Poe and Humor
(This page is under construction.)
Poe was inordinately fond of puns and silly names. The small town in
"The Devil in the Belfry," obsessed with the great clock at its center,
is named Vondervotteimittis (wonder what time it is). The fictional authors
of Poe's Folo Club all have names such as that of Mr. Convolvulus Gondola.
The group of lady writers in "How to Write a Blackwood Article" is the
"Philadelphia Regular Exchange Tea, Total
Young Belles Lettres Universal, Experimental,
Bibliographical Association To Civilize Humanity"
(P.R.E.T.T.Y. B.L.U.E. B.A.T.C.H.). The mummy in "Some Words with a Mummy"
is Count Allamistakeo.
The essence of much of Poe's humor has been lost to us. His satires
poke fun at excess. In this age, where a judicious sense of self-restraint
has been thoroughly replaced by self-promotion and hyperbole, we cannot
recognize the ridiculous and therefore cannot see the joke. To be fair,
Poe's contemporaries did not always recognize it either.
As David Galloway notes, ". . . comedies, satires and hoaxes account
for more than half his [Poe's] total output of short stories, and the last
of them, 'X-ing a Paragrab,' appeared only a few months before the author's
obscure death in 1849" (Galloway, p. 8).
If we do not recognize the humor in Poe's works, we cannot hope to understand
his intentions -- we cannot, indeed, hope to understand Poe.
Poe's Humorous Poems
"Epigram for Wall Street" (1845)
Poe's Tales of Humor
"The Literary Life of Thingum Bob, Esq." (18xx)
"Why the Little Frenchman Wears His Hand in a Sling" (1837-1839)
"Peter Pendulum: The Business Man"
"The Man that was Used Up"
"The Devil in the Belfry" (18xx)
"How to Write a Blackwood Article" (with "A Predicament") (18xx)
"Never Bet Your Head" (also "Never Bet the Devil Your Head")
"Some Words with a Mummy" (1845)
"The System of Doctor Tarr and Professor Fether" (1844)
"The Angle of the Odd" (1844)
"The Thousand-and-Second Tale of Scheherazade" (1845)
"X-ing a Paragrab" (1849)
Tales of the Folio Club (1833):
We know that the Tales of the Folio Club encompassed eleven tales, although
he later claimed that there were sixteen tales. Since the collection was
never actually published, and Poe did not leave a table of contents for
this collection, the precise tales it contained are the subject of some
discussion. Nine of the tales have generally been accepted, while the remaining
two are a matter of conjecture. Following each of the tales listed below
is the name, in parentheses, of the fictious author from Poe's introduction.
"Lionizing" - (Mabbott gives the author as Mr. Snap. Hammond attributes
it to the anonymous narrator.)
"The Visionary" (later renamed "The Assignation") - (Both Mabbott and Hammond
give the author as Convolvulus Gondola.)
"Bon-Bon" - (Both Mabbott and Hammond give the author as De Rerum Natura.)
"MS. Found in a Bottle" - (Both Mabbott and Hammond give the author as
Mr. Solomon Seadrift.)
"Metzengerstein" - (Both Mabbott and Hammond give the author as Horrible
"Loss of Breath" - (Both Mabbott and Hammond give the author as Mr. Blackwood
"The Duc de L'Omelette" - (Both Mabbott and Hammond give the author as
"Epimanes" (later renamed "Four Beasts in One") - (Mabbott give the author
as the unnamed "stout gentleman who admired Sir Walter Scott". Hammond
attributes it to Chronolgos Chronology.)
"Siope--A Fable" (later renamed "Silence--A Fable") - (Mabbott gives the
author as the anonymous narrator. Hammond attributes it to the unnamed
"very little man in the black coat.")
T. O. Mabbott gives as the other two tales:
"Shadow" - (The unnamed "very little man in a black coat.")
"A Tale of Jerusalem" - (Chronologos Chronology)
Alexander Hammond gives instead, these tales:
"Raising the Wind; or Diddling Considered as One of the Exact Sciences"
- (Hammond attributes it to Mr. Snap.)
"King Pest" - (Hammond attributes it to the unnamed "stout gentleman who
admired Sir. Walter Scott.")
Christie, James W., "Poe's 'Diabolical' Humor: Revisions in 'Bob-Bon',"
in Benjamin F. Fisher, ed., Poe at Work: Seven Textual Studies,
Baltimore; The Edgar Allan Poe Society, 1978, pp. 44-55.
Galloway, David, "Introduction," Edgar Allan Poe: The Other Poe,
New York: Penguin Books, 1983, pp.7-22.
Gargano, James W., "The Distorted Perception of Poe's Comic Narrators,"
Topic: 30 - A Poe Miscellany, (Washington and Jefferson College,
Pennsylvania), XVI, 1976, pp.23-34.
Hammond, Alexander, "A Reconstruction of Poe's 1833 Tales of the Folio
Club," Poe Studies, V, No. 2, December 1972, pp. 25-32.
Hammond, Alexander, "Further Notes on Poe's Tales of the Folio Club," Poe
Studies, VIII, No. 2, December 1975, pp. 38-42.
Hammond, Alexander, "Edgar Allan Poe's Tales of the Folio Club:
The Evolution of a Lost Book," Library Chronicle (University of
Pennsylvania), XLI, 1976, pp. 13-43.
Kanjo, Eugene R., "'The Imp of the Perverse'; Poe's Dark Comedy of Art
and Eath," Poe Studies, II no. 3, October 1969, pp. 41-44.
Levine, Stuart and Susan F. Levine, "Comic Satires and Grotesques," in
Eric W. Carlson, ed., A Companion to Poe Studies, Westport,
Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1996, pp. 129-148.
Mabbott, Thomas Ollive, "On Poe's 'Tales of the Folio Club'," Sewanee
Review, XXXVI, 1928, pp. 171-176. (Mabbott incorporated this information,
with some revisions, in his edition of The Collected Works of
Edgar Allan Poe - Volume II: Tales and Sketches, Cambridge: Belknap
Press of Harvard University Press, 1978, pp.13-15 and 200-207.)
Mabbott, Thomas Ollive, "Comic Rhymes," The Collected Works of Edgar
Allan Poe - Volume I: Poems, Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University
Press, 1969, pp. 485-490.
Mooney, Stephen LeRoy, "The Comic in Poe's Fiction," American Literature,
XXXIII, January 1962, pp. 433-441.
Mooney, Stephen Leroy, "Comic Intent in Poe's Tales: Five Criteria," Modern
Language Notes, LXXVI, January 1961, pp. 432-434.
Nevi, Charles N., "Irony and 'The Cask of Amontillado'," English Journal,
LVI, March 1967, pp. 461-463.
Pollin, Burton R., "Poe's Tale of Psyche Zenobia: A Reading for Humor and
Ingenious Construction," in Richard P. Veller, ed., Papers on Poe: Essays
in Honor of John Ward Ostrom, Springfield, Ohio: Chantry Music Press,
Inc., 1972, 92-103.
Reiss, Edmund, "The Comic Setting of 'Hans Pfaall'," American Literature,
XXIX, November 1957, pp. 306-309.
Stauffer, Donald Barlow, The Merry Mood: Poe's Uses of Humor, Baltimore:
The Edgar Allan Poe Society, 1982.
Taylor, Walter Fuller, "Israfel in Motley: A Study of Poe's Humor," Sewanne
Review, XLII, July 1934, pp. 330-340.
Whipple, William, "Poe, Clark, and Thingum Bob," American Literature,
XXIX, November 1957, pp. 312-316.
Whipple, William, "Poe's Political Satire," University of Texas Studies
in English, No. 35, 1956, pp. 81-95.
Whipple, William, "Poe's Two-edged Satiric Tale," Nineteenth-Century
Fiction, IX, September 1954, pp. 121-133.
~~~ End of Text ~~~
Wilson, James Southall, "The Devil Was in It," American Mercury,
XXIV, October 1931, pp. 215-220.