Text: Edgar Allan Poe to Frederick W. Thomas — July 4, 1841 (LTR-118)


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Phil. July 4 — 41

My Dear Thomas,

I recd yours of the 1st this morning, and have again to thank you for the interest you take in my welfare. I wish to God I could visit Washington — but the old story, you know — I have no money — not even enough to take me there, saying nothing of getting back. It is a hard thing to be poor — but as I am kept so by an honest motive I dare not complain.

Your suggestion about Mr Kennedy is well-timed; and here, Thomas you can do me a true service. Call upon Kennedy — you know him, I believe — if not, introduce yourself — he is a perfect gentleman and will give you cordial welcome. Speak to him of my wishes, and urge him to see the Secretary of War in my behalf — or one of the other Secretaries — or President Tyler. I mention in particular the Secretary of War, because I have been to W. Point, and this may stand me in some stead. I would be glad to get almost any appointment — even a $500 one — so that I have something independent of letters for a subsistence. To coin one’s brain into silver, at the nod of a master, is to my thinking, the hardest task in the world. Mr Kennedy has been at all times a true friend to me — he was the first true friend I ever had — I am indebted to him for life itself. He will be willing to help me now — but needs urging, for he is always head and ears in business. Thomas, may I depend upon you? By the way, I wrote to Mr K. about ten days ago on the subject of a Magazine — a project of mine in conjunction with Graham — and have not yet heard from him. Ten to one I misdirected the letter, or sent it to Baltimore — for I am very thoughtless about such matters.

So you will set me down “a magician” if I decipher your friend’s cryptograph. No sooner suggested than done. Tell him to read this —

“In one of those peripatetic circumrotations I obviated a rustic whom we subjected to catachetical interrogation respecting the characteristics of the edifice to which he was approximate. With a volubility uncongealed by the frigorific powers of villatin bashfulness he ejaculated [page 2:] a voluminous replication from the universal tenor of whose contents I deduct the subsequent amalgamation of heterogeneous facts without dubiety” — &c &c.

The key-phrase is —”But find out this and I give it up”. Besides using this, however, he has interspersed his cypher with such abbreviations as £ for in, ~ for of, ) for an, ( for by, 9 for tion, 7 for on, for as, [ for it, 4 for to, 6 for or, ] for if, ð for he, for is, $ for at &c &c. This, you will admit, is altogether beyond the limits of my challenge which extended only to cyphers such as that of Berryer. You will also admit that phrases constructed for purposes of deception (as your friend’s) are infinitely more difficult of perusal than a cipher intended for actual conveyance of one’s natural ideas. The truth is, that Dr Fraley’s cryptograph is inadmissible as such, because it cannot be readily decyphered by the person to whom it is addressed, and who possesses the key. In proof of this, I will publish it in the Mag: with a reward to any one who shall read it with the key, and I am pretty sure that no one will be found to do it.

I have not meddled with the first cryptograph — for I thought the Drs. scepticism would be sufficiently set at rest by my solution of the longer one — and to say truth I am exceedingly busy just now. Let him insist however, and read is the word. Nothing intelligible can be written which, with time, I cannot decipher. No more difficult cypher can be constructed than the one he has sent. It embodies all the essentials of abstruseness. & is very clever.

As I mean to publish it this month, will you be kind enough to get from his own hand an acknowledgment of my solution, adding your own acknowledgment, in such form that I may append both to the cipher by way of note. I wish to do this because I am seriously accused of humbug in this matter — a thing I despise. People will not believe I really decipher the puzzles. Write by return of mail.

Yours truly. E A Poe

[page 3:]

State that I deciphered it by return of mail — as I do.


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Notes:

None.


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[S:0 - MS, 18xx] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Works - Letters - Poe to F. W. Thomas (LTR118/RCL304)