The Southern Literary Messenger, 1834-1864/Sixth Volume

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One thing noticeable in the volume for 1840 is its three double numbers, which caused some grumbling. Subscribers and other readers did not like to be deprived of their welcome monthly visitor and, when at length it arrived, they had more good reading than they could well manage, with the usual demands upon their time.

The January (and February) number is ushered by a short poem, "The Dying Eagle," from Poe's friend, William Wallace, of Kentucky. Then comes "The New Year," in which the publisher makes a strong and touching presentation of his side of the case. He says that the work may now be regarded as established and yet that depended upon the manner in which his patrons responded to his appeal for greater promptitude in attending to their pecuniary obligations. He refers to his unremitting and disinterested labors, though "he is of a delicate frame," and what he urges and proposes ought to have been perfectly irresistible. He is also full of thankfulness. Rev. Mr. Chapin offers "A Christmas Ode," and a Baltimorean, W. F. F., makes a full and able defence of Dr. Charming against an attack upon him by Lord Brougham, in the Edinburgh Review. Then prose and poetry, of great variety, mostly original, but some selected and some translated, alternate, until 128 pages are well filled, in the new and beautiful dress that had been provided.

Among the new contributors are Edward Parmele, H. T. Tuckerman, between whom and Mrs. Seba Smith is a discussion in regard to Shelley; Edmund Bohun, Conway Robinson, M. Morgan, M.D., U.S.N.; Thos. Nelson, Elihu Burritt, F. M. Hubbard, S. Teackle Wallis, Lewis J. Cist, Dr. J. E. Snodgrass, Rufus W. Griswold, Prof. W. H. Fonerden, Georgia; Chas. Lanman, Lydia Jane Pierson; Jas. T. Fields, who was then a clerk in a Boston bookstore, but became one of the best-posted of littérateurs and the intimate friend of Charles Dickens; E. Browne, Kentucky; A. M. F. Buchanan, Mrs. E. J. Eames, W. G. Howard, Ohio; J. W. Mathews, Cornelia L. Tuthill, who wrote "Virgina Dare, or the Colony of Roanoke;" Ro. How. Gould, Geo. D. Strong, Dewitt E. Roberts, Mrs. Mary E. Hewitt, Payne Kenyon Kilbourn, G. Waterston, Geo. B. Wallis, Ohio; L. L. Noble, A. F. Olmstead, etc.

Some of the longest and most important articles are anonymous; e.g., "White and Black Slavery," R. T. H.; "My Uncle's Unpublished MSS."; "The History of an Adventurer," with its sequel; "The Motherless Daughters," by a Virginian, ascribed to Prof. Geo. E. Dabney, of Washington College, a ripe scholar and a fine writer, who was afterwards brought to Richmond College. The story, "The German's Daughter," attracted a good deal of attention. Its author was "a talented young lady, a native of Amelia county, Va." Her initials, T. H. E., have been met with before. Judge Upshur penned, as hardly any one else could have done, the sketch of Mr. Jefferson, in review of Prof. Geo. Tucker's "Life of the Sage of Monticello." "The Abbot, or Hermit of the Falls," W. C. P.(reston?), S. C., was highly commended. Mr. Heath and Lucian Minor reappear. Mr. Minor is greatly honored. He has removed to Charlottesville to experiment with his hobby, an utterly independent, impartial and no-sided newspaper. But there is a surmise that he may have been so partial as to have addressed a poem, on page 678, "To Mrs. S.P.Q., on her marriage. M., Louisa Co." He did write poetry and translate Greek odes. Eliza, of Maine, contributes some prose; but has become bolder in her poetic flights. So has Egeria, of Clark's Mills, Ohio, who has a poem, in three parts.

Harry Bluff (Lieut. M. F. Maury, still incog.) makes three draws of remarkable "Scraps from the Lucky Bag." No. III., "Details of the School Ship," had, no doubt, much to do with the founding of the U. S. Naval School at Annapolis. Maury preferred going to West Point, because of the advantages for study there. But when circumstances placed him in the Navy, he strove to improve himself and it in every way that he could, and he succeeded so admirably that many friends of the Army had their jealousy excited; and probably President Jefferson Davis unduly sympathized with them. Judge A. B. Longstreet, author of the famous "Georgia Scenes," has become president of Emory College, Georgia, and delivered a fine inaugural. Rev. Mr. Chapin, who is said to have assisted Mr. White editorially, has delivered a Fourth of July Oration before the Military of Richmond and has issued in Boston a volume, containing six of his lectures on the "Duties of Young Men," which is very favorably noticed and extracts taken.

The new publications of the day receive better attention and there is a notice of an address delivered by James L. Minor, Secretary of State, on the laying of the cornerstone of the University of the State of Missouri, at Columbia, He went from Fredericksburg, Va., as a young teacher and lawyer, to Missouri, about 1830. He gave up the law, but gained and held influential positions there. It was partly through his instrumentality that an ex-editor of the Messenger was called, in 1860, to the presidency of that university.

The whole civilized world has recently been deeply interested in the obsequies of England's great and lamented Queen. The Messenger has some poems addressed to her in the early years of her reign: one in January of this volume, on her Coronation, by Miss Charlotte M. S. Barnes, of New York.

This volume is a splendid one and after all that has been said, how much has had to be omitted. The New York Express, among many complimentary things, said of the Messenger: "Not on the South alone, however, but on the whole country it is shedding its genial influence. Like Washington and Jefferson and Marshall, the Messenger is the honored child of Virginia, but like them, too, its wide-spreading influence and high reputation have become the common property of the whole land."

The Messenger has made up with the Knickerbocker and favors it and the Gentleman's Magazine. It says: "We are pleased to find that our old assistant, Edgar A. Poe, is connected with Burton in the editorial management of the Gentleman's Magazine. Mr. Poe is favorably known to the readers of the Messenger as a gentleman of fine endowments; possessing a taste classical and refined, an imagination affluent and splendid, and withal, a singular capacity for minute and mathematical detail. We always predicted that Mr. Poe would reach a high grade in American literature, but we also thought, and still think, that he is too much attached to the gloomy German mysticism to be a useful and effective writer, without a total divorce from that sombre school. Take, for example, the tale of 'The Fall of the House of Usher,' which is understood to be from his pen. It is written with great power, but leaves on the mind a painful and horrible impression, without any redeeming admonition to the heart. It resembles a finely sculptured statue, beautiful to the eye, but without an immortal spirit. We wish that Mr. Poe would stick to the department of criticism: there he is an able professor and he uses up the vermin who are continually crawling, unbidden, into the literary arena, with the skill and nonchalance of a practiced surgeon. He cuts them up by piecemeal and rids the Republic of Letters of such nuisances, just as a good officer of police sentences to their proper destination the night-strollers and vagabonds who infest our cities. We sincerely wish Mr. Poe well and hope that he will take our advice in good part."

When Lea & Blanchard published Mr. Poe's "Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque," they are treated thus: "To say that we admire Mr. Poe's style, abstractly considered, is more than we can say and speak truly; neither can we perceive any particular beneficial tendency that is likely to flow from his writings. This, of course, is a mere matter of opinion and we may differ in saying so from many. At the same time, the possession of high powers of invention and—imagination—of genius is undoubtedly his. His productions are, many of them, in Literature like Martin's in the Fine Arts. His serious sketches all bear the marks of bold, fertile genius. There is the dark cloud hanging over all; there are the dim, misty, undefined shapes in the background. But amid all these arise huge and magnificent columns, flashing lamps, rich banqueting vessels, gleaming tiaras and sweet, expressive faces. But the writings of Mr. Poe are well known to the readers of the Messenger" etc., etc.