Text: Burton R. Pollin, “Foreword and Acknowledgments,” The Collected Writings of Edgar Allan Poe — Vol. II: The Brevities (1985), pp. v-vi (This material is protected by copyright)


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In his rich legacy of innovative writings-tales, poems, and criticism — Edgar Allan Poe left us an ample treasure of brief essay — notes. Many of these are highly exhilarating and unconventional in their comments on books, people, contemporary events and topics of mood and reminiscence. Moreover, they repeatedly offer evidence that the root of exhilaration is “hilarity,” being humorous and whimsical, as a quick glance at the listed topics will show. The individual items total just over 600 and range from one sentence to fifteen paragraphs. They were published in installments or as detached articles in magazines. Many have hitherto not been collected in any editions of Poe’s works, and the reprints of the majority of them are usually incomplete, inaccurate, or confusing, while the needed annotations and commentaries are totally lacking. This last is true even of the major series, the “Marginalia.”

The seven sections of the present volume were originally issued by Poe from August 1835 to December 1850. The latter date is, in a sense, correct, despite his death on October 7, 1849, since the group which I call “Supplementary Marginalia” was definitely selected by Poe before posthumous publication. Another collection of magazine filler — items, like the Pinakidia of August 1836, I designate as the “Supplementary Pinakidia” — an accompaniment or offshoot of the original set. The other three groups of short essays or miscellanies were variously called by Poe “Literary Small Talk,” “A Chapter of Suggestions,” and “Fifty Suggestions — all markedly digressive, casual, and unstructured. Poe was ingenious in these titles and characteristically coined several of them. The “Pinakidia” or “Tablets” he pretended to derive from a classic Greek author, but in reality he adapted the term, perhaps unique, from Isaac D‘Israeli’s Curiosities of Literature, a popular compendium of short, learned, literary observations. This book was probably his ideal for the cumulative series now being published as The Brevities; it was also his richest source of borrowed erudition. In this early series (August 1836), Poe maintained that he was offering the readers 172 short articles copied from his “common — place” or memorandum book — a document unfound and perhaps never existent. For the other large series he invented “Marginalia” — a very useful word of wide currency today, to maintain the undoubted pretence that he was collecting his 291 “marginalic notes” (the adjective being his coinage). These were issued from November 1844 through September 1849 — a five — year span during which he presented the full [page vi:] scope of his varied and maturing views on literature, social theory, history, psychology, and science. The full seven sections comprise the Brevities — a title proleptically suggested by Poe himself.

Because of the mixture of materials in this volume of the Collected Writings of Edgar Allan Poe, I feel it necessary to furnish different types of associated and related data and observations in the prefatory part of the volume instead of placing them in appendices; they should be preliminarily available for consideration before the text, which consists of the separate articles along with the extensive annotations tied together in a flowing and continuous stream of commentary, although discrete. A comprehensive and analytic examination of all of these articles has never been attempted, even in earlier collections (as in James A. Harrison’s of 1902). Different portions of my Introduction are intended to clarify the choices and treatment of the texts and to offer the following: (a) the general history of each section, (b) a list of the typographical errors and of the end — of — line hyphenations, (c) a discussion of the extant manuscripts of The Brevities, (d) a treatment of Poe’s handling of the dieresis and digraph, (e) the topics of the three most discursive and extensive sections of the book — serving also as a detailed table of contents, (f) a list of the special elements in the processing and presentation of all the material, and (g) a list of the abbreviations and symbols used. Each of these sections is separately listed in the Table of Contents.


As in the preceding volume of Collected Writings of Edgar Allan Poe, namely, The Imaginary Voyages, I wish to express my gratitude for the sole use of materials and books collected by the late Professor Thomas Ollive Mabbott and generously put at my disposal by Maureen C. Mabbott and the legatee of the Mabbott papers, the Libraries of the University of Iowa, under the present charge of Dale M. Bentz and, for its Special Collections, of Frank Paluka. For sizable financial aid given for travel here and abroad for pertinent materials, for clerical and research assistance, and for xeroxing and the purchase of needed materials I owe thanks to the Research Foundation of the City University of New York for three successive grants.

I have been indebted for research aid and splendid facilities to particular libraries in this country and three abroad: The Johns Hopkins University Library in Baltimore, The Huntington Library in San Marino, The City University Graduate Center Library (New York), The Columbia University Libraries, The New York Public Library (and, separately, the Berg Collection) at Forty-Second Street, The Sarah Lawrence College Library in Bronxville, the British Museum Library, the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris, and the Biblioteca Nacional in Madrid. [page vii:]

My gratitude is owed for varied and indispensable aid and advice, in person and through correspondence, to the following listed merely alphabetically: Roger Asselineau, Mary Baughan, Moshe Carmilly, John Corta, William Dunmore, Charles Feigenoff, Robert Fowkes, Angela Giral, Anthony Gisolfi, Tatiana Greene, Hardie Hansen, Milton Hindus, Palmer Holt, Miriam Korman, Hans Joachim Lang, Maristella Lorch, Brenda Newman, Pierre Pascal, Myles C. Pollin, Alfred Ravenstein, Seymour Reisin, Rizel Sigele, Rollo G. Silver, Dwight Thomas, and Margaret Terry (admirably capable and versatile research and clerical assistant).

Above all, my profound gratitude is expressed to Alice M. Pollin, who was often called upon for counsel, linguistic and literary insights and knowledge, discriminating judgments, fine — tuned proof reading, and superhuman patience.






[S:0 - BRP2B, 1985] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Editions - The Collected Writings of Edgar Allan Poe (B. R. Pollin) (Foreword and Acknowledgments)