In the first several issues of Artful Dodge, there was a section titled “Forged Letters,” where famous literary figures of the past wrote to the editors and readers of our magazine. The letters contained everything from advice to criticism, briefly remarking on the legacy and works of each author. The Artful Dodge “received” these letters from Vissarion Belinsky, Charles Dickens, Fyodor Dostoevsky, and Edgar Allen Poe.
My favorites in the series are the letters from Charles Dickens and Edgar Allen Poe. Dickens is perhaps the most critical in his writing, immediately chastising the editors of the Artful Dodge for our name and providing quite a long explanation of the standards to which literature should be held. I found the letter to be immensely entertaining, though not quite as enjoyable as Poe’s.
Edgar Allen Poe proclaims to the editors of the Artful Dodge that he is thrilled to see how far the world of literary publishing has come since his time. The letter is as dramatic as any of Poe’s stories—he comments about the worms in his grave and the mystery surrounding his own death. He proceeds to tell the story of the “agony” he endured both as he was dying and afterward, when his literary executor “endeavored to smear [his] name in every way possible.”
The Forged Letter series was not only entertaining, but also humanizing, the editors of the magazine and the respected literary figures of the past becoming more “real” throughout. Letters that openly criticized the Artful Dodge demonstrated that the editors were aware of their potential shortcomings, choosing to embrace rather than deny them. However, I think the greatest asset of the Forged Letters series is how it dealt with the voices of the famous authors writing to the magazine, removing the esteemed figures from the realms of their respective works. I believe we forget, sometimes, that Edgar Allen Poe and Charles Dickens were people and artists before they were famous. As they both point out in their letters, they did not have easy lives.
You can read all of the letters in the “Forged Letters” series on our website, here.
—Megan Murphy, Assistant Editor