• The William E. Self Library, I auction at Christies

    Sale 2153

    The William E. Self Library, Important English and American Literature

    4 December 2009, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 159

    POE, Edgar Allan. Autograph letter signed ("Edgar A Poe") to Joseph Evans Snodgrass, Philadelphia, 11 September [1839].

    Price Realised  


    POE, Edgar Allan. Autograph letter signed ("Edgar A Poe") to Joseph Evans Snodgrass, Philadelphia, 11 September [1839].

    2 pages, 4to (255 x 200mm), integral address leaf with postal markings. Damaged and restored: a horizontal section at bottom of the text leaf (55 x 120mm.) torn away and renewed, neat mends along several folds causing losses of some letters and phrases (these supplied from an early transcript), slight staining, address leaf backed. Half morocco folding box.


    A fine literary letter in which Poe contrives to have a laudatory reference to his work ("a fervid fancy and a most beautiful enthusiasm") inserted in a Baltimore periodical. Snodgrass, a Baltimore physician, also edited The American Museum of Science, Literature and the Arts. Snodgrass ministered to Poe in his last days and was present at his death. Here, the poet thanks Snodgrass for his "friendly attention in forwarding the St. Louis 'Bulletin.' I was the more gratified, as the reception of the paper convinced me that you... had no share in the feelings of ill-will towards me, which are somewhat prevalent (God only knows why) in Balt[imore]." He asks Snodgrass to write "and let me have the Balt. news...."

    "I have now a great favor too ask - and think that I may depend on your friendship. It is to write a [not]ice (such as you think rigidly jus[t] - no more) of the Sep: number of the [Gen]t's Mag: embodying in your art[icle] the passage concerning myse[lf], from the St. Louis Bulletin - in an[y] manner which your good tas[te] may suggest. The critique...might be handed to Neilson Poe. If you ask him to insert it editorially, it is possible he may do it - but, in fact, I have no great faith in him. If he refuses - then...Mr. Harker of the 'Republican'...will secure its insertion there. If you will do me this great favor, depend on any similar good office from me, 'upon demand'.

    "I am about to publish my tales collectively - [an]d shall be happy to send you an early [copy]. Poe quotes the passage from the Bulletin he wants Snodgrass to circulate: "I append the extract from the Bulletin. 'The general tone [& character of this work (The S.L. Messenger)] impart luster to our perio[dical literature; and we really congratulate] its publisher upon the so[und and steadfast popularity which it] has acquired. Let it [never be forgotten, however, that the first] impetus to the favor [of literary men which it received was] given by the glowing pen of Edgar A. Poe now assistant editor of Burtons Gentleman's Magazine; and, although, since he has left it, has well maintained its claims to respectability, yet there are few writers in this country - take Neal, Irving & Willis away and we would say none - who can compete successfully, in many respects, with Poe. With an acuteness of observation, a vigorous and effective style, and an independence that defies control, he unites a [fervid] fancy and a most beautiful enthusiasm. His is a high destiny'."

    In a postscript, Poe asks if Snodgrass has seen mentions of his work in other literary periodicals, begs Snodgrass to send him "something for the Gents Mag?" (edited by Poe) and reports "I have made a profitable arrangement with Blackwoods' Mag: and my forthcoming Tales are promised a very commendatory review in that journal from the pen of Prof. Wilson. Keep this a secret, if you please, for the present."

    Snodgrass obligingly placed the "puff" of Poe's literary efforts, and when advance copies of his Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque became available, Poe kept his promise and sent one to Snodgrass. Published (with damaged text supplied from an early transcript) in Letters, ed. Ostrom, no. 81.

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