Seminar Paper, 2005
11 Pages, Grade: 1,7
2. Reception: European view on Edgar Allan Poe’s works
2.1 Great Britain
3. Poe’s reputation in America
4.1 Influence on Poe
4.2 Influence of Poe
Edgar Allan Poe was one of the most important authors of his time. That is definitely right. Nevertheless he lead a miserable and unhealthy life, like Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart for example, and died very early. He did not live to see his work being successful in his native country. Decades after his death the significance of his work was discerned even more.
In this essay my aim will be to point out the reasons for Poe’s initial lack of success in the United States – or better – the reasons for his success in Europe. Likewise I will explain his way to success in Europe. Many of Poe’s works can be seen as milestones in a lot of genres.
Starting with the reception of E.A. Poe in the USA and in Europe, I will come to his influence, particularly on European literature.
In Europe, Edgar Allan Poe was of high reputation. In France Baudelaire and Valéry were highly interested in his writings. In Great Britain Swinburne, Dickens or Wilde thought highly of him, just to name a few. But also in Germany he attracted the interest of its greatest writers. Here, Rilke, Nietzsche and Kafka occupied themselves with Poe and his imaginative power – and also his escape into the imagination. In Germany Poe met with little positive response on the level of serious literature, although publishers earned themselves a lot of money with a high number of sold copies.
Although he wrote different kinds of literature the name “Poe” provokes in every reader the idea of horror. But there is a lot more to discover than the famous horror fictions.
In the USA it was more difficult for Poe to establish his works. Because of personal enemies slandering his name, and with the background of his way of life, other critics and writers branded him as a failure. Charles Baudelaire said that Edgar Poe and his fatherland were not at the same level: “The United States is a country enormous and childlike at the same time, and naturally jealous of the old continent.”
In this essay I will particularly focus on the reception in France because of the astonishing literary closeness of Charles Baudelaire to Edgar Allan Poe. I will also give an overview of the American background to make clear the problems in his native country.
“Who reads an American book?”
Critics in Great Britain thought little of American literature in the beginning of the 19th century. Some of them just copied Griswold’s slanders without knowing the truth. Despite a lot of people who made up their opinion too quickly, Poe kept a good reputation across the country. In Great Britain he did not have any personal enemies and here he was supported by Charles Dickens. Dickens tried to find a publisher for him. Barrett and Tennyson both valued Poe’s abilities of – on the one hand – criticism and – on the other hand – writing impressive stories and poems and mastering verse-technique.
In 1875 the English poet Algernon C. Swinburne wanted that “America should do something to [show] public reverence for the only one (as yet) among her men of genius who has won not merely English but European fame.”
The English poets Swinburne, Wilde, Dowson and Yeats – in contrast to their American colleagues – did not worry about the lack of didacticism and praised the lyrics of Poe’s poetry.
In France, Charles Baudelaire saw the importance of E.A. Poe and showed understanding for his manner of life. He even could see himself in Poe. That was the reason for Baudelaire to start translating Poe’s works, beginning with the fiction texts. Baudelaire took the first step to make Poe familiar in France. His translations are still considered among the best in any language. In contrast to Ingram in the United States, who tried to defend Poe against Griswold’s assertions, Baudelaire even identified with “le pauvre Eddie”. Poe’s self-destructive manner of life created the image of the “poète maudit”.
 Kerlen, p. 161+
 Meyers, p. 263 (quoting Sydney Smith)
 Meyers, p. 265 (quoting Swinburne)
 Poe and didactism is also a subject in “3. Poe’s reputation in America”
 Meyers, p. 266
 Meyers, p. 267
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