An image of Edgar Allan Poe (1809–1849) as a man of gloom and mystery continues to hold great popular appeal. Long recognized as one of the greats of American literature, he elicited either highly commendatory or absolutely hostile reactions from many who knew him, from others who claimed to comprehend him as person or as writer, and from still others who circulated as fact opinions intuited from his writings. Whether promoting him as angel or demon, “a man of great and original genius” or “extraordinarily wicked,” the viewpoints in this dramatic collection of primary materials provide vigorous testimony to support the contradictory images of the man and the writer that have prevailed for a century and a half.

Noted Poe scholar Benjamin Fisher includes a comprehensive introduction and a detailed chronology of Poe’s sadly short life; each entry is introduced by a short headnote that places the selection in historical and cultural context, and explanatory notes provide information about people and places. From John Allan’s letter to Secretary of War John Eaton about Poe’s West Point life to John Frankenstein’s hostile verse casting him as an alcoholic, from Rufus Griswold’s first and second posthumous vilifications to James Russell Lowell’s more sensible outline of his life and career, from scornful to commendable reviews to scathing attacks on his morals to recognition of his comic achievements, Fisher has gathered a lively array of materials that read like the most far-fetched of gothic tales.

Poe himself was creative when he supplied information about his life and literary career to others, and the speculative content of many of the portrayals presented in this collection read as if their authors had set out to be equally creative. The sixty-nine recollections gathered in Poe in His Own Time form a dramatic, real-time biographical narrative designed to provide a multitude of perspectives on the famous author, sometimes in conflict with each other and sometimes in agreement but always arresting.

Poe in His Own Time is a must for all who wish to trace Poe’s life without the embroidery of biography. Fisher’s judiciously selected excerpts provide the reader with a collection that would have taken years to access otherwise. Fisher’s general introduction and prefaces to the reminiscences attest to his forty years as a Poe scholar whose commitment to evidentiary research can be trusted, embraced, and enjoyed.”—Barbara Cantalupo, editor, Edgar Allan Poe Review
“Like its predecessors in this outstanding series, Poe in His Own Time succeeds as both a rich sourcebook for scholars and a fascinating read for nonspecialists. Selected, arranged, and annotated with exemplary skill by its editor, Benjamin Fisher, this chronological collection of primary materials evokes its subject with a wonderful immediacy, transporting us back into the very thick of Poe’s turbulent life and times.”—Harold Schechter, author, Nevermore
“It is very useful to have such a striking array of verbal portraits and snapshots of Poe in one handy volume. One would have to consult letters, biographies, and dozens of other sources in order to obtain such a concise yet moving picture of Poe. This collection reminds us why Poe cut a controversial figure in his day. Poe’s friends and enemies alike can be heard in their own embattled voices.”—Stephen Rachman, Michigan State University, and president, Poe Studies

Introduction xi

Chronology xxvii

John Allan, [Letter about Poe’s West Point Matriculation] (1829) 1

Allan B. Magruder, [Letter about Poe at West Point] (1884) 2

John P. Kennedy, [Letter about Commencement of Poe’s

Professional Literary Life] (1835) 3

Thomas W. White, [Letter about Poe’s Drinking and

the Messenger] (1835) 4

John P. Kennedy, [Letter about Mixed Modes in Poe’s Early

Tales] (1836) 6

Edgar A. Poe, [Epistolary Response with Comment on

Humor] (1836) 7

James Kirke Paulding, [Harper’s Rejection of “Tales of the

Folio Club”] (1836) 8

James Kirke Paulding, [Letter Advising Poe to Compose a

Novel] (1836) 9

Lydia H. Sigourney, [Letter Justifying Poe’s Critical

Practices] (1836) 10

Edgar A. Poe, [Letter Seeking Political Appointment] (1841) 11

Frederick W. Thomas, [Letter Encouraging Poe’s Political

Desires] (1841) 12

Edgar A. Poe, [Additional Comments on Political

Aspirations] (1841) 13

Frederick W. Thomas, [Letter about Poe’s Political

Qualifi cations] (1841) 14

[Anonymous], “Autographs” (1842) 15

Frederick W. Thomas, [Letter about Poe’s Possible Custom

House Appointment] (1842) 16

Edgar A. Poe, [Letter about Reasons for Leaving

Graham’s] (1842) 18

Rufus W. Griswold, From The Poets and Poetry of America (1842) 20

[Edgar A. Poe and Henry B. Hirst], From “Poets and Poetry of

Philadelphia . . .” (1843) 23

George Lippard, “Mr. Poe’s Lecture” (1843) 41

Academicus, “For the Delaware State Journal” (1844) 43

George Lippard, “Lecture by Mr. Poe” (1844) 46

Edgar A. Poe, [Letter Detailing Life in New York City] (1844) 47

Lawrence Labree, [Early Criticism of Poe’s Works] (1845) 49

Cornelia Wells Walter, From “A Failure” (1845) 52

P., From “Edgar A. Poe” in Boston Evening Transcript (1845) 54

[Anonymous], “Quizzing the Bostonians” (1845) 56

[Anonymous], “Mr. Poe’s Poem” (1845) 57

M. B. Fields, From Memories of Many Men and of Some Women (1875) 59

[Anonymous], From “Hints to Authors” (1848) 60

[Evert A. Duyckinck], [Untitled Headnote to Reprint of

“Ulalume”] (1849) 66

[Anonymous], From “Mr. Poe’s Lecture” (1849) 67

John M. Daniel, From “Edgar A. Poe” in Semi-Weekly

Examiner (1849) 68

Joseph P. Wilson, [Note Requesting Assistance for Poe] (1849) 70

John J. Moran, [Letter from Poe’s Attending Physician] (1849) 71

“Ludwig” [Rufus Wilmot Griswold], “Death of Edgar Allan Poe” in

New York Daily Tribune (1849) 73

[C. F. Briggs], From “Topics of the Month” (1849) 81

Maria Clemm, “To the Reader” (1850) 84

James Russell Lowell, “Edgar A. Poe” (1850) 86

Nathaniel P. Willis, “Death of Edgar A. Poe” (1850) 94

Rufus Wilmot Griswold, “Memoir of the Author” (1850) 100

Henry B. Hirst, “Edgar Allan Poe” in McMakin’s Model American

Courier (1849) 154

John M. Daniel, From “Edgar Allan Poe” in Southern Literary

Messenger (1850) 159

John R. Thompson, “The Late Edgar A. Poe” in Southern Literary

Messenger (1849) 161

John R. Thompson, From “Editor’s Table” (1850) 167

[John R. Thompson], Editorial Note to “Poe on Headley and

Channing” (1850) 168

Nathaniel P. Willis, “Estimates of Edgar A. Poe” in Home

Journal (1850) 169

Anonymous, From Athenaeum (1852) 173

“Apollodorus” [George Gilfi llan], “Authors and Books. Edgar

Poe.” (1854) 174

Rufus Wilmot Griswold, “Preface” to Works of the Late Edgar A. Poe

(1856) 187

William Moy Thomas, “Edgar Allan Poe: A Letter to the Editor of

The Train” (1857) 188

Bryan W. Proctor, From “Edgar Allan Poe” in Edinburgh

Review (1858) 195

[Anonymous], “Editorial Etchings” (1858) 208

[Anonymous], From “Nathaniel Hawthorne” (1860) 209

Mary Gove Nichols, “Reminiscences of Edgar Poe” (1863) 210

John Frankenstein, From American Art (1864) 217

Elizabeth Oakes Smith, “Autobiographic Notes. Edgar Allan

Poe.” (1867) 219

Joseph E. Snodgrass, “The Facts of Poe’s Death and Burial” (1867) 236

Margaret E. Wilmer, “Another View of Edgar A. Poe” (1867) 245

William Gowans, From Edgar Allan Poe (1891) 249

John Henry Ingram, “Edgar Poe” in Temple Bar (1874) 251

Francis Gerry Fairfi eld, “A Mad Man of Letters” (1875) 266

F. R. M., From “The Poet Not an Epileptic” (1875) 285

Sarah Helen Whitman, From “Poe, Critic, and Hobby. A Reply to

Mr. Fairfi eld . . .” (1875) 286

[Anonymous], From [Editorial Notice of Reply to Fairfi eld] (1875) 290

Francis Gerry Fairfi eld, From “Edgar Allan Poe. A Letter . . .” (1875) 291

Charles Frederick Briggs, From “The Personality of Poe” (1877) 294

Bibliography 301

Index 305

Patrick F. Quinn Award for best book on Poe published in 2010 

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276 pages
Trim size
6 x 9 inches
6 illustrations