Edgar Allan Poe.

The Works of the Late Edgar Allan Poe: The literati online

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Hinisrvfr- -•- Library

Bowie C<M<}otioii

Gift of

ISrsi L Di Brandegeo


Ehtbeky according to Act of Congress, in the year I860, bj


in the Clark's Office of the District Court, for the Southern Diitiicl

of New York.

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Of Criticism — Pubuo aot) PiurAn, 21

Geoboe Bush, 24

Geoboe H. Colton, 26

,^. P. WiLUs, 27

William M. Gillespib, 84

Charles F. Brigos, K 85

William Eirkland, 8T

John W. Francis, 88

Anna Cora Mowatt, 40

George B. Cheever, 44

Charles Anthon, 45

Balph Hott, 4T

Gulian C. Verplanck, 49

Freeman Hunt, 50

PiERO Maroncelli, 52

Lauohton Osborn, r 63

"^Titz-Greene Halleck, 66

Ann S. Stephens, 62

- Evert A, Dutckinck, 63

Mart Gove (Nichols,) 66

KTames Aldrich, 66

Henry Caret, 68

Christopher Pease Cranch, 69

"• 8arah Margaret Fuller (d*Ossoli,) 72

Tames Lawson, 79

Caroline M Kireland, 80

Prosper M Wetmore, 88

Emma C. Embury, 84

Epes Sargent, 86

Frances Sargent Osgood, 87

"^YDiA M. Child, 99

Thomas Dunn Brown, 101

Elizabeth BoGART, ' 104


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Lewis Gatlo&d OhAsx, 107

Anmb 0. Lynch, Ill

«^ Ohaales Fenno Hoffhan, 112

Mart R Hewitt 116

BiCHABD A^A^ft Locke, 120

Elizabeth Oakes Smith, 128

J. G. 0. B&AINABD,. '. 138

RuFUs Dawes, 146

Thomas Waiii>— •" Flaoods,'* 167

William W. Loed, 167


"t^athaniel Hawthorne, 188

Elizabeth Frieze Ellett, 202

Amelia B. Welbt, 203

Bayard Taylor, 207

Henry B. Hirst, 209

Robert Walsh, 212

Seba Smith, 215

Margaret Miller and Lucretia Mar:a Davidson,. . . .- 219

5^i^iLLiAM Ellery Channino, *. 229

William Ross Wallace, 240

Estelle Anna Lewis, 242

Joel T. Headley, 249

George P. Morris, 263

^=*-Robert M Bird, 267

Cornelius Mathews, 262


«^ James Russell Lowell, 275

RuFus W. Griswold and the Poets, 283

J^Sfn. Longfellow and other Plaglarists, 292

-•tMr. Longfellow, Mr. Willis, and the American Drama, 384

-"HLoNOFELLow's Ballads, 368

J. Rodman Drake and Thomas Moore — Fancy and Imagination,.... 374
E. p. Whipple and other Critics, 382

**J. Fenimore Cooper, 389

Elizabeth Barrett Barrett, 401

R. H. HoRNE, 426

Thomas Babington Macaulay, 444

Charles Lever, , 447

^^RANCis Maryatt, 466

Henry Cockton, 460

^-Charles Dickens, 464*

Marginalia, 48^

FmT SueGEmom. ^^^

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[In 1846, Mr. Poe publiahed in The Lad\f% Book a series of six articles, ecti-
tled " The Literati of New-York City," in which he professed to gire
** some honest opinions at random respecting their autorial merits, with
occasional words of personalitj." The series was introduced hy the fol-
lowing paragraphs, and the personal sketches were given in the order in
which tiiej are here reprinted, from '* George Bush** to "^ Richard Adams
Locke." The other notices of American and foreign writers, were con-
tributed by Mr. Poe to yarious journals, chiefly in the last four or five
years of his life.]

In a criticism on Bryant I was at some pains in pointing out the
distinction between the popular "opinion" of the merits of cotempo-
rary authors, and that held and expressed of them in private literary
society. ♦ The former species of " opinion" can be called " opinion"
only by courtesy. It is the public's own, just as we consider a book
our own when we have bought it. In general, this opinion is adopt-
ed from the journals of the day, and I have endeavored to show that
the cases are rare indeed in which these journals express any other
sentiment about books than such as may be attributed directly or
indirectly to the authors of the books. The most " popular," the
most ** successful" writers among us, (for a brief period, at least,)
are, ninety-nine times out of a hundred, persons of mere address,
perseverance, effrontery — in a word, busy-bodies, toadies, quacks.
These people easily succeed in boring editors (whose attention is
too often entirely engrossed by politics or other " business" mat-
ter) into the admission of favorable notices written or caused to
be written by interested parties — or, at least, into the admission
of some notice where, under ordinary circumstances, no notice
would be given at all. In this way ephemeral " reputations" are

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manufactured, which, for the most part, serve all the purposes de-
signed — that is to say, the putting money into the purse of the
quack and the quack's publisher ; for there never was a quack
who could be brought to comprehend the value of mere fame.
Now, men of genius will not resort to these manoeuvres, because
genius involves in its very essence a scorn of chicanery ; and thus
for a time the quacks always get the advantage of them, both in
respect to pecuniary profit and what appears to be public esteem.

There is another point of view, too. Your literary quacks
court, in especial, the personal acquaintance of those " connected
with the press." Now these latter, even when penning a volun-
tary, that is to say, an uninstigated notice of the book of an ac-
quaintance, feel as if writing not so much for the eye of the public
as for the eye of the acquaintance, and the notice is fashioned
accordingly. The bad points of the work are slurred over, and
the good ones brought out into the best light, all this through a
feeling akin to that which makes it unpleasant to speak ill of one
to one's face. In the case of men of genius, editors, as a general
rule, have no such delicacy — for the simple reason that, as a gen-
eral rule, they have no acquaintance with these men of genius, a
class proverbial for shunning society.

But the very editors who hesitate at saying in print an ill word
of an author personally known, are usually the most frank in
speaking about him privately. In literary society, they seem bent
upon avenging the wrongs self-inflicted upon their own con-
sciences. Here, accordingly, the quack is treated as he deserves —
even a little more harshly than he deserves — by way of striking
a balance. True merit, on the same principle, is apt to be
slightly overrated ; but, upon the whole, there is a close approxi-
mation to absolute honesty of opinion; and this honesty is
farther secured by the mere trouble to which it puts one in
conversation to model one's countenance to a falsehood. We
place on paper without hesitation a tissue of flatteries, to which in
society we could not give utterance, for our lives, without either
blushing or laughing outright.

For these reasons there exists a very remarkable discrepancy
bet\^een the apparent public opinion of any given author's merits,
and the opinion which is expressed of him orally by those who

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are best qualified to judge. For exaipple, Mr. Hawthorne, the
author of " Twice-Told Tales," is scarcely recognised hj the press
or by the public, and when noticed at all, is noticed merely to be
damned by faint praise. Now, my own opinion of him is, that,
although his walk is limited, and he is fairly to be charged with
mannerism, treating all subjects in a similar tone of dreamy inu-
endo, yet in this walk he evinces extraordinary genius, havinfj no
rival either in America or elsewhere — and this opinion I have
never heard gainsaid by any one literary person in the country.
That this opinion, however, is a spoken and. not a written one, is
referable to the facts, first, that Mr. Hawthorne is a poor man,
and, second, that he is not an ubiquitous quack.

Again, of Mr. Longfellow, who, although a little quacky per w,
has, through his social and literary position as a man of property
and a professor at Harvard, a whole legion of active quacks at his
control — of him what is the apparent popular opinion? Of
course, that he is a poetical phenomenon, as entirely without fault,
as is the luxurious paper upon which his poems are invariably
borne to the public eye. In private society he is regarded with
one voice as a poet of far more than usual ability, a skilful artist
and a well-read man, but as less remarkable in either capacity
than as a determined imitator and a dexterous adapter of the ideas
of oth^r people. For years I have conversed with no literary
person who did not entertain precisely these ideas of Professor L. ;
and, in fact, on all literary topics, there is in society a seemingly
wonderful coincidence of opinion. The author accustomed to se-
clusion, and mingling for the first time with those who have been
associated with him only through their works, is astonished and
dehghted at finding common to all whom he meets, conclusions
which he had blindly fancied were attained by himself alone, and
in opposition to the judgment of mankind.

In the series of papers which I now propose, my design is, in
giving my own unbiased opinion of the literati (male and female)
of New York, to give at the same time very closely, if not with
absolute accuracy, that of conversational society in literary circles.
It must be expected, of course, that, in innumerable particulars, I
shall differ from the voice, that is to say, from what appears to

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be the voice of the public — but this is a matter of no consequence

New York literature may be taken as a fair representation of
that of the country at large. The city itself is the focus of Amer-
ican letters. Its authors include, perhaps, one-fourth of all-in
America, and the influence they exert on their brethren, if seem-
ingly silent, is not the less extensive and decisive. As I shall
have to speak of many individuals, my limits will not permit me
to speak of them otherwise than in brief; but this brevity will be
merely consistent with the design, which is that of simple opinion,
with little of either argument or detail. With one or two excep-
tions, I am well acquainted with every author to be introduced,
and I shall avail myself of the acquaintance to convey, generally,
some idea of the personal appearance of all who, in this regard,
would be likely to interest my readers. As any precise order or
arrangement seems unnecessary and may be inconvenient, I shall
maintain none. It will be understood that, without reference to
supposed merit or demerit, each individual is introduced absolutely
at random.


The Rev. George Bush is Professor of Hebrew in the Uni-
versity of New York,jand has long been distinguished for the ex-
tent and variety of his attainments in oriental literature ; indeed,
as an oriental linguist, it is probable that he has no equal among
us. He has published a great deal, and his books have always
the good fortune to attract attention throughout the civilized
world. His " Treatise on the Millenium" is, perhaps, that of his
earlier compositions by which he is most extensively as well as
most favorably known. Of late days he has created a singular
eommotion in the realm of theology, by his " Anastasis, or the
Doctrine of the Resurrection : in which it is shown that the Doc-
trine of the Resurrection of the Body is not sanctioned by Reason
or Revelation." This work has been zealously attacked, and as
zealously defended by the professor and his friends. There can
be no doubt that, up to this period, the Bushites have had the

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best of the battle. The " Anastasis" is lucidly, succinctly, vigor-
ously, and logically written, and proves, in my opinion, every-
thing that it attempts — provided we admit the imaginary axioms
from which it starts ; and this is as much as can be well said of
any theological disquisition under the sun. It might be hinted,
too, in reference as well to Professor Bush as to his opponent^
^que laplupart des sectes ont raison dans une bonne par tie de C4
qu'elles avancent, mais non pas en ce qu'elles nient^ A subse-
quent work on " The Soul,V by the author of " Anastasis," has
made nearly as much noise as the *' Anastasis'' itself.

Taylor, who wrote so ingeniously " The Natural History of En-
thusiasm," might have derived many a valuable hint from the
study of Professor Bush. "No man is more ardent in his theories ;
and these latter are neither few nor commonplace. He is a Mes-
merist and a Swedenborgian — has lately been engaged in editing
Swedenborg's works, publishing them in numbers. He converses
with fervor, and often with eloquence. Very probably he will
establish an independent church.

He is one of the most amiable men in the world, universally
respected and beloved. Hfs frank, unpretending simphcity of
demeanor, is especially winning.

In person he is tall, nearly six feet, and spare, with large bones.
His countenance expresses rather benevolence and profound earn-
estness, than high intelligence. The eyes are piercing ; the other
features, in general, massive. The forehead, phrenologically, indi-
cates causality and comparison, with deficient ideatity — the organ-
ization which induces strict logicality from insufficient premises.
He walks with a slouching gait and with an air of abstraction.
His dress is exceedingly plain. In respect to the arrangement
about his study, he has many of the Magliabechian habits. He
is, perhaps, fifty-five years of age, and seems to enjoy good
health. 1*

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Mk. Colton is noted as the author of " Tecumseh," and at
the originator and editor of " The American Review," a Whig
magazine of the higher (that is to say, of the five dollar) class. I
must not be understood as meaning any disrespect to the work.
It is, in my opinion, by far the best of its order in this country,
and is supported in the way of contribution by many of the very
noblest intellects. Mr. Colton, if in nothing else, has shown him-
self a man of genius in his successful establishment of the maga-
zine within so brief a period. It is now commencing its second
year, and I can say, from my own personal knowledge, that its
circulation exceeds two thousand — ^it is probably about two thou-
sand five hundred. So marked and immediate a success has
never been attained by any of our five dollar magazines, with the
exception of "The Southern Literary Messenger," which, in the
course of nineteen months, (subsequent to the seventh from its
commencement,) attained a circulation of rather more than ^ve

I cannot conscientiously call Mr. Colton a good editor, although
I think that he will finally be so. He improves wonderfully with
experience. His present defects are timidity and a lurking taint
of ^ partiality, amounting to positive prejudice (in the vulgar sense)
for the literature of the Puritans. I do not think, however, that
he is at all aware of such prepossession. His taste is rather un-
exceptionable than positively good. He has not, perhaps, suffi-
cient fire within himself to appreciate it in others. Nevertheless,
he endeavors to do so, and in this endeavor is not inapt to take
opinions at secondhand — ^to adopt, I mean, the opinions of others.
He is nervous, and a very trifling difficulty disconcerts him, with-
out getting the better of a sort of dogged perseverance, which
will make a thoroughly successful man of him in the end. He
is (classically) well educated.

As a poet he has done better things than "Tecumseh," in
whose length he has committed a radical and irreparable error,
sufficient in itself to destroy a far better book. Some portions of
1% are truly poetical ; very many portions belong to a high order

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N. P. WILLIS. 21

of eloquence ; it is invariably well versified, and has no glaring
defects, but, upon the whole, is insufferably tedious. Some of the
author's shorter compositions, published anonymously in his maga-
zine, have afforded indications even of genius.

Mr. Colton is marked in his personal appearance. He is proba-
bly not more than thirty, but an air of constant thought (with a
pair of spectacles) causes him to seem somewhat older. He is
about ^ve feet eight or nine in height, and fairly proportioned —
neither stout nor thin. His forehead is quite intellectual. His
mouth has a pecuhar expression difficult to describe. Hair light
and generally in disorder. He converses fluently, and, upon the
whole, well, but grandiloquently, and with a tone half tragical
half pulpitaL

In character he is in the highest degree estimable, a most sin-
cere, high-minded, and altogether honorable man. He is un-


Whatever may be thought of Mr. Willib'b talents, there can 1
be no doubt about the fact that, both as an author and as a man,
be has made a good deal of noise in the world — at least for an
American. His literary life, in especial, has been one continual
hneute ; but then his literary character is modified or impelled in
a very remarkable degree by his personal one. His success (for
in point of fsune, if of nothing else, he has certainly been success-
ful) is to be attributed, one-third to his mental ability and two-
thirds to his physical temperament — ^the latter goading him into
the accomplishment of what the former merely gave him the
means of accomplishing.

At a very early age Mr. Willis seems to have arrived at an un-
derstanding that, in a republic such as ours, the mere man of
letters must ever be a cipher, and endeavored, accordingly, to
unite the iclat of the littSrateur with that of the man of fashion
or of society. He " pushed himself," went much into the world,
made friends with the gentler sex, "deliverer. * poetical addresses,
irrote "scriptural" poems, travelled, sought the intimacy of noted

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28 N. P. WUJJS.

women, and got into quarrels with notorious men. AU these
things served his purpose — if, indeed, I am right in supposing
that he had any purpose at all. It is quite probable that, as be-
fore hinted, he acted only in accordance with his physical tem-
perament ; but, be this as it may, his personal greatly advanced,
if it did not altogether estabhsh his literary fame. I have often
carefully considered whether, without the physique of which I
speak, there is that in the absolute morale of Mr. Willis which
would have earned him reputation as a man of letters, and my
conclusion is, that he could not have failed to become noted in
8<mie degree under almost any circumstances, but that about two-
thirds (as above stated) of his appreciation by the public should
be attributed to those adventures which grew immediately out of
his animal constitution.

He received what is usually regarded as a " good education " —
that is to say, he graduated at college ; but his education, in the
path he pursued, was worth to him, on account of his extraor-
dinary aavoir faire^ fully twice as much as would have been its
value in any common case. No man*s knowledge is more availa-
ble, no man has exhibited greater taxit in the seemingly casual
display of his wares. With him^ at least, a little learning is no
dangerous thing. He possessed at one time, I believe, the aver-
age quantum of American collegiate lore — " a Kttle Latin and less
Greek," a smattering of physical and metaphysical science, and
(I should judge) a very Kttle of the mathematics — but all this
must be considered as inere guess on my part. Mr. WiUis speaks
French with some fluency, and Italian not quite so well.

Within the ordinary range of belles lettres authorship, he has
evinced much versatility. If called on to designate him by any
general literary title, I might term him a magazinist — for his
compositions have invariably the species of effect, with the brevity
which the magazine demands. We may view him as a para-
graphist, an essayist, or rather " sketcher," a tale writer, and a

In the first capacity he fails. His points, however good when
dehberately ▼"ought, are too recherches to be put hurriedly before
the pubhc eye. Mr. W. has by no means the readiness which the
editing a newspaper d<»mands. He composes (as did AddisoUi

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and as do many of the most brilliant and seemingly dashing
writers of the present day,) with great labor and frequent erasure
and interlineation. His MSS., in this regard, present a very sin-
gular appearance, and indicate the vacillation which is, perhaps,
the leading trait of his character. A newspaper, too, in its longer
articles — its " leaders" — very frequently demands argumentation,
and here Mr. W. is remarkably out of his element His exuber*
ant fancy leads him over hedge and ditch — anywhere from the
main road ; and, besides, he is far too readily self-dispossessed.
With time at command, however, his great tact stands him in-
stead of all argumentative power, and enables him to overthrow
an antagonist without permitting the latter to see how he is over-
thrown. A fine example of this ** management" is to be found
in Mr. W.'s reply to a very inconsiderate attack upon his social

Online LibraryEdgar Allan PoeThe Works of the Late Edgar Allan Poe: The literati → online text (page 1 of 55)