GREAT CONTENT, HANDWRITTEN LETTER SIGNED, ABOUT THE PUBLICATION OF HIS PRINCIPLE WORK: SPECIMENS OF AMERICAN POETRY, WHICH INCLUDES THE FIRST MENTION IN A BOOK OF EDGAR ALLAN POE OR HIS WORK
SAMUEL KETTELL HANDWRITTEN LETTER SIGNED, "Samuel Kettell", 2
pgs., 7.5 x 12, January 13, 1829, Boston, to Richard
Penn Smith (1799-1854: poet, playwright, author), Philadelphia, a
great content letter by American author and editor, mentioning his publisher
and his own principle work Specimens of
American Poetry, just a few months before its completion, while still
seeking research material on eight additional
American poets that he names, including the recipient of this letter, that
he wants to include in the work. In part: "...I owe you my thanks for your
recent favor to Mr. Goodrich. The
information you therewith transmitted for the Specimens
of American Poetry was received...I was furnished with considerable
matter respecting Paul Allen from his former associate John Neal, but your
memoir was useful to me in fixing the dates and settling some other facts. The
sketches of the other persons will constitute the substance of what I shall say
concerning them. As to those whom you name in addition, I have them all on my
list excepting Ewing, Hutton, Thompson (Bird).
These names are new to me. I shall be glad to hear anything about them. Of
Waln's writings I could find nothing in your city, New
york or Boston.
If you can get at anything of his either in print or by procuring a passage to
be copied, and send it to me I shall consider it a great favor...If it be not
too much to ask of you, I should be glad to have you furnish me with something
of the other authors mentioned above. The quantity of matter in verse may be
from 100 to 600 lines according to the merit of it. I saw some poetry in a
newspaper the other day ascribed to Robert Walsh…Are you certain that John E.
Hall's signature...If you can render me any assistance in relation to the
matters above specified, or in any shape which you may suggest on understanding
the plan of my work - and it is this to give a specimen of the works of every
poetical writer which our country has produce, who has shown talent or obtained
notoriety...." There is some age toning, letter folds with some separation, edge chips on the right side, some holes surrounding the attached envelope, otherwise in fine condition with clear, dark writing.
Samuel Kettell (1801–1855) was an American author who compiled Specimens of American Poetry, with Critical and Biographical Notices, published in April 4,1829 (just a few months after the date of this handwritten letter) in three volumes, Boston: S. G. Goodrich & Co., the first comprehensive anthology of American poetry; including 189 poets, a historical introduction and chronological listing of American poetry (this letter mentions seven authors: Joseph Hutton (1787-1828), Charles West Thompson (1798-1879), John Neal (1793-1876), Samuel Ewing, Paul Allen (1775-1826), John E. Hall, and Robert Waln (1794-1825)). Kettell, who knew many of the poets, pens personal and sometimes withering biographical essays to achieve a comprehensive rather than solely pantheonic collection. In the preface of Vol. 1, Kettell writes: "The following work is the result of an attempt to do something for the cause of American literature, by calling into notice and preserving a portion of what is valuable and characteristic in the writings of our native poets...Thus far we have seen no such thing as a collection of American poetry designed for such a purpose, nor a treatise designating with fullness and accuracy, the character of the various performances in verse of our native authors, nor even a tolerably complete list of their names." The poets range in time from Cotton Mather to Whittier and include the famous (Freneau, Irving, Bryant, Dana, Longfellow), the significant but less well known (Fitz-Greene Halleck, Lydia Sigourney), the unexpected (Ben Franklin, Francis Scott Key) and a large number of obscure names. It is a useful resource for its 30-page "Catalogue of American Poetry," arranged chronologically. Appearing on the penultimate page is "Tamerlane, and other poems, by a Bostonian, Boston, 1827," THE FIRST MENTION IN A BOOK OF EDGAR ALLAN POE OR HIS WORK.