Text: Edgar Allan Poe (ed. J. A. Harrison), “Boston and the Bostonians,” The Complete Works of Edgar Allan PoeVol. XIII: Literary Criticism - part 06 (1902), pp. 9-13


[page 9, continued:]


[Broadway Journal, Nov. 1, 1845.]

WE take the following paragraph from “The Sunday Times and Messenger” of October 26:

MR. POES POEM. — Mr. Poe was invited to deliver a poem before the Boston Lyceum, which he did to a large and distinguished audience. It was, to use the language of an intelligent hearer, “an elegant and classic production, based on the right principle; containing the essence of true poetry, mingled with a gorgeous imagination, exquisite painting, every charm of metre, and graceful delivery.” And yet the papers abused him, and the audience were fidgetty — made their exit one by one, and did not at all appreciate the efforts of a man of admitted ability, whom they had invited to deliver a poem before them. The poem was called the “Messenger Star.” We presume Mr. Poe will not accept another invitation to recite poetry, original or selected, in that section of the Union. [page 10:]

Our excellent friend Major Noah has suffered himself to be cajoled by that most beguiling of all beguiling little divinities, Miss Walters, of “The Transcript.” We have been looking all over her article, with the aid of a taper, to see if we could discover a single syllable of truth in it — and really blush to acknowledge that we cannot. The adorable creature has been telling a parcel of fibs about us, by way of revenge for something that we did to Mr. Longfellow (who admires her very much) and for calling her “a pretty little witch” into the bargain.

The facts of the case seem to be these: — We were invited to “deliver” (stand and deliver) a poem before the Boston Lyceum. As a matter of course, we accepted the invitation. The audience was “large and distinguished.” Mr. Cushing preceded us with a very capital discourse: he was much applauded. On arising, we were most cordially received. We occupied some fifteen minutes with an apology for not “delivering,” as is usual in such cases, a didactic poem: a didactic poem, in our opinion, being precisely no poem at all. After some farther words — still of apology — for the “indefinitiveness” and “general imbecility” of what we had to offer — all so unworthy a Bostonian audience — we commenced, and, with many interruptions of applause, concluded. Upon the whole the approbation was considerably more (the more the pity too) than that bestowed upon Mr. Cushing.

When we had made an end, the audience, of course, arose to depart — and about one-tenth of them, probably, had really departed, when Mr. Coffin, one of the managing committee, arrested those who remained, by the announcement that we had been requested [page 11:] to deliver “The Raven.” We delivered “The Raven” forthwith — (without taking a receipt) — were very cordially applauded again — and this was the end of it — with the exception of the sad tale invented to suit her own purposes, by that amiable little enemy of ours, Miss Walters. We shall never call a woman “a pretty little witch” again, as long as we live.

We like Boston. We were born there — and perhaps it is just as well not to mention that we are heartily ashamed of the fact. The Bostonians are very well in their way. Their hotels are bad. Their pumpkin pies are delicious. Their poetry is not so good. Their common is no common thing — and the duck-pond might answer — if its answer could be heard for the frogs.

But with all these good qualities the Bostonians have no soul. They have always evinced towards us individually, the basest ingratitude for the services we rendered them in enlightening them about the originality of Mr. Longfellow. When we accepted, therefore, an invitation to “deliver” a poem in Boston — we accepted it simply and solely, because we had a curiosity to know how it felt to be publicly hissed — and because we wished to see what effect we could produce by a neat little impromptu speech in reply. Perhaps, however, we overrated our own importance, or the Bostonian want of common civility — which is not quite so manifest as one or two of their editors would wish the public to believe. We assure Major Noah that he is wrong. The Bostonians are well-bred — as very dull persons very generally are.

Still, with their vile ingratitude staring us in the eyes, it could scarcely be supposed that we would put [page 12:] ourselves to the trouble of composing for the Bostonians anything in the shape of an original poem. We did not. We had a poem (of about 500 lines) lying by us — one quite as good as new — one, at all events, that we considered would answer sufficiently well for an audience of Transcendentalists. That we gave them — it was the best that we had — for the price — and it did answer remarkably well. Its name was not “The Messenger-Star” — who but Miss Walters would ever think of so delicious a little bit of invention as that? We had no name for it at all. The poem is what is occasionally called a “juvenile poem” — but the fact is, it is anything but juvenile now, for we wrote it, printed it, and published it, in book form, before we had fairly completed our tenth year. We read it verbatim, from a copy now in our possession, and which we shall be happy to show at any moment to any of our inquisitive friends.

We do not, ourselves, think the poem a remarkably good one: — it is not sufficiently transcendental. Still it did well enough for the Boston audience — who evinced characteristic discrimination in understanding, and especially applauding, all those knotty passages which we ourselves have not yet been able to understand.

As regards the anger of the “Boston Times” and one or two other absurdities — as regards, we say, the wrath of Achilles — we incurred it — or rather its manifestation — by letting some of our cat out of the bag a few hours sooner than we had intended. Over a bottle of champagne, that night, we confessed to Mess. Cushing, Whipple, Hudson, Field, and a few other natives who swear not altogether by the frog-pond — we confessed, we say, the soft impeachment [page 13:] of the hoax. Et hinc illae iræ. We should have waited a couple of days.





[S:1 - JAHCW, 1902] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Editions - The Complete Works of Edgar Allan Poe (J. A. Harrison) (Boston and the Bostonians)