Text: John Camden Hotten, “Preliminary,” The Works of Edgar Allan Poe, London: John Camden Hotten, 1873, pp. iii-vi


­[page iii, unnumbered:]


THE present edition of the Works of Edgar Allan Poe is more complete than any yet published in this country. It not only gives the whole of the poems and stories which have been left us by this fine genius, but it also contains some critical essays which will be new to English readers.

It is well known that Poe spent some years of his life in a school at Stoke Newington, near London,* but neither his biographers nor any of the pilgrims — his admirers — who visit this quiet Quaker suburb in memory of the poet, have ever been able to identify “the quaint old house with Elizabethan gables” which he describes in one of his “Tales of Mystery.” By a fortunate circumstance the publisher of the present volume stumbled upon an abstract of the leases granted by the Lord of the Manor sixty years since, and amongst the entries is: —

The Rev. John Bransby of the School in Church Street, and Ground in Edward’s Lane, 21 years lease with 10 additional, expires 25 March, Yearly Rent 1837.” £55 0 0

As “Bransby” was the name mentioned by Poe, this gave the clue at once, and the house was soon identified, but not as having “Elizabethan gables,” described in the story — partly autobiographical — of “William Wilson.” The actual house is a roomy old structure of Queen Anne’s time, and remains internally in very nearly the same state as when the poet was there. It is still a school, at present under the care of a Mr. Dod; and ­[page iv:] although the thirteen acres of play-ground which existed in Poe’s time have long since been parcelled out to other tenements, or have been built upon, we were fortunate in being able to secure a good sketch of the house, together with a drawing — made whilst Poe was at the school — of the ancient manor gateway, formerly a conspicuous object in the ground. The acres were fenced in by a high and solid brick wall, topped with a bed of mortar and broken glass. This prison-like rampart formed the limit of the domain; the scholars saw beyond it but thrice a week once — every Saturday afternoon, when, attended by two tutors, they were permitted to take brief walks in a body through some of the neighbouring fields; and twice during Sunday, when they were paraded in the same formal manner to the morning and evening service in the one church of the village.

The portrait of Poe’s schoolmaster, which we also give, is interesting when taken in connection with the poet’s graphic description of the venerable clergyman in “William Wilson.” “Dr. Bransby,” as Poe styles him, was the lecturer of the parish church, and his pupils were wont to regard him with wonder and perplexity from their remote pew in the gallery, as, with step solemn and slow, he ascended the pulpit. That reverend man, with countenance so demurely benign, with robes so glossy and so clerically flowing, with wig so minutely powdered, so rigid and so vast — could that be he who of late, with sour visage and in snuffy habiliments, administered, ferule in hand, the Draconian laws of the academy?

A word may be said about Poe’s portrait. It is taken from a likeness which he gave to a friend a short time before his decease, and is considered by those who remember the poet an excellent representation of him when living.

J. C. H.

  26 Oct., 1872,


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

* Poe came to England with his adopted parents, Mr. and Mrs. Allan, of Baltimore. They paid a lengthened visit to the old country, being concerned in the disposal of some property here.



J. C. H. is John Camden Hotten (1832-1873), the original publisher of this edition. After his death, his former partner, Andrew Chatto, joined forces with W. E. Windus to form the publishing house of Chatto and Windus, which reprinted the present title at least as early as 1882 and appears to have continued to print editions as 1885. Although the date of publication for the first printing is sometimes noted as [1872] in bibliographies, presumably based on the date at the end of the “Preminary” matter, that is probably too early. No date is given on the title page or copyright page of the first printings, but reviews began to appear only in 1873, including one in the July 1873 issue of the London Quarterly Review. It may, therefore, be assumed that it was published in the first half of 1873.]

The supposed portrait of Dr. Bransby, which was reprinted in various places, including the biography of Poe written by W. F. Gill. Questions about the portrait were raised by William Elijah Hunter, a former student, in “Poe and His English Schoolmaster,” Athenæum, Oct. 19, 1878 and was identified by John H. Ingram as actually being someone else — see “Poe and His English Schoolmaster,” Athenæum, October 26, 1878. M. E. Phillips (in Poe the Man (1926) and A. H. Quinn, in Edgar Allan Poe: A Critical Biography, reproduce a painting that may be a more reliable portrait.


[S:0 - WEAPICHCE, 1873] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - A Poe Bookshelf - Works of Edgar Allan Poe [Preliminary/Preface] (J. C. Hotten, 1873)