Text: James H. Whitty, “Preface,” The Complete Poems of Edgar Allan Poe, New York and Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1911, pp. vii-xi


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­[page vii, unnumbered:]

PREFACE.

POE showed the utmost solicitude for the final text of his poems. He constantly revised and reprinted them. Professor G. E. Woodberry in his revised Life of Poe says: “There is no such example in literature of poetic elaboration as is contained in the successive issues of these poems.” His revisions were minute — sometimes a mere word, and again only a punctuation mark or two. But even the mere matter of punctuation in the text, to an artistic poet like Poe, was of more than passing moment. Poe himself more fully explains this in Graham’s Magazine for February, 1848, where he wrote: “That punctuation is important all agree; but how few comprehend the extent of its importance! The writer who neglects punctuation, or mis-punctuates, is liable to be misunderstood. It does not seem to be known that, even when the sense is perfectly clear, a sentence may be deprived of half its force — its spirit — its point — by improper punctuation.”

Under these circumstances there is no difficulty in deciding upon Poe’s last revision as the authoritative and final text of his poems. Indeed in the preface to the Stedman-Woodberry edition of Poe’s poems it is said, “The claim of his latest revision to be accepted as the authorized text seems to the Editors irresistible.” The text of the poems adopted by them was that of the so-called J. Lorimer Graham copy of the 1845 edition of Poe’s poems, revised by marginal corrections in Poe’s hand which were long regarded as his final revisions. ­[page viii:] They were not, however, his last corrections. Poe not only made later revisions of his poems, but reprinted them, and also while on his last visit to Richmond prepared his writings for a new edition. John M. Daniel stated in the Richmond Examiner of October 12, 1849, that the last time he saw Poe he was just starting for the North to have them published.

As was Poe’s habit when associated with various journals(1) he sent into the composing room of the Richmond Examiner a number of his revised poems and tales for publication in that newspaper. The space being crowded at that time, his copy was used by the printers as “stop matter,” to keep them employed, and was typeset for later publication. Fortunately the revised proofs of these poems were retained by one of the printers, and they eventually fell into the hands of his old-time associate, F. W. Thomas, who was afterwards connected with the Richmond Enquirer at Richmond, Virginia. These poems were: “The Bridal Ballad,” “The Sleeper,” “Lenore,” “Israfel,” “Dream-Land,” “The Conqueror Worm,” “The Haunted Palace,” “The Bells,” “For Annie,” “Sonnet to My Mother,” ­[page ix:] “Annabel Lee,” “Ulalume,” and “To —— (A Dream Within A Dream).”

One of the poems, “Dream-Land,” appeared in the Examiner shortly after Poe’s death. His well-known tale, “MS. Found in a Bottle” as from “The late Edgar A. Poe’s tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque,” printed from the Examiner type and in that office, is now in my possession. The reason more of the poems did not appear is explained in the Examiner of October 19, 1849, which stated: “We do not quote them (‘The Bells’) here because they are too long. We have already published, with his own corrections, ‘The Raven,’ which is a beautiful specimen of the more solemn and elevated of his verse. We wish to give a sample of his still more delicate style — the epicureanism of language which was an art of his own. ‘Ulalume’ and ‘Annabel Lee,’ the last thing he ever wrote, are samples of this, but they have both been too much in the newspapers of late. We therefore choose and will publish in our next one from his collected poems which we do not think has been properly appreciated. It is a fanciful picture of dreams — and the broken fantastic images which cross the mind’s eye — when the senses and judgment are enveloped in sleep.”

This poem was “Dream-Land,” and appeared as revised by Poe in the Examiner of October 29 [[23]], 1849. The editor promised to give further reviews of Poe’s writings when he had more space for them.

An important contribution of Poe’s to the Examiner was his final revision of “The Raven.” It was given as the only correct copy published, and now appears here for the first time since its appearance in that newspaper. The poems from proof sheets of the Examiner were ­[page x:] compiled by F. W. Thomas with the intention of publishing a volume of Poe’s poems. He wrote his Recollections of Edgar A. Poe for this, but his death ended the project. Judge Hughes afterwards placed the manuscript in my hands for publication in the Richmond, Virginia, Sunday Times, with which newspaper I was associated at the time, but it was found unavailable. A copy, however, was retained, and all the important facts and changes are incorporated in this volume.

The final text of “Lenore” left by Poe, which now appears here, is of inestimable value, and forever sets at rest the discussion as to Poe’s intention of what should constitute his final revision of that poem. His corrections of this poem in the J. Lorimer Graham copy of his 1845 poems were misunderstood by his later editors and incorrectly printed. The final revision of the other poems, in particular “Ulalume,” “The Bells,” and “Annabel Lee,” now determines the state in which Poe wished them all to rest. The text of the poems from the Baltimore Saturday Morning Visitor [[Visiter]] and the Flag of Our Union appears for the first time since Poe’s death. It is now established that “A Dream Within A Dream” and “Eldorado” first appeared in the latter newspaper. The supposed lost first part of the manuscript of Poe’s “The Haunted Palace” has been found, as well as new and unpublished manuscripts of “The Sleeper,” “To M. L. S.,” and others. Besides the eight poems now first collected, will be found two poems among the “Additional Poems,” never before printed with Poe’s poems. The revisions made by Poe in the J. Lorimer Graham edition of the 1845 poems have never been fully published, but they are now recorded here in the notes as Poe left them. The changes ­[page xi:] made by Poe in the presentation copy of his 1829 poems to his cousin Elizabeth Herring have been carefully examined, and also appear here for the first time.

In the textual notes I have aimed to present an exhaustive “variorum” edition, while the Bibliography is, I believe, the latest and most complete yet published.

With this new and authoritative text of Poe’s poems, there is presented in the Memoir a new, and I hope, faithful life of the poet. It is the fruit of researches extending over a period of thirty years which began in Baltimore, Maryland, when I was associated with the late Edward Spencer, who edited the Poe-Snodgrass letters. The finding of the F. W. Thomas Recollections of E. A. Poe was a most fortunate discovery. With the other important facts connected with Poe’s history which have been obtained, they have made it possible to present a comprehensive story of the poet’s career with much new light upon certain disputed points.

J. H. W.

RICHMOND, VA., March 1, 1911.


[[Footnotes]]

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page viii:]

1  Authority of Judge Robert W. Hughes and other employees of the Examiner. The Richmond Examiner During the War, Or the Writings of John M. Daniel, With a Memoir of his Life by his Brother, Frederick S. Daniel (New York. Printed for the Author. 1868), p. 220, states: “Edgar A. Poe was induced to revise his principal poems for special publication in the Examiner, and at the time of his death was under engagement to furnish literary articles to its editor, who regarded him as the poet of America.”

While John M. Daniel was Minister to Italy, his brother F. S. Daniel was his secretary, and was familiar with his life and his association with Edgar A. Poe.


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Notes:

None.

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[S:1 - CPEAP, 1911] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - A Poe Bookshelf - Preface (J. H. Whitty, 1911)