Text: George E. Woodberry, “Preface,” Edgar Allan Poe (1885), pp. v-vii


[page v, unnumbered:]



THE principal printed sources for a narrative of Poe’s life are the following, of which the first three were inspired by himself and published before his death: I., Griswold’s sketch, in “The Poets and Poetry of America,” 1842; II., Hirst’s sketch, in the Philadelphia “Saturday Museum,” 1843; III., Lowell’s sketch, in “Graham’s Magazine,” 1845; IV., Griswold’s “Memoir,” founded on the documents put into his hands as Poe’s executor and prefixed to the third volume of the original edition of Poe’s “Works,” 1850, but now suppressed; V., Mrs. Whitman’s “Edgar Poe and his Critics,” 1860; VI., Didier’s “Life,” prefixed to an edition of Poe’s “Poems,” 1876; VII., Gill’s “Life,” 1877; VIII., Stoddard’s “Life,” prefixed to a volume of selections from the “Works,” 1880, and now included in the latest complete edition (A. C. Armstrong & Son, 1884, 6 vols.); IX., Ingram’s “Life” (London), 1880. These authorities, each of which contains [page vi:] original matter peculiar to itself, and numerous personal reminiscences of Poe in periodicals and newspapers, have been used in the preparation of the present biography. The statements of fact in these sources are extraordinarily conflicting, doubtful, and contested; and in view of this, as well as of the spirit of rancor excited in any discussion of Poe’s character, the author has made this, so far as was possible, a documentary biography, has verified all facts positively stated at first hand, and has felt obliged to assign the authority followed, in any questionable assertions, in foot notes. This method, which seemed the only practicable one if truth was to be arrived at, has involved a more direct obligation to previous works than would otherwise have been the case; but the author in this matter has been treated with marked courtesy, and he takes pleasure in thanking Mr. Eugene L. Didier and W. Fearing Gill, Esq., for voluntarily offering to him the use of their material, and Messrs. A. C. Armstrong & Son, the owners of the copyright of the Griswold and Stoddard memoirs, for permission to extract the passages found in the text. To Mr. Gill he is indebted also for the use of the incomplete MS. “Life” by T. C. Clarke, once Poe’s partner. To Mr. Ingram’s [page vii:] work the present biography is under obligation, as the foot notes exhibit, especially for extracts (the briefest possible) from Poe’s correspondence with women. The letters designated “Poe to ——,” and accredited to Ingram’s “Life” where they had been previously printed, were placed at the author’s disposal by their owner; and for this favor, as well as for a copy of the Addenda to “Eureka,” he desires to express his thanks.

Notwithstanding the amount of printed matter regarding Poe, his life has not been exhaustively treated. The larger portion of the following pages consists of wholly new information, or of old statements so radically corrected as to become new. In preparing this the author has been indebted to the assistance of very many persons, of whom he can thank by name only a few, but he trusts that the lack of any public acknowledgment will not be misconstrued as neglect. Not to enter upon minor matters and the incessant corrections of detail made by the present volume, the account of Poe’s parentage and marriage is for the first time given according to the facts, from original investigation. The discovery of the papers that settle Poe’s history during the years concerning which nothing whatever has hitherto been [page viii:] definitely known, was due to the consideration of Robert Lincoln, Secretary of War, and the kind ness of Adjutant-General R. C. Drum. The MSS. and other material collected by the late Judge Neilson Poe, and hitherto unpublished, are of great value, particularly the papers that give the only contemporary account of Poe’s death, and the Snodgrass correspondence, which affords interesting details of Poe’s years in Philadelphia. The correspondence of Poe with Mr. James Russell Lowell, the most interesting of all from a literary point of view, throws much light into obscure portions of Poe’s mature life, as well as upon his mind and character, and the correspondence between Mr. C. F. Briggs and Mr. Lowell is the most direct and the only authoritative piece of evidence regarding Poe’s affairs during his connection with the “Broadway Journal.” Letters of Poe, MSS. and other original material bearing upon his life have also been furnished by Messrs. Ferdinand T. Dreer, Thomas H. Ellis, W. J. McClellan, T. B. Aldrich, Allan B. Magruder, Douglass Sherley, William Nelson, Mrs. Susan A. Weiss, William E. Foster, John Parker, J. N. Ireland, F. O. C. Darley, and Arthur Mazyck. Mr. E. C. Stedman kindly loaned the daguerreotype from which the [page ix:] portrait here given is engraved. For all this generous assistance the author makes grateful acknowledgment, as well as to Professor Irving Stringham, of the University of California, for the substance of the criticism of Poe’s astronomical speculations, and to Mr. Frank Parks for friendly and invaluable aid in many ways; especially does he feel deeply obliged to Miss Amelia F. Poe, General Drum, and Mr. Lowell, for their attention and liberality.

BEVERLY, MASS., December 18, 1884.





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