Text: Robert A. Stewart (ed. J. A. Harrison), “Notes to The Oval Portrait,” The Complete Works of Edgar Allan PoeVol. IV: Tales - part 03 (1902), 4:316-319


[page 316, continued:]



The text follows the Broadway Journal.

Griswold shows several variations in punctuation and spelling.

The tale appeared in the Broadway Journal with a new tide, shortened, and harmonized in language.

Variations of Graham's from text.

Title in Gra. “Life in Death.”

Motto. Egli è vivo e parlerebbe se non osservasse la regola del silenzio. [Inscription beneath an Italian picture of St. Bruno.] [Corrected.]

The tale begins in Gra. as follows: —

My fever had been excessive and of long duration. All the remedies attainable in this wild Appennine region had been exhausted to no purpose. My valet and sole attendant in the lonely chateau, was too nervous and too grossly unskilful to venture upon letting blood — of which indeed I had already lost too much in the affray with the banditti. Neither could I safely permit him to leave me in search of assistance. At length I bethought me of a little pacquet of opium which lay with my tobacco in the hookah-case; for at Constantinople I had acquired the habit of smoking the weed with the drug. Pedro handed me the case. I sought and found the narcotic. But when about to cut off a portion I felt the necessity of hesitation. In smoking it was a matter of [page 317:] little importance hotu much was employed. Usually, I had half filled the bowl of the hookah with opium and tobacco cut and mingled intimately, half and half. Sometimes when I had used the whole of this mixture I experienced no very peculiar effects; at other times I would not have smoked the pipe more than two-thirds out, when symptoms of mental derangement, which were even alarming, warned me to desist. But the effect proceeded with an easy gradation which deprived the indulgence of all danger. Here, however, the case was different. I had never swallowed opium before. Laudanum and morphine I had occasionally used, and about them should have had no reason to hesitate. But the solid drug I had never seen employed. Pedro knew no more respecting the proper quantity to be taken, than myself — and this, in the sad emergency, I was left altogether to conjecture. Still I felt no especial uneasiness; for I resolved to proceed by degrees. I would take a very small dose in the first instance. Should this prove impotent, I would repeat it; and so on, until I should find an abatement of the fever, or obtain that sleep which was so pressingly requisite, and with which my reeling senses had not been blessed for now more than a week. No doubt it was this very reeling of my senses — it was the dull delirium which already oppressed me — that prevented me from perceiving the incoherence of my reason — which blinded me to the folly of defining any thing as either large or small where I had no preconceived standard of comparison. I had not, at the moment, the faintest idea that what I conceived to be an exceedingly small dose of solid opium might, in fact, be an excessively large one. On the contrary I well remember that I judged confidently of the quantity to be taken by reference to the entire quantity of the lump in possession. The portion which, in conclusion, I swallowed, and swallowed without fear, was no doubt a very small proportion of the piece which I held in my hand.

Page 245 l. 1 my valet (Pedro) l. 2 entrance, (o. c.) [page 318:] l. 4 piles (fantastic piles) l. 8 After “abandoned” insert: — Day by day we expected the return of the family who tenanted it, when the misadventure which had befallen me would, no doubt, be received as sufficient apology for the intrusion. Meantime, that this intrusion might be taken in better part, we had established ourselves etc. l. 10 lay (lay high) l. 20 that (that having swallowed the opium, as before told,) page 246 l. 7 After “gazed” insert: — I felt meantime, the voluptuous narcotic stealing its way to my brain, I felt that in its magical influence lay much of the gorgeous richness and variety of the frames — much of the etherial hue that gleamed from the canvas — and much of the wild interest of the book which I perused. Yet this consciousness rather strengthened than impaired the delight of the illusion, while it weakened the illusion itself. l. 10-11 placed it so (so placed it) l. 18 ripening (ripened) l. 32 life, (life as if with the shock of a galvanic battery.) page 247 l. 6 richly ... Moresque, (richly, yet fantastically gilded and filagreed.) l. 7 thing (work) l. 8 After “itself” insert: — The loveliness of the face surpassed that of the fabulous Houri. l. 12 half slumber (half-slumber) l. 14 , and (o. c.) l. 15 frame, (o. c.) l. 18 an hour (some hours) l. 21 with (of) l. 23 After “me” insert: — I could no longer support th^ sad meaning smile of the half-parted lips, nor the too real lustre of the wild eye. l. 24 deep (a deep) l. 34 beauty, (o. c.) page 248 l. 8 obedient, (o. c.) l. 15 ghastlily (ghastily) l. 17 Yet (Ye) l. 24 marvel, (o. c.) l. 33 sat (sate) page 249 l. 7 he yet (yet he) l. 8 voice, (o. c.) l. 9 turned (turned himself) l. 9 to regard (round to) l. 10 ; — She (— who) l. 10 dead!” (.) After l. 10 insert: — The painter then added — ‘But is this indeed Death?’

Variations of Griswold from text.

Page 246 l. 6 devotedly (devoutedly) l. 30 canvas (canvass) page 247 l. 5 back-ground (o. h.) l. 22 which [page 319:] (which,) l. 34 Art; (:) page 248 l. 7 pourtray (portray) l. 10 canvas (canvass) l. 12 and (, and) l. 13 wild (wild,) l. 30 canvas (canvass).





[S:0 - JAH04, 1902] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Editions - The Complete Works of Edgar Allan Poe (J. A. Harrison) (Notes to The Oval Portrait)