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Edgar Allan Poe
Death Theories
Writing Style
Poe's Influence on Lit
Selected Texts
Poe Psychological Analysis
Photo Gallery
Additional Commentaries

 The excerpts are comments on Poe and Poe's work, during his lifetime and after his death.

"If E. A. P. of Baltimore — whose lines about 'Heaven' . . . are, though nonsense, rather exquisite nonsense — would but do himself justice [he] might make a beautiful and perhaps magnificent poem."

(John Neal, [review of Poe's Al Aaraaf, Tamerlane and Minor Poems], Yankee and Boston Literary Gazette, September and December 1829.)
"His [Poe's] talents are of an order that can never prove a comfort to their possessor."

(Comment written by John Allan, Poe's foster father, on the back of a February 21, 1831 letter from Poe. Allan's note is dated April 12, 1833.)
"We cannot accord much praise to 'Morella,' a tale, by Edgar A. Poe. It is the creation of a fancy unrestrained by judgement and undirected by design."

(The Charleston Chronicle, May 30, 1835.)
"Your Periodical [the Southern Literary Messenger] is decidedly superior to any Periodical in the United States, and Mr. Poe is decidedly the best of all our young writers. I don't know but that I might add all our old ones, with one or two exceptions, among which, I assure you, I don't include myself."

(Letter from James Kirke Paulding to Thomas W. White, January 1836.)
"Mr. Poe is too fond of the wild — unnatural and horrible! Why will he not permit his fine genius to soar into purer, brighter, and happier regions? Why will he not disenthral himself from the spells of German enchantment and supernatural imagery? There is room enough for exercise of the highest powers, upon the multiform relations of human life, without descending into the dark, mysterious and unutterable creations of licentious fancy."

(From the Richmond Compiler, February 1836, commenting on Poe's tale "The Duc de L'Omelette.")
"The Critical Notices [in the Southern Literary Messenger, all by Poe] are better by far than those in any other magazine in the country. Paul Ulric is too small game for the tremendous demolition he has received — a club of iron has been used to smash a fly."

(From the Georgetown Metropolitan, April 1836.)
"Had Mr. Poe written nothing else but 'Morella,' 'William Wilson,' 'The House of Usher,' and the 'MS. Found in a Bottle,' he would deserve a high place among imaginative writers . . . there is scarcely one of the tales published in these two volumes before us, in which we do not find the development of great intellectual capacity, with a power for vivid description, an opulence of imagination, a fecundity of invention, and a command over the elegance of diction which have seldom been displayed, even by writers who have acquired the greatest distinction in the republic of letters."

(Louis F. Tasistro, [a review of Poe's Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque], New York Mirror, December 28, 1839.)
"Poe was born a poet, his mind is stamped with the impress of genius. He is, perhaps, the most original writer that ever existed in America. Delighting in the wild and visionary, his mind penetrates the inmost recesses of the human soul, creating vast and magnificent dreams, eloquent fancies and terrible mysteries. Again, he indulges in a felicitous vein of humor, that copies no writer in the language, and yet strikes the reader with the genuine impression of refined wit; and yet again, he constructs such works as 'Arthur Gordon Pym,' which disclose perceptive powers that rival De Foe, combined with an analytical depth of reasoning in no manner inferior to Godwin or Brockden Brown."

(George Lippard in Citizen Soldier (Philadephia), November 15, 1843. Lippard's comments were intended to announce Poe's impending "Lecture on the American Poets." )
"Mr. Poe has 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. . . . It is not for us to assign him his definite rank among contemporary authors, but we may be allowed to say that we know of none who has displayed more varied and striking abilities. . . . Mr. Poe is at once the most discriminating, philosophical, and fearless critic upon imaginative works who has written in America. It may be that we should qualify our remark a little, and say that he might be, rather than that he always is, for he seems sometimes to mistake his phial of prussic-acid for his inkstand."

(James Russell Lowell, "Edgar Allan Poe," Graham's Magazine, February 1845.)
"Edgar A. Poe, one of the Editors of the Broadway Journal. He never rests. There is a small steam-engine in his brain, which not only sets the cerebral mass in motion, but keeps the owner in hot water. His face is a fine one, and well gifted with intellectual beauty. Ideality, with the power of analysis, is shown in his very broad, high and massive forehead — a forehead which would have delighted Gall beyond measure. He would have have [[sic]] made a capital lawyer — not a very good advocate, perhaps, but a famous unraveller of all subtleties. He can thread his way through a labyrinth of absurdities, and pick out the sound thread of sense from the tangled skein with which it is connected. He means to be candid, and labours under the strange hallucination that he is so; but he has strong prejudices, and, without the least intention of irreverence, would wage war with the Deity, if the divine canons militated against his notions. His sarcasm is subtle and searching. He can do nothing in the common way; and buttons his coat after a fashion peculiarly his own. If we ever caught him doing a thing like any body else, or found him reading a book any other way than upside down, we should implore his friends to send for a straitjacket, and a Bedlam doctor. He were mad, then, to a certainty."

(Thomas Dunn English, "Notes About Men of Note," The Aristidean, April 1845, p. 153. At this time, Poe and English were still friends, and the tone of this item is happy and jocular. In reviewing this issue of the Aristidean in his own Broadway Journal, for May 3, 1845, Poe comments ". . . the 'Notes about Men of Note' are amusing" (BJ, 1845, p. 285, col. 1).)
"No form of literary activity has so terribly degenerated among us as the tale. . . . In such a state of things, the writings of Mr Poe are a refreshment. . . . His narrative proceeds with vigor, his colours are applied with discrimination, and where the effects are fantastic they are not unmeaningly so. . . . The degree of skill shown in the management of revolting or terrible circumstances makes the pieces that have such subjects more interesting than the others. Even the failures are those of an intellect of strong fibre and well-chosen aim."

(Margaret Fuller, "[Review of Poe's Tales]," The New York Daily Tribune, July 11, 1845, p. 1.)
"Few books have been published of late, which contain within themselves the elements of greater popularity. This popularity it will be sure to obtain, if it be not for the operation of a stupid prejudice which refuses to read, or a personal emnity, which refuses to admire."

(Evert A. Duyckinck, "[Review of Poe's Tales]," American Review, September 1845.)


"Mr. Poe could not possibly send forth a book without some marks of his genius, and mixed up with the dross we find much sterling ore."

(From a review of Poe's Tales, the Critic (London), September 6, 1845.)
"Your 'Raven' has produced a sensation, a 'fit horror,' here in England. Some of my friends are taken by the fear of it and some by the music. I hear of persons haunted by the 'Nevermore,' and one acquaintance of mine who has the misfortune of possessing a 'bust of Pallas' never can bear to look at it in the twilight."

(Miss Barrett [Elizabeth Barrett Browning] "[Letter to E. A. Poe]," April 1846. Poe had dedicated his The Raven and Other Poems of 1845 to Miss Barrett, from whose 1844 poem "Lady Geraldine's Courtship" he had borrowed the stanzaic form for "The Raven.")
"There comes Poe, with his raven, like Barnaby Rudge
Three-fifths of him genius and two-fifths sheer fudge,
Who talks like a book of iambs and pentameters,
In a way to make people of common sense damn metres,
Who has written some things quite the best of their kind,
But the heart somehow seems all squeezed out by the mind."

(James Russell Lowell, A Fable for Critics, New York: George P. Putnam, 1848.)
"That perfection of horror which abounds in his writings, has been unjustly attributed to some moral defect in the man. But I perceive not why the competent critic should fall into this error. Of all authors, ancient or modern, Poe has given us the least of himself in his works. He wrote as an artist. He intuitively saw what Schiller has so well expressed, that it is an universal phenomenon of our nature that the mournful, the fearful, even the horrible, allures with irresistible enchantment. He probed this general psychological law, in its subtle windings through the mystic chambers of our being, as it was never probed before, until he stood in the very abyss of its center, the sole master of its effects."

(C. Chauncey Burr, "Character of Edgar A. Poe," Nineteenth Century, V, February 1852, pp. 19-33. Burr was a minister in the Universalist Church, and had known Poe personally.)
"As a poet, Poe ranks high, although most of his poetry is unreadable. . . . The school of literature to which Poe belongs, and of which he is certainly the master, is one that we thoroughly dislike."

(Richard Henry Stoddard, "Edgar Allan Poe," The National Magazine, March 1853, p. 199.)

"Poe, during his life-time, was feared and hated by many newspaper editors and other literary animalcules, some of whom, or their friends, had been the subjects of his scorching critiques; and others disliked him, naturally enough, because he was a man of superior intellect. While he lived, these resentful gentlemen were discreetly silent, but they nursed their wrath to keep it warm, and the first intelligence of his death was the signal for a general onslaught."

(Lambert A. Wilmer, "Defamation of the Dead," Our Press Gang, Philadelphia: J. T. Lloyd, 1860, p. 385. Wilmer was one of Poe's close Baltimore friends for many years, beginning about 1829. The friendship was essentially ended by an unpleasant diasgreement, which came between them in 1842.)

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