Text: Burton R. Pollin, “October 1836 (Headnote),” The Collected Writings of Edgar Allan PoeVol. V: SLM (1997), pp. 291-292 (This material is protected by copyright)


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October 1836

[column 1:]

Shortly before the appearance of the October number, issued about November 8, the Newbern Spectator gave warning that it had no intention of relaxing its anti-Poe campaign, even though its victim appeared to be dodging its blows:

After waiting through the months of September and October without having received a number of the Messenger, we began to think that the Editor had “cut” us in consequence of our attempts to restrain his imprudence in the literary line. We went, therefore, to one of the subscribers in the town, and obtained the September number, that we might judge of the effects of the truths which we had told the Editor. We are happy to add, that they are visible in the increased moderation of the “Critical Notices,” although there is yet just cause for a little “fault-finding,” which we forbear this week on account of the plea of indisposition which the Editor puts in. — Even the “cut direct” will not prevent us hereafter from informing our readers of the merits of the Messenger (Poe Log, p. 229).

The Poe Log notes that the Spectator did get its copy of the October issue on November 25.

The October number carried on its paper cover a notice concerning delays in the publication schedule and giving the plans for future issues. A reference to “workmen” evidently refers to labor difficulties, for on December 15 White wrote to a friend in New York that his printers were on strike (Poe Log, p. 236). The notice, probably prepared by Poe, reads:

Various delays arising from sickness in our office, the difficulty of obtaining workmen [column 2:] at short notice in the South, and other causes unforeseen, have thrown us, during the progress of the last two numbers, more than a month behind our regular time of issue. We regret this, however, the less, since it will be desirable, at all events, not to commence our third volume until the beginning of the new year. The Messenger now published is No. XI [October 1836]. No. XII [November 1836] will follow as soon as possible, and complete Volume the Second. The first number of Volume III, in whose external appearance we hope to make some improvements, will be issued on the first of January next (Poe Log, p. 230).

A second announcement on the cover, headed “To the Friends of the Messenger,” was signed by White himself:

As Publisher and Proprietor of this Journal, I shall always consider it not only my right, but my duty, to advance its interests by any honorable means within my power. To show those who have favored me with their support, or who may deliberate about so doing, what the public think of the Messenger (as far as the voice of the public can be ascertained by means of the public press), I cannot be brought to think a censurable course, and shall accordingly pursue it at such intervals as may be thought proper. In the present instance, the high encomiums which have been lavished, from the loftiest source in the country, and lavished without exception, upon the exertions and talents of Mr. Poe, (and only a very few of which are here republished) render it incumbent upon me to exonerate him from the charge of vanity in giving further circulation to the “Opinions of the Press.” I, therefore, take this method of stating as distinctly [page 292:] as possible, that he has no part whatever in this proceeding — which is altogether a matter between reader and Publisher. The notices subjoined are taken, very nearly at random, from a mass lately received, amounting to more than one hundred, and which are, without exception, complimentary (Poe Log, p. 230).

This unusual public avowal may reflect White’s own sense of a need for some defense of his editor, but it is difficult to believe that Poe had no hand at all in its composition or in the compilation of the subjoined notices. While most are indeed highly favorable, the Washington Telegraph did get in one aside that seems to echo the Richmond Compiler: “[Poe’s] critical notices are always good or sometimes bordering on the brink of too much severity. There is no use in lashing authors, unfortunate race, as if they were highway robbers, horse thieves, and gallows birds. Mercy should smile upon the inkstand of the critic (forgive the sublime idea, Mr. Poe,) — should chasten the rod he had soaked in pickle, made doubly severe by his own consciousness of superiority — but we are running wild ... (Poe Log, p. 232).

This issue provided the readers of the Messenger with a typical didactic menu: a lengthy “Classical Bibliography,” a continuation of the debate over “The Right of Instruction,” an essay on “The Learned Languages,” and a disquisition on “Alfieri and Schiller,” by Mrs. E. F. [column 2:] Ellet. Poe’s own contributions were back to his usual standard. They were:

1. An editorial note attached to Lindley Murray’s poem “To My Wife”: “* These verses, printed from an original MS. of Lindley Murray, and, as we believe, never before published, present that celebrated grammarian in an entirely new point of view, and give him strong claims to the character of a poet. A sister of Mr. Murray married, we think, one of the Hoffmans of New York, and it is possible some of that highly respected family may have in their possession some other metrical pieces from his pen. It is somewhat remarkable that the present lines involve an odd grammatical error of construction in the concluding stanza” (p. 669). (That stanza reads: “Have I a wish? — ‘tis all her own, / All hers and mine are roll‘d in one — / Our hearts are so entwin‘d, / That, like the ivy round the tree, / Bound up in closest amity, / ‘Tis Death to be disjoin‘d.”) Poe must be objecting to the conjunctive use of “like” by the grammatical expert.

2. Two fillers: “Noms de Guerre” and “Bibles” (p. 676). These are printed and annotated in Pollin 2: 441-43.

3. Fifteen critical notices, printed and discussed below. These are accepted as Poe’s by the Poe Log (p. 22930), Hull (pp. 156-66), and Mabbott (MS. Notes, Folder 1).






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