Text: Edgar Allan Poe (ed. J. A. Harrison), “Achilles’ Wrath,” The Complete Works of Edgar Allan PoeVol. XII: Literary Criticism - part 04 (1902), pp. 135-139


[page 135, continued:]


[Broadway Journal, April 19, 1845.]

AT “No. 8 Astor House,” in a style (no doubt) of luxurious elegance and ease, resides a gentleman and a scholar, who (without paying his postage) has forwarded us a note, (through the Despatch Post,) signing it either Mr. W. Dinneford, or Mr. P. or Mr. Q. Dinneford — for he writes a shockingly bad hand, and we are unable to make out all his capitals with precision. It is not always the best scribe, however, physically considered, who is capable of inditing the most agreeable [page 136:] note — as the note of Mr. Dinneford will show. Here it is:

SIRS! In your note of the 2d inst. you request of me the favor of being placed on the free list of this theatre, because (as your letter says) you were anxious “to do Justice to ‘Antigone’ on its representation.” Your name was accordingly placed on the free list. Your Critique has appeared, in the Broadway Journal, characterized much more by ill nature and an illiberal spirit, than by fair and candid, or even just criticism. —

In justice therefore to MYSELF, I have withdrawn your name from the free list. I am always prepar’d to submit, as a caterer for public amusement, to any just remarks, though they may be severe, but I do not feel MYSELF called a upon to offer facilities to any one, to do me injury by animadversions evidently marked by ill feeling.

I am SIR!

With very great respect, Your most ob’t serv’t


TO EDGAR POE, Esq. &c &c &c, Author of THE RAVEN.

NEW YORK Apl 15, 1845. No 8 Astor House.

We are not wrong (are we?) in conceiving that Mr. Dinneford is in a passion. We are not accustomed to compositions of precisely this character — (that is to say, notes written in large capitals with admiration notes for commas — the whole varied occasionally with lower case) — but still, we think ourselves justified in imagining that Mr. Dinneford was in a passion when he sent us this note from his suite of boudoirs at the Astor House. In fact, we fancy that we can trace the gradations of his wrath in the number and impressiveness of his underscoring. The SIRS!! for example, are exceedingly bitter; and in THE [page 137:] RAVEN, which has five black lines beneath it, each one blacker than the preceding, we can only consider ourselves as devoted to the Infernal Gods.

Mr. Dinneford is in a passion then — but what about? We had been given to understand, that it was usual in New York, among editors newly established, to apply (by note) for the customary free admission to the theatres. The custom is a wretched one, we grant, but since it was a custom, we were weak enough, in this instance, to be guided by it. We made our note to this Dinneford as brief and as explicit as possible — for we felt that the task was a dirty one. We stated distinctly that we wished to be placed on his free list for the purpose of “doing justice to Antigone” — just as he says himself. To this note the inhabitant of No. 8 Astor House condescended to make no reply. Supposing that the man “knew no better,” and pitying his ignorance from the bottom of our hearts, we proceeded to the theatre on its opening night, in the full certainty of at least finding our name on the free list. It was not there. And the blatherskite who could behave in so indecent a manner, as to fail first in answering our note, and secondly in paying attention to the request it contained, has the audacity to find fault with us because we dared to express an unbiassed opinion of his stupidity — that is to say, of the stupidity of a play gotten up by himself, Mr. Dinneford.

He failed in his duty — there was no reason that we should fail in ours. We told him that we meant to do him justice — and we did it.

We are not wasting words on this Quinneford(1) — it is the public to whom we speak — to the editorial corps in especial. We wish to call their attention to the peculiar character of the conditions which managers [page 138:] such as this have the impudence to avow, as attached to the privilege of the free list. No puff no privilege, is the contract. That is to say, an editor, when admitted to the theatre, is to be understood as leaving his conscience in the street. He is admitted not to judge — not to criticise — but to adulate. He is to put himself to the inconvenience of quitting his business, or his amusement, for the purpose of observing and reporting, for the management, whatever is occurring at the theatre. On entering, he is to content himself with standing where he can — his usual position being in the lobby, where he peeps, as well as he may, through the Venetian shutters of the boxes — for usually he cannot go until late, and no accommodations are afforded him — no seats are reserved for his use. And for the honor of doing all this, he is complimented with what? — the privilege of entering the doors of the Temple consecrated to the Quinneford — the value of the privilege in actual money ranging from one dollar to twenty-five cents per night; admitting that circumstances are at the very best, and that the editor is so fortunate as to secure such a seat as he could procure for the twenty-five cents or the dollar, paid at the door. Deducting the difficulties and inconveniences to which he is necessarily subjected, the privilege may be estimated as from 6 1/4 to 12 1/2 cents per evening — a price quite sufficient, we presume, in the opinion of the Quinnefords, for the conglomerated consciences of all the editors within the limits of Christendom.

We have spoken, altogether, of “such managers” as Quinneford — but fortunately such managers are few. There is certainly not in New York, at the present moment, any other member of the theatrical profession, who either would have behaved with the [page 139:] gross discourtesy of this gentleman, or who, in inditing the preposterous letter published above, could have proved himself, personally, so successful a “caterer for the public amusement.”


[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 137:]

1.  The original has Quinneford in four places. — ED.





[S:1 - JAHCW, 1902] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Editions - The Complete Works of Edgar Allan Poe (J. A. Harrison) (Achilles' Wrath)