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ch genius only makes the footlights burn with more lustre. There is a passage in Keats's letters, written from the haunts of Burns, in which he expresses himself as filled with pity for the poet's life: he drank with blackguards, he was miserable; we can see horribly clear in the works of such a man his life, as if we were God's spies. Yet Burns's sins and miseries left his heart unspoiled, and this cannot be said of Poe. After all, the austere virtues — the virtues of Emerson, Hawthorne, Whittier — are the best soil for genius. I like best to think of Poe as associated with his betrothed, Sarah Helen Whitman, whom I saw sometimes in her later years. That gifted woman had outlived her early friends and loves and hopes, and perhaps her literary fame, such as it was: she had certainly outlived her recognized ties with Poe, and all but his memory. There she dwelt in her little suite of rooms, bearing youth still in her heart and in her voice, and on her hair also, and in her dress.
emember the chagrin with which I looked through Tieck, in my student-days, to find the Journey into the Blue distance to which Poe refers in the House of Usher; and how one of the poet's intimates laughed me to scorn for being deceived by any of Poe's citations, saying that he hardly knew a word of German. But, making all possible deductions, how wonderful remains the power of Poe's imaginative tales, and how immense is the ingenuity of his puzzles and disentanglements! The conundrums of Wilkie Collins never renew their interest after the answer is known; but Poe's can be read again and again. It is where spiritual depths are to be touched, that he shows his weakness; where he attempts it, as in William Wilson, it seems exceptional; where there is the greatest display of philosophic form, he is often most trivial, whereas Hawthorne is often profoundest when he has disarmed you by his simplicity. The truth is, that Poe lavished on things comparatively superficial those great inte
Estelle Anne Lewis (search for this): chapter 3
resemblance between his Midnight Mass for the Dying year and Tennyson's Death of the Old year, as belonging to the most barbarous class of literary piracy. Works, ed. 1853, III., 325. To make this attack was, as he boasted, to throttle the guilty; Works, ed. 1853, III., 300. and while dealing thus ferociously with Longfellow, thus condescendingly with Hawthorne, he was claiming a foremost rank among American authors for obscurities now forgotten, such as Mrs. Amelia B. Welby and Estelle Anne Lewis. No one ever did more than Poe to lower the tone of literary criticism in this country; and the greater his talent, the greater the mischief. As a poet he held for a time the place earlier occupied by Byron, and later by Swinburne, as the patron saint of all wilful boys suspected of genius, and convicted at least of its infirmities. He belonged to the melancholy class of wasted men, like the German Hoffman, whom perhaps of all men of genius he most resembled. No doubt, if we are
mosphere can be more belittling than that of his New York Literati: it is a mass of vehement dogmatism and petty personalities; opinions warped by private feeling, and varying from page to page. He seemed to have absolutely no fixed standard of critical judgment, though it is true that there was very little anywhere in America during those acrimonious days, when the most honorable head might be covered with insult or neglect, while any young poetess who smiled sweetly on Poe or Griswold or Willis might find herself placed among the Muses. Poe complimented and rather patronized Hawthorne, but found him only peculiar and not original; Works, ed. 1853, III., 202. saying of him, He has not half the material for the exclusiveness of literature that he has for its universality, whatever that may mean; and finally he tried to make it appear that Hawthorne had borrowed from himself. He returned again and again to the attack on Longfellow as a wilful plagiarist, denouncing the trivial r
Poe. It happens to us rarely in our lives to come consciously into the presence of that extraas Rome, a permanent phrase in our language. Poe's place in purely imaginative prose-writing is so that all his work is solid as masonry, while Poe's is broken and disfigured by all sorts of ineqind the Journey into the Blue distance to which Poe refers in the House of Usher; and how one of thw their interest after the answer is known; but Poe's can be read again and again. It is where spirmed you by his simplicity. The truth is, that Poe lavished on things comparatively superficial thmar it, this is the lesson of the two lives. Poe makes one of his heroes define another as that lis might find herself placed among the Muses. Poe complimented and rather patronized Hawthorne, b Estelle Anne Lewis. No one ever did more than Poe to lower the tone of literary criticism in thishis heart unspoiled, and this cannot be said of Poe. After all, the austere virtues — the virtues o[15 more...]
generally known, nor was it established for a long time after, -even when he had himself asserted it,--that the poet was himself born in Boston; and no one can now tell, perhaps, what was the real feeling behind the apparently sycophantic attitude. When, at the end, he abruptly began the recitation of his rather perplexing poem, everybody looked thoroughly mystified. The verses had long since been printed in his youthful volume, and had re-appeared within a few days, if I mistake not, in Wiley & Putnam's edition of his poems; and they produced no very distinct impression on the audience until Poe began to read the maiden's song in the second part. Already his tones had been softening to a finer melody than at first, and when he came to the verse,-- Ligeia! Ligeia, My beautiful one! Whose harshest idea Will to melody run, Oh! 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
and rather patronized Hawthorne, but found him only peculiar and not original; Works, ed. 1853, III., 202. saying of him, He has not half the material for the exclusiveness of literature that he has for its universality, whatever that may mean; and finally he tried to make it appear that Hawthorne had borrowed from himself. He returned again and again to the attack on Longfellow as a wilful plagiarist, denouncing the trivial resemblance between his Midnight Mass for the Dying year and Tennyson's Death of the Old year, as belonging to the most barbarous class of literary piracy. Works, ed. 1853, III., 325. To make this attack was, as he boasted, to throttle the guilty; Works, ed. 1853, III., 300. and while dealing thus ferociously with Longfellow, thus condescendingly with Hawthorne, he was claiming a foremost rank among American authors for obscurities now forgotten, such as Mrs. Amelia B. Welby and Estelle Anne Lewis. No one ever did more than Poe to lower the tone of li
n of his poems; and they produced no very distinct impression on the audience until Poe began to read the maiden's song in the second part. Already his tones had been softening to a finer melody than at first, and when he came to the verse,-- Ligeia! Ligeia, My beautiful one! Whose harshest idea Will to melody run, Oh! 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? hLigeia, My beautiful one! Whose harshest idea Will to melody run, Oh! 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? his voice seemed attenuated to the finest golden thread; the audience became hushed, and, as it were, breathless; there seemed no life in the hall but his; and every syllable was accentuated with such delicacy, and sustained with such sweetness, as I never heard equalled by other lips. When the lyric ended, it was like the ceasing of the gypsy's chant in Browning's Flight of the Duchess; and I remember nothing more, except that in walking back to Cambridge my comrades and I felt that we had bee
De Quincey (search for this): chapter 3
ginative prose-writing is as unquestionable as Hawthorne's. He even succeeded, which Hawthorne did not, in penetrating the artistic indifference of the French mind; and it was a substantial triumph, when we consider that Baudelaire put himself or his friends to the trouble of translating even the prolonged platitudes of Eureka, and the wearisome narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym. Neither Poe nor Hawthorne has ever been fully recognized in England; and yet no Englishman of our time, not even De Quincey, has done any prose imaginative work to be named with theirs. But in comparing Poe with Hawthorne, we see that the genius of the latter has hands and feet as well as wings, so that all his work is solid as masonry, while Poe's is broken and disfigured by all sorts of inequalities and imitations; he not disdaining, for want of true integrity, to disguise and falsify, to claim knowledge that he did not possess, to invent quotations and references, and even, as Griswold showed, to manipulate
mal tragedy, for which genius only makes the footlights burn with more lustre. There is a passage in Keats's letters, written from the haunts of Burns, in which he expresses himself as filled with pity for the poet's life: he drank with blackguards, he was miserable; we can see horribly clear in the works of such a man his life, as if we were God's spies. Yet Burns's sins and miseries left his heart unspoiled, and this cannot be said of Poe. After all, the austere virtues — the virtues of Emerson, Hawthorne, Whittier — are the best soil for genius. I like best to think of Poe as associated with his betrothed, Sarah Helen Whitman, whom I saw sometimes in her later years. That gifted woman had outlived her early friends and loves and hopes, and perhaps her literary fame, such as it was: she had certainly outlived her recognized ties with Poe, and all but his memory. There she dwelt in her little suite of rooms, bearing youth still in her heart and in her voice, and on her hair al
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