- Edgar Allan Poe: Selected Poetry and Tales ed. by James M. Hutchisson
This anthology is neither a comprehensive academic edition, with extensive notes and apparatus, nor a superficial collection aimed at a broad popular audience. With dozens of editions of Poe’s works currently available, particularly for selections of Poe’s poetry and tales, what chiefly distinguishes this one- volume presentation is the introductory and appendix material. The end of the introductionstates:
The aim of this Broadview edition is twofold. First, it presents a selection from Poe’s works, showcasing an array of his literary talents in such diverse modes of writing as tales of the supernatural, satires and hoaxes, science fiction and detective fiction, and nonfiction essays on literary and social topics. And second, it reprints in the appendices portions of books, newspaper and magazine articles, and treatises and pamphlets from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries that either served Poe as sources for his poetry and fiction or that can be read to provide context for his themes and subjects. It is hoped that readers can gain from these selections a better sense of the versatility with which Poe wrote and see also how deeply he was embedded in the multiple aesthetic layers of nineteenth-century literary culture.(32–33)
Mostly meeting the purposes thus set out, many of Poe’s best-known short works of poetry and fiction are present, with entries divided into sections as “Poetry” and “Tales,” with a few additional essays and extracts from reviews in Appendix C. The selection of twenty-eight tales, out of approximately seventy written by Poe, include the perennial favorites of “The Masque of the Red Death,” “The Black Cat,” “The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar,” and “The Cask of Amontillado.” In some cases, the choices may seem a bit spotty. We get “Berenice,” “Morella,” and “Ligeia” (but not “Eleonora”), “Silence: A Fable” (but not “Shadow: A Parable”), “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” and “The Purloined Letter” (but not “The Mystery of Marie Roget,” arguably the weakest of Poe’s three Dupin stories). One item, “The Philosophy of Furniture” is admitted in the source footnote as being “not strictly speaking a tale, but rather [End Page 228] a sketch with a minor narrative element” (234n3). As such, it might have been better placed in the appendix, accompanying Poe’s “Letter to B—” and “The Philosophy of Composition.”
Among the seventeen poems, out of the more than nineteen composed by Poe during his career, we find “Tamerlane,” “Romance,” and “The Sleeper” along with such better-known poems “The City in the Sea,” “Israfel,” “To Helen,” “Ulalume,” “The Bells,” “Annabel Lee,” “For Annie,” and, of course, “The Raven.” Such iconic poems as “The Conqueror Worm” and “The Haunted Palace” do not appear in the table of contents, but are technically included because Poe incorporated them in the text of tales that are printed (respectively, in “Ligeia” and “The Fall of the House of Usher”).
The sequence of items in each section is roughly chronological, but not always strictly so, at least not by date of publication. For example, in the poems, “Eldorado” (Flag of Our Union, April 21, 1849) appears after “For Annie” (Flag of Our Union, April 28, 1849). For the tales, “Ligeia” (American Museum, September 1838) appears after “How to Write a Blackwood Article” (American Museum, November 1838), and “Silence: A Fable” (Baltimore Book, for 1838, appearing late in 1837) is printed after both of these. (Other examples further demonstrate this peculiarity. It may be that where multiple items have the same year of publication, they have been ordered alphabetically in relation to one another.)
Among the fairly extensive appendices, in addition to some of the usual suspects selected from Poe’s essays and criticism, we find such unusual and unexpected items as material from The Dangers of Premature Interment, by Joseph Taylor (1816); Letters on Natural Magic, by Sir David Brewster (1832); and Phrenology; or, The Doctrine of Mental Phenomena, by Johann Gaspar Spurzheim (1833...