It is always tempting to peep behind the scenes of a poet's workshop. Such a peep is afforded us in recollections of Poe by Mrs. Susan Archer Weiss, one of the few surviving friends of the author of what is regarded by many as the greatest American poem. To his biographer, it is true, Poe is not clothed in a mantle of mystery and romance; she has seen him in his frolicsome moods; she has also seen him in the sordid embarrassments of poverty and of drink. It takes a poet's eye and intellectual subtlety"To trace under the common thing the hidden grace,"and the lady whose chief distinction it is to have been on intimate terms with Poe is neither poetic nor subtle. She tells us that Poe's child-bride, the lovely Virginia Clemm, was not the delicate creature we have fancied, but a plump little girl, with the undeveloped mind of a child who had never read half his poems. And "The Raven," perhaps the New World's most celebrated single contribution to literature, is marred in her mind by imperfections because its author, in a hypercritical moment, revealed its "knotty points" to her and asked her advice in the matter.
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