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It is a composition which delights through the glow
of its imagination, but which repels (comparatively,
of course) through the niaiseries of its general
conduct and construction. As a critic, Professor
Wilson has derived, as might easily be supposed,
the greatest aid from the qualities for which we have
given him credit and it is in criticism especially,
that it becomes very difficult to say which of these
qualities has assisted him the most. It is sheer
audacity, however, to which, perhaps, after all, he
is the most particularly indebted. How little he
owes to intellectual preeminence, and how much



1 66 EDGAR ALLAN POE

to the mere overbearing impetuosity of his opinions,
would be a singular subject for speculation. Never
theless it is true, that this rash spirit of domination
would have served, without his rich ideality, but
to hurry him into contempt. Be this as it may,
in the first requisite of a critic the Scotch Aristarchus
is grossly deficient. Of one who instructs we
demand, in the first instance, a certain knowledge
of the principles which regulate the instruction.
Professor Wilson s capability is limited to a keen
appreciation of the beautiful, and fastidious sense
of the deformed. Why or how either is either, he
never dreams of pretending to inquire, because he
sees clearly his own inability to comprehend. He
is no analyst. He is ignorant of the machinery of
his own thoughts and the thoughts of other men.
His criticism is emphatically on the surface
superficial. His opinions are mere dicta unsup
ported verba magistri and are just or unjust at the
variable taste of the individual who reads them.
He persuades he bewilders he overwhelms at
times he even argues but there has been no period
at which he ever demonstrated anything beyond
his own utter incapacity for demonstration.

CLXXXII.

One of the most singular styles in the world
certainly one of the most loose is that of the elder
D Israeli. For example, he thus begins his Chapter
on Bibliomania: "The preceding article [that on
Libraries] is honorable to literature." Here no
self-praise is intended. The writer means to say
merely that the facts narrated in the preceding
article are honorable, etc. Three-fourths of his
sentences are constructed in a similar manner.



MARGINALIA 167

The blunders evidently arise, however, from the
author s pre-occupation with his subject. His
thought, or rather matter, outruns his pen, and
drives him upon condensation at the expense of
luminousness. The manner of D Israeli has many
of the traits of Gibbon although little of the latter s
precision.

CLXXXIII.

Words printed ones especially are murderous
things. Keats did (or did not) die of a criticism,
Cromwell of Titus s pamphlet "Killing no Murder,"
and Montfleury perished of the "Andromache."
The author of the "Parnasse Reforme" makes
him thus speak in Hades "L homme done qui
voudrait savoir ce dont je suis mort qu il ne demande
pas s il fut defievre ou de podagre ou d autre chose, mais
qu il entende que ce fut de L Andromache ." As for
myself, I am fast dying of the "Sartor Resartus."

CLXXXIV.

Captain Hall is one of the most agreeable of
writers. We like him for the same reason that we
like a good drawing-room conversationist there
is such a pleasure in listening to his elegant noth
ings. Not that the captain is unable to be pro
found. He has, on the contrary, some reputation
for science. But in his hands even the most trifling
personal adventures become interesting from the
very piquancy with which they are told.

CLXXXV.

How truthful an air of deep lamentation hangs
here* upon every gentle syllable! It pervades all.

* The Maiden Hunting for her Fawn, by Andrew Marvell.



i68 EDGAR ALLAN POE

It comes over the sweet melody of the words, over
the gentleness and grace which we fancy in the
little maiden herself, even over the half-playful,
half-petulant air with which she lingers on the
beauties and good qualities of her favorite like
the cool shadow of a summer cloud over a bed of
lilies and violets, and "all sweet flowers." The
whole thing is redolent with poetry of the very
loftiest order. It is positively crowded with nature
and with pathos. Every line is an idea conveying
either the beauty and playfulness of the fawn, or the
artlessness of the maiden, or the love of the maiden,
or her admiration, or her grief, or the fragrance, and
sweet warmth, and perfect appropriateness of the
little nest-like bed of lilies and roses, which the
fawn devoured as it lay upon them, and could
scarcely be distinguished from them by the once
happy little damsel who went to seek her pet with
an arch and rosy smile upon her face. Consider
the great variety of truth and delicate thought in
the few lines we have quoted the wonder of the
maiden at the fleetness of her favorite the "little
silver feet the fawn challenging his mistress to the
race, "with a pretty skipping grace," running on
before, and then, with head turned back, awaiting
her approach only to fly from it again can we not
distinctly perceive all these things? The exceeding
vigor, too, and beauty of the line,

And trod as if on the four winds.

which are vividly apparent when we regard the
artless nature of the speaker, and the four feet of
the favorite one for each wind. Then the garden
of "tny own," so overgrown entangled with lilies
and roses as to be "a little wilderness" the fawn
loving to be there and there "only" the maiden



MARGINALIA 169

seeking it "where it should lie," and not being able
to distinguish it from the flowers until "itself
would rise" the lying among the lilies "like a
bank of lilies" the loving to "fill" itself with roses,

And its pure virgin limbs to fold
In whitest sheets of lilies cold,

and these things being its "chief" delights and
then the preeminent beauty and naturalness of the
concluding lines whose very outrageous hyperbole
and absurdity only render them the more true to
nature and to propriety, when we consider the
innocence, the artlessness, the enthusiasm, the
passionate grief, and more passionate admiration
of the bereaved child.

Had it lived long it would have been
Lilies without roses within.

CLXXXVI.

We are not among those who regard the genius
of Petrarch as a subject for enthusiastic admiration.
The characteristics of his poetry are not traits of
the highest, or even of a high order ; and in accounting
for his fame, the discriminating critic will look
rather to the circumstances which surrounded the
man, than to the literary merits of the pertinacious
sonnetteer. Grace and tenderness we grant him
but these qualities are surely insufficient to establish
his poetical apotheosis.

In other respects he is entitled to high considera
tion. As a patriot, notwithstanding some accusa
tions which have been rather urged than established,
we can only regard him with approval. In his
republican principles; in his support of Rienzi at
the risk of the displeasure of the Colonna family;
in his whole political conduct, in sort, he seems to



170 EDGAR ALLAN POE

have been nobly and disinterestedly zealous for
the welfare of his country. But Petrarch is most
important when we look upon him as the bridge by
which, over the dark gulf of the middle ages, the
knowledge of the old world made its passage into
the new. His influence on what is termed the
revival of letters was, perhaps, greater than that of
any man who ever lived; certainly far greater than
that of any of his immediate contemporaries. His
ardent zeal in recovering and transcribing the lost
treasures of antique lore cannot be too highly
appreciated. But for him, many of our most
valued classics might have been numbered with
Pindar s hymns and dithyrambics. He devoted
days and nights to this labor of love; snatching
numerous precious books from the very brink of
oblivion. His judgment in these things was strik
ingly correct, while his erudition, for the age in
which he lived, and for the opportunities he enjoyed,
has always been a subject of surprise.

CLXXXVII.

One of the most singular pieces of literary Mosaic
is Mr. Longfellow s "Midnight Mass for the Dying
Year." The general idea and manner are from
Tennyson s "Death of the Old Year," several of
the most prominent points are from the death
scene of Cordelia in "Lear," and the line about
the "hooded friars" is from the "Comus" of Milton.
Some approach to this patchwork may be found
in these lines from Tasso

Giace 1 alta Cartago : a pena i segni
De 1 alte sui mine il lido serba:
Muoino le citta, muoino i regni;
Copre i fasti e le pompe arena et herba:
E 1 huom d esser mortal per che si sdegni.



MARGINALIA 171

This is entirely made up from Lucan and
Sulspicius. The former says of Troy

lam iota teguntur
Pergama dumetis: etiam perire ruinae.

Sulspicius, in a letter to Cicero, says of Megara,
Egina and Corinth "Hem! nos homunculi indigna-
mur si quis nostrum interiit, quorum vita brevior esse
debet, cum uno loco tot oppidorum cadavera projecta
jaceant."

CLXXXVIII.

The ordinary pickpocket niches a purse, and the
matter is at an end. He neither takes honor to
himself, openly, on the score of the purloined purse,
nor does he subject the individual robbed to the
charge of pickpocketism in his own person; by so
much the less odious is he, then, than the filcher
of literary property. It is impossible, we should
think, to imagine a more sickening spectacle than
that of the plagiarist, who walks among mankind
with an erecter step, and who feels his heart beat
with a prouder impulse, on account of plaudits
which he is conscious are the due of another. It
is the purity, the nobility, the ethereality of just fame
it is the contrast between this ethereality and the
grossness of the crime of theft, which places the sin
of plagiarism in so detestable a light. We are
horror-stricken to find existing in the same bosom
the soul-uplifting thirst for fame, and the debasing
propensity to pilfer. It is the anomaly the discord
which so grossly offends.

CLXXXIX.

Voltaire, in his preface to "Brutus," actually
boasts of having introduced the Roman Senate on
the stage in red mantles.



172 EDGAR ALLAN POE

CXC.

"Les anges," says Madame Dudevant, a woman
who intersperses many an admirable sentiment amid
a chaos of the most shameless and altogether
objectionable fiction "Les anges nj sont plus pures
que le cceur d un jeune homme qui aime en verite."
The angels are not more pure than the heart of a
young man who loves with fervor. The hyperbole
is scarcely less than true. It would be truth itself,
were it averred of the love of him who is at the same
time young and a poet. The boyish poet-love is
indisputably that one of the human sentiments
which most nearly realizes our dreams of the chast
ened voluptuousness of heaven.

In every allusion made by the author of "Childe
Harold" to his passion for Mary Chaworth, there
runs a vein of almost spiritual tenderness and
purity, strongly in contrast with the gross earthliness
pervading and disfiguring his ordinary love-poems.
The Dream, in which the incidents of his parting
with her when about to travel, are said to be deline
ated, or at least paralleled, has never been excelled
(certainly never excelled by him) in the blended
fervor, delicacy, truthfulness and ethereality which
sublimate and adorn it. For this reason, it may
well be doubted if he has written anything so
universally popular. That his attachment for this
"Mary" (in w r hose very name there indeed seemed
to exist for him an "enchantment") was earnest,
and longabiding, we have every reason to believe.
There are a hundred evidences of this fact, scattered
not only through his own poems and letters, but
in the memoirs of his relatives, and cotemporaries
in general. But that it was thus earnest and endur
ing, does not controvert, in any degree, the opinion



MARGINALIA 173

that it was a passion (if passion it can properly be
termed) of the most thoroughly romantic, shadowy
and imaginative character. It was born of the
hour, and of the youthful necessity to love, while
it was nurtured by the waters and the hills, and the
flowers, and the stars. It had no peculiar regard
to the person, or to the character, or to the recipro
cating affection of Mary Chaworth. Any maiden,
not immediately and positively repulsive, he would
have loved, under the same circumstances of hourly
and unrestricted communion, such as the engravings
of the subject shadow forth. They met without
restraint and without reserve. As mere children
they sported together; in boyhood and girlhood they
read from the same books, sang the same songs, or
roamed hand in hand, through the grounds of the
conjoining estates. The result was not merely
natural or merely probable, it was as inevitable as
destiny itself.

In view of a passion thus engendered, Miss
Chaworth, (who is represented as possessed of no
little personal beauty and some accomplishments,)
could not have failed to serve sufficiently well as the
incarnation of the ideal that haunted the fancy of
the poet. It is perhaps better, nevertheless, for
the mere romance of the love-passages between the
two, that their intercourse was broken up in early
life and never uninterruptedly resumed in after
years. Whatever of warmth, whatever of soul-
passion, whatever of the truer nare and essentiality
of romance was elicited during the youthful asso
ciation is to be attributed altogether to the poet.
If slie felt at all, it was only while the magnetism
of his actual presence compelled her to feel. If
she responded at all, it was merely because the
necromancy of his words of fire could not do other-



174 EDGAR ALLAN POE

wise than exhort a response. In absence, the bard
bore easily with him all the fancies which were the
basis of his flame a flame which absence itself
but served to keep in vigor while the less ideal
but at the same time the less really substantial
affection of his lady-love, perished utterly and
forthwith, through simple lack of the element which
had fanned it into being. He to her, in brief, was
a not unhandsome, and not ignoble, but somewhat
portionless, somewhat eccentric and rather lame
young man. She to him was the Egeria of his
dreams the Venus Aphrodite that sprang, in full
and supernal loveliness, from the bright foam upon
the storm-tormented ocean of his thoughts.

CXCL

Mill says that he has "demonstrated" his propo
sitions. Just in the same way Anaxagoras demon
strated snow to be black, (which, perhaps, it is, if
we could see the thing in the proper light,) and just
in the same way the French advocate, Linguet,
with Hippocrates in his hand, demonstrated bread
to be a slow poison. The worst of the matter is,
that propositions such as these seldom stay demon
strated long enough to be thoroughly understood.

CXCII.

We have read Mr. Paulding s Life of Washington
with a degree of interest seldom excited in us by
the perusal of any book whatever. We are con
vinced by a deliberate examination of the design,
manner, and rich material of the work, that, as it
grows in age, it will grow in the estimation of our
countrymen, and, finally, will not fail to take a
deeper hold upon the public mind, and upon the



MARGINALIA 175

public affections, than any work upon the same
subject, or of a similar nature, which has been yet
written or, possibly, which may be written here
after. Indeed, we cannot perceive the necessity
of anything farther upon the great theme of Washing
ton. Mr. Paulding has completely and most beau
tifully filled the vacuum which the works of Marshall
and Sparks have left open. He has painted the
boy, the man, the husband, and the Christian. He
has introduced us to the private affections, aspira
tions, and charities of that hero whose affections of
all affections were the most serene, whose aspirations
the most God-like, and whose charities the most
gentle and pure. He has taken us abroad with the
patriot-farmer in his rambles about his homestead.
He has seated us in his study and shown us the
warrior-Christian in unobtrusive communion with
his God. He has done all this too, and more, in a
simple and quiet manner, in a manner peculiarly
his own, and which mainly because it is his own,
cannot fail to be exceedingly effective. Yet it is
very possible that the public may, for many years
to come, overlook the rare merits of a work whose
want of arrogant assumption is so little in keeping
with the usages of the day, and whose striking
simplicity and naivete of manner give, to a cursory
examination, so little evidence of the labor of com
position. We have no fears, however, for the
future. Such books as these before us, go down
to posterity like rich wines, with a certainty of being
more valued as they go. They force themselves
with the gradual but rapidly accumulating power
of strong wedges into the hearts and understandings
of a community.

In regard to the style of Mr. Paulding s Washing
ton, it would scarcely be doing it justice to speak



176 EDGAR ALLAN POE

of it merely as well adapted to its subjec~ and to
its immediate design. Perhaps a rigorous examina
tion would detect an occasional want of euphony,
and some inaccuracies of syntatical arrangement.
But nothing could be more out of place than any
such examination in respect to a book whose forcible,
rich, vivid, and comprehensive English might ad
vantageously be held up, as a model for the young
writers of the land. There is no better literary
manner than the manner of Mr. Paulding. Certainly
no American, and possibly no living writer of Eng
land, has more of those numerous peculiarities which
go to the formation of a happy style. It is question
able, we think, whether any writer of any country
combines as many of these peculiarities with as
much of that essential negative virtue, the absence
of affectation. We repeat, as our confide, opinion,
that it would be difficult, even with great care and
labor, to improve upon the general manner of the
volumes now before us, and t>at they contain many
long individual passages of a force and beauty not
to be surpassed by the finest passages of the finest
writers in any time or country. It is this striking
character in the Washington of Mr. Paulding
striking and peculiar indeed at a season when we
are so culpably inattentive to all matters of this
nature, as to mistake for style the fine airs at
second hand of the silliest romancers it is this
character we say, which should insure the fulfilment
of the writer s principal design, in the immediate
introduction of his book into every respectable
academy in the land.

CXCIII.

Scott, in his "Presbyterian Eloquence," speaks
of "that ancient fable, not much known," in which



MARGINALIA

a trial of skill in singing being agreed upon between
the cuckoo and the nightingale, the ass was chosen
umpire. When each bird had done his best, the
umpire declared that the nightingale sang extremely
well, but that "for a good plain song give him the
cuckoo." The judge with the long ears, in this
case, is a fine type of the tribe of critics who insist
upon what they call "quietude" as the supreme
literary excellence gentlemen who rail at Tennyson
and elevate Addison into apotheosis. By the way,
the following passage from Sterne s "Letter from
France," should be adopted at once as a motto by
the " Down- East Review": "As we rode along the
valley, we saw a herd of asses on the top of one of
the mountains. How they viewed and reviewed us."

CXCIV.

A hundred criticisms to the contrary notwith
standing, I must regard "The Lady of Lyons" as
one of the most successful dramatic efforts of
modern times. It is popular, and justly so. It
could not fail to be popular so long as the people
have a heart. It abounds in sentiments which
stir the soul as the sound of a trumpet. It proceeds
rapidly and consequentially; the interest not for
one moment being permitted to flag. Its incidents
are admirably conceived and skilfully wrought into
execution. Its dramatis persons, throughout, have
the high merit of being natural, although, except
in the case of Pauline, there is ho marked individu
ality. She is a creation which would have done no
dishonor to Shakspeare. She excites profound
emotion. It has been sillily objected to her, that
she is weak, mercenary, and at points ignoble. She
is ; and what then ? We are not dealing with Clarissa
VOL. VII ia



178 EDGAR ALLAN POE

Harlowe. Bulwer has painted a woman. The
chief defect of the play lies in the heroine s con
senting to wed Beauseant, while aware of the
existence and even the continued love of Claude.
As the plot runs, there is a question in Pauline s
soul between a comparatively trivial (because
merely worldly) injury to her father, and utter ruin
and despair inflicted upon her husband. Here there
should not have been an instant s hesitation. The
audience have no sympathy with any. Nothing
on earth should have induced the wife to give
up the living Melnotte. Only the assurance of his
death could have justified her in sacrificing herself
to Beauseant. As it is, we hate her for the sacrifice.
The effect is repulsive but I must be understood
as calling this effect objectionable solely on the
ground of its being at war with the whole] genius
of the play.

CXCV.

"Contempt," says an eastern proverb, "pierces
even through the shell of the tortoise;" but the
skull of a Fuller would feel itself insulted by a
comparison, in point of impermeability, with the
shell of a Gallipago turtle.

CXCVI.

How thoroughly comprehensive is the account
of Adam, as given at the bottom of the old picture
in the Vatican! "Adam, divinitus edoctus, primus
scientiarum et liter arum inventor. " VII

CXCVII.

If need were, I should have little difficulty,
perhaps, in defending a certain apparent dog-



MARGINALIA 179

matism to which I am prone, on the topic of
versification.

"What is Poetry?" notwithstanding Leigh Hunt s
rigmarolic attempt at answering it, is a query that,
with great care and deliberate agreement before
hand on the exact value of certain leading wordr,
may, possibly, be settled to the partial satisfaction
of a few analytical intellects, but which, in the
existing condition of metaphysics, never can be
settled to the satisfaction of the majority; for the
question is purely metaphysical, and the whole
science of "~ ^taphysics is at present a chaos, through
the impossibility of fixing the meanings of the words
which its very nature compels it to employ. But
as regards versification, this difficulty is only
partial; for although one- third of the topic may be
considered metaphysical, and thus may be mooted
at the fancy of this individual or of that, still the
remaining two-thirds belong, undeniably, to the
mathematics. The questions ordinarily discussed
with so much gravity in regard to rhythm, metre,
etc., are susceptible of positive adjustment by
demonstration. Their laws are merely a portion
of the Median laws of form and quantity of
relation. In respect, then, to any of these ordinary
questions these sillily moot points which so often
arise in common criticism the prosodist would
speak as weakly in saying " this or that proposition
is probably so and so, or possibly so and so," as would
the mathematician in admitting that, in his humble
opinion, or if he were not greatly mistaken, any two
sides of a triangle were, together, greater than the
third side. I must add, however, as some palliation
of the discussions referred to, and of the objections
so often urged with a sneer to "particular theories
of versification binding no one but their inventor"



i8o EDGAR ALLAN POE

that there is really extant no such work as a Prosody
Raisonnie. The Prosodies of the schools are merely
collections of vague laws, with their more vague
exceptions, based upon no principles whatever,
but extorted in the most speculative manner from
the usages of the ancients, who had no laws beyond
those of their ears and fingers. "And these were
sufficient," it will be said, "since The Iliad 1 is
melodious and harmonious beyond anything of
modern times." Admit this: but neither do we
write in Greek, nor has the invention of modern
times been as yet exhausted. An analy~ : s based on
the natural laws of which the bard of Scios was
ignorant, would suggest multitudinous improve
ments to the best passages of even "The Iliad"
nor does it in any manner follow from the suppo
sititious fact that Homer found in his ears and
fingers a satisfactory system of rules (the point
which I have just denied) nor does it follow, I say,


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