Lincoln and Edgar Allan Poe

Lincoln was born only a few weeks after Poe. The author came to his attention through one of the numerous parodies of “The Raven,” first published in January 1845. Johnston, a fellow lawyer, sent Lincoln one such parody, “The Pole-Cat,” which led him to seek out Poe’s poem. It is said that Lincoln so appreciated the poem that he “carried Poe around on the Circuit—read and loved ‘The Raven’—repeated it over & over.” This letter—written before Lincoln became familiar with Poe’s work— includes a poem occasioned by a return home in 1844 that “aroused feelings in [him] which were extremely poetic.” Redolent of the dark melancholy that suffuses the work of his noted contemporary, its final lines read: And feel (companion of the dead) / I’m living in the tombs.