Text: Thomas Ollive Mabbott (E. A. Poe), “The System of Doctor Tarr and Professor Fether,” The Collected Works of Edgar Allan Poe — Vol. III: Tales and Sketches (1978), pp. 997-1024 (This material is protected by copyright)


∞∞∞∞∞∞∞


[page 997, continued:]

THE SYSTEM OF DOCTOR TARR AND PROFESSOR FETHER

This story seems to me one of Poe’s best humorous pieces. Many people still find it laughable. There is not a great deal of printed discussion, and that by no means all favorable. Woodberry called it an “absurd madhouse grotesque”; A. H. Quinn thought it clever but “not important,” and Wagenknecht felt that Poe’s “comic use of lunacy . . . comes pretty close to eighteenth-century brutality.”* But it has found enthusiastic admirers, one of whom remarked:

Half a dozen . . . sketches . . . give Poe a real claim as an American humorist . . . “The System of Dr. Tarr and Professor Fether” is so unique in conception that it will live as long as “The Jumping Frog” [of Mark Twain]. On that one story alone Poe’s reputation as a humorist must stand secure.

The originality lies chiefly in having the head of an insane asylum losing his reason but not his wits, and leading his patients into mischief. These patients are not wretched or really pitiable — but amiable folk whose harmless fantasies make them happier than many normal people. There is obviously (as in most of Poe’s stories) an undercurrent of serious thought, but it is not clinical. One of my students, Carole Yasner, compared the remark in “Eleonora” that “the question is not yet settled whether madness [page 998:] is or is not the loftiest intelligence.” In “Marginalia,” number 247 (SLM, June 1849, p. 337), Poe records a fancy that “any individual gifted, or rather accursed, with an intellect very far superior to that of his race . . . would be considered a madman.” The narrator is more of a fool than the madmen he encounters at the asylum.

Among Poe’s sources for his tale are two articles by N. P. Willis, based on his visit to an asylum in Palermo, Sicily, on June 28, 1832. Immediately after the visit he described it in a letter to the New-York Mirror, and later wrote a rather touching story called “The Madhouse of Palermo” based on his earlier account. In his letter Willis wrote:

PALERMO. June 28, — Two of the best-conducted lunatic asylums in the world are in the kingdom of Naples — one at Aversa, near Capua, and the other at Palermo. The latter is managed by a whimsical Sicilian baron, who has devoted his time and fortune to it, and with the assistance of the government, has carried it to great extent and perfection . . . [This] hospital stands in an airy situation in the lovely neighborhood of Palermo. We were received by a porter in a respectable livery, who introduced us immediately to the old baron — a kind-looking man, rather advanced beyond middle life, of manners singularly genteel and prepossessing. “Je suis le premier fou,” said he, throwing his arms out, as he bowed on our entrance. We stood in an open court, surrounded with porticoes lined with stone seats. On one of them lay a fat, indolent-looking man, in clean gray clothes, talking to himself with great apparent satisfaction. He smiled at the baron as he passed . . . (Prose Works, p. 103.)

Taken on a tour of the establishment, Willis saw

the kitchen . . . occupied by eight or ten people all at work, and all, the baron assured us, mad. One man, of about forty, was broiling a steak with the gravest attention. Another, who had been furious till employment was given him, was chopping meat with violent industry in a large wooden bowl. Two or three girls were about, obeying the little orders of a middle-aged man, occupied with several messes cooking on a patent stove . . . We passed from the kitchen into an open court, curiously paved, and ornamented with Chinese grottoes, artificial rocks, trees, cottages, and fountains . . . Everything about us . . . he assured us, was the work of his patients. They had paved the court, built the grottoes and cottages, and painted the walls, under his direction . . . The secret of his whole system, he said, was employment and constant kindness. He had usually about one hundred [page 999:] and fifty patients, and he dismissed upon an average two thirds of them quite recovered.

We went into the apartment of the women. These, he said, were his worst subjects. In the first room sat eight or ten employed in spinning, while one infuriated creature, not more than thirty, but quite gray, was walking up and down the floor, talking and gesticulating with the greatest violence. A young girl of sixteen, an attendant, had entered into her humor, and with her arm put affectionately round her waist, assented to everything she said, and called her by every name of endearment while endeavoring to silence her.

We . . . went out into the court, where eight or ten women in gray gowns of the establishment were walking up and down, or sitting under the trees, lost in thought. (Prose Works, p. 104.)

[Another apartment] opened upon a pretty court, in which a fountain was playing, and against the columns of the portico sat some half dozen patients. A young man of eighteen, with a very pale, scholar-like face, was reading Ariosto. Near him, under the direction of an attendant, a fair, delicate girl, with a sadness in her soft blue eyes that might have been a study for a mater dolorosa, was cutting paste upon a board laid across her lap. She seemed scarcely conscious of what she was about . . . I bowed to her as we took our leave, and she returned it gracefully but coldly. The young man looked up from his book and smiled, the old man lying on the stone seat in the outer court rose up and followed us to the door, and we were bowed out by the baron and his gentle madmen as politely and kindly as if we were concluding a visit with a company of friends (p. 105).

The soothing system in the treatment of the mentally deranged was still something of a novelty, and must have been much discussed when Poe composed his story. Dickens took an interest in it, both in England and in America, where he visited and described asylums at South Boston, Massachusetts, and at Hartford, Connecticut.§ He tells us that at the South Boston establishment (opened for patients in 1839) the resident physician explained that his custom was to “evince a desire to show some confidence, and repose some trust, even in mad people.” The distinguished visitor saw “an elderly female, in as many scraps of finery as Madge Wildfire herself . . . radiant with imaginary jewels,” to whom the doctor introduced him as “the hostess of this mansion [which] . . . requires a great many attendants.” He met other inmates in [page 1000:] similar fashion. “The rest . . . seemed to understand the joke perfectly (not only in this case, but in all the others, except their own), and to be highly amused by it . . . We left each of them in high good humor.” Dickens tells how “Every patient sits down to dinner every day with a knife and fork . . . moral influence alone restrains the more violent among them from cutting the throats of the rest . . . For amusement, they walk, run, fish, paint, read, and ride out . . . in carriages.” The visitor tells of the patients working on the farm and in the garden, and of the ladies’ sewing circle. There was a weekly ball, in which “the doctor and his family, with all the nurses and attendants take . . . part. Dances and marches are performed . . . and . . . some gentleman or lady . . . obliges with a song; nor does it ever degenerate . . . into a screech or howl; wherein, I must confess, I should have thought the danger lay.”

When Dickens visited Hartford, he met a patient, a “little prim old lady,” who asked him questions about long past things as if contemporary, and explained, “I am an antediluvian, sir.” This lady, however, acted oddly, occasionally giving a “skip, smirked and sidled down the gallery in a most extraordinary manner.” He also met a man who had a scheme for recapturing New York for Queen Victoria; a love-sick musician who assured him he merely stayed in the asylum “for a whim”; and a lady who “heard voices in the air” but requested and obtained Dickens’ autograph. “I very much questioned within myself,” Dickens wrote (I, 176), “as I walked through the Insane Asylum, whether I should have known the attendants from the patients.”

Maxwell Morton found something highly similar to part of Poe’s plot in Charles O‘Malley, by Charles Lever, a work Poe reviewed in Graham’s for March 1842. This is “Mr. Sparks’ Story,” which is the thirty-second chapter of Lever’s book.* Young Sparks, while visiting Wales, becomes infatuated with a beautiful young lady named Isabella, whom he sees at the Goat Inn in Barmouth, but of whom he can learn nothing after her departure. Three weeks later he encounters her in a sylvan spot, in a company of [page 1001:] ladies and gentlemen preparing for a picnic. They are presided over by one called “The General,” who invites Sparks to join the party, but takes him aside, and explains it “is a kind of club, . . . where everyone assumes a certain character, and is bound to sustain it.” (It is explained later that The General is “the famous Doctor Andrew Moorville, that had the great madhouse at Bangor,” who gave “his patients every now and then a . . . country party” with numerous “servants” to watch over them.) As in Poe’s story, there is a magnificent feast. But the guests are puzzling to the stupid Mr. Sparks. One man thinks himself a red Indian; a lady thinks she is an hourglass; Isabella, “driven mad by a card playing aunt,” thinks her lover should be the ace of spades; and, when Sparks does not fall in with her fantasy, pulls his whiskers. Immediately:

“Cuckoo, cuckoo,” shouted one; “bow, wow, wow,” roared another; “phiz,” went a third; and in an instant, such a scene of commotion and riot ensued; plates, dishes . . . flew right and left; every one pitched into his neighbour with the most fearful cries, and hell itself seemed broke loose.

Sparks is rescued (by the guards, apparently), but not before one man, who thinks himself a tiger, bites his ear.

Poe has a few types of madmen not mentioned in the sources described, but all are conventional in literature; two come from Pope’s Rape of the Lock. Although in October 1840 he corresponded with the celebrated alienist Dr. Pliny Earle (1809-1892), who was also a poet, no visit to an asylum by Poe can be assumed. The names of his characters are typically French, and some of them are certainly amusingly appropriate.

Poe mentioned the tale as written but not yet published when writing to James Russell Lowell, May 28, 1844, and publication was further delayed for more than a year. The manuscript fortunately [page 1002:] survives, and reveals that someone on the staff of Graham’s Magazine canceled more than one hundred words. The deletions have all now been recorded — they were probably made by Charles J. Peterson, whose Victorian delicacy must amaze modern readers — and are included in the variants by permission of the Trustees of the Pierpont Morgan Library.

TEXTS

(A) Manuscript, before May 28, 1844; (A2) Changes made by an editor in the manuscript; (B) Graham’s Magazine for November 1845 (27 [incorrectly numbered 28]:193-200); (C) Works (1856), IV, 191-209.

The text used is Griswold’s (C) with three obviously auctorial changes. The fairly extensive changes made by Graham’s editor in the manuscript are designated by A2. They are distinguishable, even when mere cancellations, by the color of the ink. Only the B text accents château; in this respect it is followed in our text.

The roll manuscript is traced to the Stephen H. Wakeman Collection, acquired en bloc in 1909 by the first J. Pierpont Morgan. The original roll was about 270 inches long; it has been cut into 64 leaves, averaging 4 or 5 inches each. It is 3 13/16 inches wide. Paper and ink are faded. The manuscript is now bound in full red morocco binding. The original segments of the roll were probably approximately the same length as those in the other roll manuscripts. [We are indebted to J. Rigbie Turner, Assistant Curator of Autograph Manuscripts at the Pierpont Morgan Library, for a recent description of this manuscript.]

THE SYSTEM OF DOCTOR TARR AND PROFESSOR FETHER.   [C]   [[n]]   [[v]]

During the autumn of 18—, while on a tour through the extreme Southern provinces of France, my route led me within a few miles of a certain Maison de Santé, or private Mad House, about which I had heard much, in Paris, from my medical friends. As I had never visited a place of the kind, I thought the opportunity too good to be lost; and so proposed to my travelling companion, (a gentleman with whom I had made casual acquaintance a few days before,) that we should turn aside, for an hour or so, and look through the establishment. To this he objected — pleading haste, in the first place, and, in the second, a very usual horror [page 1003:] at the sight of a lunatic. He begged me, however, not to let any mere courtesy towards{a} himself interfere with the gratification of my curiosity, and said that he would ride on leisurely, so that I might overtake him during the day, or, at all events, during the next. As he bade me good-by, I bethought me that there might be some difficulty in obtaining access to the premises, and mentioned my fears on this point. He replied that, in fact, unless I had personal knowledge of the superintendent, Monsieur Maillard,(1) or some credential in the way of a letter, a difficulty might be found to exist, as the regulations of these private mad-houses were more rigid than the public hospital laws. For himself, he added, he had, some years since, made the acquaintance of Maillard, and would so far assist me as to ride up to the door and introduce me; although his feelings on the subject of lunacy would not permit of his entering the house.

I thanked him, and, turning from the main-road, we entered a grass-grown by-path, which, in half an hour, nearly lost itself in a dense forest, clothing the base of a mountain. Through this dank and gloomy wood we rode some two miles, when the Maison de Santé came in view. It was a fantastic château, much dilapidated, and indeed scarcely tenantable through age and neglect. Its aspect inspired me with absolute dread, and, checking my horse, I half resolved to turn back. I soon, however, grew ashamed of my weakness, and proceeded.

As we rode up to the gate-way, I perceived it slightly open, and the visage of a man peering through. In an instant afterward,{b} this man came forth, accosted my companion by name, shook him cordially by the hand, and begged him to alight. It was Monsieur Maillard himself. He was a portly, fine-looking gentleman of the old school, with a polished manner, and a certain air of gravity, dignity, and authority which was very impressive.

My friend, having presented me, mentioned my desire to inspect the establishment, and received Monsieur Maillard’s assurance that he would show me all attention, now took leave, and I saw him no more. [page 1004:]

When he had gone, the superintendent ushered me into a small and exceedingly{c} neat parlor, containing among other indications of refined taste, many books, drawings, pots of flowers, and musical instruments. A cheerful fire blazed upon the hearth. At a piano, singing an aria from Bellini,(2) sat a young and very beautiful woman, who, at my entrance, paused in her song, and received me with graceful courtesy. Her voice was low, and her whole manner subdued. I thought, too, that I perceived the traces of sorrow in her countenance, which was excessively, although to my taste, not unpleasingly pale. She was attired in deep mourning, and excited in my bosom a feeling of mingled respect, interest, and admiration.

I had heard, at Paris, that the institution of Monsieur Maillard was managed upon what is vulgarly termed the “system of soothing” — that all punishments were avoided — that even confinement was seldom resorted to — that the patients, while secretly watched, were left much apparent liberty, and that most of them were permitted to roam about the house and grounds, in the ordinary apparel of persons in right mind.

Keeping these impressions in view, I was cautious in what I said before the young lady; for I could not be sure that she was sane; and, in fact, there was a{d} certain restless brilliancy about her eyes which half led me to imagine she was not. I confined my remarks, therefore, to general topics, and to such as I thought would not be displeasing or exciting even to a lunatic. She replied in a perfectly rational manner to all that I said; and even her original observations were marked with the soundest good sense; but a long acquaintance with the metaphysics of mania, had taught me to put no faith in such evidence of sanity, and I continued to practice, throughout the interview, the caution with which I commenced it.

Presently a smart footman in livery brought in a tray with fruit, wine, and other refreshments, of which I partook, the lady soon afterwards leaving the room. As she departed I turned my eyes in an inquiring manner towards{e} my host. [page 1005:]

“No,” he said, “oh, no — a member of my family — my niece, and a most accomplished woman.”

“I beg a thousand pardons for the suspicion,” I replied, “but of course you will know how to excuse{f} me. The excellent administration of your affairs here is well understood in Paris, and I thought it just possible, you know —”

“Yes, yes — say no more — or rather it is myself who should thank you for the commendable prudence you have displayed. We seldom find so much of forethought in young men; and, more than once, some unhappy contre-temps has occurred in consequence of thoughtlessness on the part of our visitors. While my former system was in operation, and my patients were permitted the privilege of roaming to and fro at will, they were often aroused to a dangerous frenzy{g} by injudicious persons who called to inspect the house. Hence I was obliged to enforce a rigid system of exclusion; and none obtained access to the premises upon whose discretion I could not rely.”

“While your former system was in operation!” I said, repeating his words — “do I understand you, then, to say that the ‘soothing system’ of which I have heard so much, is no longer in force?”

“It is now,” he replied, “several weeks since we have concluded to renounce it forever.”

“Indeed! you astonish me!”

“We found it, sir,” he said, with a sigh, “absolutely necessary to return to the old usages. The danger of the soothing system was, at all times, appalling; and its advantages have been much over-rated. I believe, sir, that in this house it has been given a fair trial, if ever in any. We did every thing that rational humanity could suggest. I am sorry that you could not have paid us a visit at an earlier period, that you might have judged for yourself. But I presume you are conversant with the soothing practice — with its details.”

“Not altogether. What I have heard has been at third or fourth hand.”

“I may state the system then, in general terms, as one in which [page 1006:] the patients were{h} ménagés,{h‘} humored. We contradicted no fancies which entered the brains of the mad. On the contrary, we not only indulged but encouraged them; and many of our most permanent cures have been thus effected. There is no argument which so touches the feeble reason of the madman as the reductio{i} ad absurdum. We have had men, for example, who fancied themselves chickens. The cure was, to insist upon the thing as a fact — to accuse the patient of stupidity in not sufficiently perceiving it to be a fact — and thus to refuse him any other diet for a week than that which properly appertains to a chicken. In this manner a little corn and gravel were made to perform wonders.”

“But was this species of acquiescence{j} all?”

“By no means. We put much faith in amusements of a simple kind, such as music, dancing, gymnastic exercises generally, cards, certain classes of books, and so forth. We affected to treat each individual as if for some ordinary physical disorder; and the word ‘lunacy’ was never employed. A great point was to set each lunatic to guard the actions of all the others. To repose confidence in the understanding or discretion of a madman, is to gain him body and soul. In this way we were enabled to dispense with an expensive body of keepers.”

“And you had no punishments of any kind?”

“None.”

“And you never confined your patients?”

“Very rarely. Now and then, the malady of some individual growing to a crisis, or taking a sudden turn of fury we conveyed him to a secret cell, lest his disorder should infect the rest, and there kept him until we could dismiss him to his friends — for with the raging maniac we have nothing to do. He is usually removed to the public hospitals.”

“And you have now changed all this — and you think for the better?”

“Decidedly. The system had its disadvantages, and even its dangers. It is now, happily, exploded throughout all the Maisons de Santé of France.” [page 1007:]

“I am very much surprised,” I said, “at what you tell me; for I made sure that, at this moment, no other method of treatment for mania existed in any portion of the country.”

“You are young yet, my friend,” replied my host, “but the time will arrive when you will learn to judge for yourself of what is going on in the world, without trusting to the gossip of others. Believe nothing you hear, and only one half that you see. Now, about our Maisons de Santé, it is clear that some ignoramus has misled you. After dinner, however, when you have sufficiently recovered from the fatigue of your ride, I will be happy to take you over the house, and introduce to you a system which, in my opinion, and in that of every one who has witnessed its operation, is incomparably the most effectual as yet devised.”

“Your own?” I inquired — “one of your own invention?”

“I am proud,” he replied, “to acknowledge that it is — at least in some measure.”

In this manner I conversed with Monsieur Maillard for an hour or two, during which he showed me the gardens and conservatories of the place.

{k} “I cannot let you see my patients,” he said, “just at present. To a sensitive mind there is always more or less of the shocking in such exhibitions; and I do not wish to spoil your appetite for dinner. We will dine. I can give you some veal à la St.{l} Menehoult, with cauliflowers in velouté sauce — after that a glass of{m} Clos de Vougeôt — then your nerves will be sufficiently steadied.”(3)

At six, dinner was announced: and my host conducted me into a large salle à manger, where a very numerous company were assembled — twenty-five or thirty in all. They were, apparently, people of rank — certainly of high breeding — although their habiliments, I thought, were extravagantly rich, partaking somewhat too much of the ostentatious finery of the vieille{n} cour.(4) I noticed that at least two-thirds of these guests were ladies; and some of the latter were by no means accoutred in what a Parisian would consider good taste at the present day. Many females, for example, whose age could not have been less than seventy, were [page 1008:] bedecked with a profusion of jewelry, such as rings, bracelets, and ear-rings, and wore their bosoms and arms shamefully bare. I observed, too, that very few of the dresses were well made — or, at least, that very few of them fitted the wearers. In looking about, I discovered the interesting girl to whom Monsieur Maillard had presented me in the little parlor; but my surprise was great to see her wearing a hoop and farthingale, with high-heeled shoes, and a dirty cap of Brussels lace, so much too large for her that it gave her face a ridiculously diminutive expression. When I had first seen her, she was attired, most becomingly, in deep mourning. There was an air of oddity, in short, about the dress of the whole party, which, at first, caused me to recur to my original idea of the “soothing system,” and to fancy that Monsieur Maillard had been willing to deceive me until after dinner, that I might experience no uncomfortable feelings during the repast, at finding myself dining with lunatics; but I remembered having been informed, in Paris, that the southern provincialists were a peculiarly eccentric people, with a vast number of antiquated notions; and then, too, upon conversing with several members of the company, my apprehensions were immediately and fully dispelled.

The dining-room, itself, although perhaps sufficiently comfortable, and of good dimensions, had nothing too much of elegance about it. For example, the floor was uncarpeted; in France however a carpet is frequently dispensed with. The windows, too, were without curtains; the shutters, being shut, were securely fastened with iron bars, applied diagonally, after the fashion of our ordinary shop-shutters. The apartment, I observed, formed, in itself, a wing of the château, and thus the windows were on three sides of the parallelogram;{o} the door being at the other. There were no less than ten windows in all.

The table was superbly set out. It was loaded with plate, and more than loaded with delicacies. The profusion was absolutely barbaric. There were meats enough to have feasted the Anakim.(5) Never, in all my life, had I witnessed so lavish, so wasteful an expenditure of the good things of life. There seemed very little taste, however, in the arrangements; and my eyes, accustomed to quiet [page 1009:] lights, were sadly offended by the prodigious glare of a multitude of wax candles, which, in silver candelabra, were deposited upon the table, and all about the room, wherever it was possible to find a place. There were several active servants in attendance; and, upon a large table, at the farther end of the apartment, were seated seven or eight people with fiddles, fifes, trombones, and a drum. These fellows annoyed me very much, at intervals, during the repast, by an infinite variety of noises, which were intended for music, and which appeared to afford much entertainment to all present, with the exception of myself.

Upon the whole, I could not help thinking that there was much of the bizarre about every thing I saw — but then the world is made up of all kinds of persons, with all modes of thought, and all sorts of conventional customs. I had {pp}travelled, too, so{pp} much as to be quite an adept in the nil admirari;(6) so I took my seat very coolly{q} at the right hand of my host, and, having an excellent appetite, did justice to the good cheer set before me.

The conversation, in the meantime, was spirited and general. The ladies, as usual, talked a great deal. I soon found that nearly all the company were well educated; and my host was a world of good-humored anecdote in himself. He seemed quite willing to speak of his position as superintendent of a Maison de Santé; and, indeed, the topic of lunacy was, much to my surprise, a favorite one with all present. A great many amusing stories were told, having reference to the whims of the patients.

“We had a fellow here once,” said a fat little gentlemen, who sat at my right — “a fellow that fancied himself a tea-pot; and, by the way, it is not especially singular how often this particular crotchet has entered the brain of the lunatic? There is scarcely an insane asylum in France which cannot supply a human tea-pot. Our gentleman was a Britannia-ware{r} tea-pot,(7) and was careful to polish himself every morning with buckskin and whiting.”{s}

“And then,” said a tall man, just opposite, “we had here, not long ago, a person who had taken it into his head that he was a [page 1010:] donkey — which, allegorically speaking, you will say, was quite true. He was a troublesome patient; and we had much ado to keep him within bounds. For a long time he would eat nothing but thistles; but of this idea we soon cured him by insisting upon his eating nothing else. Then he was perpetually kicking out his heels — so — so —”

“Mr. De Kock!(8) I will thank you to behave yourself!” here interrupted an old lady, who sat next to the speaker. “Please keep your feet to yourself! You have spoiled{t} my brocade!{u} Is it necessary, pray, to illustrate a remark in so practical a style? Our friend, here, can surely comprehend you without all this. Upon my word, you are nearly as great a donkey as the poor unfortunate imagined himself. Your acting is very natural, as I live.”

Mille Pardons! Mam’selle!{v} replied Monsieur De Kock, thus addressed — “a thousand pardons! I had no intention of offending.{w} {x} Ma’mselle Laplace(9) — Monsieur De Kock will do himself the honor of taking wine with you.”

{y}Here Monsieur De Kock bowed low, kissed his hand with much ceremony, and took wine with Ma’mselle Laplace.

“Allow me, mon ami,” now said Monsieur Maillard, addressing myself, “allow me to send you a morsel of this veal à{z} la St. Menehoult — you will find it particularly fine.”

{a} At this instant three sturdy waiters had just succeeded in depositing safely upon the table an enormous dish, or trencher, containing what I supposed to be the “monstrum, horrendum, informe, ingens, cui lumen ademptum.”(10) A closer scrutiny assured me, however, that it was only a small calf roasted whole, and set upon its knees, with an apple in its mouth, as is the English fashion of dressing a hare.

“Thank you, no,” I replied; “to say the truth, I am not particularly partial to veal à{b} la St. — what is it? — for I do not find [page 1011:] that it altogether agrees with me. I will change my plate, however, and try some of the rabbit.“.

{c}There were several side-dishes on the table, containing what appeared to be the ordinary French rabbit — a very delicious morceau, which I can recommend.

“Pierre,” cried the host, “change this gentleman’s plate, and give him a side-piece of this rabbit au-chát.”{d} (11)

“This what?” said I.

“This rabbit au-chát.”{e}

“Why, thank you — upon second thoughts, no. I will just help myself to some of the ham.”

{f}There is no knowing what one eats, thought I to myself, at the tables of these people of the province. I will have none of their rabbit au-chât{g} — and, for the matter of that, none of their cat-au-rabbit{h} either.

“And then,” said a cadaverous-looking personage, near the foot of the table, taking up the thread of the conversation where it had been broken off — “and then, among other oddities, we had a patient, once upon a time, who very pertinaciously maintained himself to be a Cordova cheese,(12) and went about, with a knife in his hand, soliciting his friends to try a small slice from the middle of his leg.”

“He was a great fool, beyond doubt,” interposed some one, “but not to be compared with a certain individual whom we all know, with the exception of this strange gentleman. I mean the man who took himself for a bottle of champagne, and always went off with a pop and a fizz, in this fashion.”

{i} Here the speaker, very rudely, as I thought, put his right thumb in his left cheek, withdrew it with a sound resembling the popping of a cork, and then, by a dexterous movement of the tongue upon the teeth, created a sharp hissing and fizzing, which lasted for several minutes, in imitation of the frothing of champagne.(13) This behavior, I saw plainly, was not very pleasing to [page 1012:] Monsieur Maillard; but that gentleman said nothing, and the conversation was resumed by a very lean little man in a big wig.

“And then there was an ignoramus,” said he, “who mistook himself for a frog; which, by the way, he resembled in no little degree. I wish you could have seen him, sir,” — here the speaker addressed myself — “it would have done your heart good to see the natural airs that he put on. Sir, if that man was not a frog, I can only observe that it is a pity he was not. His croak thus — {jj}o-o-o-ogh — o-o-o-o-gh!{jj} was the finest note in the world — B flat; and when he put his elbows upon the table thus — after taking a glass or two of wine — and distended his mouth, thus, and rolled up his eyes, thus, and winked them with excessive rapidity, thus, why then, sir, I take it upon myself to say, positively, that you would have been lost in admiration of the genius of the man.”

“I have no doubt of it,” I said.

“And then” said somebody else, “then there was Petit Gaillard,(14) who thought himself a pinch of snuff, and was truly distressed because he could not take himself between his own finger and thumb.”

“And then{k} there was Jules Desoulières,{l} who was a very singular genius, indeed, and went mad with the idea that he was a pumpkin. He persecuted the cook to make him up into pies — a thing which the cook indignantly refused to do.(15) For my part, I am by no means sure that a pumpkin pie à la Desoulières{m} would not have been very capital eating, indeed!”{n}

“You astonish me! said I; and I looked inquisitively at Monsieur Maillard.

“Ha! ha! ha!” said that gentleman — “he! he! he! — hi! hil hi! — ho! ho! ho! — hu! hu! hu! — very good indeed! You must not be astonished, mon ami; our friend here is a wit — a drôle — you must not understand him to the letter.”

“And then,” said some other one of the party, “then there was Bouffon Le Grand — another extraordinary personage in his way.(16) He grew deranged through love, and fancied himself possessed [page 1013:] of two heads. One of these he maintained to be the head of Cicero; the other he imagined a composite one, being Demosthenes’ from the top of the forehead to the mouth, and Lord Brougham from the mouth to the chin.(17) It is not impossible that he was wrong; but he would have convinced you of his being in the right; for he was a man of great eloquence. He had an absolute passion for oratory, and could not refrain from display. For example, he used to leap upon the dinner-table thus, and — and —”

{o}Here a friend, at the side of the speaker, put a hand upon his shoulder, and whispered a few words in his ear; upon which he ceased talking with great suddenness, and sank back within his chair.

“And then,” said the friend, who had whispered, “there{p} was Boullard, the tee-totum.(18) I call him the tee-totum, because, in fact, he was seized with the droll, but not altogether irrational crotchet, that he had been converted into a tee-totum. You would have roared with laughter to see him spin. He would turn round upon one heel by the hour, in this manner — so — ”

{q}Here the friend whom he had just interrupted by a whisper, performed an exactly similar office for himself.

“But then,” cried an old lady, at the top of her voice, “your Monsieur Boullard was a madman, and a very silly madman at best; for who, allow me to ask you, ever heard of a human tee totum? The thing is absurd. Madame Joyeuse was a more sensible person, as you know. She had a crotchet, but it was instinct with common sense, and gave pleasure to all who had the honor of her acquaintance. She found, upon mature deliberation, that, by some accident, she had been turned into a chicken-cock; but, as such, she behaved with propriety. She flapped her wings with prodigious effect — so — so — so — and, as for her crow, it{r} was delicious! Cock-a-doodle-doo! — cock-a-doodle-doo — cock-a-doodle-de-doo {ss}doo-dooo{ss}-do-o-o-o-o-o-o-!”

“Madame Joyeuse, I will thank you to behave yourself!” here [page 1014:] interrupted our host, very angrily. “You can either conduct yourself as a lady should do, or you can quit the table forthwith — take your choice.”

The lady, (whom I was much astonished to hear addressed as Madame Joyeuse, after the description of Madame Joyeuse she had just given,) blushed up to the eye-brows, and seemed exceedingly abashed at the reproof.(19) She hung down her head, and said not a syllable{t} in reply. But another and younger lady resumed the theme. It was my beautiful girl of the little parlor!

“Oh, Madame Joyeuse was a fool!”{u} she exclaimed; “but there was really much sound sense, after all, in the opinion of Eugénie Salsafette. She was a very beautiful and painfully modest young lady, who thought the ordinary mode of habiliment indecent, and wished to dress herself, always, by getting outside, instead of inside of her clothes. It is a thing very easily done, after all. You have only to do so — and then so — so — so — and then so — so — so — and then —”

“Mon dieu! Mam’selle Salsafette!”{v} here cried a dozen voices at once. ‘‘What are you about? — forbear! — that is sufficient! — we see, very plainly, how it is done! — hold! hold!“(20) and several persons were already leaping from their seats to withhold{w} Mam’selle Salsafette from putting herself upon a par with the Medicean Venus,(21) when the point was very effectually and suddenly accomplished by a series of loud screams, or yells, from some portion of the main body of the château.

My nerves were very much affected, indeed, by these yells; but the rest of the company I really pitied. I never saw any set of reasonable people so thoroughly frightened in my life. They all grew as pale as so many corpses, and, shrinking within their seats, sat quivering and gibbering with terror, and listening for a repetition of the sound. It came again — louder and seemingly nearer — and then a third time very loud, and then a fourth time with a vigor evidently diminished. At this apparent dying away of the noise, the spirits of the company were immediately regained, and all was life and anecdote as before. I now ventured to inquire the cause of the disturbance. [page 1015:]

“A mere bagatelle,” said Monsieur Maillard. “We are used to these things, and care really very little about them. The lunatics, every now and then, get up a howl in concert; one starting another, as is sometimes the case with a bevy of dogs at night. It occasionally happens, however, that the concerto yells are succeeded by a simultaneous effort at breaking loose; when, of course, some little danger is to be apprehended.”

“And how many have you in charge?”

“At present, we have not more than ten, altogether.”

“Principally females, I presume?”{x}

“Oh, no — every one of them men, and stout fellows, too, I can tell you.”

“Indeed! I have always understood that the majority of lunatics were of the gentler sex.”

“It is generally so, but not always. Some time ago, there were about twenty-seven patients here; and, of that number, no less than eighteen were women; but, lately, matters have changed very much, as you see.”

“Yes — have changed very much, as you see,” here interrupted the gentleman who had broken the shins of Ma’mselle Laplace.(22)

“Yes — have changed very much as you {yy}see!” chimed in the whole company at once.{yy}

{z} “Hold your tongues, every one of you!” said my host, in a great rage. Whereupon the whole company maintained a dead silence for nearly a minute. As for one{a} lady, she obeyed Monsieur Maillard to the letter, and thrusting out her tongue, which was an excessively long one, held it very resignedly, with both hands, until the end of the entertainment.

“And this gentlewoman,” said I, to Monsieur Maillard, bending over and addressing him in a whisper — “this good lady who [page 1016:] has just spoken, and who gives us the cock-a-doodle-de-doo — she, I presume, is harmless — quite harmless, eh?”

“Harmless!” ejaculated he, in unfeigned surprise, “why — why what can you mean?”

“Only slightly touched?” said I, touching my head. “I take it for granted that she is not particularly — not dangerously affected, eh?”

Mon Dieu! what is it you imagine? This lady, my particular old friend, Madame Joyeuse, is as absolutely sane as myself. She has her little eccentricities, to be sure — but then, you know, all old women — all very old women are more or less eccentric!”{b}

“To be sure,” said I — “to be sure — and then the rest of these ladies and gentlemen —”

“Are my friends and keepers,” interrupted Monsieur Maillard, drawing himself up with hauteur — “my very good friends and assistants.”

“What! all of them?” I asked — “the women and all?”

“Assuredly,” he said — “we could not do at all without the women; they are the best lunatic nurses in the world; they have a way of their own, you know; their bright eyes have a marvellous effect; — something like the fascination of the snake, you know.”

“To be sure,” said I — “to be sure!{c} They behave a little odd, eh? — they are a little queer, eh? — don’t you think so?”

“Odd! — queer! — why, do you really think so? We are not very prudish, to be sure, here in the South — do pretty much as we please — enjoy life, and all that sort of thing, you know — ”

“To be sure,” said I — “to be sure.”

“And then, perhaps, this Clos de Vougeôt is a little heady, you know — a little strong — you understand, eh?”

“To be sure,” said I — “to be sure. By-the-by, monsieur, did I understand you to say that the system you have adopted, in place of the celebrated soothing system, was one of very rigorous{d} severity?”

“By no means. Our confinement is necessarily close; but the treatment — the medical treatment, I mean — is rather agreeable to the patients than otherwise.” [page 1017:]

“And the new system is one of your own invention?”

“Not altogether. Some portions of it are referable{e} to Professor Tarr, of whom you have, necessarily, heard; and, again, there are modifications in my plan which I am happy to acknowledge as belonging of right to the celebrated Fether, with whom, if I mistake not, you have the honor of an intimate acquaintance.”

“I am quite ashamed to confess,” I replied, “that I have never even heard the name of either gentleman before.”

“Good Heavens!” ejaculated my host, drawing back his chair abruptly, and uplifting his hands. “I surely do not hear you aright! You did not intend to say, eh? that you had never heard either of the learned Doctor Tarr, or of the celebrated Professor Fether?”

“I am forced to acknowledge my ignorance,” I replied; “but the truth should be held inviolate above all things. Nevertheless, I feel humbled to the dust, not to be acquainted with the works of these, no doubt, extraordinary men. I will seek out their writings forthwith, and peruse them{f} with deliberate care. Monsieur Maillard, you have really — I must confess it — you have really — made me ashamed of myself!”{g}

{hh}And this was the fact.{hh}

“Say no more, my good young friend,” he said kindly, pressing my hand — “join me now in a glass of Sauterne.”

We drank. The company followed our example, without stint. They chatted — they jested — they laughed — they perpetrated a thousand absurdities — the fiddles shrieked — the drum row-de-dowed — the trombones bellowed like so many brazen bulls of Phalaris(23) — and the whole scene, growing gradually worse and worse, as the wines gained the ascendancy, became at length a sort of Pandemonium in petto. In the meantime, Monsieur Maillard and myself, with some bottles of Sauterne and Vougeôt between us, continued our conversation at the top of the voice. A word spoken in an ordinary key stood no more chance of being heard than the voice of a fish from the bottom of Niagara Falls.

“And, sir,” said I, screaming in his ear, “you mentioned something before dinner, about the danger incurred in the old system of soothing. How is that?” [page 1018:]

“Yes,” he replied, “there was, occasionally, very great danger, indeed. There is no accounting for the caprices of madmen; and, in my opinion, as well as in that of Doctor Tarr and{i} Professor Fether, it is never safe to permit them to run at large unattended. A lunatic may be ‘soothed,’ as it is called, for a time, but, in the end, he is very apt to become obstreperous. His cunning, too, is proverbial, and great. If he has a project in view, he conceals his design with a marvellous wisdom; and the dexterity with which he counterfeits sanity, presents, to the metaphysician, one of the most singular problems in the study of mind. When a madman appears thoroughly sane, indeed, it is high time to put him in a straight jacket.”

“But the danger, my dear sir, of which you were speaking — in your own experience — during your control of this house — have you had practical reason to think liberty hazardous, in the case of a lunatic?”

“Here? — in my own experience? — why, I may say, yes. For example: — no very long while ago, a singular circumstance occurred in this very house. The ‘soothing system,’ you know, was then in operation, and the patients were at large. They behaved remarkably well — especially so — any one of sense might have known that some devilish scheme was brewing from that particular fact, that the fellows behaved so remarkably well. And, sure enough, one fine morning the keepers found themselves pinioned hand and foot, and thrown into the cells, where they were attended, as if they were the lunatics, by the lunatics themselves, who had usurped the offices of the keepers.”

“You don’t tell me so! I never heard of anything so absurd in my life!”{j}

“Fact — it all came to pass by means of a stupid fellow — a lunatic — who, by some means, had taken it into his head that he had invented a better system of government than any ever heard of before — of lunatic government, I mean. He wished to give his invention a trial, I suppose — and so he persuaded the rest of the patients to join him in a conspiracy for the overthrow of the reigning powers.” [page 1019:]

“And he really succeeded?”

“No doubt of it. The keepers and kept were soon made to exchange{k} places. Not that exactly either — for the madmen had been free, but the keepers were shut up in cells forthwith, and treated, I am sorry to say, in a very cavalier manner.”

“But I presume a counter revolution was soon effected. This condition of things could not have long existed. The country people in the neighborhood — visitors coming to see the establishment — would have given the alarm.”

“There you are out. The head rebel was too cunning for that. He admitted no visitors at all — with the exception, one day, of a very stupid-looking young gentleman of whom he had no reason to be afraid. He let him in to see the place — just by way of variety — to have a little fun with him. As soon as he had gammoned him sufficiently, he let him out, and sent him about his business.”

“And how long, then, did the madmen reign?”

“Oh, a very long time, indeed — a month certainly — how much longer I can’t precisely say. In the meantime, the lunatics had a jolly season of it — that you may swear. They doffed their own shabby clothes, and made free with the family wardrobe and jewels. The cellars of the château were well stocked with wine; and these madmen are just the devils that know how to drink it. They lived well, I can tell you.”

“And the treatment — what was the particular species of treatment which the leader of the rebels put into operation?”

“Why, as for that, a madman is not necessarily a fool, as I have already observed; and it is my honest opinion that his treatment was a much better treatment than that which it superseded. It was a very capital system indeed — simple — neat — no trouble at all — in fact it was delicious — it was —”

Here my host’s observations were cut short by another series of yells, of the same character as those which had previously disconcerted us. This time, however, they seemed to proceed from persons rapidly approaching.

“Gracious Heavens!” I ejaculated — “the lunatics have most undoubtedly broken loose.”{l} [page 1020:]

“I very much fear it is so,” replied Monsieur Maillard, now becoming excessively pale. He had scarcely finished the sentence, before loud shouts and imprecations were heard beneath the windows; and, immediately afterward,{m} it became evident that some persons outside were endeavoring to gain entrance into the room. The door was beaten with what appeared to be a sledgehammer, and the shutters were wrenched and shaken with prodigious violence.

A scene of the most terrible confusion ensued. Monsieur Maillard, to my excessive astonishment, threw himself under the sideboard.{n} I had expected more resolution at his hands.(24) The members of the orchestra, who, for the last fifteen minutes, had been seemingly too much intoxicated to do duty, now sprang all at once to their feet and to their instruments, and, scrambling upon their table, broke out, with one accord, into “Yankee Doodle,” which they performed, if not exactly in tune, at least with an energy superhuman, during the whole of the uproar.(25)

Meantime, upon the main dining-table, among the bottles and glasses, leaped the gentleman, who, with such difficulty, had been restrained from leaping there before. As soon as he fairly settled himself, he commenced an oration, which, no doubt, was a very capital one, if it could only have been heard. At the same moment, the man with the tee-totum predilections, set himself to spinning around the apartment, with immense energy, and with arms outstretched at right angles with his body; so that he had all the air of a tee-totum in fact, and knocked every body down that happened to get in his way. And now, too, hearing an incredible popping and fizzing of champagne, I discovered at length, that it proceeded from the person who performed the bottle of that delicate drink during dinner. And then, again, the frog-man croaked away as if the salvation of his soul depended upon every note that he uttered. And, in the midst of all{o} this, the continuous braying of a donkey arose over all. As for my old friend, Madame Joyeuse, I really could have wept for the poor lady, she appeared so terribly perplexed. All she did, however, was to stand up in a corner, by [page 1021:] the fire-place, and sing out incessantly, at the top of her {pp}voice, “Cock{pp}-a-doodle-de-dooooooh!”

And now came the climax — the catastrophe of the drama. As no resistance, beyond whooping and yelling and cock-a-doodleing, was offered to the encroachments of the party without, the ten windows were very speedily, and almost simultaneously, broken in. But I shall never forget the emotions of wonder and horror with which I gazed, when, leaping through these windows, and down among us pêle-mêle,{q} fighting, stamping, scratching, and howling, there rushed {rr}a perfect{rr} army of what I took to be Chimpanzees, Ourang-Outangs,(26) or big black baboons of the Cape of Good Hope.{s}

I received a terrible beating — after which I rolled under a sofa and lay still. After lying there some fifteen minutes, however, during which time I listened with all my ears to what was going on in the room, I came to some satisfactory dénouement of this tragedy. Monsieur Maillard, it appeared, in giving me the account of the lunatic who had excited{t} his fellows to rebellion, had been merely relating his own exploits. This gentleman had, indeed, some two or three years before, been the superintendent of the establishment; but grew crazy himself, and so became a patient. This fact was unknown to the travelling companion who introduced me. The keepers, {uu}ten in number,{uu} having been suddenly overpowered, were first well tarred, then carefully feathered, and then shut up in underground cells. They had been so imprisoned for more than a month, during which period Monsieur Malliard had generously allowed them not only the tar and feathers (which constituted his “system”), but some bread and abundance of water. The latter was pumped on them daily. At length, one escaping through a sewer, gave freedom to all the rest.

The “soothing system,” with important modifications, has been resumed at the château; yet I cannot help agreeing with Monsieur Maillard, that his own “treatment” was a very capital [page 1022:] one of its kind. As he justly observed, it was “simple — neat — and gave no trouble at all — not the least.”

I have only to add that, although I have searched every library in Europe for the works of Doctor Tarr and Professor Fether, I have, up to the present day, utterly failed in my endeavors at procuring an edition.

 


VARIANTS

[The following variant appears at the bottom of page 1002:]

Title:  By Edgar A. Poe in small print beneath the title (A); The System of Dr. Tarr and Prof. Fether. (B)

[The following variants appear at the bottom of page 1003:]

a  toward<s> (A); toward (B)

b  afterwards (A)

[The following variants appear at the bottom of page 1004:]

c  excedingly (A)

d  ↑ a ↓ (A)

e  toward<s> (A); toward (B)

[The following variants appear at the bottom of page 1005:]

f  <pardon> ↑ excuse ↓ (A)

g  phrenzy (A)

[The following variants appear at the bottom of page 1006:]

h  <are> ↑ were ↓ (A)

h’ menagés (A, B, C)

i  argumentum (A, B)

j  acquiesence (B) misprint

[The following variants appear at the bottom of page 1007:]

k  Not a new paragraph (A)

l  Omitted (C) restored from A, B

m  Omitted (B)

n  vielle (A, B, C)

[The following variant appears at the bottom of page 1008:]

o  parrallelogram; (A)

[The following variants appear at the bottom of page 1009:]

pp . . . pp  travelled so (A, B)

q  cooly (A)

r  Britania-ware (A)

s  whiting. / whiting. <He held his left arm, generally, extended thus, at right angles from his body; this was the spout. His right rested a-kimbo upon the hip; this was the handle.”> (A2)

[The following variants appear at the bottom of page 1010:]

t  spoilt (A)

u  brocade! <and broken my shins!> (A2)

v  Ma’mselle,” (A); Ma’mselle!” (B)

w  offending. / <breaking your shins> ↑ offending. ↓ (A2)

x  Before this sentence a new paragraph has: <“Of this I am sure”, cried our host, who seemed a man of much amiability. “Monsieur De Kock would never willingly have broken the shins of Ma’mselle Laplace.> (As)

y  Not a new paragraph (A)

z  a (C) accent added from A, B

a  Not a new paragraph (A)

b  a (C)

[The following variants appear at the bottom of page 1011:]

c  Not a new paragraph (A)

d  au-chât.” (A, B)

e  au-chât.” (A, B)

f  Not a new paragraph (A)

g  au-chât (A, B)

h  cat-au-rabbit (A)

i  Not a new paragraph (A)

[The following variants appear at the bottom of page 1012:]

jj . . . jj  oooogh — oooogh! (A)

k  then / then, <“said somebody else, “then> (A)

l  Desoulieres, (C)

m  a la Desouléries. (C) accent and spelling from A, B

n  indeed.” (A)

[The following variants appear at the bottom of page 1013:]

o  Not a new paragraph (A)

p  <and then> ↑ there ↓ (A)

q  Not a new paragraph (A)

r  <my God,> it (A2)

ss . . . ss  dooo — doooo (A)

[The following variants appear at the bottom of page 1014:]

t  sylable (A)

u  fool,” (A)

v  Salsafette,” (A)

w  withold (A, C) corrected from B

[The following variants appear at the bottom of page 1015:]

x  presume.” (A)

yy . . . yy  see,” <repeated the gentleman who had tried to get upon the table.> ↑ chimed in the whole company at once. ↓ (A2)

z  Before this are four paragraphs crossed out by Graham’s editor:

“Yes; have changed very much as you see,” said also the one who had wished to display his capacities as a tee-totum.

“Yes; have changed very much, as you see,” said likewise the person who imitated the bottle of champagne.

“Yes; have changed very much, as you see,” said the man who had played the frog.

“Yes; have changed very much, as you see,” said the old lady who had set up the cock-a-doodle-de-doo. (A2)

a  <the old cock-a-doodle> ↑ one ↓ (A2)

[The following variants appear at the bottom of page 1016:]

b  eccentric.” (A)

c  sure; (A)

d  vigorous (B)

[The following variants appear at the bottom of page 1017:]

e  referrible (A)

f  ↑ them ↓ (A)

g  myself.” (A)

hh . . . hh  Part of the preceding pargraph (A)

[The following variants appear at the bottom of page 1018:]

i  and of (A)

j  life.” (A); life?” (B)

[The following variants appear at the bottom of page 1019:]

k   ↑ ex ↓ change (A)

l  loose!” (A)

[The following variants appear at the bottom of page 1020:]

m  afterwards, (A)

n  <table> ↑ side-board ↓ (A)

o  <all> (A)

[The following variants appear at the bottom of page 1021:]

pp . . . pp  voice, “Cock-a-doodle! — Cock (A)

q  pele-mêle, (A)

rr . . . rr  a<n> ↑ perfect ↓ (A)

s  Hope! (A, B)

t  incited (A)

uu . . . uu  ↑ ten in number, ↓ (A)

 


[page 1022, continued:]

NOTES

Title:  In a letter of May 28, 1844, to James R. Lowell, Poe called the story “The System of Doctors Tar and Fether”; and to E. A. Duyckinck on January 8, 1846, “Tarr and Fether.”

1.  The name Maillard is borne by one of the three captains in George Chapman’s play, The Revenge of Bussy D‘Ambois. Poe quoted from “the vigorous words” of Chapman in “The Assignation” at n. 30. The superintendent’s name is appropriate, for Stanislas-Marie Maillard (1763-1794) was a leader of the captors of the Bastille.

2.  Vincenzo Bellini (1801-1835) is best known for his operas La Sonnambula and Norma both of 1831. For other references to Bellini, see “The Spectacles,” nn. 19 and 21.

3.  Veal a la St. Menehoult is coated with butter and fine bread crumbs, braised and grilled, and a specialty of the province of Champagne. Velouté sauce is a white sauce made with butter, flour, parsley, and white stock; the seasoning should include nutmeg. Clos de Vougeot is a fine red wine of Burgundy. All are mentioned in Poe’s “Lionizing” at n. 18.

4.  Salle à manger — dining room; vieille cour — old court.

5.  See Numbers 13:33: “And there we saw the giants, the sons of Anak.”

6.  The Latin commonplace from Horace, Epistle, I, vi, 1, means “be astonished at nothing.”

7.  The madman resembled one in Pope’s Rape of the Lock, IV, 49-50, “Here living Teapots stand, one arm held out, / One bent; the handle this, and that the spout.”

8.  Paul de Kock (1794-1871) was a popular and sensational French novelist of Parisian life.

9.  Poe borrows the name of Pierre-Simon, Marquis de Laplace (1749-1827), the great French mathematician and astronomer. He is referred to particularly in Eureka.

10.  The Latin phrase, from Æneid, III, 658, means “a horrible malformed huge monster, deprived of light,” and describes the Cyclops blinded by Ulysses. Poe quoted it also in “The Purloined Letter.”

11.  Poe’s French. [page 1023:]

12.  Cordova is not famous for its cheese today, although Poe wrote of it also in “Hans Pfaall.”

13.  Compare Pope’s Rape of the Lock, IV, 54: “And maids, turn’d bottles, called aloud for corks.”

14.  Petit Gaillard may mean, appropriately, jolly little fellow.

15.  Jules Desouliès has a name derived from soulier, shoe, an absurd ingredient for a pie.

16.  Georges-Louis Leclerc de Buffon (1707-1788) was a great naturalist; but bouffon means clown.

17.  The combination of Henry Lord Brougham with Demosthenes is not inappropriate. In Burton’s, July 1839, Poe reviewed a collection of Sketches by Brougham, in which some of his translations from Demosthenes were included. Poe remarked on Brougham’s “intellect, essentially Demosthenic in the almost rude strength, directness, and impetuosity of its operations.” In Burton’s, December 1839, reviewing An Address by Joseph R. Chandler, Poe called Lord Brougham an orator who would please a modern audience more than Demosthenes and Cicero, were they alive again; this remark was later quoted in “Marginalia,” number 112 (Democratic Review, December 1844), Poe referred to Brougham with some frequency; perhaps the first reference in the tales appears in “How to Write a Blackwood Article,” n. 5.

18.  Boullard suggests a connection with boule, a ball, or bouler, to swell — which may be suitable for a spinning top.

19.  Madame Joyeuse is obviously happy in her assumed character. Maxwell Morton (p. 35) points out that the description of her performance is modeled on an incident involving sane characters in the eighty-fourth chapter of Lever’s Charles O‘Malley — an incident Poe copied out and discussed as not very well told in reviewing the book in Graham’s for March 1842, where it appears thus:

“Ah, by-the-by, how’s the Major?”

“Charmingly: only a little bit in a scrape just now. Sir Arthur — Lord Wellington, I mean — had him up for his fellows being caught pillaging, and gave him a devil of a rowing a few days ago.

“ ‘Very disorderly corps yours, Major O’Shaugnessy, said the general; ‘more men up for punishment than any regiment in the service.’

“Shaugh muttered something, but his voice was lost in a loud cock-a-doo-doo-doo, that some bold chanticleer set up at the moment.

“ ‘If the officers do their duty Major O’Shaugnessy, these acts of insubordination do not occur.’

“Cock-a-doo-doo-doo, was the reply. Some of the staff found it hard not to laugh; but the general went on —

“ ‘If, therefore, the practice does not cease, I‘ll draft the men into West India regiments.’

“ ‘Cock-a-doo-doo-doo!’

“ ‘And if any articles pillaged from the inhabitants are detected in the quarters, or about the persons of the troops —’

“ ‘Cock-a-doo-doo-doo!’ screamed louder here than ever.

“ ‘Damn that cock — where is it?’ [page 1024:]

“There was a general look around on all sides, which seemed in vain; when a tremendous repetition of the cry resounded from O’Shaughnessy’s coat-pocket; thus detecting the valiant Major himself in the very practice of his corps. There was no standing this: every one burst out into a peal of laughter; and Lord Wellington himself could not resist, but turned away, muttering to himself as he went — ‘Damned robbers every man of them,’ while a final war-note from the Major’s pocket closed the interview.”

20.  Nothing significant has been noticed about the name of Eugénie Salsafette, perhaps related to salsifis (salsify, or oyster plant). Her aberration is extremely common among deranged people, and no special source for Poe’s use of it need be sought.

21.  The Venus de Medici was the most celebrated nude statue of the goddess at the time Poe wrote. Poe mentions it in “The Assignation.”

22.  For the broken shins of Mademoiselle Laplace, see the variants on page 1010. The Graham’s editor missed this indelicate reference.

23.  For the bull of Phalaris, see “A Decided Loss,” n. 14.

24.  Maillard’s conduct resembles that of a character in “Some Words with a Mummy.”

25.  In Poe’s day “Yankee Doodle” was our most popular national air, but its selection by a French orchestra, even if mad, was certainly extraordinary!

26.  For other references to orangutans see “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” and “Hop-Frog.”

 


[[Footnotes]]

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 997:]

*  Woodberry, Life, II, 162; Quinn, Poe, p. 470; Wagenknecht, Edgar Allan Poe, pp. 57. The story was dramatized for the famous Grand Guignol Theatre in Paris as one of pure horror by André de Lorde, in 1903

  From an anonymous essay, “Poe as a Humorist,” reprinted from the Denver Republican in the Philadelphia Evening Telegraph, July 6, 1911, and referred to in Phillips, Poe the Man, II, 1067.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 998:]

  The letter was first printed in the New-York Mirror, November 23, 1833, as number LXIX of “First Impressions of Europe,” and was collected in Pencillings by the Way (1835) as Letter LXIX. The story (of which I have found no prior periodical publication) was published in Inklings of Adventure (1836), a book Poe reviewed in the Southern Literary Messenger of August 1836, naming the story. The texts of the letter and story are available in Willis’s Prose Works (1845), pp. 103 and 457.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 999:]

§  American Notes for General Circulation (1842), chapters 3 and 5 in vol. I. Dickens’ book as a source for Poe’s tale was pointed out by Maxwell V. Z. W. Morton in A Builder of the Beautiful (1928), and independently noticed. For instance, Professor William Whipple, in Nineteenth Century Fiction, September 1954, referred to it, and suggested that Dickens himself is satirized in Poe’s narrator — something Wagenknecht (Edgar Allan Poe, p. 244) mildly calls “far from proved,” and I think absurd. Nor can I believe, like at least one academic commentator, that Poe’s story satirizes phrenology!

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 1000:]

*  Poe does not allude to this story in his review, but quotes another from the eighty-fourth chapter, which Morton points out is utilized for one incident in “The System of Doctor Tarr and Professor Fether”; see n. 19, below.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 1001:]

  From Franklin II. Sanborn’s Memoirs of Pliny Earle, M.D. (1898), pp. 147-149, I judge that Poe did not call on Earle at Frankford, Pennsylvania, where his patients were gently treated. The correspondence in October 1840 concerned some verses for the projected Penn Magazine. A review of Earle’s Visit to Thirteen Asylums (1841) is described in Graham’s Magazine for May 184 1 as “crowded out” of its columns, but Poe had a kindly notice of his Marathon and Other Poems in the June issue, as well as in “A Chapter on Autography” in the issue of December 1841, and retrospectively mentioned his “very beautiful poetry” in a letter of June 28, 1849.

 


∞∞∞∞∞∞∞


Notes:

None.


∞∞∞∞∞∞∞

[S:1 - TOM3T, 1978] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Editions - The Collected Works of Edgar Allan Poe (T. O. Mabbott) (The System of Doctor Tarr and Professor Fether)