Charles Chauncey Burr

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Charles Chauncey Burr
Born 1817
Maine, United States USA
Died 1883
Occupation Journalist, author, publisher
Movement Abolitionism, Copperheads

Charles Chauncey Burr (1817–1883) was an American journalist, author, and publisher. A native of Maine, he became an intimate friend of Edgar Allan Poe and his family, and published a number of magazines and newspapers.


Burr had a variegated career (he had been the publicity agent for Lola Montez, the former mistress of Ludwig I of Bavaria, and is credited with having written her autobiography. At some point he acquired the title "Reverend," though scholars do not know how; Jay Hubbell, writing in PMLA, remarks that even his birth and death dates are uncertain.[1] The authors of A general history of the Burr family note that their questionnaire was not returned; they did know, apparently, that he was a well-known lecturer and had published a newspaper in Hoboken, New Jersey, called the Hudson Co. Register.[2] Yaw

Magazines and politics[edit]

Burr founded a number of magazines including the Philadelphia-based periodical Nineteenth Century (first issue published January 1847); the Bergen County, New Jersey, Democrat; and the New York-based The Old Guard. In his youth, he appears to have been a "militant reformer"—he praised the Quaker abolitionist John Greenleaf Whittier's poem "The Reformer" in the first issue of Nineteenth Century, and called Whittier "one of the best the purest of all poets"; in later issues of the Nineteenth Century "he published materials indicating a strong anti-slavery bias."[1] Later in life, though, he changed sides completely; the American Civil War finds him a Copperhead.[1] The first issue of The Old Guard contains a lengthy invective by Burr against abolitionist preachers such as Henry Ward Beecher, saying that their "savage war-cries" indicate they have sided with the devil.[3]

Political activism after the Civil War[edit]

After the war, he remained active in politics. In an 1866 speech to the Anti-Abolition State Rights Society, he castigated Republicans such as Thaddeus Stevens and Charles Sumner and criticizes some fellow Democrats for attempting to steal "Black Republican thunder," stating such Democrats are to Republicans as mulattoes (he also calls them mongrels) are to negroes.[4] He also participated in the 1872 Democratic National Convention.[5]

Friendship with Poe[edit]

Burr had become good friends with Edgar Allan Poe, whose poetry he admired and imitated (in anonymous poems published in The Old Guard, and had assisted Poe physically and financially during the latter's visit to Philadelphia, one of his last jaunts before his death. Poe wrote to his mother-in-law on 14 July 1849, thanking Burr for his help: "I am indebted for more than life itself to B[urr]....When all failed me, he stood my friend, got me money, and saw me off in the cars for Richmond."[1]

Burr repaid Poe posthumously by publishing a number of pro-Poe articles in The Old Guard, even poems clearly based on Poe's. Of special value to Poe scholars is an article published in the June 1866 issue, "Poe and his Biographer, Griswold,"[6] in which Burr presents documentary evidence that countered some of the criticism leveled against Poe by Rufus Wilmot Griswold, including letters by those who knew Poe.[1] Burr also officiated at the marriage of another famous writer of the era, George Lippard, held on a rock at sunset above the Wissahickon.


  1. ^ a b c d e Hubbell, Jay B. (1954). "Charles Chauncey Burr: Friend of Poe". PMLA. 69 (4): 833–40. JSTOR 459933. 
  2. ^ Todd, Charles Burr (1902). A general history of the Burr family: with a genealogical record from 1193 to 1902. Printed for the author by the Knickerbocker press. p. 503. 
  3. ^ Burr, C. Chauncey (1863). "Abolition Preachers versus Christ and the Apostles". The Old Guard. 1 (1): 7–13. Retrieved 6 November 2010. 
  4. ^ "Political Speech of C. Chauncey Burr, Esq". The Western Mirror. 3 May 1866. Retrieved 6 November 2010. 
  5. ^ "The Louisville Convention: Second Day's Proceedings of the National Democrats". New York Times. 5 September 1872. Retrieved 6 November 2010. 
  6. ^ Burr, Charles Chauncey (June 1866). "Poe and His Biographer, Griswold". The Old Guard. 4 (6): 353–58. Retrieved 7 November 2010. 

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