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lowed his wife's death, Poe resumed work. He lectured and he wrote. Eureka was published early in 1847. The consuming desire to own and edit a magazine was no less consuming, and he made some progress towards founding ‘The Stylus.'
The summer of 1849 Poe spent in Richmond and was received with cordiality. He proposed marriage to Mrs. Shelton of that city, a wealthy widow, somewhat older than himself, and was accepted. On the last of September he started for New York to get Mrs. Clemm and bring her to Richmond. He was found almost unconscious on October 3 at Baltimore, in a saloon used as a vot
3 ing place, was taken to a hospital, and died at five o'clock on the morning of October 7, 1849.
Poe's wilfulness in marring his own fortunes bordered on fatuity. At an age when men give over youthful excesses merely because they are incongruous, he had not so much as begun to settle ‘down.' The appropriate period for sowing wild oats is brief at best. Nothing justifies an undue prolongation. It were absurd to take the lofty tone with a man of genius because at the age
of seventeen he carried to extreme the indulgences characteristic of the youth of his time, or because at eighteen he ran away from a book-keeper's desk to join the army. Impulsiveness and vacillation are not wholly bad things at eighteen; but at thirty they are ridiculous.
Poe's abuse of liquor and opium has long been well understood, and the question of his responsibility handed over to the decision of the medical faculty. If
many of his troubles sprang from this abuse, many more arose out of his unwillingness to recognize the fact that he was a part of society, not an isolated and self-sufficient being. As a genius he was entitled to his prerogative. He was also a man among men and under the same obligations to continued fair dealing, courtesy, patience, and forbearance as were his fellows. In these matters he was notoriously deficient. No one could have been more eager for praise and sympathy than Poe. He asked for both and received in the measure of his asking. Men of influence helped him ungrudgingly. They lent him money, commended his work, defended him at first from the criticism of those who thought they had suffered at his hands; but it was to no purpose. By his perversity and capriciousness (as also by an occasional display of that which in a less highly endowed man than he would have been called malevolence) Poe alienated those who were most inclined to befriend him. Nevertheless he wondered that friends fell away.
With a powerful mind, a towering imagination, a natural command of the technical part of literature, which he improved by tireless exercise, and with no little spontaneity of productive energy, Poe remained a boy in character, self-willed, spoiled, ungrateful, petulant. The sharper the lash of fortune's whip on his shoulders, the more rebellious he became.
The affair of the Boston Lyceum illustrates Poe's singular disregard of what is expected of men supposed to know the ways of the world. A Southern paper commenting on this affair said that Poe should not have gone to Boston. The implication was that as Poe had been attacking the New Englanders for years he could not expect
fair treatment. Poe had indeed often attacked the 'Frogpondians,' as he enjoyed calling them, and they invited him to come and read an original poem on an occasion of some local importance. This may have been a mark of innocence on the part of the ‘Frogpondians;' it can hardly be construed as indicative of narrowness or prejudice. Poe accepted their hospitality apparently in the spirit in which it was offered, read one of his old poems, and declared afterward that he wrote it before completing his tenth year, and that he considered it would answer sufficiently well for an audience of Transcendentalists: It was the best ' we had — for the price — and it did answer
— remarkably well.'
The episode is of no importance save as it illustrates Poe's attitude towards the game of life. Poe expected other men to play the game strictly according to the rules, for himself he would play the game in his own way. And he did. But he could not go on breaking the rules indefinitely. They who had his real interest at heart told him as much. Simms, the novelist, wrote Poe in July, 1846, that he deeply deplored his misfortunes —
, the more so as I see no process for
relief 'but such as must result from your own decision and resolve.' The letter should be read in its entirety. It does honor to the writer's manly nature, and it throws no little light on the enigmatic character of Poe.
THE PROSE WRITER
Poe's genius was essentially journalistic. In his prose writing he aimed at an immediate effect, and he knew exactly how to produce it. The journalist does not in general write with a view to the influence his paragraph will produce week after next. The paper will have disappeared week after next, if not day after to-morrow. Though his theme be the eternal verities, the journalist must write as if he had bụt the one chance to speak on that subject. He will therefore be direct, positive, clear, seeking to persuade, convince, irritate, amuse.
The most obvious characteristics of Poe's style are found in his clarity, his vividness, his precision, in the dense shadows and the high lights, in the hundred unnamed but distinctly felt marks of the journalistic style. Whatever he proposes to do, that he does. There is no fumbling. Even his mysteries are as certain as the stage effects in a spectacular drama; they seem to come at the turning of an electric switch or the inserting of a blue glass before the lime light. In reality the process is much more complicated. Other magicians have essayed to produce like effects by turning the same switch, with disastrous result.
Poe was a diligent seeker after literary finish. He was painstaking, and would polish and retouch a paragraph when to the eye of a good judge there was nothing left to do by way of improvement. “He seemed never to regard a story as finished.'1
He was over emphatic at times, and like De Quincey, many of whose irritating mannerisms he had caught, made a childish use of italics. But he had no need of these adventitious supports. It was enough for him to state a thing in his inimitable manner. While his vocabulary was for the most part simple, he was not without his verbal affectations. He loved words surcharged with
G. E. Woodberry.