Text: William Doyle Hull II, “Part III, Chapter II,” A Canon of the Critical Works of Edgar Allan Poe (1941), pp. 386-397


[page 386, continued:]

Chapter II: Commentary on the Critical Writings in Graham’s Magazine
After 1842

VOLUME XXII: January to June, 1843.

MARCH, 1843.


Poe recommended this review to Griswold for his anthology:

... in ‘funny’ criticism (if you wish any such) Flaccus will convey a tolerable idea of my style ... In ‘Graham’ you will find these.(3)

VOLUME XXIII: July to December, 1843.

AUGUST, 1843.




In his article defending Poe in the March, 1850, magazine, Graham [page 387:] quotes a memorandum Poe sent him, probably in 1845. One of the items is “The review of Reynolds, 2 pp ...... 800”. Reynolds, whom Poe knew in Richmond and whom he had reviewed in the Messenger in reference to this expedition, was the origniator [[originator]] of the idea. This is the only notice of Reynolds in Graham’s; in the list it follows in due order the account for “Channing” and “Halleck.”



It will be remembered that Griswold’s withdrawal from the magazine was announced in the October number, 1843.(1) Graham, it seems, for a while tried editing tine journal by himself. The number of reviews fell off immediately and sharply. In November there is only one: Poe’s “Wyandotte”. In December there are only two. A letter of Lowell’s, from which we have once already quoted should be recalled to memory:

Writing him [Graham] 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)(2) and 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.(3)

It seems, as I have earlier suggested, that Graham called upon Poe for help in the critical department for a few months. All of the reviews contributed by Poe to the magazine since June, 1842, had been signed, except one: the September, 1843, review of the Exploring Expedition, [page 388:] which is definitely Poe’s. Thus, the precedent for unsigned reviews has been set.



This, the first of the two December reviews, is not Poe’s. Eveleth asked Poe if it was his, and Poe replied:

The criticism on Rogers is not mine — although, when it appeared I observed a similarity to my ordinary manner.(1)

There is here some suggestion of the Casket reviewer.

108. DEATH. BY ROBERT TYLER. [[list]]

It has always been sufficiently(2) well understood that ‘The Author of Ahasuerus’ is Mr. Robert Tyler, the sone [[son]] of the President; and this understanding, while it has given currency to his poems, has stood very much in the way of a fair appreciation of the poet. By the enemies of the administration, the announcement of ‘Ahasuerus’ was the signal, we are really ashamed to say, for every variety of prospective squib, and, by its friends, we are also very much ashamed to say, for every variety of prospective puff ... there was really no attempt at purely literary criticism in the case ... (GM, XXIII, 319).

Poe wrote Thomas with some feeling in 1844:

... —— —— ... who has brought more odium upon the Administration than any fellow of (equal littleness) in its ranks, and who has been more indefatigably busy in both open and secret vilification of Robert Tyler than any individual, little or big, in America.(3)

The reviewer continues:

These allegorical subjects are faulty in themselves, and it is high time that they were discarded. The best allegory is [page 389:] a silly conceit, so far as the allegory itself is concerned, and is only tolerable when so subjected to an upper current of obvious or natural meaning, that the moral may be dispensed with at pleasure — the poem being still good, per se, when the moral or allegory, is neglected. When this latter is made to form an under-current — that is to say when an occasionally suggested meaning arises from the obvious one — then, and then only, will a true taste endure the allegorical ...The only apology which can be suggested is, that the poem is intended rather less as a poem than as a philosophical essay inverse; but, then, there should be no such anomalies as philosophical essays in verse ... (GM, XXIII, 319-20).

In the March, 1842, review of Longfellow Poe wrote:

We do not mean to say that a didactic moral may not be well made to under-current of a poetical thesis; but it can never be well put so obtrusively forth ... (GM, XX, 190; H, XI, 68).

Of Orion Poe wrote in March, 1844:

It has an under and an upper current of meaning: in other words, it is an allegory. But the poet’s sense of fitness (which under no circumstances of mere conventional opinion, could be more than half subdued) has so far softened this allegory as to keep it, generally, well subject to the ostensible narrative (GM, XXIII, 138; H, XI, 250).

In reviewing Undine in 1839 Poe first stated his opinion on allegory:

We have no hesitation in saying that this position of the design of the romance — the portion which conveys an undercurrent of meaning — does not appertain to the higher regions of ideality. Although in this case, the plan is essentially distinct from Allegory, yet it has too close an affinity to that most indefensible species of writing — a species whose gross demerits we cannot new pause to examine...that objectionable under-current of meaning ... (BGM, V, 172-3; H, X, 37).

The Graham’s reviewer concludes:

These, we say, are the chief defects of the poem, and they are defects of a minor kind. The merits are, first, a certain nobility and dignity of tone pervading every rage, and betokening lofty aspiration and chivalry of heart in the poet; secondly, a rich and imaginative sense of the beautiful, with a capacity for its expression (GM, XXIII, 320).

The general style, tone, attitude, and method convince me that this review is Poe’s. [page 390:]

VOLUME XXIV; January to June, 1844.

JANUARY, 1844.


The words ‘edited by J. Fenimore Cooper’ in the title-page of this volume, have, no doubt, a suspicious appearance. It has been the fashion, of late days, for authors to speak of themselves, modestly, as editors of even original works. We all remember the magnificent ‘Recollections of a Chaperon ‘edited‘’ by Lady Dacre(1) — and then (a case more in point just now) there was the ‘Narrative of Sir Edward Seaward‘, edited by Miss Porter —— a work of deeper interest, and of a far more vraisemblant character than even ‘Robinson Crusoe’ upon which it is modeled. The merit of origniality [[originality]] is, of course, De Foe’s, and Miss Porter is but an imitator at best; but, setting aside all reference to the credit due to the respective authors, and regarding only the two books, we should have no hesitation in saying that ’Sir Edward Seaward’s Narrative’ is, in every respect, superior to ‘Robinson Crusoe’s. In the same manner, ‘Arthur Gordon Pym‘ — another series of sea-adventures purporting to be edited only by Mr. Poe, was in, reality his own composition — the suppositous [[suppositious]] hero having existed in imagination alone. Bearing these, and other similar works in mind, the reader will naturally be induced to suspect Mr. Cooper, who professes to editNed Myers‘, of having, in fact, composed it himself ... The narrative is strictly true ... his reflections and comments — perhaps neither profound nor philosophical — but striking and deeply entertaining from their freshness, naturalness, and naivete (sic). We have not read a book more to our taste for some years... but, after all, its chief charm lies in the detail of the every-day matters — of the homelinesses —— of the seafaring existence. If we mistake not, it will be the most popular book of the season. We can only recommend it, cordially, to our readers — as it is not of a character to call for any thing in the way of critical comment (GM, XXIV, 46).

With this last sentence one should compare Poe’s attitude, as a critic, toward such popular works as Charles O‘Malley and Stanley Thorne: these books are all fiery well in their way; but, as they are not works of art, “they neither deserve, nor are amenable to criticism“ (GM, XX, 70; H, XI, 13). [page 391:]

The critic here speaks of R.H. Dana as an educated rain who went to sea for health; of his book, Two Years Before the Mast as profound and philosophical commentaries on the life of an ordinary seaman. Poe speaks in the same manner in the December, 1841, review of Dana’s The Seaman’s Friend.(1)

The references here to “Mr. Poe” are in accord with what seems to be his method in these anonymous reviews at this time. In the unsigned March, 1844 review (which as we shall see is indubitably Poe’s) of Lowell’s Poems, which just follows the signed review of Orion, Poe wrote:

We have only to regret, just now, that the later period at which we received the volume, and the great length to which Mr. Poe has been seduced into a notice of ‘Orion’ will preclude an extended notice ... (GM, XXXIV, 142; H, XI, 243).

And later in the same review:

Mr. Lowell is, in some measure, infected with the poetical conventionalities of the day — those upon which Mr. Poe has discanted in speaking of Mr. Horne’s epic (GM, XXIV, 142; H, XI, 244).

I am again convinced that this review is Poe’s.

* 110. ORION. BY R. H. HORNE. [[list]]

The signed critique of this epic poem, which appeared in March, begins:

In the January number of this magazine, the receipt of this work was mentioned, and it was hinted that, at some future period, it should be made the subject of review. We proceed now to fulfill the promise (GM, XIV, 136; H, XI, 249).

The January notice has:

... and we propose, in a future number, to give it a careful examination ... We must read and review ‘Orion‘ — that is certain — (GM, XXIV, 46).

Several passages should be compared. January: “The work, however, is, [page 392:] beyond doubt, that of a man of genius“ (GM, XXIV, 46); March: “... for a man of high, of the highest genius, he unquestionable is (GM, XXIV, 136; H, X1, 250). January: “We call the poem remarkable, on account of its boldness and originality, as well of conception as of execution“ (GM, XXIV, 46); March:“... in the boldness of its conception, and in the fresh originality of its management...“ (GM, XXIV, 130; H, XI, 250).


It was advertised to be sold for a farthing; and for a farthing it was sold. Three large editions were disposed of at this price. ‘A rush of buyers’ says a letter now lying before us, ‘almost carried the publisher off his feet’. The public fell into an especial ecstasy, and bought poetry in its sleep — a thing it seldom does awake — and now the poet brings out his fourth edition for a shilling (which the public buys too, because it is not yet wide awake) and promises a fifth for half a crown in a few days (GM, XXIV, 46);


‘Orion’ was orignially [[originally]] advertised to be sold for a farthing; and, at this price, three large editions were actually sold. The fourth edition (a specimen of which now lies before us) was issued at a shilling, and also sold. A fifth is promised at half a crown; this likewise, with even a sixth at a crown, may be disposed of — partly through the intrinsic merit of the work itself — but, chiefly, through the ingenious novelty of the original price (GM, XXIV, 136; H, XI, 250).

The notice is in complete accord with the review. The evidence is, I think, conclusive. Poe is the author of both.


It is a mistake to suppose that a good song-writer is necessarily a good poet. It is, perhaps, equally a mistake to suppose that a good poet will write a good song. And this follows from the difference between the true poem and the true song. In the one imagination and sustained power are indispensable; in the other, little more is demanded than fancy, earnestness, unity and appropriateness of diction. The most voluminous song-writers in the English language have been incapable of composing long poems; and though, all the great master poets of the tongue have been the authors of songs, and of exquisite ones too, they seem to have written them, not because they were poets, but because, for the time they had ceased to be poets. [page 393:]

This may, at first, appear paradoxical. But, when the sense in which we use the term poet is considered, the truth of our remark will be apparent. So far forth as a poet has the power of concentrating himself on the one single idea to be evolved in the song — of going at once to the theme — of maintaining its unity throughout, and of fusing the words, as it were, with the sentiment or passion, so far forth he is capable of writing the song. But, as his peculiar mental discipline best fits him for another field, it is only occasionally that he essays the song, and not always that he succeeds. On the ether hand, the mere song-writer can never be a poet, for he is destitute of the loftier qualities requisite in that walk ... The merit of these ballads consists in their unity, simplicity, fancy, and earnestness, as also in the delicacy of the sentiment, and the skill with which it is evolved. Many of the comic pieces, which we can call no better name than that of divertisements [[divertissements]], are excellent in their way; but such trifles have not the slightest claim to more than a passing; word, since almost every educated man, with the least sense of the ridiculous, can throw them off with ease (GM, XXIV, 47).

This may be Poe’s; there is, however here and there a note which seems to ring false.


... Mr. Percival is, perhaps, the most careless versifier and inartistical poet in. America. As imitations, therefore, these classic melodies deserve high praise, and some them are good even as poems; but generally the measures are unfitted to our language, and though they may please a scholar, can never be popular. The songs are from Spanish and Italian measures, most of which have been long introduced into our Poetry: they do not, therefore, strike the ear as strange or foreign, qualities, which, we are prepared to prove, are fatal to a song ... Here we see his prodigal fancy, his command of language, his versatility, his enthusiasm, his love of nature. Here, too, we see his faults — crowded imagery, immature conceptions, haste and slovenliness, for we can call it nothing less (GM, XXIV, 47-8).

This is clearly by the reviewer of the preceding notice. It also may be Poe’s; but again there is something which does not quite hit the mark.

There is nothing to indicate that the last three brief notices of this issue, or any of the February reviews are Poe’s. [page 394:]

MARCH, 1843.

* 113. REVIEW OF ORION. BY EDGAR A. POE. [[list]]


Poe wrote Lowell on October 19, 1843:

I shall look with much anxiety for your promised volume. Mill 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. ... You say that your long, poem(1) has taught you a useful lesson, — ‘that you are unfit to write a narrative — unless in dramatic form’. It is not that you are unfit for the task — but the task for you — for any poet. Poetry must eschew narrative ...(2)

This march review is the chance found. In 1846 George W. Eveleth wrote Poe asking if the March, 1842, Graham’s review of Lowell were his.(3) Poe answered:

The notice of Lowell’s ‘Brittany’ is mine. You will see that it was merely a preparatory notice — I had designed speaking in full, but something prevented me.(4)

The long poem of the book is “The Legend of Brittany”. Poe in the review insits [[insists??]] twice that it is merely an introduction to an extended criticism.


There is nothing between the Lowell review and this anonymous feature article whim show suns of Poe authorship. Graham seems to have acquired a regular critic. This article is acknowledged by Poe in a [page 395:] gossipy series of letters, much in the style of a modern “column”, which were addressed to the editor of the Columbia Spy and published in that magazine. In the second letter one finds:

Graham, I see, has a portrait of Judge Conrad...The biography (by a friend of yours) does no more than justice.(1)

The tone of the letter makes it fairly clear that “the friend” is Poe. Any suspicion which remains may be satisfied by an examination and a comparison with it of a paragraph in “Autography” on Conrad, of which, obviously, it is but an elaboration. Conrad is discussed in both as a writer of prose and poetry; his legal reputation is y:ointed out. His occasional poetry is of a high order of excellence; singled out for comment in both is his “Lines on a Blind Boy”. His first play was Conrad, King of Naples. His second, Aylmere, was “one of the most successful ever written by an American” (GM, XIX, 281; H, XV, 233); “perhaps, the best American play“ (GM, XXIV, 242). A few quotations substantiate our conclusion:

Their leading trait, however, is what the Germans call ‘movement‘, and Coleridge in his ‘Biogiaphia Literaria‘, ‘motion’ ... In ideality alone they seem to us deficient; or rather the man, throughout, appears to predominate over what Kent would term ‘the poet of pure reason’ ... the genius of an author — and very especially of the dramatic author — should be left totally untrammeled ... Indeed, to convey any idea of a drama by extract, is very nearly as difficult a task as that of the skolastikos in Hierocles (GM, XXIV, 242).

VOLUME XXVIII: January to June, 1846.

MARCH, 1846.

* 116. “MARGINALIA”. BY EDGAR A. Poe. [[list]] [page 396:]

APRIL, 1846.


VOLUME XIX: July to December, 1846.


* 118. MARGINALIA. BY EDGAR A. POE. [[list]]


* 119. MARGINALIA. BY EDGAR A. POE. [[list]]

VOLUME XXXVII: January to June, 1848.

JANUARY, 1848.

* 120. MARGINALIA. BY EDGAR A. POE. [[list]]


* 121. MARGINALIA. BY EDGAR A. POE. [[list]]

MARCH, 1848.

* 122. MARGINALIA. BY EDGAR A. POE. [[list]]

VOLUME IV: January to June, 1849.

APRIL, 1849.


In his Recollections Stoddard assigns this review to Poe. His story is this: Poe had been paid 4100 to review Mrs. Lewis’ book. On his neglecting to do so she complained. He remarked: “that if he reviewed her rubbish it would kill him”.(1) But he did; first in Graham’s, and at more length is the September Messenger. He sent his notes to Bayard Taylor, then editor of Graham’s, with the request; that he would insert them as his own production. I had, before I lost it or gave it away, the letter is which he wads this preposterous request ...(2) [page 397:]

The amount of truth in Stoddard’s recollection is indeterminable. This notice does appear in the critical section or Graham’s as if it were Taylor’s work — and it seems to be Poe’s. The Messenger Poe review of Mrs. Lewis, which appeared in the September. number of this year, is but an extension of it. Both begin with publication details. In both Mrs. Lewis is compared to Maria del Occidente, and both praise the poem and the conducting of the story. Graham’s: “... but the principal ground for praise is to be found in the great aggregate of quotable passages” (GM, XXXIV, 270); September Messenger: “... the chief value ... will be found to lie in the aggregation of its imaginative passages — its quotable points” (SLM, XIV, 571; H, XVII, 162). And they quote eight passages in common.

These similarities are too striking, I think, to be simply coincidence; and that Poe would model a review on a notice by another critic is unthinkable. The reviews coincide exactly on every point, the later merely several times longer. The evidence is strong enough to give this to Poe definitely, whether or not Mr. Stoddard’s story be straight.

MAY, 1849.


JUNE, 1849.


VOLUME XXXVI: January to June, 1850

JANUARY, 1850.



[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 386:]

2.  Thomas Ward, of New York.

3.  Poe-Griswold, New York, February 24, 1841. Gr. MSS. Phot. in UVL.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 887:]

1.  GM, XXIII, 216.

2.  The parentheses are Lowell’s.

3.  Lowell-Poe, Cambridge, March 6, 1844. Harvard MSS. Phot. in UVL.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 388:]

1.Poe-Eveleth,  New York, December 15, 1846. Wilson, J. S. The Letters of Edgar A. Poe to George W. Eveleth, n. 9.

2.  This usage is characteristic of Poe.

3.  Poe-Thomas, New York, September 4, 1844. Gr. MSS. Phot. in UVL. In 1843 Thomas and Dow had introduced Poe to Tyler in Washington. Tyler exerted his influence to secure Poe a position in the Philadelphia Customs House.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 390:]

1.  In reviewing another of her works in the December, 18, 1835, Messenger, Poe wrote: “‘We have not yet forgotten the Recollections of a Chaperon.” (SLM, II, 47; H, VIII, 75).

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 391:]

1.  See GM, XIX, 306.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 394:]

1.  “Legend of Brittany”

2.  Poe-Lowell, Philadelphia, October 19, 1843. Harvard MSS. Phot. in UVL.

3.  See Mabbott’s The Letters from George W. Eveleth to Edgar Allan Poe, p. 8.

4.  Poe-Eveleth, New York, December 15, 1646. Wilson, J. S., The Letters of Edgar A. Poe to George W. Eveleth, p. 9.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 395:]

1.  Spannuth and Mabbott (eds), Doings of Gotham, p. 35.

[The following footnotes were omitted from the final disseration, but should appear at the bottom of page 396:]

1.  Recollections, p. 159.

2.  Recollections, p. 159.


[S:0 - CCWEAP, 1941] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Articles - A Canon of the Critical Works of EAP (W. D. Hull) (Part III, Chapter II)