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In A Brown Study, 16A

September 10, 2016

My Brown Study is piled high with biographies of a few American writers who scribbled without computers in the early 19th century. No copyright laws existed to protect their work, and writers did not expect to make a living by penning. Nathaniel Hawthorne and Edgar Allan Poe were two exceptions. Hawthorne supplemented literary income by working for his uncles, in a Boston custom house, and later by taking an ambassadorship in England. Poe lived mainly on criticisms of books and essays for magazines, borrowed funds, and the pittance paid for his stories and poems. He died in abject poverty.

Edgar Allan Poe disliked “that Concord group” and transcendentalists, but he believed the short story is, next to the rhymed poem. the “highest genius” of the literary form, for its “compactness and brevity allows the writer to strive for “a unity of effect without external or extrinsic influences.”

Pow wrote two criticisms of Hawthorne’s Twice Told Tales: the first was laudatory, calling the work “the most powerfully imagined and technically adroit collection of short fiction ever published by an American writer.” The second was not flattering, suggesting Poe had taken offense by a review of his own work. Later he confessed to a friend his “resentments were implacable.” His story, The Cask of Amontillado” (1846) reveals a cunning avenger of insult and injury. The stories and poems are known for their rhythm and language and for the mystery and misery that bedeviled the writer.

Hawthorne’s father died at sea when the child was four.He grew us in Salem with five uncles, three aunts, two grandparents, an unassuming mother and two adoring sisters. Poe’s mother and father were itinerant actors, moving from Boston, to New York, to Philadelphia, to Charleston as the work demanded. A singer and dancer, his mother, Eliza Poe, played nearly 300 roles on the American stage. Her husband, David Poe, less talented, quick tempered and proud, abandoned his wife and three children in 1811 and disappeared. In Richmond, Virginia, 24 year old Eliza Poe ill with consumption and penniless, surrounded by her three children (William age 5, Edgar age 3, and Rosalie a year old) died.

“Lo! Death has reared himself a throne, in a strange city lying alone.” (Poe – The City in the Sea)

Both boys grew up fatherless.

to be contd.


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