WILLIAM E. BURTON to EDGAR ALLAN POE, Autographed letter, May 30, 1839

WILLIAM E. BURTON to EDGAR ALLAN POE, Autographed Letter,
May 30, 1839

Early in his short stint as editor of Burton’s Gentleman’s Magazine, Poe wrote a highly negative appraisal of the work of Baltimore poet Rufus Dawes (1803–59), and Burton (1804–60) refused to publish it. When Poe complained, Burton sent this letter in response. In it, Burton accuses his editor of harboring “ill-feelings toward your brother-authors,” and insists that “there is no necessity for undue severity.” Poe eventually published an updated version of this review in Graham’s Magazine (October 1842), and it demonstrates both his willingness to chop down writers whose friends have been too complimentary and his ability to ground his insults in clear theory and forceful arguments.

Boston Public Library, Rare Books & Manuscripts

WILLIAM E. BURTON to EDGAR ALLAN POE, Autographed Letter,
May 30, 1839

My dear Sir,

I am sorry that you thought necessary to send me such a letter as your last. The troubles of the world have given a morbid tone to your feelings which it is your duty to discourage. I cannot agree to entertain your proposition, either in justice to yourself or to my own interests. The worldly experience of which you speak has not taught me [to] conciliate authors of whom I know nothing and from whom I can expect nothing. Such a supposition is but a poor comment upon my honesty of opinion, or the principles of expediency which you would insinuate as actuating my conduct. I have been as severely handled in the world as you can possibly have been, but my sufferings have not tinged my mind with a melancholy hue, nor do I allow my views of my fellow creatures to be jaundiced by the fogs of my own creation. You must rouse your energies, and conquer the insidious attacks of the foul fiend, care. We shall agree very well, but you must get rid of your avowed ill-feelings towards your brother authors — you see that I speak plainly — indeed, I cannot speak otherwise. Several of my friends, hearing of our connexion, have warned me of your uncalled-for severity in criticism — and I confess that your article on Dawes is not written with that spirit of fairness which, in a more healthy state of mind, you would undoubtedly have used. The independence of my book reviews has been noticed throughout the Union — my remarks upon my friend Bird’s last novel evince my freedom from the trammels of expediency, but there is no need for undue severity. I wish particularly to deal leniently with the faults of genius, and feeling satisfied that Dawes possesses a portion of the true fire, I regretted the word-catching tone of your critique.

Let us meet as if we had not exchanged letters. Use more exercise, write only when the feelings prompt, and be assured of my friendship. You will soon regain a wholesome activity of mind, and laugh at your past vagaries. I am, my dear Sir, Your obedient servant, W E Burton

Phila. May 30, 1839.

Source: http://www.eapoe.org/misc/letters/t3905300.htm