Text: Burton R. Pollin, “December 1835 (Headnote),” The Collected Writings of Edgar Allan PoeVol. V: SLM (1997), pp. 45-46 (This material is protected by copyright)


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December 1835

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Planning the first number of the second volume, White wrote to Lucian Minor on October 24: “Suppose you send me a modest paragraph — mentioning that the gentleman [E. V. Sparhawk] announced as my assistant in the 9th No. [May 1835] of the Messenger retired from its editorship with the 11th No. [July 1835] — that the paper is now under my own editorial management, assisted by several gentlemen of distinguished literary attainments. — You may introduce Mr. Poe’s name as amongst those engaged to contribute for its columns — taking care not to say as editor ... ” (Poe Log, p. 176). The faithful Minor soon obliged, and the December 1835 issue led off with a “Publisher’s Notice” directly echoing White’s words. Minor said only that the Proprietor would be “assisted by a gentleman of distinguished literary talents.” Noting further the encomiums that contributors to the SLM had been receiving from reviewers (and which it had been regularly reprinting), Minor continued: “Among these, we hope to be pardoned for singling out the name of MR. EDGAR A. POE; not with design to make any invidious distinction, but because such a mention of him finds numberless precedents in the journals on every side.”

Why was White so firm in withholding from Poe the actual title of Editor? As his letters to close friends like Minor indicate, it was partly because he was doubtful about the continued sobriety of his young assistant. More importantly, he was made uneasy by Poe’s eagerness to bait the literary lions. He rejoiced in publicity, but he [column 2:] did not relish notoriety. In general, he was to let Poe have a free hand in his reviews, but when he grew squeamish about some of Poe’s barbs — as in the case of the “Autography” article (see the headnote to the February 1836 issue) — he called upon others for advice.

From this issue forward, however, Poe simply assumed the title of editor and was generally recognized by the public as such. When the Richmond Compiler referred in a critique to the “editors” of the Messenger, Poe was quick to object: “I had supposed you were aware,” he wrote in a letter which the Compiler published, “of the fact that the Messenger has but one editor ... ” (Letters, 1: 100). He was certainly industrious in filling the role. To this issue he contributed “Scenes from an Unpublished Drama” (Politian) (pp. 13-16; text and notes in Mabbott 1: 241-97); two fillers: “Logic” and “Le Brun” (pp. 16 and 27; texts and notes in Pollin 2: 426-28); a reprint of “MS. Found in a Bottle” (pp. 33-37; text and notes in Mabbott 2: 130-48); nearly all of the twenty-eight pages of “Critical Notices.” As for the “Greek Song” on p. 38 of SLM, on October 31, 1835, Poe — acting as amanuensis for White — wrote to Lucian Minor: “I will hand your translation to Mr. Poe in the morning, and will attend to your request touching keeping your name secret” (Letters 1: 76). The extent of Poe’s editorial hand here is not clear. The first paragraph is written in the first person and would, therefore, appear to be Minor’s [page 46:] own introduction. The last sentence of the third paragraph — starting “It is due to the author ... ” — sounds like an editorial comment, however. A reasonable conclusion is that Poe edited and possibly added to material supplied by Minor. The Poe Log accepts the editorial apparatus as Poe’s; Mabbott, in a handwritten note in Jackson, Contributors (p. 17) recorded his belief that the signature “P.” “probably” stood for Perdicaris, a native Greek then on a lecture tour of the U. S. A letter to the editor in the June 1836 SLM (pp. 410-11) includes a brief biography of him. See also Mabbott 1: 507 item 50 of “Rejected Poems,” and note how unlike Poe’s are its style and content. We accept Mabbott’s point of view and exclude the entire article from the canon.

Poe now pressed hard to be known not only as the conductor but also as the author of the greatly expanded review section. Except in the few cases where there is external evidence for contributions by others, therefore, we may assume that all the notices are his. It is highly unlikely [column 2:] that White — or Poe — would have called on an outsider to do, for example, the duty work of summarizing the contents of periodicals or of puffing works issued by White’s press; friends of White like Lucian Minor and Beverley Tucker, who had been mainstays in previous issues, now contributed only on special occasions. This principle holds good for this issue. Of the twenty-five items in the “Critical Notices” section, only one can be shown positively not to be Poe’s work. This one is the review of Conway Robinson’s The Practice in Courts of Law and Equity in Virginia (pp. 150-51). It is by Lucian Minor, as a letter of October 24, 1835 from White to Minor indicates: “I thank you most sincerely for the notice you have been pleased to prepare of C. R.’s new book. It shall certainly appear in my next ... ” (Jackson, Poe and the SLM, pp. 103-04). With the few exceptions indicated in the Notes, these authorities agree in assigning all the other items to Poe: Poe Log, pp. 179-80; Hull, pp. 87-104; Mabbott, MS. Notes, Folders 1, 4, and 13.






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