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He went again to Richmond, and was received into the family of Mr. Allan, wħo was disposed still to be his friend, and in the event of his good behavior to treat him as a son; but it soon became necessary to close his doors against him forever. According to Poe's own statement he ridiculed the marriage of his patron with Miss Paterson, and had a quarrel with her ; but a different story, * scarcely suitable for repetition here, was told by the friends of the other party. Whatever the circumstances, they parted in anger, and Mr. Allan from that time declined to see or in any way to assist him. Mr. Allan died in the spring of 1834, in the fifty-fourth year of his age, leaving three children to share his property, of which not a mill was bequeathed to Poe.
Soon after he left West Point (Poe had printed at Baltimore a small volume of verses, (“ Al Aaraaf,” of about four hundred lines, “ Tamerlane,” of about three hundred lines, with smaller pieces,) and the favorable manner in which it was commonly referred to confirmed his belief that he might succeed in the profession of literature. The contents of the book appear to have been written when he was between sixteen and nineteen years of age; but though they illustrated the character of his abilities and justified his anticipations of success, they do not seem to me to evince, all things considered, a very remarkable precocity. The late Madame d'Ossoli refers to some of them as the productions of a boy of eight or ten years, but I believe there is no evidence that anything of his which has been published was written before he left the university. Certainly, it was his habit so constantly to labor upon what he had produced—he was at all times so anxious and industrious in revision--that his works, whenever first composed, displayed the perfection of his powers at the time when they were given to the press.
His contributions to the journals attracted little attention, and his hopes of gaining a living in this way being disappointed, he enlisted in the army as a private soldier. How long he remained in the service I have not been able to ascertain. He was recognised by officers who had known him at West Point, and efforts were made, privately, but with prospects of success, to obtain for him a commission, when it was discovered by his friends that he had deserted.
He had probably found relief from the monotony of a soldier's life in life. rary composition, His mind was never in repose, and without some such re. sort the dull routine of the camp or barracks would have been insupportable.
The writer of an eulogium upon the life and genius of Mr. Poe, in the Southern Literary Messenger, for March, 1850, thus refers to this point in his history:
“The story of the other side is different; and if true, throws a dark shade npon the quarrel, and a very ugly
upon Poe's character. We all not insert because it is one of those relations which we think with Sir Thomas Browne, should never be recorded, -being "verities whose truth we fear and heartily wish there were no truth therein....whose relations honest minds do deprecate. For of sins heteroclital, and such as want name or precedent, there is oft-times a sin even in their history. We desire no record of enormities : sins should be accounted new. They omit of their monstrosity as they fall from their rarity; for men count it venial to err with their forefathers, and foolishly conceive they divide a sin in its society... In things of this nature, silence com. mendeth history: 'tis the veniable part of things lost; wherein there must never arise a Pancirollus, nor remain any register but that of hell.”
When he next appears, he has a volume of MS. stories, which he desires to print under the title of “Tales of the Folio Club.” An offer by the proprietor of the Baltimore “Saturday Visiter,” of two prizes, one for the best tale and one for the best poem, induced him to submit the pieces entitled “ MS. found in a Bottle," “ Lionizing,” “The Visionary,” and three others, with “ The Coliseum,” a poem, to the committee, which consisted of Mr. John P. Kennedy, the author of “Horse Shoe Robinson,” Mr. J. H. B. Latrobe, and Dr. James H. Miller. Such matters are usually disposed of in a very offhand way: Committees to award literary prizes drink to the payer's health in good wines, over unexamined MSS., which they submit to the discretion of publishers with permission to use their names in such a way as to promote the publishers' advantage. So perhaps it would have been in this case, but that one of the committee, taking up a little book remarkably beautiful and distinct in caligraphy, was tempted to read several pages; and becoming interested, he summoned the attention of the company to the half-dozen compositions it contained. It was unanimously decided that the prizes should be paid to “ the first of geniuses who had written legibly.” Not another MS. was unfolded. Immediately the “confidential envelope” was opened, and the successful competitor was found to bear the scarcely known name of Poe. The committee indeed awarded to him the premiums for both the tale and the poem, but subsequently altered their decision, so as to exclude him from the second premium, in consideration of his having obtained the higher one. The prize tale was the “ MS. found in a Bottle.” This award was published on the twelfth of October, 1833. The next day the publisher called to see Mr. Kennedy, and gave him an account of the author, which excited his curiosity and sympathy, and caused him to request that he should be brought to his office. Accordingly he was introduced; the prize-money had not yet been paid, and he was in the costume in which he had answered the advertisement of his good fortune. Thin, and pale even to ghastliness, his whole appearance indicated sickness and the utmost destitution. A well-worn frock coat concealed the absence of a shirt, and imperfect boots disclosed the want of hose. But the eyes of the young man were luminous with intelligence and feeling, and his voice and conversation and manners all won upon the lawyer's regard. Poe told his history, and his ambition, and it was determined that he should not want means for a suitable appearance in society, nor opportunity for a just display of his abilities in literature. Mr. Kennedy accompanied him to a clothing store, and purchased for him a respectable suit, with changes of linen, and sent him to a bath, from which he returned with the suddenly regained style of a gentleman.
His new friends were very kind to him, and availed themselves of every opportunity to serve him. Near the close of the year 1834 the late Mr. T. W. White established in Richmond the “Southern Literary Messenger." He was a man of much simplicity, purity and energy of character, but not a writer, and he frequently solicited of his acquaintances literary assistance. On receiving from him an application for an article, early in 1835, Mr. Ken
nedy, who was busy with the duties of his profession, advised Poe to send one, and in a few weeks he had occasion to enclose the following answer to a letter from Mr. White.
“BALTIMORE, April 13, 1835. “Dear Sir : Poe did right in referring to me. He is very clever with his pen-classical and scholarlike. He wants experience and direction, but I have no doubt he can be made very useful to you. And, poor fellow! he is very poor. I told him to write something for every number of your magazine, and that you might find it to your advantage to give him some permanent employ. He has a volume of very bizarre tales in the hands of
in Philadelphia, who for a year past has been promising to publish them. This young fellow is highly imaginative, and a little given to the terrific. He is at work upon a tragedy, but I have turned him to drudging upon whatever may make money, and I have no doubt you and he will find your account in each other.”
In the next number of the “Messenger” Mr. White announced that Poe was its editor, or in other words, that he had made arrangements with a gentleman of approved literary taste and attainments to whose especial management the editorial department would be confided, and it was declared that this gentleman would “devote his exclusive attention to the work." Poe continued, however, to reside in Baltimore, and it is probable that he was engaged only as a general contributor and a writer of critical notices of books. In a letter to Mr. White, under the date of the thirtieth of May, he says:
“In regard to my critique of Mr. Kennedy's novel I seriously feel ashamed of what I have written. I fully intended to give the work a thorough review, and examine it in detail. III health alone prevented me from so doing. At the time I made the hasty sketch I sent you, I was so ill as to be hardly able to see the paper on which I wrote, and I finished it in a state of complete exhaustion. I have not, therefore, done anything like justice to the book, and I am vexed about the matter, for Mr. Kennedy has proved himself a kind friend to me in every respect, and I am sincerely grateful to him for many acts of generosity and attention. You ask me if I am perfectly satisfied with your course. I reply that I am-entirely. My poor services are not worth what you give me for them."
About a month afterward he wrote: “ You ask me if I would be willing to come on to Richmond if you shonld have occasion for my services during the coming winter. I reply that nothing would give me greater pleasure. I have been desirous for some time past of paying a visit to Richmond, and would be glad of any reasonable excuse for so doing. Indeed I am anxious to settle myself in that city, and if, by any chance, you hear of a situation likely to suit me, I would gladly accept it, were the salary even the merest trifle. I should, indeed, feel myself greatly indebted to you if through your means I could accomplish this object. What you say in the conclusion of your letter; in relation to the supervision of proof-sheets, gives me reason to hope that possibly you might find something for me to do in your office. If so, I should be very glad for at present only a very small portion of my time is employed."
He continued in Baltimore tilf September. In this period he wrote several long reviewals, which for the most part were rather abstracts of works than critical discussions, and published with others, “ Hans Pfaall," a story in some respects very similar to Mr. Locke's celebrated account of Herschell's Discoveries in the Moon. At first he appears to have been ill satisfied with Richmond, or with his duties, for in two or three weeks after his removal to that city we find Mr. Kennedy writing to him:
“I am sorry to see you in such plight as your letter shows you in. It is strange that just at this time, when everybody is praising you, and when fortune is beginning to smile upon your hitherto wretched circumstances, you should be invaded by these blue devils. It belongs, however, to your age and temper to be thus buffeted—but be assured, it only wants a little resolution to master the adversary forever. You will doubtless do well henceforth in literature, and add to your comforts as well as to your reputation, which it gives me great pleasure to assure you is everywhere rising in popular esteem.”
But he could not bear his good fortune. On receiving a month's salary he gave himself up to habits which only necessity had restrained at Balti
For a week he was in a condition of brutish drunkenness, and Mr. White dismissed him. When he became sober, however, he had no resource but in reconciliation, and he wrote letters and induced acquaintances to call upon Mr. White with professions of repentance and promises of reformation. With his usual considerate and judicious kindness that gentleman answered
“My dear Edgar: I cannot address you in such language as this occasion and my feelings demand : I must be content to speak to you in my plain way. That you are sincere in all your promises I firmly believe. But when you once again tread these streets, I have my fears that your resolutions will fail, and that you will again drink till your senses are lost. If you rely on your strength you are gone. Unless you look to your Maker for help you will not be safe. How much I regretted parting from you is known to Him only and myself. I had become attached to you; I am still; and I would willingly say return,
I did not a knowledge of your past life make me dread a speedy renewal of our separation. If you would make yourself contented with quarters in my house, or with any other private family, where liquor is not used, I should think there was some hope for you. But, if you go to a tavern, or to any place where it is used at table, you are not safe. You have fine talents, Edgar, and you ought to have them respected, as well as yourself. Learn to respect yourself, and you will soon find that you are respected. Separate yourself from the bottle, and from bottle companions, forever. Tell me if you can and will do so. If you again become an assistant in my office, it must be understood that all engagements on my part cease the moment you get drunk. I am your true friend. T. W. W."
A new contract was arranged, but Poe's irregularities frequently interrupted the kindness and finally exhausted the patience of his generous though methodical employer, and in the number of the “Messenger” for January, 1837, he thus took leave of its readers :
“Mr. Poe's attention being called in another direction, he will decline, with the present number, the editorial duties of the Messenger. His Critical Notices for this month end with. Professor Anthon's Cicero-what follows is from another hand. With the best wishes to the magazine, and to its few foes as well as many friends, he is now desirous of bidding all parties a peaceful farewell.”
While in Richmond, with an income of but five hundred dollars a year, he had married his cousin, Virginia Clemm, a very amiable and lovely girl, who was as poor as himself, and little fitted, except by her gentle temper, to be the wife of such a person. He went from Richmond to Baltimore, and after a short time, to Philadelphia, and to New-York. A slight acquaintance with Dr, Hawks had led that acute and powerful writer to invite his contributions to the “New-York Review," and he had furnished for the second number of it (for October, 1837) an elaborate but not very remarkable article upon Stephens's then recently published“ Incidents of Travel in Egypt, Arabia Petrea, and the Holy Land.” His abilities were not of the kind demanded for such a work, and he never wrote another paper for this or for
any other Review of the same class. He had commenced in the “ Literary Messenger," a story of the sea, under the title of “ Arthur Gordon Pym,"* and upon the recommendation of Mr. Paulding and others, it was printed by the Harpers. It is his longest work, and is not without some sort of merit, but it received little attention. The publishers sent one hundred copies to England, and being mistaken at first for a narrative of real experiences, it was advertised to be reprinted, but a discovery of its character, I believe prevented such a result. An attempt is made in it, by simplicity of style, minuteness of nautical descriptions, and circumstantiality of narration, to give it that air of truth which constitutes the principal attraction of Sir Edward Seaward's Narrative, and Robinson Crusoe; but it has none of the pleasing interest of these tales; it is as full of wonders as Munchausen, has as many atrocities as the Book of Pirates, and as liberal an array of paining and revolting horrors, as ever was invented by Anne Radcliffe or George Walker. Thus far a tendency to extravagance had been the most striking infirmity of his genius. He had been more anxious to be intense than to be natural; and some of his bizarréries had been mistaken for satire, and admired for that quality. Afterward he was more judicious, and if his outlines were incredible it was commonly forgotten in the simplicity of his details and their cohesive cumulation).
Near the end of the year 1838 he settled in Philadelphia. He had no very definite purposes, but trusted for support to the chances of success as a magazinist and newspaper correspondent. Mr. Burton, the comedian, had recently established the “Gentleman's Magazine," and of this he became a contributor, and in May, 1839, the chief editor, devoting to it, for ten dollars a week, two hours every day, which left him abundant time for more important labors. In the same month he agreed to furnish such reviewals as he had written for the “ Literary Messenger,” for the “ Literary Examiner," a new magazine at Pittsburgh. But his more congenial pursuit was tale writing, and he produced about this period some of his most remarkable and characteristic works in a department of imaginative composition in which he was henceforth alone and unapproachable. The “Fall of the House of Usher," and "Legeia,” are the most interesting illustrations of his mental organization—his masterpieces in a peculiar vein of romantic creation. They have the unquestionable stamp of genius. The analyses of the growth of madness in one, and the thrilling revelations of the existence of a first wife in the person of a second, in the other, are made with consummate skill; and the strange and solemn and fascinating beauty which informs the style and
THE NARRATIVE OF ARTHUR GORDON PYM, OF NANTUCKET ; comprising the De. tails of a Mutiny and Atrocious Butchery on board the American Brig Grampus, on her way to the South Seas--with an Account of the Re-capture of the Vessel by the Sur Vivors; their Shipwreck, and subsequent Horrible Sufferings from Famine; their Deliv erance by means of the British schooner Jane Gray; the brief Cruise of this latter Vessel
n the Antartic Ocean; her Capture, and the Massacre of her Crew among a Gronp of Llands in the 84th parallel of southern latitude; together with the incredible Adventures and Discoveries still further South, to which that distressing Calamity gave rise.—1 vob 12. no. pp. 198. New-York, Harper & Brothers. 1838.