It seems to me that imagination and reasoning have reached magnificent heights with some writers, especially poets. Among them, I strongly believe, the highest ever was Edgar Allan Poe. With Baudelaire I state that "le poete est souverainement intelligent, qu'il est l'intelligence par excellence, -et que l'imagination est la plus scientifique des facultes, parce que seule elle comprend l'analogie universelle...". One of those poets was Edgar Allan Poe. I reproduce here "The Works of Edgar Allan Poe" as a gesture against what Baudelaire called "la ferocite de l'hypocrisie bourgeoise", and what I personally call mediocrity, imbecility, and comprehensive intellectual dishonesty, all of which is presented as "realistic thinking". And, as we know, contemporary development studies are full of  "realistic thinking". So, let us learn something from Edgar Allan Poe!.  (Róbinson Rojas - 1996)
The Project Gutenberg Etext of The Works of Edgar Allan Poe V. 1
Volume 1 of the Raven Edition  #6 in our series by Edgar Allan Poe

VOLUME I  Contents
Edgar Allan Poe, An Appreciation
Life of Poe, by James Russell Lowell
Death of Poe, by N. P. Willis
The Unparalled Adventures of One Hans Pfall
The Gold Bug
Four Beasts in One
The Murders in the Rue Morgue
The Mystery of Marie Rogęt
The Balloon Hoax
MS. Found in a Bottle
The Oval Portrait                          BACK TO MAIN INDEX


THE ancient fable of two antagonistic spirits imprisoned in one body, 
equally powerful and having the complete mastery by turns-of one man, 
that is to say, inhabited by both a devil and an angel seems to have 
been realized, if all we hear is true, in the character of the 
extraordinary man whose name we have written above. Our own 
impression of the nature of Edgar A. Poe, differs in some important 
degree, however, from that which has been generally conveyed in the 
notices of his death. Let us, before telling what we personally know 
of him, copy a graphic and highly finished portraiture, from the pen 
of Dr. Rufus W. Griswold, which appeared in a recent number of the 
"Edgar Allen Poe is dead. He died in Baltimore on Sunday, October 
7th. This announcement will startle many, but few will be grieved by 
it. The poet was known, personally or by reputation, in all this 
country; he bad readers in England and in several of the states of 
Continental Europe; but he had few or no friends; and the regrets for 
his death will be suggested principally by the consideration that in 
him literary art has lost one of its most brilliant but erratic stars. 
"His conversation was at times almost supramortal in its eloquence. 
His voice was modulated with astonishing skill, and his large and 
variably expressive eyes looked repose or shot fiery tumult into 
theirs who listened, while his own face glowed, or was changeless in 
pallor, as his imagination quickened his blood or drew it back frozen 
to his heart. His imagery was from the worlds which no mortals can 
see but with the vision of genius. Suddenly starting from a 
proposition, exactly and sharply defined, in terms of utmost 
simplicity and clearness, he rejected the forms of customary logic, 
and by a crystalline process of accretion, built up his ocular 
demonstrations in forms of gloomiest and ghastliest grandeur, or in 
those of the most airy and delicious beauty, so minutely and 
distinctly, yet so rapidly, that the attention which was yielded to 
him was chained till it stood among his wonderful creations, till he 
himself dissolved the spell, and brought his hearers back to common 
and base existence, by vulgar fancies or exhibitions of the ignoblest 
"He was at all times a dreamer-dwelling in ideal realms-in heaven or 
hell-peopled with the creatures and the accidents of his brain. He 
walked-the streets, in madness or melancholy, with lips moving in 
indistinct curses, or with eyes upturned in passionate prayer (never 
for himself, for he felt, or professed to feel, that he was already 
damned, but) for their happiness who at the moment were objects of 
his idolatry; or with his glances introverted to a heart gnawed with 
anguish, and with a face shrouded in gloom, he would brave the 
wildest storms, and all night, with drenched garments and arms 
beating the winds and rains, would speak as if the spirits that at 
such times only could be evoked by him from the Aidenn, close by 
whose portals his disturbed soul sought to forget the ills to which 
his constitution subjected him---close by the Aidenn where were those 
he loved-the Aidenn which he might never see, but in fitful glimpses, 
as its gates opened to receive the less fiery and more happy natures 
whose destiny to sin did not involve the doom of death. 
"He seemed, except when some fitful pursuit subjugated his will and 
engrossed his faculties, always to bear the memory of some 
controlling sorrow. The remarkable poem of 'The Raven' was probably 
much more nearly than has been supposed, even by those who were very 
intimate with him, a reflection and an echo of his own history. _He 
_was that bird's 
" ' unhappy master whom unmerciful Disaster 
Followed fast and followed faster till his songs one burden bore-- 
Till the dirges of his Hope that melancholy burden bore 
     Of 'Never-never more.' 
"Every genuine author in a greater or less degree leaves in his 
works, whatever their design, traces of his personal character: 
elements of his immortal being, in which the individual survives the 
person. While we read the pages of the 'Fall of the House of Usher,' 
or of 'Mesmeric Revelations,' we see in the solemn and stately gloom 
which invests one, and in the subtle metaphysical analysis of both, 
indications of the idiosyncrasies of what was most remarkable and 
peculiar in the author's intellectual nature. But we see here only 
the better phases of his nature, only the symbols of his juster 
action, for his harsh experience had deprived him of all faith in man 
or woman. He had made up his mind upon the numberless complexities of 
the social world, and the whole system with him was an imposture. 
This conviction gave a direction to his shrewd and naturally 
unamiable character. Still, though he regarded society as composed 
altogether of villains, the sharpness of his intellect was not of 
that kind which enabled him to cope with villany, while it 
continually caused him by overshots to fail of the success of 
honesty. He was in many respects like Francis Vivian in Bulwer's 
novel of 'The Caxtons.' Passion, in him, comprehended -many of the 
worst emotions which militate against human happiness. You could not 
contradict him, but you raised quick choler; you could not speak of 
wealth, but his cheek paled with gnawing envy. The astonishing 
natural advantages of this poor boy--his beauty, his readiness, the 
daring spirit that breathed around him like a fiery atmosphere--had 
raised his constitutional self-confidence into an arrogance that 
turned his very claims to admiration into prejudices against him. 
Irascible, envious--bad enough, but not the worst, for these salient 
angles were all varnished over with a cold, repellant cynicism, his 
passions vented themselves in sneers. There seemed to him no moral 
susceptibility; and, what was more remarkable in a proud nature, 
little or nothing of the true point of honor. He had, to a morbid 
excess, that, desire to rise which is vulgarly called ambition, but 
no wish for the esteem or the love of his species; only the hard wish 
to succeed-not shine, not serve -succeed, that he might have the 
right to despise a world which galled his self-conceit. 
"We have suggested the influence of his aims and vicissitudes upon 
his literature. It was more conspicuous in his later than in his 
earlier writings. Nearly all that he wrote in the last two or three 
years-including much of his best poetry-was in some sense 
biographical; in draperies of his imagination, those who had taken 
the trouble to trace his steps, could perceive, but slightly 
concealed, the figure of himself." 
Apropos of the disparaging portion of the above well-written sketch, 
let us truthfully say: 
Some four or five years since, when editing a daily paper in this 
city, Mr. Poe was employed by us, for several months, as critic and 
sub-editor. This was our first personal acquaintance with him. He 
resided with his wife and mother at Fordham, a few miles out of town, 
but was at his desk in the office, from nine in the morning till the 
evening paper went to press. With the highest admiration for his 
genius, and a willingness to let it atone for more than ordinary 
irregularity, we were led by common report to expect a very 
capricious attention to his duties, and occasionally a scene of 
violence and difficulty. Time went on, however, and he was invariably 
punctual and industrious. With his pale, beautiful, and intellectual 
face, as a reminder of what genius was in him, it was impossible, of 
course, not to treat him always with deferential courtesy, and, to 
our occasional request that he would not probe too deep in a 
criticism, or that he would erase a passage colored too highly with 
his resentments against society and mankind, he readily and 
courteously assented-far more yielding than most men, we thought, on 
points so excusably sensitive. With a prospect of taking the lead in 
another periodical, he, at last, voluntarily gave up his employment 
with us, and, through all this considerable period, we had seen but 
one presentment of the man-a quiet, patient, industrious, and most 
gentlemanly person, commanding the utmost respect and good feeling by 
his unvarying deportment and ability. 
Residing as he did in the country, we never met Mr. Poe in hours of 
leisure; but he frequently called on us afterward at our place of 
business, and we met him often in the street-invariably the same sad 
mannered, winning and refined gentleman , such as we had always known 
him. It was by rumor only, tip to the day of his death, that we knew 
of any other development of manner or character. We heard, from one 
who knew him well (what should be stated in all mention of his 
lamentable irregularities), that, with a single glass of wine, his 
whole nature was reversed, the demon became uppermost, and, though 
none of the usual signs of intoxication were visible, his will was 
palpably insane. Possessing his reasoning faculties in excited 
activity, at such times, and seeking his acquaintances with his 
wonted look and memory, he easily seemed personating only another 
phase of his natural character, and was accused, accordingly, of 
insulting arrogance and bad-heartedness. In this reversed character, 
we repeat, it was never our chance to see him. We know it from 
hearsay, and we mention it in connection with this sad infirmity of 
physical constitution; which puts it upon very nearly the ground of a 
temporary and almost irresponsible insanity. 
The arrogance, vanity, and depravity of heart, of which Mr. Poe was 
generally accused, seem to us referable altogether to this reversed 
phase of his character. Under that degree of intoxication which only 
acted upon him by demonizing his sense of truth and right, he 
doubtless said and did much that was wholly irreconcilable with his 
better nature; but, when himself, and as we knew him only, his 
modesty and unaffected humility, as to his own deservings, were a 
constant charm to his character. His letters, of which the constant 
application for autographs has taken from us, we are sorry to 
confess, the greater portion, exhibited this quality very strongly. 
In one of the carelessly written notes of which we chance still to 
retain possession, for instance, he speaks of "The Raven"--that 
extraordinary poem which electrified the world of imaginative 
readers, and has become the type of a school of poetry of its 
own-and, in evident earnest, attributes its success to the few words 
of commendation with which we had prefaced it in this paper. -It will 
throw light on his sane character to give a literal copy of the note: 
                                  "FORDHAM, April 20, 1849 
"My DEAR WILLIS--The poem which I inclose, and which I am so vain as 
to hope you will like, in some respects, has been just published in a 
paper for which sheer necessity compels me to write, now and then. It 
pays well as times go-but unquestionably it ought to pay ten prices; 
for whatever I send it I feel I am consigning to the tomb of the 
Capulets. The verses accompanying this, may I beg you to take out of 
the tomb, and bring them to light in the 'Home journal?' If you can 
oblige me so far as to copy them, I do not think it will be necessary 
to say 'From the ----, that would be too bad; and, perhaps, 'From a 
late ---- paper,' would do. 
"I have not forgotten how a 'good word in season' from you made 'The 
Raven,' and made 'Ulalume' (which by-the-way, people have done me the 
honor of attributing to you), therefore, I would ask you (if I dared) 
to say something of these lines if they please you. 
                      "Truly yours ever, 
                        "EDGAR A. POE." 
In double proof of his earnest disposition to do the best for 
himself, and of the trustful and grateful nature which has been 
denied him, we give another of the only three of his notes which we 
chance to retain : 
                          "FORDHAM, January 22, 1848. 
"My DEAR MR. WILLiS-I am about to make an effort at re-establishing 
myself in the literary world, and _feel _that I may depend upon your 
"My general aim is to start a Magazine, to be called 'The Stylus,' 
but it would be useless to me, even when established, if not entirely 
out of the control of a publisher. I mean, therefore, to get up a 
journal which shall be _my own_ at all points. With this end in view, 
I must get a list of at least five hundred subscribers to begin with; 
nearly two hundred I have already. I propose, however, to go South 
and West, among my personal and literary friends--old college and 
West Point acquaintances -and see what I can do. In order to get the 
means of taking the first step, I propose to lecture at the Society 
Library, on Thursday, the 3d of February, and, that there may be no 
cause of _squabbling_, my subject shall _not be literary _at all. I 
have chosen a broad text: 'The Universe.' 
"Having thus given you _the facts _of the case, I leave all the rest 
to the suggestions of your own tact and generosity. Gratefully, _most 
                         _"Your friend always, 
                             "EDGAR A. POE.'' 
Brief and chance-taken as these letters are, we think they 
sufficiently prove the existence of the very qualities denied to Mr. 
Poe-humility, willingness to persevere, belief in another's 
friendship, and capability of cordial and grateful friendship! Such 
he assuredly was when sane. Such only he has invariably seemed to us, 
in all we have happened personally to know of him, through a 
friendship of five or six years. And so much easier is it to believe 
what we have seen and known, than what we hear of only, that we 
remember him but with admiration and respect; these descriptions of 
him, when morally insane, seeming to us like portraits, painted in 
sickness, of a man we have only known in health. 
But there is another, more touching, and far more forcible evidence 
that there was _goodness _in Edgar A. Poe. To reveal it we are 
obliged to venture upon the lifting of the veil which sacredly covers 
grief and refinement in poverty; but we think it may be excused, if 
so we can brighten the memory of the poet, even were there not a more 
needed and immediate service which it may render to the nearest link 
broken by his death. 
Our first knowledge of Mr. Poe's removal to this city was by a call 
which we received from a lady who introduced herself to us as the 
mother of his wife. She was in search of employment for him, and she 
excused her errand by mentioning that he was ill, that her daughter 
was a confirmed invalid, and that their circumstances were such as 
compelled her taking it upon herself. The countenance of this lady, 
made beautiful and saintly with an evidently complete giving up of 
her life to privation and sorrowful tenderness, her gentle and 
mournful voice urging its plea, her long-forgotten but habitually and 
unconsciously refined manners, and her appealing and yet appreciative 
mention of the claims and abilities of her son, disclosed at once the 
presence of one of those angels upon earth that women in adversity 
can be. It was a hard fate that she was watching over. Mr. Poe wrote 
with fastidious difficulty, and in a style too much above the popular 
level to be well paid. He was always in pecuniary difficulty, and, 
with his sick wife, frequently in want of the merest necessaries of 
life. Winter after winter, for years, the most touching sight to us, 
in this whole city, has been that tireless minister to genius, thinly 
and insufficiently clad, going from office to office with a poem, or 
an article on some literary subject, to sell, sometimes simply 
pleading in a broken voice that he was ill, and begging for him, 
mentioning nothing but that "he was ill," whatever might be the 
reason for his writing nothing, and never, amid all her tears and 
recitals of distress, suffering one syllable to escape her lips that 
could convey a doubt of him, or a complaint, or a lessening of pride 
in his genius and good intentions. Her daughter died a year and a 
half since, but she did not desert him. She continued his ministering 
angel--living with him, caring for him, guarding him against 
exposure, and when he was carried away by temptation, amid grief and 
the loneliness of feelings unreplied to, and awoke from his self 
abandonment prostrated in destitution and suffering, _begging _for 
him still. If woman's devotion, born with a first love, and fed with 
human passion, hallow its object, as it is allowed to do, what does 
not a devotion like this-pure, disinterested and holy as the watch of 
an invisible spirit-say for him who inspired it? 
We have a letter before us, written by this lady, Mrs. Clemm, on the 
morning in which she heard of the death of this object of her 
untiring care. It is merely a request that we would call upon her, 
but we will copy a few of its words--sacred as its privacy is--to 
warrant the truth of the picture we have drawn above, and add force 
to the appeal we wish to make for her: 
"I have this morning heard of the death of my darling Eddie. . . . 
Can you give me any circumstances or particulars? . . . Oh! do not 
desert your poor friend in his bitter affliction! . . . Ask -Mr. -- 
to come, as I must deliver a message to him from my poor Eddie. . . . 
I need not ask you to notice his death and to speak well of him. I 
know you will. But say what an affectionate son he was to me, his 
poor desolate mother. . ." 
To hedge round a grave with respect, what choice is there, between 
the relinquished wealth and honors of the world, and the story of 
such a woman's unrewarded devotion! Risking what we do, in delicacy, 
by making it public, we feel--other reasons aside--that it betters 
the world to make known that there are such ministrations to its 
erring and gifted. What we have said will speak to some hearts. There 
are those who will be glad to know how the lamp, whose light of 
poetry has beamed on their far-away recognition, was watched over 
with care and pain, that they may send to her, who is more darkened 
than they by its extinction, some token of their sympathy. She is 
destitute and alone. If any, far or near, will send to us what may 
aid and cheer her through the remainder of her life, we will joyfully 
place it in her bands. 
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