Text: Edgar Allan Poe to Benjamin Blake Minor — February (?) 1845 (LTR-193a)


[[. . . . I should like to see “The Raven” come out]] in the beautiful typography of the Messenger [[. . . .  ]]



Benjamin Blake Minor was the editor and proprietor of the Southern Literary Messenger 1843-1847. The best account of this letter is given in his book on the Messenger:

“The Raven” had appeared in the American Whig Review, and the Evening Mirror in New York; but Mr. Poe wrote to the editor and requested him to relax this rule in regard to republications, and let “The Raven” come out “in the beautiful typography of the Messenger.” He also said that he wished to make some changes in it. His request, quite diplomatically presented, was complied with in March, 1845, p. 186. He did make a few changes, which were, with his careful criticism, improvments (B. B. Minor, The Southern Literary Messenger 1834-1864, New York and Washington: The Neale Publishing Company, 1905, pp. 138-139).

Minor gave a very similar statement in “Who Wrote ‘The Raven’ — Poe or Hirst,” where he also quotes only the same short phrase:

Not very long after its first publication in New York Mr. Poe wrote to me and asked me, as a special favor to him, to republish it in the Messenger, with which he had once been editorially associated. He knew that the granting of his request would be a departure from a general rule; still he urged it, saying that he wished to make some alterations and desired to see him work “in the beautiful typography of the Messenger.” (Richmond Times, Feb. 17, 1895. A clipping of this article is in the Ingram Collection at the University of Viriginia, item 886.)

It is unfortunate that Minor chose not to record more fully what must have been a letter of considerable interest to modern scholars. It is possible that Minor no longer had the letter itself by this time and was merely quoting from memory, but it is reasonable to accept as authentic the fragment given. There are several references by Poe to typography in his criticism, including one about the SLM's “outward appearance and typography is [[sic]] unexceptionable” (The Baltimore Republican, June 13, 1835). A similar phrase even appears in Poe's tale “The Literary Life of Thingum Bob” (printed in the SLM for December 1844), where the narrator mentions, “the beauty of its typography and paper. . . . .” The story, of course, is a satirical one, and the comment is made about a magazine called “The Lollipop,” so it can hardly be taken as serious praise, but it is perhaps more than entirely coincidental that Poe makes the statement about the same time that he is writing to Minor. Collaborating the existence of such a letter is the fact that “The Raven” did indeed appear in the March 1845 issue of the Messenger, with a number of changes.


[S:0 - MS, 18xx] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Works - Letters - Poe to B. B. Minor (LTR193a/RCL525)