Text: Edgar Allan Poe, “Fifty Suggestions (Part II),” Graham’s Magazine, June 1849, pp. 363-364


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[page 363, unnumbered:]

FIFTY SUGGESTIONS.

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BY EDGAR A. POE.

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(Concluded from page 319.)

[column 1:]

26.

The taste manifested by our transcendental poets, is to be treated “reverentially,” beyond doubt, as one of Mr. Emerson’s friends suggests — for the fact is, it is Taste on her death-bed — Taste kicking in articulo mortis.

27.

I should not say, of Taglioni, exactly that she dances, but that she laughs with her arms and legs, and that if she takes vengeance on her present oppressors, she will be amply justified by the lex Talionis.

28.

The world is infested, just now, by a new sect of philosophers, who have not yet suspected themselves of forming a sect, and who, consequently, have adopted no name. They are the Believers in everything Old. Their High Priest in the East, is Charles Fourier — in the West, Horace Greeley; and high priests they are to some purpose. The only common bond among the sect, is Credulity: — let us call it Insanity at once, and be done with it. Ask any one of them why he believes this or that, and, if he be conscientious, (ignorant people usually are,) he will make you very much such a reply as Talleyrand made when asked why he believed in the Bible. “I believe in it first,” said he, “because I am Bishop of Autun; and, secondly, because I know nothing about it at all.” What these philosophers call “argument,” is a way they have “de nier ce qui est et d’expliquer ce qui n’est pas.”*

29.

K———, the publisher, trying to be critical, talks about books pretty much as a washerwoman would about Niagara falls or a poulterer about a phoenix.

30.

The ingenuity of critical malice would often be laughable but for the disgust which, even in the most perverted spirits, injustice never fails to excite. A common trick is that of decrying, impliedly, the higher, by insisting upon the lower, merits of an author. Macaulay, for example, deeply feeling how much critical acumen is enforced by cautious attention to the mere “ rhetoric “ which is its vehicle, has at length become the best of modern rhetoricians. His brother reviewers — anonymous, of course, and likely to remain so forever — extol “ the acumen of Carlyle, the analysis of Schlegel, and the style of Macaulay.” Bancroft is a philosophical historian; but no amount of philosophy has yet taught him to despise a minute accuracy in point of fact. His brother historians talk of “ the grace of Prescott, the erudition of Gibbon, and the painstaking precision of Bancroft.” Tennyson, perceiving how vividly an imaginative effect is aided, now and then, by a certain quaintness judiciously introduced, brings this latter, at times, in support of his most glorious and most delicate imagination: — whereupon his brother poets hasten to laud the imagination of Mr. Somebody whom nobody imagined to have any, “ and the somewhat affected quaintness of Tennyson.” — Let the noblest poet add to his other excellences — if he dares — that of faultless versification and scrupulous attention to grammar, he is damned at once. His rivals have it in their power to discourse of “ A. the true poet, and B. the versifier and disciple of Lindley Murray.”

31.

The goddess Laverna, who is a head without a body, could not do better, perhaps, than make advances to “La Jeune France,” which, for some years to come at least, must otherwise remain a body without a head.

32.

H——— calls his verse a “poem,” very much as Francis the First bestowed the title, mes deserts, upon his snug little deer-park at Fontainebleau. [column 2:]

33.

Mr. A——— is frequently spoken of as “one of our most industrious writers;” and, in fact, when we consider how much he has written, we perceive, at once, that he must have been industrious, or he could never (like an honest woman as he is) have so thoroughly succeeded in keeping himself from being “talked about.”

34.

That a cause leads to an effect, is scarcely more certain than that, so far as Morals are concerned, a repetition of effect tends to the generation of cause. Herein lies the principle of what we so vaguely term “Habit.”

35.

With the exception of Tennyson’s “Locksley Hall,” I have never read a poem combining so much of the fiercest passion with so much of, the most delicate imagination, as the “Lady Geraldine’s Courtship” of Miss Barrett. I am forced to admit, however, that the latter work is a palpable imitation of the former, which it surpasses in thesis as much as it falls below it in a certain calm energy, lustrous and indomitable — such as we might imagine in a broad river of molten gold.

36.

What has become of the inferior planet which Decuppis, about nine years ago, declared he saw traversing the disc of the sun? [page 364:]

37.

“Ignorance is bliss “ — but, that the bliss be real, the ignorance must be so profound as not to suspect itself ignorant. With this understanding, Boileau’s line may be read thus:

Le plus fou toujours est le plus satisfait,

— “toujours” in place of “souvent.”

38.

Bryant and Street are both, essentially, descriptive poets; and descriptive poetry, even in its happiest manifestation, is not of the highest order. But the distinction between Bryant and Street is very broad. While the former, in reproducing the sensible images of Nature, reproduces the sentiments with which he regards them, the latter gives us the images and nothing beyond. He never forces us to feel what we feel he must have felt.

39.

In lauding Beauty, Genius merely evinces a filial affection. To Genius Beauty gives life — reaping often a reward in Immortality.

40.

And this is the “American Drama “ of Well! — that “Conscience which makes cowards of us all” will permit me to say, in praise of the performance, only that it is not quite so bad as I expected it to be. But then I always expect too much.

41.

What we feel to be Fancy will be found fanciful still, whatever be the theme which engages it. No subject exalts it into Imagination. When Moore is termed “ a fanciful poet,” the epithet is applied with precision. He is. He is fanciful in “ Lalla Rookh,” and had he written the’’Inferno,” in the “ Inferno “ he would have contrived to be still fanciful and nothing beyond.

42.

When we speak of “a suspicious man,” we may mean either one who suspects, or one to be suspected. Our language needs either the adjective “suspectful,” or the adjective “suspectable.”

43.

“To love,” says Spenser, “ is

To fawn, to crouch, to wait, to ride, to run,

To speed, to give, to want, to be undone.”

The philosophy, here, might be rendered more profound, by the mere omission of a comma. We all know the willing blindness — the voluntary madness of Love. We express this in thus punctuating the last line:

To speed, to give — to want to be undone.

It is a case, in short, where we gain a point by omitting it. [column 2:]

44.

Miss Edgeworth seems to have had only an approximate comprehension of “Fashion,” for she says: “If it was the fashion to burn me, and I at the stake, I hardly know ten persons of my acquaintance who would refuse to throw on a fagot.”

There are many who, in such a case, would “refuse to throw on a fagot” — for fear of smothering out the fire.

45.

I am beginning to think with Horsely — that “the People have nothing to do with the laws but to obey them.”

46.

“It is not fair to review my book without reading it,” says Mr. Mathews, talking at the critics, and, as usual, expecting impossibilities. The man who is clever enough to write such a work, is clever enough to read it, no doubt; but we should not look for so much talent in the world at large. Mr. Mathews will not Imagine that I mean to blame him. The book alone is in fault, after all. The fact is that, “er lasst sick nicht lesen” — it will not permit itself to be read. Being a hobby of Mr. Mathews’, and brimful of spirit, it will let nobody mount it but Mr. Mathews.

47.

It is only to teach his children Geography, that G—— wears a boot the picture of Italy upon the map.

48.

In his great Dictionary, Webster seems to have had an idea of being more English than the English — “plus Arabe qu’en Arabie.”*

49.

That there were once “seven wise men “ is by no means, strictly speaking, an historical fact; and I am rather inclined to rank the idea among the Kabbala.

50.

Painting their faces to look like Macaulay, some of our critics manage to resemble him, at length, as a Massaccian does a Raffaellian Virgin; and, except that the former is feebler and thinner than the other — suggesting the idea of its being the ghost of the other — not one connoisseur in ten can perceive any difference. But then, unhappily, even the street lazzaroni can feel the distinction.

 


[[Footnotes]]

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 363, column 1:]

* Nouvelle Héloise.

[The following footnote appears at the end of the article, near the bottom of page 364, column 2:]

* Count Anthony Hamilton.

 


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Notes:

None.

 

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[S:0 - GM, 1849] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Works - Misc - Fifty Suggestions (Part II)]