POE, Edgar Allan. Autograph manuscript fragment, a section from his essay "The Rationale of Verse," published in The Southern Literary Messenger in October and November 1848. No place [ca. 1846].
1 page, an oblong (203 x 180m), ink on pale blue page. Numbered "11" by Poe in upper right-hand corner. Left-hand margin with ink inscription of the original owner: "Part of Ms of The Rationale of Verse By Edgar A. Poe Jno R. Thompson." The leaf neatly tipped to a protective sheet, housed with a typed transcript in a red morocco, gilt-lettered folding case.
A FULL PAGE OF POE'S "RATIONALE OF VERSE"
A full page (comprising 34 lines and containing approximately 410 words), from the neatly written manuscript of Poe's important essay "The Rationale of Verse," a critical study of meter, accent and syllabification in verse. Originally written in 1843, the study was revised and published in two installments in The Southern Literary Messenger in October and November, 1848 (a literary periodical which Poe had edited from 1834 to January 1837). In a letter of 15 December 1846 to G. W. Eveleth, Poe reported that the essay has been sold to George Hooker Colton of the American Review, but apparently Colton declined the essay. In its place, he published Poe's verses "Ulalume," which appeared in the American Review issue of December 1847 (see lot 165). Again seeking to publish the "Rationale," Poe offered it to Graham's Magazine, but that periodical too, turned it down. Finally, John R. Thompson of the Southern Literary Messenger agreed to publish it, though clearly not without reservations. He later commented that he accepted it "more as an act of charity than anything else, for though exhibiting great acquaintance with the subject, it is altogether too bizarre, and too technical for the general reader" (see Whitty, The Complete Poems, 1911, pp. lxvi-lxvii).
The page begins: "The second step we can easily suppose to be the comparison, that is to say, the collocation, of two spondees - of two words composed each of a spondee. The third step would be the juxtaposition of three of these words. By this time the perception of monotone would induce further consideration; and there arises what Leigh Hunt so flounders in discussing under the title of 'The Principle of Variety in Uniformity.' Of course there is no principle in the case, nor in the maintaining it. The 'Uniformity' is the principle; the 'Variety' is but the principle's natural safeguard from self-destruction by excess of self. 'Uniformity,' besides, is the very worst word that could have been chosen for the expression of the general idea at which it aims..."
At some date, Thompson, who evidently retained the complete manuscript of the "Rationale," began to give or sell pages and fragments of the manuscript to interested parties, sometimes with an identifying note, as in this example. The majority of these membra disjecta are now lost; we are aware of the following:
1. New York Pubic Library, the Wakeman fragment (page 1); 2. University of Texas, the Leavitt fragment (page 2); 3. Valentine Museum, Richmond (page 3); 4. Tane fragment, private collection (part page 8); 5. University of Texas, the Pleadwell fragment (part page 8); 6. The Poe Foundation, Richmond, the Griswold fragment (page 18); 7. Barrett fragment (currently unlocated); 8. Karpeles Manuscript Library, Santa Barbara; 9. William Self, the present (page 11).