Edgar Allan Poe.

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Produced by David Widger and Carlo Traverso



The Raven Edition



Edgar Allan Poe, An Appreciation
Life of Poe, by James Russell Lowell
Death of Poe, by N. P. Willis
The Unparalleled Adventures of One Hans Pfall
The Gold Bug
Four Beasts in One
The Murders in the Rue Morgue
The Mystery of Marie Rogêt
The Balloon Hoax
MS. Found in a Bottle
The Oval Portrait



Caught from some unhappy master whom unmerciful Disaster
Followed fast and followed faster till his songs one burden bore -
Till the dirges of his Hope that melancholy burden bore
Of "never - never more!"

THIS stanza from "The Raven" was recommended by James Russell Lowell as
an inscription upon the Baltimore monument which marks the resting place
of Edgar Allan Poe, the most interesting and original figure in American
letters. And, to signify that peculiar musical quality of Poe's genius
which inthralls every reader, Mr. Lowell suggested this additional
verse, from the "Haunted Palace":

And all with pearl and ruby glowing
Was the fair palace door,
Through which came flowing, flowing, flowing,
And sparkling ever more,
A troop of Echoes, whose sweet duty
Was but to sing,
In voices of surpassing beauty,
The wit and wisdom of their king.

Born in poverty at Boston, January 19 1809, dying under painful
circumstances at Baltimore, October 7, 1849, his whole literary career
of scarcely fifteen years a pitiful struggle for mere subsistence, his
memory malignantly misrepresented by his earliest biographer, Griswold,
how completely has truth at last routed falsehood and how magnificently
has Poe come into his own, For "The Raven," first published in 1845,
and, within a few months, read, recited and parodied wherever the
English language was spoken, the half-starved poet received $10! Less
than a year later his brother poet, N. P. Willis, issued this touching
appeal to the admirers of genius on behalf of the neglected author, his
dying wife and her devoted mother, then living under very straitened
circumstances in a little cottage at Fordham, N. Y.:

"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 suspension of labor, 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, till, with returning health, he would resume his labors, and his
unmortified sense of independence."

And this was the tribute paid by the American public to the master who
had given to it such tales of conjuring charm, of witchery and mystery
as "The Fall of the House of Usher" and "Ligeia"; such fascinating
hoaxes as "The Unparalleled Adventure of Hans Pfaall," "MSS. Found in a
Bottle," "A Descent Into a Maelstrom" and "The Balloon Hoax"; such tales
of conscience as "William Wilson," "The Black Cat" and "The Tell-tale
Heart," wherein the retributions of remorse are portrayed with an awful
fidelity; such tales of natural beauty as "The Island of the Fay" and
"The Domain of Arnheim"; such marvellous studies in ratiocination as the
"Gold-bug," "The Murders in the Rue Morgue," "The Purloined Letter"
and "The Mystery of Marie Roget," the latter, a recital of fact,
demonstrating the author's wonderful capability of correctly analyzing
the mysteries of the human mind; such tales of illusion and banter
as "The Premature Burial" and "The System of Dr. Tarr and Professor
Fether"; such bits of extravaganza as "The Devil in the Belfry" and "The
Angel of the Odd"; such tales of adventure as "The Narrative of Arthur
Gordon Pym"; such papers of keen criticism and review as won for Poe the
enthusiastic admiration of Charles Dickens, although they made him many
enemies among the over-puffed minor American writers so mercilessly
exposed by him; such poems of beauty and melody as "The Bells," "The
Haunted Palace," "Tamerlane," "The City in the Sea" and "The Raven."
What delight for the jaded senses of the reader is this enchanted domain
of wonder-pieces! What an atmosphere of beauty, music, color! What
resources of imagination, construction, analysis and absolute art! One
might almost sympathize with Sarah Helen Whitman, who, confessing to
a half faith in the old superstition of the significance of anagrams,
found, in the transposed letters of Edgar Poe's name, the words "a
God-peer." His mind, she says, was indeed a "Haunted Palace," echoing to
the footfalls of angels and demons.

"No man," Poe himself wrote, "has recorded, no man has dared to record,
the wonders of his inner life."

In these twentieth century days - of lavish recognition - artistic,
popular and material - of genius, what rewards might not a Poe claim!

Edgar's father, a son of General David Poe, the American revolutionary
patriot and friend of Lafayette, had married Mrs. Hopkins, an English
actress, and, the match meeting with parental disapproval, had himself
taken to the stage as a profession. Notwithstanding Mrs. Poe's beauty
and talent the young couple had a sorry struggle for existence. When
Edgar, at the age of two years, was orphaned, the family was in the
utmost destitution. Apparently the future poet was to be cast upon the
world homeless and friendless. But fate decreed that a few glimmers of
sunshine were to illumine his life, for the little fellow was adopted
by John Allan, a wealthy merchant of Richmond, Va. A brother and sister,
the remaining children, were cared for by others.

In his new home Edgar found all the luxury and advantages money could
provide. He was petted, spoiled and shown off to strangers. In Mrs.
Allan he found all the affection a childless wife could bestow. Mr.
Allan took much pride in the captivating, precocious lad. At the age of
five the boy recited, with fine effect, passages of English poetry to
the visitors at the Allan house.

From his eighth to his thirteenth year he attended the Manor House
school, at Stoke-Newington, a suburb of London. It was the Rev. Dr.
Bransby, head of the school, whom Poe so quaintly portrayed in "William
Wilson." Returning to Richmond in 1820 Edgar was sent to the school
of Professor Joseph H. Clarke. He proved an apt pupil. Years afterward
Professor Clarke thus wrote:

"While the other boys wrote mere mechanical verses, Poe wrote genuine
poetry; the boy was a born poet. As a scholar he was ambitious to
excel. He was remarkable for self-respect, without haughtiness. He had
a sensitive and tender heart and would do anything for a friend. His
nature was entirely free from selfishness."

At the age of seventeen Poe entered the University of Virginia at
Charlottesville. He left that institution after one session. Official
records prove that he was not expelled. On the contrary, he gained
a creditable record as a student, although it is admitted that he
contracted debts and had "an ungovernable passion for card-playing."
These debts may have led to his quarrel with Mr. Allan which eventually
compelled him to make his own way in the world.

Early in 1827 Poe made his first literary venture. He induced Calvin
Thomas, a poor and youthful printer, to publish a small volume of his
verses under the title "Tamerlane and Other Poems." In 1829 we find Poe
in Baltimore with another manuscript volume of verses, which was soon
published. Its title was "Al Aaraaf, Tamerlane and Other Poems." Neither
of these ventures seems to have attracted much attention.

Soon after Mrs. Allan's death, which occurred in 1829, Poe, through
the aid of Mr. Allan, secured admission to the United States Military
Academy at West Point. Any glamour which may have attached to cadet life
in Poe's eyes was speedily lost, for discipline at West Point was never
so severe nor were the accommodations ever so poor. Poe's bent was
more and more toward literature. Life at the academy daily became
increasingly distasteful. Soon he began to purposely neglect his studies
and to disregard his duties, his aim being to secure his dismissal from
the United States service. In this he succeeded. On March 7, 1831, Poe
found himself free. Mr. Allan's second marriage had thrown the lad on
his own resources. His literary career was to begin.

Poe's first genuine victory was won in 1833, when he was the successful
competitor for a prize of $100 offered by a Baltimore periodical for the
best prose story. "A MSS. Found in a Bottle" was the winning tale. Poe
had submitted six stories in a volume. "Our only difficulty," says Mr.
Latrobe, one of the judges, "was in selecting from the rich contents of
the volume."

During the fifteen years of his literary life Poe was connected with
various newspapers and magazines in Richmond, Philadelphia and New York.
He was faithful, punctual, industrious, thorough. N. P. Willis, who for
some time employed Poe as critic and sub-editor on the "Evening Mirror,"
wrote thus:

"With the highest admiration for Poe's genius, and a willingness to
let it alone for more than ordinary irregularity, we were led by
common report to expect a very capricious attention to his duties, and
occasionally a scene of violence and difficulty. Time went on,
however, and he was invariably punctual and industrious. We saw but
one presentiment of the man-a quiet, patient, industrious and most
gentlemanly person.

"We heard, from one who knew him well (what should be stated in all
mention of his lamentable irregularities), that with a single glass of
wine his whole nature was reversed, the demon became uppermost, and,
though none of the usual signs of intoxication were visible, his will
was palpably insane. In this reversed character, we repeat, it was never
our chance to meet him."

On September 22, 1835, Poe married his cousin, Virginia Clemm, in
Baltimore. She had barely turned thirteen years, Poe himself was but
twenty-six. He then was a resident of Richmond and a regular contributor
to the "Southern Literary Messenger." It was not until a year later that
the bride and her widowed mother followed him thither.

Poe's devotion to his child-wife was one of the most beautiful features
of his life. Many of his famous poetic productions were inspired by her
beauty and charm. Consumption had marked her for its victim, and the
constant efforts of husband and mother were to secure for her all the
comfort and happiness their slender means permitted. Virginia died
January 30, 1847, when but twenty-five years of age. A friend of the
family pictures the death-bed scene - mother and husband trying to impart
warmth to her by chafing her hands and her feet, while her pet cat was
suffered to nestle upon her bosom for the sake of added warmth.

These verses from "Annabel Lee," written by Poe in 1849, the last year
of his life, tell of his sorrow at the loss of his child-wife:

I was a child and _she_ was a child,
In a kingdom by the sea;

But we loved with _a _love that was more than love -
I and my Annabel Lee;

With a love that the winged seraphs of heaven
Coveted her and me.
And this was the reason that, long ago;
In this kingdom by the sea.
A wind blew out of a cloud, chilling
My beautiful Annabel Lee;

So that her high-born kinsmen came
And bore her away from me,
To shut her up in a sepulchre
In this kingdom by the sea,

Poe was connected at various times and in various capacities with the
"Southern Literary Messenger" in Richmond, Va.; "Graham's Magazine" and
the "Gentleman's Magazine" in Philadelphia.; the "Evening Mirror," the
"Broadway journal," and "Godey's Lady's Book" in New York. Everywhere
Poe's life was one of unremitting toil. No tales and poems were ever
produced at a greater cost of brain and spirit.

Poe's initial salary with the "Southern Literary Messenger," to which
he contributed the first drafts of a number of his best-known tales,
was $10 a week! Two years later his salary was but $600 a year. Even in
1844, when his literary reputation was established securely, he wrote to
a friend expressing his pleasure because a magazine to which he was to
contribute had agreed to pay him $20 monthly for two pages of criticism.

Those were discouraging times in American literature, but Poe never
lost faith. He was finally to triumph wherever pre-eminent talents win
admirers. His genius has had no better description than in this stanza
from William Winter's poem, read at the dedication exercises of the
Actors' Monument to Poe, May 4, 1885, in New York:

He was the voice of beauty and of woe,
Passion and mystery and the dread unknown;
Pure as the mountains of perpetual snow,
Cold as the icy winds that round them moan,
Dark as the eaves wherein earth's thunders groan,
Wild as the tempests of the upper sky,
Sweet as the faint, far-off celestial tone of angel
whispers, fluttering from on high,
And tender as love's tear when youth and beauty die.

In the two and a half score years that have elapsed since Poe's death
he has come fully into his own. For a while Griswold's malignant
misrepresentations colored the public estimate of Poe as man and as
writer. But, thanks to J. H. Ingram, W. F. Gill, Eugene Didier, Sarah
Helen Whitman and others these scandals have been dispelled and Poe is
seen as he actually was-not as a man without failings, it is true, but
as the finest and most original genius in American letters. As the
years go on his fame increases. His works have been translated into
many foreign languages. His is a household name in France and England-in
fact, the latter nation has often uttered the reproach that Poe's own
country has been slow to appreciate him. But that reproach, if it ever
was warranted, certainly is untrue.

W. H. R.


By James Russell Lowell

THE situation of American literature is anomalous. It has no centre, or,
if it have, it is like that of the sphere of Hermes. It is, divided
into many systems, each revolving round its several suns, and often
presenting to the rest only the faint glimmer of a milk-and-water way.
Our capital city, unlike London or Paris, is not a great central heart
from which life and vigor radiate to the extremities, but resembles more
an isolated umbilicus stuck down as near as may be to the centre of the
land, and seeming rather to tell a legend of former usefulness than to
serve any present need. Boston, New York, Philadelphia, each has its
literature almost more distinct than those of the different dialects
of Germany; and the Young Queen of the West has also one of her own,
of which some articulate rumor barely has reached us dwellers by the

Perhaps there is no task more difficult than the just criticism of
contemporary literature. It is even more grateful to give praise where
it is needed than where it is deserved, and friendship so often seduces
the iron stylus of justice into a vague flourish, that she writes what
seems rather like an epitaph than a criticism. Yet if praise be given
as an alms, we could not drop so poisonous a one into any man's hat. The
critic's ink may suffer equally from too large an infusion of nutgalls
or of sugar. But it is easier to be generous than to be just, and we
might readily put faith in that fabulous direction to the hiding place
of truth, did we judge from the amount of water which we usually find
mixed with it.

Remarkable experiences are usually confined to the inner life of
imaginative men, but Mr. Poe's biography displays a vicissitude and
peculiarity of interest such as is rarely met with. The offspring of a
romantic marriage, and left an orphan at an early age, he was adopted
by Mr. Allan, a wealthy Virginian, whose barren marriage-bed seemed the
warranty of a large estate to the young poet.

Having received a classical education in England, he returned home and
entered the University of Virginia, where, after an extravagant course,
followed by reformation at the last extremity, he was graduated with
the highest honors of his class. Then came a boyish attempt to join the
fortunes of the insurgent Greeks, which ended at St. Petersburg, where
he got into difficulties through want of a passport, from which he
was rescued by the American consul and sent home. He now entered the
military academy at West Point, from which he obtained a dismissal
on hearing of the birth of a son to his adopted father, by a second
marriage, an event which cut off his expectations as an heir. The death
of Mr. Allan, in whose will his name was not mentioned, soon after
relieved him of all doubt in this regard, and he committed himself at
once to authorship for a support. Previously to this, however, he had
published (in 1827) a small volume of poems, which soon ran through
three editions, and excited high expectations of its author's future
distinction in the minds of many competent judges.

That no certain augury can be drawn from a poet's earliest lispings
there are instances enough to prove. Shakespeare's first poems, though
brimful of vigor and youth and picturesqueness, give but a very faint
promise of the directness, condensation and overflowing moral of his
maturer works. Perhaps, however, Shakespeare is hardly a case in
point, his "Venus and Adonis" having been published, we believe, in his
twenty-sixth year. Milton's Latin verses show tenderness, a fine eye for
nature, and a delicate appreciation of classic models, but give no hint
of the author of a new style in poetry. Pope's youthful pieces have
all the sing-song, wholly unrelieved by the glittering malignity
and eloquent irreligion of his later productions. Collins' callow
namby-pamby died and gave no sign of the vigorous and original genius
which he afterward displayed. We have never thought that the world lost
more in the "marvellous boy," Chatterton, than a very ingenious imitator
of obscure and antiquated dulness. Where he becomes original (as it is
called), the interest of ingenuity ceases and he becomes stupid. Kirke
White's promises were indorsed by the respectable name of Mr. Southey,
but surely with no authority from Apollo. They have the merit of a
traditional piety, which to our mind, if uttered at all, had been less
objectionable in the retired closet of a diary, and in the sober raiment
of prose. They do not clutch hold of the memory with the drowning
pertinacity of Watts; neither have they the interest of his occasional
simple, lucky beauty. Burns having fortunately been rescued by his
humble station from the contaminating society of the "Best models,"
wrote well and naturally from the first. Had he been unfortunate enough
to have had an educated taste, we should have had a series of poems from
which, as from his letters, we could sift here and there a kernel from
the mass of chaff. Coleridge's youthful efforts give no promise whatever
of that poetical genius which produced at once the wildest, tenderest,
most original and most purely imaginative poems of modern times. Byron's
"Hours of Idleness" would never find a reader except from an intrepid
and indefatigable curiosity. In Wordsworth's first preludings there
is but a dim foreboding of the creator of an era. From Southey's early
poems, a safer augury might have been drawn. They show the patient
investigator, the close student of history, and the unwearied explorer
of the beauties of predecessors, but they give no assurances of a man
who should add aught to stock of household words, or to the rarer
and more sacred delights of the fireside or the arbor. The earliest
specimens of Shelley's poetic mind already, also, give tokens of that
ethereal sublimation in which the spirit seems to soar above the regions
of words, but leaves its body, the verse, to be entombed, without hope
of resurrection, in a mass of them. Cowley is generally instanced as a
wonder of precocity. But his early insipidities show only a capacity
for rhyming and for the metrical arrangement of certain conventional
combinations of words, a capacity wholly dependent on a delicate
physical organization, and an unhappy memory. An early poem is only
remarkable when it displays an effort of _reason, _and the rudest verses
in which we can trace some conception of the ends of poetry, are worth
all the miracles of smooth juvenile versification. A school-boy, one
would say, might acquire the regular see-saw of Pope merely by an
association with the motion of the play-ground tilt.

Mr. Poe's early productions show that he could see through the verse to
the spirit beneath, and that he already had a feeling that all the life
and grace of the one must depend on and be modulated by the will of the
other. We call them the most remarkable boyish poems that we have
ever read. We know of none that can compare with them for maturity of
purpose, and a nice understanding of the effects of language and metre.
Such pieces are only valuable when they display what we can only express
by the contradictory phrase of _innate experience. _We copy one of the
shorter poems, written when the author was only fourteen. There is a
little dimness in the filling up, but the grace and symmetry of the
outline are such as few poets ever attain. There is a smack of ambrosia
about it.


Helen, thy beauty is to me
Like those Nicean barks of yore,
That gently, o'er a perfumed sea,
The weary, way-worn wanderer bore
To his own native shore.

On desperate seas long wont to roam,
Thy hyacinth hair, thy classic face,
Thy Naiad airs have brought me home
To the glory that was Greece
And the grandeur that was Rome.

Lo! in yon brilliant window-niche
How statue-like I see thee stand!
The agate lamp within thy hand,
Ah! Psyche, from the regions which
Are Holy Land!

It is the tendency of the young poet that impresses us. Here is no
"withering scorn," no heart "blighted" ere it has safely got into its
teens, none of the drawing-room sansculottism which Byron had brought
into vogue. All is limpid and serene, with a pleasant dash of the Greek
Helicon in it. The melody of the whole, too, is remarkable. It is not of
that kind which can be demonstrated arithmetically upon the tips of
the fingers. It is of that finer sort which the inner ear alone
_can _estimate. It seems simple, like a Greek column, because of its
perfection. In a poem named "Ligeia," under which title he intended
to personify the music of nature, our boy-poet gives us the following
exquisite picture:

Ligeia! Ligeia!
My beautiful one,
Whose harshest idea
Will to melody run,
Say, is it thy will,
On the breezes to toss,
Or, capriciously still,
Like the lone albatross,
Incumbent on night,
As she on the air,
To keep watch with delight
On the harmony there?

John Neal, himself a man of genius, and whose lyre has been too long
capriciously silent, appreciated the high merit of these and similar
passages, and drew a proud horoscope for their author.

Mr. Poe had that indescribable something which men have agreed to call
_genius_. No man could ever tell us precisely what it is, and yet there
is none who is not inevitably aware of its presence and its power. Let
talent writhe and contort itself as it may, it has no such magnetism.
Larger of bone and sinew it may be, but the wings are wanting. Talent
sticks fast to earth, and its most perfect works have still one foot of
clay. Genius claims kindred with the very workings of Nature herself, so
that a sunset shall seem like a quotation from Dante, and if Shakespeare
be read in the very presence of the sea itself, his verses shall but
seem nobler for the sublime criticism of ocean. Talent may make friends
for itself, but only genius can give to its creations the divine power
of winning love and veneration. Enthusiasm cannot cling to what itself
is unenthusiastic, nor will he ever have disciples who has not himself
impulsive zeal enough to be a disciple. Great wits are allied to madness
only inasmuch as they are possessed and carried away by their demon,
While talent keeps him, as Paracelsus did, securely prisoned in the
pommel of his sword. To the eye of genius, the veil of the spiritual
world is ever rent asunder that it may perceive the ministers of good

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