Why was Egar regarded as a harsh reviewer?

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I'm truly puzzled... he did it first & foremost for a living. Could anyone enlighten me on this part? Who was Longfellow, where can I find the history of his war with him, & which second-rate poetesses did Edgar praise? Was Lady Morgan one of them?

Ever so gratefully yours in advance.

-- Anonymous, May 13, 2003


Dear Maria, Your question is a perfect illustration of the difficulty to find the considerable bulk of Poe's critical writings in usual editions of his works. Thanks Heaven (?), you can at last get a huge choice from them on line at www.eapoe.org, and judge by yourself. Though really "severe" toward unimportant literati and also, sometimes, very partial, Poe was almost always keen and just in his appreciation (praise or condemnation) upon his great (as well as minor) contemporaries. A fact often overlooked, when we see that critics generally liked better and still like better to dissert on well- established authors. Poe's well-argumented evaluation of Longfellow's or Tennyson's poetical talents and art, of Dickens' or Hawthorne's prose genius, does remain sound and perfectly valuable even today. Most of Poe's fellow-critics of his time were, on the other hand, mere "puffers" and vassal writers under various "cliques"' control, a thing Poe always tried to escape from, even when starving... A good lesson of ethic in art, to my mind. Poe was not always so objective when disserting on poetical merits of some of the minor (and forgotten) poetesses. You will find texts about Mrss A.Welby, L. H. Sigourney, F. S. Osgood, E. O. Smith, F. Hemans, L. E. Landon, &c... at the site mentioned above; and you will perhaps realize that , with the exception of a few ones, Poe's final verdicts are not so laudatory as they could seem at first look. Poe was a virtuose indeed in words - assemblages, and in faint praise too (cfr. for instance his review of E. B. Barrett's "Drama of Exile and other Poems")! Lady Morgan was above all an Irish prose-writer, with considerable success in the 1820's - 1830's, whose affectation and sensibility Poe liked to gently satirize in some of his own early prose works. A book to be especially mentioned here for its very good samples from Poe's critical writings, is the "Essays and Reviews" published, since 1984, by The Library of America, and still available. A "must" for all lovers of Poe's bright mind and genius. Good luck in your well-chosen uncommon path! Yours sincerely, Raven's Shade (Belgium).

-- Anonymous, May 14, 2003

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