Text: Edgar Allan Poe (ed. Killis Campbell), “The Text of Poe's Poems,” The Poems of Edgar Allan Poe, Ginn and Company, 1917, pp. xxxi-xxxv


[page xxxi, continued:]


The problem of text is one of the most perplexing with which the editor of Poe is confronted. The poet was constantly republishing his verses, and as constantly revising and altering them.(5) In some instances it is difficult to determine which of two texts is the later one; and even where this is not the case, we cannot always be sure which of two texts Poe would ultimately have preferred. The problem is further complicated by numerous typographical errors — or apparent typographical errors — and by something of editorial carelessness on the part of Griswold, and by uncertainty as to the date of the manuscript corrections made in the so-called Lorimer Graham copy of 1845.(6) It would [page xxxii:] seem reasonable, however, to follow the text exhibiting the poet’s latest revisal; and this policy has, accordingly, been adhered to, so far as possible, in the present edition. Wherever any departure has been made from this policy — as happens in the case of three poems of which the latest texts are covered by copyright,(1) and in the case of two poems of which the final text is obviously corrupt(2) — this fact has been pointed out in the Notes. Where there is room for doubt as to which of two texts is the final one, this fact also has been noted.

The main source of the text is the edition of 1845, in which Poe brought together, four years before his death, thirty of his poems. This, supplemented by the Lorimer Graham copy of the same edition and the text of Griswold (1850), furnishes the ultimate text of more than half of the poems. Other important sources are the edition of 1827, in which appeared four poems that were never republished by the poet; the Broadway Journal, in which he published in 1845 twenty-four of his poems; the Flag of Our Union, in which he published in the last year of his life five poems; and the Richmond Examiner, in which were published what are apparently the latest texts of The Raven and Dream-Land, and in which he had arranged to publish several other poems, the proofs for which have been preserved.(3)

The chief textual imperfections appear in the volume of 1827. Here, besides numerous errors in punctuation, there are sundry verbal omissions and substitutions and a score or more of [page xxxiii:] misprints, — one of them, in Dreams, line 16, quite robbing the context of its meaning. There are also a number of misprints in 1829, though mainly in the notes, and a few, likewise, in 1831. The text of 1845 is comparatively free from error. But Griswold’s text is marred by several apparently unauthorized omissions of minor importance and by a number of typographical errors, among the latter the unfortunate readings “kinsman” for “kinsmen” in Annabel Lee, line 17, and “mortals” for “mortal” in The Raven, line 26. And some of the newspaper texts, as the Flag text of For Annie and the Providence Journal text of Ulalume, are radically faulty in this respect, the poet having had no opportunity, doubtless, to consult a proof.

Errors in punctuation, which abound in 1827, are also fairly numerous in some of the later texts. Poe is traditionally supposed to have been extremely careful about his pointing; but in reality, though he had certain mannerisms (as the use, in his early years, of the dash as a point of all work,(1) and, in later years, of the comma for rhetorical emphasis)(2), he was both inconsistent and at times exceedingly reckless with his pointing. To be convinced of this, one has only to compare the various texts of The Raven, or to place side by side the texts of The Haunted Palace as printed in the 1845 edition of the Tales and in the volume of poems published in the same year (1845).(3) In the present edition obvious errors in punctuation have been corrected. The punctuation has also been changed where it was plainly at variance with universally accepted usage at the present time or, in particular, where it obscured the poet’s meaning. The spelling, too, has been corrected and normalized; and an attempt has been made to give consistency to the capitalization.(4) [page xxxiv:]

In the arrangement of his poems, Poe observed no fixed order. In 1827 he placed the longest poem (Tamerlane) at the beginning of the volume; and he adopted the same policy in 1829, giving the initial place in that volume to Al Aaraaf. But in 1831 the long poems are thrown to the end of the volume. In 1845 The Raven is given first place, and is followed by some poems of the earlier, and some of the middle, period, — arranged, however, in no easily discoverable sequence, — while eleven of the earlier pieces are printed in a separate section at the end under the caption “Poems Written in Youth.” Griswold, in his edition, also assigns first place to The Raven, but the rest of the poems he arranges arbitrarily and seemingly without any system. In the present edition an attempt has been made to follow the chronological order.(1) This arrangement has the obvious advantage of indicating, in a measure, the development of the poet’s art and the change that he underwent in his attitude to the world about him; though it has the obvious disadvantage of bringing to the fore the poet’s feebler work. That the correct chronology has not been hit upon in some instances may be taken for granted. It is not unlikely, for example, that Spirits of the Dead was written before Tamerlane, and that Romance was written before Al Aaraaf; in the case of the earlier poems it is impossible to settle such questions absolutely, and the order adopted by Poe in the first publication of these poems has accordingly been adhered to. The relative chronology of the later poems, on the other hand, — especially of those belonging to the decade ending with 1845, — may be determined in most instances without much difficulty.(2) After each of the poems (save the uncollected and doubtful items) the date of first publication has been given. [page xxxv:]

The variant readings, which constitute in the case of some of the poems a body of text as large as the poems themselves and which are plainly of much importance in the study of Poe, have been given in this edition in footnotes.(1) In the case of six of the poems, which underwent very radical revision, one or more of the earlier texts have been reproduced in the footnotes in their entirety. All variants — that is, all readings that do not appear in the final text — are set in italics (unless the original reading was in italics, in which case a heavy-faced type has been used). The nature and the rationale of the textual changes are discussed in the next section.



[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page xxxi:]

5 See, for particulars, the next section of this Introduction, on Poe’s Passion for Revising his Text.

6 This important volume was among the materials to which Griswold had access as literary executor of Poe (Woodberry, II, p. 451); it subsequently passed into the hands of J. Lorimer Graham, a gentleman of New York; and it is now the property of the Century Club of New York City. It contains penciled corrections in Poe’s handwriting of ten of the poems, [page xxxii:] made presumably with a view to adoption in a new edition. These corrections were apparently noted down in 1849 (Mr. Whitty has adduced evidence tending to show that the revisions made in Lenore came after April, 1849 (Poems, p. 214)); most of them probably belong to the summer of 1849, and it is at least conceivable that some of them were made in the autumn of 1849 shortly before Poe left Richmond on his fateful journey to Baltimore.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page xxxii:]

1 The Haunted Palace, The Bells, and For Annie. Happily the verbal variations between the copyrighted text and the next latest revision affect but a single word in the case of each of these.

2 See the notes on A Dream within a Dream and Dream-Land.

3 See Whitty, pp. viii f.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page xxxiii:]

1 See the note on Tamerlane, 1. 2.

2 Cf. The Haunted Palace, 1. 41, and For Annie, 11. 14, 86, 90.

3 Other evidence in plenty is adduced in the Notes.

4 But in the footnote variants the pointing, spelling, and capitalization of the original texts have been retained. This results in some exceedingly slipshod pointing and sundry grotesque spellings; but it has the advantage of making graphic some of the eccentricities of the poet (or of his printers) in these matters.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page xxxiv:]

1 Except that the poems not collected by Poe or by his literary executor have been placed by themselves at the end of the text.

2 The chronology of the poems belonging to Poe’s final year has been much clarified by the discovery a few years ago of a file of the Flag of Our Union (see the New York Nation for December 31, 1909). Before this discovery, Eldorado had usually been assumed to be Poe’s last poem.







[S:0 - KCP, 1917] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Works - The Text of Poe's Poems (ed. K. Campbell, 1917)