Notes from Edgar A. Poe: A Biography

p. 53 “Now twenty years old, Henry was seeing the world, serving in South America and elsewhere aboard the U.S.S Macedonian, and writing and publishing some sketches and poems.  Edgar did take over his brother’s identity and adventures in trying to disentangle himself from his troubles in Richmond.  Likely to mystify John Allan and to mislead his creditors, even perhaps his jailer, he sometimes used the alias Henri Le Rennet, a Frenchifying of his brother’s middle names, Henry Leonard.

p. 62 “At the time or in later recollections they described him as being the grandson of Benedict Arnold, as having run away from his “adopted father,” graduated from a college in England, visited South America, led a “wild, adventurous life, travelling in Europe and the Esat, and was seaman, I think, on board a whaler.”

p.99 “This is the golden age of periodicals!” The procolamation, by an Ilinois magazine in 1831, was premature, a reaction to only the early stage of what would become a six hundred percent multipilication of American periodicals between 1825 and 1850.  New printing technologies would ffed this huge growth, as well as the diffusion of public education, improvements in eyeglasses and wider and easier distribution  of printed works by a growing network of railroads, whose passengers also welcomed easy-to-read- fare that could be drapped in a valise or a carpetbag.  Many of the mushroom new magazines would die after a few issues; few would last more than a year or two.  But within a quarter of a century the country would produce altogether some four or five thousand of them.”

p.247 “Poe traced this economic problem to what many other considered the source of the proliferation of magazines itself: lack of an international copyright.  Under existing law, American works could be coprighted but English (and European) works could not.  In the literary marketplace this meant that American publishers had to pay to pirate English books rather than publish American.  Many held that this lack of economic protection for American books that reduced their numbers and drove writers into the magazines.  But there situation was ever worse, for American publishers of periodicals pirated not only English magazine pieces but American as well. “Without an international copyright law,”Poe wrote, “American authors may as well cut their throats.” Not surprisingly, he approved the decision of George Rex Graham, against much protest, to copyright each issue of his magazine, and he joined the American Copyright Club organized in New York in 1843 under the presidency of William Cullen Bryant.  The group denounced literary piracy as a crime and promoted enactment of law against it.  Many publishers opposed such laws, arguing that their very absence made a vast amount of literature affordable to a vast American public…Poe, however, denounced this flood of inexpensive books shabbily printed on flimsy paper…”

p. 249 “Living in New York and writing for a New York magazine made it natural for Poe to venture into theater reviewing, New Yorkers boasted of having more public palces of amusement than any city in Europe of like extent, among them six theaters and a circus open nightly and two museums offering ‘dramatic entertainments’…”

p.251-2 “Having created a sensation with ‘The Raven,’ Poe expanded in the Journal his recent assault on Longfellow, and became more talked about than ever.  The Longfellow War, as it got be known, began in earnest on March 1, when Willis’s newspaper published a lengthy letter by a purported acquantaince of Longfellow who signed himself Outis, the Greek word for ‘nobody.’  With mild-mannered reasonableness, Outis turned aside Poe’s charges of plagiarism against Longfellow.  He argued that the existence of very similar elements in two literary works does not prove literary theft.  The closer the resemblances, indeed, the less likely the possibility of plagiarism, for no one seeking literary reputation would blatantly lift another writer’s best thoughts and claim them as his own, knowing that the pilferage could be instantly exposed….He made it clear at the same time that no “imitation” by Poe was involved. Over the next month Poe published in the Journal no fewer than five rejoinders to Outis’s letters, mounting a siege of Longfellow that in modern editions runs to some fifty pages….While editing Burton’s, he had accused Longfellow of plagiarizing Tennyson…The ongoing ‘Longfellow War’distressed Poe’s partner-employer Briggs.  In allowing Poe to undertake his campaign, he had expected him to write no more than one article…But he also had close ties with New England, especially among abolitionists there, and he worreid over the response of Boston and Cambridge: ‘I hope that Longfellow is too good a fellow to take it much to heart.’  He also fretted theat Longfellow might turn against Lowell (the two were becoming friendly), who after all had introduced Poe to the Journal.”

p. 264 “The literary magazines of Boston and New York contended for preeminence in American letters and often carped at each other.  Briggs reported the existence in New York of  “a little squad of Literati…who have sworn to exterminate the whole race of Yankee authors.”

p.265 “The moral and ethical preocuppations of Transcendentalism only reflects the tumult of his feelings about Bosotn.  He used the terms Humanity party of Boston, Transcendentalists, and Socialists loosely and interchangably, and tried to justify his inconsistency by explaining that that the ‘party’s’ chief trait was confusion: ‘They could not define their own position & it cannot be expected that I can define them exactly.’

p.275 “His earnings for all of 1845 amounted to about $699.”

p.296 To cite only two of many audacious French writers for whom Poem became an adored master, Stéphane Mallarmé said that Poe taught him to exclude chance from poetry and to calculate semantic and aural impact of every word.  In a part of Tel Quel, Paul Valéry made Poe’s theories not only a process but also the content:

I seek a word (says the poet) a word which is


has two syllables,

contains p or f,

ends in a mute vowel. . .

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