Text: Dwight R. Thomas, “Chapter 03: 1839,” Poe in Philadelphia, 1838-1844 (1978), pp. 32-105


[page 32:]




1839 [?]: Lambert A. Wilmer moves to Philadelphia from Baltimore.

NOTE: This entry is based upon Wilmer's statement in Our Press Gang, p. 40, that he settled in Philadelphia around “A.D. 1839-40.” Wilmer recalled that after his arrival he was “constrained to become a regular contributor” to Godey's Lady's Book and to two weekly newspapers, the Saturday Evening Post and the Saturday Chronicle, and to “other publications of about the same caliber.” At this time, he explained, “there was no literary paper or periodical in Philadelphia which could pretend to a high order of intellectuality, and I believe there were not more than two or three publications of that class in the United States.” In Our Press Gang, pp. 41-47, Wilmer described his subsequent career as an editor of various Philadelphia newspapers. In 1840 he became “one of the editors of the Public Ledger, a well-known daily paper”; he “remained in the Ledger office for somewhat more than a year.” His next engagement was with the Dail Chronicle, published by Charles W. Alexander. Wilmer seems to have left the Chronicle by the second half of 1842, because his October 5, 1842, letter to John Tomlin reveals that he was then employed on the Evening Express. During the years 1843 and 1844, Wilmer was “the literary [page 33:] and miscellaneous editor” of the Evening Mercury. For additional information on his engagements with the Express and the Mercury, see the chronology for November 24, December 9, 10, 1842. After settling in Philadelphia, Wilmer renewed his acquaintance with Poe.

EARLY 1839: POE: borrows fifty dollars from John C. Cox, a Philadelphia merchant living at 64 North Eleventh Street.

NOTE: On December 6, 1839, Poe wrote Cox apologizing for his failure to repay “the money so kindly lent nearly a year ago.” Cox appears in McElroy's Philadelphia Directory for 1840 and subsequent years.

January, 1839

JANUARY: Poe's “Literary Small Talk” appears in the American Museum.

JANUARY 12: The Saturday Evening Post, p. 2, col. 2, announces that it has absorbed the Philadelphia Saturday News, previously issued by L. A. Godey &Co. Subscribers to the News will now receive the Post. Samuel C. Atkinson, the Post's publisher, informs his readers that he has given “the Editorial charge of the paper to GEORGE R. GRAHAM, Esq.[,] a gentleman who has the reputation of fine talents and of industrious business habits  .....

NOTE: The Post often absorbed its competitors; for additional information, see the chronology for October 8, 1842. Samuel C. Atkinson, a long-time Philadelphia publisher, also issued The Casket, a monthly magazine. George R. Graham, [page 34:] who was nearly twenty-six, had worked as a cabinetmaker while studying law; within the next ten months he was to become the publisher of both the Post and The Casket (see the chronology for April 13 and November 9, 1839). Shortly after February 4, 1841, Graham hired Poe as the book review editor of his Graham's Magazine, a Philadelphia monthly which was to play an important role in the development of American Literature.

February, 1839

FEBRUARY: A second installment of Poe's “Literary Small Talk” appears in the American Museum.

FEBRUARY 11: When reviewing the February number of Burton's Gentleman's Magazine for The Spirit of the Times, p. 2, col. 4, John S. Du Solle criticizes a contribution by a young Philadelphian: “Perhaps we should like the stanzas by Thomas Dunn English, if it were not for the affectation they evince, and the ridiculous vanity which attaching his residence at their head expresses.”

NOTE: “Stanzas, (On Beholding Some School-Toys)” is signed by “Thomas Dunn English, Blockley, Penn.” Additional evidence of Du Solle's animosity for English, on grounds personal, political, and literary, may be found in the chronology for March 27, May 23, 30, June 6, July 4, and September 9, 1842.

FEBRUARY 19: Poe, in Philadelphia, writes Harper &Brothers, requesting information on the sales of his novel The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym. He is especially [page 35:] curious about the reception of the work in Great Britain.

NOTE: The contents of this letter are surmised from the Harpers’ reply on February 20.

FEBRUARY 20: The Harpers write Poe:

New York, Feb. 20th 1839.

Edgar A. Poe, Esq.

Dr. Sir,

Your favour of the 19th has been recd.

We are inclined to think that “Pym” has not succeeded or been received as well in this country as it has in England. When we published the work, we sent 100 copies of it to London — And we presume they have been sold. In addition to which we understand that an English edition has been printed. We have not seen any review of it in the English papers yet — Should any come to hand, we will preserve and forward them to you. Are you connected with any of the newspapers in Philadelphia? If so, we should be pleased to send you a book for review occasionally.


Harper &Brothers.

NOTE: MS, Boston Public Library.

March, 1839

MARCH: The Military Magazine, published by William M. Huddy, issues its first number in Philadelphia.

NOTE: The Military Magazine ceased publication in 1842. Frederick William Thomas claimed that Poe contributed a poem to the second number, and Peter S. Duval wrote George Woodberry that Poe once published a lengthy article in [page 36:] this journal, but no contribution has been definitely identified as his work. For additional information, see Thomas Ollive Mabbott's commentary in his edition of the Collected Works of Edgar Allan Poe, Volume I: Poems (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1969), pp. 498-99.

MARCH 27: George R. Graham is admitted to the Philadelphia bar.

NOTE: This date is given by a report in the Saturday Evening Post, March 30, p. 2, col. 3, and by John Hill Martin in Martin's Bench and Bar of Philadelphia (Philadelphia: Rees Welsh &Co., 1883), p. 272.

ante April, 1839

ANTE APRIL [?]: Poe sends his poem “The Haunted Palace” to John L. O'sullivan,, editor of the United States Magazine and Democratic Review;, then published in Washington. O'sullivan finds the poem “impossible to comprehend” and rejects it.

NOTE: Thomas Dunn English described O'sullivan's rejection inThe Aristidean, 1 (October, 1845), 318. English did not know Poe in the early months of 1839, but his story may have a factual basis. When Poe wrote Frederick William Thomas on September 12, 1842, he referred to the editor of the Democratic Review as “that ass O'sullivan.” [page 37:]

April, 1839

APRIL: The American Museum publishes “The Haunted Palace.”

NOTE: The poem was later incorporated in “The Fall of the House of Usher,” which appeared in the September, 1839, number of Burton's Gentleman's Magazine.

APRIL: The Democratic Review publishes the nautical sketch “Old Ironsides on a Lee Shore, by an Eye Witness.”

NOTE: The author of this unsigned sketch was Jesse Erskine Dow, a prolific writer for many newspapers and magazines, who became a close friend of Poe. Dow was born in Connecticut around 1809, and he went to sea at an early age. He later served. as private secretary to Commodore Jesse D. Elliott, the controversial commander of the United States frigate Constitution, popularly known as “Old Ironsides.” After Dow settled in Washington around the year 1837, he began to make literary capital out of his experiences aboard the Constitution. “Old Ironsides on a Lee Shore” was reprinted by The Pennsylvanian, April 12, p. 1, col. 7, and by the Saturday Evening Post, May 4, p. 1, cols. 7-8. The Saturday Courier later commented on its popularity (see the chronology for May 23, 1840). The favorable reception of this sketch induced Dow to contribute his “Sketches from the Log of Old Ironsides” in monthly installments to Burton's Gentleman's Magazine, beginning in July, 1839.

APRIL 5: Thomas Dunn English receives the degree of Doctor of Medicine from the University of Pennsylvania. [page 38:]

NOTE: Gravely, “Thomas Dunn English,” p. 42. English had enrolled as a student; on November 14, 1836.

APRIL 13: The Saturday Courier, p. 2, col. 7, reports:

Magazine Embellishment.

We have received proof impressions of the plate, designed for the May number, of Burton's Magazine, precisely such as are to accompany the work, and can safely say that we never saw so beautiful an embellishment in any similar publication. The subject is a nursery, seemingly of some millionaire, with two lonely children, in the midst of their amusements; one, an infant, reposing upon a gorgeous “crib,” gazing at a coral rattle, and an elder seated on a velvet cushion, with the right hand resting on a noble “old Fowler,” who is reclining; at his feet, and the left encircling a little curly “Carlo,” who appears quite ill at ease, in his great rival's presence.

NOTE: The embellishment described by the Courier was John Sartain's “The Pets,” a sentimental mezzotint portraying dogs and children in an ornate nursery. Sartain, an English artist, had settled in Philadelphia in 1830; the mezzotint engravings he contributed to Burton's Gentleman's Magazine and Graham's Magazine. were a principal reason for the success of these monthlies. “The Pets” was considered a masterpiece of the engraver's art by Sartain's contemporaries. In his Reminiscences, p. 198, he quoted Israel Post, a New York City bookseller, who claimed that he “sold three thousand extra of that number of Burton's that had . ... The Pets in it.” Additional commentary on “The Pets” may be found in the chronology for May, 1839, March, 1840, and November 27, 1841.

APRIL 13: The Saturday Evening Post, p. 3, col. 7, publishes a lengthy prospectus for The Casket, now under new management: [page 39:]

Prospectus of the CASKET,


Philadelphia Monthly Magazine.


The subscribers having purchased of Mr. Samuel C. Atkinson the well known Monthly Magazine entitled the CASKET, and become the sole proprietors[,] feel warranted, from the liberal patronage bestowed upon it, in promising their subscribers, that neither pains nor expense shall be spared to make it THE MOST VALUABLE PERIODICAL IN THE COUNTRY.

To ensure this increase of merit in the character of the Casket, the present proprietors have entered into extensive arrangements as to both the literary and mechanical department.

The aim of the editors will be to propose a publication which shall at once be valuable in matter, and choice in taste and style; and they flatter themselves, from the known talents of their contributors, that they will be able to present as many good original articles to their readers, as any publication of the day. They shall not, however, hesitate to publish, from time to time, articles from English authors, and translations from the best German and French writers, provided the pieces have never before appeared in print in this country. Essays on important subjects will likewise be inserted, and criticisms on the literature of America and the age. A review department will accompany the Magazine, in which a large and liberal spirit of criticism will always be maintained. For the defence of American literature the editors will always be ready; for the maintenance of a correct taste they will, if possible, be still more watchful.

EACH NUMBER WILL CONTAIN AN ENGRAVING FROM A SPLENDID STEEL PLATE[,] procured at a great cost, and illustrating an accompanying tale.

An approved piece of MUSIC, arranged for the Piano Forte or Guitar, will appear in every number.

THE MAY NUMBER will be the first issued by the new proprietors, and will be embellished with a SUPERB STEEL ENGRAVING and a choice selection of matter. At [page 40:] the commencement of the new volume in July, a new type, a finer paper, and a larger page will be adopted . ... . The Casket contains three sheets, and is, therefore, at two dollars and fifty cents a year, the cheapest Magazine in America. ... .

. ... . ... . ... . ... . .

The proprietors wish it to be distinctly understood, that under the new arrangement, the CASKET will be a separate and distinct publication from the “POST.” Complaints have often been made, that the reading matter of the two was the same. From and after the commencement of the new volume, the “CASKET” will stand upon its own basis.


NOTE: This prospectus marks the first acquaintance that readers in Philadelphia and throughout the United States had with “GEORGE R. GRAHAM &CO.,” a firm which was to play an increasingly important role in the nation's literature. The firm's partners were Graham himself and Charles J. Peterson, a twenty-year-old Philadelphia editor (see Sartain's Reminiscences, p. 218, and see the chronology for October 24, 1840); Graham almost certainly held the controlling interest. The prospectus of The Casket is noteworthy because it reveals George R. Graham's philosophy of periodical publication, and because it establishes that he had envisioned a periodical like Graham's Magazine over a year before this journal came into existence. Previous issues of The Casket were composed largely of articles reprinted from other sources; under Graham's management this Philadelphia monthly published far more original articles by American writers, and it added a book review department.

APRIL 20: The Saturday Courier, p. 2, col. 7, favorably reviews a new publication: [page 41:]

The Conchologist's First Book. 152 12 mo. pages, Philad: Haswells &Barrington.

The volume before us is from the pen of Edgar A. Poe, who was formerly editor of The Southern Literary Messenger, and who is the author of several works. The object of the present work is to furnish a system of Testaceous Malacology, set forth in a plain way, for a first book. It has been arranged expressly to introduce one of the most beautiful and interesting sciences into our schools, a science so connected with geology, and fraught with material for pleasurable investigation. This little work is based on the anatomy of the animals from Lamarck and Cuvier, and all the new foreign species, as well as our American, brought up to the present time. It is sold for the small sum of $1[.]75, by the principal booksellers in the city.

NOTE: The title page of The Conchologist's First Book is reproduced by Quinn, p. 276. The volume was largely written by Thomas Wyatt, an English author and lecturer. In 1838 the New York publishers Harper &Brothers had issued Wyatt's Manual of Conchology, and they would have objected to his publishing another book which would lessen the value of the work which they had copyrighted. To avoid litigation Wyatt paid Poe fifty dollars for the use of his name. For additional information, see the directory entry for Wyatt. A second edition of The Conchologist's First Book appeared shortly before September 11, 1839.

APRIL 27: The Saturday Courier, p. 2, col. 7, notices the first publication of John Kirk Townsend's Narrative of a Journey Across the Rock Mountains.

NOTE: Townsend's Narrative is a probable source for Poe's “Journal of Julius Rodman.”

APRIL 30: The United States Gazette, p. 2, col. 2, notices the publication of Thomas Wyatt's Synopsis of Natural History. [page 42:]

NOTE: According to the biographical sketch in the Saturday Museum, March 4, 1843, p. 1, col. 9, Poe was the author of “a large and expensively illustrated work on Natural History.” On the strength of the Museum's attribution, Charles F. Heartman and James R. Canny include Wyatt's Natural History in their Bibliography, of First Printings of the Writings of Edgar Allan Poe, Rev. ed. (1943; rpt. New York: Kraus Reprint Co., 1972) pp. 45-46. Their conclusion that “Poe had a share, and probably the lion's share, in writing the book,” has never been verified; but the friendly review Poe accorded the volume in Burton's Gentleman's Magazine provides additional evidence of his close association with Wyatt (see the chronology for July, 1839).

MAY, 1839

MAY: The Philadelphia publishers Carey &Hart copyright The Gift for 1840: this annual contains Poe's story “William Wilson.”

NOTE: This date is provided by Ostrom, Letters, I, 119. According to Heartman and Canny, p. 47, the advertisement appearing in The Gift for 1840 is dated “May 1st, 1839.” This annual was not offered for sale until shortly before September 21, 1839.

MAY: John Sartain's “The Pets” is the frontispiece of the May number of Burton's Gentleman's Magazine. An editorial note on the first; page claims that “A more beautiful specimen of mezzotint engraving has never been published in the United States.”

MAY: The Casket is now published by George R. Graham & Co.

MAY: Jesse E. Dow visits Philadelphia. [page 43:]

NOTE: Dow was then a resident of Washington. His visit to Philadelphia is suggested by the fact that the Saturday Courier, June 1, p. 1, col. 1, published his poem “Laurel Hill,” dated “Philadelphia, May, 1839.” It is not known whether Poe and Dow were acquainted at this time. They were frequent companions in the following year, when Dow again visited the city to testify at the court martial of Commodore Jesse D. Elliott (see! the chronology for May 4, 1840) .

ANTE MAY 11: Poe offers to assist William E. Burton in editing his Gentleman's Magazine.

NOTE: This entry is suggested by Burton's May 11 letter to Poe. No doubt Poe was led to seek employment on the Gentleman's Magazine by his financial difficulties, which continued throughout the year 1839, as his December 6 letter to John C. Cox reveals. He may have surmised that Burton, who performed regularly on the stage in addition to publishing his magazine, would welcome the offer of editorial assistance.

MAY 11: William E. Burton writes Poe: “I have given your proposals a fair consideration. I wish to form some such engagement as that which you have proposed, and know of no one more likely to suit my views than yourself.” Burton mentions the difficulties his Gentleman's Magazine is encountering as “some slight reason” for his delay in accepting Poe's “indubitably liberal” proposal: “The expenses of the Magazine are already wofully heavy; more so than my [page 44:] circulation warrants. I am certain that my expenditure exceeds that of any publication now extant, including the monthlies which are double in price. Competition is high,-new claimants are daily rising. I am therefore compelled to give expensive plates, thicker paper, and better printing than my antagonists, or allow them to win the goal. My contributors cost me something handsome, and the losses upon credit, exchange, etc. are becoming frequent and serious.” He offers to pay his correspondent ten dollars a week for the remainder of the year: “Should we remain together, which I see no reason to negative, your proposition shall be in force for 1840. A month's notice to be given on either side previous to a separation.” Burton then estimates the amount of time Poe will need. to spend in his editorial position: “Two hours a day, except occasionally, will, I believe, be sufficient for all required, except in the production of any article of your own. At all events, you could easily find time for any other light avocation — supposing that you did not exercise your talents in behalf of any publication interfering with the prospects of the G. M.” The proprietor of the Gentleman's Magazine closes his letter with an invitation: “I shall dine at home to-day at 3. If you will cut your mutton with me, good. If not, write or see me at your leisure.”

NOTE: Works, XVII, 4J-46. Quinn, p. 278, established that this letter was incorrectly dated by previous biographers. Burton's estimate that Poe would need to spend only “Two hours a day” on the Gentleman's Magazine was undoubtedly conservative. In his June 1, 1840, letter to Burton, Poe stressed that he was not “greatly overpaid” because his duties included “proofreading; general superintendence at the printing-office; reading, alteration, &preparation of M.S.S.” Burton's July 4, 1839, letter to an unnamed [page 45:] employee — presumably Poe — suggests that he assigned many minor tasks to his assistants.

POST MAY 11: Poe meets Thomas Dunn English in the office of Burton's Gentleman's Magazine. The two men become intimate acquaintances.

NOTE: English described his early relations with Poe in an 1847 deposition and in an 1896 reminiscence; both accounts are reproduced in the directory. The office of the Gentleman's Magazine no longer exists; it was located on Dock Street, near the southeast corner of Walnut and Second Streets. Information on Philadelphia buildings and neighborhoods associated with Poe may be found on the “Poe-Plan” inside the front cover of the second volume of Mary E. Phillips’ Edgar Allan Poe, The Man (Chicago: John C. Winston, 1926), and in Joseph Jackson's Literary Landmarks of Philadelphia (Philadelphia: David McKay Co., 1939).

POST MAY 11: Thomas Dunn English introduces Poe to another young Philadelphia poet, Henry B. Hirst.

NOTE: English told Dr. Matthew Woods, a Philadelphia physician, that he had introduced Poe and Hirst; see George E. Woodberry's Life of Edgar Allan Poe (1909; rpt. New York: Biblo and Tannen, 1965), II, 419. Hirst was to become one of Poe's closest associates. According to the reminiscence of Horace Wemyss Smith which appeared in The American, 13 (February 26, 1887), 296, the two men were often in each other's company when Poe was “in the employ of Burton.” [page 46:]

MAY 18: The Saturday Chronicle, a Philadelphia weekly newspaper, publishes Poe's “The Devil in the Belfry.”

NOTE: Poe's contemporaries would have recognized this story as a satire of President Martin Van Buren; for a discussion of the political implications of this and other stories, see William Whipple, “Poe's Political Satire,” University of Texas Studies in English, 35 (1956), 81-95.

ANTE MAY 30: Poe, in a state of depression, writes William E. Burton, discussing the book review section of the Gentleman's Magazine.

NOTE: The contents of this letter are surmised from Burton's May 30 reply.

MAY 30: William E. Burton replies to Poe: “I am sorry that you thought [it] necessary to send me such a letter as your last. The troubles of the world have given a morbid tone to your feelings which it is your duty to discourage. I cannot agree to entertain your proposition, either in justice to yourself cr to my own interests.” Burton advises Poe on his emotional state: “I have been as severely handled in the world as you can possibly have been, but my sufferings have not tinged my mind with a melancholy hue, nor do I allow my views of my fellow creatures to be jaundiced by the fogs of my own creation. You must rouse your energies, and conquer the insidious attacks of the foul fiend, care.” Burton states that his correspondent's unwarranted “severity in criticism” will not be the policy which will govern the critical department of the Gentleman's Magazine:

We shall agree very well, but you must get rid of your avowed ill-feelings towards your brother-authors — you see that I speak plainly — indeed, I cannot speak otherwise. Several of my friends, hearing of our connexion, [page 47:] have warned me of your uncalled for severity in criticism — and I confess-that your article on Dawes is not written with that spirit of fairness which, in a more healthy state of mind, you would undoubtedly have used. The independence of my book reviews has been noticed throughout the Union — my remarks upon my friend Bird's last novel evince my freedom from the trammels of expediency, but there is no necessity for undue severity. I wish particularly to deal leniently with the faults of genius, and feeling satisfied that Dawes possesses a portion of the true fire, I regretted the word-catching tone of your critique.

NOTE: MS, Boston Public Library. Burton's praise of his own critical fairness may not have appealed to Poe, whose Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym had certainly been reviewed with “undue severity” in the September, 1838, number of the Gentleman's Magazine. The two men never agreed upon the manner in which the magazine's critical department was to be conducted. Poe's September 21, 1839, letter to Philip Pendleton Cooke establishes that he had scant respect for his employer's efforts at literary criticism, and his June 1, 1840, letter to Burton establishes that he wrote “long articles” which the proprietor of the Gentleman's Magazine “deemed inadmissable.” In his May 30, 1839, letter Burton seems to be alluding to his rejection of a scathing critique of Rufus Dawes which Poe had prepared for the Gentleman's Magazine. Additional information on Poe's attitude toward Dawes, a Baltimore poetaster, may be found in the chronology for July 18 and October, 1842.

June, 1839

JUNE: The inside front wrapper of Burton's Gentleman's Magazine carries a notice that Poe has been engaged as “an Assistant Editor.” The outside back wrapper carries an [page 48:] announcement that “William E. Burton, Editor and Proprietor, has much pleasure in stating that he has made arrangements with Edgar A. Poe, Esq., late Editor of the Southern Literary Messenger, to devote his abilities and experience to a portion of the Editorial duties of the Gentleman's Magazine.”

NOTE: These notices are quoted by “C. E. W.,” “Poeana,” American Book Collector, 2 (1932), 348-52.

JUNE: The American Museum ceases publication.

JUNE 1: The Saturday Courier, p. 2, Col. 7, reviews the Literary Examiner: “A new monthly, published at Pittsburg[h], has just commenced, under the auspices of E. Burke Fisher and Wm. H. Burleigh. They are gentlemen who have been several years known as writers for various periodicals in our country. Their first number is certainly creditable . ... .”

NOTE: The first number of the Literary Examiner was dated May, 1839; the last, February, 1840.

JUNE 10: E. Burke Fisher sends Poe a flattering letter, praising his “mode of handling authors,” and soliciting his contributions for the Literary Examiner: “[The] terms of remuneration are $2 per page. And I shall make your case an exception and make the terms $3, or rather than not meet your favorable consideration $4 per page. ... . I pledge myself to send you the amount due for whatever you may write, immediately on the publication of each article. The quantity is discretionary with yourself. The choice of subjects could not be left in better hands.”

NOTE: This letter is printed by Heartman and Canny, pp. 21920. Fisher had contributed to the Southern Literary [page 49:] Messenger during Poe's editorship.

JUNE 20: Nathaniel P. Willis, play Tortesa, the Usurer opens at the Walnut Street Theatre.

NOTE: Quinn, p. 284. Poe reviewed the play favorably in the July number of the Literary Examiner and in the August number of Burton's Gentleman's Magazine.

JUNE 26: Poe writes Nathan C. Brooks.

NOTE: According to Ostrom, Letters, II, 578, Poe's letter has not been found, although the envelope is in the New York Public Library.

July, 1839

JULY: Poe reprints his poem “To Ianthe in Heaven” in Burton's Gentleman's Magazine. He favorably reviews Thomas Wyatt's Synopsis of Natural History:

As the work of Mr. Wyatt professes to be simply a translation of the well-known “Tableaux” of M. Lemmonnier, we need say little more in the way of recommendation than that all the useful spirit of the original has been preserved — and this we say from personal knowledge, and the closest inspection and collation. ... . The book is a large octavo, beautifully printed on fine paper, and illustrated by forty-nine well-executed plates. Copies, coloured with accuracy, under the superintendence of Mr. James Ackermann, are for sale at our principal bookstores.

NOTE: “To Ianthe in Heaven,” which was originally titled “To One in Paradise,” first appeared in the January, 1834, number of Godey's Lady's Book. The plates for both The Conchologist's First Book and A Synopsis of Natural History were prepared by Peter S. Duval, a Philadelphia lithographer; [page 50:] McElroy's Philadelphia Directory for 1840 identifies James Ackerman as a “map colourer.” In his September 21, 1839, letter to Philip Pendleton Cooke, Poe claimed authorship of all the reviews in the July number of the Gentleman's Magazine.

JULY: Poe reviews Nathaniel P. Willis’ Tortesa, the Usurer for the Literary Examiner.

NOTE: The July number probably did not appear before late July or early August; Poe forwarded this review in his July 5 letter to E. Burke Fisher.

JULY: Burton's Gentleman's Magazine publishes the first installment of Jesse E. Dow's “Sketches from the Log of Old Ironsides.”

NOTE: “Old Ironsides,” which appeared monthly, was concluded in the April, 1840, number.

JULY 1: The Pennsylvania Inquirer, p. 2, col. 2, reports:

An Ourang Outang.

An animal of this species, and of a truly extraordinary character, has just arrived at this port, in the ship Saluda, from Africa. — We are told that it is more perfect in its proportions, and in its resemblance to the human form, than any specimen of the kind, ever seen in this country.

NOTE: The “ourang outang” was actually a chimpanzee. Its arrival was also discussed by the Saturday Courier, July 6, p. 3, col. 2, and by other Philadelphia newspapers. Contemporary Philadelphians were captivated by the then unfamiliar animals of Africa and Asia. In the autumn of 1838, the exhibition of a giraffe drew large and enthusiastic crowds. [page 51:] On October 24, 1838, Alexander's Weekly Messenger, p. 2, col. 3, commented on the giraffe: “So great a curiosity has not been exhibited in our city before this, and we should be surprised to see a greater one for years to come.” The chimpanzee proved to be an even greater curiosity. When Poe selected an ourang outang as a protagonist for “The Murders in the Rue Morgue,” he was almost certainly mindful of the popular sensation caused by the exhibition of this chimpanzee in August and September, 1839. For additional information, see the chronology for August 20, 24, 30, 1839.

JULY 3: The Pennsylvania Inquirer, p. 2, col. 2, notices Poe's association with Burton's Gentleman's Magazine, and reprints his “To Ianthe in Heaven” as a “specimen” of the “excellent poetry” in the July number.

NOTE: Poe's editorial connection with the magazine was favorably noticed by several papers. The Saturday Courier, July 6, p. 2, col. 5, commented that “His accession is very valuable”; and Alexander's Weekly Messenger, July 10, p. 2, col. 1, found the new assistant editor to be “a gentleman of superior ability and character.”

JULY 4: William E. Burton, in New York City, writes one of his employees, presumably Poe:

My dear Sir,

Will you please see Parmelee, and get him to do the enclosed directly, for this next number. I hope you have another chapter of the Miami Valley in, for August. Desire Morrell to obtain Mr. R. P. Smith's life from Mr. Goodman, if he has not got it yet, but it must be done directly, because we want the matter to begin the September number, and consequently to end the next sheet. If the “Life” will not be ready, we [page 52:] must put in something else, with another plate, for I want the next number out immediately.

The whole city of New York is in perfect confusion; the President's visit and the celebration of the Fourth of July have turned the people's brains. I never heard such an incessant popping and squibbing in my life before. The whole place appears under arms.

I shall endeavor to send you an article (a short one) for this number, if you have three pages to spare. You will receive it by Monday, or not at all. I have so long been absent from the pages of the Maga. that if I do not make my appearance soon my readers will imagine a total absquatulation.

Mention to C. Morrell my wish to have this next number out with all speed — ask him to see Mr. Jervis of the Chesnut St. He lives in Filbert Avenue. I wish to possess my MS. copy of the Scapegoat. He has it. Tell Charles to forward it to me, with the price charged extra to Post, of the Bowery, for the binding of the first volumes lately sent to him.

I am happy to say that my family are in good health. I shall see you in the course of a few days, though I cannot say when, exactly.

I am, my dear Sir,

Yours, truly

W E Burton


New York, July 4th 1839.

Please show the other side to Morrell.

NOTE: MS, Boston Public Library. The one-page manuscript bears neither an address nor a postmark; the verso is blank. The “other side” mentioned in Burton's postscript probably refers to the enclosure, apparently lost, which is mentioned in his first sentence. According to Johnson, “William E. Burton,” pp. 121-23, the comedian was acting at Niblo's Gardens in New-York City from June 25 to September 12, 1839. Burton performed on alternate nights; his repertoire consisted of “farces and vaudevilles” which were “appropriately light for the summer season.” All the persons and [page 53:] titles mentioned in his letter can be conclusively identified. Charles N. Parmelee, a “wood-engraver,” is listed in McElroy's Philadelphia Directory for 1837, 1842, 1844, and 1845. When reviewing the July, 1839, number of Burton's Gentleman's Magazine, Alexander's Weekly Messenger, July 10, p. 2, col. 1, praised “a perfect jewel specimen of wood engraving, forming one of the illustrations of the chapter on Archery, by Parmelee, of Philadelphia.” The Miami Valley, a novel “By a Pioneer of Ohio,” was then being published serially in Burton's; the first of eleven installments had appeared in the December, 1838, number. The novel's author can be identified as J. Milton Sanders, of Dayton, Ohio; see Burton's, 7 (August, 1840), 95. Charles R. Morrell, an accountant, is listed in McElroy's for 1839, 1840, 1841, and 1845. Poe mentions “Burton's own clerk, Morrell,” in his April 1, 1841, letter to Joseph Evans Snodgrass. James Goodman, a Philadelphia lawyer, appears in Martin's Bench and Bar, p. 272, and in every edition of McElroy's issued between 1837 and 1845. In his Life and Correspondence of the Rev. William Smith, II (Philadelphia: Ferguson Bros., 1880), 529, Horace Wemyss Smith recalled that Goodman was an associate of his father, Richard Penn Smith. In “Autography” (Works, XV, 255-56), Poe identified Morton McMichael, a Philadelphia editor, as the author of the unsigned “Biography of Richard Penn Smith” which was the lead article in the September, 1839, number of the Gentleman's Magazine. McElroy's for 1839 locates the residence of George Jervis, “actor,” at 11 Filbert Avenue. According to Johnson, pp. 123, 526-27, Burton portrayed the character of Polyglott in The Scape Goat, a popular farce, later in the month. “Post, of the Bowery,” was Israel Post, a bookseller and publisher. In his Reminiscences, p. 198, John Sartain recalled that Post distributed the Gentleman's [page 54:] Magazine in New York City. Although the identity of Burton's correspondent cannot be established beyond all doubt, there is nothing in his letter which would suggest that it was intended for someone other than Poe. Moreover, the presence of this letter in the Griswold Collection of the Boston Public Library, which contains the majority of the extant letters written to Poe, provides strong evidence that it came into the possession of the newly employed assistant editor. The letter is noteworthy because it indicates two reasons for Poe's dissatisfaction with his position. It suggests that Burton expected his assistant editor to perform a variety of trivial chores, and it illustrates a practice which must have displeased Poe: absentee management. Burton frequently accepted acting engagements which kept him away from Philadelphia for weeks at a time. The present letter suggests that during his absences he did not entrust Poe with the preparation of the Gentleman's Magazine, but attempted to edit the magazine himself by correspondence.

JULY 5: Poe writes E. Burke Fisher, enclosing a review of Nathaniel P. Willis’ Tortesa, the Usurer.

NOTE: The contents of this letter are surmised from Fisher's July 9 reply.

JULY 9: E. Burke Fisher writes Poe: “Your favor of the 5th inst. came duly to hand and contents noted. I am truly obliged by the receipt of your criticism admirable — scarcely severe enough, but still Willis is a kind of national pet and we must regard his faults as we do those of a spoiled stripling, in the hope that he will amend.” Fisher discusses the prospects of the Literary Examiner, which will be greatly enhanced if Poe becomes a regular contributor: “With you to assist me in the department of reviews, that portion of the Magazine shall become what the Messenger was before [page 55:] you quitted. ... . You make the terms of compensation too low, but in my experimental stage I cannot do otherwise than accept the favor . ... of obliging myself to pay $3 per page . ... .” Fisher invites Poe to visit him in Pittsburgh.

NOTE: This letter is printed by Heartman and Canny, pp. 22021. The good relations between Poe and Fisher were not of long duration. In his July 12, 1841, letter to Joseph Evans Snodgrass, Poe recalled that he had briefly contributed to the Pittsburgh Literary Examiner: “It was edited by E. Burke Fisher Esgre th[a]n whom a greater scamp never walked. He wrote to me offering 4$ per page for criticisms, promising to put them in as contributions — not editorially. The first thing I saw was one of my articles under the editorial head, so altered that I hardly recognized it, and interlarded with all manner of bad English and ridiculous opinions of his own.”

JULY 14: Poe writes George W. Poe, his second cousin, who had sent him a letter directed to Richmond some time previously. He discusses at length his own history and that of the Poe family in America; he encloses a genealogical table listing his relatives. He states that he will remain in Philadelphia “perhaps for a year,” but that he considers Richmond his home.

NOTE: Letters, II, 682-86. Although Poe's letter to his cousin is a useful document for biographers, it contains no information specifically relating to the Philadelphia period. [page 56:]

August, 1839

AUGUST: Burton's Gentleman's Magazine publishes Poe's story “The Man Who Was Used Up” [[”The Man That Was Used Up”]] and his review of Nathaniel P. Willis’ Tortesa, the Usurer.

NOTE: Heartman and Canny, p. 191, describe this review as a “Condensed reprint “ of the one published in the July, 1839, number of the Literary Examiner. According to William Whipple, “Poe's Political Satire,” 91-94, “The Man Who Was Used Up” may be read as a satire upon the career of Colonel Richard M. Johnson, the military hero who was Martin Van Buren's running mate in the Presidential elections of 1836 and 1840.

AUGUST: Poe's article on “American Novel Writing” appears in the Literate Examiner.

AUGUST 6: The Baltimore Sun, p. 2, col. 3, reviews the August number of Burton's Gentleman's Magazine, commenting unfavorably on the monthly's editorship: “It is evident that the senior editor has been busied elsewhere, and consequently, although this number contains many excellent articles, there is a palpable want of tact in the manner in which it has been gotten up.”

NOTE: The Sun's reviewer probably intended his remarks as a criticism of William E. Burton, “the senior editor” who had “busied” himself with a lengthy theatrical engagement in New York City, rather than as an adverse comment on Poe's ability. For additional information on Burton's frequent absences from the Gentleman's Magazine, see the chronology for July 4, December 9, 1839, and April 20, 1840. [page 57:]

AUGUST 6: John Beauchamp Jones, a Baltimore journalist, writes Poe, informing him that he has been criticized by The Sun and other newspapers in this city. Jones speaks of Poe's “enemies” among the Baltimore literati.

NOTE: The contents of this letter are surmised from Poe's August 8 reply.

AUGUST 8: Poe replies to John Beauchamp Jones: “I have just received your favor of the 6th, and thank you sincerely for the friendly interest you manifest in my behalf. At some future time I hope to have the pleasure of making your acquaintance.” Poe has seen “the paragraph” which Jones mentions in the August; 6 issue of the Baltimore Sun. He asks his correspondent to forward the attacks by the other newspapers, which he has not seen; and he asks him to send the names of all “enemies”: “I intend to put up with nothing that I can put down (excuse the pun) and I am not aware that there is any one in Baltimore whom I have particular reason to fear . ... . All the literary people in Baltimore, as far as I know them, have at least professed a friendship.”

NOTE: Letters, I, 113-14. It is not known whether Poe and Jones later became acquainted. No additional correspondence between the two men has been located.

AUGUST 20: The Philadelphia Gazette, p. 3, col. 3, carries an advertisement:

The Chimpanzee,

A Superior order of the Ourang Outang.

NOW exhibiting at the Masonic Hall, Chesnut street, from 8 o’clock, AM. to 6 o’clock, PM., the only living CHIMPANZEE, lately brought from Africa[.] This animal is the genuine “Troglodytes Niger” of Naturalists, or “Wild Man of the Woods,” and is the finest specimen ever seen in this country. It bears a most striking [page 58:] resemblance to the human form, and in natural sagacity far exceeds the descriptions of Naturalists.

Admittance 25 cents; Children half price. Tickets to be had at the door.


This animal has been examined by Drs. J. K. Mitchell, B. H[. ] Coates[,] P. B. Geddard, T. McEwen, Jos. Carson and . Hays, who authorize us to say, that it is the real Chimpanzee. It is believed to be the only animal of the species that has ever been exhibited alive in this country. It corresponds in its characters with those of the Chimpanzee in the Garden of the Zoological Society of London, as given in the Penny Magazine for February 13, 1836[.]

NOTE: The advertisement is repeated in subsequent issues of the Gazette. Dr. John K. Mitchell, a Philadelphia scientist, was both friend and physician to the Poe family; it is not unlikely that he had occasion to discuss chimpanzees and ourang outangs with Poe before this author completed “The Murders in the Rue Morgue,” a story which memorably illustrated the striking similarity between the larger primates and human beings.

AUGUST 24: Two weekly newspapers comment on a popular exhibition. In the Weekly Spirit of the Times, p. 2, col. 3, John S. Du Solle reports:

THE CHIMPANZEE — This animal, more generally known as the Ourang Outang, is now exhibiting at the Masonic Hall, in this city. She is four years old, two feet six inches high, and is covered with black hair. The color of the skin, when examined closely, is seen to be that of a bright mulatto. She evinces a degree of intelligence but little behind that of the human species, which in appearance and actions she so much resembles. We consider her one of the greatest curiosities that has been exhibited in the city for a long time, and particularly so to naturalists. [page 59:] The Saturday Courier, p. 2, col. 3, finds that the “exhibition of a Chimpanzee, at the Masonic Fall,” provides “a very fitting occasion . ... to give an account of this animal.” The Courier objects to the description of the chimpanzee as an “ourang outang,” and it itemizes the differences between the two species.

NOTE: Du Solle's Spirit of the Times was a daily newspaper, but it seems to have briefly published a weekly edition. The Historical Society of Pennsylvania holds several copies of the Weekly Spirit issued between August 17, 1839, and January 25, 1840.

AUGUST 30: The Pennsylvania Inquirer, p. 2, col. 1, comments on the chimpanzee: “This remarkable troglodyte, or ourang outang, from South Africa . ... is well worthy the inspection of the naturalist and philosopher, being in all probability the nearest approach of any animal to the human form, that has yet been seen in this country.”

NOTE: For additional information on ourang outangs in Philadelphia, see the chronology for April 4, 1840.

September, 1839

SEPTEMBER: Burton's Gentleman's Magazine publishes Poe's “The Fall of the House of Usher.”

NOTE: Contemporary reactions to this story are entered in the chronology for September 3, 4, 5, 7, 11, 12, ante September 21, October, November 6, December 14, 19, 1839.

EARLY SEPTEMBER: Poe writes Washington Irving, enclosing the September number of Burton's Gentleman's [page 60:] Magazine. He states that he will soon publish a collection of his tales, and he asks Irving's opinion of “The Fall of the House of Usher.”

NOTE: The contents of this letter are surmised from Irving's reply, ante September 21, and from his November 6 letter. During September and October, 1839, Poe wrote several men of letters — Washington Irving, James E. Heath, and Philip Pendleton Cooke — soliciting their evaluations of his stories. He intended to publish their opinions, if favorable, in an appendix to be included in his forthcoming Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque. For additional information, see the chronology for September 3, 1839.

SEPTEMBER 3: In The Pennsylvanian, p. 2, col. l, Joseph C. Neal comments favorably on “The Fall of the House of Usher”:

Burton's Gentleman's Magazine for September has been received, and as usual with that popular periodical, it contains a great variety of original matter, well written, varied in its character, and calculated to interest the general reader. ... . There is also a sketch of much power and peculiar interest entitled “The House of Usher,” which cannot fail to attract attention. It is of the German cast, and is a remarkable specimen of a style of writing which possesses many attractions for those who love to dwell upon the terrible. It is from the pen of Edgar A. Poe, now the assistant editor of the Gentleman's Magazine, and well known to the public by his able editorship of the Southern Literary Messenger, to which he gave a high character, particularly by his fearless and independent criticisms.

NOTE: Poe quoted these remarks in the four-page supplement of favorable critical notices which he included in his Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque; he attributed them to Joseph C. Neal, the editor of The Pennsylvanian. Poe discussed this critical supplement in his October 12, 1839, letter to [page 61:] Washington Irving and in his November 11, 1839, letter to Joseph Evans Snodgrass; it is bound in most, but not all, of the extant copies of his Tales, usually before the title page of the second volume.

SEPTEMBER 4: In reviewing the September number of Burton's Gentleman's Magazine for Alexander's Weekly Messenger, p. 2, col. 3, John Frost praises contributions by Jesse E. Dow and Edgar A. Poe:

“Sketches from the Log of Old Ironsides,” . ... are drawn with a bold and masterly pencil. There is not so much of the artist in them, however, as in the finished picture, which forms the next article. It is called “The Fall. of the House of Usher,” by the assistant editor of the Magazine, Edgar A. Poe, Esq. We must say that we derive no small enjoyment from a delineation like this. We like to see the evidences of study and thought, as well as inspiration, in the design, and of careful and elaborate handling in the execution, as well as of grand and striking effect in the tout ensemble. “The Fall of the House of Usher,” is what we denominate a stern and sombre, but at the same time, a noble and imposing picture, such as can be drawn only by a master hand. Such things are not produced by your slip-shod amateurs in composition, some of whom, in the character of critics, perhaps, may display their utter inability to perceive in this very performance any characteristic of its real design.

NOTE: Poe identified John Frost, editor of the Weekly Messenger and Professor of Literature in the Philadelphia High School, as the author of this criticism when he quoted it in the Tales supplement and in the Saturday Museum, March 4, 1843, p. l, col. 4.

SEPTEMBER 4: In his United States Gazette, p. 2, col. 3, Joseph R. Chandler praises Poe in a lengthy review:

Burton's Gentleman's Magazine. [page 62:]

This periodical, the September number of which has been for some days upon our table, is, we perceive, under the editorial direction of Edgar A. Poe, not unknown to fame.. The contents of this number of the work bear testimony to the industry of the editor as a writer, and to his judgment in selecting and sanctioning articles for publication. The work bears the impress of talent and industry, and is, we hope, patronized liberally.

The present number is ornamented with a mezzotinto likeness of R. Penn Smith, Esq. of this city. The features are correct, though they represent a face

larger than that of Mr. S. A biographical notice of Mr. Smith does justice to some of that author's writings, which always bear with them the signs of classical learning and good taste.

The story of “The Fall of the House of Usher” is from the pen of Mr. Poe, and is very interesting — a well told tale. Mr. Poe is, in our opinion, not only a good writer, but a good, though (if we ought not rather to say because) a severe judge; and has brought upon himself the ill will of certain writers, who have not, perhaps, the same estimate of their works that others have, and are rasher under discipline. We have, we confess, seen some of Mr. Poe's remarks, that looked as if he had not sat down to coax young writers into correct imaginings or grammatical utterance; and when applying the lash of his criticism, it appeared to us (we may have been. mistaken) as if he had determined to waken some dunce to a sensation of literary justice, by tying an extra knot on the lash. The noise made convinced us that justice was satisfied, however mercy may have fared. We may not approve of all of Mr. Poe's criticisms, in a former connexion, and indeed we on one or two occasions so differed with him, both in reference to his ideas of the work under judgment, as well as his manner towards the author, that we resolved to take up the cudgels for the injured writer; but it occurred to us that we had more good writers than good critics, and therefore it would be a pity to break down the spirit of one who promised to keep such a watchful eye upon the literary treasures of the country.

Mr. Poe praises when he thinks commendations are due, and censures whenever and wherever he thinks censure deserved; he will thus prove a blessing to the literature of the country, which needs a little wholesome discipline, and we trust that its true friends will treat with kindness and respect the man who has the courage to exhibit his friendship for the cause by sound severity. [page 63:]

NOTE: The United States Gazette, a daily newspaper published by Joseph R. Chandler, was sympathetic to both Poe and William E. Burton. This review suggests that in September, 1839, most Philadelphians regarded Poe as a courageous, though somewhat censorious, critic, rather than as a poet or as an author of fiction; Chandler mentioned “The Fall of the House of Usher” only in passing. Poe called attention to this critique in his September 11, 1839, letter to Joseph Evans Snodgrass; he identified Chandler as its author in the Tales supplement.

SEPTEMBER 5: The Public Ledger, p. 2, col. 2, reviews Burton's Gentleman's Magazine, mentioning that “M[r]. Poe's contributions are unusually excellent.”

SEPTEMBER 5: Poe writes James E. Heath, a Richmond author who is assisting Thomas Willis White in the editorship of the Southern Literary Messenger. He encloses a copy of the September number of Burton's Gentleman's Magazine, and he asks Heath to evaluate “The Fall of the House of Usher.” Although Poe suspects that White bears him a grudge, he requests that the Messenger notice Burton's and reprint his story. He apparently assures his correspondent that he now abstains from alcohol.

NOTE: The contents of this letter are surmised from Heath's September 12 reply.

SEPTEMBER 7: Mordecai Manuel Noah reviews the September number of Burton's Gentleman's Magazine in his New York Evening Star, p. 2, col. 2, asserting that “Mr. Poe's tale of ‘The Fall of the House of Usher,’ would have been considered a chef d’oeuvre if it had appeared in the pages of Blackwood.” [page 64:]

NOTE: Poe identified Noah as the reviewer in the Saturday Museum, March 4, 184;, p. 1, col. 4. Blackwood's Magazine was an influential English monthly which published sensational fiction.

SEPTEMBER 7: The Saturday Evening Post, p. 2, col. 5, notices Burton's Gentleman's Magazine for September: the reviewer does not mention “The Fall of the House of Usher,” but he finds “some savage reviews in this number, possibly from the pen of Mr. Poe.”

ANTE SEPTEMBER 11: Poe's friend Joseph Evans Snodgrass sends him an issue of the Saint Louis Commercial Bulletin which contains a favorable notice of his editorship of Burton's Gentleman's Magazine.

NOTE: Snodgrass’ letter has not been found. In his September 11 reply Poe quoted from the Bulletin. The paper's praise, which occurred in a review of the Southern Literary Messenger, is also excerpted in the Tales supplement. In the Saturday Museum biography, p. 1, col. 4, Poe attributed the notice to George G. Foster.

SEPTEMBER 11: Poe replies to Joseph Evans Snodgrass, thanking him for sending the Saint Louis Commercial Bulletin. He asks him to write a “rigidly jus[t]” notice of the September number of Burton's Gentleman's Magazine, which will incorporate the Bulletin's praise. He quotes from the Saint Louis paper: “ . ... ‘there are few writers in this country — take Neal, Irving, &Willis away and we would say none — who can compete successfully, in many respects, with Poe. With an acuteness of observation, a vigorous and effective style, and an independence that defies control, he unites a [fervid] fancy and a most beautiful enthusiasm. [page 65:] His is a high destiny.’” Poe adds: “The critique when written might be handed to Neilson Poe. If you ask him to insert it editorially, it is possible he may do it — but, in fact, I have no great faith in him.” Poe will soon publish a collection of his tales, and he promises to send Snodgrass an early copy. He states that he has made “a profitable engagement” with Blackwood's Magazine, and that his “forthcoming Tales are promised a very commendatory Review in that journal from the pen of Prof. Wilson.” Poe asks Snodgrass whether he has seen the praise accorded “The Fall of the House of ‘Usher” by the New York Evening Star and by three Philadelphia papers — Alexander's Weekly Messenger, The Pennsylvanian, and the United States Gazette.

NOTE: Letters, I, 115-17. Poe's cousin Neilson was then the editor of the Baltimore Chronicle; he declined to publish this critique (see the chronology for October 7, 1839). Professor John Wilson (1785-1854) was the editor and literary critic of Blackwood's Magazine; he used the pseudonym “Christopher North.” There is no evidence that Poe contributed to Blackwood's or that Wilson reviewed his Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque.

SEPTEMBER 11: Alexander's Weekly Messenger, p. 2, col. 4, notices the second edition of The Conchologist's First Book:

THE CONCHOLOGIST's FIRST BOOK: A system of Testaceous Malacology, arranged expressly for the use of schools; in which the Animals, according to Cuvier, are given with the shells, a great number of new species added, and the whole brought up, as accurately as possible, to the present condition of the science. By Edgar A. Poe, second edition. With illustrations of 215 shells, presenting a correct type of each genus. Haswell, Barrington and Haswell, Philadelphia. [page 66:]

The first very large edition of this work was exhausted in two months; a fact which speaks strongly in its favor. It has become a text-book in most of the larger Seminaries to the North and East, and is well received every where. It differs from the ordinary small books on the same subject in many essential respects — for example, in particularizing the American species; in the adoption of a modified classification from La Marck and De Blainville; and, especially, in giving a succinct anatomical account of the animal which inhabits each shell — a point never before attended to in a school Conchology. The author's versatile abilities are too well known to the public to need comment from us; he acknowledges his indebtedness, in many respects, to Mr. Isaac Lea of this city. Colored copies of the work, executed under the superintendence of Mr. James Ackerman, are for sale at our principal bookstores.

NOTE: The second edition was also favorably reviewed by the Saturday Courier on September 14.

SEPTEMBER 12: James E. Heath replies to Poe:

Since the receipt of yours of the 5 inst. I have been so exceedingly occupied and withal so very much indisposed, that I could not until within the last day or two, take a peep into the interesting magazine which you were good enough to send me. I have read your article “The Fall of the House of Usher” with attention, and I think it among the best of your compositions of that class which I have seen. A man need not have a critical judgement nor a very refined taste to decide, that no one could have written the tale, without possessing great scope of imagination, vigorous thought, and a happy command of language; but I am sure you will appreciate my candor when I say that I never could feel much interest in that class of compositions. I mean that I never cou’ d experience pleasure in reading tales of horror and mystery however much the narrative should be dignified by genius. They leave a painful and melancholy impression on my mind, and I do not perceive their tendency to improve the heart.

Thomas Willis White “disclaims the existence of any unkind feeling” toward Poe; and he will admit a notice of Burton's Gentleman's magazine in the Southern Literary Messenger, [page 67:] “if possible in the October number. He is apprehensive however that the ‘Fall of the House of Usher’ would not only occupy more space than he can conveniently spare . ... but that the subject matter is not such as would be acceptable to a large majority of his readers. He doubts whether the readers of the Messenger have much relish for tales of the German School although written with great power and ability  ..... ” Heath concurs with White's decision: “I doubt very much whether tales of the wild, improbable and terrible class, can ever be permanently popular in this country. Charles Dickens it appears to me has given the final death blow to writings of that description.” Heath is glad to learn that his correspondent has overcome “a seductive and dangerous treatment which too often prostrates the wisest and best by its fatal grasp.” He finds that few can claim to be Poe's superiors in literary criticism: “Your dissecting knife, if vigorously employed, would serve to rid us of much of that silly trash and silly sentimentality with which puerile and conceited authors, and gain-seeking book sellers are continually poisoning our intellectual food.”

NOTE: Works, XVII, 47-48. Heath contributed a lengthy review of the September Burton's to the next number of the Southern Literary Messenger (see the chronology for October).

SEPTEMBER 14: The Saturday Courier, p. 2, col. 6, notices a recent publication:

Conchologist's First Book. Philadelphia: Haswells &Barrington.

This is the second edition of a work from the pen of Edgar A. Poe, Esq[.], which we had occasion favourably to notice not long ago. That the public have so soon demanded a second issue, is an evidence that the book is properly appreciated. It is arranged with simplicity, expressly for the use of schools, and [page 68:] contains 215 engraved illustrations of shells. “The animals, according to Cuvier, are given with the shells — a great number of new species added,” and the whole is brought up to the present condition of the science of Testaceous Malacology. It is a good work, and will have extensive sale.

ANTE SEPTEMBER 16: Poe writes Philip Pendleton Cooke, praising his previous contributions to the Southern Literary Messenger and asking him to contribute to Burton's Gentleman's Magazine. Poe quotes Nathaniel P. Willis’ comment in the December 1, 1838, issue of the New York Mirror that “Ligeia” deserves “a more intelligible sequel.” Poe asks Cooke for his opinion of this story.

NOTE: The contents of this letter are surmised from Cooke's September 16 reply. In his December 1, 1835, letter to Beverley Tucker (Letters, I, 76-79), Poe commented: “I have met with no one, with the exception of yourself [Tucker] &P. P. Cooke of Winchester, [Virginia,] whose judgment concerning these Tales I place any value upon. Generally, people praise extravagantly those of which I am ashamed, and pass in silence what I fancy to be praise worthy.” Cooke, a Virginia poet, contributed to the Southern Literary Messenger during Poe's editorship.

SEPTEMBER 16: Philip Pendleton Cooke, in Charlestown, Virginia, replies to Poe's “friendly letter,” which he received “a long time ago.” He will subscribe to Burton's Gentleman's Magazine; and he agrees to contribute to it occasionally, although he cannot promise “systematic contribution.” The duties of “a profession &matrimony” have largely cured his “madness of scribbling.” Cooke provides a thoughtful criticism of Poe's story: [page 69:]

As to Ligeia, of which you ask my opinion, (doubtless without any intention of being guided by any person's but your own) I think it very fine. There is nothing unintelligible to my mind in the “sequel” (or conclusion but I am impertinent enough to think that it (the conclusion) might be mended. I of course “took” your “idea” throughout. The whole piece is but a sermon from the text of “Joseph Glanvil” which you cap it with — and your intent is to tell a tale of the “mighty will” contending with &finally vanquishing Death. The struggle is vigorously described — and I appreciated every sentence as I advanced, until the Lady Ligeia takes possession of the deserted quarters (I write like a butcher) of the Lady Rowena. There I was shocked by a. violation of the ghostly proprieties — so to speak — and wondered how the Lady Ligeia — a wandering essence — could, in quickening the body of the Lady Rowena (such is the idea) become suddenly the visible, bodily, Ligeia. If Rowena's bodily form had been retained as a shell or case for the disembodied Lady Ligeia, and you had only become aware gradually that the blue Saxon eye of the “Lady Rowena of Tremaine” grew daily darker with the peculiar, intense expression of the “look” which had belonged to Ligeia — that a mind of grander powers, a soul of more glowing fires occupied the quickened body and gave an old familiar expression to its motions — if you had brooded and meditated upon the change until proof accumulated upon proof, making wonder certainty, and then, in the moment of some strangest of all evidence of the transition, broken out into the exclamation which ends the story — the effect would not have been lessened, and the “ghostly proprieties” would, I think, have been better observed. You may have some theory of the story, or transition, however, which I have not caught.

Cooke continues his analysis of “Ligeia,” comparing the events in Poe's stories to those occurring in dreams:

You write as I sometimes dream when asleep on a heavy supper not heavy enough for nightmare). — The odd ignorance of the name, lineage,&c. of Ligeia — of the circumstances, place,&c. under which, &where, you first saw her — with which you begin your narrative, is usual, &riot at all wondered at, in dreams. Such dimness of recollection does not whilst we dream excite any surprise or diminish the vraisemblable aspect of the strange matters that we dream of. It is only when we wake that we wonder that so material an omission in [page 70:] the thread of the events should have been unnoticed by the mind at a time when it could dream in other respects so plausibly — with such detailed minuteness — with such self-possession.

NOTE: Works, XVII, 49-51. Cooke provided another significant criticism on Poe's fiction in his December 19, 1839, letter to this author.

ANTE SEPTEMBER 21: Washington Irving replies to a letter from Poe, who has apparently sent him a copy of Burton's Gentleman's Magazine for September: “I am much pleased with a tale called ‘The House of Usher,’ and should think that a collection of tales, equally well written, could not fail of being favorably received. ... . Its graphic effect is powerful.”

NOTE: This letter, which Poe mentions in his September 21 letter to Cooke and in his October 12 letter to Irving, has not been found. Irving's comments quoted here are taken from the Tales supplement; they probably represent the surviving fragments of his letter. He discussed “The Fall of the House of Usher” again in his November 6, 1839, letter to Poe.

SEPTEMBER 21: Poe replies to Philip Pendleton Cooke's September 16 letter: “I recd. your letter this morning — and read it with more pleasure than I can well express. You wrong me, indeed, in supposing that I meant one word of mere flattery in what I said. I have an inveterate bad habit of speaking the truth — and had I not valued your opinion more highly than that of any man in America I should not have written you as I did.” Poe adds: “You read my most intimate spirit ‘like a book’ — and, with the single exception of D’Israeli, I have had communication with no other [page 71:] person who does. Willis had a glimpse of it — Judge Tucker saw about ½ way through — but your ideas are the very echo of my own.” He agrees with Cooke's observations:

Touching Ligeia, you are right — all right — throughout. The gradual perception of the fact that Ligeia lives again in the person of Rowena, is a far loftier and more thrilling idea than the one I have embodied. It offers, in my opinion, the widest possible scope to the imagination — it might be rendered even sublime. And this idea was mine — had I never written before I should have adopted it — but then there is Morella. Do you remember, there, the gradual conviction on the part of the parent that the spirit of the first Morella tenants the person of the second? It was necessary, since Morella was written, to modify Ligeia. I was forced to be content with a sudden half-consciousness, on the part of the narrator, that Ligeia stood before him. One point I have not fully carried out — I should have intimated that the will did not perfect its intention — there shd have been a relapse — a final one — and Ligeia (who had only succeeded in so much as to convey an idea of the truth to the narrator) should be at length entombed as Rowena-the bodily alterations having gradually faded away.

But since Morella is upon record, I will suffer Ligeia to remain as it is. Your word that it is “intelligible” suffices — and your commentary sustains your word. As for the mob — let them talk on. I should be grieved if I thought they comprehended me here.

Poe mentions that he has received a letter from Washington Irving praising “The Fall of the House of Usher,” and that he will publish all his tales in two volumes during autumn. He expresses dissatisfaction with William E. Burton and his Gentleman's Magazine: “Do not think of subscribing. The criticisms are not worth your notice. Of course, I pay no attention to them — for there are 2 of us. It is not pleasant to be taxed with the twaddle of other people, or to let other people be taxed with ours. Therefore, for the Present, I remain upon my oars — merely penning an occasional paragraph, without care. The critiques, such as they are, are all mine in the July No — &all mine in the Aug &Sep. [page 72:] with the exception of the 3 first in each — which are by Burton.” Poe adds: “As soon as Fate allows I will have a Magazine of my own — and will endeavor to kick up a dust.”

NOTE: Letters, II, 686-88. Nathaniel P. Willis’ remarks on “Ligeia” are reproduced in the chronology for December 1, 1838. Beverley Tucker, a Virginia lawyer and novelist, commented on Poe's writings in his December 5, 1835, letter to him, printed in the Works, XVII, 21-24, and in his November 29, 1835, and January 26, 1836, letters to Thomas Willis White, quoted respectively by Quinn, pp. 234-35, and by Woodberry, Life, I, 154-56. The “D’Israeli” with whom Poe claimed to have had “communication” would have been either Isaac D’Israeli (1766-1848) or his son Benjamin D’Israeli (1804-1881). Poe's remark to Cooke suggests that he may have corresponded with one of these prominent English authors.

SEPTEMBER 21: The Saturday Evening Post, p. 2, col. 4, notices that The Gift for 1840 is “already published.”

NOTE: This annual contained the first printing of Poe's “William Wilson”; contemporary reactions to this story are entered in the chronology for October 16, November 6, December 14, 19, 1839

SEPTEMBER 21: Horace Greeley's New-Yorker (Vol. 8, p. 13) comments on the editorship of Burton's Gentleman's Magazine: “In his conduct of this journal, Mr. Burton shows that his abilities as an Editor and author are not inferior to those which are universally conceded to him as an actor. He has of late-added largely to his claims upon public favor and support by engaging the services of Mr. Edgar A. Poe-whose writings are full of fire, wit and originality.” [page 73:]

NOTE: This notice may have been written by Park Benjamin, a journalist and poet who was the literary editor of this New York City weekly. The October 19 issue of The New-Yorker (Vol. 8, p. 77) announced Benjamin's departure from its staff; he then assumed the editorship of the New World, a New York weekly newspaper which commenced publication on October 26, 1839.

SEPTEMBER 21: Charles J. Peterson is admitted to the Philadelphia bar.

NOTE: Martin's Bench and Bar, p. 301.

SEPTEMBER 28: The publishers Lea &Blanchard write Poe:

Phila Sept 28/39

Dear Sir —

As your wish in having your Tales printed is not immediately pecuniary, we will at our own risque &expense print a Small Ed[ition,] say 1750 copies. This sum if sold — will pay but a small profit, which if realized is to be ours — The copy right will remain with you, and when ready a few copies for distribution among your friends, will be at your Service —

If this is agreeable will you have them prepared &Mr Haswell will be ready to go on, say by Tuesday —

Very Respy

Lea &Blanchard


Edgar A Poe Esq

They sh[ould] make 2 vols. of a page like Isabel[, say 240 pages each[.]

NOTE: MS, Boston Public Library. The letter proposes an edition of “1750 copies”; but William Charvat in “A Note on Poe's ‘Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque,’” Publishers’ Weekly, 150 (November 23, 1946), 2957-58, published a Lea & [page 74:] Blanchard document which proves conclusively that only 750 copies were printed. Possibly the September 28 letter contained a copyist's error; a more likely explanation is that the publishers later decided to reduce the size of the edition. Lea &Blanchard's November 20, 1839, letter to Poe gives strong support to this second hypothesis. There is no reason to doubt Henry C. Lea's statements “that the edition consisted of but 750 copies, and that it required more than three years to exhaust it”; see The Nation, 31 (December 9, 1880), 408. The “Mr Haswell” mentioned in Lea &Blanchard's September 28 letter was probably G. D. Haswell, a partner in the printing firm of Haswell, Barrington &Haswell; he appears in every edition of McElroy's Philadelphia Directory between 1837 and 1845.

October, 1839

OCTOBER: Burton's Gentleman's Magazine reprints “William Wilson” from The Gift for 1840, and publishes Poe's unfavorable review of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's Hyperion: A Romance.

NOTE: On October 7, 1839, Poe wrote Joseph Evans Snodgrass: “In the Octo. no: all the criticisms are mine — also the gymnastic article.”

OCTOBER: In the Southern Literary Messenger (Vol. 5, p. 708), James E. Heath discusses a Philadelphia monthly and its editors:

Here too, on our table, is “Burton's Gentleman's Magazine,” for September, and a very gentlemanly magazine it is. If our readers have never seen Burton on the stage, they have been deprived of a rare [page 75:] pleasure, and his recent great success on the New York boards, has given him a new claim to the rank of the very first of American comedians. How truly praiseworthy is it in Burton, in the midst of histrionic fame and popularity, not to forget that he is also a useful and effective member of the republic of letters. He is not only a fine actor, but an admirable writer; as a critic, he cuts with one of the keenest edged knives we have ever seen, and woe be unto the luckless wight who is obliged to submit to his operations. They are absolutely withering, as one or two specimens in the September number will abundantly testify. We are pleased to find that our old assistant, Edgar A. Poe, is connected with Burton in the editorial management of the “Gentleman's Magazine.” Mr. Poe, is favorably known to the readers of the Messenger, as a gentleman of fine endowments; possessing a taste classical and refined; an imagination affluent and splendid, and withall, a singular capacity for minute and mathematical detail... We always predicted that Mr. Poe would reach a high grade in American literature, but we also thought and still think, that he is too much attached to the gloomy German mysticism, to be a useful and effective writer, without a total divorce from that sombre school. Take for example, the tale of “the Fall of the House of Usher,” in the September number of the Magazine, which is understood to be the production of his pen. It is written with great power, but leaves on the mind a painful and horrible impression, without any redeeming admonition to the heart. It resembles a finely sculptured statue, beautiful to the eye, but without an immortal spirit. We wish Mr. Poe would stick to the department of criticism; there, he is an able professor, and he uses up the vermin who are continually crawling, unbidden, into the literary arena, with the skill and nonchalance of a practised surgeon. He cuts them up by piece-meal; and rids the republic of letters, of such nuisances, just as a good officer of police sentences to their proper destination, the night-strollers and vagabonds who infest our cities. We sincerely wish Mr. Poe well, and hope that he will take our advice in good part. The September number of the Magazine, is embellished by a fine portrait of Richard Penn Smith, a respectable American dramatist and poet. Besides various other interesting pieces, it contains an excellent article on Gymnastics, understood also, to be from the pen of Mr. Poe. [page 76:]

NOTE: Heath was almost certainly the author of this review and the review of Poe's Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque which appeared in the Southern Literary Messenger for January, 1840. Both notices echo the critical opinions and the phraseology contained in his September 12, 1839, letter to Poe. In his September 21, 1839, letter to Philip Pendleton Cooke, Poe stated that he paid little attention to the book reviews of the Gentleman's Magazine because he feared his criticisms would be attributed to William E. Burton, and vice versa. His letter establishes that he wrote all the reviews in the September number, except the first three. Information on Burton's “recent great success on the New York boards” may be found in the chronology for July 4, 1839.

ANTE OCTOBER 7: Joseph Evans Snodgrass writes Poe that he has written the critique of the September number of Burton's Gentleman's Magazine, but that Neilson Poe would not print it in his Baltimore Chronicle.

NOTE: The contents of this letter are surmised from Poe's October 7 reply.

OCTOBER 7: Poe replies to Joseph Evans Snodgrass: “I felt that N. Poe, would not insert the article editorially. In your private ear, I believe him to be the bitterest enemy I have in the world. He is the more despicable in this, since he makes loud professions of friendship. Was it ‘relationship&c.’ which prevented him saying any thing at all of the 2 or 3 last Nos. of the Gents’ Mag?” Poe adds that his collected tales will appear in the beginning of November.

NOTE: Letters, I, 120-21. [page 77:]

OCTOBER 12: Poe replies to Washington Irving's letter, ante September 21: “I duly received your kind letter, and entirely acquiesce in what you say — that it would be improper to force an opportunity of speaking of a detached Tale.” Poe encloses a copy of the October number of Burton's Gentleman's Magazine, containing his tale “William Wilson.” He now makes another request, which he fears Irving will find importunate:

Mess: Lea &Blanchard are about publishing a collection of my Tales, in 2 vols, to be issued early next month. As these Tales, in their course of original publication from time to time, have received many high praises from gentlemen whose opinions are of weight; and as these encomiums have already been published in the papers of the day, (being comprised in notices of the Southern Lit: Messenger and other Magazines) Mess. L &B. think there would be nothing objectionable in their reprinting them, in the ordinary form of an advertisement appended to the various books which they may issue before mine. I do not speak altogether of editorial opinions, but of the personal opinions of some of our principal literary men, which have found their way into the papers. Among others, I may mention Mr Paulding, Mr Kennedy &Mr Willis. Now, if, to the very high encomiums which have been lavished upon some of my tales by these &others, I could be permitted to add even a word or two from yourself, in relation to the tale of “William Wilson” (which I consider my best effort) my fortune would be made. I do not say this unadvisedly — for I am deliberately convinced that your good opinion, thus permitted to be expressed, would ensure me that public attention which would carry me on to fortune hereafter, by ensuring me fame at once.

Poe precisely identifies the favor he wishes of his correspondent: “My request now, therefore, is that, if you approve of ‘William Wilson’, you will express so much in your own terms in a letter to myself and permit Mess L &B. to publish it, as I mentioned.”

NOTE: Letters, II, 688-90. In the Tales supplement and the Saturday Museum biography, Poe excerpted favorable remarks [page 78:] from the personal correspondence of Longfellow, Irving, Paulding, and other literati. Irving replied to this letter on November 6, stating that he preferred “William Wilson” to “The Fall of the House of Usher”; several sentences from his reply are quoted in the Tales supplement.

OCTOBER 16 [?]: John Frost praises “William Wilson” in Alexander's Weekly Messenger: “‘William Wilson,’ by Mr. Poe, reminds us of Godwin and Brockden Brown. The writer is a kindred spirit of theirs in his style of art. He paints with sombre Rembrandt-like tints, and there is great force and vigor of conception in whatever he produces.”

NOTE: Poe quoted these comments in the Tales supplement, identifying both the reviewer and the magazine. A search of Alexander's Weekly Messenger for September and October, 1839, did not produce Frost's criticism. The October 16 issue is not included in the microfilm of the Messenger (1837-1839) held by the Ohio Historical Society; it may have contained a review of the October number of Burton's Gentleman's Magazine, from which these comments seem to be excerpted. Poe sent this number to Joseph Evans Snodgrass on October 7, mentioning that its publication was “delayed . ... for various reasons.”

OCTOBER 16: John Tomlin, a poet living in Jackson, Tennessee, sends Poe a contribution for Burton's Gentleman's Magazine: “The Manuscript Story of ‘Theodoric of the Amali’ is with diffidence submitted to your better judgement for an opinion. A ‘brither sinners’ [sic ] hopes of future celebrity in his yet untrodden paths of Fiction, depends almost entirely on the success of ‘Theodoric of the Amali.’ . ... The Author of ‘Theodoric of the Amali’ would feel proud in having Edgar A Poe as a correspondent.” [page 79:]

NOTE: MS, Boston Public Library. This is the first letter Tomlin sent Poe; the two men subsequently became frequent correspondents. Tomlin's story “Theodoric of the Amali” appeared in the May and June, 1840, numbers of the Gentleman's Magazine.

OCTOBER 30: Lea &Blanchard write Poe, discussing his forthcoming Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque. These publishers intend to send him “20 copies of the edition . . on publication for private distribution.” They add: “The printing of a few extra copies of your tales on fine paper would be very troublesome to the printer. But if he is willing we have no objection to six copies being printed at your cost.”

NOTE: This letter is printed by Woodberry, Life, II, 376; it seems to be in reply to a previous letter from Poe.

November, 1839

NOVEMBER: Burton's Gentleman's Magazine reprints Poe's story “Morella.”

NOTE: The first printing of “Morella” occurred in the April, 1835, number of the Southern Literary Messenger. The tale's republication was welcomed by the Saturday Courier in its review of the November Burton's; the Courier, November 2, p. 2, cols. 6-7, described “Morella” as “decidedly the most finished [story] in this month's issue.” The magazine was noticed on the same day by The Pennsylvanian, p. 2, col. 2, and by the Saturday Evening Post, p. 2, col. 3. Although neither paper mentioned this story, the Post alluded to Poe's editorship of Burton's, describing his writings as [page 80:] “deeply imbued with the spirit of German literature”; and The Pennsylvanian found that “the editorial and critical department is marked with spirit, talent and independence.” On November 6 Alexander's Weekly Messenger, p. 3, col. 2, reviewed Burton's: its critic, presumably John Frost, reported that “Morella” was “worthy of the fame of the assistant editor of this Magazine.”

CIRCA NOVEMBER l: Joseph Evans Snodgrass writes Poe.

NOTE: This letter has not been found; in his November 11, 1839, reply to Snodgrass, Poe acknowledged receipt of a letter which had been lying at the Philadelphia Post Office “for some 10 days.”

NOVEMBER 2: In the Saturday Courier, p. 2, col. 6, Ezra Holden comments on a forthcoming publication:

Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque.” Lea &Blanchard

We purposed, a week or two ago, saying that our publishers had in press a collection of tales from the pen of Mr. Edgar A. Poe, now of the Gentleman's Magazine. It gives us much pleasure that these productions are forthcoming in the more substantial form of book publication.. — They are richly worthy of it. Many of them are of a very high order of merit, and have been admired wherever they have been perused by men of mind. Mr. Poe is no imitator in story-telling. He has a peculiarity of his own — dealing often in rather wild imaginings; and yet he always contrives to sustain his plots with so much novelty of incident, that you must read him out in spite of any sober realities that may occasionally flit across the mind. And, as you read you are ever impressed with the truth that he has much fancy — great richness of description, and true poetry for his imagery and colorings.

When Mr. Poe's tales shall appear, we are sure they will meet high appreciation, and be regarded as valuable contributions to the literature of our country.

NOTE: Poe quoted from this favorable advance notice in the [page 81:] Tales supplement, identifying Ezra Holden, the Courier's editor, as its author. Lea &Blanchard issued the collection of Poe's fiction around December 4, 1839: the work was indeed received with “high appreciation” by American intellectuals, although few copies were sold. Since the Saturday Courier's masthead at this time proclaimed a weekly circulation of “OVER 33,000 COPIES IN ALL PARTS OF THE UNITED STATES,” the disappointing sale of the Tales cannot be attributed to inadequate publicity.

NOVEMBER 6: Washington Irving replies to Poe's October 12 letter: “I have read your little tale of ‘William Wilson’ with much pleasure. It is managed in a highly picturesque style, and the singular and mysterious interest is well sustained throughout. I repeat what I have said in regard to a previous production, which you did me the favor to send me, that I cannot but think a series of articles of like style and merit would be extremely well received by the public.” Irving prefers this story to “The Fall of the House of Usher”: “It is simpler. In your first you have been too anxious to present your picture vividly to the eye, or too distrustful of your effect, and have laid on too much coloring. It is erring on the best side — the side of luxuriance. That tale might be improved by relieving the style from some of the epithets. There is no danger of destroying its graphic! effect, which is powerful.”

NOTE: Works, XVII, 54.

NOVEMBER 9: The Saturday Evening Post, p. 2, col. 3, publishes Samuel C. Atkinson's farewell address to the paper's patrons. The Post has been sold to “two young gentlemen,” John S. Du. Solle and George R. Graham, who will now control its editorial policies. The new proprietors [page 82:] address the Post's readers, whom they briefly identify: “A great mass of our readers are plain, honest -farmers of the adjoining States, whose crops have been abundant, and whose purses are now full, and their hands liberal; and our lists in the different cities of the United States, is [are] such as to allow us access to the fashionable world.” The subtitle carried on the Post's masthead does much to reveal the type of publication the proprietors intend to offer these readers: “A FAMILY NEWSPAPER — NEUTRAL IN POLITICS — DEVOTED TO NEWS, LITERATURE, SCIENCE, MORALITY, AGRICULTURE, AND AMUSEMENT.” A subscription to the Post costs only two dollars a year, if paid in advance.

NOTE: The Post was Philadelphia's oldest “family newspaper.” Alexander's Weekly Messenger and the Saturday Courier were also classified as family newspapers. Later examples of this species were the Saturday Museum and the Dollar Newspaper, two Philadelphia journals which are remembered largely because of Poe's association with them. The term “family newspaper” denoted an inexpensive four-page weekly of folio size, which published fiction, poetry, news reports, and articles on a variety of subjects, and which appealed to all classes of readers. A journal in this category scrupulously avoided all matters of controversy and earnestly promoted temperance, morality, and religion: it was hence suitable for reading “in the bosom of the family.” Poe contributed to these weeklies out of financial need, but he had little regard for them. His overriding ambition was to establish a five-dollar monthly magazine which would appeal to readers of literary sophistication.

ANTE NOVEMBER 11: Joseph Evans Snodgrass publishes a critique in the Baltimore Post: “Poe can throw a chain of enchantment around every scene he attempts to describe, and [page 83:] one of his peculiarities consists in the perfect harmony between each locale and the characters introduced. He has certainly written some of the most popular tales of American origin.”

NOTE: In his September 11, 1839, letter to Snodgrass, Poe had asked him to write a notice of the September number of Burton's Gentleman's Magazine and insert it in a Baltimore newspaper. The above quotation is reproduced from the Tales supplement.

ANTE NOVEMBER 11: Joseph Evans Snodgrass writes Poe. He forwards a copy of the Baltimore Post containing his criticism of Poe's writings.

NOTE: Snodgrass’ letter is mentioned in Poe's November 11 reply.

NOVEMBER 11: Poe writes Joseph Evans Snodgrass. He is pleased “by the reception of two letters . ... one of which . ... has been lying, perdu in the P. Office for some 10 days . ... .” The Baltimore Post has not arrived, but he has seen Snodgrass’ critique “on file in a friend's office.” The only fault Poe can find in Snodgrass’ criticism is that it is entirely too favorable. He adds:

I am sure you will be pleased to hear that Washington Irving has addressed me 2 letters, abounding in high passages of compliment in regard to my Tales- passages which he desires me to make public — if I think benefit may be derived. It is needless to say that I shall do so — it is a duty I owe myself — and which it would be wilful folly to neglect, through a false sense of modesty. L &Blanchard also urge the publication upon me — so the passages referred to, with others of a similar nature from Paulding, Anthon, &c will be printed in an Appendix of Advertisement to the book — such as publishers are in the habit of appending. Irving's name will afford me a complete triumph over those little critics who would endeavor to put me down [page 84:] by raising the hue &cry of exaggeration in style,. of Germanism &such twaddle. You know Irving heads the school of the quietists. I tell you these things in all confidence, &because I think you will be pleased to hear of my well-doing — not, I assure you, in any spirit of vain-glory — a feeling which I am above.

Poe regrets that he “can say not a word touching compensation for articles” published in Burton's Gentleman's Magazine: “The intense pressure has obliged Mr B. with nearly every, if not with every, publisher in the country, to discontinue paying for contributions. Mr B. pays for nothing — and we are forced to fill up as we can.”

NOTE: Letters, I, 121-22. Various reactions of critics who found Poe guilty of “exaggeration in style” and of “Germanism “ are entered in the chronology for September 3, 12, October, November, November 6, December 6, 7, 10, 1839.

NOVEMBER 15: Joseph B. Boyd, a Cincinnati watch maker, writes Poe, requesting; a manuscript copy of one of his poems.

NOTE: The contents of this letter are surmised from Poe's December 25, 1839, reply. Boyd is identified as a watchmaker and as a native of the state of New York in The Cincinnati, Covington, Newport and Fulton Directory, for 1840, p. 116.

NOVEMBER 20: Poe writes Lea &Blanchard, asking them to purchase the copyright of his Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque.

NOTE: The contents of this letter are surmised from Lea &Blanchard's November 20 reply.

NOVEMBER 20: Lea &Blanchard reply to Poe:

We have your note of today. The copyright of the Tales would be of no value to us; when we undertook [page 85:] their publication, it was solely to oblige you and not with any view to profit, and on this ground it was urged by you. We should not therefore be now called upon or expected to purchase the copyright when we have no expectation of realizing the Capital placed in the volumes. If the offer to publish was [sic ] now before us we should certainly decline it, and would-feel obliged if you knew and would urge some one to relieve us from the publication at cost, or even at a small abatement.

NOTE: This letter is printed by Woodberry, Life, I, 225. Lea &Blanchard may have been reacting to the “intense pressure” which had caused “nearly every, if not . ... every, publisher in the country, to discontinue paying for contributions”; see Poe's comments in his November 11 letter to Joseph Evans Snodgrass. On September 28, 1839, the firm had offered to publish an edition of 1750 copies; and Poe, in letters written on October 7 and 12, had stated that the Tales were to appear in early November. Economic conditions probably caused Lea &Blanchard to limit the edition to 750 copies and to delay its publication until circa December 4, 1839.

NOVEMBER 20: Alexander's Weekly Messenger, p. 3, cols. 6-7, carries a large advertisement for volumes six and seven (1840) of Burton's Gentleman's Magazine, “WILLIAM E. BURTON &EDGAR A. POE, EDITORS.” The advertisement names the principal contributors to the Gentleman's Magazine; and it describes some of the important articles which will appear in this periodical during the year 1840, including Poe's “The Journal of Julius Rodman.” It also contains details of an elaborate premium contest:

To render Burton's Magazine the most desirable monthly publication for the next year, the Proprietor, in addition to the promised articles from his powerful list of Contributors, ensures a series of Papers of Original value, from the pens of the best Authors in [page 86:] the United States. To perfect this arrangement, he offers

A PREMIUM OF $1,000:

In befitting sums, for articles of value, written expressly for the Magazine; and sent in, postage free, before the expiration of the month of February.


For a series of Five Short Tales, illustrating the events of distinct periods in the

History of North America, or developing; the habits and manners of the present day in various portions of the Union.


For the best Tale of pathos or interest.


For the most Humorous Story, or Characteristic Sketch.


For the best Serious Poem, of not less than 200 lines.



For the best Humorous or Satirical Poem.


For the best Essay on any popular subject connected with Science or Belles Lettres.


For the most graphic Memoir of any living American of celebrity, divested of all political or sectarian doctrines.


For the most interesting Sketch of Foreign Travel.

The Editors do not intend to insult the competitors referring their productions to the scrutiny of “a committee of literary gentlemen,” who generally select, unread, the effusion of the most popular candidate as the easiest method of discharging their onerous duties. Every article sent in will be carefully perused by the Editors alone — and as they have hitherto catered successfully for the taste of their readers, and daily sit in judgment upon literary matters connected with the Review department, it is supposed that they possess sufficient capability to select the worthiest production offered to their notice. All papers, poems, tales, etcetera, sent in with a claim to the Premiums, will become the property of the Magazine — but no article will be printed without some return being made to the writer. [page 87:]

NOTE: This advertisement with its premium offer was reprinted on the wrappers of Burton's Gentleman's Magazine in December, 1839, and January, 1840. Since Alexander's Weekly Messenger claimed a circulation of over twenty-five thousand copies, and since the Gentleman's Magazine circulated several thousand copies, the details of William E. Burton's premium contest were widely publicized. The sums offered as awards were extraordinarily generous for the time. Given the fact that Poe's November 11, 1839, letter to Joseph Evans Snodgrass establishes that the Gentleman's Magazine had previously been forced to cease all payment for contributions, one must question either Burton's intelligence or his sincerity in making this lavish offer. Poe's December 19, 1839, letter to Snodgrass reveals that he opposed “the whole scheme”: no doubt he disliked having his name prominently displayed on the advertisement promoting it. Burton never awarded any of the cash prizes he offered, and he did not bother to return the manuscripts submitted for premiums to their authors. This abortive contest almost certainly caused a further deterioration of the unstable relationship between Burton and Poe. For additional information, see the chronology for December, December 16, 19, 1839, January, March, April, April 27, June 12, 17, 1840, and ante January 17, January 17, February 18, March 8, 22, 29, April 1, 1841

NOVEMBER 30: In the Weekly Spirit of the Times, p. 1, col. 1, John S. Du Solle comments on a resident of Washington: “JESSE E. DOW, the author of some splendid pieces of poetry, extensively circulated over the signature of ‘J. E. D.,’ is a candidate for door-keeper to the National House of Representatives.” [page 88:]

NOTE: Poe's friends Du Solle and Dow were political allies, both being “Loco-Focos,” as members of the radical wing of the Democratic party were then called. They often praised each other editorially; and they both strenuously objected to the political ambitions and literary pretensions of Thomas Dunn English, who actively campaigned for the Whigs in 1840.

December, 1839

DECEMBER: The wrappers of Burton's Gentleman's Magazine carry the advertisement for volumes six and seven (1840) which had appeared in Alexander's Weekly Messenger on

November 20. William E. Burton offers “A PREMIUM OF $1,000: / In befitting sums, for articles of value, written expressly for the Magazine .

NOTE: A copy of the December, 1839, Burton's in the original wrappers has not been located. The advertisement carried by the Messenger is reproduced on the outside back wrapper of the January, 1840, Burton's; there is little likelihood that Burton printed a different advertisement on the December wrappers, which were the first to carry the details of his premium contest. The Public Ledger, December 2, p. 2, col. 4, commented: “BURTON's GENTLEMAN's MAGAZINE for December has come out, and offers a thousand dollars in premiums; which will set some persons to work.” The magazine's spectacular offer was also reported by the Baltimore Sun, December 11, p. 2, col. 3.

DECEMBER: Burton's Gentleman's Magazine publishes Poe's story “The Conversation of Eiros and Charmion.” [page 89:]

NOTE: A perceptive reaction to this tale is contained in Philip Pendleton Cooke's December 19, 1839, letter to Poe.

DECEMBER 2: The Baltimore Chronicle, edited by Neilson Poe, is sold at auction to Samuel Barnes.

NOTE: This transaction was reported by the Washington Daily National Intelligencer, December 4, p. 3, col. 3. The Pennsylvania Inquirer, December 6, p. 2, col. 2, expressed a hope that Neilson's “absence from the editorial corps will prove but temporary.” On December 10 the Inquirer, p. 2, col. 4, partially reprinted his farewell address published by the Chronicle, in which he outlined his financial difficulties: “After . ... four years of anxious toil . ... I have voluntarily surrendered the property for which I paid a large portion of the price agreed upon . ... and now retire with the loss of all the capital I possessed . ... weighed down by a load of debt.”

DECEMBER 4: Delegates from twenty-two states meet at the Democratic Whig National Convention in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. They reject such prominent and able leaders as Daniel Webster and Henry Clay, and nominate William Henry Harrison of Indiana for President. John Tyler of Virginia is selected as the Whig Vice-Presidential candidate.

NOTE: A good source of information on the campaign of 1840 is Robert Gray Gunderson's The Log-Cabin Campaign (Lexington, Ky.: University of Kentucky Press, 1957)

CIRCA DECEMBER 4: Lea &Blanchard issue Poe's Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque.

NOTE: This publication date is suggested by the fact that three Philadelphia daily newspapers noticed Poe's Tales [page 90:] on the morning of December 5. The work did not sell well. Lea &Blanchard did not exhaust the first edition of 750 copies until some three years later; for documentation, see the chronology for September 28, 1839, and August 16, 1841. The commercial failure of Poe's Tales cannot be attributed to inadequate publicity or to hostile or indifferent critics. The two-volume collection of twenty-five stories received overwhelmingly favorable reviews from such journals as Alexander's Weekly Messenger, Godey's Lady's Book, the New York Mirror, and the Saturday Courier: each of these publications circulated tens of thousands of copies throughout the nation„ The probable reasons for the work's disappointing sale are suggested by the perfunctory notice carried by the Saturday Evening Post on December 7: the reviewer commented only that the Tales consisted of “republished magazine articles,” written in “a metaphysical style” and “strongly infused with the German spirit.” That the Post's criticism was a damning one — as far as the commercial success of the work was concerned — is established by a letter which Harper &Brothers wrote to Poe in June, 1836, and which is printed by Quinn, pp. 250-51. Although these New York publishers expressed their appreciation of Poe's writings, they gave three convincing reasons for their belief that a collection of his tales could not meet with success:

The reasons why we declined publishing them [Poe's stories] were threefold. First, because the greater portion of them had already appeared in print- Secondly, because they consisted of detached tales and pieces; and our long experience has taught us that both these are very serious objections to the success of any publication. Readers in this country have a decided and strong preference for works (especially fiction) in which a single and connected story occupies the whole volume, or number of volumes, as the case may be; and we have always found that republications of [page 91:] magazine articles, known to be such, are the most unsaleable of all literary performances. The third objection was equally cogent. The papers are too learned and mystical. They would be understood and relished only by a very few — not by the multitude. The numbers of readers in this country capable of appreciating and enjoying such writings as those you submitted to us is very small indeed .....

The Post's review, together with the Harpers’ June, 1836, letter, provides sufficient explanation for the failure of the Tales. That Lea &Blanchard shared the Harpers’ fears is strongly suggested by their November 20, 1839, letter to Poe. Yet the author of the Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque was not greatly concerned with the sales of his work, as his June 17, 1840, letter to Joseph Evans Snodgrass indicates. He was deeply concerned with a critical reception which would further establish his growing literary reputation; and from this point of view, his Tales proved a triumphant success. Contemporary reactions to the work are entered in the chronology for November 2, December 5, 6, 7, 10, 12, 13, 14, 18, 19, 21, 28, 1839, and January, 1840.

POST DECEMBER 4: Poe presents a copy of his Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque, printed “on fine paper,” to Colonel William Drayton, a prominent Philadelphian resident at 13 Portico Square.

NOTE: This entry is suggested by Lea &Blanchard's October 30, 1839, letter to Poe, and by the fact that the Tales are dedicated to Drayton with “respect, gratitude, and esteem,” by “his obliged friend and servant, The Author.” Drayton was a lawyer from Charleston, South Carolina, who settled in Philadelphia in 1833. In 1841 he became president of Nicholas Biddle's United States Bank. He appears in every edition of McElroy's Philadelphia Directory between 1837 and 1845; “Portico Square” was one of the city's fashionable [page 92:] residential areas. Conceivably, Drayton may have earned Foe's gratitude by providing him with financial assistance; the value of Drayton's estate was estimated at fifty thousand dollars in the Memoirs and Auto-Biography of Some of the Wealthy Citizens of Philadelphia (Philadelphia: Published by the Booksellers, 1846), p. 19.

POST DECEMBER 4: Poe writes Philip Pendleton Cooke, forwarding a presentation copy of his Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque. Poe asks his correspondent to evaluate these stories.

NOTE: Although Poe's letter has not been located, this entry is implied by Cooke's December 19, 1839, letter to him.

DECEMBER 5: Three Philadelphia dailies notice the appearance of Poe's Tales. The Public Ledger, p. 2, col. 4, simply mentions their publication:

Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque,” by E. A. Poe. In 2 vols. Philadelphia: Lea &Blanchard.

The Pennsylvania Inquirer, p. 2, col. 1, is more laudatory:

Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque.

Messrs. Lea &Bla[nlchard have just published two volumes, containing a series of tales by Edgar A. Poe, Esq. Seneral [several] are capital, while all afford agreeable reading. Indeed the subjects are so various, that few persons can peruse both volumes, without finding much to interest and amuse.

Poe's versatility is also stressed by Joseph R. Chandler's United States Gazette, p. 2, col. 2:

Tales of the Grotesque and the Arabesque.

This is the title of two volumes of stories just published by Lea &Blanchard. They are from the fertile pen of Edgar A. Floe, a gentleman who has done much for [page 93:] the literature of the country, and has learning, taste, and spirit, to add to his obligations. These two volumes, though exceedingly well executed, and admirably explained by their title, rather show the versatility than the character of Mr. Poe's talents[;] and while we read them with hearty pleasure, we feel a gratification in the knowledge, that he can do other things in literature equally as well. He is capable of much — and we trust that time and opportunity will be allowed, and ample encouragement afforded him.

DECEMBER 6: Joseph C. Neal reviews a new publication in The Pennsylvanian, p. 2, col. l:

“TALES OF THE GROTESQUE AND ARABESQUE,” is the title of a work just published by Messrs. Lea and Blanchard. It consists of tales and sketches from the pen of Edgar A. Poe, Esq. formerly of the Southern Literary Messenger, and now one of the editors of the Gentleman's Magazine in this city, a writer who adds to extensive acquirements, a remarkable vigor and originality of mind, the manifestations of which are strikingly displayed in the volumes of which we speak. These grotesque and arabesque delineations are full of variety, now irresistibly quaint and droll, and again marked with all the deep and painful interest of the German school, so that the reader, in whatever mood he may be, cannot fail to find something to suit his temper and absorb his attention. In every page, he will note matter unlike the productions of any other writer. Poe follows in nobody's track, — his imagination seems to have a domain of its own to revel in.

NOTE: Poe quoted a portion of this review in the Saturday Museum, March 4, 1843, p. 1, col. 4, identifying Neal as its author.

DECEMBER 6: Poe writes John C. Cox, a Philadelphia merchant, forwarding a copy of his Tales of the Grotesaue and Arabesque. He regrets both that he has not been able to repay the fifty dollars which Cox “so kindly lent nearly a year ago,” and that he has not seen him since that time to apologize for this failure. He invites Cox to visit his [page 94:] family: “We are stile where we were. I could then speak to you more fully, and convince you that the embarrassments under which I have labored are not exaggerated.” He adds: “it was only with the most painful sacrifices that I managed to pay Mrs Jones — which I did about last Christmas.”

NOTE: Letters, I, 122:-23. Cox appears in McElroy's Philadelphia Directory for 1840 and subsequent years. “Mrs Jones” seems to have been Mrs. C. Jones, who ran a boarding house at 202 Mulberry, or Arch, Street (see her entry in the directory).

DECEMBER 7: The Saturday Evening Post, p. 2, col. 2, notices a recent publication:

“TALES OF THE GROTESQUE AND ARABESQUE,” by E. A . Poe, Philadelphia, Lea &Blanchard. — These volumes contain the republished magazine articles of Mr. Poe. They are strongly infused with the German spirit, a metaphysical style to which the writer is ardently attached.

DECEMBER 9: Poe writes Edward L. Carey or Abraham Hart, partners in the publishing firm of Carey &Hart: “Mr Burton mentioned to me, before going to Charleston, that you were good enough to promise him a Chapter from Marryatt's forthcoming work, for the Jan: No. of our Mag: The Chapter was, I believe, one on ‘Migration &Emigration’. Will you please let me have it, if convenient, by the bearer?”

NOTE: Letters, I, 123 — 24. According to Johnson, “William E. Burton,” p. 129, the proprietor of the Gentleman's Magazine had an acting engagement in Charleston, South Carolina, from November 28 to December 9, 1839.

DECEMBER 10: The Philadelphia North American, p. 2, col. 2, criticizes a recent publication: [page 95:]

TALES OF THE GROTESQUE AND ARABESQUE. By Edgar A. Poe. 2 vols. 12 mo. Lea &Blanchard.

These tales betoken ability on the part of the author to do better. Let him give up his imitation of German mysticism, throw away his extravagance-, think and write in good sound sober English, and leave all touches of profanity to the bar room, and he will employ his talents to much better advantage.

DECEMBER 12: Poe writes Joseph Evans Snodgrass, stating that he is sending his correspondent a copy of his Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque, “through Mess. Lea &Blanchard.” The package is addressed to “the office of the Baltimore American”; it also contains another copy of the Tales which Poe asks Snodgrass to present to John L. Carey, editor of the American.

NOTE: Letters, I, 12425.

DECEMBER 12: The New York Evening Star, p. 2, col. 3, reports:

New Books — Lea &Blanchard have published in two volumes, a continuation of the Memoirs of Charles Mathews. Also, the Governess, by the Countess of Blessington, in two volumes. To be had at the Messrs. Carvills.

Also, in two volumes, “Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque,” by Edgar A[.] Poe.

DECEMBER 13: The New York Evening Post, p. 2, col. 1, reports:

TALES OF THE GROTESQUE AND ARABESQUE is another work of fiction by an American author: Edgar A. Poe. It is a series of tales, grave and merry, in two duodecimo volumes. The publishers are Lea and Blanchard.

DECEMBER 14: John L. Carey discusses Poe's Tales in the Baltimore American, p. 2, col. 2: [page 96:]

Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque,” by Edgar A. Poe — 2 vols. The Tales comprising this series have before appeared from time to time in different periodicals; they are now given to the world in a more durable form. We know not many effusions of the imaginative class that better deserve such preservation. The impress of genius is marked upon them all — of genius erratic, it may be, but nevertheless of true quality. The several stories as they came forth singly were received with commendations by the press generally. The following will be recognized as familiar names “The Fall of the House of Usher,” “Bon Bon,” “Mss. found in a Bottle,” “William Wilson,” “Hans Phaall,”&c.&c. — Without particularizing others we will observe of the story entitled “William Wilson,” that it contains a profounder meaning than will be gathered from regarding it as a mere fanciful invention.

NOTE: Poe quoted a portion of this review in the Saturday Museum, March 4, 184;, p. 1, col. 4, identifying Carey as the author.

DECEMBER 14: In the Saturday Courier, p. 2, cols. 5-6, Ezra Holden reviews a recent publication:

Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque. Lea &Blanchard.

Two 12mo. volumes of Tales from the pen of Edgar A. Poe, are here presented to the public. — There are twenty-five of them, and no one can read the volumes without coming to the conclusion that they embrace as much variety as could be given in the same compass, of the species of writing of which they are composed. They are generally wildly imaginative in plot; fanciful in description, oftentimes to the full boundaries of the grotesque; but throughout indicating the polished writer, possessed of rare and varied learning. Some of them will bear good comparison with the productions of Coleridge, and it is not surprising that the author has often been compared with that author. The tale of “William Wilson,” and that of “The House of Usher,” are, to our judgment, the best in the volumes, and may be quoted as examples of the author's powers. On the whole, we think these tales highly creditable to the literature of our country, and have no doubt they will be well received by the public. [page 97:]

NOTE: In the critical-supplement included in his Tales, Poe identified Holden as the author of the favorable advance notice of this work which the Saturday Courier published on November 2. The Courier's December 14 review resembles the earlier notice in both style and content.

DECEMBER 14: The Boston Notion publishes a scathing review of Poe's Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque:

We have read a goodly number of these tales, and verily must say that they fall below the average of newspaper trash. They seem to be the offspring of a distempered, unregulated imagination, which needs a selection rather than “an ounce of civet.” They consist of a wild, unmeaning, pointless, aimless set of stories, outraging all manner of probability, and without anything of elevated fancy or fine humor to redeem them. The style is slipshod, though the author says he has elaborated it carefully; and the congregation of nonsense is merely caricature run mad. But if any one is pleased with such stuff, it lies not in our humor to prevent it. De gustibus, etc.

NOTE: Burton R. Pollin reprinted this review in “Poe and the Boston Notion,” English Language Notes, 8 (1970), 23-28.

DECEMBER 16: Joseph Evans Snodgrass writes Poe, requesting information on the premium contest being held by Burton's Gentleman's Magazine.

NOTE: The contents of this letter are surmised from Poe's December 19 reply.

DECEMBER 18: In Alexander's Weekly Messenger, p. 2, col. 4, John Frost comments on a recent publication:

TALES OF THE GROTESQUE AND ARABESQUE. By Edgar A. Poe. Philadelphia, Lea &Blanchard, 1839 [1840].

To say we have read this production attentively is not enough. We have studied it. It is every way [page 98:] worthy of such a distinction, and whoever shall give it a careful study and a philosop[h]ical analysis, will find in it the evidences of an original, vigorous, and independent mind, stored with rich and various learning and capable of su[c]cessful application to a great variety of subjects. As a writer of fiction, Mr. Poe passes “from grave to gay, from lively to severe,” with an ease and buoyancy not less remarkable than the unfailing vigor of his style and prodigious extent of his resources for illustration and embellishment. He is capable of great things; and beautiful and interesting as the tales before us are, we deem them much less remarkable as actual performances than as evidences of ability for much more serious and sustained efforts. They seem to us the playful effusion of a remarkable and powerful intellect. We counsel the writer not to repose upon his laurels. He has placed himself in the foremost rank of American writers, as it respects ability. Let him maintain his position by untiring exertion and show that he fully deserves it by actual performance. He has raised the highest expectations. We trust he will not fail to fulfil them.

NOTE: Poe enclosed this review in his December 19 letter to Joseph Evans Snodgrass, identifying Frost as the author. He again attributed it to Frost in the Saturday Museum, March 4, 1843, p. 1, col. 4.

DECEMBER 18: Poe begins to contribute to Alexander's Weekly Messenger. In an article entitled “Enigmatical and Conundrum-ical,” he offers to solve all enigmas and crypto grams which the paper's readers may send in.

NOTE: Poe furnished a series of short articles and reviews to this paper from December 18, 1839, through May 6, 1840. These have been reprinted with useful annotations by Clarence S. Brigham, Edgar Allan Poe's Contributions to Alexander's Weekly Messenger (1943; rpt. Folcroft, Pa.: Folcroft Library Editions, 1973). In the April, 1841, number of Graham's Magazine, Poe made another offer to solve cryptograms; in “A Few Words on Secret Writing,” [page 99:] which appeared in the July, 1841, number, he described the enthusiastic response to the challenge which he published in the December 18, 1839, issue of Alexander's Weekly Messenger. Charles W. Alexander, the publisher of the Weekly Messenger, corroborated his account in the Daily Chronicle (see the chronology for July 13, 1841).

DECEMBER 19: Poe replies to Joseph Evans Snodgrass’ December 16 letter: “Touching the Premiums. The Advertisement respecting them was written by Mr. Burton, and is not, I think as explicit as might [be.] I can give you no information about their desig[nation furth]er than is shown in the advertisement itself. The tru[th is,] I object, in toto, to the whole scheme.” He states that his correspondent's poem “Scenes of Childhood” will not appear in the January number of Burton's Gentleman's Magazine because of its length: “we only put in poetry in the odds and ends of our pages — that is, to fill out a vacancy left at the foot of a prose article — so that the length of a poem often determines its insertion.” Poe asks Snodgrass to forward any reviews of his Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque which appear in the Baltimore newspapers. He discusses the reception of this work: “The Philadelphians have given me the very highest possible praise — I cd desire nothing further. Have you seen the U. S. Gazette, the Pennsylvanian, or Alexander's Messenger. In the last is a notice by Professor Frost, which I forward you, today, with this. The books have just reached New York. The Star and the Evening Post have both capital notices.” Poe believes “that the edition is already very nearly exhausted.”

NOTE: Letters, I, 125-26.

DECEMBER 19: Philip Pendleton Cooke writes Poe, [page 100:] apparently in reply to a letter his correspondent has sent him shortly after December 4, 1839:


Jefferson Co. Va.

Dec. 19. 1839.

My dear Sir

You must not expect me to make you an exception amongst my correspondents, and write to you “punctually on receipt of yours”; nor must you suspect the nature of my feeling toward you because I do not.

I have read your “Fall of the House of Usher,” your “William Wilson” and your “Conversation of Eiros and Charmion” and I will say something about them, as all authors like praise and compliment.

In the first place I must tell you (what I firmly believe) that your mere style is the very best amongst the first of the living writers; and I must let you know that I regard style as something more than the mere manner of communicating idea. “Words are used by the wise as counters; by the foolish as coin” is the aphorism of a person who never appreciated Jeremy Taylor or Sir Thomas Browne. You do not, to be sure, use your words as those fine old glowing rhetoricians did, as tints of the pencil — as the colours of a picture — you do riot make your sentences pictures — but you mould them into an artful excellence — bestow a care which is pleasantly perceptible, and accomplish an effect which I: can only characterize as the visible presentation of your ideas instead of the mere expression of them.

In your “Fall of the House of Usher”, unconnected with style, I think you very happy in that part where you prolong the scene with Roderick Usher after the death of his sister; and the glare of the moon thro’ the sundering house, and the electric gleam visible around it, I think admirably conceived.

Of “William Wilson” I am not sure that I perceive the true clew. From the “whispering voice” I would apprehend that you meant the second William Wilson as an embodying of the conscience of the first; but I am inclined to the notion that your intention was to convey the wilder idea that every mortal of us is attended with a shadow of himself — a duplicate of his own peculiar organization — differing from himself only in a certain angelic taint of the compound, derived from heaven, as our own wild humours are derived from [page 101:] Hell (figuratively); — I cannot make myself understood, as I am not used to the expression of a wild half thought. But, although I do not clearly comprehend, I certainly admire the story.

Of “Eiros &Charmion” I will only say that I consider the whole very singular and excellent, and the skill of one small part of it unapproachable.

“Was I much mourned, my Eiros” — is one of the finest touches in the world. I read, the other day, a small piece in an old messenger entitled “Shadow a Fable” which I take to be yours. Considered apart from some affectation it is very terrible. The Poetry headed “The haunted Palace” which I read in the Balt. Museum where it first appeared, and which I instantly understood as a picture of an intellect, I consider beautiful but grotesque.

By the way you have selected an excellent title for your volume of Tales. “Tales of the grotesque and the Arabesque” expresses admirably the character of your wild stories — and as Tales of the grotesque &arabesque they were certainly never equalled.

I am writing a Book which I call “Maurice Weterbern “ — what it is you will some time or other see. I am bestowing great care, but little labour, upon it.

I send you two pieces of verse (Poetry I dare not call them) which I made a year ago; If you think them worth publishing publish them — if not I am too hacknied [sic ] to consider your decision an affront. There is not room for more — so farewell

Yrs. sincerely

P P Cooke

E. A. Poe Esq.

P.S. Write to me.

NOTE: MS, Boston Public Library. The first printing of Poe's “Shadow, A Fable,” occurred in the September, 1835, number of the Southern Literary Messenger.

DECEMBER 21: The Corsair briefly reviews Poe's Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque: “We have skimmed over the surface of these volumes and found them possessed of a fair [page 102:] claim upon our admiration. A sparkling dash of fancy, sentiment and wit intermingled, — clothed in rich language, and pink’d off with the latest gloss of transcendentalism, with little regard to definite plot or story-like denouement, with an occasional burst of the ‘grotesque’ admirably sustained, recommend these Tales to those who hail with avidity a novelty in the literary mart.”

NOTE: The Corsair, a New York magazine, was edited by Nathaniel P. Willis and Dr. Timothy O. Porter. This notice has been attributed to Porter by Burton R. Pollin, “An 1839 Review of Poe's Tales in Willis’ The Corsair,” Poe Studies, 5 (1972), 56.

DECEMBER 25: Poe replies to Joseph B. Boyd, a Cincinnati watch maker, who had written him on November 15 requesting a manuscript copy of one of his poems. He copies “Silence — A Sonnet.”

NOTE: Letters, I, 126-27. This poem was first published by the Saturday Courier on January 4, 1840.

DECEMBER 28: The New York Mirror (Vol. 17, p. 215) publishes a significant criticism:

Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque. By Edgar A. Poe. Philadelphia: Lea and Blanchard.

THE creation of modern literature — that species of invention which alone could body forth the infinite variety of modern society — the novel — requires much peculiar to its period, and all that the mind has ever possessed of original power. The legends of a barbaric age are, perhaps, all that age had worth preserving: another, entirely military, is perfectly depicted in an heroic poem; where the character of a nation is exclusively political, its masterpiece is history; chivalry, with its banners and brands, lives in its own spirited ballads; and, as -the varieties increased and shades multiplied, the drama became the lively and accurate [page 103:] reflection of the passing panorama. But to an age, reading, thoughtful, languid, with every excitement of former times added to its own — with its strange mixture of all that can form a character, yet repress its display — what could do justice — what give a picture so true, as may be given by the novel? The tale, although not so encumbered with plot and incidents, belongs to the same class of composition, and all that it has to depend upon for usefulness or effect, is its truth of principle, its fidelity to nature, and the tact and talent with which that truth is told and that fidelity is preserved. And herein is the value and beauty of that kind of truth displayed, in that it is visible and obvious to all, for it appeals to experience and awakens observation; it opens the character of humanity, and is at once food for the philosopher, and amusement for the child.

Had Mr. Poe written nothing else but “Morella,” “William Wilson,” “The House of Usher,” and the “MS. found in a Bottle,” he would deserve a high place among imaginative writers, for there is fine poetic feeling, much brightness of fancy, an excellent taste, a ready eye for the picturesque, much quickness of observation, and great truth of sentiment and character in all these works. But there is scarcely one of the tales published in the two volumes before us, in which we do not find the development of great intellectual capacity, with a. power for vivid description, an opulence of imagination, a fecundity of invention, and a command over the elegances of diction which have seldom been displayed, even by writers who have acquired the greatest distinction in the republic of letters. It would be, indeed., no easy matter to find another artist with ability equal to this writer for discussing the good and evil — the passions, dilemmas, and affectations — the self-sufficiency and the deplorable weakness, the light and darkness, the virtue and the vice by which mankind are by turns affected. These volumes present a succession of richly-coloured pictures in the magic lantern of invention.

We have heard it objected, that Mr. Poe's pictures are not always to be taken as a correct representation of human nature. What human nature actually is at this period, would be a matter of some difficulty to ascertain, modified as it is by education, controlled by circumstance, and compounded of customs and costumes. The novelist, the sketcher, and the essayist, must take, not make their materials: and in all states of society, whether one of furs, feathers, and paint; [page 104:] au naturel — or of those furs turned into muffs, those feathers waving over helmets and barrettes, and that paint softened into rouge and pearl-powder — the view taken by an acute observer will be valuable as philosophy. The human heart, like the human countenance, is endless in its variety; the tree, the flower, the bird; the beast, resemble each other, till the likeness is that of ideality. The oaks at Dodona were but like those in any English park; the steed of the Macedonian might be but as the racehorse of our modern turf. Not so with the face of man — the statue, the picture, come down to us, and we trace similarity, but no sameness; for where can be found two human beings whose individuality could be mistaken? And the varieties of mind are still more infinite: the routine of circumstances may and will be the same — the battle may be fought, the orator and statesman contend for the high places, the festival assemble the young, and the thousand great and little events of life be alike — but the spirit which vivifies them will be different; even as our present age bears no resemblance to its predecessors, so those in futurity are equally likely to differ from our own. If, therefore, Mr. Poe appears now and then too sombre and fantastic, or deals in too wild imaginings, the fault, if fault it be, must be attributed to the advanced state of our literature, which — the incidents of invention being somewhat exhausted — makes an author frequently turn to sentiment and metaphysics rather than description or adventure.

In conclusion, we would just observe, that we have done but imperfect justice to this miscellaneous and agreeable work; one of the best lounging books we have perused for a very long while. It is quite impossible to dip into any part of it without having the attention riveted and the fancy pleased; so that, in truth, our only charge against it, is that it has detained us longer than was expedient from other volumes and other affairs.

NOTE: The New York Mirror, a weekly, was one of the nation's most influential periodicals; its lengthy critique may well be the most significant contemporary reaction to the Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque. Poe discussed this review in Alexander's Weekly Messenger on January 1, 1840, attributing it to George P. Morris (Brigham, Poe's Contributions, p. 20); when he quoted it in the Saturday Museum, March 4, [page 105:] 1843, p. 1, col. 3, he identified the reviewer as Louis F. Tasistro. The Museum attribution, being of later date, may be preferable.





[S:0 - PIP, 1978] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Articles - Poe in Philadelphia, 1838-1844 (D. R. Thomas) (Chapter 03)