Text: Arthur Hobson Quinn, “Appendix 12,” Edgar Allan Poe: A Critical Biography (1941), pp. 757-761


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[page 757:]

XII. A Possible New Poe Satire

It is possible that Poe had spent a portion of his apparently unfruitful time during 1837 and 1838 in composing a satire which appeared in the Museum under the title of “The Atlantis, a Southern World — or a wonderful Continent discovered, by Peter Prospero, L.L.D.; M.A., P. S.

The evidence for Poe’s authorship is largely internal. “The Atlantis” begins in the first volume of the Museum and continues in the second. Toward the end(1) occur several passages which are distinctly in Poe’s manner:

Thus far we have endeavored by solid argument and just considerations, to correct the several errors and abuses to which we have alluded; but a friend who sent us the following parody or pasquinade, has taken the most advisable expedient to sink those follies into utter disrepute and contempt. Upon an occasion in which one of these lecturers upon phrenology and interpreters of heads, sent him a card indicating the time and place in which he would display his gifts, and as usual, extolled the powers of his art, and the encouragement he and his productions had met with in many countries, this friend of mine published in the paper, which contained the advertisement comprised in the card, the following exact parody, confining himself strictly to the original as to all the particulars of thought and language, to which reference is made:

RINOSOPHIA, OR NOSE-OLOGY. — A great discovery in the science of phrenology, which will be explained to the public in a series of lectures upon Noseology, or as the Greeks call it, Rinosophia, accompanied by an examination of noses, as a practical test and demonstration of the truth of the science: by Horatius B. Scriblerus, a practical Nose-ologist, and lineal descendant of the celebrated Martinus and Cornelius Scriblerus.

The first of the series of lectures, will be delivered in the State House of this town, upon the approaching festival of the church, to commence at 8 o’clock in the evening. [page 758:]

Suffice it for the present, that Mr. Scriblerus should inform the inhabitants of the city of Saturnia, that the science of Rinosophia or Noseology, is an attempt to simplify that of phrenology, or rather craniology, and instead of deducing its principles from an examination of the whole head and brain, the interior machinery of which nature has naughtily hidden from the eye of the philosopher, very wisely confines its researches to the observation of that external organ which is proverbially exposed to the inspection of all observers. Mr. Scriblerus will undertake to show that from the organic structure of the nose, together with the lines and angles, may be determined all the propensities, faculties, affections and prevailing dispositions of the heart and mind. In fact, the fundamental principles of this science, have been long recognized in the republic of letters, though never before, as Mr. Scriblerus flatters himself, so fully unfolded and happily applied to practical purposes. Who has not heard of the Grecian nose, the Roman nose, the aquiline, the pug, the flat nostril, and the sharp projecting bill, which indicates the scolding woman, with various other modifications of structure too tedious to enumerate, and which language inadequately distinguishes? These several forms are known to present significant indications of either the great and virtuous, or the ignoble and debasing properties of our nature, insomuch that Lavater might well pronounce of Cicero’s, that it was worth a kingdom. But we have not time in this brief address, to discuss the merits of this newly discovered science, or illustrate and recommend its maxims. For confirmation of its truth, and to satisfy an enlightened community that it is deeply founded in the Baconian method of investigation, we need only refer those who are inclined to incredulity, to the celebrated Nose that made its appearance in the town of Strasburg, and awoke such pother and confusion in the schools of science, and if we may credit the veritable history of Tristram Shandy, set all the philosophers of that age most keenly by the ears. Should not this single instance prove entirely satisfactory, we would direct our readers to the more authentic history of the learned Taliacotius, as related in the Hudibras, who adopted as wise as it was an extraordinary expedient, to supply to his patients this important organ of perception, when they were deprived of it, from the most honorable pieces of flesh out of the bodies of Porters.

It may be proper to add to the foregoing brief statement, that in order to gratify the literary curiosity of the good people of Saturnia, it is the intention of Mr. Scriblerus, during his course of lectures, to exhibit to them enormous fossil remains of Noses, derived from Dr. Buckland’s collection, which afford undoubted [page 759:] indications that they are vestiges of a former world which subsisted millions of years anterior to the formation of the present race of animals. He will show, moreover, upon the noses of Noah and his family, which are in his possession, the most incontestible proofs, by ornithicknological demonstration, or from the prints of birds’ feet which may be clearly deciphered, that birds must have lighted upon the noses of this patriarchal family, during their residence in the Ark, which were as high at least as the steeple of St. Paul’s Church. Mr. Scriblerus will conclude these interesting lectures, by demonstrating that not only is the nose of man the great seat and organ of sensation and thought, and not the pineal gland as Des Cartes dreamed, but that with this organ, also, we can taste, hear and see; and of consequence, that it was with this instrument and not with the lower stomach, as stated in our journals, that the celebrated French lady, who lately occasioned so much conversation in Paris, was enabled to perform such wonders in hearing and in vision. That our magnetized sleeping beauties in like manner, are led by the nose, through all their spiritual peregrinations and somnambular visions, any one may prove to his satisfaction, by only giving a tolerably stout pinch of that organ, during their artificial slumbers.

N. B. Mr. Scriblerus has taken a room in Mr. Combe’s residence, Washington St. in which he will receive visitors for the examination of their noses. Should any person have been unfortunately deprived of this invaluable feature of the human face divine, like Tycho Brahe of old, it is suggested that our porters Tiberius, Caligula, and Nero, are ready to submit to the Talicotian operation to accommodate ladies and gentlemen with supplemental noses. Treatises upon noseology may be purchased at the same time for a few cents, that have reached an hundred editions, in Germany and France. It is earnestly requested that ladies will refrain from snuff on the day in which they present their noses for inspection and examination.

The opening of “Lionizing,” is distinctly in the same tone:

The first action of my life was the taking hold of my nose with both hands. My mother saw this and called me a genius; my father wept for joy and presented me with a treatise on Nosology. This I mastered before I was breeched.

I now began to feel my way in the science, and soon came to understand that, provided a man had a nose sufficiently conspicuous, he might, by merely following it, arrive at a Lionship. But my attention was not confined to theories alone. Every morning I gave [page 760:] my proboscis a couple of pulls and swallowed a half dozen of drams.

When I came of age my father asked me, one day, if I would step with him into his study.

“My son,” said he, when we were seated, “what is the chief end of your existence?”

“My father,” I answered, “it is the study of Nosology.”

“And what, Robert,” he inquired, “is Nosology?”

“Sir,” I said, “it is the science of noses.”

“And can you tell me,” he demanded, “what is the meaning of a nose?”

“A nose, my father,” I replied, greatly softened, “has been variously defined by about a thousand different authors.” (Here I pulled out my watch.) “It is now noon, or thereabouts, we shall have time enough to get through with them all before midnight.”

Poe’s frequent creation of characters who pulled their enemies’ noses is well known.

The references to Martinus and Cornelius Scriblerus are especially significant. Poe was familiar with the “Memoirs of Martin Scriblerus,” that satire on the abuses of learning which was the joint work of Arbuthnot, Swift and Pope, for in “The Psyche Zenobia,”(2) he appropriated from it a quotation from Demosthenes and its translation in Hudibras.(3) The tone of both “The Psyche Zenobia” and “Lionizing” resembles the “Memoirs” — and there can be little doubt that Poe was under the influence of Swift and Pope at this time.

In “The Atlantis,” which is the account of a journey to a country called “Saturnia,” Dean Swift is introduced as speaking of Scriblerus,(4) and there are several other references to the “Scribleri” family. Martin Scriblerus, according to this account, had four children, Horatius B. ——, Josephus R. J. ——, Nicholas B. ——, and Nathaniel D. —— — all of whom settled in the United States.

Several of Poe’s favorite writers are introduced into “Saturnia.” Coleridge is credited with “glittering paradoxes,” and speaks of Kepler as more important than Newton because of the “intuitive, generative constitution of his mind.” Coleridge is to be condemned to read the works of Horatius B. Scriblerus.(5) [page 761:]

Certain of Poe’s scientific ideas, later to be developed, are foreshadowed in this account. Martinus Scriblerus had a strong predilection for the craniology of Gall, Spurzheim and Combe.(6) Animal magnetism is discussed, and a journey to the moon in a balloon. Of even more significance is the discussion of the conflicting views of the foundation of the Universe by Aristotle and Bacon,(7) perhaps a precursor of the introductory passages of “Eureka,” and later the question is raised whether Aristotle was acquainted with the Baconian Method.(8) The reference to Tycho Brahe, in the quoted passage, is reminiscent of “Al Aaraaf.”

If Poe wrote “The Atlantis,” his failure to sign the series of installments might be due to the Editors’ reluctance to have so many relative contributions by one author. Or Poe might well have hesitated to sign a satire so different in tone from “Ligeia” or “The Haunted Palace.” If he wrote “The Atlantis” he probably looked upon it as a piece of hackwork, written to make a little money. Yet it has some very amusing conceptions, such as the marriage of Dr. Franklin, the writer’s guide, to Madame Helvetius, and the union of Dr. Johnson with Hannah More. It may be of course that Poe added the passages dealing with Nose-ology to the work of some one else.


[[Footnotes]]

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 757:]

(1)  The American Museum of Science, Literature and the Arts (Baltimore, September, 1838 to June, 1839), II, 39-41.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 760:]

(2)  Afterwards “How to Write a Blackwood Article.”

(3)  Cf. quotation in Chapter VI in “Memoirs of Scriblerus” (Pope’s works, ed. by Roscoe, 1824, VII, 43) with Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque, I, 225, or Virginia Edition, II, 280.

(4)  I, 239. Another reference on p. 335.

(5)  I, 244.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 761:]

(6)  I, 440.

(7)  I, 55-56.

(8)  I, 248.


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Notes:

The work suggested here by Quinn has not generally been accepted as being by Poe. In A Bibliography of First Printings of the Writings of Edgar Allan Poe, (Hattiesburg, Miss: The Book Farm, 1943), Heartman and Canny comment that:

“The issues from September, 1838 to June 1839, contain: The Atlantis, a Southern World, etc., by Peter Prospero which is discussed by Professor Quinn in his biography of Poe as a possible new Poe satire. The evidence is largely internal. Mr. Mabbott writes: ‘As I understand it, Professor Quinn only thinks Poe may have assisted in the story, writing a few passages here and there. I certainly feel that the piece needs careful study, and cannot claim to have yet gone over it enough to express any final opinion. But I have lately come to feel that Nathan C. Brooks may have written it” (pp. 144-145).

Mabbott does not include the piece in his volumes of Poe’s Tales and Sketches (Cambrige: Harvard, 1978).

In the original, the section title is given in all capitals. For the sake of conformity, it has been rendered here in upper and lower case.


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[S:1 - EAP:ACB, 1941] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Articles - E. A. P.: A Critical Biography (A. H. Quinn) (Appendix 12)