Text: Edgar Allan Poe, “Autography [part II]” (txt-1), Southern Literary Messenger , August 1836, 2:601-604


[page 601:]


Our friend, Joseph A. B. C. D. &c. Miller, has called upon us again, in a great passion. He says we quizzed him in our last article — which we deny positively. He maintains, moreover, that the greater part of our observations on mental qualities, as deduced from the character of a MS., are not to be sustained. The man is in error. However, to gratify him, we have suffered [column 2:] him, in the present instance, to play the critic himself. He has brought us another batch of autographs, and will let us have them upon no other terms To say the truth, we are rather glad of his proposal than otherwise. We shall look over his shoulder, however, occasionally. Here follow the letters.


Dear Sir, — Will you oblige me by not writing me any more silly letters? I really have no time to attend to them.

Your most obedient servant,

Jared Sparks
[[Jared Sparks (1789-1866)]]

Joseph A. Miller, Esq.

Mr. Sparks’ MS. has an odd appearance. The characters are large, round, black, irregular and perpendicular. The lines are close together, and the whole letter wears at first sight an air of confusion — of chaos. Still it is not very illegible upon close inspection, and would by no means puzzle a regular bred devil. We [column 2:] can form no guess in regard to any mental peculiarities from this MS. From its tout-ensemble, however, we might imagine it written by a man who was very busy among a great pile of books and papers huddled up in confusion around him. Paper blueish and fine — sealed, with the initials J. S.


My Dear Sir, — It gives me great pleasure to receive a letter from you. Let me see, I think I have seen you once or twice in ——— where was it? However, your remarks upon “Melanie and other Poems’’ prove you to be a man of sound discrimination, and I shall be happy to hear from you as often as possible.

Yours truly,

[[Nathaniel Parker Willis (1806-1867)]]

Joseph B. Miller, Esq.

Mr. Willis writes a very good hand. What was said about the MS. of Halleck, in the February number, will apply very nearly to this. It has the same grace, with more of the picturesque, however, and, consequently, more force. These qualities will be found in [column 2:] his writings — which are greatly underrated. Mem. Mr. Messenger should do him justice. [Mem. by Mr. Messenger. I have.] Cream colored paper — green and gold seal — with the initials N. P. W.


Dear Sir, — I have to inform you that “the pretty little poem’’ to which you allude in your letter is not, as you suppose, of my composition. The author is unknown to me. The poem is very pretty.

Yours, &c.

H. F. Gould
[[Hannah Flagg Gould (1789-1865)]]

Joseph C. Miller.

The writing of Miss Gould resembles that of Miss Leslie very nearly. It is rather more petite — but has the same neatness, picturesqueness and finish without over-effeminacy. The literary style of one who writes [column 2:] thus is sure to be forcibly epigrammatic — either in detached sentences — or in the tout ensemble of the composition. Paper very fine — wafered.

[page 602:]


Dear Sir, — Herewith I have the honor of sending you what you desire. If the Essay shall be found to give you any new information, I shall not regret the trouble of having written it.


T. R. Dew
[[Thomas Roderick Dew (1802-1846)]]

Joseph D. Miller, Esq.

The MS. of Professor Dew is large, bold, very heavy, abrupt, and illegible. It is possible that he never thinks of mending a pen. There can be no doubt that his chirography has been modified, like that of Paulding, by strong adventitious circumstances — for it appears to retain but few of his literary peculiarities. Among the few retained, are boldness and weight. The abruptness we do not find in his composition — which is indeed [column 2:] somewhat diffuse. Neither is the illegibility of the MS. to be paralleled by any confusion of thought or expression. He is remarkably lucid. We must look for the two last mentioned qualities of his MS. in the supposition that he has been in the habit of writing a great deal, in a desperate hurry, and with a stump of a pen. Paper good — but only a half sheet of it — wafered.


Dear Sir, — In reply to your query touching the “authenticity of a singular incident,’’ related in one of my poems, I have to inform you that the incident in question is purely a fiction.

With respect, your obedient servant,

G. Mellen
[[Grenville Mellen (1799-1841)]]

Joseph F. Miller, Esq.

The hand-writing of Mr. Mellen is somewhat peculiar, and partakes largely of the character of the signature annexed. It would require no great stretch of fancy to imagine the writer (from what we see of his MS.) a man of excessive sensibility, amounting nearly to disease — of unbounded ambition, greatly interfered with [column 2:] by frequent moods of doubt and depression, and by unsettled ideas of the beautiful. The formation of the G in his signature alone, might warrant us in supposing his composition to have great force, frequently impaired by an undue straining after effect. Paper excellent — red seal.


Dear Sir, — I have not the pleasure of your acquaintance, but thank you for the great interest you seem to take in my welfare. I have no relations by the name of Miller, and think you must be in error about the family connection.


W. Gilmore Simms
[[William Gilmore Simms (1806-1870)]]

Joseph G. H. Miller, Esq.

The MS. of Mr. Simms resembles, very nearly, that of Mr. Kennedy. It has more slope, however, and less of the picturesque — although still much. We spoke of Mr. K.'s MS. (in our February number) as indicating “the eye of a painter.” In our critique on the Partisan [column 2:] we spoke of Mr. Simms also as possessing “the eye of a painter,” and we had not then seen his hand-writing. The two MSS. are strikingly similar. The paper here is very fine and wafered. [page 603:]


Dear Sir, — I have received your favor of the —— inst. and shall be very happy in doing you the little service you mention. In a few days I will write you more fully. Very respectfully,

Your most obedient servant,

Alexander Slidell
[[Lieutenant Alexander Slidell (1802-1848)]]

Joseph I. K. Miller, Esq.

Lieutenant Slidell's MS. is peculiar — very neat, very even, and tolerably legible, but somewhat too diminutive. Black lines have been, apparently, used. Few tokens of literary manner or character are to be found in this writing. The petiteness, however, is most strikingly indicative of a mental habit, which we have more [column 2:] than once pointedly noticed in the works of this author — we mean that of close observation in detail — a habit which, when well regulated, as in the case of Lieut. Slidell, tends greatly to vigor of style. Paper excellent — wafered.


Dear Sir, — I find upon reference to some MS. notes now lying by me, that the article to which you have allusion, appeared originally in the “Journal des Scavans.”

Very respectfully,

Chas. Anthon
[[Professor Charles Anthon (1797-1867)]]

Joseph L. M. Miller, Esq.

The writing of Professor Anthon is remarkably neat and beautiful — in the formation of particular letters as well as in the tout-ensemble. The perfect regularity of the MS. gives it, to a casual glance, the appearance of print. The lines are quite straight and at even distances — yet they are evidently written without any artificial aid. We may at once recognise in this chirography [column 2:] the scrupulous precision and finish — the love of elegance — together with the scorn of all superfluous embellishment, which so greatly distinguish the compilations of the writer. The paper is yellow, very fine, and sealed with green wax, bearing the impression of a head of Cæsar.


Dear Sir, — I have looked with great care over several different editions of Plato, among which I may mention the Bipont edition, 1781— 8, 12 vols. oct.; that of Ast, and that of Bekker, reprinted in London, 11 vols. oct. I cannot, however, discover the passage about which you ask me — “is it not very ridiculous?’’ You must have mistaken the author. Please write again. Respectfully yours,

Francis Lieber
[[Francis Lieber (1800-1872)]]

Joseph N. O. Miller, Esq.

The MS. of Professor Lieber has nearly all the characteristics which we noticed in that of Professor Dew — besides the peculiarity of a wide margin left at the top of the paper. The whole air of the writing seems to indicate vivacity and energy of thought — but altogether, [column 2:] the letter puts us at fault — for we have never before known a man of minute erudition (and such is Professor Lieber,) who did not write a very different hand from this. We should have imagined a petite and careful chirography. Paper tolerable and wafered.


Dear Sir, — I beg leave to assure you that I have never received, for my Magazine, any copy of verses with so ludicrous a title as “The nine and twenty Magpies.’’ Moreover, if I had, I should certainly have thrown it into the fire. I wish you would not worry me any farther about this matter. The verses, I dare say, are somewhere among your papers. You had better look them up — they may do for the Mirror.

Sarah J. Hale
[[Sarah Josepha Hale (1788-1879)]]

Mr. Joseph P. Q. Miller

Mrs. Hale writes a larger and bolder hand than her sex generally. It resembles, in a great degree, that of Professor Lieber — and is not easily decyphered. The [column 2:] whole MS. is indicative of a masculine understanding. Paper very good, and wafered. [page 604:]


Dear Sir, — I am not to be quizzed. You suppose, eh? that I can’t understand your fine letter all about “things in general.’’ You want my autograph, you dog — and you sha'nt have it.

Yours respectfully,

M. Noah
[[Mordecai Manuel Noah (1785-1851)]]

Joseph R. S. Miller, Esq.

Mr. Noah writes a very good running hand. The lines, however, are not straight, and the letters have too much tapering to please the eye of an artist. The long letters and capitals extend very little beyond the others — either up or down. The epistle has the appearance [column 2:] of being written very fast. Some of the characters have now and then a little twirl, like the tail of a pig — which gives the MS. an air of the quizzical, and devil-me-care. Paper pretty good — and wafered.


Mister — I say — It's not worth while trying to come possum over the Major. Your letter's no go. I’m up to a thing or two — or else my name isn’t

Jack Downing
[[Jack Downing, pseudonym]]

Mr. Joseph T. V. Miller

The Major writes a very excellent hand indeed. It has so striking a resemblance to that of Mr. Brooks, [column 2:] that we shall say nothing farther about it.


Dear Sir, — I am exceedingly and excessively sorry that it is out of my power to comply with your rational and reasonable request. The subject you mention is one with which I am utterly unacquainted — moreover, it is one about which I know very little. Respectfully,

W. L. Stone
[[William Lete Stone (1792-1844)]]

Joseph W. X. Miller, Esq.

Mr. Stone's MS. has some very good points about it — among which is a certain degree of the picturesque. In general it is heavy and sprawling — the short letters running too much together. From the chirography no [column 2:] precise opinion can be had of Mr. Stone's literary style. [Mr. Messenger says no opinion can be had of it in any way.] Paper very good and wafered.


My Good Fellow, — I am not disposed to find fault with your having addressed me, although personally unknown. Your favor (of the —— ultimo) finds me upon the eve of directing my course towards the renowned shores of Italia. I shall land (primitively) on the territories of the ancient Brutii, of whom you may find an account in Lempriére. You will observe (therefore) that, being engrossed by the consequent, necessary, and important preparations for my departure, I can have no time to attend to your little concerns.

Believe me, my dear sir, very faithfully your

Theo. S. Fay
[[Theodore Sedgwick Fay (1807-1898)]]

Joseph Y. Z. Miller, Esq.

Mr. Fay writes a passable hand. There is a good deal of spirit — and some force. His paper has a clean appearance, and he is scrupulously attentive to the margin. The MS. however, has an air of swagger about it. There are too many dashes — and the tails [column 2:] of the long letters are too long. [Mr. Messenger thinks I am right — that Mr. F. shouldn’t try to cut a dash — and that all his tales are too long. The swagger he says is respectable, and indicates a superfluity of thought.]



[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 601:]

*  See Messenger for February last.




Jack Downing was a pseudonym of Seba Smith, although Poe meant James Brooks (1810-1873), who borrowed the name and character in some of his own writings.



[S:0 - SLM, 1836] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Works - Misc - Autography (part 02)]