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The Essential Tales And Poems of Edgar Allen Poe (Barnes & Noble Classics) Paperback – October 25, 2004

ISBN-13: 978-1593080648 ISBN-10: 1593080646 Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 688 pages
  • Publisher: Barnes & Noble Classics; 1st edition (October 25, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1593080646
  • ISBN-13: 978-1593080648
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 1.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #116,984 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

From Benjamin F. Fisher’s Introduction to Essential Tales and Poems by Edgar Allan Poe

Poe’s tales continue to be the most admired part of his literary legacy, however much he wished to be a poet. One may legitimately ask what were his reasons for resorting to prose fiction as a mainstay, most notably to the short story or, as he preferred, the "tale"? The answer is simple: money. Poe received no profits from his early poems, so he turned to a form that was likely to sell better, the short story, and specifically to short fiction in the Gothic vein. Tales featuring a single character (or at least one who stood out from any others), beset by oppressive and mysterious forces, often amid fantastic settings, existed long before Poe found in this paradigm a suitable creative medium. Terror tales had become staples in periodicals, chiefly in a renowned literary magazine in the Anglo-American literary world during the 1820s, 1830s, and 1840s, the house organ for the well-established Scottish publishing firm of Blackwood: Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine, colloquially called Blackwood’s or Blackwood. It is evident from his writings that Poe’s knowledge of this periodical was extensive. His satiric tale "How to Write a Blackwood Article" and its sequel, "A Predicament," lampoon not just recurrent themes, motifs, and stylistic techniques of stories from Blackwood’s, but indeed ridicule Poe’s own hallmark methods and themes in fiction. Compelling satire and parody require expert comprehension of what one wishes to treat comically, and so we might examine Poe’s own fiction to discover what he understood of the production of intriguing Gothic tales.

Apparently, from the time he left West Point in 1831 for his grandmother Poe’s home in Baltimore, until his name appeared in connection with a literary contest in that city late in 1833, he thoughtfully considered what should constitute effective tales of terror. He gave himself an independent study course in content and methodology in popular Gothic fiction as groundwork for his own. He submitted five tales to a prize contest sponsored by a Philadelphia newspaper, the Saturday Courier, near the end of 1831. Although none won the prize, they all circulated in the paper, perhaps without Poe’s consent or knowledge, during 1832. The first to appear, "Metzengerstein," seems all too customarily horrific in its "German" setting and its feuding families, connected by supernatural occurrences, who suffer stupendous catastrophes. Horror is evident in young Frederick Metzengerstein’s lips, lacerated in fright during his sensational final journey mounted on a giant supernatural horse, an ominous, repulsive creature. This tale may devolve from the folk motif of the devil riding a giant black horse to claim his victims. Poe alters the traditional black coloring of the horse to fiery shades. The other Courier tales were spoofs on what were then best-selling fictions and their authors, and one was not even Gothic.

In 1833 the Baltimore Saturday Visiter, a weekly newspaper, sponsored a competition with cash prizes for the best poem and tale. Poe’s tale "MS. Found in a Bottle" and his poem "The Coliseum" were ranked the winners until the evaluators discovered that both were written by the same person. They decided that the poetry prize would go elsewhere, although Poe asked that they give the other writer the money for the poem but announce that both of his own works had originally been named first’s. Poe’s wish was ignored, the poetry prize going to "Song of the Winds," by John Hill Hewitt, editor of the Visiter, leaving Poe outraged. The prize selections appeared on October 19, 1833, and Poe’s poem on October 26. Those publications, which were reprinted elsewhere in the United States, brought the young writer his first literary recognition.

Looming, too, was another experimental venture of Poe’s, generally known as "Tales of the Folio Club," a book of interlocking frame narratives.4 In this scheme, never actualized, a group of writers, the Folio Club, meet monthly for literary reading and critiques. Preceding the readings are substantial suppers accompanied by plenty of alcohol. After each member reads his original "brief prose tale" (a hit at some best-selling author’s typical theme and form), critiques follow. Poe once wrote that these critical interchanges were meant to enliven comedy in the project: Voiced by pretentious would-be authors, each tale is delivered by a first-person narrator, a caricature of an actual popular author represented. Because the author-reader of the worst tale hosts the next meeting, and because one of the group has his works successively targeted, in Poe’s scheme, someone in the group eventually becomes enraged, flees to a publisher with the manuscripts, and hurries them into print as an exposé, for revenge.

What doubtless enlivened the overall scheme was that the club members, from the effects of either eating or/and drinking too much, would have articulated corresponding bizarre situations and repetitious language patterns within their tales, imparting zesty humor to those fictions, such mirth given point by the critiques. Had "Tales of the Folio Club" been published, a far different conception of Poe might have emerged early in his career—with what future we may only conjecture. Publishers rejected his manuscript, however, on grounds that the content was far too sophisticated for average readers and sales would not warrant the financial risk. Poe eventually dismantled the collection, brought out individual stories in periodicals, and thereby paved the way for readers’ disagreements that continue to be dynamic even today.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Jory on December 19, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is the best Poe collection I've encountered for the price. It's not complete, but it has everything that a casual fan of Poe would be looking for and much more. In addition to Poe's writing, you also get biographical material, an extensive introductory essay, and plenty of footnotes -- over 120 of them, adding up to 23 pages.

One small complaint: There isn't a single comprehensive table of contents at the beginning of the book. If you want to know where "The Murders in the Rue Morgue" is, you have to look up where the Tales section is, go there, then look up the story in a second table of contents. But again, this is a minor nitpick.

I don't have much more to say, so I'm going to use the rest of this review to list the contents of the book, since I don't see them listed anywhere else on this page:

Edgar Allan Poe (two-page biography)

The World of Edgar Allan Poe (five-page timeline of his life)

Introduction by editor Benjamin F. Fisher (28 pages)


The Lake--To--
Sonnet--To Science
To Helen
The Sleeper
The Valley of Unrest
The City in the Sea
The Coliseum
The Raven
Ulalume--A Ballad
The Bells
A Dream within a Dream
Annabel Lee


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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Christopher H. Harrington on March 29, 2008
Format: Paperback
This is a nice collection of Edgar Allan Poe. I'm a fan but not a fanatic. So this book was great for me. It has a great mix of almost everything Poe has written. There is anaylsis of the writing which is key to this edition being a good read.

Benjamin F. Fischer is a Poe expert and he really helps draw out the factors that influenced Poe's writing.
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By Josiah Luke Spencer on April 17, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
There are few poets like Poe. He combined the gift of a poet's turn of phrase with an immense knowledge of many topics, most notably mythology and history. His genres vary from romantic poems to dark short stories.

Read him for pleasure or read him to learn. Either way, just read him!
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Melanie K. Elmore on January 28, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I have Dr. Fisher as a professor this year and I can say, after listening to him speak, that he is very knowledgeable on the subject of Poe. He uses excerpts from this text in his class and it is very thorough.
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Emily Hurst on January 27, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I was surprised at how good this copy of the book was since it cost so little, but when I opened it up it looked almost new! I love it!
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