Text: Burton R. Pollin, “January 1836 (Headnote),” The Collected Writings of Edgar Allan PoeVol. V: SLM (1997), pp. 81-82 (This material is protected by copyright)


[page 81:]

January 1836

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On Christmas Day of 1835, T. W. White sent Lucian Minor news about the forthcoming January issue. He listed the names of some of the contributors and added: “All the Critical Notices are from the pen of Poe — who I rejoice to tell you, still keeps from the Bottle.” He then boasted, “My own belief is, that I have not issued a better No. take it throughout than the present” (Jackson, Poe and The SLM, p. 107).

Poe’s ten reviews take up almost seventeen pages of the issue. His other contributions, as credited to him by the Poe Log (p. 185), include: a filler (“A. W. Schlegel says, ...”; p. 96; text and notes in Pollin 2: 428); “A Paean” (p. 71, signed “E. A. P.”; text and notes in Mabbott 1: 204-07); a reprint of “Metzengerstein” (pp. 97-100; texts and notes in Mabbott 2: 15-31); a continuation of “Scenes from an Unpublished Drama” (Politian) (pp. 106-08; text and notes in Mabbott 1: 241-98); and a one-paragraph editorial introduction to the continuation of Robert Greenhow’s “Sketches of the History and Present Condition of Tripoli,” p. 69. The last item reads:

The writer of these sketches endeavors to give entire in each number, some distinct portion of the history of the Barbary States; this however is in some cases impracticable, either from want of time on his part, or from want of place in the sheets of the Messenger. The present number will contain merely the conclusion of the portion commenced in the last, so that the next, may embrace the whole of the war between France and Algiers.

It is highly ironic that Robert Greenhow, of Richmond, a physician, linguist, and historian, as “Translator [column 2:] and Librarian to the [U.S.] Department of State,” in the “Senate Documents” of 1840 recorded as an authentic account of 1791-1794 Poe’s “Journal of Julius Rodman.” Poe had published his “incomplete” and “recently discovered” document in Burton’s Gentleman’s Magazine, but it had a much more widespread although brief life through distribution of a referential paragraph in the government papers and a trade edition early in 1840. When he expanded his historical Memoir in 1844, Greenhow quietly removed all traces in this work of Poe’s successful hoax, based almost wholly on the journal of Lewis and Clark. (See David K. Jackson, Poe Studies 7 (1974): 47-48 and Pollin 1: 511.)

The issue concluded with an eight-page “Supplement” of reprints of critical notices of the SLM, for which Poe also wrote a “Publisher’s Notice” and a footnote (p. 133). The “Notice” begins: “We are very proud in being able to afford our friends so many and so great evidences of the Messenger’s popularity as are contained in the following Notices.*” (footnote: “*The Notices here appended, are very far from all we have received. Many are omitted for want of room. All those left out, are unexceptionably flattering to ourselves.”) The “ourselves” is editorial, but in fact the majority of the reprinted samples refer directly to Poe or to his works. Not all, to be sure, are entirely favorable. “Scenes from an Unpublished Drama” receives some harsh remarks, and the critical tone of the reviews — particularly that of Norman Leslie — draws mixed praise and condemnation. The Baltimore [page 82:] American, for example, admonishes the publisher: “This number is strong in notices of new works, and we like the severity of some of them: there is much matter for ‘cutting up.’ But the cutter up must do his task like a meat carver, without smearing his own fingers. Our friend Mr. White and his editor should keep the tone and bearing of the Messenger elevated and cavalier-like” (p. 138). More directly approving was the view of the Richmond Whig: “Mr. White’s Literary Messenger is either the most transcendantly [sic] [column 2:] able periodical in the United States, or its proprietor has been most particularly successful in eliciting the puff — for it attracts more of the notice of the Press, and is more uniformly admired and praised upon the appearance of its successive numbers, than all of the Literary Periodicals in the United States put together” (p. 133). For Poe, the few strictures could not have mattered much. He was being noticed; that was what counted.






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