Text: Arthur Hobson Quinn, “Appendix 08,” Edgar Allan Poe: A Critical Biography (1941), pp. 747-750


[page 747:]

VIII. Poe’s Revision of the Phantasy Pieces

Poe’s method of revision of the Phantasy Pieces illustrates his meticulous care and also his point of view. In “Morella” the principal change lay in the omission of the “Catholic Hymn” which had been published separately in Burton’s. There is a toning down of some of the expressions. The narrator no longer “shrieked” the name “Morella” at the baptism; he “whispered” the name. A similar modification came in the love Morella’s father feels for his daughter. In the Huntington Ms. it was “more fervent and more holy.” In the Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque it became “more fervent and more intense.” In the Phantasy Pieces, “more intense” was omitted, and this reading Poe preserved. In “Lionizing” Poe had represented his hero, who had become John Smith, as having collected all that could be said on the subject of “Nosology” by Pliny, Aristotle, Alexander Ross, Minutius Felix, Hermanus Pictorius, Del Rio, Villarêt, Bartholinus, and Sir Thomas Browne. Poe added a footnote, in the Phantasy Pieces, “The authors here named have all really treated, at some length, of the nose.” This note was not printed in the Broadway Journal or the Tales of 1845, obviously because the queer jumble of Greek philosophers, a Scottish poet, a Roman advocate, a Danish physician, and so on, was omitted. The note was, of course, an added element of satire on pretended accuracy of reference.

In “William Wilson,” Poe changed the wording of a significant sentence, and also the date of his birth, to read — “for after leaving Dr. Bransby’s, I casually learned that my namesake was born on the nineteenth of January, 1811 — a somewhat remarkable coincidence; for the day is precisely that of my own nativity.”(1) Poe omitted a phrase, “To the moralist fully acquainted with the minute spirings [sic] of human action,” which may reflect his dislike of the introduction of moral teaching into fiction. He restored it, however, partially in later versions. Two alterations in the climax of “William Wilson,” strengthened it. When Wilson faces his conscience, the text had simply said, “A large mirror, it appeared to me.” For the last phrase Poe substituted “(so at first it appeared to me in my confusion).” The change of the natural [page 748:] into the supernatural is thereby made more gradual. Finally, the picture of Wilson is made more distinct by the introduction of “Not a thread in all the raiment” before the sentence “Not a line in all the marked and singular lineaments of that face which was not, even identically, mine own.” Both insertions were preserved by Poe.

In “The Man that was Used Up,” Poe inserted a motto:

“Pleurez, pleurez, mes yeux, et fondez vous en eau!
La moitié de ma vie a mis l’autre au tombeau, — Corneille.”

The first time it was printed was in the Prose Romances of 1843. There is no change of importance in the text in this story.

In “The Fall of the House of Usher” Poe included as usual “The Haunted Palace” but changed the last line of the third stanza to read: “The ruler of the realm was seen.” He had also discovered, or had been told of, an amusing error in the list of works that Roderick Usher and his friend pored over. In the Tales [[of the Grotesque and Arabesque]] of 1840, one of these was given as “the Subterranean Voyage of Nicholas Klimm de Holberg.” Poe corrected “de” to “by,” depriving Ludwig von Holberg of his title, but restoring to him his famous Nicolai Klimii iter subterraneum.

One sentence in “The Duc de L’Omelette” reflects Poe’s changing ideas. In the original form in the Saturday Courier it read, “There was a chain of an unknown blood-red metal — its upper end lost like Col-e, parmi les nues.” In the Tales of 1840, this reference became C——. In the Phantasy Pieces, Poe inserted “Carlyle.” Later on, in the Broadway Journal, it became “the city of Boston.”

Poe’s tendency toward moderation showed in his change from “one hundred times” to “fifty times” in contrasting the altitude of the spectral vessel with that of the hulk on which the narrator of “A Manuscript Found in a Bottle” is floating. However Poe did not preserve the alteration. He did keep the change from “the snow drifted down bodily in enormous masses” to “It snowed fiercely” in “Bon-Bon.” There are quite a few interpolations in this story. The devil’s remark, “But my conscience smote me for the lie,” became “But my conscience smote me for having uttered a truth, even to aid a friend.” This is in better keeping with the tone of the story. This correction Poe preserved, but there are two alterations in another script, which were not followed. Evidently some one else was trying his hand at corrections. “Shadow” had practically no alteration, being very properly looked upon by Poe as in perfect form. He introduced a motto, however, “Yea! though I walk through the valley of the SHADOW — Psalm of David.”

In “Ligeia” Poe interpolated a striking clause. To the description of [page 749:] the repeated revivification of the corpse of Rowena and her lapse into death, he added: “how each agony wore the aspect of a struggle; and how each struggle was succeeded by I know not what of wild change in the personal appearance of the corpse.” This clause prepares the way for the final assumption by Ligeia of the body of her rival, without appearing to do so. The poem of “The Conqueror Worm” is not included in “Ligeia” as it was later, so that the date of its first publication, January, 1843, fixes the preparation of the Phantasy Pieces as not later than 1842.

In “King Pest” there are again two sets of alterations, and, once more, while the printlike characters of Poe represent corrections that have been preserved, the others, at times illegible, and even ungrammatical, have been discarded. The only significant change is the substitution of “Plague” for “Pest” as the “fearful cry” sounding through the city.

“How to Write a Blackwood Article” appears for the first time with that title, in Phantasy Pieces, followed by a motto,

“In the name of, the Prophet, — figs!!”

— Cry of the Turkish Fig-Pedler.

In this story there is a sheet carefully written and pasted on what had been page 221 of the Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque: “To Printer — Substitute this for what is marked out in pencil. No. ¶”

Talk of the Ionic and Eleatic Schools — of Archytas, Gorgias and Alcmaeon. Say something about objects and subjects. Be sure and abuse a man called Locke. Turn up your nose at things in general; and when you let slip anything very unconscionably absurd, you need not be at the trouble of scratching it out, but just put in a foot-note and say you are indebted for the above profound observation to the “Kritik der reinen Vernunft” or to the “Metaphysische Anfangsgrunde der Naturwissenschaft.” This will look erudite and at the same time frank.

This passage was substituted for “Talk of the Academy and the Lyceum and say something about the Ionic and Italic Schools, or about Bossarion,(2) and Kant, and Schelling, and Fichte, and be sure you abuse a man called Locke, and bring in the words a priori and a posteriori.” The new passage certainly sounds more learned, but since its satiric intent is clear, it can be only a matter of conjecture why Poe made this [page 750:] careful alteration. In any event, he preserved it in the Broadway Journal. The pendant story, “A Predicament,” had as a motto “What chance, good lady, hath bereft you thus? — Comus.”

In addition to these more significant changes, there are verbal alterations which in Poe’s judgment, added to the rhetorical strength, and there is a constant changing of punctuation marks.


[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 747:]

(1)  The date was 1809 in Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 749:]

(2)  Probably an error for Cardinal Johannes Bessarion (c. 1395-1472), and not a typographical slip, for Poe refers to him as Bossarion in “Bon-Bon.”



In the original, the section title is given in all capitals. For the sake of conformity, it has been rendered here in upper and lower case.


[S:1 - EAP:ACB, 1941] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Articles - E. A. P.: A Critical Biography (A. H. Quinn) (Appendix 08)