The Edgar Allan Poe Collection of Susan Jaffe Tane


Edgar Allan Poe

Poe considered himself a poet first and foremost; he believed, as did most of his contemporaries, that poetry was the highest form of the literary arts. By the age of twenty-two, Poe had published three editions collections of his poetry: Tamerlane and Other Poems (1827), Al Aaraaf, Tamerlane, and Minor Poems (1829), and Poems (1831). But economic necessity soon forced his literary talents in the more profitable directions of literary journalism and fiction. All his life he remained a frustrated poet, prevented by poverty and life circumstances from dedicating all his abilities to what he considered his true calling, writing poetry.

The Tane collection is rich in manuscript materials documenting Poe’s poetical works, including several manuscripts in Poe’s hand, first and early editions of his published books of poetry, as well as journals and newspapers that preserve his critical essays about the ideal form and function of poetry.

Edgar Allan Poe. Autograph manuscript of “The Spirits of the Dead.” [1828].
| Additional images:

Inspired by Byron’s Manfred, “The Spirits of the Dead” holds important clues to Poe’s creative process at the outset of his career, a critical period of psychological introspection that proved fundamental to his identity. Originally printed in Tamerlane and Other Poems as “Visit of the Dead,” the poem was printed with significant changes in Al Aaraaf, Tamerlane, and Minor Poems as “Spirits of the Dead.” This manuscript clearly reflects a transitional state and is unique in both organization and content.

The poem reveals two of the thematic preoccupations that would appear again and again in Poe’s writings: a morbid focus on the spirits of those departed, and a permeable line between the living and the dead.

Edgar Allan Poe. Poems. New York: Elam Bliss, 1831. First edition, inscribed by the author.

Just before leaving West Point after his court-martial, Poe managed to persuade 131 of his 232 fellow cadets to contribute $1.25 each to pay for a new edition of his poems. Poe called this the “second edition” of his poems, since many had previously appeared in Al Aaraaf, Tamerlane, and Minor Poems. The 1831 Poems is, however, an entirely new edition, containing revised versions of previously published poems along with six new poems. Of the estimated 500 to 1,000 copies originally printed, only about 20 survive, including the copy shown here.

This volume was Poe’s gift to the critic John Neal, and is the only known copy of Poems inscribed by the author.

Edgar Allan Poe. Autograph letter signed to Washington Irving. Philadelphia, October 12, 1839.
| Additional images:

This fascinating letter, in which Poe pays homage to and seeks the support of Washington Irving, links two leading figures of American literature. Poe writes to ask the elder writer to provide a word of praise that he might include with his Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque. Poe boldly wrote similar letters to many notable literary figures of his day—even after publishing scathing criticisms of their work in his journal reviews.

Edgar Allan Poe. Autograph manuscript of “To Zante.” Philadelphia, November 6, 1840.

This fourteen-line sonnet, part of a letter from Poe to Richard Stoddard, is about Poe’s first love (and eventual bride-to-be) Elmira Royster, a great source of inspiration for the author. Royster was the heroine of “Tamerlane” and one possible model for the “lost Lenore” of “The Raven.” Poe died just nine days before they were finally to wed.

Lyrical hints of “The Raven” can be heard throughout this poem, through such elements as the repeating “No more—no more,” though it would be four years before Poe would transform the phrase into the Raven’s haunting “Nevermore” refrain.

“To Zante” made three appearances in periodicals before being collected in the first edition of The Raven and Other Poems in 1845.

Edgar Allan Poe. Autograph manuscript of “Eulalie—A Song.” [1843].

Poe originally composed this poem, a tribute to his wife Virginia, for publication in James Russell Lowell’s Pioneer. Poe sent the poem to Lowell for that purpose in February 1843. By the time the piece was received, however, The Pioneer had ceased publication. The poem was not published until two years later, in the July 1845 issue of The American Review. It appeared the following month in The Broadway Journal and was collected in The Raven and Other Poems the same year.

Edgar Allan Poe. Autograph letter to A.M. Ide, Jr. January 25, 1845.
| Additional images:

On October 1, 1843, a young farmer from Massachusetts named A.M. Ide began writing to Poe seeking “an acquaintance and fellowship with other Poets” and enclosing some of his poetry. Two of Poe’s responses to Ide survive. In this January 1845 letter, Poe offers detailed criticism of a poem Ide had sent to him. It was unusual for Poe to support the efforts of young writers. This letter offer not only critique, but encouragement: “Be bold—read much—write much—publish little—keep aloof from the little wits—and fear nothing.” Another letter from Poe to Ide, dated October 19, 1843, is also in the Tane collection.

Edgar Allan Poe. “Ulalume.” In The American Review: A Whig Journal Devoted to Politics, Literature, Art and Science. New York: George Colton, December 1847.
| Additional images:

Poe’s celebrated poem “Ulalume,” considered by many to be his best, first appeared in print in The American Review. Written after the death of his wife, Virginia, the poem reflects the poet’s attempt to overcome his fixation with the death of his child-bride.

View a photo of this exhibition case

View the Previous Section | View the Next Section