Text: Thomas Ollive Mabbott (E. A. Poe), “The Cask of Amontillado,” The Collected Works of Edgar Allan Poe — Vol. III: Tales and Sketches (1978), pp. 1252-1266 (This material is protected by copyright)


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[page 1252:]

THE CASK OF AMONTILLADO

This is one of the undeniably great stories, by some critics regarded as the finest of all Poe’s tales of horror. It is unsurpassed for subtly ironic touches. The theme is a successful crime, and to many readers it has merely the fascination of one of the unsolved murder stories perennially retold in Sunday newspapers. But Poe made it plain that a moral can be most effectively introduced into a story by subtlety; and “The Cask,” on its surface completely amoral, is perhaps the most moral of his Tales. The murderer at the end remembers that his victim rests in peace. That is something the criminal had been unable to do for fifty years.

Poe probably had long considered a story of this kind. In reviewing for Burton’s Magazine, February 1840, a novel called The Spitfire — one of the nautical tales of Frederick Chamier (1796-1870) — he wrote, “Villains do not always, nor even generally, meet with punishment and shame in reality, and we should have been pleased if Captain Chamier had courageously departed from this common-place fiction and uncommon reality, and exhibited the success of an impudent rogue . . . [instead of attempting to invest] the character of a pirate and a cut-throat with the attributes of a hero and a deserving man.”

A challenge was offered here, as in the themes of “Berenicë” and “William Wilson.” But it was several years before the challenge was met. In 1846 the occasion arose; a bitter quarrel developed between Poe and the cohorts of the vengeful Mrs. Ellet led by Thomas Dunn English and Hiram Fuller.* Fuller attacked Poe in a libelous article in the New-York Mirror for May 26; English, reacting to Poe’s contemptuous “Literati” sketch in Godey’s for July (on sale in mid-June), struck back venomously in the Mirror for June 23, and the hostilities continued for months. Poe longed for revenge, and indeed his extremely immoderate “Reply to English” (in the Spirit of the Times for [page 1253:] July 10 buried that worthy under an avalanche of words. That “The Cask of Amontillado,” published in the first issue of Godey’s after the last installment of the “Literati” papers, was the working out of his immediate emotions can hardly be doubted.

Poe’s story is skillfully told; the offenses of the victim are not revealed. There was insult, there was injury; one phrase about “the lady Fortunato” suggests that a woman may have been concerned. But were we fully informed about what Fortunato did our sympathies would be involved — we might pity him, or some might say “it served him right.” As it is, we are merely spectators of a terrible incident. If pity and terror are aroused, it is by the darker side of human nature per se, exemplified in people whom we have not met.

Poe had an interest in burial alive,§ and knew of it as a punishment. Roman Vestal Virgins, so sacred that it was sacrilege to shed their blood, were immured if proved to be unchaste — something that almost never happened. In Scott’s Marmion, the runaway nun, Constance de Beverley, captured in disguise as a pageboy, suffers this fate.*

Poe’s most immediate source for this element of his tale, however, is obviously “A Man Built in a Wall,” by Joel T. Headley, first published in the Columbian Magazine for August 1844 — the number containing Poe’s “Mesmeric Revelation” — and collected in Headley’s Letters from Italy (1845), a book advertised in the Broadway Journal, June 28, 1845. Headley reported that in the Italian town of Don Giovanni, with a party a party of other visitors to the Church of St. Lorenzo, he was shown a niche in the church wall containing a skeleton discovered by workmen some years before [page 1254:] and left undisturbed. “The frame indicates a powerful man,” says Headley,

and though it is but a skeleton, the whole attitude and aspect give one the impression of a death of agony . . . An English physician was with me, and inured to skeletons as he was, his countenance changed as he gazed on it . . . he made no reply to the repeated questions I put him, but kept gazing, as if in a trance. It was not till after we left that he would speak of it, and then his voice was low and solemn, as if he himself had seen the living burial. Said he, “That man died by suffocation, and he was built up alive in that wall . . . He was packed into the rough wall, and built over, beginning at the feet” . . . By the dim light of lamps, whose rays scarcely reached the lofty ceiling, the stones were removed before the eyes of the doomed man, and measurement after measurement taken, to see if the aperture was sufficiently large . . . At length the opening was declared large enough, and he was lifted into it. The workman began at the feet, and with his mortar and trowel built up with the same carelessness he would exhibit in filling any broken wall. The successful enemy stood leaning on his sword — a smile of scorn and revenge on his features — and watched the face of the man he hated, but no longer feared . . . It was slow work fitting the pieces nicely, so as to close up the aperture with precision . . . With care and precision the last stone was fitted in the narrow space — the trowel passed smoothly over it — a stifled groan, as if from the centre of a rock, broke the stillness — one strong shiver, and all was over. The agony had passed — revenge was satisfied, and a secret locked up for the great revelation day.

A more famous story analogous to Poe’s is “La Grande Bretêche” by Honoré de Balzac. This tells of a jealous husband who, learning that his wife’s lover is hidden in a closet, had it walled up in the presence of the lady. An acknowledged adaptation of Balzac’s story appeared in the Democratic Review, November 1843.

Another probable source has been pointed out in the story “Apropos of Bores” (New-York Mirror, December 2, 1837) “related by the late Joseph Jekyll, Esq.” He had attended a party where a gentleman began by request to recount his adventure in the wine-vaults of Lincoln’s Inn. Having secured safe cellarage there for several pipes of wine from Madeira, he went with a porter to visit the vast cellars of Lincoln’s-Inn-square, twenty feet beneath the square and one hundred and fifty feet from “any dwelling, or populous resort.” The pipes stored there were in perfect condition, but an accident occurred, extinguishing the visitors’ candle. Groping in the dark, they found the door, but the porter turned the key “with such force that it snapped, the head remaining inextricably [page 1255:] secured in the wards.” When the seriousness of their predicament became clear the porter lamented bitterly, but then proposed “Let us stave in one of the wine-pipes . . . that we may forget, in the excitement of wine, the horrible death that awaits us.” They decided against this step, but became more and more convinced that “our mortal remains would not be discovered, until every trace of identity was destroyed.” The narrator finally remarked, “I seized the arm of my companion, and —”

Here one of the guests at the party, noted for his obtuseness, asked loudly, “How do you think, Jekyll, I should have got out?” “You would have bored your way out, to be sure,” Jekyll answered. But at this moment the butler announced that “the ladies were waiting tea for us.” Hence Jekyll never learned how the men in the vault escaped, but the story may well have contributed to Poe’s underground descriptions.

On several occasions Poe took up a challenge to tell a story some other writer could not finish. Here he used from his several sources the vast vault, the pipe of wine, the bones, and the intoxication, but he transmuted his material as only a man of genius can.

The setting of Poe’s story is not stated; to me it seems French, at a time when rapiers were still worn.§ The name of Poe’s narrator, Montresor, is that of an old French family;* he lived in his ancestral domicile (although he did speak of it as “my palazzo”) and he remarked that Fortunato was “in painting and gemmary . . . like his countrymen . . . a quack” — hardly what a fellow Italian would say.

Fortunato’s name is significant, meaning fated as well as lucky; [page 1256:] Luchesi’s name is from that of a Baltimore personage discussed in my notes on “Why the Little Frenchman Wears His Hand in a Sling.” Further comments on these names and on other details are to be found in the endnotes below. Mention of several supposed sources — really peripheral analogues — can be relegated to a footnote here.

Poe’s story was probably written in the late summer or early fall of 1846.

TEXTS

(A) Godey’s Magazine and Lady’s Book for November 1846 (33:216-218); (B) Works (1850), I, 346-352.

Griswold’s version (B) is followed; it shows several important auctorial changes.

THE CASK OF AMONTILLADO.   [B]   [[n]]

The thousand injuries of Fortunato I had borne as I best could; but when he ventured upon insult, I vowed revenge. You, who so well know the nature of my soul, will not suppose, however, that I gave utterance to a threat. At length I would be avenged; this was a point definitively settled — but the very definitiveness with which it was resolved{a} precluded the idea of risk. I must not only punish, but punish with impunity. A wrong is unredressed when retribution overtakes its redresser. It is equally unredressed when the avenger fails to make himself felt as such to him who has done the wrong.(1) [page 1257:]

It must be understood{b} that neither by word nor deed had I given Fortunato cause to doubt my good will. I continued, as was my wont, to smile in his face, and he did not perceive that my smile now was at the thought of his immolation.

He had a weak point — this Fortunato — although in other regards he was a man to be respected and even feared. He prided himself on{c} his connoisseurship in wine. Few Italians have the true virtuoso spirit. For the most part their enthusiasm is adopted to suit the time and opportunity — to practise imposture upon the British and Austrian millionaires. In painting and gemmary Fortunato, like his countrymen, was a quack(2) — but in the matter of old wines he was sincere. In this respect I did not differ from him materially; I was skilful in the Italian vintages myself, and bought largely whenever I could.

It was about dusk, one evening during the supreme madness of the carnival season,(3) that I encountered my friend. He accosted me with excessive warmth, for he had been drinking much. The man wore motley. He had on a tight-fitting parti-striped dress, and his head was surmounted by the conical cap and bells. I was so pleased to see him{d} that I thought I should never have done wringing his hand.

I said to him — “My dear Fortunato, you are luckily met. How remarkably well you are looking to-day!{e} But I have received a pipe of what passes for Amontillado, and I have my doubts.”(4)

“How?” said he. “Amontillado? A pipe? Impossible! And in the middle of the carnival!”

“I have my doubts,” I replied; “and I was silly enough to pay the full Amontillado price without consulting you in the matter. You were not to be found, and I was fearful of losing a bargain.”

“Amontillado!”

“I have my doubts.”

“Amontillado!”

“And I must satisfy them.”

“Amontillado!” [page 1258:]

“As you are engaged, I am on my way to Luchesi.{f} (5) If any one has a critical turn, it is he. He will tell me —”

“Luchesi{g} cannot tell Amontillado from Sherry.”(6)

“And yet some fools will have it that his taste is a match for your own.”

“Come, let us go.”

“Whither?”

“To your vaults.”

“My friend, no; I will not impose upon your good nature. I perceive you have an engagement. Luchesi{h} —”

“I have no engagement; — come.”

“My friend, no. It is not the engagement, but the severe cold with which I perceive you are afflicted. The vaults are insufferably damp. They are encrusted with nitre.”

“Let us go, nevertheless. The cold is merely nothing. Amontillado! You have been imposed upon. And as for Luchesi,{i} he cannot distinguish Sherry from Amontillado.”

Thus speaking, Fortunato possessed himself of my {jj}arm. Putting{jj} on a mask of black silk, and drawing a roquelaire(7) closely about my person, I suffered him to hurry me to my palazzo.

There were no attendants at home; they had absconded to make merry in honor of the time. I had told them that I should not return until the morning, and had given them explicit orders not to stir from the house. These orders were sufficient, I well knew, to insure their immediate disappearance, one and all, as soon as my back was turned.(8)

I took from their sconces two flambeaux, and giving one to Fortunato, bowed him through several suites of rooms to the archway that led into the vaults. I passed down a long and winding staircase, requesting him to be cautious as he followed. We came at length to the foot of the descent, and stood together on{k} the damp ground of the catacombs of the Montresors.

The gait of my friend was unsteady, and the bells upon his cap jingled as he strode. [page 1259:]

“The pipe,” said he.

“It is farther on,” said I; “but observe the white web-work which gleams from these cavern walls.”

He turned towards me, and looked into my eyes with two filmy orbs that distilled the rheum of intoxication.

“Nitre?” he asked, at length.

“Nitre,” I replied. “How long have you had that cough?”

“Ugh! ugh! ugh! — ugh! ugh! ugh! — ugh! ugh! ugh! — ugh! ugh! ugh! — ugh! ugh! ugh!”

My poor friend found it impossible to reply for many minutes.

“It is nothing,” he said, at last.

“Come,” I said, with decision, “we will go back; your health is precious. You are rich, respected, admired, beloved; you are happy, as once I was. You are a man to be missed. For me it is no matter. We will go back; you will be ill, and I cannot be responsible. Besides, there is Luchesi{l} —”

“Enough,” he said; “the cough is a mere nothing; it will not kill me. I shall not die of a cough.”

“True — true,” I replied; “and, indeed, I had no intention of alarming you unnecessarily — but you should use all proper caption. A draught of this Medoc will defend us from the damps.”(9)

Here I knocked off the neck of a bottle which I drew from a long row of its fellows that lay upon the mould.

“Drink,” I said, presenting him the wine.

He raised it to his lips with a leer. He paused and nodded to me familiarly, while his bells jingled.

“I drink,” he said, “to the buried that repose around us.”

“And I to your long life.”(10)

He again took my arm, and we proceeded.

“These vaults,” he said, “are extensive.”

“The Montresors,” I replied, “were a great and numerous family.”

“I forget your arms.”(11)

“A huge human foot d’or, in a field azure; the foot crushes a serpent rampant whose fangs are imbedded in the heel.”(12)

“And the motto?” [page 1260:]

Nemo me impune lacessit.”(13)

“Good!” he said.

The wine sparkled in his eyes and the bells jingled. My own fancy grew warm with the Medoc. We had passed through{m} walls of piled bones,{n} with casks and puncheons intermingling, into the inmost recesses of the catacombs. I paused again, and this time I made bold to seize Fortunato by an arm above the elbow.

“The nitre!” I said; “see, it increases. It hangs like moss upon the vaults. We are below the river’s bed. The drops of moisture trickle among the bones. Come, we will go back ere it is too late. Your cough —”

“It is nothing,” he said; “let us go on. But first, another draught of the Medoc.”

I broke and reached him a flaçon{o} of De Grâve.(14) He emptied it at a breath. His eyes flashed with a fierce light. He laughed and threw the bottle upwards with a gesticulation I did not understand.

I looked at him in surprise. He repeated the movement — a grotesque one.

“You do not comprehend?” he said.

“Not I,” I replied.

“Then you are not of the brotherhood.”

“How?”

“You are not of the masons.”

“Yes, yes,” I said, “yes, yes.”

“You? Impossible! A mason?”

“A mason,” I replied.

“A sign,” he said.{p}

“It is this,” I answered, producing {qq}a trowel from beneath the folds of my roquelaire.{qq}

“You jest,” he exclaimed, recoiling a few paces.(15) “But let us proceed to the Amontillado.”

“Be it so,” I said, replacing the tool beneath the cloak, and again offering him my arm. He leaned upon it heavily. We continued our route{r} in search of the Amontillado. We passed through a [page 1261:] range of low arches, descended, passed on, and descending again, arrived at a deep crypt, in which the foulness of the air caused our flambeaux rather to glow than flame.

At the most remote end of the crypt there appeared another less spacious. Its walls had been lined with human remains, piled to the vault overhead, in the fashion of the great catacombs of Paris.(16) Three sides of this interior crypt were still ornamented in this manner. From the fourth{s} the bones had been thrown down, and lay promiscuously upon the earth, forming at one point a mound of some size. Within the wall thus exposed by the displacing of the bones, we perceived a still interior recess,{t} in depth about four feet, in width three, in height six or seven. It seemed to have been constructed for no especial use within itself, but formed merely the interval between two of the colossal supports of the roof of the catacombs, and was backed by one of their circumscribing walls of solid granite.

It was in vain that Fortunato, uplifting his dull torch, endeavored to pry into the depth of the recess. Its termination the feeble light did not enable us to see.

“Proceed,” I said; “herein is the Amontillado. As for Luches{u} ——”

“He is an ignoramus,” interrupted my friend, as he stepped unsteadily forward, while I followed immediately at his heels. In an instant he had reached the extremity of the niche, and finding his progress arrested by the rock, stood stupidly bewildered. A moment more and I had fettered him to the granite. In its surface were two iron staples, distant from each other about two feet, horizontally. From one of these depended a short chain, from the other a padlock. Throwing the links about his waist, it was but the work of a few seconds to secure it. He was too much astounded to resist. Withdrawing the key I stepped back from the recess.

“Pass your hand,” I said, “over the wall; you cannot help feeling the nitre. Indeed it is very damp. Once more let me implore you to return. No? Then I must positively leave you. But I must first render you all the little attentions in my power.” [page 1262:]

“The Amontillado!” ejaculated my friend, not yet recovered from his astonishment.

“True,” I replied; “the Amontillado.”

As I said these words I busied myself among the pile of bones of which I have before spoken. Throwing them aside, I soon uncovered a quantity of building stone and mortar. With these materials and with the aid of my trowel, I began vigorously to wall up the entrance of the niche.(17)

I had scarcely laid the first tier of the masonry when I discovered that the intoxication of Fortunato had in a{v} great measure worn off. The earliest indication I had of this was a low moaning cry from the depth of the recess. It was not the cry of a drunken man. There was then a long and obstinate silence. I laid the second tier, and the third, and the fourth; and then I heard the furious vibrations{w} of the chain. The noise lasted for several minutes, during which, that I might hearken to it with the more satisfaction, I ceased my labors and sat down upon the bones. When at last the clanking subsided, I resumed the trowel, and finished without interruption the fifth, the sixth, and the seventh tier. The wall was now nearly upon a level with my breast. I again paused, and holding the flambeaux over the mason-work, threw a few feeble rays upon the figure within.

A succession of loud and shrill screams, bursting suddenly from the throat of the chained form, seemed to thrust me violently back. For a brief moment I hesitated — I trembled. Unsheathing my rapier, f began to grope with it about the recess: but the thought of an instant reassured me. I placed my hand upon the solid fabric of the catacombs, and felt satisfied. I reapproached the wall. I replied to the yells of him who clamored. I re-echoed — I aided — I surpassed them in volume and in strength. I did this, and the clamorer grew still.

It was now midnight, and my task was drawing to a close. I had completed the eighth, the ninth, and the tenth tier. I had finished a portion of the last and the eleventh; there remained but a single stone to be fitted and plastered in. I struggled with its weight; I [page 1263:] placed it partially in its destined position. But now there came from out the niche a low laugh that erected the hairs upon my head. It was succeeded by a sad voice, which I had difficulty in recognising as that of the noble Fortunato. The voice said —

“Ha! Ha! ha! — he! he!{x} — a very good joke indeed — an excellent jest. We will have many a rich laugh about it at the palazzo — he! he! he! — over our wine — he! he! he!”

“The Amontillado!” I said.

“He! he! he! — he! he! he! — yes, the Amontillado.(18) But is it not getting late? Will not they be awaiting us at the palazzo, the Lady Fortunato and the rest? Let us be gone.”

“Yes,” I said, “let us be gone.”

For the love of God, Montresor!

“Yes,” I said, “for the love of God!”

But to these words I hearkened in vain for a reply. I grew impatient. I called aloud —

“Fortunato!”

No answer. I called again —

“Fortunato!”

No answer still. I thrust a torch through the remaining aperture and let it fall within. There came forth in return only a jingling of the bells. My heart grew {yy}sick — on account of{yy} the dampness of the catacombs.{z} I hastened to make an end of my labor. I forced the last stone into its position; I plastered it up. Against the new masonry I re-erected the old rampart of bones. For the half of a century no mortal has disturbed them. In páce requiescat!(19)

 


VARIANTS

[The following variant appears at the bottom of page 1256:]

a  resolved, (B) comma deleted to follow A

[The following variants appear at the bottom of page 1257:]

b  understood, (B) comma deleted to follow A

c  upon (A)

d  him, (B) comma deleted to follow A

e  to-day. (A)

[The following variants appear at the bottom of page 1258:]

f  Luchresi. (A)

g  Luchresi (A)

h  Luchresi (A)

i  Luchresi, (A)

jj . . . jj  arm; and putting (A)

k  upon (A)

[The following variant appears at the bottom of page 1259:]

l  Luchresi (A)

[The following variants appear at the bottom of page 1260:]

m  through long (A)

n  skeletons, (A)

o  flaçon (A, B)

p  said. “a sign.” (A)

qq . . . qq  from beneath the folds of my roquelaire a trowel. (A)

r  rout (A)

[The following variants appear at the bottom of page 1261:]

s  fourth side (A)

t  crypt or recess, (A)

u  Luchresi (A)

[The following variants appear at the bottom of page 1262:]

v  Omitted (A)

w  vibration (A)

[The following variants appear at the bottom of page 1263:]

x  he! he! (A)

yy . . . yy  sick; it was (A)

z  catacombs that made it so. (A)

 


[page 1263, continued:]

NOTES

Title:  Amontillado is a very fine light-colored variety of Xeres or Sherry, chiefly from Jerez de Frontera in the south of Spain. For a conjecture regarding Poe’s choice of this particular brand for use in his tale see n. 18 below.

1.  Woodberry (Life, II, 231) characterized Poe’s tale as “a tale of Italian vengeance,” without further comment (compare n. 27 to “The Pit and the Pendulum,” p. 700 above). “Italian vengeance” had for centuries indicated an implacable demand for retribution. This first paragraph of the present tale outlines [page 1264:] the traditionally recognized requirements of that demand. The second sentence suggests that the narrator, Montresor — probably on his deathbed — addresses a father confessor, but Poe’s many subtleties have generated endless discussion, by serious readers, of the person or persons addressed, and of Montresor’s fundamental motive.

2.  Italy was in Poe’s day a great center for production of bogus works of art. Montresor’s words prove that he was not himself an Italian.

3.  Somewhere it has been suggested that Poe conceived the tale during the Carnival season. The Carnival is elaborately celebrated in Italy and France, and, of course, in America as the Mardi Gras, especially at New Orleans and Mobile. But in 1846 Shrove Tuesday fell on February 24, and it is not probable that “The Cask” was written so early in that year. The Carnival in New York the previous year, as described in the Broadway Journal, February 22, 1845, consisted merely of a few sideshows and refreshment stands on Broadway and a good deal of sleighing.

4.  Note that Montresor has not claimed to be an expert on Spanish wines.

5.  This name is spelled “Luchresi” (Look-crazy) in the first version. Dedmond, cited in the introduction, thought it represented Hiram Fuller. For the name Luchesi see p. 471, n. 5, above.

6.  The difficulty of telling Amontillado from (ordinary) Sherry is mentioned in the 1845 versions of “Lionizing.” A pipe is a large cask, containing two hogsheads; note the word in “Apropos of Bores,” quoted in the introduction above.

7.  The roquelaire (roquelaure) is a knee-length cloak, mentioned also in “The Man of the Crowd” at n. 12.

8.  Compare similar orders to servants in “The Purloined Letter,” at n. 6.

9.  Médoc (a French wine) is reputedly hygienic, not fatiguing the head or stomach. See Cora, Rose and Bob Brown, Wine Cook Book (1934), p. 310. The therapeutic value of Médoc is also alluded to in “Bon-Bon.” Commentators unaware of the medicinal value of the wine have been puzzled by Poe’s selection. See the Explicator, November 1966.

10.  The toast is ironic.

11.  Fortunate’s forgetfulness of Montresor’s arms is subtly insulting. (This note is from Sculley Bradley.)

12.  W. M. Forrest (Biblical Allusions in Poe) saw a reminiscence of the prophecy of Genesis 3:14-15: “And the Lord God said unto the serpent . . . I will put enmity between thee and the woman . . . and her seed . . . shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.”

13.  The motto, “No one provokes me with impunity,” is actually the ancient motto of Scotland and that of the Scottish Order of the Thistle. See also on p. 34 above “The Duc de l’Omelette”: “ ‘Sir!’ replied the Duc, ‘I am not to be insulted with impunity!’ ” — and a similar declaration in “The Literary Life of Thingum Bob, Esq.” Poe may have seen the following verses in Carey and Hart’s edition of The Noctes Ambrosianae of “Blackwood” (4 v., Philadelphia, 1843, I, 128) or in the magazine itself (December 1822, p. 702): [page 1265:]

“You ask me, kind Hunt, why does Christopher North

For his crest Thistle, Shamrock, and Rose blazon forth?

The answer is easy: his pages disclose

The splendour, the fragrance, the grace of the Rose;

Yet so humble, that he, though of writers the chief,

In modesty vies with the Shamrock’s sweet leaf;

Like the Thistle! — Ah, Leigh, you and I must confess it,

NEMO ME (is his motto) IMPUNE LACESSET.”

These sources spell “lacessit” with an “e” but the “i” is correct.

14.  De Grâve or Grâves is the name given wines from a city and region of the Bordeaux district of France, known for its gravelly soil. Most of them are white, but a few are red. The name here may well be chosen for a grim pun on the English word grave. Queen Elizabeth made a jest of this kind according to Bacon’s Apophthegms (Spedding edition) 78.(12): “When the Archduke did raise his siege from Grave, the then secretary came to Queen Elizabeth; and the Queen, having intelligence first, said to the secretary, Wot you what? The Archduke is risen from the Grave. He answered, What, without the trumpet of the Archangel? The Queen replied; Yes, without sound of trumpet.”

15.  Poe was not a Mason. The excellent Poe scholar, Dr. Henry Ridgely Evans, a 32° Mason, who was much interested in Continental as well as British and American Masonry, told me he knew of nothing at all like Fortunate’s gesture. That is made up; the trowel is ironic, revealing Montresor as a practical mason, rather than a member of a fraternal Masonic lodge.

16.  The catacombs of Paris are not so famous as those of Rome, but they probably are what Poe actually had in mind. [B. Pollin, Discoveries, p. 34, quotes a letter on “The Catacombs of Paris” that appeared in the “Editor’s Table” of the Knickerbocker for March 1838 that Poe very likely read.] However, efforts to fix the geography of a work of pure fiction do not seem necessary.

17.  Compare the process described in the following paragraphs with Headley’s imaginative account quoted in the introduction above.

18.  Commenting on the many repetitions of the word Amontillado, Professor Charles W. Steele, in the Explicator, April 1960, suggested that Poe — who took courses in both Spanish and Italian at the University of Virginia — might have had a pun in mind, since the Italian ammonticchiato and the Spanish amontanado both in sound remotely resemble the name of the wine and both mean “collected in a heap.” He goes on to say: “The implication of Montresor’s pun can be understood . . . As the climax of the story is reached he causes his victim to repeat the word amontillado (with its inherent play on words) a final time, as if to assure himself that his subtle and superior wit has been fully appreciated . . . The idea of a pun cannot be dismissed. ‘Collected in a heap’ suits very well the pile of bricks revealed at the climax of the story. Poe was an inveterate punster; already a grim pun on ‘mason’ is surely recognizable . . . ”

19.  The jingling was a knell. Montresor’s heart grew sick at his first murder, but he at once dismissed the twinge of his rudimentary conscience. The last words are also ironic. Fortunato had rested in peace for fifty years; Montresor [page 1266:] must always have feared being found out. This view was taken by Robert H. Fossum in the Explicator, November 1958. In the same periodical for November 1961, Dorothy Norris Foote argued that Montresor failed to make clear to his victim the reason for revenge. I accept the idea that Montresor did not escape punishment; but Marvell Felheim in the London Notes and Queries, October 1954, took the opposite view, as did Vincent Buranelli in his Edgar Allan Poe (1961), p. 72. These questions, however, like those mentioned in note 1, will probably always remain moot.

 


[[Footnotes]]

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 1252:]

*  See A. H. Quinn’s account (Poe, chapter 16, especially pp. 497-498 and 501-505); Poe’s letters written to a number of friends between June 15, 1846 and March 11, 1847, with Professor Ostrom’s illuminating notes; and on the Poe-English quarrel, T. O. Mabbott and W. H. Gravely, Jr., in the Princeton University Library Chronicle, V (1944), 107.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 1253:]

  Poe’s “Reply,” dated June 27, was sent to Godey, who “communicated” it to Du Solle and paid ten dollars for its publication.

  This was first pointed out by Albert Mordell in The Erotic Motive in Literature (1919), p. 233 The idea occurred independently to others and was developed — perhaps over-developed — by Francis B. Dedmond (Modern Language Quarterly, June 1954), who gives a detailed account of blows and counter-blows in the press and cites many other references.

§  Compare “Berenicë,” “The Fall of the House of Usher,” and “The Premature Burial.”

*  Scott’s last note for Canto II tells of the bones of an immured person found in the ruins of the Abbey of Coldingham.

  Pointed out by Joseph S. Schick in American Literature, March 1934.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 1255:]

  [Burton Pollin, Discoveries in Poe, pp. 24, 29-30, 31, makes a case for Poe’s indebtedness to Victor Hugo’s Notre-Dame de Paris both in its description of the “subterraneous vaults” used as dungeons below the Palais de Justice and in a brief single passage he thinks may have suggested to Poe the name Fortunato, the basic idea of self-destructive drunkenness, and the word “cask” in both title and plot.]

§  A good many people, however, have supposed that the scene was Italy; one even suggested that the locale was Venice.

*  Montrésor — John — was also the name of a British military engineer with a long and distinguished service (1754-1778) in the American colonies, constructing fortifications. In the area of New York City he was regarded as a villain, said to be the original of Montraville, the fictional seducer of Charlotte Temple in Susannah Haswell Rowson’s famous novel, and known to have been the bearer from Howe to the American lines of the news of the execution of Nathan Hale.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 1256:]

  Dedmond (N & Q, London, May 10, 1952) mentioned “A Tun of Red Wine,” in Burton’s Gentleman’s Magazine, May 1838, in which a party of soldiers, entering a cellar where there had been a combat, find a dead man in a tun of red wine. Killis Campbell (Mind of Poe, p. 70) compared Bulwer’s Last Days of Pompeii, Book IV, chapter 13, where victims are locked behind doors in vaults. It is doubtful that Poe ever knew of a “Parisian bravo” named Poulailler who walled up an unfaithful follower, mentioned by Alan Lang Strout in the London Times Literary Supplement, January 8, 1938 — or of the legend of an immurement on an island in Boston Harbor, told by Edward Rowe Snow in the Yankee, April 1961.

 


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Notes:

None.


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[S:1 - TOM3T, 1978] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Editions - The Collected Works of Edgar Allan Poe (T. O. Mabbott) (The Cask of Amontillado)