Philadelphia: Carey & Hart, . Item #03454
The First Appearance of Edgar Allan Poe's Eleonore
A Spectacular Early 1840s American 'Gift' Binding
MOORE, S, binder. [POE, Edgar Allan, contributor]. The Gift: A Christmas and New Year's Present for 1842. Philadelphia: Carey & Hart, [early September, 1841].
First edition with the first appearance of Edgar Allan Poe's short story Eleonora. A Fable (pp. 154-162), together with poems by Lydia Sigourney, Park Benjamin and Hannah Foster Gould and stories by Catherine Beecher and William Gilmore Simms, et al.
Octavo (7 1/4 x 4 3/4 inches; 184 x 120 mm.). [6, blank], viii, 18-322, [6, advertisements], [6, blank] pp. Inserted engraved frontispiece, engraved title-page and six full page engraved plates.
Publisher's full orange-red calf (stamp-signed on front and back cover "S. Moore Binder Phila"), covers and spine ornately stamped in gilt with an arabesque design, all edges gilt, yellow coated endpapers. Neat early ink signature on front free endpaper and front blank. A spectacular example of an early 1840s American Embossed 'Gift' binding, the elaborate gilt stamping bright and fresh. There is an almost identical example (in cream-colored calf with the identical stamping) shown in Michael Papantonio's Early American Book-Bindings (#58, p.21 and plate 58).
Poe contributed his tale Eleonora to this volume, pp. 154-162; which is the first printing. (Heartman & Canny).
Eleonora. A Fable is a short story that was first published in Philadelphia (early September 1841) in the literary annual The Gift. It is often regarded as somewhat autobiographical and has a relatively happy ending. The story follows an unnamed narrator who lives with his cousin and aunt in 'The Valley of the Many-Colored Grass', an idyllic paradise full of fragrant flowers, fantastic trees, and a 'River of Silence'. It remains untrodden by the footsteps of strangers and so they live isolated but happy. After living like this for fifteen years, 'Love entered' the hearts of the narrator and his cousin Eleonora. The valley reflected the beauty of their young love:
"The passions which had for centuries distinguished our race came thronging with the fancies for which they had been equally noted, and together breathed a delirious bliss over the Valley of the Many-Coloured Grass. A change fell upon all things. Strange, brilliant flowers, star-shaped, burst out upon the trees where no flowers had been known before. The tints of the green carpet deepened, and when, one by one, the white daisies shrank away, there sprang up in place of them, ten by ten of the ruby-red asphodel. And life arose in our paths; for the tall flamingo, hitherto unseen, with all gay glowing birds, flaunted his scarlet plumage before us…
The loveliness of Eleonora was that of the seraphim -- and here, as in all things referring to this epoch, my memory is vividly distinct. In stature she was tall, and slender even to fragility; the exceeding delicacy of her frame, as well as the hues of her cheek, speaking painfully of the feeble tenure by which she held existence. The lilies of the valley were not more fair. With the nose, lips, and chin of the Greek Venus, she had the majestic forehead, the naturally-waving auburn hair, and the large luminous eyes of her kindred…
Eleonora, however, was sick -- "She had seen that the finger of death was upon her bosom -- that, like the ephemera, she had been made perfect in loveliness only to die;" She does not fear death, but fears that the narrator will leave the valley after her death and transfer his love to someone else. The narrator emotionally vows to her, with 'the Mighty Ruler of the Universe' as his witness, to never bind himself in marriage 'to any daughter on Earth'. After Eleonora's death, however, the 'Valley of the Many-Colored Grass' begins to lose its lustre and warmth. The narrator chooses to leave to an unnamed 'strange city'. There, he meets a woman named Ermengarde and, without guilt, marries her. Eleonora soon visits the narrator from beyond the grave and grants her blessings to the couple. "Thou art absolved", she says, "for reasons which shall be made known to thee in Heaven."
Many biographers consider Eleonora an autobiographical story written by Poe to alleviate his own feelings of guilt for considering other women for love. At the time of the publication of this very short tale, his wife Virginia had just begun to show signs of illness, though she would not die for another five years. The narrator, then, is Poe himself, living with his young cousin (soon-to-be wife) and his aunt.
Heartman & Canny, pp. 68-69; BAL, 16135; Thompson, American Literary Annuals, p. 126.