Text: Thomas Ollive Mabbott, “draft introductions” for Doings of Gotham: Poe's Contributions to The Columbia Spy (1929) (for a proposed edition) (This material is protected by copyright)


[[Mabbott's introduction, from U. Of Iowa, undated, about 1966:]]

Doings of Gotham

On November 30, 1843, the Spy, a weekly paper published at Columbia, Pennsylvania, was purchased by Eli Bowen and Jacob L. Gossler, both minors. Bowen seems to have been a visitor — perhaps an employee — at Graham's office in Philadelphia during the previous year, and there met Poe. Our poet moved to New York in April 1844, and soon afterward made an arrangement to contribute a series of newsletters to the Spy, seven of which he wrote between May 14 and June 25.

Since the original MSS of three of these letters came into the hands of collectors, students had long been aware that the series was written, but no file of the paper was known. Then Jacob E. Spannuth of Pottsville, Pennsylvania, discovered one, and in 1929 issued a volume, Doings of Gotham, reprinting Poe's contributions. To it Spannuth contributed a thorough account of Bowen's long career, which ended in 1868. His many and varied activities after 1844 need not concern us here, save that it may be mentioned it has recently been revealed that in 1848 he obtained from Poe the famous autograph transcript of “The Raven,” and negociated [[negotiated]] without result for Poe to write for a Pottsville paper.

In the columns of the Columbia Spy, it was said Poe might contribute other things than newsletters. One of these, a discussion of Locke's Moon-Hoax, is easily identified, it is reprinted in 1929, and again below, at page oxo. Four articles were given in the Doings of Gotham volume as possible contributions of Poe to The Columbia Spy. The weight of evidence seems to be against all of them, and they are now rejected from the canon.[[(1)]]

Since I do not know the present whereabouts of Spannuth's file of the Spy, I have reprinted the articles from the first edition in book form. The texts in 1929 were set up from an extremely careful transcript made by Mr. George E. Spannuth, son of my collatorator [[collaborator]]. Eight emendations of sure misprints are listed in the footnotes.

The notes have been rewritten, to omit material not necessary in an edition of Poe's Complete Works, and to incorporate some new information.


[[1.]]  They are: a Carrier's Address in verse, already discussed in the volume of Poems; two editorials on “Puffing,” discussing the relations of Philadelphia papers with contemporaries in smaller towns, hardly of much concern to Poe; and printed months after he ceased to be a known contributor to the Spy. The fourth item is a paragraph called “Literary Theft;” its date is against it, but it is here given in a note to Letter IV [[VII]].

[[Mabbott's introduction, from U. Of Iowa, an undated earlier handwritten draft:]]

Doings of Gotham, 1844

Between May 14, and June 25, 1844, Poe wrote seven signed letters from New York entitled Doings of Gotham for the Spy, a newspaper of Columbia, Pa., edited by Eli Bowen. They were printed in the Spy in issues of May 18 to July 6, 1844. At least three of them survive in MSS.

A file of the paper was discovered in 1926 by the late Jacob Spannuth, bookseller of Pottsville, Pa. He brought out an edition of the material with a Foreword by himself, and my annotations, under the title Doings of Gotham, Pottsville, 1929.

Spannuth's account of Bowen is an excellent one; he was born in Lancaster, Pa. in August, 1824, and died in Pottsville, March 23, 1868. He wrote several books on Pennsylvania and edited several newspapers. They only one that need concern us is the Spy, which he edited from November 30, 1843 to December 2, 1844; the publishers being himself and Jacob L. Gossler. It is now known how he got in touch with Poe, but he announced in the issue of May 18, 1844 that Poe would become a contributor to his paper.

It should here be remembered that Poe signed his curious late article on his own “plagiarisms,” “A Reviewer Reviewed,” as “By James G. Bowen.”

The text of 1929 was set up from very carefully prepared typescripts, and is extraordinarily free from errors. I have used a set of final proofsheets as copy for the present edition. The annotation has been based on my earlier notes, but while I have pruned from them some things I now think not strictly pertinent, I have been able to add a few facts newly discovered in three decades.

In the edition of 1929, several pieces of doubtful authenticity as the work of Poe were reprinted. One of them, a paragraph on Literary Theft I am convinced is by Poe, and it is appended to Poe's seventh letter, to which, as the letter is shorter than the others, I believe it was a paralipomenon.

Two articles on Puffing in the issues of November 12 and 30, 1844, I now firmly reject. They appeared when Poe had become connected with the New York Evening Mirror. And the reference to “the publishers of Alexander's Express Messenger sending us a paper containing a prospectus and offering an exchange seems to me definitive evidence that the Spy's editor was the writer of these articles.

Still one more item was reprinted in 1929, with great reservations, a Carrier's Address broadside of 1844. I have referred to it among the poems falsely ascribed to Poe; it is too early, and not beyond Bowen's capacities. I feel sure Poe had no connection with it, save insofar as its author echoed Poe's verses at times.



Spannuth's file of the Spy was acquired by Baltimore collector William Herman Koester, who was in contact with Mabbott at various times. Koester died on February 10, 1964, and after some negotiation, his collection was purchased en blanc by the University of Texas at Austin, although at the time this transaction was apparently kept as something of a secret, perhaps because the university did not want it to be generally known as being aggressively interested in such material for fear of driving up prices. Whatever the specific details might be, it was very plausible that Mabbott did not know where the material was in 1966.

Although the later draft is undated, the reference to information about Eli Bowen obtaining from Poe the autographic manuscript for “The Raven” is a clear reference to the discovery of Poe's letter of October 18, 1848 to Eli Bowen. This letter was first published, by Mabbott himself, in American Notes and Queries for January 1965. In his draft, the footnote appears as an indented section in the middle of the page, bordered by lines, but is certainly intended as a footnote or endnote had a final version been prepared for publication. Of particular interest is Mabbott's continued vascillation in regard to the item on “Literary Theft,” revealing how troublesome is often the attribution of unsigned material, and the danger of relying on one statement of attribution as even the same authority may be subject to a change of mind.

Jacob E. Spannuth was born on March 16, 1877, and died on November 4, 1946. Koester most likely purchased the Spy after Spannuth's death.

George Elwood Spannuth was born on July 25, 1904 and died on March 2, 1993. (His middle name is noted in the record of his christening. It is possible that his father's middle name was also Elwood.)

In the Mabbott collection, in the folder for Doings of Gotham, is a letter from B. Hoff Knigh, dated April 21, 1958. The letter reads:

In accordance with yours of the 8th, I have carefully examined the several issues of the Miner's Journal, and Pottsville General Advertiser, published every Saturday by Benjamin Bannan, Pottsville, Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania, from October 7, 1848 to November 3, 1849 but failed to locate any Poe items such as you described, News Letters or a Tour, or an obituary following his death October 7, 1849.


[S:0 - SPM29, 1929] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Bookshelf - Doings of Gotham: Poe's Contributions to The Columbia Spy (T. O. Mabbott) (draft introduction)