Edgar Allan Poe: A Critical Biography

By Arthur Hobson Quinn | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XIV
New York--"The Raven" and Other Matters

It was with his usual optimism that Poe took Virginia to a city where he had met disappointment in 1837. It was, he hoped, to be different, and yet it is difficult to see what was the basis for that hope. It is true that the book trade was more flourishing. Poe succeeded in having both his Tales and his Poems published in 1845. But so far as the magazines, to which he must look for support, were concerned, there was no improvement in the situation, which New York had not yet begun to dominate. The leading magazines, the Knickerbocker, the New Mirror, the Democratic Review, were no more prosperous than Graham's and Godey's. He could hardly have expected to be helped by the Knickerbocker Magazine, considering what he had said concerning Lewis Gaylord Clark, its editor, and yet it set the tone in New York more than any other periodical. It may be, indeed, that Poe, sensing this lack of leading magazines, hoped to find the opportunity to found his own.

Perhaps it was the atmosphere of the growing metropolis that attracted Poe, rather than any specific advantage. New York had more than 300,000 inhabitants, and had become the great port of entry from Europe. Notwithstanding its poorly paved and poorly lighted streets, the endless throng of people on Broadway, the luxurious dresses of the women, the evidences of wealth, the hurry-scurry that Willis and Dickens described, all these gave an appearance of prosperity. Poe had visited New York during his residence in Philadelphia and like many thousands since his day, he saw opportunity there. He was to experience both the readiness of New York to treat a visitor with open arms if he has any wares to sell, and equal willingness to close its doors to the aspirant who remains to storm the citadel. It was, however, the best place to attract foreign recognition, and in this respect it widened the reputation for which Poe always longed.

Poe's letter to Mrs. Clemm describing the journey of himself and Virginia from Philadelphia reveals again how much his own vivid account is to be preferred to any paraphrase:

-405-

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