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EDGAR PoE AND HIS CRITICS.

The author of the “ Original Memoir" prefixed to the volume of Poe's Illustrated Poems, recently published by Redfield, says, “Of all the poets, whose lives have been a puzzle and a mystery to the world, there is not one more difficult to be understood than Edgar Allan Poe.” The Rev. George Gilfillan, in his very imaginative portraiture of the poet, admits that the moral anatomists who have met and wondered over his life, have given up all attempts at dissection and diagnosis, turning away with the solemnly whispered warning to the world, and especially to its more brilliant and gifted intellects, “ Beware!"

He confesses that a history so strange as that of Edgar Poe should prompt us to new and more searching methods of critical as well as moral analysis. But before such analysis can be instituted we must have fuller, more dispassionate, and more authentic records of the phenomena to be analysed. The well written, but very brief memoir prefixed to the Illustrated Poems, and the various sketches that have, from time to time, appeared in the French and English periodicals, are all based on the narrative of Dr. Griswold, a narrative notoriously deficient in the great essentials of candor and authenticity. “It is a rare accomplishment," says

our most original writers, “ to hear a story as it is told; still rarer to remember it as heard, and rarest of all to tell it as it is remembered."

If Dr. Griswold's Memoir of Edgar Poe betrays the want of any, or all, of these accomplishments—if its remorseless violations of the trust confided to him are such as to make the unhallowed act of Trelawney towards the enshrouded form of the dead Byron seem

one

guiltless in comparison, we must nevertheless endeavour to remember that the memorialist, himself, now claims from us that tender grace of charity that he was unwilling, or unable, to accord to the man who trusted him as a friend.

It is not our purpose at present specially to review Dr. Griswold's numerous misrepresentations, and misstatements. Some of the more injurious of these anecdotes were disproved, during the life of Dr. Griswold, in the New York Tribune, and other leading journals, without eliciting from him any public statement in explanation or apology. Quite recently we have had, through the columns of the Home Journal, the refutation of another calumnious story, which for ten years has been going the rounds of the English and American periodicals.

We have authority for stating that many of the disgraceful anecdotes, so industriously collected by Dr. Griswold, are utterly fabulous, while others are perversions of the truth, more injurious in their effects than unmitigated fiction. But, as we have said, it is not our purpose at present to revert to these. We propose simply to point out some unfounded critical estimates which have obtained currency among readers who have but a partial acquaintance with Mr. Poe's more imaginative writings, and to record our own impressions of the character and genius of the poet, as derived from personal observation, and from the testimony of those who knew him. Although he had been connected with some of the leading magazines of the day, and had edited for a time with great ability several successful periodicals, Mr. Poe's literary reputation at the North had been comparatively limited until his removal to New York, in the autumn of 1847, when he became personally known to a large circle of authors and literary people, whose interest in his writings was manifestly enhanced by the perplexing anomalies of his character, and by the singular magnetism of his pre

One who knew him at this period of his life says, “Everything about him distinguished him as a man of mark; his countenance, person, and gait, were alike characteristic. His features were regular, and decidedly handsome. His complexion was clear and dark; the colour of his fine eyes seemingly a dark grey, but on closer inspection they were seen to be of that neutral, violet tint which is so difficult to define. His forehead was, without exception, the finest, in proportion and expression, that we have ever seen. The perceptive organs were not deficient, but seemed pressed out of the way by causality, comparison, and constructiveness. Close to these rose the proud arches of ideality. The coronal region was very imperfect, wanting in reverence and conscientiousness, and presenting a key to many of his literary characteristics. The ideas of right and wrong are as feeble in his chains of thought as in the literature of ancient Greece.” We quote this description for its general fidelity. Its estimate of literary characteristics conveyed in the closing sentence we shall revert to in another place. The engraved portraits of Mr. Poe have very little

sence.

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