Magazine February 9, 2009, Issue

Into the Abyss

Portraits of Edgar Allan Poe and Walt Whitman on the screens of Nook readers (Dominick Reuter/Reuters)
Poe: A Life Cut Short, by Peter Ackroyd (Nan A. Talese, 224 pp., $21.95)

Emerson and the New England Transcendentalists loftily professed to know nothing much about evil, that hoary idea from the childhood of the race. But a noted contemporary of the “Frog-Pondians” (as he called them), Edgar Allan Poe, knew much about evil in man and in nature: the labyrinthine passages of self-deception, the human capacity for tormenting others, the horror of death, and the greater horror of the dead who yet walk.

Among the great imaginative writers of the 19th century, it is Poe (1809–49) and Nathaniel Hawthorne, with their knowledge of man’s mixed nature and deepest fears, whose works often reach

James E. Person Jr. — Mr. Person is the author of Russell Kirk: A Critical Biography of a Conservative Mind and Earl Hamner: From Walton's Mountain to Tomorrow.

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