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  • The Capital Warning of "Annabel Lee"
  • Jeffrey A. Savoye (bio)

The Gregg–Bowers–Tanselle school of thought in regard to textual criticism instructs us to essentially ignore what these scholars termed accidental changes (punctuation, spelling, capitalization, etc.) and focus only on more substantive verbal changes. If we follow this stricture when evaluating texts, however, we can easily miss some interesting correlations. For example, although there are no verbal differences between the Griswold manuscript for Poe's famous poem of "Annabel Lee" and the three texts he provided from it, there are other typographical features that offer us an interesting clue about the sequence of these texts and may give us some insight into Griswold's role as an editor. It is clear that all three of Griswold's printings of this poem are based on Poe's manuscript, in part because he had no other source and in part because only Griswold's texts have the phrasing "I was a child and she was a child" rather than "She was a child and I was a child." Poe apparently made this change shortly after he gave the manuscript to Griswold, and the new phrasing was continued in all of the other surviving manuscripts. Although Griswold had Poe's manuscript, which remained as part of his papers and was donated to Harvard by one of his descendants, his typesetters for the edition of The Works of the Late Edgar Allan Poe (1850) probably did not use it directly.

The first version of Griswold's text to appear in print was as part of his "Ludwig" obituary of Poe, first printed in the New York Daily Tribune for October 9, 1849. My speculation is that in setting this text, the typesetters for the Tribune had proof sheets of the poem as it had recently been set for a revised edition of The Poets and Poetry of America (issued later in 1849, [End Page 287] but dated 1850 and necessarily already in production for publication in time for the lucrative holiday market). My reason for this speculation is the use of large and small caps for all of the occurrences of Annabel Lee's name in the body of the poem, which appears in the text of the Tribune but was not a standard feature of poems printed in that newspaper. My strong suspicion is that the typesetter for The Poets and Poetry of America had already adopted this feature as part of a house style for the book, and other poems in this edition of The Poets and Poetry of America are also thus rendered, such as for the names of Israfel and Lenore in those respective poems. Those names are not given in caps in the 1850 Works, presumably in part because that was not a consistent style for that edition, and, more importantly, Griswold gives the texts for those two poems from the 1845 stereo-plates for The Raven and Other Poems (which he appears to have obtained from G. P. Putnam and used for the sake of eliminating the task of typesetting a good deal of material). Of these poems, only "Annabel Lee" had to be newly set in type, having been composed after 1845, and thus only its text repeated this use of capitals for her name, copying this feature from its source. (Although The Poets and Poetry of America was also stereo-plated, differences in the layout and size of fonts meant that they were not compatible with the 1850 edition of the Works in the form that Griswold ultimately adopted.)

In terms of punctuation, there are minor differences in all three of Griswold's printings of the poem, mostly dealing with the end-line use of commas, colons, semicolons, and em dashes. The fact that there are differences between three printings, prepared over the course of what must have been a period only of a few months, suggests the absence of one consistent editorial hand. We may consequently assume that these minor differences were made by the typesetters, which was a common practice in that day (with these skilled workers serving as a kind of copy editor as they set and proofed the texts). A slightly...


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pp. 287-289
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