Text: Edgar Allan Poe to George W. Eveleth — February 29, 1848 (LTR-263)


New-York — Feb. 29 — 48.

My Dear Sir,

I mean to start for Richmond on the 10th March. Every thing has gone as I wished it, and my final success is certain, or I abandon all claims to the title of Vates. The only contretemps of any moment, lately, has been Willis’s somewhat premature announcement of my project: — but this will only force me into action a little sooner than I had proposed. Let me now answer the points of your last letter.

Colton acted pretty much as all mere men of the world act. I think very little the worse of him for his endeavor to succeed with you at my expense. I always liked him and I believe he liked me. His intellect was o. His “I understand the matter perfectly,” amuses me. Certainly, then, it was the only matter he dil understand. “The Rationale of Verse” will appear in “Graham” after all: — I will stop in Phil: to see the proofs. As for Godey, he is a good little man and means as well as he knows how. The editor of the “Weekly Universe” speaks kindly and I find no fault with his representing my habits as “shockingly irregular”. He could not have had the “personal acquaintance” with me of which he writes; but has fallen into a very natural error. The fact is thus: — My habits are rigorously abstemious and I omit nothing of the natural regimen requisite for health: — i.e — I rise early, eat moderately, drink nothing but water, and take abundant and regular exercise in the open air. But this is my private life — my studious and literary life — and of course escapes the eye of the world. The desire for society comes upon me only when I have become excited by drink. Then only I go — that is, at these times only I have been in the practice of going among my friends: who seldom, or in fact never, having seen me unless excited, take it for granted that I am always so. Those who really know me, know better. In the meantime I shall turn the general error to account. But enough of this: the causes which maddened-me to the drinking point are no more, and I am done drinking, forever. — I do not know the “editors & contributors” of the “Weekly Universe” and was not aware of the existence of such a paper. Who are they? or is it a secret? The “most distinguished of American scholars” is Prof. Chas. Anthon, author of the “Classical Dictionary”.

I presume you have seen some newspaper notices of my late lecture on [page 2:] the Universe. You could have gleaned, however, no idea of what the lecture was, from what the papers said it was. All praised it — as far as I have yet seen — and all absurdly misrepresented it. The only report of it which approaches the truth, is the one I enclose — from the “Express” — written by E. A. Hopkins — a gentleman of much scientific acquirement — son of Bishop Hopkins of Vermont — but he conveys only my general idea, and his digest is full of inaccuracies. I enclose also a slip from the “Courier & Enquirer”: — please return them. To eke out a chance of your understanding what I really dil say, I add a loose summary of my propositions & results:

The General Proposition is this: — Because Nothing was, therefore All Things are.

1 — An inspection of the universality of Gravitation — i.e, of the fact that each particle tends, not to any one common point, but to every other particle — suggests perfect totality, or absolute unity, as the source of the phaenomenon.

2 — Gravity is but the mode in which is manifested the tendency of all things to return into their original unity; is but the reaction of the first Divine Act.

3 — The law regulating the return — i.e, the law of Gravitation — is but a necessary result of the necessary & sole possible mode of equable irradiation of matter through space: — this equable irradiation is necessary as a basis for the Nebular Theory of Laplace.

4 — The Universe of Stars (contradistinguished from the Universe of Space) is limited.

5 — Mind is cognizant of Matter only through its two properties, attraction and repulsion: therefore Matter is only attraction & repulsion: a finally consolidated globe of globes, being but one particle, would be without attraction, i e, gravitation; the existence of such a globe presupposes the expulsion of the separative ether which we know to exist between the particles as at present diffused: — thus the final globe would be matter without attraction & repulsion: — but these are matter: — then the final globe would be matter without matter: — i,e, no matter at all: — it must disappear. Thus Unity is Nothingness.

6. Matter, springing from Unity, sprang from Nothingness: — i,e, was created.

7. All will return to Nothingness, in returning to Unity.

Read these items after the Report. As to the Lecture, I am very quiet about it — but, if you have ever dealt with such topics, you will recognize the novelty & moment of my views. What I have propounded will (in good time) revolutionize the world of Physical & Metaphysical Science. I say this calmly — but I say it.

I shall not go till I hear from you.

Truly Yours,
E A Poe

[page 3:]

By the bye, lest you infer that my views, in detail, are the same with those advanced in the Nebular Hypothesis, I venture to offer a few addenda, the substance of which was penned, though never printed, several years ago, under the head of — A Prediction.

As soon as the next century it will be entered in the books, that the Sun was originally condensed at once (not gradually, according to the supposition of Laplace) into his smallest size; that, thus condensed, he rotated on an axis; that this axis of rotation was not the centre of his figure, so that he not only rotated, but revolved in an elliptical orbit (the rotation and revolution are one; but I separate them for convenience of illustration); that, thus formed and thus revolving, he was on fire (in the same way that a volcano and an ignited meteoric stone are on fire) and sent into space his substance in the form of vapor, this vapor reaching farthest on the side of the larger hemisphere, partly on account of the largeness, but principally because the force of the fire was greater here; that, in due time, this vapor, not necessarily carried then to the place now occupied by Neptune, condensed into Neptune; that the planet took, as a matter of necessity, the same figure that the Sun had, which figure made his rotation a revolution in an elliptical orbit; that, in consequence of such revolution — in consequence of his being carried backward at each of the daily revolutions — the velocity of his annual revolution is not so great as it would be, if it depends solely upon the Sun’s velocity of rotation (Kepler’s Third Law); that his figure, by influencing his rotation — the heavier half, as it turns downward toward the Sun, gains an impetus sufficient to carry it by the direct line of attraction, and thus to throw outward the centre of gravity — gave him power to save himself from falling to the Sun (and, perhaps, to work himself gradually outward to the position he now holds); that he received, through a series of ages, the Sun’s heat, which penetrated to his centre, causing volcanic eruptions eventually, and thus throwing off vapor; and which evaporated substances upon his surface, till finally his moons and his gaseous ring (if it is true that he has a ring) were produced; that these moons took elliptical forms, rotated and revolved “both under one,” were kept in their monthly orbits by the centrifugal force acquired in their daily orbits, and required a longer time to make their monthly revolutions than they would have required if they had had no daily revolutions.

I said enough, without referring to the other planets, to give you an inkling of my hypothesis, which is all I intended to do.  I did not design to offer any evidence of its reasonableness; since I have not, in fact, any collected, excepting as it is flitting, in the shape of a shadow, to and from within my brain.

You perceive that I hold to the idea that our Moon must rotate upon her axis oftener than she revolves round her primarily, the same being the case with the satellites accompanying Jupiter, Saturn and Uranus.

Since the penning, a closer analysis of the matter contained has led me to modify somewhat my opinion as to the origin of the satellites — that is, I think now that these came, not from vapor sent of in volcanic burnings and by simple diffusion under the solar rays, but from rings of it which were left in the inter-planetary spaces, after the precipitation of the primaries. There is no insuperable obstacle in the way of the conception that aeroites and “shooting-stars” have their source in matter which has gone off from the Earth’s surface and from our her bowels; but it is hardly supposable that a sufficient quantity could be produced thus to make a body so large as, by centrifugal force resulting from rotation, to withstand the absorptive power of its parent’s rotation. The event implied may take place not until the planets have become flaming suns — from an accumulation of their own Sun’s caloric, reaching from centre to circumference, which shall, in the lonesome latter days, melt all the elements and dissipate the solid foundations out as a scroll! {Please substitute the idea for that in “Conversation of Eiros and Charmion”)

How will that do for a postscript?



What is given here as “page 3” is a postscript which no longer is part of the manuscript of the letter. As the original is lost, the text is taken from a transcript made by George Eveleth for John Ingram, mailed October 1, 1878. This postscript is noted  in Ostrom’s collection of Poe’s letters, but only the first and final sentences are given. The postscript is quoted in full and discussed by T. O. Mabbott in his collection of Poe’s Tales, 1978, p. 1320-1323.


[S:0 - MS, 18xx] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Works - Letters - Poe to G. W. Eveleth (LTR263/RCL700)