A Canon of Poe's Works


[[This article was an early attempt and may be out of date]]

It is, of course, well known that Poe was a writer, but what did he write? In his own day, he was generally thought of as a poet and literary critic who also wrote stories. With the rise of modern poetry and its emphasis on free verse, Poe’s poems fell from grace. The modern school derided them as old-fashioned, more gimmick than substance. His critical reviews were mostly forgotten. A select few of his more fantastic poems and tales have never been out of print, but have obscured his other writings. Most people know about “The Raven,” “The Bells,” “The Cask of Amontillado,” “The Tell-Tale Heart” and “The Fall of the House of Usher.” These and a few related works comprise the core of Poe’s literary legacy. They are, however, only a handful of his writings and provide a misleadingly narrow view of his style and subject matter. In addition to the familiar poems and tales, Poe wrote humorous stories, a textbook on the study of shells, a theory on the nature of existence, a play, editorial reviews and essays on a variety of topics including the history of street paving.

Since the 1880s, scholars have been trying to establish a complete listing of Poe’s writings. The bulk of Poe’s poetry was clearly identifiable from his own published collections, but the majority of Poe’s writings were printed in magazines and newspapers, many of which are very rare or entirely lost. Unpublished manuscript material was also known and sometimes its authorship hotly debated. Forgers further complicated the picture, generally creating bad and obvious imitations of “The Raven,” but sometimes fooling even cautious experts. A large number of Poe’s works were published anonymously, particularly the editorial material. Even “The Raven” was first printed, at Poe’s insistence, as by “— Quarels.” At one time or another, every poem printed over the initials “E. A. P.” or even just “P” has been attributed to Poe, usually incorrectly. Separating the wheat from the chaff has been a complicated and controversial chore, one that will probably never be completely resolved. At this point, it is unlikely that any major new works will be identified, but possible items continue to emerge from time to time. At least one noted Poe scholar, Dr. Burton R. Pollin,  has recently decreed that many works by Poe’s friend Henry Beck Hirst may actually be by Poe. He is planning to include these items in his continuing collection of Poe’s writings, but it will require many years of discussion and disagreement before they can be accepted, if they are at all, as part of the Poe canon.

The following categories are convenient for dividing Poe’s works into manageable lists, but require a certain amount of personal preference. These lists should not be considered definitive, although it is our hope that, in time, they will be as inclusive and accurate as possible. In addition to accepted works, dubious and rejected items will be listed separately. Whenever practical, the reason for attribution of each item will be noted.


Poe’s Works of Fiction:


Poe’s Works of Non-Fiction:



Bibliography: In addition to the collections cited under the various sections above, the following books and articles are among those that have tried to establish the Poe Canon.

  • Jacob Blanck, compiler, Bibliography of American Literature, 8 vols, New Haven: Yale University Press, 1955-1990. (Compiled for the Bibliographical Society of America. Edgar Allan Poe is included in volume 7, edited and completed by Virginia L. Smyers and Michael Winship, 1983. This bibliography includes only the poetry and tales, with some additional material. It makes no attempt to list Poe’s voluminous editorial material, essays or reviews.)
  • Harrison, James A., “Bibliography of the Writings of Edgar A. Poe” in The Complete Works of Edgar Allan Poe, New York: T. Y. Crowell, 1902, vol. XVI, pp. 355-379. (Reprinted by New York: AMS Press, 1965) (This bibliography contains a number of items that have since been determined are not by Poe and does not include some that are by Poe. Its usefulness has been greatly undercut.)
  • Heartman, Charles F. and James R. Canny, A Bibliography of the First Printings of the Writings of Edgar Allan Poe, Hattiesburg: The Book Farm, 1943. (Reprinted by New York: Kraus Reprint Co., 1977. Although far from definitive, this book is extremely useful and has been subjected to unfair criticism. Many corrections were made in 1943 from the 1940 version of this book.)
  • Heartman, Charles F. and Kenneth Rede, A Census of First Editions and Source Materials by Edgar Allan Poe in American Collections, Metuchen, 1932, 3 vols. (This bibliography is now exceedingly rare, especially the third volume, and has generally been supplanted by the Heartman and Canny bibliography listed above. The chapters of these books were originally published as articles in Heartman’s magazine The American Book Collector.)
  • Mabbott, Thomas Ollive, Index to Early American Periodical Literature 1728-1870: Part 2 - Edgar Allan Poe, New York: Pamphlet Distributing Company, 1941. (Note: Mabbott later repudiated this index, which was published without giving him a chance to review the text. By his own admission, it includes many items that are probably not by Poe. Mabbott, Poems, 1969, p. 503 n3.)
  • Mabbott, Thomas Ollive, editor, The Collected Works of Edgar Allan Poe - Volume I, Poems, Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1969. (Mabbott’s definitive collection effectively establishes the canon for the poems.)
  • Mabbott, Thomas Ollive, editor, The Collected Works of Edgar Allan Poe - Volumes II & III, Tales & Sketches, Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1978. (Mabbott’s collection effectively establishes the canon for the short stories and several editorial items.)
  • Pollin, Burton R., editor, The Collected Writings of Edgar Allan Poe - Volumes III & IV, Writings in The Broadway Journal: Nonfictional Prose, New York: Gordian Press, 1986. (Pollin’s collection effectively establishes the canon for the non-fiction writings in The Broadway Journal.)
  • Pollin, Burton R., editor, The Collected Writings of Edgar Allan Poe - Volume V, Writings in the Southern Literary Messenger: Nonfictional Prose, New York: Gordian Press, 1997. (Pollin’s collection effectively establishes the canon for the non-fiction writings in The Southern Literary Messenger.)
  • Robertson, John W., A Bibliography of the Writings of Edgar A. Poe, 2 vols, San Francisco: Russian Hill Private Press, Edwin and Robert Grabhorn, 1934. (Reprinted by New York: Krauss Reprint Co., 1969, two volumes bound in one.) (As a commentator on Poe’s works, Robertson relies too heavily on psychoanalytical readings. As a bibliographer, he is too quick to ascribe items to Poe, usually without explanation and often incorrectly. The facsimile pages are extremely well done. Robertson’s chief contribution to Poe studies was his accumulation of a fine collection of first and early printings of Poe’s works, which he donated to the Poe Museum in Richmond.)
  • Trent, William Peterfield, John Erskine, Stuart P. Sherman and Carl Van Doren, eds., “Bibliographies -- Poe,” The Cambridge History of American Literature, 4 vols, New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1934, vol 2, chapter XIV, pp. 452-460. (This simple, chronological listing of Poe’s works carries no explanations for attributions. Although the editors note that they have omitted disputed items, they still managed to include some material that has since been rejected from the canon.)

The following books and articles attempt to establish or remove specific items from the Poe canon. Articles related to a particular item are referenced in the argument for that item in the appropriate section above:

  • Alterton, Margaret, The Origins of Poe’s Critical Theory, Iowa City: University of Iowa, 1925. (Reprinted New York: Russell & Russell, 1965.) (Throughout her text, Alterton offers several new items for the canon of Poe’s critical writings, mostly from the Southern Literary Messenger. Campbell dismisses, or acknowledges with doubts, a number of these items in his article “The Poe Canon,” in The Mind of Poe.)
  • Brigham, Clarence S., Edgar Allan Poe’s Contributions to “Alexander’s Weekly Messenger”, Worcester, Mass.: The American Antiquarian Society, 1943.
  • Campbell, Killis, “Poe and the Southern Literary Messenger in 1837,” The Nation, LXXXIX, July 1, 1909, pp. 9-10. (Campbell retracted all of these items in his later essay “The Poe Canon,” in The Mind of Poe.)
  • Campbell, Killis, “Bibliographical Notes on Poe - I,” The Nation, XCIII, December 23, 1910, pp. 623-624.
  • Campbell, Killis, “News for Bibliophiles,” The Nation, XCIII, October 19, 1911, pp. 362-363.
  • Campbell, Killis, “The Poe Canon,” The Mind of Poe and Other Studies, Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1933. Reprinted New York: Russell & Russell, 1962.)
  • Dameron, J. Lasley, “Thomas Ollive Mabbott on the Canon of Poe’s Reviews,” Poe Studies, V, No. 2, December 1972, pp. 56-57. (Primarily reprints a 1966 letter from Mabbott noting 15 editorial items reprinted in the Harrison edition of Poe’s works which Mabbott feels are not by Poe. Also extracts a few of Mabbott’s comments from other sources.)
  • Pollin, Burton R., “Poe’s Authorship of Three Long Critical and Autobiographical Articles of 1843 Now Authenticated,” American Literary Renaissance Report 7, 1993, pp. 139-171. (The evidence offered by this article is interesting, and certainly worthy of further consideration, though perhaps not so conclusive as the title would suggest.)


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