Text: Various, “Marginalia,” Poe Studies, June 1978, Vol. XI, No. 1, 11:14-16


[page 14, column 2:]


This column is devoted to brief notes, comments, queries. We wish to provide here an outlet for such items as source notes which do not require the extended argument and proof that customarily attends them, and for items of very special or peculiar interest which otherwise might not appear. Contributions to this column should generally be one paragraph in form and less than a page and a half of typescript, though notes of three pages with as many paragraphs are acceptable.

“Adonais” and “Eleonora” Reconsidered

Although Kent Ljungquist mentions E. Arthur Robinson’s “Cosmic Vision in Poe’s ‘Eleonora’ “ [Poe Studies, 9 ( 1976), 44-46] in his discussion of Shelleyan Platonism in Poe’s “Eleonora” [“The Influence of ‘Adonais’ on ‘Eleonora,’ “ Poe Studies, 10 (1977), 27-28], he does not acknowledge an important discrepancy between his conclusions and Robinson’s central thesis. Robinson argues that the “great secret” the narrator mentions at the beginning of the tale is a cosm c harmony, dramatized by Eleonora’s absolution of the narrator from his vow of faithfulness, which is congruent with the vision of unity in Eureka. Ljungquist overlooks Eleonora’s sanction of the protagonist’s marriage to Ermengarde when he argues that Poe’s tale posits a “gulf . . . between ideal and earthly love” with “no such heartening conclusion” as Shelley’s “Adonais” [p. 28:]. In general, the tale’s tensions and their relationship to the poem’s Platonic dualisms are more complex than Ljungquist implies.

Poe’s elaboration of Pausanias’ story of the Uranian and Dionaean Venuses (from Plato’s Symposium) in ‘The Poetic Principle’’ shows that he recognized not only a dichotomy between ideal and earthly love but also a corresponding opposition of the sacred and the profane. Ljungquist suggests that these dichotomies are directly embodied in Eleonora (spiritual love) and Ermengarde (earthly love) [compare also Richard P. Benton, “Platonic Allegory in Poe’s ‘Eleonora,’ “ Nineteenth-Century Fiction, 20 (1967), 293297]. But the narrator’s love for Ermengarde is not Dionaean, the kind of love that tends to “degrade rather than to elevate the Soul “ [Complete Works, XIV, 290]; while passionate, the narrator’s love is a “spirit-lifting” adoration for a woman called “ethereal,” “divine,” “seraph[ic],” a woman, that is, who is not Eleonora’s diametric opposite. The narrator does experience “burning thoughts” and “terrible temptations” about Ermengarde, but his first epoch with Eleonora is also marked by “passion”:’’The passions which had for centuries distinguished our race, came thronging with the fancies for which they had been equally noted, and together breathed a delirious bliss over the Valley of the Many-Colored Grass” [IV, 239]. The differences in his responses to the two women seem as much a matter of intensity as of kind: “What, indeed, was my passion for the young girl of the valley in comparison with the fervor and the delirium, and the spirit-lifting ecstasy of adoration with which I poured out my whole soul in tears at the feet of the ethereal Ermengarde?” [IV, 243]

Further, the protagonist’s devotion to Ermengarde echoes the diction and phrasing of Poe’s description of Uranian love ( in this case, the sacred love of a beautiful woman) as the truest of poetical themes. Compare the narrator’s “I bowed down without a struggle, in the most ardent, in the abject worship of love” [IV, 243] with these lines from “The Poetic Principle”: “he [the Poet] kneels to it [Beauty] — he worships it in the faith, in the purity, in the strength, in the altogether divine majesty — of her love” [XIV, 2911. Thus, although Eleonora becomes spirit and Ermengarde remains of this world, the extreme dualism of Uranian love and Dionaean love does not apply to them. If it did, the conclusion in which Eleonora absolves the narrator from his vows would be illogical and inconsistent. [page 15:]

Ljungquist opens his comparison of “Adonais” and “Eleonora” by noting the echo of the poem in Poe’s phrase “Many-Colored Grass” [first pointed out by David Halliburton, Edgar Allan Poe: A Phenomenological View (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press 1973), p. 225]. That particular phrase, describing the Edenic valley where both the narrator and Eleonora live, suggests to Ljungquist that Poe deliberately invited comparison between his female characters and the Platonic contrast embodied in Shelley’s famous lines, “Life, like a dome of many-coloured glass, / Stains the white radiance of Eternity” [Shelley’s Poetry and Prose, ed. Donald H. Reiman and Sharon B. Powers (New York: Norton 1977), p. 405]. At the end of his tale, Poe certainly offers us an Ermengarde in an earthly realm, but, as we have seen, he does not maintain the usual Platonic association of elevation with the spiritual and degradation with the earthly. Furthermore, while Shelley celebrates the transcendence of the spirit over the flesh, Poe moves to reconcile the spiritual and the earthly by having Eleonora approve of the narrator’s love for an “ethereal” Ermengarde and, as Robinson [p. 44] has shown, by having Eleonora’s spirit interfuse with the elements of nature. Also in opposition to Shelley’s insistence in these lines that the eternal One is superior to the earthly Many is the epigraph of “Eleonora,” which Eric W. Carlson translates “In the preservation of its specific form lives the safety of life” [Introduction to Poe: A Thematic Reader ( Glenview, 111.: Scott, Foresman, 1967), p. 5831. Such a contradiction should at least provoke a second look at Poe’s allusion. Indeed, Poe uses “Many-Colored Grass” in a context calling up different associations than Shelley’s “many-coloured glass.” Poe’s phrase concerns a realm of idealized innocence and love instead of the “strange city” of a “fallen” world outside of the paradise. The change from “glass” to “grass” and Poe’s capitalization of the words also encourage the reader to recognize a deliberate alteration of the original meaning of Shelley’s phrase. These changes perhaps serve to announce an intention of qualifying Shelley’s Platonic resolution in “Adonais” through the tale’s movement toward an implicit fusion of the ideal and the earthly.

Lou Ann Kriegisch, University of Cincinnati


A Mallarme-Manet Bookplate in Providence

In “Another Mallarme-Manet Bookplate for Poe’s Raven” [Poe Studies, 5 (1972), 56], I. B. Cauthen, Jr., asks for the whereabouts of copies of that striking bookplate in the form of a hovering raven which Edouard Manet designed for Stephane Mallarme. Cauthen’s speculation that Mallarme may have presented some as mementoes to contemporary Poe enthusiasts is confirmed by a framed original now hanging in the William Giles Goddard Memorial Art Room of the Providence Athenaeum (a private library founded in 1753), inscribed “A Mrs. Sarah Helen Whitman / respectueusement et sympathiquement / Stephane Malilarme.” The important story of the relationship between Mallarme and Mrs. Whitman is told by Caroline Ticknor in Poe’s Helen [New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1916], where the bookplate itself is reproduced between pages 260 and 261. The Providence Athenaeum served as a base for part of the “literary courtship” between Mrs. Whitman and Poe. Besides the Mallarme bookplate, it houses a fine portrait of her by Cephas G. Thompson and a copy of the December 1847 number of the American (Whig) Review, containing the first publication of Poe’s “Ulalume,” signed by the poet at the urging of Mrs. Whitman, who had asked him if by chance he knew its anonymous author. The authenticity of this autograph has been questioned recently [see the Pawtucket Times December 18, 1974, 1; January 13, 1975, 13]. Since the binding, stamp, and condition of the December 1847 Athenaeum copy of the American Review are identical with others in the series the charge of forgery seems far-fetched [see The Athenaeum Bulletin 47, No. 2 (September 1974)].

Barton Levi St. Armand, Brown University [column 2:]


Poe’s Invention of the “Psychological Autobiographists”

In “‘Silence’ and the Folio Club: Who Were the ‘Psychological Autobiographists’?” [Poe Newsletter, 2 (1969), 23], G. R. Thompson posed a worthwhile question which has still been only partially answered. The query refers to the subtitle of the first two printings of “Silence,” when it was called “Siope — A Fable. [In the manner of the Psychological Autobiographists],” in the Baltimore Book of 1838 (appearing late in 1837) and Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque (appearing in November 1839). Whether or not the tale bore this subtitle in its earliest manuscript form, its plot and many of its sentences and phrases reveal its derivation from Bulwer’s “Monos and Daimonos,” of which it is a deliberate burlesque; Bulwer first published it in the New Monthly Magazine of May 1830, as A. H. Quinn indicates [Edgar Allan Poe (New York: Appleton-Century Crofts, 1941), pp. 215-216]. Poe singles the story out for mention in his [ester to T. W. White of April 30, 1835, and in his review of Rienzi in the February 1836 Messenger. He later used it for source ideas and for wording in “The Tell-Tale Heart” [See American Notes and Queries, 4 (1965), 7-9]. Alexander Hammond has discovered the subtitle’s undoubted application to Bulwer’s very close friend, Benjamin Disraeli, for Poe is specifically adapting the subtitle of his current novel Contarini Fleming: A Psychological Auto-Biography [London, 1832; New York, 1832; see Poe Studies, 5 (1972), 28; and ESQ, 18 (1972), 165, n. 20]. Poe’s reference to Disraeli’s novel in his review of The Linwoods, in the Messenger of December 1835 [Complete Works, VIII, 95], shows his linking this author to Bulwer Lytton, both being the “autobiographists.” After denying that The Linwoods ranks with “the master novels of the day,” he writes: “It is neither a Eugene Aram nor a Contarini Fleming” [see also his praise of Eugene Aram of April 1841 in Complete Works, X, 132]. Eugene Aram is Bulwer’s 1832 novel of an exonerable scholar-murderer, an early version of Crime and Punishment, with a long penultimate chapter in autobiographical form.

The specific wording of Poe’s phrase “psychological autobiographists” proves not only his literary modernity but also his verbal dexterity, for he coined the second term. I confess with chagrin that I should have realized this several years ago while accumulating materials for the discussion and lists of Poe’s coinages in Poe Creator of Words [Baltimore: Enoch Pratt Free Library, 1974j from which it was omitted. Even “autobiographer” was a very new word in Poe’s day, dating from 1829, with a second instance of 1878 in the OED. Its root “autobiography” appears to be Southey’s coinage in 1809, with a second instance of 1828 by Carlyle and with Disraeli’s use and special spelling entirely ignored; “autobiographic” dates from 1829 and “autobiographical” from 1831. After the 1830’s Poe’s “autobiographist” might well have competed with the now standard “autobiographer” had he not dropped the subtitle in the 1845 Broadway Journal version of the tale, which Griswold used for his posthumous printing. It is important to maintain Poe’s priority for the word here, since the 1972 Supplement to the OED, still hampered by its inadequate research tools for Poe [see Poe, Creator of Words, p. 18], has found instances of “autobiographist” in an 1840 Fraser’s Magazine (the “first”) and an 1850 Tait’s Magazine. The word has had a tenuous life, for the compendious 1889 Century Dictionary gives it as a “rare” variant of “autobiographer” without citation the 1964 Funk and Wagnall’s gives it as a “variant” form, and it is missing entirely from the latest Random House Dictionary and Webster’s New International Dictionary.

As often, Poe was prescient in devising this phrase, for his distinction between one who records the events of external life and one who records those of his inner being would come into literary play among the Pre-Raphaelites; the concept implicit in the phrase if not the very same words can be found on the first page of Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s Dante and His Circle of 1874 [Rossetti’s writings and sketches show the intense influence of Poe as early as 1846; see A. I. Grieve, “Rossetti’s Illustrations to Poe,” Apollo 97 (1973) 142-145]: “The Vita Nuova (the Autobiography or Autopsychology of Dante’s youth till about his twenty-ninth year) is already well known . . . .” The coinage of “psychological” was also recent in Poe’s day, for the OED gives a first instance of 1812 [page 16:] in Isaac Disraeli’s Preface to The Calamities of Authors and a second instance of 1818 in Coleridge’s writing, again Contarini Fleming is ignored. (“Psychologic” was formed earlier, but without becoming common, with instances only of 1787, 1809, and 1875.) Poe was indeed enterprising and ingenious in putting a new word and a newly coined one together to refer, with burlesque scorn, to the unfortunate, melancholy heroes of Bulwer’s tale and Disraeli’s novel, both of which were commanding so much attention and monetary reward from the British and American readers of Poe’s day.

Burton R Pollin, Bronx Community College of the City University of New York, Emeritus


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