Text: Edgar Allan Poe, “Our Late Puzzles,” Alexander’s Weekly Messenger, February 12, 1840, p. 2, col. 5


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[page 2, column 5:]

Our late Puzzles.

Some five or six weeks ago, in an article headed “Enigmatical Conundrumical,” we advanced the opinion that, with a proper method, any really good enigma, conundrum, charade, &c. &c. might be solved, and as apropos to this idea, we mentioned that it would be an easy matter to read any species of writing in which characters or marks, at random, were made use of in place of alphabetical characters — for example, instead of a, let a * always be used; in place of b [[b]], a † &c. &c. We offered, at the same time, by way of evidencing the sincerity of our belief upon the subject, to decypher any English letter sent to us thus written.

We certainly had no idea of the positive row which this challenge would create among all the Enigmatists and Charadists in the land. For the first week or so all went well. One or two very droll-looking hieroglyphical mysteries were sent us, and we gave their translation forthwith. In the meantime we were assailed in some quarters with the charge of gaggery, or more delicately speaking, of humbug. We were told to our teeth that the thing was impossible that we wrote our own puzzles and then solved them. Still we kept on the even tenor of our way, and translated every thing that was offered for translation. But the row increased as the wonder grew, and we find ourselves in a pretty predicament indeed. Do people really think that we have nothing in the world to do but to read hieroglyphics? or that we are going to stop our ordinary business and set up for conjurers? Will any body tell us how to get out of this dilemma? If we don’t solve all the puzzles forwarded, their concocters will think it is because we cannot — when we can. If we do solve them we shall soon have to enlarge our sheet to ten times the size of the Brother Jonathan.

 


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Notes:

This notice was first attributed to Poe by Clarence S. Brigham in Edgar Allan Poe’s Contributions to Alexander’s Weekly Messenger, 1943, p. 37.

Brother Jonathan was a newspaper of the “mammoth” size, with sheets so large that an unfolded one could serve as a tablecloth. That newspaper appears to have been started in July 1839, although it is chiefly known today only through copies printed in 1842 and later. Its large size made collecting and binding multiple issues in the form of a volume impractical, and as a result few copies appear to have survived.


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