Text: Edgar Allan Poe (ed. J. A. Harrison), “Introduction,” The Complete Works of Edgar Allan Poe, Vol. XVI: Marginalia and Eureka (1902), pp. vii-viii


[page vii:]


THE present volume contains an accurate reprint of the original edition of the “Eureka” (1848), together with a collection of Notes from Bishop John F. Hurst’s copy of the essay. This copy was once in the possession of Poe, and was annotated by him. The reader is thus made completely conversant with the author’s final revision of his famous scientific prose-poem, which many consider a remarkable anticipation of Herbert Spencer’s views on evolution. That Poe was at fault in much of his physical as well as metaphysical science, none, we suppose, will deny; but it must be remembered that “Eureka” was composed at a period of great mental and physical anguish, just after the death of his beloved Virginia, and its birth-marks are obvious. One fact seems certain: it has not yet been thoroughly fathomed, explained, or explored; its mysteries, couched in magnificent language, are far from being mere rhetorical rhodomontade.

The sources of Poe’s “Marginalia” are the files of the Democratic Review, of Graham’s and Godey’s Magazines, and of the Southern Literary Messenger; fifteen papers in all, running from November, 1844, to September, 1849. These papers are carefully gathered and reprinted here as Poe left them, with the dates and sources attached. The Poe specialist may have difficulty in recognizing the “Marginalia” here given as identical with the Griswold and other versions; but he is assured that the present text has been accurately [page viii:] and conscientiously transferred from the pages of the old magazines in which it originally appeared. In former editions various liberties were taken with this material; the result being that the “Marginalia” have been left in a deplorable condition. The endeavor of the present editor has been to restore them to their original state. The entire body of “Marginalia” that Poe wrote and signed as his is given here, and every item occurs in the place where it originally stood.

The reader interested in Poe’s chit-chat habit, the penchant for literary collectanea, can now follow him into this quaint region with the assurance that the poet’s whole activity in this department has been faithfully placed before him. Repetitions there are, — tautologies, recurrences to the same topics, or to the same literary men and women: but this is probably due to the fact that the “Marginalia” extended over a period of five years, and that Poe, by a very natural lapse of memory, occasionally forgot what he had already written and printed.

The close observer and reader will notice, doubtless, that, here and there, fragments of reviews printed in previous volumes of this series are repeated in the “Marginalia.” This reproduction of cullings from his reviews, particularly of trenchant or epigrammatic passages — even of striking quotations — was habitual with Poe, and it seemed best to follow him in the habit, even at the expense of some possible tedium to the reader, and thus maintain the entire integrity of the text.





[S:1 - JAHCW, 1902] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Editions - The Complete Works of Edgar Allan Poe (J. A. Harrison) (Introduction)