Text: Edgar Allan Poe to Washington Irving — October 12, 1839 (LTR-083a)


Octo. 12. 1839.  

Dear Sir

I duly received your kind letter, and entirely acquiesce in what you say — that it would be improper to force an opportunity of speaking of a detached Tale. I should be grieved, however, if you have supposed that I could make such [a] demand; my request you have fully promised to grant, in saying that you will bear me in mind, and “take the first unforced opportunity” of expressing your opinion”. [[trailing quotation marks are extraneous]]

I take the liberty of sending you the Octo: No: of the Gents’ Magazine, containing the Tale “William Wilson”. This is the tale of which I spoke in my former letter, and which is based upon a brief article of your own in the first “Gift” — that for 1836. Your article is called “An Unwritten Drama of Lord Byron”. I have hoped that, having thus a right of ownership in my “William Wilson”, you will be induced to read it — and I also hope that, reading it, you will find in it something to approe [approve]. This brings me to another request, which I hardly know how to urge, and for urging which I am greatly afraid you will think me importunate. I trust, however, you will make allowance for the circumstances in which I am placed, for the difficulties I have to overcome, and for the anxiety which I feel.

Mess: Lea & Blanchard are about publishing a collection of my Tales, in 2 vols, to be issued early next month. As these Tales, in their course of original publication from time to time, have received many high praises from gentlemen whose opinions are of weight; and as these encomiums have already been published in the papers of the day, (being comprised in notices of the Southern Lit: Messenger and other Magazines) Mess. L & B. think there would be nothing objectionable in their reprinting them, in the ordinary form of an advertisement appended to the various books which they may issue before mine. I do not speak altogether of editorial opinions, but of the personal opinions of some of our principal literary men, which have found their way into the papers. Among others, I may mention Mr Paulding, Mr Kennedy & Mr Willis. Now, if, to the very high encomiums which have been lavished upon some of my tales by these & others, I could be permitted to add even a word or two from yourself, in relation to the tale of “William Wilson” (which I consider my best effort) my fortune would be made. I do not say this unadvisedly — for I am deliberately convinced that your good opinion, thus permitted to be expressed, would ensure me that public attention which would carry me on to fortune hereafter, by ensuring me fame at once.

I feel, however, that I am, in regard to yourself an utter stranger — and that I have no claim whatever upon your good offices. Yet I could not feel that I had done all which could be justly done, towards ensuring success, until I had made this request of you. I have a strong hope that you will be inclined to grant it, for you will reflect that what will be an act of little moment in respect to yourself — will be life itself to me.

My request now, therefore, is that, if you approve of “William Wilson”, you will express so much in your own terms in a letter to myself and permit Mess L & B. to publish it, as I mentioned.

Submitting all to your kindness I am

With highest respect
Edgar A Poe

Washington Irving Esqr



This letter is printed here with permission from a private collection.


[S:0 - MS, 18xx] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Works - Letters - Poe to W. Irving (LTR083a/RCL209a)