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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
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
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
William Wilson (search for this): chapter 3
or 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 intellectual resources which Hawthorne reverently husbanded and used. That there is something behind even genius to make or mar it, this is the lesson of the two lives. Poe makes one of his heroes define another as tha
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