Edgar Allan Poe — Critical Theory: The Major Documents (2009)



“Letter to B ——” (pp. 1-19) (from the Southern Literary Messenger, July 1836)

  • Paragraph 9, end of line 8, five asterisks are given to fill out the line, while only two appear in the original, and alternative spacing could have been used to achieve the same effect. This detail might seem unnecessarily obtuse, except that the editors specifically comment in the “Note on Variant Readings” that “In the Southern Literary Messenger, some lines at the ends of paragraphs are filled out with asterisks. There are also lines of asterisks between some paragraphs. We have tried to copy both as literally as possible” (p. 11).
  • Paragraph 14, for the first poem quoted, Poems (1831) gives “poney” for all instances of “pony,” a variant not noted by the editors. For the second poem quoted, variant “g” improperly gives a comma after “drink,” stating that “The Southern Literary Messenger is hard to read at this point; the punctuation appears to be a comma” (p. 12). In fact, checking several copies of the Southern Literary Messenger containing this essay it was clear to me that the line ended with a semi-colon, as it also appears in Poems (1831).
  • Paragraph 17, line 3: the editors omit a comma after “no doubt.” This comma clearly appears in both the Southern Literary Messenger and Poems (1831) printings.
  • Paragraph 23, line 1: The editors consistently imitate the use of two em-dashes following most examples of “B,” even copying the typographical anomaly of a single em-dash after “B” in paragraph 20, but inexplicably adding a third em-dash after “B” in paragraph 23.
  • In the variants, the note for variants “a” and “b” contain some comments about the reprint of the essay by Woodberry and Stedman, for reasons which are not made clear as that reprint is hardly an authorized text. For variant “f,” the editors comment that “In the Southern Literary Messenger ‘dow’ is a typographical error,” although checking several copies I found the word consistently printed as “dew.” (The editors may have used a misleading photocopy of the article, or a copy of the magazine in which the type had worn so that the middle bar of the “e” was lacking.)

Prospectuses of the Penn and the Stylus (pp. 21-36)

  • In the original prospectus for the Penn (both for the earlier and later versions of 1840), commas appear at the end of the following lines in the heading: “THE PENN MAGAZINE” and “A MONTHLY LITERARY JOURNAL,” and a period appears at the end of “IN THE CITY OF PHILADELPHIA.” The word “By” in the line “By EDGAR A. POE” should be capitalized, to agree with the original. Also, in the original, the first word “Since” is given all in large and smaller capitals, as “SINCE,” and “TO THE PUBLIC” is centered rather than right-justified, and should end with a period. (The original use of larger and smaller caps is honored at the beginning of the printing of the second prospectus.)
  • At the end of the prospectus, Poe's name should also end with a period, and should be right-justified rather than centered. The editors go to some effort to reproduce the form for subscribers at the end of the prospectus, but the column headings should be italicized for the sake of fidelity to the original.
  • In the prospectus from the Philadelphia Saturday Museum, there are three minor issues. In the epigram, the name of Launcelot Canning should be right-justified rather than centered.
  • In paragraph 1, line 7, there should not be a comma after the name of “THE STYLUS.”
  • In paragraph 9, the first line should be indented. In paragraph 2, line 3 of the prospectus of January 1848, a new typographical error of “worhty” for “worthy” has been created.
  • At the end of the prospectus of April 1848, there appears to be an extra space after the hyphen in “New-York.” (In Poe's day, the name of the city of New York was often hyphenated, although not always consistently. It is not, for example, hyphenated in the equivalent line in the prospectus of January 1848.)
  • Strangely, there are no notes for the two 1848 printings, so that the reader is left to other resources to discover that the “most distinguished of American scholars” who “has agreed to superintend the department of classical letters” was Charles Anthon.

“Exordium” (pp. 37-49) (from Graham's Magazine, January 1842)

  • The editors comment about their choice of leaving Poe's misspelling of “Kaimes” for “Kames” in paragraph 7, line 9, but their explanation is somewhat implausible as the error does not seem intentional for the sake of some private joke (as “Cant” for “Kant”), and one might have preferred that they had simply corrected the spelling in the text, with the appropriate documentation in the notes (as they quite reasonably do for “neessity” and “objecs” in the “Prospectus of the Stylus” on pp. 28-29).
  • A minor error appears in paragraph 4, line 9, where the editors omit a comma after “at least,” with no explanation.

“Preface” to The Raven and Other Poems (pp. 51-53)

  • None

“Philosophy of Composition” (pp. 55-76) (from Graham's Magazine, April 1846)

  • In the “Note on the Text” (p. 59), the editors comment that “. . . we added a hyphen to ‘under current in paragraph 36 to make it match ‘under-current’ in paragraph 37,” but they neglect to do the same to the second occurrence of the same word in the same paragraph (paragraph 36, line 10).
  • In the notes (for paragraph 25, on p. 74), the editors refer to “Fifty Suggestions” as having been published in May and June of 1845 instead of 1849. In this error, they seem to be copying from Harrison, who makes the same curious mistake (14:170). (Harrison probably confuses it with “A Chapter of Suggestions,” published in The Opal for 1845.)

“The Rationale of Verse” (pp. 77-146)

  • Byline: For fidelity to the original, the full line should be all in capital letters, as “BY EDGAR A. POE.”
  • Paragraph 5, line 17, on page 83: the colon after “distinct” should be a semi-colon.
  • Paragraph 24, line 22, on page 89: the colon after “desired” should be a semi-colon.
  • Paragraph 30, line 5: a strange “a:” appears in the middle of the line, a typographical error with no correspondent in the original text. The example of “natural-dactylic lines” at the end of the paragraph should have the first line moved to the left, so that it lines up with the last line.
  • Paragraph 45, the last line of the quotation from “Al Aaraaf,” on page 99: The word “hitherward” is only partially italicized in the original, as “hitherward,” with no concern here given to Poe's special markings and accent characters.
  • Paragraph 57, line 14,: For the word “iambuses,” the printing in the Southern Literary Messenger gives “iambusses,” a difference not noted in the variants.
  • Paragraph 59, lines 7-8: there should be no blank line between these lines. The second of the two lines should be indented.
  • Paragraph 61, line 24: The scanned line beginning with an em-dash in the present text begins with two connected em-dashes in both the Southern Literary Messenger and Griswold texts.
  • Paragraph 65, line 7: An open parenthesis should appear before the phrase “ny, are, the.” This error appears also in the Southern Literary Messenger, but is corrected in Griswold's text. In the same paragraph, there is a curious inconsistency in the use of a final comma in lines 11 and 14, in the parenthetical lists of syllables. This inconsistency appears also in both the Southern Literary Messenger and Griswold's text.
  • Paragraph 71, line 1: The text in Griswold's edition omits “first” from the phrase “It must first be observed,” a difference not noted in the variants.
  • Paragraph 72, line 5, on page 112: Griswold's text spells “recognized” as “recognised.” This spelling change is not noted in the variants.
  • Paragraph 81, line 6: The phrase “among nine consonants” should be italicized. (The intervening variant marker has similarly interrupted the use of italics at several places in the present text.)
  • Paragraph 84, line 1: Both the Southern Literary Messenger and Griswold give a comma after “to-day.”
  • Paragraph 88, line 16: a blank line should follow this line, so that the subscripts under “pulverem O” do not sit too closely on the next line. This is the only instance where a similar situation fails to have such a blank line.
  • Paragraph 91, lines 9-10: The phrase “and consequently without verse” should be italicized. On line 12 of the same paragraph, “we,” following variant “k,” should also be italicized.
  • Variant “z” for paragraph 28: B: and again — (the editors omit “and”)
  • Variant “w” for paragraph 39, and variant “x” for paragraph 40: B: synœresis (with no semicolon)
  • Variant “j” for paragraph 49: The editors correct Poe's misspelling of the middle name of Christopher Pearse Cranch, and suggest that Poe's error is a confusion with the quoted lines of “Pease porridge hot, etc.” In so doing, they neglect to note that Poe makes the same error in both his “Literati of New York City” series, and in the manuscript material he prepared for Literary America.
  • Variant “x” for paragraph 62: B: imperfection (should be italicized)
  • Notes for paragraph 5, on pages 128-129: The editors comment that the name Poe gives as Kirkland is probably an error for Samuel Kirkham, and document it accordingly. Given the near certainty of the intended identity, one wonders why they did not editorially adjust it in the text, with the note of explanation, and instead force the reader to seek out the note for the correction. They also imply that Poe misspells the name of John Comly, the editors themselves adding an “e” so that it becomes Comley, without explanation. The name does appear as Poe gives it on the title page of Comly's Grammar of the English Language, and is so listed by the Library of Congress and the New York Public Library. It would appear that Poe is in the right.

“Notes upon English Verse” (pp. 145-174) (from the Pioneer, March 1843)

  • The introductory note for the “Variant Readings” specify the paragraphs accounted for by manuscript fragments, but do not specify the current locations for these fragments. The full manuscript, possibly already missing some pieces, was given by Robert Carter, J. R. Lowell's co-editor for the Pioneer, to Oliver Wendell Holmes, the poet, sometime prior to Carter's death on February 15, 1879. Holmes gave the manuscript for paragraphs 19 and 20 to Daniel Coit Gilman, and these are currently in the special collections of the Eisenhower Library at the Johns Hopkins University. The remaining material retained by Holmes, including paragraphs 28 through 39, are currently at Harvard.
  • Paragraph 1, line 2: the word “of” is omitted from the phrase “and even of the Hebrew,” apparently in error. Paragraph 6, line 6 of page 149: The editors give “English Grammar,” where the original gives “English grammar,” matching several other uses of the phrase.
  • Paragraph 13, line 3 (line 2 of the Hexameters as scanned): The editors misplace the hyphen in the third segment, which should appear at the end rather than in the middle of the segment.
  • Paragraph 28, line 14, “vis” should be italicized.
  • Paragraph 33, in the scanned passage, the editors omit four hyphens which are in the original. These occur in lines 7 of the passage (“op-press‘d” and “per-fume”), line 12 (“di-vine”), and line 14 (“fare-well”)
  • Paragraph 35, line 8: In the phrase “there is no relief,” the word “no” should be italicized.
  • Paragraph 44, line 3 of page 166: A comma should appear at the end of the line.
  • Paragraph 51, line 5: The first line of the scanned stanza should be indented, and the second line should break between “and” and “the” at the end, so that the final line beings “the breeches . . .” In the original, the first and third lines are indented.
  • Paragraph 53, line 4,: the word “the,” given in quote marks, should also be italicized.
  • Paragraph 54, lines 1-2 of page 168: Although the original printing in the Pioneer also omits three hyphens, they should, perhaps, have been added editorially for consistency and correctness. These would occur in line 1 (“in-ter” and “in-ermem”) and line 2 (“quae-sita”).
  • The variants are assigned a sequence of letter codes a-z, repeating the sequence if there are more than 26 variants. The repetition of variants is resolved by a paragraph number, which appears to the left of the first variant for that paragraph. On page 172, however, the indicator for paragraph 30 should appear by variant “n” rather than “o,” as it does.
  • An explanatory note follows variant “z” for paragraph 33. This note references variants “w and d” for paragraph 33, but probably should be “y and f.”
  • Variant “f” for paragraph 28: “recognised” is noted as a typographical error, and given as “recognized” in the text. In a number of his writings, however, Poe uses “recognise,” including several times in “The Poetic Principle,” where it appears three times and all of which are allowed to stand in the present volume without comment.
  • More curiously, “recognise” appears in paragraph 25 of “Notes upon English Verse,” also allowed to stand without comment.
  • Variant “r” for paragraph 31: B: “their clime,” (the phrase is actually italicized in both versions, leaving only a minor difference in the positioning of the comma)
  • Variant “b” for paragraph 33: B: per- | fume wax (the editors omit the horizontal bar)

“The Poetic Principle” (pp. 175-211)

  • One small verbal difference in Longfellow's “The Day is Done” has “As they” in the Sartain text and “And as” in Longfellow's poem. Curiously, Griswold's text gives “And as,” agreeing with Longfellow's printed text, but without comment by the editors.
  • Paragraph 5, line 1: following Sartain's, the editors give us “cœteris paribus,” without comment. Poe uses the same phrase more properly as “ceteris paribus” in “The Rationale of Verse” (p. 89, paragraph 24), “Letter to B----“ (p. 7, paragraph 7, not italicized), and “The Philosophy of Composition” (p. 62, paragraph 10). (Outside of works appearing in this volume, Poe uses the same phrase in “Doings of Gotham, Letter IV,” “Marginalia” [Graham's, January 1848], Poe's review of Hall's Book of Gems [SLM, August 1836], Poe's review of E. O. Smith's Poetical Writings [Godey's, December 1845], Poe's review of W. M. Ainsworth, Guy Fawkes [Burton's, November 1841], and Poe's review of H. Cockton's Stanley Thorn [Graham's Magazine, January 1842].)
  • Paragraph 8, last line: “midsummer” is hyphenated as “mid-summer” although this is merely an end-line hyphenation in the original printing, and is not hyphenated in the Griswold or Home Journal printings. (Poe also uses the word in various stories — including “The Colloquy of Monos and Una”, “Ligeia,” “The Spectacles,” and “William Wilson” — always without a hyphen, although the first printing of “Ligeia” does give the hyphen. The hyphen also appears in the word in three printings of “The Assignation,” although the first of these (in Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque) occurs as an end-line hyphenation. The printing in the Broadway Journal perhaps copies this hyphenation from this earlier printing, and Griswold from the Broadway Journal printing.
  • Paragraph 23, line 3, “this certain tint of sadness” should read “this certain taint of sadness.” It does appear as “tint” in Sartains, but is given as “taint” in Griswold and the Home Journal, and “taint” is almost certainly the correct reading when one notes that paragraph 24 begins with “The taint of which I speak,” a phrase which makes sense no sense if the earlier word is “tint.”
  • Paragraph 28, line 9: Poe's spelling of “wierdly,” which appears in all three printings of the lecture, is allowed to stand, without comment by the editors. Poe also spells “wierd” in “A Tale of the Ragged Mountains” and “The Domain of Arnheim,” including the manuscripts of both tales, as well as in the manuscript letter of October 18, 1848 to Sarah H. Whitman.
  • Paragraph 29, line 48 of the quoted poem, Sartain's reads “Has broken many more?” although the editors give what is clearly a better reading of “Has broken many more!” although without explanation.
  • Notes to paragraph 28 neglect to identify the poem by Moore, beginning “I would I were by that dim lake,” which Poe says that he is “unable to remember.” The line should remind any reader familiar with Poe's poetry of “The Lake,” and in a footnote to the introductory comment on that poem, Mabbott identifies it as a song from Irish Melodies (Mabbott, Poems, 1969, 1:83n1).
  • In the notes for paragraph 6, the editors use a minor mention of Pierre Jean de Béranger to introduce a digression concerning Poe's footnote to “Israfel.” In so doing, it is suggested that Poe used lines from Béranger's poem “Le Refus” for the 1839 printing of “The Fall of the House of Usher,” when the epigram appeared first with the 1845 text, not being included in the version printed in Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque in 1840, nor in Poe's handwritten changes made to volume I of that set about 1842. The matter is discussed to better effect by both Mabbott (Poems, 1969, 1:177) and Pollin (“Béranger in the Works of Poe,” Discoveries in Poe, 1970, pp. 54-74), but neither of these sources are noted. (Instead, we get a reference to Pollin's article on “Politics and History.”)




This errata is for: Stuart Levine and Susan F. Levine, eds., Edgar Allan Poe: Critical Theory, the Major Documents. Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois press, 2009. xiii, 229pp. $50.00 cloth.

The list was prepared for a review in Poe Studies/Dark Romanticism


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