Text: Text: Thomas Ollive Mabbott, “draft introduction” for Edgar Allan Poe’s Contributions to Alexander’s Weekly Messenger (1943) (for a proposed edition) (This material is protected by copyright)


[[Mabbott’s introduction, from U. Of Iowa, dated June 26, 1961:]]

[page 1:]


In Graham’s Magazine for July 1841, Poe said he was the author of a series of solutions of cryptograms in a Philadelphia paper, Alexander’s Weekly Messenger. Examination of the files shows articles on secret writing and other subjects clearly from his pen in the issues from December 18, 1839 to May 6, 1840.

At that time, one may gather from a hint in the satirical “Literary Life of Thingum Bob,” William E. Burton had a share in the proprietorship of the paper with his printer, Charles W. Alexander. There is a file for 1839 in the Ohio State Historical Society in Columbus wherein two articles — one with the challenge to read cryptograms — were identified as long ago as 1934. But until the American Antiquarian Society acquired a file for 1840, Poe’s reading the puzzles and his general relations with the newspaper were a matter of conjecture.

Upon the discovery of the issues for 1840, Clarence S. Brigham, Director of the American Antiquarian Society, a Poe scholar of the first rank, examined them carefully and reprinted the Poe contributions he and I could identify in the Proceedings of the Society for April 1942, issued 1943 as a separate pamphlet.

It is not hard, usually, to identify Poe in the columns of Alexander’s paper, which had a very [page 2:] small staff, none of the rest of whom wrote in anything much like Poe’s manner. Cross references, favorite allusions and quotations may be regarded as earmarks of Poe. Two pieces were regarded with doubt; one of these, and anecdote of Thomas Paine, now seems to be almost surely by someone else, and is given in small type in an appendix; the other is here collected (with a caveat) as it now seems to me pretty certainly Poe’s.

In the present edition the material on secret writing has been placed in another volume with kindred articles on that subject from other sources; while “Instinct vs. Reason,” and the jeu d’esprit “Cabs” have been collected among the Tales, as of an imaginative character.

Brigham gave diplomatic texts, here a few sure misprints are corrected; and a very little has been added to his thorough annotation.

T. O. M.

June 26, 1961



A note pencilled at the top of the first page of this draft states “Another file — Koester by Dr. R.” Koester was William H. Koester (1888-1964), the well-known Baltimore collector, and Dr. R. was Dr. Abraham Simon Wolf Rosenbach (1876-1952), a prominent dealer in books and manuscripts from whom Koester purchased a number of significant items.

The second item, which Brigham printed as “doubtful” but ultimately accepted by TOM, was the brief article on “Disinterment,” from the issue of April 1, 1840.


[S:0 - CSB43, 1943] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Articles - Edgar Allan Poe’s Contributions to Alexander’s Weekly Messenger (T. O. Mabbott) (draft introduction)