Edgar Allan Poe.

The complete works of Edgar Allan Poe (Volume 8) online

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established the strength & JwijimMiftm Nor is this
result to be accounted to* &> *** reference to the old
saw, that first impression* a** tfee strongest. Grati
tude, surprise, and a opeclea of hyper-patriotic triumph
have been blended, and finally confounded with ad
miration or appreciation in regard to the pioneers of
American literature, among whom there is not one
whose productions have not been grossly overrated by


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his countrymen. Hitherto we have been in no mood
to view with calmness and discuss with discrimination
the real claims of the few who were first in convincing
the mother country that her sons were not all brainless,
as at one period she half affected and wholly wished to
believe. Is there any one so blind as not to see that
Mr. Cooper, for example, owes much, and Mr. Pauld-
ing nearly all, of his reputation as a novelist to his
early occupation of the field ? Is there any one so dull
as not to know that fictions which neither of these
gentlemen could have written are written daily by
native authors, without attracting much more of com
mendation than can be included in a newspaper para
graph? And, again, is there any one so prejudiced as
not to acknowledge that all this happens because there
is no longer either reason or wit in the query, " Who
reads an American book ? "

I mean to say, of course, that Mr. Halleck, in the
apparent public estimate, maintains a somewhat better
position than that to which, on absolute grounds, he is
entitled. There is something, too, in the bonhomie of
certain of his compositions, something altogether dis
tinct from poetic merit, which has aided to establish
him; and much, also, must be admitted on the score
of his personal popularity, which is deservedly great.
With all these allowances, however, there will still be
found a large amount of poetical fame to which he is
fairly entitled.

VOL. vin. 24. ^69

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He has written very little, although he began at an
early age, when quite a boy, indeed. His " juvenile "
works, however, have been kept very judiciously from
the public eye. Attention was first called to him by
his satires, signed " Croaker " and " Croaker & Co.,"
published in the New York Evening Post, in 1819. Of
these the pieces with the signature " Croaker & Co."
were the joint work of Halleck and his friend Drake.
The political and personal features of these jeuxd'esprlt
gave them a consequence and a notoriety to which
they are entitled on no other account. They are not
without a species of drollery, but are loosely and no
doubt carelessly written.

Neither was Fanny, which closely followed the
Croakers, constructed with any great deliberation. " It
was printed," say the ordinary memoirs, " within
three weeks from its commencement ; " but the truth
is, that a couple of days would have been an ample
allowance of time for any such composition. If we
except a certain gentlemanly ease and insouciance,
with some fancy of illustration, there is really very
little about this poem to be admired. There has been
no positive avowal of its authorship, although there
can be no doubt of its having been written by Halleck.
He, I presume, does not esteem it very highly. It is a
mere extravaganza, in close imitation of Don Juan, a
vehicle for squibs at contemporary persons and things.

Our poet, indeed, seems to have been much im-

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pressed by Don Juan, and attempts to engraft its far
cicalities even upon the grace and delicacy of Alnwick
Castle, as, for example, in

Men in the coal and cattle line,
From Teviot's bard and hero land,
From royal Berwick's beach of sand,
From Wooler, Morpeth, Hexham, and


These things may lay claim to oddity, but no more.
They are totally out of keeping with the tone of the
sweet poem into which they are thus clumsily intro
duced, and serve no other purpose than to deprive it
of all unity of effect. If a poet must be farcical, let
him be just that ; he can be nothing better at the same
moment. To be drolly sentimental, or even senti
mentally droll, is intolerable to men and gods and

Alnwick Castle is distinguished, in general, by that
air of quiet grace, both in thought and expression,
which is the prevailing feature of the Muse of Halleck.
Its second stanza is a good specimen of this manner.
The commencement of the fourth belongs to a very
high order of poetry.

Wild roses by the Abbey towers

Are gay in their young bud and bloom

They were born of a race of funeral flowers

That garlanded, in long-gone hours,
A Templar's knightly tomb.

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This is gloriously imaginative, and the effect is sin
gularly increased by the sudden transition from iam
buses to anapaests. The passage is, I think, the noblest
to be found in Halleck, and I would be at a loss to
discover its parallel in all American poetry.

Marco Bozzarls has much lyrical, without any great
amount of ideal, beauty. Force is its prevailing fea
ture, force resulting rather from well-ordered metre,
vigorous rhythm, and a judicious disposal of the cir
cumstances of the poem, than from any of the true
lyric material. I should do my conscience great
wrong were I to speak of Marco Bozzarls as it is the
fashion to speak of it, at least in print. Even as a
lyric or ode it is surpassed by many American and a
multitude of foreign compositions of a similar char

Barns has numerous passages exemplifying its au
thor's felicity of expression ; as, for instance,

Such graves as his are pilgrim shrines,
Shrines to no code or creed confined

The Delphian vales, the Palcstines,
The Meccas of the mind,

And, again:

There have been loftier themes than his,
And longer scrolls, and louder lyres,

And lays lit up with Poesy's
Purer and holier fires.


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But to the sentiment involved in this last quatrain I
feel disposed to yield an assent more thorough than
might be expected. Burns, indeed, was the puppet of
circumstance. As a poet, no person on the face of the
earth has been more extravagantly, more absurdly

The Poet's Daughter is one of the most character
istic works of Halleck, abounding in his most distinct
ive traits grace, expression, repose, insouciance. The
vulgarity of

I 'm busy in the cotton trade
And sugar line,

has, I rejoice to see, been omitted in the late editions.
The eleventh stanza is certainly not English as it
stands, and, besides, is quite unintelligible. What is
the meaning of this ?

But her who asks, though first among
The good, the beautiful, the young,
The birthright of a spell more strong
Than these have brought her.

The Lines on the Death of Joseph Rodman Drake is,
as a whole, one of the best poems of its author. Its
simplicity and delicacy of sentiment will recommend it
to all readers. It is, however, carelessly written, and
the first quatrain,


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Green be the turf above thee,

Friend of my better days;
None knew thee but to love thee,

Nor named thee but to praise,

although beautiful, bears too close a resemblance to
the still more beautiful lines of Wordsworth :

She dwelt among the untrodden ways

Beside the springs of Dove,
A maid whom there were none to praise.

And very few to love.

In versification Mr. Halleck is much as usual, al
though in this regard Mr. Bryant has paid him numer
ous compliments. Marco Bozzaris has certainly some
vigor of rhythm, but its author, in short, writes care
lessly, loosely, and, as a matter of course, seldom
effectively, so far as the outworks of literature are

Of late days he has nearly given up the Muses, and
we recognize his existence as a poet chiefly by occa
sional translations from the Spanish or German.

Personally, he is a man to be admired, respected,
but more especially beloved. His address has all the
captivating bonhomie which is the leading feature of
his poetry, and, indeed, of his whole moral nature.
With his friends he is all ardor, enthusiasm, and
cordiality, but to the world at large he is reserved,
shunning society, into which he is seduced only with


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difficulty, and upon rare occasions. The love of
solitude seems to have become with him a passion.

He is a good modern linguist, and an excellent belles-
lettres scholar; in general, has read a great deal, al
though very discursively. He is what the world calls
ultra in most of his opinions, more particularly about
literature and politics, and is fond of broaching and
supporting paradoxes. He converses fluently with
animation and zeal ; is choice and accurate in his lan
guage, exceedingly quick at repartee, and apt at anec
dote. His manners are courteous, with dignity and a
little tincture of Gallicism. His age is about fifty. In
height he is probably five feet seven. He has been
stout, but may now be called well-proportioned. His
forehead is a noble one, broad, massive, and intel
lectual, a little bald about the temples ; eyes dark and
brilliant, but not large; nose Grecian; chin promi
nent; mouth finely chiselled and full of expression,
although the lips are thin; his smile is peculiarly

In Graham's Magazine for September, 1843, there
appeared an engraving of Mr. Halleck from a painting
by Inman. The likeness conveys a good general idea
of the man, but is far too stout and youthful-looking
for his appearance at present.

His usual pursuits have been commercial, but he is
now the principal superintendent of the business of
Mr. John Jacob Astor. He is unmarried.


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Mrs. Stephens has made no collection of her works,
but has written much for the magazines, and well.
Her compositions have been brief tales with occa
sional poems. She made her first " sensation " in
obtaining a premium of four hundred dollars, offered
for " the best prose story " by some one of our jour
nals, her Mary Der wen t proving the successful article.
The amount of the prize, however, a much larger one
than it has been the custom to offer, had more to do
with the eclat of the success than had the positive
merit of the tale, although this is very considerable.
She has subsequently written several better things;
Malina Gray f for example, Alice Copley, and The Two
Dukes, These are on serious subjects. In comic ones
she has comparatively failed. She is fond of the bold,
striking, trenchant, in a word, of the melodramatic;
has a quick appreciation of the picturesque, and is not
unskilful in delineations of character. She seizes
adroitly on salient incidents and presents them with
vividness to the eye, but in their combinations or
adaptations she is by no means so thoroughly at home ;
that is to say, her plots are not so good as are their in
dividual items. Her style is what the critics usually
term " powerful," but lacks real power through its
verboseness and floridity. It is, in fact, generally tur
gid, even bombastic, involved, needlessly parenthetical,


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and superabundant in epithets, although these latter
are frequently well chosen. Her sentences are also,
for the most part, too long ; we forget their commence
ments ere we get at their terminations. Her faults,
nevertheless, both in matter and manner, belong to the
effervescence of high talent, if not exactly of genius.

Of Mrs. Stephens's poetry I have seen so very little
that I feel myself scarcely in condition to speak of it.

She began her literary life, I believe, by editing The
Portland Magazine/ and has since been announced as
editress of The Ladies' Companion, a monthly journal
published some years ago in New York, and also, at a
later period, of Graham's Magazine/ and subse
quently, again, of Peterson's National Magazine,
These announcements were announcements, and no
more; the lady had nothing to do with the editorial
control of any of the three last-named works.

The portrait of Mrs. Stephens, which appeared in
Graham's Magazine for November, 1844, cannot fairly
be considered a likeness at all. She is tall, and slightly
inclined to embonpoint an English figure. Her fore
head is somewhat low, but broad ; the features gener
ally massive, but full of life and intellectuality. The
eyes are blue and brilliant ; the hair blonde and very


Mr. Duyckinck is one of the most influential of the


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New York litterateurs t and has done a great deal for
the interest of American letters. Not the least im
portant service rendered by him was the projection
and editorship of Wiley & Putnam's " Library of
Choice Reading," a series which brought to public
notice many valuable foreign works which had been
suffering under neglect in this country, and at the
same time afforded unwonted encouragement to na
tive authors by publishing their books, in good style
and in good company, without trouble or risk to the
authors themselves, and in the very teeth of the dis
advantages arising from the want of an international
copyright law. At one period it seemed that this
happy scheme was to be overwhelmed by the com
petition of rival publishers, taken, in fact, quite out of
the hands of those who, by " right of discovery," were
entitled at least to its first-fruits. A great variety of
" Libraries," in imitation, were set on foot, but what
ever may have been the temporary success of any of
these latter, the original one had already too well es
tablished itself in the public favor to be overthrown,
and thus has not been prevented from proving of great
benefit to our literature at large.

Mr. Duyckinck has slyly acquired much fame and
numerous admirers under the nom deplume of " Felix
Merry." The various essays thus signed have at
tracted attention everywhere from the judicious. The
style is remarkable for its very unusual blending of


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purity and ease with a seemingly inconsistent origin
ality, force, and independence.

" Felix Merry," in connection with Mr. Cornelius
Mathews, was one of the editors and originators of
Arcturust decidedly the very best magazine in many
respects ever published in the United States. A large
number of its most interesting papers were the work
of Mr. D. The magazine was, upon the whole, a little
too good to enjoy extensive popularity; although I am
here using an equivocal phrase, for a better journal
might have been far more acceptable to the public. I
must be understood, then, as employing the epithet
" good " in the sense of the literary quietists. The
general taste of Arcturus was, I think, excessively
tasteful; but this character applies rather more to its
external or mechanical appearance than to its essen
tial qualities. Unhappily, magazines and other simi
lar publications are, in the beginning, judged chiefly
by externals. People saw Arcturus looking very much
like other works which had failed through notorious
dulness, although admitted as arbitri elegantiarum in
all points of what is termed taste or decorum; and
they, the people, had no patience to examine any fur
ther. Caesar's wife was required not only to be vir
tuous but to seem so, and in letters it is demanded not
only that we be not stupid, but that we do not array
ourselves in the habiliments of stupidity.

It cannot be said of Arcturus exactly that it wanted

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force. It was deficient in power of impression, and
this deficiency is to be attributed mainly to the
exceeding brevity of its articles, a brevity that degen
erated into mere paragraphism, precluding disserta
tion or argument, and thus all permanent effect. The
magazine, in fact, had some of the worst or most in
convenient features without any of the compensating
advantages of a weekly literary newspaper. The
mannerism to which I refer seemed to have its source
in undue admiration and consequent imitation of The

In addition to his more obvious literary engage
ments, Mr. Duyckinck writes a great deal, editorially
and otherwise, for The Democratic Review, The Morns
ing News, and other periodicals.

In character he is remarkable, distinguished for the
bonhomie of his manner, his simplicity and single-
mindedness, his active beneficence, his hatred of
wrong done even to any enemy, and especially for an
almost Quixotic fidelity to his friends. He seems in
perpetual good humor with all things, and I have no
doubt that in his secret heart he is an optimist.

In person he is equally simple as in character; the
one is a pendant of the other. He is about five feet
eight inches high, somewhat slender. The forehead,
phrenologically, is a good one; eyes and hair light;
the whole expression of the face that of serenity and
benevolence, contributing to give an idea of youthful-


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ness. He is probably thirty, but does not seem to be
twenty-five. His dress, also, is in full keeping with
his character, scrupulously neat, but plain, and con
veying an instantaneous conviction of the gentleman.
He is a descendant of one of the oldest and best Dutch
families in the state. Married.


Mrs. Mary Gove, under the pseudonym of " Mary
Orme," has written many excellent papers for the
magazines. Her subjects are usually tinctured with
the mysticism of the transcendentalists, but are truly
imaginative. Her style is quite remarkable for its
luminousness and precision, two qualities very rare
with her sex. An article entitled " The Gift of Pro
phecy," published originally in The Broadway Journal/
is a fine specimen of her manner.

Mrs. Gove, however, has acquired less notoriety by
her literary compositions than by her lectures on phy
siology to classes of females. These lectures are said
to have been instructive and useful; they certainly
elicited much attention. Mrs. G. has also given public
discourses on mesmerism, I believe, and other similar
themes matters which put to the severest test the
credulity, or, more properly, the faith of mankind.
She is, I think, a mesmerist, a Swedenborgian, a phre
nologist, a homreopathist, and a disciple of Priessnitz;
what more I am not prepared to say.


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She is rather below the medium height, somewhat
thin, with dark hair, and keen, intelligent black eyes.
She converses well and with enthusiasm. In many
respects a very interesting woman.


Mr. Aldrich has written much for the magazines,
etc., and at one time assisted Mr. Park Benjamin in
the conduct of The New World. He also originated,
I believe, and edited a not very long-lived or successful
weekly paper, called The Literary Gazette, an imitation
in its external appearance of the London journal of the
same name. I am not aware that he has made any
collection of his writings. His poems abound in the
true poetic spirit, but they are frequently chargeable
with plagiarism, or something much like it. True, I
have seen but three of Mr. Aldrich's compositions in
verse, the three (or perhaps there are four of them)
included by Dr. Griswold in his Poets and Poetry of
America, Of these three (or four), however, there
are two which I cannot help regarding as palpable
plagiarisms. Of one of them, in especial, A Death'
Bed, it is impossible to say a plausible word in
defence. Both in matter and manner it is nearly
identical with a little piece entitled The Death'Bed f
by Thomas Hood.

The charge of plagiarism, nevertheless, is a purely

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literary one ; and a plagiarism, even distinctly proved,
by no means necessarily involves any moral delin
quency. This proposition applies very especially to
what appear to be poetical thefts. The poetic senti
ment presupposes a keen appreciation of the beautiful
with a longing for its assimilation into the poetic
identity. What the poet intensely admires becomes
thus, in very fact, although only partially, a portion of
his own soul. Within this soul it has a secondary
origination ; and the poet, thus possessed by another's
thought, cannot be said to take of it possession. But
in either view he thoroughly feels it as his own ; and
the tendency to this feeling is counteracted only by the
sensible presence of the true, palpable origin of the
thought in the volume whence he has derived it, an
origin which, in the long lapse of years, it is impos
sible not to forget, should the thought itself, as it often
is, be forgotten. But the frailest association will re
generate it; it springs up with all the vigor of a new
birth; its absolute originality is not with the poet a
matter even of suspicion ; and when he has written it
and printed it, and on its account is charged with
plagiarism, there will be no one more entirely as
tounded than himself. Now, from what I have said,
it appears that the liability to accidents of this char
acter is in the direct ratio of the poetic sentiment, of
the susceptibility to the poetic impression; and, in
fact, all literary history demonstrates that, for the


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most frequent and palpable plagiarisms we must
search the works of the most eminent poets.

Since penning the above I have found five quatrains
by Mr. Aldrich, with the heading Molly Gray, These
verses are in the fullest exemplification of what I have
just said of their author, evincing at once, in the most
remarkable manner, both his merit as an imaginative
poet and his unconquerable proneness to imitation. I
quote the two concluding quatrains :

Pretty, fairy Molly Gray!

What may thy fit emblem be ?
Stream or star or bird or flower

They are all too poor for thee.

No type to match thy beauty

My wandering fancy brings
Not fairer than its chrysalis

Thy soul with its golden wings I

Here the " Pretty, fairy Molly Gray! " will put every
reader in mind of Tennyson's " Airy, fairy Lillian! "
by which Mr. Aldrich's whole poem has been clearly
suggested ; but the thought in the finale is, as far as I
know anything about it, original, and is not more
happy than happily expressed.

Mr. Aldrich is about thirty-six years of age. In re
gard to his person there is nothing to be especially


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Dr. Griswold introduces Mr. Cary to the appendix of
The Poets and Poetry as Mr. Henry Carey, and gives
him credit for an anacreontic song of much merit en
titled, or commencing, Old Wine to Drink, This was
not written by Mr. Cary. He has composed little verse,
if any, but, under the nom deplume of "John Waters,"
has acquired some note by a series of prose essays in
the New York American and The Knickerbocker,
These essays have merit, unquestionably, but some
person, in an article furnished the Broadway Journal,
before my assumption of its editorship, has gone to the
extreme of toadyism in their praise. This critic (pos
sibly Mr. Briggs) thinks that John Waters " is in some
sort a Sam Rogers " ; " resembles Lamb in fastidious
ness of taste " ; " has a finer artistic taste than the au
thor of the Sketch* Book " / that his "sentences are
the most perfect in the language too perfect to be
peculiar " ; that " it would be a vain task to hunt
through them all for a superfluous conjunction," and
that " we need them [the works of John Waters] as
models of style in these days of rhodomontades and

The truth seems to be that Mr. Cary is a vivacious,
fanciful, entertaining essayist, a fifth or sixth rate
one, with a style that, as times go, in view of such
stylists as Mr. Briggs, for example, may be termed

VOL. VIII. 2 S . 2 85

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respectable, and no more. What the critic of the B, J,
wishes us to understand by a style that is " too per
fect," " the most perfect," etc., it is scarcely worth
while to inquire, since it is generally supposed that
" perfect " admits of no degrees of comparison ; but
if Mr. Briggs (or whoever it is) finds it " a vain task to
hunt" through all Mr. John Waters's works " for a
superfluous conjunction," there are few schoolboys
who would not prove more successful hunters than
Mr. Briggs.

" It was well filled," says the essayist, on the very
page containing these encomiums, " and yet the num
ber of performers," etc. " We paid our visit to the
incomparable ruins of the castle, and then proceeded
to retrace our steps, and examine our wheels at every
post-house reached," etc. " After consultation with a
mechanic at Heidelberg, and finding that," etc. The
last sentence should read, " Finding, after consulta
tion," etc., the " and " would thus be avoided. Those
in the two sentences first quoted are obviously pleo
nastic. Mr. Gary, in fact, abounds very especially
in superfluities (as here, for example, " He seated

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