Text: Edgar Allan Poe, Notice of Mrs. Lewis's Child of the Sea and Other Poems, from Graham's Magazine, April 1849, pp. 270-271


[page 270, full page, continued:]


[column 1:]

The Child of the Sea and other Poems. By Mrs. S. Anna Lewis, Author of “Records of the Heart,” etc. etc. New York: George P. Putnam.

A large edition of “Records of the Heart” was sold in a few months, and the fair author stepped at once into a very enviable position. “The Child of the Sea,” etc. will add much to her poetical fame. The poem which gives name to the volume, and occupies most of it, is a romantic and passionate narrative, and embodies all the main features of Mrs. Lewis's thought as well as manner. The story is well conducted and somewhat elaborately handled; the style, or general tone, is nervous, free, dashing — much in the way of Maria del Occidente — but the principal ground for praise is to be found in the great aggregate of quotable passages. The opening lines, for example, are singularly vivid:

Where blooms the myrtle and the olive flings

Its aromatic breath upon the air;

Where the sad bird of Night forever sings

Meet anthems for the Children of Despair.

The themes of the poem — a few lines farther on — are summed up in words of Byronic pith and vigor: —

— youthful Love,

Ill-starred, yet trustful, truthful and sublime

As ever angles chronicled above —

The sorrowings of Beauty in her prime —

Virtue's reward — the punishment of Crime —

The dark, inscrutable decrees of Fate —

Despair, untold before in prose or rhyme.

We give a few more instances of what we term “quotable” passages — thoughtful, vivid, pungent or vigorous:

Fresh blows the breeze on Tarick's burnished bay —

The silent sea-mews bend them through the spray — [column 2:]

The beauty-freighted barges bound afar

To the soft music of the gay guitar.


The olive children of the Indian Sea.


That rayless realm where Fancy never beams —

That Nothingness beyond the Land of Dreams.


Folded his arms across his sable vest,

As if to keep the heart within his breast.


The violets lifting up their azure eyes

Like timid virgins whom Love's steps surprise.


And all is hushed — so still — so silent there

That one might hear an angel wing the air.


— There are times when the sick soul

Lies calm amid the storms that round it roll,

Indifferent to Fate or to what haven

By the terrific tempest it is driven.


The Dahlias, leaning from the golden vase,

Peer pensively upon her pallid face,

While the sweet songster o’er the oaken door

Looks through his grate and warbles “weep no more!”


— beauteous in her misery —

A jewel sparkling up through the dark sea

Of Sorrow.


Delirium's world of fantasy and pain,

Where hung the fiery moon and stars of blood,

And phantom ships rolled on the rolling flood.

Isabelle or The Broken Heart “ occupies some 40 pages, and is fully as good as “The Child of the Sea” — although in a very different way. There is less elaboration, perhaps, but not less true polish, and even more imagination.

The “Miscellaneous Poems” are, of course, varied in [page 271:] merit. Some of them have been public favorites for a long time. “My Study,” especially, has been often quoted and requoted. It is terse and vigorous. From “The Beleagured Heart” we extract a quatrain of very forcible originality:

I hear the mournful moans of joy —

Hope, sobbing while she cheers —

Like dew descending from the leaf

The dropping of Love's tears.

The volume is most exquisitely printed and bound — one of the most beautiful books of the season.



The attribution of this review is highly probable, although not absolutely certain. It was considered to be the work of Poe by Heartman and Canny (1943), and attributed to Poe by T. O. Mabbott and William D. Hull. Mabbott's notes at the University of Iowa list the review, noting the story related by Richard H. Stoddard in his Recollections (1889). There, Stoddard says that he once had a letter from Poe to Bayard Taylor, asking Taylor to include the notice “as his own [Taylor's] production” (p. 159). Hull also attributes the notice to Poe, commenting on the same reference in Stoddard's book. Hull also notes similarities between this review and Poe's review from the Southern Literary Messenger. Both reviews compare Mrs. Lewis to Maria del Occidente, and both quote several of the same selections from her poems. Furthermore, this review comments about “the great aggregate of quotable passages,” while the one from SLM says, “the aggregation of its imaginative passages — its quotable points.” Hull goes on to say, “These similarities are too striking, I think, to be simply coincidence; and that Poe would model a review on a notice by another critic is unthinkable” (p. 397). Remaining reviews in this issue are probably by Bayard Taylor.


[S:0 - GM, 1849] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Works - Criticism - Review of Mrs. Lewis, Child of the Sea [Text-02]