The Museum Collection

Letter to Edgar Allan Poe (Editor of the Broadway Journal) from William W. Caldwell, Jr.

ID #: 81.19
Creator: William W. Caldwell, Jr.
Date: October 20, 1845
Format: letter, one sheet
Collection: Poe Foundation, Inc.
Place of Publication:
Publish Date:


In this letter dated October 20, 1845 and addressed to "Edgar A. Poe, esq." the writer, William W. Caldwell, Jr. of Newbury Port, Massachusetts, praises the Broadway Journal (the magazine Poe is editing at that time) and asks Poe to print his poem, "The Messenger Star" in the journal. Four days earlier, Poe had read the poem before a large audience at the Boston Lyceum and subsequently stirred up controversy when he claimed the poem had been read as a hoax on the Bostonians. The poem is actually a version of Poe?s early poem "Al Aaraaf."

When Poe was asked to write a new poem to deliver at the Boston Lyceum on October 16, 1845, he delivered his sixteen-year-old poem "Al Aaraaf," retitled "The Messenger Star of Tycho Brahe," instead. Afterwards, he claimed he had read the poem as a hoax on the Bostonians and that he had actually written the poem when he was ten (although its first publication was really in 1829, when he was twenty). Although Poe and the editors of some Boston magazines would exchange insults as a result of the reading, not all Bostonians disliked it. The Boston Courier reported, "The poem called 'The Messenger Star,' was an eloquent and classic production, based on the right principles, containing the essence of true poetry, mingled with a gorgeous imagination, exquisite painting, every charm of metre, and a graceful delivery."

Caldwell was among the many Massachusetts readers who still admired Poe?s works in spite of Poe?s criticisms of Bostonians and the followers of the poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. The text of Caldwells letter reads as follows:

Newbury Port October 20, 1845.
Dear Sir,
Enclosed are three dollars, entitling me to the honor of being, with your sovereign permission, a subscriber to your very excellent Journal! --
Part of the back numbers I have ? will you send me No?s 1, 2, 4, 5, 9, 12, 15! of the present vol including them in my subscription! -- The no's that I have, I obtained of a paper-monger here who obtained them from Boston. But they come so irregularly that I soon gave it up --
Will you gratify your friends at the East, by publishing the "Messenger Star" in the Journal-- The silly abuse of the Boston Press, would then need no other champion -- opponent -- Like "Hesper in the glowing west", let it rise pure and clear from out their "muddy impurities" --
Yours very truly
William W. Caldwell, Jr.
Newbury Port
E. A. Poe esq.

This letter is among a collection of documents from the files of the Broadway Journal, the last of the journals Poe edited and the only one Poe ever owned. Also in this collection are the memoranda of agreement for the magazine as well as several other letters to Poe and the other editors. The collection descended from Mrs. Lockwood Phillips of Beaufort, North Carolina to Mr. R.D. Ewell of West Nyack, New York.