Text: Burton R. Pollin, “Introduction for A Chapter of Suggestions,” The Collected Writings of Edgar Allan Poe — Vol. II: The Brevities (1985), pp. xxvi-xxvii (This material is protected by copyright)


[page xxvi, continued:]


Poe published “A Chapter of Suggestions,” consisting of eleven short articles on general philosophy, psychology, and aesthetics, in the New York annual The Opal: A Pure Gift for the Holy Days (1845), pages 164-70, edited by Sarah Josepha Hale. Like all gift books of this nature, prepared for sale during the Christmas season, this must have come out in late November 1844 or early December. The genesis of the whole article, so interesting in its content, can be traced more clearly than that of most of the Brevities. Poe always carefully cultivated the favor and friendship of Mrs. Hale (1788-1879), originally of Boston, editor, novelist, poet of a sort, and even dramatist.(1) Since 1837 she had transferred as editor from the Boston Ladies’ Magazine to the highly successful Godey’s Lady’s Book, which would eventually print Poe’s famous Literati series of 1846. In mid-1843 Poe had succeeded in placing the rather slight little sketch “Morning on the Wissahiccon” in The Opal (1844), which Nathaniel P. Willis, the editor for that issue of the annual, had honored with an illustration of an elk by the well known artist (on the staff) John Gadsby Chapman.(2) Learning of the change of editor to Mrs. Hale for the next issue of The Opal, Poe optimistically sent her as a contribution the story “The Oblong Box” with a letter.(3) The lurid nature of the content probably caused it to be rejected by the “spiritual” annual, and Godey’s Lady’s Book soon received it and accepted it for publication, with Mrs. Hale’s approval.(4) Her prior letter, however, by return mail, on 5/30/1844, seems to have suggested his sending her another “article” of about ten printed pages, at fifty cents a page. Poe accepted her offer and promised to send something suitable “to the character” of the annual. In view of his plea of being “exceedingly in need of a little money” in his first letter, he at once complied. The pages of the book were very small, the type face large, and the margins ample, so that the article covered only seven pages, still gaining for him the full sum promised, we may hope. The earnest manner and original insights of the eleven articles belie his speed of composition, which can be explained. At this time (6/1844) Poe may have been preparing his Marginalia for publication in installments to the Democratic Review: the first (of 43 items) in 11/1844, the second (of 73 items) in 12/1844. It would be easy to detach eleven of the Marginalia entries for “A Chapter of Suggestions” in return for needed ready cash. The fuller magazine-copy could be filled in and sent later. There is nothing in the nature of the text markedly different [page xxvii:] from the more thought-provoking, well-composed Marginalia entries. One may suspect that ten of the better ones were removed from the Democratic Review installment(s) while the lengthy eleventh was abridged from his 6/41 Graham’s review of Macaulay’s book (see note to Chapter of Suggestions 11), all this designed to furnish Mrs. Hale with almost her quota of “ten pages.”

Like the word “marginalia,” “suggestions” was repeated as a title more than once, i.e., the two installments of “Fifty Suggestions,” early in 1849, and for the title page of the third volume of the 1850 Works (see my Introduction to Supplementary Marginalia). The printing of The Opal was careful and accurate, so that this alone of all the sections of the Brevities fulfilled the ideal scoffed at in Marginalia 76 and 289, at least for the Koran, of being without error of typography.

None of the 19th century editions of Poe’s works collected this set of Poe’s Brevities, until it was culled by Woodberry and Stedman for their 1894-95 edition as the end of the third volume of “Criticism.” Unfortunately, they perpetrated several blunders which were partly incorporated by James Harrison into his 1902 edition, since he appears to have used Woodberry’s text rather than that of The Opal. The following errors appear in both, given after the slash: CS 1: our intense sense / our sense; CS 3: reverie / revery; CS 6: Magazine paper 1 magazine paper; [also] Most authors / Most authors; CS 9: well regulated / well-regulated; CS 11: Newton / Newton. Even worse was Woodberry’s printing all the Fifty Suggestions directly after the Chapter of Suggestions as one full article titled “A Chapter of Suggestions” with this end note: “Published in the Opal, 1845 [sic], and (the second part) in ‘Graham’s Magazine’ May, June, 1849.” In addition the 1894 edition arbitrarily drops Fifty Suggestions 18, 29, and 46, unmentioned, since it suppresses the numbers of all to accord with the first eleven from this section.



[The following footnotes appear near the bottom of page xxvii:]

1.  See Poe’s reviews of her Traits of American Life, SLM, 12/1835 (H 8.117-18) and of Alice Ray: A Romance in Rhyme, BJ, 11/1/45 (H 12.259-62); also, Poe’s letter to Mrs. Hale of 1/16/46, on her writings (Letters, p. 311).

2.  See Pollin, “Poe and . . . Chapman,” SAR 1983, pp. 245-73, especially 258.

3.  See his letter of 5/29/44 to Mrs. Hale, Letters, “Supplement,” p. 705.

4.  See TOM 921-22 for the date of 9/1844 and prior publication data.






[S:0 - BRP2B, 1985] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Editions - The Collected Writings of Edgar Allan Poe (B. R. Pollin) (Introduction for A Chapter of Suggestions)