Critical Response

Edgar Allan Poe sold “The Raven” for $9 to a literary magazine called The American Review, which printed the poem in their February 1845 issue under the pseudonym “Quarles.” However, an advance copy of the poem was published under Poe’s name in the New York magazine The Evening Mirror in January of the same year. This dual printing, along with the poem’s unforgettable rhythm and eerie atmosphere, spurred the poem’s popularity, and “The Raven” became an instant sensation. People so associated Poe with the poem that “The Raven” became his nickname, and humor magazines wrote many parodies of the poem’s content. Critics praised “The Raven” for its distinct meter and atmosphere as well as its psychological power. The English poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning, whose work inspired Poe’s careful crafting of the poem’s meter, wrote to Poe that “The Raven” had caused such a stir among her friends that one, who owned a bust of Athena, could no longer look at it. Poe later used the poem to discuss his ideas about poetry and craft in his 1846 essay “The Philosophy of Composition.”

However, not everyone considered “The Raven” a masterpiece, and, like all of Poe’s writing, critics have debated whether it merits the title of “serious literature.” Some writers of the day, including transcendentalist Ralph Waldo Emerson, considered it an empty work void of meaning. A literary magazine, Southern Quarterly Review, wrote in 1848 that only a child would be afraid of rustling curtains and someone knocking at a door. Still, “The Raven” has endured as one of the best-known and most popular poems in the English language, influencing poets and storytellers to this day.

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