Text: John H. Ingram, “Preface,” Edgar Allan Poe: Life, Letters, and Opinions (1886), pp. iii-v


[page iii, unnumbered:]



AT last, after several years of research, I am enabled to place a full and faithful life of Edgar Allan Poe before the world. It was due to myself, due to the public, and due to the memory of a much maligned man, that the short, vindicatory “Memoir” prefixed to my edition of Poe’s Works in 1874,* and my essays on his Life and Works — published before and after that sketch — should culminate in such a work as this. When that “Memoir of Poe” was published, I drew attention to the fact that no trustworthy biography of the poet had yet appeared in his own country, although that such a work had been frequently projected was then pointed out. Since the publication of my sketch, however, and its substitution in America for Griswold’s so-called “Memoir of Poe,” quite a plentiful supply of “Original” lives of the poet have appeared, and all — save one “based upon Griswold’s sketch” — have reproduced the whole of my material, without acknowledgment, and with scarcely an additional item of interest or value.

My sketch, above referred to, having accomplished its purpose of proving that the obloquy overshadowing the poet’s moral character arose chiefly from the almost unparalleled hostility of his earliest biographer, it has not been deemed requisite in the following pages to allude, save slightly and incidentally, to the mythology of scandal which has grown up about Poe’s story. [page iv:]

In preparing this final work upon Edgar Allan Poe, I have found no lack of new matter: the quality rather than the quantity of the proffered data has been my chief hindrance. To perceive how folk a man scarcely knew, and probably detested, will claim — and almost beyond power of refutation — to have enjoyed his friendly intimacy; to have supplied him with ideas; to have suggested his themes, and even to have written his works, is quite appalling. They misrepresent his idlest words; distort his most trivial remarks — perchance unintentionally; falsify dates, and, indeed, invent anecdotes; fabricate conversations, refrain from nothing, in order to prove their acquaintance with departed genius. The amount of mischief that can be, and is, manufactured out of a dead man’s relics is terrible. Woe betide the luckless mortal who leaves a history! Vivisection is merciful compared with the pitilessness of the post-mortem examination held upon his real and putative remains!

Having learned all this, it would, indeed, have been a satisfaction to me to have felt assured that I had steered clear of all such unreliable gossip or malicious invention, and that my many years’ labour and research had culminated in such a work as Poe, in his reviewal of Carlyle’s Life of Schiller, portrays This biography is not merely a sketch of the poet’s life. . . . It is a gradual development of his heart and mind, of his nature as a poet and a man, that endears him more to us, while it enables us more thoroughly to comprehend him. We can trace here the growth of his faculties, and his progress amidst the struggles and obstacles of his early career; from the time when his’strong untutored spirit,’ consumed by its own activity, was chafing blindly, like ocean waves, against the barriers that restrained it — through difficulties and vexations which only his burning energy of soul enabled him to overcome — up to that calm, intellectual elevation, in the lucid expansion of which lie could watch the [page v:] workings of his imagination, and subject the operations of his genius to the requisitions of taste.”

In bidding farewell to what has engrossed so much of my life and labour, it is both pleasant and just that I should offer my grateful thanks to those who have so generously and so assiduously worked with me. To books my indebtedness as regards this “Life” is slight; few, beyond the “Edgar Poe and his Critics” of the late Mrs. Whitman, having been of any service to me: to that dear friend and fellow-worker my obligations are manifold and heavy. To the late Mrs. Houghton — the poet’s “Marie Louise” — my affectionate gratitude is stronger than words; to “Annie” — the poet’s own “Annie” — and to Mrs. Shelton, I am greatly beholden, as, also, to “Stella” and to Mrs. Gove Nichols. To Professor James Wood Davidson I am much indebted, both for material and aid, as likewise to Mr. E. V. Valentine, the Virginian sculptor; to my friend, Dr. W. Hand Browne of Baltimore, and to the late brave old John Neal, who, like so many fellow workers, has not stayed to see the completion of our labour. To the Poes of Baltimore, for correction of data, and copies of correspondence, my thanks are due; and to Mr. William Wertenbaker, and the Chairman and Faculty of the University of Virginia, and the late Professors T. Hewitt Key and George Long; to Colonel John T. Preston, for the use of his interesting reminiscences; to the authorities of West Point Military Academy; to Dr. N. H. Morison and Mr. John Parker of the Peabody Institute, Baltimore, and to all the many friends and correspondents — known and unknown — who have aided me in this work, my most sincere thanks are now heartily tendered.


LONDON, May 1880.


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

*  Edinburgh: A. & C. Black.4 vols.





[S:0 - EAP:HLLO, 1886] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Articles - E. A. P.: His Life, Letters and Opinions (J. H. Ingram) (Preface)