In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

  • Mystery in the Museum
  • Jeffrey A. Savoye (bio)

The long biographical sketch of Poe that appeared on the front page of the Philadelphia Saturday Museum is known primarily from two copies of the issue of 4 March 1843. (Only a few scattered issues of the oversized newspaper of this period are known, and no bound sets appear to exist. The two copies of the 4 March issue reside in the library of the University of North Carolina, at Chapel Hill, and in the special collections library of the University of Virginia; the former copy is badly damaged at the fold and the latter copy was previously owned by James Southall Wilson.) The article is of interest to biographers as the source of some widely repeated errors and as an example of Poe’s own myth-making in creating a public persona, but it is of particular importance for its inclusion of seventeen of his poems, several in revised versions. The Poe Log reproduces as an illustration another form of the article—what appears to be a series of clippings, pasted up as a kind of typesetter’s or layout person’s review proof [Dwight Thomas and David K. Jackson, The Poe Log: A Documentary Life of Edgar Allan Poe, 1809–1849 (Boston: G. K. Hall, 1987), 400]. (Although The Poe Log, which describes it as “printer’s copy, somewhat mutilated,” credits the illustration to the Poe Museum of the Poe Foundation in Richmond, the museum has no record of it.) This curious item is currently unlocated but was once owned by James H. Rindfleisch, an associate of the Richmond Poe scholar and collector James H. Whitty. In his 1911 Houghton Mifflin edition of Poe’s Complete Poems, Whitty describes the document as “the only copy of this Biography known, presumed to have been Poe’s own, and made up of pasted clippings,” erroneously assuming that it was made up from the 4 March 1843 issue, and that it was the only surviving copy of that text [xlv]. Often secretive about his sources, Whitty does not identify the owner of the item. In his 1934 bibliography, John W. Robertson states that it was owned by “J. H. Rindfleisch of Richmond,” further adding the claim that it is “dated February 25, 1843” [A Bibliography of the Writings of Edgar A. Poe (San Francisco: Russian Hill Private Press, Edwin and Robert Grabhorn, 1934), 1:208]. The caption for the illustration as it appears in The Poe Log repeats the February date, without providing further documentation. Since no full copy of the 25 February issue is known to have survived, the question that must [End Page 98] be asked is whether the clippings may represent this earlier form—and there is reason to believe that it does. Although the original item is not available, I was fortunate in being able to examine it through a large photocopy that had been provided to A. H. Quinn in preparation for his 1941 biography of Poe. (The photocopy is now part of the Quinn collection at the University of Pennsylvania.)

That a version of the article did appear earlier than 4 March 1843 seems clear from Poe’s letter of 25 February 1843 to F. W. Thomas, which begins with the statement “Herewith I forward a ‘Saturday Museum’ containing a Biography and caricature, both of myself” [Letters, 381]. It is also verified by a comment in the Pennsylvanian of 25 February 1843: “‘THE PHILADELPHIA SATURDAY MUSEUM’ of to-day . . . contains the second of a series of articles on ‘The Poets and Poetry of Philadelphia,’ giving a sketch of the life and writings of Edgar Allan Poe, accompanied by a portrait” [Poe Log, 399]. Further evidence is printed in the issue of 4 March 1843 itself: “So great was the interest excited by the Biography and Poems of Mr. Poe published in the Museum of last week, that to supply those who were disappointed in obtaining copies, we shall be at the expense of an extra Museum, in which the whole article will be re-printed, with corrections and additions. Of this extra we shall publish an edition on fine white paper. It will be ready for delivery...


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 98-100
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.