Text: David K. Jackson, “Preface,” Poe and The Southern Literary Messenger (1934), pp. 58-81 (This material is protected by copyright)


[page 58:]



After Sparhawk’s “taking the field against White,” three issues of the Messenger (August, September, and December) came out during the remainder of the year 1835. For the August issue Poe supplied all the critical notices, and the Messenger for September was made up from the owner’s “wits.” The November number of the magazine came from the press late, and was dated December, 1835, and numbered one of volume two. By December Poe was virtually editor, although White continued to receive the assistance of such friends as Lucian Minor, Beverley Tucker, and James E. Heath.

With his journal now safely launched upon its long. period of activity in the interests of Southern literature, T. W. White began the second volume with the following notice written by Lucian Minor:

The gentleman, referred to in the ninth number of the Messenger, as filling its editorial chair, retired thence with the eleventh number; and the intellectual department of the paper is now under the conduct of the Proprietor, assisted by a gentleman of distinguished literary talents. Thus seconded, he is sanguine in the hope of rendering the second volume which the present number commences, at least as deserving of support as the former was: nay, if he reads aright the tokens which are given him of the future, it teems with even richer banquets for his readers, than they have hitherto enjoyed at his board.(1) [page 59:]

This announcement continued with commendatory remarks on Edgar A. Poe by name, “not with design to make any invidious distinction, but because such a mention of him finds numberless precedents in the journals on every side, which have rung the praises of his uniquely original vein of imagination, and of humorous, delicate satire.”(2)

Immediately following this statement of the editorial changes and this praise of Poe, appeared the information that all original articles would be inserted as editorial with the omission of the words “For the Southern Literary Messenger.” A necessity or an especial occasion would be the only exceptions to this general rule.

For the second volume White bought a new font of type with which to print his magazine, and he began the practice of printing the titles of articles in lighter-faced type. In a letter dated June 22, 1835, Poe had written White:

I have heard it suggested that a lighter-faced type in the headings of your various articles would improve the appearance of the Messenger. Do you not think so likewise?(3)

Doubtless Poe had suggested all these changes to White, who had been slow in adopting them.

The contents of the December issue included the ninth instalment of Greenhow’s “Sketches of the History and Present Condition of Tripoli, with Some Accounts of the Other Barbary States”; “October,” by [page 60:] Eliza of Saco, Maine”’ (Mrs. Thornton); “Mother and Child,” by “Imogene”; “Lines Written on One of the Blank leaves of a Book Sent to a Friend in England,” also by “Imogene,” with its phrase, “the per-fum’d air,” a little suggestive of Poe’s “To Helen”; “The Broken Heart,” a first attempt at blank verse by “Eliza of Richmond” (Eliza White), depicting the fading of a girl on finding her lover untrue; “Halley’s Comet-1760,” a satire modeled after Byron’s and Shelley’s political satires, by Miss E. Draper; Edward T. Tayloe’s “Extracts from my Mexican Journal”; Poe’s “Scenes from an Unpublished Drama” [Politian]; “An Address on Education,” by Lucian Minor; “The Wissahicon”; Chapter VI of “Lionel Granby”; “MS. Found in a Bottle”; and twenty-eight pages of book reviews, including Poe’s famous review of Theodore S. Fay’s Norman Leslie.

From now on the critical notices became the greatest attraction of the magazine. Poe, who wrote most of the critiques, had now found himself. White’s pet now became a nationally read magazine. In January a supplement was issued, preceded by a publisher’s notice:

We are proud in being able to afford our friends so many and so great evidences of the Messenger’s popularity, as are contained in the following Notices.* From all quarters we have received encouragement — in the approval of our past labors, and in prophecies of our future success. We desire to call the attention of all who are interested in the advancement of Southern [page 61:] Literature, to the matter, the manner, and the source, especially of the Extracts subjoined. We hazard little in saying, that never before in America has any Journal called forth so unanimously, testimonials so unequivocally flattering, as the First Number of the Second Volume of our “Southern Literary Messenger:”(4)

An excerpt from the press comments of The Richmond (Va.) Whig is a typical example of the many favorable remarks which the magazine received:

Mr. White’s Literary Messenger is either the most transcendantly able periodical in the United States, or its proprietor has been most particularly successful in eliciting the puff — for it attracts more of the notice of the Press, and is more uniformly admired and praised upon the appearance of its successive numbers, than all the Literary Periodicals in the United States put together. The North American, [sic] Quarterly, &c. are comparatively lost sight of. It is universally noticed — not only in the newspaper press of the great towns and cities, but in the obscurest village sheet throughout the land. As Virginians and Southrons, solicitous for the honor of Southern Literature, we are proud to believe that this extensive favor bestowed upon the Messenger, flows from its deserts, an opinion confirmed by our personal knowledge of its enterprising, esteemed and modest proprietor.(5)

The delay in the publication of the March number, according to The Charlottesville (Va.) Advocate, was occasioned “by the desire of Mr. White to insert Prof. Dew’s Address.”(6) No further delays in the magazine occurred until September.

During his editorship of the Messenger — a period [page 62:] little over a year — Poe contributed no radical changes in the conduct, and in the general make-up and contents, of the magazine, except a brilliant department of critical notices. The periodical, as under the guidance of Heath and Sparhawk, continued, under Poe’s leadership with ‘White’s personal surveillance, as a vehicle of sentimental, moral short stories, long and tedious essays, and mediocre verse. But the fact that there were no changes did not mean that Poe had no plans for the magazine. Like Sparhawk and Heath, Poe had no great influence in respect to the acceptance and rejection of contributions to the Messenger. To the editors were left the critical notices, the proof-reading, and the correspondence. White relied not always upon himself and his editorial assistants in matters respecting the journal, but sometimes upon friends who were interested in his literary enterprise, especially from a patriotic point of view, like Judge Tucker and Lucian Minor and others at the College of William and Mary. Even after James Heath had retired as editor, White continued to solicit the aid of this public-spirited Virginian.

Of Poe’s rejection and acceptance of contributions to The Southern Literary Messenger little evidence has remained. Under Heath’s regime the editor occasionally mentioned in his “Notices to Contributors” the grounds upon which certain contributions were either accepted or rejected. As soon as Sparhawk became editor, however, the department of “Notices to Contributors” was discontinued. Poe wisely enough omitted such matters in the numbers which he edited. On [page 63:] March 3, 1836, he wrote the following letter to John Collins McCabe, one of the contributors to the journal:

A press of other engagements has prevented me, hitherto, from replying to your letter of 24th ult., but I have not the less borne it in mind.

I need not speak to you of the difficulties I have to encounter daily in selecting from the mass of MSS. handed in for the Messenger. Personal applications from personal friends of course embarrass me greatly. It is indeed almost impossible to refuse an article offered in this manner without giving mortal offence to the friend who offers it. This offence, however, is most frequently taken by those who have the fewest pretentions of merit. In the present instance I feel perfectly sure that I shall neither wound your feelings nor cause you to think less of me as an acquaintance by returning your poem — which I now enclose.

My reasons for declining it relate as much to yourself, individually, as to the Magazine. I feel exceedingly desirous that you should be even more favorably known to the public than you are at present, and that this object should be accomplished through the medium of the Messenger. I have frequently seen pieces from your pen which I would have been happy to insert — one long poem especially, whose title I cannot recall to mind — and some lines lately printed in the Baltimore Athenaeum — that great bowl of Editorial skimmed milk and water.

I think you will agree with me that “the Consumptive Girl” is not by any means a fair specimen of your talents. Like all I have seen of your composition, it breathes the true spirit of poetic sentiment and feeling — it has fine and original images: — and it has the proper material of the Muse, but it is deficient in the outward habiliments. The versification, in especial, is not what you can make it. The lines in most instances are rough, owing to your frequent choice of words abounding in consonants. Thus in the beginning:

“One burning spot blushed on her smooth fair cheek.” [page 64:]

In some instances the verses are more seriously defective, and cannot be scanned — or even read. For example:

“To the heart — Hope’s death, love’s blight, faded joys,”

and again:

“Long hair unbound fell o’er her swan like neck, wildly.”

I know you will reply, and with some appearance of justice, that much worse verses have appeared in the Messenger since my Editorship, and are still appearing; but these are poems which have been long on hand, and to the publication of which Mr. W. had bound himself by promise to their respective authors, before my time. Such difficulties shall not occur again.

Suppose you were to try a series of brief poems — say sonnets — one to appear regularly in each number of the Magazine, embodying multum in parvo, laboured out with scrupulous care in their native metre — and signed with your initials. This will not fail, (if done as well as I know you can do them), to gain you a high and permanent position.

Your sincere well wisher,  

Further evidence that Poe was not wholly liable for the contents of the Messenger is a statement of his to Mrs. Weiss:

You must not judge me by what you find me saying in the magazines. Such expressions of opinion are necessarily modified by a thousand circumstances — the wishes of editors, personal friendships, etc.(8)

And in a footnote to an essay, sometimes attributed to [page 65:] Poe,(9) entitled “Genius,” Poe hastened to add the documentation:

Of course no Editor is responsible for the opinions of his contributors — but in the present instance we feel called upon in self-defence to disclaim any belief in the doctrines advanced — and, moreover, to enter a solemn protest against them. The Essay on Genius is well written and we therefore admitted it. While many of its assumptions are indisputable — some we think are not to be sustained — and the influences, generally, lag far behind the spirit of the age. Our correspondent is evidently no phrenologist.(10)

In the prospectus (1840) of The Penn Magazine Poe recalled T. W. White’s influence:

I will be pardoned for speaking more directly of The Messenger. Having in it no proprietary rights, my objects, too being at variance in many respects with those of its very worthy owner, I found difficulty in stamping upon its pages that individuality which I believe essential to the full success of all similar publications. In regard to their permanent influences, it appears to me that a continuous, definite character, and a marked certainty of purpose are desiderata of vital importance, and (I cannot help believing that these requisites are) only attainable when one mind alone has the general direction of the undertaking.(11)

The change in the type of the Messenger attracted the favorable comment of The Alexandria (Va.) Gazette:

No Magazine in this country or elsewhere now excels it in [page 66:] the beauty of its typography. — It is printed in the neatest manner, with the handsomest type, on the best paper.(12)

Not only The Alexandria Gazette but the press in general was loud in praise of the December, 1835, issue, which doubtless Poe and White had circulated widely, so that in January, 1836, Poe published an eight-page supplement filled with extracts of praise from newspapers in every part of the Union, commenting on the typography as well as the contents of the magazine, especially the editorial department. A few newpapers [[newspapers]], however, dissented from the favorable majority, and their remarks were also published. Two other supplements, both of eight pages, were published in the following April and July numbers. In April the editor of The Norfolk (Va.) Herald wrote:

To use the words of a Northern contemporary “it has done more within the last six months to refine the literary standard in this country than has been accomplished before in the space of ten years.”(13)

The editor of The Pennsylvanian, on the other hand, found fault with the contents of this Southern magazine:

It is comparatively heavy, a fault which should be carefully avoided in a magazine intended for all sorts of readers.”

To Poe’s brilliant editorial department undoubtedly belonged all the fame and high excellence which the Messenger attained in the first three years of its existence. [page 67:] His caustic criticism caused the attention of the American reading public to be focused on the Messenger. Immediately the press took pleasure in noticing the Messenger, and certain schools of writers became bitter enemies of the hitherto little known editor of the magazine, Edgar Allan Poe. The observations of the editor of The Cincinnati (Ohio) Mirror were that

Its [the Messenger’s] correspondents are numerous and able, and its editor wields the gray goose quill like one who knows what he is about, and who has a right to. Commend us to the literary notices of this Magazine for genius, spice and spirit. Those which are commendatory, are supported by the real merit of the books themselves; but woe seize on the luckless wights who feel the savage skill with which the editor uses his tomahawk and scalping knife. The fact is, the Messenger is not given to the mincing of matter — what it has to say is said fearlessly.(15)

With Poe’s criticism of Norman Leslie, a novel by Theodore S. Fay, a member of the Knickerbocker group, the storm broke. Some writers approved; others disapproved. The review was followed by bitter attacks on two other books, Paul Ulric and Ups and Downs. On September 2, 1836, in a letter to the editor of The Richmond (Va.) Courier and Daily Compiler, Poe replied to his critics in an effort to defend himself and guard the reputation of the journal:

Since the commencement of my editorship, in December last, 94 books have been reviewed. In 79 of these cases, the commendation has so largely predominated over the few sentences of censure that every reader would pronounce the notices highly laudatory. In seven instances, viz.: in those of “The Hawks of [page 68:] Hawk Hollow;” “The Old World and the New;” “Spain Revisited;” the poems of Mrs. Sigourney, of Miss Gould, of Mrs. Ellet and of Halleck praise slightly prevails. In five, viz.: in those of Clinton Bradshaw, “The Partisan,” “Elkswatawa,” “Lafitte,” and the Po-Drake [sic], censure is greatly predominant; while the only reviews decidedly and harshly condemnatory are those of “Norman Leslie,” “Paul Ulric” and “Ups and Downs.”(16)

Poe’s critical notices were not the only attractions that caused the public eye to be cast upon the Messenger, for Poe, a clever magazinist, resorted to different methods to catch the attention of the reading public and to increase the circulation of the magazine. In the February and August issues appeared the articles on “Autography” with the facsimile signatures, of prominent men and women reproduced. “The Chapter on Autography” elicited the following comment from The Georgetown (D. C.) Metropolitan:

The most extraordinary article in the book [the Messenger] and the one which will excite most attention, is its tail piece, in which an American edition of Frazer’s celebrated Miller hoax has been played off on the American Literati with great success — and better than all, an accurate fac simile of each autography given along with it.

The article is extremely amusing, and will excite more attention than probably any thing of the kind yet published in an American periodical. It is quite new in this part of the world.(17)

Not satisfied with these journalistic innovations of “a somewhat overdone causticity in its department of [page 69:] Critical Notices of new books” and with the amazing articles on autography, Poe published “Maelzel’s Chess-Player,” which, with the review of the poems of Drake and Halleck, brought forth the following commendations from the editor of The Norfolk (Va.) Herald:

We wished especially to have called public attention to the Editorial critique on the poems of Drake and Halleck, and the article (also editorial) on the “Automaton of Maelzel.” Both these pieces are unanswerable — and perhaps the two best articles of any kind which have ever appeared in an American Periodical. The essay on the Automaton cannot be answered, and we have heard the Editor challenges a reply from Maelzel himself, or from any source whatever. The piece has excited great attention.(18)

The Georgetown (D. C.) Metropolitan observed that among the attractive features of the Messenger was its early appearance:

Many improvements have been made, in this favorite magazine which will greatly enhance its value for the future. Among these, not the least will be the advantage to its subscribers of an early issue: the present number [December, 1835] reached us in the latter days of November, — and Maine will be served in future almost as soon as Richmond, a matter of no small consequence to a magazine, and, a great merit in the Messenger, as contrasted with its dilatory cotemporaries.(19)

Such attention as was showered upon The Southern Literary Messenger must have increased its circulation. John Pendleton Kennedy recorded in his diary that Poe’s talents made the periodical quite brilliant and that during his editorship the circulation increased [page 70:] from seven hundred to nearly five thousand. Several years after his leaving the Messenger Poe wrote Charles Anthon, a professor in Columbia College, that he had increased the circulation in fifteen months from 700 to 5,500 subscribers paying an annual profit of $10,000;(20) and to Patterson, from less than 1,000 to 5,000 subscribers.(21) At least the circulation increased under Poe’s editorship.

New contributors to the magazine during Poe’s editorial connection with the magazine numbered about twenty, among whom the most prominent were: Nathan Covington Brooks, Mrs. Elizabeth Fries Ellet, Timothy Flint, Mrs. Sarah Josepha Hale, John C. McCabe, and William Gilmore Simms. Brooks’s contribution was “Moses Smiting the Rock,” in the January, 1837, issue. Mrs. Ellet, the wife of a professor in South Carolina College, Columbia, South Carolina, contributed articles more frequently to the Messenger than did Brooks, and no less than five contributions represented her in the magazine from August, 1835, to January, 1837. Timothy Flint’s one contribution was a poem, “Living Alone,” in the February, 1836, number. Mrs. Hale, later editor of Godey’s Lady’s Book,(22) submitted “A Profession for Ladies” to the August, 1836, issue of the Messenger. Both McCabe and Simms continued to contribute to the magazine long after Poe’s resignation. Other new contributors were: George Herbert Calvert, J. Doggett, Jr., E. Burke [page 71:] Fisher, Horatio King, Francis Lieber, William Maxwell, Robert Montgomery Bird, Henry St. George Tucker, and Lambert A. Wilmer. Regular contributors included Philip Pendleton Cooke, James M. Garnett, Robert G. Greenhow, Edwin Saunders, Judge Joseph Hopkinson, J. N. McJilton, James Kirke Paulding, Mrs. L. H. Sigourney, Robert Walsh, and E. F. Stanton.

In May, 1836, J. N. McJilton appeared with the short story, “The Hall of Incholese,” which was censured by the editor of The Richmond (Va.) Compiler:

“The Hall of Incholese” by J. N. McJilton should not have been admitted into the columns of the Messenger. It is an imitation of the Editor’s tale of Bon-Bon, and like most other imitations, utterly unworthy of being mentioned in comparison with its original.(23)

In the Index of Volume II, which Poe probably compiled, appeared only three articles under the caption, “Selected Articles”: “The Fountain of Oblivion,” a poem suggestive of Poe’s “Annabel Lee,” by a Virginian (William M. Robinson); “MS. Found in a Bottle,” by Poe; and “Specimen of Ancient Loveletters [sic],” by John Fenn. This fact indicated that White and his editor had closely adhered to the policy of publishing only original articles. Another feature was the printing of excerpts from novels or books about to be published, examples of which were George H. Calvert’s “A Scene from ‘Arnold and Andre’ “ and A. Slidell’s “Scenes in Campillo.”

As has been stated before, Poe did not have absolute [page 72:] control of the editorial management of the periodical, for an extract from one of Thomas White’s letters to Judge N. Beverley Tucker makes sufficiently clear this fact:

Added to all this, I am cramped by him in the exercise of my own judgment, as to what articles I shall or shall not admit into my work. It is true that I neither have his sagacity, nor his learning — but I do believe I know a handspike from a saw.(24)

In the same letter White showed his dependence on Tucker’s literary judgment and taste. In a letter dated June, 1844, to Professor Anthon, Poe wrote that he managed to increase the circulation of the Messenger, “in despite of the wretched taste of its proprietor, which hampered and controlled me at all points. . . .”(25) Writing to William Poe, in August, 1840, Poe explained that

I believe you know that my connexion with the Sou. Messenger was merely that of Editor. I had no proprietary interest in it, and my movements were therefore much impeded. The situation was disagreeable to me in every respect. The drudgery was excessive, the salary was contemptible. In fact, I soon found that whatever reputation I might personally gain, this reputation would be all. I stood no chance of bettering my pecuniary condition, while my best energies were wasted in the service of an illiterate and vulgar, although well meaning man, who had neither the capacity to appreciate my labors, nor the will to reward them.(26)

In the April, 1836, number of the magazine Poe omitted Beverley Tucker’s two poems, both entitled [page 73:] “To a Coquette,” for which space permitted only one. For this procedure he was taken to task by White, and the following letter of explanation was the result:

May 2, 1836.

Dear Sir,

At Mr. White’s request I write to apologize for the omission of your verses “To a Coquette” in the present number of the Messenger. Upon making up the form containing them it was found impossible to get both the pieces in, and their connection one with the other rendered it desirable not to separate them — they were therefore left for the May number.

I must also myself beg your pardon for making a few immaterial alterations in your article on Slavery, with a view of so condensing it as to get it in the space remaining at the end of the number. One very excellent passage in relation to the experience of a sick bed has been, necessarily, omitted altogether.

It would give me great pleasure to hear your opinion of the February, and of the April number of the Messenger — I mean of the Editorial articles. It is needless for me to say that I value your good opinion, and wish to profit by your counsel.

Please present my best wishes to Professor Dew.

With the highest esteem

Yr. Ob. st.
Edgar A. Poe.

Will you ask Mr. Saunders what has become of the article he promised us?(27)

Poe obviously appreciated the magazine values: condensation and appropriateness. [page 74:]

In his numerous letters to friends Poe expressed himself in respect to the position of magazines in the literature of America and the editorial management of a periodical. To own and edit a magazine of his own was Poe’s lifelong ambition, of which he wrote Professor Anthon in June, 1844:

Before quitting the “Messenger” I saw, or fancied I sa’, through a long and dim vista, the brilliant field for ambition which a Magazine of bold and noble aims presented to him who should successfully establish it in America. I perceived that the country, from its very constitution, could not fail of affording in a few years a larger proportionate amount of readers than any upon the earth. I perceived that the whole energetic, busy spirit of the age tended wholly to Magazine literature — to the curt, the terse, the well-timed, and the readily diffused, in preference to the old forms of the verbose and ponderous and the inaccessible. I knew from personal experience that lying perdu among the innumerable plantations in our vast Southern and Western countries were a host of well-educated men peculiarly devoid of prejudice, who would gladly lend their influence to a really vigorous journal, provided the right means were taken of bringing it fairly within the very limited scope of their observation.(28)

In August, 1840, Poe wrote a letter to his cousin William, soliciting his aid, and sending him a prospectus of the proposed Penn Magazine, expressing his desire “to produce some lasting effect upon the growing literature of the country.” He explained that during his connection with The New York Review and The Gentleman’s Magazine he had only been waiting for the opportune time to establish a magazine of his own. [page 75:] He further stated that he would rely upon the South in his undertaking and asked William Poe, who had represented the Messenger in Georgia, to be his agent for the Penn Magazine in Augusta.

In a rather long letter to Washington Irving, dated June 21, 1841, Poe dwelt upon the magazine projects and journalistic ideas which he had formed after his editorship of the Messenger. He proposed with George R. Graham to establish a five-dollar monthly magazine of octavo page, single column, and clear, bold type, wherein only the finest minds of the United States would express themselves:

I need not call your attention to the signs of the times in respect to magazine literature. You will admit the tendency of the age in this direction. The brief, the terse, the condensed and the easily circulated will take place of the difficult, the ponderous and the inaccessible. Even our reviews are found too massive for the taste of the day — I do not mean for the taste of the merely uneducated, but also for that of the few. In the meantime the finest minds of Europe are beginning to lend their spirit to magazines.(30)

In speaking of the proposed Penn Magazine, Poe further wrote: “Its aim shall be to please, and this through means of versatility, originality and pungency.”(31)

To his friend Philip Pendleton Cooke, Poe wrote in 1839: “As soon as Fate allows I will have a Magazine of my own — and will endeavor to kick up a dust.”(32) But it was not necessary for him to possess a magazine [page 76:] of his own in order “to kick up a dust,” for the critical notices in the Messenger caused dust to fly in the eyes of many. The already mentioned reviews of Norman Leslie, Paul Ulric, and Ups and Downs caused many people to notice the magazine, and the battle between Poe and Fay, the author of Norman Leslie, became personal. In April, 1836, Poe addressed the following note to Fay in the columns of the magazine:

Mr. Fay wishes us to believe that the sale of a book is the proper test of its merit. To save time and trouble we will believe it, and are prepared to acknowledge, as a consequence of the theory, that the novel of Norman Leslie is not at all comparable to the Memoirs of Davy Crockett, or the popular lyric of Jim Crow.(33)

To attacks on Poe’s critical notices and supplements by the editors of The New York Mirror and The Southern Literary Journal Poe answered:

We are sorry to perceive that our friends of the “Southern Literary Journal” are disposed to unite with the “Knickerbocker” and the “New York Mirror” in covert, and therefore unmanly, thrusts at the “Messenger.” It is natural that these two Journals (who refused to exchange with us from the first) should feel themselves aggrieved at our success, and we own that, bearing them no very good will, we care little what injury they do themselves in the public estimation by suffering their mortification to become apparent. But we are embarked in the cause of Southern Literature, and (with perfect amity to all sections) wish to claim especially as a friend and co-operator, every Southern Journal. We repeat, therefore, that we are grieved to see a disposition of hostility, entirely unprovoked, manifested on the part of Mr. Whittaker [sic]. He should reflect, that while we [page 77:] ourselves cannot for a moment believe him otherwise than perfectly upright and sincere in his animadversions upon our Magazine, still there is hardly one individual in ninety-nine who will not attribute every ill word he says of us to the instigations of jealousy.(34)

In his many critiques Poe dealt with all kinds of people and subjects: slavery, the North versus the South, education, America versus England and Europe, the characteristics of Americans, the American frontier, literature, metempsychosis, phrenology, politics, and religion.(35) In respect to slavery, Poe pled for the status quo,(36) remarking that most of the descriptions of slavery had been drawn “in red ochre.”(37) On one occasion he wrote:

We hope the day has gone by when we are to be judged by the testimony of false, interested, and malignant accusers alone. We repeat that we are thankful to Mr. Paulding for having stepped forward in our defence. Our assailants are numerous, and it is indispensable that we should meet the assault with vigor and activity. Nothing is wanting but manly discussion to convince our own people at least, that in continuing to command the services of their slaves, they violate no law divine or human, and that in the faithful discharge of their reciprocal obligations lies their true duty . . . . we believe (with our esteemed correspondent Professor Dew) that society in the South will derive much [page 78:] more of good than of evil from this much abused partially-considered institution.(38)

Poe also declared that the pages of the magazine were, and had been, open “to the discussion of all general questions in Political Law, or Economy — never to questions of mere party.”(39)

In other notices he deplored the antipathy that existed between the North and the South, especially New England and the South.(40) In his comments on Lucian Minor’s “Address on Education,” which White had issued in pamphlet form, Poe pointed out that the South lagged far behind New England in its system of public schools:

We sincerely wish — nay, we even confidently hope, that words so full of warning, and at the same time so pregnant with truth, may succeed in stirring up something akin to action in the legislative halls of the land. Indeed there is no time to squander in speculation. The most lukewarm friend of the State must perceive — if he perceives anything — that the glory of the Ancient Dominion is in a fainting — is in a dying condition. Her once great name is becoming, in the North, a bye-word for imbecility — all over the South, a type for “the things that have been.” And tamely to ponder upon times gone by is not to meet the exigencies of the times present or to come. Memory will not help us. The recollection of our former high estate will not benefit us. Let us act. While we have a resource let us make it of avail. Let us proceed, at once, to the establishment throughout the country, of district schools, upon a plan or organization similar to that of our New England friends.(41) [page 79:]

In the review of Notices of the War of 1812 he lamented that there existed “a piquancy and freedom of expression, in regard to the unhappy sources of animosity between America and the parent land, which can neither to-day nor hereafter answer any possible good end, and may prove an individual grain in a future mountain of mischief.”(42) “Bullheaded” and “prejudiced” were the adjectives which Poe used in describing the American people.(43) In respect to magazine writing he wrote, “the English as far excel us as Hyperion a Satyr.”(44) Poe felt that Fanny Kemble had failed to appreciate the Americans for their real worth,(45) and was pleased that Charles Joseph Latrobe viewed the Americans “with the comprehensive glance of a citizen of the world.”(46) He was particularly desirous that the United States should build up a name for nautical discovery commensurate with her moral, political, and commercial position among the nations of the world, calling the Pacific Ocean “the gymnasium of our national navy.”(47) W. D. Gallagher’s Erato awakened bright hopes in Poe for the literature of the West. In the notice of Longstreet’s Georgia Scenes, with which Poe was unusually well pleased, he reproached Southerners for their failure to recognize their heroes, by even a couplet epitaph, and in the same review he added: “Thanks to the long indulged literary supineness of the South, her presses are not as apt [page 80:] in putting forth a saleable book as her sons are in concocting a wise one.”(48)

Poe’s interest in other contemporary affairs and matters is shown in the contents of his essays and tales. The plot of Politian is based on a tragedy of Kentucky.(49) In his tales he shows a familiar knowledge of all of the current topics in the American newspapers of his time: pestilence, mystification, mesmerism, premature burials, ballooning, and nautical discoveries.

In reply to White’s criticism of “Berenice,” Poe answered in a letter dated April 30, 1835, that White’s opinions of it were valid and that the “tale originated in a bet that I could produce nothing effective on a subject so singular, provided that I treated it serious-ly.”(50) He continued:

The history of all magazines shows plainly that those which obtained celebrity were indebted for it to articles similar in nature to Berenice, although, I grant you, far superior in execution. You ask me in what does the nature consist. In the ludicrous heightened into the grotesque; the fearful colored into the horrible; the witty exaggerated into the burlesque; and the singular heightened into the strange and mystical.(51)

In further reply to White he added:

But whether the articles of which I speak are in bad taste is of [page 81:] little purpose. To be appreciated you must be read and these things are sought after with avidity.(52)

Poe concluded his letter with the hope of furnishing White with a “tale a month, no two alike in matter or manner,” saying that “the effect — if any — will be estimated better by the circulation of the magazine than by any comments on its contents.”(53) Obviously Poe intended to appeal to the readers of periodical literature by offering them what was already conventionally popular.(54)



[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 58:]

1.  II, 1 (Dec., 1835).

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 59:]

2.  Ibid.

3.  Va. Poe, XVII, 10.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 60:]

*  ”The Notices here appended, are very far from all we have received. Many are omitted for want of room. All those left out, are unexceptionally flattering to ourselves” (II, 133, Jan., 1836).

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 61:]

4.  II, 133 (Jan., 1836).

5.  Ibid.

6.  II, 341 (April, 1836).

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 64:]

7.  Armistead Churchill Gordon, Memories and Memorials of William Gordon McCabe. 2 vols. (Richmond, 1925), I, 16-17. This letter is reprinted by permission of Miss Mary D. Gordon of Staunton, Virginia.

8.  Quoted by J. W. Krutch, Edgar Allan Poe: A Study in Genius (New York, 1926), p. 221.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 65:]

9.  See Professor Killis Campbell’s comments on this essay in his The Mind of Poe and Other Studies (Cambridge, Mass., 1933), pp. 216-217.

10.  II, 300 (April, 1836). For an excellent account of the influence of phrenology on Poe and of Poe’s interest in the science, see Edward Hungerford’s “Poe and Phrenology,” American Literature, IV, 209-235 (Nov., 1930).

11.  Va. Poe, XVII, 58-59.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 66:]

12.  “Supplement,” S. L. M., II, 135 (Jan., 1836).

13.  “Supplement,” S. L. M., II, 343 (April, 1836).

14.  “Supplement,” S. L. M., II, 347 (April, 1836).

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 67:]

15.  “Supplement,” S. L. M., II, 343 (April, 1836).

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 68:]

16.  minor, op. cit., pp. 53-54. Professor Killis Campbell well points out that the first statement in this paragraph “does not fully warrant the inference that he had written all these reviews” (Campbell, The Mind of Poe, pp. 230-231).

17.  “Supplement,” S. L. M., II, 347 (April, 1836).

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 69:]

18.  “Supplement,” S. L. M., II, 519 (July, 1836).

19.  “Supplement,” S. L. M., II, 137 (Jan., 1836).

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 70:]

20.  Va. Poe, XVII, 177-178.

21.  Va. Poe, XVII, 350.

22.  See Ruth E. Finley, The Lady of Godey’s: Sarah Josepha Hale (Philadelphia and London, 1931).

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 71:]

23.  “Supplement,” S. L. M., II, 508 (July, 1836).

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 72:]

24.  Wilson, op. cit., p. 256. See also Appendix C, p. 110.

25.  Va. Poe, XVII, 177-178.

26.  Va. Poe, XVII, 55.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 73:]

27.  Wilson, op. cit., pp. 655-656. This letter and parts of others quoted from Professor James Southall Wilson’s article, “Unpublished Letters of Edgar Allan Poe,” are printed with the permission of Professor Wilson and Mr. George P. Coleman of Williamsburg, Virginia, a grandson of Nathaniel Beverley Tucker.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 74:]

28.  Va. Poe, XVII, 176.

29.  Va. Poe, XVII, 56.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 75:]

30.  The New York Times, Sunday, Jan. 12, 1930.

31.  Va. Poe, XVII, 60.

32.  Va. Poe, XVII, 53.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 76:]

33.  II, 340 (April, 1836).

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 77:]

34.  II, 460 (June, 1836). Professor Lewis Chase has called to my attention the criticisms of Poe and the Messenger in The Southern Literary Journal, ed. Daniel K. Whitaker, II, 312 (June, 1836) and II, 393, 397, and 402-403 (July, 1836).

35.  See also Professor Killis Campbell’s essay, “The Backgrounds of Poe,” in his The Mind of Poe, pp. 99-125, Ernest Marchand’s “Poe As Social Critic,” American Literature, VI, 28-43 (March, 1934). For Poe’s method of writing the review of Astoria, see Killis Campbell, “Three Notes on Poe,” American Literature, IV, 385-388 (Jan., 1933).

36.  II, 336-339 (April, 1836).

37.  II, 122 (Jan., 1836).

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 78:]

38.  II, 339 (April, 1836).

39.  II, 445 (June, 1836).

40.  II, 122-123 (Jan., 1836).

41.  II, 66-67 (Dec., 1835).

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 79:]

42.  II, 450 (June, 1836).

43.  II, 721 (Oct., 1836).

44.  II, 458 (June, 1836).

45.  I, 524-531 (May, 1835).

46.  II, 121 ( Jan., 1836).

47.  II, 587 (Aug., 1836).

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 80:]

48.  II, 287 (March, 1836). For more elaborate accounts of Poe’s social criticism, see Killis Campbell, The Mind of Poe, pp. 99-125, and Ernest Marchand, “Poe as Social Critic,” American Literature, 28-43 (March, 1934). The above discussion of Poe’s criticism was written several years before the appearance of Mr. Marchand’s article.

49.  See Thomas Ollive Mabbott, Politian: An Unfinished Tragedy. . . (Richmond, 1923).

50.  Napier Wilt, “Poe’s Attitude Toward His Tales: A New Document,” Modern Philology, XXV, 102 (Aug., 1927).

51.  Wilt, op. cit., p. 102.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 81:]

52.  Ibid., p. 204. The italics are Poe’s.

53.  Ibid., p. 104.

54.  See Professor Wilt’s conclusions, op. cit., p. 205.







[S:0 - PSM, 1934] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Articles - Poe and The Southern Literary Messenger (D. K. Jackson) (Preface)