Text: James A. Harrison, “Introduction,” The Complete Works of Edgar Allan Poe, Vol. XVII: Letters (1902), 17:v-viii


[page v, unnumbered:]


A VOLUME of letters — interesting in connection with any author — is of peculiar appeal in the case of Poe. His personality became infused into all his writings to such an extent, that no critique of the works has yet been able to ignore the man himself. Of no other American writer, perhaps, would so much be said. The publication of the present volume of correspondence, therefore, needs no explanation for its existence.

It is intended to supplement the biography (Volume I.), since it furnishes most valuable direct light upon the inner life of the man. And it will also be found useful in the perusal of the works, the writing of which will often be explained by the letters. References by footnotes are frequently made, but the General Indicies will aid the reader to trace out many interesting details.

The limitations of space have made it impracticable to repeat in this volume letters found in the biography or elsewhere in the edition; but in every such case of omission here, reference is made in its chronological position to the volume and page where the letter in point may be found.

All chapters except the last are confined to letters written by Poe and those written to him. The latter are scarcely less interesting than Poe’s own letters, [page vi:] however, since they are addressed to him by his literary friends and contemporaries, either in answer to his own or on general literary topics. They form the other hemisphere of this correspondence, without which Poe’s letters would be either incomplete or, in many cases, unintelligible. Here will be found letters from Dickens, Lowell, Miss Barrett, Longfellow, Irving, and many of the lesser literary lights of the day; friendly and love letters passing between Poe and the coterie of women who almost idolized him; the dark chapter of the English controversy so full of vilification and bitterness; the appeals to publishers; the answers to social demands; the chronicling of data for poems, tales, and essays; the hours of anguish when some friend heard the cry escaping from Poe’s soul — all this is set down just as it occurred, forming the chiaroscuro of an earthly existence.

The final chapter contains correspondence closely relating to Poe — though none by him — and each letter will be found abundantly to justify its insertion.

This large mass of material now appears in book form for the first time. It is chronologically arranged, and divided into chapter periods coinciding with important epochs in Poe’s life. Many new letters from F. W. Thomas, John R. Thompson, Mrs. Clemm, Dr. Chivers, and others throw needed light into obscure corners; the biography also has profited by them; while many other fragmentary letters already known have been traced back to their full text.

The sources of the letters here included are as follows: —

The Griswold Collection of twelve hundred and twenty pieces, presented to the Boston Public Library by Mrs. Rufus W. Griswold, widow of the well-known [page vii:] biographer of Poe. The letters to, from, and about Poe in this rich collection have been carefully transcribed from the originals for this work by Miss A. G. O’Gorman, official copyist of the library.

The letters in the Biographies of Poe published by Messrs. Ingram, Gill, and Griswold.

The letters of Poe to E. H. N. Patterson, and of Patterson to Poe, published in Eugene Field’s edition of the Poe-Patterson letters for the Caxton Club of Chicago.

The Poe-Snodgrass Correspondence published by the New York Herald, March 27, 1881, and edited by Edward Spencer.

The Poe-Snodgrass Correspondence published by Dr. Snodgrass in the Baltimore American, April, 1881.

The Duyckinck Collection of Poe Letters in the New York Public Library.

The Poe-English Correspondence published in the New York Evening Mirror and Philadelphia Spirit of the Times, June-July, 1846.

MS. Poe Correspondence put at the disposal of the editor by Miss A. F. Poe of Baltimore.

Miscellaneous letters obtained from private or public sources, current biographies, magazines, manuscripts owned by institutions of learning, and letters from the Richmond (Va.) Compiler and Standard.

Records of the War Department at Washington, for the papers filed in the case of Edgar A. Perry [Poe].

The preparation of the volume has been made possible only by the generous aid of libraries and friends. We desire to thank most especially the authorities of the Boston Public Library for their liberality in allowing the Poe Correspondence there found [page viii:] so freely to be copied; Dr. John S. Billings for permission to reprint the Duyckinck collection of letters from the Bulletin of the New York Public Library; Messrs. J. H. Ingram and W. Fearing Gill for the ready courtesy with which they consented to the republication of the rich epistolary material in their most valuable biographies; and the publishers of Scribner’s Monthly, The New York Independent, The New York Herald, The Baltimore American, The Century Magazine, and The Richmond Standard for their hearty co-operation in this work.

To Miss A. F. Poe the warmest acknowledgments are due for her unceasing interest, and for her invaluable loans. Dr. Wm. Hand Browne, Dr. B. B. Minor, Mr. F. R. Halsey, Mrs. W. Y. Dill, Messrs. W. A. Slade and J. P. Kennedy, of the Library of Congress, the Messrs. Appleton and Messrs. Harper, and the Chevalier E. R. Reynolds have also aided the editor in many ways, here gratefully acknowledged.

To these names we would add with special appreciation those of Mr. C. L. Hutchinson (owner of the Patterson letters), of Gen. James Grant Wilson (for permission to reprint the Poe-Clemm letters in his Independent paper), of Col. T. W. Higginson, Dr. A. Crawford, and Mrs. W. M. Griswold, the latter of whom has permitted the letters bearing on Poe in “Passages from the Correspondence of Rufus Wilmot Griswold,” to be reproduced here, and has also kindly given access to hitherto unpublished matter.






[S:1 - CWEAP, 1902] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Articles - Complete Works of E. A. Poe (Vol. 17 - Letters) (J. A. Harrison) (Introduction)