Text: Edgar Allan Poe (ed. T. O. Mabbott), “Motto for William Wilson,” The Collected Works of Edgar Allan PoeVol. I: Poems (1969), pp. 319-320 (This material is protected by copyright)


[page 319, continued:]

(for “William Wilson”)

This scrap of verse appears at the beginning of all versions of the tale “William Wilson.” Poe each time ascribed it to “Chamberlaine's Pharronida,” in which the lines do not appear, although there is much said of conscience. However, William Chamberlayne's Pharronida of 1659 was reprinted in 1820 in an edition of three volumes which also included the author's play Love's Victory of 1658. In the play (V, 2746f.), Dr. Kenneth S. Rothwell found the following: “Conscience waits on me, like the frightening shades / Of ghosts when ghastly messengers of death ...” This is, to judge from the similar case of Poe's motto to “The Gold-Bug,” obviously what Poe vaguely remembered and rewrote. Nothing else so close to the motto is found in the seventeenth-century bard's lines. (See note on Politian, I, 43, and Modern [page 320:] Language Notes, April 1959; and compare also Politian, VII, 55f.: “A spectral figure ... / Like the grim shadow, Conscience.”


(A) The Gift for 1840 (1839), p. 229; (B) Burton's Gentleman's Magazine, October 1839 (5:205); (C) Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque (1840), I, 27; (D) Broadway Journal, August 30, 1845 (2:113); (E) Works (1850), I, 417.

The text here adopted is C, which is verbally like A and B. By an obvious mistake the second “of” was omitted in D, and this error was followed in E.





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