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The Raven Returns

edgar allan poe bicentennial celebration

Intro | Poe & Boston: 1809-1849 | The Lyceum Fiasco | Lowell & Poe | They Love Poe | Poe & Boston: 2009



Two disasters rounded out what had initially promised to be Poe’s most successful year: the unsurprising demise of the Broadway Journal and a lecture in Boston that turned into a public relations fiasco. Still enjoying popularity as the author of “The Raven,” Poe was in demand as a speaker. James Russell Lowell, at this point still admiring of Poe, had arranged for him to read some of his poems before the venerable Boston Lyceum on 16 October 1845.

- James M. Hutchisson, Poe, 2005             


Lowell's friendship with Poe was not destined to good fortune. There had been mutal good-will and respect, with kindly offices, on both sides. The conncestion of Poe with Briggs in the editorial conduct of the Broadway Journal was the occasion of an exchange of views and facts between Briggs and Lowell which left Poe's reputation very much impaired in Lowell's judgement.

Poe's admiration for the "author of  'Rosaline,'" on the other hand, did not survive the lines in "The Fable for Critics" in which his own portrait was not inaptly drawn; after Briggs ceased to be his co-editor, Poe attacked Lowell as a plagiarist, and the latter expressed his resentment at length in a passage to be found in his published "Letters"; Lowell, too, had lately met Poe just recovering from a spree, and the impression then received was sufficient of itself to terminate their relations.

A short time after, in October, 1845, occurred to the public scandal of Poe's visit to Boston to read a poem before the Boston Lyceum, which confirmed him in his lifelong dislike of the Bostonians. Later, in an unpublished letter to Mr. F W. Thomas, early in 1849, Poe denounced Lowell with some contempt, and made a public disclosure of his changed attitude by an unfavorable review of "The Fable for Critics," in The Southern Literary Messenger, in February of that year.

  - The New York Times, August 19, 1894        


Lowell on Poe


Before the Lyceum Lecture

Mr. Poe has that indescribable something which men have agreed to call genius. No man could ever tell us precisely what it is, and yet there is none who is not inevitably aware of its presence and its power. Let talent writhe and contort itself as it may, it has no such magnetism.

- “Edgar Allan Poe,” Graham’s Magazine, February 1845

After the Lyceum Lecture

There comes Poe, with his raven, like Barnaby Rudge,
Three-fifths of him genius and two-fifths sheer fudge,
Who talks like a book of iambs and pentameters,
In a way to make people of common-sense damn metres,
Who has written some things quite of their kind,
But the heart somehow seems all squeezed out by the mind.

-“A Fable for Critics,” 1848


Poe to and on Lowell


Before the Lyceum Lecture

Letter, Poe to Lowell, November 1842:

Dr Sir,
Learning your design of commencing a Magazine, in Boston, upon the first of January next, I take the liberty of asking whether some arrangement might not be made, by which I should become a regular contributor.

 I should be glad to furnish a short article each month—of such character as might be suggested by yourself—and upon such terms as you could afford “in the beginning.”

That your success will be marked and permanent I will not doubt. At all events I sincerely wish you well; for no man in America has excited in me so much of admiration—and, therefore, none so much of respect and esteem—as the author of “Rosaline”.

May I hope to hear from you at your leisure? In the meantime, believe me,

Most Cordially Yours, Edgar Allan Poe

After the Lyceum Lecture

The "Fable [for Critics]" is essentially "loose"—ill-conceived and feebly executed, as well in detail as in general. Some good hints and some sparkling witticisms do not serve to compensate us for its rambling plot (if plot it can be called) and for the want of artistic finish so particularly noticeable throughout the work—especially in its versification. In Mr. Lowell's prose efforts we have before observed a certain disjointedness, but never, until now, in his verse— and we confess some surprise at his putting forth so unpolished a performance.

- "James Russell Lowell," Southern Literary Messenger, March 1849