April 16, 1846

Edgar Allan Poe Details His Literary Life and Says “The Raven” and “The Valdemar Case” Are His Best Things

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Having been ill these last two months, Poe has been in the country; Pendleton should write him in New York and not Baltimore. He agrees with Pendleton about Lucian Minor: “He is the King of Donkey-dom.” Poe has sent Pendleton’s work to editors, and discusses at length how, and how much, certain magazines pay: “They graduate their pay by mere whim - apparent popularity or their own opinion of merit.”

In this connection he reviews what he recently got paid for "Marginalia" and "Philosophy of Composition", and what he has received from various editors in the past. But Nathaniel Parker Willis and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, he believes, are well paid. When Pendleton’s book comes out, Poe assures him, he too will have fame and money both. Still, Rufus Wilmot Griswold is right about the externals of Pendleton’s book: “Never commit yourself as a pamphleteer.”

Poe, meanwhile, is writing a series called "The N. Y. City Literati" for Godey’s Magazine which he hopes to publish as a book, "The Living Literati of the U S." He intends to feature Pendleton in it and asks what works he should quote. The book will also carry a preface about Poe, by James Russell Lowell but it is defective, he says, “inasmuch as it says nothing of my latest & I think my best things - "The Raven" (for instance), "The Valdemar Case." Poe would like Pendleton to amend a “P.S.” to Lowell’s memoir “because I fancy that you appreciate me - estimate my merits & demerits at a just value. If you are willing to oblige me - speak frankly above all - speak of my faults, too, as forcibly as you can.”

Autograph Letter Signed (“Edgar A. Poe”), 2 pages, quarto, New York, April 16 ’42 [1846]. To Phillip Pendleton Cooke.

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Transcript

New-York - April 16 - 42. 

My Dear Sir,

Your three last letters reached me day before yesterday, all at once. I have been living in the country for the last two months (having been quite sick) and all letters addressed to 85 Amity St. were very sillily retained there, until their accumulation induced the people to send them to the P. Office. When you write again address me, at large, N. Y. I fully agree with you (and a little to boot) about Minor. He is the King of Donkey-dom. Your "Power of the Bards" is glorious. I have sent it to Colton, who will be delighted with it - I mean Colton of the "American Review." Not being yet able to leave my room I sent, also, your "Turkey-Hunter" to Porter, with a note, speaking of you as I have always spoken. I enclose you his reply. I retain the MSS. Tell me what I shall do with them. You ask for information about the usual pay of the Magazines. A definite answer is impossible. They graduate their pay by mere whim - apparent popularity -or their own opinion of merit. Real merit is rather no recommendation. For my last two contributions to "Graham" - 5 pp. of "Marginalia" and 4 pp "Philosophy of Composition" (have you seen this latter?) I received $50 - about 8 per page. I furnish Godey regular papers (one each month) at $5 per page. The $5 Magazines do not pay quite so well and are by no means so prompt. Colton gives me $3 per page and the Dem. Review $2 - but I seldom send anything to the latter. "Arthur's Magazine" gave me, not long ago, $10 a page for a paper "The Sphynx" - but the pay is no pay for the degradation. What others get from the Magazines I can scarcely say - although I know that Willis and Longfellow have been liberally paid - liberally as times go & as publishers think. When your book comes out, I fancy that it will make a stir in England - and enable you to do well in letters - pecuniarily well. You will yet have Fame & get it easily. Money follows at its heels, as a matter of course. Griswold is quite right about the externals of your book. Never commit yourself as a pamphleteer. - I am now writing for Godey a series of articles called "The N. Y. City Literati". They will run through the year & include personal descriptions, as well as frank opinions of literary merit. Pending the issue of this series, I am getting ready similar papers to include American litterateurs generally - and, by the beginning of December, I hope to put to press (here and in England) a volume embracing all the articles under the common head "The Living Literati of the U S."- or something similar. Of course I wish to say something of yourself. What shall I quote? "Rosalie Lee" I have not. Would it put you to much trouble to copy it for me? Give me, also, (if you think it right) some account of your literary projects - purposes etc. - The volume is to be prefaced by some general remarks on our Literature and pre-prefaced by the Memoir of myself, by Lowell, which appeared in Graham's Mag. for February 1845. This Memoir, however, is defective, inasmuch as it says nothing of my latest & I think my best things - "The Raven" (for instance), "The Valdemar Case", etc. May I ask of you the great favor to add a P.S. to Lowell's article - bringing up affairs as you well know how. I ask this of you - what I would ask of no other man - because I fancy that you appreciate me - estimate my merits & demerits at a just value. If you are willing to oblige me - speak frankly above all - speak of my faults, too, as forcibly as you can. The length of the P.S. I leave to yourself.

Very cordially yours

Edgar A Poe

P.S. I cannot lay my hand on Porter's note. The substance of it, however, was - that he had read the article with great pleasure but as the "present publisher of the Spirit of the T" could not pay, he was forced reluctantly to return the M.S.