Text: Bernard Rosenthal, “Poe, Slavery, and the Southern Literary Messenger: A Reexamination,” Poe Studies, December 1974, Vol. VII, No. 2, 7:29-38


[page 29:]

Poe, Slavery, and the Southern Literary Messenger:
A Reexamination

State University of New York, Binghamton

In the April 1836 issue of The Southern Literary Messenger, edited by Edgar Allan Poe, a review of two books on slavery appeared. Since one book was anonymously written, and since the other was by James Kirke Paulding, the review has long been called the “Paulding Review,” although naming it the “Paulding-Drayton Review” is more appropriate (1). The textual history of this review has been quite confused, and because of its recurring attribution to Poe in the face of a vigorous insistence that Beverley Tucker actually wrote it, a published discussion of the textual question is long overdue (2). Correct attribution of the review is important both for its intrinsic value and for the clarification it may give to the Poe canon of editorial writing for the Messenger (3).

Traditionally assumed to have been written by Poe, the Paulding-Drayton review stood for many years as an uncontested public document articulating Poe’s views on slavery. The essay was included in James A. Harrison’s Virginia edition, which, in spite of its errors, remains as the standard text of the Poe canon. The basic challenge to Harrison’s attribution of the review to Poe came in 1941, when William Doyle Hull in his highly important doctoral dissertation at the University of Virginia, “A Canon of the Critical Reviews of Edgar Allan Poe,” insisted that the review was written by Nathaniel Beverley Tucker, Professor of Law at William and Mary College, and only edited by Poe. Hull based his argument on the letter of May 2, 1836 from Poe to Tucker, first published in 1924 by James Southall Wilson, who himself made no such connection (4). Nor did David K. Jackson, who reprinted the letter, but who attributed the review to Poe. Moreover, in the same year that Hull made his attribution, Poe’s most distinguished biographer, Arthur Hobson Quinn, who also saw the letter, continued to attribute the review to poe.6 While subsequent scholars have inclined toward the Tucker theory of authorship, the problem has never been fully examined. Were Wilson, Jackson, and Quinn simply careless, or have other scholars too readily accepted Hull’s interpretation of the letter? My assumption is that in spite of Hull’s indispensable contributions in his outstanding study, he made a very understandable [column 2:] error in arguing for the removal of the review from the Poe canon. With this adjustment in Hull’s attributions, it becomes possible, for the most part, to reconcile his canon with Harrison’s from March 1836 to the end of Poe’s editorship of the Messenger (7).

Since the Paulding-Drayton review is a political document, a necessary first step in clarifying the evidence for Poe’s authorship of it is, unfortunately, to show Poe’s compatibility with the ideas expressed in the pro-slavery review. I say “unfortunately,” because it is hard to believe that any serious scholar could still doubt that Poe supported the institution of slavery. But since doubts do exist, the matter must be addressed, although, given the plethora of evidence, it is difficult to tell where to begin. January 1836, however, may be most appropriate, since it begins the year in which the Paulding-Drayton review appeared. In the January issue of the Messessger, Poe reviewed Joseph Holt Ingraham’s The South-West. By a Yankee. We have Thomas W. White’s assurance that Poe was the reviewer (8).

Unlike Paulding’s work on slavery, Ingraham’s is not avowedly polemical, nor is it primarily about such a sensitive subject. That is why Poe’s extravagant praise of the slavery discussions in the book has special significance. Poe found the discussions on slavery, minor in the whole scheme of Ingraham’s book, as the most important aspect of it. “Indeed,” Poe writes in the Messenger, “we cordially agree with a distinguished Northern contemporary and friend, that the Professor’s [Ingraham] strict honesty, impartiality, and unprejudiced common sense, on the trying subject which has so long agitated our community, is the distinguishing and the most praiseworthy feature of his book” (SLM, 11, 122).

What was so “praiseworthy” about Ingraham’s “common sense”? His position, though less strident, was almost identical with Paulding’s. Ingraham felt that slavery was opposed by everybody, Northerners and Southerners “in the abstract” (9); Paulding conceded slavery’s “evil” (10) (a point, incidentally, vehemently opposed by Tucker in his numerous defenses of slavery) . But in the real world, as opposed to the one described by Ingraham as “visionary” (11, 32) and by Paulding as “hypothetical” (p. 10), slavery as an institution must not be disturbed. The Union, both agree, would be destroyed by any such attempt (a prospect that would not have disturbed secessionist Tucker). Moreover, the South could not survive without slavery. In Ingraham’s words, “Mississippi would be a wilderness, and revert to the aboriginal possessors. Annihilate them [the slaves] to-morrow, and this state and every southern state might be bought for a song” (11, 91). Without reciting the whole litany of Ingraham’s views, it [page 30:] soon becomes clear that Poe is endorsing standard proslavery arguments of his day.

Indeed, only the authorship problem in regard to the Paulding-Drayton review has unnecessarily obscured Poe’s pro-slavery views. The whole case was argued definitively as long ago as 1934 by Ernest Marchand in his cogent essay entitled “Poe as Social Critic” (11). This was ten years after the letter appeared that would lead some to conclude that Tucker wrote the Paulding-Drayton review. Obviously, Marchand had not been converted, and he relied heavily on the review. Thus he has apparently been discounted by those who think it is not Poe’s. But Marchand’s essay is packed with citations upon which he saw no necessity to elaborate. These include Poe’s reviews of Mrs. Anne MacVicar Grant’s Memoirs of an American Lady (SLM, II, 511), Robert Montgomery Bird’s Sheppard Lee: Written, by Himself (SLM, II, 662667), and his unpublished review of John L. Carey’s Domestic Slavery (Baltimore, 1838). They bear scrutiny by those seeking clarification of Poe’s views on slavery.

Mrs. Grant’s book, originally published in 1808 and reprinted all the way into the twentieth century, is a nostalgic reminiscence of eighteenth-century New York as seen by a young girl. It is about the very region Cooper described in Satanstoe, and it even has a chapter on the breaking up of the ice on the Hudson that, along with other matters in the book, may very well have been a source for Cooper. Poe’s brief review centered on two items. One was the ice scene, and the other was slavery. Although Mrs. Grant does not write primarily about slavery, her treatment of it somehow makes the institution seem charming. In the idyllic description of slavery in eighteenth-century New York, Poe found a perfect description of slavery in contemporary Virginia “Some remarks on slavery, at page 41, will apply with singular accuracy to the present state of things in Virginia” (SLM. II, 511). Poe then quotes an extensive passage defining the happy relationship between master and slave. “I have no where met with instances of friendship more tender and generous than that which here subsisted between the slaves and their masters and mistresses” (SLM, II, 511). This is a statement that could have fit quite comfortably into the Paulding-Drayton review. There is nothing remarkable in this, of course, since it was part of the whole pro-slavery litany. More interesting is Mrs. Grant’s claim that slave children “were never sold without consulting their mother” (SLM, II, 512). What Poe knew about eighteenth-century New York is problematic, but he certainly must have known that such a statement was quite inappropriate to nineteenth-century Virginia. Yet it was part of the standard pro-slavery argument, and Poe found it worth quoting.

The review of Sheppard Lee is much more extensive, necessarily so, perhaps, because of the extraordinarily complicated plot. It need only be said here that the hero of the novel finds himself capable of migrating from one body to another and possessing them. He thus lives more than one life. At one point, the hero, Poe writes,

is finally about to be hung, when a negro who was busied in preparing the gallows, fortunately breaks his neck in a fall, and our adventurer takes possession of his body forthwith.

In his character of Nigger Tom, Mr. Lee [Bird] gives us [column 2:] some very excellent chapters upon abolition and the exciting effects of incendiary pamphlets and pictures, among our slaves in the South. This part of the narrative closes with a spirited picture of a negro insurrection, and with the hanging of Nigger Tom. (SLM, Il, 666)

The “excellent chapters” leave no doubt as to Bird’s proslavery attitudes; nor does Poe’s review leave doubt as to his endorsement of Bird’s positions (12).

Perhaps the most intriguing point raised by Marchand, however, has to do with Poe’s review of Carey’s Domestic Slavery. It is indeed unfortunate that difficulties between Poe and Burton prevented the review from ever appearing in print, although one would hope that it may yet appear some day in a manuscript collection (13). The key statement we have by Poe on Carey is as follows: “Mr. Carey’s book on slavery was received by me not very long ago, and in last month’s number I wrote, at some length, a criticism upon it, in which I endeavored to do justice to the author, whose talents I highly admire” (14). The “talents” which Poe admired so highly can be appreciated fully only upon a reading of Carey’s defense of the South. While the book is relatively moderate in tone, it represents an unabashed apology for almost every position taken by proslavery advocates. Even a review mildly sympathetic to Carey’s views would place one in a position of sympathy with the South’s pro-slavery orthodoxy. Poe’s letter suggests more than mild sympathy.

Had Marchand needed it, there was more evidence too. Perhaps the most telling fact about Poe’s position on slavery is his record of public admiration for Thomas R. Dew, the man most fully identified with the extreme and articulate slavery apologetics of Poe’s day. In the October 1836 issue of the Messenger, Poe reviewed an address delivered to the students at William and Mary (SLM, II, 722). In his study of Poe’s canon, Hull gives meticulous evidence establishing Poe’s authorship of this review (Hull, pp. 15 8-161) . Now it must be emphasized that Dew was no ordinary pro-slavery man. He was in many ways the architect of the South’s intellectual position in defense of slavery, not merely as a necessary evil, but as a positive blessing. William and Mary College, of which Dew became president in 1836, was the institution of higher education that was presenting slavery as not only palatable to the South, but actually virtuous. Dew was the central figure in this enterprise. “Of the talents and great acquirements of Professor Dew,” wrote Poe, “it is quite unnecessary to speak.” Continuing to laud Dew, Poe singled out for praise his special achievement: “To William and Mary is especially due the high political [Poe’s italics] character of Virginia.” The review continues its praise and culminates in an extract from Dew’s speech that Poe introduces with laudatory comments. Dew tells of momentous social change threatening the basic institutions of society, and he urges his audience not to “fold your arms in inglorious indolence.” It is a time of crisis, Dew warns:

Never were the opinions of the world more unsettled and more clashing than at this moment. Monarchists and democrats, conservatives and radicals, whigs and tories, agrarians [i.e., land reformers, detested by Dew] and aristocrats [admired by Dew] slave-holders and non-slave-holders, are all now in the great field of contention. What will be the result of this awful conflict, none can say. [page 31:]

Though “none could say,” Dew’s injunction to fight for the position of the Southern aristocracy was unambiguous, as was Poe’s endorsement of Dew’s ideas (15). For whatever else Poe was, he was a believer in the well known mystique of the South’s special virtue, particularly of Virginia’s. In March of that year, 1836, Poe had expressed his belief in the “distinguishing features of Virginian character at present — features of a marked nature — not elsewhere to be met with in America — and evidently akin to that chivalry which denoted the Cavalier” (SLM, II, 285). His politics in regard to slavery and social structure in general echoed the cliches of Virginia aristocracy. It embodied the kind of mythology about slavery to be found in the Paulding-Drayton review.

With no reasonable doubt as to Poe’s stated or implied views on slavery, the authorship question of the Paulding-Drayton review may now be examined with the clear understanding that the views in it are perfectly compatible with Poe’s, or with any defender of institutional slavery at that time, including, of course, Tucker.

The case for Tucker’s authorship is a rather brief one, for in all the massive documentation of his thorough biographer, Percy Winfield Turrentine, there is not a word of evidence to support the claim of Tucker’s authorship other than Poe’s letter to Tucker, dated May 2, 1836. In pointing to this letter, I point to the sum total of evidence for Tucker’s authorship that Hull or any one else has discovered. I quote the three basic paragraphs:

At Mr. White’s request I write to apologise for the omission of your verses “To a Coquetre” in the present number of the Messenger. Upon making up the form containing them it was found impossible to get both the pieces in, and their connection one with the other rendered it desirable not to separate them — they were therefore left for the May number.

I must also myself beg your pardon for making a few immaterial alterations in your article on Slavery, with a view of so condensing it as to get it in the space remaining at the end of the number. One very excellent passage in relation to the experience of a sick bed has been, necessarily, omitted altogether.

It would give me great pleasure to hear your opinion of the February, and of the April number of the Messenger — I mean the Editorial articles. It is needless for me to say that I value your good opinion, and wish to profit by your counsel (16).

It is the middle paragraph that is crucial to Hull’s argument. His point is that this paragraph must refer to the Paulding-Drayton review (although he does not so label it), since the paragraph before and after it refer to the Messenger and since there are no articles on slavery in that journal for March, April, or May (Hull, pp. 123124). Never mind that there is an article on slavery in the March issue (by Thomas R. Dew). Hull’s argument still looks persuasive, except for the case that he himself presents against it and then dismisses prematurely. “There are in it, however,” writes Hull, “two bedside scenes: it would seem either that there were originally three such examples, or that Poe [as editor] succeeded in getting in the ‘very excellent passage’” (p. 124). What Hull misses, but what Turrentine picks up, is a more interesting inconsistency. Although Turrentine accepts the same logic as Hull and makes the Tucker attribution on the basis of this letter, he is correctly puzzled by the fact that the review does not come at the end of the April issue, as Hull, for some reason, thought it did. The review is in fact followed by one other review and then by an extensive [column 2:] supplement. This may seem like quibbling about what “the end” means, but Turrentine correctly thinks not. Unfortunately, he resorts to the same solution Hull uses. “Poe,” writes Turrentine, “must have changed his plan at the last minute, for the article was shifted from the end of the reviews, and the passage [also disturbing to Turrentine] which described the faithfulness of a negro servant to her dying mistress was retained” (III, 1072). The inconsistencies observed by Hull and Turrentine cannot be treated lightly. While “sick bed scenes” of slaves and masters mutually adoring each other were common enough, it seems hard to believe that either Poe or Tucker, both competent writers, would have originally had more of them than appear in the Paulding-Drayton review. The idea was scarcely original, and neither writer was likely to dwell on a repetition of cliches. Moreover, it seems utterly inconceivable that Poe in a letter of apology to Tucker, whose good opinion he wanted, would tell Tucker that there was no room in the Messenger for an “excellent” part of the essay, when Tucker could see for himself that another review followed, to say nothing of the lengthy supplement offering much praise to Poe. Hull and Turrentine knew that an explanation was needed, and they assumed that the answer was in Poe’s last minute adjustment of the Messenger for April. They were wrong.

The fact is that the Messenger was already out, so Poe could not have made the changes suggested by Hull and Turrentine. Two items in the New Yorker issue of May 7, 1836 make this clear. In the first place, the May 7 issue of the New Yorker reviews the April issue of the Messenger (New Yorker, p. 109). Moreover, that very issue of the New Yorker reprints a feature, “Leaves from a Scrapbook,” which appears in the same April issue of the Messenger (New Yorker, pp. 99- 100) . And to complicate matters, at least for the editors in New York, the New Yorker had no type setting for the Greek characters which appeared in the Messenger essay. This means that editorial adjustments had to be made on the reprinted essay, and they were. These facts remove from the realm of plausibility the theory of Poe making a last minute change. For the theory to hold, one would have to assume the following: on the second of May, Poe mailed his letter to Tucker, dropped everything else that he was doing, and reset the forms for the Messenger. That he never bothered to write another letter to Tucker explaining all this is beside the point. Let us further assume that he finished his project by May 3. We the n further assume that he immediately caught the boat carrying mail from Richmond to New York. The boat the n arrived in New York, the mail reached the New Yorker, the Messenger was plucked out, examined, edited, and reviewed — all this by May — in time to appear before the New York public on May 7. The implausibility of this sequence needs no elaboration, and I find it hard to believe that either Hull or Turrentine would have made their assumption about supposed changes had they investigated the implications of the New Yorker review and reprinting.

With the basic explanation of the inconsistencies found by Hull and Turrentine rendered implausible, if not impossible, there is scarcely anything left to suggest that Tucker wrote the Paulding-Drayton review. Yet the letter of May 2 remains as compelling testimony to the [page 32:] fact that Poe edited some article by Tucker on the subject of slavery. And the context of the letter urges us to believe that the essay appeared in the Messenger. Numerous possibilities emerge, although none can be established with the evidence at hand. Conceivably, the May 2 letter could refer to some unknown link between Tucker and the ailing Thomas Dew in connection with the March issue, where an extensive essay on slavery appears. Or Poe may have been loosely using “the end of the number,” perhaps not literally referring to the pages that actually follow. Individuals have also suggested that Poe collaborated with Tucker on the essay, or, alternatively, that Poe stole it from him (17). But whatever the relative merits of such possibilities may be, they do not solve the basic chronological inconsistency in relation to the letter and the appearance of portions of the April Messenger in the New Yorker. Since any connection between the letter of May 2 and the Paulding-Drayton essay rests on chronological implausibility, the burden of establishing a link between the two rests with those who believe that one exists. Possibly there is an explanation. Possibly Tucker really did write the essay, and Poe really did steal it, but the evidence must be forthcoming. Any attempt to refer back to the letter of May 2 for proof is simply tautological, since the evidence for associating that letter with the essay is chronologically suspect.

Until some explanation of the chronological implausibility is offered, we must remain in the realm of speculation. The possibility that new evidence will show that the letter and the essay really are related does remain. And some connection between Poe and Tucker in regard to an essay on slavery clearly exists. One speculation, and it is only that, might be that the letter of May 2 refers to an earlier essay on slavery by Tucker that appeared in the Messenger. Such a speculation has the weakness of containing insufficient concrete evidence, but it does offer a circumstantial possibility not chronologically inconsistent. Tucker, as he had done before, could have been seeking copies of a signed essay he had written for the Messenger. Fulfilling such requests was consistent with policies of the Messenger.

For example, on October 31, 1836, Thomas R. Dew wrote a letter requesting, or, more accurately, instructing Poe to make fifty copies of an address by Dew that was to appear in the November Meslenger (18). In other words, he wanted fifty offprints of a publication. Just how common such a request was is difficult to tell, but we have documented evidence that it occurred on at least one occasion and was requested on another. The first was in connection with an essay by Lucian Minor on education (19). The other was a request by Nathaniel Beverley Tucker for copies of an article he had written in the Messenger. The letter itself is not available, although Thomas White’s answer to it is. Specifically, White offered a counter suggestion to send Tucker “25 or 30 copies of the Messenger “ (20). If this proved unacceptable, White said he would “print you the 100 copies.” This letter, apparently sent on January 15, 1835, could refer to a lecture on the law that was published as a pamphlet and that appeared in the Messenger in December 1834 (SLM, I, 145-154). But due to the dating, it is more likely that it referred to Tucker’s essay, refuting Blackstone on slavery, delivered as a lecture on December 2, 1834 and published in the [column 2:] January 1835 issue of the Messenger (I, 227-231). Tucker, rabid defender of slavery that he was, had developed the habit of sending this essay to others (21). From the very beginning, as the letter of January 15, 1835, indicates, Tucker wanted more copies. Could it be that in 1836 he had run out of this essay on the legal aspects of slavery and wanted a new supply? Certainly there is precedent for resetting type. On one occasion, for reasons that are not clear, White reprinted a whole issue of the Messenger, even to the extent of making changes in it (22).

If Tucker’s Blackstone essay on slavery were to be reprinted, it would not quite fit into the four-page form that White used for the Messenger ( assuming he used the same form for reprints) . A careful examination of the column setting, though, reveals that with “a few immaterial alterations,” the columns in the Blackstone essay could fit into such a four-page form. Only a few lines would have to be deleted. And there were a few such lines in the Blackstone essay having to do with the cliche of the sick bed (SLM, I, 230). Quite as interesting in this connection is the fact that the lines can be taken out without disrupting the transition at all. Invidiously comparing labor of the wretched British Whites with that of the better off American slaves, Tucker writes:

What more do we do? [They compel him (the white laborer) to choose a master.] we appropriate his labor to a master to whom use and a common inrerest attach him, and who is generally the master of his choice. [The wages of both are the same.

In sickness, the slave looks for support to a master who is interested to maintain and cherish him, and who, for the most part, knows and loves him.] What is the freeman’s equivalent? Hear Mr. Blackstone: —

The brackets, which are mine (although the text is Tucker’s), are obviously speculative, but such an alteration quite nicely leads into Blackstone’s statement, one on the difficulties of the poor that Tucker goes on to quote.

In the Paulding-Drayton review, it is difficult to imagine how space could have been a problem. As a pamphlet, it would have fit into a four-page format with at least a half a column of white space left over. Moreover, in the April issue, there appears the only illustration (Maelzel’s chess player) to appear during Poe’s editorship. This is quite a luxury where space is needed. Furthermore the review that does come at the end of “Critical Notices,” though not at the end of the issue, is Poe’s review, entitled “Brunnens of Nassau,” an essay heavily padded with quotations from the work being reviewed, quotations far more likely to be removed if space were needed than portions of a review by Beverley Tucker, a man whom Poe knew it would be impolitic to offend. We know that White had Poe apologize to Tucker for not printing the promised “Two Coquettes.” Would Poe also risk the added insult of changing an essay for lack of space when there was so much space available? It does not seem likely.

Other points also bear consideration. The article on slavery mentioned in the letter of May 2, unlike “The Two Coquettes,” does not appear in quotations as a title, and the fact that the word slavery is capitalized has no particular significance, since such capitalization of the word was fairly conventional at the time. Thus, the letter does not tell us the title of the article Poe had in mind, [page 33:] nor does it give as any assurance that it even appeared in the Messenger. Unlike the paragraphs before and after it, the middle paragraph does not mention the Messenger. To be sure, contextually, it appears to refer to the Messenger, which is why Hull, as well as others, has been willing to accept this assumption. The context is indeed suggestive, but hardly definitive. On the other hand, there is something suggestive about the two apologies Poe is making to Tucker. In the first paragraph, where the reference to the Messenger is specific, Poe is apologizing on behalf of Thomas White, his publisher. In the second paragraph, where there is no mention of the Messenger, Poe is apologizing on his own behalf. What makes this a noteworthy distinction is that in Dew’s request for pamphlets, cited earlier, the matter was handled through Poe and not through White. While there has never been any doubt that Poe’s duties, as an employee of White the job printer, extended beyond editorship of the Messenger, just what the division of labor was has never been entirely clarified. But, given Dew’s request for pamphlets to Poe rather than to White, and given Poe’s separate apology to Tucker in the letter of May 2, it is entirely possible that at times Poe handled such printing matters as part of his job routine. Hence, the separate apology to Tucker in the second paragraph might apply to a separate publication rather than to a recent issue of the Messenger. While such an assumption cannot be made with certainty, the notion that the second paragraph refers to the April issue of the Messenger is at least as speculative, and it is unsubstantiated by any other evidence, either in the Paulding-Drayton review, or in the whole mass of documentation comprising Poe and Tucker scholarship. In speculating that the paragraph might refer to the Blackstone article, I only offer an alternative theory to the idea that the review should be attributed to Tucker in the face of unexplainable inconsistencies. I recognize, however, that it is entirely possible that Tucker’s article on slavery may be a completely different one — neither the Paulding-Drayton review nor the essay on Blackstone. Tucker was an avid polemicist, quite willing to publish privately and anonymously his views on slavery, as he did that very year, 1836, in his novel, The Partisan Leader.

It may be that someone will find a better explanation for the second paragraph of the May 2 letter. My own speculation has the serious weakness of postulating that an offprint would be called a “number,” and I am not ready to defend a guess as a fact. Nor have I been able to locate an actual offprint. But my failure to offer a strong alternative theory does not dispel the original problem. We still have no evidence clarifying the chronological inconsistencies between the letter of May 2 and the Paulding-Drayton essay. The search for an explanation must continue. Yet even if someone manages to explain away the inconsistencies, there is no reason to believe that such a solution will lead to establishing Tucker as author of the Paulding-Drayton review. For not only do the inconsistencies in the May 2 letter weaken the only case that has ever been made for Tucker’s authorship of the review, but there is actually strong evidence elsewhere directing us away from him as the author. And although I am fully aware of the difficulty in proving a negative proposition, the points do need to be raised so that the weakness of the case for Tucker’s [column 2:] authorship can be made more apparent.

Thomas W. White was a job printer with no particular literary talent; he lacked even grammatical facility. For such an individual to manage a literary enterprise by himself would have bordered on madness. Fortunately for White, he knew his limitations and consistently relied on the advice of others. One of those he depended upon heavily, before and after Poe’s editorship, and to a very limited extent during it, was Beverley Tucker. Fortunately, we have some of the correspondence between White and Tucker available to us — or, at least we have copies of White’s letters to Tucker. The history of this correspondence is marked by White’s continued pleading to Tucker for assistance. After Poe left the editorship, White was once more forced to find reviewers and on April 26, 1837 he wrote a letter to Tucker appealing for help. He wanted him to review some unnamed books by Paulding, which were then being reissued. It is well to remember that Paulding had not only been reviewed the year before in the Paulding-Drayton piece, but also in the May 1836 issue of the Messenger. The latter was a review of Paulding’s Life of Washington, and primarily on the basis of what I am about to quote from White’s letter to Tucker, Hull correctly placed the review of this work on Washington in the Poe canon. Here is the key passage in the letter:

I am very sure that you will give a just criticism of Paulding. It was with the knowledge of this fact, that I placed the volumes in your hand. He is too much of a gentleman, and has in addition too much good sense. to get angry at just criticism. Indeed I am sure he will not. I am very sure that he would feel proud to have a good word from the Messenger. If he would have been proud of praise from Poe, it would have been because he really admired the fellow s talents. — Like myself he was completely gulled. The truth is, Poe seldom or ever done what he knew was just to any book (23).

What is White saying in his own tortured language? “If he would have been proud of praise from Poe,” suggests that he never received it. But Hull has shown more than once that Poe reviewed the work on Washington in the May issue of the Messenger (24); moreover, specifically or by implication, all the “Critical Notices” in the May issue, under which the review on Washington appears, were attributed to Poe by the Norfolk Herald, the Richmond Whig, and the Charlottesville Advocate. These attributions appear in the supplement to the July issue of the Messenger. They were put there by Poe. And as Hull persuasively says in his introduction, “When, however, it [“a statement” on authorship “in the magazine or in another journal”] is reprinted in the magazine with which Poe is connected, it has full authority; one may be sure Poe would have denied it were it mistaken” (p. iii). I shall return to this observation by Hull, the importance of which is difficult to exaggerate. For the moment, though, there is still the question of White’s meaning in the letter.

If we accept the review of Paulding’s Washington as Poe’s, as scholars almost universally have done (25), then White’s letter takes on the meaning Hull gave it. That is, the letter is saying that Poe had previously reviewed Paulding and had done so with praise. But, the implication then is that Tucker had not reviewed Paulding. The letter is saying that Poe had reviewed and praised Paulding, [page 34:] but it is now time for someone reputable to do it. That person, of course, is Tucker. Stated bluntly, if Tucker had reviewed Paulding’s Slavery, the letter from White would make no sense.

There is an earlier correspondence between Tucker and White that is perhaps even more revealing, though regrettably still unpublished.26 This is a series of letters from White to Tucker from January 15, 1835 to April 4, 1836. In one dated March 3, 1836, White pleaded with Tucker for contributions to the Messenger. A few weeks later, on March 24, White notified Tucker that he hoped to send him copies of the March issue on “the next Steam Boat.” And at the end of the letter, he again begged Tucker for contributions to the Messenger. Apparently all he received was the excuse of illness, since on March 31, White wrote of his grief on hearing how “unwell” Tucker was. We may only speculate as to whether Tucker was actually sick or whether he was making excuses to White. We do know from Turrentine’s study that Tucker appeared somewhat contemptuous of White (III, 983), and he may very well have been simply weary of the man, thus pleading illness. We also know that as of this time there is not a shred of evidence in the correspondence that Tucker had any intention of meeting White’s request. With this in mind, White’s next known letter to Tucker, that of April 4, is most revealing. For this is the cover letter for the proof that White was sending Tucker for the April issue of the Messenger. But proofs of what, if Tucker was not writing anything? The proofs were for “three [White’s italics] pieces of poetry [that] have been in type some time.” Presumably, these include “To a Coquette” mentioned in Poe’s letter to Tucker of May 2. In White’s letter, he apologizes to Tucker for not having printed these previously submitted poems, which may explain why he dispatched Poe to send an apology when they failed to appear in the April issue of the Messenger. It is somewhat awkward to plead for contributions on the one hand and not publish what has been contributed on the other. No doubt White intended to have these poems finally published in the April issue. He asked Tucker to proofread them carefully, to make any necessary corrections. Now one must bear in mind that the April issue was already late. As Benjamin B. Minor has informed us, the goal for publication was always on the 20th of the month prior to the date of the issue.27 That is, the April issue of the Messenger should have appeared on March 20. While we know that this policy was unworkable, and that the April issue was late, as indicated in the July supplement, we also know that on April 4, when White sent the proofs for the April issue, there was not one word on a book review. Not before April 4, nor after it.

One other point may be raised in the case against Tucker’s authorship before further examining the case for Poe. The most cursory examination of Tucker’s prose, as for example his article on slavery in the January 1835 issue of the Messenger, or his numerous reviews for it before and after Poe’s editorship, reveals a heavy reliance on colons and semicolons. On the other hand, Poe rarely uses either. There is not a single colon in the review, and only a few semicolons. Nor will it do to argue that this may be accounted for by Poe’s editorial hand, since there is the obvious empirical evidence in [column 2:] the April issue of the Messenger, as in other issues, that forms of punctuation vary radically from article to article. Poe simply did not regularize punctuation, as one may discover from a random examination of any issue of the Messenger he edited. If Tucker wrote that review, he used a mode of punctuation that he never used before nor after. On the other hand, Poe actually wrote a piece for Graham’s Magazine in which he advocated, among other things, a de-emphasis of the semicolon (28).

The case for Poe’s authorship of the Paulding-Drayton review rests on several internal and external points of evidence. As a matter of general agreement, all Poe scholars accept the fact that Poe had a hand in the essay, if only through his “few immaterial alterations.” From the outset of the essay, however, readers can detect Poe’s familiar technique of beginning an essay or story with commentary on psychological behavior, his reliance on the science or pseudo-science of his day. His fascination for astronomy manifests itself almost immediately in the essay as he parallels a statement made less than a year earlier in “Hans Pfaall” (SLM, June 1835). The two allusions are as follows:

However eccentric the orbit, the comet’s place in the heavens enables the enlightened astronomer [note the pun] to anticipate its future course, to tell when it will pass its perihelion. . . . (“Slavery,” SLM, 11, 337)

On comparing the internals between the successive arrivals of Eneke’s comet at its perihelion, after giving credit, in the most exact manner, for all the disturbances or perturbations due to the attractions of the planets. . . . (“Hans Pfaall,” SLM, 1, 571)

Another aspect of the essay that suggests Poe’s hand concerns the extensive quotation of Lamartine to emphasize a pro-slavery position. As all of Poe’s literate contemporaries knew, Lamartine was one of Europe’s best known abolitionists. The writer of the review makes no allusion to this. Rather, he deliberately ignores the point. There is something perverse about using Lamartine this way, something tricky, the kind of play we associate with the mischievousness of Poe rather than the sobriety of Tucker.

Perhaps more remarkable is a parallel of logic occurring between the Paulding-Drayton essay and “The Murders in the Rue Morgue,” published several years rarer. In the essay on the slavery question, the author affirms what he sees as the obvious differences between Negroes and whites. In this context, he raises a rhetorical question: “But the means — how was this effected?” (p. 338). Since he has no answer, other than that God willed it, he argues against pursuing the “means.” Such a quest is fruitless, and understanding emerges only from careful scrutiny of the apparent rather than the metaphysical. This parallels the logic that Dupin uses when confronted by the narrator’s search for the “means” (Harrison, IV, 165), as Poe uses the identical word to evoke the same logical construction that had appeared in the Paulding-Drayton review. Dupin’s point is that “‘there is such a thing as being too profound’” (IV, 165). Both Dupin and the author of the review urge the reader to observe the obvious rather than to begin by seeking the “means.” Although the reader who falls into the trap of following Dupin’s advice will miss the story’s meaning, the parallel methods of approaching the “means” remain as compelling links between the review and the story. [page 35:]

Equally compelling is Poe’s insistence on being publicly identified as the writer of the column, “Critical Notices,” in which the Paulding-Drayton review appeared. When Poe’s association with the Messenger was heralded in the December 1835 issue (SLM, II, 1), the public had no reason to assume that he was anything other than a particularly prominent contributor. It would be some time before readers came to identify him with the editorship of the Messenger. As late as January 1836, when a supplement to the Messenger appeared, the reviews from other publications offered little to identify Poe with the section “Critical Notices” (a title also used by other journals to indicate the book review column), where the Messenger’s reviews appeared. Only the Lynchburg Virginian hinted at such an identification (SLM, II, 139). But the next time a supplement appeared, the situation had changed dramatically. This was the April issue, the one carrying the Paulding-Drayton review. The supplement, as did the previous one in January, carried comments on the Messenger. As editor, Poe printed the generally flattering reports (one can only guess as to whether he excluded unflattering ones) . One of the comments he printed was wisely noted by Hull, who saw the crucial implication of it and essentially repeated the argument he had made in his introduction. This was a review of the March issue reprinted from the Baltimore Patriot: “Then follow ‘Critical Notices.’ These are written by Poe” (SLM, II, 342) . Now Poe had a streak of vanity in him that is not to be ignored. He took special pride in the “Critical Notices,” which more than anything else vindicated his good opinion of himself and helped give the Messenger and Poe a national reputation. Consequently, Hull’s assessment of the Patriot’s comment cannot be overemphasized, even if Hull himself does not always follow the implication of it: “One can be certain that, on printing this notice, Poe would have denied any review not his” (p. 118). We must, of course, leave open the possibility that Poe wanted to steal credit for someone else’s review, but this strikes me as most implausible. Moreover, it must be emphasized that the thrust of the statement in the Patriot is to identify the column, “Critical Notices,” with Poe. Would it not be odd for Poe to put this in the April issue and then have a review under “Critical Notices” by someone else? (29)

The next supplement to the Messenger appeared in July. By this time (indeed, ever since the April issue), Poe’s editorship, his identification with “Critical Notices,” was public knowledge. “The critical notices” for May, the Norfolk Herald is quoted as saying, “are very good for the most part; but then we could hardly expect Mr. Poe to be sour ere the honey moon be past” (SLM, II, 524). Or as the Charlottesville Advocate remarked in regard to the same issue, “the ‘Critical Notices’ of the Editor have afforded us by no means the least pleasure” (SLM, II, 520). Now we know that some people did not know who the “Editor” was. But Poe took every opportunity that he could to correct any misconception on this point. Thus, in his famous letter to the Richmond Compiler later in the summer of 1836, Poe emphatically insisted that “the Messenger has but one [Poe’s italics] editor.”30 Also significant in relation to the Paulding-Drayton review is Poe’s letter of April 12 to Lydia [column 2:]

Sigourney, in which he informs her that “the Editorial duties have been undertaken by myself” (31). Thus, publicly in the supplements and privately in his correspondence, Poe is on record as being editor of the Messenger, and the editor of the Messenger is publicly acknowledged as the writer of “Critical Notices.”

With this in mind, one may examine a sentence in the Paulding-Drayton review so inextricably tying it to Poe that one may only wonder how it could have been ignored by those believing the essay to be Tucker’s. This is the statement appearing near the end of the review (SLM, II, 399): “Let these [duties] be performed, and we believe (with our esteemed correspondent Professor Dew) that society in the South will derive much more of good than of evil from this much abused and partially-considered institution [slavery].” Now in examining the words “our correspondent,” we have to keep in mind that Tucker and Dew, colleagues at William and Mary, presumably did not write notes to each other across the halls. If Tucker wrote the phrase “our correspondent,” Poe, by letting it stand, appropriated the essay, and those who believe in such a theory will find their best evidence here. If Poe inserted the phrase as one of his “immaterial alterations” he likewise “appropriated” it. The phrase “our correspondent” was a widely used one in the Messenger (as well as elsewhere), and it appeared in the April issue as a phrase obviously belonging to the editor, who was known to be Poe, and in the column “Critical Notices,” which was assumed to be written by him. On page 300 of the April issue, Poe has an editorial footnote disassociating himself from a point in the text.32 He concludes it by saying, “Our correspondent is evidently no phrenologist.” On page 341 of the same issue, shortly after the Paulding-Drayton review, and as an introduction to the supplement for April, Poe writes, “At the solicitation of our correspondents, we again publish some few of the Notices of the Messenger, which have lately appeared in the papers of the day.” We can take with skepticism a vain editor’s insistence that the flattering remarks to follow were insisted upon by “our correspondents,” but the two words comprising that common editorial phrase are not likely to have come from one of the “correspondents” himself. The phrase is the editor’s, and the editor was Poe. He was the only editor, a point he insisted upon asserting publicly. Which can only bring us back to the “appropriation” theory. That is, if someone else wrote it, Poe stole it. This, of course, is not the point I want to argue, although its force must be noted. My own view is that Poe was simply giving public acknowledgment of his debt, and the debt of all other pro-slavery thinkers of the time, to the brilliant and preeminent leadership of Thomas R. Dew in defense of slavery. Needless to say, Dew was a contributor, or “correspondent” to the Messenger. And Poe’s public respect to Dew is consistent with the private “best respects” he paid him in his letter of May 2, 1836 to Beverley Tucker, who although he gave much editorial assistance to White before and after Poe’s editorship, had very little to do with the Messenger during Poe’s reign, even as a contributor. And however much White may have annoyed Poe, there was little doubt in the public’s mind as to who edited the Messenger and who wrote the reviews. [page 36:]

Indeed, the association between “editor” and “critical notices” was so widely assumed that the Baltimore Gazette accurately, of course, attributed “Maelzel’s Chess Player,” which appeared in the April issue, to Poe, since “the article is published under the editorial head” (SLM, II, 518). Similar associations identifying the “editor” of the April issue with “Critical Notices” also appear in the July supplement, most interestingly too, from Baltimore papers, making one wonder whether Poe made a special effort to pass the word to his friends in that city. The Baltimore American notes that “In the Southern Literary Messenger for April, which reached us a few days since, the Editor opens the department of ‘critical notices’ with some spirited and just remarks” (SLM, II, 519). Likewise, in regard to the April issue, the Baltimore Athenaeum writes: “The critical notices, together with the brief introductory essay ‘On the present state of American criticism,’ are in the Editor’s best vein” (SLM, II, 519).

When it came to Poe’s attention at a later date that there were some who did not quite get the point, he took pains to educate them. “Some misapprehensions having arrisen [sic], it may be as well to state that all after this word ‘Editorial,’ is strictly what it professes to be” (Sept., 1836, SLM, II, 658). “Editorial” did not only mean corrected by an editor; it frequency also meant, as Noah Webster defined it in his 1828 dictionary, “written by an editor.” The “Critical Notices” were under the column entitled “Editorial,” and in the April issue, in the famous Drake-Halleck review, Poe boasted that “From all quarters we have received abundant private as well as public testimonials in favor of our Critical Notices” (SLM, II, 327). The editorial “we” and “our” left no doubt that the references were to Poe, especially in view of the fact that the defense of his “Critical Notices” here was in response to personal attacks on him.

A telling example of how meticulous Poe was (whether truthfully or otherwise) in his policy of identifying himself with “Critical Notices,” indeed with everything “Editorial,” occurs in the May issue, where the review, “Mellen’s Poems” appears. This, contrary to policy, was not written by the editor, and Poe made sure that everyone knew it by footnoting the fact. “We have received this notice of Mellen’s Poems from a personal friend [J. F. Otis according to Hull], in whose judgment we have implicit reliance — of course we cannot deviate from our rules by adopting the criticism as Editorial” (SLM, II, 403). No such disclaimer of authorship appears with the Paulding-Drayton review. There is simply the inclusion of it in his column, “Critical Notices.”

Does all this mean that every review under “Critical Notices,” from Poe’s first formal association with the Messenger in 1835 to his departure from it in 1837, can now be attributed to him? Obviously not. The supplement identifying him as the writer of “Critical Notices” does not appear until April 1836. While some identification goes as far back as January 1836, the earliest specific claim for Poe as writer of the column “Critical Notices” is for the March 1836 issue.33 From that time on, however, it seems safe to assume that, except for the Mellen review, all reviews in “Critical Notices” are Poe’s. At least they are all his until January 1837, when readers of the Messenger were specifically advised that he was no longer to be the writer of “Critical Notices.” All Poe [column 2:] scholars are familiar with that announcement: “Mr. Poe’s attention being called in another direction, he will decline, with the present number, the Editorial duties of the Messenger. His Critical Notices for this month end with Professor Anthon’s Cicero — what follows is from another hand” (SLM, III, 72) . The point is further confirmed on page 96 of the same issue. Is there any doubt that one reason for the disclaimers was Poe’s public identification with “Critical Notices”? What I am suggesting, of course, is that the principle of identifying Poe with “Critical Notices” be extended back to March 1836 and that pending specific evidence to the contrary, as in the case of the Mellen review, all items under “Critical Notices” between March 1836 and the Anthon review in January 1837 be identified as Poe’s.

Such an ascription is fairly close to the canon for that particular period that Hull and Harrison established, and it is identical with the one claimed by Benjamin B. Minor, who, for all his faults, needs to be taken more seriously than he has been, although, strangely enough. he is often quoted as gospel in regard to writers other than Poe. The reason he is believed accurate about others but inaccurate about Poe has never been made clear. Here is an individual who was a contemporary of Poe, who edited the same journal, and who showed no hesitation in expressing doubt when his memory or knowledge was inadequate. For example, on the review of Justice Marshall in the February 1836 issue, Minor makes an incorrect guess as to authorship, picking, of all people, Beverley Tucker. But the noteworthy point is that Minor knows he is guessing; he qualifies his atrribution.34 On the Paulding-Drayton review, however, he is specific and emphatic. He identifies the review as Poe’s. I am not suggesting that Minor is an infallible guide, although he is often an impressive one, as in his accurate identification of Poe as author of all reviews for January 1836, long before correspondence verifying this was made public (35). And it seems striking to me, that without knowing his method (assuming he had one other than memory or access to files) I find my ascriptions from March 1836 to January 1837 concurring with his (33).

While the argument for Poe’s authorship of the Paulding-Drayton review can, I believe, stand independently of my assumptions about the rest of the canon for the period, it is nevertheless true that a basic premise of my whole argument consists of the point Hull stressed, that Poe would not want to mislead his readers in matters pertaining to his-own authorship of the reviews in “Critical Notices” (37). This is a compelling point to me, and its validity is re-enforced in my mind by the belief that no case has ever been made for rejecting Poe’s authorship of any review in the particular period I discuss, except in those cases already explained above. Should such evidence appear, I would be the first to acknowledge that the principles I have used for these attributions are not appropriate. Until such a case is made, however, it seems to me that the basic attributions I have suggested, coinciding as they do for this period with those of Benjamin Minor, can reasonably be said to exist as part of the Poe canon. Or, to put the matter more conservatively, we have no definitive reason to depart from Minor’s attributions on “Critical Notices” for the period between March 1836 and the end of Poe’s editorship.



(1) The writer of the anonymous book, The South Vindicated from the Treason and Fanaticism of the Northern Abolitionists (Philadelphia: H. Manly, 1836), has for some time now been known to be William Drayton. Interestingly, although Poe dedicated his Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque (1839-40) to this same William Drayton, the connection has never been made. Scholars have noted separately that Poe dedicated a book to one William Drayton and that The South Vindicated was by a person with that name, but no one has recognized that this individual is one and the same. The attribution of The South Vindicated may be found in William Sumner Jenkins, Pro-Slavery Thought in the Old South (Chapel Hill: Univ. of North Carolina Press, 1935), p. 319. It is also cited in Percy Winfield Turrentine’s dissertation at Harvard University, “The Life and Works of Nathaniel Beverley Tucker,” III, 1072. While Turrentine makes the attribution of The South Vindicated, he does not, nor does anyone to my knowledge, make the connection with the recipient of Poe’s dedication. For a biographical sketch of Drayton, see John Belton O’Neall, Biographical Sketches of the Bench and Bar of South Carolina (Charleston, South Carolina: S. G. Courtenay & Co., 1859), I, 305-323; the Paulding book being reviewed is Slavery in the United States (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1836).

(2)While various scholars, including Thomas Mabbott, have affirmed that Tucker wrote the essay, no one has published an argument in support of the theory. The idea has been spread through word of mouth and through private correspondence. Professor Mabbott’s views are public knowledge, although his arguments are not. Presumably, they depend on unpublished doctoral dissertations, which I will discuss.

(3) Along with others, correctly or otherwise, I have attributed the review to Poe. See Race and the American Romantics, ed. Vincent Freimarck and Bernard Rosenthal (New York: Schocken Books, 1971). In pursuing the question of whether to retain or reject that attribution, I have been most fortunate in receiving invaluable advice from Professor Eric W. Carlson. I am grateful to him, although I must emphasize that he does not necessarily agree with my conclusions.

(4) “Unpublished Letters of Edgar Allan Poe,” The Century Magazine, 107 (March 1924), 652-656.

(5) Poe and the Southern Literary Messenger (Richmond, Va.: Press of the Dietz Printing Co., 1934), pp. 73, 77.

(6) Edgar Allan Poe: A Critical Biography (New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts, 1941), p. 249. While Quinn does not comment on what the letter might imply, this citation of Wilson’s publication of the letter shows that he saw it. See Quinn, p. 237.

(7) For Harrison’s specific argument see The Complete Works of Edgar Allan Poe, ed. James A. Harrison (New York: Thomas Y. Crowell and Co., 1902), VIII, xii-xvi. See my note 37 for the other discrepancy between Hull and Harrison for this period. The letter on which Harrison based his attribution remains enigmatic.

(8) Jackson, Poe and the Southern Literary Messenger, p. 107.

(9) The South-West. By a Yankee (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1835), II, 182.

(10)Slavery in the United States (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1836), p. 8.

(11) American Literature, 6 (March 1934), 28-43.

(12) Bird’s views range from idyllic scenes of slaves adoring their masters to monstrous uprisings featuring rape and murder, the transformation wrought exclusively by anti-slavery activism intruding into the bliss of slave society. See particularly Vol. II of Bird’s novel, pp. 163, 167, 177 95., 189, 192, 193, and 202-207.

(13) For a history of the Carey review, see The Letters of Edgar Allan Poe, ed. John Ward Ostrom (New York: Gordian Press, 1966) 1, 127-128 and 137-139.

(14) Letters, I, 138.

(15) Compare also Poe’s admiration for Judge Abel Parker Upshur, a leading pro-slavery advocate, Letters, I, 184-185.

(16) Letters, I, 90. I have examined a photostat of the letter, although Professor Ostrom’s reliability is such as to render this [column 2:] normal precaution almost unnecessary. Needless to say, his transcription is accurate. For a copy of the original, I am indebted to Mr. Edward M. Riley of Colonial Williamsburg.

(17) I cannot identify those who have suggested these alternatives (the Dew connection is mine), since they have read my manuscript anonymously. Nor can I do justice here to the skill with which these readers advanced the theories as possibilities. I can use this opportunity, however, to express my appreciation for their numerous helpful comments, although I cannot subscribe to the theories they present.

(18) This letter is in the Griswold collection of the Boston Public Library, and for permission to examine it I am indebted to Mr. James Lawton, Curator of Manuscripts.

(19) David K. Jackson, “Some Unpublished Letters of T. W. White to Lucian Minor.” Tyler’s Quarterly Historical and Genealogical Magazine 17 (April 1936), 233, 236-237.

(20) For permission to examine and quote from this and other letters in the Coleman Collection located in the Swem Library of the College of William and Mary, I am grateful to Miss Margaret C. Cook, Curator of Manuscripts.

(21) Turrentine, III, 1017. Turrentine does not specifically identify the essay as the one on Blackstone, but it is almost certainly identifiable as such, since it was on slavery, it appeared in the Messenger, and it was sent in 1835. No other essay by Tucker fits that description.

(22) Letters, I, 62. For further details see Jackson in Tyler’s, p. 226.

(23) Jackson, Poe and the Southern Literary Messenger, p. 115.

(24) One interesting argument that Hull makes, though perhaps more speculative than his assertion would indicate, is his claim that Poe specifically identified himself as a reviewer of Paulding when he responded to criticism from the Newhern Spectator. The reader wishing to evaluate the claim is referred to Hull, p. 143 and SLM, II, 517. For other arguments by Hull showing Poe as the reviewer of Paulding’s Life of Washington in the May issue of the Messenger, see p. 128 ff.

(25) The only exception is David K. Jackson, The Contributors and Contributions to the Southern Literary Messenger (Charlottesville, Va.: The Historical Publishing Co., 1936), p. 15. Jackson does not deny that Poe reviewed it. Rather, in responding to most of the reviews in the Messenger that could be Poe’s, he often feels there is insufficient evidence to make definite attributions in specific cases. He nevertheless does believe that most of the reviews in the Messenger for this period are Poe’s.

(26) I refer to letters in the Coleman Collection, cited in note 20.

(27) The Southern Literary Messenger (New York and Washington: The Neale Publishing Company, 1905), p. 62.

(28) Harrison, XVI, 130-132

(29) Compare also Hull’s observation: “In a notice, reprinted from the Richmond Compiler, in the Supplement of the April 1836 Messenger, there is a sentence which may be accepted as true, since Poe let it by without comment: ‘the Review of “Rienzi,” too, the last novel of Bulwer, is written in Mr. Poe’s best style’ “ (Hull, 114; SLM, 11, 345).

(30) Letters, I, 100.

(31) Letters, I, 89. However, Poe did mislead Mrs. Sigourney by implying authorship of items he did not write.

(32) It may be that the author of the piece from which Poe disassociates himself is none other than Poe. A persuasive argument for Poe’s authorship of this essay, “Genius,” is made by Margaret Alterton, Origins of Poe’s Critical Theory, in University of Iowa Studies: Humanistic Series, Vol. II, No. 3 (Iowa City, 1925), 97.

(33) The Natchez Christian Herald does identify the “Critical Notices” in the January issue with the editor, although it does not identify the editor as Poe. In any event, Poe would have been willing to accept the association, since he wrote all the reviews in the January issue. All commentators on the Poe canon agree that the January reviews are his. The Richmond Compiler implies that Poe is the writer of “Critical Notices,” but cites specific reviews, ones indeed by Poe, rather than attributing the whole column to him (SLM, II, 345-347). [page 38:]

(34) The Southern Literary Messenger, p. 39.

(35) For Thomas White’s letter establishing Poe’s authorship of three reviews, see Jackson, Poe and the Southern Literary Messenger, p. 107. Hull, along with everyone else, has found Minor useful, although at one point he has Minor making an erroneous attribution in regard to “Eulogies on Marshall” in the December 1835 issue of the Messenger (Hull, p. 98). A careful examination of what Minor said in his book, however, reveals no such attribution by him (pp. 35-38). The problem arises, I am sure, as a result of Minor’s rather fuzzy prose.

(36) They do, however, vary somewhat from Hull and Harrison (as well as from Campbell and Robertson) . A conveniently presented list of ascribers and their attributions is found in Hull, pp. 3-5.

(37) Except for the Paulding-Drayton review, Hull violates this principle only in “Maury’s Navigation” (June 1836; Hull, pp. 134-136). In this case Hull’s argument centers on the way the type is set at the head of the review. I do not think this offers any evidence at all, except to suggest editorial sloppiness. Hull does add internal evidence relating to style, but I believe it is insubstantial.


Associated Article(s) and Related Material:

  • A strong challenge to Dr. Rosenthal’s argument appeared in the form of an article by J. V. Ridgely in the newsletter of the Poe Studies Association, Fall 1992.


[S:0 - PS, 1974]