Text: William Doyle Hull II, “Part V, Chapter I,” A Canon of the Critical Works of Edgar Allan Poe (1941), pp. 488-517


[page 488:]

Chapter I: The Hollow Chance

I have made arrangements for publishing the first number of my long-talked-of paper in January. It will be published by John Bisco, a shrewd Yankee from Worcester, who has been a school-teacher in New Jersey, and was once the publisher of the ‘Knickerbocker’ ... If you know Poe’s address, send it on to me when you write.(1)

So to his dear friend, Russell Lowell, wrote Charles Frederick Briggs, one time sailor out of Nantucket and minor literatus, known as ‘Harry France’ from a popular novel, The Adventures of Harry Franco: A Tale of the Great Panic (1839). On receiving this letter Lowell wrote immediately to Poe.

My object in writing this is to introduce you to friend Charles F. Briggs who is about to start a literary weekly in Now York & desires your aid, He was here a month or two since, & I took the liberty of reading to him what I had written about you & today I received a letter from him announcing his plan and asking your address. Not knowing it, & not having time to write him I thought that the shortest way would be to introduce you to him. He will pay & I thought from something you said in your last letter that pay would be useful to you ... If you do not like this method of getting acquainted, send Briggs your address. His is No. 1 Nassau St. I never wrote an introductory letter before & do not own a complete letter writer — so you must excuse any greenness about it.(2)

On Lowell’s recommendation Briggs engaged Poe as a contributor at the rate of one dollar per column. On a blank page of one copy of the [page 489:] Journal there is in Poe’s autograph a receipt:

New York. Jany 20th 45. Recd of Mr. John Bisco eighteen dollars, in full for two articles in ‘Broadway Journal’

Edgar A Poe(1)

The only Poe articles in the magazine up to that time are the two installment critique of Elizabeth Barrett and the sketch of Willis, January 4, 11, and 18; the two total eighteen columns. To the number for February 8 Poe contributed two and to the March l, three reviews.

The Journal for February 22 announced:

We have the pleasure of announcing to our readers, that hereafter, Edgar A, Poe and Henry C. Watson, will be associated with the Editorial department of our Journal. Mr. Watson will have entire control of the Musical department of the paper, and will give to it the full benefit of his well known abilities.(2)

Not before the tenth number, March 8, however, did “C. F. Briggs, Edgar A. Poe, H. C. Watson, Editors” appear in the heading. In the ‘Literati’ article on Briggs, Godey’s, May, 1846, Poe declared:

... my editorial association with that work (the Broadway Journal) not having commenced until the sixth or seventh number, although I wrote for it occasionally from the first (GLB, XXXII, 200; H, XV, 22).

This statement is in error. On Mrs. Whitman’s copy of the Journal which Poe gave her in October, 1848, there is written in his autograph: [page 490:]

N. B. It was not until No 10 that I had anything to do with this journal as Editor.(1)

This date is supported by the evidence of the magazine itself.

The arrangement was concluded by February 20 or 21, when the eighth number would have gone to press, and one supposes not long before that time; for the date of Poe’s leaving the Mirror may with some certainty be placed in the third week of February. There are several possible explanations for the fact that the now set-up did not go immediately into effect. Bisco may have preferred that the new editors begin their association on the first of the month; or it may be that Poe needed a weak to move from the country to New York, as apparently he did about this time. In the seventh, the March 1 number Poe has three reviews to Briggs’ two, but there is nothing to indicate that he had anything to do with the actual editorial conduct of the number.

Briggs, seems to have been much struck with Poe. He wrote Lowell on January 6:

I like Poe exceedingly well; Mr. Griswold has told me shocking bad stories about him, which his whole demeanor contradicts;(2)

and on January 27:

I have always strangely misunderstood. Poe, from thinking him one of the Graham and Godey species, but I find him as different [page 491:] as possible. I think you will like him well when you come to know him personally.(1)

During these early months Lowell was playing godfather to the Journal. He wrote Briggs at length criticising this policy, praising that article, suggesting a new type, and contributing himself, now some prose, now a poem. Again he recommended Poe: “He has at least that chief element of a critic — a disregard of persons. He will be a very valuable coadjutor to you.”(2) Briggs tried to make definite arrangements with Lowell:

Now I would like to make a contract with you to furnish me with a column or two, or more, of prose matter, to suit yourself, in this shape of criticism, gossip, or anything also, once a week for six months, or a year.(3)

But Lowell, in Philadelphia. with his new bride, was very busy with other concerns:

I should not like to bind myself to write every week though I gave no doubt that I shall be able to, and I have some fear that a contingent want of money may hereafter prove as sharp a spur to me as a contract.(4)

Briggs then made another proposition:

You will be sure to receive due compensation for whatever you may do for the B. J. Poe writes for me at the rate of one dollar a column. If you will do so, I shall esteem [page 492:] it a capital bargain. The poetry I will pay for separately on a different principle.(1)

But Lowell’s contributions were very few, although he remained interested in the paper for several more months. On March 21 he wrote Briggs:

I know, my dear friend, how hard a thing it is to get a newspaper under weigh. I know, by bitter experience in the Pioneer, how many conflicting interests are involved & how impossible it is at first to make it all you wish it. I do not wish to see the ‘Journal’ a partisan ... If I do not help you efficiently when I get out of the turmoil I am in now — why, I shall add a large square to the paving of hell.(2)

By February 25 Lowell had heard of the new arrangement:

I do not know whether to be glad or sorry that you have associated Poe & Watson with you as Editors. I do not know the last; the first is certainly able, but I think that there should never be more than one Editor with any proprietary, control over the paper. Its individuality is not generally so well preserved. You know best.(3)

Briggs answered on March 8:

Poe is only an assistant to .me, and will in no manner interfere with my own way of doing things. It was requisite that I should have his or some person’s assistance, on account of my liability to be taken off from the business of the paper, and as his name is of some authority I thought it advisable to announce him as an editor. Mr. Watson’s name will command the support [page 493:] of a good portion of the musical interest in this city and in Boston, and by putting forth his name as musical editor I can gain his time for a pro rata dividend on the amount of patronage which he may obtain.(1)

And again on March 19:

I thought it best to gain Poe’s services as a critic because he already has a reputation for reviewing, and I could gain them by allowing him a certain portion of the profits of the paper. He thought it would gain the ‘Journal’ a certain number of subscribers immediately if his name were published in connection with it. I did not much like the plan, but he had had more experience than myself in the matter, so I consented ... I retain precisely the same authority I did in the beginning.(2)

Briggs wanted and thought he had an assistant critic; Poe entered the office as associate editor, controlling one third of the Journal’s stock. The last passage in the Briggs letter just quoted suggests that the initial move came from Poe. On January 4 Poe wrote Thomas: “In about three weeks, I shall move into the city, and recommence a life of activity under better auspices, I hope, than ever before.”(3) If he is referring here to a position on the Journal, it is almost certain that he proposed the connection; for there is nothing in the Briggs-Lowell correspondence to indicate that Briggs was considering, such a set-up. As time went on, however, he felt the need of assistance, particularly in the critical department. Poe had become, with the publication of “The Raven,” one of the most famous figures in the literary world of America. Poe saw his [page 494:]

chance, small though it turned out to be, and pushed through his point. It is safe, also, to assume that from Poe’s suggestion came the arrangement whereby Poe was given a third interest in the magazine in lieu of an editorial salary; for he had had three unpleasant experiences as a sub-editor with no proprietary control. And yet, the situation had at present its financial difficulties, as Poe explained to Thomas:

The fact is, that being seized, of late, with a fit of industry, I put so many irons in the fire all at once, that I have been quite unable to get them out. For the last three or four months I have been working 14 or 15 hours a day — hard at it all the time — and so, whenever I took pen in hand to write, I found that I was neglecting something that would be attended to. I never knew what it was to be a slave before.

And yet, Thomas, I have made no money. I am as poor now as ever I was in my life — except in hope, which is by no means bankable. I have taken a 3d pecuniary interest in the ‘Broadway Journal’ and for everything I have written for it have been, of course, so much out of pocket. In the end, however, it will pay me well — at least the prospects are good,

He suggests that Thomas ask Dow, to whom Poe owes some money,

how he would like me to write him a series of letters — say one a week — giving him the literary gossip of New-York — or something of more general character. I would furnish him with such a series for whatever he could afford to give me ...(1)

The first move of Poe the associate editor and proprietor was typical. — one to stimulate the circulation by a taking series of articles: he dug “Outis‘” letter out of the Mirror and raised the tomahawk [page 495:] against “Outis,” Longfellow, and plagiarism and imitation in general. A certain J. Hunt accused Poe in Archives, March 13, 1845, after the first of the five installments, of oversensitiveness, of bitterness, of taking up a quarter of the paper in smoothing over “Outis” charges. Poe replied in a personal letter:

My excuse for treating it at length is that it demanded an answer & no proper answer could be given in less compass — that the subject of imitation, plagiarism &c is one in which the public has lately taken much interest & is admirably adapted to the character of a literary journal — and that I have some important developments to make, which the commonest principles of self-defence demand imperatively at my hands ... If ever man had cause to be in good humor with Outis and all the world, it is precisely myself, at this moment — as you shall hereafter see.(1)

Briggs reaction to the affair is of interest. He wrote Lowell on March 8, March 16, and March 19:

Unfortunately for him (Poe), he has mounted a very ticklish hobby just now, Plagiarism, which he is bent on riding to death, and I think the batter way in, to let him run down as soon as possible by giving him no check.(2)

Poe is a monomaniac on the subject of plagiarism, and I thought it best to allow him to ride his hobby to death in the outset and to done with it. It all commenced with myself. When he was in the ‘Mirror’ office he made what I thought a very unjustifiable charge against my friend Aldrich, who is one of the best follows in the world, and I replied to it as you saw. Somebody in Boston, ‘Outis‘, whose name I forget, replied to P. on behalf [page 496:] of Longfellow and Aldrich, and so the war began. It will end as it began, in smoke. But it will do us some good by calling public attention to our paper. Poe is a much better fellow than you have an idea of ... The ‘Journal’ gains strength every day, and I am very sanguine of success.(1)

Poe’s fol-de-rol about plagiarism I do not like, but the replies which it provokes serve us as advertisements, and help us along. As he dealt more severely by me and my friend Aldrich than anybody else I do not think that anybody has any right to complain of his thumps. I think that you are too sensitive in regard to Longfellow; I really do not see that he has said anything offensive about him ... Poe has indeed a very high admiration for Longfellow, and so he will say before he is done. For my own part I did not use to think well of Poe, but my love for you and implicit confidence in your judgment led me to abandon all my prejudices against him when I read your account of him. The Rev. Mr. Griswold, of Philadelphia, told me some abominable lies about him, but a personal acquaintance with him has induced me to think highly of him. Perhaps some Philadelphian has been whispering foul things in your ear about him. Doubtless his sharp manner has made him many enemies. But you will think better of him when you meet him.(2)

Lowell, however, remained unmoved in his attitude:

The Rev. Mr. Griswold is an ass & what is more a knave, & even if he had said anything against Poe, I should not have believed it. But neither he nor any one else ever did. I remain of my old opinion about the allusion to Mr. Longfellow. I remain of my old opinion about Poe, & [page 499:] I have no doubt that Poe estimates L’s poetical abilities more highly than I do, perhaps, but I nevertheless do not like his two last articles. I still think Poe an invaluable contributor, but I like such articles as his review of Miss Barrett better than these last.(1)

Do not the Briggs’ letters suggest, perhaps, that that gentleman has been persuaded against his better judgment that the articles will do the magazine good. They appear to be the letters of a man who is presenting arguments by which he has been convinced, in an effort not only to satisfy the addressee but also himself.

There seems to have been no precise division into spheres of influence of the work of Briggs and Poe. Bisco handled the business of the paper, and Watson the musical department. Briggs appears to have been the art critic — but, aside from that, he and Poe seem to have conducted editorial affairs together. About as many reviews may be traced to Briggs as to Poe. It was not long, one imagines, before Briggs found it difficult to maintain a sentence he had confidently thrown out to Lowell: “I retain precisely the same authority I did in the beginning.” The break came earlier, perhaps, than might have been expected. Briggs was a man of little patience.

On the first Saturday in July the Broadway Journal failed to appear. The following Saturday, July 12, the first number of Volume II carried an the first page a notice “To the Public”:

The suspension of ‘Broadway Journal’ for one week, has been occasioned by the necessity for some arrangements in which the [page 498:] public have no interest, but which, beyond doubt, will give increased value and efficiency to the paper.

In commencing the SECOND VOLUME, the undersigned bags leave to return his sincere thanks to the numerous friends, who have lent him their aid in the very . difficult task of establishing a literary and critical weekly. The success of the work, in the brief period of its existence, has been, he truly believes, beyond precedent — and from a brilliant Past, he looks confidently to a triumphant Future.

The editorial conduct of ‘The Broadway Journal’ is under the sole charge of EDGAR A. POE — Mr. H. C. WATSON, as heretofore, controlling the Musical Department.

John Bisco,

Publisher. (l)

Charles F. Hoffman informed Griswold humorously enough on July 11:

The Broadway Journal stopped for a week to let Briggs step ashore with his luggage, and they are now getting up steam to drive it ahead under Captains Poe and Watson. I think it will soon stop again to land one of these.(2)

In three letters Briggs described to Lowell the situation in some detail:

I have arrangements on foot with a new publisher for the ‘Journal’ who will enable me to give it a fresh start, and I trust very soon to be able to give you an earnest of its profits. I shall haul down Poe’s name; he has latterly [page 499:] got into his old habits and I fear will injure himself irretrievably. I was taken at first with a certain appearance of independence and learning in his criticisms, but they are so verbal, and so purely selfish that I can no longer have any sympathy with him.(1)

The non-appearance of the ‘Broadway Journal’ has probably surprised you. I had made arrangements with a new publisher, — a very good businessman, — and had agreed upon terms with Bisco to buy his interest; but when I came to close with him he exacted more than I had stipulated for, and finding that he was determined to give me trouble I refused to do anything with the ‘Journal’. I had the first number of the new volume all ready to be issued, with a handsomely engraved title, etc.; but, as I could not put the new publisher’s name upon it without Bisco’s consent, I let it go a week, meaning to issue a double number — not doubting that I could agree with him upon some terms; but he had fallen into the hands of evil advisers, and became more extortionate than ever. Poe In the mean-time got into a drunken spree, and conceived an idea that I had not treated him well, for which he had no other grounds than my having loaned him money and persuaded Bisco to carry on the ‘Journal’ himself. As his doing so would give me a legal claim upon him, and enable me to recover something from him, I allowed him to issue one number, but it is doubtful whether he issues another. Mr. Homans, the publisher, with whom I had agreed to undertake the publication of the ‘Journal’ is an educated man and a thorough good fellow, with a very extensive book-selling connection. He is still desirous of taking hold of the ‘Journal” and has made me a very liberal of for to go on with him if he can purchase Bisco’s share. But I do not yet know how the affair will terminate. [page 500:]

Poe’s mother-in-law told me that he was quite tipsy the day that you called upon him, and that he acted very strangely; but I perceived nothing of it when I saw him in the morning. He was to have delivered a poem before the societies of the New York University a few crooks since, but drunkenness prevented him. I believe he had not drunk anything for more than eighteen months until within the past three months, but in this time he has been very frequently carried home in a wretched condition. I am sorry for him. He has some good points, but, taken altogether he is badly made up. I was deceived by his superficial talents when I first met him, and relied too much upon the high opinion which you had expressed of him. His learning is very much like that of the famous Mr. Jenkinson in the ‘Vicar of Wakefield’. He talks about dactyls and spondees with surprising glibness; and the names of metres being caviars to nine men out of ten, he has gained a reputation for erudition at a very cheap rate. He makes quotations from the German, but he can‘t read a word of the language.(1)

I did not give you sufficient particulars to enable you to understand my difficulties with Bisco and Poe. Neither has done anything without my full consent, and I have nothing to complain of but their meanness, which they couldn‘t help. I had told P. a month before that I should drop his name from the ‘Journal’. He said I might keep it there if I wanted to, although he intended to go into the country and devote his time to getting up books, and would not therefore be able to assist me. I had also told Bisco that I would have nothing more to do with him after the close of the first volume, and that I would not carry it on unless I could find a publisher to my mind. I did find such a publisher, and Bisco, thinking that I was very anxious to go on with it, was [page 501:] more exacting in his demands for his share of the ‘Journal’ than I thought just, so I told him I would not take it; and he, thinking to spite me, and Pee, thinking to glorify himself in having overmastered me, agreed to go on with it. I laughed at their folly, and told them to go ahead; but I still hold the same right that ever I did, and could displace them both if I wished to do so. But seeing so much poltroonery and littleness in the business gave me a disgust to it, and I let them alone, hoping to get back from Bisco some money which I had advanced him.(1)

In the Editorial Miscellany, August 9, Poe gave his only comment. The New York correspondent of this Cincinnati Gazette had written:

There has been a flare-up in the Broadway Journal, which prevented the appearance of one number a week or two since. It originated in some difference between one of the Editors and the Publisher. The Editor undertook to get a new Publisher on the paper, and so the Publisher turned round and put the name of the other Editor on his sheet. Where the merits or demerits of the case lie, we do not pretend to determine.(2)

Poe quoted the paragraph and answered.

‘What does he mean by putting the name of the other editor on the paper‘? The name of the ‘other editor’ was never off the paper. What does he mean by his pet phrase ‘a flare-up‘? There has been no flare-up either in case of ‘The Broadway Journal’ or of ‘The Democratic Review’.(3)

Affairs had reached an impasse. Briggs was determined to remain the controlling voice in the magazine he had founded. Bisco, [page 502:] apparently, was not very efficient. In view of the editorial and financial situation, Poe felt there was little future for him with the Journal. On being informed that Briggs intended to drop his name from the heading, he was probably content to let it be so. He was still working on his History of American Literature — and still, as re shall later see, there danced before him in the far vistas of the never-never land the siren dream-magazine. However, on realizing that Bisco intended to hold out against Briggs, Poe manoeuvered the coup d‘etat with a surge of hope. The exact nature of the financial relationships of the three men is not clear. From Briggs’ letters it seems that Poe’s third interest was solely on a salary basis, that it could be voided without compensation as soon as Poe’s connection with the paper should cease. Briggs seems still to have regarded himself as controlling editor; whether or not this was actually true may be doubted. What Briggs received in return for his share is also obscure; probably Bisco gave him a note.

This treatment of his friend finished Poe with Lowell; on August 21 he wrote Briggs:

Poe, I am afraid, is wholly lacking in that element of manhood which, for want of a better name, we call, character. It is something quite distinct from genius — though all great geniuses are endowed with it ... As I prognosticated, I have made Poe my enemy by doing him a service. In the last B. J. he has accused me of plagiarism & misquoted Wordsworth to sustain his charges ... Poe wishes to kick down the ladder by which he rose. He is welcome. But he does not attack me at a weak point. He probably cannot conceive of any body’s writing for anything but a newspaper reputation or for posthumous fame which is but the same thing magnified by distance.(1) [page 503:]

And on the same day Briggs wrote Lowell:

You have formed a correct estimate of Poe’s characterless character. I have never met a person so utterly deficient of high motives. He cannot conceive of anybody’s doing anything, except for his own personal advantage; and he said, with perfect sincerity, and entire unconsciousness of the exposition which it makes of his own mind and heart, that he looks upon all reformers as madmen; and it is for this reason that he is so great an artist. He cannot conceivably the world should fool an interest in whatever interests him, because he feels no interest himself in what does not personally concern him. Therefore he attributes all the favor which Longfellow, yourself, or anybody else receives from the world as an evidence of the ignorance of the world, and the lack of that favor in himself he attributes to the world’s Malignity. It is too absurd for belief, but he really thinks that Longfellow owes his fame mainly to the ideas which he has borrowed from his (Poe’s) writings in the ’Southern Literary Messenger’. His presumption is beyond the liveliest imagination. He has no reverence for Homer, Shakespeare, or Milton, but thinks that, ‘Orion’ is the greatest poem in the language. He has too much prudence to put his opinions into print — or, rather, he can find nobody impudent (sic) enough to print them, — but he shows himself in his private converse. The Bible, he says, is all rigmarole. As to his Greek, — you might see very well if it were put into your eye. He does not read Wordsworth, and knows nothing about him.(1)

In the Journal of September 20 Poe wrote in reviewing an article, “American Humor” by William A. Jones:

A vulgar drivelling, however (Harry Franco), the whole of whose point, as far [page 503:] as we can understand it, consists in being unable to pen a sentence of even docent English, our essayist places ‘on a par with Paulding and much above Miss Leslie and Joseph Neal’. This to be sure is rather an equivocal sentence ...(1)

On this attack Briggs commented:

You take Poe’s niaiseries too seriously. I only cared for his unhandsome allusion to me in the B. J. because it proved him a baser man than I thought him before... The truth is that I have not given him the shadow of a cause for ill-feeling; on the contrary he owes me now for money that I lent him to pay his board and keep him from being turned into the street. But he knows that I am possessed of the secret of his real character and he no doubt hates me for it. Until it was absolutely necessary for me to expose some of his practices to save myself from contempt. I never breathed a syllable of his ill habits, but I tried in vain to hide them from observation out of pure compassion, for I had not known him long before I lost all respect for him and felt a loathing disgust for his habits. I did not much blame him for the matter of his remarks about Jones, although the manner of them was exceeding improper and unjust; the real cause of his ire was Jones’ neglecting to enumerate him among the humorous writers of the country, for he has an inconceivably extravagant idea of his capacities as a humorist.(2)

Poe finished off Harry Franco in a “Literati” sketch, Godey’s, May, 1846:

They depend for their effect upon the relation in a straightforward manner, just as one would talk, of the most commonplace events — a kind of writing which, to ordinary and especially to [page 505:] indolent intellects, has a very observable charm. To cultivated or to active minds it is in an equal degree, distasteful, even Mien claiming the merit of originality, (Briggs, however, Poe continues, imitates and out-Smolletts Smollett), occasionally he has written good things ... Now and then, he has attempted criticism, of which, as might be expected, he made a farce ... Mr. Briggs has now composed in his life three consecutive sentences of grammatical English. He is grossly uneducated ... Mr. Briggs’s personal appearance is not prepossessing. He is about five feet six inch in height, somewhat slightly framed, with a sharp, thin face, narrow and low forehead, pert-looking nose, mouth rather pleasant in expression, eyes not so good, gray and small, although occasionally brilliant. In dress he is apt to affect the artist, priding himself especially upon his personal acquaintance with artists and his general connoisseurship ... He walks with a quick nervous stop. His address is quite good, frank and insinuating. His conversation has now and then the merit of humour, but he has a perfect mania for contradiction, and it is impossible to utter an uninterrupted sentence in his hearing. He has much warmth of feeling, and is not a person to be disliked, although very apt to irritate and annoy. Two of his most marked characteristics are vacillation of purpose and a passion for being mysterious (GLB, XXXII, 199-200; H, XVI, 20, 22-3).

Briggs had the last word, after Poe’s death — one or two most unpleasant articles written on Poe. He grant’s him genius; he grants that when he was sober he was pleasant and attractive. Then:

He could write the tenderest and most touching letter, which he would bedabble with real tears, as he folded the paper, to women upon whom he had no other design than sending his wife or her mother to them to solicit a loan of $50 ... What rendered him so obnoxious to those who knew him intimately were his treachery to his friends, his insincerity, his, [page 506:] utter disregard of his moral obligations, and his total, lack of loyalty and nobleness of purpose. He aimed at nothing, thought of nothing but literary reputation; and in this respect he gained all that he aspired to, and his friends should be satisfied to know that he accomplished all that he labored for, and not endeavor to compel the world to award him a character which he never coveted and held in supreme contempt.(1)

In much of what Briggs said of Poe there is no doubt some truth — but truth strained through a limited perception. Harry Franco was not the man to understand Poe. His rather narrow sense of values could not encompass his associate. His remarks on Poe are perhaps of more worth in characterizing him than Poe.

Finally Poe was in sole charge of tie editorial conduct of the Journal; but still he had only a third interest for salary and an enormous amount of work to do. There are two reminiscent accounts of Poe at this period. One is by Poe’s office boy, Alexander T. Crane:

Poe was a quiet man about the office, and was uniformly kind and courteous to every one, and, with congenial company, he would grow cheerful and even playful. I saw him every day, for, as you may imagine, our office rooms did not consist of a great many compartments, and office-boy and editor were pretty close together. He came to the office every day about nine o‘clock and worked until three or four in the afternoon, and he worked steadily and methodically too.

Not a great while after I had gone to work on the paper, on a hot August afternoon, while gapping and addressing Journals, I was overcome with the heat and fainted dead away. Poe was writing at his desk. When I recovered consciousness I was stretched out on the long table at which I had been at work and Poe was bending over me bathing my wrists and temples in cold water. He administered to me until I was able to stand up, and then he sent me home in a carriage. [page 507:]

This act of kindness, coupled with his uniform gentle greetings when he entered the office of a morning, together were frequent personal inquiries and word of encouragement, made me love and trust my editor.(1)

The other is found in R. H. Stoddard’s Recollections. He submitted to Poe in June a poem for publication. After a week or two he called on Poe to ask for news of it. Poe “received me with the courtesy habitual with him when he was himself” and said that the ode would appear in the next number. It did not. A month later “Notices to Correspondents” announced:

“We doubt the originality of the ‘Grecian Flute‘, for the reason that it is too good at some points to be so bad at others. Unless the author can reassure us, we decline it.(2)

On a hot forenoon in July Stoddard called to reassure the editor. Bisco informed him that Poe was out.

Returning with my thin blood at fever heat, I was informed that Poe was in his sanctum. He was sitting in a chair asleep, but the publisher awoke him. He was in a morose mood.

‘Mr. Poe‘, I said, ‘I called to assure you that I did write the *Ode on a Graoian Flute’.•

Poe started, and glared at me, and shouted, ‘You lie d — n you. Get out of here, or I‘ll throw you out!‘(5) [page 508:]

The amount of truth in those two memoirs is indeterminable. In any event Poe seems to have worked hard if not steadily. The number of advertisements was increased materially. With the September 27 number the format was improved. One William Fairman was engaged to travel “for the purpose of promoting the general interests of the work.”(1) Despite the fact that the critical notices were shorter than ever and that the magazine’s pages were filled with Poe’s old work, the prospects seemed bright, except for financial difficulties. Poe wrote Chivers on August 11:

Mr. Bisco says to me that, with the loan of $50, for a couple of months, he would be put out of all difficulty in respect to the publication of the ‘Broadway Journal’. Its success is decided, and will eventually make us a fortune. It would be, therefore, a great pity that anything of a trifling nature (such as a want of $50) should interfere with our prospects. You know that I have no money at eland myself, and therefore I venture to ask you for the loan required. If you can aid us, I know you will. In 2 months certainly the money will be repaid;(2)

and more urgently on August 29:

I sit down, in the midst of all the hurry of getting out the paper, to reply to your letter, dated 25 ... What you say about the $50, too, puzzles me. You write — ‘Well I suppose you must have it’ — ‘but it does not come. Is it possible that you mailed it in the letter? I presume not; but that you rarely refer to your intention of sending it. For Heaven’s sake do — as soon as you get this — for almost everything (as concerns this paper) depends upon it. It would be a thousand pities to give up just as everything flourished. As soon as, by hook or by crook, I can got Wiley-Putnam’s book done, I shall have plenty of money — $500 at least — I will punctually repay you ...(3)

Chivers, however, was unable to respond. Two days before he received Poe’s first letter, he had lent $200 to a friend, and would have to wait for it [page 509:] to be repaid, “I will send it to you as soon as possible, but to you alone.”(1) Poe again was depressed. To Duyckinck he wrote:

I am still dreadfully unwell, and fear that I shall be very seriously ill. Some matters of domestic affliction have also happened which deprive me of that little energy I have left — and I have resolved to give up the B. Joura1 and return to the country for six months, or perhaps a year, as the sole means of recruiting my health and spirits. Is it not possible that yourself or Mr. Matthews (sic), might give me a trifle for my interest in the papers. Or, if things cannot be effected, might I venture to ask you for an advance of $50 on the finish of the ‘American Parnassus‘! — which I will finish as soon as possible.(2)

No offer for his interest was forthcoming, and perforce he remained on the paper.

The October 18 number carried an apology:

The editor’s temporary absence from the city, will account to our publishing friends for present neglect of several new wore. These will be attended to on his return.(3)

The absence was occasioned by the invitation to read a poem before the Boston Lyceum on October 16 — and the poem was “Al Aaraaf.” Apparently he had prepared some copy before he loft, for all but two of the five notices are his: it seems probable that Watson took over during his absence. On the 26 he wrote Mrs. Hale: “I have been a week absent from the city, and have been overwhelmed with business since my return.” This “business” resulted in Poe’s becoming sole editor and proprietor of the Broadway Journal, and so appeared his name in the heading with the October 25 issue. The following week there was printed a notice to the public: [page 510:]

Edgar A. Poe. Esq., having purchased my interest in ‘The Broadway Journal‘, is now sole proprietor of the same. All persons indebted to the paper will please make settlement with him.(1)

Finding himself in financial difficulties aced having lost faith in the future of the magazine, Bisco, it appears, decided to leave the ship, perhaps at Poe’s instigation. Woodberry quotes Bisco as saying “that he made over his right to Poe for the consideration of a promissory note for $50, signed by Poe, and endorsed by Horace Greeley ...(2) Poe, however, wrote Chivers that he had bought it out entirely, and paid for it all, with the exception of $140 which will fall due on the 1st of January next.”(3) Bisco’s statement, then, seems inaccurate, unless this $140 represents come debt of the magazine, perhaps to Briggs. Watson was dropped, probably, for economy.

The extant Poe correspondence is eloquent in revealing the situation in which Poe found himself. On October 26 he wrote Griswold:

Will you aid me at a pinch — at one of the greatest pinches conceivable? If you will, I will be indebted to you, for life. After a prodigious deal of manoeuvring, I have succeeded in getting the ‘Broadway Journal’ entirely within my own control. It will be a fortune to me if I can hold it — and I can do it easily; with a very trifling aid from my friends. May I count you one? Lend me $50 and you shall never have cause to regret it. Reply by return mail, if possible.(4)

On the same day he wrote his old friend, Kennedy:

I stand much in need of your aid, and beg you to afford it to me, if possible — for the sake of the position which you have already enabled me to obtain. By a series of maneuvers (sic) almost incomprehensible to myself, I have [page 511:] succeeded in getting rid, one by one, of all my associates in ‘The Broadway Journal‘, and (as you will see by last week’s paper) have now become sole Editor and Owner. It will be a fortune to me if I can hold it — and if I cam hold; it for one month I am quite safe — as you shall see. I have exhausted all my immediate resources in the purchase — and I now write to ask for a small loan — say $50. I will punctually return it in 3 months.(1)

Kennedy received the letter a month late and answered:

I trust you turn the Journal to a good account. It would have given me pleasure to assist you in this enterprise in the manner your letter suggested but that I could not do. Good wishes are pretty early all the capital I have for such speculations.(2)

On November 13 Poe wrote Duyckinck:

For the first time during two months I fired myself entirely myself — dread fully sick and depressed, but still myself. I seem to have just awakened from some horrible dream, in which an was confusion and suffering — relieved only by the constant sense of your kindness, and that of one or two other considerate friends. I really believe that I have been mad — but indeed I have abundant reason to be so. I have made up my mind to a step which will preserve me, for the future, from at least the greater portion of the troubles which have beset me. In the meantime, I have need of the most active exertion to extricate myself from the embarrassments into which I have already fallen — and my object in writing you this note is (once again) to beg your aid. Of course I need not say to you that my most urgent need is the want of ready money. I find that what I said to you about the prospects of the B.J, is strictly correct. The most strifling immediate relief would put it on an excellent footing. All that I want is time in which to look about me; and I think that it is (sic) your power to afford me this.(3)

Wiley owed Poe $60. Poe writes Duyckinck to ask the publisher to give him, in lieu of all farther claim on the royalties from the Tales. [page 512:]

a certain sum whatever he may think advisable. So dreadfully am I pressed, that I would willingly take even the $60 actually due (in lieu of all farther demand) than wait til February ...(1)

On November 15 Poe wrote Chivers:

...it is utterly impossible to conceive how busy I have been. The Broadway Journals I now send, will give you same idea of the reason. I have been buying out the paper, and of course you must be aware that I have had a tough time of it — making all kind of maneuvres — and editing the paper without aid from anyone, all the time...I will make a future of it yet. You see yourself what a host of advertising I have. For Heaven’s sake, my dear friends, help me now if you can — at once — for now is my time of peril. If I live until next month I shall be beyond the need of aid. If you can send me the $45, for Heaven’s sake do it, by return of mail — or if not all, a part. Time with me now, is money & money more than time. I wish you were here that I might explain to you my hopes and prospects — but in a letter it is impossible — for remember that I have to do everything myself edit the paper — get it to press — and attend to the multitudinous business besides ... the moments I now spend in penning these words, are gold themselves — & more.(2)

On November 30 he begged George Poe for aid;(3) and on December 1 he asked Halleck for a loan of $100 for three months, which Halleck granted.(4) At the same time he was making efforts to increase the circulation, which seems to have fallen off. There in extant a letter — apparently a circular — dated November:

If I am not mistaken, you were one of the earliest subscribers to ‘The Southern Literary Messenger‘, and aided me very materially while it remained under my control. For this reason, and because I am naturally anxious for the support of those whose good opinion I value — because, too, I believe that my objects, as regards our [page 513:] National Literature, are such as your judgment approves. I venture now frankly to solicit your subscription and influence for ‘The Broadway Journal’ of which I send you a specimen number.(1)

Meanwhile Poe had been successful in securing a backer. On December 3 he signed an agreement with Thomas H. Lane, which I reproduce here in full:

Agreement entered into this, the third day of December, 1845, between Edgar A. Poe, of the City of New York, on the one part, and Thomas H. Lane, also of the City of New York, on the other.

Edgar A. Poe agrees to transfer, and does hereby transfer, to Thomas H. Lane one half of his, the said Poe’s, interest and property in the weekly paper entitled ‘The Broadway Journal’. The said Lane, for the consideration above mentioned, agrees to pay in full all dues now existing against ‘The Broadway Journal’ provided, first, that the clause shall not be understood as applying to any debts of the said ‘Broadway Journal’ contracted prior to the seventeenth day of November, 1845; and provided, secondly, that the said debts do not amount to more than the sum of forty dollars.

The said debts to be paid upon the signing of this Agreement.

The said Lane also agrees to supply, from time to time, as needed, whatever money shall be required for defraying the necessary expenses of the said ‘Broadwar Journal‘, and that said Lane also agrees to attend, in general, to the business conduct of the said ‘Broadway Journal‘ — provided that nothing herein said is understood as excluding the said Poe from his right, as half proprietor of the said Broadway Journal‘, to attend to the said business of the paper, at his option, and equally with the said Lane. The editorial. conduct of the said ‘Broadway Journal’ is to be under the sole charge of the said Edgar A. Poe. [page 514:]

The style or heading of ‘The Broadway Journal’ is to remain unaltered until after the first of January, 1846, when it is to be altered so as to read thus: — ‘The Broadway Journal Edited by Edgar A. Poe — Edgar A. Poe and Thomas H. Law, publishers and proprietors.’

This Agreement is to be considered as in lieu of, or as annulling any previous Agreement which may have been, or has been entered into between: the said Poe and the said Lane.

Edgar A. Poe

T. H. Lane

Signed in the presence of

Samuel Fleet

Witnessed by

George H. Colton

Nov (sic) 3rd, 1845 — New York.(1)

This may be the “step which will preserve me, for the future, from at least the greater portion of the troubles which have beset me,” referred to in the Poe-Duyckinck November 13 letter. The clause in the agreement excepting Lane from responsibility for debts contacted before November 17, suggests that the loan Poe got from Halleck was to be applied on the $140 balance owing to Bisco or to Briggs.

The offices of the Journal were moved from Nassau Street to 103 Broadway, where Lane lodged with Thomas Dunn English. From the reminiscences of these two gentlemen Hervey Allen reconstructs the last days of the Journal:

On December 20, Poe called, and left material for the next issue lac kin;; two columns. He was ill and despondent, and Virginia was thought to be dying. Poe then announced to Lane and English his intention of [page 515:] forthwith drowning his troubles by going on a spree. Lane tried to dissuade him„ but failing to do so, decided to put en end to the agony, and it seems probable at this time that he secured a farewell card from Poe.

Christmas was doubtless spent at 85 Amity Street by Virginia’s bed, and in the deepest gloom. The day after, an issue of the Broadway Journal appeared, There still being some unused copy on hand, English and Lana then made up a final number which appeared January 3, 1846 ...(1)

As is always the case with reminiscences — particularly when the work of a man who hated Poe as did English — the amount of actual truth is indeterminable. There is no trace of any hand but Poe’s in the editorial matter of the last numbers. Exhausted by the almost superhuman exertions of the last months and ill to the verge of collapse, Poe turned the Journal over to Lane. The final issue of the Journal, January 3, carried this Valedictory:

Unexpected engagements demanding my whole attention, and the objects being fulfilled, so far as regards myself personally, for which ‘The Broadway Journal’ was established, I now, as its editor, bid farewell — as cordially to foes as to friends.

Poe’s real attitude toward the Broadway Journal is expressed in a Post-script to a letter to Mrs. Hale of January 16, 1846:

P. S. The B. Journal had fulfilled its destiny — which ran a matter of no great moment. I have never regarded it as more than a temporary adjunct to other designs.(4)

By its very nature it had to have popular appeal. It was a weekly, much of the class of the Mirror — and in the 1840’s a weekly had little dignity. [page 516:] It was not the place for elaborate reviewing, or even very profound reviewing. The only critique raisonnee in the Journal is that on Elizabeth Barrett, excepting the Longfellow series, which is another thing. Nearly all of the reviews are brief. Only a few-ouch as those on Hazlitt, Hunt, Simms, Mathews, and Chivers — show much care in composition. With characteristic frankness young George Eveleth criticized the notices in the paper for December 20, the first number he had seen:

I do not value your critical notices so highly as I should if they were more length, There cannot be much criticism in so few words.(1)

The whole tone of the Editorial Miscellanies in the last volume is that of Poe at his worst — captious and petulant. Poe’s interest in the Journal was purely a mercenary one: he could, with support, make his fortune and be enabled to carry out “other designs.” The chief of these, of course, was that elusive willow o’ the wisp, that fate-bound dream-magazine.

On August 8, 1845, he wrote Neilson Poe: “The B. Journal flourishes — but in January I shrill establish a Magazine;(2) three days later he wrote Chivers, who seems still to have been toying with the idea of joining Poe in the enterprise: “My prospects about ‘Maga’ are glorious. I will be with you in 6 weeks from this date.”(3) In October Briggs wrote Lowell:

The last conversation I had with Poe he used all his power of eloquence in persuading me to join him in the joint editorship of the ’Stylus.‘(4) [page 517:]

The Post-script to Mrs. Hale concludes:

I am now busy making arrangements for the establishment of a Magazine which offers a wide field for literary ambition. Professor Chas. Anton has agreed to take charge for me of a Department of Criticism on Scholastic Letters. His name will be announced. I shall have, also, a Berlin and a Parisian correspondent — both of eminence. The first No. may not appear until Jan. 1847.(1)

In a letter of October 13, 1846, Eveleth asked: “When is that Magazine going to appear?”(2) Poe answered in the vague rhapsody of a dream:

As regards ‘The Stylus“ — that is the grand purpose of my life, from which I have never swerved for a moment, But I cannot afford to risk anything by precipitancy — and I can afford to wait — at least, until I finish the book. When that is out, I will start the Mag. —(3)

And a year later Poe wrote from experience:

I am resolved to be my own publisher.(4) To be controlled is to be ruined. My ambition is great.(5)


[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 488:]

1.  Briggs-Lowell, New York, December 7, 1844. In Woodberry, op. cit., II, 115-16.

2.  Lowell-Poe, Elmwood, December 12, 1844. In ibid., II, 107-08.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 489:]

1.  From a Photostat of this page in the UVL.

2.  BJ, I, 127

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 490:]

1.  The Whitman Broadway Journal. Ingram Collection, Huntington Library. Phot. in UVL.

2.  Briggs-Lowell, New York, January 6, 11345. In Woodberry, op. cit., II, 123.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 491:]

1.  Briggs-Lowell, New York, January 27, 1845. In ibid., II, 123-24.

2.  Lowell-Briggs, Philadelphia, January 16, 1845. Harvard MSS. Phot. in UVL. See Lowell-Briggs, Philadelphia, January 16, ante January 22, February 25, and March 21. Harvard MSS. Phot. in UVL.

3.  Briggs-Lowell. Quoted without date in Scudder, James Russell Lowell, I, 1857.

4.  Lowell-Briggs. Philadelphia, January 16, 1845. Harvard MSS. Phot. in UVL.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 492:]

1.  Briggs-Lowell. Quoted without date in Scudder, op. cit., I, 158

2.  Lowell-Briggs, Philadelphia, March 21, 1845. Harvard MSS. Phot. in UVL,

3.  Lowell-Briggs, Philadelphia, February 25, 1845. Harvard MSS. Phot. in UVL.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 493:]

1.  Briggs-Lowell, New York, March 8, 1845. In Woodberry, op. cit., II, 125-26.

2.  Briggs-Lowell, New York, March 19, 1845. In Woodberry, op. cit., II, 127-28.

3.  Poe-Thomas, New York, January 4, 1845. Gr. MSS. Phot. in UVL.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 494:]

1.  Poe-Thomas, New York, May 4, 1845. Gr. MSS. Phot. in UVL.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 495:]

1.  Poe-J. Hunt, New York, March 17, 1845. Huntington MSS. Phot. in UVL.

2.  Briggs-Lowell, New York, March 8, 1845. Woodberry, op. cit., II, 126.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 498:]

1.  Briggs-Lowell, New York, March 15, 1845. Woodberry, op. cit., II, 126-27.

2.  Briggs-Lowell, New York, March 19, 1845. Woodberry, op. cit., II, 127-28.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 498:]

1.  Lowell-Briggs, Philadelphia„ March 21, 1845. Harvard MSS. Phot. in UVL.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 498:]

1.  BJ, II, 1.

2.  Griswold, W. M., op. cit., 186.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 499:]

1.  Briggs-Lowell, New York, June 29, 1845. Woodberry, op. cit., II, 141.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 500:]

1.  Briggs-Lowell, New York, July 16, 1845. 141-43. Woodberry, op. cit., II, 141-43.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 501:]

1.  Briggs-Lowell, New York, August 1, 1845. Woodberry, op. cit., II, 143-44.

2.  BJ, II, 79.

3.  Ibid.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 502:]

1.  Lowell-Briggs, Elmwood, August 21, 1845. Harvard MSS. Phot. in UVL.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 503:]

1.  Briggs-Lowell, New York, August 21, 1845. Woodberry, op. cit., II, 145-46.

[The following footnote appear at the bottom of page 504:]

1.  BJ, II, 168

2.  Briggs-Lowell, New York, October 13, 1845. Woodberry, op. cit., II, 146-47.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 506:]

1.  “Poe As He Was. An Unpleasant Picture Drawn By One Who Knew Him.” December, 1877. A newspaper clipping quoting an article by the “Late Charles F. Briggs, in the Independent.” Ingram Collection. UVL.

[The following footnotes appeared at the bottom of page 507:]

1.  Quoted from Sunday World-Herald, Omaha, July 13, 1902, in Woodberry, op. cit., II, 139-40.

2.  Stoddard, A. H., Recollections, p. 148.

3.  Ibid., p. 149. Hervey Allen has a slightly different version of this incident which he says is from “the text of the original article, courtesy of John T, Snyder, Esq., of Pelham, New York” (Allen, H. Israfel, p. 653, ftn. 725). This version reads: He was awakened either by myself or his publisher, and was in a very stormy mood. When summoned back to earth he was slumbering uneasily in a very easy chair. He was irascible, surly, and in his cups. ‘Mr. Poe‘, I ventured to remark meekly, ‘I saw you two or three weeks ago, and I read in your paper that you doubted my (sic) ability to write — ’ ‘I know‘, he answered, staring up wildly. ‘You never wrote the Ode to which I lately referred. You never — ’ But the reader may imagine the rest of this unfortunate sentence (Allen, op. cit., 653). The significance of this variation is too obvious to need comment.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 508:]

1.  BJ, II, 174.

2.  Poe-Chivers, New York, August 11, 1845. Huntington MSS. Phot. in UVL,

3.  Poe-Chivers, New York, August 29, 1845. Huntington MSS. Phot. in UVL,

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 509:]

1.  Chivers-Poe, Oaky Grove, September 9, 1845. Huntington MSS. Phot. in UVL.

2.  Poe-Duyckinck, Undated, Woodberry, op. cit., II, 156-57.

3.  BJ, II, 227.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 510:]

1.  BJ, II, 251.

2.  Woodberry, op. cit., 115

3.  Poe-Chivers, New York, November 15, 1845. Huntington MSS. Phot. in UVL.

4.  Poe-Griswold, New York, October 26, 1945. Gr. MSS. Phot. in UVL.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 511:]

1.  Poe-Kennedy, New York, October 26, 1845. Copy by Amelia Poe in UVL.

2.  Kennedy-Poe, December 1, 1845. Gr. MSS. Phot. in UVL.

3.  Poe-Duyckinck, New York, November 13, 1845, Woodberry, op. cit., II, 157-58.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 512:]

1.  Ibid., II, 159.

2.  Poe-Chivers, New York, November 15, 1845. Huntington MSS. Phot. in UVL.

3.  See Woodberry, op. cit., II, 159-60.

4.  See Ibid., II, 161.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 513:]

1.  Poe ——— ! New York, November, 1845. Huntington MSS. Phot. in UVL.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 514:]

1.  Printed by Kenneth Rede in “Poe Notes: From an Investigator’s Notebook,” Am. Lit., V, 53-4, from the document in Poe’s autograph in the possession of John W. Garrett of Baltimore.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 515:]

1.  Allen, H., Israfel, II, 666-67.

2.  Poe-Eveleth, April 16, 1846: “The business, in fact, was none of mine but of the person to whom I transformed the Journal and in whose hands it perished.” Wilson., J. S., The Letters of Edgar A. Poe to George W. Eveleth, p. 6.

3.  BJ, II, 407.

4.  Poe-Mrs. Hale, New York, January 16, 1846. Huntington MSS. Phot. in UVL.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 516:]

1.  Eveleth-Poe, Phillips, Me., January 5, 1846. Mabbott, T. O., The letters from George Eveleth to Edgar Allan Poe. p. 6.

2.  Poe-Neilson Poe, New York, August 8, 1845. Woodberry, op. cit., II, 374.

3.  Poe-Chivers, New York, August 11, 1845, Huntington MSS, Phot. in UVL.

4.  Briggs-Lowell, New York, October 13, 1845. Woodberry, op. cit., II, 147.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 517:]

1.  Poe-Mrs. Hale, New York, January 10, 1846, Huntington MSS. Phot. in UVL.

2.  Eveleth-Poe, Phillips, Me., October 13, 1846. Mabbott, op. cit., p. 8.

3.  Poe-Eveleth, New York, December 15, 1846. Wilson, op. cit., p. 11.

4.  i.e. of the Stylus.

5.  Poe-Eveleth, New York, January 4, 1848. Wilson, op. cit., pp. 18-19.


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