Text: Harriet R. Holman, Harriet R. Holman, “Splitting Poe’s ‘Epicurean Atoms’; Further Speculation on the Literary Satire of Eureka,” from Poe Studies, vol. V, no. 2, December 1972, pp. 33-37


[page 33, column 1:]

Splitting Poe’s “Epicurean Atoms”
Further Speculation on the Literary Satire
of Eureka

Clemson University


Most of what Poe wrote about atoms is contained in Eureka, the prose “discourse” which he called “a Poem” and a synthesis of science and philosophy. Just how much he understood about the atom and its place in the universe remains an enigma, for though A. H. Quinn and others before and after him enlisted the aid of distinguished scientists to help ascertain what Poe could have been expected to know in the 1840’s and, more important, to what extent he was able to foresee new concepts of twentieth-century physics, their findings are disappointingly general, too cautious to be of specific value (1). But explicators and critics searching for meaning in Eureka fortunately can leave such problems to the attention of some competent physicist who is also a Poe devotee not to be deterred by danger hidden in allusive language. They can move directly to a more elementary question: What did Poe mean by his statements on the atom?

As scholars now recognize, Poe customarily addressed two audiences, his surface meaning conveying far less than the hidden meaning. G. R. Thompson, for example, argues convincingly that Eureka is structured around an intricate conceit on Nothing: “The essay is itself an elaborate art structure, which, like the Universe it describes, refers ultimately to nothing outside itself but the Nothing outside itself” (2). Employing this essential key to Eureka, I propose to bypass physics in order to consider what Poe meant by “Epicurean atoms,” as in this section of Eureka on what he called “the condition of nebulosity” (3). Poe writes:

ln a word, should Astronomy ever demonstrate a “nebula,” in the sense at present intended, I should consider the Nebular Cosmogony — not, indeed, as corroborated by the demonstration — but as thereby irretrievably overthrown.

By way, however, of rendering unto Caesar no more than the things that are Caesar’s, let me here remark that the assumption of the hypothesis which led him to so glorious a result, seems to have been suggested to Laplace in great measure by a misconception — by the very misconception of which we have just been speaking — by the generally prevalent misunderstanding of the character of the nebulae, so mix-named. These he supposed to he, in reality, what their designation implies. The fact is, this great man had, very properly, an inferior faith in his own merely perceptive powers. In respect, therefore, to the actual existence of nebulae — an existence so confidently maintained by his telescopic contemporaries — he depended less upon what he saw than upon what he heard.

It will be seen that the only valid objections to his theory, are those made to its hypothesis as such — to what suggested it — not to what it suggests; to its propositions rather than to its results. His most unwarranted assumption was that of giving the atoms a movement towards a centre, in the very face of his evident understanding that these atoms, in unlimited succession, extended throughout the Universal space. I have already shown that, under such circumstances, there could have occurred no movement at all; and Laplace, consequently, assumed one on no more philosophical [column 2:] ground than that something of the kind was necessary for the establishment of what he intended to establish.

His original idea seems to have been a compound of the true Epicurean atoms with the false nebulae of his contemporaries; and thus his theory presents us with the singular anomaly of absolute truth deduced, as a mathematical result, from a hybrid datum of ancient imagination entangled with modern inacumen. (XVI, 265-266)

The turgid language, alien alike to laboratory scientist and intuitive theoretician, is now generally explained as an expression of the poet’s triumphant exultation. I believe it the high-blown thetoric of satire. With its hypnotic asides removed, the passage seems to declare the nebular theory of Laplace “a compound of the true Epicurean atoms with the false nebulae of his contemporaries.” In any case, Epicurus taught that atoms are attracted to each other in space; Laplace asserted almost the antithesis: from theories of mathematical probabilities he reasoned that a mass of nebulae in space rotates upon its own axis as it revolves around the sun, and, in the process of cooling, it throws off successive rings while the inner portion continues to contract into solid matter. Poe was something of an armchair scientist, an amateur astronomer long interested in the studies of the stars made by the Herschels and Rosse; he relied heavily on logic in constructing cryptograms and stories as improbable as “The Murders in the Rue Morgue,” and he understood the mathematics of probability as Laplace had explained it in Theorie analytique des Probabilites. (4). Poe’s usual satiric technique would have called, therefore, for denigrating the real scientist Laplace and praising the false scientist Epicurus.

At this point, any reader who knows what Epicurus is said to have taught about atoms, space, and the void would save his patience by skipping two paragraphs. Since I cannot directly quote Epicurus because his teachings survive (to all intents) only in the fragmented abstracts of Diogenes Laertius, and secondary sources like Lucretius and Cicero need involved commentary, I venture cautiously a brief exploration of Epicurean tenets concerning the universe. De nihil nihilum, in nihilum nil posse reverti — nothing comes from nothing — was, according to Diogenes Laertius, the central concept of Epicurean physics and the basis of the argument that the world could not have been created. Reasoning by analogy (the method, not incidentally, of Poe’s Transcendental Frogpondians), Epicurus attempted, as William Wallace explains it, “to make the phenomena of nature intelligible by regarding them as instances on a grand scale of that with which we are already familiar on a small scale.”

In Physics . . . his chief object was to abolish the dualism between mind and matter which is so essential a point in the systems of Plato and Aristotle. All that exists, says Epicurus, is corporeal . . .; the intangible is non-existent, or empty space. . . . The fundamental postulates of Epicureanism are atoms and the void. . . . Space is infinite, and there is an illimitable multitude of indestructible, indivisible and absolutely compact atoms in perpetual motion in this illimitable space. These atoms, differing only in size, figure and weight, are perpetually moving with equal velocities, but at a rate far surpassing our conceptions; as they move, they are for ever giving rile to new worlds [italics mine]; and these worlds are perpetually tending towards dissolution, and towards a fresh series of creations. This universe of ours is only one section out of innumerable worlds in infinite space. . . . The soul of man [page 34:] is only a finer species of body, spread throughout the whole aggregation which we term his bodily frame (5).

Epicurus recognized three means of testing for truth — by direct sensation or feeling, by observation (Poe’s “Ocular, physical proof” [XVI, 216] and the “merely perceptive powers” already quoted), and by recognition that the thing observed or considered is not contrary to known truth. The components of experience, which are subject to change, must be multiple and capable of interaction. “They are therefore, bodies,” De Lacy explains,

for only bodies can be acted upon. Bodies interact, moreover, only by blows and rebounds, for they can affect each other only by contact, they have no power of attraction or other means of acting at a distance. . . . Life, consciousness, and the flow of experience are as real as the atoms whose movements produce them. Time is an accident of the moving and changing objects that we see around us. Space, however, exists per se, since change requires that the atoms move, and movement requires empty space. . . . (6).

Though “Epicurean atoms” was not a term common in Poe’s day or since, Poe had good reason to suppose that educated men among his readers would be able to recall what Plutarch and Cicero had reported of Epicurus and, perhaps, the more detailed account in Lucretius’ De Reram Natura (7) and the work of the anthologist Diogenes Laertius, a dreary pedant no more profound than the “savans” whose work Poe carefully misquoted and distorted throughout Eureka. The self-educated among his readers, his publisher Putnam for example, presumably should have known of the basic theories of Epicurus from encyclopedias or compendiums such as those to which Poe gave mock deference throughout Eureka, though the science of Humboldt, Herschel, Rosse, Laplace, and others of their own contemporaries had apparently laid forever the tenuous ghost of Epicurcean physics. And Poe would have known that, even if they suspected duplicity, they could not check his statements against the words of Epicurus himself.

To suppose, however, that Poe did indeed subscribe to concepts of the long-discredited Epicurean physics, which no scientist from the time of the first-century physician Asdepiades had found adequate, would inevitably expose him to the old charges of incompetence or intellectual arrogance. Poe had already held up Epicurean theories to ridicule in his longest and dearest statement on Epicurus, hidden away in an obscure evaluation of Alciphron: A Fragmerut, a fifteen-page poem by Thomas Moore, whom Poe called, after the fashion of his literary colleagues, Anacreon Moore (8). Alciphron was an Epicurean. Moore, Poe said, “either himself has misunderstood the tenets of Epicurus, or wilfully misrepresents them through the voice of Alciphron. We incline to the former idea, however, as the philosophy of that most noble of the sophists is habitually perverted by the moderns. Nothing could be more spiritual and less sensual than the doctrines we so torture into wrong” (X, 70). The statement may seem straightforward; but Anacreon was a poet singing praise of love and wine, and the sophists were professional teachers of thetoric and philosophy noted especially for their ingenuity in specious argument intended to deceive or defeat another. So there is little reason to suppose that Poe had much respect for Epicurus or anything Epicurean, including his “true Epicurean atoms.” [column 2:]

On the contrary, I suggest that Poe used Epicurean method, language, and ideas to carry on his long-standing literary war against the writers of Boston and its satellites, most particularly the Transcendentalists; and, further, that the Epicurean concept of nihil provided a basis upon which he constructed an elaborate and protracted conceit by which he could ironically “approve” this coterie and their ego-positing universe. The Epicurean analogy applies to the Transcendentalists in several respects. For one thing the young Transcendentalists, as Perry Miller points out, “revolted against the rationalism of their fathers” (9). The Epicureans in like manner had renounced logic; their method of argument was by analogy, the customary method of the New England divines and the Transcendentalists. Poe, on the other hand, if I read him aright, regarded analogy — metaphor and simile — as handmaids to poetry and fiction rather than tools for logical exposition.

In addition, Epicureans maintained that the only test of reality is sensation, feeling. As I indicated in an earlier study, Poe’s use of feel, feeling, and related words is apparently satirical and apparently associated with Emerson’s statement of Transcendentalist belief in intuitive revelation. I showed also that Poe used Hogg, Bacon, and pigs in alluding to meraphysicians and Transcendentalists, apparently in order to imply the charges which the Stoics brought against Epicureanism as the philosophy of pigs ‘° He adjured Hawthorne to throw The North American Review out the window to the pigs, and in “The Angel of the Odd” Poe’s narrator was knocked from his ladder by a “huge hog, about whose rotund stomach, and indeed about whose whole air and physiognomy, there was something that reminded” the narrator “of the Angel of the Odd” (VI, III) — that canting German philosopher whom Claude Richard identifies as a Transcendental philosopher, (11) thereby establishing that this hog is a Transcendental hog.

In the physical features of the Epicurean universe Poe found apt metaphors for his adversaries. As early as 1836, long before Eureka, Poe had associated Transcendentalism with cloudiness, fog, miasma. In the “Due de L’Omelette” he described an apartment: “There was no ceiling — certainly none — but a dense whirling mass of fiery-colored clouds. . . . From above, hung a chain of an unknown blood-red metal — its upper end lost, like the city of Boston, parmi les nues” (II, 199). The nebular Epicurean universe of atoms moving together in the void of space to form new worlds was a fittingly foggy atmosphere in which to place the Transcendental metaphysicians, with their vague being and nebulous thoughts.

Finally, contemporary astronomical findings provided Poe with the perfect ironic fillip to his metaphor. By 1842, Epicurean physical theory was in the opinion of serious scientists of that time positively disproved by sightings through a new telescope, the biggest in the world, designed, cast, and mounted by William Parsons

(1800- 1867), third Earl of Rosse, to whom Poe made seemingly casual reference twice in his discourse. He had previously mentioned Rosse and his telescope in what I read as a straight factual account of the physical size of the telescope, first in the hoaxing “Hans Pfaal” (1835) and then repeated almost verbatim in his Literati account of Locke’s moon hoax (1846), where he called that six-foot lens a plaything — in a paragraph which also set Sir [page 35:] John Herschel, the moon hoax, and his metaphor of the New York Sur; (which had published Poe’s balloon hoax) revolving in a comparatively narrow orbit (XV, 127). Rosse’s observations on the nebula of Orion had established what the Herschels had not been able to see through their smaller lenses: a nebula is not composed of independent particles attracted toward each other in the process of creating a new world. On the contrary, each small particle maintains its own entity, too insignificant to be noticed were it not in proximity to others like it, each always in its own orbit, incapable of increasing size and importance because incapable of attraction (12).

At this point Poe’s complicated conceit develops in three directions: 1) from Lord Rosse to Mount Aetna 2) from the nebula of Orion to Poe’s misinterpreted ironic review of R. H. Home’s epic, Orion; and 3) from nebulae to the Boston coterie, with all satellite metaphysicians and Transcendentalists.

1) Mount Aetna appears in the bombastic seventh paragraph of Eureka, and, by implication, the tenth, in a kind of epic simile of rapid whirling on the heel atop Aetna in order to comprehend the panorama in the sublimity of its oneness. (Whether this is a glancing reference to Poe’s doctrine of the unity of effect or to the universal presence of the Oversoul I do not know.) “But as, on the summit of Aetna, no man has thought of whirling on his heel, so no man has ever taken into his brain the full uniqueness of the prospect; and so, again, whatever considerations lie involved in this uniqueness, have as yet no practical existence for mankind” (XVI, 186). The absurdity of this inflated image is blatant. Aetna is a volcano, very active in the nineteenth century. About the time Poe was working on Eureka, a group of hardy European explorers reached the edge of the crater, as Poe probably knew, to discover that it is a truncated cone without a top. For that good reason indeed no man had thought of whirling there to contemplate oneness or anything else, and “the prospect” continued its existence without the aid of ego-positing observers. But in addition to gulfing the unwary, I suggest, Poe had a better reason for including Aetna — that is, the name of the range of volcanic mountains to which it belongs, the Rossi Mountains. Though he mentioned Lord Rosse with seeming casualness, through Aetna Poe the puzzlemaker and cryptographer could imply his name thus first among all the men named in Eureka. For without Lord Rosse’s telescope there would have been no belittling explanation to unriddle the nebulae, no point to his grand synthesis of erroneous science and discredited philosophy.

2) Rosse’s work with the nebula of Orion, moreover, is mentioned in Eureka to attack the astronomer Poe often miscalled “Dr. Nichols” — the Rev. Dr. John Nichol, regius professor of astronomy at the University of Glasgow, who lectured on astronomy in New York during the same week Poe delivered his Eureka lecture. That Poe deliberately and consistently misquoted Nichol and that Nichol was in some measure under the sponsorship of Longfellow and Emerson has already been established by Frederick W. Conner in “Poe and John Nichol: Notes on a Source of Eureka “ (13). Using Rosse the exact scientist to berate Nichol, Poe suddenly found some reason of his own to place the word nebulae in quotation marks, surely [column 2:] the signal of the satirist:

Certain spots in the firmament which presented, even to the most powerful of the old telescopes, the appearance of nebulosity, or haze, had been regarded for a long time as confirming the theory of Laplace. They were looked upon as stars in that very process of condensation which I have been attempting to describe. Thus it was supposed that we ‘had ocular evidence” — an evidence, by the way, which has always been found very questionable — of the truth of the hypothesis; and, although certain telescopic improvements, every now and then, enabled us ro perceive that a spot, here and there, which we had been classing among the nebulae, was, in fact, but a cluster of stars deriving its nebular character only from its immensity of distance — still it was thought that no doubt could exist as to the actual nebulosity of numerous other masses, the strongholds of the nebulists, bidding defiance to every effort at segregation. of these latter the most interesting was the great “nebulae” in the constellation Orion: — but this, with innumerable other miscalled “nebulae,” when viewed through the magnificent modern telescopes, has become resolved into a simple collection of stars. Now this fact has been very generally understood as conclusive against the Nebular Hypothesis of Laplace; and, on announcement of the discoveries in question, the most eloquent popularizer of the theory, Dr. Nichol, went so far as to “admit the necessity of abandoning” an idea which had formed the material of his most praiseworthy book.l (XVI, 262 J

This paragraph is followed by footnote #l:

“Views of the Architecture of the Heavens.” A letter purporting to be from Dr. Nichol to a friend in America, went the rounds of our newspapers, about two years ago, I think, admitting “the necessity” to which I refer. In a subsequent Lecture, however, Dr. N. appears in some manner to have gotten the better of the necessity, and does not quite renounce the theory, although he seems ro wish that he could sneer at it as a purely hypothetical one.” What else was the Law of Gravity before the Maskelyne experiments? and who questioned the Law of Gravity, even then?

The language here is suspiciously opaque, contradictory, and allusive. The astronomical nebula of Orion is not properly “the great ‘nebulae’ in the constellation of Orion,” suggesting the possibility of reference either to Orion: An Epic Poem, by R. H. Home, or to Poe’s evaluation of it. That work had been puffed elsewhere by unmerited praise; Poe called it “the earnest outpouring of the oneness of the psychological Man. . . . It is not to be regarded as a Poem, but as a Work” (XI, 251) — a pronouncement he gave ironic reversal to in requesting that Eureka be considered a Poem, a Romance. Horne had in him elements of charlatanry, as evidenced by his going to China plain Richard Henry Horne and returning Richard Hengist Home; such a man would have tempted Poe sorely. In his Orion review Poe castigated “the cant of muddlepates who dishonor a profound and ennobling philosophy by styling themselves transcendentalists” (XI. 253). Although Horne and his DNB biographer considered the review essentially high praise, Horne evidently sensed the irony, but letters from Poe quieted his suspicion and he offered to send Poe material for The Stylus (14). I surmise that Horne and his Oruouz fit into this paragraph of Eureka better than the constellation which Lord Rosse observed through his “plaything.” I suspect that there may have been some connection between Horne and Evert A. Duyckinck (15) or between Home’s Orion and the Arcturus Duyckinck edited before he took over The Literary World; for Arcturus is the brightest star in the constellation Bootes, and Bootes in turn has [page 36:] astrological implications for Orion, which is 180 degrees from it across the Pole Star. The bright star Betelgeuse is part of Orion; Poe gave prominent attention to Herschel’s work in measuring its magnitude, though he never once indicated its vast size: if it occupied the sun’s place in the solar system, at the greatest extent of its variable it would envelope the orbit of Mars. Here Poe the satirist must have meant more than he said, whether he specifically implied once more the narrow orbit of the Sun or some more complicated allusion to seeming greatness diminished in brightness by distance.

(3) Poe’s use of world, nebula, universe, star, and galaxy is at least suspect. I suggest that the appearance of the last three as titles of more than a dozen periodicals published in New England about this time was stock-in-trade knowledge of Poe the editor which Poe the puzzlemaker found ready to his hand (16). It provided in a different form the same metaphor he had used in his account of Locke’s moon hoax, the New York “Sun . . . revolving in a comparatively narrow orbit” (XV, 127).

Poe had written obliquely, “It is hardly worth while, perhaps, even to sneer at the reveries of Fourrier — but much has been said, latterly, of the hypothesis of Madler (17) — that there exists, in the centre of the Galaxy, a stupendous globe about which all the systems of the cluster revolve. The period of our own indeed, has been stated — 117 millions of years” (XVI, 294). It is possible that this is pure science, not satire, that this capitalized Galaxy had nothing to do with the Boston Galaxy, just as it is possible that this Fourrier of Eureka was the French physicist Jean Baptiste Joseph Fourier (1768-1830), not that Francois Marie Charles Fourier (1772-1837) who dreamed up a utopian system with society organized into phalanxes — such as the Fourierism of Brook Farm, where Hawthorne had, Poe said, too long been struggling for breath in the “phalanx and phalanstery atmosphere” (XIII, 155). Stripped of the final sentence, the confusing commas, and the misleading objection Poe interpolated between the dashes, that section seems another belittling confusion of names in Eureka like that of the two Humes. Unless an historian of science or a specialist in 20th-century physics can show this paragraph of Poe’s to be a serious scientific statement, it seems to me that literary critics will have to recognize it as satire, specifically satire directed at Poe’s old adversaries the Frogpondians of the Boston area. And may not “mass-constitution” (XVI, 209) be in reality a Massachusetts constitution, a reference to the pressures of the Abolitionists and Webster’s fiery oratory against the admission of Texas into the Union? Poe’s use of the principle of the One and the Many, of Unity and “uni-tendency” (XVI, 211), can dearly be read as topical political allusions, variations of the national motto E pluribus unum.

A cluster of allusions from “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” strikingly similar to these from Eureka under discussion here suggests that a comparison would prove reciprocally illuminating. M Dupin explained the process by which he has followed the train of his companion’s thoughts from a chance encounter with a fruit-seller to the pretentious little actor Chantilly — from the stumbling fruiterer, to rough stones, stereotomy (that is, pavement [column 2:] of stones fitted and riveted together), Epicurus, Orion, and Chantilly, who was after all only a little fellow. Nichol’s association with Emerson and Longfellow has already been established, and I have shown in “Longfellow in the Rue Morgue”18 that Longfellow was both fruiterer and the little fellow Chantilly. Stereotomy, I surmise, whatever the reasons for working it into this cryptogram of 1841, is responsible for Poe’s little-known “Street Paving” (1845), which seems dull workaday journalism, a feature article advocating the desirability of pavement made from wooden blocks treated with bichloride of mercury (19). The only objection to wood paving, he wrote, was the “miasmata” arising from any decaying untreated wood, thus — intentionally or otherwise — returning to his metaphor of pestilential mists choking a true artist like Hawthorne. The flow of thought from stereotomy is less easy to follow. “I knew,” said M Dupin, “that you could not say to yourself’stereotomy’ without being brought to think of atomies, and thus of the theories of Epicurus; and since, when we discussed this subject not long ago, I mentioned to you how singularly, yet with how little notice, the vague guesses of that noble Greek had met with confirmation in the late nebular cosmogony, I felt that you could not avoid casting your eyes upward to the great nebula of Orion . . .” (IV, 155). Late as an adjective preceding the noun it modifies customarily means dead, and I suspect that stereotomy is a complicated pun involving Nichol’s British pronunciation of er like the American ar, to produce starry, and otomy in the affected imitation British of a Boston bluestocking (like Pundita of “Mellonta Tauta”) to produce atomy, which was an old form of the word known to Shakespeare. Thus starry atomy would be one “body” of the nebula of Orion. In the physical heavens this nebula — properly singular as here — is visible to the naked eye, and astronomers had long expected it to provide answers to their questions, though the answers were not provided by Rosse until his telescope was completed in 1842, a year after publication of “The Murders in the Rue Morgue.” M Dupin’s thought flowed on from atomies to Epicurus and thence to the astronomer Nichol, who Poe inaccurately said in Eureka — had his greatest success with an epistolary volume on astronomy addressed to a young lady and found himself necessitated, following the discoveries of Rosse, to change his earlier statements that the nebula (as Epicurus had supposed) was composed of atoms gathering together to consolidate into a new world, the beginning of a new universe. And from this Epicurean nebular theory and the nebula of Orion-Orion, the thought went on to Chantilly — that is, Longfellow, who had been admired and puffed by the clustering members of the Boston coterie and their satellites everywhere. The fact that this chain of thoughts ends where it begins — in allusions to Longfellow — arouses the suspicion that Poe meant to imply that the circumference of the circuit is zero and that its components amount to nil.

Poe’s conceit of the Epicurean atoms in space, then, is applied with irony to the Transcendentalists and presumably all metaphysicians and arch romantics who regarded themselves as the center of a sensate existence and for whom the only test of reality, truth, was their own feeling. The conceit runs thus: members of the Boston [page 37:] coterie were attracted to each other in the same way that, according to Epicurus’ discredited theory of physics, atoms in space are attracted to each other; when the atoms joined together and formed larger bodies with greater areas for reflecting light, they became more luminous, as the Boston group collectively shone brighter than any little individual among them; the heavenly bodies already attracted to each other in a nebula could be expected to continue joining together until in time they created a new world, the beginning of a new universe, just as Emerson considered the American a new man and the Boston group looked upon themselves as the beginning of a new, superior literary center. But inspection through powerful new telescopes proved the nebula no world, not even bodies possessing the capability of becoming one, any more than the New England atomies together could produce a world in the literary heavens. Those vague nebulists, unable to be definite, were wanderers in “the Cloudland of Metaphysics” (XVI, 261), lost like the Duc de L’Omelette’s city of Boston “parmi les nues,” the cloudy miasma arising from Frogponds. This mist of delusion, Poe implied, could be penetrated and evaluated by no subjective standard, but only by objective and specific measures — only by the literary craftsman who understood principles and applied them effectively to what his mind and heart perceived, or by the careful scientist like Rosse, whose increased knowledge proved as explosively destructive to the nebulists as the volcano Aetna to the villages on its flank in the Rossi Mountains.

And perhaps part of the irony of this carefully devised maneuver against the romantic nihilists among his contemporaries involves the dreary pedant named Diogenes Laertius, a compiler of books from the centuries-old writing of other men, who is the source of information about Epicurus and his doctrines and disciples, not to be confused with that Diogenes of Sinope, a Cynic, an exile in Athens, an eccentric tramp subject to severe censure, yet capable of recognizing truth where he found it, like Poe himself writing Eureka in the isolation of the poor cottage at Fordham.



(1) Arthur Hobson Quinn, Edgar Allan Poe: A Critical Biography (New York: Appleton-Century Company, 1941), II, 547-550. Unlike Quinn, not all commentators have recognized their own inadequate understanding of physics as a handicap in understanding the data of scientists, hence a handicap in evaluating Poe’s writing as science. As Quinn perceived, physicists do not think in words, and critics do. I suggest that any unsupported evaluation by critic or philosopher needs to be approached with vigilant skepticism.

(2) “Unity, Death, and Nothingness — Poe’s ‘Romantic Skepticism,’” PMLA, 85 (1970), 300.

(3) The Complete Works of Edgar Allan Poe, ed. James A. Harrison (New York: Thomas Y. Crowell and Co., 1902), XVI 264. All references to Poe’s works hereafter cited in the text are to this edition.

(4) Sidney P. Moss, “Poe as Probabilist in Forgues’ Critique of The Tales,” ESQ, No. 60 Suppl. (1970), pp. 4-12.

(5) “Epicurus,” Encyclopaedia Britannica, 11th ed. (1910-11), IX, 584.

(6) “Epicurus,” The Encyclopedia of Philosophy ( New York: The [column 2:] Macmillan Company and The Free Press, 1967), III, 3-4.

(7) These sources were called to my attention by Professor Richard P. Benton.

(8) In Burton’s Gentleman’s Magazine, January 1840. Moore of course had translated Anacreon; he had also published an unfavorable account of his travels in America, thereby antagonizing many American readers, probably Poe among them. Richard P. Benton in “Is Poe’s ‘The Assignation’ a Hoax?” Nineteenth Century Fiction, 18 (1963), 193-197, indicates that Moore was a butt of Poe’s satire.

(9) “Foreword,” The American Transcendentalists: Their Prose and Poetry (Garden City, New York: Doubleday Anchor, 1957), p. [ix] .

(10) “Hog, Bacon, Ram, and Other ‘Savans’ in Eureka: Notes Toward Decoding Poe’s Encyclopedic Satire,” PN, 2 (1969), 49-55. Note also Robert Regan’s introductory paragraphs in “Hawthorne’s ‘Plagiary’; Poe’s Duplicity,” Nineteenth Century Fiction, 25 (1970), 281-298.

(11) “Arrant Bubbles: Poe’s ‘The Angel of the Odd,’” PN, 2 (1969), 46-48.

(12) Note that A. H. Quinn reports Rosse’s “supposed resolution of Orion Nebula into a simple collection of stars [is] now known to be impossible” (p. 550), but the point here is that in Poe’s day scientists publicly accepted Rosse’s interpretations of his data. A detailed study of popularized reports on science available in the magazines Poe read would be a useful contribution to Poe scholarship.

(13) In All These to Teach, ed. Robert A. Bryan (Gainesville: Univ. Of Florida Press, 1965), pp. 190-208.

(14) Home’s letters to Poe were published by George E. Woodberry, The Life of Edgar Allan Poe: Personal and Literary (New York: Houghton, Mifflin and Co., 1909), pp. 50-55.

(15) Duyckinck’s relationship with other editors and writers is considered passim in Perry Miller’s The Raven and the Whale: The War of Words and Wits in the Era of Poe and Melville (New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1956); note especially the connection between Longfellow and Arctursus, which Duyckinck edited (p. 89) . It may well be significant that Duyckinck had irritated Poe by editing his selection of tales to be published by Wiley and Putnam; there is certainly irony in Poe’s statement that Duyckinck “has what he thinks a taste for ratiocination.” Poe to Phillip P. Cooke, August 9, 1846, Letters of Edgar Allan Poe, ed. John Ward Ostrom (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard Univ. Press, 1948), II, 328.

(16) The following titles were picked up in half an hour from The Union List of Serials without following cross-references or searching out place names, which undoubtedly would have increased the list: Star in the East and the New Hampshire Universalist (Concord, N.H.), 1834-37 (A Cincinnati Star in the West also became The Universalist); Star of Bethlehem (Lowell, Mass.), 1841-46; Star Spangled Banner (Boston), 1847-54; Universalist (Boston), 1819-54; Universalist (Hartford, Conn.), 1839-44 Universalist Miscellany (Boston), 1843-49, Universalist, Palladium, and Ladies’ Amulet (Portland, Maine), 1839-42; Universalist Quarterly and General Review (Boston), 1844-91; Universalist Union (New York), 1835-47; Universalist Watchman, Repository, and Chronicle (Woodstock, Vt.), 1820-29?, Universalist and Ladies’ Repository [titles vary, previously Universalist] (Boston), 1832-73; New England Galaxy [title varies] (Boston), 1817-39. In addition, a number of ephemeral periodicals apparently vanished without record; George W. Eveleth, for example, wrote Poe about a Weekly Universalist, which I failed to find in The Union List or in Frank Luther Mott, A History of American Magazines, 1741-1850 (New York: Appleton, 1930) .

(17) It may be pertinent that in English Madler’s name sounds like meddler.

(18) ESQ, No. 60 Suppl. (1970), pp. 58-60.

(19) The chemical also used to mummify the body of Count Allamistakeo in “Some Words with a Mummy.”


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[S:0 - PSDR, 1972]