Text: Charles W. Kent, “Preface,” The Complete Works of Edgar Allan PoeVol. VII: Poems (1902), pp. vii-viii


[page vii, unnumbered:]


IN this edition of Poe’s Poems one of the most characteristic features is the entire rearrangement of the poems. It is usual to follow either the edition of 1845 or the Griswold Edition of 1850. These editions bring to the front the best poems and leave the earlier and inferior poems to the last. If the student of the poetry follow this order he is sensible of the anticlimax of such an arrangement. Moreover it furnishes no clue whatever to the developing powers of the artist and leaves the impression of waning rather than of waxing talent. To obviate this and to bring this volume into keeping with the others, which are so arranged as to show Poe’s growth, the poems are here printed as nearly as possible in the order in which they were produced. Sometimes the earliest form is given and the revised form, where the poem has been completely changed, is printed in its proper place. In most cases, however, the best form of the poem is used and the other readings are given in the notes. By this plan it is hoped — and certainly not without reason — that the reader of all the poems will get at a first reading a better sense of the unfolding of Poe’s powers and have the added pleasure of following the order of climax.

Following the poems are printed the notes. First are placed the historical notes, that the time and place of publication may be seen. Following these come the various readings. These have been compiled with laborious care by Dr. R. A. Stewart, whose industry [page viii:] and accuracy are apparent also in Vols. II.-VI. Then come the meagre notes furnished by Poe himself, and following these the comments of the editor. For these last this extenuation may be accepted: so many readers of Poe’s poetry surrender themselves at once to the music of the verse and forego all effort to find in it any meaning, that it did not seem out of place, even at the risk of appearing totally unilluminated and prosaic, to aid the uninitiated reader to find the poet’s point of view.

The poems attributed to Poe, with more or less reason, are printed with the external evidence as to their authenticity. A full statement of the Poe-Chivers controversy is included in this volume that the critical student of Poe’s poetry may have at hand the material for reaching his own conclusion as to the merits of the claim set up for Chivers. This volume, with the Biography, should furnish the reader with the material necessary for a complete study of Poe’s Poetry.

In the textual study of the Poems Professor Harrison and Dr. Stewart have worked up the sources on entirely independent lines, going back where it was possible either to the original or to the best-approved form of a given poem. Identity of results with chose of other editors will, of course, be here and there apparent, but the careful student will not fail to notice important deviations. It is confidently believed that never before has the Poe student been put in so complete or so detailed possession of all the available means of studying the poet from every possible point of view as is placed before him in the present edition.






[S:0 - JAHCW, 1902] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Editions - The Complete Works of Edgar Allan Poe (J. A. Harrison) (Preface)