Text: Arthur Hobson Quinn, “Chapter 09,” Edgar Allan Poe: A Critical Biography (1941), pp. 186-217


[page 186:]

Baltimore — The Early Fiction

Edgar Poe left New York early in 1831 and sought a refuge in the only home open to him, that of Mrs. Clemm in Mechanics Row, Wilks Street, in Baltimore. His grandmother and his brother, William Henry, were still alive, and Virginia, his future wife, was a little girl of eight years of age. These, together with Henry Clemm, a son of Mrs. Clemm, made up the family. From Poe's description of this household in August, 1829, they were probably in no condition to help him in 1831. Yet in the mysterious manner in which individuals who can not take care of themselves, if alone, manage to survive when joined in a group, they lived in a precarious way. Mrs. David Poe still had her pension, and Mrs. Clemm was managing the budget. Edgar Poe tried to find employment, for a letter dated May 6, 1831, to William Gwynn, an editor in Baltimore, asks for a position and continues: “I am very anxious to remain and settle myself in Baltimore, as Mr. Allan has married again and I no longer look upon Richmond as my place of residence.”(1) Nothing came of this request or of another application for the position of teacher in a school.

Poe may have been attracted to Baltimore by its activity in various fields. Incorporated a city by the Legislature of Maryland, December 31, 1796, it had grown to be the third largest town in the United States. Two lines of steamboats, on one of which Poe was to take his last journey to Baltimore in 1849, had been established in 1827. The first railroad in the United States, the Baltimore and Ohio, had been opened for business on May 24, 1830, a picturesque touch being added by the presence in the car of Charles Carroll of Carrollton, the last surviving signer of the Declaration of Independence. Even if horses drew the first cars to Washington, steam soon took their places. With the advent of the railroad, Baltimore became one of the leaders in that spirit of expansion and speculation characteristic of the thirties. Political activity was rife, also, and shortly after Poe's arrival, his old friend, William Wirt, was nominated in Baltimore for President on the [page 187:] Anti-Masonic ticket. But even the high position Wirt held in Baltimore did not sway his city to vote for him in 1832, for he carried, curiously enough, only the state of Vermont. Indeed, both Andrew Jackson and Henry Clay, the chief rivals for the Presidency in 1832, were nominated in Baltimore. Its central position probably accounted for the frequency with which conventions of all kinds met there. Its qualities as a port of entry made it the avenue of foreign trade in comparatively large quantities for a city of 80,000 inhabitants.

Poe may have been attracted, too, by the frequency with which journals were projected in Baltimore. Between 1815 and 1833, seventy-two new periodicals were announced for publication,(2) and although they did not by any means all survive, their inception is an indication of some intellectual interest. Two new theatres were established, one, the “New Theatre” in 1829, and the “Baltimore Museum” in 1830. How much Poe availed himself of these, or of the fairly good library, we can only surmise.

He escaped the cholera plague which raged in Baltimore in 1831, and it is possible that some of the details of the plague in his stories of “King Pest” or “The Masque of the Red Death” may be derived from Poe's observation in Baltimore, even though he lays the scene in London, or in no man's land. “King Pest” occurs in October, and the height of the cholera epidemic came in September.(3) Even more probable as a local source, this time for his story “Eiros and Charmion,” was the rain of meteors visible in Baltimore in the early morning of November 13, 1833. The intense light which gave the sky the appearance of sunrise, the dread on the part of some of the beholders that the end of the world was at hand, the calmness of others, might easily have suggested to Poe the description by Eiros of the comet which brings destruction to the world.(4) There are no verbal similarities between the contemporary accounts and Poe's story. As usual, the essential part of the story, the growing sense of awe and terror, the intensification of all life, human and animal, are of Poe's creation. It is probable, also, that the “aspect of ill” in the heavens and the terror of the skies in “Shadow” may come from Poe's observation of Baltimore's reaction to celestial wonders.

One liability the household soon lost. Henry Poe, who had been in [page 188:] poor health, probably brought on by too much liquor, died on August 1, 1831, at the age of twenty-four, and was buried on August 2nd in the Churchyard belonging to the First Presbyterian Church.(5) The funeral took place from Mrs. Clemm's home in Wilks(6) Street in the older part of the city, between Exeter and High Streets, not far from the spot where Edgar Poe was to be found in a dying condition in 1849. The Baltimore American and Commercial Daily Advertiser for August 2nd(7) contained the notice: “Died last evening W. H. Poe, aged 24 years. His friends and acquaintances are invited to attend his funeral this morning at 9, from the dwelling of Mrs. Clemm, in Wilkes Street.” That he was not very well known may be judged from the fact that the Baltimore Gazette announced his death as that of “W. H. Pope,” and made no correction in subsequent issues.

On October 16, 1831, Poe wrote to John Allan a letter singularly different in tone from his earlier or later appeals. In justice to John Allan, it must be given in part:

Octo: 16th 1831.

Dear Sir,

It is a long time since I have written to you unless with an application for money or assistance. I am sorry that it is so seldom that I hear from you or even of you — for all communication seems to be at an end; and when I think of the long twenty one years that I have called you father, and you have called me son, I could cry like a child to think that it should all end in this. You know me too well to think me interested — if so: why have I rejected your thousand offers of love and kindness? It is true that when I have been in great extremity, I have always applied to you [page 189:] — for I had no other friend, but it is only at such a time as the present when I can write to you with the consciousness of making no application for assistance, that I dare to open my heart, or speak one word of old affection. When I look back upon the past and think of every thing — of how much you tried to do for me — of your forbearance and your generosity, in spite of the most flagrant ingratitude on my part, I can not help thinking myself the greatest fool in existence, — I am ready to curse the day when I was born.

But I am fully — truly conscious that all these better feelings have come too late — ...

I have nothing more to say — and this time, no favour to ask — Altho I am wretchedly poor, I have managed to get clear of the difficulty I spoke of in my last, and am out of debt, at any rate.

May God bless you —

Will you not write one word to me?(8)

Unless Poe was an arrant hypocrite this letter proves that Allan and he had at one time really cared deeply for one another. It also disproves the theory that Allan was making him a regular allowance, or that Poe had visited Richmond in the summer of 1831 and had an altercation with his foster-father or with Mrs. Allan.(9)

If there had been any such quarrel, Poe would not only have felt differently about Allan, but he would not have turned to him when serious trouble came. On November 18, 1831, he wrote to Allan:

Novr: 18. 1831,

My dear Pa,

I am in the greatest distress and have no other friend on earth to apply to except yourself if you refuse to help me I know not what I shall do. I was arrested eleven days ago for a debt which I never expected to have to pay, and which was incurred as much on Hy's. [Henry's] account as on my own about two years ago.

I would rather have done any thing on earth than apply to you [page 190:] again after your late kindness — but indeed I have no other resource, and I am in bad health, and unable to undergo as much hardships as formerly or I never would have asked you to give me another cent.

If you will only send me this one time $80, by Wednesday next, I will never forget your kindness & generosity. — if you refuse God only knows what I shall do, & all my hopes & prospects are ruined forever —

Yours affectionately


I have made every exertion but in vain.(10)

The debt was for $80. That Poe was actually arrested is improbable, and that he was not placed in jail has been established. Mr. Louis H. Dielman and Dr. J. Hall Pleasants, well known historical authorities of Baltimore, searched the jail records and Mr. Dielman has written me as follows: “In regard to the jail records, Dr. J. Hall Pleasants and myself examined the official docket for a period of six months, extending three months each way from the alleged date of his arrest. There was no result. Assuming that it was possible that Poe was sentenced under an assumed name, the charges under which prisoners were sentenced, and the amounts of the debts, for which prisoners for debt were held, were carefully examined and no approximate amount, nor any misdemeanor that appeared to fit the case, were found.”

That Poe had reason to fear arrest is unquestionable. In 1832 more than half the prisoners in the Baltimore jail were insolvent debtors.(11) No reply coming from Allan, Mrs. Clemm wrote to him on December 5th, and Poe appealed again on December 15th:

Balt. Dec. 15th, 1831.

Dear Pa,

I am sure you could not refuse to assist me if you were well aware of the distress I am in. How often have you relieved the distress of a perfect stranger in circumstances less urgent than mine, and yet when I beg and intreat you in the name of God to send me succour you will still refuse to aid me. I know that I have offended you past all forgiveness, and I know that I have [page 191:] no longer any hopes of being again received into your favour, but for the sake of Christ. [[sic]] do not let me perish for a sum of money which you would never miss, and which would relieve me from the greatest earthly misery. ... (12)

The remainder of the letter is the most abject plea to forget past offenses — and it is signed “Yours affect’y.”

The endorsement by John Allan is of especial interest: “Wrote on the 7th Decr. 1831 to John Walsh to procure his liberation & to give him $20 besides to keep him out of further difficulties & value on me for such amt as might be required — neglected sending it on till the 12th Jany 1832[[.]] Then put in the office myself.”(13)

In the meantime, not hearing from Allan, Poe wrote again on December 29th, concluding:

I know that I have no claim upon your generosity — and that what little share I had of your affection is long since forfeited, but, for the sake of what once was dear to you, for the sake of the love you bore me when I sat upon your knee and called you father do not forsake me this only time — and god will remember you accordingly —

E A POE(14)

Perhaps this appeal made Allan hunt up the letter he had failed to mail. We would like to think so.

The year 1831 marks not only the publication of Poe's volume of poems with their distinct advance upon his earlier efforts, but it also records the creation of his first short stories. Despite all his troubles he was working hard in the second field in which he was to win international distinction. On June 4, 1831, The Philadelphia Saturday Courier announced a prize contest offering one hundred dollars for the best short story, and in succeeding issues printed further rules.(15) The stories had to be submitted by December 1, 1831, and the announcement of the prize, which was awarded to Delia S. Bacon, for her tale, “Love's Martyr,” was made in the weekly issue of December 31st. [page 192:] The judges, David Paul Brown and Richard Penn Smith, playwrights, William M. Meredith, Morton McMichael, John Musgrave, and Charles Alexander, evidently preferred the story of sentiment to any of the five tales which Poe submitted for the contest. The editors, however, saw some merit in them for they published them all in the Courier. “Metzengerstein” appeared on January 14, 1832, “The Duke de L’Omelette” on March 3rd, “A Tale of Jerusalem” on June 9th, “A Decided Loss” on November 10th, and “The Bargain Lost” on December 1st.

Whether Poe received any compensation for these stories is uncertain but doubtful. There is nothing in the various announcements of the prize contest concerning payment for the stories that did not win the prize, nor is there any statement that the tales would become the property of the paper. They appeared anonymously, as was usually the case with stories at this time, and it is hard to see what advantage there was to Poe in their publication, except the pleasure that comes to any writer in seeing his first stories in print. But since they are his earliest known publications in fiction, they are of unusual interest to any student of Poe. “Metzengerstein” stands out in contrast to the others in the group, not only in its excellence but also in its general tone. While it is true that on its republication in the Southern Literary Messenger in 1836, it has as subtitle “In Imitation of the German,” this is omitted in the Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque in 1840, and was probably inserted in 1836 to catch the popular interest in German horror tales. “Metzengerstein,” however, is no mere burlesque. It is a powerful story of evil passions in a young man's soul, born of hereditary family hate, and nurtured by his own headstrong nature. These are made concrete by his mysterious association with a horse which steps out of an old tapestry in which is portrayed an ancestor of Metzengerstein murdering one of his hated rivals.(16)

Already in this first story the unity of construction and of tone, the masterly suggestion of the supernatural, the preservation of suspense, and the handling of the climax — many of the great Poe qualities — these are in “Metzengerstein.” Where before had a boy of twenty-two showed his ability in marshalling the resources of the English language to depict such a scene of terror as closes the career of Baron Metzengerstein? [page 193:]

The career of the horseman was, indisputably on his own part, uncontrollable. The agony of his countenance, the convulsive struggling of his frame gave evidence of superhuman exertion; but no sound, save a solitary shriek, escaped from his lacerated lips, which were bitten through and through, in the intensity of terror. One instant, and the clattering of hoofs resounded sharply, and shrilly, above the roaring of the flames, and the shrieking of the winds — another, and clearing, at a single plunge, the gateway, and the moat, the animal bounded, with its rider, far up the tottering staircase of the palace, and was lost in the whirlwind of hissing, and chaotic fire.

“Metzengerstein” may be an allegory and the lesson that evil may become so powerful that the human soul who has given way to it has lost the power to resist, may be drawn from the hapless rider chained to the wild steed. But Poe does not suggest this moral. Poe made several changes in “Metzengerstein” in its various republications. Baron Frederick is fifteen in the Courier, eighteen in the Messenger, fifteen once more in the Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque, and finally eighteen. The passage describing Lady Mary's death from consumption, including the sentences “It is a path I have prayed to follow. I would wish all I love to perish of that gentle disease” was preserved as far as the edition of 1840, and afterwards omitted. But the important qualities were all present in 1831. The best way to appreciate them is to compare Poe's use of the Gothic material with Walpole's absurd treatment in the Castle of Otranto, which has been suggested as its source.

In his fiction, as well as in his poetry, Poe published early. Nearly five years his senior, Hawthorne, after suppressing his novel, Fanshawe, had found a place for his first published short story about a year before “Metzengerstein” appeared. “The Hollow of the Three Hills”(17) has also the combination of the supernatural and the study of the effect of sin upon the soul.

Poe's other stories published in the Courier have a distinct flavor, not only of irony, but even of burlesque. Compared with “Metzengerstein,” “The Duke de L’Omelette” and “A Tale of Jerusalem” are trifles, deliberate imitations of the style of popular stories or novels. “A Tale of Jerusalem” is a burlesque of one episode in Horace Smith's Zillah, A Tale of the Holy City.(18) “A Decided Loss” has some more [page 194:] interest on account of Poe's references to contemporary literature. The narrator who has “lost his breath” in vilifying his wife finds that he can be heard if he limits himself to guttural sounds, and he memorizes the “tragedies of Metamora and Miantonimoh” since the hero of each speaks in a monotonous, low tone. Poe could not have studied the plays, since neither was published, but his comments show that he had seen them, which indicates his early interest in the stage.(19) He speaks sarcastically of John H. Hewitt, soon to be his rival in the Visiter contest, who had reviewed Al Aaraaf in no very complimentary terms. When the story reappeared as “Loss of Breath” in the Messenger, Poe added a long description of the sensations of a man being hanged, which is not badly done, and he peppered the story with literary references.

“The Bargain Lost,” like “The Duke de L’Omelette” introduces a contest between the devil and the hero, Pedro Garcia, a restaurant keeper and a metaphysician of Venice, who in the later version, “Bon-Bon,” became Pierre, the proprietor of a café in Rouen. Here, too, Poe showers the conversation with references to Greek and Latin authors, probably as a satire on the pretence of scholarship, though perhaps also with some parade of his own. In view of the uncertainty of the reference to Voltaire in the record of Poe's reading at the University of Virginia,(20) it is interesting to see that the climax of the story occurs when the devil exhibits the receipt for the soul of “François Marie Arouet,” Voltaire's real name. At the beginning of his work in fiction, therefore, Poe produced examples of two classes of his stories. “Metzengerstein” is an arabesque, the others are grotesques.

How Poe supported himself during the year 1832 is still an unsolved problem, and his personal life has been clouded by testimony which is extremely dubious. He still had his home with Mrs. Clemm, on Wilks Street. The letters to John Allan cease from December, 1831 until April, 1833. The one certain fact lies in an editorial in the Baltimore Saturday Visiter on August 4, 1832:

Mr. Edgar A. Poe, has favoured us with the perusal of some manuscript tales written by him. If we were merely to say that we had read them, it would be a compliment, for manuscripts of [page 195:] this kind are very seldom read by any one but the author. But we may further say that we have read these tales every syllable, with the greatest pleasure, and for originality, richness of imagery and purity of the style, few American authors in our opinion have produced any thing superior. With Mr. Poe's permission we may hereafter lay one or two of the tales before our readers.(21)

This notice, which may be the earliest published critical comment on Poe's tales, was probably written by Lambert A. Wilmer, literary editor of the Visiter, who was a friend of Poe. It indicates that Poe was working steadily at short-story writing, and it seems to prove that he was in Baltimore in the summer of 1832.

There is a persistent tradition that Poe visited his former home in Richmond in 1831 or 1832. As we have seen, the Valentine Letters make the first date improbable. It is not impossible that he went down in 1832, but there is no satisfactory evidence to that effect.(22) What there is, points the other way. T. H. Ellis(23) states that Mrs. Allan's first meeting with Poe was in March, 1834. Poe's own letter of April 12, 1833, which is a cry from the depths, seems to disprove any recent meeting:

Baltimore April 12th 1833

It has now been more than two years since you have assisted me, and more than three since you have spoken to me. I feel little hope that you will pay any regard to this letter, but still I cannot refrain from making one more attempt to interest you in my behalf. If you will only consider in what a situation I am placed you will surely pity me — without friends, without any means, consequently of obtaining employment, I am perishing — absolutely perishing for want of aid. And yet I am not idle — nor addicted to any vice — nor have I committed any offence against society which would render me deserving of so hard a fate. For God's sake pity me, and save me from destruction.

E A POE(24) [page 196:]

If there was no such meeting in 1832, all the stories about Poe's forcing his way into Mrs. Allan's bedchamber disappear. Another series of stories, concerning Poe's love affairs during his Baltimore period, rest upon evidence that bears contradiction upon its face. The long account of Poe's courtship of “Mary Devereaux” could be dismissed entirely if it had not been treated so seriously and extensively by some of his biographers,(25) and if it did not suggest a necessary discussion of the principles that should guide the selection of evidence concerning Edgar Poe. The romantic story of “Poe's Mary” rests upon a magazine article(26) purporting to give the reminiscences of a woman of seventy-one, who claimed that Poe was passionately in love with her, tried to force his way into her room, and cowhided her uncle who objected to the match. There are many other details, too silly for repetition. This evidence is secondary, dressed up to sell to a magazine, and published without the lady's name being given.(27) If there is any form of evidence that is fundamentally unreliable, it is that of an elderly woman concerning her youthful love affair with a man who has since become famous. She dramatizes and magnifies their relations unconsciously, and every desperate act of her lover becomes a tribute to her attractions. “Mary ——” probably did know Poe, and he probably flirted with her, but that he behaved as she said he did is inconceivable. Her evident exaggerations, “He visited me every evening for a year,” her statement that “Eddie told me that Mr. Allan's second wife had been his housekeeper. She said she could not take care of him unless she was his wife,” should have relegated this account to the trash-basket long ago. But it may have served some purpose if it helps to establish a fundamental test in biography. If one account differs in the vital essentials of the hero's character, which are based on the known and proved facts of his life, the burden of proof lies heavily upon it. Poe did many things which his biographers must acknowledge with regret. But when “Mary” says “He didn’t value the laws of God or man. He was an atheist. He would just as lief have [page 197:] lived with a woman without being married to her as not,” she laughs herself out of court. Among all the women who knew him, she alone has spoken of him in this way.

But enough of “Poe's Mary.” It is not helpful in establishing the true record of his life to fill up the vacant months with this kind of gossip. He had some social life, of course. He visited his cousin, Elizabeth Herring, daughter of his Aunt Eliza who had written to John Allan when he was a child. Elizabeth Herring was fond of him, and Poe wrote poems to her, probably during this Baltimore period. One of these, “Elizabeth,” starts in the sonnet form, but since he desired to begin each line with an initial of her name, Elizabeth Rebecca, it finally became sixteen lines in length. Poe never published this poem.(28) Elizabeth married someone else and so did “Mary.”

That he made any deep impression upon the literary groups in Baltimore up to the time of the Visiter contest is unlikely. Certainly John P. Kennedy did not know of him when he won the prize award in 1833. Poe had friends like Lambert Wilmer and acquaintances like John H. Hewitt, both newspaper men. Wilmer took long walks with him and discussed “a variety of subjects” but unfortunately does not tell us what they were. He does deny categorically the stories concerning Poe's drinking, and since Wilmer spoke of Poe's intemperance later, in Philadelphia, his testimony as to his friend's sobriety at this period has some significance. His tribute to Poe's industry rings true: “He appeared to me to be one of the most hardworking men in the world. I called to see him at all hours, and always found him employed.”

His description of Poe's appearance at this time helps, too, in its implications: “I never saw him in any dress which was not fashionably neat, with some approximation to elegance. Indeed I often wondered how he could contrive to equip himself so handsomely, considering that his pecuniary resources were generally scanty and precarious enough.”

Wilmer's long account is evidently at times unreliable, but his description of Poe's relations with Virginia cannot have been entirely imaginary:

I could mention several striking examples of Poe's sensibility if my limits would permit. He was unquestionably of an affectionate [page 198:] disposition; of which he gave the best kind of proof when he labored cheerfully for the maintenance of his aunt and cousin, before his marriage with the latter. While he was editor of the Southern Literary Messenger he devoted a large part of his salary to Virginia's education, and she was instructed in every elegant accomplishment at his expense. He himself became her tutor at another time, when his income was not sufficient to provide for a more regular course of instruction. I remember once finding him engaged, on a certain Sunday, in giving Virginia lessons in Algebra.

One of his severe chroniclers says: “It is believed by some that he really loved his wife; if he did, he had a strange way of showing his affection.” Now it appears to me that he showed his affection in the right way, by endeavoring to make his companion happy. According to the opportunities he possessed, he supplied her with the comforts and luxuries of life. He kept a piano to gratify her taste for music, at a time when his income could scarcely afford such an indulgence. I never knew him to give her an unkind word, and doubt if they ever had any disagreement. That Virginia loved him, I am quite certain, for she was by far too artless to assume the appearance of an affection which she did not feel.(29)

Moreover, since Wilmer's stay in Baltimore lasted only from January to October, 1832, his testimony is useful in establishing Poe's whereabouts in this year. “Every elegant accomplishment” is an exaggerated statement, of course, but there is a reality about the algebra lessons which helps to establish Virginia's mental growth.

Poe's own letter to Allan in April, 1833, supported by Wilmer's testimony, is worth a dozen feminine reminiscences in giving us an insight into his thoughts and feelings at this time. Far from being the philandering young poet, wasting his time in harrowing up the emotions of young women, he was a hard-working writer of fiction, probably also of unidentified hack work for newspapers, and was self-respecting in habits and appearance. He was living quietly with Mrs. Clemm, [page 199:] depending for the sympathy, without which he was never able to live, upon a few friends, and cut off by his poverty from any wide acquaintance with social life or literary coteries in Baltimore. That he was desperately unhappy, his letter shows, and that he resented his fate is equally clear. It is the appeal of a normal young man who wishes to work and can find no one to employ him. However, he was not sitting idle in despair. In the Visiter for April 20, 1833, appeared a poem “Serenade, by E. A. Poe.” Although Poe did not reprint this poem in his collected edition of 1845, it has considerable merit. Perhaps he recognized that it was reminiscent of other poems of his early period dealing with the relations of sleep and dreams. It was addressed to “Adeline.”(30)

Fortunately, some slight measure of good fortune was in store for Poe. He was industriously writing short stories and endeavoring to have them published. One of his letters has especial interest in its description of his projected volume. It was sent with the manuscript of “Epimanes” to the editors of the New England Magazine:


Letter from Poe to J. T. and E. Buckingham [thumbnail]

[Illustration on page 200]
Poe's letter offering the “Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque” to the “New England Magazine”

Baltimore May 4th 1833


I send you an original tale in hope of your accepting it for the N. E. Magazine. It is one of a number of similar pieces which I have contemplated publishing under the title of “Eleven Tales of the Arabesque.” They are supposed to be read at table by the eleven members of a literary club, and are followed by the remarks of the company upon each. These remarks are intended as a burlesque upon criticism. In the whole, originality more than any thing else has been attempted. I have said this much with a view of offering you the entire M.S. If you like the specimen which I have sent I will forward the rest at your suggestion — but if you decide upon publishing all the tales, it would not be proper to print the one I now send until it can be printed in its place with the others. It is however optional with you either to accept them [page 201:] all, or publish “Epimanes” and reject the rest — if indeed you do not reject them altogether.

Very respy,

Yr. Obt. St.


Messrs. Buckingham.

Please reply by letter as I have few opportunities of seeing your Magazine.(31)

P. S. I am poor

Poe had evidently written, by this date, eleven of the group of stories later to be known as the Tales of the Folio Club. He conceived of them as a unit in their tone, and as being original. While the magazines declined to publish the stories, Poe at last found an outlet. In the issue of June 15, 1833, the Baltimore Saturday Visiter printed the following:


The proprietors of the Baltimore Saturday Visiter feeling desirous of encouraging literature, and at the same time serving their readers with the best that lies within their reach, offer a premium of 50 dollars for the best Tale and 25 dollars for the best Poem, not exceeding one hundred lines, that shall be offered them between the present period and the first of October next.

The following gentlemen have been chosen to decide on the merits of the productions:

John P. Kennedy, Esq.
John H. B. Latrobe, Esq.
Doctor James H. Miller

Those writers throughout the country who are desirous of entering the lists, will please forward their productions to Cloud and Pouder, Baltimore, before the first of October (postpaid) enclosed in an envelope bearing the name of the writer. If secrecy is preferred, the name may be enclosed in a separate envelope, which will not be opened, except in the case of the successful author. We wish those who may write for either of the premiums to understand that all manuscripts submitted will become the property of the Publishers. [page 202:]

Silver medals to the amount of the above rewards will be given in lieu of cash, if required.

For these prizes Poe submitted his poem “The Coliseum,” and six stories, under the general title of Tales of the Folio Club. They were “Epimanes,” “The Manuscript Found in a Bottle,” “Lionizing,” “The Visionary,” “Siope,” and, possibly, “A Descent into the Maelstrom.”(32)

In the issue of October 12, 1833, the judges’ decision was announced:

The Premiums

It will be seen by the following letter that the Committee have decided on the merits of the various productions sent for the premiums offered by us. The “Manuscript found in a bottle” is the production of Edgar A. Poe, of Baltimore.

The poem entitled “The Song of the Winds” by Henry Wilton, of Baltimore.

The prize pieces shall be published next week.

Messer. Cloud and Pouder —

Gentlemen: — We have received two pacquets containing the Poems and Tales submitted as competitors for the prizes offered by you in July last, and in accordance with your request have carefully perused them with a view to the award of the premiums.

Amongst the poems we have selected a short one, entitled “Song of the Winds,” as the most finished production offered. There were several others of such a degree of merit as greatly to perplex our choice and cause some hesitation in the award we have made.

Of the tales submitted there were many of various and distinguished excellence; but the singular force and beauty of those offered by “The Tales of the Folio Club,” it may be said without disparagement to the high merit of others presented in the competition, left us no ground for doubt in making choice of one from that collection. We have accordingly, awarded the prize in this department to the tale bearing the title of “A MS Found in a Bottle.” It would scarcely be doing justice to the author of this collection to say the tale we have chosen is the best of the six offered by him. We have read them all with unusual interest, and cannot refrain from the expression of the opinion that the writer owes it to his own reputation, as well as to the gratification [page 203:] of the community to publish the whole volume. These tales are eminently distinguished by a wild, vigorous and poetical imagination, a rich style, a fertile invention, and varied and curious learning. Our selection of “A MS Found in a bottle” was rather dictated by the originality of its conception and its length, than by any superior merit in its execution over the others by the same author.

The general excellence of the whole of the compositions offered for the prizes is very creditable to the rising literature of our country.

Very Respectfully Gentl’n

The prize for the poem was won by John H. Hewitt, who was the editor of the Visiter and who had competed under an assumed name. Poe insisted(33) that both Kennedy and Latrobe told him his poem would have received the prize also had he not been the winner of the contest for the short story. Latrobe's reminiscences of the occasion give some support to this claim.

The “Song of the Winds” and the “Manuscript Found in a Bottle” were published in the next issue, October 19th.(34) We can imagine Poe's feelings when he read his story, which begins after the poem, in the first column of the first page and covers four columns of fine print. For the first time his name was associated with success.(35)

“The Coliseum” appeared in the next issue of the Visiter, that of October 26th, with an opening line,

“Lone amphitheatre! Grey Coliseum!”

afterwards abandoned. A notice in the same issue of an edition of Poe's Tales of the Folio Club to be published by subscription, at the cost of one dollar a volume, proved premature, for Poe had decided to offer them to Carey and Lea. But the editorial notice was friendly.

One of the judges, Latrobe, gave a picturesque, if at times inaccurate account of their meeting, in his address at the Poe Memorial [page 204:] Exercises in Baltimore in 1877 [[see note]]. His picture of Poe, who called to thank him, is singularly vivid after a lapse of years:

His figure was remarkably good, and he carried himself erect and well, as one who had been trained to it. He was dressed in black, and his frockcoat was buttoned to the throat, where it met the black stock; then almost universally worn. Not a particle of white was visible. Coat, hat, boots, and gloves had very evidently seen their best days, but so far as mending and brushing go, everything had been done, apparently, to make them presentable. On most men his clothes would have looked shabby and seedy, but there was something about this man that prevented one from criticising his garments, and the details I have mentioned were only recalled afterwards. The impression made, however, was that the award in Mr. Poe's favor was not inopportune.

The most important result of the contest was the friendship with John Pendleton Kennedy. Kennedy, then thirty-eight years of age, was one of the most respected men in Baltimore, and a prominent member of the bar. He had published his first novel, Swallow Barn, in 1832, and was to write in 1835 Horse-Shoe Robinson, a novel of the Revolution which still divides the honors with The Spy and Hugh Wynne. It was not only in his material help, but more particularly in the sympathy and understanding which only one writer can give to another, that Kennedy helped Poe. This came in its most helpful aspects only a little later. The publication of “The Visionary,” later “The Assignation” in Godey's Lady's Book in January, 1834, may have been due to Mrs. Hale's knowledge of Poe through her son, but Kennedy may have said a good word also. It was certainly at his suggestion that Poe sent his Tales of the Folio Club to Carey and Lea,(36) and Kennedy did his best with that firm, who, of course, had known of Poe as a poet as early as 1829. Kennedy further advised him to sell the stories first for periodical publication and remitted him fifteen dollars which he said Carey had obtained from Miss Leslie, the editress of the Atlantic Souvenir. No story appeared in that annual, however, and Carey and Lea ultimately declined to publish the volume.(37) [page 205:]

Shortly after Poe had written his last despairing letter to John Allan, he moved with Mrs. Clemm to No. 3 Amity Street, between Saratoga and Lexington Streets, in the western part of the town, now 203 Amity Street. It is a very modest two-story dwelling, still standing, and now occupied by Negroes. There is a fair-sized living room, a dining room and a kitchen, with two bedrooms on the second floor, which had no back building. Since Mrs. David Poe was still living when the family moved there, the accommodations must have been insufficient. By one of those ironic touches so common in the associations of Poe, the neighborhood has been the site recently of a “slum clearance project” for the Works Progress Administration. Visitors to the district see two large placards announcing “Edgar Allan Poe Homes” to prospective settlers.(38)

If Poe made one last effort to see his foster-father, it was early in 1834. John Allan was nearing his end and knew it. On December 16, 1833, he wrote to his former partner, Charles Ellis, urging a final settlement of the affairs of their old firm. “My health,” he said, “is perhaps as good now as it ever will be. While therefore I can attend to these matters it were wise to do it.”(39) T. H. Ellis's account of Poe's visit runs as follows:

She [Mrs. Louisa Allan] never saw Edgar Poe but twice in her life. The account I have heard of her first meeting him was this:

A short time previous to Mr. Allan's death, on the 27th of March, 1834, he was greatly distressed by dropsy, was unable to lie down, and sat in an arm-chair night and day; several times a day, by the advice of his physician, he walked across the room for exercise, leaning on his cane, and assisted by his wife and a man-servant. During this illness of her husband, Mrs. Allan was on an occasion passing through the hall of this house, when hearing the front door bell ring, she opened the door herself. A man of remarkable appearance stood there, and without giving his name asked if he could see Mr. Allan. She replied that Mr. Allan's condition was such that his physicians had prohibited any person from seeing him except his nurses. The man was Edgar A. [page 206:] Poe, who was, of course, perfectly familiar with the house. Thrusting her aside, and without noticing her reply, he passed rapidly up stairs to Mr. Allan's chamber, followed by Mrs. Allan. As soon as he entered the chamber, Mr. Allan raised his cane, and threatening to strike him if he came within his reach, ordered him out; upon which Poe withdrew; and that was the last time they ever met.

I have forgotten the particulars of the other occasion on which she saw him, but my impression is that it was after Mr. Allan's death; that she was sitting at one of the front windows of her chamber, and seeing him enter the gate and walk towards the door, she sent her chambermaid down to say that she begged to be excused from receiving him.(40)

The testimony of Thomas Ellis is one of the most difficult of all contemporary accounts of Poe to evaluate. In matters of which he knew at first hand and which he is relating without prejudice, he is a useful witness. But the long letter just quoted is written definitely to defend Mrs. Louisa Allan “in order that I may perform an act of justice to one of the most admirable ladies I have ever known.” The account, it will be noticed, is one he had “heard” and he follows it with the account of another visit, which is very vague. He then proceeds to quote from a letter written to him by Mrs. Allan at his request:


203 Amity Street, Baltimore, Maryland [thumbnail]

[Illustration facing page 206]
A home of Mrs. Clemm and Poe in Baltimore

As regards Edgar Poe, of my own knowledge I know nothing; I only saw him twice; but all I heard of him, from those who had lived with him, was a tissue of ingratitude, fraud, and deceit. Mr. Poe had not lived under Mr. Allan's roof for two years before my marriage; and no one knew his whereabouts; his letters, which were very scarce, were dated from St. Petersburg, Russia, although he had enlisted in the army at Boston. After he became tired of army life, he wrote to his benefactor, expressing a desire to have a substitute if the money could be sent to him; Mr. Allan sent it, Poe spent it; and after the substitute was tired out, waiting, and getting letters and excuses, he (the substitute) enclosed one of Poe's letters to Mr. Allan which was too black to be credited if it had not contained the author's signature. Mr. Allan sent the money to the man, and banished Poe from his affections; and he never lived here again. I must say, in justice, I never influenced Mr. Allan against him in the slightest degree; indeed, I would not have presumed to have interfered or advised concerning him. Poe was never spoken of between us. [page 207:]

As many of the unfavorable rumors concerning Edgar Poe come from the Ellis-Allan tradition, it is noteworthy that the tone of Mrs. Allan's statement is distinctly prejudiced, and the evidence secondary and contradictory. Poe had left the army eighteen months before she married Allan, so the account of the substitute must have come from him. How did she know that John Allan had banished Poe from his affections, if “Poe was never spoken of between us”?

Evidently if this account is correct, there was no meeting between Mrs. Allan and Poe in 1832. If there was such a meeting, Ellis is wrong in this later statement, for Mrs. Allan would have known Poe in 1834. In any event, this supposed visit, which has formed the basis for so much dramatized romance, rests upon very insecure foundations.

Thomas Ellis is right in one particular, however. John Allan did die on March 27, 1834. We may be sure that his strange will, made originally on April 17, 1832, with its still stranger codicils of December 31, 1832, and March 15, 1833,(41) made a stir in Richmond. While he tried to make provision for his illegitimate children, both those of whose claims upon him he was certain and those of which he was doubtful, he made no mention of his foster-son. And yet except for him, John Allan would now be forgotten. Mrs. Allan promptly repudiated the will.(42)

We know almost as little concerning Poe's personal life during 1834 as in 1832. On March 15, 1835, he asked Kennedy's help in obtaining a position as teacher in a public school, but he did not secure the post. Kennedy's reply was an immediate invitation to dinner, which drew the letter that revealed to what depths Poe must have been reduced:

Dr. Sir, — Your kind invitation to dinner today has wounded me to the quick. I cannot come — and for reasons of the most humiliating nature in my personal appearance. You may conceive my deep mortification in making this disclosure to you — but it was necessary. If you will be my friend so far as to loan me $20, I will call on you to-morrow — otherwise it will be impossible, and I must submit to my fate.

Sincerely yours,

E. A. POE.

Sunday, 15th [1835].(43) [page 208:]

That Kennedy at once took practical steps to assist Poe is shown by an entry in the former's journal, written after Poe's death in 1849:

It is many years ago, I think perhaps as early as 1833 or ‘34, that I found him in Baltimore in a state of starvation. I gave him clothing, free access to my table and the use of a horse for exercise whenever he chose; in fact brought him up from the very verge of despair. I then got him employment with Mr. White, in one department of the editorship of the Southern Literary newspaper at Richmond. His talents made that periodical quite brilliant while he was connected with it. But he was irregular, eccentric, and querulous, and soon gave up his place for other employments of the same character in Philadelphia and New York. His destiny in these places was as sad and fickle as in Richmond. He always remembered my kindness with gratitude, as his many letters to me testify. He is gone — a bright but unsteady light has been awfully quenched.(44)

Although Kennedy is mistaken in the year, his memory is otherwise correct. He secured publication of Poe's stories in The Southern Literary Messenger of Richmond, “Berenice” appearing in March, 1835, “Morella” in April, “Lionizing” in May, and “Hans Phaall, a Tale” in June.

The Messenger was established by Thomas Willis White, a printer of Richmond, the first number appearing in August, 1834. He was strong in his hope of lifting Southern letters to a more lofty plane, and more especially of inducing Southerners to support their own periodicals. The first editor was James E. Heath, who, in addition to filling various political offices, wrote the clever play, Whigs and Democrats, anonymously printed by White in 1839 and produced at the Arch Street Theatre in Philadelphia, October 31, 1844. Heath acted as editor without compensation until April, 1835, when Edward V. Sparhawk took charge for three months.(45) The letters from Poe to White during May and June prove that Poe was contributing critical articles as well as short stories. It is pathetic to see the gratitude Poe evinces for the trifling sums of $5.00 and $4.94, which White sent him through Kennedy. We can only hope these sums were paid for Poe's reviews of Robert Montgomery Bird's Calavar and Kennedy's Horse-Shoe [page 209:] Robinson and not for the short stories. Poe was “too unwell to go abroad” in May,(46) and did not do justice to Kennedy's novel in consequence, as he recognized himself. Poe's letters also reveal his acquaintance with the editors of the Baltimore American and the Republican and his ability to secure notices of the Messenger in their columns. This supports the belief that he had been making at least small sums by writing for the newspapers and it may well be that some of his earliest work is hidden anonymously in their columns. Poe even in his poverty was self-respecting, for he declined being paid by White for securing the publication of these friendly notices.(47) It is no wonder that White soon made overtures to Poe to help him with the Messenger. Poe's letter of June 22nd shows his knowledge of journalism:

Balt: June 22d 1835.

My dear Sir, — I recd your letter of the 18th yesterday, and this morning your reprint of the Messenger No. 3. While I entirely agree with you, and with many of your correspondents, in your opinion of this number (it being in fact one of the very best issued), I cannot help entertaining a doubt whether it would be of any advantage to you to have the public attention called to this its second appearance by any detailed notice in the papers. There would be an air of irregularity about it — as the first edition was issued so long ago — which might even have a prejudicial effect. For indeed the veriest trifles — the mere semblance of anything unusual or outré — will frequently have a pernicious influence in cases similar to this; and you must be aware that of all the delicate things in the world the character of a young Periodical is the most easily injured. Besides, it is undeniable that the public will not think of judging you by the appearance, or the merit of your Magazine in November. Its present character, whether that be good or bad, is all that will influence them. I would therefore look zealously to the future, letting the past take care of itself. Adopting this view of the case, I thought it best to delay doing anything until I should hear further from you — being fully assured that a little reflection will enable you to see the matter in the same light as myself. One important objection to what you proposed is the insuperable dislike entertained by the Daily Editors to notice [page 219:] any but the most recent publications. And although I dare say that I could, if you insist upon it, overcome this aversion in the present case, still it would be trifling to no purpose with your interest in that quarter. If however you disagree with me in these opinions I will undoubtedly (upon hearing from you) do as you desire. Of course the remarks I now make will equally apply to any other of the back numbers. ...

You ask me if I would be willing to come on to Richmond if you should have occasion for my services during the coming winter. I reply that nothing would give me greater pleasure. I have been desirous, for some time past, of paying a visit to Richmond, and would be glad of any reasonable excuse for so doing. Indeed I am anxious to settle myself in that city, and if, by any chance, you hear of a situation likely to suit me, I would gladly accept it, were the salary even the merest trifle. I should indeed feel myself greatly indebted to you, if th[r]ough your means, I could accomplish this object. What you say in the conclusion of your letter, in relation to the supervision of proof-sheets, gives me reason to hope that possibly you might find something for me to do in your office. If so I should be very glad — for at present a very small portion of my time is employed.(48)

It is one of the usual commonplaces of criticism to speak of Poe as outside the current of the literature of his time. Fortunately, we have the refutation of this error, so far as his fiction is concerned, from his own pen. In a letter to White, written on April 30, 1835, he describes the kind of stories most in demand by the periodicals of that time, and provides scholars of today with information as to possible sources for his own tales.

A word or two in relation to Berenice. Your opinion of it is very just. The subject is by far too horrible, and I confess that I hesitated in sending it you especially as a specimen of my capability. The Tale originated in a bet that I could produce nothing effective on a subject so singular, provided I treated it seriously. But what I wish to say relates to the character of your Magazine more than to any articles I may offer, and I beg you to believe that I have no intention of giving you advice, being fully confident that, upon consideration, you will agree with me. The history of all Magazines shows plainly that those which have attained celebrity [page 211:] were indebted for it to articles similar in nature to Berenice — although, I grant you, far superior in style and execution. I say similar in nature. You ask me in what does this nature consist? In the ludicrous heightened into the grotesque: the fearful coloured into the horrible: the witty exaggerated into the burlesque: the singular wrought out into the strange and mystical. You may say all this is bad taste. I have my doubts about it. Nobody is more aware than I am that simplicity is the cant of the day — but take my word for it no one cares any thing about simplicity in their hearts. Believe me also, in spite of what people say to the contrary, that there is nothing easier in the world than to be extremely simple. But whether the articles of which I speak are, or are not in bad taste is little to the purpose. To be appreciated you must be read, and these things are invariably sought after with avidity. They are, if you will take notice, the articles which find their way into other periodicals, and into the papers, and in this manner, taking hold upon the public mind they augment the reputation of the source where they originated. Such articles are the “M.S. found in a Madhouse” and the “Monos and Daimonos” of the London New Monthly — the “Confessions of an Opium-Eater” and the “Man in the Bell” of Blackwood. The two first were written by no less a man than Bulwer — the Confessions [were?](49) universally attributed to Coleridge — although unjustly. Thus the first men in [Europe?] have not thought writings of this nature unworthy of their talents, and I have good reason to believe that some very high names valued themselves principally upon this species of literature. To be sure originality is an essential in these things — great attention must be paid to style, and much labour spent in their composition, or they will degenerate into the turgid or the absurd. If I am not mistaken you will find Mr. Kennedy, whose writings you admire, and whose Swallow-Barn is unrivalled for purity of style and thought[,] of my opinion in this matter. It is unnecessary for you to pay much attention to the many who will no doubt favour you with their critiques. In respect to Berenice individually I allow that it approaches the very verge of bad taste — but I will not sin quite so egregiously again. I propose to furnish you every month with a Tale of the nature which I have alluded to. The effect — if any — will be estimated better by the circulation of the Magazine than by any [page 212:] comments upon its contents. This much, however, it is necessary to premise, that no two of these Tales will have the slightest resemblance one to the other either in matter or manner — still however preserving the character which I speak of.(50)

Poe did not by any means exhaust the forms of short story then popular, but he was evidently studying the magazines and not writing simply to suit himself in defiance of editorial tastes.

By the time Poe left Baltimore to join the staff of the Messenger in the summer of 1835, he had published eleven stories, and had written at least sixteen. These early stories have been referred to as The Tales of the Folio Club. No such volume was ever published, however, and the number varied at different times.(51) When Poe submitted his stories to the New England Magazine in 1833, he had eleven in mind, and he then spoke of them as Eleven Tales of the Arabesque. His conception of the Folio Club was that of a group of eleven “Dunderheads” who held monthly meetings, at which each of the members read a story. The ensuing criticism was in burlesque of some well known style of writing of the time.(52) The most significant fact concerning the early stories lies in Poe's progress from the merely grotesque to the arabesques, or the stories which were the product of imaginative power. He had begun with an arabesque, “Metzengerstein,” but he had followed this tale with four grotesques. In “The Manuscript Found in a Bottle” he returned to that mingling of the natural and the supernatural of which he is one of the great exponents. The title itself is a foreshadowing of death, and the description of the “Simoom” is a good example of controlled exaggeration, in which also Poe was a master. The ancient ship, of deep black, hovering upon the summit of a wave of more than a hundred times her own altitude, pausing for a moment of intense terror, then trembling, tottering and coming down upon the wreck from which the narrator is momentarily expecting [page 213:] to be hurled, is a fine example of suspense. The supernatural quality of the ghostly Spanish ship is established by that unobtrusive denial of the natural which Poe had employed in his poetry. An especially good touch is the way in which the crew refuse to see him. The final plunge into the whirlpool suggests that this story ends, in a way, where “The Descent into the Maelström” begins. Latrobe said that the latter story was also among the six submitted for the Visiter prize, but its date of publication, 1841, has led to the assumption of a mistake on his part.

Two of the stories, “Berenice” and “Morella,” at once challenge attention, not only because they both deal with a death of a woman, who has loved the narrator without his returning her love, but because they are both concerned with a more profound theme. The preservation of physical life has always been the most universal concern of human beings, but Poe went far beyond this topic to incarnate characters who represent the struggle to preserve or to destroy the integrity of spiritual identity. He was to rise to much greater heights in treating this theme, but “Berenice” and “Morella” are preliminary studies. In “Berenice” the woman is the cousin of the narrator and is to marry him, but his passions have never been of the heart but always of the mind. Consequently, he is marrying her out of pity, notwithstanding her moral disease. He is a self-hypnotist and dims the outer shell of his mental integrity by long days of contemplation of unimportant things. Poe's analysis of the ordinary day dream is quite accurate. It is speculative and wanders from the original idea, but his hero's dreams are of another quality. This prepares the way for the obsession which the teeth of Berenice kindle within him, and which in the later versions of the story hold out to him a promise of cure for his own disease. The premature burial of Berenice and the revelation that he has torn from her living body the teeth which he desires, are described cleverly enough, but the sentiment awakened is that of horror rather than terror, and the tale fails for that reason. One long passage in which the hero pays a visit to the death chamber of Bernice is mercifully cut out of the later versions, beginning with the Broadway Journal, though it still persisted in 1840 in the Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque.

“Morella” is on a higher plane, and is a preliminary study for “Ligeia,” probably his greatest story. Again the passions are of the mind, but Morella, instead of being a moral leper, is a profound student. To the narrator “the notion of that identity which at death is or is not lost forever, was . ... at all times a consideration of intense [page 214:] interest” and Morella shared it. Morella dies, however, and leaves him a daughter, who remains nameless, and whom he loves devotedly. But here Poe introduces the idea that identity can be too perfect, and the father cannot bear to hear the tones and see the bewildering glances of Morella re-incarnated. Poe handles the climax skilfully enough. When, for the first time at her baptism, her father speaks Morella's name, the dead woman responds, “I am here,” and when upon the daughter's death and entombment he finds no body of his wife, the reader is prepared to accept the triumph of one human being's desire to live again. But the touch is not yet sure, as it became later. In a manuscript version of “Morella,” the story ends with the death of the older woman.(53)

“The Visionary,” later “The Assignation,” is sheer melodrama, in which Poe took the situation from E. T. A. Hoffmann's “Doge und Dogaressa.”(54) It contains within it one of Poe's most melodious poems, now called “To One in Paradise.”

“Lionizing” is amusing on account of its satire of the methods of puffery then rampant, and of the assumption of scholarship in the many references to classical authors. Poe added, subtracted and modified these references during his constant revisions of the story. In its lack of appeal today, however, it illustrates the penalty paid by any writer who deals with the contemporary in the satirical spirit.

“King Pest” is on the border line between the grotesque and the arabesque, there being a certain power in the description of the pestilence. The main situation, that of two sailors forcing their way into the shop of an undertaker where six strange beings are drinking out of skulls, is based upon the “Palace of the Wines,” Chapter I, Book VI of Disraeli's Vivian Grey. Poe's story is a burlesque of a romantic satire, in which Disraeli departed for a brief interlude from the political and social satire of Vivian Grey. The success of such a burlesque depends upon its original being familiar, and Poe assumed that Vivian Grey was widely known. The novel is therefore not a source but a point of attack. Poe's debt to Disraeli lies not so much in his situations as in the ironic tone in which the future Lord Beaconsfield treated pretence in high places, and artificiality anywhere. [page 215:] To solemnly discuss Poe's “sources” in his grotesques is to misunderstand his purpose in writing them.(55)

“Epimanes” (“Four Beasts in One”) is a satire upon the adulation of a King of Syria by the mob, whose real nature is revealed when he dresses like a cameleopard and the beasts chase him. Poe had here his usual dislike of the mob as an incentive to satire. “Von Jung” (“Mystification”) has its relation to the time, in its satire upon duelling, under attack both by novelists and playwrights during the first half of the century.(56) These stories are, however, among his weakest.

“Hans Phaall,” as it was first spelled, was written by Poe as a hoax and a burlesque upon romantic, scientific tales of journeys to the moon. Yet within the framework of burlesque he creates such a plausible and, at times, imaginative account of Hans Phaall's voyage, that it passes from the grotesque into the arabesque group. The plea for intuition in scientific investigation, his arguments concerning the limits of our atmosphere, are foreshadowings of his later and more serious scientific creations. Fortunately, Poe could not content himself with mere burlesque. It was his passion for accuracy which made him depict details in the voyage that build up an illusion of reality.

It was also his passion for perfection that makes “Siope” (“Silence”) a work of art. It has as a subtitle “In the Manner of the Psychological Autobiographists” and at first glance it would seem to be a burlesque, probably of Bulwer's “Monos and Daimonos.”(57) But Bulwer's tale is a rambling narrative of a man who loved solitude and sat on a rock. If “Siope” began as a burlesque, it became a piece of imaginative prose. That Poe meant it for this is shown in the use he makes of phrases which he had already used in his poem, “The Valley Nis,” in 1831, and which he was to republish, much improved, as “The Valley of Unrest” in 1836. Poe would not have treated his own poetry so scornfully. “Siope” belongs with “Shadow,” Poe's supreme prose expression of this period. Perfectly unified in tone, with an economy of style that makes each phrase a thing of beauty, “Shadow” derived from Poe's [page 216:] own experience of the cholera “the terror for which there is no name upon the earth.” Again, from the fear that had fallen on Baltimore at the approach of the comet came, perhaps, the warning from the skies “which made itself manifest not only in the physical orb of the earth, but in the souls, imaginations and meditations of mankind.” With this brief inspiration from experience, Poe painted the picture of the seven friends sitting around the dead body of their comrade, distorted from the plague. But no paraphase should disturb that climax:

And lo! from among those sable draperies where the sounds of the song departed, there came forth a dark and undefined shadow — a shadow such as the moon, when low in heaven, might fashion from the figure of a man: but it was the shadow neither of man, nor of God, nor of any familiar thing. And, quivering awhile among the draperies of the room, it at length rested in full view upon the surface of the door of brass. But the shadow was vague, and formless, and indefinite, and was the shadow neither of man, nor of God — neither God of Greece, nor God of Chaldæa, nor any Egyptian God. And the shadow rested upon the brazen doorway, and under the arch of the entablature of the door, and moved not, nor spoke any word, but there became stationary and remained. And the door whereupon the shadow rested was, if I remember aright, over against the feet of the young Zoilus enshrouded. But we, the seven there assembled, having seen the shadow as it came out from among the draperies, dared not steadily behold it, but cast down our eyes, and gazed continually into the depths of the mirror of ebony. And at length I, Oinos, speaking some low words, demanded of the shadow its dwelling and its appellation. And the shadow answered, “I am SHADOW, and my dwelling is near to the Catacombs of Ptolemais, and hard by those dim plains of Helusion which border upon the foul Charonian canal.” And then did we, the seven, start from our seats in horror, and stand trembling, and shuddering, and aghast: for the tones in the voice of the shadow were not the tones of any one being, but of a multitude of beings, and, varying in their cadences from syllable to syllable, fell duskily upon our ears in the well remembered and familiar accents of many thousand departed friends.

The inevitability of the phrases reminds us of the prose of the Bible, and it is not surprising that Poe added in his revision of the story, as a motto, “Yea, though I walk through the Valley of the Shadow,” Psalm of David.(58) [page 217:]

This Baltimore period was productive of three fine poems. Of these, “The Coliseum” will be spoken of later. “To One in Paradise,” printed originally without title in “The Visionary” is one of the most melodious of his poems. The refrain “No more — no more — no more” is significant in view of its later use. And the last stanza is sheer harmony:

“And all my days are trances

And all my nightly dreams

Are where thy dark eye glances

And where thy footstep gleams —

In what ethereal dances

By what eternal streams.”

The “Hymn,” originally included in “Morella,” reveals Poe's desperate state in these days. That he should turn to the “Mother of God”

“Now, when storms of Fate o’ercast

Darkly my Present and my Past”

is an indication of a devotional feeling not otherwise to be found in his work. The “Hymn” seems to demand musical accompaniment. “To Mary,” which was published in the Messenger in July, 1835, is hardly up to the standard of these three, although there are fine lines in it. It was transferred later to Mrs. Osgood.

In these years in Baltimore, dubious in their personal details, Poe had made progress, after all, in the great purpose of his life. When he came back in 1831, he had proved that he could write poetry. During these four years he had learned how to write fiction. If he had spent too much time in heightening the ludicrous into the grotesque, or exaggerating the witty into the burlesque, he had written at least six of the stories which will remain. In these days when Americans were pioneering in all directions, Poe, like his chief rival, Hawthorne, was exploring the inmost recesses and the outermost limits of the human soul. He was experimenting, too, in his critical judgments upon the work of others. For this field there was needed a literary magazine, and since no opening presented itself in Baltimore, he turned, naturally, to Richmond, where such a career seemed to await him.


[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 186:]

(1)  Original Autograph Ms., Dreer Collection, Historical Society of Pennsylvania.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 187:]

(2)  See John C. French, “Poe's Literary Baltimore,” Maryland Historical Magazine, XXXII (June, 1937), 101-112.

(3)  Scharf, Chronicles of Baltimore, pp. 460-461.

(4)  See the vivid account from the newspapers of November 13th in Scharf, pp. 465-466.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 188:]

(5)  Records of First Presbyterian Church.

(6)  The spelling of the name of the street varies. But the following memorandum, sent me by Mr. R. H. Hart of the Pratt Library, in Baltimore, gives authentic information: “The spelling of the name is from a Baltimore City map of 1823 and has been checked in several other sources, so you can feel quite certain that this is correct. This ‘Plan of the city of Baltimore laid out under the direction of the commissioners. ... ’ drawn by T. H. Poppleton, published in 1823, shows quite clearly the block, Mechanics Row, Wilks Street lying between Exeter and High Streets. The block of buildings was L shaped with the longer arm on Exeter Street. Wilks Street is now Eastern Avenue and this area is occupied by a large modern garage. The names of Exeter and High Streets are unchanged. The site of the Poe home is now in the four hundred block, probably 408-410 Eastern Avenue.”

(7)  Page 2, col. 4.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 189:]

(8)  Valentine Letters, pp. 283-284.

(9)  Harrison gives an account (Life of Poe, p. 112) of such a visit, based upon a statement by Mrs. Allan's niece. She places it three weeks after the birth of Mrs. Allan's eldest son, which would bring it about the middle of September, 1831. Woodberry accepts this account but the Valentine Letters make it impossible.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 190:]

(10)  Valentine Letters, p. 293.

(11)  Lawrence C. Wroth, “Poe's Baltimore,” Johns Hopkins Alumni Magazine, XVII (June, 1929), 4.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 191:]

(12)  Valentine Letters, pp. 303-304.

(13)  Valentine Letters, p. 304.

(14)  Valentine Letters, p. 307

(15)  The discovery of the existence of these first stories of Poe was made by Killis Campbell, see the Dial, LX (February 17, 1916), 146. For details concerning the announcements, and facsimile reprints of the stories, see J. C. Varner, Edgar Allan Poe and the Philadelphia Saturday Courier (Charlottesville, 1933).

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 192:]

(16)  The figure of a horse in the tapestry of the Prince Little Lilliput in Disraeli's Vivian Grey has been suggested as the origin of the horse in “Metzengerstein.” Poe read Vivian Grey, but the horse is mentioned only once, and Poe's use of the animal is entirely his own.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 193:]

(17)  Salem Gazette, November 12, 1830.

(18)  See James S. Wilson, “The Devil Was In It,” American Mercury, XXIV (1931), 219.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 194:]

(19)  Stone's Metamora was produced first at the Park Theatre in New York, December 15, 1829, and Forrest toured the principal cities with it. There were two Miantonimohs; put on in New York in November, 1830, and in Philadelphia, May 23, 1831.

(20)  See p. 104, text and Note 14, for a discussion of the work of Voltaire, read by Poe at the University of Virginia.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 195:]

(21)  Vol. II, No. 27, p. 3 of the file in the Maryland Historical Society.

(22)  The 1832 visit seems to depend on Mr. J. H. Whitty's statement in his “Memoir” in 1911, and is based on the testimony of “an old printer.” It assumes that Poe was in constant touch with friends in Richmond and hearing of Mr. Allan's will, went to Richmond in consequence. Poe's letter of October 16, 1831, contradicts this assumption of close acquaintance with events in Richmond: “I am sorry that it is so seldom that I hear from you or even of you — for all communication seems to be at an end.”

(23)  Richmond Standard, May 7, 1831.

(24)  Valentine Letters, p. 315.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 196:]

(25)  Mary E. Phillips, Poe the Man, pp. 340-347, Hervey Allen, Israfel, pp. 331-336.

(26)  Augustus Van Cleef, “Poe's Mary,” Harper's Magazine, LXXVIII (March, 1889), 634-640. [[Full article text]]

(27)  In Israfel, p. 355, her name is printed as appearing in the original article, but she is referred to there simply as Miss ——. The name has been given on the authority of J. H. Whitty's “Memoir,” p. xxxiv — and is itself incorrect. Since my text was in type, I learn that a friend met Mary's grand-daughter in 1936, and that she is not yet willing to have the last name published. [[Her name is now known to have been Mary Starr.]]

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 197:]

(28)  Its authorship has been the subject of dispute, but the verses are clearly by Poe. An original autograph manuscript is in the collection of Mr. Henry Bradley Martin. [[Full poem text]]

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 198:]

(29)  Wilmer's “Recollections of Edgar A. Poe” were published first in the Baltimore Daily Commercial, May 23, 1866. Woodberry reprinted the article in part, but it has been reprinted completely for the first time by Thomas O. Mabbott, in his edition of Wilmer's dramatic poem Merlin, for the Scholars’ Facsimiles and Reprints (New York, 1941). Dr. Mabbott's introduction gives interesting facts concerning Merlin, which reflects Poe's own love affair with Elmira Royster. He also reprints Wilmer's defence of Poe in Our Press Gang, 1860.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 199:]

(30)  This poem was first discovered by Dr. John C. French, who found also two poems signed “Tamerlane” which may be by Poe. See “Poe and the Baltimore Saturday Visiter,” Mod. Lang. Notes, XXXIII (May, 1918), 257-267. The first authentic account of the Visiter contest was also given by Dr. French in this article, after his discovery of a file of the magazine, supposed to be completely lost. This file, containing issues from February 2, 1833 to January 25, 1834, is now in the collection of Mr. William Koester of Baltimore. A file (incomplete) is in the Maryland Historical Society.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 201:]

(31)  The original manuscript of “Epimanes” with this letter, written on the top of the first sheet, is in the Henry Bradley Martin Collection. The story is in his clear printlike characters — the letter in his own handwriting but of a less formal character. “I am poor” is on the covering page.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 202:]

(32)  See Appendix for discussion of the stories belonging to the Tales of the Folio Club.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 203:]

(33)  Letter to T. W. White, July 20, 1835.

(34)  Vol. III, No. 38, p. 1.

(35)  The text does not vary greatly from later versions. The exact title is “Prize Tale / by Edgar A. Poe / Ms. Found in a Bottle / A Wet Sheet and a flowing Sea / Cunningham.” This quotation was repeated in the Messenger, and the Gift, omitted in the Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque and a new one substituted later.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 204:]

(36)  Kennedy's note on the third leaf of Poe's letter to him in November, 1834.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 204, running to the bottom of page 205:]

(37)  The Souvenir had already been merged in The Token in 1832, and no story by Poe appeared in that annual either. Dr. Ralph Thompson, whose American Literary Annuals and Giftbooks (New York, 1936), is the best treatment of that subject, suggests in response to my inquiry, that [page 205:] E. L. Carey had not yet decided on a name for his new Annual, which was to become The Gift. In its first number for 1836, Poe's “Ms. Found in a Bottle” was reprinted.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 205:]

(38)  Miss Mary [[May]] G. Evans established finally by search of land records, maps, directories, and ordinances that this house was the Poe home. It has been preserved by the city as a branch health centre, and a tablet has been placed on it by the Poe Society of Baltimore.

(39)  Ellis-Allan Papers, L. of C., Vol. 291.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 206:]

(40)  Richmond Standard, May 7, 1881.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 207:]

(41)  See details on pp. 168-169 of this biography. A copy of the will was filed in the Chancery Court of the City of Richmond, July 10, 1881 [[1831?]], and is recorded in Will Book, No. 2, pp. 457-462. The location of the original is not known.

(42)  There were three sons by John Allan's second marriage, see p. 30.

(43)  Original Autograph Ms., Peabody Institute, Baltimore.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 208:]

(44)  Henry T. Tuckerman, The Life of John Pendleton Kennedy (New York, 1871), pp. 376-377.

(45)  David K. Jackson, Poe and the Southern Literary Messenger (Richmond, 1934).

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 209:]

(46)  Letter to White, May 30, 1835. Original Autograph Ms., Griswold Collection, Boston Public Library.

(47)  Original Autograph Ms., Poe to White, Baltimore, June 12, 1835, Griswold Collection, Boston Public Library.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 210:]

(48)  Original Autograph Ms., Griswold Collection, Boston Public Library.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 211:]

(49)  Ms. blurred.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 212:]

(50)  Original Autograph Ms. Fragment, Huntington Library. The date is endorsed, in a hand which may be that of White. The fragment is signed, “Edgar A. Poe.” I have not quoted the last paragraph, which is not important.

(51)  In a letter to Harrison Hall, a publisher in Philadelphia, on September 2, 1836, Poe speaks of them as being seventeen in number. See T. O. Mabbott, “On Poe's Tales of the Folio Club,” Sewanee Review, XXXVI (1928), 171-176.

(52)  See Appendix for a list of the members of the Folio Club and a discussion concerning the tales to be included. The complete list is not agreed upon, and it is of value chiefly as showing which stories were written considerably in advance of their dates of publication.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 214:]

(53)  Now in the Huntington Library. This undated manuscript is in the clear, print-like characters Poe often employed. It is written on both sides of a large sheet, and there is plenty of room on the second page, if Poe had intended to continue at that time.

(54)  See Palmer Cobb, The Influence of E. T. A. Hoffmann on the Tales of Edgar Allan Poe (Chapel Hill, 1908).

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 215:]

(55)  Woodberry, in the Works of Poe, IV, 295-297, called attention to the influence of Disraeli, in “King Pest.” For a discussion of Poe's relation to his models, see J. S. Wilson, “The Devil Was in It,” American Mercury, XXIV (1931), 214-220. See also R. L. Hudson, “Poe and Disraeli,” American Literature, VIII (January, 1937), 402-416.

(56)  See among others, J. B. White's Modern Honour (1812) and T. S. Fay's Hoboken (1843).

(57)  Monos and Daimonos” had been published in the New Monthly Magazine and Literary Journal, XXVII (1830), 387-392. Poe refers to it in his letter of April 30, 1835, to White.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 216:]

(58)  The motto first appears in the Phantasy Pieces, the Ms. revision of the Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque, now in the library of Mr. Henry Bradley Martin.



The Poe Memorial in Baltimore was dedicated on on November 17, 1875, not in 1877. The program was published as Edgar Allan Poe: A Memorial Volume, in 1877, which may be the cause of Quinn's error.

In the original the “and” between “New Monthly Magazine” and “Literary Journal” was not italicized, as it should be to denote the full name of the magazine. The error has been corrected here.


[S:1 - EAPCB, 1941] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Articles - E. A. P.: A Critical Biography (A. H. Quinn) (Chapter 09)