Text: John Ward Ostrom, “Preface,” The Letters of Edgar Allan Poe — Vol. I: 1824-1845 (1966), pp. vii-xii (This material is protected by copyright)


[page vii, unnumbered:]


This edition of the letters of Edgar Allan Poe supplies the need for an authentic text. Except for photographic reproductions, previous printings of Poe’s correspondence have presented, in many instances, inaccurate or incomplete texts, and punctuation that was not Poe’s but the editor’s.

This collection does not pretend to contain all the letters that Poe wrote, for some are still lost or, if extant, unlocated; but it provides authentic versions of those holographs that were accessible and offers what seem to be the best texts of lost or unavailable originals, accessible now only in printed form or in typescript.

Texts printed herein have been taken from original autograph letters, facsimiles, or photostats; from printed versions in books, magazines, newspapers, and auction catalogues; and from reasonably accurate typescripts. In no instance has a printed or typescript source been used if the original manuscript was extant and available. In those letters printed from holograph, facsimile, or photostat, Poe’s original pagination has been preserved, indicated by bracketed figures; also original spelling, punctuation, even manuscript corrections have been followed, except for some idiosyncrasies that defied transference to the printed page. All doubtful readings in photographic reproductions of original letters have been collated with accessible holographs. The paraph or flourish, usually used by Poe under his own signature and under the name of his correspondent, has been omitted; and careted interpolations in the original manuscript have been reduced ‘’ to their structural position in the sentence. Furthermore, no attempt has been made to indicate the exact spacing of the heading, salutation, or indentions of paragraphs of the original letter.

This edition is a continuation and an expansion of the editor’s A Check List of Letters to and from Poe, published as No. 4 in the Bibliographical Series sponsored by the Alderman Library of the University of Virginia, 1941. As a result of a complete study of the whole Poe correspondence, the original list has been revised. It now includes all letters known to have been written to or from Poe, arranged chronologically and indexed; citations of letters misdated in various [page viii:] works on Poe, the items being entered chronologically in the list under the date customarily given with a cross-reference to their correct date; the city address, where known, of Poe and his correspondent; the present location of the original letter, if known; an additional printing of the letter, “F” indicating if printed in facsimile; identification of letters for which no original or printed source is known to exist but which are acceptable upon evidence satisfactory to the present editor, these items being explained as “cited” or “implied.” Letters that are both entered in the list and printed in this edition are identified by an asterisk next to the date of the item.

The edition proper prints, either in full or in part, 339 letters by Poe. The check list shows that Poe wrote at least 124 others, but of these the editor knows of only a dozen or so that have come down to the present day in manuscript and that are still unlocated. A study of all available sources shows also that at least 373 letters, established by original manuscripts, printed versions, and internal evidence, were written to Poe, exclusive of letters, apparently lost, which were written to him either as editor of a magazine or in connection with his attempt to found the Penn or the Stylus. A few of these “to the editor” letters appeared, or were referred to, in such periodicals as the Southern Literary Messenger, Graham’s, and Alexander’s Weekly Messenger, but they have not been included in the computation. It also follows that Poe wrote letters, now lost, in reply to such correspondents and to subscribers to his proposed magazine, but these, likewise, have been omitted.

Letters in this edition are numbered in sequence. Following the note which appears with the letter is a number in brackets that refers to the chronological position of that letter in the check list. A number of letters which were added to the edition at a late date have been inserted in chronological order with an “a” added to the number; they have been inserted in the same way in the check list.

Notes to the letters conform to the following procedure. With few exceptions each letter has two groups of explanatory comment: first, bibliographical and textual; second, editorial. The bibliographical and textual notes will be found after the text, each group identifiable by the number corresponding to the number given to each letter. The editorial comment accompanies the letter. Both groups of notes should be consulted for a complete understanding of matters pertaining to a specific letter.

In the bibliographical notes appear the source used for printing the [page ix:] letter in the present edition; the number of pages of manuscript, based upon holograph, facsimile, photostat, or notation in an auction catalogue; indication of the first printing of the letter in full or fullest form; comment, if necessary, on a misdated letter, or proposal of a correct or approximate date, if the letter is undated; matters pertaining to an extant envelope or cover, especially if its dating differs from that of the letter, and comment on the addressee, where advisable; irregularities of a known manuscript or of the text used, including any collations made; and, finally, indication of the letter or letters that Poe is answering, with reference to their present accessibility either in manuscript or in printed form.

In the editorial notes accompanying the letter, comment follows, as a rule, the text of the letter. For the first item of an important or extensive series between Poe and a correspondent, the bibliographical note lists the known letters in the correspondence.

A chronology of the main events in Poe’s life has been provided for ready reference. Separate lists identifying both general and private collections of Poe letters are given, locations of individual letters being indicated in the bibliographical notes.

Now let me speak in propria persona. Not only from a sense of justice, but from a deep appreciation and profound indebtedness, I wish to express my gratitude to Dean James Southall Wilson of the University of Virginia for his Introduction to the present edition and for his valuable guidance during the past seven years in my work of gathering and editing these letters; and to Dr. Thomas Ollive Mabbott of Hunter College for his untiring efforts in compiling data and for generously “lending his mind out” on many of the complexities arising from any study of Poe.

To Dr. Atcheson L. Hench of the University of Virginia, who read the manuscript, I am especially indebted for kindly advice and critical suggestions. I am grateful to Mr. Harry Clemons, Director of the Alderman Library of the University of Virginia, for his whole-hearted cooperation in accumulating material necessary for this edition. I am very much indebted to Mr. John Cook Wyllie, Curator of Rare Books, and to Mr. Francis L. Berkeley, Jr., Curator of Manuscripts, of the Alderman Library, for years of generous cooperation in ways too numerous to mention, as well as to Mr. Jack Dalton, Assistant Librarian, Miss Louise, Savage, Miss Evelyn Dollens, Mr. Harris Williams, and Mr. William Gaines, of the Library staff.

I owe much to Mr. William H. Koester of Baltimore, to Mr. Josiah K. [page x:] Lilly, Jr., of Indianapolis, to Mrs. Ralph Catterall and the Trustees of the Valentine Museum of Richmond, to Mr. H. Bradley Martin of New York, and to Mr. Merrill Griswold of Boston, who graciously opened their private collections to me. I am also indebted to Mr. and Mrs. George P. Coleman, Mrs. Sherburne Prescott, Miss Mary Benjamin, Mr. Richard G. Gimble, and Mr. Charles C. Hart for their assistance in making manuscript letters available. I am not unmindful of the assistance given me on many occasions by Dr. Arthur H. Quinn, whose biography of Poe has been referred to frequently; by Dr. David K. Jackson, whose studies of Poe in Richmond were very helpful; by judge Charles Zimmerman of the Ohio State Supreme Court, Dr. John C. French of Johns Hopkins University, Dr. W. K. Wimsatt of Yale University, Dr. C. William Miller of Temple University, Dr. John G. Varner, of Washington and Lee University, Mr. Edwin B. Hill and Mr. K. L. Daughrity, and Dr. Douglas S. Freeman, former President, and Miss Mary G. Traylor, Secretary until her recent death, of the Poe Foundation in Richmond.

I am indeed grateful to the Syndics of the Harvard University Press, to Mr. Roger L. Scaife, its former Director, and to Mr. Thomas J. Wilson, its present Director, for their interest in this edition, and I am especially indebted to Phoebe deKay Donald, of its editorial staff, for her valuable contributions to the completion of this edition. I want to express my appreciation to the New York Historical Society for making possible my use of the Osgood painting of Poe as a frontispiece.

Though Poe’s life was spent almost entirely within two hundred miles of the Atlantic coast, in an area bounded on the north by Boston, on the south by Charleston, the letters of his correspondence have found their way into library crypts as far removed from one another as Boston from San Marino, California, as Charleston from Austin, Texas. Distance, therefore, becomes a veritable wasteland thwarting the progress of the questing knight; and were it not for the generous cooperation of the keepers of original scripts, the armored knight or the editorial squire would be forced to cease his quest, unsuccessful.

It is, therefore, with sincerest appreciation that I here acknowledge — inadequate it must be — the painstaking efforts and hours of research of those who during the past seven years have assisted me: Mr. Clarence S. Brigham, Director of the American Antiquarian Society, [page xi:] for material from the files of the Society; Mr. Zoltan Haraszti, Keeper of Rare Books of the Boston Public Library, and his assistant, Miss Honor McCusker, Curator of English Literature, for hours of labor among the many items of the Griswold Collection; Miss Marie Hamilton Law, Librarian of the Drexel Institute; Mr. William A. Jackson, Librarian of the Houghton Library, Harvard University, and Mr. Herbert C. Schulz, Curator of Manuscripts, Henry E. Huntington Library, both of whom have been at considerable pains to clarify problems arising from textual peculiarities; Mr. St. George L. Sioussat, Chief of the Division of Manuscripts, and Mr. George A. Schwegmann, Jr., Director of the Union Catalogues, Library of Congress; Mr. William D. Hoyt, Jr., Assistant Director of the Maryland Historical Society, for extended investigations among the papers of the Society; Mr. John T. Windle, Head of the Public Service Department, The Newberry Library; Mr. Paul Rice North, Chief of the Reference Department, Mr. Robert W. Hill, Keeper of Manuscripts, and Dr. John D. Gordan, Director of the Berg Collection, New York Public Library, for advice and bibliographical and textual data; Mr. Louis H. Dielman, Librarian Emeritus of the Peabody Institute; Miss Theresa D. Hodges, Librarian of the Petersburg, Virginia, Public Library; Miss Belle da Costa Greene, Librarian of the Pierpont Morgan Library; Mr. Richard H. Hart, Head of the Literature Department of the Enoch Pratt Free Library; Mr. R. W. Church, State Librarian of the Virginia State Library; Lt. Col. W. J. Morton, former Librarian of the United States Military Academy; and Miss Anne S. Pratt, Reference Librarian of the Yale University Library.

I wish to acknowledge the following courtesies for material in print: To D. Appleton-Century Company for permission to reprint material, edited by George E. Woodberry for the Century Magazine in 1894 and in 1903; to Thomas Y. Crowell Company, publishers of the Virginia Edition of Poe, edited by James A. Harrison; to J. B. Lippincott Company, publishers of the Poe Letters Till Now Unpublished, copyright, 1925, by The Valentine Museum, with commentary by Mary Newton Stanard; to Mrs. Charles D. Woodberry, Boston, for material in George E. Woodberry’s Life of Poe, 1909; and to Mr. Clarence Gohdes, Editor of American Literature, published by the Duke University Press.

Furthermore, I am indebted to librarians and others whose generous assistance has permitted me to reprint in this volume letters in collections [page xii:] under their control: Mr. Harry Clemons of the Alderman Library, University of Virginia, for materials in the Poe and Ingram Collections; Mr. and Mrs. George P. Coleman, for letters now in Colonial Williamsburg Architectural Department; Mr. Milton Edward Lord and Mr. Richard G. Hensley of the Boston Public Library, for correspondence in the Griswold Collection; Mr. Thompson R. Harlow of the Connecticut Historical Society; Mrs. Ethel B. Clark of the Dumbarton Oaks Research Library; Mr. William A. Jackson of the Houghton Library, Harvard University; Miss Anna B. Hewitt of the Haverford College Library, for letters in the Charles Roberts Autograph Collection; Mrs. Sherburne Prescott, whose private collection is in the Hickory Hill Library, Greenwich, Connecticut; Mr. R. N. Williams, II, of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania; Mr. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow Dana, of the Longfellow House, Cambridge, Massachusetts; Mr. Leslie Bliss and Mr. Herbert C. Schulz of the Henry E. Huntington Library; Mr. Emory H. English of the Iowa State Department of History and Archives; Mr. St. George L. Sioussat of the Library of Congress; Miss Viola C. White of the Abernethy Library of American Literature, Middlebury College; Mr. Robert W. Hill, Keeper of Manuscripts, of the New York Public Library — the Poe material of the Manuscript Division having accumulated mainly from the Duyckinck Papers and from gifts by Dr. Thomas Ollive Mabbott, by the late Dr. Alfred W. Anthony, and by others; Dr. John D. Gordan, Director of the Henry W. and Albert A. Berg Collection, of the New York Public Library; Mr. Lloyd A. Brown of the Peabody Institute; Miss Belle da Costa Greene of the Pierpont Morgan Library; Mr. Turner Arrington, President of the Poe Foundation, Richmond; Mr. Emerson Greenaway of the Enoch Pratt Free Library; Miss Fannie Ratchford for material in the Wrenn Library, University of Texas; Mr. R. W. Church and Mr. William J. Van Schreeven of the Virginia State Library; Lt. Col. W. H. Corbett of the United States Military Academy; and Mr. James T. Babb of the Yale University Library.

J. W. O.

Wittenberg College

Springfield, Ohio




The Preface was written for the original edition of 1948.


[S:0 - OLT66, 1966] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Editions - The Letters of Edgar Allan Poe (J. W. Ostrom) (Preface)