Text: Edgar Allan Poe to Thomas W. White — April 30, 1835 (LTR-042)



I noticed the allusion in the Doom. The writer seems to compare my swim with that of Lord Byron, whereas there can be no comparison between them. Any swimmer “in the falls” in my days, would have swum the Hellespont, and thought nothing of the matter. I swam from Ludlam’s wharf to Warwick, (six miles,) in a hot June sun, against one of the strongest tides ever known in the river. It would have been a feat comparatively easy to swim twenty miles in still water. I would not think much of attempting to swim the British Channel from Dover to Calais [[....]] to what you said concerning [[page is torn, missing text]]

A word or two in relation to Berenice. Your opinion of it is very just. The subject is by far too horrible, and I confess that I hesitated in sending it you especially as a specimen of my capabilities. The Tale originated in a bet that I could produce nothing effective on a subject so singular, provided I treated it seriously. But what I wish to say relates to the character of your Magazine more than to any articles I may offer, and I beg you to believe that I have no intention of giving you advice, being fully confident that, upon consideration, you will agree with me. The history of all Magazines shows plainly that those which have attained celebrity were indebted for it to articles similar in nature — to Berenice — although, I grant you, far superior in style and execution. I say similar in nature. You ask me in what does this nature consist? In the ludicrous heightened into the grotesque: the fearful coloured into the horrible: the witty exaggerated into the burlesque: the singular wrought out into the strange and mystical. You may say all this is bad taste. I have my doubts about it. Nobody is more aware than I am that simplicity is the cant of the day — but take my word for it no one cares any thing about simplicity in their hearts. Believe me also, in spite of what people say to the contrary, that there is nothing easier in the world than to be extremely simple. But whether the articles of which I speak are, or are not in bad taste is little to the purpose. To be appreciated you must be read, and these things are invariably sought after with avidity. They are, if you will take notice, the articles which find their way into other periodicals, and into the papers, and in this manner, taking hold upon the public mind they augment the reputation of the source where they originated. Such articles are the “M.S. found in a Madhouse” and the “Monos and Daimonos” of the London New Monthly — the “Confessions of an Opium-Eater” and the “Man in the Bell” of Blackwood. The two first were written by no less a man than Bulwer — the Confessions were universally attributed to Coleridge — although unjustly. Thus the first men in Europe have not thought writings of this nature unworthy of their talents, and I have good reason to believe that some very high names valued themselves principally upon this species of literature. To be sure originality is an essential in these things — great attention must be paid to style, and much labour spent in their composition, or they will degenerate into the tugid or the absurd. If I am not mistaken you will find Mr Kennedy, whose writings you admire, and whose Swallow-Barn is unrivalled for purity of style and thought of my opinion in this matter. It is unnecessary for you to pay much attention to the many who will no doubt favour you with their critiques. In respect to Berenice individually I allow that it approaches the very verge of bad taste — but I will not sin quite so egregiously again. I propose to furnish you every month with a Tale of the nature which I have alluded to. The effect — if any — will be estimated better by the circulation of the Magazine than by any comments upon its contents. This much, however, it is necessary to premise, that no two of these Tales will have the slightest resemblance one to the other either in matter or manner — still however preserving the character which I speak of.

Mrs Butler’s book will be out on the 1st. A life of Cicero is in press by Jno Stricker of this city — also a life of Franklin by Jared Sparks, Boston. — also Willis’ Poems, and a novel by Dr Bird.

Yours sincerely
Edgar A Poe



In an e-mail dated December 9, 2019, Chris Semtner, of the Poe Foundation in Richmond, alerted the Poe Society to the fact that the three words that were now visibile to Ostrom can now be read clearly, the manuscript having been cleaned at some point. The present text includes these words, correcting the text as it has appeared in the various editions of The Letters.


[S:0 - MS, 18xx] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Works - Letters - Poe to T. W. White (LTR042/RCL080)