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EDGAR ALLAN POE - Part 20

us to construct an engine in the first instance, it has been denied that we could compose an epic in the second. Because we were not Homers in the beginning, it has been somewhat too rashly taken for granted that we shall be all Jeremy Benthams to the end.

"But this is the purest insanity. The principles of the poetic sentiment lie deep within the immortal nature of man, and have little necessary reference to the worldly circumstances which sur round him. The poet of Arcady is, in Kamschatka, the poet still. The self same Saxon current animates the British and the American heart; nor can any social or political or moral or physical conditions do more than momentarily repress the impulses which glow in our own bosoms as fervently as in those of our progenitors."

Poe continued to be in the last years of his life a privileged contributor to magazines, in that he was allowed to express his opinions freely. His intellectual independence was not thwarted by editorial policies, and he was rather encouraged than discouraged to speak out his mind. His quarrel, aside from questions of money, seems not to have been so much resentment for what the editors did not accept from him as a more disinterested contempt for what they accepted from others. It was at this period that his dream of an independent magazine assumed its most magnificent and impossible form. He wrote to Lowell, proposing that the dozen elite of our men of letters should form a company to make the irresistible magazine, which should mount in two years to a hundred thousand copies, make them all rich, and reform literary taste. There is a naive enthusiasm in this oldish young man for a form of publication which has persistently refused to do much for the cause of pure letters, except to pay the butchers 7 bills of authors while they devote their off-time to productions not suited to the magazines. In Poe's case the facts are inverted : his best productions were suited to the magazines, but they did not pay his butcher's bills.

Poe's letter to Lowell about the magazine which should be independent, sincere, and original, was written in March, 1844. The next month he moved to New York, and attached himself to a metropolitan press, less dignified, less literary in its traditions than the press of Philadelphia. In his first week in New York he perpetrated his " Balloon Hoax" through the columns of the New York Sun. Poe's account, in a convincing reportorial style, of the passage of a balloon from England to America was successful in fooling many persons. The only humour in this sort of thing is the Swift-like contempt, of which Poe had a touch, for the gullibility of man.


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