Text: Burton R. Pollin, “Foreword and Acknowledgments,” The Collected Writings of Edgar Allan PoeVol. V: SLM (1997), pp. v-vi (This material is protected by copyright)


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It is a pleasure for Professor Joseph V. Ridgely and me to see the publication of this fifth volume in the series intended to carry on the work and basic principles of the late Professor Thomas Ollive Mabbott. It has taken the labors of almost six years to prepare this material, which offered its special problems and challenges. First, there was the need to single out and authenticate Poe’s reviews among the many articles, all assumed at that time to be by “the editor.” This title was not ascribed to Poe for some time by the egotistic or indecisive proprietor, T. W. White, who sometimes included items by his own friends-often former editors. The Harrison edition of Poe’s Works of 1902 carelessly and irresponsibly “added” to the canon several non-Poe articles, with unfortunate consequences echoing to this day. Mr. Ridgely sagely and painstakingly authenticated every single one of the cullings, using internal evidence plus the works of William Doyle Hull II, Dwight Thomas, David K. Jackson, earlier volumes of the Writings, and Mr. Mabbott’s works and manuscripts (see the short titles in the list below). His lucid reasonings and sound judgments are given in the headnotes for the group of articles of each month’s issue. To the Mabbott manuscripts, borrowed from The Iowa University Library, I considered it fortunate to be able to add the marginal notations inscribed by Mr. Mabbott on his copy of each Harrison volume. Mrs. Maureen Mabbott had graciously allowed me to copy them into my Harrison set about 1971, before his books were sent out of New York.

A second special problem in these “editorial contributions” of Poe is the very seminal nature of his editorship of the journal, Poe’s first and also his apprenticeship in the critical field. It was his deliberate aim to become a reformistic leader in American criticism, needing his rapier or his “broad sword” to cut down the sentimental, vapid, unprincipled hordes of reviewers filling the journals with chauvinistic, “namby-pamby” [column 2:] trash. Since the repercussions of these columns resounded in his dealings with White and indirectly with the prominent editors and authors of the whole nation, this volume required special attention to the chronicle of Poe’s life from mid-1834 to the start of 1837. Employing the material in the texts of David K. Jackson and Dwight Thomas, in the Boston Public Library Griswold collection, and in the letters in Ostrom’s and Harrison’s volumes, Mr. Ridgely has thrown considerable light on Poe’s lifeevents and his mind, again largely in the Headnotes.

The annotations presented a third special problem in that at this period Poe was more than a tyro in writing, but certainly somewhat immature in his theories of literature and even of psychology (see his embrace of phrenology) and his uncertainty about the “value” of English Romantic poetry. Some of his merely borrowed or jejune pronouncements are worthy of remark if not of praise. Yet, ideas about unity of effect in composition, about the aims of poetic composition and language, about readers’ confusions between author and character, for example, demonstrate Poe to be an earnest, sincere, and often intelligent spokesman for a liberated and independent corps of critics. It has been my role, chiefly, to indicate the wealth of comment that has been accumulated on these developments, early and later, so that Poe’s views in this volume can be seen as a continuum with those embodied in the material of his creative works, especially in the Mabbott edition (and volume one of the Writings), and in his many short “essays” (volume 2).

It has also been my role for the last four months to take over and supervise the excellent system of the format, evolved early in our many discussions but basically designed by Mr. Ridgely. This consists of printing continuously changing headnotes for indicating dates and content (a feature also of earlier volumes of the Writings), for quick reference and easy and useful skimming. [page vi:] The PageMaker 5.0 computer program has provided numerous type fonts and snaked columns capable of showing full mock-up pages, which permit modifications of texts and headings as desired. During the last four months, in all aspects of the print-out, many alterations were made, through the very substantial aid generously provided by the Information Services Department of the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. Finally, there was the need to preserve the separate columns of the Poe articles, exactly as printed in the Messenger, but signalizing, via asterisks, the individual errors in the text and, via letters, our notes keyed, through marginal letters, to the entries in the “Notes” section; each one follows the facsimile texts, which have been enlarged by sixteen percent for greater legibility. The full texts of the small-print excerpts, included by Poe and by us in this volume, require this adjustment, the maximum allowed by considerations of bulk and shelf and handling limitations. Poe’s later use of some of his excerpted material, no doubt unconsciously, makes this first reprinting of all the quotations a notable feature (see, e.g., p. 322, note c, for Dickens’s “Madman’s Manuscript” as a source for three Poe tales).

The two checklists following the text furnish ready access to the separate articles: by the titles of the books reviewed by Poe or by the authors. These are deliberately excluded from the Index at the back, unless another textual treatment causes an author or title to appear there. Consequently, the major commentators on the material in the book are not listed in the Index, but do appear in the “Abbreviations and Short Titles,” namely, Harrison, Jackson, Mabbott, Pollin, Thomas, and a few others. Finally, the material in the pages of Poe’s text itself is indexed only when it forms the basis for some discussion in the “Notes” and is thought to be significant.

One last phase of preparing camera-ready copy for the book deserves mention, namely the attachment of all the facsimile columns of Poe’s reviews, essays (“Palaestine” and “Maelzel’s Chess-Player”), [column 2:] and editorial comments onto pages with pre-printed headings along with the letters denoting the separate annotations for each of the articles of the month. In addition, the gaps left by short columns throughout our pages gave an opportunity for interspersing relevant illustrations. After collecting a varied assortment in printable versions, I was very happy to utilize the resources and personnel of the Gordian Press for adding these, with suitable captions, to the “attachments” requiring to be “waxed” onto the special printout paper of the final copy for the printer’s camera.

In conclusion, Mr. Ridgely and I hope that readers with varied interests and purposes will gain information, insight, and new perspectives from this volume.


Gratitude is most warmly expressed to a number of helpful and cooperative academic institutions whose library and other facilities were essential to this book: The Libraries of the University of Iowa, Rare Books (Director, David Schoonover), The CUNY Graduate Center, Information Services Department (Director, James A. Haggard; Assistant to the Director, Joshua Weisser; and Roblin Meeks, writer, instructor, and expert par excellence in applying the PageMaker 5.0 program and magnificently in charge of the book-production for four months), the libraries of Johns Hopkins University, Columbia University, CUNY Graduate Center, Research Center of the New York Public Library, New York University, and Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, New York; also to many helpful individuals, among them Stephen Breman, Michael Deas, Kenneth Silverman, Roger Texier (enthusiastic and supportive publisher of the Gordian Press), and, above all, Alice M. Pollin, whose counsel, linguistic and literary insights and knowledge, discriminating judgments, skill in varied and demanding proof reading, and extraordinary patience were absolutely essential.

— Burton R. Pollin, 1 March 1996






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