1848 ORIGINAL MANUSCRIPT LETTER REFERENCING A LITERARY FEUD HANDWRITTEN BY A BALTIMORE POET AND LONG TIME BITTER RIVAL OF EDGAR ALLAN POE2117
On offer is an interesting, manuscript relic of pre Civil War Baltimore and American literary feuds being an autograph letter dated Washington, Nov. 29, 1848, signed by Baltimore poet Rufus Dawes who feuded with Edgar Allan Poe. The feud began in 1829 when Dawes, a 26 year-old editor of a weekly Baltimore literary gazette, published an unfavorable review of Poe's second book of poetry. Ten years later, when Dawes, a minor playwright, published his own poetry, Poe, then assistant editor of a magazine, wrote a review so scathing that the editor refused to print it. In 1841, another magazine, which published Poe's "Mask of the Red Death", ran a fairly moderate review in which Poe noted that while Dawes' "opponents treat his pretensions [as a poet] with contempt", some of Dawes "minor" verse was "often exceedingly good". But in other reviews, Poe said Dawes had "made a fool of himself" by writing "downright nonsense" about metaphysics, while his longer poems were "pompous nonsense" which "have not been condemned, only because they have never been read." There is no record of direct contact between the two men in Baltimore, and this rare letter may be Dawes' only indirect allusion to his illustrious enemy who, 11 months later, died in that city in what was probably a drunken haze. Dawes had a minor government job when he wrote this letter to an aspiring young Rhode Island poet did not name the celebrated author of "The Raven" - then in his last year of life - but assuredly had Poe in mind when he talked of "malicious criticism". The three pages read in part: To Mr. Ruggles, Dawes opens the letter with a very warm greeting and complimentary comment regarding Mr. Ruggles's sister, Mrs. Gladding whose society he cherishes, he then gets to the matter at hand "…I am gratified by your confidence in sending me those specimens of your poetry, but I am one of the last persons to be called on to sit in judgment on such matters. The press is so flooded with verse, and there are so many really good writers of fugitive poetry that it is extremely difficult to be distinguished in that line of composition. Then there is so much rivalry, envy and malicious criticism that the chances of success are very small for all new aspirants, while even the older writers are driven in disgust from the literary arena. I believe with you that 'poetry is hereditary to all Americans' - and to all men. I ascribe the great outburst of poetic thought, good, bad and indifferent, to a struggle of the harmonious tendencies of human nature, at this epoch of human advancement, to realize themselves in the active sphere of life… mankind are now in a social point of view, in a transitional state. There will certainly be a great social revolution in the course of this passing century - in our country probably of a gradual and peaceful character. But come it will…I like some of your verses very much - but if you were my own brother and you wrote even better than you do, I could not advise you to enter on a career which I myself have almost entirely abandoned…the poetic faculty may be turned into more useful channels, at present, than in the composition of verses. Let the imagination swing itself fully into the region of noble human aspiration and efforts for the good of man, and let all the genius the world possesses be concentrated on the great problems which now engage the minds of the reformers. Hoping that you may be found in their ranks…" Condition: Creased where folded, tiny cracks at folds; overall G+.
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