Text: John H. Ingram, “Memoir,” The Works of Edgar Allan PoeVol. I: Memoir & Tales (1874), 1:ix-xcix


[page ix, unnumbered:]


Cottage at Fordham [thumbnail]

[Illustration on page x]
Cottage at Fordham


EDGAR ALLAN POE was descended from an ancient Norman family which settled in Ireland in the reign of Henry II., and “those who are curious in tracing the effects of country and lineage in the mental and constitutional peculiarities of men of genius may be interested,” as Mrs. Whitman* observes, in such records as we have been enabled to obtain of the poet's ancestry. The family of the Le Poers, or De la Poers, was founded by Sir Roger le Poor, one of the companions-in-arms of the famous Strongbow, of whom it was remarked by Geraldus Cambrensis — [page x:] “It might be said without offence that there was not a man who did more valiant acts than Roger le Poer.” The race which sprang from this knightly adventurer made itself conspicuous in the annals of Ireland for heroic daring and romantic deeds, as well as for its improvidence and reckless bravery. The chivalrous conduct of Sir Arnold le Poer, seneschal of Kilkenny Castle, “a knight, and instructed in letters,” in interposing, at the ultimate sacrifice of liberty and life, to rescue Lady Alice Kytler from the clutches of the ecclesiastics who accused her and brought her to trial for witchcraft, is fully detailed by Geraldus and other chroniclers. “The disastrous civil war of 1327,” says Mrs. Whitman, “in which all the great barons of the country were involved, was occasioned by a personal feud between Arnold le Poer and Maurice of Desmond, the former having offended the dignity of the Desmond by calling him a rhymer,” little deeming, indeed, that the most famous scion of his own knightly race would glorify the family more by his rhymings than any other member of it would by his swordsmanship.

The Le Poers were involved in the Irish troubles of 1641, and when Cromwell invaded the country they did not escape his pursuit; their families were dispersed, their estates confiscated, and their lands forfeited to the Commonwealth. Of the three leading branches of the family at the time of Cromwell's invasion, Kilmaedon, Don Isle, and Curraghmore, the last only escaped the vengeance of the Lord Protector, and that, according to Burke, solely by the ingenuity and courage of Alice, daughter of the Lord of Curraghmore. The romantic story of Cromwell's siege of the sea-girt castle of Don Isle, as told by Burke, in his Romance of the Aristocracy, is replete with interest. The isolated stronghold was bravely defended by a female descendant of Nicholas le Poer, Baron of Don Isle, and [page xi:] this heroine is always styled, in the traditions of the Power family, “the Countess.” According to the legend recorded by Burke, the fortress was only surrendered through treachery, after Cromwell had withdrawn his troops in despair at making any impression upon its sea-surrounded walls. Don Isle was then blown up with gunpowder, and the beautiful countess (so the story runs), refusing to capitulate, perished in its ruins.

“The family of the Le Poers,” remarks Mrs. Whitman, “like that of the Geraldines, and other Anglo-Norman settlers in Ireland, passed from Italy into the north of France, and from France through England and Wales into Ireland, where, from their isolated position and other causes, they retained for a long period their hereditary traits with far less modification from intermarriage and association with other races than did their English compeers. Meantime the name underwent various changes in accent and orthography. A few branches of the family still bore in Ireland,” and, it may be added, still bear, “the old Italian name of De la Poë.” “The beautiful domain of Powerscourt,” adds our authority, “took its name from the Le Poers,” and through her father, Edmund Power, the late Lady Blessington claimed descent from the same old family. Some branches of the Power family, it may be remarked, have obtained heraldic sanction for resuming their more ancient patronymic of Le Poer.

A descendant of this famous and high-spirited race was John Poe, who, by his marriage with Jane, daughter of the distinguished naval hero, Admiral James M’Bride, became allied with some of the most illustrious families of Great Britain. David Poe, his son, and the grandfather of Edgar Poe, was but two years old, when his parents removed with him to America, and settled in Maryland; and, from the genealogical records he inherited from his father, it would appear [page xii:] that various methods of spelling the ancestral name were at that time adopted by different members of the family. The Chevalier le Poer, a friend of the Marquis de Grammont, is recorded by Poe to have been a member of his father's family — a family, it is suggestive to note, not unfrequently marked out by mystery, by misery, and by romance, from the commonplace herd of happier lives. There was a Cornet Joseph Poe, doubtless one of this fated race, convicted and executed at Dublin in 1725 for an apparently commonplace highway robbery, but there was about the affair some strange, unfathomable mystery, dimly hinted at in contemporary broadsides; indeed, in one of these, a doggerel elegy,* it declares that this Poe died to save a friend, a no great improbability when the Quixotic fidelity of some members of the family is remembered. It was a race able to attain high honours by reckless or chivalrous deeds, but rarely sufficiently prudent to retain them. The above David Poe — who, although born in Ireland, prided himself upon being an American — took an active part in the revolutionary war, and ultimately attained to the rank of Quartermaster-General.

General Poe married a Miss Cairnes of Pennsylvania, a woman famous for her beauty. They had five children, of whom David, the fourth son, being designed for the law, was placed in an office at Baltimore, but whilst still a student he was smitten with the charms of Elizabeth Arnold, a young English actress; he eloped with her, and, at little more than eighteen years of age, ruined his prospects of the future by an improvident marriage. Disowned by his parents because of this imprudent union, David Poe adopted his wife's profession and went on the stage, where, however, it [page xiii:] does not appear that he exhibited much theatrical ability. Upon the birth of a child to the youthful couple, the parents relented towards their estranged child, and received him back into the family circle, and with him his youthful wife, who is described as a lovely little creature, and highly talented. The forgiveness was not needed for long; in 1815, the still youthful couple died within a few weeks of each other of consumption, at Richmond, Virginia, leaving totally unprovided for three children, Henry, Edgar, and Rosalie.


EDGAR ALLAN POE, was born in Baltimore [[Boston]], on the 19th of February [[January]] 1809. He was named Allan after a wealthy and intimate friend of the family, and when both his parents died his godfather, who, although long married, was childless, adopted the little orphan, then only six years old. Even at this early age Poe was noted for his precocity as well as for his beauty, and Mr. Allan appears to have been extremely proud of his youthful protégé, and to have treated him in many respects as his own son. The boy is stated to have been made quite a show-child of by his adopted father; a tenacious memory and a musical ear, we are informed, enabling him to learn by rote, and declaim to the evening visitors assembled at Mr. Allan's house, the finest passages of English poetry with great effect. “The justness of his emphasis, and his evident appreciation of the poems he recited,” we learn, made a striping impression upon his audience, “while every heart was won by the ingenious simplicity and agreeable manners of the pretty little elocutionist.” Gratifying as these exhibitions may have been to his godfather's vanity, the probable consequence of such a [page xiv:] system of recurring excitements upon the boy's morbidly nervous organisation could scarcely fail to be disastrous. Indeed, in after years, the poet bitterly bewailed the pernicious effects of his childhood's misdirected aims. “I am,” he but too truthfully declared, “the descendant of a race whose imaginative and easily excitable temperament has at all times rendered them remarkable, and in my earliest infancy I gave evidence of having fully inherited the family character. As I advanced in years it was more strongly developed, becoming, for many reasons, a cause of serious disquietude to my friends, and of positive injury to myself, . . . my voice was a household law, and, at an age when few children have abandoned their leading-strings, I was left to the guidance of my own will, and became, in all but name, the master of my own actions.”

In 1816, the Allans having to visit England on matters connected with the disposal of some property there, brought their adopted son with them, and after taking him on a tour through England and Scotland with them, left him at the Manor-House School in Church Street, Stoke-Newington. The school belonged to a Rev. Dr. Bransby, who is so quaintly described in “William Wilson,” one of Poe's finest stories. At the time of Poe's residence the school grounds occupied a large area, but of late years they have been greatly circumscribed in extent. The description of the place, and the account of his life there, Poe is stated to have declared were autobiographically portrayed in this tale; if so, a portion of “William Wilson's” oft-quoted reminiscences must be relegated to the exaggerated memories of childhood. In some respects the description of the “large, rambling, Elizabethan house “corresponds more closely to the fine old manorial residence facing the school, but in others the place is described with almost pre-Raphaelite minuteness. The picture of Stoke-Newington as it was when Poe [page xv:] resided there is also unusually accurate in its details. Friendless and orphaned though he was, it was probably the happiest portion of his life that the future poet passed in this congenial spot, this “misty-looking village of England, where were a vast number of gigantic and gnarled trees, and where all the houses were excessively ancient.” “In truth,” adds Poe, “it was a dream-like and spirit-soothing place, that venerable old town,” and it is not strange that the boy's plastic mind should have received, and retained indelibly imprinted upon it, the impression of, and in after years recall, in fancy, “the refreshing chilliness of its deeply shadowed avenues, inhale the fragrance of its thousand shrubberies, and thrill anew with undefinable delight, at the deep hollow note of the church-bell, breaking each hour with sudden and sullen roar, upon the stillness of the dusky atmosphere in which the fretted Gothic steeple lay imbedded and asleep.”

Here, in this dreamy place, Edgar Poe spent from four to five years of his existence, and, notwithstanding the monotony of school life, was doubtless fully justified in looking back upon the days passed in that venerable academy with pleasurable feelings. “The teeming brain of childhood,” to quote his own words, “requires no external world of incident to occupy or amuse it. . . . The morning's awakening, the nightly summons to bed, the connings, the recitations, the periodical half-holidays and perambulations, the play-ground, with its broils, its pastimes, its intrigues; — these, by a mental sorcery long forgotten, were made to involve a wilderness of sensation, a world of rich incident, a universe of varied emotion, of excitement the most passionate and spirit-stirring. ‘Oh, le bon temps, que ce siècle de fer!’ ”

The house was, indeed still is, as Poe described it, “old and irregular.” “The grounds,” he continues, “were extensive, [page xvi:] and a high and solid brick wall, topped with a bed of mortar and broken glass, encompassed the whole. This prison-like rampart formed the limit of our domain, beyond it we saw but thrice a week — once every Saturday afternoon, when, attended by two ushers, we were permitted to take brief walks in a body through some of the neighbouring fields, and twice during Sunday, when we were paraded in the same formal manner to the morning and evening service in the one church of the village. . . At an angle of the ponderous wall frowned a more ponderous gate. It was rivetted and studded with iron bolts, and surmounted with jagged iron spikes. What impressions of deep awe did it inspire! . . . The extensive enclosure was irregular in form, having many capacious recesses. Of these, three or four of the largest constituted the play-ground. It was level, and covered with fine, hard gravel. I well remember it had no trees, nor benches, nor anything similar, within it. Of course it was in the rear of the house. In front lay a small parterre, planted with box and other shrubs, but through this sacred division we passed only upon rare occasions indeed — such as a first advent to school, or final departure thence, or perhaps when a parent or friend having called for us we joyfully took our way home for the Christmas or Midsummer holidays.”

“The ardour, the enthusiasm, and the imperiousness,” which is declared to have rendered the soi-disant “William Wilson” a marked character amongst his schoolmates, so that by slow but natural gradations he obtained an ascendency over all not greatly older than himself, may be safely assumed to represent Poe's own character, even at this early epoch of his life, as it is invariably found to represent it from first to last. Undoubtedly it was in this “venerable academy”that our poet acquired the groundwork of that curious superstructure of classic lore which in after years [page xvii:] was one of the chief ornaments of his weird and wonderful works. To the lustrum of his life spent in England Edgar Poe was probably far more scholastically indebted than the world can or will ever know.

In 1821, the lad was recalled home, and soon afterwards was placed by his adopted parents at an academy in Richmond, Virginia. Mr. Allan would seem to have been very proud of his handsome and precocious godson, and always to have been willing to afford him any amount of education procurable; but of parental love, of that deep sympathy for which the poor orphan yearned, he seems to have been utterly devoid. Not but what the imperious little fellow was indulged in what money could purchase, but the petting and spoiling which he still appears to have received was not of that kind to touch his tender heart. Throughout life a morbid sensitiveness to affection was one of his most distinguishing traits, and this it was that frequently drove him to seek in the society of dumb creatures that love which was denied him, or which he sometimes believed denied him, by human beings. There is a paragraph in his terrible tale of “The Black Cat,” which those who were intimately acquainted with Poe will at once recognise the autobiographical fidelity of. “From my infancy,” he remarks, “I was noted for the docility and humanity of my disposition. My tenderness of heart was even so conspicuous as to make me the jest of my companions. I was especially fond of animals, and was indulged by my parents with a great variety of pets. With these I spent most of my time, and never was so happy as when feeding and caressing them. This peculiarity of character grew with my growth, and in my manhood I derived from it one of my principal sources of pleasure. To those who have cherished an affection for a faithful and sagacious dog I need hardly be at the trouble of explaining the nature or the [page xviii:] intensity of the gratification thus derivable. There is something in the unselfish and self-sacrificing love of a brute which goes directly to the heart of him who has had frequent occasion to test the paltry friendship and gossamer fidelity of mere man.”

ln her before-quoted little book Mrs. Whitman relates a well-authenticated and characteristic anecdote of Poe when he was studying at the Richmond academy, and whilst it very strikingly illustrates the almost Quixotic constancy of his attachments — his gratitude for kindness — it also but too clearly demonstrates how little sympathy and affection the young orphan received from his adopted parents. “He one day accompanied a schoolmate to his home,” relates Mrs. Whitman, “where he saw for the first time Mrs. H—— S——,* the mother of his young friend. This lady, on entering the room, took his hand and spoke some gentle and gracious words of welcome, which so penetrated the sensitive heart of the orphan boy as to deprive him of the power of speech, and for a time almost of consciousness itself. He returned home in a dream, with but one thought, one hope in life — to hear again the sweet and gracious words that had made the desolate world so beautiful to him, and filled his lonely heart with the oppression of a new joy. This lady afterwards became the confidant of all his boyish sorrows, and hers was the one redeeming influence that saved and guided him in the earlier days of his turbulent and passionate youth.” But, alas for the poor lad, this lady was herself overwhelmed with fearful and peculiar sorrows, and at the very moment when her guiding voice was most needed, she died. But when she was entombed in a neighbouring cemetery, her poor boyish admirer could not endure the thought of her lying there lonely and forsaken in her vaulted home, and for [page xix:] months after her decease, like his contemporary Petöfi, the great Hungarian poet, at the grave of his girl-love Etelka, Poe would go nightly to visit the tomb of his revered friend, and “when the nights were very dreary and cold, when the autumnal rains fell, and the winds wailed mournfully over the graves, he lingered longest and came away most regretfully.”

For years, if not for life, the memory of this unfortunate lady tinged all his fancies and filled his mind with saddening things. In a letter written within a twelvemonth of his death to the truest friend, in all probability, of his “lonesome latter years,” Poe broke through his usual reticence as to his early life, and confessed that his exquisite stanzas “To Helen,”* which, strange to note, are omitted from the collected editions of his works, were inspired by the memory of this lady, by “the one idolatrous and purely ideal love” of his tempest-tossed boyhood. In the earliest versions of his boyhood's poems the name Helen frequently recurs, and it was undoubtedly to her that he inscribed “The Pæan,” a juvenile poem, which he subsequently greatly improved both in rhythm and expression, and republished under the musical name of “Lenore.” The description which Poe afterwards gave to a friend of the fantasies that haunted his brain during his desolate vigils in the cemetery, the nameless fears and indescribable phantasms,

“Flapping from out their Condor wings

Invisible Woe!”

she compares to those which overwhelmed De Quincey at the burial of his sweet sister and playmate. We linger somewhat over this little known epoch of Poe's story, because we are perfectly convinced that Mrs. Whitman has indeed found “a key to much that seems strange and [page xx:] abnormal in the poet's after life” in “those solitary churchyard vigils with all their associated memories.” There can indeed be no doubt that those who would seek the clue to the psychological phenomena of his strange existence, that intellect — as Poe himself said — which would try to reduce his “phantasm to the commonplace,” must know and even study this phase of his being. The mind which could so steadfastly trace, step by step, the terrible stages of sentience after death, as Edgar Poe's does in his weird “Colloquy of Monos and Una,” must, indeed, have been one that frequently had sought to wrest from the charnel-house its earthy secrets.

Returning to the more commonplace records of his history, the future poet is described to us at this period of his life as remarkable for his general cleverness, his feats of activity, his wayward temper, his extreme personal beauty, and his power of extemporaneous tale-telling, and, even at this early stage, as a great classical scholar, and as well versed in mathematics, botany, and other branches of the natural sciences. It is but just that we should refer to Griswold's account of this epoch in the life of Edgar Poe, as that biographist's mendacity is not known to all. “In 1822,” says Griswold, “Poe returned to the United States, and after passing a few months at an academy in Richmond, he entered the university at Charlottesville, where he led a very dissipated life; the manners which then prevailed there were extremely dissolute, and he was known as the wildest and most reckless student of his class, . . . he would have graduated with the highest honours had not his gambling, intemperance, and other vices induced his expulsion from the university.” The mere fact that, according to Griswold's dates, Poe would only have been at this time in the eleventh or twelfth year of his age, is sufficient to induce doubt as to the correctness of his accusations, but, fortunately [page xxi:] for the fair fame of the accused, indisputable evidence as to the entire untruth of Griswold's story has been procured. On May 22, 1860, Dr. Stephen Maupin, president of the University of Virginia, in answer to various inquiries made of him relative to Edgar Poe's career at Charlottesville, procured a statement from Mr. William Wertenbaker, secretary of the Faculty, which he further endorsed with the remark that “Mr. Wertenbaker's statement is worthy of entire confidence.” “I may add,” he continues, “that there is nothing on the Faculty records to the prejudice of Mr. Poe. He appears to have been a successful student, having obtained distinctions in Latin and French at the closing examinations of 1826. He never graduated here, no provision for conferring degrees of any kind having been made at the time he was a student here.” Dr. Maupin's letter is followed by the said statement, and a most interesting as well as conclusive document it is. Says Mr. Wertenbaker:

“Edgar A. Poe was a student of the University of Virginia during the second session which commenced February 1st 1826, and terminated December 15th of the same year. He signed the matriculation book on the 14th of February, and remained in good standing as a student till the session closed. He was born on the 19th of February [[January]] 1809, being a little under seventeen when he entered the institution. He belonged to the schools of ancient and modern languages, and as I was myself a member of the latter, I can testify that he was tolerably regular in attendance, and a very successful student, having obtained distinctions in it at the final examination, the highest honour a student could then obtain, the present regulation in regard to degrees not having been at the time adopted. On one occasion, Professor Blatterman requested his Italian class to render into English verse a portion of the lesson in Tasso, assigned for the next lecture. Mr. Poe was the only one who complied with the request. He was highly complimented by the Professor for his performance.

“Although I had a passing acquaintance with Mr. Poe from an [page xxii:] early period of the session, it was not until near its close that I had any social intercourse with him. After spending an evening together at a private house, he invited me to his room. It was a cold night in December, and his fire having gone nearly out, by the aid of some candle ends and the wreck of a table, he soon rekindled it, and by its comfortable blaze I spent a very pleasant hour with him. On this occasion he spoke with regret of the amount of money he had wasted, and the debts he had contracted. In a biographical sketch of Mr. Poe, I have seen it stated that he was at one time expelled from the university, but that he afterwards returned and graduated with the highest honours. This is entirely a mistake. He spent but one session at the University, and at no time did he fall under the censure of the Faculty. He was not at that time addicted to drinking, but had an ungovernable passion for card-playing. Mr. Poe was several years older than his biographer represents him. His age, I have no doubt, was correctly entered on the matriculation book.”

So much for the story started, or at all events promulgated by Griswold, of Edgar Poe's expulsion from the university. This writer admits that Poe was noted at this time for feats of hardihood, strength, and activity, and recounts — but with his usual exaggeration — an aquatic performance of the lad's. On a hot day of June, according to Poe's own statement, he swam from Ludlam's wharf to Warwick, a distance of six miles, against a strong tide; and when the truth of the assertion was publicly questioned, he obtained a certification of the fact from several companions, including his dear classmate Robert Stannard. This document, moreover, declares that “Mr. Poe did not seem at all fatigued, and walked back to Richmond immediately after the feat, which was undertaken for a wager.” Our poet had, indeed, no little confidence in his swimming powers, and asserted that, on a favourable day, he believed he could swim the English Channel from Dover to Calais.

University of Virginia [thumbnail]

[Illustration on page xxiii]
University of Virginia

In 1827, aroused by the heroic efforts the Greeks were [page xxiii:] making to throw off the yoke of their Turkish oppressors, and, doubtless, emulous of Byron, whose example had excited the chivalric boys of both continents, Edgar Poe and an acquaintance, Ebenezer Burling, determined to start for Greece and offer their aid to the insurgents. Either Mr. Burling's heart failed, or parental authority was too strong for him for he stayed at home, whilst the embryo poet, doubtless in headstrong opposition to the wishes of his adopted parents, started alone for Europe. Poe was absent for more than a year, but the adventures of his journey have never been told; he seems to have been very reticent upon the subject, and to have left uncontradicted the various stories invented, and even published during his lifetime, to account for the interregnum in his history. That he reached England is probable, but whether he ever beheld, save in his “mind's-eye,” the remains of [page xxiv:]

“The glory that was Greece,

And the grandeur that was Rome,”

is still uncertain; there are a few slight allusions scattered amid his writings to the scenery of both Greece and Italy, but it is impossible to found anything reliable upon such data. The story as to his having arrived at St. Petersburgh, and got involved in difficulties that necessitated ministerial aid to extricate him, must be given up, as must also that founded upon the suggestion made by the anonymous author of a scurrilous paper which appeared in the Southern Literary Messenger, that Poe, when in London, formed the acquaintance of Leigh Hunt and Theodoure Hook, and lived like “that class of men, . . . dragging out a precarious existence in garrets, doing drudgery work, writing for the great presses and for the reviews, whose world-wide celebrity has been the fruit of such men's labour.” The ignorance displayed in these words of English men and letters needs no comment.

In 1829 Edgar Poe returned home, if Mr. Allan's residence may so be termed. He reached Richmond, Virginia, we have been informed, early in March, but too late to take a last farewell of his adopted mother, she having died on the 27th of February, and her funeral having taken place the very day before Poe's return. Mrs. Allan had probably exercised a conciliatory influence in the household, where, we hear, it was frequently needed, and the poor lad, who in after life invariably spoke well of this lady, doubtless soon felt the effects of her loss. Mr. Allan does not appear to have manifested any great pleasure at the prodigal's return, but when Poe expressed his willingness to devote himself to the military profession, he exercised his influence and obtained a nomination for him to a scholarship in the military academy at West Point. As, according to the rules of that institution, appointments are not given to [page xxv:] candidates after they have attained their twenty-first birthday, the young author, for such he now was, was only just in time to secure his nomination. Meanwhile Poe had published a little volume of poems, his first known essay in literature, under the title of “Al Aaraaf, Tamerlane, and other poems.”* Lowell and others of the poet's reviewers speak of an earlier edition of this book as published in 1827, and from it the delicate little lyric “To Helen” is professedly extracted. This 1827 volume is also stated to have received very flattering notice from the veteran author, John Neal, but it has disappeared without leaving any trace, and the edition of 1829, which was printed for private circulation only, is the earliest discoverable vestige of Poe's literary powers.

Reverting to the military academy, the records show that Poe was admitted into that institution as a cadet on the 1st of July 1830. He is declared to have entered upon his new mode of living with customary energy, but very speedily discovered how totally unsuited to him now was the strict discipline and monotonous training of such a place as West Point. The wayward and erratic course of existence to which he had been accustomed, together with his having been for so long a time sole master of his own actions, rendered it impossible for him to submit to the galling restraints of this institution A fellow-cadet with him at the academy informs us of “his utter inefficiency and state of abstractedness at that place. He could not, or would not,” he remarks, “follow its mathematical requirements. His mind was off from the matter-of-fact routine of the drill, which, in such a case as his, seemed practical joking on some ethereal visionary expedition. He was marked,” adds our informant, “for an early death.” This institution was utterly unsuitable for one of Poe's [page xxvi:] temperament and experience; it was a repetition of the old story of Pegasus at the plough, and the climax was, as could easily have been foreseen, that, on the 7th of January 1831, he was tried by a general court-martial “for various neglects of duty and disobedience of orders,” to which he could but plead guilty, and, in the grandiloquent style of the academy officials, he was, on the subsequent 6th of March, “dismissed the service of the United States!” Better for him, poor fellow, and better for the credit of his countrymen, if he had then and there accepted the fiat of the academy officials as that of his nation, and sought on some foreign shore the hospitality denied him by his own countrymen.

In 1831, whilst still a cadet, and all unawed by the sentence impending, he published an enlarged collection of his boyish rhymes under the title of “POEMS by Edgar A. Poe.”* This volume, garnished with a quotation from Rochefoucauld, “Tout le monde a Raison,” and which, like its predecessors, was for private circulation, was dedicated to “the United States Corps of Cadets,” a dedication which appears to have drawn upon its unfortunate author the ridicule of his fellow-students. A fellow-cadet, a General Cullum, alluding to the contents of this little volume, says — “These verses were the source of great merriment with us boys, who considered the author cracked, and the verses ridiculous doggerel.” Happily for literature, the opinion of “us boys” did not carry much weight, and Poe continued to write “verses “quite regardless of West Point and its judgments. This little book is most interesting, not only on account of its cleverly written prefatory letter of seventeen pages, addressed to a certain mythical “B——,” but also from the fact that it contains a large quantity of verse suppressed in later editions of Poe's works. The [page xxvii:] prose is followed by a poetical introduction of sixty-six lines, a portion of which, under the title of “Romance,” is included in the general collection of “Poems written in Youth.” Many of the omitted portions of this volume have a strange biographical interest for those conversant with the true story of Edgar Poe's life; to them they hint of something more than mere rhymes. The omissions from are as happy as the additions to these boyish poems. No regard for the relics of his youth withheld Edgar Poe in after life from pruning away the excrescences of his juvenile verse; the critic's unswerving hand clipped or moulded all into artistic unity.

Upon leaving West Point, Poe returned to Mr. Allan's residence at Richmond, and appears to have remained there some time on sufferance. Soon after his return home he became attached to Miss Royster, and was ultimately, it is believed, engaged to her. Mr. Allan, why it is not known, was violently opposed to the match, and without his pecuniary aid matrimony was out of the question, as Poe was entirely dependent upon him. A violent quarrel took place between the old man and his adopted son, and Poe, unable to submit calmly to the course of events, again left home, this time with the intention of proceeding to Poland, to expend his energies in aiding the Poles in their struggles against Russia. How far he got is not known, but it is supposed that he did not leave America, having been stopped by the intelligence that, on the 6th of September, Warsaw had fallen, carrying with it the last hopes of the Polish insurgents. In the meanwhile, as if to widen the estrangement at home, Mr. Allan had taken unto himself a young wife — “the beautiful Miss Paterson” — whilst Miss Royster, forgetful of her faith, was married to a wealthy man, a Mr. Shelton. Once more aimless, and probably resourceless, the chivalric young poet again sought his [page xxviii:] native province. Whether he returned to the home that was home no more is uncertain, but, from what is known of his proud spirit, it seems unlikely; if he did, however, his stay was of short duration, and his godfather's second wife having given birth to a son was the death-blow to Poe's prospects of succeeding to the property. Griswold suggests that the poet's quarrel with his adopted father arose from an act of Poe's — “scarcely suitable for repetition” — but, apart from the fact of Poe's subsequent kindly reception by those acquainted with all parties concerned, and looking at the biographist's well-known mendacity, it is sufficient to allude to this tale, unsupported as it is by an iota of evidence, as, in its author's language, unfit for “any register but that of hell.”

Bankrupt in nearly everything, the unfortunate poet now turned to literature as a means of obtaining subsistence, but he found the waters of Helicon were anything but Pactolian. Where he wandered, and what he did, for nearly two years, still remains an unravelled mystery, but it is alleged that some of his finest stories were written during this epoch, and, although accepted and published by magazine editors, were scarcely ever paid for. In 1833 he is heard of in Baltimore competing for prizes offered by the proprietor of the Saturday Visitor [[Visiter]] for the best prose story and the best poem. Here, then, was an opportunity of deferring, for a while at least, the starvation which was not far off. For the competition, Poe selected and sent in six of his stories, and his poem of “The Coliseum.” Some well-known literary men consented to adjudicate upon the mass of papers received, and after a careful consideration of the various contributions, decided unanimously that Poe, who was unknown to them, was entitled to both premiums.

Not contented with this award, the adjudicators even went out of their way to draw up and publish the following [page xxix:] flattering critique on the merits of the writings submitted by Poe: —

“Amongst the prose articles were many of various and distinguished merit, but the singular force and beauty of those sent by the author of ‘The Tales of the Folio Club,’ leave us no room for hesitation in that department. We have accordingly awarded the premium to a tale entitled the ‘MS. found in a Bottle.’ It would hardly be doing justice to the writer of this collection to say that the tale we have chosen is the best of the six offered by him. We cannot refrain from saying that the author owes it to his own reputation, as well as to the gratification of the community, to publish the entire volume (‘Tales of the Folio Club’). These tales are eminently distinguished by a wild, vigourous, and poetical imagination, a rich style, a fertile invention, and varied and curious learning.


“J. H. B. LATROBE, and


Griswold tells the story of the award thus: —

“Such matters are usually disposed of in a very off-hand way. Committees to award literary prizes drink to the payer's health in good wines over unexamined MSS., which they submit to the discretion of publishers, with permission to use their names in such a way as to promote the publisher's advantage. So, perhaps, it would have been in this case, but that one of the committee, taking up a little book remarkably beautiful and distinct in caligraphy, was tempted to read several pages; and becoming interested, he summoned the attention of the company to the half-dozen compositions it contained. It was unanimously decided that the prizes should be paid to ‘the first of geniuses who had written legibly.’ Not another MS. was unfolded. Immediately the ‘confidential envelope’ was opened, and the successful competitor was found to bear the scarcely known name of Poe.”

The above report, which was published on the 12th of October 1833, is of itself a complete disproof of Griswold's dishonouring accusation against the committee of having awarded the prizes to Poe because of his beautiful handwriting, [page xxx:] without looking at a single MS. of any other competitor. When the story, it may be added, was brought to the notice of Mr. Latrobe and the Honourable John P. Kennedy, the two surviving adjudicators, they at once denied its truth.

Mr. Kennedy, the well-known author, was so interested in the successful but unknown competitor, that he invited him to his house, and Poe's response, written in his usual beautiful and distinct caligraphy, proves the depth of misery to which he had sunk. How his heart bled to pen these lines few probably can imagine: —

“Your invitation to dinner has wounded me to the quick. I cannot come for reasons of the most humilitating nature — my personal appearance. You may imagine my mortification in making this disclosure to you, but it is necessary.”

Urged by the noblest feelings, Mr. Kennedy at once sought out the unfortunate youth, and found him, as he declares, almost starving. Poe's wretched condition inspired the unselfish author with pity, as his genius did with admiration, and from henceforth he became his firm friend. It is interesting to learn that to the last Poe retained his benefactor's friendship and respect, as Mr. Kennedy acknowledged when informed of the poet's decease; and no better disproof of the calumnies heaped by Griswold on the dead man's head could be given, than by repeating the testimonies of all those with whom Poe lived and laboured. So far from contenting himself with mere courtesies, Mr. Kennedy assisted his new protégé to re-establish himself in the outward garb of respectability, and in many respects treated him more like a dear relative than a chance acquaintance. In his diary he records, “I gave him clothing, free access to my table, and the use of a horse for exercise whenever he chose; in fact, brought him up from the very verge of [page xxxi:] despair.” Aided by such a friend, Poe's affairs could not but mend.

In the spring of 1834 Mr. Allan died, and if his godson still retained any expectations of inheriting any portion of his wealth he was at last undeceived, as, in the vulgar language of Griswold, “not a mill was bequeathed to Poe;” and, says Powell, but we believe incorrectly, it is alleged that the widow of his adopted father even “refused him his own books.” In August of this same year a Mr. White, an energetic and accomplished man, in opposition to the advice of his friends, commenced the publication of the Southern Literary Messenger, in Richmond, Virginia. This magazine was a very daring speculation at such a time and place, and but for a fortunate accident might have placed its promoter completely hors de combat. Amongst the well-known writers whose aid he solicited was Mr. Kennedy, and he, being fully engaged, advised Poe to send something. Our poet did so, and Mr. White, greatly pleased with his contributions, spoke of them in very flattering terms, in March 1835 publishing “Berenice.” Henceforth Poe became a regular monthly contributor to the Messenger. Mr. Kennedy had now had a year and a half's experience of Poe, without finding anything in his conduct to alter the good opinion he had formed of him; and the following letter is quoted by Griswold as having been written at this period by Mr. Kennedy to Mr. White. As it is apparently authentic, we quote it: —

“Baltimore, April 13, 1835.

Dear Sir — Poe did right in referring to me. He is very clever with his pen — classical and scholarlike. He wants experience and direction, but I have no doubt he can be made very useful to you. And, poor fellow! he is very poor. I told him to write something for every number of your magazine, and that you might find it to your advantage to give him some permanent employ. He has a volume of very bizarre [page xxxii:] tales in the hands of ——, in Philadelphia, who for a year past has been promising to publish them. This young fellow is highly imaginative, and a little given to the terrific. He is at work upon a tragedy, but I have turned him to drudging upon whatever may make money, and I have no doubt you and he will find your account in each other.”

Mr. White undoubtedly found his “account” in his new contributor, and every month called the attention of his readers to the beauties of the current tale by the young author.

In the June number of the magazine appeared Poe's tale of “Hans Pfaall,” and three weeks later there appeared in the New York Sun Mr. Lock's [[Locke's]] famous “Moon Hoax” story. Griswold alludes to the former being “in some respects very similar to Mr. Lock's [[Locke's]]celebrated account,” in a way to make his readers believe our poet the copier instead of the copied. Poe's reputation was now increasing so rapidly that Mr. White became desirous of retaining his services exclusively for his magazine, and having sounded his contributor, and found him only too willing, engaged him to assist in the editorial duties of the Messenger at a salary of about one hundred guineas (520 dollars) per annum. In consequence of this appointment Poe at once removed from Baltimore to Richmond, Virginia, where the magazine was published. Griswold, in order to suit dates to one of his allegations against Poe, states that he was appointed editor of the Messenger in May, whereas he only became assistant editor in September, and did not assume the full control of the publication until December 1835. The unfavourable notice of Mr. Laughton Osborne's “Confessions of a Poet,” which appeared in the April number, and which Griswold, in order to support his charge of inconsistency, ascribed to Poe, was obviously never written by the poet at all. Its style is a sufficient disproof of the allegation. [page xxxiii:]

The following letter, which Poe wrote to his friend Kennedy to tell him of his appointment on the Messenger, affords a sad picture of the terrible melancholia under which the poet so frequently suffered — an affliction not merely the result of privations and grief, but undoubtedly, to some extent, inherited: —

“Richmond, September 11, 1835.

Dear Sir — I received a letter from Dr. Miller, in which he tells me you are in town. I hasten, therefore, to write you, and express by letter what I have always found it impossible to express orally — my deep sense of gratitude for your frequent and ineffectual assistance and kindness. Through your influence Mr. White has been induced to employ me in assisting him with the editorial duties of his magazine, at a salary of five hundred and twenty dollars per annum. The situation is agreeable to me for many reasons, but, alas! it appears to me that nothing can give me pleasure or the slightest gratification. Excuse me, my dear sir, if in this letter you find much incoherency. My feelings at this moment are pitiable indeed. I am suffering under a depression of spirits such as I have never felt before. I have struggled in vain against the influence of this melancholy; you will believe me when I say that I am still miserable in spite of the great improvement in my circumstances. I say you will believe me, and for this simple reason, that a man who is writing for effect does not write thus. My heart is open before you; if it be worth reading, read it. I am wretched and know not why. Console me — for you can. But let it be quickly, or it will be too late. Write me immediately; convince me that it is worth one's while — that it is at all necessary to live, and you will prove yourself indeed my friend. Persuade me to do what is right. I do mean this. I do not mean that you should consider what I now write you a jest. Oh, pity me! for I feel that my words are incoherent; but I will recover myself. You will not fail to see that I am suffering under a depression of spirits which will ruin me should it be long continued. Write me then and quickly; urge me to do what is right. Your words will have more weight with me than the words of others, for you were my friend when no one else was. Fail not, as you value your peace of mind hereafter.

E. A. POE. [page xxxiv:]

To this wail of despair Mr. Kennedy sent the following kindly if commonplace reply: —

“I am sorry to see you in such plight as your letter shews you in. It is strange that just at this time, when everybody is praising you, and when fortune is beginning to smile upon your hitherto wretched circumstances, you should be invaded by these blue devils. It belongs, however, to your age and temper to be thus buffeted — but be assured, it only wants a little resolution to master the adversary forever. You will doubtless do well henceforth in literature, and add to your comforts, as well as to your reputation, which it gives me great pleasure to assure you is everywhere rising in popular esteem.

Notwithstanding his “blue devils,” as Mr. Kennedy styled it, the new editor worked wonders with the Messenger. “His talents made that periodical quite brilliant while he was connected with it,” records this friend, and indeed in little more than a twelvemonth Poe raised its circulation from seven hundred to nearly five thousand. This success was partially due to the originality and fascination of Poe's stories, and partially owing to the fearlessness of his trenchant critiques. He could not be made, either by flattery or abuse, a respecter of persons. In the December number of the Messenger he began that system of literary scarification — that crucial dissection of bookmaking mediocrities, which, whilst it created throughout the length and breadth of the States a terror of his powerful pen, at the same time raised up against him a host of implacable, though unknown, enemies, who were only too glad, from that time, to seize upon and repeat any story, however improbable, to his discredit. Far better would it have been for his future welfare if, instead of affording contemporary nonentities a chance of literary immortality by impaling them upon his pen's sharp point, he had devoted his whole time to the production of his wonderful stories, or still more wonderful poems. Why could he not have left the task of crushing or [page xxxv:] puffing the works of his Lilliputian contemporaries to the ordinary “disappointed authors?”

During the whole of 1836 Poe devoted his entire attention to the Messenger, producing tales, poems, essays, and reviews in profusion, indeed, apparently at Mr. White's suggestion, frittering away his genius over these last. Early in the year a gleam of hope seemed to break in upon his chequered career. In Richmond, once more among his kindred, he met and married his cousin Virginia, the daughter of his father's sister Maria. Miss Clemm was but a girl in years, and already manifested symptoms of the family complaint, consumption, but, undeterred by this or by his slender income, the poor poet was married to his kinswoman, and, it must be confessed, in happier circumstances, a better helpmate could scarcely have been found for him, whilst the marriage had the further advantage of bringing him under the motherly care of his aunt, Mrs. Clemm. Until January 1837, Poe continued the direction of the Messenger, when he left it for the more lucrative employment of assisting Professors Anthon, Hawks, and Henry, in the management of the New York Quarterly Review, and, probably, to aid the first in his classical labours — a work for which his scholarly attainments rendered him invaluable. Mr. White parted with Poe very reluctantly, and in the number of the Messenger which contained the announcement of Poe's resignation, issued a note to the subscribers, wherein, after alluding to the ability with which the retiring editor had conducted the magazine, he remarked, “Mr Poe, however, will continue to furnish its columns from time to time with the effusions of his vigourous and popular pen.” We dwell upon this incident, and upon the fact, more than once acknowledged by Mr. White, that Poe resigned for other employment, because Griswold expressly declares that he was dismissed for drunkenness. [page xxxvi:]

From Richmond, Poe removed to New York, where he and his household resided in Carmine Street. In his writing for the New York Quarterly Review, says Mr. Powell, “he came down pretty freely with his critical axe, and made many enemies.” These reviews display his immense learning, and the extraordinary range of subjects with which he was conversant, but it is impossible to peruse them without grieving at the loss literature sustained by his dissipating his powers over such ephemera. The late Mr. William Gowans, the wealthy and respected, but eccentric bibliopolist, of New York, has left us a most interesting picture of the poet's ménage at this period of his story. Alluding to the untruthfulness of the prevalent idea of Poe's character, the shrewd old man remarks, “I, therefore, will also show you my opinion of this gifted but unfortunate genius. It may be estimated as worth little, but it has this merit — it comes from an eye and ear witness; and this, it must be remembered, is the very highest of legal evidence. For eight months or more one house contained us, us one table fed! During that time I saw much of him, and had an opportunity of conversing with him often, and I must say that I never saw him the least affected with liquor, nor even descend to any known vice, while he was one of the most courteous, gentlemanly, and intelligent companions I have met with during my journeyings and haltings through divers divisions of the globe; besides, he had an extra inducement to be a good man as well as a good husband, for he had a wife of matchless beauty and loveliness, her eyes could match that of any houri, and her face defy the genius of a Canova to imitate; a temper and disposition of surpassing sweetness; besides, she seemed as much devoted to him and his every interest as a young mother is to her firstborn. . . . Poe had a remarkably pleasing and prepossessing countenance, what the ladies would call decidedly handsome.” [page xxxvii:]

Through the courtesy of a correspondent we are permitted to extract the following additional testimony from a private letter written by Mr. Thomas C. Latto, a friend of Mr. Gowans, on the 8th July 1870. “In conversation with William Gowans,” says Mr. Latto, “he told me that he was a boarder in the house of Mrs. Clemm. . . . Mr. Poe and his young wife, whom Mr. G. describes as fragile in constitution but of remarkable beauty, boarded at that time with Mrs. Clemm. They were in poor circumstances. Mr. Gowans lived with them several months, and he was often consulted by Mrs. Clemm as to the ways and means, as the boarding-business did not pay. He only left when the household was broken up. Of course Mr. Gowans had the best opportunity of seeing what kind of life the poet led. His testimony is, that he (Poe) was uniformly quiet, reticent, gentlemanly in demeanour, and during the whole period he lived there, not the slightest trace of intoxication or dissipation was discernible in the illustrious inmate, who was at that time engaged in the composition of Arthur Gordon Pym. Poe kept good hours, and all his little wants were seen to both by Mrs. Clemm and her daughter, who watched him as sedulously as if he had been a child. Mr. Gowans is himself a man of intelligence, and, being a Scotchman, is by no means averse to ‘a twa-handed crack,’ but he felt himself kept at a distance somewhat by Poe's aristocratic reserve.”

“Mr. Gowans,” remarks Mr. Latto, “is known to be one of the most truthful and uncompromising of men.”

During January and February of this year (1837) Poe contributed the first portions of “the Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym” to the Messenger, and, encouraged by the interest it excited, he determined to complete it. It was not published in book form, however, until July of the following year, and although it did not excite much attention in America, it was very successful in England. Griswold, [page xxxviii:] displaying his usual animus, remarks that copies being sent to England, and it “being mistaken at first for a narrative of real experiences, it was advertised to be reprinted, but a discovery of its character, I believe, prevented such a result. An attempt is made in it,” he continues, “by simplicity of style, minuteness of nautical descriptions, and circumstantiality of narration, to give it that air of truth which constitutes the principal attraction of Sir Edward Seaward's narrative, and ‘Robinson Crusoe,’ but it has none of the pleasing interest of these tales; it is as full of wonders as ‘Munchausen,’ has as many atrocities as the ‘Book of Pirates,’ and as liberal an array of paining and revolting horrors as ever was invented by Anne Radcliffe or George Walker.” His further depreciatory remarks are not worth reproduction. The fact is that in a short interval the story was several times reprinted in England, and it did excite considerable notice, the “air of truth,” which, it is suggested, was only in the attempt, having attracted much interest.

The independence which Poe had hoped to earn by his pen was not obtainable in those days at New York, and having prospect of constant employment in Philadelphia, he removed to that city late in 1838, and entered into an arrangement to write for the Gentleman's Magazine, a publication of some years’ standing. His talents soon produced the usual brilliant effects upon this publication, and in May 1839 he was appointed to the editorial management, “devoting to it,” says Griswold, “for ten dollars a week, two hours every day, which left him abundant time for more important labours.” What leisure his editorial duties may have left was devoted to writing for other publications, and as several of his tales and other compositions first made their appearance at this time, it is to be presumed that he managed to obtain a fair livelihood. Still he was not only compelled to labour continuously and severely, but [page xxxix:] was frequently forced by the res augusta domi to forsake his legitimate province in literature, and turn his pen to any project that proffered a certain remuneration. There is a scandalous story told of him by Griswold in support of his wholesale denunciation of Poe as a plagiarist, and which, although the accuser does not state to what period of the poet's life it refers, really relates to this epoch. Griswold, on the authority, he asserts, of a Philadelphian newspaper, declares that Poe reprinted a popular work on conchology, written by the well-known naturalist Captain Thomas Brown, as by himself, “and actually took out a copyright for the American edition of Captain Brown's work, and, omitting all mention of the English original, pretended in the preface to have been under great obligations to several scientific gentlemen of this city.” For ten years after Poe's death this vile calumny circulated unanswered wherever the poet's biography was told, and although many of the American literati must have known the untruth of the story, no one ventured to explain the facts until ultimately it came under the notice of the person of all others best able to disprove it, which he did through the columns of the Home Journal. Professor Wyatt, a Scotchman of considerable erudition and scientific attainments, formed Poe's acquaintance, and obtained his assistance in the compilation of several works on Natural History; among others was a “Manual of Conchology,” and to this Poe, whose scientific knowledge was most comprehensive and exact, contributed so largely that the publishers were fully justified in using his popular name on the title-page, although he only received a share of the profits. Captain Brown's “Text Book of Conchology,” necessarily bears some resemblance to the combined work of Poe and Wyatt, from the simple fact that both treatises are founded on the system laid down by Lamarck, but the absurd charge that one is therefore [page xl:] plagiarised from the other can only have arisen from gross ignorance or wilful falsehood. About this time Poe also published, as a sequence of such studies, a translation and digest of Lemonnier's “Natural History,” and other relative writings.

In the autumn of 1839, Poe made a collection of his best stories, and published them in two volumes as “Tales of the Arabesque and Grotesque.” This collection contained some of his most imaginative writing, and still further increased its author's reputation. It included the story of “The Fall of the House of Usher” — a story which contains the characteristic poem of “The Haunted Palace.” Griswold avers that Poe was indebted to Longfellow's “Beleaguered City” for his idea of this exquisite poem, but that Poe asserted Longfellow to have been indebted to him for the idea. We do not believe in plagiarsms, as a rule, and whether the author of “The Haunted Palace” did, or did not, accuse his brother bard of robbery we know not, but must simply point out that Poe's poem had been published long prior to Longfellow's, and not “a few weeks,” as Griswold says, and in two different publications. The resemblance was probably purely accidental, but, at all events, Tennyson had worked out the same idea many years previous to either in “The Deserted House,” published in 1830. “Ligeia,” Poe's favourite tale, also appeared in this collection. On a copy of this weird story, in our possession, is an endorsement by the poet to the effect that “Ligeia was also suggested by a dream;” the “also” referring to a poem sent to Mrs. Whitman, and which, he remarks to her, “contained all the events of a dream which occurred soon after I knew you.”

Towards the close of 1840, Mr. George R. Graham, owner of The Casket, acquired possession of the Gentleman's Magazine, and merging the two publications into one, began [page xli:] the new series as Graham's Magazine, a title which, it is believed, it still retains. The new proprietor was only too willing to retain the services of the brilliant editor, and he found his reward in so doing — Edgar Poe, assisted by Mr. Graham's liberality to his contributors, in little more than two years raising the number of subscribers to the magazine from five to fifty-two thousand. His daring critiques, his analytic essays, and his weird stories, following one another in rapid succession, startled the public into a knowledge of his power. He created new enemies, however, by the dauntless intrepidity with which he assailed the fragile reputations of the small bookmakers, especially by the publication of his papers on “Autography.” He also excited much criticism in literary circles by the publication of his papers on “Cryptology,” in which he promulgated the theory that human ingenuity could not construct any cryptograph which human ingenuity could not decipher. Tested by several correspondents with difficult samples of their skill, the poet actually took the trouble to examine and solve them in triumphant proof of the truth of his theory.

In April 1841 he published in Graham's Magazine the tale of “The Murders in the Rue Morgue,” the first of a series illustrating another analytic phase of his many-sided mind. This story was the first to introduce his name to the French public, being translated, and published as an original story by La Commerce, under the title of “L’Orang-Otang:” shortly afterwards it was translated again, and appeared in the pages of La Quotidienne, whereupon a cry of theft was raised, a lawsuit instituted, and ultimately the truth discovered, that Edgar Poe, an American, was the author. Madame Mennier availed herself of the interest created by this inquiry to translate several of his stories for the French papers; whilst the Revue des Deux Mondes, Revue Français, and other leading publications spoke in [page xlii:] highly flattering terms of the young foreigner's productions. This gave an impetus to his reputation in France, which culminated in the faithfully vraisemblant translations of Baudelaire, who, indeed, spent many years of his life in an endeavour to thoroughly identify his mind with that of his idol Edgar Poe, and who has reproduced many of his stories with but little loss of vigour or originality; indeed, to the efforts and genius of Baudelaire is chiefly due the fact that Poe's tales have become standard classic works in France. Edgar Poe is veritably, it may be pointed out, the only American writer really well known and popular in France. In Spain, too, Poe's tales early acquired fame, and have now become thoroughly nationalised, and with the exception of works on Spanish subjects, such as those by Washington Irving, Prescott, and Motley, are the only American works known in that country. In Germany the poems and tales have been frequently translated, but it is only quite recently that they have attained any widely diffused celebrity amongst the Germans.

In 1842 appeared “The Descent into the Maelström,” a tale that in many respects may be deemed one of his most marvellous and idiosyncratic. It is one of those tales which, like “The Gold-Bug” and others, demonstrates the untenability of the theory first promulgated by Griswold, and since so frequently echoed by his copyists, that Poe's ingenuity in unriddling a mystery was only ingenious in appearance, as he himself had woven the webs he so dexterously unweaves. The tales cited, however, prove the falseness of this portion of Griswold's systematic depreciation of Poe's genius. They are the secrets of nature which he unveils, and not the riddles of art: he did not invent the natural truth that a cylindrical body, swimming in a vortex, offered more resistance to its suction, and was drawn in with greater difficulty than bodies of any other form of [page xliii:] equal bulk, any more than he invented the mathematical ratio in which certain letters of the English alphabet recur in all documents of any length. He did not invent “The Mystery of Marie Roget,” but he tore away the mysteriousness and laid bare the truth of that strange story of real life. He did not invent, but he was the first to describe, if not to discover, those peculiar idiosyncrasies of the human mind so wonderfully but so clearly displayed in “The Murders in the Rue Morgue,” “The Purloined Letter,” “The Imp of the Perverse,” and other remarkable proofs of his mastery over the mental strings and pulleys of our being.

It was during his brilliant editorship of Graham's Magazine that Poe discovered and first introduced to the American public the genius of Elizabeth Barrett Browning, and it was whilst he held sway over it that she contributed to its pages many of her shorter poems; indeed, it was greatly due to Poe that her fame in America was coeval with if it did not somewhat precede that won by her in her native land. In May 1841 he contributed to the Philadelphia Saturday Evening Post — a paper belonging to Mr. Graham, and for which Poe wrote — that prospective notice of the newly-commenced story of “Barnaby Rudge,” which drew from Dickens a letter of admiring acknowledgment. In this notice the poet with mathematical precision explained and foretold the exact plot of the as yet unwritten story. Professor Wyatt, already alluded to in connection with the conchology story, was not only a contributor of articles on natural history to Graham's, but at this time, and for several years, was intimately acquainted with Poe, and we have his unimpeachable authority for the invariable honour and purity of the poet's life.

In November 1842 “The Mystery of Marie Roget” appeared, and about the same time Poe resigned his post of joint editor and reviewer of Graham's Magazine; why or [page xliv:] wherefore was never stated, but that it was not through drunkenness, as alleged by Griswold — the successor to Poe's editorial duties — Mr. Graham's own famous letter of 1850 conclusively proves. Poe's idea would appear to have been to start a magazine of his own, but his resignation may perhaps be justly ascribed to that constitutional restlessness which from time to time overpowered him, and drove him from place to place in a vain search after the Eldorado of his hopes. The truth as to his severance from Graham's, like so many of the details that enshroud and confuse his life's story, was probably purposely mystified by Poe, who had even a greater love than had Byron of mystifying the impertinent busybodies who wearied him for biographical information. It was shortly previous to this epoch in his life that he had the misfortune to make the acquaintance of Rufus Griswold, a man, who, although several years Poe's junior in age, had, by many years’ “knocking about the world,” gained an experience of its shifts and subterfuges that made him far more than a match for the unworldly nature of our poet. According to the author of the “Memoir,” his acquaintance with Poe began in the spring of 1841, by the poet calling at his hotel and leaving two letters of introduction. “The next morning,” he says, “I visited him, and we had a long conversation about literature and literary men, pertinent to the subject of a book, The Poets and Poetry of America, which I was then preparing for the press,” and he follows up this introductory interview with the quotation of several letters purporting to have been written by Poe, not one of which we shall refer to or make use of, as there is pretty positive proof that some, if not the whole of them, are fabrications! The enmity of Griswold for Poe — “the long, intense, and implacable enmity,” alluded to by John Neal and Mr. Graham — is so palpable to readers of the “Memoir,” that it needed not the outside [page xlv:] evidence which has been so abundantly furnished us to prove it, and the wonder is, not so much that the biographer's audacious falsifications should have obtained credit abroad, as that no American should have yet produced as complete a refutation of them as could and should have been given years ago. Apart from deadly enmity, aroused by a subject of a domestic nature, the compiler could not forgive Poe for exposing his literary shortcomings. The only passage in which the soi-disant biographer appears to relent towards the dead poet is that in which he alludes to his own visit to Poe's residence in Philadelphia, and even then he cannot forbear from inserting a gratuitously insulting allusion. “It was while he resided in Philadelphia,” Griswold remarks, “that I became acquainted with him. His manner, except during his fits of intoxication, was very quiet and gentlemanly; he was usually dressed with simplicity and elegance, and when once he sent for me to visit him, during a period of illness caused by protracted and anxious watching at the side of his sick wife, I was impressed by the singular neatness and the air of refinement in his home. It was in a small house, in one of the pleasant and silent neighbourhoods far from the centre of the town, and, though slightly and cheaply furnished, everything in it was so tastefully and so fitly disposed that it seemed altogether suitable for a man of genius.” On seceding from Graham's, Poe seems to have endeavoured to start a magazine of his own, to be entitled The Stylus, and Mr. Thomas C. Clarke, of Philadelphia, was to have been the publisher. The poet does not appear to have been enabled to obtain a sufficient number of subscribers to start the projected publication on a sound basis, and therefore the scheme fell through. Mr. Clarke, who is still residing in Philadelphia, speaks in high terms of Poe's probity and honour, as indeed does every one, save Griswold, who had dealings with him. It is much to be regretted [page xlvi:] that circumstances have prevented Mr. Clarke giving to the world his reminiscences and collected facts relating to Edgar Poe.

In the spring of 1843 the one hundred dollar prize, offered by The Dollar Magazine [[Dollar Newspaper]], was obtained by Poe for his tale of “The Gold-Bug,” a tale illustrative of and originating with his theory of ciphers. As usual, Griswold, in mentioning it, cannot refrain from displaying the cloven hoof, and, knowing it to be the most popular of Poe's stories in America, refers to it “as one of the most remarkable illustrations of his ingenuity of construction and apparent subtlety of reasoning.” During this year Poe wrote for Lowell's Pioneer, and other publications. In 1844 be removed to New York, whither his daily increasing fame had already preceded him, and where he entered into a more congenial literary atmosphere than that in which he had recently resided. In the cities in which he had hitherto exercised his talents he was continually treading upon the mental corns of provincial cliques, but in New York, as he now entered it, he found a nearer approach to metropolitanism, and therefore a fairer field for the recognition of his powers. “For the first time,” remarks Griswold, completely ignoring the talent of all other American cities, “for the first time he was received into circles capable of both the appreciation and the production of literature.” It has generally been assumed that the first publication he wrote for in New York was the Daily Mirror, but the author of a sketch of Willis and his contemporaries, contributed to the Northern Monthly in 1868, referring to Poe as “one who has been more shamefully maligned and slandered than any other writer that can be named,” states, “I say this from personal knowledge of Mr. Poe, who was associated with myself in the editorial conduct of my own paper before his introduction into the office of Messrs. [page xlvii:] Willis and Norris [[Morris]];” adding, “for Mr. Willis's manly vindication of the unfortunate I honour him.” And, again, referring to Willis's vindication of Poe from his biographer's degrading accusations, he says, “Mr. Willis's testimony is freely confirmed by other publishers. On this subject I have some singular revelations which throw a strong light on the causes that darkened the life, and made most unhappy the death, of one of the most remarkable of all our literary men — as an English reviewer once said, ‘the most brilliant genius of his country.’ ” During Poe's connection with the author of this article, his Life, with a portrait prefixed, was published; and, remarks this writer, “both the life and the portrait are as utterly unlike the gross caricatures manufactured since his death as is the portrait prefixed to a recent volume of Poe's poems, and which bears no resemblance to the fine intellectual head of Poe.” “Why,” indignantly demands this publisher, “Why are such wrongs perpetrated upon the dead? Why are they permitted?”

“Towards the autumn of the year Poe sought and found employment as sub-editor and critic on the Mirror, a daily paper belonging to N. P. Willis and General George Morris. In a letter written by Willis from Idlewild, in October 1859, to his brother poet and former copartner Morris, he thus alludes to Poe's engagement with him: —”Poe came to us quite incidentally, neither of us having been personally acquainted with him till that time; and his position towards us, and connection with us, of course unaffected by claims of previous friendship, were a fair average of his general intercourse and impressions. As he was a man who never smiled, and never said a propitiatory or deprecating word, we were not likely to have been seized with any sudden partiality or wayward caprice in his favour. . . It was rather a step downward, after being the chief editor of several monthlies, as Poe had been, to come into the office of a [page xlviii:] daily journal as a mechanical paragraphist. It was his business to sit at a desk, in a corner of the editorial room, ready to be called upon for any of the miscellaneous work of the day; yet you remember how absolutely and how good-humouredly ready he was for any suggestion; how punctually and industriously reliable in the following out of the wish once expressed; how cheerful and present-minded his work when he might excusably have been so listless and abstracted. WE LOVED THE MAN for the entireness of the fidelity with which he served us. When he left us, we were very reluctant to part with him; but we could not object — he was to take the lead in another periodical.”

During the six months or so that Poe was engaged on the Mirror, the whole of which time Willis asserts “he was invariably punctual and industrious,” and was daily “at his desk in the office from nine in the morning till the evening paper went to press.” During this time some of the most remarkable reproductions of his genius, including his poetic chef-d’œuvre of “The Raven,” were given to the world. This unique and most original of poems first appeared in Colton's American Review for February 1845 as by “Quarles.” It was at once reprinted in the Evening Mirror, and in a few weeks had spread over the whole of the United States, calling into existence parodies and imitations innumerable. Mrs. Whitman informs us that, when “The Raven” appeared, Poe one evening electrified the gay company assembled at a weekly reunion of noted artists and men of letters, held at the residence of an accomplished poetess in Waverley Place, by the recitation, at the request of his hostess, of this wonderful poem. After this, it was of course impossible to keep the authorship secret. Willis reprinted the poem with the author's name attached, remarking that, in his opinion, it was “the most effective single example of fugitive poetry ever published in this country, and is unsurpassed in [page xlix:] English poetry for subtle conception, masterly ingenuity of versification, and consistent sustaining of imaginative lift.” It carried its author's name and fame from shore to shore; drew admiring testimony from some of the first of English poets, and finally made him the lion of the season. And for this masterpiece of genius — this poem which has probably done more for the renown of American letters than any other single work — it is alleged that Poe, then at the height of his renown, received the sum of ten dollars, that is, about two pounds!

In the February number of Graham's Magazine for this same year appeared a biographical and critical sketch of Edgar Poe by James Russell Lowell. In many respects we deem it the best critique on his genius that we have yet seen, and although the estimate formed of Poe's poetic precocity may not be perfectly just, it is difficult to find fault with the admirable analysation of his prose writings. It is somewhat singular, however, that in the collection of Poe's works edited by Griswold, Mr. Lowell should permit the continual reprinting of this critique “with a few alterations and omissions,” when those very omissions serve to give colour to one of Griswold's vilest charges, that of the alleged theft of Captain Brown's Conchology book. In the beginning of this year the Broadway Journal was started, and in March Poe was associated with two journalists in its management. He had written for it from the first, but had nothing to do with the editorial arrangement until the tenth number. One of the most noticeable of his contributions was a critique on the poems of Elizabeth Barrett Browning, to whom he shortly afterwards dedicated, in most admiring terms, a selection of his poems, published by Messrs. Wiley and Putnam, under the title of “The Raven and other Poems.” About the same time the same firm published a selection from his prose compositions as “Tales,” and [page l:] another firm reprinted his “Tales of the Grotesque and Picturesque [[Arabesque]],” so that his name was kept well before the public. Several of the stories were now published in an English collection, as was also “The Raven.” Mrs. Browning, in a private letter written a few weeks after the publication of this poem, says: — “This vivid writing — this power which is felt — has produced a sensation here in England. Some of my friends are taken by the fear of it, and some by the music. I hear of persons who are haunted by the ‘Nevermore,’ and an acquaintance of mine who has the misfortune of possessing a bust of Pallas cannot bear to look at it in the twilight.” And then, alluding to Poe's story of “Mesmeric Revelations,” which some English journals accepted as a faithful record of facts, the poetess resumes: — “Then there is a tale going the rounds of the newspapers about mesmerism, which is throwing us all into ‘most admired disorder’ — dreadful doubts as to whether it can be true, as the children say of ghost stories. The certain thing about it is the power of the writer.”

By this time Edgar Poe had become personally known to and admired by a large number of the literati of New York, “whose interest in his writings,” remarks Mrs. Whitman, “was manifestly enhanced by the perplexing anomalies of his character, and by the singular magnetism of his presence.” One who knew him at this period of his life, says: — “Everything about him distinguished him as a man of mark; his countenance, person, and gait, were alike characteristic. His features were regular, and decidedly handsome. His complexion was clear and dark; the colour of his fine eyes seemingly a dark grey, but on closer inspection they were seen to be of that neutral violet tint which is so difficult to define. His forehead was, without exception, the finest in proportion and expression that we have ever seen.” [page li:]

Edgar Poe left the Mirror to take charge of the Broadway Journal, the sole management of which, however, did not devolve upon him until July, whilst it was not until the following October that he became proprietor as well as editor of this publication. His confederates do not appear to have invested much money or talent in the undertaking, and when they retired and left the poet in entire possession of the publication he would not seem to have added much to his worldly goods by the acquisition.

In March he gave a lecture on the American poets in the library of the New York Historical Society, and at it attracted much attention, not only by the originality and courage of his remarks, but by the fascination of his presence, by his eloquence, and personal beauty. The furore which his lecture created caused him to be asked to Boston, and in the autumn he accepted an invitation to recite a poem in the lyceum of that city. “When he accepted the invitation,” avers Griswold, “he intended to write an original poem, upon a subject which he said had haunted his imagination for years, but cares, anxieties, and feebleness of will prevented, and a week before the appointed night he wrote to a friend imploring assistance. ‘You compose with such astonishing facility,’ he urged in his letter, ‘that you can easily furnish one quite soon enough, a poem that shall be equal to my reputation. For the love of God I beseech you to help me in this extremity.’ The lady wrote him kindly, advising him judiciously, but promising to attempt the fulfilment of his wishes. She was, however, an invalid, and so failed. At last, instead of pleading illness, as he had previously done on a similar occasion, he determined to read his poem of ‘Al Aaraaf.’ ” It is impossible to say how much, if any, of this story is true. That a poem equal to his reputation could have been composed in a week, or in any length of time, by Mrs. Osgood, the friend alluded to, [page lii:] none knew better to be impossible than Poe. The lady, however, died before the publication of the “Memoirs,” therefore Griswold, who was her confidant, was pretty safe in telling the tale. One who was present on the occasion of the recitation informs us that the lecture-course of the Boston Lyceum was waning in popularity, and that Poe's fame being at its zenith, he was invited to deliver a poem at the opening of the winter session. “I remember him well,” he remarks, “as he came on the platform. He was the best realisation of a poet in feature, air, and manner, that I had ever seen, and the unusual paleness of his face added to its aspect of melancholy interest. He delivered a poem that no one understood, but at its conclusion gave the audience a treat which almost redeemed their disappointment. This was the recitation of his own “Raven,” which he repeated with thrilling effect. It was something well worth treasuring in memory.” “Poe,” he adds, “after he returned to New York, was much incensed at Boston criticism on his poem.”

The poet was not probably incensed to any very great extent, but doubtless found it a profitable hit for his journal to make what he termed “a bobbery.” A week after the lecture, therefore, he began to comment in a tone of playful badinage upon the remarks made by some Bostonian papers with respect to it. In the Broadway Journal for November 1st, Poe, after quoting a paragraph from a paper defending him from the abuse of the Boston journals, says: “Our excellent friend Major Noah has suffered himself to be cajoled by that most beguiling of all 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 [page liii:] 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 further 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 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.”

There is a great deal more to the same effect, the whole of which Griswold reprinted in his “Memoir,” but we have been unable to perceive in its good-natured bantering anything objectionable, although Poe's biographer appears to have discovered something terrible hidden in the jokes [page liv:] about the Bostonians and their “Frog Pond,” and deems “it is scarcely necessary to suggest that this must have been written before he had quite recovered from the long intoxication which maddened him at the time to which it refers.” As “the time to which it refers” was evidently that of the lecture, and as it was written upwards of a week after that event, and as Poe renewed the discussion in the same tone three weeks later, “the long intoxication” must indeed have been an unusually lengthy one. One paragraph from Poe's second notice of the affair will doubtless suffice. “We knew very well that, among a certain clique of the Frogpondians, there existed a predetermination to abuse us under any circumstances. We knew that write what we would they would swear it to be worthless. We knew that were we to compose for them a ‘Paradise Lost’ they would pronounce it an indifferent poem. It would have been very weak in us, then, to put ourselves to the trouble of attempting to please these people. We preferred pleasing ourselves. We read before them a ‘juvenile,’ a very ‘juvenile,’ poem, and thus the Frogpondians were had, were delivered up to the enemy bound hand and foot. Never were a set of people more completely demolished. They have blustered and flustered, but what have they done or said that has not made them more thoroughly ridiculous? what, in the name of Thomas, is it possible for them to do or to say? We ‘delivered’ them the ‘juvenile poem,’ and they received it with applause. This is accounted for by the fact that the clique (contemptible in numbers as in everything else) were overruled by the rest of the assembly. These malignants did not dare to interrupt by their preconcerted hisses the respectful and profound attention of the majority. . . . The poem being thus well received, in spite of this ridiculous little cabal, the next thing to be done was to abuse it in the papers. Here [page lv:] they imagined they were sure of their game. But what have they accomplished? The poem, they say, is bad. We admit it. We insisted upon this fact in our prefatory remarks, and we insist upon it now, over and over again.”. . .

And these hurried newspaper jottings, which Griswold himself admits were written when Poe was suffering from “cares, anxieties, and feebleness of will,” and when, as he elsewhere shows, the poor persecuted poet was in pecuniary difficulties, and when, not able to pay for assistance, he was obliged somehow to write nearly all the journal himself; and yet, under all these conflicting ills, these few jocular, although overstrained, jottings are unearthed and adduced as evidence of Poe's irretrievably bad nature. It is a more pleasant task than having to refer to such distorted views of envy, hatred, and malice, to turn to the picture which Mrs. Osgood gives of Poe at this point in his life. “My first meeting with the poet,” she remarks, “was at the Astor House. A few days previous Mr. Willis had handed me at the table d’hôte that strange and thrilling poem entitled ‘The Raven,’ saying that the author wanted my opinion of it. Its effect upon me was so singular, so like that of ‘weird, unearthly music,’ that it was with a feeling almost of dread I heard he desired an introduction. Yet I could not refuse without seeming ungrateful, because I had just heard of his enthusiastic and partial eulogy of my writings in his lecture on American Literature. I shall never forget the morning when I was summoned to the drawing-room by Mr. Willis to receive him. With his proud and beautiful head erect, his dark eyes flashing with the electric light of feeling and of thought, a peculiar, an inimitable blending of sweetness and of hauteur in his expression and manner, he greeted me calmly, gravely, almost coldly, yet with so marked an earnestness that I could not help being deeply impressed by it. From that [page lvi:] moment until his death we were friends.” Again she writes of Poe: — “I have never seen him otherwise than gentle, generous, well-bred, and fastidiously refined. To a sensitive and delicately-nurtured woman there was a peculiar and irresistible charm in the chivalric, graceful, and almost tender reverence with which he invariably approached all women who won his respect.”

Another and still more devoted friend of the fascinating poet, Mrs. Whitman, quotes the opinions of “a woman of fine genius,” who at this time made Poe's acquaintance. “It was in the brilliant circles,” she says, “that assembled in the winter of 1845-6 at the houses of Dr. Dewey, Miss Anna Lynch, Mr. Lawson, and others, that we first met Edgar Poe. His manners were at these reunions refined and pleasing, and his style and scope of conversation that of a gentleman and a scholar. Whatever may have been his previous career, there was nothing in his appearance or manner to indicate his excesses. He delighted in the society of superior women, and had an exquisite perception of all graces of manner and shades of expression. We all recollect the interest felt at the time in everything emanating from his pen — the relief it was from the dullness of ordinary writers — the certainty of something fresh and suggestive. His critiques were read with avidity; not that he convinced the judgment, but that people felt their ability and their courage. Right or wrong, he was terribly in earnest.” “And,” as Mrs. Whitman adds, “like De Quincey, he never supposed anything, he always knew.”

This last lady, in her thoughtful work on “Edgar Poe and his Critics” recounts an incident of the poet which occurred at one of the soirées he was accustomed to attend. “A lady, noted for her great lingual attainments, wishing to apply a wholesome check to the vanity of a young author, proposed inviting him to translate for the company [page lvii:] a difficult passage in Greek, of which language she knew him to be profoundly ignorant, although given to a rather pretentious display of Greek quotations in his published writings. Poe's earnest and persistent remonstrance against this piece of méchanceté alone averted the embarrassing test.” Trifling as this anecdote may appear, it is a good proof of that generous and charitable disposition which those who know him only through Griswold's scandalous “Memoir” have so unwarrantably denied him the possession of. Reverting to Mrs. Whitman's book, we learn that “sometimes his fair young wife was seen with him at these weekly assemblages in Waverley Place. She seldom took part in the conversation, but the memory of her sweet and girlish face, always animated and vivacious, repels the assertion, afterwards so cruelly and recklessly made, that she died a victim to the neglect and unkindness of her husband, who, as it has been said, ‘deliberately sought her death that he might embalm her memory in immortal dirges.’ ” Gilfillan tells us that Poe caused the death of his wife that he might have a fitting theme for “The Raven;” but, unfortunately for the truth of that reverend gentleman's theory, the poem was published two years previous to the event which he so ingeniously assumed it to commemorate. Friend and foe alike, who knew anything of Poe, bear testimony to the unvarying kindness and affection of the poet for his youthful wife. “It is well known to those acquainted with the parties,” says Mrs. Whitman, “that the young wife of Edgar Poe died of lingering consumption, which manifested itself even in her girlhood. All who have had opportunities for observation in the matter have noticed her husband's tender devotion to her during her prolonged illnesses. . . . It is true that, notwithstanding her vivacity and cheerfulness at the time we have alluded to, her health was even then rapidly [page lviii:] sinking; and it was for her dear sake, and for the recovery of that peace which had been so fatally imperilled amid the irritations and anxieties of his New York life, that Poe left the city and removed to the little Dutch cottage in Fordham, where he passed the three remaining years of his life.”

The labours of Edgar Poe during his possession of the Broadway Journal must have been enormous. Week after week he wrote a large portion of its folio pages himself, in addition to performing the thousand duties of an editorial proprietor. The “much friendly assistance,” which Griswold — who said also that he was friendless — asserts he received in his management of the journal, being chiefly confined to the contribution of a few verses. He was only able to comply with this great strain upon his mental and physical strength by reprinting many of his published tales and poems in the columns of his paper, and even this system could not have afforded very material relief, as every article was submitted to the most scrutinising supervision, and an infinity of corrections and alterations made. A journal of his own, in which he could give vent to his untrammelled opinions, unchecked by the mercantile, and, undoubtedly, more prudential views of publishers, had long been one of Poe's most earnest desires, and he attained his wish in the possession of the Broadway Journal; but poverty, ill-health, want of worldly knowledge, and a sick — a dying wife, all combined to overpower his efforts. What could the unfortunate poet do? During the few months that he had complete control of the moribund journal he made it, considering all things, as good a cheap literary paper as was ever published. All his efforts, however, were insufficient to keep it alive, so, on the 3d of January 1846, the poor poet was obliged to resign his favourite hobby of a paper of his own. It may be pointed out that [page lix:] whilst in possession of his journal he availed himself of the opportunity of displaying his almost Quixotic feelings of gratitude — those feelings denied him by the ruthless Griswold — towards all who had befriended him, and not only to the living, whose aid might continue, but towards those who had already entered into the “hollow vale.” His generous tributes to departed worth are proofs of his nobility of heart, of greater weight than any disproof the malignity of Griswold would invent.

Besides the work on his own paper, Poe had somehow contrived to contribute a few tales and sketches to some of the magazines, and, among others, to Mr. Godey's Lady's Book. In the May number of this publication he commenced a series of critiques, entitled the “Literati of New York,” “in which he professed,” remarks Griswold, with his wonted sneer, “to give some honest opinions at random respecting their authorial merits.” These essays were immensely successful, but the caustic style of some of them produced terrible commotion in the ranks of mediocrity, as may be seen from Mr. Godey's notes to the readers respecting the anonymous and other letters he receives concerning them. “We are not to be intimidated,” he remarks, “by a threat of the loss of friends, or turned from our purpose by honied words. . . . Many attempts have been made and are being made by various persons to forestall public opinion. We have the name of one person. Others are busy with reports of Mr. Poe's illness. Mr. Poe has been ill, but we have letters from him of very recent dates, also a new batch of the Literati, which shows anything but feebleness either of body or mind. Almost every paper that we exchange with has praised our new enterprise, and spoken in high terms of Mr. Poe's opinion.” Dissatisfied with the manner in which his literary weaknesses had been reviewed by Poe, a Dunn English or Dunn Brown, for he [page lx:] is duplicately named, instead of waiting, as Griswold did, for the poet's death, when every ass could have its kick at the lion's carcase, “retaliated in a personal newspaper article,” remarks Duyckinck, in his invaluable Encyclopedia, and “the communication was reprinted in the Evening Mirror in New York, whereupon Poe instituted a libel suit against that journal, and recovered several hundred dollars” for defamation of character.

If there be any one entertaining the slightest belief in Griswold's veracity, let him now refer to his unfaithful account of this affair in the soi-disant “Memoir,” and compare it with the facts of the case. He states that Dunn English “chose to evince his resentment of the critic's unfairness by the publication of a card, in which he painted strongly the infirmities of Poe's life and character.” “Poe's article,” he continues, “was entirely false in what purported to be the facts. The statement of Dr. English appeared in the New York Mirror of the 23d June, and on the 27th, Mr. Poe sent to Mr. Godey, for publication in the Lady's Book, his rejoinder, which Mr. Godey very properly declined to print.” This led, asserts Griswold, “to a disgraceful quarrel,” and to the “premature conclusion” of the Literati; and that Poe “ceased to write for the Lady's Book in consequence of Mr. Godey's justifiable refusal to print in that miscellany his ‘Reply to Dr. English.’ ” Poe's review of “English” appeared in the second or June number of the Literati, and from our knowledge of Griswold's habitual inaccuracy, we were not surprised to find, upon reference to the magazine, that the sketches ran their stipulated course until October, and after that date Poe still continuing a contributor to the Lady's Book; nor were we surprised to find Mr. Godey writing to the Knickerbocker magazine in defence and praise of Poe's “honourable and blameless conduct;” but what certainly did startle us was [page lxi:] to discover that the whole of the personalities of the supposed critique included in the collection of Poe's works edited by Griswold, were absent from the real critique published in the Lady's Book!

Recoiling from such unsavoury subjects, it is a pleasant change to look upon the charming picture of the cruelly belibelled poet, and his diminutive ménage, as portrayed by Mrs. Osgood. “It was in his own simple yet poetical home,” she remarks, “that to me the character of Edgar Poe appeared in its most beautiful light. Playful, affectionate, witty, alternately docile and wayward as a petted child — for his young, gentle, and idolised wife, and for all who came, he had, even in the midst of his most harassing literary duties, a kind word, a pleasant smile, a graceful and courteous attention. At his desk, beneath the romantic picture of his loved and lost Lenore, he would sit hour after hour, patient, assiduous, and uncomplaining, tracing in an exquisitely clear chirography, and with almost superhuman swiftness, the lightning thoughts, the ‘rare and radiant’ fancies as they flashed through his wonderful and ever-wakeful brain. I recollect one morning towards the close of his residence in this city, when he seemed unusually gay and light-hearted. Virginia, his sweet wife, had written me a pressing invitation to come to them; and I, who could never resist her affectionate summons, and who enjoyed his society far more in his own home than elsewhere, hastened to Amity Street. I found him just completing his series of papers entitled ‘The Literati of New York.’ ‘See,’ said he, displaying in laughing triumph several little rolls of narrow paper (he always wrote thus for the press), ‘I am going to show you, by the difference of length in these, the different degrees of estimation in which I hold all you literary people. In each of these, one of you is rolled up and fully discussed. Come, Virginia, help me!’ [page lxii:] And one by one they unfolded them. At last they came to one which seemed interminable. Virginia laughingly ran to one corner of the room with one end, and her husband to the opposite with the other. ‘And whose lengthened sweetness long drawn out is that?’ said I. ‘Hear her,’ he cried, ‘just as if her little vain heart didn’t tell her it's herself!’ ”

It was in the summer of 1846 that the poet removed his dying wife to the quietude and repose of the cottage at Fordham, Westchester county, near New York. “Here,” exclaims Mrs. Whitman, is her exalted essay on “Edgar Poe and his Critics” — the noblest memorial yet raised to the poet's memory — “here he watched her failing breath in loneliness and privation through many solitary moons, until, on a desolate, dreary day of the ensuing winter, he saw her remains borne from beneath its lowly roof.” The fullest and most interesting account of Poe's life at Fordham is to be found in the “Reminiscences” of a brother author. Of his first visit to Fordham to see Poe he says —

“We found him and his wife and his wife's mother, who was his aunt, living in a little cottage at the top of a hill. There was an acre or two of greensward, fenced in about the house, as smooth as velvet, and as clean as the best kept carpet. There were some grand old cherry-trees in the yard that threw a massive shade around them.

“Poe had somehow caught a full-grown bob-o’-link. He had put him in a cage, which he had hung on a nail driven into the trunk of a cherry-tree. The poor bird was as unfit to live in a cage as his captor was to live in the world. He was as restless as his jailer, and sprang continually in a fierce, frightened way from one side of the cage to the other. I pitied him, but Poe was bent on training him. There he stood with his arms crossed before the tormented bird, his sublime trust in attaining the impossible [page lxiii:] apparent in his whole self. So handsome, so impassive in his wonderful, intellectual beauty, so proud and reserved, and yet so confidentially communicative, so entirely a gentleman upon all occasions that I ever saw him; so tasteful, so good a talker was Poe, that he impressed himself and his wishes, even without words, upon those with whom he spoke. . . . Poe's voice was melody itself. He always spoke low, even in a violent discussion, compelling his hearers to listen if they would know his opinion, his facts, fancies, philosophy, or his weird imaginings. These last usually flowed from his pen, seldom from his tongue.

“On this occasion I was introduced to the young wife of the poet, and to the mother, then more than sixty years of age. She was a tall, dignified old lady, with a most lady-like manner, and her black dress, though old and much worn, looked really elegant on her. . . . Mrs. Poe looked very young; she had large black eyes, and a pearly whiteness of complexion, which was a perfect pallor. Her pale face, her brilliant eyes, and her raven hair, gave her an unearthly look. One felt that she was almost a disrobed spirit, and when she coughed it was made certain that she was rapidly passing away. The mother seemed hale and strong, and appeared to be a sort of universal Providence for her strange children.

“The cottage had an air of taste and gentility that must have been lent to it by the presence of its inmates. So neat, so poor, so unfurnished, and yet so charming a dwelling I never saw. . . . . . The sitting-room was laid with check matting; four chairs, a light stand, and a hanging book-shelf completed its furniture. There were pretty presentation copies of books on the little shelves, and the Brownings had posts of honour on the stand. With quiet exultation Poe drew from his side-pocket a letter that he [page lxiv:] had recently received from Elizabeth Barrett Browning. He read it to us. It was very flattering. She told Poe that his ‘poem of ‘The Raven’ had awakened a fit of horror in England.’ . . . . He was at this time greatly depressed. Their extreme poverty, the sickness of his wife, and his own inability to write, sufficiently accounted for this. . . . . We strolled away into the woods, and had a very cheerful time, till some one proposed a game at leaping. I think it must have been Poe, as he was expert in the exercise. Two or three gentlemen agreed to leap with him, and though one of them was tall, and had been a hunter in times past, Poe still distanced them all. But, alas! his gaiters, long worn and carefully kept, were both burst in the grand leap that made him victor. . . . . . I was certain he had no other shoes, boots, or gaiters . . . if any one had money, who had the effrontery, to offer it to the poet?”

This same writer, becoming intimate with the poet, made several visits to Fordham. “The autumn came,” he resumes, “and Mrs. Poe sank rapidly in consumption, and I saw her in her bedchamber. Everything here was so neat, so purely clean, so scant and poverty stricken. . . . There was no clothing on the bed, which was only straw, but a snow-white spread and sheets. The weather was cold, and the sick lady had the dreadful chills that accompany the hectic fever of consumption. She lay on the straw bed, wrapped in her husband's greatcoat, with a large tortoiseshell cat in her bosom. The wonderful cat seemed conscious of her great usefulness. The coat and the cat were the sufferer's only means of warmth, except as her husband held her hands, and her mother her feet. Mrs. Clemm was passionately fond of her daughter, and her distress on account of her illness, and poverty, and misery, was dreadful to see.

“As soon as I was made aware of these painful facts I [page lxv:] came to New York, and enlisted the sympathies and services of a lady whose heart and hand were ever open to the poor and miserable. . . . . . The lady headed a subscription, and carried them sixty dollars the newt week. From the day this kind lady first saw the suffering family of the poet, she watched over them as a mother. She saw them often, and ministered to the comfort of the dying and the living.” This same generous lady, who, we believe, was Mrs. Lewis, better known as ‘Stella,’ subsequently, when the poet died, received Mrs. Clemm into her own house, and sheltered her until she could return to her friends in the south.” The author of these “Reminiscences” concludes: — “Poe has been called a bad man. He was his own enemy, it is true; but he was a gentleman and a scholar. . . . . . If the scribblers who have snapped like curs at his remains had seen him as his friends saw him in his dire necessity and his great temptation, they would have been worse than they deem him to have written as they have concerning a man of whom they really knew next to nothing.”

When this writer brought the heartrending statement of the poor, proud, and unhappy poet's circumstances — without Poe's knowledge or connivance — before the world, Willis, in an article in the Home Journal, made an appeal to the public on the poet's behalf, suggesting, at the same time, that his case was a strong argument in favour of the establishment of an hospital for poor but well-educated persons. His remarks are worth repetition. He says: — “The feeling we have long entertained on this subject has been freshened by a recent paragraph in the Express, announcing that Mr. Edgar Allan Poe and his wife were both dangerously ill and suffering for want of the common necessaries of life. Here is one of the finest scholars, one of the most original men of genius, and one of the most industrious of the literary profession of our country, whose temporary [page lxvi:] suspension of labour, from bodily illness, drops him immediately to a level with the common objects of public charity. There is no intermediate stopping-place — no respectful shelter where, with the delicacy due to genius and culture, he might secure aid, unadvertised, till, with returning health, he could resume his labours and his unmortified sense of independence. He must either apply to individual friends (a resource to which death is sometimes almost preferable), or suffer down to the level where Charity receives claimants, but where Rags and Humiliation are the only recognised ushers to her presence. Is this right? Should there not be in all highly civilised communities an institution designed expressly for educated and refined objects of charity — an hospital, a retreat, a home of seclusion and comfort, the sufficient claims to which would be such susceptibilities as are violated by the above-mentioned appeal in a daily paper.”

This noble and suggestive article of Mr. Willis, Griswold maliciously avers, was but an “ingenious apology for Mr. Poe's infirmities;” and then, with a brutality happily unparalleled in literary history, declares that the following letter, which was written just before Mrs. Poe's death, “was written for effect:” —

“My dear Willis — The paragraph which has been put in circulation respecting my wife's illness, my own, my poverty, etc., is now lying before me; together with the beautiful lines by Mrs. Locke and those by Mrs. ——, to which the paragraph has given rise, as well as your kind and manly comments in The Home Journal. The motive of the paragraph I leave to the conscience of him or her who wrote it or suggested it. Since the thing is done, however, and since the concerns of my family are thus pitilessly thrust before the public, I perceive no mode of escape from a public statement of what is true and what is erroneous in the report alluded to. That my wife is ill, then, is true; and you may imagine with what feelings I add, that this illness, hopeless, [page lxvii:] from the first, has been heightened and precipitated by her reception, at two different periods, of anonymous letters — one, enclosing the paragraph now in question, the other those published calumnies of Messrs. ——, for which I yet hope to find redress in a court of justice.

“Of the facts, that I myself have been long and dangerously ill, and that may illness has been a well-understood thing among my brethren of the press, the best evidence is afforded by the innumerable paragraphs of personal and of literary abuse with which I have been latterly assailed. This matter, however, will remedy itself. At the very first blush of my new prosperity, the gentlemen who toadied me in the old will recollect themselves and toady me again. . . . That I am ‘without friends’ is a gross calumny, which I am sure you never could have believed, and which a thousand noble-hearted men would have good right never to forgive for permitting to pass unnoticed and undenied. I do not think, my dear Willis, that there is any need of my saying more. I am getting better, and may add; if it be any comfort to my enemies, — that I have little fear of getting worse. The truth is, I have a great deal to do; and I have made up my mind not to die till it is done. — Sincerely yours,


“December 30, 1846.”

Animadverting upon this letter, the implacable Griswold asserts, notwithstanding the positive evidence to the contrary, that Poe “had not been ill a great while, nor dangerously at all; that there was no literary or personal abuse of him in the journals; and that his friends had been applied to for money until their patience was nearly exhausted.” As already stated, a few weeks after this letter, which this calumniator of the dead declares “was written for effect,” the poet's wife died; and, in an autographic letter now before us, Poe positively reiterates the accusation that his wife, — “my poor Virginia, was continually tortured (although not deceived) by anonymous letters, and on her deathbed declared that her life had been shortened by their writer.” In January 1847 the poet's darling wife died, and on a desolate dreary day her remains were interred in a [page lxviii:] vault in the neighbourhood, in accordance with the permission of its owner. The loss of his wife threw Poe into a melancholy stupor which lasted for several weeks; but nature reasserting her powers, he gradually resumed his wonted avocations. During the whole of the year the poet lived a quiet secluded life with his mother-in-law, receiving occasional visits from his friends and admirers; musing over the memory of his lost Lenore, and thinking out the great and crowning work of his life — Eureka. An English friend, who visited the Fordham cottage in the early autumn of 1847, and spent several weeks with its inmates, described to Mrs. Whitman its unrivalled neatness and the quaint simplicity of its interior and surroundings. It was, at the time, bordered by a flower-garden, whose clumps of rare dahlias and brilliant beds of autumnal flowers, showed, in the careful culture bestowed upon them, the fine floral tastes of the presiding spirit.

The attention which Poe gave to his birds and flowers surprised this visitor, who deemed it inconsistent with the gloom of his writings. Another friend, who visited the cottage during the summer of the same year, describes it as “half-buried in fruit trees, and as having a thick grove of pines in its immediate neighbourhood.” “The proximity of the railroad, and the increasing population of the little village,” adds Mrs. Whitman, “have since wrought great changes in the place. Round an old cherry-tree, near the door, was a broad bank of greenest turf. The neighbouring beds of mignonette and heliotrope, and the pleasant shade above, made this a favourite seat. Rising at four o’clock in the morning, for a walk to the magnificent aqueduct bridge over Harlem river, our informant found the poet, with his mother-in-law, standing on the turf beneath the cherry-tree, eagerly watching the movements of two beautiful birds that seemed contemplating a settlement in [page lxix:] its branches. He had some rare tropical birds in cages, which he cherished and petted with assiduous care.” “Our English friend,” continues Mrs. Whitman, “described Poe as giving to his birds and flowers a delighted attention which seemed quite inconsistent with the gloomy and grotesque character of his writings. A favourite cat, too, enjoyed his friendly patronage, and often when he was engaged in composition it seated itself on his shoulder, purring as if in complacent approval of the work proceeding under its supervision.”

“During Poe's residence at Fordham, a walk to High Bridge was one of his favourite and habitual recreations,” remarks Mrs. Whitman, and she describes the lofty and picturesque avenue across the aqueduct, where, in “the lonesome latter years” of his life, the poet was accustomed to walk “at all times of the day and night, often pacing the then solitary pathway for hours without meeting a human being.” A rocky ledge in the neighbourhood, partly covered with pines and cedars, and commanding a fine view of the surrounding country, was also one of his favourite resorts, and here, resumes our informant, “through long summer days, and through solitary star-lit nights, he loved to sit, dreaming his gorgeous waking dreams, or pondering the deep problems of ‘The Universe,’ — that grand ‘prose poem’ to which he devoted the last and most matured energies of his wonderful intellect.” Towards the close of this “most immemorial year,” this year in which he had lost his cousin bride, he wrote his weird monody of “Ulalume.” Like so many of his poems it was autobiographical, and, on the poet's own authority, we are informed that it was, “in its basis, although not in the precise correspondence of time, simply historical.” It first appeared anonymously in Colton's American Review for December 1847, as “Ulalume: a Ballad,” and, being reprinted in the Home Journal, by an [page lxx:] absurd mistake was ascribed to the editor, N. P Willis. Subsequently, Mrs. Whitman, being one morning with Poe in the Providence Athenæum Library, asked him if he had seen the new poem, and if he could tell who had written it. To her surprise he acknowledged himself the author, and, turning to a bound volume of the Review which was on a shelf near by, he wrote his name at the end of the poem, and there, a few months ago, a correspondent found it. The poem originally possessed an additional verse, but, at the suggestion of Mrs. Whitman, Poe subsequently omitted this, and thereby greatly strengthened the effect of the whole. The final and suppressed stanza read thus: —

“Said we then — the two, then — Ah, can it

Have been that the woodlandish ghouls —

The pitiful, the merciful ghouls —

To bar up our path and to ban it

From the secret that lies in these wolds —

Had drawn up the spectre of a planet

From the limbo of lunary souls —

This sinfully scintillant planet

From the Hell of the planetary souls?”

Early in 1848, Poe announced his intention of delivering a series of lectures, with a view to raise a sufficient capital to enable him to start a magazine of his own. In January of this year he thus wrote on the subject to his old and tried friend N. P. Willis: —

“FORDHAM, January 22, 1848.

“My dear Mr. Willis — I am about to make an effort at re-establishing myself in the literary world, and feel that I may depend upon your aid.

“My general aim is to start a magazine, to be called The Stylus; but it would be useless to me, even when established, if not entirely out of the control of a publisher. I mean, therefore, to get up a journal [page lxxi:] which shall be my own, at all points. With this end in view, I must get a list of at least five hundred subscribers to begin with — nearly two hundred I have already. I propose, however, to go south and west, among my personal and literary friends — old College and West Point acquaintances — and see what I can do. In order to get the means of taking the first step, I propose to lecture at the Society Library, on Thursday, the 3d of February — and, that there may be no cause of squabbling, my subject shall not be literary at all. I have chosen a broad text — ‘The Universe.’

“Having thus given you the facts of the case, I leave all the rest to the suggestions of your own tact and generosity. — Gratefully, most gratefully, your friend always,


This letter was speedily followed by a prospectus, addressed To the Public, of “The Stylus; a Monthly Journal of Literature Proper, the Fine Arts, and the Drama. To be edited by Edgar A. Poe,” and from it the following most noticeable paragraphs are extracted: “Since resigning the conduct of the Southern Literary Messenger at the beginning of its third year, and more especially since retiring from the editorship of Graham's Magazine soon after the commencement of its second, I have had always in view the establishment of a monthly journal which should retain one or two of the chief features of the work first mentioned, abandoning or greatly modifying its general character; — but not until now have I felt at liberty to attempt the execution of this design. I shall be pardoned for speaking more directly of the two magazines in question. Having in neither of them any proprietary right — the objects of their worthy owners, too, being at variance with my own — I found it not only impossible to effect anything, on the score of taste, for their mechanical appearance, but difficult to stamp upon them internally that individuality which I believed essential to their success. In regard to the permanent influence of such publications, it appears to me that continuity and a marked certainty of purpose are requisites of vital importance, [page lxxii:] but attainable only where one mind alone has at least the general control. Experience, to be brief, has shown me that in founding a journal of my own lies my sole chance of carrying out to completion whatever peculiar intentions I may have entertained.

“These intentions are now as heretofore. It shall be the chief purpose of the magazine proposed, to become known as one wherein may be found at all times, on all topics within its legitimate reach, a sincere and a fearless opinion. It shall be a leading object to assert in precept and to maintain in practice the rights, while in effect it demonstrates the advantages, of an absolutely independent criticism — a criticism self-sustained; guiding itself only by intelligible laws of art; analysing these laws as it applies them; holding itself aloof from all personal bias, and acknowledging no fear save that of the right.

“There is no design, however, to make the journal a critical one solely, or even very especially. It will aim at something more than the usual magazine variety, and at affording a fair field for the true talent of the land, without reference to the mere prestige of name, or the advantages of worldly position. But since the efficiency of the work must in great measure depend upon its definitiveness, THE STYLUS will limit itself to Literature Proper, the Fine Arts, and the Drama.”

Notwithstanding the large number of his admirers, and the friendly co-operation of Mr. Thomas C. Clarke, who was to have been the publisher, Poe found the minimum number of subscribers necessary to start the magazine very difficult to obtain; he therefore set about his lectures for the purpose of getting “the means of taking the first step.”

The first lecture of the series was given in the library of the New York Historical Society; it was upon the cosmogony of the universe, and formed the substance of the [page lxxiii:] work he afterwards published as “Eureka, a Prose Poem.” Mr. M. B. Field, who was present, says — “It was a stormy night, and there were not more than sixty persons present in the lecture-room. . . . His lecture was a rhapsody of the most intense brilliancy. He appeared inspired, and his inspiration affected the scant audience almost painfully. His eyes seemed to glow like those of his own ‘Raven,’ and he kept us entranced for two hours and a half.” Such small audiences, despite the enthusiasm of the lecturer, or the lectured, could not give much material aid towards the poet's purpose. Poor and baffled he had to return to his lonely home at Fordham, to contemplate anew the problems of creation; or to discuss with stray visitors, with an intensity of feeling and steadfastness of belief never surpassed, his unriddling of the secret of the universe.

In the early summer of 1848 we find Poe delivering a lecture at Lowell, on the “Female Poets of America.” “In an analysis of the comparative merits of the New England poetesses,” says the Hon. James Atkinson, who attended the lecture, “the lecturer awarded to Mrs. Osgood the palm of facility, ingenuity, and grace; — to Mrs. Whitman, a pre-eminence in refinement of art, enthusiasm, imagination, and genius, properly so called; — to Miss Lynch he ascribed an unequalled success in the concentrated and forcible enunciation of the sentiment of heroism and duty.” Mrs. Whitman, undoubtedly the finest female poet New England has produced, had been first seen by Poe, says Griswold, “on his way from Boston, when he visited that city to deliver a poem before the Lyceum there. Restless, near midnight, he wandered from his hotel near where she lived, until he saw her walking in a garden. He related the incident afterwards in one of his most exquisite poems, worthy of himself, of her, and of the most exalted passion.”

Meanwhile the beautiful young widow lived on perfectly [page lxxiv:] unconscious of the fierce flame she had aroused in the poet's heart, until, in the beginning of the summer of 1848, about the time of the above lecture, the first intimation reached her in the shape of the beautiful lines, “To Helen,” alluded to by Griswold, commencing. “I saw thee once — once only — years ago.” There was no signature to the poem, but the lady was acquainted with Edgar Poe's exquisite handwriting, and therefore knew whence it came. About this time the poet went to Richmond, Virginia, and forming the acquaintance of the late Mr. James Thompson, the talented editorial proprietor of the Southern Literary Messenger, agreed to become again a contributor to its pages. Mr. Thompson, like all who knew Poe personally, became strongly attached to him, and has left some interesting reminiscences of him. The poet at this period was making many inquiries about Mrs. Whitman, and speaking both publicly and privately in high praise of her poetry, so that at last, even before they met, their names were, as Griswold truthfully states, frequently associated together. One day, says Mr. Thompson, Poe rushed into the office of the Messenger in a state of great excitement, sat down and wrote out a challenge to a Mr. Daniels, editor of the Richmond Examiner, and requested Mr. Thompson to be its bearer to the person challenged! In explanation of his conduct, he handed his friend a paragraph cut from the Examiner, giving an account of Poe's presumed engagement to Mrs. Whitman, and making some comments on the lady's temerity. The enraged poet said he did not care what Daniels might say about him, but that he would not have the lady's name dragged in. Mr. Thompson refused to deliver the challenge, and Poe went personally to see Daniels, and the result was that the offending paragraph was withdrawn. In September of this year, Poe, having obtained a letter of introduction from a lady friend, sought and obtained an interview [page lxxv:] with Mrs. Whitman. The result of this and several subsequent interviews, was the betrothal of the two poets, notwithstanding the most strenuous opposition of the lady's family. Much as she revered his genius, the opposition of her relatives to the match appears for a time to have caused the lady to withstand the poet's passionate appeals, but ultimately, as stated, they were engaged. The following paragraphs from a letter written by Poe on the 18th of October of this year, show how intensely he could feel, and how earnestly he could express his feelings as well in private correspondence as in those compositions intended for the public eye: —

“—— You do not love me, or you would have felt too thorough a sympathy with the sensitiveness of my nature, to have so wounded me as you have done with this terrible passage of your letter — ‘How often I have heard it said of you, ‘He has great intellectual power, but no principle — no moral sense.’ ”

“Is it possible that such expressions as these could have been repeated to me — to me — by one whom I loved — ah, whom I love! . . .

“By the God who reigns in heaven, I swear to you that my soul is incapable of dishonour — that, with the exception of occasional follies and excesses, which I bitterly lament, but to which I have been driven by intolerable sorrow, and which are hourly committed by others without attracting any notice whatever — I can call to mind no act of my life which would bring a blush to my cheek — or to yours. If I have erred at all, in this regard, it has been on the side of what the world would call a Quixotic sense of the honourable — of the chivalrous. The indulgence of this sense has been the true voluptuousness of my life. It was for this species of luxury that in early youth I deliberately threw away from me a large fortune rather than endure a trivial wrong. . . . [page lxxvi:]

“For nearly three years I have been ill, poor, living out of the world; and thus, as I now painfully see, have afforded opportunity to my enemies to slander me in private society without my knowledge, and thus, with impunity. Although much, however, may (and, I now see, must) have been said to my discredit during my retirement, those few who, knowing me well, have been steadfastly my friends, permitted nothing to reach my ears — unless in one instance, of such a character, that I could appeal to a court of justice for redress.* . . . I replied to the charge fully in a public newspaper — afterwards suing the Mirror (in which the scandal appeared), obtaining a verdict and receiving such an amount of damages as for the time completely to break up that journal. And you ask me why men so misjudge me — why I have enemies? If your knowledge of my character and of my career does not afford you an answer to the query, at least it does not become me to suggest the answer. Let it suffice that I have had the audacity to remain poor, that I might preserve my independence — that, nevertheless, in letters, to a certain extent, and in certain regards, I have been ‘successful’ — that I have been a critic — an unscrupulously honest, and, no doubt, in many cases a bitter one — that I have uniformly attacked — where I attacked at all — those who stood highest in power and influence; and that, whether in literature or society, I have seldom refrained from expressing, either directly or indirectly, the pure contempt with which the pretensions of ignorance, arrogance, or imbecility inspire me. And you who know all this — you ask me why I have enemies. . . . Forgive me if there be bitterness in my tone.” . . .

The man who could write thus, it is impossible not to feel, must have been sincere; must have been incapable of [page lxxvii:] committing the mean, the dishonouring actions, placed by an envious and jealous writer to his charge. Evidence and feeling both give the lie to the cruel and uncalled-for slanders of Rufus Griswold.

In a letter addressed to the same dear friend, and dated the 24th of November 1848, Poe exhibits his epistolary powers in quite a different light. After certain matters of a private nature, he remarks: —

“Your lines ‘to Arcturus’ are truly beautiful. I would retain the Virgilian words, omitting the translation. The first note leave out. 61 Cygni has been proved nearer than Arcturus, and Alpha Lyræ is presumably so. Bessel also has shown six other stars to be nearer than the brighter ones of this hemisphere. There is an obvious tautology in ‘pale candescent. To be candescent is to become white with heat. Why not read — ‘To blend with thine its incandescent fire!’ Forgive me, sweet Helen, for these very stupid and captious criticisms. Take vengeance on my next poem. When ‘Ulalume’ appears, cut it out and enclose it — newspapers seldom reach me. In last Saturday's Home Journal is a letter from M. C. (who is it?) I enclose a passage which seems to refer to my lines —

‘— the very roses’ odours,

Died in the arms of the adoring airs.’

The accusation will enable you to see how groundless such accusations may be, even when seemingly best founded. Mrs. H.'s book was published three months ago. You had my poem about the 1st of June — was it not? — For ever your own


“Remember me to Mr. Pabodie.”

The Mr. Pabodie referred to was a great friend of Poe's, and as it will be necessary to speak of him again, to show the terms upon which the two lived, the following otherwise unimportant letter [given in facsimile as a specimen of Poe's exquisitely clear handwriting] is quoted: —

“Fordham, December ‘48.

“My dear Mr. Pabodie — On the principle of ‘better late than [page lxxviii:] never,’ I seize the first opportunity afforded me, in the midst of cares and vexations of all kinds, to write you a few words of cordial thanks for your considerate and gentlemanly attentions to me while in Providence. I do hope that you will always think of me as one of the most obliged and most devoted of your friends. Please say to Mrs. W., when you next see her, that I thank her for the ‘papers,’ and for her promptitude. Say, also, that perhaps Mrs. Wright is right, but that I believe her wrong, and desire to be kindly remembered. The commands about post have been attended to. Present may respects to Mrs. Allen and to your father. — Truly yours always,


“W. J. Pabodie, Esq.”

In the very month this letter was written Poe's engagement with Mrs. Whitman came to an end. The real cause of the rupture between the poet and his betrothed has never been published, although it is to be hoped that, for the sake of the much slandered dead, the seal of silence will some day be broken. It is impossible to impute blame to either of the parties concerned, as undoubtedly the true cause of the separation arose from circumstances beyond their control. According to the diabolical story told by Griswold, and since repeated in nearly every memoir of the poet, on the evening before what should have been the bridal morn, Poe committed such drunken outrages at the house of his affianced bride that it was found necessary to summon the police to eject him, which of course ended the engagement. This misstatement being brought under the notice of the parties concerned, Mr. Pabodie wrote a direct and specific denial of it to the New York Tribune, and it appeared in that paper on the 7th of June 1852. “I am authorised to say,” remarks Mr. Pabodie, who, it should be mentioned, was an eminent lawyer as well as a man of considerable literary ability, “I am authorised to say, not only from my personal knowledge, but also from the statement of ALL who were conversant with the affair, that there [page lxxix:] exists not a shadow of foundation for the story above alluded to.” The same letter goes on to state that its writer knew Poe well, and at the time alluded to was with him daily. “I was acquainted with the circumstances of his engagement, and with the causes which led to its dissolution,” continues Mr. Pabodie; and he concludes his letter with an earnest appeal to Griswold to do all that now lies in his power “to remove an undeserved stigma from the memory of the departed.” An honourable man would have acknowledged the incorrectness of his information, and have done his best to obviate the consequences of his accusation. Not so this biographer: he wrote a savage letter to Mr. Pabodie, threatening terrible thing if he did not withdraw his statement. Mr. Pabodie did not withdraw, but, in another letter to Griswold, brought forward incontrovertible proofs of other falsifications indulged in by the author of the “Memoir,” who henceforward remained discreetly silent.

During the larger portion of 1848 Poe continued his studies, which at this period were chiefly philosophical, at his home in Fordham Beyond a few reviews, he would appear to have given his whole time to the completion of “Eureka,” the last and grandest monument of his genius. The merits of this wonderful “prose poem” this is neither the time nor the place to discuss; and it suffices now to point out that in all probability no other author ever flung such an intensity of feeling, or ever believed more steadfastly in the truth of his work, than did Edgar Poe in this attempted unriddling of the secret of the universe. He was wont to discuss the various knotty points of “Eureka “with a startling eloquence that electrified his hearers into belief. He could not submit to hear the claims of his work discussed by unsympathetic and incompetent critics, and after it was published in book [page lxxx:] form, and thus made general property, he addressed this thoroughly characteristic letter to Mr. C. F. Hoffman, then editor of the Literary World, anent a flippant critique of “Eureka” which had appeared in the columns of that publication.

“Dear Sir — In your paper of July 29, I find some comments on ‘Eureka,’ a late book of my own, and I know you too well to suppose for a moment that you will refuse me the privilege of a few words in reply. I feel even that I might safely claim from Mr. Hofmann the right which every author has, of replying to his critic tone for tone, — that is to say, of answering your correspondent's flippancy by flippancy, and sneer by sneer, — but, in the first place, I do not wish to disgrace the ‘World,’ and, in the second, I feel that I should never be done sneering in the present instance were I once to begin. Lamartine blames Voltaire for the use which he made of misrepresentations (ruses) in his attacks on the priesthood; but our young students of theology do not seem to be aware that in defence, or what they fancy to be defence, of Christianity, there is anything wrong in such gentlemanly peccadilloes as the deliberate perversion of an author's text, — to say nothing of the minor indecora of reviewing a book without reading it, and without having the faintest suspicion of what it is about.

“You will understand that it is merely the misrepresentations of the critique in question to which I claim the privilege of reply; the mere opinions of the writer can be of no consequence to me — and I should imagine of very little to himself — that is to say, if he knows himself personally as well as I have the honour of knowing him. The first misrepresentation is contained in this sentence: — ‘This letter is a keen burlesque on the Aristotelian or Baconian methods of ascertaining Truth, both of which the writer ridicules and despises, and pours forth his rhapsodical ecstasies in a glorification of a third mode — the noble art of guessing.’ What I really say is this: — ‘That there is no absolute certainty either in the Aristotelian or Baconian process; that for this reason neither philosophy is so profound as it fancies itself, and that neither has a right to sneer at that seemingly imaginative process called Intuition (by which the great Kepler attained his laws), since “Intuition,” after all, is but the conviction arising from those inductions or deductions, of which the processes are so shadowy as to [page lxxxi:] escape our consciousness, elude our reason, or defy our capacity of expression.’ The second misrepresentation runs thus: — ‘The developments of electricity and the formation of stars and suns, luminous and non-luminous, moons and planets, with their rings, etc., is deduced, very much according to the nebular theory of Laplace, from the principle propounded above.’ Now, the impression intended to be made here upon the reader's mind by the ‘Student of Theology,’ is, evidently, that my theory may be all very well in its way, but that it is nothing but Laplace over again, with some modifications that he (the Student of Theology) cannot regard as at all important. I have only to say that no gentleman can accuse me of the disingenuousness here implied; inasmuch as, having proceeded with my theory to that point at which Laplace's theory meets it, I then give Laplace's theory in full, with the expression of my firm conviction of its absolute truth at all points. The ground covered by the great French astronomer compares with that covered by my theory, as a bubble compares with the ocean on which it floats; nor has he the slightest allusion to ‘the principle propounded above,’ the principle of Unity being the source of all things — the principle of Gravity being merely the Reaction of the Divine Act which irradiated all things from Unity. In fact, no point of my theory has been even so much as alluded to by Laplace. I have not considered it necessary here to speak of the astronomical knowledge displayed in the ‘stars and suns’ of the Student of Theology, nor to hint that it would be better grammar to say that ‘development and formation’ are, than that development and formation is. The third misrepresentation lies in a foot-note, where the critic says: — ‘Further than this, Mr. Poe's claim that he can account for the existence of all organized beings — man included — merely from those principles on which the origin and present appearance of suns and worlds are explained, must be set down as mere bold assertion, without a particle of evidence. In other words we should term it arrant fudge.’ The perversion of this point is involved in a wilful misapplication of the word ‘principles.’ I say ‘wilful,’ because at page 63 I am particularly careful to distinguish between the principles proper — Attraction and Repulsion — and those merely resultant sub-principles which control the universe in detail. To these sub-principles, swayed by the immediate spiritual influence of Deity, I leave, without examination, all that which the [page lxxxii:] Student of Theology so roundly asserts I account for on the principles which account for the constitution of suns, etc. . . . . .

“Were these ‘misrepresentations’ (is that the name for them?) made for any less serious a purpose than that of branding my book as ‘impious,’ and myself as a ‘pantheist,’ a ‘polytheist,’ a Pagan, or a God knows what (and, indeed, I care very little, so it be not a ’Student of Theology’), I would have permitted their dishonesty to pass unnoticed, through pure contempt for the boyishness, for the turn-down-shirt-collarness of their tone; but, as it is, you will pardon me, Mr. Editor, that I have been compelled to expose a ‘critic’ who, courageously preserving his own anonymousity, takes advantage of my absence from the city to misrepresent, and thus villify me, by name.


“FORDHAM, September 20, 1848.”

During the last year of his life Poe saw much of Mrs. Estelle Lewis, already alluded to as “Stella,” and he and his aunt both received much kindness from that accomplished woman. His exalted critique on her writings originally appeared in the Messenger, in 1848, and in the same year he published the poem to her entitled “An Enigma,” but through an unfortunate mistake he mistook her Christian name, and wrought into his lines “Sarah” instead of “Estelle.” Lying before us, in his beautiful caligraphy, is the little note announcing its production: —

“27th November 1848.

Dear Mrs. Lewis — A thousand thanks for your repeated kindness, and, above all, for the comforting and cheering words of your note. Your advice I feel as a command which neither my heart nor my reason would venture to disobey. May Heaven for ever bless you and yours

“A day or two ago I sent to one of the magazines the sonnet enclosed. Its tone is somewhat too light; but it embodies a riddle which I wish to put you to the trouble of expounding. Will you try?

Yours always,


The winter of 1848-49, and the spring of the latter year, Poe passed at Fordham, and during this time he is [page lxxxiii:] alleged to have written a book entitled Phases of American Literature [[Literary America]]; Mr. M. A. Daly states that he saw the complete work, but the manuscript would seem to have disappeared. After Poe's death the larger portion of his papers passed through Griswold's hands, and his manipulation of them will, doubtless, account for all deficiencies and shortcomings. In the summer, Poe revisited Richmond, and spent between two and three months there, during which time he delivered two lectures, in the Exchange Concert-Room, on “The Poetic Principle.”

“When in Richmond,” says Mr. Thompson, “he made the office of the ‘Messenger’ a place of frequent resort. His conversation was always attractive, and at times very brilliant. Among modern authors his favourite was Tennyson, and he delighted to recite from the ‘The Princess’ the song, ‘Tears, idle tears’ — and a fragment of which: —

“ ‘When unto dying eyes

The casement slowly grows a glimmering square,’ ”

he pronounced unsurpassed by any image expressed in writing.” For Mr. Thompson, whom he inspired with an affection similar to that with which he inspired all with whom he had personal dealings, he wrote a quantity of his sparkling and vivid “Marginalia,” as well as reviews of “Stella” (Mrs. Lewis), and of Mrs. Osgood. To his probity and general worth Mr. Thompson, who undoubtedly saw more of him in his latter days than any person not a relative, bears affectionate testimony. Writing to Mr. James Wood Davidson, in 1853, he remarks: — “Two years ago, I had a long conversation in Florence with Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning concerning Poe. The two poets, like yourself, had formed an ardent and just admiration of the author of ‘The Raven,’ and feel a strong desire [page lxxxiv:] to see his memory vindicated from moral aspersion.” Unfortunately the vindication has been slower than the aspersion to make its way in the world.

The poet had not been long in Richmond on this occasion of his final visit before it was rumoured that he was engaged to the love of his youth, Mrs. Shelton, who was now a widow. He never alluded in any way to such an engagement to his friend Mr. Thompson, intimate as he was with him, but there would appear to have been some truth in the report, and on the news of Poe's death Mrs. Shelton went into mourning for him. On the 4th of October he left Richmond by train, with the intention, it is supposed, of going to Fordham to fetch Mrs. Clemm. Before his departure he complained to a friend of indisposition, of chilliness and exhaustion, but, notwithstanding, determined to undertake the journey. He left the train at Baltimore, and some hours later was discovered in the street insensible. How he had been taken ill no one really knows, and all the absurd reports circulated about his last moments were absolute inventions. He was dying when found, and being unknown, was taken at once to the Hospital, where he died on Sunday the 7th of October 1849, of inflammation of the brain, insensible, it is supposed, to the last. The following day he was buried in the burial-ground of Westminster Church, close by the grave of his grandfather, General David Poe. No stone marks the spot where he lies.

In telling the true story of this poet's life it is impossible to utterly ignore the fact — a fact of which his enemies have made so much — that towards the close of his melancholy career, sorrow and chronic pecuniary embarrassment drove him to the use of stimulants, as affording the only procurable nepenthé for his troubles. “A less delicate organisation than his,” remarks one of his acquaintances, [page lxxxv:] “might have borne without injury what to him was maddening.” “I have absolutely no pleasure in the stimulants in which I sometimes so madly indulge,” he wrote some months before his death to a dear friend who tried to hold forth a saving hope. “It has not been in the pursuit of pleasure that I have perilled life and reputation and reason. It has been in the desperate attempt to escape from torturing memories — memories of wrong and injustice and imputed dishonour — from a sense of insupportable loneliness and a dread of some strange impending doom.” There is no necessity for us to touch heavily upon this terrible trait in the character of Edgar Poe — this sad sickening infirmity of his “lonesome latter years:” his error, if such it may be styled — the impulse which blindly impelled him to his destruction — injured no one but himself; and certainly, no one before or since has suffered so severely in character in consequence of it. Burns, Goethe, Byron, and other children of genius have erred far worse than Poe ever did, inasmuch as their derelictions injured others, but with them the world has dealt leniently, accepting their genius as a compensation. But for poor Edgar Poe, who wronged no one but himself, the world, misled greatly it is true as to his real character, has hitherto had no mercy. But the true story of his life has now been told; henceforth let him be judged justly; henceforth let his few errors be forgotten, and to his name be assigned that place which is due to it in the glory-roll of fame.

The history of Edgar Allan Poe can scarcely be said to have ended with his life. Two days after his death a cruelly depreciatory notice of his life and works appeared in the New York Tribune, and this notice, which was signed “Ludwig,” after declaring that the poet's decease “will startle many, but few will be grieved by it,” as “he had few or no friends,” proceeds to furnish a sketch of [page lxxxvi:] Poe's life taken professedly from Griswold's “Poets and Poetry of America.” Thanks to N. P. Willis, it transpired that this notice was by Griswold himself — he was the pseudonymous “Ludwig.” The papers were immediately flooded with disproofs of this characterisation of Poe, and friend after friend came forward to defend the dead man against his assailant. Willis led the van with his well-known and already alluded to paper, in which he recorded his own personal knowledge of Edgar Poe, derived from five years’ intimate acquaintanceship. Mr. George R. Graham, the originator and proprietor of the well-known “Graham's Magazine,” next proceeded to denounce, in what Griswold styles “a sophomorical and trashy, but widely circulated letter,” the notice as “an immortal infamy,” and probably knowing better than any one else the position which his rival editors stood in with respect to one another, declared it to be the “fancy sketch of a perverted jaundiced vision.” John Neal also came forward to assert that it was “false and malicious,” and its author a “calumniator,” between whom and Poe existed “a long, intense, and implacable enmity,” that utterly disqualified Griswold for the post of the poet's biographer. Undaunted by the outcry he had created, Griswold proceeded to the manufacture of that masterpiece of envy, hatred, and malice, which, under the title of a “Memoir of Edgar Poe,” he attempted to foist upon the world as a truthful life of America's greatest and most original genius. Doubted, refuted, and condemned as it has been in America, where Griswold's own disreputable career was but too notorious to be ignored, the soi-disant “Memoir” still remains even there the only story of Poe's life, whilst in Europe it has been unwittingly and almost universally accepted as the truth. In France, indeed, it has been attacked by Baudelaire, who pointed out its author's evident animosity to Poe, and in [page lxxxvii:] England, Mr. Moy Thomas,* drew attention to the fact that portraitures of Poe, less repulsive than that given by Griswold, were in existence; as a rule, however, it has been received as a faithful story.

In the preceding “Memoir” an attempt has been made for the first time to do justice to the poet's memory. Many of the dark stains which Griswold cast upon it have been removed, and those which remain, resting as they do solely upon the testimony of an implacable enemy, and proved liar, may safety be ignored as, in the mild words of Mrs. Whitman, “perverted facts, and baseless assumptions.”

It does not come within the scope of our present purpose to investigate the peculiarities of Poe's genius, or to analyse the varied excellences of his works. There are, however, some misconceptions with regard to his literary labours which, founded as they almost invariably are upon Griswold's authority, we should like to draw attention to. Says this biographer, and the remark has been frequently copied, word for word, “Poe exhibits scarcely any virtue in either his life or his writings. Probably there is not another instance in the literature of our language in which so much has been accomplished without a recognition of a manifestation of CONSCIENCE.” As regards Poe's life, the world can now judge anew, whilst, as regards his writings, we demand in what works of fiction are more fully recognised and more vividly portrayed the unappeasable tortures and the immutable punishments of conscience, than in such tales as “The Man of the Crowd,” “The Tell-Tale Heart,” and “William Wilson” — the very personification of conscience itself? Can any but wilful blindness affect to ignore such terrible examples of a high and unavoidable retribution? Who, too, having read Poe's writings, can adopt Griswold's dictum that they “never display reverence or remorse.” [page lxxxviii:] No one ever expressed a greater “reverence” for all that is truly great and noble than did Poe, whilst, as for “remorse,” it has yet to be proved that that was needed in his case. With Griswold's mere opinion that Poe failed in everything he attempted we have nothing to do, nor does it concern us that he deemed him “not remarkably original in invention;” but when he proceeds to charge him with wholesale robbery, and avers that “some of his plagiarisms are scarcely paralleled for their audacity,” silence could not but be misconstrued. Of the instances which the biographer gives of the alleged literary thefts of him whom he styles “this extraordinary creature,” we have already examined and disproved the two chief, the “Conchology” and “The Haunted Palace” charges; and there only remains the accusation that “the complicate machinery upon which the interest depends” of “The Pit and the Pendulum,” is borrowed from a story entitled “Vivenzio,” which appeared in Blackwood's Magazine. This tale was published in August 1830, and it is to be wished that anyone placing the slightest reliance upon Griswold's credibility will compare the two; the only similarity being due to the fact that both stories derive from historical record the idea of a collapsing room. Mr. Mudford's tale of “The Iron Shroud” does not bear the slightest resemblance in plot or treatment to Poe's.

To support a general charge of inconsistency in Poe's criticisms, the implacable biographer adduces two instances; the first, referring to Mr. Laughton Osborn, has already been refuted in our account of Poe's connection with the Literary Messenger, and the second, relating to Mr. William A. Jones, it is quite as easy to disprove. In this latter instance, Griswold gives a short extract from a paper on “Critics and Criticism” (vide vol. iv.), in which Poe awards a few words of lukewarm praise to Mr. Jones, and [page lxxxix:] in opposition to this he then quotes a few garbled sentences from the Broadway Journal, in which the same writer is condemned in no very measured terms. The story is too long and too uninteresting for recapitulation, but those who are sufficiently curious to learn the whole truth can find it in full at pages 168 and 183 of the second volume of the above journal; it suffices to say that Poe's published opinion of Mr. Jones was consistently alike upon the two occasions referred to. But it is as unnecessary as it is distasteful to pursue this subject further; we have said enough to prove the unreliability of Griswold's “Memoir of Edgar Poe,” and in conclusion will content ourselves with reproducing Mr. Graham's interesting and oft referred to letter, as the valuable and unbiassed evidence of an unimpeachable witness — the employer of both Poe and Griswold. It appeared in Graham's Magazine for March 1850.

“MY DEAR WILLIS — In an article of yours, which accompanies the two beautiful volumes of the writings of Edgar Allan Poe, you have spoken with so much truth and delicacy of the deceased, and with the magical touch of genius have called so warmly up before me the memory of our lost friend, as you and I both seem to have known him, that I feel warranted in addressing to you the few plain words I have to say in defence of his character as set down by Mr. Griswold. Although the article, it seems, appeared originally in the New York Tribune, it met my eye for the first time in the volumes before me. I now purpose to take exception to it in the most public manner. I knew Mr. Poe well — far better than Mr. Griswold; and by the memory of old times, when he was an editor of “Graham,” I pronounce this exceedingly ill-timed and unappreciative estimate of the character of our lost friend unfair and untrue. It is Mr. Poe, as seen by the writer while labouring [page xc:] under a fit of the nightmare; but so dark a picture has no resemblance to the living man. Accompanying these beautiful volumes, it is an immortal infamy — the death's head over the entrance to the garden of beauty — a horror that clings to the brow of morning, whispering of murder. It haunts the memory through every page of his writings, leaving upon the heart a sensation of utter gloom, a feeling almost of terror. The only relief we feel, is in knowing that it is not true — that it is a fancy sketch of a perverted, jaundiced vision. The man who could deliberately say of Edgar Allan Poe, in a notice of his life and writings, prefacing the volumes which were to become a priceless souvenir to all who loved him — that his death might startle many, ‘but that few would be grieved by it’ — and blast the whole fame of the man by such a paragraph as follows, is a judge dishonoured. He is not Mr. Poe's Peer, and I challenge him before the country, even as a juror in the case.

“ ‘His harsh experience had deprived him of all faith in man or woman. He had made up his mind upon the numberless complexities of the social world, and the whole system with him was an imposture. This conviction gave a direction to his shrewd and naturally unamiable character. Still, though he regarded society as composed altogether of villains, the sharpness of his intellect was not of that kind which enabled him to cope with villany, while it continually caused him by overshots to fail of the success of honesty. He was in many respects like Francis Vivian in Bulwer's novel of ‘The Caxtons.’ Passion, in him, comprehended many of the worst emotions which militate against human happiness. You could not contradict him, but you raised quick choler; you could not speak of wealth, but his cheek paled his gnawing envy. The astonishing natural advantages of this poor boy — his beauty, his readiness, the daring spirit that breathed around him like a fiery atmosphere — had raised his constitutional self-confidence into an arrogance that turned his very claims to admiration into prejudices against him. Irascible, enviousbad enough, but not the worst, for these salient angles were all varnished over with a cold repellent [page xci:] cynicism, his passions vented themselves in sneers. There seemed to him no moral susceptibility; and what was more remarkable in a proud nature, little or nothing of the true point of honour. He had, to a morbid excess, that desire to rise which is vulgarly called ambition, but no wish for the esteem or the love of his species; only the hard wish to succeed — not shine, nor serve — succeed, that he might have the right to despise a world which galled his self-conceit.’

“Now, this is dastardly, and what is worse, it is false. It is very adroitly done, with phrases very well turned, and with gleams of truth shining out from a setting so dusky as to look devilish. Mr. Griswold does not feel the worth of the man he has undervalued — he had no sympathies in common with him, and has allowed old prejudices and old enmities to steal, insensibly perhaps, into the colouring of his picture. They were for years totally uncongenial, if not enemies, and during that period Mr. Poe, in a scathing lecture upon ‘The Poets of America,’ gave Mr. Griswold some raps over the knuckles of force sufficient to be remembered. He had, too, in the exercise of his functions as critic, put to death summarily, the literary reputation of some of Mr. Griswold's best friends; and their ghosts cried in vain for him to avenge them during Poe's lifetime — and it almost seems as if the present hacking at the cold remains of him who struck them down, is a sort of compensation for duty long delayed — far reprisal long desired but deferred But without this — the opportunities afforded Mr. Griswold to estimate the character of Poe occurred, in the main, after his stability had been wrecked, his whole nature in a degree changed, and with all his prejudices aroused and active. Nor do I consider Mr. Griswold competent — with all the opportunities he may have cultivated or acquired — to act as his judge — to dissect that subtle and singularly fine intellect — to probe the motives and weigh the actions of that proud heart. His whole nature — that [page xcii:] distinctive presence of the departed which now stands impalpable, yet in strong outline before me, as I knew him and felt him to be — eludes the rude grasp of a mind so warped and uncongenial as Mr. Griswold's.

“But it may be said, my dear Willis, that Mr. Poe himself deputed him to act as his literary executor, and that he must have felt some confidence in his ability at least — if not in his integrity — to perform the functions imposed with discretion and honour. I do not purpose, now, to enter into any examination of the appointment of Mr. Griswold — nor of the wisdom of his appointment — to the solemn trust of handing the fair fame of the deceased unimpaired to that posterity to which the dying poet bequeathed his legacy — but simply to question its faithful performance. Among the true friends of Poe in this city — and he had some such here — there are those I am sure that he did not class among villains; nor do they feel easy when they see their old friend dressed out, in his grave, in the habiliments of a scoundrel. There is something to them in this mode of procedure on the part of the literary executor, that does not chime in with their notions of ‘the true point of honour.’ They had all of them looked upon our departed friend as singularly indifferent to wealth for its own sake, but as very positive in his opinions that the scale of social merit was not of the highest — that MIND, somehow, was apt to be left out of the estimate altogether — and partaking somewhat of his free way of thinking, his friends are startled to find they have entertained very unamiable convictions. As to his ‘quick choler’ when he was contradicted, it depended a good deal upon the party denying, as well as upon the subject discussed. He was quick, it is true, to perceive mere quacks in literature, and somewhat apt to be hasty when pestered with them; but upon most other questions his natural amiability was not [page xciii:] easily disturbed. Upon a subject that he understood thoroughly, he felt some right to be positive, if not arrogant, when addressing pretenders. His ‘astonishing natural advantages’ had been very assiduously cultivated — his ‘daring spirit’ was the anointed of genius — his self-confidence the proud conviction of both — and it was with something of a lofty scorn that he attacked, as well as repelled, a crammed scholar of the hour, who attempted to palm upon him his ill-digested learning. Literature with him was religion; and he, its high-priest, with a whip of scorpions scourged the money-changers from the temple. In all else he had the docility and kind-heartedness of a child. No man was more quickly touched by a kindness — none more prompt to atone for an injury. For three or four years I knew him intimately, and for eighteen months saw him almost daily; much of the time writing or conversing at the same desk; knowing all his hopes, his fears, and little annoyances of life, as well as his high-hearted struggle with adverse fate — yet he was always the same polished gentleman — the quiet, unobtrusive, thoughtful scholar — the devoted husband — frugal in his personal expenses — punctual and unwearied in his industry — and the soul of honour, in all his transactions. This, of course, was in his better days, and by them we judge the man. But even after his habits had changed, there was no literary man to whom I would more readily advance money for labour to be done. He kept his accounts, small as they were, with the accuracy of a banker. I append an account sent to me in his own hand long after he had left Philadelphia, and after all knowledge of the transactions it recited had escaped my memory. I had returned him the story of ‘The Gold Bug,’ at his own request, as he found that be could dispose of it very advantageously elsewhere. [page xciv:]

“ ‘We were square when I sold you the ‘Versification’ article; for which you gave me first $25, and afterward $7 — in all ·    ·    ·    ·    ·    ·    ·    ·    ·    $32 00

Then you bought ‘The Gold Bug’ for ·    ·    ·    ·    ·    ·    ·    ·    52 00


I got both these back, so that I owed ·    ·    ·    ·    ·    ·    ·    $84 00

You lent Mrs. Clemm ·    ·    ·    ·    ·    ·    ·    ·    ·    ·    12 50


Making in all ·    ·    ·    ·    ·    ·    ·    ·    ·    ·    ·    ·    $96 50

The Review of ‘Flaccus’ was 3¾ pp, which, at $4, is 15 00  

Lowell's poem is 10 00  

The review of Channing, 4 pp is $16, of which I got $6, leaving 10 00  

The review of Halleck, 4 pp. is $16, of which I got $10, leaving 6 00  

The review of Reynolds, 2 pp. 8.00  

The review of Longfellow, 5 pp. is $20, of which I got $10, leaving 10 00  


So that I have paid in all 59 00 


Which leaves still due by me $37 50[[”]]

“This I find was his uniform habit with others as well as myself — carefully recalling to mind his indebtedness, with the fresh article sent. And this is the man who had ‘no moral susceptibility,’ and little or nothing of the ‘true point of honour.’ It may be a very plain business view of the question, but it strikes his friends that it may pass as something as times go.

“I shall never forget how solicitous of the happiness of his wife and mother-in-law he was, whilst one of the editor's of Graham's Magazine — his whole efforts seemed to be to procure the comfort and welfare of his home. Except for their happiness — and the natural ambition of having a magazine of his own — I never heard him deplore the want of wealth. The truth is, he cared little for money, and knew less of its value, for he seemed to have no personal [page xcv:] expenses. What he received from me in regular monthly instalments went directly into the hands of his mother-in-law for family comforts — and twice only I remember his purchasing some rather expensive luxuries for his house, and then he was nervous to the degree of misery until he had, by extra articles, covered what he considered an imprudent indebtedness. His love for his wife was a sort of rapturous worship of the spirit of beauty which he felt was fading before his eyes. I have seen him hovering around her when she was ill, with all the fond fear and tender anxiety of a mother for her first-born — her slightest cough causing in him a shudder, a heart-chill that was visible. I rode out one summer evening with them, and the remembrance of his watchful eyes eargerly bent upon the slightest change of hue in that loved face, haunts me yet as the memory of a sad strain. It was this hourly anticipation of her loss, that made him a sad and thoughtful man, and lent a mournful melody to his undying song.

“It is true that later in life Poe had much of those morbid feelings which a life of poverty and disappointment is so apt to engender in the heart of man — the sense of having been ill-used, misunderstood, and put aside by men of far less ability, and of none, which preys upon the heart and clouds the brain of many a child of song: A consciousness of the inequalities of life, and of the abundant power of mere wealth allied even to vulgarity, to override all distinctions, and to thrust itself bedaubed with dirt and glittering with tinsel into the high places of society, and the chief seats of the synagogue; whilst he, a worshipper of the beautiful and true, who listened to the voices of angels, and held delighted companionship with them as the cold throng swept disdainfully by him, was often in danger of being thrust out homeless, homeless, beggared upon the world, with all his fine feelings strung to a [page xcvi:] tension of agony when he thought of his beautiful and delicate wife dying hourly before his eyes. What wonder that he then poured out the vials of a long-treasured bitterness upon the injustice and hollowness of all society around him

“The very natural question — ‘Why did he not work and thrive?’ is easily answered. It will not be asked by the many who know the precarious tenure by which literary men hold a mere living in this country. The avenues through which they can profitably reach the country are few, and crowded with aspirants for bread as well as fame. The unfortunate tendency to cheapen every literary work to the lowest point of beggarly flimsiness in price and profit, prevents even the well-disposed from extending anything like an adequate support to even a part of the great throng which genius, talent, education, and even misfortune, force into the struggle. The character of Poe's mind was of such an order as not to be very widely in demand. The class of educated mind which he could readily and profitably address was small — the channels through which he could do so at all were few — and publishers all, or nearly all, contented with such pens as were already engaged, hesitated to incur the expense of his to an extent which would sufficiently remunerate him; hence, when he was fairly at sea, connected permanently with no publication, he suffered all the horrors of prospective destitution, with scarcely the ability of providing for immediate necessities; and at such moments, alas! the tempter often came, and as you have truly said, ‘one glass’ of wine made him a madman. Let the moralist who stands upon ‘tufted carpet,’ and surveys his smoking board, the fruits of his individual toil or mercantile adventure, pause before he lets the anathema, trembling upon his lips, fall upon a man like Poe! who, wandering from publisher to publisher, [page xcvii:] with his fine print-like manuscript, scrupulously clean and neatly rolled, finds no market for his brain — with despair at heart, misery ahead for himself and his loved ones, and gaunt famine dogging at his heels, thus sinks by the wayside, before the demon that watches his steps and whispers OBLIVION. Of all the miseries which God, or his own vices, inflict upon man, none are so terrible as that of having the strong and willing arm struck down to a childlike inefficiency, while the Heart and Will have the purpose and force of a giant's out-doing. We must remember, too, that the very organisation of such a mind as that of Poe — the very tension and tone of his exquisitely strung nerves — the passionate yearnings of his soul for the beautiful and true utterly unfitted him for the rude jostlings and fierce competitorship of trade. The only drafts of his that could be honoured were those upon his brain. The unpeopled air — the caverns of ocean — the decay and mystery that hang around old castles — the thunder of wind through the forest aisles — the spirits that rode the blast, by all but him unseen — and the deep metaphysical creations which floated through the chambers of his soul were his only wealth, the High Change where only his signature was valid for rubies.

“Could he have stepped down and chronicled small beer, made himself the shifting toady of the hour, and with bow and cringe hung upon the steps of greatness, sounding the glory of third-rate ability with a penny trumpet, he would have been fêted alive, and perhaps been praised when dead. But no! his views of the duties of the critic were stern, and he felt that in praising an unworthy writer he committed dishonour. His pen was regulated by the highest sense of DUTY. By a keen analysis he separated and studied each piece which the skilful mechanist had put together. No part, however insignificant or apparently unimportant, escaped the rigid and patient scrutiny of his sagacious [page xcviii:] mind. The unfitted joint proved the bungler — the slightest blemish was a palpable fraud. He was the scrutinising lapidary, who detected and exposed the most minute flaw in diamonds. The gem of first water shone the brighter for the truthful setting of his calm praise. He had the finest touch of soul for beauty — a delicate and hearty appreciation of worth. If his praise appeared tardy, it was of priceless value when given. It was true as well as sincere. It was the stroke of honour that at once knighted the receiver. It was in the world of MIND that he was king; and with a fierce audacity he felt and proclaimed himself autocrat. As critic he was Despotic, Supreme. Yet no man with more readiness would soften a harsh expression at the request of a friend, or if he himself felt that he had infused too great a degree of bitterness into his article, none would more readily soften it down after it was in type — though still maintaining the justness of his critical views. I do not believe that he wrote to give pain; but in combating what he conceived to be error, he used the strongest word that presented itself, even in conversation. He laboured not so much to reform, as to exterminate error, and thought the shortest process was to pull it up by the roots.

“He was a worshipper of INTELLECT — longing to grasp the power of mind that moves the stars — to bathe his soul in the dreams of seraphs. He was himself all ethereal, of a fine essence, that moved in an atmosphere of spirits — of spiritual beauty overflowing and radiant — twin brother with the angels, feeling their flashing wings upon his heart, and almost clasping them in his embrace. Of them, and as an expectant archangel of that high order of intellect, stepping out of himself as it were, and interpreting the time he revelled in delicious luxury in a world beyond, [page xcix:] with an audacity which we fear in madmen, but in genius worship as the inspiration of heaven.

“But my object in throwing together a few thoughts upon the character of Edgar Allan Poe was not to attempt an elaborate criticism, but to say what might palliate grave faults that have been attributed to him, and to meet by facts unjust accusation — in a word, to give a mere outline of the man as he lived before me. I think I am warranted in saying to Mr. Griswold that he must review his decision. It will not stand the calm scrutiny of his own judgment, or of time, while it must be regarded by all the friends of Mr. Poe as an ill judged and misplaced calumny upon that gifted Son of Genius, — Yours truly,


Philadelphia, Feb. 2, 1850.

“To N. P. WILLIS, Esq.”


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

*  Edgar Poe and his Critics, pp. 77, 78, and 79.

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

*   The elegy concludes thus: —

“To falsest Friends he ever true did prove,

His life he sacrific’d to friendship's Love.”

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

*  Mrs. Helen Stannard was the name of this lady.

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

*  Commencing, “Helen, thy beauty is to me.”

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

*  Hatch and Dunning: Baltimore, 1829, 81 pp.

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

*  E. Bliss, New York, 1831, 124 pp. 12mo.

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

*  The Dunn-English libel. (See ante p. lx.) — Ed.

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

*  The Train Magazine, No. 16, vol. iii, pp. 193, etc.



Ingram's memoir of Poe is riddled with errors, but it did correct some of the falsely negative impression of Poe created by Griswold, and Ingram's intentions were at least more meritorious than where Griswold's. Among Ingram's more common problems is his tendency to conflate Poe's fictional writings with Poe's own life. For example, the statements quoted on page xiv, in which it would appear that Poe is speaking about himself, are actually from Poe's tale “William Wilson.” In stating conclusively that Poe did not write the review of Laughton Osborn's Confessions of a Poet, Ingram was aware only of Poe's letter to Osborn, in which he denied having written the review, and unaware of a earlier letter from Poe to T. W. White that clearly confirms his authorship.

In the second edition of this set (noted on the title page as revised), Ingram corrected the place and month of Poe's birth from Baltimore and February to Boston and January. In the original edition, a note of corrections for the month and place of Poe's birth as it was given the memoir appears at the end of the preface for volume four. (These corrections are reflected in the text above in double square brackets.)


[S:1 - JHI, 1874] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - A Poe Bookshelf - Memoir of Poe (J. H. Ingram, 1874)