Text: Burton R. Pollin, “April 1836 (Headnote),” The Collected Writings of Edgar Allan Poe — Vol. V: SLM (1997), pp. 151-154 (This material is protected by copyright)


[page 151:]

April 1836

[column 1:]

April 1836

The April issue, which appeared shortly after the twenty-eighth of the month (Poe Log, p. 199), was, as promised in the preceding issue, sixteen pages shorter than usual. Despite the reduced space, Poe, anxious to remain in public view, found room for a number of his own contributions. These were:

1. Two editorial footnotes: (a) At the bottom of the first column of “MSS. of Benj. Franklin” (p. 293), this explanation:

It is with great pleasure that we are enabled, through the kindness of a friend in Philadelphia, to lay before our readers an Essay, never yet published, from the pen of Benjamin Franklin. It is copied from the original MS. of Franklin himself, and is not to be found in any edition of his works. The Letters which succeed the Essay are also copied from the original MS., but were first published in the Doctor’s Weekly Pennsylvania Gazette, which was commenced in 1727. The Epistle from Anthony Afterwit appeared in No. 189-that from Celia Single in No. 191. Although these Letters are to be found in the file of the Gazette at the Franklin Library in Philadelphia, still they are not in either the 1809 or the 1835 edition of the writer’s works. We therefore make no apology for publishing them in the Messenger.

In April, May, and June 1836, Poe was to publish several pieces by Franklin, all derived from a manuscript copy book which had become available to William Duane, Jr. of Philadelphia, son of a former Secretary of the Treasury. Poe correctly gauged the great interest and importance of the material, much of it connected [column 2:] with the topics and procedures of the Junto Club that Franklin had founded in 1727, a forerunner in some respects of the American Philosophical Society of 1743. Poe is largely correct in stating that none had been reprinted from the Pennsylvania Gazette [of 1832] to his knowledge. Indeed, this has remained true until the new comprehensive Papers of Benjamin Franklin (eds. L. W. Labaree et al., Yale UP, 1956 — ; 23 volumes to 1996). All of the Franklin pieces in the SLM can now be found in volume 1, reprinted from the Gazette or from the copy-book which has found its way into the Pennsylvania Historical Society. A cursory collation of the Yale texts and those of Poe’s editing would suggest the same source. This had been copied by Duane for Poe according to Poe’s response of 23 May 1836 to Jared Sparks, Harvard professor of history, who had written to him after the first sheaf of “papers” was issued in April. Poe reassures him of the authenticity of the original (Letters, p. 91). Of course, numerous differences in the accidentals can be found, thanks to the many transcriptions made from the original manuscripts. Nor could Poe have known that some of the Junto material had been published by Benjamin Vaughan in his 1779 edition of London, called Political, Miscellaneous and Philosophical Papers, as noted in the Yale edition (1: xxv). (Yet, among the “Supplement” of “Notices” of the SLM, chiefly of the May issue, that Poe published at the end of the July issue (pp. 517-24) are ten comments, some long, on the [page 152:] Franklin items.) Most remarkable is the apparent fact that there seemed to be no widespread interest among historians in the materials of Franklin being published in the SLM, newly revealed to Americans — an early printing or reprint unmentioned even by the Yale edition. The April issue includes, in addition to the two journalistic “letters,” a four-column “Lecture” entitled “On the Providence of God in the Government of the World” (pp. 293-296). Ironically, Poe encouraged Duane’s writing in the SLM, accepting a tale of ancient Greek “history” (“Erostratus” in the July 1836 issue) and a series of “Verbal Criticisms” (lively philological curiosa) (in the May 1836 and January 1837 issues [the latter prepared by Poe editorially]). (See later issues of the series, recorded in Jackson, Contributors, pp. 34, 50, 62.) Yet, in 1844-45, through the duplicity of Mrs. Clemm, Poe’s mother-in-law, Poe falsely accused Duane of harassing him for the return of the 1836 volume of the SLM that she had sold unbeknown to Poe, and thereby he lost considerable credit for honesty and truthfulness in Philadelphia and New York (see Poe Log, pp. 453, 457, 474-75, 495; also, Pollin, Mississippi Quarterly 48 (1995): 211-224, especially 216).

(b) At the end of the essay “Genius” (p. 300), this comment: “* Of course no Editor is responsible for the opinions of his contributors but in the present instance we feel called upon in self-defence to disclaim any belief in the doctrines advanced and, moreover, to enter a solemn protest against them. The Essay on Genius is well written and we therefore admitted it. While many of its assumptions are indisputable some we think are not to be sustained and the inferences, generally, lag far behind the spirit of the age. Our correspondent [column 2:] is evidently no phrenologist.” As Pollin notes (2: 223), Poe later wrote frequently, but not always consistently, on the broad topics of genius and talent. Since his strictures on the opinions of the anonymous contributor are not specified, we can only assume that he is attacking doctrines derived largely from classical authorities and from eighteenth-century philosophers. The author, lagging behind the “spirit of the age,” thus takes no note of modern “scientific” investigations like those of phrenology.

2. A reprint of “A Tale of Jerusalem” (pp. 313-14; text and notes in Mabbott 2: 41-51). Poe’s continued reprinting of his early tales was, according to James K. Paulding in a letter to White of March 3, 1836, one of the reasons given by Harper and Brothers for their decision not to reprint them in book form (Poe Log, pp. 192-93): “They say the stories have so recently appeared before the Public in the ‘Messenger’ that they would be no novelty.” Paulding wrote to Poe himself on March 17 that he was returning the manuscript of the proposed book; he suggested that Poe abandon the idea and turn instead to writing “a Tale in a couple of Volumes, for that is the magical number” (Poe Log, p. 195).

3. Two fillers: (a) Two lines beginning “Lucian calls unmeaning verbosity” and (b) a jibe at Fay’s Norman Leslie (p. 314 and p. 340; texts and notes in Pollin 2: 434-35).

4. Under the heading “Editorial,” an apology titled “The Loyalty of Virginia” and a brief introduction to a letter headed “Chief Justice Marshall” (p. 317). These are reprinted and discussed below. [page 153:]

5. “Maelzel’s Chess-Player” (pp. 318-26); reprinted and discussed below.

6. Under the caption “Critical Notices,” two reviews: “Drake -Halleck” (pp. 326-36) and “Brunnens of Nassau” (pp. 334-40); reprinted and discussed below.

7. An introduction to an eight-page “Supplement” of critical notices of the SLM (p. 341): “At the solicitation of our correspondents, we again publish some few of the Notices of the Messenger, which have lately appeared in the papers of the day. The supplement now printed contains probably about one fifth of the flattering evidences of public favor which have reached us, from all quarters, within a few weeks. Those selected are a fair sample of the general character of the whole.”

Two other items in this issue have, at times, been ascribed to Poe. The first is a compilation of historical snippets headed “Some Ancient Greek Authors. Chronologically Arranged” (pp. 301-02). As the Poe Log notes (p. 200), several Poe authorities, including David K. Jackson and Hull, have argued for Poe’s authorship. Mabbott, however, marked this title as “not Poe” in his copies of the bound volume of the SLM and Jackson’s Contributors (both volumes now the property of the University of Iowa). Jackson makes his case in “Poe Notes: ‘Pinakidia’ and ’Some Ancient Greek Authors,‘” American Literature 5 (November 1933): 258-67 and “’Some Ancient Greek Authors’: A Work of Edgar A. Poe,” Notes and Queries 166 (May 26, 1934): 368). Jackson shows that the source of the article is Charles Anthon’s revised edition of John Lempriere’s Classical Dictionary [column 2:] (New York: 1825, 1827, and 1833). He argues that Poe knew Anthon’s work, that the article is similar to Poe’s “Pinakidia,” and that it is signed “P.” Poe’s usual signatures in the SLM, however, were “Edgar A. Poe” and “E. A. P.” He did sign “Palæstine” with “P.” but the article, owed entirely to Anthon’s edition, is credited to him in the volume’s index. This index merely lists “Some Ancient Greek Authors” under the classification “Original Articles,” with no indication of authorship. It may be added that one other item in this volume, a letter to the editor introducing a poem, is also signed “P.” (p. 739), but it clearly is not Poe’s.

It can also be argued that this present list militates against Poe’s authorship. With so many would-be contributors clamoring for admittance to the SLM, why would he have used yet another piece by his hand? As he wrote to a correspondent whose poem he rejected, “I need not speak to you of the difficulties I have to contend with daily in selecting from the mass of MSS. handed in for the Messenger” (Letters 1: 86). Definitive assignment appears impossible, but the decision here is not to reprint this item as Poe’s.

The second item at times ascribed to Poe is the review, under the caption “Slavery,” of two works: James K. Paulding’s Slavery in the United States and [William Drayton’s] The South Vindicated . . . (pp. 336-39). It was reprinted as Poe’s by Harrison in his Virginia edition of 1902 (8: 265-75); but, on the basis of a letter from Poe to Beverley Tucker first published in 1924, it was assigned to Tucker by Hull in his 1941 dissertation (p. 124). This attribution was generally accepted by Poe scholars [page 154:] until 1974, when it was contested by Bernard Rosenthal in a long essay in Poe Studies titled “Poe, Slavery, and the Southern Literary Messenger” (7: 29-38). Rosenthal had a stake in returning credit to Poe, since he had reprinted the review as by him in a book which he had co-edited, Race and the American Romantics (New York: Schocken Books, 1971). His attack on what he calls the “Tucker theory of authorship” (p. 29) was accepted by several critics, and it influenced discussions of Poe’s views on race and slavery for the next two decades. It was, in turn, negatively assessed by J. V. Ridgely in “The Authorship of the ‘Paulding-Drayton Review,‘” PSA Newsletter 20 (Fall 1992): 1-3, 6.

The primary evidence for Tucker’s authorship is Poe’s brief letter to him of May 2, 1836, sent shortly after the April issue was printed; it relates primarily to matters directly concerning Tucker and the SLM. The first two paragraphs read:

At Mr. White’s request I write to apologise for the omission of your verses “To a Coquette” in the present [i.e., April] number of the Messenger. Upon making up the form containing them it was found impossible to get both the pieces in, and their connection one with the other rendered it desirable not to separate them — they were therefore left for the May number.

I must also myself beg your pardon for [column 2:] making a few immaterial alterations in your article on Slavery, with a view of so condensing it as to get it in the space remaining at the end of the number. One very excellent passage in relation to the experience of a sick bed has been, necessarily, omitted altogether. (Full text in Letters 1: 90-91)

Despite Rosenthal’s claim that Poe was referring to some other work of Tucker, the text of the letter is unambiguous. To this fact, however, may be added the evidence of content, rhetoric, and vocabulary. The review directly reflects ideas of Tucker contained in his “Note to Blackstone’s Commentaries. . . on the Subject of Domestic Slavery. . .” (SLM 1: 227-31; identified as Tucker’s in the volume index) and in his many other writings supporting the “positive good” theory of slavery (see Ridgely, cited above, p. 3, for details). None of these ideas can be found in Poe’s known remarks on race and slavery as listed by Rosenthal (pp. 29-30). Moreover, the review is turgid, not at all similar to Poe’s style, and it contains words (like “node”) that are not in Poe’s vocabulary (see Pollin, Word Index). Finally, the review contains certain phrases that are often repeated in Tucker’s writings but not in Poe’s; examples are “the march of mind,” “with that we have nothing to do,” and “the war against property.” With such evidence, the case for Tucker’s authorship is here adjudged definitive.






[S:0 - BRP5S, 1997] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Editions - The Collected Writings of Edgar Allan Poe (B. R. Pollin) (April 1836 (Headnote))