Tamerlane and other poems (1884)
AND OTHER POEMS
One hundred copies only printed.
|Errata in Original Edition||13|
|To — —||41|
|Visit of the Dead||45|
|Communion with Nature||50|
|"A wilder'd being from my birth"||52|
|"The happiest day—the happiest hour"||53|
BY THE EDITOR.
THE same year that witnessed the publication, at Louth in Lincolnshire, of Alfred Tennyson's first schoolboy volume of verse also gave birth, at that literary capital of the United States of America which takes its name from another Lincolnshire town, to Edgar Poe's maiden book. Unlike the sumptuous and elegant "Poems by Two Brothers," however, which the adventurous publishers actually had the temerity to issue in large-paper form as well as in the ordinary size, Edgar Poe's volume (if it can be dignified with that designation) is the tiniest of tomes, numbering, inclusive of title and half-titles, only forty pages, and measuring 6⅜ by 4⅛ inches. Its diminutiveness, probably quite as much as the fact that it was "suppressed through circumstances of a private nature," accounts for its almost entire disappearance. The motto on the title-page purports to be from Cowper: that from Martial, which closes the Preface (Nos hæc novimus esse nihil), was, by a curious coincidence, the very same that figured on the title-page of Alfred and Charles Tennyson's Louth volume.
In 1827, when the little "Tamerlane" booklet was thus modestly ushered into the world, Poe had not yet attained his nineteenth year. Both in promise and in actual performance, it may claim to rank as the most remarkable production that any English-speaking and English-writing poet of this century has published in his teens.
In this earliest form of it the poem which gives its chief title to the little volume is divided into seventeen sections, of irregular length, containing a total of 406 lines. "Tamerlane" was afterwards remodelled and rewritten, from beginning to end, and in its final form, as it appeared in the author's
edition of 1845, is divided into twenty-three sections, containing a total of 243 lines. Eleven explanatory prose notes are added, which disappear in all subsequent editions. A critic whose familiar acquaintance with the text of Poe gives weight to his verdict, declares that although "different in structure, and explaining some things which, in later copies, are left to the imagination, the Tamerlane of 1827 is in many parts quite equal to the present poem."
Of the nine "Fugitive Pieces" which follow only three, and these in a somewhat altered form, were included by the author in his later collection. The remaining six have never been reprinted in book form, although they were, together with a few extracts from the earliest version of "Tamerlane," printed (so incorrectly, however, as to be practically valueless,) in a magazine article on "The Unknown Poetry of Edgar Poe," contributed by Mr. John H. Ingram to Belgravia for June 1876.
I have no desire to disparage or underrate, and have already taken occasion to render tribute to, the worthy and loyal service and labour of love performed by Mr. Ingram, with zeal if not always with discretion, on the text of Poe, and still more notably in clearing his life and memory from the aspersions of contemporary calumniators. But, in justice both to myself and to others, I am compelled to repudiate and refute the untenable and, as it seems to me, preposterous claim recently put forward by him in the columns of a leading literary journal, to be the discoverer of the first edition of Poe's Tamerlane, and to possess a sort of moral right of monopoly over it.
The facts are simply these, and had I been allowed, as in all fairness I ought to have been, to disclose them in the columns of the journal which gave insertion to Mr. Ingram's ex parte statement, I need not have troubled the reader with them here. First as to discovery. The only copy of Edgar Poe's 1827 volume at present known to have escaped destruction, came into the possession of the British Museum on the 10th October 1867, which date is (according to custom) officially impressed in red, at the end of the volume, i.e., at the bottom of page 40, under the last note. I believe I am correct in stating that Mr. Ingram did not commence his work on the text of Poe until several years after this: it was certainly not until nearly nine years after that he communicated to the public his account of the "Tamerlane" volume, with extracts, first to Belgravia for June, 1876, and afterwards to the Athenæum for July 29, 1876. The extracts in the Athenæum were limited to four lines of verse, and an imperfect transcript of the title; but the paper in Belgravia contained copious extracts from the longer poem of "Tamerlane," and of the nine "fugitive pieces," the six suppressed ones were given in extenso. In the "Tamerlane" extracts, as thus printed by Mr. Ingram, there were two textual misprints in the Preface, and five in the text; in the "Fugitive Pieces" there were at least five misprints, seriously affecting the sense. This assertion can easily be proved and cannot possibly be refuted. And now as to the claim to monopoly. Since the publication of his Belgravian article, shown to be valueless on account of its inaccuracy, nearly eight more years have elapsed, and until the announcement of the present venture, Mr. Ingram had made no attempt, and given no sign of his intention, to reissue the contents of Poe's 1827 booklet, either separately or in any other shape. His claim to monopoly, therefore, is just as unreasonable and absurd as I have already proved his claim to discovery to be.
"There are several palpable errata," as Mr. Ingram has remarked, "in Edgar Poe's first book" (and which therefore all the more should have had no fresh ones superadded). These I have thought it best to correct, wherever they are perfectly obvious (a list of them and of proposed conjectural emendations is appended), and I have also reduced the orthography and punctuation to a uniform standard. The present case was not one where a facsimile reprint was desirable,—the typography, arrangement, size, and general appearance of the original edition being unsatisfactory in the extreme.
Should this attempt to perpetuate and preserve from destruction a little volume to which might hitherto have been applied the French bibliographer's epithet of "introuvable," prove acceptable to admirers and lovers of Poe, I hope eventually to have the opportunely of reissuing successively the hardly less rare volumes published by him at Baltimore in 1829 and at New York in 1831.
P.S.—Mr. George Edward Woodberry, of Beverly, Mass., the author of an excellent "History of Wood-Engraving," who is preparing a biography of Poe for the series of "American Men of Letters," now publishing by Messrs. Houghton and Co., of Boston, writes to me (under date Jan. 1, 1884) as follows:—
"Of the original edition Mr. Ingram states that he has a copy, and thinks it unique because Poe stated that the edition was suppressed. I do not think it was suppressed, however, and as you may be interested in the matter I extend this note. The printer, Mr. Calvin F. S. Thomas, was a very obscure man, who had a printer's shop at Boston only in that year; I have sought through all the Thomas families of Mass., Maine, Rhode Island, Maryland, Ohio, etc., to which he was likely to belong, and there is no trace of him. I can find no other book with his imprint. Consequently I suppose the edition to have been small and obscure. It was published between June and October, 1827, probably in June. It was not noticed or advertised, apparently, but it occurs in the North American Review's quarterly list of new publications, in the October number, 1827 [vol. xxv. p. 471]. How Poe, a youth of eighteen, in a strange city, friendless and penniless as he was, persuaded this unknown printer to issue his volume, is a mystery to me. I have talked with old men, and had the printers and publishers who survive from that time interrogated, but though Boston was a small town, no one knew Thomas or ever heard of him. You may be sure, however, that the Mr. Ingram who seems to own Poe, is wrong in believing that the volume was only printed, and not published. Poe left Boston in October of that year."
ERRATA IN ORIGINAL EDITION.
Original edition, page 6, line 10, et infra. Reprint, page 22, line 6, et infra,-'"Aye" for "Ay."
Orig. ed., p. 6, l. II. Reprint, p. 22, l. 7.—"hatred portion" for "hated portion." [It is possible that "shown" in the next line is a misprint for "shone," but I have not ventured to disturb the text.]
Orig. ed., p. 8, l. 12. Reprint, p. 24, 1. 12.—"sleep" for "steep."
Orig. ed. p. 9, last line but one. Reprint, p. 25, last line.—The bracketed word "was" does not appear in the original edition.
Orig. ed., p. 11, l. 17. Reprint, p. 27, six lines from bottom.—"Dwell" for "Dwelt;" rightly printed "Dwelt," however, in the notes.
Orig. ed., p. 13. l. 5. Reprint, p. 29. l. 9.—"wore" for "were." Mr. Ingram had already made this emendation in his article in Belgravia.
Orig. ed., p. 19, l. 20. Reprint, p. 36, l. 4.—"to well" for "too well." This emendation had already been made by Mr. Ingram.
Orig. ed., p. 20, l. 16. Reprint, p. 37, l. 1.—"lisp" for "list."
Orig. ed., p. 26, l. 16. Reprint, p. 43, five lines from bottom.—"Inclines of mine imaginary apart" is the unintelligible reading of the original edition. We are indebted to Mr. Ingram's ingenuity for the reading adopted in the text.
Orig. ed., p. 27, l. 3. Reprint, p. 44, l. 7.—I have hazarded the insertion of the bracketed word "but," for the sake of the metre,—not, however, without some lingering doubt, or at least not with the same certainty and assurance as in the case of the word previously supplied.
Orig. ed., p. 28, l. 6. Reprint, p. 45, last line but one.—"ferver" for "fever."
Orig. ed., p. 28, l. 13. Reprint, p. 46, l. 6—The original edition reads, "And the wish upon the hill." We are indebted to Mr. Ingram for the substitution of "mist" for "wish,"—a reading adopted in the text.
Orig. ed., p. 30, l. 14. Reprint, p. 49, three lines from bottom.—The original edition reads "sight." "With a sight as it pass'd on: "Mr. Ingram prints "sigh," and we have no hesitation in adopting his suggestion.
Orig. ed., p. 31, l. 6. Reprint, p. 50, last line but three.—"ferver" for "fever" or "fervour," it seems uncertain which. See last line of first stanza. Mr. Ingram prints "fever," which we (somewhat hesitatingly, however,) adopt.
- The following is the collation, which may assist some ardent book-hunter here and there in the search for a copy:—
Title, with blank reverse
Preface 3, 4 Tamerlane 5-21Blank reverse 22Half-title, "Fugitive Pieces," with blank reverse 23, 24Fugitive Pieces
25-34Half-title, "Notes," with blank reverse
There is no List or Table of Contents.
- Epigr. xiii. 2. l. 8.
- Athenæum, November 24, 1883.
- The press-mark of the Museum copy is "C. 34. b."