Text: Edgar Allan Poe, “The Literati of New-York: S. Anna Lewis” (Text-01), manuscript fragments, 1848


[Fragment 1:]

The poems included in the “Records” <of the Heart> are chiefly compositions of length, as well as of high merit. The four opening pieces are “Florence”, “Zenel” (pronounced Thanail) “Melpomene” and “Laone”. These all bear the peculiar impress of their author's mind, and are passionate, glowing, and classical in mood and spirit. It would give us great pleasure to quote a passage or two from each of these poems — but <we are already> >>cannot, without<< exceeding our limits: <and must refrain>: — nor indeed could any mere extract convey an idea of the chief merit which distinguishes tse works — the merit of a well-aranged and well-balanced

She has now in the press of the Appleton's “The Child of the Sea & Other Poems”; and upon the poem which gives the title to this volume, her poetical reputation will, perhaps, ultimately depend — at least in great measure.

[Fragment 2:]

[[...]] Among the minor poems of “The Records” are several of exquisite pathos, subservient to a very forcible yet very refined and delicate fancy — or more properly, imagination. We must be permitted to exemplify our meaning by the citation of “The Forsaken” — a poem, which, in its peculiar way, is not excelled, if equalled, by any composition, of similar length, which has ever been written by an American. There is about it a dreamy — a voluptuous melancholy — a simple, passionate and sensuous expression of sorrow which is perfectly irresistible:


It hath been said for all who die

There is a tear;

Some pining, bleeding heart to sigh

O’er every bier

But in that hour of pain and dread

Who will draw near

Around my humble couch, and shed

One farewell tear?

Who watch life's last departing ray

In deep despair,

And soothe my spirit on its way

With holy prayer?

What mourner round my bier will come

“In weeds of wo,”

And follow me to my long home —

Solemn and slow?

When lying on my clayey bed,.

In icy sleep,

Who there by pure affection led

Will cone and weep —

By the pale moon implant the rose

Upon my breast,

And bid it cheer my dark repose,

My lowly rest?

Could I but know when I am sleeping

Low in the ground,

One faithful heart would there be keeping

Watch all night round,

As if some gem lay shrined beneath

That sod's cold gloom,

’Twould mitigate the pangs of Death,

And light the tomb.

Yes, in that hour if I could feel

Prom halls of glee

And Beauty's presence ONE would steal

In secrecy,

And come and sit and weep by me

In night's deep noon —

Oh! I would ask of Memory

No other boon.

But ah! a lonelier fate is mine —

A deeper wo:

From all I love in Youth's sweet time

I soon must go —

Draw round me my cold robes of white

In a dark spot

To sleep through Death's long, dreamless night,

Lone and forgot.

The great charm of this truly beautiful poem is the exquisite and unaffected naturalness of its thought. it is on this account that the sternest heart will he moved by it — even to tears.

[Fragment 3:]

While with its lofty pinions furled

The Spirit floats in neither world.

She gains at length the holy fane,

Where Death and solemn Silence reign —

Hurries along the shadowy aisles

Up to the altar where blest tapers

Burn dimly and the Virgin smiles

Midst rising clouds of incense vapors

There kneels by the Confession Chair

Where waits the Friar with fervent prayer

To soothe the children of Despair.

Her hands are clasped — her eyes upraised —

Meek — beautiful — though coldly glazed —

And her pale cheeks are paling faster.

From under her simple hat of straw

Over her neck her tresses flow

Like threads of jet o’er alabaster.

[Fragment 4:]

In person; — she is about the medium height of woman, or perhaps rather above it — of a dignified and reserved demeanour — a finely formed figure — chesnut hair, curling naturally, and large, dark hazel eyes. The beautiful portrait, by Elliot, lately exhibited, is by no means too flattering a likeness.

[Fragment 5:]

Probably no American poetess has a more thoroughly educated mind or is more conversant with standard English and American Literature.




Although it carries the title “The Literati of New York,” the present article was published two years later, and in a different magazine from the earlier series.

Fragment 1 is in the Harold Wave Whicker Collection of Literary Manuscripts, at the University of Montana (book 18).

Fragment 2 is quoted in the auction catalog of the library of William Hood Dunwoody (1841-1914), American Art Association, April 5-7, 1916, item 860. (The catalog omits portion of the poem quoted.) At this sale, it was purchased by Gabriel Wells, for $140. The last four stanzas of “The Forsaken” was printed in a brief letter to the New York Times for October 4, 1909. The letter mistakenly assumes that Poe was the author, not realizing that it was in Poe's hand merely because it was a fragment from a review. The letter is signed John D. Crimmins, and he states tht he purchased the fragment from “the last Rufus Wilmot Griswold sale.” This individual is presumably John Daniel Crimmins (1844-1917) of New York City. (The fragment was properly identified by J. H. Whitty in a letter to the N. Y. Times dated December 6, 1909 and printed on December 7, 1909. In the same issue of the N. Y. Times the fragment is also identified by Arthur Guiterman, who makes the mistaken assumption that Poe copied the poem because he admired it. Neither Whitty nore Guiterman correction recognize the manuscript as a fragment of Poe's review. Guiterman makes the further observation that Mrs. Lewis’ poem bears an unseemly resemblance to “When I Beneath the Cold Red Earth am Sleeping,” by William Motherwell.

Fragment 3 was in the collection of Oliver Barrett, sold at auction on Nov. 1, 1950, item???. It is reproduced in facsimile in the Parke-Bernet catalog. A photograph of the fragment is also preserved in the J. H. Whitty papers at Duke University, were the image was apparently indended to be used in Edgar Allan Poe: The Man, but ultimately was omitted.

Fragments 4 and 5 are described by Moldenhauer, 1973, p. 24, item 13. They are written by Poe on pale blue paper, which has yellowed, and bear traces of having been wafered, with was often Poe's practice for material to be published. Based on a comment by F. S. Osgood, the MS for “The Literati” was done up in rolls, and it seems reasonable that this would have been as well, although it was two years later. Other fragments of Poe manuscripts from 1848 are known which also appear on pale blue paper, including the substantial manuscript fragments for “The Rationale of Verse” and the “Griswold” manuscript of the note on Mrs. Lewis which was published in Works, 1850.



[S:0 - MS, 1848] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Works - Cricitism - The Literati of New York: S. Anna Lewis (Text-01)