Rejected — “A Chapter in the History of Vivum-Ovo”


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According to the account that was given when this curious item was first published, it was found as an old manuscript by George Reeves of Vicksburg, Mississippi in 1882 while visiting a relative in Richmond, Virginia. Reeves sent the manuscript to the Free Trader to be published, and with the rather wild supposition that it might have been written by Edgar Allan Poe, chiefly due to the Richmond connection and the claim that the handwriting resembled that of Poe. Although the manuscript has apparently not surivied, and is not available for examination, even a cursory reading of the printed text clearly shows that the story is a poor fable based on the American Civil War, and thus certainly not by Poe, who was dead for more than a decade prior to the war. For obvious reasons, the attribution has never been widely accepted, and the combination of factors hardly demands a complicated argument against it.

The editor’s file of the newspaper may be found in the special collections of the Ned R. McWherter Library of the University of Memphis, and may be a unique surviving run. The Poe Society of Baltimore is grateful to Librarian/Archivist Brigitte Billeaudeaux for locating the original printing, and for providing the information that this copy has a handwritten notation by Lee Meriwether (1862-1966), the editor, that the article was “by Avery Meriwether.” Avery Meriwether (1857-1883) was the Lee’s oldest brother. (Their father, Minor Meriwether, had joined the confederate army as an engineer officer, serving under Nathan Bedford Forrest. There was particular bitterness in the family towards General Sherman, who took control as the military governor of Memphis in April 1862, and ordered Elizabeth Avery Meriwether (1824-1916) to leave the city early in December 1862, while she was still pregnant with her son Lee, who would be born on Christmas Day.) Thus, it may be surmised that the account of the story’s discovery is as much a work of fiction as the tale itself. Consequently, the matter of chief importance may be the fact that Poe’s name still carried sufficient prominence more than three decades after his death to be worth invoking in the ruse.


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Historical Texts:

Manuscripts and Authorized Printings:

  • Text-01 — “A Chapter in the History of Vivum-Ovo” — 1839, no original manuscript or fragments are known to exist (but this version is presumably recorded in Text-02)
  • Text-02 — “A Chapter in the History of Vivum-Ovo” — August 12, 1882 — Free Trader (Memphis, TN) — (rejected)
  • Text-03 — “A Chapter in the History of Vivum-Ovo” — about August 1882 (reprinted from the Free Trader) — (rejected)

 

Reprints:

  • None

 

Scholarly and Noteworthy Reprints:

  • None

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Comparative and Study Texts:

Instream Comparative and Study Texts:

  • None

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Associated Material and Special Versions:

Miscellaneous Texts and Related Items:

  • None.

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Bibliography:

  • 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.
  • 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.

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[S:0 - JAS] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Works - Essays - A Chapter in the History of Vivum-Ovo