Text: Burton R. Pollin, “A Miscellany for the Poe Devotee,” Poe Studies, December 1978, Vol. XI, No. 2, 11:46-47


[page 46:]

A Miscellany for the Poe Devotee

Peter Haining, editor. The Edgar Allan Poe Scrapbook. New York: Schocken Books, 197P7. 144 pp. $7.95.

A “scrapbook” normally includes almost any kind of material that can be pasted up and shown to a viewer; since the most valuable portion of Peter Haining’s book is the picture material, one can scarcely speak solely of the “reader.” The cardboard cover fittingly classifies it as “a collection of articles, essays, newspaper reports, commentaries, reviews, souvenirs, engravings, pictures, photographs, drawings, and even comic strips,” and the Library of Congress catalogue caption calls it a “miscellanea.” The varied elements may explain why there is no table of contents or index, which would have given greater usefulness and manageability to the forty-odd articles printed on the large, double-columned one hundred and thirty-nine pages of the text. But it is not intended for scholars or students, simply for the Poe devotee. For the browser, the Scrapbook amply confirms the riches in Poe’s works and in the world-wide responses concentrically rippling out from them. Despite the many shortcomings and incredible blunders in the material, we can all profit from the editor’s enthusiasm, wide-ranging culling of items, and employment of three specialists: “Robert Bloch” (Walter Daugherty), script writer of Psycho, contributes a succinct and keen “Foreword”; and Denis Gifford and Ron Haydock furnish good surveys of Poe in the films. Peter Haining’s major contribution is his choice of texts and pictures rather than the four pages of Introduction and Afterword or the brief paragraph-headnotes to about fifteen of the separate articles. These are poorly written, slavishly dependent upon his sources, and full of errors of fact and emphasis.

The errors or, perhaps, deceptiveness of the Scrapbook begin even with the copyright notice (p. 4), which says, “First published by Schocken Books 1978”; in reality, this is a reprint, identical save for the covers, of the work published by the New English Library, London, 1977. The same plates having been used, we can understand the prevalence of British spellings (“labour,” “favour,” and “judgement”) and punctuation (Mr, Lt, pp, and single quotation marks). The cost in inflationary England was about five dollars more than that of the present volume, with the British edition having a slightly sturdier cardboard cover or so it appeared to me in March 1977. This publication is [column 2:] apparently a response to a widespread “youth-culture” interest in illustrated books on Poe. However that may be, present-day publishers seem to find a ready market for similar books of Poeiana, such as Rose London’s Cinema of Mystery, published in 1975 by Bounty Books; Great Tales of Horror and Suspense (half of which are Poe’s), by Galahad Books, New York 1974; Roy Gasson’s The Illustrated Edgar Allan Poe, published by Jupiter Books, London, 1976; The Illustrated Edgar Allan Poe, anonymously published by Drake Publishers, New York, 1975, and Wilfried Satty’s The Illustrated Edgar Allan Poe, of Crown Publishers, New York, 1976. Each one seems to encourage more pictorialization of the poems and tales. The portfolio of eight large color plates in a 1976 edition of two thousand copies signed by the horror-magazine artist Berni Wrightson (Christopher Enterprises) surely does not represent the culmination of this current interest in visual renderings of Poe’s work.

Haining’s contribution to it has more of the quality of a “scissors and paste” production made strictly for sales than of a testimony to his convictions about Poe’s importance in cultural history. We can gauge the quality of his personal commentary from his Introduction: “What the voluminous literature on this man still seems to lack (at least to my mind) is an examination of him, not from only one viewpoint, but from the many opinions good, bad and indifferent, that have been taken towards him over the years” (p. 10). Although a “former journalist,” as Haining is described on the cover, his style is peculiarly wooden and unidiomatic: “Nathan Willis” [sic] was Poe’s “caring benefactor” (p. 125), and “the legend of . . . Poe, his temperament, drunkenness and general instability, true or false . . . received its most formidable impetus only two days after his death. The impetus took the form of an article . . .” (p. 13). He feels obligated to say something flattering about almost every picture that he has chosen to include, even though many are interesting solely as reflections of changing tastes in Poe illustrations. Mr. Haining’s aesthetic judgment is as faulty as is his sense of style: Dulac’s “beautiful interpretation” of “Bridal Ballad” and “graceful tribute” to “To One in Paradise,” Cropsey’s “graphic picture” for “City in the Sea” (wrongly ascribed to 1901, instead of 1858, the date of the Sampson Low edition of the poems), and the “dramatic illustration” for “The Raven” by James W. Carling.

But far worse than errors of style and taste are those of fact. Clearly Haining has not consulted a Poe expert despite his energy in searching out varied materials, probably with the aid of the many special collections listed on the acknowledgments page. Hence, this book is certainly not for the tyro, who may not be on guard against the many age-old and new misconceptions, save if he wishes merely to look at the pictures or read specific articles not elsewhere available, such as those by Jules Verne or Lafcadio Hearn. Even the captions of the pictures misinform. For example, Mr. Haining inscribes “extremely rare French etching of Poe produced towards the end of the nineteenth century” under the F. Chifflart portrait used as the frontispiece for the widely distributed 1884 Quantin edition of the Histoires extraordinaires (p. 62). For the universally familiar pictures that the Spaniard Daniel Vierge produced for “Murders in the Rue Morgue” and the German Wogel [page 47:] produced for “The Devil in the Belfry,” both in the Quantin edition (and also in the Harrison edition of Poe’s works), he prints “by an unknown French artist” (p. 66). In habitually alluding to illustrations “from Baudelaire’s translation of Poe,” he naively ignores the several hundred Prench illustrated editions from that same translation. Scarcely a headnote lacks egregious errors, several of which are contradicted by the printed material following the paragraph: “Poe attended West Point for two years” (p. 52); “Why . . . [Griswold] should have turned so hard and callously on . . . [Poe] remains a puzzle to this day” (p. 13); “Unusual portrait of Poe when he was a young man . . . February 1845” — that is, thirty-six years old (p. 401; ‘Whitman [was] . . . one of the few people to go on thinking highly of Poe in the years immediately following his death” (p. 17); the verses in Holden’s Dollar Magazine of January 1849 are “anonymous” — though Mary Phillips and John Reilly have indicated Augustine Duganne as the author; Russian translations of Poe appeared in the late 1830’s (p. 80) — but William Bandy disproved that notion in American Literature in January 1960; and Poe’s Mary was named “Deveraux” instead of “Devereaux” (p. 94). This last, of course, may be a mere misprint, one of many, such as the incomplete parentheses which garble the end of a paragraph (p. 6, column 2); or it may be a mere oversight, such as this instruction to the reader (p. 142): “(see page 00).” More serious is the inclusion of faulty and mischievous material that should have been scrapped by the hands of time and not published without caveats: “Rise Infernal Spirit” attributed to Poe as a “youthful work” (p. 39), which actually comes from Surr’s novel George Barnwell (see T. O. Mabbott’s notes in Works. I, 503); and the spoof of James Whitcomb Riley, “Leonainie,” as “found” by Alfred R. Wallace (pp. 90-93; see Works, I, 512, and David A. Randall’s 1964 book on the Lilly Collection, pp. 37-39). Surely Mr. Haining could have consulted the Harvard edition of Poe or relevant articles to evaluate this sort of rubbish, which occupies too many pages of his book. There is also the rubbish of commentaries produced before the discovery of many of the facts in the “case of Poe” — such articles as Ingram’s in the 1874 Temple Bar, very fine in its time (pp. 18-21); “Poe in England and Scotland” by Whitty, in the September 1916 London Bookman (pp. 27-33); and W. Roberts’ preposterous Times Literary Supplement article of November 1929 about Poe’s visiting Dumas in 1832 (pp. 54-56). Of course, not all period pieces of criticism are completely valueless or outdated. Some of those printed here do contribute to our understanding of Poe’s influence through the years, for example a translation of Jules Verne’s essay on Poe in La Musee des familles of 1864 (pp. 56-72) and Lafcadio Hearn’s discussion of Dore’s “Raven” illustrations from the New Orleans Times-Dispatch of December 2 1883 (pp. 85-89). It is useful, too, to have the Blackwood’s Magazine piece of October 1821, “The Buried Alive,” although Haining’s comment fails to indicate the full and widely pervasive use Poe made of it (pp. 81-84). Many Poe students will welcome a reprint of The Dickensian article of 1913 arguing against Poe’s claim to a prophetic soul in his 1 May 1841 Saturday Evening Post review of Barnaby Rudge, because it includes Poe’s original review, omitted even from Harrison’s edition (pp. 117-121). We can all enjoy [column 2:] reading or rereading here the commentaries by Dostoevsky, Shaw, Hugo Gernsback, and H. P. Lovecraft. But we wonder why Haining furnishes so many tasteless, stilted Victorian or Edwardian pictures and only one — a poor one too by the Danish master Arild Rosenkrants (p. 115) — not found in American, British, or French editions. Yet we are grateful for the fine stills from motion pictures and the copious supply of comic-book and science fiction material, taken from Scream, Nightmare, Creepy, Amazing Stories, Detective Comics, The Atom, and Psycho. In my own collecting of the illustrations for Poe’s works produced in all times and climes, I have missed several of this genre which Mr. Haining chanced upon — probably through his acknowledged sources. Despite my strong reservations, I have reason to be thankful to Mr. Haining’s Scrapbook, and, I dare say, every reader will find something to suit his interests and tastes in this potpourri.

Burton R. Pollin, Bronx Community College of the City University of New York, Emeritus


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