Text: David K. Jackson, “Four of Poe's Critiques in the Baltimore Newspapers,” Modern Language Notes, April 1935, 50:251-256


­ [page 251, continued:]


Several months before his leaving Baltimore in the latter part of July, 1835, Edgar Allan Poe began contributing tales and book reviews to The Southern Literary Messenger, a monthly literary magazine which had been founded in August, 1834, by Thomas Willis White, a printer of Richmond, Virginia, assisted by James ­[page 252:] Ewell Heath, the first state auditor of Virginia. Not only was Poe a contributor, but he was also a friendly literary adviser, suggesting changes in the magazine and offering his services without payment to increase the circulation of the journal, particularly by writing notices of the issues in the Baltimore newspapers.

In a letter to White, dated at Baltimore, May 30, 1835, Poe wrote:

My notice of your [April, 1835] Messenger in the Republican was I am afraid too brief for your views.(1) But I could command no greater space in its editorial columns. I have often wondered at your preferring to insert such notices in the Republican.(2) It is a paper by no means in the hands of the first people here. Would not the American suit as well?(3) Its columns are equally at your service. Did you notice the alteration I made in the name of the authority of the lines to Mr. Wilde?(4) They were written by Mrs. Dr. Buckler of this city — not Buckley.(5)

Thirteen days later, on June 12, 1835, Poe again wrote White, this time that he had entirely recovered from an illness, “although Dr. Buckler no longer than 3 weeks ago, assured me that nothing but a sea-voyage would save me,” and he promised:

I will send you on the American(6) & Republican(7) as soon as the critiques ­[page 253:] come out. What I can do farther to aid the circulation of your Magazine I will gladly do — but I must insist on your not sending me any remuneration for services of this nature. They are a pleasure to me & no trouble whatever.(8)

These critiques are here reprinted for the first time.(9) Unlike most of the notices of the Messenger by other reviewers who were given to “puffing,” Poe's critiques are informative, critical, and prophetic of his later career. In them he evinces his first appreciation of the work of P. P. Cooke;(10) be shows a lively interest in the critical department of the magazine, which he later expanded under his own editorship; and finally he expresses an already partly formed idea of what a magazine should be. “A Tale of a Nose,” in the April, 1835, number, which Poe found “well told” and “exceedingly ludicrous,” perhaps furnished him with suggestions for his work on “nosology,” “Lion-izing — A Tale.” As will be remembered, “Lion-izing” was published in the Messenger for May, 1835.



The eighth number of this Magazine will make its appearance immediately. We have seen a copy of it in sheets, and have no hesitation in pronouncing it equal, at all events, to any thing of this kind in the country. Its character is now established upon a basis sufficiently sure, and we have ­[page 254:] no longer any doubts of its entire success. It is indeed a subject of general congratulation that the South has at length aroused herself from her lethargy in these matters, and ventured to erect a periodical literature of her own.

The eighth number, like the seventh, is a manifest improvement upon its predecessors. The volume, too, is almost entirely made up of original matter, there being only two very short selections. These things speak well for the energy of its conductor. We are sorry that an extended notice of the various articles in the Magazine would be out of place in a daily paper — but there are some which, from their high character, we cannot pass over in silence. Among these, Professor Tucker's Discourse on the Progress of Philosophy will elicit much attention. It is, in every respect, an able and valuable paper. The Essay on English Poetry, Chapter 1., is not only well written, but evinces a thorough knowledge of the subject, and altogether an erudition of no common order. We shall look for the ensuing chapters with eagerness. The fifth Letter from N. England is excellent: and the Tale of a Nose is well told, to say no more, and exceedingly ludicrous.

A striking feature in this Magazine, and one which cannot be too highly recommended, is the variety of critical notices of New Works: embracing nearly all of any consequence which have appeared in this country since the publication of the last number.

Of the Poetry we cannot speak altogether so favourably. Some of the pieces are exceedingly insipid; but the greater part are far above mediocrity. A few are admirable. Such lines as the Apostrophe of the Æolian Harp would alone give a character to any Magazine. They are beautiful indeed, and yet simplicity is their greatest charm. There is no clue to detect the author, but we verily believe they were written by the same hand which composed Rosalie Lee. Although the two poems are widely different, the same almost imperceptible quaintness runs throughout them both. Some passages in the Last Indian are fine — but as a whole we do not like it. Its great fault is obscurity. We will conclude this notice (in which we have already exceeded our limits) by transcribing some lines by Mrs. Buckler of this city, for which we are sure of being pardoned by all who can appreciate the delicate and beautiful. They are in reply to the popular lines of Mr. Wilde.

[The three stanzas follow.]


The ninth number of the Southern Literary Messenger has just reached us, and is upon the whole the best yet issued. It is the first made up entirely of original articles: we hope that in no future numbers will resort be had to selections: this dependence is allowable in the infancy of a periodical, but when it has grown up to vigorous strength, as the Messenger now has, it should rely upon its own resources.

Readers might be satisfied that they had their money's worth, if that be a consideration, — if they read but one article in this number, the dissertation on the “Characteristic differences between the Sexes.” The subject ­[page 255:] is of course of the richest, and it is treated with power and beauty. There is a continuation of the interesting “Tripolitan Sketches.” We are pleased to note a spirited contribution from our townsman Edgar A. Poe, Esq. It is an extravaganza called “Lionizing,” and gives evidence of high powers of fancy and humor. The writer of the article on “Recent American Novels,” is, we think, wrong throughout, as well in his general opinions as in his particular commendation of “The Insurgents.” Among the literary notices is a good one of “Horse Shoe Robinson,” a work for which the public are eagerly looking, and for which we venture to predict universal popularity.



The ninth number of this Periodical is received, and contains even more than its usual quantity of excellent matter. We are glad to see also that this matter is, in the present instance, entirely original. There is not a selected article in the book. The outward appearance and typography is [sic] unexceptionable, and in no respect has the South occasion to regret the enthusiasm with which she has lent her aid to the support of the Messenger. We will endeavour to find room for a running notice of some of the principal articles in the present number. The sixth of the Tripolitan Sketches sustains the reputation of the preceding papers. The Letters of a Sister are also very spirited, vivacious, and well written. The third number of the Fine Arts, evinces a just application of the subject; and, in many respects, is excellent. The Article on Recent American Novels is crude and undigested. — The writer is evidently unacquainted with his theme. — This opinion of “The Insurgents” is exaggerated, and he has forgotten the talented novels of Mr. Kennedy & Dr. Bird in his wholesale denunciations. The Dissertation on the Characteristic Differences between the Sexes is a paper of unusual value. The subject is treated in a manner really masterly, and would be sufficient of itself to give a character to any Periodical. Lionizing, a tale by Edgar A. Poe, is an admirable piece of burlesque, which displays much reading, a lively humor, and an ability to afford amusement or instruction, according to the direction he may choose to give to his pen, which should not be suffered to lie unemployed, and will not, we trust, be neglected.

There are also some excellent sketches of Virginia Scenery viz: The House Mountain visit to the Virginia Springs, Dagger's Springs, and The Red Sulphur Springs. We refer our readers confidently to the Critical Notices in the present Number. We have read with interest the remarks on the Promessi Sposi of Mauzoni [sic]; on Mrs. Butler's Journal [[Journal]]; and on our townsman Mr. Kennedy's new novel, Horse-Shoe Robinson [[Horse-Shoe Robinson]] — of which latter the publication, although long anxiously expected, has been, for what reason we know not, deferred. The poetical pieces are all above mediocrity. The lines to “My Child” are admirable; and we have seldom seen any thing of the kind more beautiful than “My Native Land,” by Lucy T. Johnson. ­[page 256:]


SOUTHERN LITERARY MESSENGER. — The tenth No. is received and sustains the already high reputation of the Periodical. Its contents, like those of No. 9, are entirely original, and, generally speaking, excellent. The Storm on the Prairies is a graphic sketch. Nos. 15 and 16 of Letters of a Sister are spirited and elegant even beyond the former Letters. In Lionel Granby we perceive a quiet strength which will enable the writer to do something better than he is at present doing. A cautions purity of style is not the least recommendation of these chapters. Oliver Oldschool has much humour, but is somewhat over zealous. We do not agree with the editor of the Messenger in his opinion of the Tale called the [[The]] Sandfords. We think this little story exceedingly well told — although its commencement is irrelevant. The plot is simple but of great interest. We should never have suspected the piece to have been written by so young a person — for diffuseness and a want of simplicity are prevailing foibles of the young. We see no traces of either in the Sandfords [[The Sanfords]]. Chapter 2d, on English Poetry, is admirable. The writer has a fine feeling for the beauties of his subject, which is handled throughout in a novel and really masterly manner. Hans Phaal, a Tale, by Edgar A. Poe, is a capital burlesque upon balloonings, which has recently been carried to a ridiculous extent, without much prospect of profit to the persons engaged in it, or advantage to the community. The Sale by Nugator is graphically sketched, but its vulgarity of tone and language is especially to be censured. The Literary Notices are, as usual, excellent. We cannot too highly praise the Review of Bankcroft's [sic] History and that of Washington's Writings. The Poetical Department is, in general, good. The Daughter's Lullaby is truly beautiful, and we have no hesitation in saying that it far surpasses, the fine verses, in the same manner, by the lamented Mrs. Hemans. We do not, however, like the Old Parish Church, by Nugator. The hop, skip, and jump metre, whose grotesque air is heightened by means of double rhymes, is, to say the least, little in accordance with the solemnity of the subject. Some of the words are even misspelt, and not a few of the allusions are exceedingly low. The following verse is an exemplification of all three of these charges:

E’en soldiers here beneath this roof

Have held their midnight orgies,

And without hath tramped the charger's hoof

Till the grave well nigh disgorges.”

We repeat that the number, as a whole, is admirable. The Messenger improves rapidly, and bids fair to rival, if not to surpass the Knickerbocker itself.


Duke University


[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 252:]

1  The notice appeared in The Baltimore Republican and Commercial Advertiser (hereinafter cited as the Republican) for Thursday, May 14, 1835, and has been previously identified by Professor Killis Campbell, “Gleanings in the Bibliography of Poe,” MLN., XXXII (1917), 269.

2  At this time the Republican was edited by Samuel Harker, a notice of whose death appeared in The Baltimore American, Monday, Nov. 18, 1850. See a brief mention of Harker in John H. Hewitt, Shadows on the Wall, A Retrospect of the Past Fifty Years (Baltimore, 1877), 20.

3  The Baltimore American was edited by William Bose (1796-1875). See The Maryland Historical Magazine, XXXIII (1933), 1.

4  “Answer to ‘My Life Is like the Summer Rose,’ ” Messenger, I (1835), 452, was incorrectly attributed to “Mrs. Buckley, the wife of a distinguished physician of Baltimore.” Richard Henry Wilde's “My Life Is like the Summer Rose” had appeared in the Messenger, I (1834), 13. The poem by Mrs. Eliza Sloan Buckler (1793-1863), wife of Dr. John Buckler (1795-1866), was copied in The Baltimore American, Wednesday, May 20, 1835. The lines by Wilde and Mrs. Buckler had previously appeared in The Richmond (Va.) Enquirer, Monday, Aug. 22, 1823.

5  James A. Harrison (ed.), The Complete Works of Edgar Allan Poe. Va. Edition (New York, 1902), XVII, 6.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 252, running to the bottom of page 253:]

6  The Baltimore American, Monday, June 15, 1835. In “A Few Notes on Poe,” MLN., XXXV (1920), 374, Professor T. O. Mabbott attributed this notice to Poe. See also Professor Mabbott's review of Charles F. Heartman [page 253:] and Kenneth Rede's Bibliographical Check-List of Poe in American Literature, VI (1934), 94.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 253:]

7  The Republican, Saturday, June 13, 1835. This notice was copied in The Richmond (Va.) Enquirer, Tuesday, June 16, 1835. A notice of the tenth number of the Messenger, which was certainly written by Poe, appeared in the Republican, Friday, July 10, 1835. Two favorable notices of the Messenger, which I think were not Poe's, were published in The Athenæum and Young Men's Paper, eds. John N. McJilton and T. S. Arthur, I (July 11, 1835), 271, and I (Sept. 19, 1835), 351.

8  Harrison, op. cit., XVII, 7.

9  It is a pleasure here to acknowledge my indebtedness and appreciation to Mr. Louis H. Dielman, Executive Secretary and Librarian of the Peabody Institute, Baltimore, for his generous assistance in helping me locate the notices in the Republican, a file of which from March, 1835, to March, 1836, is in the collection of the Maryland Historical Society. A long run of the American may be found in the same library and in that of the Peabody Institute.

10  Philip Pendleton Cooke (1816-1850), an older brother of John Esten Cooke, the Virginian novelist, was the author of the essays on English poetry, “Rosalie Lee,” and “The Last Indian.”



This article is reprinted with special permission from the estate of David K. Jackson.


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