Edgar Allan Poe — “William Wilson”


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Commentary:

Characters:

  • William Wilson (narrator) - The narrator in this story is the chief protagonist. His name as given is, as he states, a pseudonym.
  • William Wilson - The fellow student and rival of the narrator. Whether or not he physically exists is a debatable point, but he is clearly meant to be, at least metaphorically, the conscience of the narrator.
  • Glendinning - No first name is given. Mabbott states that Glendinning was the name of the man who succeeded Poe when he left his position as Sergeant Major in the First Artillery in 1829 (Poems, 1969, 1:450, n 13).
  • Preston - No first name is given, but one of Poe’s schoolmates at the Richmond school of Joseph H. Clarke was John T. L. Preston (John Thomas Lewis Preston), who may be the character’s namesake.
  • etc. - Under development.

Setting:

Location - Under development.

Date - Under development. There is a sense in the tale of the narrator looking back over a considerable period of time (as in “The Cask of Amontillado,” although not as overtly). The narrator, however, gives his own birth year variously as 1809, 1811, and 1813, for a tale first published in 1839. If we assume that he was at the fictional Dr. Bransy’s school at about the same age as Poe was at the real school of the real Dr. Bransby, we could assert 1818-1822 for the early school days of the tale, although Poe himself attended Dr. Bransby’s school only for a few years. Oxford would probably be 1825-1829? Subsequent events in the few years following, which bring us up within a decade of 1839.

Summary:

Under development.


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Reading and Reference Texts:

Reading copy:

  • “William Wilson” — reading copy

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Historical Texts:

Manuscripts and Authorized Printings (full text):

  • Text-01 — “William Wilson. A Tale” — 1839, no original manuscript or fragments are known to exist (but this version is presumably recorded in Text-02)
  • Text-02 — “William Wilson. A Tale.” — 1839 — The Gift for 1840 — (Mabbott text A) (Although The Gift carries an imprint date of 1840, it was intended for sale at Christmas and New Year’s, and thus printed and available for purchase about October 1839.
  • Text-03 — “William Wilson. A Tale.” — about September 1839 — (a presumed copy of pages from The Gift for 1840, with some minor authorial changes, in preparation for reprinting the story in Burton’s. This copy no longer survives, but the changes are presumably recorded in Text-04)
  • Text-04 — “William Wilson A Tale.” — October 1839 — Burton’s — (Mabbott text B) (Although printed for the month of October, the magazine was probably available by mid-September.)
  • Text-05 — “William Wilson” — November 1839 — TGA — (Mabbott text C) (Although it bears an imprint date of 1840, the volumes were printed and avalable in early November, 1839.)
  • Text-06 — “William Wilson” — 1842 — TGAPP — (Mabbott text D)  (This version is a modified form of Text-05)
  • Text-07 — “William Wilson” — 1842-early 1845 — (a presumed revised text, prepared for Tales, although it was not included in the collection, which was published on June 25, 1845. Changes from Text-06 are present in Text-08, but there are also additional changes in Text-08, changes of too great a nature to have been made purely in proof. This copy no longer survives, but the changes are presumably recorded in Text-08. It is possible that Poe made some additonal changes in proof.)
  • Text-08 — “William Wilson” — August 30, 1845 — Broadway Journal — (Mabbott text E) (For Griswold’s 1850 reprinting of this text, see the entry below, under reprints.)

 

Manuscripts and Authorized Printings (excerpts):

  • William Wilson” — May 1842 — brief extract in a review of Hawthorne, Graham’s — extract only  (Mabbott text G)
  • “William Wilson” — 1850 — extract in a review of Hawthorne, WORKS — extract only  (Mabbott text H)

 

Reprints:

  • “William Wilson” — September 5-8, 1845 — The Spirit of the Times
    • “William Wilson” — Part I — September 5, 1845
    • “William Wilson” — Part II — September 6, 1845
    • “William Wilson” — Part III — September 8, 1845
  • William Wilson” — 1850 — WORKS — Griswold reprints Text-08  (Mabbott text F)  (This is Mabbott’s copy-text)
  • “William Wilson” — 1852 — Tales and Sketches: to which is added The Raven: A Poem, London, George Routledge & Co.
  • “William Wilson” — 1867 — Prose Tales of Edgar Allan Poe, first series (New York: W. J. Widdleton), pp. 417-436 (This collection is extracted from the 1850-1856 edition of Poe’s Works. It was reprinted several times.)
  • “William Wilson” — 1874 — Works of Edgar A. Poe, edited by J. H. Ingram, vol. 1, pp. 333-354 (This collection was subsequently reprinted in various forms)
  • “The Two William Wilsons” — May 1892 — Romance — A Monthly Magazine (pp. 3-17)

 

Scholarly and Noteworthy Reprints:

  • “William Wilson” — 1894-1895 — The Works of Edgar Allan Poe, vol. 2: Tales, ed. G. E. Woodberry and E. C. Stedman, Chicago: Stone and Kimball (2:5-32)
  • William Wilson” — 1902 — The Complete Works of Edgar Allan Poe, vol. 3: Tales II, ed. J. A. Harrison, New York: T. Y. Crowell (3:299-325, and 3:342-347)
  • William Wilson” — 1978 — The Collected Works of Edgar Allan Poe, vol. 2: Tales & Sketches I, ed. T. O. Mabbott, Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press (2:422-451)
  • “William Wilson” — 1984 — Edgar Allan Poe: Poetry and Tales, Patrick F. Quinn (New York: Library of America), pp. 337-357

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Comparative Texts:

Instream Comparative Texts:

  • William Wilson” — comparative text (TGAPP) (This comparative text shows the changes Poe made in manuscript in his own copy of Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque in 1842, the intended new edition being called Phantasy Pieces.)
  • William Wilson” — comparative text (all)

 

Plain Text Files for Juxta:

  • None.

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Associated Material and Special Versions:

Miscellaneous Texts and Related Items:

  • “James Dixon, ou la funeste ressemblance [James Dixon, or The Fatal Resemblance]” — December 3-4, 1844  — La Quotidienne  (French imitation of “William Wilson” signed  G. B., for Gustave Brunet.)
  • “James Dixon, ou la funeste ressemblance” — Part I  — December 3, 1844
  • “James Dixon, ou la funeste ressemblance” — Part II — December 4, 1844
  • “William Wilson” — (French translation by Charles Baudelaire)
    • “William Wilson” — February 14-19, 1855 — Le Pays
      • “William Wilson” — Part I — February 14, 1855
      • “William Wilson” — Part II — February 15, 1855
      • “William Wilson” — Part III — February 18, 1855
      • “William Wilson” — Part IV — February 19, 1855
    • “William Wilson” — 1857 — Nouvelles histoires par Edgar Poe, Paris: Michel Lévy frères
  • “[William Wilson]” — 1882 — Valda noveller (Stockholm)  (Swedish translation, noted by Anderson, p. 54)
  • “William Wilson” — about 1930 — Fantastische Vertellingen van Edgar Allan Poe, Haarlem: H. D. Tjeenk Willink & Zoon (Dutch translation by Machiel Elias Barentz, with elaborate illustrations by Albert Hahn, somewhat reminiscent of those by Harry Clarke)
  • ”William Wilson” — October 31, 1943 — a radio show broadcast on The Weird Circle show. (As was often the case with dramatic presentations of Poe’s works, the story has been modified.)
  • “William Wilson” — 2007 — Audio book (unabridged), read by Chris Aruffo

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Bibliography:

  • Anderson, Carl L., Poe in Northlight: The Scandanavian Response to His Life and Work, Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1973.
  • Bate, Nancy Berkowitz, “I Think, but Am Not: The Nightmare of ‘William Wilson’,” Poe Studies/Dark Romanticism, 1997, 30:37-38
  • Britt, Theron, “The Common Property of the Mob: Democracy and Identify in Poe’s ‘William Wilson’,” Mississippi Quarterly, Spring 1995, 48:197-210
  • Cobb, Palmer, “The Influence of E. A. T. Hoffman on the Tales of Edgar Allan Poe,” Studies in Philology, 1908, 3:1-104
  • Cobb, Palmer, “Poe and Hoffman,” South Atlantic Quarterly, January 1909, 8:68-81
  • Comeau, Robert C., “Reading Poe on Salary: Mark Twain’s Use of ‘The Raven,’ ‘Hop-Frog,’ and ‘William Wilson’ in ‘The Facts concerning the Recent Carnival of Crime in Connecticut,” Southern Literary Journal, Fall 1996, 29:26-34
  • Davis, Jeff, “The Lady Madeline as a Symbol,” Annotator (Purdue University), April 1954, pp. 8-11
  • Davis, Richard B., “Poe and William Wirt,” American Literature, November 1944, 16:212-220
  • Del Vecchio, Rosa Maria, “Into that Material Nihility”: Poe’s Criminal Persona as God-Peer, PhD disseration, Case Western University, 1994
  • Gargano, James W., “Art and Irony in ‘William Wilson’,” Emerson Society Quarterly, Fall 1970, 60:18-22
  • Gargano, James W., “ ‘William Wilson’: The Wildest Sublunary Visions,” Washington and Jefferson Literary Journal, 1967, 1:9-16
  • Green, George H., “ ‘William Wilson’ and the Conscience of Edgar Allan Poe,” Aberystwyth Studies, 1929, 11:11-22
  • Heartman, Charles F. and James R. Canny, A Bibliography of First Printings of the Writings of Edgar Allan Poe, Hattiesburg, MS: The Book Farm, 1943.
  • Langmade, Lynn, “The Wilson Duplex: Corporatism and the problem of a Singleton Reading in Poe’s ‘William Wilson,’ (or, Why Can’t You See Twins?),” Poe Studies: History, Theory, Interpretation, vol. 45, 2012, pp. 5-39
  • Mabbott, Thomas Ollive, “Numismatic References in Three American Writers,” Numismatist, November 1933, 46:688
  • Mabbott, Thomas Ollive, “[introductory note, annotations and variants to ‘William Wilson’]”, The Collected Works of Edgar Allan Poe (Vols 2-3 Tales and Sketches), Cambridge, Mass.: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1978.
  • Rothwell, K. S., “Source for the Motto to Poe’s ‘William Wilson,” Modern Language Notes, April 1959, 74:297
  • Rovner, Marc Leslie, “What William Wilson Knew: Poe’s Dramatization of an Errant Mind,” in Benjamin Franklin Fisher IV, ed., Poe at Work: Seven Textual Studies , Baltimore: The Edgar Allan Poe Society, 1978, pp. 73-82.
  • Thorner, H. E., “Hawthorne, Poe and a Literary Ghost,” New England Quarterly, March 1934, 7:146-154
  • Walsh, Thomas F., “The Other ‘William Wilson’,” American Transcendental Quarterly, 1971, 10:17-25
  • Wyllie, John Cooke, “A List of the Texts of Poe’s Tales,” Humanistic Studies in Honor of John Calvin Metcalf, Charlottesville: University of Virginia, 1941, pp. 322-338.

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[S:0 - JAS] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Works - Tales - William Wilson