Text: James A. Harrison, “Chapter 07,” The Complete Works of Edgar Allan PoeVol. XVII: Letters (1902), 17:165-195


[page 165:]


APRIL, 1844 - DECEMBER, 1844.




[From MS. in possession of Miss A. F. Poe.]

NEW YORK, Sunday Morning,  
April 7, [1844] just after breakfast.

MY DEAR MUDDY, — We have just this minute done breakfast, and I now sit down to write you about everything. I can’t pay for the letter, because the P. O. won’t be open to-day. — In the first place, we arrived safe at Walnut St. wharf. The driver wanted to make me pay a dollar, but I would n’t. Then I had to pay a boy a levy to put the trunks in the baggage car. In the meantime I took Sis in the Depôt Hotel. It was only a quarter past 6, and we had to wait till 7. We saw the Ledger & Times — nothing in either — a few words of no account in the Chronicle. — We started in good spirits, but did not get here until nearly 3 o’clock. We went in the cars to Amboy about 40 miles from N. York, and then took the steamboat the rest of the way. — Sissy coughed none at all. When we got to the wharf it was raining hard. I left her on board the boat, after putting the trunks in the Ladies’ Cabin, and set off to buy an umbrella and look for a [page 166:] boarding-house. I met a man selling umbrellas and bought one for 62 cents. Then I went up Greenwich St. and soon found a boarding-house. It is just before you get to Cedar St. on the West side going up the left hand side. It has brown stone steps with a porch with brown pillars. “Morrison” is the name on the door. I made a bargain in a few minutes and then got a hack and went for Sis. I was not gone more than 1/2 an hour, and she was quite astonished to see me back so soon. She didn’t expect me for an hour. There were 2 other ladies waiting on board — so she was n’t very lonely. — When we got to the house we had to wait about 1/2 an hour before the room was ready. The house is old & looks buggy.(1)

  · · · · · · · · ·  

... , taking into consideration the central situation and the living. I wish Kate could see it — she would faint. Last night, for supper, we had the nicest tea you ever drank, strong & hot — wheat bread & rye bread — cheese — tea-cakes (elegant) a great dish (2 dishes) of elegant ham, and 2 of cold veal, piled up like a mountain and large slices — 3 dishes of the cakes, and every thing in the greatest profusion. No fear of starving here. The landlady seemed as if she could n’t press us enough, and we were at home directly. Her husband is living with her — a fat good-natured old soul. There are 8 or 10 boarders — 2 or 3 of them ladies — 2 servants. — For breakfast we had excellent-flavored coffee, hot & strong — not very clear & no great deal of cream — veal cutlets, elegant ham & eggs & nice bread and butter. I never sat down to a more plentiful or a nicer breakfast. I wish you could have seen the eggs — and the great dish of meat. I ate the first [page 167:] hearty breakfast I have eaten since we left our little home. Sis is delighted, and we are both in excellent spirits. She has coughed hardly any and had no night sweat. She is now busy mending my pants which I tore against a nail. I went out last night and bought a skein of silk, a skein of thread, 2 buttons a pair of slippers & a tin pan for the stove. The fire kept in all night — We have now got $4 and a half left. Tomorrow I am going to try & borrow $3 — so that I may have a fortnight to go upon. I feel in excellent spirits & have n’t drunk a drop — so that I hope to get out of trouble. The very instant I scrape together enough money I will send it on. You can’t imagine how much we both do miss you. Sissy had a hearty cry last night, because you and Catterina were n’t here. We are resolved to get 2 rooms the first moment we can. In the meantime it is impossible we could be more comfortable or more at home than we are. It looks as if it was going to clear up now. — Be sure and go to the P. O. & have my letters forwarded. As soon as I write Lowell's article, I will send it to you, & get you to get the money from Graham. Give our best love to C.

  · · · · · · · · ·  

Be sure & take home the Messenger.

We hope to send for you very soon.


[Griswold Collection.]

LONDON, April 27/44.  

MY DEAR SIR, — When I replied to your letter (which I did by the next post of the day on which I [page 168:] received it) I had not seen the No. of “Graham” for March, containing the review of “Orion.” Mr. C. Mathews, of New York, had been so good as to inform me there would be a review; and he, at the same time, mentioned that he had sent me a copy of the magazine in question. My friend Miss E. B. Barrett also sent me a note to the same effect. But owing no doubt to some forgetfulness on the part of the booksellers who were to forward it, the magazine never reached me, nor was it at Wiley and Putnam's, when I called the other day.

Your MS. of the “Spectacles” is safely lodged in my iron chest with my own MSS. till I find a favorable opportunity for its use.

I have carefully read and considered the review of “Orion” in the magazine. It would be uncandid in me to appear to agree to all the objections; and, amidst such high praise, so independently and courageously awarded, it would be ungrateful in me to offer any self-justificatory remark on any such objections. I shall, therefore, only observe that there are some objections from which I can derive advantage in the way of revision — which is more than I can say of any of the critiques written on this side of the waters. One passage, in particular, I will mention. It is that which occurs at p. 103. “Star-rays that first”: Needlessly obscure — as you truly say. For, in fact, I did allude to Sleep, as the antecedent, and it should have been printed with a capital letter. What I meant by the passage, rendered in prose, would be something like this. — ‘The God Sleep, lying in his cave by the old divine sea, feeleth the star-rays upon his eye-lids, at times; and then his sleep is not perfect, and he dreams, or for a brief interval awakes. Without which awakening he would never have known surprise, nor hope, nor useful action. Because (your poet herein bewitched by a theory he fancies original) we are never surprised at anything, however wonderful, in a dream; neither do we hope; nor do we perform any action with an idea of its [page 169:] being at all useful.’ A pretty condition, you see, my imagination had got into while writing this passage. The explanation, if it does not make you angry, will I think greatly amuse you.

Are there any of my works which you do not possess and would like to have? I shall be very happy to request your acceptance of any, if you will let me know how to send them. It strikes me (from some remarks of yours on versification and rhythm) that you do not know my Introduction of “Chaucer Modernized.” Do you? Would any American bookseller like to reprint “Orion” do you think? If so I would willingly superintend the sheets, for a slight revision in some half dozen places, and would write a brief Introduction or Preface addressed to the American Public; and certainly I should at the same time be too happy to express my obligations to the boldness and handsomeness of American criticism.

I am, dear Sir,  
Your obliged,  

E. A. POE, Esq.


[Griswold Memoir.]

[Without date, 1844?]

DEAR GRISWOLD, — I return the proofs with many thanks for your attention. The poems look quite as well in the short metres as in the long ones, and I am quite content as it is. In “The Sleeper” you have “Forever with unclosed eye” for “Forever with unopen’d eye.” Is it possible to make the correction? I presume you understand that in the repetition of my Lecture on the Poets (in N. Y.) I left out [page 170:] all that was offensive to yourself. I am ashamed of myself that I ever said anything of you that was so unfriendly or so unjust; but what I did say I am confident has been misrepresented to you. See my notice of C. F. Hoffman's sketch of you.

Very sincerely yours,  


[Griswold Collection.]

OAKY GROVE, GA. May 15th, 1844.

MY DEAR SIR, — I wrote you two letters about one year ago, to which I have received no answer up to this time. I directed my Boy, who carried them to the Post office, to have the postage paid on them, but, as the Post Master was not at home, at the time, it was not done. As the postage was not paid, I presume you did not trouble yourself to take them out of the Office, and that is the reason why you did not answer them. They, no doubt, contained a great deal of nonsense, and it is well, perhaps, that you did not pay any attention to them. They contained not only the information of the death of my little Angel-child, but the kindest expression of my regard for you. I requested you to tell me whether you intended to relinquish the idea of publishing the “Penn Magazine” or not. If you intend to execute your former design, it would be well for you not only to let me know it, but to publish a Prospectus, and send it on to me, that I may obtain as many subscribers in this State as possible. I expect to receive my part of my father's estate in July next, and should like to unite with you, provided it would be to my interest to do so. I should like for you to make a perfect exposition of the manner in which you wish me to join you. Would not the publication of such a Magazine as Graham's, be more profitable to us? I should [page 171:] like very much to know your opinion about the matter. I shall return to New York as soon as I receive my part of the estate.

When I wrote to you last, I believe it was strawberrytime. I said something about strawberries and cream. I have just been eating strawberries and honey. You will not think me an epicure when I say to you, that, in this Country, at this time of the year, such a delicious compound is the Nepenthe of my life. I am induced to believe that such a delicious, life-imparting compound was the original of the Grecian idea of the Nectar and Ambrosia of the immortal gods.

I see you still write for Graham's Magazine. He ought to give you ten thousand dollars a year for supervising it. It is richly worth it. I believe it was through your editorial ability that it was first established. If so, he is greatly indebted to you. It is not my opinion that you ever have been, or ever will be, paid for your intellectual labours. You need never expect it, until you establish a Magazine of your own. This I would do, if I were you, as soon as possible. Then you can do as you please. You have friends in the South and West, who will support you in the undertaking. As for myself, you know I will do all I can to aid you in any enterprise of the kind. I would have joined you long ago, but for the case now in Court against the Administrator, which has kept me out of my part of the estate up to this hour.

Your criticism of “Orion” pleased me very much. I have not yet seen the work. I should like very much to see it. Some of your remarks have long ago staggered the minds of many, although they are true in the main. Your conception of the uses or excellence of Poetry is the loftiest I have seen. There is, in the perspicuous flow of your pure English, a subtle delicacy of expression which always pleases me — except when you tomahawk people. I cannot say that I like very much your dislike to Transcendentalism. All true Poetry is certainly transcendental — although it is the beautiful expression of that [page 172:] which is most true. I see that “Orion” is a reflection of that divine light. You might have said of him, in the finale of your criticism, what Shelley, the golden-mouthed Swan of Albion, says of the writings of a certain person —

“Let his page

Which charms the chosen spirits of the age,

Fold itself up for a serener clime

Of years to come, and find its recompense

In that just expectation.”

In general, your criticisms are very just. I can read a Poem with greater delight after your criticism than before. I consider your definition of Poetry far superior to Lord Bacon's — although I consider him one of the greatest men that ever existed. This I say with the utmost sincerity, because, although he was a very great man, yet he did not know everything. No one but a Poet can know what true Poetry is. No man ever understood the spiritual beauty of Milton's Paradise Lost as well as he did himself. The same may be said of Shakespeare, — although Mr. Knight would make us believe otherwise. A critic may know how to analyze the artistical synthesis of a Poem, without understanding the immortal soul [illegible] this divine spirit which you unfold in your criticism [illegible] them so beautiful. The artistical skill of a Poem [illegible] it invests, what the perfected body of a man is to the soul. It is the Shekinah or visible manifestation of the divinity within. Poetry is, therefore, the perfection of literature. It is the perfected artistical symbol of the most perfect wisdom of the most exalted mind. It is the Apollonian body of the truth-revealing spirit of Genius.

The Present is the “Olden time.” The World is older to-day than it was yesterday. As it is the oldest, so is it the most experienced, epoch of the world. As it is the most experienced, so is it the most wise. It is the harvest of the past. We are the Reapers of this harvest. Out of this harvest we are to sow the seeds of the one to [page 173:] come. That harvest is to make the world fat. Our children shall be the Reapers. They shall rejoice in the intellectual echoes of our souls. Antiquity was the childhood of mankind. The Present is the manhood of Antiquity. The Future will be the prime of life of the manhood of the Present. After this — a long time after this — will commence our perfect manhood in the eternity of the soul. Then will the word Man be changed to that of Angel.

If Plato could rise from the dead, what do you suppose he would say to this? He would dispute it with a voice as loud as that of Jupiter Tonans, by referring me to Homer, the Nightingale of Antiquity, who is to make all coming time musical with his immortal song. He might, perhaps, call me a fool, and ask me if I had never heard of Socrates, the son of Sophroniscus. But, as Plato's soul is now an Angel, as well as that of his Preceptor, — and, no doubt, looks down from Heaven upon me while I write — he knows, very well, that what I say is true.

I wish you would send my Poem on here, if you can by some private individual, before I return to New York, as I wish to correct it, and make it passable, if possible. I did not wish you to sell it — I only wished you to supervise it, and then, if it were worthy, to have it published. I know very well that Poetry will not sell. Nothing, in a corrupt age, will sell but corruption. How do you reconcile the intellectual improvements of this age with its immorality?

If anything of great merit has been published lately, let me know it. I see you speak well of Lowell's Poems. It would break my heart to be praised as he is.

Yours very truly,  

E. A. POE, Esqr.

[Signature missing.] [page 174:]


May 28, 1844.

On the 28th of May, 1844, having three weeks in New York, Poe wrote to Lowell acknowledging a letter and saying that he purposed for the future living in New York. About the six-page sketch of his life for Graham's Poe would be very gratified if Lowell would write it, but he had hesitated speaking about it, thinking the matter might be an unagreeable one to Lowell. Lowell's offer, however, took away the awkwardness he felt, and he was confident that Lowell will do him justice. — He enclosed to Lowell a sketch of his life by Hirst, who had gained his data from Thomas and White, and the sketch seemed to him true aside from the encomium it pronounced. He gave Lowell the names of Tales he had written in addition to those Hirst had enumerated, and declared the Gold Bug his most popular tale; more than 300,000 copies had then been published. He referred again to the article on “American Poetry” in a late “London Foreign Quarterly” and to the charge of imitation of Tennyson brought against him there, and asked Lowell to state that the verses cited as imitations were published in Boston before Tennyson's first volume had appeared. Poe had personal grounds for knowing that Dickens was the writer of the article. He concludes by asking Lowell if he had received the long letter he had written him about seven weeks before. [page 175:]


[Century Magazine.]

June, 1844.

MY DEAR SIR, — Many years have elapsed since my last communication with you, and perhaps you will be surprised at receiving a letter from me now — if not positively vexed at receiving one of so great a length and of such a character. But I trust to your goodness of heart for a patient hearing at the least.

You have already seen that, as usual, I have a favor to solicit. You have, indeed, been to me in many respects a good genius and a friend, but the request I have to make now is one of vital interest to myself — so much so that upon your granting it, or refusing it, depends, I feel, much if not all of the prosperity, and even comfort, of my future life.

I cannot flatter myself that you have felt sufficient interest in me to have followed in any respect my literary career since the period at which you first did me the honor to address me a note while editor of the “Southern Messenger.” A few words of explanation on this point will therefore be necessary here.

As I am well aware that your course of reading lies entirely out of the track of our lighter literature, and as I take it for granted, therefore, that none of the papers in question have met your eye, I have thought it advisable to send you with this letter a single tale as a specimen. This will no doubt put you in mind of the trick of the Skolastikos — but I could not think of troubling you with more than one. I do not think it my best tale, but it is perhaps the best in its particular vein. Variety has been one of my chief aims. [page 176:]

In lieu of the rest, I venture to place in your hands the published opinions of many of my contemporaries.(1) I will not deny that I have been careful to collect and preserve them. They include, as you will see, the warm commendations of a great number of very eminent men, and of these commendations I should be at a loss to understand why I have not a right to be proud.

Before quitting the “Messenger” I saw, or fancied I saw, through a long and dim vista, the brilliant field for ambition which a Magazine of bold and noble aims presented to him who should successfully establish it in America. I perceived that the country, from its very constitution, could not fail of affording in a few years a larger proportionate amount of readers than any upon the earth. I perceived that the whole energetic, busy spirit of the age tended wholly to Magazine literature — to the curt, the terse, the well-timed, and the readily diffused, in preference to the old forms of the verbose and ponderous and the inaccessible. I knew from personal experience that lying per du among the innumerable plantations in our vast Southern and Western countries were a host of well-educated men peculiarly devoid of prejudice, who would gladly lend their influence to a really vigorous journal, provided the right means were taken of bringing it fairly within the very limited scope of their observation.

Now, I know, it is true, that some scores of journals had failed (for, indeed, I looked upon the best success of the best of them as failure), but then I easily traced the causes of their failure in the impotency of their conductors, who made no scruple of basing their rules of action altogether upon what had been customarily [page 177:] done instead of what was now before them to do, in the greatly changed and constantly changing condition of things.

In short, I could see no real reason why a Magazine, if worthy of the name, could not be made to circulate among 20,000 subscribers, embracing the best intellect and education of the land. This was a thought which stimulated my fancy and my ambition. The influence of such a journal would be vast indeed, and I dreamed of honestly employing that influence in the sacred cause of the beautiful, the just, and the true.

Even in a pecuniary view, the object was a magnificent one. The journal I proposed would be a large octavo of 128 pages, printed with bold type, single column, on the finest paper; and disdaining everything of what is termed “embellishment” with the exception of an occasional portrait of a literary man, or some well-engraved wood-design in obvious illustration of the text. Of such a journal I had cautiously estimated the expenses. Could I circulate 20,000 copies at $5, the cost would be about $30,000, estimating all contingencies at the highest rate. There would be a balance of $70,000 per annum.

But not to trust too implicitly to a priori reasonings, and at the same time to make myself thoroughly master of all details which might avail me concerning the mere business of publication, I entered a few steps into the field of experiment. I joined the “Messenger,” as you know, which was then in its second year with 700 subscribers, and the general outcry was that because a Magazine had never succeeded south of the Potomac, therefore a Magazine never could succeed. Yet, in spite of this, and in despite of the wretched [page 178:] taste of its proprietor, which hampered and controlled me at all points, I increased the circulation in fifteen months to 5,500 subscribers paying an annual profit of $10,000 when I left it. This number was never exceeded by the journal, which rapidly went down, and may now be said to be extinct. Of “Graham's Magazine” you have no doubt heard. It had been in existence under the name of the “Casket” for eight years when I became its editor, with a subscription list of about 5,000. In about eighteen months afterward, its circulation amounted to no less than 50,000 — astonishing as this may appear. At this period I left it. It is now two years since, and the number of subscribers is now not more than 25,000 — but possibly very much less. In three years it will be extinct. The nature of this journal, however, was such that even its 50,000 subscribers could not make it very profitable to its proprietor. Its price was $3, but not only were its expenses immense, owing to the employment of absurd steel plates and other extravagancies, which tell not at all, but recourse was had to innumerable agents, who received it at a discount of no less than fifty per cent, and whose frequent dishonesty occasioned enormous loss. But if 50,000 can be obtained for a $3 Magazine among a class of readers who really read little, why may not 50,000 be procured for a $5 journal among the true and permanent readers of the land?

Holding steadily in view my ultimate purpose, — to found a Magazine of my own, or in which at least I might have a proprietary right, — it has been my constant endeavour in the meantime, not so much to establish a reputation great in itself as one of that particular character which should best further my special objects, [page 179:] and draw attention to my exertions as Editor of a Magazine. Thus I have written no books, and have been so far essentially a Magazinist [illegible] bearing, not only willingly but cheerfully, sad poverty and the thousand consequent contumelies and other ills which the condition of the mere Magazinist entails upon him in America, where, more than in any other region upon the face of the globe, to be poor is to be despised.

The one great difficulty resulting from this course is unless the journalist collects his various articles he is liable to be grossly misconceived and misjudged by men of whose good opinion he would be proud, but who see, perhaps, only a paper here and there, by accident — often only one of his mere extravaganzas, written to supply a particular demand. He loses, too, whatever merit may be his due on the score of versatility — a point which can only be estimated by collection of his various articles in volume form and all together. This is indeed a serious difficulty — to seek a remedy for which is my object in writing you this letter.

Setting aside, for the present, my criticisms, poems, and miscellanies (sufficiently numerous), my tales, a great number of which might be termed fantasy pieces, are in number sixty-six. They would make, perhaps, five of the ordinary novel-volumes. I have them prepared in every respect for the press; but, alas, I have no money, nor that influence which would enable me to get a publisher — although I seek no pecuniary remuneration. My sole immediate object is the furtherance of my ultimate one. I believe that if I could get my tales fairly before the public, and thus have an opportunity of eliciting foreign as well as native opinion [page 180:] respecting them, I should by their means be in a far more advantageous position than at present in regard to the establishment of a Magazine. In a word, I believe that the publication of the work would lead forthwith either directly through my own exertions, or indirectly with the aid of a publisher, to the establishment of the journal I hold in view.

It is very true I have no claims upon your attention, not even that of personal acquaintance. But I have reached a crisis of my life in which I sadly stand in need of aid, and without being able to say why, — unless it is that I so earnestly desire your friendship, — I have always felt a half-hope that, if I appealed to you, you would prove my friend. I know that you have unbounded influence with the Harpers, and I know that if you would exert it in my behalf you could procure me the publication I desire.

[No signature.]


[Scribner's Monthly, August, 1894.]

ELMWOOD, June 27, 1844.

MY DEAR FRIEND, — I have been stealing a kind of vacation from the pen during the last month, & I hope that my lying fallow for a time will increase my future crops, though, I cannot bring myself to use the farmer's phrase & wish them to be ‘heavier.’ Now I ought by this time to have finished the article to accompany your head in Graham, but I have been unable to write anything. I have fits of this kind too often owing to a Constitutional indolence which was not counteracted by proper training in my childhood. You may be sure I am not one of those who follow a fashion which is hardly yet extinct, & call upon the good, easy world to accept my [page 181:] faults in proof of my genius. I can only mention it to ask forgiveness for my dilatoriness which springs from no want of interest but from sheer indolence — a fault — which your acquaintance with Life & Biography must have convinced you is one of the most incurable. However, I am resolved to set about it now in good earnest — & I have one or two preliminary requests to make. I wish you would (if you can) write me a letter giving me in some sort a spiritual autobiography of yourself. The newspaper(1) you sent me will give me enough outward facts — but I want your own estimate of your life. Of course you need not write it as if for my use merely in the writing of this article — but as to a friend. I believe that the opinion a man has of himself (if he be accustomed to self analysis) is of more worth than that of all the rest of the world. If you have a copy of your first volume (of poems) will you send it to me by Harnden, directing it to be kept till called for & writing me a line by mail to warn me of its being on the way. I will return it to you by the same conveyance — as it must be valuable to you & as you have not probably more than one copy. I never saw it, nor can I get it. If you would send at the same time any other of your writings which I could not readily get you will oblige me very much & they shall be safely returned to you.

I agree with you that the article on Griswold's book in the Foreign Quarterly Review was fair enough as far as the Conclusions the author came to were concerned — though at the same time I think him as ignorant in political matters as a man can well be — in short ignorant to the full to be a Reviewer — But you are mistaken as to the authorship of it. It was not I am quite sure written by Dickens, but by a friend of his named Forster (or Foster) — the author of a book named “Statesmen of the time of Cromwell.” Dickens may have given him hints. ... [page 182:]

I shall send you my sketch of course before it is printed, so that you may make any suggestions you like or suppress it altogether. I wish it to please you rather than the public.

Affectionately your friend  
J. R. L.


July 2, 1844.

The foregoing letter of Lowell's of June 27, Poe answered under date July 2, 1844. He confessed that he could feel for the “constitutional indolence” of which Lowell complained, for it is one of his own natural possessions, that he was exceedingly idle or exceedingly industrious by fits; that there were times when any mental exertion whatever was pain, and he found no pleasure except in the solitude of forest and mountain. In such solitary communion he had wandered and dreamed for months, and at the end had awakened to a madness for writing, in which fever he had composed all day and read all night. Such a temperament possibly Lowell had himself; and P. P. Cooke, whom Lowell was said to be like, was similarly constituted. Poe said further that his ambition was of the negative sort; that he was excited to effort because he would not let a fool think he could outdo him; that the vanity of human life was a genuine, not a fancied, thing to him; that he lived in dreams of the future while he did not believe in the perfectibility of the race. He thought that striving and struggling would have no effect, and that men are not more wise or happy than they were six thousand years ago. To argue that the exertion of men will have effect is to argue that our progenitors were in more [page 183:] rudimentary form than ourselves, and not on an equal footing with ourselves, and that we are not on a level with those who come after us. Such faith as this loses the individual in the mass, — a faith Poe could not agree to. And in spirituality he had no faith, conceiving the word a senseless thing; we cannot imagine spirit except as matter in an etherialized or rarefied form; all forms of matter have atoms as a basis of being, and we say spirit has not, and is not matter therefore; if we carry rarefaction to its ultimate conclusion we come to where the atoms coalesce. Matter without atom or division is God, and its activity is the thought of God, and the individualizing of this activity forms intelligent creatures. It thus comes about that man is individualized by his material body; that when we die we merely undergo a change. The worm becomes the butterfly. The stars are the homes of such beings as death produces among us; and the unbodied individual, with power of motion, action, and knowledge, is visible to a sleep-waker. Poe's sense of the change, and passing character of earthly affairs, had kept him from continuous lines of work or action; his years had been a caprice, a vain desire, a wish to be alone, a setting aside of the present for contemplation of the future. Music affected him deeply, and also certain poems, especially those of Tennyson, Keats, Coleridge, Shelley, and a few whom he looked upon as pure poets. Music is the informing essence of poetry, and the undefined elevation one feels in hearing a fine melody is the very point we should aim at in poetry. Poetry may therefore resort to artifice to produce this. — Poe still insisted that Dickens either wrote or set in motion the review to which he had referred in previous letters, for nearly all the points [page 184:] Poe had heard from Dickens, in the two long interviews he had had with the novelist when he was in this country, or himself had suggested. — Poe further said that he had been so little considerate of the value of his poems as not to preserve a copy of any of his volumes, and advised Lowell that Hirst had chosen the best passages. He had lately written “The Oblong Box” and “Thou art the Man,” and with the letter posted the “Gold Bug,” the only tale of his own at hand. — For nearly a year Graham had kept back the review of Longfellow's “Spanish Student,” in which Poe had shown passages very palpably plagiarized, and he did not understand the cause of the delay. Lowell's sketch of Poe should be ready by August 10.


[Griswold Collection.]

OAKY GROVE, GA., Aug. 6th, 1844.

MY DEAR FRIEND, — I have just received your beautiful, friendly, abstruse, and transcendental letter of July the 10th, in answer to mine of June the 15th, and I am truly delighted with its contents. I should like very much to see your article entitled “Mesmeric Revelation.” Will you be so good as to forward the Number of the “Columbian Magazine” on to me containing it? If you will, I will do ten times as much for you.

You say that you disagree with me in what I say of “man's advance towards perfection.” You also say that each individual Man is the rudiment of a future material (not spiritual) being.” I do not mean that the foregone Ages were the rudiment of the Present and the Future in regard to creation; but only in regard to knowledge. I contend that each individual Man is not only the rudiment of a future material, but spiritual, being. [page 185:] His future material and spiritual being is the consummation of the perfection of the rudimental material and spiritual being of the Past and Present. The rudimental Man is perennial in the immortality of the soul, which carries along with it the idea of progression. The body of Man is to be glorified with a celestial glory. This will be done when his name is changed into that of Angel. ...

You say that “there is no such thing as spirituality.” What will you do with the Nephesh, Roadkh Elolium, Pneuma, and Pyche of the Sacred Oracles? St. John says that “God is a spirit.” He is called the “Father of Spirits.” St. Paul says that Man is the “offspring of God.” He is the third image of his Father. Job says, “There is a spirit in Man,” &c. — “All things,” you say, “are material; yet the matter of God has all the qualities which we attribute to the spirit.” Then the matter of God is spirit. We must either attribute to spirit properties which it does not possess, or “God is a spirit” — as the substance of anything cannot be less than the qualities of which it is composed. If you mean by matter what I mean by spirit, then your matter is my spirit, and God is material; but if you mean by matter no more than what is usually meant by it, then, my spirit is not your matter, and “God is a spirit.” All the alchemy of your refined genius cannot transmute “unparticled matter” into my idea of spirit. Our first idea of matter carries along with it not only a passive, but a reductitious nature. As long as this is the case, we can never conceive it capable of thought.

You say that the “agitation of this unparticled matter is the thought of God, which creates.” Do you make use of the word “agitation” in the same sense that Aristotle did of the word “Actus?” “Agitation” is not thought, any more than motion is. Our idea of motion is too simple in its nature to be expressed in any other way than through itself — that is, motion. The same may be said of thought. Now here are two simple ideas, the difference [page 186:] between which is as essential as it is eternal. Therefore, motion is no more thought, than the communication of it. It consequently follows that the “agitation of the unparticled matter” cannot be “the thought of God, which creates.” Your doctrine of “agitation” is something like the hylopathian, or Anaximandrian; and your “unparticled matter” like the Democritic, without [illegible] “atomic composition,” transcendentalized. You are not a corpusculous, but an “unparticled” materialist. You are precisely the opposite of what Plato makes Socrates. He was a pure spiritualist. ...

You individualize Man by incorporating the “unparticled” in the “particled matter.” But this is making his individuality depend only upon a peculiar manner of being; whereas I make his personality exist in his self-conscious soul, which shows that his soul may exist in Sheol, after its separation from the body.

Write upon the receipt of this, and tell me all about the literature of the day. Do not fail to send me the Magazine, containing your “Mesmeric Revelation.” I intend to get all your writings. Write soon.

Yours most sincerely,  

E. A. POE, Esqr.

NOTE. — The breaks are filled in the original by seven paragraphs of transcendental opinions. — ED.


Aug. 18, 1844.

Poe wrote to Lowell, August 18, 1844, saying that in the “Columbian Magazine,” which he sent was a paper on “Mesmeric Revelation,” in which he had enlarged upon the ideas of his letter of July 2d. — The article had been badly misprinted, and he asked [page 187:] Lowell if he would get it copied, with the corrections he himself had made, in the “Brother Jonathan,” or the “Boston Notion;” — if Lowell would take this trouble he would be indebted for the kindness, since he, living so entirely out of the world in those days, could not gain it. — At this time he was getting together material for a Critical History of American Literature. Hawthorne seemed to him a “rare genius,” a conviction lately awakened in him anew by, “Drowne's Wooden Image.”


[Century Magazine.]

NEW YORK, September 8, 1844.

MY DEAR THOMAS, — I received yours with sincere pleasure, and nearly as sincere surprise; for while you were wondering that I did not write to you, I was making up my mind that you had forgotten me altogether.

I have left Philadelphia, and am living, at present, about five miles out of New York. For the last seven or eight months I have been playing hermit in earnest, nor have I seen a living soul out of my family — who are well and desire to be kindly remembered. When I say “well,” I only mean (as regards Virginia) as well as usual. Her health remains excessively precarious.

Touching the “Beechen Tree”(1) I remember it well and pleasantly. I have not yet seen a published copy, but will get one forthwith and notice it as it deserves — and it deserves much of high praise — at the very first opportunity I get. At present I am so much out of the world that I may not be able to do anything immediately. [page 188:]

Thank God! Richard (whom you know) is himself again. Tell Dow so; but he won’t believe it. I am working at a variety of things (all of which you shall behold in the end) — and with an ardor of which I did not believe myself capable.

You said to me hurriedly, when we last met on the wharf in Philadelphia, that you believed Robert Tyler really wished to give me the post in the Custom-House. This I also really think; and I am confirmed in the opinion that he could not, at all times, do as he wished in such matters, by seeing — at the head of the “Aurora,” — a bullet-headed and malicious villain who has brought more odium upon the Administration than any fellow (of equal littleness) in its ranks, and who has been more indefatigably busy in both open and secret vilification of Robert Tyler than any individual, little or big, in America.

Let me hear from you again very soon, my dear Thomas, and believe me ever

Your friend,  


[Griswold Collection.]

OAKY GROVE GA., Sept. 24th, 1844.

MY DEAR FRIEND, — I have been looking with great anxiety for another one of your transcendental letters in answer to mine about the intellectual advancement of man; but you have not written to me up to this time. You must write oftener. Your last letter gave me such intellectual delight — the highest pleasure that a man can enjoy on earth — such as the Angels feel in heaven — that I desire, very much, to receive another one from you. I have been studying it ever since I received it. There [page 189:] is a great deal of Seraphic wisdom contained in it. I shall say no more about your objections to my ideas of the intellectual advancement of man towards perfection, until you write to me again. I am astonished that you have not written to me before this. If you knew how much pleasure it gives me to receive a letter from you, I know you would write to me every week.(1) ...

Write to me as soon as you receive this, if you have not written before. Direct to Washington, Wilkes County, Ga. I will be in New York soon. As Fra Paolo Sorpi said of his native land — Esta perpetua — may you live forever.

Your friend forever more,  


P. S. — Why do you call your Periodical the “Stylus”? Would not The Sibyl be more poetical? “The Orion” is the most beautiful title for a Periodical that I have ever seen; but it is a Southern constellation, and, therefore, would not do so well for the North. If you will write me in what number of the “Columbian Magazine” your “Mesmeric Revelation” is published, I can get it in Augusta. Can “The Maid of Brittany,” by J. R. Lowell, be sent by Mail? If it can, if you will write me the price, I will send on the money by the Post Master and get it. It is not in this part of the world.

Write me word what you think of “Brownson's Quarterly.” I want to get a work on “St. Simonism,” reviewed some years ago by O. A. Brownson of Boston — also another work of a similar nature, by a Frenchman, but I have forgotten his name, reviewed by O. A. Brownson, at, or about, the same time. If you can give me any information on the subject, do so. I have been [page 190:] thinking that I would write on to Brownson about them, but as you probably know as much about such matters as he does, it is of no use, when I would greatly prefer to write to you. I would freely travel from here to New York to hear you lecture on “American Poetry.” You ought to have been here this Summer to have eaten peaches and milk.

T. H. C.


[Griswold Collection.]

(Copy of a letter sent to Mr. Craig, October 25, mailed by me. Maria Clemm.) (1844.)

SIR, — Proceed. There are few things which could afford me more pleasure than an opportunity of holding you up to that public admiration which you have long courted; and this I think I can do to good purpose — with the aid of some of the poor labourers and some other warm friends of yours about Yorkville.

The tissue of written lies which you have addressed to myself individually, I deem it as well to retain. It is a specimen of attorney grammar too rich to be lost. As for the letter designed for Mr. Willis (who, beyond doubt, will be honoured by your correspondence), I take the liberty of re-enclosing it. The fact is, I am neither your footman nor the penny-post.

With all due respect, nevertheless  
I am yr ob. St.  

S. D. CRAIG, Esqr.


NEW YORK, Oct. 24. 44.

NOTE. — It is not known to what this letter alludes. — ED. [page 191:]


Oct. 28, 1844.

Poe wrote to Willis [[Duane]] on Oct. 28, 1844, that he was very sorry Mr. Duane thought him neglectful or discourteous in not taking back the “Messenger.”(1) It happened that about eight months before Poe, in Mr. Hirst's presence, said he wanted to see a certain article in the “Messenger.” Mr. Hirst at once offered to get him a copy. Poe would have chosen rather to borrow it for himself, but since Mr. Hirst seemed interested he acquiesced. At that date it was more than seven months since he had returned the volume to Mr. Hirst, Mrs. Clemm having delivered it to one of his brothers at his office. It may have been put on a bookshelf and forgotten. Would Mr. Duane send for it?

This letter has an endorsement by Duane that Hirst had said the story of the return to him of the “Southern Literary Messenger” was “a damned lie,” Poe having sold the book to a bookseller — perhaps unintentionally sold it.


Oct. 28, 1844.

Poe addressed Lowell upon Oct. 28, 1844, saying that numberless little troubles, the brood of the one trouble, poverty, had kept him from thanking Lowell for the sketch of his (Poe's) life, and its friendly estimates, but that now he thanked him [page 192:] many times. He sent the sketch at once to Graham and made but a change of one short poem for the last Lowell had done him the courtesy to quote. — He spoke of Lowell's marriage, and said he could wish him no better wish than that he may gain from his marriage as “substantial happiness” as he himself had enjoyed from his own. — A long time before Poe had written of a co-operation of authors in magazine publication against the exactions of their publishers. Concisely stated, it was that say twelve of the most energetic and interested of the men of letters in this country should work together in publishing a periodical of the best sort; that their names should be withheld; that each should furnish an article every month; that each one should own a one hundred dollar share of the stock, and the magazine be kept up by contributions of its members and articles furnished by outsiders without pay. The plan would choose men already associated with periodicals, and Poe and Lowell initiating the venture, would get together the first number to draft the constitution. — Such a combination seemed to Poe a very desirable one, and the periodical assured of success, for there would be no outlay in contributions. Such a publication would advantage, not depress American literature, free it from authoritative voices over the sea, and also pay its owners. — The mechanical part should be of the best, and for a subscription price of $5 per annum, and vigorous personal support, a circulation of 20,000 would bring in $100,000 — which, deducting $40,000 for expenses, would leave $60,000 a year, or $5,000 for each of the twelve editor-publishers. — Poe had long had the matter in mind, and was convinced that the project might be carried to even greater success than that he had outlined. [page 193:]


[Griswold Collection.]

NEW YORK, Nov. 2d 1844.

DEAR SIR, — I have called upon the Harpers, as you requested, and have cheerfully exerted with them what influence I possess, but without accomplishing anything of importance. They have complaints against you, grounded on certain movements of yours, when they acted as your publishers some years ago; and appear very little inclined at present to enter upon the matter which you have so much at heart. However, they have retained, for a second and more careful perusal, the letter which you sent to me, and have promised that, if they should see fit to come to terms with you, they will ad dress a note to you forthwith. Of course, if you should not hear from them, their silence must be construed into a declining of your proposal. My own advice to you is, to call in person at their store, and talk over the matter with them. I am very sure that such a step on your part will remove many of the difficulties which at present obstruct your way.

You do me an injustice by supposing that I am a stranger to your productions. I subscribed to the “Messenger” solely because you were connected with it, and I have since that period read and, as a matter of course, admired very many of your other pieces. The Harpers also entertain, as I heard from their own lips, the highest opinion of your talents, but —

I remain very sincerely,

Your friend & wellwisher  

E. A. POE, Esqr.

P. S. The MSS., which you were kind enough to send, can be obtained by you at any time on calling at my residence.

C. A.

[page 194:]


[Gill's Life.]

Nov. 12. [[1844]]

MY DEAR POE, — I could not find time possibly to go to the concert, but why did you not send the paragraph yourself. You knew of course that it would go in.

I had a letter, not long since, from your sister enquiring where you were; supposing you had mov‘d, I could not inform her. You seem as neglectful of your sister as I am of mine, but private letters are “the last ounce that breaks the camel's back” of a literary man.

Yours very truly,  


[Scribner's Monthly, August, 1894.]

ELMWOOD, Dec. 12, 1844.

MY DEAR FRIEND, — You will forgive me for not writing sooner & for writing so little now, when I tell you that I have been for some time keeping a printing office agoing at the rate of from eight to twenty pages a day. I am printing a volume of prose (in conversation form) about poets and everything else, [“Conversations on Some of the Old Poets”] & not having prepared my copy, am obliged to write & print at once. You will like some parts of the book and dislike others.

My object in writing this is to introduce you to my friend, Charles F. Briggs, who is about to start a literary weekly paper(1) in New York & desires your aid. He was here a month or two since, & I took the liberty of reading to him what I had written about you & today I [page 195:] received a letter from him announcing his plan & asking your address. Not knowing it, & not having time to write him I thought that the shortest way would be to introduce you to him. He will pay & I thought from something you said in your last letter that pay would be useful to you. I also took the liberty of praising you to a Mr. Colton, who has written “Tecumseh” ... & whom I suspect, from some wry faces he made on first hearing your name, you have cut up. He is publishing a magazine & I think I convinced him that it would be for his interest to engage you permanently. But I know nothing whatever of his ability to pay.

I am not to be married till I have been delivered of my book; which will probably be before Christmas, & I shall spend the winter in Philadelphia. I shall only stop one night in New York on my way on. Returning I shall make a longer stay & shall of course see you. You will like Briggs & he will edit an excellent paper. Opposite, I write a note to him.

Yr. affectionate friend,  

P. S. You must excuse me if I have blundered in recommending you to Colton. I know nothing of your circumstances save what I gleaned from your last letter, &, of course, said nothing to him which I might not say as an entire stranger to you. It is never safe to let an editor (as editors go) know that an author wants his pay.

I was in hopes that I should have been able to revise my sketch of you before it appeared. It was written under adverse circumstances & was incomplete. If you do not like this method of getting acquainted, send Briggs your address. His is No. 1 Nassau St. I never wrote an introductory letter before & do not own a complete letter writer — so you must excuse any greenness about it.


[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 166:]

1.  Portion of letter cut out.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 176:]

1.  Appended to Hirst's “Life of Poe.”

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 181:]

1.  The Saturday Museum containing Hirst's life of Poe.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 187:]

1.  A poem by Thomas.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 189:]

1.  Here ensues a long, rambling dissertation on transcendentalism. — ED.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 191:]

1.  See next to the last sentence in Poe's letter to Mrs. Clemm, of April 7, 1844, and for further account Poe's letter to Duane of January 28, 1845. — ED.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 194:]

1.  “The Broadway Journal.”





[S:1 - JAH17, 1902] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Articles - Complete Works of E. A. Poe (Vol. 17 - Letters) (J. A. Harrison) (Chapter 07)