Wlliam Gilmore Simms
The Simms Review (Vol 15: No 2) >> Simms Defends Poe and Poe Replies >> Page 28

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Reviews/Essays | 1845-11-22
Transcription sensed of many of the qualities that go to make an admirable cri-

tic—he is methodical, lucid, forcible;-well-read, thoughtful, and

capable, at all times, of rising, from the mere consideration of the


individual subject, to the principlcs, in literature and art, by which

it should be governed. Add to these qualities, as a critic, that he

is not a person to be overborne and silenced by a reputation ;

that mere names do not control his judgment;.—that he is bold, in-

dependent, and stubbornly analytical, in the formation of his opin-

ions. He has his defects also ;--he is sometimes the victim of ca-

pricious moods;—his temper is variable--his nervous organiza-

tion being such, evidently, as to subject his judgements, sometimes,

to Influences that may be traced to the weather and the winds.----

He takes his colour frock the clouds; and his sympathies are not

unfrequently chilled and rendered ungenial, by the pressure of the


atmosphere--the cold arid the vapors of a climate affecting his mo-

ral nature, through his physical, in greater degree than is usual

among literary men,--who, by the way, are generally far more

suceptible to these influences, than is the case with the multitude.

Such are the causes which occasionally operate and impair value

and the consistency of his judgments as a critic.---As a Poet, Mr.

Poe's imagination becomes remarkably conspicuous, and to sur-

render himself freely to his own moods, would be to make all his

writing in verse, efforts of pure imagination only. He seems to


dislike the merely practical, and to shrink from the concrete. His

fancy takes the ascendant in his Poetry, and wings his thoughts to

suit supeior elevations, as to render it too intensely spiritual for

the ordinary reader. With a genius thus endowed and constituted,


it was a blunder with Mr. Poe to accept the appointment, which

called him to deliver himself in poetry before the Boston Lyceum.

Highly imaginative men can scarcely succeed in such exhibitions.

The sort of poetry called for on such occasions, is the very reverse

of the spiritual, the fanciful or the metaphysical. To win the ears

of a mixed audience, nothing more is required than moral or pa-

triotic common places in rhyming heroics. The verses of Pope are

just the things for such occasions. You must not pitch your flight

higher than the penny-whistle elevation of


"Know then this truth, enough for man to know,

Virtue alore is happiness below."


Either this, or declamatory verse,--or something patriotic, or some-

thing satirical, or something comical. At all events, you must

not be mystical. You must not task the audience to study. Your

song must be such as they can road running, and comprehend

while munching pea-nuts. Mr. Poe is not the writer for this sort



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