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illustrates the remark by an anecdote corroborative of its truth. “The innumerable legends which accumulated round his life and name,” says Mr. Conway, “were, in one sense, a tribute to his extraordinary powers. He is one of the few men who are represented by a mythology."
The persistent enmity, which follows his fame like a shadow, is without a parallel in the literary history of our country. While
of the old slanders have lost their pungency, Poe's memory continues to be assailed on the most baseless and preposterous pretexts. Apparently society needs a typical Don Giovanni, a representative Mephistopheles, to frighten reprobates and refractory children, and to point a pious moral.
The Rev. Dr. Bartol, of Boston, a most exemplary and benignant gentleman, of progressive views and liberal ten•dencies, lately illustrated an eloquent specimen of pulpit oratory, by denouncing Poe as “the unhappy master, who recklessly carried the torch of his genius into the haunts of the drunkard and the debauchee, until he utterly extinguished it in his profligate poems !" Evidently the good Doctor had not read these “profligate poems"--poems to which the severest moralist accords“ a matchless purity.” At what shrine, then, was the torch of his clerical criticism lighted ? Probably he had been reading Mr. Francis Gerry Fairfield's “Mad Man of Letters,” and vaguely associated with “the haunt of the drunkard,” Sandy Welsh's celiar, the noonday glass of ale, the cotemporaries, and the joint-stock company who got up the Raven! Out of such materials is the scroll of history replenished !
Mr. George Parsons Lathrop, in a note to his article on “ Poe, Irving, and Hawthorne,” as published in Scribner's
Monthly for April, shows the heedless manner in which Mr.
“In his Mad Man of Letters,'” says Mr. Lathrop, "he quotes the testimony of Moreau de Tours as coincident with that of Maudsley in the assertion that the more original orders of genius are akin to madness.” Mr. Lathrop says that Dr. Maudsley says nothing of the kind ; that he admits that Poe's genius was akin to madness, but denies that it was genius of the highest kind.
However this may be—and we think Dr. Maudsley is not always luminous and consistent with himself on this obscure question—it may not be uninteresting to cite here what the learned alienist said in a somewhat rhetorical article on Edgar Allan Poe, written for the Fournål of Mental Science, April, 1860. The purport of the article was to show that, with a nature so rarely and sensitively organized, developed under circumstances so exceptionally perilous, Poe's strange and sorrowful career was not only natural, but inevitable.
"Strange," says Dr. Maudsley,“ how far back lies the origin of any event in this world ! Remembering the young law student, the father of the poet, sitting, with rapt countenance, in the pit of the Baltimore Theater, and absorbed in the enchanting actress upon whom every eye was turned in admiration, one cannot help reflecting that in this supreme moment lay the germ of things which were to occupy the world's attention, so long, it may be, as it existed : Edgar Poe, his poetry, and the amazement of mankind at his strange, lurid, and irregular existence.”
After this it matters little in what precise order or rank of the poetical hierarchy the Doctor accords him a place ; his words are an involuntary tribute to a genius,
" whose mere
potency, dissociated from other elements,” Mr. Lathrop admits to be “unrivaled and pre-eminent.”
In connection with Dr. Maudsley's theory of antenatal influences, one of those strange coincidences which startled Macbeth as an intimation of " fate and metaphysical aid," happened to me yesterday.
Among a large collection of old plays and pamphlets, which, after lying perdu for half a century, I was just about to surrender to an importunate chiffonier, my eye fell upon one as worn and yellow as the priceless laces of a centennial belle. The title arrested me ; it was “The Wood Dæmon; or, the Clock has Struck!' a Grand, Romantic, Cabalistic Melodrama, in Three Acts, interspersed with Processions, Pageants, and Pantomimes [as performed at the Boston Theater with unbounded applause]. Boston: 1808." I turned the page with a premonitory chill, and lo! among the list of performers, I found the name of “Mr. Poe."
In a curious preface, dated March 30, 1808, the soi-disant“ author,”admitting that he had taken the plot, etc., etc., from M. G. Lewis, "commits his 'Wood Dæmon,' with all its defects, to the fostering bosom of an indulgent public, in the trembling hope that, as the production of a native American, it may be found worthy of their cheering patronage."
Apparently the “gentle public" did not disappoint the trust reposed in it.
A note prefixed to Byron's unfinished drama, “ The Deformed Transformed,” states that the plot was taken in part from the same romance which furnished M. G. Lewis with the plot of his “Wood Dæmon,” and in part from the “Faust” of Goethe.
Tales of the wild and wonderful were winging their way from Germany and from the Orient, to possess the minds of Scott and Coleridge, Shelley and Godwin, Moore and Southey, and Savage Landor, whose “Geber” surpassed them all. A taste for melodrama, with its gorgeous pageants and grand spectacles, was beginning to take possession of the stage, until, as Mrs. Kemble has told us, in a recent chapter of her “Old Woman's Gossip,” the splendid opera of “Der Freyschutz" swept everything before it.
Sorcery and Necromancy, Wild Yagers and Wild Huntsmen, Wood Dæmons and Specters and Ghoul-haunted Woodlands” ruled the hour. The clock had struck; and, to judge from present appearances, the end is not yet.
When “ The Dæmon” made his first appearance in Boston, Dr. Maudsley's impressible young law student, then a husband and father, was seeking a precarious subsistence by playing, sorrowfully enough, we may well believe, his subsidiary part in the great pageant. To him, doubtless,
“The play was the tragedy. Man,'
And its hero, the Conqueror Worm.”
What effect these dramatic antecedents and the influences of the hour may have had on the young poet, who made his first appearance on the stage of life within a year from that date, Dr. Maudsley may perhaps be able to determine.
Remembering these things, what a weird significance must ever henceforth attach to that wonderful poem,
"Lo! 'tis a gala night.”
SARAH HELEN WHITMAN. PROVIDENCE, R. I., July, 1876.
LIFE OF Edgar A. PoE.
THE POE FAMILY.-GENERAL POE, THE GRANDFATHER OF THE
POET.-His PATRIOTIC DEVOTION TO THE CAUSE OF AMERI-
HE life of a poet, however distinguished, seldom
offers that agreeable variety which makes the
lives of heroes so interesting. But the life of the author of “The Raven ” furnishes an acknowledged exception to this general rule. The story of the beautiful and gifted boy, who, reared in luxury and taught to expect a fortune, was thrown upon the world, poor and friendless, at the early age of twenty ; who, by the force of supreme genius, placed his name among the highest in the highest ranks of fame; whose glory has brightened as the years rolled along,
“ Till now his genius fills a throne,
And nations marvel at his feet”such a story must command the attention of all who