The Letters of Edgar Allan Poe


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Editions Authorized by Poe:

Understandably, there were no authorized collections of Poe’s correspondence during his lifetime. The “Preface” and “Memoir” in Griswold’s edition of 1850-1856 includes a selection of letters, but the value of these letters is dubious due to the fact that Griswold appears to have altered and in some cases to have invented letters to suit his own purposes.

Later Collected Editions:

Although several editors collected Poe’s works after the death of Griswold in 1857, they were primarily interested in the poetry, tales, essays and criticism. Poe’s letters were used with some frequency in memoirs and biographies of Poe, often scattered across the breadth of a far-reaching text and in the form of excerpts. A number of smaller collections of Poe’s correspondence appeared in the form of articles, primarily by John H. Ingram and George E. Woodberry. The first plan that specifically collected as many of the existing letters in their own right was in the 1902 edition prepared by James A. Harrison. Harrison also included what remains the most complete printed collection of letters written to Poe. Regrettably, Harrison omitted many items, excerpted text and was not scrupulous in his readings of the manuscripts. It remained the only collection of Poe’s letters until Ostrom’s edition of 1948.

  • The Complete Works of Edgar Allan Poe, edited by James. A. Harrison   (New York: T. Y. Crowell, 1902 — The letters are collected in volume 17)
  • The Life and Letters of Edgar Allan Poe, edited by James A. Harrison   (New York: T. Y. Crowell, 1903 — This collection essentially reproduces volume 17 from the larger set, printed as volume 2, along with Harrison’s biography of Poe.)

Modern Scholarly Editions:

The most comprehensive printed collection of letters written by Poe is the 2-volume set of The Collected Letters of Edgar Allan Poe (third edition) originally edited by John Ward Ostrom, and revised, expanded and corrected by Burton R. Pollin and Jeffrey A. Savoye, published by Gordian Press in October 2008. It updates and supplants the previous edition by John W. Ostrom,The Letters of Edgar Allan Poe, Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1948 (reprinted, with supplemental material by Gordian Press, 1966. The supplement of the 1966 edition included new material as well as combining material published in American Literature, XXIV (November 1952), pp. 358-366 and American Literature, XXIX (March 1957), pp. 79-86. A fourth supplement was printed in American Literature, XLV, no. 4 (January 1974), pp. 513-536. All of this material has been incorporated in the third edition.

 


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The Correspondents:

As early as 1921, Thomas Ollive Mabbott sought to remedy the problems of the earlier handling of the letters and began to collect material for a comprehensive edition of Poe’s correspondence, with the texts of all known letters from and to Poe. It was a formidable goal, and over twenty years later, the edition had still not appeared. Even after John Ward Ostrom published the 1948 edition of Poe’s letters noted above, Mabbott planned to include the correspondence as part of his complete edition of Poe’s works. About 1963, Mabbott appears to have shifted his intention, seeking to print only letters to Poe, since these were noted by Ostrom in his check list, but not generally quoted in the text. At some point, Mabbott planned to print only previously unpublished letters to Poe, as short articles in N&Q (Notes & Queries). With Ostrom’s 1966 revised edition of Poe’s letters, Mabbott seems to have abanonded his own plans, or at least to have put them on hold. Eventually, Mabbott’s notes on the letters to Poe were given to Joseph V. Ridgely, who continued the effort until financial problems in the publishing industry put an end to the project in the 1980s. The materials accumulated by Mabbott and Ridgely were subsequently made available to the Poe Society of Baltimore, and substantially constitute the basis for the texts for the letters written to Poe. It is hoped that in making all of these letters available to the scholarly community, we have, at long last, fulfilled Mabbott’s original intentions.

The collection reflected below includes all of Poe’s letters (and all of the letters written to Poe) for which surviving text is known. In a few instances, items are also noted for which no text is known, but the contents have been described. (At the bottom of this list are given some well-known fakes and forgeries.) The Poe Society is very interested in information about any letters that are not on this list or the accompanying checklist, or for which the location of the manuscript is noted as unknown or may be in error. Photocopies of manuscripts, transcripts and other information may be sent to the Poe Society. The name or anonymity of any private collector will be honored in accordance with his or her wishes.

Letters printed as part of the Ostrom/Pollin/Savoye edition are noted with a code of “OL#n”, where “n” is the letter number. Letters added or appearing with textual corrections in the supplement to the 1966 edition are noted as “OS#n” and in the 1974 supplement as “OS4#n”. Ostrom’s final Revised Check List of letters from and to Poe was published in Studies in the American Renaissance 1981, pp. 169-255. This Check List is referenced as “RCL#n”. Where the text here is printed from the manuscript, and there are notable variances from Ostrom’s text, the item is also noted as “MS”.) A few items included by Ostrom, somewhat erroneously as letters, remain in the checklist but have been moved to more appropriate sections of this web page. It should be noted, of course, that the approximately 420 surviving letters probably represent only a portion of those Poe wrote during his lifetime. In some cases, it is only Poe’s draft of a letter that comes down to us, so that we cannot be certain of the final version. Also, a large number of letters are known only through typescripts, excerpts or copies handwritten by others.

These items are arranged alphabetically by the last name of Poe’s correspondent. Within each name, the items are listed chronologically. A few letters are sent to undetermined addressees. These letters are listed under “Unknown.”

 


Scroll down, or select letter:

 


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~~ N ~~


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Related Material:

Check List of Letters from and to Edgar Allan Poe:

This checklist is based on John Ward Ostrom’s “Revised Check List of the Correspondence of Edgar Allan Poe” (Studies in the American Renaissance 1981), but has been corrected, and supplemented with additional entries and information by Jeffrey A. Savoye. 


Cross Reference of Page and Letter Numbers (under development)



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Bibliography:

  • Chase, Emma Lester and Lois Ferry Parks, eds, The Complete Works of Thomas Holley Chivers, Volume I: The Correspondence, Providence, Rhode Island: Brown University Press, 1957.
  • Field, Eugene, ed., Some Letters of Edgar Allan Poe to E. H. N. Patterson of Oquawka, Illinois, Chicago: Caxton Club, 1898. (This book contains truly marvelous photographic facsimiles of about 6 Poe letters, printed on Japanese vellum. The imitation is taken to such an extent that holes are cut in the letters to match blemishes in the originals.)
  • Harrison, James Albert, ed, The Life and Letters of Edgar Allan Poe, 2 vols, New York: Thomas Y. Crowell, 1903. (These volumes are also incoporated into Harrison’s 17-volume edition of Poe’s collected works, 1902.)
  • Harrison, James Albert, ed., The Last Letters of Edgar Allan Poe to Sarah Helen Whitman, New York: Putnams, 1909.
  • Mabbott, Thomas Ollive, “The Letters from George W. Eveleth to Edgar Allan Poe,” Bulletin of the New York Public Library, XXVI (March 1922), pp. 171-195. (This article was also distributed as a separate pamphlet, extracted from the bulletin.)
  • Mabbott, Thomas Ollive, “Letters from Mary E. Hewitt to Poe,” A Christmas Book from the Department of English, Hunter College, Brooklyn, New York: Comet Press, 1937, pp. 116-121.
  • Mabbott, Thomas Ollive and Joseph V. Ridgely, notes in preparation for an edition of letters written to Poe. (Private Collection.)
  • Moldenhauer, Joseph J., compiler,  A Descriptive Catalog of Edgar Allan Poe Manuscripts in the Humanities Research Center Library, the University of Texas at Austin, Austin: The University of Texas Press, 1973.
  • Ostrom, John Ward, “Revised Check List of the Correspondence of Edgar Allan Poe,” Studies in the American Renaissance 1981 (edited by Joel Myerson), 1981, pp. 169-255. (The first version of this checklist was published by John W. Ostrom in 1941. In 1948, it was greatly expanded and incorporated into the collection of letters.)
  • Ostrom, John Ward, ed., The Letters of Edgar Allan Poe, 2 vols, Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1948. (Reprinted, incorporating supplemental information, New York: Gordian Press, 1966.)
  • Ostrom, John Ward, ed., “Supplement to The Letters of Poe,” American Literature, XXIV (November 1952), pp. 358-366. (This supplement is included in the 1966 reprint edition of Ostrom’s The Letters of Edgar Allan Poe.)
  • Ostrom, John Ward, ed., “Second Supplement to The Letters of Poe,” American Literature, XXIX (March 1957), pp. 79-86. (This supplement is included in the 1966 reprint edition of Ostrom’s The Letters of Edgar Allan Poe.)
  • Ostrom, John Ward, ed., “Fourth Supplement to The Letters of Poe,” American Literature, XLV, no. 4 (January 1974), pp. 513-536.
  • Ostrom, John Ward, Burton R. Pollin and Jeffrey A. Savoye, eds., The Collected Letters of Edgar Allan Poe, 2 vols, New York: Gordian Press, 2008 (3rd edtion, revised, corrected and expanded).
  • Quinn, Arthur Hobson and Richard Hart, eds., Edgar Allan Poe: Letters and Documents in the Enoch Pratt Free Library, New York: Scholars’ Facsimilies & Reprints, 1941. (Nearly all of the Poe manuscript letters in the collection are presented in photographic reproductions.)
  • Stanard, Mary Newton, ed., Edgar Allan Poe Letters Till Now Unpublished in the Valentine Museum, Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott, 1925. (This book presents photographic facsimiles of nearly all the Poe letters in that collection.)
  • Wilson, James Grant, ed., “The Letters of Edgar A. Poe to George W. Eveleth,” University of Virginia Alumni Bulletin, 3rd series, XVII (January 1924), pp. 34-59.
  • Woodberry, George E., ed., “Poe in New York: Selections from the Correspondence of Edgar Allan Poe,” Century Magazine, n. s. XXVI (October 1894), pp. 854-866.
  • Woodberry, George E., ed., “Poe in Philadelphia: Selections from the Correspondence of Edgar Allan Poe,” Century Magazine, n. s. XXVI (September 1894), pp. 725-737.
  • Woodberry, George E., ed., “Poe in the South: Selections from the Correspondence of Edgar Allan Poe,” Century Magazine, n. s. XXVI (August 1894), pp. 572-583.

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[S:0 - JAS] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Works - The Letters of Edgar Allan Poe