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Establishing the Poe Canon:

    The difficulty of determining the absolute and complete canon of Poe's writings justifies a tiered approach. Rather than "a canon," one must allow for several levels of decreasing certainty.  For some items it would be possible to place the attribution under more than one of these categories. In all such cases, the higher level of attribution will be applied. It is also desirable to specifically and authoritatively eliminate items which have a false or equivocal attribution and are likely to mislead others in the future.

    Scroll down, or select letter: A1 . A2 . A3 . B1 . B2 . B3 . D1 . D2 . D3 . R1 . R2 . R3 . H1 . F1 . F2 . F3

Accepting Items into the Poe Canon

    The following scale is proposed for describing items which are admitted as part of the canon:

... Absolutely certain as Poe's:

A1 - Collected by Poe under his direct control or with his authorization, or specifically acknowledged by Poe in print or manuscript:

    This category includes Eureka (1848) and all items in the four published collections of Poe's poetry (1827, 1829, 1831 and 1845) and the three published collections of Poe's tales (1840, 1843 and 1845) authorized by Poe during his lifetime. Although it technically gives Poe only as the editor, The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym (1838) must be accepted here. The problematic Conchologist's First Book (1839, 1840) bears Poe's name as author, but can only be accepted as partially by Poe. Also included are signed articles (as a byline, in the table of contents or volume index) in magazines with direct Poe associations. These items must have appeared in print by the time of his death or within the few months immediately afterwards, until the end of 1849. (Of particular interest are magazines for which Poe was employed in an editorial capacity: The Southern Literary Messenger, Burton's Gentleman's Magazine, Alexander's Weekly Messenger, Graham's Magazine, The Saturday Museum (Philadelphia), The New York Mirror (Evening and Weekly), The Aristidean (for which Poe was a collaborator) and The Broadway Journal (for which Poe was briefly the sole owner.) Of slightly less interest, but also important, are magazines with strong Poe connections: The Baltimore Saturday Visiter, Godey's Lady's Book, The Home Journal, The American Review, The United States Magazine and Democratic Review, etc.)

    Three relics are of special significance in this regard. Poe marked several of his more important articles in The Broadway Journal in a complete set he gave to Sarah Helen Whitman (The Poe Log, pp. 755-756). Poe also gave Mrs. Whitman a volume of The New Mirror (New York) for 1843, with two translations marked in pencil as being his. (These volumes, passed down by Mrs. Whitman, were sold in the Thomas McKee auction in November 22-23, 1900 and are now in the Huntington Library in San Marino, California.) An issue of the Aristidean for September 1845 has names written in pen, apparently in Poe's hand, by the table of contents. (One item in this issue is attributed to Poe, and acknowledge by this unique copy.)

    Excepted are items "signed" by Poe as a hoax, or merely by initials ("EAP," "EP" or "P") or pseudonyms, as these must be authenticated by other means. (Poe is not the only 19th century author to have or use these initials. For example, several translations in the New York Mirror for 1843 are signed "E.P.," most likely for Emily Percival.) Among Poe's known pseudonyms are: ------ Quarles (used for the publication of "The Raven"), Barry Littleton (used in The Broadway Journal), and Walter G. Bowen (used for "A Reviewer Reviewed"). Unlike Charles Dickens ("Boz), or Samuel Clemens ("Mark Twain"), Poe did not regularly publish under one standand pen name. John H. Ingram mistakenly thought that the name "A. M. Ide" might have been another pseudonym used by Poe in The Broadway Journal, and reprinted three poems published over that name. (It has since been established conclusively that Abijah M. Ide was a real person, and letters between Poe and Ide are known. (Mabbott, Poems, p. 509, items 70-73 and Ostrom, "Revised Checklist," 1981, RCL items 453, 456, 458, etc.).)

A2 - Surviving manuscript material in Poe's hand or in early and authoritative Collected Works (Griswold (1850-1856) or Ingram (1874-1875) editions), or magazines without direct Poe associations during his lifetime, or at least by the end of 1850:

    Excepted from this category are letters reproduced in the infamous "Memoir" and "Preface to the Memoir" in Griswold's edition. Several of these are clearly forgeries by Griswold. For manuscript material, it is preferable that the item be authenticated by a documented provenance as one must always be concerned about forgeries. One must also keep in mind the fact that for the sake of reference Poe sometimes wrote out by hand a copy of something authored by someone else. An example is the untitled poem that begins "Flow Softly -- gently -- vital stream" found in the Ellis Allan papers and reproduced in Hervey Allen's Israfel (1926 and 1934) as "almost certainly Poe's." They are instead copied from Thomas Skinner Surr's George Barnwell, published in 1798 (Mabbott, Poems, p. 503).

A3 - Substantial repetition of exact material and phrasing in items with a reliable attribution, or direct cross-reference:

    Poe often reused his own material, especially in his "Marginalia" series. Of particular use is the 1850 edition of "Marginalia," presumably taken from material prepared by Poe himself, and supplemented with adaptations and selections from a number of unsigned reviews. Also, one accepted review may refer directly to another review, establishing a probability of the same author. Such cross-references are generally within the same magazine, but there are also examples where Poe refers to reviews he published elsewhere.

... Attributed and accepted as Poe's:

B1 - Attributed to Poe by reliable contemporaries (revealed in print or manuscript by the end of 1850).

B2 - Attributed to Poe by reliable contemporaries or scholars after 1850:

    This rating will also be used for items for which external evidence is weak or cannot be verified, but for which there is no strong case against the item. It must be noted that even such close friends as S. H. Whitman were capable of making errors in this regard. The reliability of the attribution decreases with the passing of years from Poe's death, as time has faded many memories.

B3 - Attributed to Poe by scholars generally on stylistic grounds, or internal evidence:

    Among the most authoritative scholars, who have specifically made a study of Poe bibliography are: Killis Campbell, Thomas Ollive Mabbott and William Doyle Hull. The bibliography by Heartman and Canny (1943) relied heavily on assistance from T. O. Mabbott, and is chiefly useful for that good judgment. The volumes edited under the supervision of Burton R. Pollin as a continuation of the edition begun by Mabbott also serve an important bibliographical role.

    The bibliography by John W. Robertson is not to be relied upon as Robertson demonstrated himself as a very careless scholar. James A. Harrison's bibliography, included in his landmark 1902 17-volume edition of Poe's works, contains many serious flaws and is also not to be relied upon without verification. Other scholars who are unreliable as sole authorities are Mary E. Phillips and James H. Whitty.

    To be quite fair, it should also be noted that new evidence sometimes appears which would have affected the attribution of scholars if it had been known earlier.

... Doubtful and Disputed Items:

D1 - Attributed to Poe by only a few reputable scholars, or without explanation.

D2 - Attributed to Poe by one or more scholars, but disputed by other scholars on stylistic grounds.

D3 - Attributed to Poe by one or more scholars, but generally disputed, on stylistic or internal evidence.

Rejecting Items from the Poe Canon

    The following scale is proposed for describing items which are not to be admitted in the canon:

... Rejected items:

R1 - Rejected, generally, but not necessarily assigned to anyone specific.

R2 - Rejected, likely by someone else, by name.

R3 - Rejected, assignable to some else

... Hoaxes and Forgeries:

    This category presumes an intentional effort to mislead someone into accepting an item as by Poe. A hoax is distinguished by its context as a satire, or by the expressed revelation of the perpetrator at some later time.

H1 - Hoaxes

    Since most hoaxes are intended to be identifiable as such, at some point, there seems no reason to give multiple levels for this category.

    For forgeries, one must be extremely suspicious of poems written in the fly-leaf of a book, especially if the book has no direct association to Poe. Forgers commonly use this trick to acquire paper of the correct period and to establish a Poe-era date that suggests authenticity. Poe did not, however, go around writing poems in 1848 Episcopalian Hymnals. Also, the use of pencil instead of pen should always raise suspicions as pencil is easily erased and therefore the forger's preferred tool. Ink tends to "feather" when written on old paper. (There are, of course, a few genuine examples of Poe's handwriting in pencil, mostly as corrections.)

F1 - Considered a forgery by most authorities.

F2 - Considered a forgery by a few specially qualified authorities, without compelling evidence to the contrary.

F3 - Considered a forgery by a few specially qualified authorities, but accepted as authentic by others.

Notes on Establishing the Poe Canon:

    For convenience, items will be divided into the following categories:



Literary Criticisms (Reviews and Notices)

Essays, Articles, Lectures and Sketches



Documents (and miscellaneous manuscript material not easily ascribed as one of the above categories)

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