Text: Hervey Allen and Thomas Ollive Mabbott, “Preface,” Poe's Brother: The Poems of William Henry Leonard Poe (1926), pp. xiii-xvi


[page xiii:]





FEW people are even aware that Edgar Allan Poe had an elder brother. That he had, and that the relations of the two young poets were both interesting and romantic, the facts set forth in this little volume will, it is hoped, serve to make plain.

William Henry Leonard Poe, the elder brother of Edgar Allan Poe, was also a poet. He did not live long enough to show whether he too, like his younger brother, might have attained to fame. His work, however, indicating as it does a similarity in temperament and attitude, will, in view of the history of his famous brother, have a decided although secondary interest. In addition to this, the facts of their association, now the first time more fully presented, tend to throw a helpful light on one of the most obscure and mysterious passages in the life of a great poet.

The material here presented has been taken by the authors from that assembled for Israfel, the Life and Times of Edgar Allan Poe, a complete biography of Edgar Allan Poe now in process of completion, and more specifically from the pages of an obscure Baltimore publication, The North American, Volume I, Nos. 1 to 28, printed and published by Samuel Sands at the North East corner of Gay and Water Streets, opposite the Exchange, Baltimore, 1827. To this obscure periodical, which began and ceased during the year mentioned, William Henry Leonard Poe, [page xiv:] then a resident of Baltimore, contributed. From it are taken the only works from his pen now certainly known to exist, save the two poems printed in our Appendix. The material here collected therefore represents all the surviving prose and poetry by Poe’s brother.

During the year 1827, as the contents of this book show, William Henry Leonard Poe must have been in communication with Edgar Allan Poe, then serving in the United States Army under an assumed name. Material was evidently sent to Edgar Allan Poe from Boston, or Fort Moultrie, S. C. to his elder brother in Baltimore, and some of it there republished, after alterations, in the North American, under William Henry Poe’s initials, “W. H. P.” The poems republished from Tamerlane are accompanied by copies of the text as they stood in Edgar’s little volume; and Dreams is also given, by permission, from Edgar’s manuscript version of about 1828, now in the Pierpont Morgan Library. In regard to the melancholy mood in which most of W. H. Poe’s poetry is cast, the reader is asked to remember that the young man who composed it was only twenty years of age. He lived in a sentimental and lugubrious era, and his temperament, like that of his famous brother, was undoubtedly melancholic. To those who are not interested in this study merely from an historical standpoint, it can be confidently predicted that in Henry’s effusions they will sometimes detect a certain calf-like dignity that is ludicrously grand. [page xv:]

This collection is printed and published primarily for the convenience of the many persons now seriously interested in the study of E. A. Poe, and because the facts here set forth, have, it is felt, a decided interest in themselves to a wider public as a fascinating piece of Americana. The source material for much of this little study can be found in the Library of Congress, where the North American(1) was first noticed as relating to Poe and his brother, while one of us, in company with Captain F. L. Pleadwell, was at work preparing The Life and Works of Edward Coote Pinkney. However, several other great libraries, and not a few individuals, have rendered us many services for which we are most grateful. In particular our thanks are due to Captain Pleadwell, who shared in the discovery; to Mr. L. H. Dielman of the Peabody Institute; to Charles Fickens, Esq., of the Maryland Historical Society; to Mr. G. N. Morgan in the Executive Assistant’s Office of the Library of Congress; to Mrs. Mary Newton Stanard; to Professor George Edward Woodberry; to Prof. Killis Campbell; and to Mr. Clarence S. Brigham of the American Antiquarian Society, for personal assistance, direct or indirect. We are also grateful to the officials of the Edgar Allan Poe Shrine, of Richmond, Virginia; the Valentine Museum of Richmond; the New York Public Library and the Columbia University Library. For permission to quote from the Edgar Allan Poe Letters in the Valentine [page xvi:] Museum we are indebted to the courtesy of the J. B. Lippincott Co., as well as the authorities of the Museum, and Mrs. Stanard; and for permission to print the Wilmer MS version of Dreams to the Pierpont Morgan Library.



New York City,

October 6, 1926.



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

1.  The Library of Congress file of the papers lacks a few pages, but more perfect files are in the Maryland Historical Society, and the New York Public Library, (Dielman-Mabbott copy).






[S:0 - WHP26, 1926] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Bookshelf - Poe's Brother: The Poems of William Henry Leonard Poe (H. Allen and T. O. Mabbott) (Preface)