The reception of Edgar Allan Poe’s The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym after its publication was in no way an unqualified approval. On the contrary, its misreading was the general result. Literal-minded reviewers jumped immediately to the conclusion that the narrative amounted to a fraudulent attempt to bamboozle the unwary. That its author intended to parody the popular voyage literature of the time was not considered. Not all the reviews were hostile. In Great Britain, The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym went through two editions. It was generally treated as the report of an actual voyage. Therefore, it remained for the French to be the first to recognize The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym as an extraordinary romance of adventure and as an important work of art. In 1858, French poet Charles Baudelaire admired The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym enough to translate it.
Meanwhile, in the United States the work was neglected and practically forgotten, except for Henry James’s praise, recorded in his great novel The Golden Bowl (1904), of The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym as “a wonderful tale” fondly remembered by Prince Amerigo. Not until 1950 was The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym to be taken seriously, when poet and critic W. H. Auden included the romance in his anthology Edgar Allan Poe: Selected Prose, Poetry, and Eureka. In his introduction, Auden declares The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym and Eureka: A Prose Poem (1848) to be among Poe’s most important works.
Soon even academia woke from its...
(The entire section is 661 words.)