I’ve intended for weeks to make it to the Morgan Library’s “Edgar Allan Poe: The Terror of the Soul Exhibit.” (See my blog entry for October 31 last.) The display, arranged in conjunction with the NYPL’s Berg Collection, contains manuscripts of Poe’s work from his varied career as literary critic, adventure writer, inventor of the modern detective story as well of those of his better-known tales of horror. There is also his correspondence. One letter observes, rather bitterly, that a person must be wealthy, or at least of independent means, to embark upon a career as a writer. In his era, true. He was, in fact, the first American to earn his living solely by writing. Interesting note: Poe pasted carefully re-written drafts into scrolls because he felt the reader’s concentration should not be disrupted by the turning of pages. This is one writer who would have adjusted quite handily to e-books.
The exhibit is up for only one more week (ends Sunday, January 26). So duck in if you get the chance.
Great wealth, unless inherited, or acquired by professional energy and industry, is now, as a general rule, presumptive evidence against the character of its owner… Most dodges, devices, and complots which Wall Street considers legitimate and in which millions are lost and won (on paper) every day, are, of course, plainly guileful, dishonest, and wicked. But how many of our nice, fresh, ingenuous boys are plunged into this filthy pool every year at eighteen or even younger…though their parents could well afford them a liberal education. Each hopes to win some great prize in that great gambling house, an establishment far less honest than were those of Baden-Baden and Homburg. And so they grow up to be mere illiterate sharpers, with possible fine houses and fine horses and fine Newport cottages and without capacity to appreciate anything higher – men without culture and with damaged and dwarfed moral sense.
George Templeton Strong
July 22, 1873
(New York Dairies: 1609 to 2090. pp.233-234)