James Forbes Dalton


Sections:  Biography    Criticism    Bibliography


(Born: April 25, 1785 - Died: October 26, 1862)

British author. He was born in Great Stanmore, Middlesex, England. His father was William Edward Dalton. His middle name was taken from his godfather, James Dalton. James Forbes Dalton never married.

Very little is known about the author Poe reviewed, and his identification as James Forbes Dalton is necessarily somewhat tentative. Because most of his books are published anonymously, it is unlikely to be a pseudonym. He is the author of The Old Maiden’s Talisman and Other Strange Tales, London: Bull and Churton, Holles Street, 1834, 3 vols. Included in this volume are: “The Old Maiden’s Talisman” (1:1-2:154), “Peter Snook: A Tale of the City,” (2:155–3:146), “Follow Your Nose,” (3:147–3:204), and “The Lodging-House Bewitched” (3:205–3:324). The title page cites him as the author of  “Chartley,” “The Invisible Gentleman,” and “The Gentleman in Black.”  These works, along with a few others, are listed below:

Chartley the Fatalist, London: Edward Bull, 1831, 3 vols.

The Gentleman in Black, London: William Kidd, 1831 (illustrated by George Cruikshank)

The Robber, London: Edward Bull, 1832, 3 vols.

The Invisible Gentleman, London: Edward Bull, 1833.

The Rival Demons: A Poem, 1836 (a chapbook)

He may also have written for Blackwood’s Magazine. John Clute and John Grant (The Encyclopedia of Fantasy, St. Martin’s, 1997) have an entry of James Dalton and note James Forbes Dalton as being “active in the same period” and as the author of The Beauty Draught (1840), which they describe as “a moralistic fantasy in exactly the same vein” as The Invisible Gentleman. They too conclude that “the two are probably the same writer.” (They also note a writer for Bentley’s Miscellany who signs himself as “Dalton,” but was a son of  Richard Harris Barham.)

The Gentleman’s Magazine   (London) for December 1862 (pp. 784-785), contains an obituary for James Forbes Dalton, giving his birthdate and deathdate as noted above. (The Gentleman’s Magazine for September 1834, pp. 282-283, reviews The Old Maiden’s Tailsman without identifying the author.) The obituary comments: “Upon his return [from Rome] he settled near London, and was well known in several of the literary circles of that time. He published pamplets on the politics of the day, several works of light reading, and was likewise a frequent contributor to the Annuals, Blackwood, Fraser, and other leading periodicals; but, as he never affixed his name to those compositions (although in several instances they attained the celebrity of two or three editions), they cannot now be enumerated correctly. Messers. Blackwood pritned for him in 1860, ‘Some of my Contributions in Rhyme to Periodicals in Bye-gone Days, by a Septuagerian.”


  • Review of Peter Snook, a Tale of the City; Follow your Nose; and other Strange Tales:
    • Review of Peter Snook — 1836, no original manuscript or fragments are known to exist (but this version is presumably recorded in Text 02) — Text 01
    • Review of Peter Snook — October 1836 — Southern Literary Messenger — Text 02
    • Magazine-Writing — Peter Snook” — June 7, 1845 — Broadway Journal — Text 03


  • Review of Peter Snook
    • Magazine-Writing — Peter Snook” — 1856 — Works — Griswold reprints Text 03
    • Magazine-Writing — Peter Snook” — 1875 — The Works of Edgar Allan Poe, ed. J. H. Ingram, Edinburgh, Adam and Charles Black (3:319-331)
    • Peter Snook” — 1895 — The Works of Edgar Allan Poe, vol. 7: Literary Criticism, eds. E. C. Stedman and G. E. Woodberry, Chicago: Stone and Kimball (7:102-117, and 7:354)
    • Peter Snook” — 1902 — The Complete Works of Edgar Allan Poe, vol. 14: Essays and Miscellanies, ed. J. A. Harrison, New York: T. Y. Crowell (14:73-89)
    • Peter Snook” — 1997 — Edgar Allan Poe: Writings in the Southern Literary Messenger, Nonfictional Prose, ed. Burton R. Pollin and J. V. Ridgely, New York: Gordian Press, 5:156-164  (volume 5 of The Collected Writings of Edgar Allan Poe)  (This version reprints the full text using a photographic facsimile of pages from the Southern Literary Messenger, although the layout of pages and columns has been modified for the new format.)
    • Magazine Writing — Peter Snook” — 1986 — The Collected Writings of Edgar Allan Poe, ed. B. R. Pollin, New York: Gordian Press (3:136-143)  (The text in this edition is printed as a facsimile of the original, although the pagination is not retained, merely indicated.)


  • Heartman, Charles F. and James R. Canny, A Bibliography of First Printings of the Writings of Edgar Allan Poe, Hattiesburg, MS: The Book Farm, 1943.
  • Mabbott, Thomas Ollive, ed., The Collected Works of Edgar Allan Poe (Vols 2-3 Tales and Sketches), Cambridge, Mass.: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1978. (Second printing 1979)
  • Thomas, Dwight and David K. Jackson, The Poe Log: A Documentary Life of Edgar Allan Poe 1809-1849, Boston: G. K. Hall & Sons, 1987.


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