Text: James A. Harrison, “Editor’s Preface [Introduction],” Life and Letters of Edgar Allan Poe (1903), pp. vi-vii


[page vii, unnumbered:]



THE present two volumes, devoted to the Life and Letters of Edgar Allan Poe, have their justification from several points of view. They have to deal with one of the foremost — if not the foremost — of literary figures in America. They give a new picture of the author’s habits and works. They represent original research and the accumulation of important material from widely scattered or generally inaccessible places. And, aside from their value, they tell the story of a strange, romantic life.

The biography is justified by recently discovered letters and facts which substantiate many things and disprove many others. Through inquiry and correspondence with Poe’s still surviving contemporaries, new light has been thrown on the poet’s early and middle life. Many important articles, moreover, have appeared in the periodical press in the last decade, and their substance has been utilized in this volume.

A perusal of the Life side by side with the Letters — now for the first time collected — will prove thoroughgoing and of unusual interest. After reading a chapter in the life-story, the letters from Poe and to Poe, pertaining to that period, will gleam with hidden meaning and human feeling. In this way, it is hoped, the [page viii:] publication of this Life and these Letters conjointly will be of service to the world of literature.

The story of Poe’s life has been subject to so many errors, popular fallacies, and editorial misstatements, that a true and unbiassed [[sic]] account of it is difficult to set forth. The present volume is the result of much delving among original material and first-hand sources. The effort, throughout, has been to present the man as he was, neither deified by over-admiring friends nor vilified by over-zealous enemies.

Poe’s autobiographic “Memorandum,” found among Dr. R. W. Griswold’s papers, is printed from the original MS., through the courtesy of Mrs. Wm. M. Griswold. Its inaccuracies are brought out in an editorial note. It will be found in the Appendix, together with several articles by the poet’s contemporaries.

Letters quoted in the Life are not repeated in the volume of Letters, but are referred to in their proper chronological place.

These two volumes were originally prepared for a complete edition of Poe’s Works, in seventeen volumes, known as the ” Virginia Edition.” In the General Preface to that edition, the editor makes grateful acknowledgment to biographers, editors, librarians, and other generous assistants whose active co-operation was essential, to the completion of the work. To the authors of lives or memorials of Poe — Messrs. G. E. Woodberry, J. H. Ingram, W. F. Gill, R. H. Stoddard, E. L. Didier, J. G. Wilson, and Miss S. S. Rice — especial thanks are due.






[S:0 - LLEAP, 1903] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Articles - Life and Letters of Edgar Allan Poe (J. A. Harrison) (Preface/Introduction)