Edgar Allan Poe — “The Poetic Principle”


Reading and Reference Texts:

Reading copy:

  • “The Poetic Principle” — reading copy


Historical Texts:

Manuscripts and Authorized Printings:

  • Text-01 — “The Poetic Principle” — written before December 20, 1848 — manuscript, apparently lost — (Poe first delivered the lecture on December 20, 1848 for the Franklin Lyceum at Howard's Hall in Providence, Rhode Island. This version was supposedly stolen from Poe's valise in Philadelphia sometime June 30 - July 7, 1849, along with the original manuscript of his lecture on “American Poetry.”)
  • Text-02 — “The Poetic Principle” — written before August 17, 1849 — having apparently lost the original manuscript, Poe presumably rewrote it for his lectures in Virginia (This manuscript is also apparently lost, but presumably recorded in Text 03) — (Poe delivered this version of the lecture in Richmond on August 17, 1849 at the Exchange Concert Rooms in Richmond, Virginia; and September 14, 1849 in Norfolk, Virginia. The manuscript itself appears to have been among the few items found in his trunk after his death. In a letter of July 29, 1850, Bayard Taylor, acting for Griswold, offered to sell the article to George Graham for $50 for the benefit of Mrs. Clemm. Graham apparently declined, and it seems instead to have been purchased for publication by John Sartain. The manuscript itself was probably destroyed by Griswold's typesetters in preparing his text.) (Poe apparently refers to writing this lecture in the postscript of his letter of November 26, 1848 to Sarah Helen Whitman.)
  • Text-03 — “The Poetic Principle” — September 1850 — Works (Although this judgement may be somewhat controversial, it appears that only Griswold had access to the manuscript, Text-02, and thus his is the only official printing of an authorized version.)



  • The Poetic Principle” — August 31, 1850 — Home Journal — (Although technically the earliest printing, this text acknowledges itself as being from advance sheets of Text-03, and is thus best regarded as a kind of reprint. In any case, it has no special authority from Poe, directly or implied.)
  • The Poetic Principle” — October 1850 — Sartain's Union Magazine  (issued about September 16, 1850.) (The text is noted as “from the unpublished manuscript,” but is more likely taken from proof-sheets of Text-03. Although Stuart and Susan Levine presume that Sartain purchased the manuscript from Taylor, and thus had direct access to Poe's original text, the relevant portion of Taylor's note reads: “Would you like to have for your October number, an unpublished article by Poe, on ‘The Poetic Principle?’ I can get it for you. It will make about 6 pages of the Magazine; $50 are asked for it, for the benefit of Mrs. Clemm. I have the proof-sheets of it (the book will appear about the middle of October) and will send them if you want the article and the terms suit you.” Thus, it seems clear that Taylor is selling proof-sheets rather than the manuscript.)
  • “The Poetic Principle” — September 25, 1850 — North Carolina Star (Raleigh, NC) (Vol. I, no. 33, p. 4, cols. 1-5) (this entry was provided to the Poe Society in an e-mail from Ton Fafianie, dated April 11, 2017)
  • “Lecture on the Poetic Principle” — October 8, 1850 — Semi-Weekly Examiner (Richmond, VA) (Printed on page 1, beginning near the top of column 1 and running to a small portion of column 7. The heading reads: “LECTURE ON THE POETIC PRICIPLE,” and the byline as “BY THE LATE EDGAR A. POE.” The only other note of attribution is the comment: “Delivered at the Exchange Concert Room, Richmond, and elsewhere.” The text appears to have been reprinted from Griswold's edition, and may have been placed, at Griswold's, request by John R. Thompson.)
  • The Poetic Principle” — 1875 — The Works of Edgar Allan Poe, ed. J. H. Ingram, Edinburgh, Adam and Charles Black (3:197-219)
  • “The Poetic Principle” — April 17, 1881 — The Bloomington Bulletin (Illinois) (Vol. I, no. 60, the Sunday Edition, quotes Poe's full essay on the full front page, continuing on page three, without any explanation other than “Lecture by Edgar A. Poe.” Presumably, the small paper needed a considerable amount of filler and Poe's article served this purpose admirably, while also lending a sense of literary class.)
  • “The Poetic Principle” — 1888 — The Complete Poetical Works and Essays on Poetry of Edgar Allan Poe, ed. John H. Ingram, London and New York: Frederick Warne & Co. (pp. 153-175)
  • “The Poetic Principle” — 1888 — Library of American Literature, New York: Charles L. Webster & Company  (reprinted from the 1850 Works)
  • “The Poetic Principle” — 1900 — Modern Elegance, ed. Thomas B. Reed, Philadelphia: John D Morris & Company, vol. VI, pp. 869-892 (this set was reprinted many times, up until about 1923)
  • “The Poetic Principle” — 1904 — American Literary Criticism, ed. William Morton Payne, New York: Longmans, Green & Co. (pp. 103-126)


Scholarly and Noteworthy Reprints:

  • The Poetic Principle” — 1895 — The Works of Edgar Allan Poe, vol. 6: Literary Criticism, eds. E. C. Stedman and G. E. Woodberry, Chicago: Stone and Kimball (6:3-30, and 6:323)
  • The Poetic Principle” — 1902 — The Complete Works of Edgar Allan Poe, ed. J. A. Harrison, New York: T. Y. Crowell (14:266-292)
  • “The Poetic Principle” — 1909 — Selections from the Critical Writings of Edgar Allan Poe, ed. Frederick C. Prescott, New York: Henry Holt (pp. 228-256 and 340-345)
  • “The Poetic Principle” — 1984 — Edgar Allan Poe: Essays and Reviews, ed. G. R. Thompson, New York: Library of America (pp. 71-94)  (reprinted from Sartain's Magazine)
  • “,The Poetic Principle” — 2009 — Edgar Allan Poe: Critical Theory, Stuart and Susan F. Levine, eds., Chicago: University of Illinois Press (pp. 175-211)


Comparative and Study Texts:

Instream Comparative and Study Texts:

  • None


Associated Material and Special Versions:

Miscellaneous Texts and Related Items:

  • “Du principe poétique” — 1887 — Edgar Poë: Derniers Contes, Paris: Albert Savine  (French translation by Félix Rabbe)
  • “Le principe poétique” — 1908 — Bibliothèque des poètes fraçais et étrangers: Edgar-A. Poë, Paris: Louis-Michaud (French translation by Victor Orban)
  • “Du principe poétique” — 1926 — Trois Manifestes, Paris: Simon Kra (French translation by René Lalou)
  • Le principe de la Poésie — 1945 — Paris: Editions du Myrte (French translation and notes by Charles Bellanger)
  • “The Poetic Principle” — 2007 — Audio book (unabridged), read by Chris Aruffo (part of a 5-CD set)


  • A manuscript fragment listed as a fake by the famous forger Joseph Cosey in American Books Current (1968-1969): “MS forgery of a Poe portion of a lecture, ‘Poetic Principle,’ dated 9 Dec 1847. 2 pp (joined together), 5 by 14 inches. hn 33 (177) $40” (p. 1421)



  • Heartman, Charles F. and James R. Canny, A Bibliography of First Printings of the Writings of Edgar Allan Poe, Hattiesburg, MS: The Book Farm, 1943.
  • Levine, Stuart and Susan F., eds., Edgar Allan Poe: Critical Theory, Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2009
  • Mabbott, Thomas Ollive, ed., The Collected Works of Edgar Allan Poe (Vols 2-3 Tales and Sketches), Cambridge, Mass.: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1978.
  • Rubin, Joseph J., “John Neal's Poetics as an Influence on Whitman and Poe,” New England Quarterly, June 1941, 14:359-362


[S:0 - JAS] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Works - Essays - The Poetic Principle