Terror of the Soul

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This month marks the 164th anniversary of the mysterious death of Edgar Allan Poe and the opening of the exciting new exhibition called Edgar Allan Poe: Terror of the Soul at New York City’s amazing Morgan Library and Museum. The grim and terrifying works of Edgar Allan Poe have chilled and thrilled readers for almost two centuries. The recently opened Morgan Library exhibition—inspired by the preface to Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque—explores Poe’s poetry, fiction, and literary criticism, with a key thematic emphasis examining his profound influence on later writers. The exhibition, which runs until January 26,2014, features nearly one hundred items, drawn primarily from the Morgan’s holdings and The Henry W. and Albert A. Berg Collection of English and American Literature at The New York Public Library, two of the most important collections of Poe material in the United States.  Poe’s mastery of multiple writing genres is represented by poem and short story manuscripts, early printed editions, letters, and literary criticism published in contemporary newspapers, magazines, and journals. On view are such works as Annabel Lee and The Bells in Poe’s own hand; one of the earliest printings of The Raven; the first printing of The Cask of Amontillado; and an unprecedented three copies of Tamerlane, Poe’s earliest published work and one of the rarest books in American literature. Lesser-known writings, including A Reviewer Reviewed—Poe’s never-before-exhibited critique of his own work, written under a pseudonym—and the author’s annotated copy of his last published book, Eureka, provide a more complete picture of this complex writer.

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A first edition copy of The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym, Poe’s only novel, is also shown. Although Poe described his seafaring tale as a “very silly book,” its influence can be detected in Herman Melville’s Moby Dick, Henry James’s The Golden Bowl, and works by Jules Verne, among others. Also on display is one of only three existing manuscript sheets of The Lighthouse, another terror tale of the sea, which remained incomplete at the time of Poe’s death.

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The exhibition also has an 1843 printed edition of “The Murders in the Rue Morgue,” the first of Poe’s three detective tales featuring an impoverished French aristocrat named C. Auguste Dupin, who served as the model for another famous detective character, Sherlock Holmes. This connection is highlighted in the exhibition with the display of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s autograph manuscript of The Hound of the Baskervilles.  Terror of the Soul is among the first museum exhibitions to explore Poe’s wide-ranging influence on fellow writers as diverse as Charles Dickens, Stéphane Mallarmé, Vladimir Nabokov, and Terry Southern. Other literary masterpieces on view include Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Hound of the Baskervilles, Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, and Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde; Paul Auster’s previously unpublished lecture on Poe’s influence on French authors; and T. S. Eliot’s annotated typescript of The Waste Land.

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This entry was posted in Books, History, Libraries, Museums, USA, Writing and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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