Text: Burton R. Pollin, “April 1835 (Headnote),” The Collected Writings of Edgar Allan Poe — Vol. V: SLM (1997), pp. 3-4 (This material is protected by copyright)


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August 1834 - April 1835

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The first eight numbers of the SLM appeared between August 1834 and April 1835, and they are a faithful reproduction of what White and his advisers thought would appeal to Southern tastes. The overall tone was both refined and uplifting; essays on law, history, literature, education, the classics, and manners and morals offered solid, if often ponderous, commentary. Notes on Virginia’s history and scenery served regional pride, and short fiction and sentimental verse provided somewhat lighter fare. Each issue concluded with “Original Literary Notices.” This was the last issue under the editorial supervision of James E. Heath, the faithful friend who had, without remuneration, aided White since the journal’s foundation. For some months, though, burdened by his other activities, he had importuned White to find a regular editor (see Poe Log, pp. 147-49). Now he finally relinquished his duties, and editorial oversight passed to Edward V. Sparhawk. (For the details of this changeover, see Headnote to May 1835.) The issue featured Chapter I of Philip Pendleton Cooke’s “English Poetry,” Lucian Minor’s “Letters from New England,” and George Tucker’s seventeen-page discourse on “the Progress of Philosophy.” On the less heavy side were the usual verses and three tales, the last of which was Poe’s “Morella,” his second signed appearance in the SLM (after “Berenice” in March 1835). (For notes and text of “Morella,” see Mabbott 2: 221-37.) Heath’s final contribution was a one-page overview of the issue’s contents, in which, with a caveat about Poe’s [column 2:] dark cast of mind, he praised “Morella” for its author’s “great powers of imagination, and a command of language seldom surpassed” (p. 460).

This issue also contained nearly four pages of “Critical Notices,” among which are Poe’s first reviews for the SLM. The first of the eighteen items, a notice of Washington Irving’s The Crayon Miscellany, is almost certainly by Sparhawk (Hull, pp. 72-73), who also contributed to this issue “A Tale of a Nose” and the poem “Content’s Mishaps” under his known pseudonym, “Pertinax Placid.” Of the remainder, only one — the review of Confessions of a Poet — can be shown by direct evidence to be by Poe. However, there is circumstantial evidence for demonstrating that others are also by Poe.

In condensed form, this argument can be made: (1) On April 13, 1835, John Pendleton Kennedy, Poe’s Baltimore benefactor, wrote to White that Poe is “very poor” and noted “I told him to write something for every number of your magazine, and that you might find it to your advantage to give him some permanent employ. . . . I have turned him to drudging upon whatever may make money” (Poe Log, p. 149). Accepting this advice, Poe had contributed two signed tales to the March and April issues and was seeking other ways to make himself useful to the SLM in hopes of getting a permanent job. (2) White was having trouble filling the columns of the April issue as late as April 30, when he wrote to Lucian Minor (see the Headnote to the May 1835 issue) that [page 4:] he was concerned about his failure to bring it out on time (Poe Log, pp. 15051). White had also written to Beverley Tucker on April 2 begging for contributions (Hull, p. 71). (3) On April 30 Poe wrote to White, responding to a critique of “Berenice” by White in an earlier letter and proposing that he furnish a tale each month; Poe ended with some notes about forthcoming publications, a possible suggestion that he wished to review them (Letters 1: 57-59). (4) On May 5 White wrote to Tucker: “When I last addressed you [on April 251 1 was in immediate want of copy. A few days afterwards a supply came in — . . .” (Hull, pp. 71-72).

There is no way of knowing if all of this “supply” had come from Poe, but at least one item — see point (6) — was definitely his. (5) On May 14 Poe published a notice of the April issue, of which he had advance sheets, in the Baltimore Republican and Commercial Advertiser. In May the Richmond Compiler reprinted Poe’s notice and also carried complaints about the issue from two correspondents. One found fault with the remarks on The Language of Flowers; the other complained at great length about the critique of Confessions of a Poet. (6) On May 30 Poe wrote to White that he had read the article in the Compiler relating to the Confessions of a Poet but felt that “there is no necessity of giving it a reply. . . . [The complainant] founds his opinion that I have not read the book simply upon one fact — that I disagree with him. . . . I have read it from beginning to end and was very much amused at it. My opinion concerning it is pretty much the opinion of the press at large.” Poe added this further [column 2:] comment: “My notice of your Messenger in the Republican was I am afraid too brief for your views. But I could command no greater space in its editorial columns” (Letters 1: 59-61). Poe did, however, manage some self-advertisement: “A striking feature . . . and one which cannot be too highly recommended, is the variety of critical notices of New Works. . . .” (text in David K. Jackson, “Four of Poe’s Critiques in the Baltimore Newspapers,” Modern Language Notes 50 [April 19351: 253-54.)

Taken together, these points establish some clear facts: Poe was doing more for the SLM than contributing tales; he was also giving it welcome publicity without asking for remuneration and was beginning to write for its “Critical Notices.”

The evidence for his authorship of the remaining seventeen reviews in this issue is given below in the notes section. The Poe Log (p. 151) accepts them all, without citing evidence. More cautious, T. O. Mabbott, MS. Notes, Folder 1, acknowledges that this issue presents “the greatest difficulty to an editor”; in his judgment only entries 5 through 17 are “surely or presumptively Poe’s.” Since he believes that this was the earliest issue to contain critical notices by Poe, Mabbott also rejects the review of William Cullen Bryant’s Poems published in the January 1835 number and reprinted in Harrison 8: 1-12. Harrison himself did not accept the attribution, which had been given in the E. C. Stedman - G. E. Woodbury edition of the Works (1894-95) 6: 324.

 


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Notes:

None.


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[S:0 - BRP5S, 1997] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Editions - The Collected Writings of Edgar Allan Poe (B. R. Pollin) (April 1835 (Headnote))