independent criticism vastly. I know that we should not agree exactly, but we should at least sympathize. You occasionally state a critical proposition from which I dissent, but I am always satisfied. I care not a straw what a man says, if I see that he has his grounds for it, & knows thoroughly what he is talking about. You might cut me up as much as you pleased & I should read what you said with respect, & with a great deal more of satisfaction, than most of the praise I get, affords me. It is these halfpenny “critics” — these men who appeal to our democratic sympathies by exhibiting as their only credentials the fact that they are “practical printers” & what not, that are ruining our literature — men who never doubt that [page 58:] they have a full right to pronounce upon the music of Apollo's lute, because they can criticise fitly the filing of a handsaw, & who, making a point of blundering, will commend Hercules (if they commend at all) for his skill at Omphale's distaff.

It will please you to hear that my volume will soon reach a third edition. The editions are of five hundred each, but “run over,” as printers say, a little, so that I suppose about eleven hundred have been sold. I shall write to you again soon, giving you a sketch of my life. Outwardly it has been simple enough, but inwardly every man's life must be more or less of a curiosity. Goethe made a good distinction when he divided his own autobiography into poetry & fact.

When will Graham give us your portrait? I hope you will have it done well when it is done, & quickly too. Writing to him a short time ago I congratulated him upon having engaged you as editor again. I recognized your hand in some of the editorial matter (critical) & missed it in the rest. But I thought it would do no harm to assume the fact, as it would at least give him a hint. He tells me I am mistaken & I am sorry for it. Why could not you write an article now and then for the “North American Review”? [page 59:]

I know the editor a little, & should like to get you introduced there. I think he would be glad to get an article. On the modern French School of novels for example. How should you like it? The “Review” does not pay a great deal ($2 a page, I believe), but the pages do not eat up copy very fast.

I am sorry I did not know of your plan to lecture in Boston earlier. I might have done some thing about it. The Lyceum pays some fifty to a hundred dollars, as their purse is full or empty. I will put matters in train for next year, however. Affectionately your friend,(1)

[Signature cut out.]

P. S. You must not make any autobiographical deductions from my handwriting, as my hand is numb with cold. Winter has come back upon us.

Poe had now formed a new scheme, which is as fine a piece of literary visionariness as was ever elaborated by a penniless author. He un folds it in the following letter to Lowell, which also contains other matter of contemporary interest. [page 60:]

PHILADELPHIA, March 30, 1844.

MY DEAR FRIEND, — Graham has been speaking to me, lately, about your Biography, and I am anxious to write it at once, always provided you have no objection. Could you forward me the materials within a day or two? I am just now quite disengaged — in fact positively idle.

I presume you have read the Memoir of Willis, in the April number of G. It is written by a Mr. Landor — but I think it full of hyperbole. Willis is no genius — a graceful trifler — no more. He wants force and sincerity. He is very frequently far-fetched. In me, at least, he never excites an emotion. Perhaps the best poem he has written is a little piece called “Unseen Spirits,” beginning “The Shadows lay — Along Broadway.”

You inquire about my own portrait. It has been done for some time — but is better as an engraving, than as a portrait. It scarcely resembles me at all. When it will appear I cannot say. Conrad and Mrs. Stephens will certainly come before me — perhaps Gen. Morris. My Life is not yet written, and I am at a sad loss for a Biographer — for Graham insists upon leaving the matter to myself.

I sincerely rejoice to hear of the success of your volume. To sell eleven hundred copies

[page 61:] of a bound book of American poetry, is to do wonders. I hope everything from your future endeavors. Have you read “Orion”? Have you seen the article on “American Poetry” in the “London Foreign Quarterly”? It has been denied that Dickens wrote it — but, to me, the article affords so strong internal evidence of his hand that I would as soon think of doubting my existence. He tells much truth — although he evinces much ignorance and more spleen. Among other points he accuses myself of “metrical imitation” of Tennyson, citing, by way of instance, passages from poems which were written and published by me long before Tennyson was heard of: — but I have at no time made any poetical pretension. I am greatly indebted for the trouble you have taken about the lectures, and shall be very glad to avail myself, next season, of any invitation from the “Boston Lyceum.” Thank you, also, for the hint about the “North American Review”; — I will bear it in mind. I mail you, herewith, a “Dollar News paper,” containing a somewhat extravagant tale of my own. I fear it will prove little to your taste.

How dreadful is the present condition of our Literature! To what are things tending? We [page 62:] want two things, certainly: — an International Copy-Right Law, and a well-founded Monthly Journal, of sufficient ability, circulation, and character, to control, and so give tone to, our Letters. It should be, externally, a specimen of high, but not too refined Taste: — I mean, it should be boldly printed, on excellent paper, in single column, and be illustrated, not merely embellished, by spirited wood designs in the style of Grandville. Its chief aims should be Independence, Truth, Originality. It should be a journal of some 120 pp. and furnished at $5. It should have nothing to do with Agents or Agencies. Such a Magazine might be made to exercise a prodigious influence, and would be a source of vast wealth to its proprietors. There can be no reason why 100,000 copies might not, in one or two years, be circulated; but the means of bringing it into circulation should be radically different from those usually employed.

Such a journal might, perhaps, be set on foot by a coalition, and, thus set on foot, with proper understanding, would be irresistible. Suppose, for example, that the elite of our men of letters should combine secretly. Many of them control papers,&c. Let each subscribe, say $200, for the commencement of the undertaking; furnishing [page 63:] other means, as required from time to time, until the work be established. The articles to be supplied by the members solely, and upon a concerted plan of action. A nominal editor to be elected from among the number. How could such a journal fail? I would like very much to hear your opinion upon this matter. Could not the “ball be set in motion”? If we do not defend ourselves by some such coalition, we shall be devoured, without mercy, by the Godeys, the Snowdens, et id genus omne.

Most truly your friend,


The next week after writing this letter Poe put in execution what seems a sudden determination to leave Philadelphia. Whatever was the immediate occasion of his decision, looking back over the five years of his life in that city, with its delusively brilliant openings and sharp reverses of hope, he obeyed the dictates of worldly prudence in deserting a scene where his failures were well known, his character widely dis trusted, and his reputation in the city gone. It is plain that there was no time, after the first year of his residence in Philadelphia, when [page 64:] he had not the reputation, among those who profess to have been his boon-companions, of frequenting drinking places and joining with them in their ways; and his absences from the city, though few, ended in spreeing.(1) He had fought his fight, and lost; and, driven by poverty, he shifted the scene. He seems to have broken up his home at the cottage before this time, and he had not much more than ten dollars in his pocket when he left. Mrs. Clemm remained be hind to sell his books and settle up affairs, and with Virginia he went to New York, with no more definite a view than to make a new start in a new community.


[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 3:]

1 Darley to the author, February 26, 1884.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 4:]

1 Griswold MSS.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 5:]

1 This was an advance copy, or else the issue of March 4 was a reprint from an earlier number.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 8:]

1 Griswold MSS.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 9:]

1 Gill, p. 120.

2 Then editor of the Daily Madisonian, a Tyler organ.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 11:]

1 Gill, p. 121.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 16:]

1 Griswold MSS.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 18:]

1 Griswold MSS.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 20:]

1 Griswold MSS.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 23:]

1 Lowell MSS.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 25:]

1 Griswold MSS.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 27:]

1 Griswold MSS.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 28:]

1 Griswold MSS.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 31:]

1 Griswold MSS.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 33:]

1 Griswold MSS.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 34:]

1 Lowell MSS.

2 Griswold, xx.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 34, running to the bottom of page 35:]

3 On settling in Philadelphia, Poe took lodgings in Arch [page 35:] Street, and in September, 1839 (Poe to Brooks, Stoddard, Ixxxvi), removed to a small house probably on Coates Street, North Fair-mount Park, where he was living in 1842 (City Directory, 1843); by May of that year (supra, i, 326) he again removed to Seventh Street above Spring Garden (City Directory, 1844).

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 35:]

1 Griswold, xxxiv.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 36:]

1 Onward, quoted in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, March 30, 1869. [[from the original article — JAS]]

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 37:]

1 Mrs. Weiss, p. 94.

2 Gill, p. 101.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 39:]

1 The Prose Romances of Edgar A . Poe. No. I. The Murders of the Rue Morgue and The Man that was Used Up. 1843, 8vo, pp. 40, paper. Philadelphia: George B. Zieber & Co.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 42:]

1 Poe to John Tomlin, Esq., MS.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 43:]

1 Griswold MSS.

2 Mrs. Weiss, p. 195. The same story reappears in the tradition concerning the composition of “The Raven.”

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 44:]

1 Lowell MSS.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 47:]

1 Lowell MSS.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 50:]

1 Works, vi, 279, 287.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 52:]

1 Griswold, MSS.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 55:]

1 Griswold MSS.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 56:]

1 Griswold MSS.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 59:]

1 Griswold MSS.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 63:]

1 Lowell MSS.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 64:]

1 Cf. Harper's New Monthly Magazine, lxxviii (March, 1889). Mrs. Clemm evidently followed him with anxiety at such times, and as on this occasion (either March or June, 1842), when he was found wandering in the Jersey woods, hunted him up.





[S:0 - LEAPPL, 1909] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Bookshelf - The Life of EAP (G. E. Woodberry) (Chapter 08)