Text: Thomas Ollive Mabbott (E. A. Poe), “Peter Pendulum (The Business Man),” The Collected Works of Edgar Allan Poe — Vol. II: Tales and Sketches (1978), pp. 480-493 (This material is protected by copyright)


∞∞∞∞∞∞∞


[page 480, continued:]

PETER PENDULUM
(THE BUSINESS MAN)

This little story must have been generally understood, when first published, as a deliberate parody on the Charcoal Sketches of Joseph C. Neal (1807-1847), a Philadelphia editor. These pictures of characters in low life, often with alliterative names, first came out in his own Pennsylvanian and other papers, and were very popular. Collected in book form in 1838, they were even pirated in England. Since Neat is almost completely forgotten, and copies of his books are not common, I quote the following from E. A. Duyckinck:

The forte of Mr. Neal was a certain genial humor, devoted to the exhibition of a peculiar class of citizens falling under the social history description of the genus “loafer.” . . . laggards in the rear of civilization, who lack energy or ability to make an honorable position in the world, and who fall quietly into decay, complaining of their hard fate in the world . . . small spendthrifts, inferior pretenders to fashion, bores, half-developed inebriates . . . enjoying the minor miseries and social difficulties of life . . . Mr. Neal . . . interpreted their ailments, repeated their slang . . . A quaint vein of speculation wrapped up this humorous dialogue . . . The alliterative and extravagant titles of the sketches take off something from the reality . . . it would be painful to . . . laugh at real misery while we may be amused with comic exaggeration.*

Duyckinck reprints “P. Pilgarlick Pigwiggen, Esq.” — a tale of a poetaster, arrested for debt, who consents to accompany an [page 481:] officer to jail “on condition he were taken there by the alley-way.” Neal had a certain wry compassion for his characters, who are never wholly impossible people. Poe’s parody — which is hardly better than its models — is pure burlesque, and, although some of the incidents are founded on fact, others obviously could not happen. Poe’s kindred tale called “Diddling” includes only incidents that probably had really occurred, and is not in Neal’s manner.

The first version of the story was presumably composed shortly before its publication early in 1840. The title and the name of the protagonist were changed and the tale was expanded by the addition of six paragraphs at the end when it appeared in the Broadway Journal five years later. The new material includes something founded on a real event of November 1842. It seems somewhat unlikely that Poe would have written so much new material for his own weekly in the summer of 1845, and it is possible that the tale was revised for one of the papers of which only imperfect files are preserved — the Philadelphia Saturday Museum of 1843 or the New York Sunday Times of 1844.

TEXTS

(A) Burton’s Gentleman’s Magazine, February 1840 (6:87-89); (B) Broadway Journal, August 2, 1845 (2:49-52); (C) Works (1856), IV, 326-335. PHANTASY-PIECES, title only.

The Griswold version (C) is followed as it shows presumably auctorial changes.

The early form was considerably revised for the Broadway Journal. The name Peter Pendulum, already omitted from the title as listed for PHANTASY-PIECES, was omitted from the body of the tale, and in several places Peter Proffit was substituted. Six paragraphs were added at the end.

THE BUSINESS MAN.   [C]   [[n]]   [[v]]

Method is the soul of business. — OLD SAYING.   [[n]]   [[v]]

I{a} am a business man. I am a methodical man. Method is the thing, after all. But there are no people I more heartily despise, [page 482:] than your eccentric fools who prate about method without understanding it; attending strictly to its letter, and violating its spirit.(1) These fellows are always doing the most out-of-the-way things in what they call an orderly manner. Now here — I conceive{b} is a positive paradox.(2) True method appertains to the ordinary and the obvious alone, and cannot be applied to the outré. What definite idea can a body attach to such expressions as “methodical{c} Jack o’ Dandy,” or “a systematical Will o’ the Wisp?”

My notions upon this head might not have been so clear as they are,{d} but for a fortunate accident which happened to me when I was a very little boy. A good-hearted old Irish nurse (whom I shall not forget in my will) took me up one day by the heels, when I was making more noise than was necessary, and, swinging me round two or three times, d——d my eyes for “a shreeking little spalpeen,” and then knocked my head into a cocked hat against the bed-post. This, I say, decided my fate, and made my fortune. A {ee}bump arose{ee} at once on my sinciput, and turned out to be as pretty an organ of order as one shall see on a summer’s day. Hence that positive appetite for system and regularity which has made me the distinguished man of business that I am.

If there is any thing on earth I hate, it is a genius. Your geniuses are all arrant asses — the greater the genius the greater the ass — and to this rule there is no exception whatever. Especially, you cannot make a man of business out of a genius, any more than money out of a Jew, or the best nutmegs out of pine-knots.(3) The creatures are always going off at a tangent into some fantastic employment, or ridiculous speculation, entirely at variance with the “fitness of things,”(4) and having no business whatever to be considered as a business at all. Thus you may tell these characters immediately by the nature of their occupations. If you ever{f} perceive a man setting up as a merchant or a manufacturer; or going into the cotton or tobacco trade, or any of those eccentric pursuits; or getting to be a dry-goods dealer, or soap-boiler, or something of that kind; or pretending to be a lawyer, or a blacksmith, or a physician — anything [page 483:] out of the usual way —{g} you may set him down at once as a genius, and then, according to the rule-of-three, he’s an ass.(5)

Now{h} I am not in any respect a genius, but a regular business man. My Day-book and Ledger will{i} evince this in a minute. They are well kept, though I say it myself; and, in my general habits of accuracy and punctuality, I am not to be beat by a clock. Moreover, my occupations have been always made to chime in with the ordinary habitudes of my fellow-men. Not that I feel{j} the least indebted, upon this score, to my exceedingly weak-minded parents, who, beyond doubt, would have made an arrant genius of me at last, if my guardian angel had not come, in good time, to the rescue. In biography the truth is everything, and in auto-biography it is especially so — yet I scarcely hope to be believed when I state, however solemnly, that my poor father put me, when I was about fifteen years of age, into the counting-house of what he{k} termed “a respectable hardware and commission merchant doing a capital bit of business!” A capital bit of fiddlestick! However, the consequence of this folly was, that in two or three days, I had to be sent home to my button-headed family in a high state of fever, and with a most violent and dangerous pain in the sinciput, all round about my{l} organ of order. It was nearly a gone case with me then — just touch-and-go for six weeks — the physicians giving me up and all that sort of thing. But, although I suffered much, I was a thankful boy in the main. I was saved from being a “respectable hardware and commission merchant, doing a capital bit of business,” and I felt grateful to the protuberance which had been the means of my salvation, as well as to the kind-hearted female{m} who had originally put these means within my reach.{n}

The most of boys run away from home at ten or twelve years of age, but I waited till I was sixteen. I don’t know that I should have {oo}gone, even{oo} then, if I had not happened to hear{p} my old [page 484:] mother talk{p} about setting me up on my own hook in the grocery way. The grocery way! — only think of that! I resolved to be off forthwith, and try and establish myself in some decent occupation, without dancing attendance any longer upon the caprices of these eccentric old people, and running the risk of being made a genius of in the end. In this project I succeeded perfectly well at the first effort, and by the time I was fairly eighteen, found myself doing an extensive and profitable business in the Tailor’s{q} Walking-Advertisement line.

I was enabled to discharge the onerous duties of this profession, only by that rigid adherence to system which formed the leading feature of my mind. A scrupulous method characterized my actions as well as my accounts. In my case, it was method — not money — which made the man: at least all of him that was not made by the tailor whom I served. At nine, every morning, I called upon that individual for the clothes of the day. Ten o’clock found me in some fashionable promenade or other place of public amusement. The precise regularity with which I turned my handsome person about, so as to bring successively into view every portion of the suit upon my back, was the admiration of all the knowing men in the trade. Noon never passed without my bringing home a customer to the house of my employers, Messrs. Cut and Comeagain.(6) I say this proudly, but with tears in my eyes — for the firm proved themselves the basest of ingrates. The little account about which we quarrelled and finally parted, cannot, in any item, be thought over-charged, by gentlemen{r} really conversant with the nature of the business. Upon this point, however, I feel a degree of proud satisfaction in permitting the reader to judge for himself. My bill ran thus:(7)

Messrs. Cut and Comeagain, Merchant Tailors.

To Peter Proffit,{s} Walking Advertiser,{t}     Drs.    

July{u} 10.
To promenade, as usual, and customer brought home,
$00 25    
July 11.
To        do                       do                  do
25    
July 12.

To one lie, second class; damaged black cloth sold for
invisible green,

25    
July 13.

To one lie, first class, extra quality and size; recom-
mending milled sattinet as broadcloth,

75    
July 20.
To purchasing bran new paper shirt collar or dickey,
to set off gray Petersham,(8)

2    
Aug.{v} 15.
To wearing double-padded bobtail frock, (thermome-
ter 706{w} in the shade,)

25    
Aug. 16.
Standing{x} on one leg three hours, to show off new-
style{y} strapped pants(9) at 12 ½ cents per leg per hour,

37 ½
Aug. 17.
To promenade, as usual, and large customer brought home{z}
(fat man,)

50    
Aug. 18.
To        do                      do                (medium size,) 
25    
Aug. 19.

To        do                      do (small man and bad pay,)
6{a}
        ———
        $2 96 ½

The item chiefly disputed in this bill was the very moderate charge of two pennies for the dickey. Upon my word of honor, this was not an unreasonable price for that dickey. It was one of the cleanest and prettiest little dickeys I ever saw; and I have good reason to believe that it effected the sale of three Petershams. The elder partner of the firm, however, would allow me{c} only one penny of the charge, and took it upon himself to show in what manner four of the same sized conveniences could be got out of a sheet of foolscap. But it is needless to say that I stood upon the principle{d} of the thing. Business is business, and should be done in a business way. There was no system whatever in swindling me out of a penny — a clear fraud of fifty per cent. — no method in any respect.{e} I left at once the employment of Messrs. Cut and Comeagain, and set up in the Eye-Sore line by myself — one of the most lucrative, respectable and independent of the ordinary occupations.

My strict integrity, economy, and rigorous business habits, here again came into play. I found myself driving a flourishing trade, and soon became a marked man upon ‘Change.’ The truth is, I never dabbled in flashy matters, but jogged on in the good old sober routine of the calling — a calling in which I should, no doubt, [page 486:] have remained to the present hour, but for a little accident which happened to me in the prosecution of one of the usual business operations of the profession. Whenever a rich old hunks, or prodigal heir, or bankrupt corporation, gets into the notion of putting up a palace, there is no such thing in the world as stopping either of them, and this every intelligent person knows. The fact in question is indeed the basis of the Eye-Sore trade. As soon, therefore, as a building project is fairly afoot by one of these parties, we merchants secure a nice corner of the lot in contemplation, or a prime little situation just adjoining or right in front. This done, we wait until the palace is half-way up, and then we pay some tasty architect to run us up an ornamental mud hovel, right against it; or a Down-East or Dutch Pagoda, {ff}or a pig-sty, or an{ff} ingenious little bit of fancy work, either Esquimau, Kickapoo, or Hottentot,(10) Of course, we can’t afford to take these structures down under a bonus of five hundred per cent. upon the prime cost of our lot and plaster. Can we? I ask the question. I ask it of business men. It would be irrational to suppose that we can. And yet there was a rascally corporation which asked me to do this very thing — this very thing! I did not reply to their absurd proposition, of course; but I felt it a duty to go that same night, and lamp-black the whole of their palace. For this, the unreasonable villains clapped me into{g} jail; and the gentlemen of the Eye-Sore trade could not well avoid cutting my connection when I came out.

The Assault and Battery business, into which I was now forced to adventure for a livelihood, was{h} somewhat ill-adapted{i} to the delicate nature of my constitution; but I went to work in it with a good heart, and found my account, here as heretofore, in those stern habits of methodical accuracy which had been thumped into me by that delightful old nurse — I would indeed be the basest of men not to remember her well in my will. By observing, as I say, the strictest system in all my dealings, and keeping a well-regulated set of books, I was enabled to get over many serious difficulties, and, in the end, to establish myself very decently in the profession. The truth is, that few individuals, in any{j} line, did a snugger little [page 487:] business than I. I will just copy {kk}a page or so out{kk} of my Day-Book; and this will save me the necessity of blowing my own trumpet — a contemptible practice, of which no high-minded man will be guilty. Now, the Day-Book is a thing that don’t lie.

“Jan. 1. — New Year’s day. Met Snap(11) in the street, groggy. Mem — he’ll do. Met Gruff shortly afterwards, blind drunk. Mem — he’ll answer too. Entered both gentlemen in my Ledger, and opened a running account with each.

“Jan. 2. — Saw Snap at the Exchange, and went up and trod on his toe. Doubled his fist and knocked me down. Good! — got up again. Some trifling difficulty with Bag, my attorney. I want the damages at a thousand, but he says that, for so simple a knockdown, we can’t lay them at more than five hundred. Mem — must get rid of Bag — no system at all.

“Jan. 3. — Went to the{l} theatre, to look for Gruff. Saw him sitting in a side box, in the second tier, between a fat lady and a lean one. Quizzed the whole party{m} through an opera-glass, till I saw the fat lady blush and whisper to G.(12) Went round, then, into the box, and put my nose within reach of his hand. Wouldn’t pull it — no go. Blew{n} it, and tried again — no go. Sat down then, and winked at the lean lady, when I had the high satisfaction of finding him lift me up by the nape of the neck, and fling me over into the pit. Neck dislocated, and right leg capitally splintered. Went home in high glee, drank a bottle of champagne, and booked the young man for five thousand. Bag says it’ll do.

“Feb. 15. — Compromised the case of Mr. Snap. Amount entered in Journal — fifty cents — which see.

“Feb. 16. — Cast by that villain, Gruff, who made me a present of five dollars. Cost of suit, four dollars and twenty-five cents. Nett profit — see Journal — seventy-five cents.”

Now, here is a clear gain, in a very brief period, of no less than one dollar and twenty five cents — this is{o} in the mere cases of Snap and Gruff; and I solemnly assure the reader that these extracts are taken at random from my Day-Book. [page 488:]

It’s an old saying, and a true one, however, that money is nothing in comparison with health. I found the exactions of the profession somewhat too much for my delicate state of body; and, discovering, at last, that I was knocked {pp}all out of{pp} shape, so that I didn’t{q} know very well what to make of the matter, and so that{r} my friends, when they met me in the street, couldn’t tell that I was Peter Proffit{s} at all, it occurred to me that the best expedient I could adopt, was to alter my line of business. {tt}I turned my attention, therefore, to Mud-Dabbling, and continued it for some years.{tt}

The worst of this occupation is{t’} that too many people take a fancy to it, and the competition is in consequence excessive. Every ignoramus of a fellow who finds that he hasn’t brains in sufficient quantity to make his way as a walking advertiser, or an eye-sore-prig, or a salt and batter man, thinks, of course, that he’ll answer very well as a dabbler of mud. But there never was entertained a more erroneous idea than that it requires no brains to mud-dabble. Especially, there is nothing to be made in this way without method. I did{u} only a retail business myself, but my old habits of system carried{v} me swimmingly along. I selected my street-crossing, in the first place with great deliberation, and I never put down a broom in any part of the town but that. I took{w} care, too, to have a nice little puddle at hand, which I could{x} get at in a minute. By these means I{y} got to be well known as a man to be trusted; and this is one-half the battle, let me tell you, in trade. Nobody ever failed{z} to pitch me a copper, and got{a} over my crossing with a clean pair of pantaloons. And, as my business habits, in this respect, were{b} sufficiently understood, I never met{c} with any attempt at imposition. I wouldn’t have{d} put up with it, if I had.{e} Never imposing upon [page 489:] any one myself, I suffered{f} no one to play the possum with me. The frauds{g} of the banks {hh}of course I couldn’t{hh} help.(13) Their{i} suspension put{j} me to ruinous inconvenience. These, however, are not individuals, but corporations; and corporations, it is very well known, have neither bodies{k} to be kicked, nor souls(14) to be damned.{l}

I was making money at this business, when, in an evil moment, I was induced to merge{m} in the Cur-Spattering — a somewhat analogous, but, by no means, so respectable a profession. My location, to be sure, was an excellent one, being central, and I had capital blacking and brushes. My little dog, too, was quite fat and up to all varieties of snuff. He had been in the trade a long time, and, I may say, understood it. Our general routine was this; — Pompey, having rolled himself well in the mud, sat upon end at the shop door, until he observed a dandy approaching in bright boots. He then proceeded to meet him, and gave the Wellingtons a rub or two with his wool. Then the dandy swore very much, and looked about for a boot-black. There I was, full in his view, with blacking and brushes. It was only a minute’s work, and then came a sixpence. This did moderately well for a time; — in fact, I was not avaricious, but my dog was. I allowed him a third of the profit, but he was advised to insist upon half. This I couldn’t stand — so we quarrelled and parted.

I next tried my hand at the Organ-grinding for a while, and may say that I made out pretty well. It is a plain, straight-forward business, and requires no particular abilities. You can get a music-mill for a mere song, and, to put it in order, you have but to open the works, and give them three or four smart raps with a hammer. It improves the tone of the thing, for business purposes, more than you can imagine. This done, you have only to stroll along, with the mill on your back, until you see tan-bark in the street, and a knocker wrapped up in buckskin. Then you stop and grind; looking as if you meant to stop and grind till doomsday. Presently a window opens, and somebody pitches you a sixpence, with a request [page 490:] to “Hush up and go on,” &c. I am aware that some grinders have actually afforded to “go on” for this sum; but for my part, I found the necessary outlay of capital too great, to permit of my “going on” under a shilling.

At this occupation I did a good deal; but, somehow, I was not quite satisfied, and so finally abandoned it. The truth is, I labored under the disadvantage of having no monkey — and American streets are so muddy, and a Democratic rabble is so obtrusive, and so full of demnition mischievous little boys.

I was now out of employment for some months, but at length succeeded, by dint of great interest, in procuring a situation in the Sham-Post.(15) The duties, here, are simple, and not altogether unprofitable. For example: — very early in the morning I had to make up my packet of sham letters. Upon the inside of each of these I had to scrawl a few lines — on any subject which occurred to me as sufficiently mysterious — signing all the epistles Tom Dobson, or Bobby Tompkins, or anything in that way. Having folded and sealed all, and stamped them with sham postmarks — New Orleans, Bengal, Botany Bay, or any other place a great way off — I set out, forthwith, upon my daily route, as if in a very great hurry. I always called at the big houses to deliver the letters, and receive the postage. Nobody hesitates at paying for a letter — especially for a double one — people are such fools — and it was no trouble to get round a corner before there was time to open the epistles. The worst of this profession was, that I had to walk so much and so fast; and so frequently to vary my route. Besides, I had serious scruples of conscience. I can’t bear to hear innocent individuals abused — and the way the whole town took to cursing Tom Dobson and Bobby Tompkins, was really awful to hear. I washed my hands of the matter in disgust.”

My eighth and last speculation has been in the Cat-Growing way. I have found this a most pleasant and lucrative business and, really, no trouble at all. The country, it is well known, has become infested with cats — so much so of late, that a petition for relief, most numerously and respectably signed, was brought before the legislature at its late{n} memorable session. The assembly, [page 491:] at this epoch, was unusually well-informed, and, having passed many other wise and wholesome enactments, it crowned all with the Cat-Act. In its original form, this law offered a premium for cat-heads, (fourpence a-piece) but the Senate succeeded in amending the main clause, so as to substitute the word “tails” for “heads.” This amendment was so obviously proper, that the house concurred in it nem. con.(16)

As soon as the Governor had signed the bill, I invested my whole estate in the purchase of Toms and Tabbies. At first, I could only afford to feed them upon mice (which are{o} cheap), but they fulfilled the Scriptural injunction at so marvellous a rate,(17) that I at length considered it my best policy to be liberal, and so indulged them in oysters and turtle. Their tails, at a{p} legislative price, now bring me in a good income: for I have discovered a way, in which, by means of Macassar oil, I can force three crops in a year.(18) It delights me to find, too, that the animals soon get accustomed to the thing, and would rather have the appendages cut off than otherwise. I consider{p’} myself, therefore, a made man, and am bargaining for a country seat on the Hudson.(19)

 


VARIANTS

[The following variants appear at the bottom of page 481:]

Title:  PETER PENDULUM, THE BUSINESS MAN. (A); In C the running title on some pages is Method is the Soul of Business.

Motto:  Not in A

a  My name is Pendulum — Peter Pendulum. I (A)

[The following variants appear at the bottom of page 482:]

b  conceive it (A)

c  “a methodical (A, B)

d  are, nor should I have been so well to do in the world as I am, (A)

ee . . . ee  tremendous bump got up (A)

f  you ever / ever you (A)

[The following variants appear at the bottom of page 483:]

g  way — if ever, in short, you see a conceited fellow running heels-over-head into the patent-blacking, or linen-draping, or dog-meat line, (A)

h  Now my name is Peter Pendulum, and (A)

i  would (A)

j  feel in (A)

k  he ridiculously (A)

l  my big (A)

m  Irish female (A)

n  After this: I shall remember that fine old nurse in my will. (A)

oo . . . oo  even gone just (A)

[The following variants appear at the bottom of page 484:]

pp . . . pp  old Mrs. Pendulum talking (A)

q  Tailors’ (A)

r  gentleman (C) misprint, corrected from A, B

s  Pendulum, (A)

t  Advertisement, (A)

u  July given only once (A)

[The following variants appear at the bottom of page 485:]

v  Aug. given only once (A)

w  206 (A)

x  To standing (A)

y  new-touch (A)

z  home, omitted (C) restored from A, D

a  6 1/4 (A)

b  $2 96 3/4 (A)

c  Omitted (A)

d  principle (A)

e  After this: My organ of order revolted. So, thanks to that kind old Irish lady, (whom I shall be sure to remember in my will,) (A)

[The following variants appear at the bottom of page 486:]

ff . . . ff  or any (A)

g  in (A)

h  was one (A)

i  illy adapted (A)

j  my (A)

[The following variants appear at the bottom of page 487:]

kk . . . kk  out a page or so (A)

l  to the / tot he (B) misprint

m  set (A)

n  Wiped (A)

o  Omitted (A)

[The following variants appear at the bottom of page 488:]

pp . . . pp  out of all (A)

q  did’t (C) misprint, corrected from A, B

r  so that omitted (A)

s  Pendulum (A); Profit (C) misprint, corrected from B and from C above

tt . . . tt  I am now, therefore, in the Mud-Dabbling way, and have been so for some years. (A)

t’  occupation, is, (B, C) corrected from A

u  do (A)

v  carry (A)

w  take (A)

x  can (A)

y  I have now (A)

z  fails (A)

a  gets (A)

b  are (A)

c  meet (A)

d  Omitted (A)

e  did. (A)

[The following variants appear at the bottom of page 489:]

f  suffer (A)

g  rauds (B) misprint

hh . . . hh  I can’t, of course, (A)

i  Their infamous (A)

j  has put (A)

k  posteriors (A)

l  Here A ends, paragraph 18-23 are first known from B

m  merge it (B)

[The following variant appears at the bottom of page 490:]

n  last (B)

[The following variant appears at the bottom of page 491:]

o  which are / whichare (B) misprint

p  the (B)

p’  consider, (C) corrected from B

 


[page 491, continued:]

NOTES

Title:  Peter Pendulum, in the title of the first version, took his name from a character in sketches published by Joseph Dennie in the Farmer’s Museum of Walpole, New Hampshire, about 1795-1799. See the Duyckinck Cyclopædia, I, 562.

Motto:  Lord Chesterfield, in a letter of February 5, 1750, wrote, “Despatch is the soul of business.”

1.  See II Corinthians 3:6, and Romans 7:6, on spirit and letter. There is similar phrasing in Poe’s “Mystification.”

2.  A character in “Lionizing” is called Sir Positive Paradox.

3.  Compare Poe’s model hexameters (Mabbott, I, 393-394) for Jews (money-lenders) and pine-knots.

4.  Compare “How to Write a Blackwood Article” at n. 6.

5.  Some have thought there is a personal allusion to John Allan’s wish to put Poe in his countinghouse. See Agnes Bondurant, Poe’s Richmond (1942), p. 49. [page 492:]

6.  Dr. Kutankumagen is a Russian medico in Dickens’ Mudfog Papers (1838), much given to bleeding patients.

7.  In the first text this bill was made out by Peter Pendulum. [The new name for the narrator may have come from Poe’s associations in Washington. He was there in March 1843 (see Mabbott, I, 553). Professor Pollin has found in the Congressional Globe of March 10, 1843, an account of Mr. Proffit of Indiana (George H. Proffit) speaking on a Naval Appropriations Bill.]

8.  A kind of greatcoat about 1812, named for Viscount Petersham, later fourth Earl of Harrington, who is said to have designed it.

9.  The word “pants” here is earlier than any recorded by lexicographers. See American N & Q, April 1967.

10.  Compare references to bad architecture in “Philosophy of Furniture,” and in Doings of Gotham, Letter V.

11.  Snap is also the name of a character in Poe’s Folio Club.

12.  Compare “The Spectacles”: “. . . the stern decrees of Fashion had, of late, imperatively prohibited the use of the opera-glass to stare at a lady.”

13.  The reference is to the frequent suspension of banks during the Jackson and Van Buren administrations. In a letter to Thomas Wyatt, April 1, 1841 (formerly in the Koester Collection, now at the University of Texas), Poe mentioned deferring his own plans for the “Penn Magazine” and accepting the position offered him at Graham’s because of the bank suspensions. [Professor Joseph J. Moldenhauer published this letter in American Literature, January 1971.]

14.  That corporations have no souls call be traced to a dictum of Sir Edward Coke (1552-1634) in the Case of Sutton’s Hospital, 10 Report 32.

15.  The Sham-Post incident is not in the first version, and seems to have been suggested by a story in the Saturday Evening Post, November 12, 1842:

PENNY ROGUES. The New York Sun says: “A subscriber has shown us several letters received by himself and friends from pretended letter carriers, who thus extorted 18 3/4 cents on each letter from them, as postage. The letters of course proved a hoax, and even the postmark was not imitated.”

The odd sum of money is one and a half New York “shillings” or Spanish-American silver reals. In Poe’s day, Mexican silver circulated in the United States in greater quantity perhaps than our own coins, and was legal tender. New York shillings were still money of account in the Fulton Fish Market in the 1960’s.

16.  Nem[ine] con[tradicente] is “without opposition”; Poe’s dislike of meddling politicians is well known.

17.  The Scriptural injunction, “Be fruitful and multiply,” is in Genesis 1:22.

18.  Macassar oil was a popular hair tonic; the word antimacassar was coined to describe a cloth put on the back of a chair to protect it from the oil. The following is from an article on “Puffing” in the New-York Mirror, June 27, 1835 “What more delicate and insinuating than the manner in which the marvellous effects of the incomparable oil of Macassar are introduced to the reader? And [page 493:] what, in fact, more poetical than that sublime image of the table upon which the oil was spilled by accident, and which was the next day covered with mahogany colored hair?”

19.  Mansions on the Hudson were marks of affluence. Washington Irving’s Sunnyside may still be visited, and General George Pope Morris’s Undercliff was described, with an engraved illustration, in Burton’s, March 1840.

 


[[Footnotes]]

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 480:]

*  E. A. and G. L. Duyckinck, Cyclopledia of American Literature (1855), II, 456.

 


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Notes:

TOM’s speculation about an 1843 printing is confirmed by two reprints discovered since 1978. These occur in the Providence Journal for May 10, 1843 and Manufacturers and Farmers and Providence and Pawtucket Advertiser for May 11, 1843. The publication from which these reprints are taken remains unknown. See John E. Reilly, “The ‘Missing’ Version of Edgar Allan Poe’s ‘The Business Man’,” American Periodicals, IX, 1999, pp. 1-14.


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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) (Peter Pendulum (The Business Man))