Text: Burton R. Pollin, “June 1835 (Headnote),” The Collected Writings of Edgar Allan Poe — Vol. V: SLM (1997), pp. 18-19 (This material is protected by copyright)


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[page 18:]

June 1835

[column 1:]

Edward V. Sparhawk continued as editor for this issue and, giving prominence to his own role, he moved the comments on its contents from the rear of the magazine to the front page. Under the caption “Editorial Introduction” (p. 533), he called attention to the fact that all of the contributions were again “entirely original,” that is, not extracted from another periodical, a common practice of the day. Of the longer pieces, he praised Philip Pendleton Cooke’s second installment of “English Poetry,” and he commended several short tales and the “Poetical department.” But his most significant comment was reserved for what was by far the longest item in this issue-Poe’s first extended new story for the SLM, the journey-to-the-moon fantasy “Hans Phaall” (later expanded and retitled; see texts and notes in Pollin 1: 366-506). Sparhawk began by predicting that “Mr. Poe’s story . . . will add much to his reputation as an imaginative writer.” Then, noting the contemporaneity of the topic, he added: “In these ballooning days, when every ‘puny whipster’ is willing to risk his neck in an attempt to ‘leave dull earth behind him,’ and when we hear so much of the benefits which science is to derive from the art of aerostation, a journey to the moon may not be considered a matter of mere moonshine. Mr. Poe’s scientific Dutch bellows-mender is certainly a prodigy, and the more to be admired, as he performs impossibilities, and details them with a minuteness so much like truth, that they seem quite probable . . . . Mr. Poe’s story is a long one, but it will appear short to the reader, whom it bears along with irresistible interest . . . .” [column 2:]

The June issue also contained about fourteen- and-a-half pages of reviews in its “Literary Notices” department. In order, these are: 1. Four lengthy notices: Robert Montgomery Bird’s The Infidel; Henry Vethake’s inaugural address as president of Washington College (most of it quotation; the brief editorial introduction is likely by Sparhawk); George Bancroft’s History of the United States; Jared Sparks’s The Writings of George Washington. 2. Seven brief notices, listed below. 3. A final single page containing second-hand information on three items: Life of Kosciuzco [sic], Tocqueville’s American Democracy, and a German work on America; these comments are clearly editorial and are therefore the work of Sparhawk.

Fortunately, there is external evidence which allows us to assign the seven brief notices to Poe with near-certainty. First, in his “Editorial Introduction,” Sparhawk credits the Bancroft and Sparks reviews to the “gifted pen of the reviewer of the orations of the Messrs. Adams and Everett.” The reviews of these orations appeared in the February SLM (pp. 307-12), a month before Poe had any provable connection with the magazine; they are by Beverley Tucker, as the White-Tucker correspondence shows (Hull, p. 68). Second, in his letter to White of July 20, 1835, Poe comments: “Look over Hans Phaal [sic], and the Literary Notices by me in No. 10 [June], and see if you have not miscalculated the sum due me. There are 34 columns in all. Hans Phaal cost me nearly a fortnights [sic] hard labour and was written especially for the Messenger” [page 19:] (Letters 1: 66). “Hans Phaall” occupies thirty-one columns; the three containing the seven brief notices (the second column of p. 594 and the two columns of p. 595) would make up the total of thirty-four columns which Poe claims as his. There is also internal evidence which is given in the notes below. Both the Poe Log (p. 160) and Mabbott (MS. Notes, Folder 1) accept this interpretation of Poe’s calculation.

It should be noted, though, that Hull (pp. 68-71; 83-84) had a much different view, as did Harrison, who printed The Infidel review as Poe’s in 8: 32-37. Because it appears convincing, and has been accepted by some Poe scholars, Hull’s argument is worth reconsidering. In its first two volumes the SLM ran notices of four of Bird’s novels: Calavar (February 1835, p. 315); The Infidel (June 1835, pp. 582-85); The Hawks of Hawk-Hollow (December 1835, pp. 43-46); and Sheppard Lee (September 1836, pp. 662-67). Since Poe was in the editor’s chair during the printing of the last two, and because there is no contrary evidence, there is no reason to doubt he wrote them. But Hull also claims that the reviews of Calavar and The Infidel are linked by internal reference and [column 2:] that both of these are also by Poe. However, as noted above, Poe had no provable connection with the SLM before March 1835; therefore, if these two items are by the same hand, neither can be Poe’s. Moreover, they are verbose and replete with rhetorical flourishes, and neither employs the kind of long plot summation characteristic of Poe’s fiction reviews. Much more reasonably, they can be assigned to Beverley Tucker, the acknowledged author of three of the four reviews in February 1835 (see Hull’s note, p. 68) and also of two of the first four in June 1835 (see above).

Another problem in tabulating Poe’s contributions is that, in order to bolster his case, Hull is forced to do some juggling with Poe’s claim of “34 columns” as his work. He notes that “Hans Phaall” takes up thirty-one columns; The Infidel review, as he acknowledges, does run six and three-fifths columns, but this discrepancy can be explained, he claims, by the simple subtraction of the long quotations. There would then be “only two and two thirds” columns (p. 84). To fill up the left-over one-third of a column, he assigns to Poe the notice of Miss Leslie’s Pencil Sketches. This is a labored solution, and it is implausible.

 


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Notes:

None.


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[S:0 - BRP5S, 1997] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Editions - The Collected Writings of Edgar Allan Poe (B. R. Pollin) (June 1835 (Headnote))