Text: Thomas Ollive Mabbott (E. A. Poe), “The Psyche Zenobia (How to Write a Blackwood Article),” The Collected Works of Edgar Allan Poe — Vol. II: Tales and Sketches (1978), pp. 334-362 (This material is protected by copyright)


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[page 334, continued:]

THE PSYCHE ZENOBIA
(HOW TO WRITE A BLACKWOOD ARTICLE)

As originally published in the American Museum of Baltimore for November 1838 and as reprinted in the Broadway Journal for July 12, 1845 under Poe’s editorship, this satirical account of how to write for sensational magazines was designed as one story including another. In this form it is presented here. When Lea and Blanchard published Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque [page 335:] (1840), however, the narratives were treated as separate units — Poe in his preface said there were twenty-five tales, counting these as two. Griswold’s and most subsequent collections have followed that pattern.

The ridiculous story is of special interest because Poe consciously describes some of his own methods. He once said seriously (in his review of Hawthorne’s Twice-Told Tales in Graham’s, May 1842) that one invented or selected incidents and other material to fit a preconceived mood or tone. Obviously he realized that the skill of the writer determined how effective the combinations might be. His Mr. Blackwood gave his silly pupil good instruction — Poe used some of his scraps of learning elsewhere in serious as well as comic contexts. But Psyche Zenobia is a fool, and her story is absurd — although the repulsive elements are characteristic of some British magazinists.*

In naming his protagonist, Poe obviously had in mind William Ware’s serial begun in March 1836 in the Knickerbocker Magazine, published in book form in 1837 as Letters of Lucius M. Piso from Palmyra, to His Friend Marcus Curtius at Rome, and later issued with the title Zenobia. This popular work had put the great Queen of Palmyra much in the public eye. — Poe’s Signora has [page 336:] obtained her classic learning from the columns of Lewis Gaylord Clark’s magazine; and takes the name of an ancient heroine better known for beauty than courage.

TEXTS

(A) Baltimore American Museum, November 1838 (1:301-317); (B) Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque (1840), I, 213-243; (C) PHANTASY-PIECES with manuscript revision of last, 1842; (D) Broadway Journal, July 12, 1845 (2:1-7); (E) Works (1856), IV, 230-250.

The Broadway Journal version (D), set up as one story including another, is followed. In PHANTASY-PIECES (C) Poe changed the titles of both portions of the story, revised a paragraph, a few phrases, and some punctuation. Rearrangement of two paragraphs and more verbal changes were made for the Broadway Journal version. Griswold’s few changes were not significant. All texts have any body, every body, no body, would’nt, did’nt; the usage is emended editorially. All texts also omit the quotation marks before PIQUANT EXPRESSIONS, which have been inserted editorially.

HOW TO WRITE A BLACKWOOD ARTICLE.   [D]   [[n]]   [[v]]

“In the name of the Prophet — figs!!”

Cry of the Turkish fig-pedler.   [[n]]   [[v]]

I presume everybody has heard of me. My name is the Signora Psyche Zenobia. This I know to be a fact. Nobody but my enemies ever calls me Suky Snobbs.(1) I have been assured that Suky is but a vulgar corruption of Psyche, which is good Greek, and means “the soul” (that’s me, I’m all soul) and sometimes “a butterfly,” which latter meaning undoubtedly{a} alludes to my appearance in my new crimson satin dress, with the sky-blue Arabian mantelet, and the trimmings of green agraffas, and the seven flounces of orange-colored auriculas.(2) As for Snobbs — any person who should look at me would be instantly aware that my name wasn’t Snobbs. Miss Tabitha Turnip propagated that report through sheer envy. Tabitha Turnip indeed! Oh the little wretch! But what can we expect from a turnip? Wonder if she remembers the old adage [page 337:] about ‘blood out of a turnip, &c.” [Mem: put her in mind of it the first opportunity.] [Mem again — pull her nose.] Where was I? Ah! I have been assured that Snobbs is a mere corruption of Zenobia, and that Zenobia was a queen(3) — (So am I. Dr. Moneypenny, always calls me the Queen of Hearts) — and that Zenobia, as well as Psyche, is good Greek, and that my father was “a Greek;”(4) and that consequently I have a right to our{b} patronymic, which is Zenobia, and not by any means Snobbs. Nobody but Tabitha Turnip calls me Suky Snobbs. I am the Signora Psyche Zenobia.

As I said before, everybody has heard of me. I am that very Signora Psyche Zenobia, so justly celebrated as corresponding secretary to the “Philadelphia, Regular, Exchange, Tea, Total, Young, Belles, Lettres, Universal, Experimental, Bibliographical, Association, To, Civilize, Humanity.” Dr. Moneypenny made the title for us, and says he chose it because it sounded big like an empty rum-puncheon. (A vulgar man that sometimes — but he’s deep.) We all sign the initials of the society after our names, in the fashion of the R.S.A., Royal Society of Arts — the S.D.U.K., Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge, &c. &c. Dr. Moneypenny says that S stands for stale, and that D.U.K. spells duck, (but it don’t,) and that S.D.U.K. stands for Stale Duck, and not for Lord Brougham’s society(5) — but then Dr. Moneypenny is such a queer man that I am never sure when he is telling me the truth. At any rate we always add to our names the initials P.R.E.T.T.Y.B.L.U.E.B.A.T.C.H. — that is to say, Philadelphia, Regular, Exchange, Tea, Total, Young, Belles, Lettres, Universal, Experimental, Bibliographical, Association, To, Civilize, Humanity — one letter for each word, which is a decided improvement upon Lord Brougham. Dr. Moneypenny will have it that our initials give our true character — but for my life I can’t see what he means.

Notwithstanding the good offices of {cc}the Doctor,{cc} and the strenuous exertions of the association to get itself into notice, it met with no very great success until I joined it. The truth is, members indulged in too flippant a tone of discussion. The papers read every Saturday evening were characterized less by depth than buffoonery. [page 338:] They were all whipped syllabub. There was no investigation of first causes, first principles. There was no investigation of anything at all. There was no attention paid to that great point the “fitness of things.”(6) In short there was no fine writing like this. It was all low — very! No profundity, no reading, no metaphysics — nothing which the learned call spirituality, and which the unlearned choose to stigmatise as cant. [Dr. M. says I ought to spell “cant” with a capital K — but I know better.](7)

When I joined the society it was my endeavour to introduce a better style of thinking and writing, and all the world knows how well I have succeeded. We get up as good papers now in the P.R.E.T.T.Y.B.L.U.E.B.A.T.C.H. as any to be found even in Blackwood. I say, Blackwood, because I have been assured that the finest writing, upon every subject, is to be discovered in the pages of that justly celebrated Magazine. We now take it for our model upon all themes, and are getting into rapid notice accordingly. And, after all, it’s not so very difficult a matter to compose an article of the genuine Blackwood stamp, if one only goes properly about it. Of course I don’t speak of the political articles. Everybody knows how they are managed, since Dr. Moneypenny explained it. Mr. Blackwood has a pair of tailor’s-shears, and three apprentices who stand by him for orders. One hands him the “Times,” another the “Examiner,”(8) and a{d} third a “Gulley’s New Compendium of Slang-Whang.”(9) Mr. B. merely cuts out and intersperses. It is soon done — nothing but Examiner, Slang-Whang, and Times — then Times, Slang-Whang, and Examiner — and then Times, Examiner, and Slang-Whang.

But the chief merit of the Magazine lies in its miscellaneous articles; and the best of these come under the head of what Dr. Moneypenny calls the bizarreries (whatever that may mean) and what everybody else calls the intensities. This is a species of writing which I have long known how to appreciate, although it is only since my late visit to Mr. Blackwood (deputed by the society) that I have been made aware of the exact method of composition. This method is very simple, but not so much so as the politics. Upon my [page 339:] calling at Mr. B.’s, and making known to him the wishes of the society, he received me with great civility, took me into his study, and gave me a clear explanation of the whole process.

“My dear madam,” said he, evidently struck with my majestic appearance, for I had on the crimson satin, with the green agraffas, and orange-coloured auriculas, “My dear madam,” said he, “sit down. The matter stands thus. In the first place, your writer of intensities must have very black ink, and a very big pen, with a very blunt nib. And, mark me, Miss Psyche Zenobia!” he continued, after a pause, with the most impressive energy and solemnity of manner, “mark me! — that penmustnever be mended! Herein, madam, lies the secret; the soul, of intensity. I assume it{e} upon myself to say, that no individual, of however great genius, ever wrote with a good pen, — understand me, — a good article. You may take it for granted,{f} that when{g} manuscript can be read it is never worth reading. This is a leading principle in our faith, to which if you cannot readily{h} assent, our conference is at an end.”

He paused. But, of course, as I had no wish to put an end to the conference, I assented to a proposition so very obvious, and one, too, of whose truth I had all along been sufficiently aware. He seemed pleased, and went on with his instructions.

“It may appear invidious in{i} me, Miss Psyche Zenobia, to refer you to any{j} article, or set of articles, in the way of model or study; yet perhaps I may as well call your attention to a few cases. Let me see.(10) There was ‘The Dead Alive,’ a capital thing! — the record of a gentleman’s {kk}sensations, when entombed before the breath was out of his body — full{kk} of{l} taste, terror, sentiment, metaphysics, and erudition. You would have sworn that the writer had been born and brought up in a coffin.(11) Then we had the ‘Confessions of an Opium-eater’ — fine, very fine! — glorious imagination — deep philosophy — acute speculation — plenty of fire and fury, and a good spicing of the decidedly unintelligible. That was a nice bit of flummery, and went down the throats of the people delightfully. [page 340:] They would have it that Coleridge wrote the paper — but not so. It was composed by my pet baboon, Juniper, over a rummer of Hollands and water, ‘hot, without sugar.’ ” [This I could scarcely have believed had it been anybody but Mr. Blackwood, who assured me of it.](12) “Then there was ‘The Involuntary Experimentalist,’ all about a gentleman who got baked in an oven, and came out alive and well, although certainly done to a turn.(13) And then there was ‘The Diary of a Late Physician,’ where the merit lay in good rant, and indifferent Greek — both of them taking things, with the public.(14) And then there was ‘The Man in the Bell,’ a paper by-the-bye, Miss Zenobia, which I cannot sufficiently recommend to your attention.(15) It is the history of a young person who goes to sleep under the clapper of a church bell, and is awakened by its tolling for a funeral. The sound drives him mad, and, accordingly, pulling out his tablets, he gives a record of his sensations. Sensations are the great things after all. Should you ever be drowned or hung, be sure and make a note of your sensations — they will be worth to you ten guineas a sheet. If you wish to write forcibly, Miss Zenobia, pay minute attention to the sensations.”

“That I certainly will, Mr. Blackwood,” said I.

“Good!” he replied. “I see you are a pupil after my own heart. But I must put you au fait to the details necessary in composing what may be denominated a genuine Blackwood article of the sensation stamp — the kind which you will understand me to say I consider the best for all purposes.

“The first thing requisite is to get yourself into such a scrape as no one ever got into before. The oven, for instance, — that was a good hit. But if you have no oven, or big bell, at hand, and if you cannot conveniently tumble out of a balloon, or be swallowed up in an earthquake, or get stuck fast in a chimney, you will have to be contented with simply imagining some similar misadventure. I should prefer, however, that you have the actual fact to bear you out. Nothing so well assists the fancy, as an experimental knowledge of the matter in hand. ‘Truth is strange,’ you know,’stranger than fiction’ — besides being more to the purpose.”(16)

Here I assured him I had an excellent pair of garters, and would go and hang myself forthwith. [page 341:]

“Good!” he replied, “do so; — although hanging is somewhat hacknied. Perhaps you might do better. Take a dose of Brandreth’s{m} pills, and then give its your sensations.(17) However, my instructions will apply equally well to any variety of misadventure, and in your way home you may easily get knocked in the head, or run over by an omnibus, or bitten by a mad dog, or drowned in a gutter. But, to proceed.

“Having determined upon your subject, you must next consider the tone, or manner, of your narration. There is the tone didactic, the {nn}tone enthusiastic, the{nn} tone natural — all common-place enough. But then there is the tone laconic, or curt, which has lately come much into use. It consists in short sentences. Somehow thus. Can’t be too brief. Can’t be too snappish. Always a full stop. And never a paragraph.

“Then there is the tone elevated, diffusive, and interjectional. Some of our best novelists patronize this tone. The words must be all in a whirl, like a humming-top, and make a noise very similar, which answers remarkably well instead of meaning. This is the best of all possible styles where the writer is in too great a hurry to think.

“The tone metaphysical{o} is also a good one.{p} {qq}If you know any big words this is your chance for them. Talk of the Ionic and Eleatic schools — of Archytas, Gorgias and Alcmæon.(18) Say something about objectivity and subjectivity. Be sure and abuse a man called{r} Locke.(19) Turn up your nose at things in general, and when you let slip anything a little too absurd, you need not be at the trouble of scratching it out, but just add a foot-note, and say that you are indebted for the above profound observation to the ‘Kritik [page 342:] der reinen{s} Vernunft,’ or to the ‘Metaphysische Anfangsgründe{t} der Naturwissenschaft.’(20) This will look erudite and — and — and frank.{qq}

“There are various other tones of equal celebrity, but I shall {uu}mention only{uu} two more — the tone transcendental{v} and the tone heterogeneous. In the former the merit consists in seeing into the nature of affairs a very great deal farther than anybody else. This second sight is very efficient when properly managed. A little reading of the ‘Dial’{w} (21) will carry you a great way.{x} {yy}Eschew, in this case, big words; get them as small as possible, and write them upside down. Look over Channing’s poems and quote what he says about a ‘fat little man with a delusive show of Can.’(22) Put in something about the Supernal Oneness. Don’t say a syllable about the Infernal Twoness.(23) Above all, study innuendo.{z} Hint every thing — assert nothing. If you feel inclined to say ‘bread and butter’ do not by any means say it outright. You may say anything and every thing approaching to ‘bread and butter.’ You may hint at buckwheat cake, or you may even go so far as to insinuate oat-meal porridge, but if bread and butter be your real meaning, be cautious, my dear Miss Psyche, not on any account to say ‘bread and butter!’ ”(24)

I assured him that I should never say it again as long as I lived. He kissed me and continued:{yy}

“As for the tone heterogeneous, it is merely a judicious mixture, in equal proportions, of all the other tones in the world, and [page 343:] is consequently made up of everything deep, great, odd, piquant,{a} pertinent, and pretty.

“Let us suppose now you have determined upon your incidents and tone. The most important portion, — in fact the soul of the whole business, is yet to be attended to — I allude to the filling up. It is not to be supposed that a lady or gentleman either has been leading the life of a bookworm. And yet above all things it is{b} necessary that your article have an air of erudition, or at least afford evidence of extensive general reading. Now I’ll put you in the way of accomplishing this point. See here!” (pulling down some three or four ordinary looking volumes, and opening them at random.) “By casting your eye down almost any page of any book in the world, you will be able to perceive at once a host of little scraps of either learning or bel-esprit-ism, which are the very thing for the spicing of a Blackwood article. You might as well note down a few while I read them to you. I shall make two divisions: first, Piquant Facts for the Manufacture of Similes; and second, Piquant Expressions to be introduced as occasion may require. Write now! —” and I wrote as he dictated.

“PIQUANT FACTS FOR SIMILES. ‘There were originally but three Muses — Melete, Mneme, and{c} Aœde — meditation, memory, and singing.’(25) You may make a great deal of that little fact if properly worked. You see it is not generally known, and looks recherché. You must be careful and give the thing with a downright improviso air.

“Again. ‘The river Alpheus(26) passed beneath the sea, and emerged without injury to the purity of its waters.’ Rather stale that, to be sure, but, if properly dressed and dished up, will look quite as fresh as ever.

“Here is something better. ‘The Persian Iris appears to some persons to possess a sweet and very powerful perfume, while to others it is perfectly scentless.’(27) Fine that, and very delicate! Turn it about a little, and it will do wonders. We’ll have something else in the botanical line. There’s nothing goes down so well, especially with the help of a little Latin. Write! [page 344:]

“ ‘The Epidendrum Flos Aeris,(28) of Java, bears a very beautiful flower, and will live when pulled up by the roots. The natives suspend it by a cord from the ceiling, and enjoy its fragrance for years.’ That’s capital! That will do for the similes. Now for the Piquant Expressions.

“PIQUANT EXPRESSIONS, ‘The venerable Chinese novel Ju-Kiao-Li.’(29) Good! By introducing these few words with dexterity you will evince your intimate{d} acquaintance with the language and literature of the Chinese. With the aid of this you may possibly get along without either Arabic, or Sanscrit, or Chickasaw. There is no passing muster, however, without{e} Spanish, Italian, German, Latin, and Greek. I must look you out a little specimen of each. Any scrap will answer, because you must depend upon your own ingenuity to make it fit into your article. Now write!

“ ‘Aussi tenure que Zaïre{f} — as tender as Zaire — French. Alludes to the frequent repetition of the phrase, la tendre Zaïre,{g} in the French tragedy of that name.(30) Properly introduced, will show not only your knowledge of the language, but your{h} general reading and wit. You can say, for instance, that the chicken you were eating (write an article about being choked to death by a chicken-bone) was not altogether aussi tendre que Zaïre.{i} Write!

Ven,{j} muerte tan escondida,

Que no te sienta venir,

Porque el plazer del morir

No me torne, a dar la vida.’

That’s Spanish — from Miguel de Cervantes.(31) ‘Come quickly O death! but be sure and don’t let me see you coming, lest the pleasure I shall feel at your appearance should unfortunately bring me back again to life.’ This you may slip in quite à propos when you are struggling in the last agonies with the chicken-bone. Write!

Il pover ‘huomo che non se’n era accorto,

Andava combattendo, e era morto.’

That’s Italian, you perceive, — from Ariosto.(32) It means that a [page 345:] great hero, in the heat of combat, not perceiving{k} that he had been fairly killed, continued to fight valiantly, dead as he was. The application of this to your own case is obvious — for I trust, Miss Psyche, that you will not neglect to kick for at least an hour and a half after you have been choked to death by that chicken-bone. Please to write!

Und sterb’ich doch, so{l} sterb’ich denn

Durch siedurch sie!

That’s German — from Schiller.(33) ‘And if I die, at least I die — for thee — for thee!’ Here it is clear that you are apostrophising the cause of your disaster, the chicken. Indeed what gentleman (or lady either) of sense, wouldn’t die, I should like to know, for a well fattened capon of the right Molucca breed, stuffed with capers and mushrooms, and served up in a salad-bowl, with orange-jellies en mosaïques.{m} Write! (You can get them that way at Tortoni’s)(34) — Write, if you please!

“Here is a nice little Latin phrase, and rare too, (one can’t be too recherché or brief in one’s Latin, it’s getting so common,) — ignoratio elenchi.(35) He has committed an ignoratio elenchi — that is to say, he has understood the words of your proposition, but not the ideas.{n} The man was a fool, you see. Some poor fellow{o} whom you addressed{p} while choking with that chicken-bone, and{q} who therefore didn’t precisely understand what you were talking about. Throw the ignoratio elenchi in his teeth, and, at once, you have him annihilated. If he dare{r} to reply, you can tell him from Lucan (here it is) that{s} speeches are mere anemonae{t} verborum, anemone words.(36) The anemone, with great brilliancy, has no smell. Or, if he begin{u} to bluster, you may be down upon him with insomnia Jovis, reveries of Jupiter — a phrase which {vv}Silius Italicus{vv} (see here!) applies to thoughts pompous and inflated.(37) This will be sure and cut him to the heart. He can do nothing but roll over and die. Will you be kind enough to write? [page 346:]

“In Greek we must have something pretty — from Demosthenes, for example. Ανηρ{w} ο φευγων{x} και παλιν μαχησεται.{y} [Aner o pheugon{z} kai palin makesetai.] There is a tolerably good translation of it in Hudibras — (38)

For he that flies may fight again,

Which he ran never do that’s slain.

In a Blackwood article nothing makes so fine a show as your Greek. The very letters have an air of profundity about them. Only observe, madam, the astute{a} look of that Epsilon! That Phi ought certainly to be a bishop!(39) Was ever there a smarter fellow than that Omicron? Just twig that Tau! In short, there is{b} nothing like Greek for a genuine sensation-paper. In the present case your application is the most obvious thing in the world. Rap out the sentence, with a huge oath, and by way of ultimatum, at the good-for-nothing dunder-headed villain who couldn’t understand your plain English in relation to the chicken-bone. He’ll take the hint and be off, you may depend upon it.”

These were all the instructions Mr. B. could afford me upon the topic in question, but I felt they would be entirely sufficient. I was, at length, able to write a genuine Blackwood article, and determined to do it forthwith. In taking leave of me, Mr. B. made a proposition for the purchase of the paper when written; but as he could {cc}offer me only{cc} fifty guineas a sheet, I thought it better to let our society have it, than sacrifice it for so paltry{d} a sum. Notwithstanding this niggardly spirit, however, the gentleman showed his consideration for me in all other respects, and indeed treated me with the greatest civility. His parting words made a deep impression upon my heart, and I hope I shall always remember them with gratitude.

“My dear Miss Zenobia,” he said, while the{e} tears stood in his eyes, “is there anything else I can do to promote the success of your laudable undertaking? Let me reflect! It is just possible that you [page 347:] may not be able, so{f} soon as convenient, to — to — get yourself drowned, or — choked with a chicken-bone, or — or hung, — or — bitten by a — but stay! Now I think me of it, there are a couple of very excellent bull dogs in the yard — fine fellows, I assure you — savage, and all that — indeed just the thing for your money — they’ll have you eaten up, auriculas and all, in less than five minutes (here’s my watch!) — and then only think of the sensations! Here! I say — Tom! — Peter! — Dick, you villain! — let out those” — but as I was really in a great hurry, and had not another moment to spare, I was reluctantly forced to expedite my departure, and accordingly took{g} leave at once — somewhat more abruptly, I admit, than strict courtesy would have, otherwise, allowed.

It was my primary object, upon quitting Mr. Blackwood, to get into some immediate difficulty, pursuant to his advice, and with this view I spent the{h} greater part of the day in wandering about Edinburgh, seeking for desperate adventures — adventures adequate to the intensity of my feelings, and adapted to the vast character of the article I intended to write. In this excursion I was attended by my{i} negro-servant Pompey,(40) and my little lap-dog Diana, whom I had brought with me from Philadelphia. It was not, however, until late in the afternoon that I fully succeeded in my arduous undertaking. An important event then happened, of which the following Blackwood article, in the tone heterogeneous, is the substance and result.

A PREDICAMENT.   [D]   [[n]]   [[v]]

What chance, good lady, hath bereft you thus? — COMUS.   [[n]]   [[v]]

It was a quiet and still afternoon when I strolled forth in the goodly city of Edina.(41) The confusion and bustle in the streets were terrible. Men were talking. Women were screaming. Children were choking. Pigs were whistling.(42) Carts they rattled. Bulls they bellowed. Cows they lowed. Horses they neighed. Cats they caterwauled. Dogs they danced. Danced! Could it then be possible? Danced! Alas, thought I, my dancing days are over! Thus it is ever. [page 348:] What a host of gloomy recollections will ever and anon be awakened in the mind of genius and imaginative contemplation, especially of a genius doomed to the everlasting, and eternal, and continual, and, as one might say, the — continued — yes, the continued and continuous, bitter, harassing, disturbing, and, if I may be allowed the expression, the very disturbing influence of the serene, and godlike, and heavenly, and exalting, and elevated, and purifying effect of what may be rightly termed the{i’} most enviable, the most truly enviable — nay! the most benignly beautiful, the most deliciously ethereal, and, as it were, the most pretty (if I may use so bold an expression) thing (pardon me, gentle reader!) in the world{j} — but I am{k} led away by my feelings. In such a mind, I repeat, what a host of recollections are stirred up by a trifle! The dogs danced! I — I could not! They frisked — I wept. They capered — I sobbed aloud. Touching circumstances! which cannot fail to bring to the recollection of the classical reader that exquisite passage in relation to the fitness of things, which is to be found in the commencement of the third volume of that admirable and venerable Chinese novel, the Jo-Go-Slow.

In my solitary walk through the city I had two humble but faithful companions. Diana, my poodle! sweetest of creatures! She had a quantity of hair over her one eye, and a blue ribband tied fashionably around her neck. Diana was not more than five inches in height, but her head was somewhat bigger than her body, and her tail, being cut off exceedingly close, gave an air of injured innocence to the interesting animal which rendered her a favorite with all.

And Pompey, my negro!{l} — sweet Pompey! how shall I ever forget thee? I had taken Pompey’s arm. He was three feet in height (I like to be particular) and about seventy, or perhaps eighty, years of age. He had bow-legs and was corpulent. His mouth should not be called small, nor his ears short. His teeth, however, were like pearl, and his large full eyes were deliciously white. Nature had endowed him with no neck, and had placed his ankles (as usual [page 349:] with that race) in the middle of the upper portion of the feet. He was clad with a striking simplicity. His sole garments were a stock of nine inches in height, and a nearly-new drab overcoat which had formerly been in the service of the tall, stately, and illustrious Dr. Moneypenny. It was a good overcoat. It was well cut. It was well made. The coat was nearly new. Pompey held it up out of the dirt with both hands.

There were three persons in our party, and two of them have already been the subject of remark. There was a third — that third person was myself. I am the Signora{m} Psyche Zenobia. I am not Suky Snobbs. My appearance is commanding. On the memorable occasion of which I speak I was habited in a crimson satin dress with a sky-blue Arabian mantelet. And the dress had trimmings of green agraffas, and seven graceful flounces of the orange colored auricula. I thus formed the third of the party. There was the poodle. There was Pompey. There was myself. We were three. Thus it is said there were originally but three Furies — Melty, Nimmy and Hetty — Meditation, Memory, and Fiddling.{n}

Leaning upon the arm of the gallant Pompey, and attended at a respectful distance by Diana, I proceeded down one of the populous and very pleasant streets of the now deserted Edina. On a sudden, there presented itself to view a church — a Gothic cathedral — vast, venerable, and with a tall steeple, which towered into the sky. What madness now possessed me? Why did I rush upon my fate? I was seized with an uncontrollable desire to ascend the giddy pinnacle, and thence survey the immense extent of the city.(43) The door of the cathedral stood invitingly open. My destiny prevailed. I entered the ominous archway. Where then was my guardian angel? — if indeed such angels there be. If! Distressing monosyllable! what a world of mystery, and meaning, and doubt, and uncertainty is there involved in thy two letters! I entered the ominous archway! I entered; and, without injury to my orange-colored auriculas, I passed beneath the portal, and emerged within the vestibule! Thus it is said the immense river Alfred{o} passed, unscathed, and unwetted, beneath the sea.

I thought the staircases would never have an end. Round! Yes, they went round and up, and round and up and round and up, until I could not help surmising, with the sagacious Pompey, upon whose supporting arm I leaned in all the confidence of early affection — I could not help surmising that the upper end of the continuous spiral ladder had been accidentally, or perhaps designedly, removed. I paused for breath; and, in the meantime, an incident occurred of too momentous a nature in a moral, and also in a metaphysical point of view, to be passed over without notice. It appeared to me — indeed I was quite confident of the fact — I could not be mistaken — no! I had, for some moments, carefully and anxiously observed the motions of my Diana — I say that I could not be mistaken — Diana smelt a rat! At once I{p} called Pompey’s attention to the subject, and he — he agreed with me. There was then no longer any reasonable room for doubt. The rat had been smelled — and by Diana. Heavens! shall I ever forget the intense excitement of that moment? Alas! what is the boasted intellect of man? The rat! — it was there — that is to say, it was somewhere. Diana smelled the rat. I — I could not! Thus it is said the Prussian Isis has, for some persons, a sweet and very powerful perfume, while to others it is perfectly scentless.

The staircase had been surmounted, and there were now only three or four more upward steps intervening between us and the summit. We still ascended, and now only one step remained. One step! One little, little step! Upon one such little step in the great staircase of human life how vast a sum of human happiness or misery often depends! I thought of myself, then{q} of Pompey, and then of the mysterious and inexplicable destiny which surrounded us. I thought of Pompey! — alas! I thought of love! I thought of the many false steps which have been taken, and may be taken again. I resolved to be more cautious, more reserved. I abandoned the arm of Pompey, and, without his assistance, surmounted the one remaining step, and gained the chamber of the belfry. I was followed immediately afterwards by my poodle. Pompey alone remained behind. I stood at the head of the staircase, and [page 351:] encouraged him to ascend. He stretched forth to me his hand, and unfortunately in so doing was forced to abandon his firm hold upon the overcoat. Will the gods never cease their persecution? The overcoat it dropped, and, with one of his feet, Pompey stepped upon the long and trailing skirt of the overcoat. He stumbled and fell — this consequence was inevitable. He fell forwards, and, with his accursed head, striking me full in the —— in the breast, precipitated me headlong, together with himself, upon the hard, filthy and{r} detestable floor of the belfry. But my revenge was sure, sudden and complete. Seizing him furiously by the wool with both hands, I tore out a vast quantity of the black, and crisp, and curling material, and tossed it from me with every manifestation of disdain. It fell among the ropes of the belfry and remained. Pompey arose, and said no word. But he regarded me piteously with his large eyes and — sighed. Ye gods — that sigh! It sunk into my heart. And the hair — the wool! Could I have reached that wool I would have bathed it with my tears, in testimony of regret. But alas! it was now far beyond my grasp. As it dangled among the cordage of the bell, I fancied it still alive. I fancied that it stood on end with indignation. Thus the happy dandy Flos Aeris of Java, bears, it is said, a beautiful flower, which will live when pulled up by the roots. The natives suspend it by a cord from the ceiling and enjoy its fragrance for years.

Our quarrel was now made up, and we looked about the room for an aperture through which to survey the city of Edina. Windows there were none. The sole light admitted into the gloomy{r’} chamber proceeded from a square opening, about a foot in diameter, at a height of about seven feet from the floor. Yet what will the energy of true genius not effect? I resolved to clamber up to this hole. A vast quantity of wheels, pinions, and other cabalistic-looking machinery stood opposite the hole, close to it; and through the hole there passed an iron rod from the machinery. Between the wheels and the wall where the hole lay, there was barely room for my body — yet I was desperate, and determined to persevere. I called Pompey to my side. [page 352:]

“You perceive that aperture, Pompey. I wish to look through it. You will stand here just beneath the hole — so. Now, hold out one of your hands, Pompey, and let me step upon it — thus. Now, the other hand, Pompey, and with its aid I will get upon your shoulders.”

He did everything I wished and I found; upon getting up, that I could easily pass my head and neck through the aperture. The prospect was sublime. Nothing could be more magnificent. I merely paused a moment to bid Diana behave herself, and assure Pompey that I would be considerate and bear as lightly as possible upon his shoulders. I told him I would be tender of his feelings — ossi tender que beefsteak.{s} Having done this justice to my faithful friend, I gave myself up with great zest and enthusiasm to the enjoyment of the scene which so obligingly spread itself out before my eyes.

Upon this subject, however, I shall forbear to dilate. I will not describe the city of Edinburgh. Every one has been to Edinburgh — the classic Edina. I will confine myself to the momentous details of my own lamentable adventure. Having, in some measure, satisfied my curiosity in regard to the extent, situation, and general appearance of the city, I had leisure to survey the church in which I was, and the delicate architecture of the steeple. I observed that the aperture through which I had thrust my head was an opening in the dial-plate of a gigantic clock, and must have appeared, from the street, as a large keyhole, such as we see in the face of French watches.(44) No doubt the true object was to admit the arm of an attendant, to adjust, when necessary, the hands of the clock from within. I observed also, with surprise, the immense size of these hands, the longest of which could not have been less than ten feet in length, and, where broadest, eight or nine inches in breadth. They were of solid steel apparently, and their edges appeared to be sharp. Having noticed these particulars, and some others, I again turned my eyes upon the glorious prospect below, and soon became absorbed in contemplation. [page 353:]

From this, after some minutes, I was aroused by the voice of Pompey, who declared he could stand it no longer, and requested that I would be so kind as to come down. This was unreasonable, and I told him so in a speech of some length. He replied, but with an evident misunderstanding of my ideas upon the subject. I accordingly grew angry, and told him in plain words that he was a fool, that he had committed an ignoramus e-clench-eye, that his notions were mere insommary Bovis, and his words little better than an enemy-werrybor’em. With this he appeared satisfied, and I resumed my contemplations.

It might have been half an hour after this{t} altercation{u} when, as I was deeply absorbed in the heavenly scenery beneath me, I was startled by something very cold which pressed with a gentle pressure upon the back of my neck. It is needless to say that I felt inexpressibly alarmed. I knew that Pompey was beneath my feet, and that Diana was sitting, according to my explicit{v} directions, upon her hind legs in the farthest corner of the room. What could it be? Alas! I but too soon discovered. Turning my head gently to one side, I perceived, to my extreme horror, that the huge, glittering, scimetar-like minute-hand of the clock, had, in the course of its hourly revolution, descended upon my neck. There was, I knew, not a second to be lost. I pulled back at once — but it was too late. There was no chance of forcing my head through the mouth of that terrible trap in which it was so fairly caught, and which grew narrower and narrower with a rapidity too horrible to be conceived. The agony of that moment is not to be imagined. I threw up my hands and endeavoured, with all my strength, to force upwards{w} the ponderous iron bar. I might as well have tried to lift the cathedral itself. Down, down, down it came. closer, and yet closer. I screamed to Pompey for aid: but he said that I had hurt his feelings by calling him “an ignorant old squint eye.” I yelled to Diana; but she only said “bow-wow-wow,” and that “I had told her on no account to stir from the corner.” Thus I had no relief to expect from my associates.

Meantime the ponderous and terrific Scythe of Time (for I [page 354:] now discovered the literal import of that classical phrase) had not stopped, nor was it{x} likely to stop, in its career. Down and still down, it came. It had already buried its sharp edge a full inch in my flesh, and my sensations grew indistinct and confused. At one time I fancied myself in Philadelphia with the stately Dr. Moneypenny, at another in the back parlor of Mr. Blackwood receiving his invaluable instructions. And then again the sweet recollection of better and earlier times came over me, and I thought of that happy period when the world was not all a desert, and Pompey not altogether cruel.

The ticking of the machinery amused me. Amused me, I say, for my sensations now bordered upon perfect happiness, and the most trifling circumstances afforded me pleasure. The eternal click-clack, click-clack, click-clack of the clock was the most melodious of music in my ears, and occasionally even put me in mind of the grateful sermonic harangues of Dr. Ollapod.{y} (45) Then there were the great figures upon the dial-plate — how intelligent, how intellectual, they all looked! And presently they took to dancing the Mazurka,{z} and I think it was the figure V who performed the most to my satisfaction. She was evidently a lady of breeding. None of your swaggerers, and nothing at all indelicate in her motions. She did the pirouette to admiration — whirling round upon her apex. I made an endeavor to hand her a chair, for I saw that she appeared fatigued with her exertions — and it was not until then that I fully perceived my lamentable situation. Lamentable indeed! The bar had buried itself two inches in my neck. I was aroused to a sense of exquisite pain. I prayed for death, and, in the agony of the moment, could not help repeating those exquisite verses of the poet Miguel De Cervantes:

Vanny Buren, tan escondida

Query no te senty venny

Pork and pleasure, delly morry

Nommy, torny, darry, widdy!(46)

But now a new horror presented itself, and one indeed sufficient to startle the strongest nerves. My eyes, from the cruel pressure [page 355:] of the machine, were absolutely starting from their sockets. While I was thinking how I should possibly manage without them, one actually tumbled out of my head, and, rolling down the steep side of the steeple, lodged in the rain gutter which ran along the eaves of the main building. The loss of the eye was not so much as the insolent air of independence and contempt with which it regarded me after it was out. There it lay in the gutter just under my nose, and the airs it gave itself would have been ridiculous had they not been disgusting. Such a winking and blinking were never before seen. This behaviour on the part of my eye in the gutter was not only irritating on account of its manifest insolence and shameful ingratitude, but was also exceedingly inconvenient on account of the sympathy which always exists between two eyes of the same head, however far apart. I was forced, in a manner, to wink and to{a} blink, whether I would or not, in exact concert with the scoundrelly thing that lay just under my nose. I was presently relieved, however, by the dropping out of the other eye. In falling it took the same direction (possibly a concerted plot) as its fellow. Both rolled out of the gutter together, and in truth I was very glad to get rid of them.

The bar was now four{b} inches and a half deep in my neck, and there was only a little bit of skin to cut through. My sensations were those of entire happiness, for I felt that in a few minutes, at farthest, I should be relieved from my disagreeable situation. And in this expectation I was not at all deceived. At twenty-five minutes past five in the afternoon precisely, the huge minute-hand had proceeded sufficiently far on its terrible revolution to sever the small remainder of my neck. I was not sorry to see the head which had occasioned me so much embarrassment at length make a final separation from my body. It first rolled down the side of the steeple, then lodged, for a few seconds, in the gutter, and then made its way, with a plunge, into the middle of the street.(47)

I will candidly confess that my feelings were now of the most singular — nay of the most mysterious, the most perplexing and incomprehensible character. My senses were here and there at one and the same moment. With my head I imagined, at one time, that [page 356:] I the head, was the real Signora Psyche Zenobia — at another I felt convinced that myself, the body, was the proper identity. To clear my ideas upon this topic I felt in my pocket for my snuff-box, but, upon getting it, and endeavoring to apply a pinch of its grateful contents in the ordinary manner, I became immediately aware of my peculiar deficiency, and threw the box at once down to my head. It took a pinch with great satisfaction, and smiled me an acknowledgement in return. Shortly afterwards it made me a speech, which I could hear but indistinctly without{c} ears. I gathered enough, however, to know that it was astonished at my wishing to remain alive under such circumstances. In the concluding sentences it {dd}quoted the noble words of Ariosto —{dd}

Il pover hommy che non sera corty

And have a combat tenty erry morty;{e}

{ff}thus comparing me to the hero who, in the heat of the combat, not perceiving that he was dead, continued to contest the battle with inextinguishable valor.{ff} There was nothing now to prevent my getting down from my elevation, and I did so. What it was that Pompey saw so very peculiar in my appearance I have never yet been able to find out. The fellow opened his month from ear to ear, and shut his two eyes as if he were{g} endeavoring to crack nuts between the lids. Finally, throwing off his overcoat, he made one spring for the staircase {hh}and disappeared.{hh} I hurled after the scoundrel those vehement words of Demosthenes —

Andrew O’Phlegethon, you really make haste to fly,

and then turned to the darling of my heart, to the{i} one-eyed! the shaggy-haired Diana. Alas! what{j} horrible vision affronted my eyes? Was that a rat I saw skulking into his hole? Are these the picked bones of the little angel who has been cruelly devoured by the [page 357:] monster? Ye Gods! and what do I {kk}behold — is{kk} that the departed spirit, the shade, the ghost of my beloved puppy, which I perceive sitting with a grace{l} so melancholy,(48) in the corner? Harken! for she speaks, and, heavens! it is the German of Schiller — (49)

“Unt stubby duk, so stubby dun

Duk she! duk she!”

Alas! — and are not her words too true?

And if I died at least I died

For thee — for thee.

Sweet creature! she too has sacrificed herself in my behalf. Dogless! niggerless, headless, what now remains for the unhappy Signora Psyche Zenobia? Alas — nothing! I have done.

 


VARIANTS

[The following variants appear at the bottom of page 336:]

Title:  The Psyche Zenobia with title running title The Signora Psyche Zenobia (A); The Signora Zenobia (B); changed to present title with running title A Blackwood Article (C)

Motto:  First added in C; Cry of the / Cry of (E)

a  Omitted (A, B, C)

[The following variants appear at the bottom of page 337:]

b  our original (A, B, C)

cc . . . cc  Dr. Moneypenny, (A, B) changed in C

[The following variant appears at the bottom of page 338:]

d  the (A)

[The following variants appear at the bottom of page 339:]

e  Omitted (E)

f  granted, madam, (A, B, C)

g  when a (A, B, C)

h  Canceled (C)

i  to (A)

j  an (E)

kk . . . kk  sensa- when entombed before the breath was out of his body — full tions, (D) dropped line

l  of tact, (A, B, C)

[The following variants appear at the bottom of page 341:]

m  Morrison’s (A, B) changed in C

n  the tone sentimental, and the (A, B, C)

o  mystic (A, B, C)

p  one. / one — but requires some skill in the handling. The beauty of this lies in a knowledge of innuendo. Hint all, and assert nothing. If you desire to say ‘bread and butter,’ do not by any means say it outright. You may say any thing and every thing approaching to ‘bread and butter.’ You may hint at ‘buck-wheat cake,’ or you may even go as far as to insinuate ‘oat-meal porridge,’ but, if ‘bread and butter’ is your real meaning, be cautious, my dear Miss Psyche, not on any account to say ‘bread and butter.’ ”

I assured him that I would never say it again as long as I lived. He continued. (A, B, C)

qq . . . qq  Omitted (A, B, C)

r  named (E)

[The following variants appear at the bottom of page 342:]

s  reinem (D, E)

t  Anfangsgrunde (D, E)

uu . . . uu  only mention (A, B, C)

v  metaphysical (A, B, C)

w  the ‘Dial’ / ‘The Sorrows of Werther,’ (A); Coleridge’s Table-Talk (B, C)

x  After this, in A and B: If you know any big words this is your chance for them. Talk of the academy and the lyceum, and say something about the Ionic and Italic schools, or about Bossarion, and Kant, and Schelling, and Fitche, and be sure you abuse a man called Locke, and bring in the words a priori and a posteriori.

In C: If you know any big words this is your chance for them. Talk of the Ionic and Eleatic Schools — of Archytas, Gorgias, and Alcmaeon. Say something about objects and subjects. Be sure and abuse a man called Locke. Turn up your nose at things in general; and when you let slip anything very unconscionably absurd, you need not be at the trouble of scratching it out, but just put in a foot-note and say you are indebted for the above profound observation to the ‘Kritik der reinen Vernunft’ or to the ‘Metaphysische Anfangsgrunde der Naturwissenschaft.’ This will look erudite and at the same time frank.

yy . . . yy  Omitted (A, B, C)

z  inuendo. (D, E) misprint

[The following variants appear at the bottom of page 343:]

a  piquant and (A)

b  it is / is it (A, B, C)

c  Omitted (E)

[The following variants appear at the bottom of page 344:]

d  imtimate (A) misprint

e  without French, (A, B, C)

f  Zaire’ (A, B, C, D, E)

g  Zaire, (A, B, C, D, E)

h  you (E) misprint

i  Zaire. (A, B, C, D, E)

j  Van (A, B, C, D, E) misprint, corrected from original

[The following variants appear at the bottom of page 345:]

k  perceivin (D) misprint

l  no (A, B, C, D, E) corrected from original quotation

m  mosaiques. (A, B); mosäiques. (C, D, E)

n  idea. (E)

o  fellow, you perceive, (A)

p  address (E)

q  Omitted (A)

r  dares (A, B, C)

s  that his (A, B, C)

t  anemonoe (B) changed in C

u  begins (A, B, C)

vv . . . vv  Longinus (A)

[The following variants appear at the bottom of page 346:]

w  Ανερ (A, B, D, E) corrected in C but not followed in later texts

x  φεσγων (A, B, C, D) corrected from E

y  μαχεσεται. (B, D, E) corrected in C but not followed in D

z  pheogon (A, B, C, D) changed to follow E

a  acute (A, B, C)

b  there is / there’s (A, B, C)

cc . . . cc  only offer me (A, B, C)

d  trivial (A, B) changed in C

e  Omitted (A, B, C)

[The following variants appear at the bottom of page 347:]

f  as (A, B, C)

g  took my (A, B) changed in C

h  a (A, B, C)

i  one (E)

A PREDICAMENT

Title:  The Scythe of Time (A, B) changed to present title in C

Motto:  First added in C

[The following variants appear at the bottom of page 348:]

i’ he (D) misprint

j  word (D, E) misprint, corrected from A, B, C

k  am always (E)

l  nigger! (A)

[The following variants appear at the bottom of page 349:]

m  Seignora (E) misprint

n  Singing. (A, B, C)

o  Alceus (A, B, C)

[The following variants appear at the bottom of page 350:]

p  At once I / I (A, B, C)

q  and then (A, B, C)

[The following variants appear at the bottom of page 351:]

r  filthy and / the filthy, the (A, B, C)

r’  gloom (D) misprint

[The following variant appears at the bottom of page 352:]

s  Zaire. (A, B) changed in C which has Beefsteak. without italics

[The following variants appear at the bottom of page 353:]

t  my (A)

u  altercation with Pompey, (A)

v  express (A)

w  upward (E)

[The following variants appear at the bottom of page 354:]

x  Omitted (A, B, C)

y  Morphine. (B, C)

z  Mauzurka, (D) misprint, corrected from A, B, C, E

[The following variants appear at the bottom of page 355:]

a  Omitted (A, B, C)

b  three (A, B, C)

[The following variants appear at the bottom of page 356:]

c  without my (A, B, C)

dd . . . dd  compared me to the hero in Ariosto, who, in the heat of combat, not perceiving that he was dead, continued to fight valiantly dead as he was. I remember that it used the precise words of the poet: (A, B, C)

e  morty. (A, B, C, D) The punctuation of E is adopted

ff . . . ff  Omitted (A, B, C)

g  was (A, B, C)

hh . . . hh  and — I never saw him again. (A, B, C)

i  the cur-tailed, the (A, B, C)

j  what a (E)

[The following variants appear at the bottom of page 357:]

kk . . . kk  behold? Is — is (A, B, C)

l  grace and face (A, B, C)

 


[page 357, continued:]

NOTES

Title:  Poe as a boy was undoubtedly familiar with Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine (founded 1817), since his foster father dealt in imported books and periodicals as well as other merchandise. Credited with being the first periodical in English to publish stories and poems, Blackwood’s provided a source for ideas made use of, one way or another, in many of Poe’s stories.

Motto:  From a speech ascribed to Dr. Johnson’s ghost in Rejected Addresses: or The New Theatrum Poetarum, an enormously popular book published, at first anonymously, in 1812 by James and Horace Smith: “A swelling opening is too often succeeded by an insignificant conclusion . . . The pious hawkers of Constantinople . . . solemnly perambulate her streets exclaiming, ‘In the name of the Prophet — figs!’ ” Horace Smith, who was the author of the 10th address entitled “Johnson’s Ghost” (see Andrew Boyle’s edition, London, 1929, for this and other details), wrote other works that influenced Poe. See the introduction and notes to “A Tale of Jerusalem.”

1.  One suspects Poe had in mind a passage from Sarah Green’s Romance Readers and Romance Writers (1810), which begins with an account of one Margaret Marsham, who exclaims: “What then? To add to my earthly miseries am I to be called Peggy? My name is Margaritta! I am sure that if I am called Peggy again, I shall go into a fit.” The book is not common now, but is the kind of thing Poe might look into. See G. E. Saintsbury, The English Novel (1913), p. 79.

2.  The use of these terms probably reflects Poe’s acquaintance with Godey’s Lady’s Book, which from its first issue had published colored fashion plates and in the issue for January 1834 had published his story “The Visionary.” [page 358:]

3.  Zenobia was a woman of great beauty and intellectual attainments, who could ride, hunt, lead troops and discuss philosophy as well as any man. Upon the death in A.D. 269 or 268 of her husband Odenathus, ruler of Palmyra, who had regained most of Syria from the Persians and restored it to the Roman empire, she became regent. She shortly proclaimed her son (or stepson) Vaballathus emperor, and herself claimed the title of Septimia Zenobia Augusta, which appears on her coinage. She entered into a tenuous alliance with the martial emperor Aurelian but soon attempted to gain independence. Palmyra was besieged and captured, and Zenobia was taken alive. Her courage failed her, and she laid all blame for her revolt on her ministers — one of them Longinus who wrote On the Sublime — and they were executed. Her life was spared, and she was taken to Rome and led as a principal captive in Aurelian’s triumph — like a slave girl exposed in the market — fettered and manacled in shackles of gold, so heavy that she could hardly carry them. She was then allowed to retire to a villa at Tivoli. There are rumors of her interest in Judaism (rather than Christianity) but St. Zenobius, Bishop of Florence in the time, of St. Ambrose, was reputedly her descendant. See Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Chapter XI. The principal sources are her biography ascribed to Trebellius Pollio and that of Aurelian ascribed to Vopiscus in the Scriptores Historiae Augustae. Poe quotes from the latter in “Epimanes” (“Four Beasts in One”).

4.  In old slang “a Greek” may mean a hard drinker, a gambler, or an Irishman; since the lady’s name is not Irish, the reader may choose between the first two meanings.

5.  Henry Peter Brougham (1778-1868), prolific publicist, contributor to the Edinburgh Review from its first issue, founder of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge in 1825, was an outspoken advocate of social causes, and was Lord Chancellor of England from 1830 to 1834. His Discourses of Natural Theology (1835), as well as his vigorous polemics on social and political questions, occasioned much controversy in the press.

6.  Compare Fielding’s Tom Jones, IV, iv, for “the eternal fitness of things,” a phrase traced to the ethical theory of Samuel Clarke (1675-1729).

7.  Poe often puns on the philosopher Kant and cant. He may well have seen a detailed discussion, “Kant in His Miscellaneous Essays,” in Blackwood’s for August 1830.

8.  The Times and Examiner referred to are the London papers.

9.  M. M. Mathews, A Dictionary of Americanisms (2 v., Chicago, 1951), defines “slang-whang” as abusive or ranting utterance. The American Dictionary of Slang (1967) says it came into use in 1834. John Gully (1783-1863) was a prizefighter who later became a Member of Parliament.

10.  The articles mentioned by Mr. Blackwood are genuine, though not all of them appeared in his magazine; most were identified by Lucille King, “Notes on Poe’s Sources” (1930).

11.  “The Dead Alive” was found by A. H. Quinn (Poe, p. 272) in Fraser’s Magazine, April 1834, but the story outlined comes from “The Buried Alive,” published in Blackwood’s, October 1821, and is used in Poe’s “Premature Burial.” [page 359:]

12.  Confession of an English Opium Eater appeared in the London Magazine, beginning in October 1821, and as a book in 1822. The author was Thomas DeQuincey. Poe referred to it in a letter to Thomas W. White, April 30, 1835, and obviously considered it a work of fiction. (Mr. Blackwood’s baboon is well named, for Hollands is gin, which is flavored with juniper berries.)

13.  “The Involuntary Experimentalist,” about a man repairing a boiler which began to be heated, was in Blackwood’s, October 1837.

14.  Passages from the Diary of a Late Physician by Samuel Warren began as a serial in Blackwood’s for August 1830 and later became very popular in book form. The success of the two volumes issued in 1832 led to further chapters, published irregularly in Blackwood’s and gathered in a third volume with the fifth edition in 1837. Poe discussed the Diary when reviewing Warren’s Ten Thousand a Year in Graham’s for November 1841.

15.  “The Man in the Bell,” Blackwood’s, November 1821, was also mentioned in Poe’s letter of April 30, 1835 to White; and probably influenced “The Devil in the Belfry” and the last stanza of “The Bells.” The author, “Thomas Mann,” was really William Maginn.

16.  Poe often quotes “Truth is stranger than fiction” from Byron’s Don Juan, XIV, ci, 1-2: “ ‘Tis strange, — but true; for truth is always strange; / Stranger than fiction.”

17.  Brandreth’s Pills are mentioned also in “Some Words with a Mummy.” They were said to remove “acrimonious humors,” which the makers regarded as the source of almost all ills of the flesh. “Innocent as bread,” they sold for twenty-five cents a box. In the earliest version of the story the reference was to Morrison’s Pills, a “Hygeian Vegetable Universal Medicine.” This was an English remedy, but also made and sold in this country from 1831. The American proprietor was H. Shepheard Moat. Both nostrums were very widely advertised; this note is based on the columns of a single newspaper, the New York Sunday Mercury, April 14, 1844. For other references to these remedies, see “Marginalia,” number 212, SLM, April 1849, p. 222.

18.  The schools are named also in “Bon-Bon.” Archytas of Tarentum was a Pythagorean contemporary of Plato, discussed in Book VIII of Diogenes Laertius. Gorgias of Leontini in Sicily long resided at Athens; he was a Sophist and wrote “On Nature, or the Non-Existent.” His style was flamboyant in the extreme; he is mentioned again in “The Man of the Crowd.” Alcmaeon of Croton was a very minor pupil of Pythagoras, briefly noted by Diogenes Laertius in his Book VIII. Poe mentioned him again in Eureka.

19.  John Locke is mentioned several times in Poe’s tales; here, doubtless, because his Logic would repel mystical ideas.

20.  The “Critique of Pure Reason” (1781) and “Metaphysical Foundations of Natural Science” (1786) by Immanuel Kant.

21.  The Dial, 1840-1844, was the chief organ of the Transcendentalists; the editors were successively Margaret Fuller and Emerson. Reference to it first appeared in Poe’s story in 1845; the earlier texts refer to Goethe’s famous romantic [page 360:] novel or to Coleridge’s Table Talk (1835) compiled by Henry Nelson Coleridge.

22.  Poems (1842) by the younger William Ellery Channing was unfavorably reviewed by Poe in Graham’s for August 1843. The quotation here is somewhat garbled from Channing’s “Thoughts”: “Thou meetest a common man, / With a delusive show of can.” Channing, who later dropped his first name, is still well known as the most eccentric of Emerson’s friends.

23.  Two represents strife and was made the symbol of evil by Pythagoras; compare our expression “the deuce.”

24.  There is a similar comment on the avoidance of the simplicity of “bread-and-butter” in Poe’s review of Richard Henry (later Hengist) Horne’s Orion in Graham’s for March 1844.

25.  The original three muses’ names are traced to Varro, quoted by Servius, in his Commentary on Vergil’s Eclogue VII, 19-21.

26.  On Alpheus see Pomponius Mela, De Situ Orbis, II, 7. The story was that the river went underground in the Peloponnesus and rose in Sicily, at the fountain Arethusa.

27.  Iris persica, a low-growing bulbous iris, notably fragrant, now more frequently found in greenhouses than in gardens.

28.  The Epidendron is a kind of orchid. Poe probably took it from Patrick Keith’s System of Physiological Botany (London, 1816), II, 429, which credits Willdenow. He used it again in “The Thousand-and-Second Tale,” where another botanical item is credited to Keith.

29.  The Chinese novel Ju-Kiao-Li or the Two Fair Cousins (London, 1827) was translated from a French version by M. Abel-Rémusat (Paris, 1826). Poe probably learned of it from Philip Pendleton Cooke’s “Leaves from my Scrapbook,” part III (SLM April 1836, p. 314).

30.  Voltaire’s tragedy Zaïre has no connection with the river Zaire of “Silence — a Fable,” which is the Congo.

31.  The Spanish verses, which have been ascribed to the Valencian Escrivá, are quoted by Cervantes in Don Quixote, II, xxxviii; Professor E. C. Hills told me they have been traced to 1511. See Poe’s “Pinakidia,” number 112, SLM, August 1836. [Edgar C. Knowlton, Jr., in Poe Studies, December 1971, has identified Father Dominique Bouliours as Poe’s immediate source for a number of items in “Pinakidia,” including the stanza quoted here. In the first edition (Paris, 1687) of his work La Manière de bien penser dons des ouvrages d’esprit, Bouhours spells the first word of the stanza, Ven, correctly while all Poe’s authorized texts show the incorrect spelling, Van — possibly originally a typographical error; otherwise, however, except for substituting a comma for Bouhours’ semicolon in the second line, Poe’s text given here follows the spelling and punctuation of Bouhours’ first edition. Bouhours was widely influential in the eighteenth century — in Fraser’s Magazine for September 1834, p. 319, “Father Prout” asks, “Who can pretend to the character of a literary man that has not read . . . Bouhours on La Mannière de bien penser. . .?”] [page 361:]

32.  The Italian lines are not by Ariosto, to whom, both here and in “Pinakidia,” number 102 (SLM, August 1836, p. 579), Poe ascribes them. [Here again Poe’s source is Bouhours; see Knowlton’s article, cited above. Again, Bouhours’ spelling and punctuation (in his first edition) are followed, except that his ampersand in the second line is rendered by a simple e in all Poe’s authorized texts. As Mr. Knowlton points out, John Hoole, in the preface to his eighteenth-century translation of Ariosto’s Orlando Furioso, traces the couplet to faulty recollection of lines in Berni’s version of Bojardo’s Orlando Innamorato. Hoole quotes, with a translation, the entire stanza (II, xxiv, 60) describing Orlando’s “wonderful stroke” which

“sever’d with such art the Pagan foe

(That) the fierce knight, with vigour yet unbroke,

Fought on, though dead, unconscious of the stroke.”]

33.  The German lines are not from Schiller, but are adapted from Goethe’s ballad “Das Veilchen,” which was quoted in George Bancroft’s “Life and Genius of Goethe” in the North American Review, October 1824. Poe quoted them correctly, with a correct ascription, though with a modified translation, as a motto to “The Visionary”; see the notes on that tale, above.

34.  Tortoni’s was a famous restaurant on the Boulevard des Italiens in Paris; there was also a restaurant of the name in New York. The dish mentioned is also named in “Bon-Bon.”

35.  Ignoratio elenchi is the fallacy of irrelevant conclusion; the arguer seeks to gain his point by diverting attention to something extraneous. See John Stuart Mill, System of Logic, V, vii.

36.  The phrase anemonae verborum is not in Lucan, but, as Miss Einma Katherine Norman (AL, March 1934) points out, it is a Latin translation of a phrase in Lucian’s Lexiphanes, section 23. It is given as Lucian’s in a filler in the Southern Literary Messenger, April 1836.

37.  The phrase ascribed to him is not in Silius Italicus, but is from a Latin version of Longinus, the ninth section (IX.14), of On the Sublime. See “Pinakidia,” number 108 (SLM, August 1836, p. 579), where, as in the earliest version of his story, Poe gave the right ascription.

38.  The Greek line is really one of the Monosticha of Menander preserved by Aulus Gellius (The Attic Nights, III, 282, in the Loeb edition), but Francis Bacon in Apophthegms, number 169, ascribed it to Demosthenes. See The Works of Francis Bacon, ed. Spedding, Ellis, Heath (London: Longmans, 1870), vol. VII, p. 118. The “tolerably good translation” is slightly misquoted from Butler’s Hudibras, III, iii. Poe had used both the Greek and the translation in “Pinakidia,” number 94 (SLM, August 1836, p. 578).

39.  The Greek letter phi remotely resembles a chess bishop. Dionysius of Halicarnassus in the fourteenth chapter of De Compositione Verborum discussed the beauty of certain letters of the alphabet.

40.  A Negro servant in “The Man that was Used Up” is also named Pompey, as is a dog in “The Business Man.” [page 362:]

A PREDICAMENT

Title:  The title of the early versions is, of course, a commonplace, but Poe may have remembered “The Scythe of Time mows down” from Paradise Lost, X, 606.

Motto:  Milton, Comus, line 277.

41.  Edina is Edinburgh.

42.  The inn sign of the Pig and Whistle was common.

43.  The idea of viewing a city from a steeple is also considered in “Loss of Breath.” Hawthorne’s “Sights from a Steeple,” which appeared in The Token for 1831, may be an inspiration for the tale, but Miss Snobbs lived in Philadelphia where it was a custom for sightseers to go into the belfry of Independence Hall.

44.  Compare the importance of a key-hole in “The Angel of the Odd.”

45.  Dr. Ollapod is a character in The Poor Gentleman, a farce by George Colman the Younger. The part was sometimes played by William E. Burton, and in the version of Poe’s story published when Poe was working for Burton, the name was changed to Dr. Morphine — suggesting the soporific effect of the parson’s sermons. Ollapod, an abbreviated form of “olla podrida,” primarily means a stew, but is figuratively used for any mixture, such as a literary miscellany. Willis Gaylord Clark began a series in 1835 called “Ollapodiana” for the Knickerbocker Magazine edited by his twin brother Lewis. It is barely possible that in the name Ollapod contemporaries might have seen a slighting allusion to the Clarks, as was suggested by Professor William Whipple (AL, November 1957).

46.  “Pork and pleasure” recalls Dr. Johnson’s famous line in his poem on “A Lady coming of Age”: “Pride and pleasure, pomp and plenty.” Pork in the sense of politician’s plunder seems not to have been used so early as the time of Jackson and Van Buren.

47.  Compare the fate of Toby Dammit in “Never Bet the Devil Your Head.”

48.  Note the rhyme in the canceled passage, “grace and face.”

49.  See text at note 33 and that note, above.

 


[[Footnotes]]

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 335:]

*  John Esten Cooke about 1852, in his lecture Poe as a Literary Critic (edited by N. Bryllion Fagin, 1946), said (p. 11); “This advice, satirically attributed to Mr. Blackwood, Mr. Poe gravely followed . . . He seems to have carefully gleaned from almost every book which he read, whatever might prove useful to him — in which there was certainly nothing to find fault with — and these facts, quotations, and ‘little scraps’ he afterwards introduced into his writings with the ‘downright improviso air’ which he recommends.” Poe himself noted in “Marginalia,” number 78 (Democratic Review, December 1844, p. 585) that “misapplication of quotations is clever, and has a capital effect when well done.” [See also Burton R. Pollin, “Poe’s Tale of Psyche Zenobia: A Reading for Humor and Ingenious Construction,” in Papers on Poe, Essays in Honor of John Ward Ostrom (1972), pp. 92-103.]

  Nathaniel Hawthorne gave her name to a character in The Blithedale Romance (1852) — who represents Margaret Fuller, an assertor of women’s rights — but no connection of Poe’s and Hawthorne’s use, save as from the same historical prototype, is at all probable. Thomas H. McNeal in the Modern Language Quarterly (June 1950) tried to show that Poe’s Zenobia was a satire on Margaret Fuller. Poe’s tale, however, was printed in 1838, while Miss Fuller was still an obscure writer. She did not become well known until she began to edit The Dial in 1840, and the reference to that periodical in Poe’s tale was not inserted until 1845. Critical examination of the dates refutes McNeal’s notion, but it is mentioned without disapproval in The Reader’s Encyclopedia of American Literature (1950).

 


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Notes:

None.


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[S:1 - TOM2T, 1978] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Editions - The Collected Works of Edgar Allan Poe (T. O. Mabbott) (The Psyche Zenobia (How to Write a Blackwood Article))