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for those who wanted more and yet more sophistication in what they studied and taught. This is not to say that the core essays are not historical but simply to note that their historicismdiffersfrom whatispracticed or endorsed by most professional historians in the American academy. Historicism, the core contributors want to tell their skeptical colleagues, can be sexy, sophisticated, and self-reflexive. The promotional blurb on the back of the volume assuresreaders that each volume in the Historical Guides to American Authors series will be “ [elqually accessible to students of literature and of life,” and while it would be wholly inappropriate to hold either the editor or contributors responsible for this sillyclichi, itdoesraise the questions of precisely what audience the publishers had in mind in commissioning the series and of who will actually read this volume to advantage. It is here that my initial distinction between generic and core components of the volumejustifiesitself,because it is clear that there are two distinct audiences implied by the text as it stands. The presence of the generic componentstogether with the affordably priced paperback edition -suggests a target audience of advanced undergraduates and perhaps neophyte graduate students together with instructors looking for a quick fix before teaching a class on Poe. College students will find the “Introduction:Poe in Our Time”and “Illustrated Chronology” especially suited to their needs, since both are quick,graphic, and illuminating reads, whilejunior graduate students will find the “Bibliographical Essay” useful and the “Brief Biography” highly suggestive.The core essays,by contrast, seem written to and for a different audience altogether: one composed, perhaps, of advanced graduate students and scholarswho alreadyhave a workingknowledge of Poe and a familiarity with the sorts of interpretive strategiesand languagesroutinely invoked by the authors. Of the two constituencies, I conjecture that the secondwill probablyfind more to value than the first, but I wonder if a more consistently accessibletable of contents might not have been a shrewder marketing move. The book, after all, is advertised as a guide, not a goad. Nevertheless,the Historical Guide to Edgar Allan Poe is a valuable addition to scholarship on Poe, and if every reader does not care for every contribution, then any reader I am sure will find something of enduring value. LeonJackson University of South Carolina The “Mystery”of Poe’s Death Solved? John Evangelist Walsh. Midnight Dreary: The Mysterious Death of Edgar Allan Poe. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers Univ. Press, 1998. 199 pp. $25.00 cloth. In 1968John Evangelist Walsh published Poe theDetective : The CuriousCircumstancesbehind “TheMystery of Marie Roget,” which has been hailed as a landmark study of that oft-neglected tale. Next came Plums in the Dust: The Love Affair of Edgar Allan Poe and Fanny Osgood (1980)which took readers into far more speculative areas concerning the relationship of Poe and Fanny Osgood.A cautionary note was sounded in the pages of PoeStudies [13 (1980):40411 by the reviewer Sidney P. Moss, who concluded that no jury would accept the evidence of Walsh’s arguments. Midnight Dreary takes us even further into murky issues, particularlythose surrounding Poe’slast daysand death. Had Walsh stated forthrightly that he was presenting us with a novel, in the detection vein, about Poe’s demise-not a work of academic scholarship-I, for one, would find Midnight Drearya far more palatable accomplishment. The book might then rank with those recent novels by Harold Schechter that feature Poe asa character.As it is,Walsh givesus far too many conjectural sentences and phrasings, along with too much shuffling aside of any previous bit of work that does not offer direct support to his thesis-which is that Elmira Royster Shelton’sbrothers followed Poe after he became engaged to their sister, then severely intoxicated and beat him in hopes of shaming him in Mrs. Shelton’s eyes, but that, consequent upon their vicious handling, Poe died instead of living on to be summarily rejected by their sister because of his debauchery. I am not sure whether Walsh intends to capitalize upon the recent spate of interest in other hypotheses concerning Poe’s death. Although many of us have not bitten the bullets of suggestions that rabies or air pollution may have...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1754-6095
Print ISSN
1947-4644
Pages
pp. 82-83
Launched on MUSE
2014-01-07
Open Access
No
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