Text: Edgar Allan Poe (ed. T. O. Mabbott), “To Margaret,” The Collected Works of Edgar Allan PoeVol. I: Poems (1969), pp. 14-16 (This material is protected by copyright)


[page 14, continued:]


This is a parodic cento, made up of lines from other poets, deliberately misquoted for humorous effect. It is in Poe’s handwriting, and must have been composed hastily, since two of the sources of the quotations were given inaccurately.

The piece was written and signed “E. A. P.” in the album of Miss Margaret Bassett of Baltimore. The book has an inscription from her father, January 1, 1827. It contains nothing dated later than 1828, and includes a poem, “Woman,” dated September 11, 1827, and signed by W. H. Poe. [page 15:]

Margaret Bassett was noted for her beauty; and her social position — as a descendant of Richard Bassett, a signer of the United States Constitution, and a governor of Delaware — made her the center of an admiring circle. It included a judge, a bishop, and a publisher, as well as the Poes and their friend Lambert Wilmer, who also wrote in her album.

In 1833 Margaret Bassett went to reside in Huntsville, Alabama, with her brother John, a distinguished physician.(1) She gave the album to his granddaughter, Lenore, who parted with it when it was auctioned by the Walpole Galleries, on March 30, 1930. A facsimile of the poem by Edgar Poe is in the catalogue (lot 76). By permission of Mrs. Turnbull, director of the Galleries, I saw the original in the salesroom, and printed texts of both the Poes’ poems in Notes and Queries (London), November 28, 1931. Edgar’s poem was collected in the Introduction to my facsimile edition of Tamerlane and Other Poems (1941), page xvii. The album is now in the Josiah K. Lilly Collection in the Library of Indiana University, where it is accompanied by several documents, upon which the foregoing discussion is based.(2)


The verses quoted parodically by Poe are:

1  Paradise Lost, I, 33: “Who first seduced them to that foul revolt?” [page 16:]

2  Spenser, Faerie Queene, IV, ii, 32: “Dan Chaucer, well of English undefiled.”

3-4  Cowper, The Task, I, 578f. (of gypsies): “Self-banished from society, prefer / Such squalid sloth to honorable toil.”

5  Hamlet, III, i, 65f.: “To die — to sleep — / To sleep — perchance to dream.”

6  Troilus and Cressida, I, i, 95: “I cannot fight upon this argument.”

7  Pope, Essay on Criticism, II, 525: “To err is human; to forgive divine.”


[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 15:]

1  Sir William Osler paid a high tribute to Dr. Bassett in An Alabama Student (1896).

2  The documents include a typescript account by a Miss Allison, who had recently interviewed Lenore Bassett, sent to Mr. Lilly on October 3, 1930, by the bookseller Harry Stone. The papers were made accessible to me by my friend David A. Randall, head of the Lilly Library at Bloomington.





[S:1 - TOM1P, 1969] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Editions-The Collected Works of Edgar Allan Poe (T. O. Mabbott) (To Margaret)