Text: J. W. Ostrom, B. R. Pollin, and J. A. Savoye, “Appendix C,” The Collected Letters of Edgar Allan Poe — Vol. II: 1846-1849 (2008), pp. 899vii-932 (This material is protected by copyright)


[page ???, unnumbered:]

Appendix C

Some Fakes, Forgeries, and Spurious Letters

This selection of suspicious and inauthentic letters is by no means intended to be comprehensive, since most known forgeries have not been widely circulated. Instead, the items reprinted here are those which have received some public attention, along with a number of readily available forgeries from public sales or in institutional collections. Of particular interest are the letters altered or invented by Rufus W. Griswold for his 1850 “Memoir” of Poe, and the series of forgeries by Joseph Cosey, who was chiefly active around the 1930s.

Spurious 1 — 1827 (?) [SP-1] Poe (— ?) to Calvin F. S. Thomas (Boston, MA):


notes cont’d

To — Calvin F. S. Thomas — Printer

note 1. “I have sent for thee holy friar.” Of the history of Tamerlane little is known; and with that little, I have taken the full liberty of a poet. — That he was descended from the family of Zinghis Khan is more than probable — but he is vulgarly supposed to have been the son of a shepherd, and to have raised himself to the throne by his own address. He died in the year 1405, in the time of Pope Innocent VII. How I shall account for giving him “a friar,” as a death-bed confessor — I cannot exactly determine. He wanted some one to listen to his tale — and why not a friar? It does not pass the bounds of possibility — quite sufficient for my purpose — and I have at least good authority on my side for such innovations. — Poe.

note 7. “no purer thought <dwell> dwelt in a seraph’s breast”. I must beg the reader’s pardon for making Tamerlane, a Tartar of the fourteenth century, speak in the same language as a Boston gentleman of the nineteenth; but of the Tartar mythology we have little information. — Poe.

note 39. “The mists of the Taglay have shed” &c. The mountains of Belur Taglay are a branch of the Immaus, in the southern part of Independent Tartary. — They are celebrated for the singular wildness, and beauty of their vallies. — Poe

Mr. Thomas

make any typographical corrections, but no changes in text “which blazes upon Edis’ shrine.” A deity presiding over virtuous love; upon whose imaginary altar a sacred fire was continually blazing.

Edgar A Poe.

Notes: Poe’s supposed comment to Mr. Thomas is adapted from note 4 of Tamerlane and Other Poems (1827). All of the other notes are also taken from Tamerlane. Note 1 was really note 1, but the others are not quite as numbered here. Note 4 is actually from note 3, and note 39 is actually note 2. The cancelled “dwell” is interesting since the 1827 text gives “dwell in a seraph’s breast” in the poem but “dwelt in a seraph’s breast” in the note, strongly suggesting that the forger was aware of this difference and was deliberately invoking it for a sense of authenticity. It seems unlikely that he had the opportunity to examine an original, nor would this have been necessary as the notes were reproduced in various scholarly editions available before 1920. Indeed, he has probably used the volume of Poe’s poems edited by Killis Campbell in 1917, which seems to be the only one to specifically point out Poe’s correction in the note (p. 153). This MS was identified as a forgery by Charles Hamilton, who names the culprit as Joseph Cosey.

Source: facsimile of the forgery, as printed by Charles Hamilton, Great Forgers and Famous Fakes, 1980, p. 115.

Spurious 2 — 1838, June 26 [SP-23] Poe (Philadelphia, PA) to Nathan C. Brooks (Baltimore, MD):

[...] for, no one knows any better than [...] who is not “editorially minded”, or I [...] I received $35.00 from the S[outhern Literary Messenger ...] expected, but they do not seem to find the [...]

I shall [...] in Philadelphia in a few days

yr. Ob. St.

[Edgar] A. Poe

N. C. Brooks


Notes: Nathan Covington Brooks was one of the editors of the American Museum (Baltimore). (See SPR-3, which appears to be a fuller version of the identical text, presumably by the same forger.)

Source: The fragment is badly burned, and very difficult to read, but absolute precision is of little importance since the portion quoted is intended only to identify the fragment as a forgery. Otherwise, the text is of no significance. The burning of the page is almost certainly intentional, an easy but not particularly effective means of “aging” the letter. An envelope sheet, reproduced in Hamilton, Great Forgers and Famous Fakes, 1980, p. 263, reads: “N. C. Brooks Esqr. / Baltimore Museum / Baltimore” with “E. A. Poe” in the lower left corner and “Editorial Office” along one edge. According to Hamilton, the Philadelphia Postmark of June 26 is authentic, but from a letter not by Poe. Joseph Cosey apparently managed to obtain the sheet, erased the original writing, and added the Poe forgery. The forged letter presumably was intended to accompany the envelope. The photographic reproduction in Hamilton clearly shows the stamp: “FORGERY / MS. & A. / NYPL,” although the New York Public Library no longer seems to possess it.

Spurious 3 — 1838, December 7 [SP-24] Poe (New York, NY) to Nathan C. Brooks (Baltimore, MD):

N[ew Yo]rk

December 7, ‘38

Dr. Sir,

I am sending you the lines you requested for the “Museum”. When passing through Philadelphia, I stopped in to see Mr. G — and found him very cordial and interested in my proposition. The interview ended with my being invited to submit the tale which you have already seen and read. [...]pose to include in it a few verses as being part [...] original story. W. E. B. was present but did not [...]y part in the conversation, and did not impress [...] being of an “editorial mind[“]. However, I may be [...] error, for, no one knows any better than [...] who is, [...] who is not “editorially-minded,” or, I [...] say “liter[...] minded”. I received $35.00 from the S[outhern Literary Messenger ...] not as much [as I] had expected, but they do not seem to find the differe[nce ...]achable.

I shall wri[te ...] Philadelphia in a few days.

To yr. Ob. St.

[Edgar] A. Poe

N. C. Brooks, E[sqr]


Notes: Another forgery to Nathan Covington Brooks, also presumably by Joseph Cosey. The text appears to be essentially the same as for SPR-2, but with less damage and therefore more readable. It was quite common for Cosey to write one letter and copy it over and over again, sometimes with slight differences (see SPR-12 and subsequent items to A. N. Howard). As is typical for many of Cosey’s forgeries of Poe letters, the contents are comprised of a series of vaguely Poesque phrases and references, but without any clear purpose or meaning. “Mr. G — “ is probably intended for George Rex Graham, although it is too early for his involvement with Poe. “W. E. B.” is surely meant for William Evans Burton, editor and owner of Burton’s Gentleman’s Magazine, with which Poe would become associated in 1839. By early 1838, Poe and his family had already left New York and moved to Philadelphia. There was, therefore, no reason to be writing from New York, nor “passing through” Philadelphia.

Source: This forgery was sold on eBay, March 8, 2003, for $1,601.99. The two-page letter is partially burned, although the marks seem to be somewhat random, more for the sake of artificial aging than the result of genuine age or wear. Various pencilled notes run around the edges, explaining points of reference in a way that mimics similar notes on authentic letters in various institutions. The paper is noted as being watermarked “Dewdney & Tremlett 1831.” Cosey was known to collect authentic papers, and even to create his own watermarks.

Spurious 4 — 1842, December - March 1843 (?) [SP-55] Poe (Philadelphia, PA) to Rufus W. Griswold (— ?):

My Dear Sir: — I made use of your name with Carey & Hart, for a copy of your book, and am writing a review of it, which I shall send to Lowell for “The Pioneer.” I like it decidedly. It is of immense importance, as a guide to what we have done; but you have permitted your good nature to influence you to a degree: I would have omitted at least a dozen whom you have quoted, and I can think of five or six that should have been in. But with all its faults — you see I am perfectly frank with you — it is a better book than any other man in the United States could have made of the materials. This I will say.

With high respect,

I am your obedient servant,

Edgar A. Poe.

Notes: Woodberry prints the present letter, as he says, from the “Griswold MSS” [1909, 1:354-355], but there is no other evidence that a MS of the letter ever existed. This fact, coupled with the overtly fawning tone, should immediately make any astute reader suspicious. No prospective review of Griswold’s Poets and Poetry of America is mentioned in the Poe-Lowell correspondence, though references to all of Poe’s known contributions to the Pioneer may be found there. Furthermore, the letter could hardly have been written prior to Poe’s first letter to Lowell (November 16, 1842); but by the summer of 1842, Poe was already writing a review of the book (see LTR-143), which Griswold had published in the Boston Miscellany for November 1842. Indeed, the general text echoes phrases found in Poe’s review, a detail presumably intended to lend weight to Poe’s having written the letter. We know, however, that Griswold approached Poe, commissioning him to write the review, and in that context the letter, if authentic, would make little sense. By presenting this forgery, Griswold makes it appear that Poe thought highly of the book, and avoids the embarrassment of admitting to the possibility that he had attempted to buy a favorable review from Poe.

Source: text as printed by Griswold in his “Memoir,” Works, 3:v [1850].

Spurious 5 — 1843, June 11 [SP-57] Poe (Philadelphia, PA) to Rufus W. Griswold (— ?):

Philadelphia, June 11, 1843.

Dear Griswold: — Can you not send me $5? I am sick, and Virginia is almost gone. Come and see me. Peterson says you suspect me of a curious anonymous letter. I did not write it, but bring it along with you when you make the visit you promised to Mrs. Clemm. I will try to fix that matter soon. Could you do anything with my note?

Yours truly, E. A. P.

Notes: About the present item, Ostrom (The Letters [1948], 1:490-491, n. 111) says first, “little evidence to prove it ... false or genuine,” and finally dismisses its as “highly doubtful.” No one authority is definitively negative, with Woodberry cited for his full acceptance of it (2:34-35). Quinn prints it, merely adding: “If indeed he did write it” (p. 386). TOM [Iowa] takes a mixed position, stating: “This letter probably was tampered with — but I do not think it made up completely.” The internal evidence of the text, however, and its references argue strongly against its authenticity. The style is more terse in its succession of short, simple sentences and the tone more peremptory than is common or even infrequently found in Poe epistles; and it would be tactless to send it to a known antagonist of Poe’s. Even the word “fix” is too coarse for Poe’s usage. Out of nine instances of the word appearing in the tales, only once does it carry the meaning of to remedy or arrange, with a tinge of “underhandedly” in “Diddling” — that is, used by a thief. The litany of pathetic and even humiliating details after the initial demands for a donation is an unlikely opening; implausible too is the suggested entreaty for a visit “promised” to the usually tearful or overwrought mother-in-law earlier. Charles Jacob Peterson (1819-1887) was Griswold’s assistant editor at Graham’s Magazine, but he is too casually mentioned by Poe, who seems never to have seen him as a congenial friend. (See a detailed and balanced account of their relationship in D. Thomas, Poe in Philadelphia, pp. 866-868.) Above all, Poe had been extraordinarily active and hostile towards Griswold during this period, especially as the influential compiler of the Poets and Poetry of America. In the absence of a verifiable MS, the idea that Griswold invented the present letter must be considered probable.

Source: text as printed by Griswold in his “Memoir,” Works, 3:v [1850].

Spurious 6 — 1845, January 10 [SP-76] Poe (New York, NY) to Rufus W. Griswold (— ?):

New-York, Jan. 10, 1845.

Rev. Rufus W. Griswold: Sir — I perceive by a paragraph in the papers, that your “Prose Writers of America” is in press. Unless your opinions of my literary character are entirely changed, you will, I think, like something of mine, and you are welcome to whatever best pleases you, if you will permit me to furnish a corrected copy; but with your present feelings you can hardly do me justice in any criticism, and I shall be glad if you will simply say after my name : “Born 1811; published Tales of the Grotesque and the Arabesque in 1829; has resided latterly in New-York.”

Your obedient servant,

Edgar A. Poe.

Notes: As for previous items of a similarly implausible tone, and without the verifying evidence of a surviving MS, the present item is considered a forgery. Griswold’s genuine letter of January 14, 1845 (CL-516), includes the comment that he will “feel myself yr [your] debtor if there being any writings of yours with wh. [which] I may be unacquainted, you will advise of their titles, and where they may be purchased; and if, in the brief biography of you in my Poets &c. of America, there are any inaccuracies, you will point them out to me.” In printing this letter in his “Memoir,” Griswold judiciously omits this sentence, leaving the reader with the erroneous impression that Poe approached Griswold, rather than the other way around.

Source: text as printed by Griswold in his “Memoir,” Works, 3:vi [1850].

Spurious 7 — 1845, February 24 [SP-78] Poe (New York, NY) to Rufus W. Griswold (— ?):

My dear Griswold: — A thousand thanks for your kindness in the matter of those books, which I could not afford to buy, and had so much need of. Soon after seeing you, I sent you, through Zieber, all my poems worth republishing, and I presume they reached you. I was sincerely delighted with what you said of them, and if you will write your criticism in the form of a preface, I shall be greatly obliged to you. I say this not because you praised me: everybody praises me now: but because you so perfectly understand me, or what I have aimed at, in all my poems: I did not think you had so much delicacy of appreciation joined with your strong sense I can say truly that no man’s approbation gives me so much pleasure. I send you with this another package, through Zieber, by Burgess & Stringer. It contains, in the way of essay, “Mesmeric Revelation,” which I would like to have go in, even if you have to omit the “House of Usher.” I send also corrected copies of (in the way of funny criticism, but you don’t like this) “Flaccus,” which conveys a tolerable idea of in my style; and of my serious manner “Barnaby Rudge” is a good specimen. In the tale line, “The Murders of the Rue Morgue,” “The Gold Bug,” and the “Man that was Used Up,” — far more than enough, but you can select to suit yourself. I prefer the “G. B.” to the “M. in the R. M.” I have taken a third interest in the “Broadway Journal,” and will be glad if you could send me anything for it. Why not let me anticipate the book publication of your splendid essay on Milton?

Truly yours,


Notes: The present item is a substantially altered version of an authentic letter of February 24, 1845 (LTR-193), with Griswold interlacing Poe’s actual text with all manner of self-serving flattery, notably the first, third, fourth, and final sentences. The original letter is addressed to Rev. Rufus W. Griswold, Philadelphia, PA, and posted February 25. Griswold printed his manipulated form of the letter, describing it as Poe’s next after that of January 10, 1845. The January letter, however, was forged (see SPR-6), and the statement merely covered his not printing Poe’s letter of January 16 (LTR-190).

Source: text as printed by Griswold in his “Memoir,” Works, 3:vi [1850].

Quinn (pp. 446-448) gives parallel printings of both the authentic and Griswold’s forged two forms, as well as a photographic facsimile of the original.

Spurious 8 — 1845, April 19 [SP-80] Poe (New York, NY) to Rufus W. Griswold (— ?):

Dear Griswold: — I return the proofs with many thanks for your attentions. The poems look quite as well in the short metres as in the long ones, and I am quite content as it is. In “The Sleeper” you have “Forever with unclosed eye” for “Forever with unopen’d eye.” Is it possible to make the correction? I presume you understand that in the repetition of my Lecture on the Poets, (in N: Y.) I left out all that was offensive to yourself. I am ashamed of myself that I ever said anything of you that. was so unfriendly or so unjust; but what I did say I am confident has been misrepresented to you. See my notice of C. F. Hoffman’s (?) sketch of you.

Very sincerely yours,


Notes: It is curious that Griswold published this letter with the fraudulent addition to this ending “by Poe,” confessing to be “ashamed ... [to have] said anything ... so unfriendly or so unjust” and alluding to a statement less unfavorable, by Poe, in a review that appeared a month later, on May 17. Obviously, Griswold had no fear of being detected in his manipulation of the text after the death of Poe, that “friendless” man, as Griswold’s obituary depicted him. For the authentic letter, see LTR-196.

Source: Text as printed by Griswold in his “Memoir,” Works, 3:vi [1850].Quinn (pp. 449-450) gives parallel printings of the two forms.

Spurious 9 — 1845, November 1 [SP-84] Poe (New York, NY) to Rufus W. Griswold (— ?):

My dear Griswold: — Thank you for the $25. And since you will allow me to draw upon you for the other half of what I asked, if it shall be needed at the end of a month, I am just as grateful as if it were all in hand, — for my friends here have acted generously by me. Don’t have any more doubts of my success. I am, by the way, preparing an article about you for the B. J., in which I do you justice — which is all you can ask of any one.

Ever truly yours,

Edgar A. Poe.

Notes: As with other letters printed in Griswold’s “Memoir,” but without a verifying MS, the present item must be considered spurious. With a differing view, TOM [Iowa] writes: “Ostrom rejects this [letter] but I think it at least partly genuine. The last sentence strikes me as an interpolation.” This final sentence is indeed highly problematic. No such article appeared in the 11th or 12th issues of the BJ, even with the additional inducement of the money supposedly sent by Griswold, and with another $25 at risk. Although the phrases “my friends here have acted generously by me” and “don’t have any more doubts of my success” carry some of the false sense of bravado present in various genuine examples in which Poe discusses his magazine plans, neither makes any real sense here since other letters of the same period show him frantically trying to raise the sum needed to keep the BJ alive (see LTR-216, LTR-217, LTR-219, and LTR-221a). Most troubling is the self-serving nature of printing such a letter. Under the circumstances, it seems that Griswold inserted this forgery to give “proof” of his previous friendship with and generosity to the deceased Poe, offsetting any sense of bias which might mitigate the attack which would follow.

Source: text as printed by Griswold in his “Memoir,” Works, 3:vi [1850].

Spurious 10 — 1845-1846 [SP-86] Poe (New York, NY) to — ? (— ?):

[... . .]

I am exceedingly anxious. If you would be so kind as to look me up, I will consider it a great favor. You understand the whole story is purely fiction. —

Your opinion is of great consideration. —

Yr Ob. St

Edgar A. Poe

Notes: The present item, printed as if authentic by Ostrom in The Letters [1948] (as LTR-221), seems to imply a reference to Poe’s tale “Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar,” published in December 1845 (see the notes to LTR-233 and LTR-245); or to “Mesmeric Revelation,” published in August 1844 (see the note to LTR-175). TOM [Iowa] clearly designates the fragment as a forgery, with a comment that it should be compared against LTR-188. The first and third sentences appear to be lifted from that letter to George Bush (discussing the latter tale), although the first sentence is truncated here to a point that it makes no real sense. The second sentence seems to be a jumble. Why should Poe be asking someone to “look me up” as “a great favor” when he is already asking the favor of an opinion of a story? The notion that “the whole story is purely fiction” seems to have appealed to Joseph Cosey, who used it in various forms in several of his forgeries. It is at least possible that this fragment is a discarded draft of Poe’s letter, but without further support, TOM’s attribution of forgery is accepted.

Source: original MS (fragment) in the Alderman Library, University of Virginia. The fragment appears to be the middle section of an original letter. Neither the correspondent’s name nor the date is given.

Spurious 10a — 1845-1846 [SP-86a] Poe (New York, NY) to Mrs. Frances S. Osgood (New York, NY):

[...] You remind me of a cathedral with a simple unpretending portal, which gives no idea of the rare revelations within, and through which you pass to wonders that you did not dream of before. Once within, you are overwhelmed with the grandeur, the beauty, the mystery, the majesty, the majesty around you — the lofty and magnificent arches, the dim, far-reaching aisles, the clustered columns, the vaulted roof lost to the eye from its wondrous height — the glorious pictures by the master hand — the iris colored light from the painted windows pouring softly over all — the silence, the religious calm prevailing the place — all combine to awe and elevate any who rashly and unthinkingly enter that sanctuary of the soul [...]

Notes: Whitty introduces this text as “something from one of Poe’s letters to Mrs. Osgood which she afterwards used to good purpose.” Unfortunately, he doesn’t explain his source, nor the “good purpose” for which she used it “afterwards.” Whitty also quotes what he describes as a “pen picture of Poe” by Mrs. Osgood: “He deals principally in antithesis, and he himself is an antithesis personified. The wildest concepts — the sharpest satire — the bitterest, maddest vituperation — the most exquisite talker — the most subtle appreciation of the most delicate and beautiful in his subject — the most radiant wit — the most dainty and Ariel-like fancy — with a manner and a mien the most quaint, abrupt and uncouth imaginable — it is like nothing in nature, or rather it is so exceedingly natural that it seems almost supernatural. His discourse is all thunder or lightning — every play of his impish eye-brow is an epigram, every smile a jeu d’esprit. At one time affectionate, confident, careless, buoyant, almost boyish in mood; at another irritable, ferocious, seemingly ready for a tiger-spring upon a foe, and again calm, cold, haughty and uncomeatable as an Indian of the olden time. [new paragraph] Here is a stranger original than any favorite the author ever drew.” Again, Whitty does not give his source, although he notes that he has “never seen this in any late reference to Poe.” There are echoes in the present item of the extravagant prose Poe would later use in wooing Mrs. Whitman, and Whitty may have had in his possession some personal letter from Mrs. Osgood, but without substantiation it is not possible to verify the authenticity of Whitty’s purported find. Although Whitty made numerous contributions to Poe scholarship, he was also inclined to make exaggerated claims without documentation, and prone to romantic fancies.

Source: text as given in Whitty, “Poeana,” The Step Ladder, 13:239-240. Whitty provides no date for the letter fragment, if there ever really was one, and without further details it seems impossible to assign one more precise than the general period of the public flirtation between Poe and Mrs. Osgood.

Spurious 11 — 1846, August 9 [SP-89a] Poe (Philadelphia, PA) to Philip P. Cooke (Millwood, VA):

[... The last selection of my tales was made from about seventy by] one of our great little cliquists and claquers [, Wiley and Putnam’s reader, Duyckinck... .]

Notes: In printing the authentic letter of August 9, 1846, Griswold maliciously inserted the text given above between the bracketed material. The venomous phrase was designed to discredit Poe in the opinion of this influential editor. The deleterious effect, when the third volume came out in 1850, in Duyckinck’s retaliation in the Literary World, was noted by Quinn (pp. 675 and 677). Poe seems to have genuinely respected Duyckinck, and his dealings with both Evert and his brother George L. Duyckinck, in addition to their obvious utilitarian purposes, appear to have been friendly. Similarly, see SPR-23 for a postscript added by Griswold to have the same effect on George W. Eveleth, although with less success. For the authentic letter, see LTR-240. See also LTR-307b and the source note for another example of Griswold’s malicious campaign not only to smear the author’s reputation, but also to alienate support for Poe.

Source: text as printed by Griswold in his “Memoir,” Works, 3:xxxi [1850].

Spurious 12 — 1846, December 7 [SP-92] Poe (New York, NY) to A. N. Howard (New York, NY):

New York,

December 7. ‘46

Dr Sir,

Having just arrived this morning from Philadelphia (from an unsuccessful literary visit) I found your letter and thinking to find you at the office, hastened here, but Miss Howard informs me that you have gone to New Haven for the weekend. However, I shall see you on Monday or Tuesday.

This story, “The Cask of Amontillado”, was published for the first time in last month’s number of “Godey’s Mag.” I fail to see that it bears any affinity to “The Case of M. Valdemar”. This latter was a pseudo-scientific extravagance — the story a fiction of the most pronounced type. If you can come out to Fordham on Sunday afternoon I shall be pleased to discuss the “resemblance” with you. I think I have the MSS. of both.

Your daughter assures me of this being delivered in time for you to let me know if I may expect you. I shall be alone, except that a mutual friend, N. P. Willis, and perhaps Dr. Farmer (who usually calls after church services) may call.

Thanking you for the “criticism”, I am

Yours truly

A. N. Howard, Esq. Edgar A Poe.

New York

Notes: The present item is the first of five surprisingly elaborate forgeries, all to the same supposed correspondent, and containing essentially the same contents, with an assortment of variations (see SPR-13 and SPR-14, especially the latter for the declared identity of the A. N. Howard). All of the letters purport to be hand delivered, avoiding the inconvenience of having to create a fake postmark. Cosey has littered the letter with elements intended to attract the eye of an eager collector.

Source: text as printed in an undated sales catalog. The MS is addressed: “care of Miss D. Howard / A. N. Howard, Esq. / St. Paul’s Church House / New York / E. A. Poe Friday 3 P. M.” Other forgeries in this series use different addresses for the probably fictitious Mr. Howard.

Spurious 13 — 1846, December 7 [SP-93] Poe (New York, NY) to A. N. Howard (New York, NY):

New York

December 7. 46.

My dear Sir,

Having been confined for a few days with a severe cold I did not receive your letter until this morning; I call at the Post Office you know, there being none at Fordham.

The story “A Cask of Amontillado,” appeared in last month’s number of Godey’s. As to a part being deleted you are correct: I had at first introduced the climax by the household of Fortunato becoming alarmed over the absence of the Master, but upon a second reading it appeared to bear a resemblance, in form, to “The Case of M. Valdemar,” which, if you have read it must be obvious. The story appears in final form as it was first written with the exception of the first paragraph being omitted as altogether irrelevant to the theme. I shall send you a copy of the introduction, or, perhaps you could come out to Fordham, say on Sunday afternoon? Miss Howard assures me she will deliver this to you in time for you to let me know if I may expect you. I shall be alone except, perhaps Mrs. G. may come out, or Dr Stewart (he usually does after meeting services), and there are a number of things mutually interesting to talk about. However, if you have other plans or engagements I shall be in on Monday or Tuesday.

As I was leaving the office of the S. L. M. last Saturday I met our old friend Evans of Sartain’s; he in course of time asked if you still were willing to pay the sum of one thousand dollars for a half-interest in his contemplated project! I of course could not answer any such question, so you will probably hear from him.

I thank you for the criticism of Mrs. Sigourney’s space in the “literati.” There is no thought in any of these to disparage or belittle — I choose one, or two, each month, and so far the only protest I have had was from a man whom I very much admire — H. W. L. — which you have undoubtedly read.

Yours very truly

A. N. Howard Esqr Edgar A Poe.

New York

16 Cedar St.

P. S. I shall send you a copy of the case of “M. Valdemar,” as I feel certain you haven’t one.

E. A. Poe.

Notes: The second of three nearly identical forgeries by Joseph Cosey (see SPR-12 and SPR-14). Pencilled notes identify “Mrs. G” as “Mrs. Gove daughter of Dr. Wm. J. Gove” and “H. W. L.” as “Henry W. Longfellow.” The address reads: “(Miss M Howard) / A. N. Howard Esqr / New York / (Sugar House) / E. A. Poe Friday 3. P.M.”

Source: forged MS in the New York State Library (initially identified in Pollin, “A Spurious Letter to A. N. Howard,” Poe Studies, 6:27-28).

Spurious 14 — 1846, December 7 [SP-94] Poe (New York, NY) to A. N. Howard (New York, NY):

New York,

December 7. 1846 —

Dr Sir,

Having just returned from Philadelphia this morning I had hopes of finding you at the office, but your daughter informs me that you have gone to New Haven for the week-end, however, I shall see you on Monday or Tuesday. This morning I received your letter of the 1st and am somewhat surprised at your theory of certain of my contributions to current pds. The story “The Cask of Amontillado”, which you so earnestly criticize was published for the first time in last month’s number of “Godey’s Mag.” I am puzzled to know how you have

arrived at the conclusion proposed in your letter. I cannot admit any affinity between it and the case of “M. Valdemar.” The latter was a pseudo-scientific extravagance, while the story is a fiction of the most pronounced type. It frequently occurs that one work suggests another to the author of both, and this is universally admitted; and it is common knowledge that one author’s work may suggest a theme for another author, but upon reflection, I fail to recall anything in the case of “M. Valdemar” that could possibly suggest a work of the nature of “The Cask of Amontillado.” Having the Mss. of both of these, at least I am sure of the latter, and if I have not the “Valdemar” case MS. I have a copy of the proof sheets) at home I shall be pleased to examine them with you say on Sunday afternoon if you can arrange to come out to Fordham on your way home. I shall be alone except, perhaps, a mutual friend, N. P. Willis, of the “Mirror” may call; and of course Mrs. S —, who usually calls after church service there to see Virginia. Your daughter assures me that you will receive this from her own hand in time to let me know if I may expect you.

As regards to the request of the changes in “The Fall of the House of Usher”, I cannot state off hand [sic] an accurate answer to all of the lines, but this being one of my earlier contributions to the “Gentleman’s Magazine” when I was assisting Burton in editing, nearly all the corrections and changes are recalled. This story was published in the September number (“Burton’s Gentleman’s Magazine). Shortly after its appearance, I severed connections with the Mag. that is, as far as editorial authority was concerned; but continued occasionally to send in a few items.

“The Fall of the House of Usher” contained at this time incorporated in the theme an earlier poem “The Haunted Palace,” which my friend and able critic J. R. Lowell praised so highly upon its first appearance of course). Some of your questions I can answer here; the remainder I shall give you later on. In the last paragraph:

... . From that room and from that house I fled in terror ... .

... . From that chamber, and from that mansion I fled aghast.

The commas being added

Line one the original MS. Has “During the whole of a cloudy, silent day I had been travelling on horseback” —— final During the whole of a dull dark and soundless day I had been passing alone on horseback. line 39 “insufferable” for “unrelenting”

These few corrections I may give in safety; the others, too numerous without the aid of the MS., I shall be pleased to give you later.

Hoping I may see you on Sunday evening, which will save me a trip to New York, I am

Yours truly

A. N. Howard, Esqr, Edgar A Poe.

New York

Notes: The third, and most elaborate, of five nearly identical forgeries (see SPR-12 and SPR-13). A note on the back states: “Anthony N. Howard, a pedagogue, pedant, and self-styled critic. He appointed himself a critic of Poe, Halleck, Longfellow and Margaret Fuller. A parish clerk, one degree removed from church rector and sexton’s assistant. His imagination carried him to great heights. Obtaining an assignment on the Columbian Magazine he caused the circulation of that worthy little monthly to fall off in 2 weeks. Anyone who has read Poe’s Cask of Amontillado and The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar will plainly see the stupidity of our ‘critic.’ ” In addition to these two tales, still among Poe’s most widely recognized works, Cosey has added “The Fall of the House of Usher” and completely gratuitous references to “The Haunted Palace” and Burton’s Gentleman’s Magazine. The use of “corrections” to such an important story shows Cosey’s keen awareness of elements most likely to appeal to a potential buyer, but, as he so often does, he has created something which should have struck any experienced collector as too good to be true.

Source: forged MS in the Free Library of Philadelphia, Gimbel Collection. As if in another hand, a note reads: “A. N. Howard / Decr. 9th 1846.” Apparently in the hope of establishing a provenance, it is also marked: “Margaret Melville / May 30, 1900”; “Fred W. Melville Phi Betta [sic] Kappa — June 1900”; and “Henry H. Melville / 1st Dist Circuit / Richmond Va. / May 30th 1900.” The extra notes pencilled about on the MS are clearly intended to resemble researcher or librarian comments.

Spurious 14a — 1846, December 7 [SP-94a] Poe (New York, NY) to A. N. Howard (New York, NY):

New York

December 7. ‘46

Dr Sir,

“The Cask of Amontillado” was published for the first time in last month’s number of “Godey’s”. I cannot agree with you that it bears any affinity to the case of “M. Valdemar”. The latter is a pseudo-mesmeric extravagance; the story you so carefully criticize is fiction of the most pronounced type.

However, if you can come to Fordham on Sunday afternoon I shall be pleased to show you the Mss. of both and discuss the “relationship”. I shall be alone except perhaps N. P. Willis, or Dr. Farmer may call.

Sorry to have found you absent; your daughter informs me you have gone to New Haven, but will return on Saturday.

Yours Truly

Edgar A Poe

A. N. Howard, Esqr

New York

Notes: Another forged letter to A. N. Howard, much shorter than most of the other examples in this curious series. The contents most closely resemble SPR-12, although this letter lacks the Poesque opening reference to a trip to Philadelphia. Although one can only speculate, it might be interesting to work out the sequence in which Cosey created these forgeries. Presumably, they began with the simpler forms and grew more and more elaborate, swelling in content as he created them, making the present forgery perhaps the earliest one, followed by SPR-12, and finally ending with SPR-14.

Source: forged MS in the Lilly Library, Indiana University. It is addressed: “A. N. Howard / Sugar House / New York,” with the additional note “(c/o Miss M. Howard).” “E. A. Poe” appears in the corner, with “3 P. M. Thursday.”

Spurious 14b — 1846, December 7 [SP-94b] Poe (New York, NY) to A. N. Howard (New York, NY):

New York

December 7. ’46

Dr Sir,

Having been confined with a severe cold for a few days I did not receive your letter until today when I ventured out as far as the Post Office. As I was passing your way I thought to call by way of an answer to your letter, but Miss Howard informs me you have gone to New Haven for the week-end. However, I shall see you on Monday or Tuesday. The story referred to in your letter “The Cask of Amontillado,” was published for the first time in last month’s issue of Godey’s Mag”, and has no relation whatever to the case of “M Valdemar.” The latter was a pseudo-scientific theme while the story of last month was purely fiction of the imaginative type. I shall send you a copy of the “facts in the case of M. Valdemar”, and you may judge for yourself. It is a singular co-incident but I have been asked the same question by a friend in Richmond. It may not, perhaps, be out of order for me to enquire “Wherein lies the alleged resemblance?” Is it a resemblance of style? or is it a resemblance of “color”? In “The Cask of Amontillado” the principle is a first person, singular; the plot is one of revenge of a pronounced type of the bizarre and “outre.” In “The Facts in the case of M. Valdemar”, a company or group of interested men of science, chiefly medicine, are interested in an experiment, or, a number of experiments in the much discussed “Mesmerism”. The introduction alone should be sufficient to establish a difference.

Sorry I did not find you at the office. Perhaps you can stop at Fordham on your way home, which, I suppose will be on Monday. I shall be alone for a few days, and we could discuss the “case”. Miss Howard assures me that she will deliver this in time for you to let me know if I may expect you.

Thanking you for the “criticism”, I am,

Yours very truly

Edgar A Poe

A. N. Howard, Esqr

St. Paul’s Church House

New York

P. S.

If I do not see you at Fordham, I shall write at length on Monday.

E. A. P.

Notes: Still another of Cosey’s forged letters to A. N. Howard.

Source: Forged MS in the Lilly Library, Indiana University.

Spurious 15 — 1846, December 7 [SP-95] Poe (New York, NY) to N. P. Willis (New York, NY):

New York

December 7 1847.

My dear Willis,

Having just arrived home this morning I thought to find you at the office, but Morris informs me that you have gone to Idlewild and will not return till Monday. However, I shall see you then. I sent you a copy of “The Cask of Amontillado”, which appeared in last month’s number of “Godey’s Mag.”, and, according to L. G. Was quite a success. Aside from that my visit — from a literary view point was not successful. G. R. G. was interested and attentive, but when it came to subscribing he hesitated, suggesting that $3.00 was not a sufficient sum to charge for a Mag. of the kind proposed that people who could pay $3.00 would pay $5.00, and that is as far as I got there. At Godey’s they were more receptive and encouraging. The story I submitted was not intended for that Mag. but being in immediate need of a few dollars I had no alternative but to offer it. I had written it in June and July, and it was due to the carnival which was held here that I conceived the idea of the carnival set in Rome as the time for the action of the tale, the rest [page 2] I shall not bore you with. When I sent it to Mr. F. of Graham’s he said it bore a resemblance to the “Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar.” I fail to see any affinity, what do you think. If you can arrange to come out to Fordham on Sunday afternoon I shall be pleased to examine the MSS. with you as I have, fortunately, both of them. It tries one’s patience that someone in the capacity of F. — criticizes a work of which he knows nothing. I could do nothing but tap my cane upon the floor, but the gesture was lost, that is it was wasted. I shall be alone on Sunday afternoon except, perhaps, for the presence of a mutual friend Dr. S — who usually calls to see Virginia and M. after church service there, so if you can come I shall be pleased, and as I have a severe cold for this time of the year it will allow me to stay in and rest on Monday and Tuesday. Morris tells me you might possibly call in again if you have not already left Fordham. In that case I have his promise to deliver this to you.

Yours truly

N. P. Willis, Esqr. Edgar A Poe

Home Journal Office

New York

Notes: Another forgery by Joseph Cosey. The text of the second page is similar to SPR-14 to A. N. Howard. On another page of the same letter is a forged reply by Willis, dated Dec. 8, 1846. “Dr. S.” is probably intended to be the “Dr. Stewart” of SPR-13. “M” was “Muddy,” Mrs. Clemm.

Source: photocopy of the forgery, preserved by TOM [Iowa].

Spurious 16 — 1847, February 27 [SP-102] Poe (Philadelphia, PA) to N. C. Burnett (Richmond, VA):

Dr. N. C. Burnett

Richmond Va

Dear Sir,

The last contribution I made to Godey’s Mag. was in Nov. of last year. It bore the title —

”The Cask of Amontillado”

— By —

Edgar A. Poe.

In reality it had been in L. G.’s office since Aug. 10th, but for some reason was deferred in favor of the ‘Literati’, submitted later. This was a short story of revenge, the locale being Italy. I regret that I have not a copy at hand, but shall send you one in a few days.

Hoping this is the information you wish, I am


Philadelphia, Feby. 27 Edgar A. Poe

Please remember me to our Richmond friends

Notes: The forger Joseph Cosey seems to have been particularly fond of references to Poe’s tale “The Cask of Amontillado.” No Dr. N. C. Burnett of Richmond is known. Although Cosey mined the general biographies of Poe for useful details in creating his forgeries, the name in this case is probably a mere invention.

Source: photograph of the forged MS offered on eBay in April 22, 2003. The MS was at one time in the collection of Charles Hamilton, who attributed it to the famous forger Joseph Cosey. This is presumably the item mentioned in Great Forgers and Famous Fakes, 1980, pp. 114-119.

Spurious 17 — 1847, August 7 [SP-105] Poe (Philadelphia, PA) to Nathaniel P. Willis (New York, NY):

[...] and as far as literary success is concerned my visit to Richmond has been a failure. G. R. G. — thinks that $300 is entirely too small a sum to ask for such a Mag. That $500 should be the price. And so the matter ended without anything being done.

I hope to be in Fordham on Sunday.

Cordially yours

N. P. Willis Esqr Edgar A. Poe

New York Aug. 7. 47 Philadelphia

Notes: The present item is another forgery, probably by Joseph Cosey, who particularly exploited the well-known connection between Poe and Willis. “G. R. G.” are the initials of George Rex Graham. Cosey seems to have thought the use of initials gave his forgeries an authentic feeling (see the note to SPR-18).

Source: facsimile of the portion of the letter printed in the revived form of the Southern Literary Messenger, August 1941, 3:390-391. The address page reads: “N. P. Willis Esqr / Home Journal Office / New York. / E. A. Poe.”

Spurious 17a — 1847, November 7 [SP-106a] Poe (Philadelphia, PA) to Nathaniel P. Willis (New York, NY):

Nov. 7. 1847

There is nothing in the general arrangement that is not ordinary. Our friend Dr B seems to think at variance with us.

Let me know your opinion.

N. P. Willis EsqrEdgar A Poe

Home Journal

Notes: Another forgery attributed to Joseph Cosey. “Dr. B” may be intended to suggest Dr. Nathan C. Brooks (see SPR-18).

Source: color photograph of the forgery, in the Lilly Library, Indiana University.

Spurious 18 — 1847, December 7 [SP-109] Poe (New York, NY) to Nathaniel P. Willis (New York, NY):

New York

Dec. 7 ‘47.

My dear Willis,

Having just returned from Philadelphia I thought to first drop in at the Home Journal Office and see you, but Morris informs me you have gone to Idlewild for the week end. As far as literary circles are concerned my visit was unsuccessful. Mr. R. was very attentive and interested, but when it came to subscribing he hesitated, suggesting that $3. — was not a sufficient sum for a Mag. of the kind proposed — that people who could pay $3.00 would pay $5.00, and that is as far as I got with him. I met our old friend, N. C. B. of Baltimore, who has visions of a return of the “Museum” on a level with “Sartains” or “Godey’s” at the same price as formerly.

Perhaps you may come out to Fordham on Sunday afternoon? I shall be alone, except maybe Mrs. Russel and possibly Dr. F — might drop in. Morris assures me he will deliver this in time for you to let me know if I may expect you, so I shall not absent myself.

R. G. Sends his compliments for “Pencillings by the Way.”

Yours cordially

Edgar A Poe

N. P. Willis Esqr.

Home Journal Office

New York

Notes: Another forgery by Joseph Cosey. “N. C. B.” would have been Nathan Covington Brooks, and the “Museum” the American Museum of Science, Literature, and the Arts, printed in Baltimore 1838-1839. No Mrs. Russel or Dr. F — is known, although the latter is probably intended to be the “Dr. Farmer” of SPR-12, and in either case a mere invention by the forger. “R. G.” may have been meant for Rufus W. Griswold. Cosey uses the attractively personal touch of asking for a visit to Fordham, noting other “friends” who will be there, in several others of his forgeries (see SPR-12, etc.). One of Cosey’s consistent errors was that Poe generally did not reduce names to initials in his letters, and almost never with a dash, although they were sometimes printed this way by early editors influenced by a Victorian sense of discretion. Cosey presumably mistook this convention as original to the MSS, or thought the use of initials lent an air of casual familiarity, and allowed him to insert prominent names without seeming to draw attention to them.

Source: facsimile of the forgery, printed by Charles Hamilton, Great Forgers and Famous Fakes, 1980, p. 116.

Spurious 19 — 1848, April 1 [SP-111] Poe (New York, NY) to Mrs. Sarah J. Hale (Philadelphia, PA):

To the Editors of the Lady’s Book: —

I have the honor of sending you, for your magazine, an article which I hope you will be able to comprehend rather more distinctly than I do myself. It is a translation, by my friend, Martin Van Buren Mavis (sometimes called the “Toughkeepsi [sic] Seer,”) of an odd-looking MS. which I found, about a year ago, tightly corked up in a jug floating in the Mare Tenebrarum — a sea well described by the Nubian geographer, but seldom visited, now-a-days, except by the transcendentalists and divers for crotchets.

Truly yours,

Edgar A. Poe.

Notes: This “letter” is really the introductory note for Poe’s tale “Mellonta Tauta.” As part of an obviously fictional work, it should not be considered a genuine letter.

Source: text printed in Godey’s Lady’s Book, February 1849 (38:133). What is misprinted as “Toughkeepsi” should be “Poughkeepsie.”

Spurious 20 — 1848, April 1 [SP-112] Poe (New York, NY) to Langfred Landing Granbbrok (Philadelphia, PA):

Fordham, April 1st, 1848.

Sir: The true purpose of poetry appears to have been misunderstood by poets in all ages. It has been reserved for the moderns, or one of them at least, to discover its proper uses — or, more correctly speaking, want of use. Poetry is but the rhythmical creation of beauty. Its true office is the beautiful only. It may verge on the grotesque, but must not enter it. It must never deal with the terrible, the vividly fearful — the horrid, or the profound. Didactic poetry is a misnomer, as reason is not rhyme. A poem should never have its moral, nor should it ever possess a meaning. I trust I make myself sufficiently clear, even to the meanest comprehension. To aid my exposition, I send you an example, in the singularly beautiful and strikingly peculiar poem which I inclose.

Your obedient servant,

Edgar A Poe.

Notes: This “letter” is one of five printed as an obvious, and admittedly rather amusing, hoax in Godey’s Lady’s Book. The letters — all tellingly dated as April 1, 1848 — are addressed as from George Pope Morris, John G. Whittier, N. P. Willis, Poe, and John Neal. The poem attributed in the article to Poe is “The Lady Hubbard,” a clever imitation of Poe’s general style, although not a parody of any particular poem. TOM [Poems] singles out Thomas Dunn English as the probable author of the hoax (1:511, item 87).

Source: text printed in “Specimens of American Poets, with Fac-similes of Autographs,” Godey’s Lady’s Book, December 1849, 39:417.

Spurious 20a — 1848, December 10 [SP-123a] Poe (New York, NY) to Mr. Blair (— ?):

New York, Decr 10, 1848

Mr. Blair,

I have no recollection of the article of which you inquire. I shall however look it up for you, as I am going to Baltimore this week, and will see Dr B — who will know.

Edgar A. Poe.

Notes: Although surprisingly crude, this forgery bears some similarity to other fakes by Joseph Cosey, who is presumably the author of this note as well. Like A. N. Howard (SPR-12, etc.), Mr. Blair appears to be a purely fictional name. “Dr. B — “ of Baltimore may have been intended to suggest Nathan Covington Brooks, who makes an appearance in several other Cosey forgeries. The brown “ink” used in writing the note may be nothing more than tobacco juice, or some homemade recipe. A few smudges have been applied in a minor attempt to age the paper.

Source: color photograph of the MS, offered on eBay on January 31, 2006. The slip of paper measures 2 inches x 7 inches. The seller claimed to have purchased it as part of a lot from Goodspeed’s Bookshop, although not as an authentic Poe item. The great autograph dealer Charles Hamilton kept a special collection of Cosey forgeries, and it is probable that other dealers did so as well. Some dealers also purchased forgeries just to get them off the market. Unfortunately, these sometimes manage to find their way back into the hands of unwary buyers.

Spurious 21 — 1849, early [SP-129] Poe (New York, NY) to Rufus W. Griswold (New York, NY):

Dear Griswold: — Your uniform kindness leads me to hope that you will attend to this little matter of Mrs. L ——, to whom I truly think you have done less than justice. I am ashamed to ask favors of you, to whom I am so much indebted, but I have promised Mrs. L—— this. They lied to you, (if you told —— what he says you told him,) upon the subject of my forgotten Lecture on the American Poets, and I take this opportunity to say that what I have always held in conversations about you, and what I believe to be entirely true, as far as it goes, is contained in my notice of your “Female Poets of America,” in the forthcoming “Southern Literary Messenger.” By glancing at what I have published about you, (Aut. in Graham, 1841; Review in Pioneer, 1843; notice in B. Journal, 1845; Letter in Int., 1847; and the Review of your Female Poets,) you will see that I have never hazarded my own reputation by a disrespectful word of you, though there were, as I long ago explained, in consequence of ——’s false imputation of that beastly article to you, some absurd jokes at your expense in the Lecture at Philadelphia. Come up and see me: the cars pass within a few rods of the New-York Hotel, where I have called two or three times without finding you in.

Yours truly,


Notes: The present item seems to be a forged version of LTR-321, an authentic letter to Griswold, dated June 28, 1849. The obsequious tone and the overly apologetic dismissal of Poe’s criticisms of Griswold seem uncharacteristic of Poe and too clearly serve Griswold’s purposes. There does not seem to be any review of Griswold in the Pioneer; and Poe’s “Notes Upon English Verse” makes only a passing reference. What Griswold intends by the “Letter in Int., 1847” is uncertain. The BJ review may be Poe’s generally favorable notice of Griswold’s Prose Works of John Milton (BJ, September 27, 1845, 2:177; see Writings, 3:256-257). For Poe’s “Lecture at Philadelphia,” see LTR-196 and notes.

Source: text as printed by Griswold in his “Memoir” of Works, 3:vi [1850].

Spurious 22 — 1849, May 10 [SP-133] Poe (New York, NY) to John R. Thompson (Richmond, VA):

Notes: Ostrom printed this letter in The Letters [1948], but listed it as a forgery in his Revised Check List of 1981. Further consideration suggests that the present item is more likely to be an authentic letter than a forgery. It has, therefore, been moved back to LTR-313.

Spurious 23 — 1849, ca. May [SP 134] Poe (Philadelphia, PA) to R. W. Griswold (— ?):

Dear Griswold: — I inclose perfect copies of the lines “For Annie” and “Annabel Lee,” in hopes that you may make room for them in your new edition. As regards “Lenore,” (which you were kind enough to say you would insert,) I would prefer the concluding stanza to run as here written... . . It is a point of no great importance, but in one of your editions you have given my sister’s age instead of mine. I was born in Dec. 1813; my sister, Jan. 1811. Willis, whose good opinion I value highly, and of whose good word I have a right to be proud, has done me the honor to speak very pointedly in praise of “The Raven.” I inclose what he said, and if you could contrive to introduce it, you would render me an essential favor, and greatly further my literary interests, at a point where I am most anxious they should be advanced.

Truly yours, E. A. Poe.

P. S. — Considering my indebtedness to you, can you not sell to Graham or to Godey (with whom, you know, I cannot with the least self-respect again have anything to do directly) — can you not sell to one of these men, “Annabel Lee,” say for $50, and credit me that sum? Either of them could print it before you will need it for your book. Mem. The Eveleth you ask about is a Yankee impertinent, who, knowing my extreme poverty, has for years pestered me with unpaid letters; but I believe almost every literary man of any note has suffered in the same way. I am surprised that you have escaped. Poe.

Notes: The main body of the letter is authentic, matching LTR-317, with minor alterations and some additional words in the last sentence before the signature, but the postscript is wholly forged by Griswold. The MS has no postscript, and as Quinn suggests (p. 670), such a postscript would scarcely be cut off for the sake of framing the letter. More importantly, both Poe and Griswold knew at this time that Graham no longer owned Graham’s Magazine, although it retained his name in its title (see LTR-319). “Annabel Lee,” therefore, could not be sold to him, though it might have been sent to Godey. In all probability, there was no postscript to Poe’s original letter. The obvious intention is to make it appear that Poe was insulting Eveleth. Griswold used the same tactic on E. A. Duyckinck, attempting to distance another potential defender of Poe (see SPR-11).

Source: text as printed by Griswold in his “Memoir” of Works, 3:vi-vii [1850]. After the date of Jan. 1811, Griswold inserts the editorial note “[The data of his birth to which he refers was printed from his statement in the memoranda referred to in the first of the letters here printed. — R. W. G.].” Griswold also adds “”in your new edition” at the end of the first sentence and, more significantly, omits Poe’s phrase “but I fear I am asking too much” from the end of the last sentence. Other differences are primarily incidentals and pointing.

Spurious 24 — September 29, 1849 [SP-144] Poe (Richmond, VA) to John M. Daniel (Richmond, VA):

[...] Shortly before the death of our good friend, Samuel Fenwick, he sent to me from New-York for publication a most beautiful and thrilling poem, which he called the ‘Raven,’ wishing me, before printing it, to ‘see if it had merit,’ and to make any alterations that might appear necessary. So perfect was it in all its parts that the slightest improvement seemed to me impossible. But you know a person very often depreciates his own talents, and he even went so far as to suggest that in this instance, or in any future pieces he might contribute, I should revise and print them in my own name to insure their circulation.

This proposal I rejected, of course, and one way or other delayed printing the ‘Raven,’ until, as you know, it came out in The Review, and ——. It was published when I was unfortunately intoxicated, and not knowing what I did. I signed my name to it, and thus it went to the printer, and was published.

The sensation it produced made me dishonest enough to conceal the name of the real author, who had died, as you know, some time before it came out, and by that means I now enjoy all the credit and applause myself. I probably go to New-York tomorrow, but will be back by Oct. 12th, I think.

Notes: The notion that Poe simply could not have written “The Raven” seems to have been a kind of nineteenth conspiracy theory. Henry Beck Hirst and Thomas Holley Chivers both claimed that Poe borrowed, or stole, some major facet of the poem from their own works. (Chivers’ most sustained attempt to shine the light of “The Raven” on himself was a series of letters printed in the Waverley Magazine over the assumed name of “Fiat Justitia.” These letters appear in the issues for July 30, August 13 and 20, September 10 and 24, and October 1 and 8, 1853.) The present item seems to be just another bit of overly sensational journalism, a hoax, or another attempt by Poe’s enemies to harm his reputation by separating him from his most famous poem. Poe knew John M. Daniel of Richmond, who wrote a favorable notice of Poe’s lecture (Richmond Weekly Examiner, August 24, 1849) and of Poe’s collected writings (SLM, March 1850, 16:172-187), but no one named Samuel Fenwick has been identified.

Source: text as printed in “Did Poe Write the Raven?,” a letter signed “J. Shaver,” dated July 22, 1870, to the editor of the New-Orleans Times. The letter was reprinted in the New York Tribune, July 29, 1870 (Ingram Collection, item 550).

Spurious 25 — undated [SP-149] Poe (— ?) to John H. Payne (— ?):

[...] Bocalini [sic], in his “Advertisements from Parnassus,” tells us that a critic once presented Apollo with a severe censure upon an excellent poem. The god asked him for the beauties of the work. He replied that he only troubled himself about the errors. Apollo presented him with a sack of unwinnowed wheat, and bade him pick out all the chaff for his pains. Now, I have not fully made up my mind that the god was in the right. I am not sure that the limit of critical duty is not very generally misapprehended. Excellence may be considered an axiom, or a proposition which becomes self-evident, just in proportion to the clearness or the precision with which it is put. If it fairly exists in this sense it requires no farther elucidation. It is not excellence if it need to be demonstrated as such. To point out too particularly the beauties of a work is to admit, tacitly, that these beauties are not wholly admirable. Regarding, then, excellence as that which is capable of self-manifestation, it but remains for the critic to show when, where, and how it fails in becoming manifest; and, in this showing, it will be the fault of the book itself if what of beauty it contains be not, at least, placed in the fairest light. In a word, I assume, notwithstanding a vast deal of cant upon this topic, that in pointing out frankly the errors of a work, I do nearly all that is critically necessary in displaying its merits. In teaching what perfection is, how, in fact, shall we more rationally proceed than in specifying what it is not? [...]

Notes: John Howard Payne (1792-1852) was a celebrated American actor, occasional poet, and author of several plays. In 1809, Payne performed on stage with Elizabeth and David Poe (see Quinn, p. 34), and in 1810, Elizabeth Poe played as Payne’s leading lady, including Ophelia to Payne’s Hamlet and Juliet to Payne’s Romeo (see Quinn, p. 721). As appealing as it might be to find correspondence between Edgar and someone who clearly knew his parents, the text of this “letter” is really just an adaptation of Poe’s review of Dickens’ Barnaby Rudge, from Graham’s Magazine, February 1842. The review was printed, with the name of Boccalini spelled correctly, in the “Literati” volume of the Griswold edition of Poe’s Works (1850, 3:465-466). The possibility that Paul had a fragment of the original MS of this review, and mistook it for a letter, seems unlikely given his direct statement that it is “an extract from a letter which Poe addressed to John Howard Payne, the author of the words of that over-rated lyric, ‘Home, Sweet Home,’ ” further noting, “This letter has never before appeared in print.”

Source: text as printed by Howard Paul, “Recollections of EAP,” Munsey’s Magazine (August 1892, 7:554-558).




In an e-mail of October 13, 2017, Ton Fafianie wrote to the Poe Society concerning Spurious Letter 10a, identifying the source of the comment attributed to Poe as being the opening paragraph from “Life in New York: A Sketch of a Literary Soiree,” an article by Frances S. Osgood (Graham’s Magazine, vol. XXX, no. 3, March 1847, pp. 177-179). The same article also contains what Whitty quotes as being the “pen picture of Poe,” although omitting the final sentence that “He is the ideal Yankee of the nineteenth century,” which would seem to be an odd comment to make about Poe.


[S:0 - CLT08, 2008] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Editions - The Collected Letters of Edgar Allan Poe (Ostrom, Pollin and Savoye) (Appendix C)