What did the critics think of Poe's work and Poe in general?

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I need to find out what the critics thought about Poe's work and Poe in general. Did they like him? Did they hate him? Was there much contraversy? How did Poe react to his critics?

-- Anonymous, May 14, 2002


For critics' views try www.poecentral.com and www.eapoe.org for starters. In his own time Poe was a sharp and unsparing critic at a time when polite puffery and hype fit for ladies' reading circles was the general rule. He sold magazines with his ironic bloodletting that earned him the nickname "Tomahawk" Poe with his iron pen. I think Elizabeth Barrett(Browning) called him that first, after reacting to a review of her poems that alternately praised then demolished her work.

Poe made enemies, deliberately on behalf of selling copies and defending literature. His mad assault on Longfellow clinched his enmity with the entire Northeast establishment. His great poet friend Lowell teased him in a list of contemporary poets and Poe took that badly considering what he had been dishing out. When he went to Boston or New York it was understood he would take on all comers in the local literary circles. As a Southerner and as a unique, bolder and more popular writer he never was accepted by huge parts of the literary establishment in America, a split which absurdly continues today at least in part. T.S. Eliot enjoyed Poe's attacks on his poet ancestors, but then trashed Poe generally.

The attacks on Poe take two forms generally: the personal attacks on his character and mind(often dishonestly disguised), ridiculing his works and accomplishments, that too often down to the last verse. Emerson called Poe "the jingle man". He was out of the lofty mainstream that Amemrica was trying to build up to match British prestige. The personal attacks really took off, of course, after Poe's death, when one of his victims wrangled his way into becoming the executor of Poe's legacy. Rufus Griswold's calumnous obituary has put Poe's friends and fans on the defensive ever since, reinforcing the natural public prejudice that anyone who wrote "those kind of stories and scary poems" must be weird himself. it took fifty years for the public shame to be lifted enough for his advocates to reply and even longer for critics to dare look at true value of Poe's contributions. By then his influence on the detective story, modern criticism itself, the theory of art here and abroad, American literature, poetry, the short story, etc was proven by a host of writers under his influence or following his example. Also, more is known about his unfortunate life than even his friends could bring up while seemingly giving points to his attackers. GB Shaw has a rather enthusiastic defense of Poe. Yeats calls him a great lyric poet. As Poe himself noted about quality criticism. It takes one to know one. Of course, defending someone also causes dostortions, obscuring his real value and limitations.

-- Anonymous, May 14, 2002

Darn!!! poecentral is toast. A link to AllPoe.com is valuable for student questions, unfortunately without some of the historical depth.

-- Anonymous, May 14, 2002

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