Text: Anonymous, “[Review of Stedman and Woodberry edition of Poe's Works, Volume X],” New York Times (New York, NY), vol. XLV, whole no. 13,875, February 8, 1896, p. 10, col. 1


[page 10, column 1:]





THE WORKS OF EDGAR ALLAN POE. Newly Collected and Edited, with a Memoir, Critical Introductions and Notes by Edmund Clarence Stedman and George Edward Woodberry. The illustrations by Albert Edward Sterner In ten volumes. Vols. VI., VII., and VIII. Literary Criticism. Vol. IX., Eureka and Miscellanies. Vol. X. Poems, Chicago: Stone & Kimball.


In these five volumes the best edition of Poe is completed. The editors have not aimed to enlarge the collection of Poe's writings for posterity, but rather to diminish it, by the rejection of a few trifles here and there, though, as a general thing, they have included everything that was in Griswold's edition. But the chief value of this new edition has in the accuracy of the text, which has been thoroughly gone over and compared with Poe's own corrected notes, and is the critical summaries of his achievements which are clear and comprehensive and entirely free from bias.

No fewer than three of these volumes are devoted to selections from the vast body of Poe's writings as a literary reviewer. The critic who ranked Fouqué above Moliere, and declared his preference for Dickens over Fielding, associating the latter with Marryat, would scarcely command a large measure of respect in this day. Yet the merest glance over this collection of his hastily-prepared essays and notes will convince the reader that their preservation was wise. Many of Poe's longer reviews are so lucid and sprightly that one reads them with the interest awakened by an article in a favorite journal upon a living topic, while all of them are of value, historically speaking.

The “Chapter on Autography,” for instance, is of no other interest than historical, but as it presents to us a contemporary opinion of a large group of American writers in that era, according to their contemporary fame, it deserves well its place. Poe's written opinions of Bryant, Longfellow, Lowell, Cooper, and Hawthorne, are of greater value. That one does not accept now these judgments as final is a matter of course, but in each case they are full of genuine sympathy and contain a fair amount of prediction.

A day's browse in these volumes would, we fancy, freshen the interest of many a jaded reviewer of this hour in his work. In some respects, Poe was of an age and manner before his own, but in others he was far ahead of his period. It is curious to find him calmly and accurately measuring the value of the great Macaulay's eloquent utterances years before Matthew Arnold shook the foundation of that idol's pedestal. Poe's genius for analysis, which shines so conspicuously, in some of his marvelous tales fitted him well for one portion of the merit of “Barnaby Rudge,” which he reviewed fresh from the presses, but his clear and minute analysis of that work, in which he pointed out innumerable details of its construction, and faults due to the manner of its publication in monthly parts, is as interesting now as ever it was.

There is an exceedingly fresh paper, too, on the American drama, which is a review of N. P. Willis's Spanish “Tortesa” and Longfellow's “Spanish Student,” in which Poe is quite as advanced in his view of the more logical, than most of the brood of modern English theatrical critics. In a day when Sheridan Knowles was a name to conjure with Poe was not afraid to style his plays “the most preposterous series of imitations of the Elizabethan drama by which ever mankind were insulted and beguiled.” American dramatists be strongly urged to forget old models and to consider for themselves the capabilities of the drama and to be controlled only by nature in writing.

Mr. Stedman prefixes these collections of Poe's criticisms, with an informing essay on that side of the author's literary character. Vol. IX. contains the extraordinary “prose poem” called “Eureka,” in which the vivid imagination, the intense enthusiasm, and the rich vocabulary of Poe are exhibited, as well as his ignorance of the higher developments of science, his unbounded egotism and his habit of posing. “Eureka” is scarcely worth dwelling upon seriously in these days. From its absurd dedication to Humboldt to its perfervid climax, it is all extremely ludicrous. There is no doubt that its principal idea, if idea it can be called, that all thing in nature are parts of the Creator, was derived by its author directly from some account of Brahminism. There is, in place of a critical introduction to this work, an account of its composition in the “notes,” together with a criticism of it, the more technical portions of which were furnished by Prof. Irving Stringham of the University of California. The same volume contains the “Chapter on Autography,” the paper on the automaton chess player, and various other fugitive pieces.

Poe's poems are all in this volume and occupy barely one-half of its three hundred-one pages. The text is that of the Lorimer Graham cop of the edition of 1845 revised by marginal corrections in Poe's hand. Poems not included in the edition of 1845 are generally taken from the text of Griswold. The notes contain a complet [[complete]] variorum text of all the poems with contemporary notices of Poe, by Griswold, Willis, and Lowell, a bibliography and general index as well as an interesting article on the portraits of Poe, reproduced in this edition. These include the portrait engraved by Sartain, six likenesses of Poe from daguerreotypes, and various others, as well as portraits of Poe's mother and wife.

Mr. Stedman's introduction points out that small as the body of Poe's verse is “relative to that of his prose, and in comparison with the amount of verse written by any other American poet of his rank and time,” he is nevertheless remembered by the common mind as a poet. The tales may contain the fullest expression of his genius. He thought so, and so think his editors, but the author of “The Raven” and “The Bells” and “Annabel Lee” is known to all mankind, while the author of “The Fall of the House of Usher: and its other grim companions is admired only by persons who make some study of literature.

In reviewing the first few volumes of Messrs. Stedman and Woodberry's superb new edition of Poe, due praise was given to its artistic and typographical excellence. The promise of its beginning has been kept faithfully, and it is likely now that all has been done for Poe that can be done by biographers and literary executors. His works are before the world in their final form.





[S:0 - NYT, 1896] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - A Poe Bookshelf - Review of Stedman and Woodberry Edition of The Works of Edgar Allan Poe [Part I] (Anonymous, 1896)