When Edgar Allan Poe bumped into a friend in New York in 1845, according to Peter Ackroyd’s brisk new life, the following exchange took place. ‘Wallace,’ said Poe, ‘I have just written the greatest poem that ever was written.’ ‘Have you?’ said Wallace. ‘That is a fine achievement.’ ‘Would you like to hear it?’ said Poe. ‘Most certainly,’ said Wallace. Thereupon Poe recited the verses of ‘The Raven’.
This lovely little cameo — halfway to being a sketch from The Fast Show — is all the funnier for the fact that the joke is not entirely on Poe. Though maybe not the greatest poem ever written, ‘The Raven’ really was pretty spectacular. Poe knew it. Beset though he constantly was by gloom and despair, his claims for his own art were not small — and were not on the whole misguided.
more from The Spectator here.