Text: George E. Woodberry, “Appendix A-02,” The Life of Edgar Allan Poe: Personal and Literary (1909), vol. II, pp. 365-368


[page 365, continued:]


The postscript of Poe’s letter to Mrs. Clemm, April 7, 1844, — “Be sure and take home the Messenger to Hirst,” — though a matter of the most trifling detail, is worth explanation, since the circumstance to which it relates is yet remembered to Poe’s discredit in Philadelphia, while the whole paltry affair furnishes a capital illustration of the mean though natural misconstruction to which he was sometimes exposed. The story is completely told in the following papers. William Duane, to whom the letters are addressed, was at one time Secretary of the Treasury. [page 366:]

NEW YORK, October 28, 44.

MY DEAR SIR, — Owing to my absence from this city (where I am now residing), I did not receive your letter of the 15th until this morning.

I regret exceedingly that circumstances should have led you to think me negligent, or uncourteous, in not returning the volume of the “Messenger” — for one or the other (perhaps both) you must long since have considered me. The facts are these: Some eight months ago, I believe, I chanced to mention, in Mr. Hirst’s hearing, that I wished to look over a particular article in the “Messenger.” He immediately volunteered to procure me the desired volume from you. I would much rather have borrowed it personally — but he seemed to make a point of the matter and I consented. Soon afterwards he handed me the book, which I retained a very short time. It is now certainly more than seven months since I returned it to Mr. Hirst, through my mother-in-law (Mrs. Clemm), who informs me that she left it at his office, with one of his brothers. Most probably it was deposited in a book-case, and thus overlooked and forgotten. May I trouble you to send for it.

Very truly yours,



Endorsed by Duane: N. B. The statement contained in this letter that the volume of “The Southern Literary Messenger” in question was returned to Henry B. Hirst, Esqr. was pronounced by Mr. Hirst to be “a damned lie,” and subsequent events showed that Mr. Hirst was right in denying it — Mr. Poe having sold the book — I [page 367:] hope unintentionally — to William A. Leary, the book seller on Second St.

W. D.

NEW YORK, January 28, 45.

SIR, — Richmond is the last place in which I should have hoped to find a copy of either the 1st, 2d, or 3d volumes of the “Messenger.” For this reason I did not apply there. I have [been] putting myself, however, to some trouble in endeavoring to collect among my friends here the separate numbers of the missing volume. I am glad that your last letter relieves me from all such trouble in future. I do not choose to recognize you in this matter at all. To the person of whom I borrowed the book, or rather who insisted on forcing it on me, I have sufficient reason to believe that it was returned. Settle your difficulties with him, and insult me with no more of your communications.



Endorsed by Duane: Bombastes Furioso Poe. Dated January 28, 1845. Received January 31, 1845. Received January 31, 1845. Not to be answered. N. B. The volume of “The Southern Literary Messenger” to which this letter, and that of October 28, 1844, refer, was lent by me to E. A. Poe, through Henry B. Hirst, Esq., and was sold by the said Poe among a lot of books belonging to himself to William A. Leary, a book seller on North Seventh Street. Mr. Leary sold it to a bookseller in Richmond, Va., who sold it to the publishers of the “Messenger,” who sold it to a friend of mine who was visiting Richmond, and whom I had commissioned to purchase me a copy. My name was on the title-page during all these sales. [page 368:]

Poe had the grace to be ashamed of himself, when he heard of the manner in which I had had to repurchase my own book. He remarked to H. B. Hirst, Esqr., “What must Mr. Duane think of me,” on hearing of which, I sent him word that I thought he ought to send me the five dollars which the repurchase had cost me. He died without doing so, I suppose from inability.

W. D.(1)

Poe’s innocence in the matter seems to be proved by the postscript to Mrs. Clemm, nor is there any reason to believe that the original mistake, by which the volume was included in the sale of Poe’s books, was anything but a natural blunder made in the confusion of the removal. The set of the “Messenger- in question, now owned in Richmond, contains Poe’s emendations in pencil, and shows that he used the volumes in his work of revision, and also for printing. The leaves of “Hans Phaal” were torn out and passed through the hands of at least three printers and have their “take” marks; they were then skillfully replaced. This fact and other indications point to the use of this volume in the publication of the “Tales of the Arabesque and Grotesque,” 1840.


[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 368:]

1 Poe to Duane. MS.





[S:0 - LEAPPL, 1909] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Bookshelf - The Life of EAP (G. E. Woodberry) (Appendix A-02)