Text: Edgar Allan Poe (?), “Review of New Books,” from Graham’s Magazine, April 1841, pp. 197-204


[page 197, full page:]


[column 1:]

[[Review of Bulwer’s Night and Morning]]


[[Review of Walsh’s Sketches of Conspicuous Living Characters of France]]

[page 203, column 2:]


“Heads of the People; or Portraits of the English.” Drawn by Kenny Meadows. With Original Essays by Distinguished Writers. Carey & Hart.

The design of this book is among the number of those which are obviously good and the book itself is, upon the whole, an amusing one. It might have been better, no doubt. With designs by Cruikshanks, and letter-press by the best of the English literati, how glorious a work might have been concocted “upon this hint!” Not that some of the names here found are not among the best but we should have had the Dii majorum gentium exclusively one paper from each. These papers, too, should have been written [page 204:] with some uniformity of manner, or of plan, and have confined themselves to racy and truthful delineation of that character which is peculiarly British, while the engravings should have been careful embodiments of the text. As it is, the publication has something of a hap-hazard, and, if the truth must be told, of a catchpenny air, which makes very much against it, notwithstanding the exceeding merit of several of the essays, and of three or four of the designs. The preface seems to have been written by some one who had a proper sense of what the volume should be, but affords no indication of what it really is.

There are twenty-six “Heads” in all. Some of them are pure caricatures without merit “The Creditor,” for example, and “The Debtor,” (injudiciously placed as frontispieces), The “Diner-Out,” the “Sentimental Singer,” “The Man of Many Goes” and “The Printer’s Devil.” Others are equally caricatures, but of so vivid and truth-preserving an exaggeration, that we admire without scruple: we allude to “The Lion of the Party,” “The Waiter,” “The Linen-Draper’s Assistant” and “The Stock-Broker.” Some are full of natural truth for instance “The Young Lord,” “he Dress-Maker,” “The Young Squire,” “The Basket Woman,” “Captain Rook” and “Mr. Pigeon.” “The Last Go” is the best thing in the volume combining the extreme of the ludicrous with absolute fidelity. “The Fashionable Authoress,” “The Cockney” and “The Family Governess” are tame and unmeaning. The rest have no particular merit or demerit. About the whole there is a great deal of bad drawing, which we know not whether to attribute to the designer or the engraver.

The same variety of value is observable in the text. In general the articles are not very creditable; although one or two are of surpassing excellence. The longest called “Tavern Heads” (illustrated by seven or eight sketches) is a rambling, disjointed narrative in imitation of Dickens, and written probably by the author of a clever production entitled “Pickwick Abroad,” never yet republished, we believe, in this country. They paper called “Captain Rook and Mr. Pigeon,” and superscribed with the name of William Thackeray, is one of the finest specimens of easily-mingled humor and wit we ave ever had the pleasure of perusing.


“The Flying Dutchman.” By the Author of Gentleman Jack. 2 vols. Cary & Hart.

The legend of the Flying Dutchman has long since been worn out, and its attempted resuscitation by this author has, as he should have known, proved an entire failure. Indeed we have rarely read a less creditable novel than this. The characters are strange; the incidents unnatural; and the descriptions of the might deep surpassed by nine out of ten of our ordinary sea-writers. The tyranny with formerly existed, and indeed still exists in a measure, in the British navy is, however, sketched with a bold pencil; but with this single redeeming trait, the public, much less the critics, will scarcely be satisfied. The desertion of Ramsay on the Island; his miraculous [column 2:] meeting with the very one he wished to meet, Angela; the whole farcical story, of the deception practised in the appearance of the Flying Dutchman’s frigate; the singular preservation of Capt. Livingston from drowning, when cast overboard unseen at night, and the clap-trap of the trial scene, when the aforesaid captain and the corporeal appear so unexpectedly, furnish a series of improbabilities only to be endured by a novel-reader of sufficient voracity to gorge, shark-like, any and everything, no matter what.


“Patchwork.” By Capt. Basil Hall. 2 vols. Lea & Blanchard.

Captain Hall is one of the most agreeable of writers. We like him for the same reason that we like a good drawing-room conversationist there is such a pleasure in listening to his elegant nothings. Not that the captain is unable to be profound. He has, on the contrary, some reputation for science. But in his hands even the most trifling personal adventures become interesting from the very piquancy with which they are told.

The present work is made up of a series of desultory sketches of travels, in every quarter of the globe, and extending through a period of nearly thirty years. You almost forget yourself as your read, and fancy that you are listening to an oral narrative from Capt. Hall in person. In the most charming manner possible you are transported from the glaciers of the Alps to the waters of the Pacific, and then whisked back again to old Europe, and hurried to Vesuvius, Malta, and Etna in pleasing succession. The descriptions of these various places, mingled with scientific observations, and narratives of personal adventures, form altogether one of the pleasantest books for after-dinner perusal, especially on a sunny April day, when, reposed at length upon a sofa, beside an open casement, with the birds carrolling without, and the balmy spring breathing across us, we forget, for a while, the dull business of life.


“Georgia Illustrated.” W. & W. C. Richards, Penfield, Ga.

This is a praiseworthy work, and reflects high credit on all concerned in it. The views are selected with taste, and give us a high opinion of the scenery of Georgia. They are accompanied by a letter-press description., from the pen of the editor, W. C. Richards. The engravings are executed in excellent style by Messrs. Rawdon, Wright, Hatch and Smillie. Such works cannot be too extensively patronised. They encourage the arts; foster a love for the beautiful; and acquaint the public with some of the loveliest gems of our native scenery. Was it not a disgrace to our country that both “Hinton’s Topography” and the still later “American Scenery,” emanated wholly from England the capital embarked, the sketches and engravers employed, and even the place of publication being English?



The notice of Hall’s Patchwork is certain to be the work of Poe. The attribution of the other three reviews given here is debatable. All were considered to be the work of Poe by Heartman and Canny (1943) and by T. O. Mabbott. Mabbott’s notes at the University of Iowa list these reviews, without explanation, as “accepted,” except for the review of Hall’s “Patchwork,” which he marks as “sure.” William D. Hull felt that they were all more likely the work of a reviewer retained from the earlier incarnation of Graham’s, whom Hull calls “the Casket reviewer.” In the first sentence of the review of “Head of the People” the writer says “upon the whole.” In the third sentence of the review of “The Flying Dutchman,” the writer says “nine out of ten.” Both of these phrase are quite typical of Poe and are used by him in many places. The book by Hall is mentioned again in the Graham’s review for September 1841 of the Countess Blessington’s The Idler in France. More significantly, the first paragraph of the notice of Hall is repeated in the 1850 edition of Marginalia, as item CLXXXV, misnumbered CLXXXIV.


[S:0 - GM, 1841] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Works - Criticism - Review of New Books [Text-02]