Daguerreotype copy by Oscar Halling, c. 1860s

(Hervey Allen) (1926)

The big Pennsylvanian author of the romantic hit Anthony Adverse (apparently the favourite novel of Tony Curtis) obviously admired the lush and gothic, and his long, detailed, overwritten biography of Poe is great fun in a crusty, hoary, adamantine way.

Poe’s life was such as to invite that treatment.  His work might best be called ‘patchy’, and his life a tribulation.  Harold Bloom, who famously detested Poe’s writing, said “Only outrageous overplaying works with Poe…but [he], as I have glumly acknowledged, is inescapable.  To dream everyone’s nightmare has to be genius, which cannot be denied Poe.”*  He did grudgingly select Poe’s Israfel for his anthology though:

The Angel Israfel (Irakischer Maler, 1280)

The Angel Israfel (Irakischer Maler, 1280)

“Yes, heaven is thine: but this

Is a world of sweets and sours:

Our flowers are merely – flowers,

And the shadow of thy bliss

Is the sunshine of ours.”


[* The Best Poems of the English Language, 2004.  Note The Varnished Culture has selected a different version of Poe’s verse however.]

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