Autograph Letter Signed

Edgar Allan POE

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“I HAVE THE HONOR TO LEAVE FOR YOU… A FEW OF MY STORIES”: EXTRAORDINARY HANDWRITTEN LETTER FROM EDGAR ALLAN POE TO WILEY AND PUTNAM EDITOR EVERT DUYCKINCK, 1845, PREPARING FOR THE PUBLICATION OF HIS IMPORTANT TALES, A CORNERSTONE OF AMERICAN LITERATURE

POE, Edgar Allan. Autograph letter signed. New York, 1845. Half sheet of blue lined paper measuring approximately 8 by 5 inches. Handsomely framed with portrait, entire piece measures 22 by 13 ½ inches.

Autograph letter from Poe to editor Evert Duyckinck of Wiley and Putnam, dated February, 1845, and signed with Poe’s characteristic flourish.

Written in black ink on half of a sheet of blue lined paper, the letter is dated New York, February 18, 1845, addressed to E.A. Duyckinck Esq., and reads “My Dear Sir, I have the honor to leave for you, with Mr Mathews, a few of my stories, selected from about sixty, as having the best chance of popularity. Very truly yours, Edgar A. Poe.”

“In June 1845, capitalizing on the tremendous success of ‘The Raven,’ Wiley & Putnam brought out Poe’s Tales, his first substantial book in five years. The 12 reprinted stories (out of 70 that Poe had written) were chosen by Wiley & Putnam’s editor, Evert Duyckinck… Duyckinck’s selection was rather strange, for he omitted three stories that Poe had called his best-‘Ligeia,’ ‘William Wilson’ and ‘The Tell-Tale Heart’-as well as ‘Eleonora’ and ‘The Masque of the Red Death.’ These significant omissions, and the inclusion of distinctly minor works like ‘Lionizing,’ disrupted the unity of effect that Poe had hoped to achieve in this book” (Meyers, 177-78). ‘Unity of effect’ was one of Poe’s own criteria for the aesthetic judging of the prose tale. In an August 1846 letter to Virginia poet Philip Pendleton Cooke, Poe discussed the selection in Tales: “The last selection of my Tales was made from about seventy, by Wiley & Putnam’s reader, Duyckinck. He has what he thinks a taste for ratiocination, and has accordingly made up the book mostly of analytic stories. But this is not representing my mind in its various phases—it is not giving me fair play. In writing these Tales one by one, at long intervals, I have kept the book-unity always in mind—that is, each has been composed with reference to its effect as part of a whole. In this view, one of my chief aims has been the widest diversity of subject, thought, & especially tone & manner of handling. Were all my tales now before me in a large volume and as the composition of another—the merit which would principally arrest my attention would be the wide diversity and variety.”

“Poe was famous. He had a respectable publisher. The 1845 collection of Tales contained truly brilliant material; it was a significantly better selection than Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque [1840] because it included fewer of the so-called humorous items… Tales of 1845 collected the three tales of ratiocination featuring the character Auguste Dupin which together formed the nucleus of the modern detective story. During this brief period of relative success, Poe’s presence was sought in various salons and literary circles. But he was psychologically and politically unable to parlay any of this into a decent income or even a basic level of security. Every chance he got, even on the lecture circuit, he would burn a bridge, insult a would-be or former benefactor, or otherwise shoot himself in the foot through his natural bile or his drinking” (Biondi, 34).

Tales sold well at 50 cents a copy, selling 1500 copies by November 1845 (see Heartman & Canny, 90-97). The success of Tales and its sister volume, The Raven and Other Poems (also published in 1845 by Wiley and Putnam), was overshadowed for Poe by the failure of the Broadway Journal, in which he held a financial stake, and the death of his wife Virginia in 1847. Poe himself would die two years after her.

Light creases from folding, traces of previous mounting on verso. Fine condition, beautifully framed. Scarce, rare and important.

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