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


[page xxvii, continued:]


Poe published a two-part article, “Fifty Suggestions,” in Graham’s Magazine, May 1849 (34.317-319) and June 1849 (34.363-364), numbered 1-25 and 26-50 in arabic numerals. There is no extant correspondence concerning this set of short items with many of the characteristics of the brief Marginalia articles. We infer that Poe, after the failure of Eureka in mid-1848 to bring him fame and fortune, turned for a quick compensation to this type of unstructured “small-talk” or [page xxviii:] “suggestions,” as he had previously termed his “Chapter” of 1845. He had published installments 10, 11, and 12 of the Marginalia in the first three months’ issues of Graham’s and early in 1849 he had arranged for a continuation of the Marginalia in the Messenger. Why not offer half a hundred “suggestions” to Graham’s for midyear publication, during this final period of his life when he had to rely chiefly on the detested Boston Flag of the Union as “outlet” for his tales and poems? It may seem at first glance that little time and effort were involved in inditing these thoughts and observations. Only number 23 is at all lengthy, and many of them offer persiflage, puns, and ironical reflections on his former butts: Cornelius Mathews (18, 31, 40, 46), Fourierites (10, 28), and Greeley (28, 47), with adulation, as always, of Tennyson (33, 35). A few are perceptive and genuinely thoughtful, especially on the subjects of the products of genius or elements of criticism (22, 23, 33). The range of subjects, in small compass, parallels that of the Marginalia (see the two lists of topics at the end of the Introduction below). Clearly, Poe thought highly enough of the Fifty Suggestions to have included them in the posthumous works.

The article was inserted directly after the Marginalia in the third volume (pages 597 — 607) as the last item with a few changes: the arabic numerals were changed to roman, five entries were interchanged thus: 29-31, 30-32, 31-32, 32-29, 33-30; a few printing errors were corrected and a few were Introduced; and the “M — ” of number 46 (occurring four times) was replaced in each instance by the full name “Mathews” (save for the blunder of “Mathews once). This last item — the name insertion — is chiefly significant as an indication of a marked copy for the editorial “executor.” It is odd, however, that numbers 18, 31, and 40, all elliptically giving the name of Mathews as “M ——— ” do not have the “M” filled out, nor do three Marginalia items retained in the 1850 edition (old numbers 269, 270, 281; new numbers 77, 32, 131 respectively). Does this imply that it was Griswold who filled in Fifty Suggestions number 46? Are there other traces of Poe’s hand in the changes? From the variants between the two printings I single out these improvements, with the 1849 text given first: in number 9: Grey 1 Gray; got I get; gain point l gain a point. There is nothing here demanding Poe’s authorial insight; Griswold could have made these changes as well as the corrections of “apopthegm” (number 9) and “vesification” (33). Indeed, why did not Poe (or else Griswold) correct several “typos” left over in the 1850 text: statutary (9); Tomas, importo, poco qui (19); deformity of (22); Greely (28); Héloise (29); somethat (33); Spencer (43); Horsely (45); and “er least” (46). It was the last article in the last volume of the set of three edited by Griswold for 1850 publication and might have been the least carefully proofed. We can but guess, at this time that Poe left it to be included and most casually — perhaps indifferently — made a few changes in it late in 1849, shortly before his death, occurring not long after the June publication of the second part. It therefore has [page xxix:] a kind of authorial credit, which the manifest carelessness of the typesetting and editing by Griswold greatly vitiates. Hence, the first printing must be considered as authentic.

The negligent reprint history of Fifty Suggestions may have affected somewhat its status in the canon of Poe’s works and the scholarly attention paid to it. It must be remembered that there was no indication of the locus of the original article as it was reprinted in the 1850 edition. Harrison, in his 1902 Complete Works pretended to return to the original text, but mistakenly headed the reprinting as in Graham’s for May and June in 1845, not in 1849. G. E. Hatvary published a brief article to correct this persistent, misleading error, in Poe Studies of 1971, (4.47). He noted also that Harrison obviously used the 1850 reprint, with its shift of five items and its fill-ins for number 46, and thought that this error had led Woodberry in his 1909 Life (2.257) wrongly to ascribe the article to the year 1848. The fact seems to be the contrary: Harrison apparently was thrown off by Woodberry and Stedman’s 1894-95 edition of the Works in which they wrote, at the end of vol. 7 (“Criticism”):

A CHAPTER OF SUGGESTIONS / A Chapter of Suggestions. Published in “The Opal,” 1845, and (the second part) in “Graham’s Magazine,” May, June, 1849.

Even worse than this false hint was the way Woodberry and Stedman mangled the article in their precedent publication, called “A CHAPTER OF SUGGESTIONS” and consisting of the 1845 article, so named, followed directly by the article, “Fifty Suggestions,” stripped of all the numbers and printed directly after the “Chapter of Suggestions” with no second title, no separation of text, and devoid of numbers 18, 32, and 46, with 28 mangled in its penultimate paragraph. Harrison acquired some major misconceptions from this oddity.

The text that is used in this volume is that of the 1849 Graham’s with all the corrected typographical errors listed in the appropriate section of this Introduction.






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