Text: Hervey Allen, “Chapter 22,” Israfel: The Life and Times of Edgar Allan Poe (1934), pp. 466-534


[page 466:]


New York, Sunday Morning,

April 7, (1844), just after breakfast

MY DEAR MUDDY, — We have just this minute done breakfast, and I now; sit down to write you about everything. I can’t pay for the letter, because the P. O. won’t be open to-day. In the first place we arrived safe at Walnut St. wharf. The driver wanted to make me pay a dollar, but I wouldn’t. Then I had to pay a boy a levy to put the trunks in the baggage car. In the meantime I took Sis in the Depot Hotel It was only a quarter past six, and we had to wait till seven. We saw the Ledger and Times — nothing in either — a few words of no account in the Chronicle. We started in good spirits, but did not get here until nearly three o’clock. We went in the cars to Amboy, about forty miles from N. York, and then took the steamboat the rest of the way. Sissy coughed none at all. When we got to the wharf [New York] it was raining hard. I left her on board the boat, after putting the trunks in the Ladies’ cabin, and set off to buy an umbrella and look for a boarding-house. I met a man selling umbrellas, and bought one for twenty-five cents.(647) Then I went up Greenwich St. and soon found a boarding-house. It is just before you get to Cedar St., on the west side going up — the left-hand side. It has brown stone steps, with a porch with brown pillars, ‘Morrison’ is the name on the door.(648) I made a bargain in a few minutes and then got a hack and went for Sis. I was not gone more than half an hour, and she was quite astonished to see me back so soon. She didn’t expect me for an hour. There were two other ladies waiting on board — so she wasn’t very lonely. When we got to the house we had to wait about half an hour before the room was ready. The house is old and looks buggy [letter cut here by a signature vandal] . . . the cheapest board I ever knew, taking into consideration the central situation and the living. I wish Kate(649) could see it — she would faint. Last night, for supper, we had the nicest tea you ever drank, strong and hot, — wheat bread and rye bread — cheese — tea-cakes (elegant), a great dish (two dishes) of elegant ham, and two of cold veal, piled up like a mountain and large slices — three dishes of the cakes and everything in the greatest profusion. No fear of starving here. The landlady seemed as if she couldn’t press us enough, and we were at home directly. Her husband is living with her — a fat, good-natured old soul. There are eight or ten boarders — two or three of them ladies — two servants. For breakfast we had excellent-flavoured coffee, hot and strong — not very clear and no great deal of cream’ — veal cutlets, elegant ham and eggs and nice bread and butter. I never sat down to a more plentiful or a nicer breakfast. I wish you could have seen the eggs — and the great dishes of meat. I ate [page 467:] the first hearty breakfast I have eaten since I left our little home. Sis is delighted, and we are both in excellent spirits. She has coughed hardly any and had no night sweat. She is now busy mending my pants which I tore against a nail. I went out last night and bought a skein of silk, a skein of thread, two buttons, a pair of slippers, and a pan for the stove.(650) The fire kept in all night. We have now got four dollars and a half left. To-morrow I am going to try and borrow three dollars, so that I may have a fortnight to go upon. I feel in excellent spirits, and haven’t drank a drop — so that I hope soon to get out of trouble. The very instant I scrape together enough money I will send it on. You can’t imagine how much we both do miss you. Sissy had a hearty cry last night because you and Catterina weren’t here.(649) We are resolved to get two rooms the first moment we can. In the meantime it is impossible we could be more comfortable or more at home than we are. It looks as if it were going to clear up now. Be sure and go to the P. O. and have my letters forwarded. As soon as I write Lowell’s article, I will send it to you, and get you to get the money from Graham. Give our best love to C.(649)

(Signature cut away)

(P. S.) Be sure and take home the Messenger to Hirst. We hope to send for you very soon.

This is notable, in Poe’s correspondence, as being the only one of his letters on record in which the mask is entirely dropped. All the rest seem to have been written under some strong emotion, for a set purpose, or wrapped in the ample folds of his literary and critical cloak. Here for about one brief hour — about nine o’clock on a rainy Sunday morning in April, 1844, — we see “Israfel,” the hollow-eyed, cloak-wrapped figure with the ravens circling about his head, the man of gloomy destiny, the cabalistic seer, the mighty reasoner, the haunter of graves — stripped of all this legendary make-up — stripped even of his trousers, sitting up in bed, full of “elegant ham,” writing “Muddie” a real honest letter about this workaday world. Virginia is sitting near the stove while the rain patters on the roof, — “She is now busy mending my pants which I tore against a nail,” snuffling a little bit now and then because she misses her “Muddy,” and her pussy cat away off there in Philadelphia. For sheer personal insight into the personal habits of the human animal known as Edgar Allan Poe, this letter is worth a whole barrel of confectionery to Helen Whitman, and the philosophy meant for Lowell or Chivers.

There seem to have been only two persons, in this life, in whom Poe ever fully confided. One of those was his foster-mother Frances Allan — (“if only she hadn’t died!”)(380) — and the other was his aunt, Maria Clemm. She knew him as a human being, body and soul. That the intellect, the world of his imagination was utterly beyond her, makes Poe’s letters to her, and this one in particular, all the more important as a sheer literal record of physical fact. The facts which emerge from [page 468:] it are not at all mysterious. They are, indeed, immemorially familiar to humanity; poverty, drink, tuberculosis, domestic love, and brave, useless hope.

Whole flocks of dove-like persons have cooed rapturously over this lone epistle for well-nigh two generations. The cat, of course, is very fetching; quite smoothable in fact. Taken out of its frame of surrounding facts, and read as a lonely item, this letter, as Mrs. Hale says, “is a subject upon which we could lucubrate indefinitely.” Once returned to that frame, however, it is merely a very intimate and unique confirmation, from Poe’s own hand, of what went before, and what came after. As such it is deserving of more than sentimental attention.

The nervous poverty of one whose only stock in trade is dreams, runs in every line. There is the familiar argument with the cab driver over the customary fare, the little penny pan purchased to make the landlady’s coal last all night, the mended clothes, the “elegant” board in the house that looks buggy — at nothing a week — three dollars to be borrowed plus four dollars and a half left, “so that I may have a fortnight to go upon”! Let those who can rhapsodize do so. Rhapsody should be made of softer stuff.

The man who wrote this letter had recently been starving. His descriptions of food read like the enthusiasm of a diet patient for his favorite café. Then there is the shadow of invalidism, the unusual absence of Sis’s cough and night sweats, she who is called only by the name of sister. All this is carefully detailed to Mrs. Clemm, waiting in some boarding-house in Philadelphia until Eddie could raise the $3 fare by way of Perth Amboy ($1 less than by the Trenton line). Things had come to a desperate pass, indeed, when the mainstay of the family had been left behind with the cat. Scarcely owe item is wanting to complete the picture. Mr. Poe, snorting over the worthless Philadelphia papers, “a few words of no account,” even as he left the town where he was no longer an editor, and then — “I feel in excellent spirits, and haven’t drank a drop — so that I hope soon to get out of trouble.” Evidently Mrs. Clemm knew what the cause of trouble was. Even over the postscript to this pathetic letter, so determinedly cheerful, to encourage poor, lonely “Muddie,” an angry controversy arose.

Poe,(651) it will be remembered, had written to Snodgrass some years [page 469:] before to obtain bound volumes of the numbers of the Messenger he had edited. Snodgrass could not get them, it seems, and, through Hirst, Poe had borrowed a copy belonging to William Duane, at one time Secretary of the Treasury. This is why Poe writes to Mrs. Clemm, “Be sure and take home the Messenger to Hirst.” Mrs. Clemm had already inadvertently pawned the book with others, but was, it seems, afraid to tell this to Poe. She informed him that she had left it at Hirst’s office with his brother. Duane then wrote Poe asking for the volume and Poe told him what Mrs. Clemm had said. In the meantime Hirst had fallen out with Poe and, Duane wrote him, “the statement was pronounced by Mr. Hirst to be a damned lie.” Subsequent events showed that Mr. Hirst was right in denying having received the volume — “Mr. Poe having sold the books — I hope unintentionally.” Further angry correspondence between the three now thoroughly angry parties to the controversy followed. Hirst went about Philadelphia saying that Poe had stolen the book and pawned it. Duane made a considerable bother over it and (after receiving a characteristic letter from Poe in which he was told to “Settle your difficulties with Hirst, and insult me with no more of your communications”), finally found the book in a secon^ hand store in Richmond, Virginia, thus confirming him in his suspicions of Poe. During all this fire-spitting, Mrs. Clemm was the only one who knew. The incident is only important as being typical of many similar minor difficulties and accusations that followed Poe. Here were two gentlemen, one a close friend, and the other an acquaintance, suddenly calling Poe liar and thief, when he had gone to considerable pains to be punctilious. It was all very bewildering, only to be set down to the pure devilishness of human nature. That must be it! “Insult me no more,” Poe writes Mr. Duane, who doubtless paid three cents to get the letter. “Bombastes Furioso Poe,” endorses Duane upon it. “Liar,” shrieks Hirst. Mr. Griswold and Mr. English chuckle. The tale makes its sorry rounds, while Mrs. Clemm sticks to her story.(652)

The boarding house at which Poe and Virginia found themselves in New York was located at 130 Greenwich Street.(653) The funds remaining there, and for bringing Mrs. Clemm from Philadelphia, seem to have been provided by the perpetration of one of those elaborate literary jokes in which Poe so delighted. During the first weeks in which he was in New York, Poe must have called on the editor of the Sun and sold him the manuscript of The Balloon Hoax, for, on the [page 470:] Saturday following his arrival, the regular morning issue of the paper for April 13 contained an apparently hastily inserted announcement in double leads that the news of a balloon’s having crossed the Atlantic had just been received, and that an extra giving full particulars would be issued at ten o’clock the same morning. The promised extra, which appeared at the promised hour, contained Poe’s story printed as if it were a “scoop” by the Sun.(654) The clever, and “imaginative realism” of Poe’s style was successful in temporarily cozening the multitude who read, gaped, and believed. Many a beaver hat or poke bonnet waggled with astonishment over the —









Signal Triumph


Mr. Monck Mason’s




Arrival at Sullivan’s Island near Charleston, S. C., of Mr. Mason, Mr. Robert Holland, Mr. Henson, Mr. Harrison Ainsworth, and four others, in the Steering Balloon “Victoria” — After a passage of Seventy-Five Hours From Land to Land(655)

[page 471:]

The beach at Sullivan’s Island near Fort Moultrie, which seems to have left an undying impression upon Poe’s mind, had again been returned to in The Balloon Hoax, as in The Gold Bug, to lend authentic local color.(290) The journalism of the time, when news still depended upon the uncertain arrival of sailing ships, travelers’ tales, and the timely letters of special correspondents, lent itself occasionally to hoaxing the public on a large scale, without the fear of contradiction by telegraph, which would now follow instantly. Wonders were in the air, and Mr. Poe’s story was unusually clever, interesting, and circumstantial. As a matter of fact he had only anticipated the news by about a century. Strangely enough, the report in the New York papers of the first transatlantic balloon journey recorded almost the same number of hours and many of the same incidents found in Mr. Monck Mason’s hypothetical log. From the author’s standpoint, it was an excellent way to circulate a short story. It created a thundering lot of talk.

But there was something more than that. Mr. Poe’s peculiar joy at having sold his fellow mortals was much deeper than his satisfaction at having sold a manuscript, even though the reward was never so welcome. To have taken in many, justified him in that contempt for the mob which several of his other essays and stories exhibit to a marked degree, while it pandered to his own self-esteem. It was incense to that legend of the mob’s inferiority, which the very weaknesses of his nature demanded. To keep the air clouded with this fragrant smoke was necessary, so that he, and the world he gazed upon, might appear through the haze other than they actually were. Lastly, it tickled his own curious sense of humor, so closely involved with his essential vanity. Remembering the headless goose at West Point that was made to pass for a gory human head, and the advertisement of himself as the master of mysterious cryptograms, one cannot help but recognize some of the features of “Count” Cagliostro.(377)

The perpetrator of the hoax was, of course, sooner or later tracked to his lair at 130 Greenwich Street, where the immediate result of the sale of the manuscript had been an enlarged apartment. Poe and Virginia now occupied two rooms. Mrs. Clemm was sent for, and seems to have arrived a week or so after her family, doubtless with tears of joy in her eyes, and a basket containing “Catarina.” The literary town was soon aware that Mr. Poe was in its midst, but his position was an anomalous one.

He had now been editor of three important publications, but both his literary and personal excesses and peculiarities were known. If he was admired, he was also feared. There were few niches into which he would fit. Editors’ chairs are neither easily vacated, nor readily filled, and there can be no doubt that Poe was very averse to filling any subordinate [page 472:] position. Neither his personality nor his inclinations fitted him for that. As always, since the days on the Messenger, the ambitious ghost of the great national magazine was at his elbow as one of the directing forces of his literary career. The wraith of this ambition, always about to become embodied, walked with him to the very last.(644)

During the first few months of his second sojourn in New York, Poe existed mainly on the meager returns from hack work of one kind or another. It is probable that his tale of The Oblong Box, which appeared in Godey’s Lady’s Book for September, 1844, was finished at 230 Greenwich Street, as its preoccupation with the scenes about Charleston Harbor connect it with the same locality mentioned in The Balloon Hoax of a few weeks before. Dreamland appeared in Graham’s for June, 1844. In The Balloon Hoax, Poe had rested on the more popular, and more cheerfully realistic method of The Gold Bug which, he found, was by far the most popular of his stories. From now on, however, he returned for the most part to the ideal world created by his imagination. The Oblong Box was, of course, a coffin. Corpses, premature burials, and those unique and haunted landscapes of his poems, show the strange paths that he took in his dreams, and the melancholy comfort which he found in the realms of the imagination alone. Physically Poe had come from Philadelphia to New York, actually he had arrived —

By a route obscure and lonely,

Haunted by ill angels only,

Where an Eidolon, named Night,

On a black throne reigns upright,

I have reached these lands but newly

From an ultimate dim Thule —

From a wild weird clime that lieth, sublime,

Out of Space — out of Time.(656)

This poem may be said to mark the beginning of another resurgence of creative poetical activity that lasted with some blank interludes from the Spring of 1844 to the early part of 1849. This, the last flowering of his creative harvest, was notable for the production of his greatest poetry. Dreamland, The Raven, Ulalume, The Bells, the greatly improved Valley of Unrest, Eldorado, and Annabel Lee, besides some minor things, seem to have followed each other in fairly rapid succession. On the other hand, the prose shows a distinct falling off in the shaping power of imagination; and the criticism, a tendency to degenerate into hack work, or vicious personal attacks alternating with perfervid puffing.(657) From now on, for the most part, in his criticism, [page 473:] Poe seems to have been unable to dissociate himself from the purely personal, in his attitude towards his contemporaries, and anger, jealousy, irritation, or affection colored most of his reviews.

A survey of Poe’s literary works from the end of the Philadelphia period to his final disappearance in 1849, shows that it bears indubitably the marks of his own psychic and physical fluctuations. The excesses of the last two years in Philadelphia, combined with what was probably the ordained and inherited tendency of his life curve to take a downward direction early in life, had left him more than ever nervously disorganized, and confirmed his tendency to turn inward, even more than before. Hence, he was unequal to the more sustained effort necessary for creative prose, which now, for the most part, with the exception of a few landscape sketches, took on the guise of journalistic comment or correspondence, and we find him, after a period of more than a decade, now turning once more to poetry, which was at once the expression of the troubles of his inner life and a confession of his almost total withdrawal from any vital contact with the objective world. His consciousness, indeed, during the last five years of his life, seems to have busied itself almost entirely with the problems of self. That the painful events which went on about him in the outside world, during the last years of his life, helped to confirm him in this tendency to psychic withdrawal, there can be no doubt. Over some of these events he had no control. But it is also true that the progressive disorganization, which went on within, produced for him a corresponding chaos in the world without, so that a vicious circle was formed that tightened about him like a noose. One of the accompanying phenomena of this latter period, which must ever be borne in mind as its events are detailed, a psychic phenomenon which largely explains many of the events themselves, was a growing and accelerated tendency to an exaltation of the ego. By 1848, with the appearance of Eureka, this tendency had already passed the last admitted borders of sanity.

The tendency to this lamentable condition can be traced far back into his youth. Once given Poe’s peculiar nervous constitution and the events which overtook him, and it seems hard to admit of any other outcome. Richmond, and the home life there, had driven him in upon himself. By the time he went to the University of Virginia, he was already a pompous youth possessed of a tremendous, certainly an eccentric, desire for fame. Literature had been his method of approach to the ideal, and had necessitated a constant introspection and years of brooding, that had inevitably set him apart. His open and avowed profession of the name of poet had, at once, sequestered him and exalted him to a strange degree. The profession of literature had involved poverty. This, in turn, had thrust upon him an incidental feeling of [page 474:] inferiority that he had offset by a correspondingly exalted pride. The very time and places in which he found himself, an age and country which could not understand the motives of an aesthetic life, thrust upon him almost inevitably the necessity of exalting himself in his own eyes, to defend himself from the opinions of a world that regarded objective attainments and possessions as the only criteria of human success. All these were pertinent and tremendously significant factors in the progress and catastrophe of Edgar Allan Poe. Whether these, however, in themselves would have been sufficient to produce a completely abnormal result may well be doubted.

To all of these factors had been added another, which undoubtedly served to enlarge the already exalted ego of Mr. Poe clear out of the realm of the eccentric into the uncertain shadows of the insane. This was his use of opium. To what degree he indulged in this, and at just what intervals, it is impossible accurately to detail. “The poison, which taken alternately with opium, kept him half his days in madness,” is certainly an exaggeration.(658) That such a statement could be made at all by one who knew him intimately is nevertheless peculiarly significant. It is in the obvious results upon him, however, that the main evidence exists. The end of that man, who indulges in opium, is frequently an intense exaltation of the ego. In describing this effect, with which he was peculiarly familiar, Baudelaire, who admired, and rapturously recognized in Poe the records of the effects of opium, goes on to say:

Finally, the drugged man admires himself inordinately; he condemns himself, he glorifies himself; he realizes his condemnation; he becomes the centre of the universe, certain of his virtue as of his genius. Then in a stupendous irony he cries: Je suis devenu Dieu! One instant after, he projects himself out of himself, as if the will of an intoxicated man had an efficacious virtue, and cries, with a cry that might strike down the scattered angels from the ways of the sky: Je suis un Dieu!”(659)

Now this is so precise and perfect a description of Poe’s state of mind, particularly during the last years of his life, that, if it cannot be at least partly traced to the same cause, it is one of the most remarkable coincidences of effects on record. For Poe not only struck down the scattered angels when he seized the harp of Israfel, but he also, as many people testify, frequently thought of himself as damned. At the same time, he regarded himself as an epitome of genius. In the pages of [page 475:] Eureka he follows precisely the course of the drug addict as described in the last sentence just quoted from Baudelaire. He finds that he is becoming God, for his exalted intelligence (ego) has, he thinks, permitted him to penetrate the secret of the universe. “One instant after he projects himself out of himself . . . and cries, ‘Eureka’ — what does the word mean but that ‘I have found’ ” What he “found” was the secret of the universe. To find the secret of all things implies one’s equality with God.

The final result of this growing tendency of Poe, to the final condition of an ego expounded to the nth power, has been delineated here somewhat out of the order of the time of its complete inflation, because it is imperative to bear it in mind, in order to understand the chronicle of the last years, which must now follow. Why the “godlike” soul of this man was so much irritated by the petty doings of many mortal men and women, the nature of the well-spring from which his poetry took its source, his alternating fits of despair and exaltation, and the nature of the tragedies which now rapidly overwhelmed him, — will, in the light of his psychic condition, undoubtedly become less mysterious.

In the Spring of 1844, Poe was writing a biographical sketch of James Russell Lowell which was highly laudatory, especially of his poetry which Poe genuinely admired. Lowell was also writing Poe’s biography, a much more solid piece of criticism, which contained some excellent remarks on the contemporary conditions of American letters. The sketch appeared with a rather poor portrait of Poe painted (sic) by A. C. Smith and engraved by Welch and Walter among “Our Contributors” in Graham’s for February, 1845.

There was considerable friendly correspondence between the two friends upon their mutual labors in behalf of each other, about this time. Lowell’s final opinion of Poe may be summed up roughly in the statement that he admired Poe’s work as an imaginative artist, but shied at its abnormal implications; the better part of Poe’s criticism Lowell held in high esteem while deprecating its animosity. The man himself he admired circumspectly, and pitied charitably. The comment of this generous and understanding man, probably the greatest contemporary with whom Poe had vital contact, constitutes an important judgment.

In a letter written to Lowell in May, 1844, enclosing data for his biography, Poe includes a list of six unpublished stories which were, he says, then in the hands of editors.(660) These tales, no doubt, represented the latter fruits of his labors during the Philadelphia period. The long delays to which he was subjected, not only before publishing, [page 476:] but before payment, are bm made painfully clear and exhibit vividly an exasperating cause of his poverty.(661)

Since the early 1830’s, Poe had been writing steadily and professionally. During that time he had produced both, prose and poetry which even his detractors admitted to be of extraordinary quality. It was certainly as good as, if not better than any other imaginative literature then being produced in the United States, Yet he was not only poorly rewarded; he was still in abject poverty. His reputation had been literally his only gain rolled up by the years. Even this, in some quarters, was doubtful. His collected works had been given away to be sold without royalty, and, even then, they had not been successful in achieving circulation. Despite his not infrequent lapses, due to constitutional ill-health and other causes, it must be remembered that Poe had worked desperately hard at his profession. The mere bulk of his work is conclusive evidence of this.(682) Hundreds of columns of reviews, editorials, and notes; a sufficient number of stories to make up five “ordinary novel volumes ”; three books of poems, the editorship of three periodicals, and the conduct of an exacting and always active correspondence in the laborious medium of longhand — had barely sufficed to keep the wolf from the door, and had dumped Poe a derelict in New York in April, 1844, with $4.50 in his pockets.

It is preposterous to suppose that this was “all his own fault.” To do so leaves out of account the very practical consideration that the main cause of Mr. Poe’s poverty was that he was underpaid. Only the lower order of his literary labors, his journalism, had any marketable value. For his great art, the condition of taste, the copyright law, and the flood of English books that annually glutted the American market, left scarcely a purchaser. He could not, in fact, even successfully give away his stories or poems, when they were bound in book form. In this, he was groping against the wall which confronted everyone who wrote imaginatively in English on the western side of the Atlantic.

It was due to this condition that Poe continued, from 1835 to 1845, to make continued and vain efforts to reap even a harvest of reputation from a successful circulation of his collected tales. Upon his removal to New York, he now once more addressed himself to the matter, and again turned to a former acquaintance. Professor Charles Anthon was to solicit, in Poe’s interest, with Harpers, for whom Anthon was a literary adviser, in order to get them to bring out an edition comprising [page 477:] the collected stories to date. In a passage in a letter to Anthon the vicissitudes of Poe’s literary career, which may be taken as typical of those of many another American author of the day, are made sufficiently clear:

Holding steadily in view my ultimate purpose, — to found a Magazine of my own, or (one) in which at least I might have a proprietary right, — it has been my constant endeavor in the mean time, not so much to establish a reputation great in itself as one of that particular character which should best further my special objects, and draw attention to my exertions as Editor of a Magazine. Thus I have written no books, and have been so far essentially a Magazinist (defective MS.) bearing, not only willingly but cheerfully, sad poverty and the consequent contumelies and other ills which the condition of the mere Magazinist entails upon him in America, where, more than in any other region upon the face of the globe, to be poor is to be despised.

The one great difficulty resulting from this course is unless the journalist collects his various articles he is liable to be grossly misconceived and misjudged by men of whose good opinion he would be proud, but who see, perhaps, only a paper here and there, by accident — often only one of his mere extravaganzas, written to supply a particular demand. He loses, too, whatever merit may be his due on the score of versatility — a point which can only be estimated by collection of his various articles in volume form and all together. This is indeed a serious difficulty — to seek a remedy for which is my object in writing you this letter.(662)

The remedy, of course, was the proposed edition of collected tales which Poe says, “are in number sixty-six. They would make, perhaps, five of the ordinary novel-volumes.” Due to the fact that Professor Anthon seems to have been on his summer vacation, he did not answer Poe’s letter until five months later. The tenor of his reply was entirely cordial. He had proposed the matter to Harpers, who, while they admitted Poe’s reputation and the quality of his work, apparently refused to undertake publication for him on account of his connection with the textbook on conchology in Philadelphia, in 1839, a publication of a rival firm to which Poe had lent his name, and that had been designed to drive a similar book, under the Harper copyright, off the market As Harpers had previously published Arthur Gordon Pym for Poe, their “complaints” were not without some basis. “The Harpers also entertain, as I heard from their own lips, the highest opinion of your talents, but — “(663) Poe had the option of calling upon the Harpers to ‘make explanations, but it is doubtful if he did so. The project in that direction was permitted to languish.

With the arrival of Mrs. Clemm in New York, sometime during the Spring of 1844, the two rooms at 130 Greenwich Street were given up completely to Virginia and her mother, while Poe himself took up quarters with a Mrs. William (sic) Foster at Number 4 Ann Street. [page 478:] Here he seems to have shared bachelor quarters with C. C. Curtis, and to have led a more or less poverty-stricken and haphazard existence, not without certain Bohemian interludes. In the cellar of one Sandy Welsh, who kept a tavern on Ann Street, during the Spring of 1844 Poe met a number of congenial spirits, journalists and others, and read The Raven to them, stanza by stanza, in the form in which it then existed. The poem was criticized by those present, sometimes in a humorous mood, and suggestions, some of which Poe is said to have adopted, were offered. Specific instances have been given of the emendations thus said to have been made by others, but the matter is extremely nebulous at best.(664)

The rest of Poe’s time seems to have been largely occupied with making the rounds of the newspapers, and supplying out-of-town correspondents with light comments, items of news, and other literary comment. It is probable that, in slack periods, he resorted to this type of writing more than is generally suspected, and that all of these minor effusions have not been traced. On June 18, he wrote for the editors of the Columbia Spy at Columbia, Pennsylvania:


By Edgar A. Poe

In point of natural beauty, as well as of convenience, the harbor of New York has scarcely its equal in the northern hemisphere; but, as in the case of Brooklyn, the Gothamites have most generously disfigured it by displays of landscapes and architectural taste. More atrocious pagodas, or what not, for it is indeed difficult to find a name for them, — were certainly never imagined than the greater portion of those which affront the eye, in every nook and corner of the bay, and more particularly, in the vicinity of New Brighton. If these monstrosities appertain to taste, then it is taste in its dying agonies. . . .

How completely the world had changed since Poe had seen the same harbor on his way home from West Point in 1831, and how little he relished the change, can be seen in this sketch.666 Poe’s taste was, as was inevitable, affected by the standards of before the Mexican War days, but that, in the main, it rose above the monstrosities of the time, and looked back to the Georgian architecture and costumes of his early Richmond and English school days with regret, is vastly to his credit. For the little boy who played about Frances Allan’s charming drawing-room on Russell Square, London, in 1818, the “pagodas” of New Brighton were not to be swallowed without gasping.(666) [page 479:]

An amusing subject for a social essay on early Nineteenth Century America would be a comparison of the prevailing types of architecture with the current types of foreign novels, in which was imported not only thought, but taste. Classic, Gothic, Mooresque, and Victorian seems to have been the order of obsession, roughly speaking, in both books and buildings. On the seaboard, the trade with the Orient had strange esoteric manifestations.

As the classical culture and the imported renaissance patterns of the Eighteenth Century Colonial, and the later Georgian went out of style, there was a brief but determined attempt to follow the political conception of the “fathers” and make America, in outward appearance, the reflection of the classical republic of which such statesmen as Jefferson dreamed — hence “Thy groves and templed hills,” embalmed in the national hymn. This tendency continued to haunt the South. A little later, there was a restless desire to become Gothic which “almost succeeded.” In the ‘40s a great many people had settled upon being Mooresque or even Oriental, hence, as Poe says, the “pagodas.”

Into a country that had a weak cultural digestive tract was poured a plethora of ideas that gorged it intellectually and artistically, with the result of astounding regurgitations in literature and architecture. The terrible speed of the first machine era had, in the United States and elsewhere, already broken away from all the former bounds of taste, and progress swooped drunkenly forward. American architecture had started upon the orgy of ugliness which culminated in the delirium tremens epoch of the Centennial.

. . . a collection of tags, thrown at random against a building. Architectural forms . . , brought together by a mere juxtaposition of materials held in place by neither imagination nor logic. . . .(667)

As a symbol of the complete aesthetic anarchy, and the barbarous romanticism of the era, one may take Colonel Colt’s mansion near Hartford, Connecticut. It was called Armsmear, and it was described as late as 1876 in the Art Journal, as a “characteristic type of the unique.”(667)

Armsmear was a long, grand, impressive, contradictory, beautiful strange thing. . . . An Italian villa in stone, massive, noble, refined, yet not carrying out any decided principles of architecture, it is like the mind of its originator, bold and unusual in its combinations, . . . There is no doubt it is a little Turkish among other things, on one side it has domes, pinnacles, and light, lavish ornamentation, such as Oriental taste delights in. . . . Yet, although the villa is Italian and cosmopolitan, the feeling is English. It is an English home in its substantiality, its home-like and comfortable aspects. [page 480:]

This masterpiece of paradox, in which confusion supplied the only unity, was typical of the leveling and imitative democratic mind, which cannot see that distinction implies difference. It is one of the most powerful arguments for the genius of Poe that, although he moved in a scene of monstrous and self-satisfied confusion, he conferred upon his own material a memorable unity.

In the 1840’s the ferment of disintegration of all ancient orders whatsoever was rapidly going on. The process was visibly impressed upon the objective world. Wood was enormously plentiful and correspondingly cheap. So cheap, frame structures imitating the Alhambra, and aping the Oriental, began to blotch and to make inroads upon the erstwhile semi-classical landscape. Cast iron balconies and jigsaw fretwork, “relieved” by Arabian inlays of garish tile and imitation stone, staggered horribly across the fronts of banks. Meticulous and useless finials, threatening architraves, and weak newel posts mutinied under the apparently colossal weight of false fronts. The world was losing all sense of proportion. America no longer imagined itself to be an ancient Roman or Greek state, it already knew better. The last of the fathers in knee breeks had now departed. Classical names for cities were out of style. Villes, Burgs, and Smith Cities began to infest the land. For a time there was even an attempt to be vaguely Egyptian in reservoirs and jails.(668)

The fashions were equally eclectic. Uncomfortable little boys, dressed like Scottish chiefs, were led about by negro nurses. Hoopskirts and gentility swept the streets, and everything else. Delicate chinless ladies with lacquered heart-shaped fans and heelless cloth slippers rested their Chinese feet upon balzerine pillows and listed to Swiss music boxes. Plumbers fitted the chandeliers with umbilical gas pipes. Old ladies who had known Aaron Burr and the macaronis of Fraunce’s Tavern, were now discreetly confined with other family skeletons to upstairs apartments, where their granddaughters could not hear them swearing in the grand old style, and complaining of the prudish younger generation; of their insipid conversation, of the lack of capable partners at whist, and the lamentable dearth of drink.

Little girls were laced tightly at home, but so much tighter at boarding-schools, that a lady who lost a portion of her respectability by delivering lectures to mixed audiences, ventured to remark, in the privacy of her diary, that “the results were doubtful.” Transatlantic Victorianism was in full swing. The forties were now four years old, and the famous unknown poetasters and poetesses gathered themselves [page 481:] in the salons of the Manhattan of 325,000 souls — exactly as they do now. In 1844, they were known to each other as the literati. Mr. Poe, the distinguished-looking Southern gentleman with the soulful eyes, was sardonically preparing to make their obscurity visible to the future.

The most amazing thing about this curious era is that, not a doubt of its superiority to all the other ages that had preceded it, seems ever to have disturbed its collective mind. Hie apparently soon to be completed control of nature by machinery had suggested a doctrine of “progress,” hitherto unheard of, but now extended to everything from politics to petticoats. The magazines, the newspapers, public speeches, essays, and novels all reeked with gratulatory self-complacence. The philosophy of the time was so completely saturated with the notion that nine yeas must necessarily be a more profound judgment than eight nays, and that humanity was bound to be a little better on Tuesday than it had been on Monday — that not an objection could be publicly registered. Above all, taste was “more genteel.”

“And here,” contemptuously says a notice in the “Editor’s Table” of Godey’s Lady’s Book — “here are the full dress and the walking costume of 1800.”

The beginning of a new century, thus far in its progress, has developed most astonishingly the resources of mechanical arts, and better applied them to human convenience, comfort and improvement, than has ever before, in the history of the world, been effected. And we think, among other improvements, that the ladies have decidedly improved their fashions of dress. Look on these pictures, (i.e., fashions of 1800) and then turn to our ‘Fashion Plate’ and thank the Publisher of the Lady’s Book for thus showing by contrast, the beauty and becomingness of our present costume.(669)

This was the same magazine to which Poe was glad to contribute A Tale of the Ragged Mountains, and to be thankful it was accepted. Godey’s Lady’s Book, in fact, was yet to play a rather important little part in his career, and those of certain ladies. Louis Godey, its editor, and Mrs. Hale were still his good friends. He needed them to live.

No wonder that, at times, Poe became impatient, or sardonic; he was practically alone in his protests and jest makings at the expense of his age. To expect that he should rise above it completely, is to ask the impossible. As a matter of fact, he did the best he could — he withdrew farther and farther into himself. When he did come out, it was generally to deliver a sting. That Poe felt a considerable amount of justifiable artistic and philosophic antipathy toward the America of the ‘40s, and that it was not all due to his own peculiarities, there can be no doubt. There was an immense cleavage between his artistry and his time. “Progress” had left him enormously alone.

In the Summer of 1844, with the arrival of hot weather, it became [page 482:] necessary to move Virginia to a cooler place in the country. The rural retreat chosen for the summer residence was an old farmhouse with Revolutionary traditions, on a farm along Bloomingdale Road, some five or six miles out of town. The house, which was for long known as “the house where The Raven was written,” was situated in 1844 on what was then a rather conspicuous and rocky knoll, a few hundred feet from the northeast corner of the present Eighty-fourth Street and Broadway.(670 and 671)

The dwelling itself was of a familiar type of colonial farm architecture. A large main building with a smaller and lower annex extended from one side. There were two low brick chimneys, one in the middle gable, and the other at the end of the annex. The dooryard of the house opened into Broadway just above Eighty-fourth Street. The path from the farm gate led past a little pond made by the spring, where wagoners stopped frequently to refresh themselves. The house and low outbuildings were well shaded by old trees, and the roof overtopped by a weeping willow, said to have been taken from a shoot by Napoleon’s tomb at St. Helena. It was really the rear of the house that one approached from Bloomingdale Road (Broadway). The front, with its square windows and square-framed door, exhibited that curious aspect of half-horrified surprise which lends an almost human expression to some dwellings. Its windows stared down over Bloomingdale into the valley of the Hudson, and from the rock-ledged knoll upon which it stood, there was a magnificent sweep of unbroken rural landscape up and down the river. The fields before the dwelling sloped down to the river where the steamboats passed. There was a glimpse of the roofs of old Claremont about two miles above, and the cliffs of the New Jersey shore opposite. For miles, the meadows, woods, and little roads seemed pouring themselves into the valley as if in haste to tumble into the stream. Some distance above, at what is now Ninety-sixth Street, was a dock where the side-wheel steamers landed, and a cluster of roofs in a deep vale where a stream entered the Hudson. Here, passengers [page 483:] left from the neighboring farms for New York on the seven o’clock boat in the morning, fortifying themselves for the trip down at Stryker’s Bay Tavern, kept by a fat host, Joseph Francis, who dispensed the neighborhood news, and cups of kindness. An occasional wagon or stage raised the dust along the farm fence, on its way down Bloomingdale Road to New York. The fare on the regular trips in the morning was one shilling, or “two bits,” according to the year in which one was born. Most of the silver coins in general circulation were those adorned by the Mexican eagle holding the snake in his claws between two pillars.(672)

Sometime during the Spring, perhaps on a stroll out Bloomingdale Road, Poe had become acquainted with Mr. and Mrs. Patrick Brennan “of similar Melanesian descent, a hospitable agriculturist and his consort,” who with their daughter Martha, a young girl of about fourteen years, and five or six younger children, lived on the farm of 216 acres where they raised truck for the city markets, fruit, and flowers. The Brennans occupied the place for nearly fifty years, and seem to have taken boarders from time to time, especially in the Summer. Poe evidently struck a bargain with them for himself, Mrs. Clemm, and Virginia. He was quite enchanted with the spot, the magnificent view, the excellent food, and the good nature of his hosts.

About the beginning of July, 1844, he gave up his room on Ann Street, forsook Sandy Welsh’s cellar and other haunts about town, and gathering up Mrs. Clemm and Virginia at 130 Greenwich Street, drove out to the Brennan’s. Despite the numerous children and dogs, he described the place later as “a perfect heaven.” The last perfectly peaceful and happy hours that he was to know were passed under its roof. It still seemed possible, for those who could hope against hope, that in a place such as this Virginia might get well.

To Mrs. Clemm and Virginia, after the period of disintegration of the home in Philadelphia, and the anxious days on Greenwich Street, with Edgar roaming about the journalistic purlieus, and no assurance of where the next week’s board was to come from, “Bloomingdale on the Hudson” must have seemed a little paradise. Poe was removed from influences which kept Mrs. Clemm in continual anxiety, Virginia was in healthful surroundings, and “Muddie” herself was in a place where she could luxuriate in the space, plenty, and respectability of being a matronly boarder. Doubtless she and Mrs. Brennan were soon [page 484:] on excellent gossiping terms. The simple friendship with the good Irish couple and the Poes was long kept up, and seems to have had something to do with the latter’s subsequent removes and places of residence. Poe was now sufficiently well known to be an object of considerable curiosity to simple folk; his mode of life was noted and afterward remembered.

Mrs. Clemm is said to have had a room down stairs. Poe and Virginia occupied a garret under the eaves, beneath which, running clear across the house with a door that looked out upon Bloomingdale Road, and a large open fireplace with a rather handsomely carved mantel, was the poet’s study. It was in this room that The Raven was completed, and as some of its furnishings have entered the realm of eternity in imaginative literature, its contents have been the subject of curious inquiry.

The room, it seems, had been occupied by a former boarder of the Brennans, a Frenchman who had been an officer under Napoleon, and had gone into exile after the collapse of the first imperial regime. The walls were decorated with French military prints; there was a clock; heavy hangings, of some sort, after the Empire manner; several pieces of heavy, cloth-lined furniture; a bookcase; and an upright flat-topped desk. Two rather small windows with the usual square panes of old-fashioned, thick glass gave a view across the Hudson to New Jersey on the front, while a door in the rear opened out on the dooryard towards Broadway. In addition to this, there was an interior door that led into the center hallway.

Above the door opening into the hallway, stood the ‘pallid bust of Pallas.’ It was a little plaster cast and occupied a shelf nailed to the door casing, immediately behind the bust, and occupying the space between the top casing and the ceiling; a number of little panes of smoked glass took the place of the partition.(678)

On stormy nights, the wind swept up and down the Hudson Valley, just as it now scours along Riverside Drive, and shook the exposed house perched on the knoll. That some of these seemingly trivial objects and circumstances served to furnish forth part of the scenery and machinery of The Raven during the long hours of the Fall and Summer of 1844, when it was taking its final shape in this apartment, there can be little doubt.

The Brennans afterward recalled many of the incidents of Poe’s sojourn with them: the long hours he spent in the room downstairs writing, [page 485:] of Poe and Virginia seated at the western windows watching the sunsets across the Hudson, of the leaves of manuscript and correspondence scattered over the broad planked floor of the room with the bust, and of the hours which Poe spent dreaming on a bench by the pond, under a shade tree whence the children would call him in to meals. Young Tom Brennan remembered how the fascinating gentleman with the cane drew designs in the dust, and how Poe used to wander off to Mount Tom and sit for hours gazing at the Hudson and dreaming. Martha Brennan, who was described by the neighbors as a dark-haired, Irish beauty with blue eyes, drove her family to early mass, dressed in a black silk bodice with a narrow lace collar, and a lace-trimmed poke bonnet, tied under her chin with a black satin bow. She was about fifteen during the Summer of the Poes’ stay, and made an ideal companion for Virginia whom she saw pasting Poe’s manuscript together into the long rolls of which the child-wife was very proud, although having little conception of their meaning. Their size and shape, the beautiful characters engrossed upon them by her husband’s copper-plate pen, and their marvelous length when unrolled, constituted her literary appreciation. Mrs. Clemm was more understanding. She listened patiently, in the rôle of a professional enthusiast, to much of Poe’s work, and brewed him coffee when he grew tired. It seems to have been Poe’s custom to rely greatly upon the effects of his stories and poems when spoken, and there can be no doubt that his strong sense of euphony and of the sonorous would lead him to read aloud and recite to whomsoever would listen. There is testimony that he did so, and, lacking an audience, he was overheard to be composing aloud.

Poe was free of visitors on the farm, but made occasional trips to New York, walking when he did not have the fare, as was frequently the case. Mrs. Brennan said that the board was always paid. During the Summer, Poe must have relied for his “income” on three stories sent to Godey, a good friend who would pay him in advance, the article on Lowell placed with Graham’s, and his contributions to the Columbian Magazine of The Angel of the Odd and Mesmeric Revelation, a subject which, together with spiritualistic manifestations, was then much in the public mind. In The Literary Life of Thingum Bob, Esq., one of Poe’s most highly autobiographical and ironical sketches, he again returned to the scenes of his youth in Richmond, in a satiric vein, and probably took a secret pleasure in placing it in his home town with the Southern Literary Messenger, where it appeared in December, 1844, and was copied into the Broadway Journal a little later. The Premature Burial also returned for its literal setting to some boat trip on the James, years before, perhaps with Burling. This story, first published at Philadelphia in the Dollar Newspaper for July 31, 1844, is one of the most genuinely morbid of any that Poe tossed off. It seems to have arisen [page 486:] from the sense of oppression and inevitable catastrophe which had long been a concomitant of his melancholia, or some dream of smothering, perhaps due to his heart trouble.(674)

What the rather tired looking gentleman was thinking about as he sat on the bench under the trees at the Brennans’, while the bees hummed, would no doubt have astonished the little folks who called him to dinner from time to time could they have been familiar with the recesses of his mind. Poe was not calmly reveling in the pastoral scene about him. Somehow or other, in the alembic of his nature, it was thus that he beheld the world:

I looked; and the unseen figure, which still grasped me by the wrist, had caused to be thrown open the graves of all mankind; and from each issued the faint phosphoric radiance of decay; so that I could see into the innermost recesses, and there view the shrouded bodies in their sad and solemn slumbers with the worm. But, alas! the real sleepers were fewer, by many millions, than those who slumbered not at all; and there was a feeble struggling; and there was a sad unrest; and from out of the depths of the countless pits there came a melancholy rustling from the garments of the buried. And, of those who seemed tranquilly to repose, I saw that a vast number had changed, in a greater or less degree, the rigid and uneasy position in which they had originally been entombed.(675)

Perhaps all of the coffee which Mrs. Clemm brewed after such a recital was not consumed by Edgar. It was from the sale of such dreams as these, some of which were composed amid the charming surroundings of the lower Hudson Valley, that Poe attempted to support himself during the Summer of 1844. He seems to have just managed to pay his board. In May, he had been so poor as not to be able to lift from the post-office letters written to him from Georgia by Dr. Chivers. The postage was about twelve cents.(676)

That The Raven assumed its final form at Eighty-fourth Street and Broadway there can be no doubt. That Poe had brought an earlier draft of it with him when he arrived there, is equally certain. As has already been shown, the germ of the idea had originated in Philadelphia [page 487:] about four years before with Poe’s review of Barnaby Rudge in which the bird is found. Lowell recognized this in his Fable for Critics:

Here comes Poe with his Raven, like Barnaby Rudge,

Three fifths of him genius, and two fifths sheer fudge. . . .

It now seems highly probable that the early poem was discussed with Hirst in the rambles about Philadelphia, and that he may have contributed some ideas to it that led to his later claims to have “written” it.(601) The story told by Mrs. Weiss, which she says Poe related to her in Richmond shortly before his death, that the bird was originally an owl, will bear inspection.(677) That the poem was in existence in some form as early as the Summer of 1842 seems fairly certain, as it was then shown by Poe to Mrs. Barhyte, a contributor to the New York Mirror, It was then, or in the next Summer, of 1843, that the lines suggested by a child were introduced.(612) The next definite news about it is from Rosenbach, the Philadelphia acquaintance, who said that as early as the winter of 1843-44 he had read The Raven, and relates that about the same time it was offered to Graham when the collection for Mrs. Clemm was taken up. Colonel Du Solle also tells that, early in 1844, Poe was trying it on journalistic friends about Philadelphia.(642) After the removal to New York, we again hear of its being read and receiving emandations at the hands of friends meeting in Sandy Welsh’s cellar on Ann Street in the late Spring.(664) Thus the period of its incubation which followed Poe’s typically slow method of verse composition can be fairly certainly traced. It was this manuscript which he brought with him to the Brennans in the Summer of 1844.

“Events not to be controlled have prevented me from making, at any time, any serious effort in what, under happier circumstances, would have been the field of my choice,” said Poe, and adds, “With me,” poetry has not been a purpose, but a passion; and the passions should be held in reverence; they must not — they cannot at will be excited, with an eye to the paltry compensations, or the more paltry commendations, of mankind.”(678) At the farm overlooking the Hudson, for a very brief time, the “happier circumstances” seem to have been approached, and so, with an eye to no paltry compensations, Poe now turned himself [page 488:] diligently to finishing what he held to be his popular masterpiece, in the room where, despite Mrs. Brennan’s protestations, he once absent-mindedly carved his name on the mantelpiece.

Much of the composition must have gone on during the quiet hours of the night. It was now that he probably saw the whole poem in its complete form; and added, to the already conceived antiphonal responses of the bird, the grotesque, eerie, and romantic sealery and incidents that he knew so well how to blend. During the autumn nights when the draughty farmhouse was shaken by the blasts, when the fire was dying, the tree branches tapping at the windows, and the light behind the transom threw the shadow of the bust of Pallas on the floor, the mind of the poet fused the actual scene in which he found himself with the furniture of that ideal apartment of his dreams. Into this room, he introduced the raven from Barnaby Rudge with the improvement he had already suggested, that “Its croakings might have been prophetically heard in the course of the drama.”

The sense of utter despair and inevitable frustration came from within the man himself, as an expression of his own melancholy, the reasons for which may be traced in his nature, and the tragic events of his life. The introduction of Poe’s favorite theme of the “Lost Beloved,” taken together with the fatal implication of the Raven’s remark, seems to plainly indicate that the author had, by this time, fully realized that his attempt, or the necessity that had been forced upon him by the nature of his marriage, to substitute a dream for the reality of love, led inevitably to despair. Nor was there now any hope for him to successfully capture, in ideality, what had been denied him in fact. On reading the poem, R. H. Home wrote Poe about a year later:(679)

I am of the same opinion as Miss Barrett (Mrs. Browning) about The Raven, and it also seems to me that the poet intends to represent a very painful condition (of) mind, as of an imagination that was liable to topple over into some delirium or an abyss of melancholy, continuity of one unvaried emotion.

Now this is such an excellent description of Poe’s exact state of mind, and of what actually occurred, that a professional psychologist could do no better. That the “continuity of one unvaried emotion” was of a sexual nature, is plain from the use of a lost woman to shadow it forth. “As a lover I am done,” says Poe in effect, “Nevermore!” Nor was there any hope in the hereafter. The thought burned into his heart with the eyes of a demon, and he could not drive it away. It was always there, “one unvaried emotion” — “that was liable to topple over into some delirium.” That, at times, it did so topple, is perfectly clear. It is the kind of despair that drives men to suicide, and three years later [page 489:] we find the still young man — who found this unhappy bird perched triumphant over the symbol of all his learning and art — trying to commit suicide by drinking laudanum. Those who think The Raven is a mere literary tour de force overlook what it was that forced the tour.

Nor does a mere exposition of literary sources explain the psychic machinery in the use of the material, which, as in every poem, came from somewhere. Poe was almost certainly influenced in the refrain of The Raven by such poems as Thomas Holly Chivers’ Lament on the Death of My Mother. A few lines will serve to illustrate:

. . . Nor where the pleasures of the world are sought

Nor where the sorrows of the earth are found —

Nor on the borders of the great deep sea,

Wilt thou return again from heaven to me — (680)

No, nevermore!

And this, from Chivers’ To Allegra in Heaven,(681) is even more suggestive in both meter and refrain:

Thy dear father will to-morrow lay thy body with deep sorrow,

In the grave which is so narrow, there to rest forevermore, — etc., etc., etc.

Whole stanzas and poems might be quoted, especially Isadore, and General Pike’s poems, with which Poe was familiar by review, are also aspirants to the honors of originals, as their author proclaimed. Hirst, Chivers, Pike, and a host of other little fellows, all claimed to have a finger in the big pie. It is possible, by using the magnifying glass of erudite research, to find the trace of their thumb marks on the crust even now. Mr. Poe, however, was the cook; he mixed it, baked it, and served it up piping hot.

Poe’s own explanation of how the poem was concocted in How I Wrote the Raven, or The Philosophy of Composition, is, in the final analysis, not an explanation at all. It was simply his own effort to rationalize upon, and to make apparently logical to himself, his own creative processes. This critical essay was part of his attempt to project himself as the almighty reasoner, as it was also part of his propaganda for making The Raven popular. People asked him the question, “Mr. Poe, how did you write The Raven?” The essay was a perfectly reasonable reply. Instead of falling back on the old theory of mysterious [page 490:] and divine inspiration, which has ever been the poet’s method of dodging self-analysis, Poe, by his reply, not only silenced the Philistines but also added to his reputation as a logical genius. Among those whom he was trying to convince, he included himself. The real question would have been not, “Mr. Poe, how did you write The Raven?” but “Why did you, Mr. Poe?” For in How I Wrote the Raven, Poe, as he must do, to keep from facing the realities of his own condition, utterly dodges the issue as to why it was that his psyche was drawn towards the type of material it selects to mold as it did. The explanation of the critical essay does not explain what it was meant as a rationalization to conceal.

There is this, however, to be said. The long period over which the composition of The Raven stretched, a period of four years at least, shows that, into the arrangement and composition of it, went a deal of critical thinking, artistic analysis, a logical arrangement of effects, and a painstaking construction of the spinal narrative which no mere emotion could have provided. In it, is the deliberate device of a musical counter theme, and effects of assonance, rhyme, and meter which show a profoundly reasoned knowledge of the poet’s art. That the images in many instances produced, seemingly simultaneously, the words and the rhythms with which to express themselves, there can be small doubt.(682) But that Poe was artist enough to manufacture successfully during the long fabrication of the poem those sections where such “inspiration” did not occur, is only to say that he was a fine poet. No lyric warbler would have been equal to the task. In How I Wrote the Raven a part of this process of ratiocination is certainly shadowed forth on a critical basis. There is value in that.

The whole matter can be generally summed up by saying that the choice of the material was involuntary, but its method of treatment a highly reasoned and critical process. Above and beyond all this, remains the fact that, in the case of The Raven, the perfect blending of these two processes became a unity which resulted in a work of art. The ghost of nothing had been endowed with memorable form.

By the end of the Summer of 1844, certainly in the Autumn, the poem was complete. It was about this time that we hear of Poe reciting it to William R. Wallace, a young New York lawyer who dabbled in verse himself, although not as extensively as Hirst.(683) It was Poe’s custom, it seems, to spend part of his time on the porch of the old Stryker’s Bay Tavern that overhung the stream which, then, ran into the [page 491:] Hudson at Ninety-sixth Street, near the old ferry dock about a mile from the Brennan farm. The region about Stryker’s Bay: Bloomingdale Village, just in front of the Brennan House, Silvan Grove between One Hundred Twenty-first and One Hundred Twenty-second Streets, where the steamboats from the foot of Wall Street landed, indeed the entire Harlem region, was then the summer playground of New York. The river was the scene of constant steamboat races between such old favorites of the ‘40s as the “Globe,” the “Champion,” or the “Cleopatra.” These, in their hurry, frequently failed to stop to pick up passengers at side landings, and rushed by, steampipes roaring, smoke and sparks belching from the stacks, while the gentlemen passengers gathered at the bar forward to bet on the result.

At the Stryker’s Bay Tavern, Poe again met Thomas Dunn English who had given up editing in Philadelphia and had come, like Poe, to live in New York. There Poe read The Raven to Wallace, whose expressions of appreciation, it appears, were not thought by the poet to be adequate to the occasion. Poe, on his part, assured his auditor that he had just listened to the greatest poem in the language. Some allowance must be made for the poet’s still being in the full flush of his first enthusiasm after composition. That Poe did not think The Raven the best poem he wrote, seems evident from his own theories of poetry, and other remarks afterward. That it was his show piece, and that he never lost a chance to further it, is also evident. He felt it to be pitched in a popular key, and a certain forensic and dramatic value in it made it his favorite for recitations on every occasion.

Still another account of Poe’s reading of The Raven, and of his life on the farm, comes from Martha Brennan, the farmer’s daughter. In it the pitiable condition of Virginia is plainly evident:

During two years she knew him intimately and never saw him affected by liquor or do aught that evinced the wild impetuous nature with which he has been accredited. He was the gentlest of husbands and devoted to his invalid wife. Frequently when she was weaker than usual, he carried her tenderly from her room to the dinner-table and satisfied every whim.

Mrs. Brennan was noted for her kindheartedness and sympathetic nature, and once I heard her say that Poe read The Raven to her one evening before he sent it to the Mirror. . . .

On other days he would wander through the surrounding woods, and, returning in the afternoon, sit in the big room, as it used to be called, by a window and work unceasingly with pen and paper, until the evening shadows. . . .(670)

During the Summer, Poe continued his correspondence with James Russell Lowell. The principal item of their “epistolary conversations” was the biography of Poe which Lowell was preparing for the forthcoming September issue of Graham’s. Lowell writes Poe that he is in one of his fits of constitutional indolence, and had delayed starting to [page 492:] write. The indolence, he says, “was not counteracted by proper training in my childhood. You may be sure I am not one of those who follow a fashion which is hardly yet extinct, and call upon the good, easy world to accept my faults in proof of my genius.”(684) This kind of disguised preaching was probably not very acceptable to Poe. In the same letter, Lowell asks him for “some sort of a spiritual biography . . . your own estimate of your life.”

In an earlier letter to Lowell, Poe had complained of an article on “American Poetry” in the London Foreign Quarterly in which he had been referred to as an imitator of Tennyson.(685) This article Poe felt had been written or inspired by Dickens — “I have private personal reasons for knowing this.” The reasons were that this article contained items of information which Poe had given to Dickens in letters, and in his interviews in Philadelphia. Lowell writes Poe later that the article had been written by one Foster, but Poe, on good grounds, remained unconvinced that Dickens had not had a hand in it.

At the beginning of July, Poe wrote Lowell, in answer to a request for his “spiritual biography,” a letter which throws an important light on his character.(686) Of this letter Professor George E. Woodberry aptly remarks:

A poet’s analysis of his original temperament, if it be sincere, is of the highest value; for a man’s conception of his own character, particularly if it be of an introspective turn, counts often as one of the most powerful influences that shape his acts.(687)

In the letter mentioned, Poe says that he can sympathize with Lowell in his fits of constitutional indolence, which is one of his own besetting failings. He is, he says, slothful and extremely industrious by fits. At times, any intellectual activity becomes a kind of torture, and the only pleasure he had in life was in solitary communion with nature while rambling amid the mountains and the woods, “the altars” of Byron. This theory is further made plain in his poem of In Youth Have I Known, often entitled Stanzas, which took its flight from the poem of Byron called The Island. It was a powerful influence on his thought and artistic expression. Poe also tells Lowell that he is only negatively ambitious, and is only spurred on now and then to excel fools because he cannot bear to let foolish persons imagine they can excel him. He says he really understands the vanity of temporal life, and lives in a continual reverie concerning the future. How far removed Poe was from the driving doctrine of his age, “Progress,” may be seen [page 493:] in the lines of this letter, where he says that he feels that he has no faith in human perfectability, and that the exertions of man do not appreciably affect his nature, that we are no happier, nor wiser than we were 6,000 years ago —

The result will never vary — and to suppose that it will, is to suppose that the foregone man has lived in vain — that the foregone time is but the rudiment of the future — that the myriads who have perished have not been upon equal footing with ourselves — nor are we with our own posterity. I cannot agree to lose sight of man the individual in man the mass. — I have no belief in spirituality.(686)

In this paragraph, Poe definitely rejects the three darling concepts of his time and place, progress, democracy, and supernaturalism. The rest of this letter is concerned with the poet’s theories about spirit, matter, time, and space, and his conception of the nature of the universe and of man. About the same time, Poe was conducting a correspondence with Dr. Chivers dealing with the same themes, and a discussion of the transcendental philosophy of the time. In Mesmeric Revelations [[Revelation]], a tale published in the Columbian Magazine in August, he elaborated upon such matters, and sent a copy of the periodical to both Lowell and Chivers.(688) After an interval of over a year, Poe now once more resumed his correspondence with Thomas:

New York, Sept. 8, 1844

MY DEAR THOMAS, — I received yours with sincere pleasure, and nearly as sincere surprise; for while you were wondering that I did not write to you, I was making up my mind that you had forgotten me altogether.

I have left Philadelphia, and am living, at present about five miles out of New York. For the last seven or eight months I have been playing hermit in earnest, nor have I seen a living soul out side of my family — who are well and desire to be kindly remembered. When I say ‘well,’ I only mean (as regards Virginia) as well as usual. Her health remains excessively precarious.

Touching The Beechen Tree (a poem by Thomas) I remember it well and pleasantly. I have not yet seen a published copy, but will get one forthwith and notice it as it deserves — and it deserves high praise — at the first opportunity I get. At present I am so much out of the world that I may not be able to do anything immediately.

Thank God! Richard (whom you know) is himself again. Tell Dow so; but he won’t believe it. I am working at a variety of things (all of which you shall behold in the end) — and with an ardor of which I did not believe myself capable.

Let me hear from you soon, my dear Thomas, and believe me ever

Your friend,   POE

[page 494:]

Poe had indeed retired from the world. He was, during the Summer of 1844, as he desired to be, completely withdrawn from it. The effect upon his imagination, while he had been playing hermit, had been most satisfactory. Unfortunately, the means for continuing this secluded creative existence appear, now, to have been completely exhausted. Winter was approaching, and with it would come the end of the stay on the farm. To Mrs. Clemm, the great question must have been not, “Where will The Raven be published?” but “Wherewithal shall we continue to exist?” Like a schoolboy after a long vacation, “Eddie” shrank from, and deferred to the last minute, a renewed contract with the working world. Towards the end of September, 1844, Mrs. Clemm, in desperation, took the matter in her own hands. She went to the city to took up work for Poe, and no doubt at his own suggestion, called upon the editor of the New York Mirror, Nathaniel Parker Willis. Poe had been in correspondence with Willis some time before, and both were known to each other by reputation. Mr. Willis has left an account of his first, but by no means last, interview with Mrs. Clemm:

Our first knowledge of Mr. Poe’s removal to this city (New York) was by a call which we received from a lady who introduced herself to us as the mother of his wife. She was in search of employment for him, and she excused her errand by mentioning that he was ill, and that her daughter was a confirmed invalid, and that her circumstances were such as compelled her taking it upon herself. The countenance of this lady, made beautiful and saintly with an evidently complete giving up of her life to privation and sorrowful tenderness, her gentle and mournful voice, urging its plea, her long forgotten but habitual and unconsciously refined manners, and her appealing, and yet appreciative mention of the claims and abilities of her son, disclosed at once the presence of one of those angels upon earth that women in adversity can be. . . .(689)

Many sad rehearsals of this pathetic act had made Mrs. Clemm perfect in word and gesture. Mr. Willis, who was a fine Christian man, could not deny the widow in distress, and took the occasion to hire a very great editor at a very small salary.

About the time that Mrs. Clemm paid her visit, Mr. Willis was preparing to enlarge the scope of his business by slightly changing the title of his paper, and bringing it out both daily and weekly as the Evening Mirror, the weekly issue to be a kind of review of current events, news, politics, and literary affairs. In this scheme, a man with Poe’s abilities, reputation, and experience would be a valuable aid. Edgar Allan Poe was therefore, engaged as a “mechanical paragraphist,” the nearest approach to the modern columnist, which the journalistic hierarchy then afforded. In addition to doing journalistic repartee, clipping sundry items, writing reviews, arranging for reciprocal puffs, and scribbling short articles, it is probable that Poe was also asked to look over the [page 495:] contributions sent in by mail, to retouch copy, and help with the layout. It was the kind of a job which he satirized in the little sketch of X-ing a Paragrab, a story, by the way, taken from a French source.

Poe was given a desk in the corner, where he came every morning at nine o’clock and worked steadily till the paper went to press. During Poe’s connection with the Evening Mirror, Willis bears testimony that he saw but one side of Poe’s character — “one presentiment of the man — a quiet, patient, industrious, and most gentlemanly person, commanding the utmost respect and good feelings by his unvarying deportment and ability.”(689) Poe was not only industrious, but complied with his chief’s suggestions when asked to make the tone of his criticisms less acrid, or to modify his irony to a more cheerful strain. On October 7, 1844, the new Evening Mirror first appeared, and in it were items which could have come from no pen but Poe’s.

The new position provided the means of existence, but it was undoubtedly galling to Poe to occupy a subordinate position after filling so important a chair as the editorship of Graham’s. Nevertheless he made the best of it. In the second number there was a highly favorable mention of Miss Barrett (afterwards Mrs. Browning) that was followed later by another. Through Home and Miss Barrett, Poe hoped to draw the attention of Tennyson and others to himself and thus to further his English fame. The Raven he was then playing as his lucky card, and before he left Willis, he had persuaded the editor to publish it. In various other ways, legitimately enough, Poe used the columns of the Mirror to further his views. The Stylus was moribund but by no means buried, and Poe was only looking for another chance to climb into a better saddle. During the Autumn of 1844 he was doubtless introspective enough after the long Summer of dreaming and isolation, and the constant good nature and talkative, sunny temper of Willis was no doubt, at times, a severe trial to Poe.

The family still remained at the Brennans, on account of the comfortable living, its reasonable cost, and Virginia’s health. The residence on the farm, however, necessitated a five-mile journey each way for Poe, who did not always have the bus or boat fare, and these walks required more energy than he possessed. In November, 1844, he therefore moved Mrs. Clemm and Virginia back to town, where he could be near the office. Poe’s own estimate of his job, and of the importance of the paper he was now engaged with, may be found in a few lines about it sent to the Columbia Spy the June before.(690)

— The literary world of Gotham is not particularly busy. Mr. Willis, I see, has issued a very handsome edition of his poems — the only complete edition — with a portrait. Few men have received more abuse, deserving it less than the [page 496:] author of Melanie. I never read a paper from his pen, in the New Mirror without regretting his abandonment of Glen Mary, and the tranquillity and leisure he might there have found. In its retirement he might have accomplished much, both for himself and for posterity, but, chained (to the) oar of a mere weekly paper, professedly addressing the frivolous and the fashionable, what can he now hope for but for a gradual sinking into the slough of the Public disregard? For his sake, I do sincerely wish the New Mirror would go the way of all flesh.

It was this same oar to which Poe now found himself chained, while no doubt regretting his seclusion at the Bloomingdale Farm. Mr. Willis, however, was a good friend, kindly, a man of wide reputation, and one who exercised a considerable influence upon Poe’s life and fame. He was one of the outstanding figures of the literati in the Manhattan of the ‘40s, one of those secondary literary-journalistic figures which the time produced, who exercised a forgotten but important influence upon the contemporary American scene. “He will be remembered,” says his biographer in 1869, “not as a philosopher or a celestial genius, but as a man eminently human, with almost unique endowments, who contributed his share to the good-will, cheerful enjoyment, and intellectual life of the present.”

Nathaniel Parker Willis(691) was a native of Portland, Maine, where he was born in January, 1806. His father was also a journalist who published an early religious journal, the Boston Recorder, founded in 1816. Young Willis attended the Boston Latin School, and graduated from Yale in 1827. He early became a poet, and published a youthful volume of a religious cast but combining a few pieces of pleasant fancy.

After college, Willis devoted himself to literature and edited the Legendary, a series of volumes of tales published by S. G. Goodrich. He then established the American Monthly Magazine in Boston. His “Editors Table” in the American “in which he treated of current literary topics, of art, books, and personal experience, was eminently sparkling and reasonable,” and he gathered about him a rather felicitous but unimportant group.

By this time Willis had become a force in contemporary journalism and criticism. He became friends with George P. Morris, and merged his magazine with the New York Mirror, conducted heretofore by Morris. The policy of the paper combined that of the cheaper magazines of the day and the policies of “penny paper” journalism, first inaugurated by the New York Sun.(654) In short, Willis was one of the early exploiters of modern publicity and advertising methods. The [page 497:] policy was a success, and he was, consequently, able to visit Europe in 1834.

Willis’s impressions of the Old World were communicated to the columns of the Mirror with considerable grace and gusto. This type of feature and travel reporting was then a novelty, and his letters created a sensation that led to a widespread fame and considerable financial success.(692) He bore letters which gave him entrée to English literary circles of some repute, where his natural charm rendered him popular and enabled him to write sketches of such literary personages as Moore, Disraeli, D’Orsay, Bulwer Lytton, and Lady Blessington. Mr. Willis had a considerable social, and a minor literary success abroad, due to the influence of his friends. In 1835, he married Mary Leighton Stace, the daughter of the Commissary-General at Woolwich Arsenal, and returned to the United States with his bride, where they purchased a farm, known as Glen-Mary on the Susquehanna. From here he wrote his Letters from Under a Bridge, a series of apt landscape sketches and pictures of rural life.

Deaths and financial misfortunes soon followed, forcing him to abandon Glen-Mary, and to return to New York where, with a Dr. Porter, he established the Corsair in the late ‘30s. Returning to England again, he secured Thackeray as a contributor, and published a volume of prose and poetry under the title of Loiterings of Travel. Two plays followed, Bianca Visconti, and Tortesa. The latter was reviewed by Poe in the Pittsburgh Literary Examiner for July, 1839, and shortly afterward, in 1841, Poe and Willis began correspondence.(693)

Upon Willis’s second return to the United States, he abandoned publication of the Corsair with Porter, and again resumed relations with Morris of the New Mirror. In October, 1844, this paper became the Evening Mirror, and it was at this time that Willis secured the assistance of Poe. In January, 1845, the Evening Mirror printed Poe’s Raven, for which it is chiefly remembered. Willis and Morris afterward sold the Evening Mirror and founded the Home Journal, one of the outstanding and most successful ventures of the time, which left a lasting mark on American magazines. Willis was known to, and familiar with most of the literary and journalistic figures of his generation. He was especially popular with women, and enjoyed their society, moving in a rather higher realm than most of the literati. The best portrait of N. P. Willis has been left by Poe in his sketch of the man: [page 498:]

Whatever may be thought of Mr. Willis’s talents, there can be no doubt about the fact that, both as an author and as a man, he has made a good deal of noise in the world — at leaat for an American. His literary life, in especial, has been one continual émeute; but then his literary character is modified or impelled in a very remarkable degree by his personal one. His success (for in point of fame, if in nothing else, he has certainly been successful) is to be attributed, one third to his mental ability and two thirds to his physical temperament — the latter goading him into the accomplishment of what the former merely gave him the means of accomplishing.

At a very early age, Mr. Willis seems to have arrived at an understanding that, in a republic such as ours, the mere man of letters must ever be a cipher, and endeavored, accordingly, to unite the éclat of the littérateur with that of the man of fashion or of society. He ‘pushed himself,’ went much into the world, made friends with the gentler sex, ‘delivered’ poetical addresses, wrote ‘scriptural’ poems, traveled, sought the intimacy of noted women, and got into quarrels with notorious men. All these things served his purpose — if, indeed, I am right in supposing that he had any purpose at all. . . . Mr. Willis’s career has naturally made him enemies among the envious host of dunces whom he has outstripped in the race for fame; and these his personal manner (a little tinctured with reserve, brusquerie, or even haughtiness) is by no means adapted to conciliate. He has innumerable warm friends, however, and is himself a warm friend. He is impulsive, generous, bold, impetuous, vacillating, irregularly energetic — apt to be lured into error, but incapable of deliberate wrong.

Mr. Willis’s career was in many ways close to the ideal of that which Poe would have planned for himself. He had received so many of the rewards for which, the of course more talented Mr. Poe longed, that there seems to be some indication that the author of The Raven followed some of the receipts for fame that he had outlined as being in Mr. Willis’s cook book. During the years that followed their acquaintance, Mr. Poe also “sought the intimacy of noted women, and got into quarrels with notorious men.” If they were not noted or notorious at the time Poe met them, they soon became so.

Poe had lately been disappointed in one thing, Lowell had not finished the sketch of Poe’s life in time to insert it in the September number of Graham’s as had been arranged with Dr. Griswold, The publication of the “Life” would undoubtedly do much to enhance Poe’s fame, and help him to the more important posts which he coveted. Lowell did not finish the sketch till the end of September. On a brief visit to New York, at the end of the month, he left the manuscript in a package.

You will find the package at No. 1 Nassau Street, upstairs. It was addressed to the care of C. F. Briggs. If his name is not upon the door, you will probably see the name of ‘Dougherty’ or ‘Jones.’(694)

Poe secured the package; he probably sent “Muddie” for it. At any rate he did not then meet Briggs, which evidently was part of Lowell’s scheme to bring the two together. A few months later Poe and Briggs [page 499:] became partners in the poet’s last journalistic venture. It was almost a month later that Poe replied:

MY DEAR FRIEND, — A host of small troubles growing from the one trouble of poverty . . . have hitherto prevented me from thanking you for the Biography and all the well intended flatteries it contains. . . .(695)

It was shortly after this that the Poes moved from the farm on the Bloomingdale Road (Eighty-fourth Street and Broadway) to a rooming-house at 15 Amity Street. The final revisions of The Raven before going to press must have taken place there. The house was of a four-story Georgian type still familiar about Greenwich Village, and the family apartment consisted of two rooms on the second floor. After the comparative freedom of the farm, it must have seemed cramped quarters. Virginia was soon ill in bed again, and during a considerable portion of the time, her husband, doubtless rendered depressed and restless by the constant confusion of a sick-room, led a more or less bachelor existence about town. Since leaving Philadelphia he had been doing little or no drinking; in the Fall of 1844 he was so poor as not to be able to buy himself tobacco.

In the middle ‘40s, in what is now lower Manhattan, there was a charming man resembling “a delicate miniature of Napoleon III,” who kept a store at the corner of Broadway and Prince Street. Here, with a minor success, he dispensed comestibles, tobacco, mild wines, and conversation about a large old-fashioned stove which in the winter-time assumed a comfortable cherry glow. The name of the gentleman with the imperial was Gabriel Harrison. He had been born in 1818, and had studied elocution and oratory. He drew and painted acceptably; acted in minor professional parts; and took an active interest in local and national politics. He also enjoyed, and took an acceptable part in the conversation of authors and newspaper men who gathered about his stove in the corner-shop to feast on canned delicacies, jams, and port wine. In short, Mr. Harrison combined passably well the twin virtues of appearing romantic, and being a kindly man.

In the Autumn and early Winter of 1844, when Henry Clay and James K. Polk were running for President, when the annexation of Texas, the Oregon Boundary, and the slavery dispute were in the air, [page 500:] Mr. Harrison was President of the White Eagle Political Club, and dispensing political gossip, literary chit-chat, and more substantial cheer in his corner-shop. In the midst of this campaign, he happened, one chilly evening, to look through the square panes of his small store window, and beheld a rather seedy looking gentleman with a large head, and the air of an actor, looking wistfully through the panes at the display of twist and plug tobacco. The stranger was, apparently, possessed of a countenance that it was difficult to forget. After some hesitation, he entered the store and asked the price of tobacco. Mr. Harrison himself must now be placed on the stand.

I had told him the price, he made no move to buy, and after a few general remarks started to leave. I was struck by a certain indefinite something in his manner, by his voice, and by his fine articulation. . . . So I offered the man a piece of tobacco. He accepted, thanked me and departed. Two or three weeks later he came in again. . . .(696)

Poe was, evidently, on the second visit still out of funds. After some conversation with Mr. Harrison upon politics, into which, Poe’s experience in Philadelphia had given him some insight, he wrote a campaign song for the “White Eagle Club” that began

See the White Eagle soaring aloft to the sky,

Wakening the brood Welkin with his loud battle cry;

Then here’s the White Eagle, full daring is he,

As he sails on his pinions o’er valley and sea.

I was delighted and wanted to pay him something for his trouble, but the only thing he would accept was a bag of my best coffee. As he was going I said that I should like to know his name.

‘Certainly,’ he answered, with a faint smile, ‘Thaddeus Perley, at your service.’(696)

Mr. Poe evidently liked the coffee and the warmth of the stove, and shortly afterward returned. When he returned Fitz-Greene Halleck entered with Harrison and found Poe standing by the counter.

‘Why, good evening, Mr. Perley,’ I began. Halleck interrupted me. ‘ Great heavens, Poe, is this you! ‘ he exclaimed. ‘Poe? — this is Mr. Perley,’ I broke in.

Poe looked at me and then at Halleck and after an instant’s hesitation said, “The fact of the matter is, Halleck, I have made this gentleman’s acquaintance under the name of Perley; no harm was intended and none done. I knew that the facts would develop themselves. I have walked several miles through the sleet and rain, and, seeing a light here, thought that perhaps Mr. Harrison would let me warm up somewhat.’

‘Why, of course,’ I answered; ‘here is the stove behind the tea boxes almost red hot. Take off your coat and dry it. What will you have, some of this old port? I spread out some crackers, an old English pineapple cheese, and we all [page 501:] nibbled and bent our elbows in homage to his majesty, the old port, and talked of pleasant things till my big clock struck the hour of midnight. Poe left with Halleck and stopped at his house that night.(696)

Harrison became firm friends with Poe, and saw much of him about the store, and around town. Doubtless Mrs. Clemm learned from Eddie where the bag of coffee had come from. After Poe’s death, the attacks on his memory troubled Harrison considerably. He was much interested in defending and keeping alive the memory of his friend, and undertook to paint a portrait of him based on a daguerreotype “as I remember him I think in 1849 or ‘50,” Mrs. Clemm also kept Harrison’s kindness in mind, and correspondence went on between them as late as October 6, 1865.(697) The portrait is now in the rooms of the Long Island Historical Society in Brooklyn.

It was at this time, evidently November, 1844, that Poe went for a short while to Philadelphia, to supervise a third edition of the Conchologist’s First Book.(698) He now removed his name from the title page and substituted the initials E. A. P. Nevertheless, the publication of the edition was followed, soon after, by a charge of plagiarism in the Philadelphia newspapers. The truth is that much more ado has been made over this charge than the facts warrant. When the whole American publishing world was engaged in one vast filibustering expedition among foreign books, to single out Poe as a “plagiarist” was ludicrous. His reply that “All school books are necessarily made in the same way,” must be understood in the contemporary state of the American trade, and be accepted as literal and sufficient. Poe’s name or initials on the title page, as an editor, did not necessarily imply that he claimed to have written the context. He was not “posing as a scientist” but trying to turn an “honest” penny or two, as hundreds of other editors of American school texts did at the time. Philadelphia was the center from which poured a flood of such materials. Murray’s Reader from which Poe had been taught to read was a case in point. It may have been upon this trip that Poe also made arrangements for his Marginalia and for the review of Amelia Welby which appeared the following month in the Philadelphia Democratic Review.

These Marginalia were largely republished items from the Pinakidia that had appeared in the Messenger while he was its editor, and gleanings from his commonplace book.(699) The ,idea for these, the spirit, the form, and the nature of the contents was partly suggested by the similar aphorisms, epigrams, and puns in the Letters of Coleridge which Poe [page 502:] had reviewed in the Messenger years before.(700) Poe gave to his collection his own peculiar twist, and they deserve to be read in the body of his work, as an interesting example of his wide range of curiosity, and a witty, and sometimes profound comment on the America of his day. Poe has been assaulted for these by scholars, because he sometimes invented sources. The admiration of the pedants at their own cleverness in unearthing the “deception,” and in hallooing over the fact that Poe read translations, in some cases, instead of the original texts, has thrown a shade over these sparkling little comments and penetrating asides that has dimmed the ironical sunshine of their wit.

In December, 1844, Lowell visited his friend, Charles F. Briggs, at 1 Nassau Street, New York. Briggs wrote under the nom de plume of “Harry Franco,” and was then about to undertake the issue of a new weekly to be called the Broadway Journal. He was looking for an able editorial assistant or partner, and to him Lowell suggested Poe, Lowell had, indeed, been a faithful friend. As early as October, 1844, he had attempted to bring Poe and Briggs together, and had also written to H. G. Colton of the American Whig Review recommending Poe. Poe, however, had annoyed Colton by his criticism, and he would not employ Poe.(701) Lowell’s praises, however, of the author of The Raven may have had something to do with Colton’s acceptance of the poem for the Review, when it was offered to him through J. A. Shea, or what is even still more likely, Colton’s hostility to Poe may account for the fact that The Raven was offered to him anonymously, and only accepted through the good offices of a third party. At any rate, it was Lowell who was responsible for bringing Poe in touch with Briggs, and this finally resulted in the contact with the Broadway Journal.

By the close of 1844, Poe was prepared to sever connections with the Evening Mirror and to take up his duties on the Broadway Journal. Mr. Willis saw him about to leave the Evening Mirror, with regret, and with nothing but cordiality, perhaps blent with a little natural chagrin at his leaving. Most of Poe’s contributions in the Mirror had been purely perfunctory. His notices of Elizabeth Barrett Barrett, and his review of Longfellow’s Waif were, perhaps, the only exceptions. In the main, the purely subordinate position which he was forced to occupy, accounts for this. He had, however, made good use of the paper to further his own interests, by personal favorable mention of himself and his friends, and before he left he arranged with Willis for [page 505:] the publication, in advance, and anonymously, from the pages of the American Whig Review, of The Raven. This, more than any other item of his work, enhanced his contemporary fame. It may be said without exaggeration to have insured his reputation. By his thirty-sixth birthday, January 19, 1845, Edgar Allan Poe was a famous man.


Poe’s connection with the Broadway Journal began in a rather causal way. Briggs was probably inclined to try him out a bit before making any very definite offers, so, during the early months of the New Year, Poe contributed to the new journal at the rate of $1 a column, while still maintaining his connection with Willis. The first issue of the Broadway Journal appeared on January 4, 1845, when Poe’s main efforts were bent on getting The Raven published.

Poe had resumed an old friendship, dating from West Point days, with J. A. Shea, a former commissary clerk, at West Point, upon whom he relied considerably for literary advice and influence in placing his work.(702) There is no doubt that a carefully conceived campaign was worked out by Poe, for the publication of the poem, in order to obtain as wide a distribution as possible, and to create the utmost talk and controversy.

. . . I wrote it for the express purpose of running just as I did The Gold Bug you know. The bird beat the bug all hollow.(703)

The scheme of publication called for as many nearly simultaneous appearances of the poem as possible, introductory notices to insure that its excellencies, and the effects it sought to produce, should not be misunderstood, and anonymous publication in order to pique the curiosity of the public. Even during the beginning of January, 1845, at 15 Amity Street, a few days before it appeared, the process of altering it went on. The last alterations, indeed, were made so late as not to have been included.

By arrangement with N. P. Willis, probably from an advance proof of the poem as it was to appear in the American Whig Review, the Evening Mirror printed The Raven in advance of any other publication on [page 506:] January 29, 1845, “by Quarles,” with an introductory paragraph that shows the inspiration of Poe and the style of Willis. This was poem’s first appearance in print. It was an enormous and complete success.

Even after the publication by the Mirror, Poe was still at work improving his lines. In hopes to change the text before the poem appeared in the American Whig Review, evidently sometime about the end of January, Poe dispatched the following undated note to his friend John Augustus Shea containing some further alterations.

DEAR SHEA, — Lest I should have made some mistake in the hurry I transcribe the whole alteration. Instead of the whole stanza commencing ‘Wondering at the stillness broken,’ etc., substituting this:

Startled at the stillness broken by reply so aptly spoken,

‘Doubtless’ said I, ‘what it utters is its only stock and store

Caught from some unhappy master whom unmerciful

Disaster Followed fast and followed faster till his song one burden bore,

‘Nevermore — oh Nevermore!’

At the close of the stanza preceding this, instead of ‘Quoth the raven Nevermore,’ substitute ‘Then the bird said “Nevermore!”’ Truly yours, POE(704)

The back of the letter shows the address J. August Shea, Esq., To be delivered as soon as he comes in.

This shows that Poe had probably been making alterations on a text in Shea’s hands, and he now sent a résumé of them to insure that they would be correctly included in the version about to appear in the American Whig Review. The letter must have reached Shea too late, for the poem appeared in the Review for February 1845 with the stanza uncorrected, and in an obviously inferior form, as follows:

Wondering at the stillness broken by reply so aptly spoken,

‘Doubtless’ said I, ‘what it utters is its only stock and store,

Caught from some unhappy master whom unmerciful

Disaster Followed fast and followed faster — so, when Hope he would adjure,

Stern despair returned, instead of the sweet Hope he dared adjure —

That sad answer, “Nevermore!”’

This is an interesting example of the method Poe followed in perfecting his poems and also tends to throw light on the nature of “the sweet Hope he dared adjure.” Shea, who was by way of being a bit of a literateur and a poetaster himself, was at first credited, by some, [page 507:] with being the author as was Willis, but a second appearance of the poem in the Evening Mirror attributing it to Poe, and one in the Broadway Journal (I.6.), and the Southern Literary Messenger (March, 1845), soon discovered the name of the real author.(705) Even earlier than this the Howard District Press of Ellicotts, Maryland, for February 15, 1845, had reported the poem with the following notice.


We are permitted to copy (in advance of publication from the 2d No. of the American Review) the following remarkable poem by Edgar Poe. In our opinion, it is the most effective single example of ‘fugitive poetry’ ever published in this country, and unsurpassed in English poetry for subtle conception, masterly ingenuity of versification, and consistent sustaining of imaginative lift and ‘pokerishness.’ It is one of these ‘dainties bred in a book’ which we feed on. It will stick to the memory of everybody who reads it. — Mirror.(706)

This typical bit of inspired Americana heralded The Raven all over the country. No American poem had ever achieved so instant, and so wide a success. The raven, indeed, “threatened to displace the eagle aa the national bird,” the busy editorial scissors of the day reduplicated it in endless publications, for a week or so everybody was demanding who the author was, and mouthing over the stanzas. Not until Mark Twain contributed his jingle of

Punch, brothers, punch, and punch with care;

Punch in the presence of the passengaire. . . .

was there anything that became so rapidly and so universally familiar. With the revelation of the author’s name, Poe found himself instantly famous, the object of curiosity, and the strange, romantic, diabolic, and tragic figure that he has ever since remained. It was not long before the stanzas carrying his fame spread to England.(707) Poe’s manuscripts became property, and his letters now began to be sought. Autograph hunters were then ubiquitous, and the disastrous snipping instantly began.

Probably the editors, who had almost emptied their pigeon holes of his accumulated contributions, were sorry that they had not delayed longer. . . . It [page 508:] happened — and for this Godey and Graham must have blessed their stars, that in their respective magazines of this same month (February, 1845) the former published The 1002 Tale, the voyage of Sinbad among the wonders made known by modern science, and the latter Lowell’s sketch of Poe.(708)

Lowell’s “Sketch” was soon republished by Willis from Graham’s, which answered in a dignified way the new universal curiosity and questions about Poe. An authoritative glamor was thus lent to the strongly focused limelight, and Israfel found himself actually occupying the breathless heights that he had dreamed himself upon, certainly since 1824. No time was lost in striking again while the iron glowed.

On February 28, 1845, Poe now in the first full blossom of fame, delivered a lecture to the New York Historical Society, before an audience of almost three hundred people, composed of minor society personages, his journalistic friends, authors, and a number of the literati. This occasion may be looked upon as his debut among them, under the auspices of Willis. The lecture was much the same as that delivered at Philadelphia. It was couched in Poe’s characteristic vein of hostility towards the favoritism of editors, the sins of log-rolling reviewers, and the bathos and ignorance of poetasters. His “monologue” seems to have been largely composed of the gleanings from his reviews. Bryant, Dana, the two Davidsons, Halleck, Longfellow, Mrs. Sigourney, Seba Smith; and others came in for a touching-up relieved by an occasional passage of praise. The praise, as a counterbalance to the rather caustic tone of his remarks, was somewhat exaggerated. Among those who were praised fulsomely was Mrs. Osgood. This lecture was notable for the fact that the bitter attack on Griswold which had so enlivened Poe’s remarks in Philadelphia two years before was now notable by absence.

Of the impression Poe made upon this audience there remain two accounts by persons who were present, N. P. Willis, and Judge Shea. Willis said in his characteristic style:

He becomes a desk, — his beautiful head showing like a statuary embodiment of Discrimination; his accent drops like a knife through water, and his style is so much purer and dearer than the pulpit commonly gets or requires that the effect of what he says, besides other things, pampers the ear.

Shea’s account is more intimate and somewhat less in the lady’s book vein:

It was my good fortune to be present when Poe and my father read and seeded to each other. I remember distinctly Poe’s rendering of Florence Vane (a poem by J. A. Shea) and Annabel Lee, and more than once his own Raven. His reading of The Raven left upon the mind a very different impression from that which it inspires in print. It was a weird, rapturous invocation as to an actual [page 509:] presence. Poe was among the first of the authors that took to reading and lecturing as a professional occupation. I heard him in the society library in New York in March 1845. He told me that he recalled me in my early childhood . . . at West Point. . . . The portraits of Poe represent him with a mustache. I do not recall that he wore one when I saw him. He had a graceful walk, a beautiful olive complexion, was strikingly handsome, but had a weak chin.(702)

Outwardly at least, Poe and Griswold had now resumed diplomatic relations, although the old rancor still burned underneath. Since coming to New York, Poe had met Griswold at the office of the Tribune, where the occasion had been somewhat strained. “I could make no advances when we met,” writes Poe, “although I longed to do so.”(709) This longing was occasioned by the fact that Griswold was getting out through Carey & Hart, in Philadelphia, his Prose Writers of America, and revising his poetical anthology for another edition. Poe was anxious to be included in the first, and to revise some of his poems in the second. On January 10, 1845, he resumed correspondence with Griswold with those ends in view. Fearful of what Griswold’s comment might be he says:

. . . but with your present feelings you can hardly do me justice in any criticism, and I shall be glad if you will simply say after my name: ‘Born 1811; published Tales of the Grotesque and the Arabesque in 1834; has resided laterally in New York.’(710)

The replies, however, were ostensibly cordial, and a rapprochement ensued. Griswold sent Poe a package of books, and Poe sent Griswold his prose manuscripts and verse corrections. Both of these men were too necessary to each other to be able to remain literary enemies, Poe was now too important to be ignored or mentioned slightingly, and he, on his part, realized the necessity of the friendship of the anthologist. Griswold seems to have pretty well won Poe’s trust by his advances, and to have made the most of it The Reverend Doctor, however, had by no means forgiven Poe. At the same time that he was writing to Poe assuring him of his liberal attitude and esteem, he took the opportunity to pour scandal into the ears of Briggs with all the rest of Poe’s Philadelphia history. In January, Briggs wrote to Lowell:

I like Poe exceedingly well; Mr. Griswold has told me shocking bad stories about him which his whole demeanor contradicts.(711)

The causes of Griswold’s hatred of Poe, for such it was, probably lay deep within certain idiosyncrasies of the Doctor’s nature. He was one who took violent likes or prejudices, even with men, as his friend, C. G. Leland, testifies: [page 510:]

To the end of his life I was always with him a privileged character, and could take, if I chose, the most extraordinary liberties, though he was one of the most irritable and vindictive men I ever met if he fancied he was in any way too familiarly treated.(712)

Griswold also thoroughly disliked Poe, for very ordinary human reasons, and undertook to ruin him in so far as in him lay, For professional reasons he dissembled this, and succeeded in gaining Poe’s confidence, who thus delivered himself into the hands of the enemy.(710) That Griswold and Poe were rivals for Mrs. Osgood’s favor is by no means a remote possibility. The suggestion has been ably defended, if not conclusively proved.

Despite the kind offices of the good Doctor, Briggs’ estimate of Poe was at first favorable, and by the middle of January, 1845, the author of The Raven had secured a one third interest in the Broadway Journal. That paper announced him very early in March as having become one of the three editors, i.e., Briggs, Poe, and Bisco Henry S. Watson filled the post of musical critic, in which department he wielded considerable authority and prestige — at that time. Poe, it seems, had rather forced the issue by insisting that his own name would bring additional subscribers. At the time of Poe’s joining on, Briggs wrote to Lowell:

Poe is only an assistant to me, and will in no manner interfere with my own way of doing things.

In this estimate, Mr. Charles F. Briggs was profoundly mistaken. From the time of Poe’s arrival at the office of the Broadway Journal, Mr. Briggs was forced to play a very second fiddle in what was by no means an orchestral harmony.

The Little Longfellow War was now transferred from the columns of the Mirror to those of the Broadway Journal. For the first time, Poe found himself at liberty to write without any softening influence from above, and charges of plagiarism flew about without let. Even Lowell came in for a passing “charge” which was unfounded, this, under the circumstances of his kindness, can only be regarded as an “honest stab in the back.” Plagiarism had become a monomania with Poe.(714)

The publication of The Raven, with the consequent success and adulation [page 511:] which it brought, together with the unfounded hopes for the new journal, produced in Poe an air of feverish excitement which, about the Spring of 1845, begins to become evident in his actions and writings. He was experiencing, top, a social contact with many people, and especially with women, more generally than for years past. During the months spent in New York in 1844, he had been abstemious, as the united testimony of the Brennans, Willis, and Mrs. Barhyte, who saw him constantly about the office of the Mirror, shows. He now once more began to drink, and more heavily than ever before. March, 1845, may be regarded as the beginning of the final steep slope that pitched ever more steeply, with only a few interludes, to the end.

Briggs almost immediately became dissatisfied and, from now on, began a series of irritated and rather weak complaints to Lowell.(715) Lack of sufficient capital to assure his position, and a quarrel with John Bisco, another partner in the enterprise, began rapidly to press Briggs out of his “control.” Mr. Poe’s pressure was evidently very real, and,”from the time he took up his duties at the desk, he was evidently regarded by all those connected with the publication as “the boss.”

Poe had been going about town in the Winter of 1845 with a number of theatrical people. His double rôle of dramatic critic on the Journal, and author of The Raven gave him considerable theatrical prestige. Among those whom he had persuaded to recite The Raven in public was James E. Murdock, a genuinely notable actor of the time with a majestic voice. What Alec, the office boy, thought when Mr. Murdock read Mr. Poe’s Raven is on record:

It was one cold day in winter, when everybody in the . . . Journal office from myself on up was busily at work, that Poe came into the office, accompanied by the great actor named Murdock. They went to Poe’s desk, and Mr. Poe summoned the entire force, including myself, about him. There was less than a dozen of us and I was the only boy.(716)

Doubtless Poe had in his mind a similar reading some years before at Graham’s, when, out of charity, the hat was passed and the poem voted a failure. He was now having a magnificent revenge, having The Raven read to the employees of his own magazine as the most famous poem in America. There was balm in that. The little crowd of employees, wondering at the sudden halt of the clanking hand presses, gathered, perhaps anxiously, about the desk and the two men standing there, who were both professional tragedians.

When we were all together, Poe drew the manuscript of The Raven from his pocket and handed it to Murdock. He had called us to hear the great elocutionist [page 512:] read his newly written poem . . . with the combined art of two masters I was entranced. It is the most cherished memory of my life that I heard the immortal poem read by one whose voice was like a chime of silver bells.(716)

It is this trivial incident, obscurely preserved by an ex-office boy, which more than any other has accidentally captured and preserved the symbol of Poe’s literary life. There is the background of the magazine office and the presses; the editor’s desk; the drama, personified by Mr. Murdock, but introduced as usual Ivy Mr. Poe; the production of the manuscript; its effect upon an ignorant audience; and the one intelligent heart that remembered long, long after the boss of the whole pathetic little show was dead.

One could almost laugh at the “great” elocutionist — at the vacancy of printers’ faces, signed with ink, grinning, startled, gaping, white under the black — as a great dark bird, that somehow lived in Mr. James E. Murdock’s voice, suddenly swooped into the grey office, filling it with diabolical repetition of croakings, and musical mutterings. Then, for a moment, they were all sad lovers; grieving; walking in the forever of a minute, in the black moonlight that had been poured out upon them from the soul of the pale, tired-looking man standing by the proof-sodden desk, his mouth twisted with the pain of an impossible triumph.

Yet, if one is still intelligent enough to admire the Mystery Play of the Imagination more than the Punch and Judy Show of the educated mind, then it is a question if, after all, one can laugh even at Mr. James E. Murdock, who was merely a means to an end. Just as poor little White of the Messenger, and Billy-buffoon Burton, and Graham — and all the rest had been. But then there is Mr. Poe.

Why does Poe continue to remain? There has been a deal of effort to explain him away on moralistic, psychological, medical, and critical grounds. The shelf grows larger every year, yet publishers continue to find a lucrative sale in his collected works, and the price of his rare first editions mounts astonishingly. All this is indicative of the fact that there continues to be found in Poe a permanency of values. These values lie in the realm of the imagination. Poe was able to create there something new and something unique. It is a world never heard of before, peopled with characters who breathe only in its atmosphere, beings moved by motives and passions wholly sufficient for the sphere to which they have been called, hitherto unheard of and unsuspected, but dying like spiritual fish when they are removed, even for a brief examination, from the water of dreams into the air of reality. This is the great glory and the triumph of their creator. A new Nowhere was added by him to the empire of literature. Once created, such a kingdom lies beyond the strictures and the cavilings of the pedantic, the literal, and the moral. There is no use discussing its right to be. It already exists. Not to visit it because of critical quarantines or moral taboos [page 513:] is to remain unaware of one of the most fascinating and terrifying Nowheres on the map of literature. It is a comparatively small tract to be sure, this Island of Poe, but it is quite permanently a part of the imaginative world “This island,” says the professors, “does not rest on a sound scholarly basis.” “There is a terrible bone-rending ogre who lives there with dead ladies,” say the psychologists. “No realism here,” exclaim the critics, “no resemblance to anything in the real world!” That, indeed, is a serious charge from sovereign Reality who makes the cripple of Imagination, whom he keeps as a jester, hop as directed.

. . . the king loved his practical jokes, and took pleasure in forcing Hop-Frog to drink and (as the king called it) ‘to be merry.’

‘Come here, Hop-Frog,’ said he as the jester . . . entered the room; ‘swallow this bumper to the health of your absent friends . . . and then let us have the benefit of your invention. We want characters — characters, man, — something novel — out of the way. We are wearied with this everlasting sameness. . . .

‘I will equip you as ourang-outangs,’ proceeded the dwarf, ‘leave all that to me. The resemblance shall be so striking, that the company of masqueraders will take you for real beasts. . . .’(717)

The terrible revenge which the enslaved and debauched Imagination took upon his tormentors, may be read in Hop-Frog. He escapes with “Fancy” who:

. . . had been the accomplice of her friend in his fiery revenge . . . together, they effected their escape to their own country; for neither was seen again.(717)

The crowd is left gaping at the hideous remains.

Lecturing was just then beginning to be especially popular, and Poe intended to take advantage of the opportunity to deliver his lecture of February 27 before another audience, about the end of March. Evidently the employees about the Journal were much impressed by their new editor for the office boy attended and left an account:

The night set for the second lecture was a very bad one. It stormed incessantly, with mingled rain and hail and sleet. In consequence there were scarcely a dozen persons present when Poe came upon the platform and announced that, under the circumstances, the lecture could not be given.(716)

The entrance money was returned at the door, but Poe was bitterly disappointed.

I was one of those present, as Poe had given me a complimentary ticket to the lecture, and badly as I was disappointed, I could see upon his face that my master was much more so. It was a little thing, it is true, but he was a man easily upset by little things.(716) [page 514:]

Poe came to the office next, morning so much under the influence that he arrived leaning on the arm of a friend.(716)

He was, at that time, still living at 15 Amity Street. Virginia was now obviously beyond hope. It was only a matter of time. As we have seen, this thought was peculiarly terrifying to Poe. He must now, of necessity, have begun sincerely to consider the future. Sometime during the Spring, Willis introduced him to the poetess, Mrs. Frances Osgood, whom he had praised in his lecture. The occurrence may be said to have marked the beginning of a series of hectic, “platonic” friendships that succeeded and over-lapped each other while Virginia continued dive, and led, fetter on, to the strange wooings and retreats which followed her death. The renewal of associations with women, with the conseipeirt excitement which ensued, was from now on a large factor in the course of Poe’s rapid disintegration. Mrs. Osgood’s was tie first affair, and she may be said to have kindled a fatal flame that fed on itself.

Willis lived in rather sumptuous style at the Astor House where he entertained the literati and gathered about him, in the parlors there, the group of which he was the central figure and the literary nabob. Mrs. Osgood had been much flattered by Poe’s praise, as he meant her to be. She describes their meeting in the Spring of ‘45 after the publication of The Raven, after Poe had sent the poem to her by Willis with a request for her “judgment” and the favor of an interview.

I shall never forget the morning when I was summoned to the drawing-room by Mr. Willis to receive him. With his proud beautiful head erect, his dark eyes flashing with the electric light of feeling and of thought, a peculiar, an inimitable blending of sweetness and hauteur in his expression and manner, he greeted me, calmly, gravely, almost coldly, yet with so marked an earnestness that I could not help being deeply impressed by it. From that moment until his death we were friends, although we met only during the first year of our acquaintance.

Mrs. Osgood lost no time in cultivating a romantic editor. On April 5, in the Broadway Journal, “Israfel” was invoked. He replied with some verses To F . . . She, of course, did not know that they were being made to serve a second time, having years before been addressed to Eliza White in the Messenger. Mrs. Osgood, however, could have had little to complain of, for she also sent to Griswold a valentine in which the names of Osgood and Griswold were interwoven. Poe saw a good deal of her. The intimacy grew, and eventually aroused the wrath of a suspicious family. Mrs. Clemm, and Virginia who was apparently resigned, or incapable of being jealous, encouraged it, at first.

Frances Sargent Osgood (born Locke) was the wife of an American painter, Samuel S. Osgood, of some minor ability, who painted the portrait of Poe now in the possession of the New York Historical [page 515:] Society. She had early been much given to the scribbling of sentimental verses that, then and later, achieved wide magazine publication, and in the late ‘30s, while on a visit to England with her husband who was studying there, she had published a volume of poems that had a second American edition in 1842. Her verse was compounded of a bombastic rhetoric, sentimentality, and a certain “grace” for which Poe chiefly praised her.

“She has occasional passages of true imagination,” says Poe? “but scarcely the gloomy vigorous, and sustained ideality of Mrs. Maria Brook — or even in general, the less ethereal ideality of Mrs. Welby” — by which illustrious company, Mrs. Osgood may be placed.

In character she is ardent, sensitive, impulsive — the very soul of truth and honor; a worshipper of the beautiful, with a heart so radically artless as to seem abundant in art; unusually admired, respected and beloved. In person she is about the medium height, slender even to fragility, graceful whether in action or repose; complexion usually pale, hair black and glossy; eyes a clear, luminous grey, large, and with singular capacity for expression.(718)

Such was the little woman who now began to exercise upon Poe a charm of sufficiently definite nature to cause a scandal, a copious flood of praise from the “great critic,” and compromising correspondence.

Poe was now at the apex of his contemporary fame. The Raven was on everybody’s lips, and the Longfellow War making a considerable noise. As dramatic critic of the Broadway Journal he was now much at the theater. One night at the Park, an actor who knew him, saw him sitting in the audience. Into the lines of his part as the scene progressed, he interpolated, “Nevermore, Nevermore.” “A thrill ran through the audience and a profound sensation was produced.” Nothing shows the effect of the poem on the public more distinctly than this. Poe afterward referred to this event, which may be said to have marked the ne plus ultra of his reputation, “not with vanity, but with large, supernal eyes, as if the dirge were an ever present echo.” The actor may possibly have been Murdock.

In 1845, in Flatbush there lived a rather remarkable woman, Mrs. Anna Cora Mowatt,(719) who has the distinction of being the first American. lady to risk, and retain her social standing by an intimate connection with the stage. She was, in her own field, a portent of the movement for the emancipation of women of which Mrs. Oakes Smith was another example, a movement that in the middle forties was just [page 516:] beginning to get well under way. The “lady-like” field of literature was naturally the first area in which the bounds of convention first began to give way. One could write poetry and publish it, and still retain one’s reputation. The advocates of political rights were still considered to be dangerous, and Godey’s Lady’s Book had published in 1844 a solemn warning, from the pure pen of the author of Ten Nights in a Bar Room, meant to admonish the sex. It was noticeable, however, that no less a person than Park Benjamin had rejoined on the other sidel In a certain sense, the hectic salons of the literati were merely one of the phenomena of feminine discontent of the period, of the inevitable repercussion of democracy, and the social flux of society in a new republic, where the martial and feudal tradition of womanly inferiority no longer held sway. In this movement New York, Concord, and Boston were at the forefront.

In 1845, Mrs. Mowatt defied all tradition by writing, staging, and successfully presenting a play. It was a social satire on the manners, and the sentimentality of the period, called Fashion, and it marked a distinctly new trend in the traditions of the American theater.

For the most part, nothing but English plays had been produced in America, rhetorical melodramas, at the present, impossible to imagine. These had been somewhat relieved by “spectacles” and mellifluous tableaux which, about this time, began to go out of fashion by legal pressure:

Edwin Forrest had appeared in an American play by Stone, a young Philadelphian. Metamora, or the Last of the Wampanoags was the characteristic title. This was an Indian play in which Forrest appeared as King Philip to such effect that, in Boston, some Indians who attended it become so excited that they stood up ami chanted a dirge at the death of the chief. The Broker of Bogota was another favorite. These plays of Forrest “represented the alter ego of the namby pamby magazines.” The star strode and strutted through them, “screeching and howling and tearing passions to tatters” watched by a breathless audience of “faint ladies, spruce clerks, spindling fops, and perfumed dandies . . . well nigh thrown into convulsions over their favorite’s collossal poses, gestures, and thunderbolts of speech.” Into this dramatic mélange Mrs. Mowatt injected a decidedly more civilized note with her comedy of manners and social satire Fashion. The patronizing audiences who saw this play in a recent modern revival did not seem to realize that it was meant, even at the time of its conception, as a satire.

The opening night was March 24, 1845. The play was largely and importantly attended. Many of Poe’s friends among the literati knew Mrs. Mowatt. Epes Sargent had prevailed on Simpson, the manager of the Park Theater, to accept the comedy, and Poe attended for several nights running in order to do it justice in his review, first writing [page 517:] to Mrs. Mowatt to obtain a manuscript of the play. This was sent to him.(720) The review of Fashion appeared March 20, in the Broadway Journal.

The play is not without merit. It may be commended especially for its simplicity of plot. What the Spanish playwrights mean by dramas in the world; the intellect of the audience can never safely be fatigued by complexity. The necessity for verbose explanation, however, on the part of Trueman, at the close of the play, is in this regard a serious defect. A dénouement should in all cases be taken up with action — with nothing else. Whatever cannot be explained by such action should be communicated at the opening of the story.

In the plot, however estimable for simplicity, there is of a particle of originality of invention. Had it, indeed, feel a burlesque upon the arrant conventionality of stage incidents in general, it might have been received as a palpable hit. There is not an event, a character, a jest, which is not a well-understood thing, a matter of course, a stage-property time out of mind. The general tone is adopted from The School for Scandal, to which, indeed, the whole exposition bears just such an affinity as the shell of a locust to the locust that tenants it — as the spectrum of a Congreve rocket to the rocket itself. In the management of her imitation, nevertheless, Mrs. Mowatt has, I think, evinced a sense of theatrical effect or point which may lead her, at no very distant day, to compose an exceedingly taking, although it can never much aid her in composing a very meritorious drama. Fashion, in a word, owes what it had of success to its being the work of a lovely woman who had already excited interest, and to the very commonplaceness or spirit of conventionality which rendered it readily comprehensible and appreciable by the public proper. It was much indebted, too, to the carpets, the ottomans, the chandeliers and the conservatories, which gained so decided a popularity for that despicable mass of inanity, the London Assurance of Boucicault.

Resemblances of characters in the play to well-known figures about town were traced by the audience, and the lady playwright was under the necessity of explaining that “Mrs. Tiffany,” her heroine, the wife of a newly rich business man, was not meant as a caricature of any individual, as some of the critics alarmingly claimed. Fashion was a great success, and went on a wide tour “down east” and to Philadelphia.

Matters at the office of the Journal were not going any too easily for Poe. Briggs was in financial straights, and was evidently much shocked by Poe’s flirtation with Mrs. Osgood, which now began to be talked of among the literati confirming Griswold’s tittle-tattle of the Saratoga episode, but he was even more shocked by the conversation of the “Raven” himself. Mr. Poe had no faith in reformers. He regarded the Bible as a rigmarole. He was a monomaniac on the subject of plagiarism. Worst of all, he sided with Bisco, the other partner, and [page 518:] was undoubtedly preparing to continue the Journal himself with that gentleman when Mr. Briggs, as it now seemed likely, should withdraw.(715) There is all the evidence here of a very conventional, and unimaginative gentleman being greatly shocked by hearing, for the first time, the conversation of a genius who didn’t give a damn. Poe’s lordly airs about the office were also hard to bear, and the worshipful attitude towards him of office boys and the staff. Above all, Mr. Poe was irreligious which, at that time, was so unusual as to be thought a species of madness.

On the other hand, there is no doubt that the now great poet’s growing egotism was harder and harder to stand, and that Mr. Briggs’ Journal having insulted many of Mr. Briggs’ friends, by the pen of Poe, at the cost of Mr. Briggs’ slender capital, made a sore issue. Briggs would like to have hauled Poe’s name down, but was told that Mr. Poe was even then considering retiring to the country to write, so Briggs might do as he liked.

Besides, Poe was doing most of the work. Columns of articles on Street Paving, Secrets of the Magazine Prison House, Anastatic Printing, replies to “Outis,” Hirst’s Coming of the Mammoth, the Antigone, and what not, continued to pour from the pen of the man with the big head, besides review after review, from The Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities to Mr. Lord’s Poems. On May 4, Poe wrote to Thomas:

In the hope that you have not yet quite given me up as gone to Texas, or elsewhere, I sit down to write you a few words. . . . 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 fourteen or fifteen hours a day, — hard at it all the time. 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 was in my life — except in hope, which is by no means bankable. I have taken a third pecuniary interest in the Broadway Journal, and for everything I have written for it have been, of course, so much out of my pocket. In the end, however, it will pay me well — at least the prospects are good. Say to Dow for me that there never has been a chance for my repaying him, without putting myself to greater inconvenience than he himself would have wished to subject me to, had he known the state of the case.(721) Nor am I able to pay him now. The Devil himself was never so poor. Say to Dow, also that I am sorry he has taken to dunning in his old age — it is a diabolical practice, altogether unworthy ‘a gentleman and a scholar’ — to say nothing of the Editor of the Madisonian. . . .

There is no one in the world I would rather see this moment than yourself; and many are the long talks we have about you and yours. Virginia and Mrs. Clemm beg to be remembered to you in the kindest terms. [page 519:]

Besides all this, there were visitors from out of town, parties with the literati, and with Harrison, Shea, and bachelor friends. Poe took Virginia to call on Mrs. Oakes Smith, and he was also in constant pursuit of Mrs. Osgood. He was having his portrait painted by Osgood, arranging a volume of The American Parnassus, and his collected poems for Wiley & Putnam, corresponding with Chivers and Home, answering letters about The Raven, and much, too much about town.

Sometime in May, Poe and his family moved to 195 Broadway where they occupied a back room on the third-story in a house that had seen better days in the time of a rich merchant, and was now by way of being a tenement. Poe was now drinking a good deal, and his health was consequently precarious. The new lodgings were a symptom of his almost complete poverty. It was there that Lowell came to see him. Lowell was on his way home from Philadelphia, where, during his honeymoon, he had stopped, and spent a few months writing for the Pennsylvania Freeman, while living at 127 Arch Street where the Poes had stayed in 1839. Lowell and his wife left Philadelphia in a carriage with Mr. and Mrs. E. M. Davis, Lucretia Mott’s daughter, about the end of May, journeyed through Chester County and came to call on Poe in New York. He had chosen an unfortunate time.

Poe was soggy with drink “not tipsy — but as if he had been holding his head under a pump to cool it.” Poe was evidently rancorous and sarcastic. Mrs. Clemm never left the room, but evidently felt great chagrin, for five years later she wrote an apologetic letter about the interview to Lowell. “The day you saw him in New York he was not himself.” Lowell described Poe as being small, with a chalky, clammy complexion, fine dark eyes under broad temples, and with a brow that receded sharply back from the eyes. In manner, he was very formal and pompous. Poe, on his part, was disappointed in Lowell and wrote Chivers that he did not fulfill his idea of an intellectual man — “He was not half the noble-looking person that I expected to see.”(722)

It was probably about this period that Mr. Saunders, the librarian of the Astor Library, one day met Poe on Broadway. It was sometime after the publication of The Raven. Poe, he said, was effusive and maudlin, and declared that he was going to read The Raven before Queen Victoria and the royal family. Mr. Saunders says he knew Poe quite well at that time, and that, after he had been drinking, which happened frequently, he would talk of nothing but himself, his work, and the jealousy of other writers. It is now that the first evidence of a persecution delusion is found. [page 520:]

The next time I saw him he was very much depressed, and was suffering from a fit of melancholia to which he was subject. He spoke of a conspiracy among the other authors of America to belittle his genius and to smother his work. ‘But posterity shall judge,’ he said, with a gleam of pride in his eye. ‘Future generations will be able to sift the gold from the dross, and then The Raven will be beheld, shining above them all, as a diamond of the purest water.’

The progress of enlarged ego, and the beginning of delusion of persecution, are here plain. Three years later they were at times complete.

About the beginning of July, Dr. Thomas Holley Chivers of Oakey Grove, Georgia, came to New York to arrange for the publication of a volume of poetry called The Lost Pleiad and Other Poems. Poe was very anxious to secure the aid of Chivers in supplying capital for the Stylus, which was still on his mind. The correspondence between the two had been affectionate, and dealt with transcendental and metaphysical subjects, Chivers had a great admiration for Poe. One day he found Poe in a sadly intoxicated state on Nassau Street, and was helping him home when they met the editor of the Knickerbocker, Lewis Gaylord Clark. Poe thought some wrong had been done him by Clark and threatened to attack him despite all that his friend could do. Understanding the situation, Mr. Clark bowed himself out of the scrape. Poe was to have given a reading before the literary societies at New York University apparently that evening, but continued on a not be found when Chivers called next day. The Mrs. Clemm told Chivers that Poe was ill, probably to explain his absence. After some delay, the Georgia poet gained access to his room and found him in bed reading Macaulay. Chivers continued for some time in New York, and was much with Poe who noticed his book in the Broadway Journal in August. The capital for the Stylus, however, was naturally enough under the circumstances, not forthcoming. It was the old story over again.

In June, Briggs had withdrawn from the Broadway Journal and left its fate, which was never in doubt, in the hands of Poe. The Journal had become notorious for the inveterate character of the Longfellow war, and its criticisms. Of these Longfellow himself remarked:

The harshness of his criticisms (Poe’s) I have never attributed to anything but the irritation of a sensitive nature, shaped by some indefinite sense of wrong.(723)

Longfellow was essentially correct and generous in this. The indefinite sense of wrong was fast becoming a persecution complex. Briggs had hoped to get rid of Poe by the end of the first volume of the Journal in July. He had a friend upon whom he counted to buy out Bisco, the other partner, but the latter demanded an exorbitant sum, and scared [page 521:] off the prospective purchaser. Briggs then withdrew, persuading Bisco to carry on the Journal himself, Briggs retaining his claims. At this juncture the paper suspended for a week. Poe then went on a drunken spree and, of course, claimed that Briggs was insulting him and not using him fairly, although he owed him money. The upshot of it was that, in order not to lose everything, the sadly burdened Mr. Briggs allowed Poe and Bisco to continue the sheet from which Briggs now withdrew from any active participation.

The first number of the second volume in July described Poe as the sole editor, and one third proprietor. Poe now made every effort to buy out the interests of the other partners and, in order to A) this, involved himself in debt by floating notes with his friends about town, Horace Greeley being one of the unfortunate indorsers. He also implored William Poe, J. P. Kennedy, Chivers, Fitz-Greene Halleck, and probably N. P. Willis, towards the end of the year, to save him. The bulk of the notes came due the first of the New Year; many had already been renewed, and Poe was unable to continue. The Journal increased its advertisements, but fell-off in subscriptions. Kennedy wrote a kindly and cordial note, but could or would not assist his protégé with funds. It was the last letter that passed between them. From midsummer on, the Broadway Journal was simply approaching its end, its life blood depending upon timely transfusions of borrowed funds. Poe was frantic at seeing his longed for opportunity slowly slipping from his grasp, and continued to labor, to correspond, and to hope to the last His drinking had now again undermined what little physical reserve he had. He was ill, poor, in debt, and despondent. Another period of collapse was approaching.

Some further indications of Poe’s many activities at this time, and of the course of his difficulties have recently come to light. About the time he had left the Mirror, in April, 1844, Poe had made a special arrangement with B. B. Minor, the editor of the Southern Literary Messenger, to publish The Raven with an especial type display. At the same time it seems he had undertaken to supply the Messenger with monthly installments of a critique raisonnée on forthcoming foreign and American books. Bisco, probably through Poe, had, at the same time, made arrangements with Minor to take subscriptions in the South for the Broadway Journal. A dispute arose about these over the amount. Bisco had paid Poe his share, apparently without authority, and no returns were made to the Messenger. The matter was never accommodated, and Poe ceased to contribute to his old paper until J. R. Thompson, a new editor, took the chair some years later.(724)

In June, 1845, while Poe was still living at 195 Broadway, he was [page 522:] visited by R. H. Stoddard, who gives us an intimate glimpse of the author of The Raven that is rather illuminating. Stoddard was, at that time, a young, unknown poet who had been inspired by an Englishman, one Major Richardson.

It struck my fancy, ineffective as it was, for I was then under the spell of Keats. Yes, I was a poet also, and since my master had written an Ode on a Grecian Urn, I must needs write a companion piece. Like all early writing it was crude, but there was promise in it. I worked over it, made a copy of it, and sent it to the editor of the Broadway Journal, in which I hoped it might appear. A week or two passed, and as it did not appear, I went to ascertain its fate. It was a hot afternoon in June, and with the direction furnished me by the publisher (Briggs), I sought the residence of Mr. Poe. He received me with the courtesy habitual with him when he was himself, and gave me to understand that my ode would appear in the next number of his journal. The next number appeared, but not my ode. It was mentioned however, in ‘Notices to Correspondents,’ and dismissed with the curt remark that the editor declined to publish it unless he could be assured of its authenticity. . . .

To the author of the lines on theGrecian Flute.’ We fear that we have mislaid the poem.’

And a month later, this: ‘We doubt the originality of theGrecian Flutefor 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. . . .

. . . Of course I called within a few days to authenticate my trifle. It was a forenoon, and a very hot one, in July. I plodded down from the east side of the town, southwardly, westwardly, through Lewis Street, Division Street, and Chatham Street, until I reached Clinton Hafl, on the southwest corner of Beekman and Nassau Streets. It was then past noon, and of course the potent editor of the Broadway Journal had gone out to his luncheon, with Briggs, or English, or some other Bohemian with whom he had not yet fallen out, ‘Not in, sir,’ ejaculated the fatuous publisher. I walked away, and cooled myself by wandering in and out of the Park, in the intolerable July afternoon. Returning with my blood at fever-heat, I was informed that Poe was in his sanctum. 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 by 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. I was comminated, and threatened with condign personal chastisement. I left quickly, but was not, as I remember, downcast. On the contrary, I was complimented. The great American Critic bad declared that I could not write what I had written. . . .(725)

There is something very vivid and immediate about this. It gives us a glimpse into the hot little old New York on a July day, 1845, — shows us a pathetically anxious young poet strolling about the Park, and Clinton Hall, “on the southwest corner of Beekman and Nassau Streets” — the [page 523:] fast beating heart of the young man over his first poem in the hands of the “great editor” — asleep in his office chair, after lunch with English and the customary glass of whiskey at the bar — and the unfortunate awakening. In the glamor and dancing heat of that lost afternoon of nearly a century ago, we see young Stoddard darting down the stairs with the curses of Poe ringing in his ears, and wiping his forehead as he stands amazed on the fiery brick sidewalks under the sign of the Broadway Journal. But, above all, stands out clearly the disastrous effect of a drink, even a drink after lunch, on Mr. E. A. Poe. The courteous reception of the young poet at 195 Broadway, when Poe was sober, makes the contrast plain. He must have had a sympathy for young poets, he had himself been one. Yet the effect of egotism and a casual glass was sufficient to hurl a sensitive, and, as we know from other records, a rather diffident young man, headlong into the street, with curses threats ringing in his ears. The incident was never forgiven, years later, the pen that had written the Grecian Flute was employed with damning effect against Edgar Allan Poe.

How natural, and yet how unfortunate, it all was. One of the last glimpses was have into that office at Nassau and Beekman Streets, where the phantom figures of genius were rapidly ceasing to move to “a lute’s well-tuned law,” is another day in that hot Summer of 1845. This time, let us believe, it is a record of the real self, Israfel, and not his demon. It was a hot afternoon in August, so hot that Alec, the office boy “was overcome with 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 ministered to me until I was able to stand up, and then sent me in a carriage.

This act of kindness, coupled with his uniform gentle greetings when he entered the office of a morning, together with personal inquiries and words of encouragement, made me love and trust my editor.(716)

All of the evidence about Poe is like this, paradoxical, contradictory, and true. The witnesses for and against him must all be listened to with respect. The whole of their evidence is required to picture the man. “I am unable,” says the just and careful Professor Woodberry, years later (1909), “to fall into that judgment which divides them into the goats and the sheep — the ‘malignant’ and the ‘amiable’; they all, divergent as they are, seem to me to have written, according to their knowledge and their conscience, sincerely.” There can be no doubt that the scholar is correct. The same man who drove young Stoddard into the street with every outrageous insult he could summon to his lips, a month later bait tenderly over the limp form of the child who had fainted, bathing his wrists and temples. The motives of both actions are sufficiently plain. [page 524:]

Alcohol, however, was not the only irritant that was contributing to the disorganization of Poe’s nervous system. With the progressive failure of Virginia’s health, now approaching the inevitable end, Poe had been taking a renewed interest in women. Chief of these was Mrs. Fanny Osgood, upon whom he called frequently and who came to see him. In the Spring and Summer of 1845 there was a good deal of talk about this devotion, as Mrs. Oakes Smith shows when she describes a call that Poe made upon her, in company with Virginia.

The first time I ever saw Mr. Poe, he called upon me with his pretty child-wife, who must have been to him as near as anything earthy could be ‘Lenore,’ with her long lustrous eyes, and serious lovely face. I had been inclined to a prejudice against him, from some gossip (evidently about Mrs. Osgood) that had come to my ears, but seeing him disarmed it all, I noted his delicate organization — the white, fine skin of a face that had upon it an expression of questioning like that of a child, a shade of anxiety, a touch of awe, of sadness; a look out of the large, dear eyes of intense solitude.

I felt a painful sympathy for him, just as one would feel for a bright, over-thoughtful child. I said at once, ‘Ah, Mr. Poe, this country affords no arena for those who live to dream.’

‘Do you dream? I mean sleeping dream?’ he asked quickly.

‘Oh, yes. I am a perfect Joseph in dreaming, except, that my dreams are of the unknown, the spiritual.’

‘I knew it’ he said softly, ‘I knew it by your eyes; and I — the great shadowy realm of dreams, whose music hidden from mortal ears, swells through all space, and gleams of more than mortal beauty ravish the eyes, comes to me — that is to dream!’ and his eyes were far off in expression as if he saw them upon the instant. Suddenly he asked:

‘Do those sweet, shadowy faces wear to you an expression of pain?’

‘Not so much of pain as grave thoughtfulness — a tender sympathy.’

‘Ah, that is your mind — to me they wear a look of suffering — patient suffering — almost an appeal — and I spread out my hands to reach them. I call to them in my dreams. I am more to them than they to me. I call to them to speak, but they are silent, and float away, pointing onward’(726)

This is certainly one of the most important pieces of reporting on Poe’s conversation and psychology that we have. Virginia’s remarks are not recorded. It was her custom to sit silently by and say nothing.

In the Midsummer of 1845 the Poes again moved, this time from 195 Broadway to slightly better quarters at 85 Amity Street, not far from their old lodgings there. The necessity for the change was doubtless due to Virginia’s health, who found the heat lower downtown to be weakening. This house was not far from Washington Square, and there, in one or two rooms, they remained during the ensuing Fall and Winter, Poe going to work at Nassau Street. Like Spring Garden Street, it was a residence of forlorn hope. Here, Mrs. Osgood came to visit them. This time we get a more definite impression of Virginia. [page 525:]

It was in his own simple yet poetical home that to me the character of Edgar Poe appeared in its most beautiful light. Playful, affectionate, witty, alternately docile and wayward as a petted child, for his young, gentle, and idolized wife, and for all who came, he had, even in the midst of his harassing duties, a kind word, a pleasant smile, a graceful and courteous attention. At his desk beneath the romantic picture of his loved and lost Lenore, he would sit, hour after hour, patient, assiduous, and uncomplaining, tracing, in an exquisitely dear chirography, and with almost superhuman swiftness, the lightning thoughts — as they flashed through his wonderful and ever-wakeful brain. I recollect, one morning, toward the dose of his residence in this city (New York), when he seemed unusually gay and light-hearted, Virginia, his sweet wife, had written me a pressing invitation to come to them; and I, who never could resist her affectionate summons, and who enjoyed his society far more in his own home than elsewhere, hastened to Amity Street. I found him just completing his series of papers entitled The Literati of New York. ‘See,’ said he, displaying in laughing triumph several little rolls of narrow paper (he always wrote thus for the press), ‘I am going to show you by the difference of length in these, the different degrees of estimation in which I hold all you literary people. In each of these one of you is rolled up and fully discussed. Come, Virginia, help me!’ And one by one they unfolded them. At last they came to one that seemed interminable. Virginia laughingly ran to one corner of the room with one end, and her husband to the opposite with the other. ‘And whose lengthened sweetness long drawn out is that?’ said I, ‘Hear, hear!’ he cried, ‘just as if her little vain heart didn’t tell her it’s herself.’(727)

Mrs. Osgood greatly excited Poe. Doubtless, she had about her that expression of the eyes which mainly attracted him to women. Virginia seems to have been a complacent cipher, even a willing go-between. Later on, at least, Mrs. Clemm became alarmed. Poe followed Mrs. Osgood — “I went to Albany, and afterwards to Boston and Providence to avoid him.”(728) Talk flew about, and Mrs. Osgood’s family became alarmed. All of this, of course, was vastly disturbing to Poe. An active and dangerous correspondence continued between them, and exchanges of poetry in the columns of the Journal.

During the same month (July), Poe appeared at the commencement exercises of the Rutgers Institute, held in the Rutgers Street Church before a large audience. On this occasion he sat on the stage with Dr. J. W. Francis, Professors Lewis, Elias Loomis, and Tellkamp, and served on a committee consisting of himself, W. D. Snodgrass, and Henry T. Tuckerman. They awarded a prize to the best poetical composition from the graduating class of “young, cultured, and refined females.” The prize poem which began “Deep in a glade by trees o’erhung,” and went on for over a hundred equally chaste lines, was read [page 526:] by the author of The Raven. The school had considerable social prestige, and Poe’s presence was an indication of his notoriety at the time. This occasion served to patch up a quarrel with Tuckerman. There were seven pages of notice in the Evening Mirror for July 19 given over to the event.

During his sway on the Broadway Journal, Poe had not neglected the opportunity of using the columns of his own paper to further broadcast his works. Many of his stories and essays which had appeared in obscure places, and apparently failed to elicit any considerable notice or attention, were now, in many cases, revised and republished in the columns of the Broadway Journal. The prestige of the poet of The Raven, and a certain notoriety which surrounded their author, now served to bring them afresh to the notice of a larger and more important audience. The Journal was watched by other publications, especially during the period of the Longfellow War, and the skirmish with the transcendentalists. Many of its offerings were clipped and republished, a custom which Poe was very apt at simulating. Both his poetry and prose were now much discussed by the literati and others, and attracted more important attention than had before. In addition to this, the editor-author connection with both Godey’s and Graham’s, the Democratic Review in Philadelphia, and the Whig-Review in New York. This premeditated, and carefully cultivated insurance against oblivion had been further increased in June, 1845, by the republication of some of Poe’s tales by a New York publisher. For the first time he did not have to give his work away. He received a royalty of 8 cents on the sale of every volume!

Tales by Edgar A. Poe, New York: Wiley & Putnam, 161 Broadway; 1845, was the eighth bound volume of Poe’s work which had appeared since 1827, if the abortive attempt to reissue the Tales in paper covers, in Philadelphia, can be counted as a “volume.” The book was without a preface and contained 228 pages of prose, twelve tales in all. They were The Gold Bug, The Black Cat, Mesmeric Revelation, Lionizing, The Fall of the House of Usher, A Descent into the Maelström, The Colloquy of Monos and Una, The Conversation of Eros and Charmion, The Murders in the Rue Morgue, The Mystery of Marie Rogêt, The Purloined Letter, and The Man of the Crowd. The volume was Number 2 in Wiley & Putnam’s Library of American Books.(729)

The volume of tales which Poe had sent to Anthon in the Spring of 1844, to present to Harpers, had contained seventy stories, according to Poe’s own reckoning. The volume which now appeared in 1845 contained twelve. The selection for Wiley & Putnam had been made by [page 527:] Evert A. Duyckinck, an able editor connected with the firm, who had chosen with an eye for sales, rather than artistic merit. Poe, however, was very dissatisfied, as the selection, he felt, did not give any idea of a point he was constantly harping on, i.e., the versatility of his genius. The stories chosen were largely from the tales of ratiocination. It has been said that Duyckink showed able judgment by choosing the tales upon which the fame of Poe mainly rests. This literary judgment may be questioned, as it is quite likely that the popularity of these stories resulted from the fact of their achieving wide circulation before the others were again made available in volume form. A number of these volumes contain Poe’s autograph and inscription, as he is known to have kept copies by him, and to have used them for presentation purposes. During the printing and publication of this volume of collected prose tales, Poe was also preparing a volume of his collected verse which appears to have gone to the same publisher sometime in September. At the same time, he was also engaged upon a book which he refers to under the various titles of The American Parnassus and Literary America. This he also hoped to have Wiley & Putnam publish. The American Parnassus was probably an anthology planned to contain critical data and biographical sketches of contemporaries. For various reasons, like the Stylus, it was never to see the light.

Sometime during the Summer of 1845, although the exact time is not now very plain, Poe was much disturbed by the withdrawal of Mrs. Osgood to Albany, where she went to live. Whether this was to avoid Poe or not, is by no means clear. Other circumstances seem to have been the deciding factors. Poe was much exercised, however, at her departure and went to pay her a visit at Albany, the events of which are obscure. Mrs. Osgood later went to Boston, it is said to avoid him. He saw her there, nevertheless, soon afterward, perhaps about the time of his lecture (sic). From Boston they went to Providence, Rhode Island, or met there one evening.

Poe had once seen some poems that had been contributed to the Democratic Review by Mrs. Helen Whitman, a poetess who lived in Providence, Rhode Island. Through them, he thought he recognized in her a spiritual sister. She was a widow in fair circumstances and a transcendentalist. In addition, her name was Helen, and she was said to be beautiful. The combination of circumstances aroused Poe’s interest. There were moods in her poetry, which he thought were peculiar to himself. Mrs. Osgood, who was alarmed at Poe’s attentions, and yet probably feared to dismiss him in the state of mind in which she found him, was, it appears, anxious to have him meet Mrs. Whitman, and had waited for him after a lecture and poetry recital, when they had wandered about the town till a rather late hour. [page 528:]

It was upon this visit to Providence that Poe first saw Mrs. Whitman. Griswold says in a garden of roses by moonlight, relying on Poe’s lines To Helen, in which he so places the scene. Writing later to Mrs. Whitman, Poe alludes to the meeting.

You may remember that once when I passed through Providence with Mrs. Osgood I positively refused to accompany her to your house, and even provoked her into a quarrel by obstinacy and the seeming unreasonableness, of my refusal.

At a late hour, however, on this summer night, Poe became restless and left the hotel. He strolled past Mrs. Whitman’s house at the corner of Benefit and Church Streets. There was moonlight, and Mrs. Whitman happened to be standing in the street door taking the stir. She afterward wrote in a letter:

I was not ‘wandering in a garden of roses’ as Dr. Griswold has seen fit to describe me but standing on the side-walk or in the open doorway of the house on that sultry ‘July evening’ when the poet saw me and ‘dreamed a dream’ about me which afterwards crystalized into immortal verse.

The impression upon Poe, nevertheless, seems to have been profound. He never forgot her, and the incident was one of several which led later on to a now famous courtship.

The intimacy with Mrs. Osgood was now at an end as far as personal interviews were concerned. She continued to be his benefactor when occasion served, but from Albany. Mrs. Osgood was dying of tuberculosis.

The Fall of 1845 marked the end of the last period in Poe’s life when any long and sustained publishing or creative activity in prose was possible. The work of the years following, with the exception of one or two poems, was decidedly less important in range or quality to what had gone before. In the only considerable piece of creative prose which he attempted, Eureka, the signs of hallucination and disorganization are plain. In October, 1845, the period of collapse that always followed a time of feverish activity, was about to overtake him again. After the Summer of rest at the Brennans’, he had driven himself relentlessly. The attainment of his great dream to own his own magazine seemed almost in his grasp. To keep up the pace, stimulants, this time alcohol, without doubt, had been rather constantly resorted to for a period of at least six months. In the fall of the year, Virginia again began to have hemorrhages. This was always maddening to Poe. In addition, he was undoubtedly in a condition of considerable psychic excitement over Mrs. Osgood, and other women with whom he had now begun to consort intimately. Poverty can, of course, be taken for granted. The result was an attack of what amounted to incipient insanity. He was [page 529:] very close to the edge — sometimes he was clear over it.(730) The result was fatal to all his hopes and effort. In October, 1845, he became sole proprietor and editor of the Broadway Journal — and utterly collapsed.

A sad evidence of his inability any longer to cope adequately with the affairs of this world was the fiasco of his appearance on October 16 at the Odeon, in Boston, to deliver a lecture and reading before the Lyceum of that city. Poe was the second on the program to appear in the Lyceum that evening, the first talk being delivered by Caleb Cushing.

A great deal of comment had been caused in Boston by Poe’s attacks on Longfellow and transcendentalism; Lowell had secured the invitation to Poe, and a large and expectant audience greeted his appearance. He was to have written an original poem for the occasion, but he was in such a disturbed state that he could not do this, and confessed as much to English shortly before the event. English advised him to give up his appearance under the circumstances, but Poe persisted, to his own discomfiture. This was just after a spree, it seems.

The lecture was initiated by some general and rather admonitory remarks about the heresies of didacticism, after which Poe read the worst poem he could have picked for the occasion, Al Aaraaf. It was long and utterly unsuited for oral delivery, and one of his earliest efforts. The Raven was greeted with applause. The occasion was a distinct disappointment to Poe and his friends.

Poe had gone to Boston with an assumed attitude of superiority, and the memory of the long controversy with “Outis” — from which he had by no means come off with flying colors — rankling in his mind. Out of sheer bravado, it seems, he had announced that he would write a new poem for the occasion and show the “Frog-Pondians” what a real original poet could do. Then he found that he was in such a nervous condition that he could not write at all. The result was Al Aaraaf, and the sight of backs as well as faces, followed by some severe press comments on the affair, and rejoicing in the camp of his enemies.

Some of the New York papers, after the custom of the time, the unfavorable notices from Boston, and ignored the most favorable ones which also appeared. The truth is, a great deal more was made of the incident than it deserved, Poe’s condition had not enabled him to live up to his reputation, and several persons had been bored. With the appearance of the notices in New York, Poe was goaded into a series of rather pettish replies in the Broadway Journal. In order to cover up his condition, he tried to pass the matter off as a hoax. His enemies, whom he had made himself, would not permit the [page 530:] matter to drop, and his own rejoinders became less and less dignified. The reader can best judge for himself by a specimen of the extremes of both sides. The following are some of Poe’s replies, and Thomas Dunn English’s accusations made about a year later, after a physical encounter with Poe.

POE IN THE Broadway Journal, 1845

The facts of the case seem to be these: — We were invited to ‘deliver’ (stand and deliver) a poem before the Boston Lyceum. As a matter of course, we accepted the invitation. The audience was ‘ large and distinguished.’ Mr. Cushing preceded us with a very capital discourse. He was much applauded. On arising we were most cordially received. We occupied some fifteen minutes with an apology for not ‘delivering’ as is usual in such cases, a didactic poem: a didactic poem being in our opinion no poem at all. After some further words — still of apology — for the ‘indefiniteness’ and ‘general imbecility’ of what we had to offer — all so unworthy of a Bostonian audience — we commenced and with many interruptions of applause, concluded. Upon the whole the approbation was considerably more (the pity too) than that bestowed upon Mr. Cushing.

When we had made an end, the audience, of course, rose to depart — and about one tenth of them, probably, had really departed, when Mr. Coffin, one of the managing committee, arrested those who remained by the announcement that we had been requested to deliver The Raven. We delivered The Raven forthwith — (without taking a respite) — were very cordially applauded again — and this was the end of it — with the exception of the sad tale invented to suit her own purpose by that amiable little enemy of ours, Miss Walters. It would scarcely be supposed that we would put ourselves to the trouble of composing for the Bostonians anything in the shape of an original poem. We did not. We had a poem (of about five hundred lines) lying by us — one quite as good as new. . . That we gave them — it was the best we had — for the price. . . . The poem is what is occasionally called a ‘juvenile poem’ — but the fact is, it is anything but juvenile now, for we wrote it, printed it and published it, in book form, before we had fairly completed our tenth year. . . . Over a bottle of champagne that night, we confessed to Messrs. Gushing, Whipple, Hudson, Fields, and a few other natives who swear not altogether by the frog-pond — we confessed, we say, the soft impeachment of the hoax. . . .


. . . He accepted an invitation to deliver a poem before a Boston institution — the Lyceum, I think. When I remonstrated with him on undertaking a task he could not perform, he alleged that he was in want of the money they would pay him, and would continue to ‘cook up something.’ Want of ability prevented him from performing his intention, and he insulted his audience, and rendered himself a laughingstock, by reciting a mass of ridiculous stuff, written by some one, and printed under his name whence was about 18 years of age. It had a peculiar effect on his audience, who dispersed under its infliction; and when he was rebuked for his fraud; he asserted that he had intended a hoax Whether he did or not is little matter, when we reflect that he took the money offered for his performance — thus committing an act unworthy of a gentleman, though in strict keeping with Mr. Poe’s previous acts. . . .

Thus the war of the crane and the frogs continued with considerable rippling of the shallows in the frog-pond. Despite the mixture of [page 531:] metaphors, it was a typhoon in a teapot from which all hands emerged with black eyes and bleeding noses.

Poe had become sole owner of the Broadway Journal by paying $50 to Mr. Bisco in the shape of a personal note endorsed by Horace Greeley. Fitz-Greene Halleck also signed notes, the only eventual value of which, to the endorsers, was the autograph of Poe. Even this seems to have been of small avail, as Horace Greeley testifies in Recollections of a Busy Life. Chivers was also again appealed to, but staved the decision off until the Journal succumbed. In Poe’s condition there was, indeed, no hope for it. On November 13,1845, Poe wrote to his publishers a letter which makes sufficiently plain his physical, mental, and financial situation.

Thursday Morning-13th 1845
65 Amity Street.  

MY DEAR DR. DUYCKINICK, — For the first time during two months I find myself entirely myself — dreadfully sick and depressed, but still myself. I seem to have just awakened from some horrible dream, in which all was confusion and suffering — relieved only by a 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 had 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 mean time, 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 trouble 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 trifling immediate relief would put it on an excellent footing. All that I want is time to look about me; and I think that it is (in) your power to afford me this.

I have already drawn from Mr. Wiley, first $30 — then 10 (from yourself) — then 50 (on account of the Parnassus) — then 20 (when I went to Boston) — and finally 25 — in all 135. Mr. Wiley owes me, for the Poems 75, and admitting that 1500 of the Tales have been sold, and that I am to receive 8 cts. a copy — the amount which you named, if I remember — admitting this, he will owe me $120, on them: in all 195. Deducting what I have received there is a balance of 60 in my favor. If I understood you, a few days ago, Mr. W. (Wiley) was to settle with me in February. Now, you will already have anticipated nay request. It is that you would ask Mr. W. to give me, today, in lieu of all farther claims, 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 until February: — but I am sure that you will do the best for me that you can.

Please send your answer to 85 Amity Street and believe me — with most sincere friendship and ardent gratitude.

Yours,    EDGAR A. POE

Chivers was again appealed to two days later, and at the end of November, Mr. George Poe of Baltimore. Poe had also resumed correspondence with his cousin Neilson. [page 532:]

The Journal needed only $140 to preserve it, it seems, but, despite desperate efforts to meet this amount, which would be due the first of the new year, Poe was unable to raise the sum.(731) Some of his notes must already have gone to protest, and his failings were too well known to enlist any further capital.

An affected gleam of optimism still continued to color the Journal’s columns, but even to Poe the finale must now have been plain. “The brandy nosed Mr. Briggs,” an epithet which Poe had used to insult his former partner, no doubt did nothing to help, although Briggs’ share of the venture was still unsettled. The crows began to gather, some with considerable satisfaction. Greeley’s note went to protest; Halleck, who had already sent $100 would do nothing more, and there was no further response. During the last of the year Poe used the columns of the Journal, even while its death rattle was going on, to annoy his enemies and puff his friends in his old style, meanwhile contributing to two other magazines.(732) The last items in the Journal, of any note, from his pen were, The Brook Farm (review) on December 13, and a notice of Leigh Hunt, on December 20. Poe’s movements, and the incidents of the demise of the Broadway Journal during the last few days of 1845, can be traced.(733)

On December 6, the offices of the Journal, probably on account of inability to pay the rent, were removed from Clinton Hall, at Beekman and Nassau Streets, to 103 Broadway, where Thomas H. Lane, who was a great admirer of Poe, had a lodging that he and Thomas Dunn English shared between them, keeping one servant Lane evidently paid for the printing of the last two or three issues of the Journal.

On December 20, Poe called, and left material for the next issue lacking two columns. He was ill and despondent, and Virginia was thought to be dying. Poe then announced to Lane and English his intention of forthwith drowning his troubles by going on a spree. Lane tried to dissuade him, but failing to do so, decided to put an 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 deepest gloom. The day after, an issue of the Broadway Journal appeared. There still being some unused copy on hand, English and [page 533:] Lane then made up a final number which appeared January 3, 1846, with the following brief farewell.


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.


The Broadway Journal was seen no more. The only record of protest now appears on sundry notes cherished as autographs. One gleam remained to light the otherwise complete gloom. On the very last day of the year was published a volume of poems.

The Raven and Other Poems by Edgar A. Poe, New York: Wiley & Putnam, 1845. The book presented the collected poems of the author covering a period of almost two decades and was Poe’s ninth volume. The youthful poems were here included with the important, and in many cases, saving revisions, which they had undergone, during that time in many and varied publications. It was the most important volume of poetry that had been issued up until that time in America, and contained in order: The Raven, Valley of Unrest, Bridal Ballad, The Sleeper, The Coliseum, Lenore, Catholic Hymn, Israfel, Dreamland, Sonnet — To Zante, City in the Sea, To One in Paradise, Eulalie — A Song, To F——s S. O—d, To F—— , Sonnet — Silence, The Conqueror Worm, The Haunted Palace, Scenes from Politian.

Poems in Youth, containing an old footnote here reprinted, followed next with: Sonnet — To Science, Al Aaraaf, Tamerlane, A Dream, Romance, Fairy Land, To —— , To the River —— , The Lake —— , To —— —— , Song, To Helen.(729)

Whatever may have been the shipwreck of hope in the world of reality, in this little volume, the weary, wayworn wanderer had successfully reached his own native shore in the realm of the imagination. If he found “the condor years” intolerable, he had also discovered a memorable escape.


Romance, who loves to nod and sing,

With drowsy head and folded wing,

Among the green leaves as they shake

Far down within some shadowy lake,

To me a painted paroquet

Hath been — a most familiar bird —

Taught me my alphabet to say —

To lisp my very earliest word

While in the wild wood I did lie,

A child — with a most knowing eye.


Of late, eternal Condor years [page 534:]

So shake the very Heaven on high

With tumult as they thunder by,

I have no time for idle cares

Through gazing on the unquiet sky.

And when an hour with calmer wings

Its down upon my spirit flings —

That little time with lyre and rhyme

To while away — forbidden things!

My heart would feel to be a crime

Unless it trembled with the strings.



[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 466:]

647.  It should be remembered that the purchasing power of money at this date was about four times what it is now. In any sum mentioned, in connection with the times portrayed here, this basis of comparison must be borne in mind.

648.  Poe evidently gives explicit directions here to enable Mrs. Clemm to find the house when she herself arrived later on.

649.  A reference to “Catarina,” the Poes’ pet cat.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 467:]

650.  Spools did not come into general use until the late ’60s.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 468:]

651.  The petty incidents of the Poe-Duane controversy are detailed here, not for their inherent importance, but because this incident furnishes a type of the many small misunderstandings which served to estrange Poe from his contemporaries. The difficulties of a detached mind in conflict with a practical world are, here, implicit. Other similar incidents have been deliberately left out as being brakes on the wheel of narrative, and this may be regarded as a symbol of the rest. The incident has been pieced together from the correspondence between Poe and Duane, and Duane and Hirst. Mrs. Clemm’s position is easily inferred, quite human and natural. This incident may have caused the estrangement with Hirst.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 469:]

652.  Mr. J. H. Whitty says that Poe used the Duane volume of the Messenger to prepare his Tales in 1840, and that he (Whitty) found the identical volume a Boston second-hand bookshop. See Complete Poems, J. H. Whitty, Memoir, page xlviii, large edition.

653.  The street number is taken from addresses on letters forwarded to Poe at this time.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 470:]

654.  The New York Sun, which was the first penny newspaper in New York, would naturally have been chosen by Poe for this hoax. The paper was even then going in for a peculiarly American and, in some respects, sensational method of treating news which it may be said to have inaugurated, as a feature of the new, native journalism.

655.  Of these headlines, Poe, in a later edition of the collected Tales, says:

“The subjoined jeu d’esprit with the preceding heading in magnificent capitals, well interspersed with notes of admiration, was originally published, as matter of fact, in the New York Sun, a daily newspaper, and therein fully subserved the purpose of creating indigestible aliment for the quidnuncs during the few hours intervening between a couple of the Charleston mails. The rush for the ‘sole paper which had the news’ was something beyond even the prodigious; and, in fact, if (as same assert) the ‘Victoria’ did not absolutely accomplish the voyage recorded, it will be difficult to assign a reason why she should not have accomplished it.”

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 472:]

656.  The first stanza of Poe’s Dreamland.

657.  An exception to this statement about the prose of this period must be made in favor of th|e charming landscape sketches of the latter years: Landor’s Cottage, The Domain of Arnheim, etc.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 474:]

658.  William Wallace, in a reply to John Neal’s sketch, after Poe’s death. See a discussion of this in Woodberry, 1919, vol. II, notes, page 429. English, who saw much of Poe in New York in 1845-46, says he saw “no sign of it,” i.e., the opium habit, Rosalie Poe, on a visit to Fordham in 1846, tells of Poe’s demanding morphine, however, and Sartain tells of Poe’s begging for drugs in Philadelphia in 1849.

659.  Baudelaire, A Study, by Arthur Symons, pages 72-73.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 475:]

660.  Poe to Lowell, New York, May 20, 1844. The unpublished stories were: The Oblong Box, The Premature Burial, The Purloined Letter, The System of Doctor Tarr and Professor Fether, Mesmeric Revelation, Thou Art the Man.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 476:]

661.  Woodberry, 1909, vol. II, pages 71-72, gives an excellent discussion of this matter, together with the full text of the correspondence with Lowell and Anthon about this tune.

662.  See Poe to Prof. Charles Anthon, June, 1844.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 477:]

663.  Anthon to Poe, New York, November 2, 1844.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 478:]

664.  See Woodberry, 1901, page 114, note 1. The Raven was claimed to have been “submitted by Poe piecemeal to the criticism . . . of his intimates (at Welsh’s) until it was voted complete.” This is, of course, fancy run wild (Woodberry merely notes the claim). See Scribner’s for October, 1875, F. G. Fairchild.

665.  For the contrast implied see Chapter XIV, pages 244-257.

666.  For the reasons for Poe’s choice of the word “pagodas” to describe architectural houses, see the illustration, page 333.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 479:]

667.  Lewis Mumford. The description of Armsmear, and its application, is taken from Sticks and Stones. Lewis Mumford, Boni and Liveright, 1924. The original of the description comes from the Art Journal for 1876. Armsmear was built between 1855 and 1862, but it was the result of the type of culture prevalent a little earlier.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 480:]

668.  Types of the “Egyptian” were the municipal reservoir at Forty-second Street and Fifth Avenue, New York, on the site of the present Public Library, and Moyamensing Prison. Philadelphia. See illustration, page 811, The Old “Tombs” in New York City, and the Richmond Medical College, still standing, were also “Nilesque.”

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 481:]

669.  Godey’s Lady’s Book for April, 1844, page 199.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 482:]

670.  The sources for the descriptions of the house and its environment, and of the events that took place there, are taken from Gill’s Life of Poe, 1877, pages 147-150 and from illustrations made of the house while it was still standing. Also from photographs taken in 1876, reproductions, in the possession of the author. Also from the account in Woodberry, 1909, vol. II, page 113. The following Original sources were also consulted. Poe and the Raven, by Gen. James R. Offense (husband of Martha Brennan), in the New York Mail and Express. Also Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Weekly, an article by Tyrrell, September, 1883. Also Material having to do with the removal of the Brennan mantel to the Hall of Philosophy, Columbia University; maps, city plans, prints of the neighborhood, and two private letters of neighbors of the Brennans in 1845, in which Poe is not mentioned.

671.  Gen. J. R. O’Bierne — “In those days . . . Patrick Brennan owned a farm of 216 acres, extending from a point about 200 feet west of Central Park to the Hudson River. . . . The homestead stood on 84th St. between Amsterdam Ave., and Broadway. . . .” See Harrison, vol. I, page 224.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 483:]

672.  Up until at least 1850, most of the older generation continued to reckon orally in shillings and pence. It was long doubtful whether dollar marks should go before or after figures (see, for instance, Poe’s letters to John Allan). Owing to defective coinage laws, and the gold and silver parity, United States coins were exported and “change” was largely confined to Mexican money. This went at face value as long as the eagle and pillars on the coin were visible. See also Sumner, History of American Currency.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 484:]

673.  Description from Gen. James O’Bierne (husband of Martha Brennan) long familial: with the Brennan house. O’Bierne continues — “This bust of Minerva was either removed or broken by one of the Brennan tenants after the family had moved to the city.” New York Mail and Express, see notes 670, 671. It must be remembered that Gen. O’Bierne’s description of the position of the bust with the light behind it, was written after the controversy had arisen about the shadow on the floor. Poe is said to have suggested such a solution himself in Richmond in 1849.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 486:]

674.  Poe’s story of Loss of Breath, and The Tell-Tale Heart both belong to this same type of thing. Dreams caused by a bad heart, a sense of oppression, the waking struggle with a consequent feeling of apprehension, and the fear of dying while asleep, or being buried while in a torpor, may account for such of the machinery of the plot and the imagery in such stories. For instance:

“In all that I endured there was no physical suffering, but of moral distress an infinitude. My fancy grew charnal. I talked ‘of worms, of tombs, and epitaphs.’ I was lost in reveries of death, and the idea of premature burial held continual possession of my brain. The ghastly Danger to which I was subjected, haunted me day and night. In the former, the torture of meditation was excessive, in the latter supreme.” — Poe’s Premature Burial.

675.  From Poe’s Premature Burial.

676.  Chivers to Poe, Oakey Grove, Georgia, May 15, 1844. Postage between Poe and Chivers was evidently a considerable difficulty. See Chivers’ reference to the matter in his letter to Poe of September 26, 1842.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 487:]

677.  Home Life of Poe, page 185.

“His first intention, he said, had been to write a short poem only, based upon the incident of an Owl — a night-bird, the bird of wisdom — with its ghostly presence and inscrutable gaze entering the window of a vault or chamber where he sat beside the bier of the lost Lenore . . . he exchanged the owl for the Raven, for . . . the ‘Nevermore,’ and the poem, despite himself had grown beyond the length intended . . . the owl, a night-bird, would be attracted by the lighted window, and . . . would be more appropriate to the . . . Owl, Minerva’s Bird,” etc.

678.  Poe to Lowell, July 2, 1844.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 488:]

679.  Horne to Poe, Fitzroy Park, Highgate, London, May 17, 1845.

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

680.  In the Middletown, Connecticut, Sentinel and Witness, 1837.

681.  This appeared in Chivers’ volume, The Lost Pleiad. There is mention of previous publication of this poem in 1842. The manuscript passed through Poe’s hands. Olivers’ poem of Isadore supplies a complete equivalent for the dramatic machinery of The Raven. Poe praised it as “original.”

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

682.  See Coleridge: Of the Fragment of Kubla Khan, page 52. Christabel, Kubla Khan, etc., 1816 edition.

683.  In the Summer or Fall of 1848, Wallace took Poe to Mathew B. Brady to have a daguerreotype taken, at 205 Broadway. See full-page advertisement in the New York Directory for 1848-9 for location of Brady’s galleries. [[M. Deas disputes Brady’s claims that Poe sat for him.]]

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

684.  Lowell to Poe, Elmwood, June 27, 1844.

685.  Poe to Lowell, New York, May 28, 1844.

686.  Poe to Lowell, New York, July 2, 1844.

687.  Woodberry, 1909, vol. II, page 90.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 493:]

688.  Poe attended the lectures of Andrew Jackson Davis, given in New York about this time, in which mesmerism, transcendental theories, and psychic phenomena were discussed. Poe’s reaction to this kind of “thought” was one of contempt. See his remark on Andrew Jackson Davis in his Marginalia. Some of the ideas gathered from Davis and similar “philosophers” were used by Poe in his stories. Mesmeric Revelation was republished in England. Also see note 700. Valdemar attracted the attention of the Brownings, see note 707.

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

689.  N. P. Willis in the Home Journal, October 13, 1849, just after Poe’s death.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 495:]

690.  See page 478.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 496:]

691.  The material for this brief sketch of Willis has been drawn from various sources, chiefly a biography appended to The Poems, Sacred, Passionate, and Humorous, Nathaniel Parker Willis, Clark and Maynard, publishers, 5 Barclay Street, New York, 1869; The Diary of Elizabeth Oakes Smith; Poe’s notice of Willis in the Literati; letters; notices; and other minor mention.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 497:]

692.  The fashion, thus created by Willis, was followed later by Bayard Taylor, and Henry Ward Beecher in some of his Star Papers. To modern eyes these offerings appear superficial, pretty, and insipid.

693  See page 493, also Woodberry, 1909, vol. I, page 287.

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

694.  Poe to Lowell, Elmwood, September 27, 1844.

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

695.  Poe to Lowell, October 28, 1844. In this letter Poe also refers to a scheme, which he had suggested to Lowell before leaving Philadelphia, “a scheme for protecting ourselves from the imposition of publishers by a coalition.” This plan called for a stock company of a dozen leading American writers to publish a magazine “of high character.” Shares to be taken by the authors at $100 each, each to furnish one article a month. Only contributions from members, or other unpaid contributors to be published. Members to be taken as far as possible from persons connected otherwise with the press. A system of black balling to be used in coopting. Work to be anonymous.

This was another effort to launch the Stylus. Lowell did not reply to what he considered an impracticable plan.

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

696.  Reminiscences of Gabriel Harrison, New York Times, March, 1899. Harrison is one of the minor characters who was intimate with Poe in the New York period, from 1844 to 1847.

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

697.  For the text of a letter to Harrison by Mrs. Clemm’s showing his interest in Poe, years later, see Appendix VIII.

698.  See Chapter XIX, page 356, also notes 532, and 792.

699.  See Chapter XVII, page 324, for a fuller discussion of these items. Also see Woodberry, 1909, vol. I, pages 178, 179.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 502:]

700.  A specific instance of the similarity of Coleridge’s and Poe’s jottings may be found in Letters, Conversations and Recollections of S. T. Coleridge, Harper and Brothers, 1836, letter XIII, pages 82-87. This is only one given instance. Compare these with Poe’s in the Democratic Review for December, 1844. See note 688.

701.  Lowell to Poe, December 12, 1844. Colton was the author of a “poem” called Tecumseh.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 505:]

702.  John Augustus Shea was not a “classmate” of Poe at West Point, but had been a clerk in the commissary. According to the son, Judge George Shea of the Marine Court of New York, Poe had been intimate with J. A. Shea while at the Point, and remembered George Shea as a child there in 1830-1. The Sheas seem to have known Poe intimately in New York about 1845. See Harrison, vol. I, page 220. Also see Woodberry, 1909, vol. II, page 114 with note of Judge Shea’s personal reminiscence to Prof. Woodberry about The Raven. Also see this work, vol. I, Chapter XIII, page 282..

703  Poe to Thomas, May 4, 1845. The statement must not of course be taken too literally.

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

704.  There are several newspaper clippings that give this letter. The letter was found among Judge Shea’s papers after his death. See Harrison, vol. I, page 220. The revisions sent to Shea were included in the poem as it appeared in the New York Tribune of Feburary 4, 1845. Prof. Killis Campbell supplies the Shea New York Tribune connection.

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

705.  See the reproduction of the The Raven from the Evening Mirror page 503.

706.  From an original copy of the Howard District Press loaned to the author by the courtesy of John T, Snyder, Esq., of Felham, N. Y.

707.  Elizabeth Barrett Barrett (Mrs. Browning) to Poe, from 5 Wampole Street [[50 Wimpole]], London, April, 1846.

“. . . Your Raven has produced a sensation, a ‘fit horror,’ here in England. Some of my friends are taken by the fear of it and some by the music. I hear of persons haunted by the “Nevermore,” and one acquaintance of mine who has the misfortune of possessing a “bust of Pallas” never can bear to look at it in the twilight. I think you will like to be told that our great poet, Mr. Browning . . . was struck much by the rhythm of that poem. . . .”

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 508:]

708.  Woodberry, 1009, vol. II, pages 110-111.

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

709.  Poe to Griswold, New York, January 16, 1845.

710.  Poe to Griswold, New York, January 10, 1845.

711.  Briggs to Lowell, New York, January 6, 1845.

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

712.  The quotation is from C. G. Leland’s Memoirs, 1893. See also Woodberry, 1909, vol. II, appendix VI, Griswold’s World. From Leland’s Memoirs.

713.  “One day I found in (Griswold’s) desk, which he had committed to me, a great amount of further material collected to Poe’s discredit. I burnt it all up at once, and told the Doctor what I had done, and scolded him well into the bargain. He took it an very amiably.” (See note 712.) The “material” was evidently letters from various ladies of the literati. This was after Poe’s death.

714.  The subject has been treated here as a whole for convenience, although out of the order of the narrative. The lessening importance of the Longfellow controversy has led to its being treated in a very limited way in the text.

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

715.  The Briggs-Lowell correspondence during 1845. See Woodberry, 1909, vol. II; Prof. Woodberry was given access to the entire Lowell-Poe-Briggs, etc. correspondence by James Russell Lowell

716.  Alexander T. Crane (once office boy on the Broadway Journal) in the Sunday World-Herald. Omaha, Nebraska, July 13, 1902.

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

717.  From Poe’s Hop-Frog. The allegory of this story seems to have been generally overlooked.

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

718.  This brief sketch of Mrs. Osgood is taken from the Diary of Elizabeth Oakes Smith and from Poe’s notice of her in the Literati Papers.

719.  Material for the remarks on Mrs. Mowatt, Edwin Forrest and the contemporary American stage has been gathered from a wide variety of sources — chiefly Poe; Oberholtzer’s Literary History of Philadelphia; The Romance of the American Stage, M. C. Crawford, Little, Brown and Co., 1925; Letters of Forrest loaned to the author; contemporary dramatic notices, etc., etc.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 516:]

720.  Anna Cora Mowatt to Poe: “Thursday evening” — (1845) “Edgar A. regret that I have not a more legible manuscript of the Comedy (Fashion) to your perusal, or even one made containing all the corrections made at the suggestion of critical advisers. . . .) Your criticisms will be prized . . .” etc. Griswold collection.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 518:]

721.  This refers to the $8, still unpaid, which Poe had borrowed from Dow in Washington, see Chapter XXI, page 561. Dow was in sore straits, having lost his government position, and in debt for the Madisonian which he edited.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 519:]

722.  Woodberry, 1909, vol. II, pages 137-138. Also prints the letter to Lowell from Mrs. Gemm about this visit, dated Lowell, March 9, 1850.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 520:]

723.  Southern Literary Messenger, November, 1849.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 521:]

724.  J. H. Whitty gives this in his Memoir to the Complete Poems.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 522:]

725.  R. H. Stoddard, Edgar Allan Poe. From the text of the original article, courtesy of John T. Snyder, Esq., of Pelham, New York.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 523:]

726.  Diary of Elizabeth Oakes Smith, Lewiston Journal Co., Lewiston, Maine, page 116.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 525:]

727.  Griswold, lii, liii, also see further account of Poe by Mrs. Osgood in the Home Journal, October 12, 1849, written on her death-bed. This reminiscence evidently applies to the time when Poe was engaged upon the Literati articles, perhaps early in 1846.

728.  This “visit” at Albany, and the trip to Boston and Providence seem to have taken place in the Summer of 1845. See page 527. The exact duration of Poe’s association with Mrs. Osgood is somewhat obscure.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 526:]

729.  For the use of first editions of the 1845 Tales and The Raven and Other Poems, from which the descriptions are taken, and for the reproductions of the title pages, I am indebted to the New York Public Library.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 529:]

730.  Poe’s own statements in a letter to E. A. Duyckinck written from 85 Amity Street, New York, November 13, 1845, are the basis for this assertion.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 532:]

731.  Poe to Chivers, November 15, 1845.

732.  Stories republished in the Broadway Journal about this time were: Some Words with a Mummy, The Devil in the Belfry, A Tale of the Ragged Mountains, Four Beasts in One, The Oblong Box, Mystification, and Loss of Breath. Poe also published for the first time The Spectacles, the manuscript of which he had sent England, in 1843 [[1844]]. It first appeared in the Dollar Newspaper for March 27, 1844 (Prof. Killis Campbell).

733.  The account of the last days of the Broadway Journal is taken from the reminiscences of Thomas H. Lane, and Thomas Dunn English.






[S:0 - HVA34, 1934] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Bookshelf - Israfel: The Life and Times of Edgar Allan Poe (H. Allen) (Chapter 22)