Edgar Allan Poe is certainly one of America's greatest and most underrated writers; perhaps underrated because he's too easily pigeon-holed as a drug-addled horror writer. In fact, he virtually created the modern mystery tale, wrote excellent poetry & many of the images from his horror stories have passed into the iconography of our culture--recall the Tell Tale Heart episode of Cheers, with Diane following Carla around going, boom--boom, boom-boom,....
One of the beauties of Poe is that, since his work was all poetry & short stories, you can get everything in a one volume addition like this one. I'll just look at a couple of examples:
The Murders in the Rue Morgue:
With this tale, Poe created the detective story. The narrator is a friend of C. Auguste Dupin in earl 1800's Paris. Dupin is gifted with a great intellect & comes of an illustrious family, but has been reduced to poverty and has shrunken into indolence. However, reading about a particularly brutal murder in Rue Morgue, he is stirred into action & he & the narrator set out to solve the
All of the elements that have become so familiar to us are present here; a locked room, a bizarre killing, a brilliant but eccentric detective, an incredulous sidekick, bumbling police, etc.. Most important, the crime is solved by the rigorous application of reason. In Dupin we see the forerunner of everyone from Sherlock Holmes to Nero Wolfe.
The Cask of Amantillado:
The story is off & running from the first paragraph:
THE thousand injuries of Fortunato I had borne as I best could,
but when he ventured upon insult I vowed revenge. You, who so well
know the nature of my soul, will not suppose, however, that gave
utterance to a threat. At length I would be avenged; this was a
point definitely, settled --but the very definitiveness with which
it was resolved precluded the idea of risk. I must not only punish but
punish with impunity. A wrong is unredressed when retribution
overtakes its redresser. It is equally unredressed when the avenger
fails to make himself felt as such to him who has done the wrong.
It must be understood that neither by word nor deed had I given
Fortunato cause to doubt my good will. I continued, as was my in to
smile in his face, and he did not perceive that my to smile now was at
the thought of his immolation.
He had a weak point --this Fortunato --although in other regards
he was a man to be respected and even feared. He prided himself on his
connoisseurship in wine.
Taking off from this brisk setup, Poe treats us to one of the really diabolical tales of vengeance in all of literature. This one will trouble your sleep.
And, of course, your teacher taught you poetry by reading your class The Bells, The Raven and Annabel Lee. I bet you still remember learning the word tintinnabulation. They're all here & they're all just as morbid and scary as you remember them.
This is the most complete one-volume edition of Poe’s essays and reviews ever published. Here are all his major writings on the theory of poetry, the art of fiction, and the duties of a critic: “The Rationale of Verse,” “The Philosophy of Composition,” “The Poetic Principle,” and “About Critics and Criticism.” Articulating Poe’s passion for technical proficiency and his theory of poetic method, these essays show why he so strongly influenced the French symbolists toward the end of nineteenth century and, through them, the poetry of T. S. Eliot and Hart Crane.
Included in this collection are Poe’s reviews and candid opinions of the leading literary figures of his day: Charles Dickens, Washington Irving, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Alfred Lord Tennyson, Percy Shelley, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and Margaret Fuller, among others. Here also are reviews of long-forgotten writers, reviews that are interesting not so much for their subjects as for Poe’s unflinching and witty candor. Many of his then controversial judgments have been vindicated by time.
Poe particularly relished his prolonged critical war with Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Professor of Modern Languages at Harvard and America’s most respected poet of the nineteenth century, whom he accused of conventionality and plagiarism. The skirmishes in this campaign are represented here in full.
Poe wrote many articles describing the literary world in which he circulated: “The Literati of New York,” the “Editorial Miscellanies” from the Broadway Journal, “Some Secrets of the Magazine Prison-House,” and his long-running series “Marginalia.”
Also included are a wealth of articles on a wide variety of topics: South Sea exploration, cryptography, drama, geography, music, transcendentalism, phrenology, ancient languages, and modern cities.
As a reviewer Poe was direct, discriminating, and feared; as an essayist he was alert to any possibility that in literature there might be found a sense of unity missing from life. This volume restores an essential and often neglected part of our literary heritage.