The Edgar Allan Poe Website


by Edgar Allan Poe

UPON my return to the United States a few months ago, after the
extraordinary series of adventure in the South Seas and elsewhere, of
which an account is given in the following pages, accident threw me
into the society of several gentlemen in Richmond, Va., who felt deep
interest in all matters relating to the regions I had visited, and
who were constantly urging it upon me, as a duty, to give my
narrative to the public. I had several reasons, however, for
declining to do so, some of which were of a nature altogether
private, and concern no person but myself; others not so much so. One
consideration which deterred me was that, having kept no journal
during a greater portion of the time in which I was absent, I feared
I should not be able to write, from mere memory, a statement so
minute and connected as to have the _appearance _of that truth it
would really possess, barring only the natural and unavoidable
exaggeration to which all of us are prone when detailing events which
have had powerful influence in exciting the imaginative faculties.
Another reason was, that the incidents to be narrated were of a
nature so positively marvellous that, unsupported as my assertions
must necessarily be (except by the evidence of a single individual,
and he a half-breed Indian), I could only hope for belief among my
family, and those of my friends who have had reason, through life, to
put faith in my veracity-the probability being that the public at
large would regard what I should put forth as merely an impudent and
ingenious fiction. A distrust in my own abilities as a writer was,
nevertheless, one of the principal causes which prevented me from
complying with the suggestions of my advisers.

Among those gentlemen in Virginia who expressed the greatest interest
in my statement, more particularly in regard to that portion of it
which related to the Antarctic Ocean, was Mr. Poe, lately editor of
the "Southern Literary Messenger," a monthly magazine, published by
Mr. Thomas W. White, in the city of Richmond. He strongly advised me,
among others, to prepare at once a full account of what I had seen
and undergone, and trust to the shrewdness and common-sense of the
public-insisting, with great plausibility, that however roughly, as
regards mere authorship, my book should be got up, its very
uncouthness, if there were any, would give it all the better chance
of being received as truth.

Notwithstanding this representation, I did not make up my mind to do
as he suggested. He afterward proposed (finding that I would not stir
in the matter) that I should allow him to draw up, in his own words,
a narrative of the earlier portion of my adventures, from facts
afforded by myself, publishing it in the "Southern Messenger" _under
the garb of fiction. _To this, perceiving no objection, I consented,
stipulating only that my real name should be retained. Two numbers of
the pretended fiction appeared, consequently, in the "Messenger" for
January and February (1837), and, in order that it might certainly be
regarded as fiction, the name of Mr. Poe was affixed to the articles
in the table of contents of the magazine.

The manner in which this ruse was received has induced me at length
to undertake a regular compilation and publication of the adventures
in question; for I found that, in spite of the air of fable which had
been so ingeniously thrown around that portion of my statement which
appeared in the "Messenger" (without altering or distorting a single
fact), the public were still not at all disposed to receive it as
fable, and several letters were sent to Mr. P.'s address, distinctly
expressing a conviction to the contrary. I thence concluded that the
facts of my narrative would prove of such a nature as to carry with
them sufficient evidence of their own authenticity, and that I had
consequently little to fear on the score of popular incredulity.

This_ exposé _being made, it will be seen at once how much of what
follows I claim to be my own writing; and it will also be understood
that no fact is misrepresented in the first few pages which were
written by Mr. Poe. Even to those readers who have not seen the
"Messenger," it will be unnecessary to point out where his portion
ends and my own commences; the difference in point of style will be
readily perceived.


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