Text: Edgar Allan Poe (ed. T. O. Mabbott), “Alone,” The Collected Works of Edgar Allan PoeVol. I: Poems (1969), pp. 145-147 (This material is protected by copyright)


[page 145:]


This remarkably fine poem was written without title, but marked “Original” and signed “E. A. Poe,” in the album of Lucy Holmes, who later became the wife of Judge Isaiah Balderston of Baltimore. In the album is another poem, “I have gazed on woman's cheek,” “By W. H. Poe — copied at his request by E. A. Poe.” Edgar Poe's striking verses have been in print since 1875, but the manuscript was first thoroughly discussed by Irby Bruce Cauthen, Jr. (Studies in Bibliography, Charlottesville, 1950-51, III, 284-291), who examined the album. It is now in the possession of the first owner's granddaughter, Mrs. Emma D. Welbourn of Catonsville, Maryland. The manuscript is holographic and the doubts expressed about it in the past are to be firmly dismissed.(1)

The metrical structure of the verses, with the many run-on lines, is one of Poe's earliest bold experiments and a most successful one.

Cauthen sees the influence of Byron's Manfred, II, ii, 50-56:

From my youth upwards

My Spirit walked not with the souls of men,

Nor looked upon the earth with human eyes;

The thirst of their ambition was not mine,

The aim of their existence was not mine;

My joys — my griefs — my passions — and my powers,

Made me a stranger.

There is also a pertinent passage in “The Prisoner of Chillon,” X, 44-49: [page 146:]

Lone — as a solitary cloud,

A single cloud on a sunny day,

While all the rest of heaven is clear,

A frown upon the atmosphere,

That hath no business to appear

When skies are blue, and earth is gay.

But although in so early a poem echoes of Byron are not unlikely, the experiences are those any imaginative youth who knew his Byron might actually have. In any case, Poe's vision is strikingly his own.


(A) Manuscript, about 1829, in an album; (B) Scribner's Monthly for September 1875 (10:608); (C) Eugene L. Didier's Life and Poems of ... Poe (1877), p. 248. The text used here is from the manuscript (A); but Didier's title (B) is accepted.

[page 147, continued:]


8  Poe wrote the word “alone” four times on the Wilmer manuscript of “Tamerlane” and used “Alone” as title for the earliest (1828?) version of “To —” (“I heed not”). See the note on line 20 of that poem.

22  A demon is powerful, but not necessarily evil.


[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 145:]

1  The doubts arose because of the way the poem was given to the world by Eugene L. Didier. He found the piece in the album owned by Mrs. Dawson, daughter of Lucy Holmes Balderston, and arranged to publish the poem in Scribner's Monthly for September 1875. There he gave a facsimile made from a photograph which he retouched by adding a title — and a conjectural date line, “Baltimore, March 17, 1829.” J. H. Ingram denounced it as a bold forgery. Pique perhaps played a part in this, but we must remember that Ingram was wholly unfamiliar with Poe's early handwriting. Readers interested in the defunct controversy can find a great deal about Ingram's doubts in the Ingram List, and even in Killis Campbell, The Mind of Poe and Other Studies (1958), p. 204.



Lucy Holmes Balderston was born in Baltimore in the same year that Poe was born in Boston, 1809, and died in 1881. She is buried in the Holmes family vault, in Greenmount Cemetery (area V, lot 46) in Baltimore. (Burial records misspell her name, and that of her son, as Balderstrom.) On May 3, 1830, she married Isaiah Balderston (1806-1883), who became the Chief Judge of the Orphans Court (1867-1871), the same court on which Edgar's cousin, Neilson Poe, later served (beginning in 1878). The album was donated to the Maryland Historical Society in December 1969 by Mrs. Emma D. Welbourn. Mrs. Welbourn was born about 1881, and married to Henry H. Welbourn. At the time of the donation, Benjamin Swann, of Swann Galleries, appraised the album at $9,000 (chiefly for the Poe material). The Maryland Historical Society has removed the two poems written down by Poe, which are now cataloged as MS 1796. The album itself contains photocopies of these pages, and is itself stored in the rare book room.


[S:1 - TOM1P, 1969] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Editions-The Collected Works of Edgar Allan Poe (T. O. Mabbott) (Alone)