7 JUNE 1935, Page 30

Current Literature

ISRAFEL By ,Hervey Allen This biography _ of Edgar Allan Poe (Gollancz, 18s:) is not a new book. It was originally published eight years ago in a limited edition and at a high price, in which state it would probably have remained indefinitely but for the extraordinary success of Mr. Allen's novel, Anthony Adverse. But it was well worth reprinting. There are books about Poe which possess greater literary merit, -there are books which contain more acute criticism of Poe's work, and there is at least one book which is more distinguished simply as biography, 'but there is none which combines as does this one a well-balanced and unpartisan account of his life with a sensible assessment of his work. It speaks much for the accuracy of the conclusions which Mr. Allen formed during his researches in preparation for the original edition of this book that the interval of eight years and the Verdicts of other critics on his work have not made it necessary for him to make any substantial alteration in his text ; his opinions on most points are unlikely to be challenged, and on the few occasions that he is unable to be positively convincing —as, for example, in his account of the circumstances of Poe's death—he is in the company of all other scholars who have tried conclusions with the problem. On points of scholarship then there is little, indeed nothing, to be said against Mr. Allen's work ; from the point of view of the ordinary reader it may be objected that his book is considerably too long—it contains over 700 pages of fairly small type. Poe's life was a complex one, packed with incident, and one would not wish many of the details included by Mr. Allen away. But he has little idea of verbal economy ; again and again an incident is unnecessarily protracted, his narrative becomes repetitive and d:ffase, and the text is clouded with redundant comments and corroborations. It is a pity that Mr. Allen did not acquire a blue pencil together with his scholarship.