The Cambridge Companion to Edgar Allan Poe

The Cambridge Companion to Edgar Allan Poe

The Cambridge Companion to Edgar Allan Poe

The Cambridge Companion to Edgar Allan Poe

Synopsis

This Companion consists of 14 essays by leading international scholars. They provide a series of new perspectives on one of the most enigmatic and controversial American writers. Specially tailored to the needs of undergraduates, the essays examine all of Poe's major writings, his poetry, short stores and criticism, and place his work in a variety of literary, cultural and political contexts. This volume will be of interest to scholars as well as students. It features a detailed chronology and a comprehensive guide to further reading.

Excerpt

On 1 January 1875, William M. Cash, an Alexandria, Louisiana news carrier, had a special New Year's Day gift for the customers on his paper route: he presented each with The Bells, a handsome, eight-page pamphlet reprinting the well-known poem by Edgar Allan Poe. Louisiana newspaper subscribers were not the only people to receive copies of The Bells as presents during the 1870s. In Philadelphia, a china and glassware retailer issued a complimentary edition of the poem for its customers during Christmas time, 1872, and the week after Christmas, grocery boys in the employ of Philadelphia grocer, Mitchell and Fletcher, gave copies of The Bells to their customers as New Year's Day presents. Since bells had been a commonplace holiday motif for centuries, perhaps it should come as no surprise that copies of The Bells were being distributed to Philadelphia grocery shoppers or Louisiana newspaper subscribers. Anyone who believed what they read in the literary periodicals of the day, however, would hardly find Poe's writings suitable material to pass through the hands of impressionable young news carriers and grocery boys.

While Poe had achieved a status in France equal to that of a great national author and, through his French reputation, was gaining much acceptance in other parts of Europe, his reputation among the literati in English-speaking nations was ambiguous. Many of the articles in the English-language press in 1875 conveyed animosity toward Poe. One characterized him as a madman and attempted to muster evidence in an unconvincing effort to verify the diagnosis in clinical terms. Robert Louis Stevenson wrote one of the more balanced essays of the time for the New Year's issue of the widely-respected British literary weekly, The Academy. Stevenson expressed his conviction that Poe had “the true story-teller's instinct, ” related his appreciation of “The Cask of Amontillado” and “The Masque of the Red Death, ” yet deprecated several of Poe's other stories and critiqued his personal image. Before analyzing the tales, Stevenson observed, “I cannot find it in my heart to like either his portrait or his character; and though it is possible that we see him . . .

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