Thursday, February 13, 2014

A Birthday Bash, in Every Sense of the Word

I do not like thee, Griswold, R.,
I hate thee near, I hate thee far.
I hate the bios that you write,
I hate them day, I hate them night.
Your poetry gives me the chills,
And dreadful, dreadful bouts of ills.
I'm through now with this birthday puff,
Of you, of you, I've had enough!

For the past two years now, we here at World of Poe have marked the anniversary of the birth of Rufus Wilmot Griswold with, I hope, all the honor and ceremony the day deserves.  (The earlier posts can be found here and here.)  Even though I have largely put this blog on hold, I could hardly ignore mention of that accursed notable day when that miserable lying hack was foisted upon an undeserving planet in 1815.

In fact, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that Griswold's birthday deserves to be a national commemoration.  So many of America's holidays have become controversial or "politically incorrect."  Columbus Day, Thanksgiving, even Christmas are meaningless, or actually offensive, to one segment or another of our population.  What this country needs is a special day where we can all unite as one.

What better choice than Griswold's birthday?  I am calling upon the President and members of Congress to make February 13 an official Day of Hate, when all Americans, no matter what their social, religious, or political views may be, can come together to express our shared disgust and contempt for the man.  For one day, we can put our many differences aside, and recognize that we are all brothers and sisters on at least that one issue.

I really should get the Nobel Peace Prize for this one.

On to the 2014 collection of tributes:

"[Griswold's memoir of Poe was the most] atrocious iniquity since the days of Cain."
-Edmund Gosse, quoting Rosalie Poe

"...[A] busybody of letters...a failed poetaster fattening on the writings of others as does a moth eating Gobelin tapestries."
-Daniel Hoffman, "Poe Poe Poe Poe Poe Poe Poe"

"We refer to no less a character than the Rev. Rufus Wilmot Griswold, D.D., a person so notorious in this community that to trace a calumny to him, suffices effectually to disprove of it."
-"New York Tribune," December 15, 1855

"...[A] man of fickle fancies, of violent temper, which often fell upon his dearest friends, of monstrous vanity, and of ungoverned passions."
-Mary Clemmer, writing in the "Independent," 1871

"I could not have loved such a man...I came to pity him, because he was his own worst enemy."
-Mary Clemmer quoting poet Alice Cary, who was deeply dismayed by rumors that she
and Griswold had been romantically involved.

"...[H]is favorite pastime of character assassination."
-Frances Winwar, writing in the New York Times, November 30, 1941

"Griswold's talents were small potatoes, indeed."
-Margurite Young, writing in the New York Times, July 31, 1977

"He takes advantage of a state of things which he declares to be 'immoral, unjust and wicked,' and even while haranguing the loudest, is purloining the fastest." - Joel T. Headley

"The fires of truth are gathering round, closer and closer, hemming in to consume him--this serpent-biographer."
-James Wood Davidson, speaking of Griswold in a letter to George W. Eveleth, May 28, 1866

New Albany Ledger, January 9, 1856
"New York Courier," February 6, 1856

"He [Neilson Poe] told me something about Griswold which I was very glad to hear. That malignant scoundrel went to So. Carolina, and there married a lady for her wealth. Almost immediately after the marriage, he found that her property was not of the extent, or in the position, he supposed, so he applied for a divorce to a New York court. The decree was granted, and he re-married straightway. The lady appealed, the former decree was reversed, and a suit for bigamy instituted against the Rev. Rufus, who, luckily for him, died before it came to trial. This was Poe’s defamer! I suppose Griswold’s biographers will keep that little incident in the dark."
-William Hand Browne, letter to John H. Ingram, August 17, 1875

“Nor do I consider Mr. Griswold competent, with all the opportunities he may have cultivated or acquired, to act as his judge,-- to dissect that subtle and singularly fine intellect, to probe the motives and weigh the actions of that proud heart. His whole nature-that distinctive presence of the departed which now stands impalpable, yet in strong outline before me, as I knew him and felt him to be--eludes the rude grasp of a mind so warped and uncongenial as Mr. Griswold’s.”
-George R. Graham, "The Late Edgar Allan Poe," "Graham's Magazine," March 1850

"Most of the associations of this man in private life are too vile to place before refined readers...Had Griswold lived in Othello’s time, no one could have disputed with him the position of 'mine ancient,' honest Iago."
-Poe biographer William Gill, "Laurel Leaves," 1875

"The following pertinent anecdote, related to us by Mr. Graham, well illustrates the character of Poe’s biographer. Dr. Griswold’s associate in his editorial duties on “Graham’s” was Mr. Charles J. Peterson, a gentleman long and favorably known in connection with prominent American magazines. Jealous of his abilities, and unable to visit his vindictiveness upon him in profria persona, Dr. Griswold conceived the noble design of stabbing him in the back, writing under a nom de plume in another journal, the 'New York Review.' In the columns of the 'Review' there appeared a most scurrilous attack upon Mr. Peterson, at the very time in the daily interchange of friendly courtesies with his treacherous associate. Unluckily for Dr. Griswold, Mr. Graham saw this article, and, immediately inferring, from its tone, that Griswold was the undoubted author, went to him with the article in his hand, saying, 'Dr. Griswold, I am very sorry to say I have detected you in what I call a piece of rascality.' Griswold turned all colors upon seeing the article, but stoutly denied the imputation, saying, 'I‘ll go before an alderman and swear that I never wrote it.' It was fortunate that he was not compelled to add perjury to his meanness, for Mr. Graham said no more about the matter at that time, waiting his opportunity for authoritative confirmation of the truth of his surmises. He soon found his conjectures confirmed to the letter. Being well acquainted with the editor of the 'Review,' he took occasion to call upon him shortly afterwards when in New York. Asking as a special favor to see the manuscript of the article in question, it was handed to him. The writing was in Griswold’s hand. Returning to Philadelphia, Mr. Graham called Griswold to him, told him the facts, paid him a month’s salary in advance, and dismissed him from his post, on the spot."
-William Gill, "The Life of Edgar Allan Poe"

"Under a show of impartiality, he is a judge, who leans against the prisoner at the bar. Edgar A. Poe is the arraigned poet, offering no plea, no excuse, no palliation for the 'deeds done in the body'--but standing mute, stiff and motionless, at the bar-his glorious eyes quenched forever, and his fine countenance overspread with the paleness of death; and the Rev. R.W. Griswold, a Radamanthus, who is not to be bilked of his fee, a thimble-full of newspaper notoriety. Laboring to be very perpendicular, ostentatiously upright, lest peradventure he might be suspected of a friendly inclination toward the memory of a man who had trusted him on his death-bed; with no measure about him--above or below--to compare himself with, or to steady himself by, he leans backward, with a simper and a strut, such as you may see every day of your life in little, pompous, fidgety men, trying to stand high in the world, in spite of their Creator."

"While pronouncing a judgment upon the dead body of his old associate, who had left the world in a hurry, and under a mistake, which the Reverend gentleman took the earliest opportunity of correcting--by telegraph--at a penny a time, for a newspaper, and in such a way, as to leave it doubtful whether, in his opinion, Edgar A. Poe had ever had any business at all here, and whether on the whole, it were not better for himself, and for the world, that he had never been born--with that millstone round his neck, which had just fallen off--he seems to take it for granted that all this parade of sympathy will not be seen through--that, when he lifts the handkerchief to his eyes, and snuffles about poor Poe, and his melancholy want of principle--the ancient grudge still burning underneath this show, will be forgotten--and that he, at least, will have credit for whatsoever Poe had not. Peradventure he may find it so; for most assuredly, the reverse of the proposition is true. Whatsoever Edgar A. Poe had--that Mr. R. W. Griswold had not."
-John Neal, "Edgar A. Poe," "Daily Advertiser," April 26,1850

"It is a pity that so many of these biographies [in "Graham’s Magazine"] were entrusted to Mr. Griswold. He certainly lacks independence, or judgment, or both.”
-Edgar Allan Poe, letter to James Russell Lowell, October 19, 1843

"No lie was too great for Griswold, no slander too outrageous."
-website of the Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore

"I puff your books, you know, without any regard to their quality.”
-The Reverend gentleman himself, showing a rare moment of honesty in a letter to publishers Ticknor & Co., July 10, 1842

And to show how popular my proposed holiday would be, here is a mere brief sample of the outpouring of admiration for Reverend Griswold that can be found every day in the Twitterverse:

Is there anyone whose heart does not warm from reading these eulogies of Doctor Griswold? Come on, everyone, let's make this national--nay, worldwide--holiday happen!

[P.S. Go visit the Reverend himself on Twitter and send some generous, sincere birthday abuse his way.  Tell him Undine sent you.]

1 comment:

  1. What is this, dear sprite? Why do you stoop to this sort of insinuation and gossip about a man who worked so hard and used himself up in his work? I can find as many exculpatory reports as you unearth calumnies. Never trust William Fearing Gill -- "Fearless Gall" -- I could tell you some tales about him. You yourself noticed the Byzantine times Gris lived in and he had to punch hard sometimes to keep off the leeches and vultures. We only know half about his poor life and that half is marred by many enemies. Sure, Poe made a mistake in chosing him, but he was never faultless himself. Hinc illae irae?

    From Holland.