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Monday
Feb092009

RIP George Lippard

Visiting Lippard's grave (photo by Lou Boxer)Today is the death day of Philadelphia Gothic writer George Lippard, who died in 1854 a few months shy of his 32nd birthday. A short life, but a very productive one. In the last decade of his life, Lippard wrote and published about one million words-- novels, articles, whole issues of his weekly newspaper. Lippard was a writing machine, even rumored to have employed a clerk whose job was to have fresh cigars at the ready, so Lippard wouldn't have to stop writing to cut and light them (Man, I need a smoking clerk).

I've written about Lippard before. You can check out my piece from the Phila City Paper a few years ago: "Monks, Devils and Quakers: the lurid life and times of George Lippard, Philadelphia's original best-selling author." And I blog about him occasionally on my Quaker City blog. I had originally planned to create an online annotated edition of his novel, The Quaker City or the Monks of Monk Hall, but fell off after several chapters. They are still up and perhaps one of these days I'll return to that project.

Lippard and Edgar Allan Poe were friends. George sent Poe a copy of his gothic novel, The Ladye Annabel and Poe replied with a mostly favorable letter of criticism. Lippard published Poe's letter in his next novel, Herbert Tracy. The two apparently remained close for the rest of Poe's life with Poe at first the mentor to Lippard, later Lippard the defender of Poe's reputation.

While writing for the Citizen Soldier newspaper, Lippard promoted Poe's lecture on American Poetry:

“Poe was born a poet, his mind is stamped with the impress of genius. He is, perhaps, the most original writer that ever existed in America. Delighting in the wild and visionary, his mind penetrates the inmost recesses of the human soul, creating vast and magnificent dreams, eloquent fancies and terrible mysteries. Again, he indulges in a felicitous vein of humor, that copies no writer in the language, and yet strikes the reader with the genuine impression of refined wit; and yet again, he constructs such works as ‘Arthur Gordon Pym,’ which disclose perceptive powers that rival De Foe, combined with an analytical depth of reasoning in no manner inferior to Godwin or Brockden Brown.”

When Poe last visited Philadelphia on his way down south, never to return (careful of those unscheduled stops in Baltimore), he sought out Lippard's assistance. Lippard wrote a moving account of their last meeting (see the Eaves pdf below). Poe also gave him a copy of his newly published Eureka. The Free Library of Philadelphia now has that copy, which Lippard inscribed: "Presented to me by Poe, when we parted, and when I saw him last. G. L."

Lippard's obituary of Poe in his Quaker City Weekly newspaper defended his friend and mentor, already the victim of slanderous lies (talking to you, Rufus Griswold):

"As an author his name will live, while three-fourths of the bastard critics and mongrel authors of the present day go down to nothingness and night."

Turns out, Lippard was right about Poe.

Rob Vellela has a good post on his Poe Calendar blog today (check out the other posts, as well, all excellent). And here are some more links for the Lippard curious:

My Lippard page, with several images of him, including shots of his gravesite.

Emilio De Grazia's essay, "Poe's Devoted Democrat, George Lippard."

Burton R Pollin's "More on Lippard and Poe."

Here's a pdf from the Nassau Literary Magazine in 1849 damning Lippard as a "brilliant satellite of sin."

In this pdf, you can find an advertisement for The Quaker City, as "The Proscribed Book."

Here's a pdf of a reminiscence of Lippard from Potter's American Monthly, 1879.

In this pdf T. C. Duncan Eaves' essay contains the text of Lippard's last meeting with Poe in his office in Philadelphia.

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Reader Comments (3)

RIP, Mr. Lippard.
February 9, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterRob V
Greetings, Edward Pettit. You seem pretty knowledgeable about Lippard, so I hope you won't mind a question.

Gary Nash has written (in First City) that Lippard in 1853 opposed a proposed monument to Benjamin Franklin, and that the monument was scrapped in part for that reason. According to Nash, Lippard wrote that BF had received enough attention and that it was time to praise lesser-known figures: Nash cited this phrase in Thomas Paine: Author-Soldier of the American Revolution (1852): “…there are many kinds of heroes in this world but neither the general who is made glorious by the accident of his position, nor the statesman who makes a trade of special legislation are heroes in my way of thinking.”

I've searched the surviving issues of Lippard's newspaper, but not found any mention of this. I wonder if you might know in what forum Lippard opposed a Franklin monument. (Nash hasn't been forthcoming.)

I appreciate your help.
August 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMark E. Dixon

An article many years ago written about my grandfather states that he had original letters written by edgar allan poe to his great great uncle george lippard. I am trying to do my family geneology to see how and if i truly am related to lippard. Does anhkne know his geneology? U

March 20, 2015 | Unregistered Commenterpatty

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