During his lifetime, Poe was mostly recognized as a literary critic. Fellow critic James Russell Lowell
called him “the most discriminating, philosophical, and fearless critic upon imaginative works who has written in America”, suggesting—rhetorically—that he occasionally used prussic acid
instead of ink.
Poe’s caustic reviews earned him the reputation of being a “tomahawk man”.
A favorite target of Poe’s criticism was Boston’s acclaimed poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
, who was often defended by his literary friends in what was later called “The Longfellow War”. Poe accused Longfellow of “the heresy of the didactic”, writing poetry that was preachy, derivative, and thematically plagiarized.
Poe correctly predicted that Longfellow’s reputation and style of poetry would decline, concluding, “We grant him high qualities, but deny him the Future”.