Text: Alexander Hammond, “Edgar Allan Poe’s Tales of the Folio Club: The Evolution of a Lost Book,” Poe at Work: Seven Textual Studies (1978), pp. 13-43 (This material is protected by copyright)


[page 13:]

Edgar Allan Poe’s Tales of the Folio Club: The Evolution of a Lost Book


WHEN Hawthorne and Poe began writing short fiction, both composed tales as parts of larger collections and experimented with frames designed to lend these composite works some form of book unity. The publication of their experiments as wholes, whether serially or in book form, eluded the two authors, however, forcing them to break up their stillborn projects and place items from them piecemeal in the Christmas annuals and magazines.(1) Because the manuscripts for these early projects have not survived intact, the canons of both writers feature what are in effect lost books, the original contents and designs of which scholars have had to infer from incomplete evidence.(2) But while the textual history of Hawthorne’s early collections has been thoroughly studied in this process, that for Poe’s Tales of the Folio Club in its several versions has not. To fill this need, I present here a history of the Folio Club collection between 1831 and 1836, examining its evolution and its fortunes in the marketplace in the following order: (I) the genesis and makeup of the first known state of the collection that Poe offered to the New-England Magazine in May 1833 as Eleven Tales of the Arabesque; (II) the marketing of this version under the title Tales of the Folio Club from the fall of 1833 through the summer of 1835, with particular attention to its treatment by the Philadelphia publishing house of Carey, Lea, & Blanchard; and (III) the probable makeup of the sixteen- and seventeen-tale Folio Club collections and Poe’s efforts to publish them during 1836.


Poe’s first Folio Club collection is the work of the years between 1831, when he moved to Baltimore after the publication of his third volume of poetry in New York, and 1833, when he initially attempted to publish the work as a whole. His reasons for turning to a new genre at this time must remain obscure, although the image of a [page 14:] desperately poor young writer trying his hand successively at poetry, prose fiction, and then verse drama (Politian, the next major project he undertook after the eleven-story Folio Club collection had been tentatively accepted by a publisher) strongly suggests an author both exploring the limits of his talent as well as seeking to create a sustained work that might in one stroke establish his name in the literary marketplace.

His poverty notwithstanding, Poe hungered for recognition as an author. When just twenty, he wrote his foster father in reference to his plans for a second volume of poems, “At my time of life there is much in being before the eye of the world — if once noticed I can easily cut out a path to reputation” (Poe’s italics),(3) Two years later, a much less sanguine Poe, undoubtedly disappointed by the meager response to Al Aaraaf, Tamerlane, and Other Poems, complained in his Preface to Poems of 1831 of the “great barrier” faced by the American writer: “He is read, if at all, in preference to the combined and established wit of the world. I say established; for it is with literature as with law or empire — an established name is an estate in tenure, or a throne in possession.”(4) While Poe expands this comment into the familiar lament that native authors suffer the disadvantage of an audience that pays homage to foreign literature, underlying it is his earlier perception of the value of being “before the eye of the world,” now coupled with the suspicion that writers who enjoy “established” names effectively monopolize public attention and thus prevent notice of such unheralded but obviously deserving talents as his own. And the two. additional years of literary obscurity that he spent in labor on his first collection of tales evidently only whetted his sense of the importance of catching the world’s eye: after winning the fiction prize in a local literary contest in 1833, Poe started a fist fight by insisting that the winner in the poetry division publicly concede that honor to him as well.(5)

The sources behind the 1833 Folio Club collection reveal Poe to have been an avid student of the literary scene he aspired to enter, one who pored over American and British magazines, closely followed the careers of rising young authors like N. P. Willis and Benjamin Disraeli, and kept abreast of the current best sellers.(6) The tales in the volume, “literary exercises in the style of popular authors of the day” as T. O. Mabbott describes them,(7) represent a panorama of [page 15:] the most important modes in contemporary fiction. Poe may well have hoped that their variety would be received as a virtuoso performance in the art of fiction comparable to that of Horace and James Smith in poetry with Rejected Addresses (London, 1812), a famous collection of verse parodies which, like Tales of the Folio Club, features a cast of contemporary authors and employs a literary competition as a framing device.(8) Although the function of the stories in Poe’s 1833 collection is too complex to allow them to be described as parodies, both this work and Rejected Addresses are satires that demand readers well versed in things literary, and Poe may possibly have seen in the popularity of the Smiths’ book a reliable indication that an American audience existed for his own, more ambitious experiment. He was to learn otherwise.

To frame the 1833 collection, Poe evolved a comic microcosm of his literary world in the form of a bizarre Spectator Club whose members are disguised caricatures of well-known British and American authors (there are two notable exceptions: Satan, incognito behind green spectacles; and a mysterious little man in a black coat who is probably Poe himself). At monthly intervals — perhaps recalling the publishing cycle of most literary magazines in this era — the club holds a contest at which the members read original tales, comment on one another’s compositions in turn, and then vote to determine the best and worst among their efforts. The remarks following each tale were intended as a “burlesque upon criticism.”(9) Although these sections of the frame are lost, presumably they involved misinterpretations of the stories(10) and exaggerated the savage attacks, literary feuds, indulgence in personalities, and affectation of elitist authority that characterized the magazine criticism Poe followed most closely in this period.(11) The club’s organization, I believe, satirically institutionalizes the practice of destructive criticism: an elite circle of authors who act as critics of works by other members of the same in-group, the club keeps itself supplied with food, drink, and a meeting place by regularly “using up” one of its number, since the loser of one month’s competition must host the banquet for the next, over which the winner, to compound the injury with insult, rules as president.

The club limits its membership to eleven (in later projections of the work, this number increases as more tales are added) — a restriction [page 16:] apparently satirizing the barriers new authors face from “established names” holding “thrones in possession” that Poe complained of in 1831. The frame as a whole is organized as the story of the club’s response to the narrator, an initiate who joins after too many losses force out “the Honourable Augustus Scratchaway” (presumably the membership fords a Neo-Classical style passé); he rebels when his maiden effort is voted worst, and publishes a record of his first and only meeting with the group to expose it as a “diabolical association” plotting to “abolish Literature, Subvert the Press, and overturn the Government of Nouns and Pronouns.”(12)

Prototypes for the various elements of this frame are numerous. The tradition of the literary club, both actual and fictive, is a familiar one in Anglo-American literature, and a local Baltimore group, the Delphian Club, apparently served as Poe’s immediate model for the Folio Club’s organization.(13) De Quincey’s “On Murder Considered as One of the Fine Arts,” in which a narrator unmasks the “Society of Connoisseurs in Murder,” may be the source of the exposé motif in Poe’s frame, although the pattern of the eiron who unmasks alazon figures is a common one in satire.(14) And the chaotic disruption of a grotesque drinking society in the Palace of Wines episode in Disraeli’s Vivian Grey seems a likely model for the climax of Poe’s frame story, particularly because this comic scene is a major source for one of the tales in the 1833 volume.

On a more general level, Plato’s Symposium at least indirectly supplies Poe with his basic format: a banquet setting, a contest among participants representing different intellectual viewpoints, and a provision for debate on individual contributions followed by a vote on their merits. Since the symposium is a common vehicle for literary criticism, the pattern is appropriate for a burlesque of the contemporary state of that art. Indeed, Poe probably expected his readers to recognize a congruency between his frame and the dinner-meeting symposia in “Noctes Ambrosianx,” the regular critical discussions among the editorial personae of Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine that were perhaps the periodical’s best-known feature. The banquet settings in this series and in Poe’s frame are, of course, traditional in Menippean satire, archetypally exemplified by Trimalchio’s feast in the Satiricon.(15) I noted earlier that the literary contest in the Folio Club design has an antecedent in the frame of Rejected Addresses, [page 17:] another example of this genre. At about the time Poe began work on his collection, he could have found an analogous framing device in a Menippean satire entitled “The Election of Editor”; published in irregular installments in the early numbers of Fraser’s Magazine (May-September 1830), it consisted of parodic campaign speeches supposedly delivered to a raucous audience by various British authors competing for the magazine’s unfilled editorial post. As in Poe’s work, the devil also puts in an appearance in this satire.(16)

Although general antecedents for the Folio Club project can be found in collections of linked stories like the Decameron and Irving’s Tales of a Traveller, the above analogues more accurately identify the tradition in which Poe composed the 1833 state of Tales of the Folio Club, at least insofar as we can determine its character from available evidence. Typically for a Menippean satire, the eleven-story collection would have served its reader a mixed feast: caricatures of contemporary authors and quizzes for identifying them; ironic imitations of a medley of different kinds of fiction; a burlesque of criticism probably displaying the excessive erudition characteristic of many of the tales in the work; and a comic frame story featuring a banquet that would move progressively, one suspects, toward drunken chaos.

Precisely when the design of this version matured is difficult to specify. The first evidence we have for dating its evolution is the publication, at intervals during 1832, of five tales in the Philadelphia Saturday Courier: “Metzengerstein” (January 14); “The Duke de L’Omelette” (March 3); “A Tale of Jerusalem” (June 9); “A Decided Loss” (November 10); and “The Bargain Lost” (December 1). Scholars reasonably assume that all five stories were among the eighty or so losing entries in the Courier’s prize tale contest, first announced on July 16, with a deadline of December 1 in the same year.(17) Poe was sufficiently desperate for money during the fall of 1831 to risk these tales on an all-or-nothing gamble for the $100 premium (the Courier claimed publication rights on all entries). Two years later he would make just such a multiple entry to a similar contest in Baltimore. One also doubts that he could have sold the Courier any of these pieces in 1832, so soon after it had reaped such a cheap harvest of new fiction by sponsoring this contest. If Poe was aware of the publication of these five tales, he considered it a fact best ignored: signed, revised forms of each of them appear in the [page 18:] Southern Literary Messenger during 1835 and 1836 with no indication of their prior printings.

The generally accepted inference that Poe wrote these five tales specifically for the Courier’s premium should be treated with some caution. Versions of four of these stories (all but “A Tale of Jerusalem”) can be identified as parts of Poe’s 1833 collection. One of them, “The Duke de L’Omelette,” fits its framework in such a way as to make improbable its composition in isolation from some version of that context. And all five are mannered imitations of different kinds of contemporary fiction, clearly distinguishable from one another in subject and style, suggesting that they were indeed designed to serve as contributions from individual members of some ur-form of the Folio Club symposium. Such a hypothesis certainly explains the variety among Poe’s first published tales without, of course, ruling out the possibility that the author conceived his framework in the midst of writing one or more of them for the Courier’s premium.

We have only meager evidence of Poe’s activities in 1832 relevant to his eleven-story collection. Lambert A. Wilmer, who worked in Baltimore as editor of the Saturday Visiter between January and October of 1832,(18) recalled late in life that Poe’s time in this period “appeared to be constantly occupied by his literary labors; he had already published a volume of poems, and written several of those minor romances which afterwards appeared in the collection ‘Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque’ “ (published in 1839).(19) While in Baltimore, Wilmer almost certainly wrote the following notice in the “To Correspondents” column of the Visiter for August 4,1832:

Mr. Edgar A. Poe, has favoured us with the perusal of some manuscript tales written by him. If we were merely to say that we had read them, it would be a compliment, for manuscripts of this kind are very seldom read by any one but the author. But we may further say that we have read these tales, every syllable, with the greatest pleasure, and for originality, richness of imagery, and purity of the style, few American authors in our opinion have produced any thing superior. With Mr. Poe’s permission we may hereafter lay one or two of the tales before our readers.(20)

Because Poe and Wilmer were close friends, the pretense of requesting the author’s permission to publish may safely be considered a [page 19:] rhetorical device for justifying a puff of stories already scheduled for later issues. No tales appeared, however, probably because at about this time Wilmer became involved in a quarrel with the Visiter’s owners that led to his departure from its editorship in the fall of 1832.(21)

By the following spring Poe had completed what is to our knowledge the first full text of his eleven-story Folio Club collection; on May 4, 1833, he offered the work to the New-England Magazine, sending “Epimanes” (later entitled “Four Beasts in One: The Homocameleopard”) as a sample tale. He may have selected it for strategic reasons, assuming that a tale satirizing Jackson would be welcomed by a Whiggish Boston journal.(22) The story was, he explained,

one of a number of similar pieces which I have contemplated publishing under the title ‘Eleven Tales of the Arabesque’. They are supposed to be read at table by the eleven members of a literary club, and are followed by the remarks of the company on each. These remarks are intended as a burlesque upon criticism. In the whole, originality more than any thing else has been attempted. I have said this much with the view of offering you the entire M.S. If you like the specimen which I have sent I will forward the rest at your suggestion — but if you decide upon publishing all the tales, it would not be proper to print the one I now send until it can be printed in its place with the others.(23)

Poe also gave the magazine the alternatives of publishing “Epimanes” alone or of rejecting the entire proposition; the editors elected the latter option — whether they first read the collection as a whole is not known — for none of Poe’s work appears in this journal. The title Eleven Tales of the Arabesque was tentative; later this same year Poe was calling the volume Tales of the Folio Club.

Two manuscript leaves from this version of the collection survive, presumably parts of the “entire M.S.” that Poe wanted to show to the New-England Magazine, although they could conceivably represent a fair copy made at some later date. The text covers both sides of these leaves and is hand-printed in the same tiny Roman script as the copy of “Epimanes” accompanying the above letter;(24) the first leaf, bearing the page numbers 9 and 10 at its top, fore-edge corners, begins with what was evidently a section title, “THE FOLIO CLUB,” and features a complete prologue for the eleven-story [page 20:] symposium framework (this includes a list naming and describing the club members individually); the second leaf, paginated 61 and 62 with the numbers similarly positioned, contains approximately the last half of “Siope” (later, “Silence — A Fable”), a tale first published in a Baltimore Christmas annual in the fall of 1837. These leaves were preserved in the papers of Rufus W. Griswold, who presumably acquired them when he became Poe’s literary executor. When James A. Harrison first examined them to prepare his text of the Prologue for the Complete Works of Edgar Allan Poe, they were still in the possession of the Griswold family (the first leaf has since been donated to the Houghton Library at Harvard, the second to the Virginia State Library in Richmond); at that time, they may have been joined together, although Harrison’s description is ambiguous enough to be treated cautiously: “The MS. . . . is a small quarto of four pages. . . . The paging is unfortunately not consecutive, nor is the matter.”(25)

T. O. Mabbott correctly assumes, I believe, that these leaves were originally conjugate halves of a single folded sheet in a quired manuscript,(26) a hypothesis that explains why they survived together, for the most likely individual leaf to be saved with the Prologue from such a manuscript would be a conjugate one in the gathering. The physical evidence strongly supports this assumption. The weight and texture of the paper in these leaves appear to be virtually identical, as do their dimensions. Although unevenly trimmed, both measure approximately 6 by 7 5/8 inches. The inner edge of the first appears to have been torn at the fold, that of the second unevenly cut, suggesting its smaller width of roughly 5 3/4 inches results from the application of scissors and not from Poe’s folding; their heights at this same edge (where, if conjugate, they would have been joined) differ by only 1/32 of an inch, an insignificant gap considering the imprecision of folding and trimming by hand. However, experimentation with quired manuscripts shows that pages 9 and 10 cannot be conjugate with 61 and 62 in a gathering composed solely of evenly paired leaves. But since the inner edge of the Prologue has two symmetrically located indentations that clearly result from sewing, presumably it and the “Siope” leaf were originally conjugate partners in a gathering containing an odd number of inner leaves attached by stubs alone. [page 21:]

Although the Prologue has a few neat cancellations, both it and the “Siope” leaf appear to be fair copies that reveal a concern for layout unusual in a manuscript. The text of the Prologue is crowded to the tail edge of page 1o and ends: “Here Mr. Snap . . . produced a M.S. and read as follows.” Obviously Poe wanted the next page to be wholly occupied by the title and opening paragraphs of Mr. Snap’s tale. The verso of the “Siope” leaf is analogous in that Poe fills space remaining after the end of the tale with a long, wavy dash instead of immediately beginning the next section of the work. Clearly these leaves are fragments from a manuscript designed as a facsimile of a printed book. To prepare this facsimile, Poe probably began by quarto-folding a number of whole sheets of approximately pott size,(27) quiring them, trimming off the folds along the short dimension, and spiking and hand-sewing the spine. Nine such sheets yield a gathering in which the surviving leaves would be most nearly conjugate; and if for any reason Poe cut off a single leaf between the two remaining fragments in such a gathering, they would be exactly conjugate. Judging from the length of the tales that can be assigned to this collection, the entire manuscript would have to include more than one gathering of this size, probably tied into covers of some sort.

As various scholars have argued, the membership list in the Prologue provides a means for establishing the order in which the eleven Folio Club characters were to read their tales in this manuscript as well as for identifying which of Poe’s early stories were contributed by each figure. On the basis of those arguments (see fn. 2), the chart below outlines the probable physical layout of this little hand-made book. The number of pages assigned each tale is an approximation that assumes Poe wrote 400 words on each side of a leaf, an average figure drawn from the 390 words of text filling the recto of the “Siope” fragment. An asterisk precedes sections of the framework now lost.

Eleven Tales of the Arabesque (Tales of the Folio Club)

pp. 1-8 * Title page? Additional editorial machinery? Authorial preface?

pp. 9-10 “THE FOLIO CLUB”: Prologue from MS. leaf narrated by the newest club member who “edits” the remainder of the work as an exposé. [page 22:]

1 pp. 11ff. “Raising the Wind; or, Diddling Considered as one of the Exact Sciences”; text from the Philadelphia Saturday Courier, 13 (October 14, 1843),1; contributed by Mr. Snap, the club president. (While the late publication date of this story makes its original length problematical and its inclusion in the collection a hypothesis open to debate, internal evidence for assigning it to Mr. Snap is, in my opinion, convincing.)

* The “remarks of the company” on Mr. Snap’s tale “intended as a burlesque upon criticism.”

II (12 pages) “The Visionary” (later “The Assignation”); text from Godey’s, 8 (January 1834), 40-43; contributed by Mr. Convolvulus Gondola.

* Burlesque criticism.

III (15 pages) “Bon-Bon”; text from SLM, 1 (August 1835), 693-698; contributed by De Rerum Naturâ, Esgr.

* Burlesque criticism.

IV pp. 59-62 (4 pages) “Siope”; MS. leaf (pp. 61-62) with first two pages restored from “Siope — A Fable,” The Baltimore Book (Baltimore, 1837), pp. 79-82; contributed by the very little man in a black coat.

pp. 63 ff * Burlesque criticism.

V (10 pages) “MS. Found in a Bottle”; text from the Baltimore Saturday Visiter, 3 (October 19, 1833), 1, or from The Gift (Philadelphia, 1835), pp. 67-87; contributed by Mr. Solomon Seadrift.

* Burlesque criticism.

VI (10 pages) “Metzengerstein”; text from Saturday Courier, 2 January 14, 1832), 1, or more probably from its revised state in SLM, 2 (January 1836), 97-100; contributed by Mr. Horribile Dictû.

* Burlesque criticism.

VII (16 pages) “Loss of Breath”; text from SLM, 1 (September 1835), 735-740; contributed by Mr. Blackwood Blackwood.(28)

* Burlesque criticism. [page 23:]

VIII (3 pages) “The Duke [Duc] de L’Omelette”; text from the Saturday Courier, 2 (March 3, 1832), 1, or more probably from its revised state in SLM, 2 (February 1836), 150151; contributed by the host, Mr. Rouge-et-Noir.

* Burlesque criticism.

IX (12 pages) “King Pest the First”; text from SLM, 1 (September 1835), 757-761; contributed by the stout gentleman.

* Burlesque criticism.

X (7 pages) “Epimanes”; MS. from Poe’s letter of May 4, 1833, to the New-England Magazine, now in the H. Bradley Martin collection; contributed by Chronologos Chronology.

* Burlesque criticism.

XI (3 pages) “Lionizing [[Lion-izing]]”; text from SLM, 1 (May 1835), 515-516; contributed by the narrator of the Prologue.

* Burlesque criticism, followed by the vote to select the best and worst tale among the above. According to Poe’s description of an enlarged version of this collection, the narrator’s story is voted worst (one obvious motive for his expose), after which he seizes all the manuscripts and flees from the host’s house.

This arrangement is consistent with the pagination of the two manuscript leaves as they would be positioned in a finished text with the burlesque commentary intact. The original manuscript obviously had fifty pages of text between the end of its Prologue on page 10 and the beginning of the “Siope” leaf on page 61. The first half of “Siope” would fill two of these pages; “Raising the Wind,” “The Visionary,” and “Bon-Bon” would occupy approximately thirty-seven additional pages, thus leaving about eleven total pages to be divided among the three blocks of burlesque criticism that would follow these tales (a not unreasonable proportion of commentary to story matter considering the uncertainties presented by the text of “Raising the Wind”).

Before tracing the later fortunes of this collection in the marketplace, I should emphasize that the above reconstruction yields a context for interpreting the revisions the Courier tales underwent before [page 24:] their second printings in SLM. (If these stories were from an ur-form of the Folio Club collection, then the volume passed through an intermediate stage of evolution before reaching the state represented by the Prologue leaf.) The changes in “The Bargain Lost,” heavily revised before its 1835 publication as “Bon-Bon,” obviously result from efforts to make the story appropriate for a disguised Satan to contribute to the 1833 collection (in this revision, the philosopher’s room in “The Bargain Lost” is left in Venice, as it were, to be occupied by the Byronic hero of “The Visionary,” the second tale in the volume)(29) The extensive revision of “A Decided Loss” before its 1835 appearance as “Loss of Breath. A Tale à la Blackwood” can be similarly attributed to the demands of Mr. Blackwood Blackwood’s role in the eleven-story framework (see fn. 28). “Metzengerstein” and “The Duke de L'Omelette” underwent numerous minor revisions but few major changes in their SLM printings. Evidently these stories preserved their original character in the Folio Club framework, although the example of “Bon-Bon” and “Loss of Breath” suggests that their SLM texts would be most appropriate for a critical edition of the 1833 work, if only for the sake of editorial consistency. Finally, if “A Tale of Jerusalem” was originally a Folio Club tale, then Poe dropped it before completing the eleven-story version as we know it. Because this comic story is built chiefly of materials from Horace Smith’s 1828 historical romance Zillah: A Tale of the Holy City,(30) presumably it was excluded from the 1833 collection after Poe wrote “Epimanes,” imitating a more recent example of Smith’s style.


By 1834 the collection had been tentatively accepted by Carey, Lea, & Blanchard, one of America’s most important publishing houses. The chain of events leading to this acceptance began when Poe entered another literary contest shortly after his failure to sell the collection to the New-England Magazine. On June 15, the Baltimore Saturday Visiter offered a premium of $50 for the best tale and $25 for the best poem submitted before October 1 of the same year; like the Courier, the Visiter claimed possession of all manuscripts entered. Evidently without immediate hope of finding a publisher and, if anything, poorer than he had been two years earlier, Poe submitted [page 25:] work for both prizes, risking six stories on the larger. On October 12, 1833, the Visiter published a letter from the contest judges announcing the winners; in awarding the fiction prize to Poe’s “MS. Found in a Bottle,” they noted its selection from a “volume” entitled “The Tales of the Folio Club,” adding:

It would scarcely be doing justice to the author of this collection to say the tale we have chosen is the best of the six offered by him. We have read them all with unusual interest, and can not refrain from the expression of the opinion that the writer owes it to his own reputation, as well as to the gratification of the community to publish the whole volume. These tales are eminently distinguished by a wild, vigorous and poetical imagination, a rich style, a fertile invention, and varied and curious learning. Our selection of “A MS Found in a bottle” [sic; the letter as printed gives three different versions of this title, none of which agree with that used when the Visiter published the tale in the following issue] was rather dictated by the originality of its conception and its length than by any superior merit in its execution over the others by the same author.(31)

We have Poe’s testimony for including “Lionizing [[Lion-izing]]” and “The Visionary” with “MS. Found in a Bottle” among these six stories (see the time line below); the titles of the other three remain speculative. John H. B. Latrobe, one of the contest judges, recalled the format of Poe’s entry as follows (in 1852 and 1877 respectively):

The loose MSS. [of the other submissions] having been gone through with, I turned to the Book, which contained many tales. . . . The caligraphy . . . was certainly remarkable. It was not writing. It was printing with a pen.

I noticed a small quarto-bound book that had until then accidentally escaped attention, possibly because so unlike, externally, the bundles of manuscript that it had to compete with. . . . Instead of the common cursive manuscript, the writing was in Roman characters — an imitation of printing.(32)

Although Latrobe’s memory is not always accurate, we cannot doubt he saw a volume identical in physical appearance to the eleven-story manuscript as we know it from the surviving leaves. It is likely that the six stories Poe submitted to the Visiter were from that version of the Folio Club collection, perhaps separated or copied from the very manuscript in question. It seems unlikely, however, that Poe included [page 26:] any of the Folio Club framework in this selection: the letter announcing his prize does not mention it; and he would hardly risk offending the judges by framing his stories with a burlesque of criticism that would appear to mock their deliberations in advance.

The recommendation that Poe “publish the whole volume” evidently resulted in the following advertisement in the Visiter for October 26, one week after “MS. Found in a Bottle” appeared in its columns:


This is the title of a volume of tales from the pen of Edgar A. Poe, the gentleman to whom the committee appointed by the proprietors of this paper awarded the premium of $50. The work is about being put to press, and is to be published by subscription — we have a list at our office, and any person wishing to subscribe, will please call. The volume will cost but $1.

The prize tale is not the best of Mr. Poe’s productions; among the tales of the “Folio Club” there are many possessing uncommon merit. — They are all characterized by a raciness, originality of thought and brilliancy of conception which are rarely to be met with in the writings of our most favoured American authors. In assisting Mr. Poe in the publication of the “Folio Club,” the friends of native literature will encourage a young author whose energies have been partially damped by the opposition of the press, and, we may say, by the lukewarmness of the public in appreciating American productions. He has studied and written much — his reward rested on public approbation — let us give him something more substantial than bare praise. We ask our friends to come forward and subscribe to the work-there are many anxious to see it laid before the public.

This notice, which Poe probably wrote himself,(33) immediately raises a question of reference: was the subscriber offered the eleven-story Folio Club collection or the selection of six tales prepared for the contest? It seems unreasonable to assume that Poe, once released from the strategic demands of the Visiter’s competition, would willingly abandon a work that just six months earlier he hoped to sell to the New-England Magazine. The advertisement’s claim that “among the tales of the Folio Club there are many possessing uncommon merit” suggests that more than six stories were involved. And the title “THE FOLIO CLUB,” while not explained in the copy here, [page 27:] makes little sense without the symposium framework, which in this instance Poe presumably had no reason for excluding.

The author quickly abandoned this means of publishing Tales of the Folio Club; although disappointing subscriptions and a fight with the Visiter’s editor (see fn. 5) could have affected his decision, the most likely cause was simply an opportunity to place the work with Carey, Lea, & Blanchard, a publisher commanding national distribution. The following time line summarizes the available evidence of Poe’s disappointing negotiations with this firm over the next two years.

October 12 -November 2, 1833. Poe introduced himself to each of the judges of the Visiter’s contest, most importantly to the novelist John P. Kennedy;(34) shortly after October 26 Kennedy evidently agreed to recommend the collection to Carey, Lea, & Blanchard, his own publisher.

November 2, 1833. The Visiter announced that “Mr. Poe has declined the publication of his Tales of the Folio Club in the manner stated in our last number. It is his intention, we understand, to bring them out in Philadelphia.”(35) On the same day, Kennedy noted in his diary: “the prize for the tale we gave to Edgar A. Poe, having selected that call[ed] ‘A MS. Found in a Bottle’ from a volume of tales furnished by him. The volume exhibits a great deal of talent, and we have advised him to publish it. He has accordingly left it in my possession, to show it to Carey [Henry C. Carey of Carey, Lea, & Blanchard] in Philadelphia.”(36) Again we should assume, I think, that the “volume” here is the eleven-story version. In print this full collection would have made a rather slight book, and it is hardly probable that Carey, Lea, & Blanchard would consider publishing the much smaller book six of its brief tales would yield.

January 1834. “The Visionary” published by Godey’s (when Poe submitted this Folio Club tale is not known)(37) On the first of this same month, Kennedy included this query in a letter to Carey: “What have you done with Poe’s MS? — When will you publish it, and what do you think of it?” The wording here implies Carey had already committed himself to issuing the collection without, however, commenting on its merits or specifying a publication date. A later reference by Kennedy dating this acceptance in the spring of 1834 may be an error in memory (see entry below for April 13, 1835). Carey’s reply to the above has not been located, but since his firm suffered major financial losses beginning in February 1834 that drastically curtailed its output of new books for the remainder of the year, presumably any commitment he made at this time had to be postponed.(38) [page 28:]

Ca. November 19, 1834. Poe wrote Kennedy about his “penniless” condition, adding, “if my situation was stated — as you could state it — to Carey & Lea, they might be led to aid me with a small sum in consideration of my M.S. now in their hands” (L.I:54).(39)

November 26, 1834. After acknowledging Kennedy’s letter about Poe’s plight on November 21, Carey replied in full that the “book shall go to press at once, but I have much doubt of his making anything by it”; accordingly he refused to advance money because “such little things rarely succeed.” Although willing to print the collection “as it stands,” Carey proposed first “handing the volume to Miss Leslie to see if she could select something for her Souvenir, for which he could be paid promptly”; he advised Poe to increase the slim possibility of the book’s success by the prior publication of all its tales individually to bring their author’s name to the public’s attention, adding, however, “that is not often done by short stories.”(40)

Ca. early December 1834. After Kennedy gave his approval, Miss Eliza Leslie selected “MS. Found in a Bottle” from Poe’s collection. She was at this time editing the first number of a new Christmas annual (entitled The Gift, not the Souvenir) for Carey & Hart. Technically separate from Carey, Lea, & Blanchard, the firm of Carey & Hart had been organized in 1829 by Henry’s younger brother Edward L. Carey and had offices in the same building as the parent company.(41)

December 19, 1834. Unaware of the above events, Poe wrote Kennedy to ask if he had received the “note respecting my Tales of the F. Club” (L,1:55).

December 22, 1834. Kennedy answered by summarizing Carey’s letter of November 26, adding, “My reply was that I thought you would not object to this if the right to publish the same tale was reserved for the volume. He has accordingly sold one . . . to Miss Leslie for the Souvenir at a dollar a page, I think, with the reservation above mentioned, — and has remitted me a draft for fifteen dollars” (H.XVII,3).

April 13, 1835. In response to an inquiry from T. W. White, owner of SLM, Kennedy strongly recommended Poe as “very clever with his pen — classical and scholar-like,” adding, “I told him to write something for every number of your magazine, and that you might find it to your advantage to give him some permanent employ. He has a volume of very bizarre tales in the hands of Carey and Lea, in Philadelphia, who for a year past have been promising to publish them. This young fellow is highly imaginative, and a little given to the terrific. He is at work upon a tragedy [page 29:] [Politian], but I have turned him to drudging upon whatever may make money.”(42) The first products of Kennedy’s advice were evidently “Berenice” and “Morella,” published in SLM for March and April 1835 respectively. Since these tales were almost certainly recent compositions,(43) they must have been written independently of the Folio Club framework during the period when Carey, Lea, & Blanchard had possession of Poe’s collection and were still promising to publish it.

April 30,1835. After receiving a complaint from White about “Berenice,” Poe apologized for the tale’s subject matter, yet insisted that magazines “which have attained celebrity were indebted for it to articles similar in nature.” That nature he defined as “the ludicrous heightened into the grotesque: the fearful coloured into the horrible: the witty exaggerated into the burlesque: the singular wrought out into the strange and mystical,” ending with a proposal to furnish White “every month with a Tale of the nature which I have alluded to. . . . This much, however, it is necessary to premise, that no two of these Tales will have the slightest resemblance one to the other either in matter or manner — still however preserving the character which I speak of” (L.I:57-58), As these last sentences show, clearly Poe was preparing White to receive the mannered stories from his Folio Club collection one by one in isolation from their framework, and subsequently nine tales that can be identified as parts of the eleven-story collection did appear in SLM beginning with its May 1835 number. Implicit here is Poe’s knowledge that his collection would not appear as a book in the near future. Because at about this time he also regained possession of the Folio Club manuscript (see entry below), it is possible that this letter reflects some decision on the part of Carey, Lea, & Blanchard. Rejection of the collection is one obvious option; another, more likely in light of the publisher’s personal commitment to Kennedy on November 26, 1834, is that Carey extricated himself from an awkward situation in a more equivocal manner, perhaps insisting the firm’s finances precluded publication for an indefinite period and urging Poe again to sell the work’s contents to the magazines. Reinforcing the assumption that some decision was made is evidence indicating Poe called on Carey personally in Philadelphia at approximately this time (at least prior to May 18 and presumably in the interval between April 13 and 30). The logical conclusion that Poe recovered his manuscript and learned of Carey’s position on its publication during this visit may explain why the firm’s Letter Books for this period record no written communications to either Kennedy or the author about the final disposition of the collection.

May 18, 1835. In a letter to Kennedy, Carey noted: “Poe has written me to [page 30:] say that the tale selected by Miss Leslie has been printed already. That being the case, I should be glad [if] he would send her something good in its stead. Will you say so to him, and say that I would have written him but that his letter is only now received and I am excessively occupied,”(44) As we know from Poe to Kennedy, September 11, the author evidently discovered Miss Leslie’s selection of “MS. Found in a Bottle” during or shortly before his trip to Philadelphia and in response to Carey’s note did send “something good in its stead”: “I see ‘the Gift’ is out. They have published the M.S. found in a Bottle (, the prize tale you will remember,) although I not only told Mr Carey myself that it had been published, but wrote him to that effect after my return to Baltimore, and sent him another tale in place of it (Epimanes). I cannot understand why they have published it — or why they have not published either ‘Siope’ or ‘Epimanes’ “ (L.I:74). As we have seen, both “Siope” and “Epimanes” were unquestionably tales in the eleven-story collection. The assumption in this letter of Kennedy’s familiarity with these unpublished stories similarly testifies both were included in the manuscript the novelist forwarded to his publisher. It thus seems clear that the collection was returned to Poe in the spring of 1835, for otherwise there would be no need for him to send a copy of “Epimanes” back to Philadelphia from Baltimore. Although the letter above does not state the fact specifically, Poe probably sent “Siope” to Carey along with “Epimanes,” for together these tales are approximately equal in length to the amount of copy for which he had originally been paid.

July 20, 1835. Poe sent White the October 12, 1833, number of the Visiter, pointed out the judges’ letter, and added, “The Tales of the Folio Club have only been partially published as yet. Lionizing [[Lion-izing]] [SLM, May 1835] was one of them. If you could in any manner contrive to have this letter copied into any of the Richmond Papers it would greatly advance a particular object which I have in view.” Poe especially hoped White would insert the letter in SLM and suggested how the puff’ be managed (L.I:65). In light of Carey, Lea, & Blanchard’s return of his manuscript, Poe’s “particular object” in advertising the Folio Club tales may have been to generate responses that could be cited in future efforts to convince the reluctant publisher to issue the collection (as will be seen in the entry below for September 11, 1835, he had not yet given up all hopes of this possibility). In this same month White’s magazine published a revised version of “The Visionary” with a heading concealing its prior appearance in Godey’s.

Ca. late August, early September 1835. August SLM was published (Poe [page 31:] was in Richmond at this time and helped White put it out);(45) in it were “Bon-Bon” from the eleven-story collection as well as the puff Poe requested on July 20 with several significant additions: “Lionizing is one of the Tales here spoken of [in the judges’ letter from the Visiter] — The Visionary is another. The Tales of the Folio Club are sixteen in all, and we believe it is the author’s intention to publish them in the autumn.”(46) As will be seen, there is strong evidence that this sixteen-story collection was a projected work, the frame for which was certainly not completed at the time this notice was printed. The following entries show that Poe’s hope of publishing in the fall must refer to an arrangement with White and not to any change of heart on Carey’s part.

September 11, 1835. From Richmond, Poe wrote Kennedy: “Mr. White is willing to publish my Tales of the Folio Club — that is to print them. Would you oblige me by ascertaining from Carey & Lea whether they would, in that case, appear nominally as the publishers, the books, when printed, being sent on to them, as in the case of H[orse]. S[hoe]. Robinson” (L.I:74). Poe referred here to Kennedy’s second novel, which had been printed in Baltimore by John D. Toy during the winter and early spring of 1835. Toy, however, was simply a job printer working on commission for Carey, Lea, & Blanchard, not, as Poe seemed to think, a silent partner in the book’s publication.(47)

September 19, 1835. Kennedy replied to the above, “I will write to Carey & Lea to know if they will allow you to publish The Tales of the Folio Club in their name. Of course, you will understand that if they do not print them they will not be required to be at the risk of the printing expenses. I suppose you mean that White shall take that risk upon himself and look for his indemnity to the sale. My own opinion is that White could publish them as advantageously as Carey” (H.XVII:19-20). In this exchange, both Kennedy and Poe supposed the Philadelphia firm did not intend to issue the collection in the foreseeable future; on the other hand, the assumption that Carey could even be approached with this scheme implies, as suggested earlier, that the publisher had not absolutely ruled out further consideration of Poe’s project.

October 4, 1835. Carey evidently thought he had heard the last of Poe for a while, and the young author’s intention of trading upon his firm’s imprint obviously appalled him. He replied to Kennedy, “I do not know what to say respecting Poe. Is he not deranged? I should care nothing about aiding him as you propose, but I should like to be sure that he was sane; let me hear from you.”(48) Poe had finally worn out the entrée Kennedy’s patronage secured for him. [page 32:]

Two important conclusions emerge from this evidence. First, Carey, Lea, & Blanchard were directly concerned only with the eleven-story version of Tales of the Folio Club, which evidently languished in Philadelphia awaiting publication from the time Kennedy forwarded it until the spring of 1835; consequently, the tales Poe wrote during this long interval were almost certainly composed independently of its framework (“Berenice” and “Morella” should be included in this category, along with “Hans Phaall,” published in June 1835 and “written especially for the Messenger” according to Poe).(49) Second, although the evidence is not complete, the Philadelphia publisher apparently never unequivocally rejected the Folio Club collection; thus Poe may have benefited from a long-standing obligation when the firm agreed to publish Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque in September 1839. As could be predicted from this hypothesis, the 1839 agreement was made after Henry Carey had retired from the partnership and involved a very small edition with no payment other than a few bound copies.(50)

The record of Poe’s interaction with Carey, Lea, & Blanchard in this period ends with two notes to the author in the firm’s Letter Books; when George E. Woodberry printed these notes in his 1909 biography of Poe, his misdating created the persistent myth that the Philadelphia publisher lost one of the Folio Club tales. Properly dated (L.II:571-576, Check List items 108, 123, and November 29, 1836), they read as follows:

November 29, 1835 [1836 in Woodberry]

Mr. EDGAR A. POE, — I have called on Mess. E. L. Carey and A. Hart, who are publishers of “The Gift,” and they have examined among all the MS. and cannot find the story to which you allude. They think it very probable that Miss L[eslie]. returned it with the others but it cannot now be found. Should it be hereafter they will return it.

February 20, 1836

EDGAR A. POE, Esq., Richmond Va., — I received your letter this morning, having no knowledge of the MS. mentioned. I applied to Mess. Carey & Hart, who handed over the enclosed which I transmit agreeably to your directions and wish it safe to hand.(51)

As Woodberry dated them, these letters suggest that Poe asked for two different stories, the second of which was not found. When read [page 33:] in the correct order, the notes clearly concern two requests for a single tale that was eventually returned. As the preceding discussion indicates, there are three likely possibilities for the story in question — “MS. Found in a Bottle” (since the Folio Club manuscript was presumably returned to Poe in the spring of 1835 without the tale selected for The Gift), “Epimanes,” and “Siope.” Evidently Carey & Hart initially neglected to send one of these tales back to Poe after The Gift was published in the late summer of 1835.(52)


As we have seen, SLM for August 18 testifies to Poe’s intention of publishing in the fall a sixteen-story version of Tales of the Folio Club on White’s presses. Presumably this would have included the eleven tales in the 1833 collection plus “A Tale of Jerusalem,” “Berenice,” “Morella,” “Hans Phaall,” and “Shadow. A Fable” (published in September 1835);(53) of this group, all but “Siope” and “Raising the Wind” eventually appeared in SLM During 1836, Poe tried three more times to secure a publisher for collections of his stories, the second of which he described as a seventeen-story version of the Folio Club design. No known manuscripts exist, however, from the symposium frameworks for these expanded collections. Indeed, there is good reason to suspect they were projected but never finished efforts to adapt the earlier format to include Poe’s growing stock of new tales.

Without support from Carey, White apparently decided not to print the tales himself, but he continued to aid his new editor’s persistent attempts to issue them in hard cover. After James Kirke Paulding praised Poe in a letter of December 7, 1835, to White “as decidedly the best of all our going writers,” the magazine owner arranged for the New York satirist to recommend a collection of Poe’s stories to Harper & Brothers, then in the process of publishing an edition of Paulding’s writings.(54) On March 3, 1836, Paulding informed White that the collection had been rejected:

The[y] have finally declined republishing it for the following reasons: They say the stories have so recently appeared before the Public in the “Messenger” that they would be no novelty — but most especially they object that there is a degree of obscurity in their application, which will prevent ordinary readers from comprehending their drift, and consequently [page 34:] from enjoying the fine satire they convey. It requires a degree of familiarity with various kinds of knowledge which they do not possess, to enable them to relish the joke; the dish is too refined for them to banquet on. . . .

I hope Mr. Poe will pardon me if the interest I feel in his success should prompt me to take this occasion to suggest to him to apply his fine humour, and his extensive requirements, to more familiar subjects of satire; to the faults and foibles of our own people, their peculiarities of habits and manners, and above all to the ridiculous affectations and extravagancies of the fashionable English Literature of the day which we copy with such admirable success and servility. His quiz on Willis, and the Burlesque of “Blackwood,” were not only capital, but what is more, were understood by all.(55)

This letter presents problems of reference. The collection Paulding saw seems to have featured the Folio Club framework, for its presence helps explain his metaphor in “the dish is too refined for [ordinary readers] to banquet on,” his certainty that Poe’s overall intentions in the work were satiric, his complaint that the satire was directed at subjects too unfamiliar for a general audience (the practice of criticism?), and his remark about the “obscurity” of “application” in the tales (to their “authors” in the club not as readily identifiable as N. P. Willis?). On the other hand, the failure to use the title Tales of the Folio Club, or specifically to mention the symposium design per se, suggests that Paulding could have seen an unframed collection, perhaps with a preface describing the author’s intentions and, because the letter twice mentions republication, openly advertising its contents as a gathering of Poe’s remarkably well received SLM tales. In the latter case, the collection probably contained the sixteen tales Poe had at hand the previous summer. But because, as will be seen, it is most unlikely that a symposium framework for this large a collection had been completed at this time, any work Poe sent Harpers featuring the Folio Club apparatus must necessarily have been little altered from the form in which Carey, Lea, & Blanchard returned it in 1835, at least in terms of the number of tales it contained.

After learning of the rejection, Poe asked Paulding to show his work to other New York publishers. In his reply of March 17,1836, Paulding denied the request for personal reasons, suggested Poe try his hand at a novel for Harpers instead, and noted that arrangements [page 35:] for return of the manuscript had been made.(56) In June, following a considerable delay in forwarding the collection, Harper & Brothers wrote the author directly with a specific list of reasons for declining its publication:

First, because the greater portion of them had already appeared in print — secondly, because they consisted of detached tales and pieces; and our long experience has taught us that both these are very serious objections to the success of any publication. Readers in this country have a decided and strong preference for works (especially fiction) in which a single and connected story occupies the whole volume, or number of volumes, as the case may be; and we have always found that republications of magazine articles, known to be such, are the most unsaleable of all literary performances. The third objection was equally cogent. The papers are too learned and mystical. They would be understood and relished only by a very few — not by the multitude. The numbers of readers in this country capable of appreciating and enjoying such writings as those you submitted to us is very small indeed.(57)

If Carey’s advice, and not financial necessity, led Poe to sell his Folio Club stories prior to seeking another publisher for the collection as a whole, then the strategy obviously failed. On the other hand, the wording of this letter as of Paulding’s leaves open the possibility that Harpers could be judging Poe’s tales without the Folio Club framework. In that case, the firm’s objections to reprinted magazine stories must have prompted him to return to the Folio Club design in an effort to bolster their appeal in his later approaches to publishers.

On September 2, 1836, Poe tried to interest the Philadelphia publisher Harrison Hall in his stories with a carefully designed latter of inquiry; it began, “At different times there has appeared in the Messenger a series of Tales, by myself — in all seventeen [fourteen in fact]. They are of a bizarre and generally whimsical character, and were originally written to illustrate a large work ‘On the Imaginative Faculties.’ I have prepared them for republication, in book form, in the following manner.” He then described the Folio Club format in detail; other than a provision for seventeen club members, this description corresponds fully with the Prologue of the eleven-story framework, adding only a clarification of the means used by the narrator to effect his exposé: “The author of the tale adjudged to be the worst demurs from the general judgment, seizes the seventeen [page 36:] M.SS. upon the table, and, rushing from the house, determines to appeal, by printing the whole, from the decision of the Club, to that of the public.” The “large work ‘On the Imaginative Faculties’ “ is probably a fiction designed to convince Hall that the seventeen tales were not simply miscellaneous productions, although it may accurately reflect one way Poe looked on his original Folio Club collection. Anticipating objections like Carey’s to the size of the volume and like Harpers’ to reprinted material, Poe emphasized for Hall that the remarks by the Folio Club members, “which have never been published, will make about 1/4 of the whole — the whole will form a volume of about 300 close pages. Oct.” He also suggested extracts from a “mass of eulogy” received by the tales could be appended to the book as advertising, claimed that Hall had the privilege of receiving “the first offer,” and sweetened the bait with a modest bribe: “I shall be happy to review, fully, any books you may be pleased to forward” (L.1:103-104).

Poe’s exaggeration of the number of tales he had published in SLM implies that this version of the collection was at least inclusive of the fourteen stories that had actually appeared by April 1836 (SLM printed no other fiction by Poe until the installments of Pym began in 1837); this group was included in the listing earlier in this essay of the sixteen tales Poe probably had available in late summer of 1835. Without additional evidence, the title of the seventeenth tale added to the collection by September 1836 must remain conjectural.(58) Hall’s reply has not survived, but obviously it was negative. Poe probably had his manuscript in circulation when he wrote this letter, for by the beginning of October it had received an encouraging reading from the recently opened New York branch of Saunders and Otley (an English publishing firm doing battle with Harpers over the American practice of pirating foreign books).(59) The evidence of this transaction unambiguously shows that Poe’s letter to Hall described a projected text, for Saunders and Otley saw a collection in progress and still far from completion.

As in the approach to Harpers, White again helped Poe find an intermediary, enlisting the aid of Edward W. Johnston, a Southern scholar from South Carolina College and a contributor to SLM who was living temporarily in New York.(60) In a letter to White dated October 4,1836, Johnston provided Poe with a progress report on [page 37:] his negotiations with Saunders and Otley. The firm was interested in publishing Poe’s tales in both America and England but could not make the final decision in New York. The publishers had therefore requested that the author supply them a finished manuscript to send to England as soon as possible. Johnston informed them that he was certain Poe was not sufficiently near completing the work in final form to insure a quick delivery and urged them to return the manuscripts in their possession immediately in order to facilitate the task facing the author.(61) Although Johnston does not mention a title in this letter, the unfinished portion of a manuscript containing the tales available to Poe at this time could only be the Folio Club framework. Thus by the fall of 1836 Poe had still not completed (if indeed he had ever begun) the revisions necessary to adapt his 1833 format to accommodate extra tales, for although Johnston’s letter probably refers to a seventeen-story volume such as Hall was offered, clearly its manuscript required more work than the addition of one tale to a finished sixteen-story framework would entail. Whether Poe decided to meet the demand for rapid completion of his project is not known.(62) The press of duties at SLM would have made the task difficult, even had he not devoted time to Pym in this period. If Poe did finish the volume, then his hopes may have died with the company, for Saunders and Otley disbanded its New York branch sometime in 1837. Frederick Saunders, who established the American operation and presumably read Poe’s manuscript, did remain in the city as an independent bookseller and publisher but obviously did not issue the collection.(63) And to present knowledge, Poe made no further efforts to place this or any other gathering of his stories before approaching Carey’s former partners with Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque in 1839.

To summarize briefly, evidently Poe only projected the sixteen-story Folio Club collection announced for fall 1835, submitted the eleven-story version (or an unframed volume) to Harper & Brothers early in 1836, and in late summer or early fall of that year probably sent Saunders and Otley a set of seventeen tales and a proposal such as Hall received for their “republication in book form.” The possible causes for Poe’s apparent failure to complete the expanded Folio Club experiments are several. His move from Baltimore to Richmond not only disrupted his personal life but also burdened him [page37:] with the labor of editing and writing for a monthly magazine. The problems of fitting miscellaneous tales into the 1833 framework and of orchestrating debate among sixteen or seventeen different characters may have proved insurmountable. And after practical experience as a literary critic, he may have found his 1833 “burlesque upon criticism” was inadequate and therefore faced the necessity of rewriting all of his earlier frame material.

The implications of this study for our understanding of Poe’s early fiction need not be labored. The author apparently began writing short fiction with a sequence of stories designed for individual Folio Club members to deliver in symposium, turning specifically to composing tales for separate magazine publication only after completing his 1833 experiment. While that work was in the limbo of Carey, Lea, & Blanchard’s backlog, Poe worked on Politian and, with Kennedy’s urging, tales for SLM that would “make money.” Thus the Folio Club design forms the relevant context for interpreting the eleven stories in the 1833 volume as well as “A Tale of Jerusalem” but not, however, “Berenice,” “Morella,” or “Hans Phaall.” Because the expanded versions of Tales of the Folio Club probably existed only as hopeful proposals to publishers, the common practice of identifying the latter three tales as Folio Club stories because they would have been included in these projected works can only be misleading. The case of “Shadow. A Fable” and the mysterious seventeenth story is more ambiguous, because both could have been composed while Poe was planning, if not executing, these expanded collections. Without support from additional evidence, however, speculation about the probable role of any of these later tales in the symposium framework seems a dubious enterprise at best, particularly in light of the continuing debate over Poe’s intentions in stories that can be assigned to his 1833 satire.(64) [page 39:]


1.  This parallel glosses over several individual variations: Hawthorne, for example, consigned most of Seven Tales of My Native Land to the fire; and Poe gambled twice with stories belonging to his Folio Club collection on literary contests.

2.  For Hawthorne, see Nelson F. Adkins, “The Early Projected Works of Nathaniel Hawthorne,” PBSA, 39 (1945), 119-155; Richard P. Adams, “Hawthorne’s Provincial Tales,” NEQ, 30 (1957), 39-57; and Neal Frank Doubleday, Hawthorne’s Early Tales: A Critical Study (Durham, N.C.,1972). For Poe, see T. O. Mabbott, “On Poe’s ‘Tales of the Folio Club’,” SR, 36 (1928), 171-176; James Southall Wilson, “The Devil Was in It,” American Mercury, 24 (1931), 215-220; Q:191-204, 212-217, 745-746; William Bitmer, Poe: A Biography (London, 1962), pp. 288-292; Floyd Stovall, Edgar Poe the Poet: Essays New and Old on the Man and His Work (Charlottesville, Va., 1969), pp. 55-63; Alexander Hammond, “A Reconstruction of Poe’s 1833 Tales of the Folio Club: Preliminary Notes,” PoeS,5 (1972),25-32; and G. R. Thompson, Poe’s Fiction: Romantic Irony in the Gothic Tales (Madison, Wis., 1973), ch. III.

3.  L.1:20.

4.  “Letter to Mr. ——— “ Poems, Second Edition (New York, 1831), p. 15.

5.  The fight was with John Hill Hewitt, editor of the newspaper sponsoring the contest; his poem “Song of the Winds,” contributed under a pseudonym, was selected over Poe’s only after the latter’s tale was awarded the fiction prize; see William F. Gill, The Life of Edgar Allan Poe (New York, 1878), p. 69, and Vincent Starrett, “One Who Knew Poe,” The Bookman, 64 (1927), 196-201.

6.  Consult documentation in author’s “A Reconstruction of Poe’s 1833 Tales of the Folio Club” and “ ‘Lionizing’ and the Design of Poe’s Tales of the Folio Club,” ESQ, 18 (1972), 154-165; unless otherwise indicated, future references to the 1833 collection and its stories should be assumed to cite these articles or the scholarship summarized in them.

7.  M.I:544.

8.  I am indebted to Professor Richard P. Benton for this suggestion; for Poe’s knowledge of this work and its popularity, see Burton R. Pollin, “Figs, Bells, Poe, and Horace Smith,” PN, 3 (1970), 8-10.

9.  L.I:53, 104.

10.  For an example, see the reading of Milton in “The Literary Life of Thingum Bob, Esq.,” H.VI:7.

11.  Michael Allen, Poe and the British Magazine Tradition (New York, 1969), pp. 16ff.

12.  H.II:xxxix.

13.  In “The Musiad” (Baltimore, 1829) is the following reference to Poe’s poetry: “‘Say! did not Billy Gywnn [sic], the great, combine / ‘With little Lucas to put down thy line?” If the Delphian Club was not moribund in 1829, then criticism of “Al Aaraaf” by William Gwynn, its last president, and Fielding Lucas, another member, may have supplied Poe with the germ for the Folio Club’s [page 40:] treatment of its newest initiate. For a discussion of “The Musiad” and a different reading of these lines, see Stovall, pp. 64-101.

14.  Northrop Frye, Anatomy of Criticism: Four Essays (Princeton, NJ., 1957), pp. 39-40, 226-227.

15.  See the discussions of Menippean satire in Anatomy of Criticism, pp. 308-312, and in Alvin Kernan, The Cankered Muse: Satire of the English Renaissance (New Haven & London, 1959), pp. 12ff.

16.  Fraser’s Magazine, 1 (1830), 506-507.

17.  V.iii-ix, 3-6. For a thorough discussion of the Baltimore phase of Poe’s literary career, see Stovall, pp. 18-63.

18.  Stovall, p. 58.

19.  Lambert A. Wilmer, Merlin, Together with Recollections of Edgar A. Poe, ed. T. O. Mabbott (New York, 1941), p. 29

20.  Saturday Visiter, August 4, 1832, p. 3; I am indebted to Mrs. Nancy Boles and Mrs. Evelyn Paxton for aid with the file of the Visiter in the holdings of the Maryland Historical Society.

21.  Stovall, p. 58, n. 99.

22.  Frank Luther Mott, A History of American Magazines 1741-1850 (Cambridge, Mass., 1957), p. 602.

23.  L.I:55.

24.  See reproductions of Poe’s letter in Q:200, and of the second Folio Club leaf inaccurately reproduced in John W. Robertson, Bibliography of the Works of Edgar A. Poe (San Francisco, 1934), II, insert after p. 114.

25.  H.II:xxxv. I wish to thank Rodney G. Dennis, Curator of Manuscripts at the Houghton Library, and Randolph W. Church, State Librarian, and J. W. Dudley, Assistant State Archivist, at the Virginia State Library, for aid in my examination of these manuscripts. It should be noted of the text of the Folio Club Prologue in H.II:xxxvi-xxxix, that “hare” in the epigraph is a misprint for “nare,” that “at” should not be cancelled and “debut” should be italicized in the third paragraph, and that the punctuation throughout has been regularized.

26.  “On Poe’s ‘Tales of the Folio Club’,” p.176.

27.  A pott sheet (121/2 by 1511, inches) yields quarto leaves of 61/a by 73/, inches.

28.  In “A Reconstruction of Poe’s 1833 Tales of the Folio Club,” pp. 29-30, I suggested that Mr. Blackwood Blackwood would contribute only a section of “Loss of Breath” that was “more typically a ‘Blackwood article’ “ than the tale as a whole; this argument was based on an erroneously narrow view of Blackwood’s fiction. The 1832 version of this story (“A Decided Loss”) adapted the hero of Blackwood’s pseudo-scientific tales of terror to the picaresque mode of Fielding’s Joseph Andrews; G. R. Thompson identifies this source in Poe’s Fiction, p. 49. Poe’s revisions made “A Decided Loss” into a more generally representative composite of Blackwood’s fiction by adding not only an account of the hero’s sensations (the gallows scene and immediate aftermath) characteristic of its tales of terror but also a comic episode (the scene with Windenough in the tomb) in the punning, bantering manner of the magazine’s [page 41:] burlesque stories, such as Robert Macnish’s “Man with the Mouth” (May 1828) and “The Man Mountain” (March 1829) and J. F. Dalton’s “It’s very Odd” (January 1829). Mr. Blackwood Blackwood’s doubled name makes him an appropriate author for this composite tale, which features a narrator and antagonist who are inverse doubles.

29.  Ruth Hudson traces the journey of this elegant room in “Poe Recognizes ‘Ligeia’ as His Masterpiece,” English Studies in Honor of James Southall Wilson (Charlottesville, Va.,1951), pp. 35-45.

30.  Wilson, p. 218. Wilson’s citation of Zillah’s subtitle is inaccurate; “A Tale of Jerusalem” was, however, the running head for J. & J. Harper’s pirated American edition of the novel.

31.  Quoted in John C. French, “Poe and the Baltimore Saturday Visiter,” MLN, 33 (1918), 257-267, which gathers the basic documents from the contest.

32.  Quoted from Jay B. Hubbell, “Charles Chauncey Burr: Friend of Poe,” PMLA, 69 (1954), 838, and John H. B. Latrobe, “Reminiscences of Poe,” in Edgar Allan Poe: A Memorial Volume (Baltimore, 1877), p. 58. Latrobe’s recollection that “A Descent into the Maelstrom” was one of the tales in Poe’s submission is obviously wrong. See the dates of that story’s known sources in Arlin Turner, “Sources of Poe’s’A Descent into the Maelstrom’,” JEGP, 46 (1947), 298-301, and W. T. Bandy, “New Light on a Source of Poe’s ‘A Descent into the Maelstrom’,” AL, 24 (1953), 534-537

33  Poe and John Hill Hewitt, the Visiter’s editor, are the possible authors of this notice (also reprinted, although incorrectly punctuated, in French, “Poe and the Saturday Visiter,” p. 262). Since Hewitt participated in the “opposition of the press” to Poe’s Al Aaraaf (Stovall, p. 37), he was hardly likely to have written the advertisement as it stands.

34.  Hubbell, p. 839.

35.  French, p. 262.

36.  Quoted in Killis Campbell. “The Kennedy Papers,” SR, 25 (1917), 197.

37.  Quinn, p. 204, speculates that Poe’s personal connection with the son of Mrs. Sarah J. Hale may have helped him place this story, but Mrs. Hale did not edit Godey’s until 1837. See Mott, pp. 580, 583.

38.  Excerpt from a.l.s. John P. Kennedy to H. C. Carey, January 1, 1834, quoted by permission of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, where it forms part of the Edward Carey Gardiner Collection. Carey’s financial troubles are detailed in David Kaser, Messrs. Carey & Lea of Philadelphia: A Study in the Booktrade (Philadelphia, 1957), PP. 55-56.

39.  Stovall, p. 59, 11.103, accurately quotes a note Kennedy added to a copy of this letter identifying Poe’s “M.S.” at Carey & Lea’s as “Tales of the arabesque &c.” Kennedy had the copy made for Griswold early in the 1850’s (see Campbell, p. 198, and L.I:55; II:671-672; copy now in the Boston Public Library), and the note is in his hand from that period. Clearly he confused the title of the collection with Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque of 1839 when trying to clarify this letter for Griswold.

40.  Campbell, p.197. [page 42:]

41.  Kaser, pp. 47-48; see also Ralph Thompson, American Literary Annuals and Gift Books 1825-1865 (New York, 1936), pp. 51, 74. Carey was simply confusing the new annual with his firm’s The Atlantic Souvenir that had been sold to S. G. Goodrich of The Token in 1832. Carey & Hart’s The Gift bore that name from at least December 18, 1833, when contributions at large were invited in The National Gazette and Literary Register, XIII, no. 4003, p. 3. There is evidence that H. C. Carey may have forwarded Poe’s money as early as December 8; see John Carl Miller, John Henry Ingram’s Poe Collection (Charlottesville, Va., 1960), p. 169, item 395.

42.  Quoted in George E. Woodberry, Life of Edgar Allan Poe (New York, 1909), I, 109-110.

43.  In December 1835 Poe stated about the stories that had appeared in SLM to that date, “The last tale I wrote was Morella and it was my best. . . . What articles I have published since Morella were all written some time ago” (L.I:78). This statement also applies by implication to “Berenice,” which preceded “Morella” in SLM by one issue.

44.  Campbell, p.198.

45.  David K. Jackson, Poe and the Southern Literary Messenger (Richmond, Va., 1934), pp. 97-98.

46.  SLM, 1 (August 1835), 716.

47.  See entries for Toy and Kennedy in The Cost Book of Carey & Lea, 1825-1838, ed. David Kaser (Philadelphia, 1963 ). The publisher’s Letter Book for 1834-3 5 in the Historical Society of Pennsylvania reveals that Kennedy’s novel was printed in Baltimore at his request to facilitate the proofreading chores.

48.  Campbell, p.198.

49.  For dating this tale, see William H. Gravely, Jr.: “A Note on the Composition of Poe’s ‘Hans Pfaal’,” PN, 3 (1970), 2-4; and “A Few Words of Clarification on ‘Hans Pfaal’,” PoeS, 5 (1972), 56. The manuscript of this tale in the Pierpont Morgan Library conforms in its script and appearance to the Folio Club fragments, but its pages are uniformly 1/4-inch wider, and its pagination does not suggest it was numbered in sequence with other tales in a larger work.

50.  Woodberry, II, 375-376. Carey retired in October 1838, after which the firm’s imprint became simply Lea & Blanchard — Kaser, Messrs. Carey & Lea, p. 63.

51.  Woodberry, II, 375.

52.  Collation suggests that “MS. Found in a Bottle,” SLM, 2 (December 183 ), 33-37, which bears the heading “FromThe Gift’,” was not in fact set in type from its printed text in that annual. While Carey & Hart’s house style and Poe’s revisions could make it possible for one manuscript to be the immediate antecedent of both texts, their differences make it seem unlikely. This manuscript may thus be the one that was misplaced.

53.  For a discussion of “Shadow. A Fable” as a story in the manner of the Folio Club tales, see Burton R. Pollin, “Light on ‘Shadow’ and Other Pieces by Poe; Or, More of Thomas Moore,” ESQ, 18 (1972), 166-173.

54.  The Letters of James Kirke Paulding, ed. Ralph M. Aderman (Madison, Wis., 1962), pp. 170-173. [page 43:]

55.  Ibid., pp. 173-174. Wilson, p. 218, protests that Paulding must have missed the whole point of the Folio Club stories to advise Poe to turn his satire upon “fashionable English Literature,” but clearly Paulding was singling out for praise one kind of tale that Poe’s collection did contain, suggesting that more of the same would improve the work’s appeal (if the framework was present, the implicit point is that the satire directed at the practice of criticism would be wasted on most readers). The “Burlesque of ‘Blackwood’” was undoubtedly “Loss of Breath.” Both “Lionizing” and “The Duke de L’Omelette” are frequently proposed candidates for the “quiz on Willis.” In the 1833 collection, only the latter involved Willis while “Lionizing” was directed at Benjamin Disraeli; however, in early 1836 Paulding had ample reason for taking “Lionizing” as a hit at Willis; see the scholarship cited in Thompson, Poe’s Fiction, pp. 216-217, II. 7, 9.

56.  Letters of Paulding, pp. 177-178.

57.  Quoted in Q:251.

58.  “Von Jung, the Mystic” (1837) seems a possibility because of its dating; see Burton R. Pollin, “Poe’s ‘Mystification’: Its Source in Fay’s Norman Leslie,” MissQ, 25 (1972), 111-130.

59.  Arno L. Bader, “Frederick Saunders and the Early History of the International Copyright Movement in America,” Library Quarterly, 8 (January 1938), 25-39.

60.  Jay B. Hubbell, The South in American Literature, 1607-1900 (Durham, N.C., 1954), p. 217 et passim. An article by Johnston appears in SLM, 2 (October 1836), 677-684.

61.  I am grateful to the Librarian, Mrs. June Moll, and the Committee on the Use of Literary and Historical Manuscripts at the Miriam Lutcher Stark Library, of the University of Texas at Austin, for making a facsimile of this letter available to me.

62.  Eugene Exman, The Brothers Harper (New York, 1965), p. 81, suggests that the rejection letter from Harpers led to Poe’s recalling of the work from Saunders and Otley; Exman’s chronology is wrong, as is his conclusion.

63.  Bader, “Frederick Saunders,” p. 37

64.  See for example Stovall, pp. 55-57, on James Southall Wilson’s view of the Folio Club stories; Thompson, Poe’s Fiction, pp. 53-65; Benjamin Franklin Fisher, “Poe’s ‘Metzengerstein : Not a Hoax,” AL, 42 (1971), 487-494, on “Metzengerstein”; and Claude Richard, “Les Contes du Folio Club et la vocation humoristique d’Edgar Allan Poe,” Configuration critique d’Edgar Allan Poe (Paris, 1969), pp. 82-87; and William Goldhurst, “Poe’s Multiple King Pest: A Source Study,” TSE, 20 (1972),107-121, on “King Pest.”




“Lionizing” has been corrected to “Lion-izing” at the request of the author, in an e-mail to the Poe Society dated February 12, 2022.


[S:0 - PAW:STS, 1978] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Bookshelf - Poe at Work: Seven Textual Studies (Poe and the Art of the Well Wrought Tale)