Text: Burton R. Pollin, “April 1836 (Notes),” The Collected Writings of Edgar Allan Poe — Vol. V: SLM (1997), pp. 177-184 (This material is protected by copyright)


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[page 177:]

Notes [[for April 1836]]

[column 1:]

April 1836 - 1 “The Loyalty of Virginia” and “Chief Justice Marshall.” SLM text: p. 317. Since these two brief pieces appear under the heading “Editorial,” they are clearly Poe’s work. The first, referring to the history reviewed by him in the previous issue (March 1836 - 1 ). is self-explanatory as a correction of his remarks. It is interesting as evidence of Poe’s acceptance of the developing “Cavalier myth.” In later years, the claim was often advanced that the Northern states had been colonized by disaffected religionists of “Saxon” stock, while the South was settled and governed by “Cavaliers,” directly descended from the Norman barons of William the Conqueror. For a classic statement of this belief, see the article in the June 1860 SLM entitled “The Difference of Race Between the Northern and Southern People.”

Under the second subheading is printed a letter to White calling attention to a mistake in Lucian Minor’s Marshall review in the February 1836 issue. Poe’s introduction reads: “It is with great pleasure, at the opportunity thus afforded us of correcting an error, that we give place to the following letter.”

April 1836 - 2 “Maelzel’s Chess-Player.” SLM text: pp. 318-26. Poe’s article falls into three sections: a review of notable automata; the routine of exhibiting the Chess-Player during Maelzel’s performances; and seventeen numbered paragraphs in which he attempts to prove that it is not a “pure machine.” His apparently rigorous manner in presenting what he calls “this solution of the Automaton Chess-Player” has led some commentators to see the essay as a foreshadowing of the analytical methodology of his tales of ratiocination. In fact, the authorial voice here is more that of the savant-reviewer which he had employed in, for example, his notice of the Harper edition of [column 2:] Euripides (September 1835 - 5 ). That is, the tone of lofty expertise is achieved chiefly by concealing from the reader the extent of his direct indebtedness to his sources. As the notes below reveal, Poe’s argument is almost entirely second-hand. The secret of the ChessPlayer-that it concealed a man-had been suspected from the beginning, and numerous exposes, accurate to varying degrees, had been published. Moreover, one of Maelzel’s former operators of the machine, Jacques Fran~ois Mouret, had told of his experiences within it in a Paris magazine in 1834. This revelation was reprinted in various journals; it is not known if Poe was directly aware of it. This preface will summarize the career of the Chess-Player and will discuss the reaction, over the years, to Poe’s essay. The footnotes to the text cite Poe’s specific sources and offer a running critique on his argument. All this material relies heavily on two works: a brief book by Charles Michael Carroll, The Great Chess Automaton (New York: Dover, 1975) and an article by W. K. Wimsatt, Jr., “Poe and the Chess Automaton,” American Literature 11 (May 1939): 138-59.

The Chess-Player’s Career: In 1769 Wolfgang von Kempelen, a courtier and a notable mechanical genius, constructed the automaton at the behest of Empress Maria Teresa of Austria. Initially, it was exhibited privately for the amusement of the court; in later years Kempelen took it on a successful tour of several European cities. The automaton was soon withdrawn from public view, however, and at the time of Kempelen’s death in 1804 it was packed away in a palace storeroom. It was purchased by Johann Nepomuk Maelzel, an accomplished inventor who specialized in the fabrication of mechanical musicplayers. Like Kempelen, Maelzel exhibited [page 178:] the automaton in Western European cities, reaching London with it and several other attractions in 1818. After a long British tour, he returned to Paris in 1821.

Maelzel now decided to try his fortunes in America and landed in New York City early in 1826. For the next few years the Chess-Player was a sensation in a number of U. S. cities: New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Richmond, Charleston, several Mississippi river towns, and, finally, New Orleans. Havana next beckoned, but the end was near. Returning from an exhibition in Cuba in 1838, Maelzel, whose health had been declining, died aboard ship; he was buried at sea. The Chess-Player was sold at auction. It was reassembled for the amusement of a chess club in Philadelphia; but interest in it soon declined, and it was deposited in the Chinese (Peale’s) Museum. On July 5, 1854, it was consumed in a fire that swept through the area where it lay crated.

The reception of Poe’s essay: Immediate press reaction was highly favorable. In the “Supplement” to the July issue of the SLM (pp. 517-24), Poe quoted comments from seven periodicals. Typical was that of the Norfolk Herald: “The essay on the Automaton cannot be answered, and we have heard the Editor challenges a reply from Maelzel himself, or from any source whatever. The piece has excited great attention.” It was reprinted in 1856 by Rufus W. Griswold in his edition of the Works (New York: Redfield), 4: 346-70, with this note in his Preface: “all readers will agree that the discussion respecting the Automaton Chess-Player of Maelzel is characteristically ingenious and conclusive.” Thereafter, it was often included by editors of Poe’s works, with varying opinions as to its worth as a sample of his analytical skills. George E. Woodberry, for example, in his Life, found that the piece had been “vastly overrated,” since it relied so heavily on its source (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1909, 1, p. 178). Hervey Allen, in Israfel, took the opposing view: it was [column 2:] “the first of Poe’s work in which he emerged as the unerring, abstract reasoner, and foreshadowed the method he followed later in his detective stories” (New York: Farrar & Rinehart, 1934 1: pp. 323-24). Henry Ridgely Evans’s Edgar Allan Poe and Baron von Kempelen’s Chess-Playing Automaton (Kenton, Ohio: International Brotherhood of Magicians, 1939) is essentially a history of the machine and contains little about Poe’s analysis. The article by Wimsatt and the book by Carroll, cited above, include all that the reader is likely to need to put Poe’s article in clear perspective.

a For his own purposes in appearing a superior authority, Poe overstates the belief in the automaton as a “pure machine.” While some early viewers had thought that it possessed supernatural — even diabolical — powers, rational critics soon produced studies offering two plausible explanations: (a) the figure contained a human, possibly a dwarf or a boy; (b) it was controlled from outside by magnetic force, wires, or other apparatus. (For a discussion of the various hypotheses, see Carroll, passim; for the number and range of critiques, see his bibliography, pp. 108-13.)

b Sir David Brewster, Letters on Natural Magic . . ., London: John Murray, 1832; New York: Harper and Brothers, 1832. There were several later editions. The Harper edition, No. 50 in the Family Library, is the one probably used by Poe and is cited here. The key chapter is Letter XI. Brewster (1781-1868) was a Scottish physicist and natural philosopher, especially noted for his researches into the polarization of light. Poe had already used Brewster’s volume (p. 29) for his aleatory tar-brush strokes spelling out “DISCOVERY” on the studding-sail, in the 1833 “MS. Found in a Bottle”; see Pollin, Poe Studies 15 (1982): 41.

c M. Camus] Paraphrase of Brewster, pp. 241-43.

c 1 Having gone as far as possible] Poe betrays much haste and stylistic carelessness in this article in six instances of dangling participles, some [page 179:] laughable in their effect. Following this first in paragraph one will be five more in the loci indicated, the initial words shown with quotation marks after the textual locus. They are separated by double slashes: ¶ 3: “Having placed it in a drawer”] // ¶ 3: “striking with it the wall”] // ¶ 8: “Holding a lighted candle”] // ¶ 8: “Having opened this drawer”] // ¶ 29 (Poe’s numbered ¶ 10): “upon drawing near the machine”].

d M. Maillardet] Quoted from Brewster, pp. 256-57.

e duck of Vaucanson] Paraphrase of Brewster, pp. 241-43. The footnote to this paragraph is taken from Brewster, p. 257n. There is no evidence in the text that Poe actually consulted this encyclopedia article.

* eat / ate

f Babbage] Paraphrase of Brewster, pp. 263-67. Charles Babbage, English mathematician and inventor, spent a considerable fortune of his own and government funds in an attempt to construct a computing machine. He is credited with conceiving basic principles of the modern computer a century before the technology existed to build one. It may be noted, in connection with Poe’s remarks on predictability in the game of chess later in this paragraph, that modern computer chess programs now have a powerful capability of assessing the possible moves during the playing of a game-in effect “seeing ahead” well enough to defeat even excellent players. In his 1845 tale “Scheherazade” Poe honors the machines of Babbage and Maelzel (Mabbott 3: 1166).

g Paraphrased from Brewster, pp. 24348.

h Facts taken from Brewster, pp. 24348.

i Mr. Maelzell Poe’s error. Maelzel had no connection with the machine until 1804.

i 1 in the United States] Mabbott here refers to “Boston Atlas,” July 30, ‘33 — ‘last week.”

j the cut above] The rough sketch is the only illustration to appear in the SLM during Poe’s editorship. It is similar to the engravings (without the plume) [column 2:] of the figure reproduced in Brewster.

k Richmond] The Chess-Player was exhibited in Richmond during AugustSeptember 1834 and December 1835January 1836. Poe saw it during this later period-that is, “a few weeks ago” indeterminately.

1 In this and the succeeding three paragraphs Poe is presumably reporting on Maelzel’s performance as he had witnessed it. His account, though, continues to draw phrases and inferences from the pages of Brewster, pp. 248-55. Of necessity, Maelzel had to follow a precise routine in order to allow the concealed man to shift his position.

m footnote] Carroll, p. 12, says that most observers heard something more like shé or ché. Poe’s notion that the figure raps its fingers is untrue; Brewster and other sources say that it shakes its head.

n In part, a paraphrase of Brewster, passim.

o Paraphrase of Brewster, pp. 247ff.

p Paraphrase of Brewster, p. 247. Poe here compounds some errors made by Brewster. As Carroll points out (pp. 4041 and 82-84), the book in question was written by Joseph Frederick, Freiherr zu Racknitz (Freiherr = Baron). Thomas Collinson, an Englishman introduced to Racknitz by Kempelen, published an account of their meeting, in which he misreported Racknitz’s name as “Joseph Frederic Freyhere.” Brewster, following Collinson, makes the name “Mr. J. F. Freyhere.” Poe then turns “Mr.” to “M.” and the “J.” to “I.” Moreover, Brewster miscopies Collinson’s phrase “boy, very thin and small of his age” as “boy, very thin and tall of his age.” Poe retains the obvious error of “tall” for “small.”

q Poe’s reference to an essay “first published in a Baltimore weekly paper” is highly confusing. Brewster discusses a pamphlet by an “anonymous writer” entitled “’ An attempt to analyse the Automaton Chess-Player of M. Kempelen“a reference to an essay by Robert Willis (see next note). Poe turns this title into “An attempt to analyze the Automaton Chess-Player of M. Maelzel.” The fact that he, too, does not capitalize “attempt” [page 180:] and “analyse/analyze” indicates that he is borrowing the title from Brewster, with a change from “M. Kempelen” to “M. Maelzel.” What Baltimore essay, then, is Poe referring to? Wimsatt, pp. 143-44, offers a plausible explanation. The North American, to which Poe’s brother Henry contributed, published on May 19, 1827, an article on the “Automaton Chess-Player.” (It is reproduced in Hervey Allen and Thomas Ollive Mabbott, Poe’s Brother, New York: Doran, 1926.) Wimsatt concludes that “there must be a strong presumption that it was to this Poe made a confused reference-in his effort to appear acquainted with the bibliography of the automaton.” Mabbott, MS. Notes, Folder 6, has this additional information: “There is an article on the subject in the Baltimore Gazette, June 1, 1827; there is no certainty that Poe knew it.”

r Brewster’s reference is to the pamphlet by Robert Willis, An Attempt to Analyse the Automaton Chess-Player of Mr. de Kempelen (London, 1821), with nine illustrations that clarify details better than Poe does. Willis’s study was the basis for an article in the Edinburgh Philosophical Journal for April, 1821. Both this article and an entry on “Automaton” in Hutton’s Philosophical and Mathematical Dictionary (London, 1821) by Thomas Collinson (see note p above) were the source for information about the Chess-Player in the Edinburgh Encyclopædia. As Carroll notes (p. 82), Poe, in appearing to chide Brewster for his reliance on sources, appears unaware of the fact that he was an editor of both the Encyclopædia and the Journal. Wimsatt comments: “Poe’s consciousness of his debt to Brewster is best proved by his studied attempts at disparagement” (p. 149).

s footnote] Poe was taken in by Kempelen’s trick drawer. Its back telescoped on rollers so that, when pulled out, it was as deep as the chest. When closed, it occupied only half the available space, thus leaving room behind it for the concealed man’s legs (Carroll, p. 55).

t Poe is wrong again. Following the [column 2:] analysis by Willis as recounted by Brewster, he assumes that the hidden player raises his body up into the figure of the Turk. In fact, he never leaves the box (Carroll, pp. 55, 84).

u Carroll, p. 83, credits Poe with an original insight here.

v Poe’s observations in this and the next paragraph are based on his erroneous belief that the hidden player can directly see the chessboard of his opponent.

w Carroll, p. 83, calls this another original observation by Poe.

x No contemporaneous expose of the Turk mentions mirrors.

y This contrast between the roughness of the Turk’s figure and the graceful forms of Maelzel’s other automata is clearly Poe’s own. Carroll (p. 49) describes the rope-dancers as marionettes which danced and tumbled on a thirty-foot slack rope.

y 1 rectangular manner] This equivalent for “stiff’ (although used in the preceding adjectives) is given to Poe alone for this usage by the OED for the 1842 “Marie Rogêt” (see Mabbott 3: 747 solely for the text), recorded in Pollin, “Poe’s Word Coinages: Third Supplement” in Poe Studies, 27 (1994): 28-40 [37].

y 2 unlife-like] Given by OED solely for an 1818 use by James Hogg (“The Ettrick Shepherd”) in a somewhat dialectal short story. See Pollin, Creator, pp. 54, 90, “lifelike” for other derivations coined by Poe.

z Phrases from Brewster, p. 253.

aa Poe’s figures are at variance with other measurements (Carroll, p. 3).

bb Cf. Brewster, p. 253.

cc Poe is in error about the candles. The concealed man did not peer through the “fine gauze” of the Turk’s chest; he saw the chessboard from underneath and watched pointers which indicated the positions of the magnet-bearing chessmen. He had, of course, his own board and a candle inside. Carroll (pp. 59-60) says the candles on the top were to mask the odor of burning wax from inside the box.

dd The anecdote of the Italian player is not in Brewster. Wimsatt (p. 149) suggests that Poe heard the story as gossip at a performance or invented it. [page 181:]

ee The concealed man was indeed Schlumberger, an Alsatian by birth. Carroll (pp. 72-73) gives his first name as William. Maelzel had hired him in Paris, where he was known as a chess devotee and teacher. He frequently played games with Maelzel in the evenings and soon became an indispensable part of his employer’s retinue. His role as the hidden operator had already been exposed while Maelzel was exhibiting in Baltimore in May, 1827. Two boys observed him emerging from the machine after a performance and recognized him. Their account was published in a Baltimore paper and caused a brief flurry (Carroll, pp. 76-77; Wimsatt, pp. 142-43). Schlumberger died of yellow fever in Havana during Maelzel’s final tour.

ff Mabbott, MS. Notes, Folder 6, supplies this information: “John M. Bossieux set up the exhibit in Richmond in 1834 at Terpsichore Hall, where he conducted dancing classes.”

gg As Wimsatt notes (p. 149), early writers did discuss the fact that the Turk played with its left arm and offered various explanations, none of them definitive. Poe’s account is equally unsatisfactory, because it is based on his incorrect notion of the position of the hidden player, who actually used a kind of pantograph to move the Turk’s arm and fingers. Kempelen was said to have been left-handed, but Carroll (p. 37) says that the peculiarity may have been nothing more than an oversight on Kempelen’s part.

hh This is a curiously abrupt close perhaps reflecting an abridgment resulting from the late discovery of space limitations indirectly reported in “Headnote” to this month’s issue, in the antepenultimate paragraph, above.

The text printed in the Griswold Works (1856) adds a peculiar footnote to the sixth paragraph, following the words “present possessor.” It reads: “* This was written in 1835, when Mr. Maelzel, recently deceased, was exhibiting the Chess-Player in the United States. It is now (1855) we believe, in the possession of Prof. J. K. Mitchell, M.D., of Philadelphia-Editor.” [column 2:] There are several odd errors here: Poe’s article appeared first in 1836 (though it may have been written in the previous year); Maelzel died in 1838, hardly “recently”; it could not “now (1855)” have been in the possession of Mitchell, since it was destroyed by fire in 1854. Griswold undoubtedly supplied the note in its published form; whether Poe himself had added some information for a future printing of his article cannot be determined.

April 1836 - 3 Titles: Joseph Rodman Drake. The Culprit Fay, and Other Poems. New York: George Dearborn, 1835. Fitz-Greene Halleck. Alnwick Castle, with Other Poems. New York: George Dearborn, 1835. SLM text: pp. 326-36. Drake (1795-1820), a New Yorker, studied medicine and conducted a drugstore before his early death from consumption. The only literary works published in his lifetime were the “Croaker Papers” (1819), satirical verses on current topics written with his friend Halleck. He had instructed his wife to destroy his manuscripts, but they were preserved and a selection was first published in the edition reviewed here. Drake and Halleck were members of the Knickerbocker Group, the target of later sharp attacks by Poe in “The Literati.” Halleck (17901867) published a popular satire, Fanny, in 1819-21 and Alnwick Castle in 1827. His ode on the death of Drake (quoted below) was much admired.

Poe’s first extended review of works of poetry marks an advance both in his critical method and in his own developing poetics. Obviously smarting from the recent attacks on him in the press, he begins his review with a negative assessment of “the present state of American criticism.” As a nation, he says, we “cringed to foreign opinion,” especially that of British critics. Now, however, “we are becoming boisterous and arrogant in the pride of a too speedily assumed literary freedom.” The result is the “indiscriminate puffing of good, bad, and indifferent”; and we “often find ourselves involved in the gross paradox of liking a [page 182:] stupid book the better, because, sure enough, its stupidity is American.” Poe later reused some of this material in the opening paragraphs of his introductory “Review of New Books” in the January 1842 Graham’s (p. 68), changing the peculiar form “biblical histrio” to “literary histrio.” The last word means “actor.”

Much of this critique is, of course, just; but that it is also self-justification becomes clear when Poe next turns to a sarcastic response to the criticisms of his SLM reviews in the New York and Philadelphia press. He closes with a mock-humble plea that his critics point out his specific blunders so that he may correct them. There is now a typographical break, a likely indication that this preamble was added to a previously prepared review of Drake and Halleck. His tone changes, and Poe ascends to the pulpit to offer a sermon on the nature of true Poetry. Under the twin influence of Coleridge and his newfound attraction to phrenology, he undertakes a definition of the “sentiment of Poesy” in psychological terms, focusing on what he terms the “Faculty of Ideality.” (For a discussion and critique of Poe’s notions, see Jacobs, pp. 135-58.) Now he is ready to relate these principles to the two poets under review — to apply, despite what Jacobs (p. 148) calls a “confusing phrenological jargon,” his understanding of Coleridge’s distinction between the fancy and the imagination. To the reader of today, Poe’s subjects may seem to be too easy targets. Drake and Halleck were both widely popular and respected — positions Poe felt quite unwarranted. They lacked not only Ideality (as he had defined it); even their fancy often led to ludicrous imagery. (For the influence of Shelley, see Pollin 2: 357-60). Poe’s close dissection of Drake — especially his summation of the plot of “The Culprit Fay” — is frequently amusing as he chalks up verbal idiocies, including a parody stanza (see Mabbott 1: 301-02). As for Halleck, who gets less space, his “poetical powers appear to us essentially inferior, upon the whole, to those of his friend Drake.” After such animadversions on the two [column 2:] New York poets, Poe may have been surprised that his notice had a generally favorable response. (See Moss, pp. 5556; 69-70). His subsequent allusions to and use of it underline the importance he attached to it as a summation of many of the basic themes of his poetics and his literary aims.

a biblical histrio] Clearly Poe is here forcing “biblical” into a new concept. It is not that of “bibliographical,” as in his January review of The Young Wife’s Book (q.v., above), but rather “literary” or “dealing with books.”

a 1 See the discussion in the March 1836 Headnote.

a 2 Nature’s God] Poe probably takes the phrase from Pope, An Essay on Man, “Epistle IV,” 1. 332: “But looks through Nature up to Nature’s God,” and not from Jefferson’s phrase in the Declaration of Independence: “station to which the laws of nature and of nature’s God entitle them.”

b Note the reference to Poe’s new interest in phrenology and cf. March - 2. b 1 desire — to know] Mabbott (3: 1210-11) traces this theme into the 1845 “Power of Words” as a basic idea and traces its expression back to Moore’s Loves of the Angels.

c Bielfeld] Poe frequently made use of this source. See Pollin 2: 6 note j and the references in the index. The locus is in Hooper’s translation (II, xl, section 3): “We can have no idea, no conception, of a being that does not in any manner exist and never has existed.” See Poe’s fuller development of this in his review of Moore’s Alciphron (paragraphs 2-3) in the April 1840 Burton’s with a vainglorious passage in this article on Drake’s “puerile abortion.”

d In full, the phrase is poeta nascitur non fit — “a poet is born, not made.” The familiar Latin tag by Florus (not Horace) is quoted in Coleridge, Biographia Literaria, Chapter 15. See Mabbott 2: 658-59, n. 9.

e Auncient] Poe’s revival of an obsolete spelling. The title in the 1798 edition of Lyrical Ballads was “The Rime of the Ancyent Marinere.”

f singularly developed] Poe seems to [page 183:] adopt as his own observation an anecdote about Coleridge. It was reported that he had been examined by the phrenologist Spurzheim, who found him deficient in Ideality but well developed in Causality. See Jacobs, p. 145.

f 1 colen-bell cup] Taken from Drake’s poem, colen is an old, 18th century form for Cologne, to designate either objects made in or coming from that crafts center or from the earth used also for staining brown or umber; hence, like a brown pottery cup.

g Io pæan] Greek and Latin exclamation of triumph.

h footnote, Ben Jonson] This “learned” footnote comes from a quotation, noted by editor Poe, in a long article sandwiched (save for two short interventions) between Poe’s “Tale of Jerusalem” (31314) and his “Chess-Player” article (318-326). Sent to the SLM by the prominent, learned Philip P. Cooke, for long a Poe correspondent, “Leaves from My Scrap-Book” (314-316) was full of erudite “singular coincidence[s]” as Cooke himself says at the start of one later used by Poe in his “Psyche Zenobia” tale of 1838. Cooke gives his translation of a long excerpt in the French translation by Jean Remusat of the “Chinese novel, ‘Yu-Kiao-Lo,“’ which Psyche Zenobia later transforms into a “piquant expression” for publication. (This was first indicated in Pollin, Papers on Poe [Springfield, Ohio: Chantry Music Press, 1972], 98; see also Mabbott 2: 360 n. 29). Another influential citation (by “old Philip Allen”) on p. 316, may have concerned the “dimmed and darkened . . . human passions”: “I much lament that nevermore to me / Can come fleet pulse, bright heart, and frolic mood; / I must lament that nevermore may be / My tame step light, my wan cheek berry-hued.” As for Ben Jonson, Cooke had cited his lines from “A Celebration of Charis” IX, 1014, the last two being: “Chestnut color or more slack / Gold upon a ground of black.” Cooke continues his discussion of hair tints in poetry on the next page (316) with a repetition of Jonson’s last line, but stripped of its italics.

h 1 equally as good] This is widely [column 2:] condemned as a grammatical redundancy, unfit for formal printed discourse. i of the beautiful] A foreshadowing of a principle developed by Poe later, especially in “The Philosophy of Composition” of April 1846 (paragraphs 14-22). Poe tries to clarify his idea in the seventh paragraph below, beginning “There is Ideality in these lines.”

j footnote] The reference is to the Yale Literary Magazine’s long review of Drake’s poems, in its first issue of February 1836, the quotation being on p. 115 (with “ideality” for Poe’s “Ideality”). Poe must have seen this issue in the exchanges in the office of the SLM. In using the prestige of the academic origin, Poe neglects to note that implicitly (and in reality) the writers of the articles were students (q.v. via their names given by Mott in History of American Magazines, 1: 488).

j 1 footnote. in the highest degree] From these poets of the “purest ideality” four Æschylus, Dante, Keats and Shelley) comprise all but one given by Poe in his 1842 “Landscape Garden” as typical of the “loftier merit” . . . of “invention or creation” (Mabbott 2: 710). Only Dante is retained in the revised version, “The Domain of Arnheim” of 1847 (see Mabbott 3: 1275 at n. 12a).

j 2 equally as good] Another instance of a grammatical redundancy. See h 1, above.

k Apuleius] Poe’s source was D‘Israeli’s Curiosities. See Mabbott 3: 917, n. 6.

1 The first poem is by Robert Burns; the second and third, by Thomas Campbell.

m thy princely towers] Poe corrects the misleading “grammatical” defect with justice, so that he is really rewriting lines 2 and 6, with a change of possessive pronouns to “thy” in both cases. This extreme form of criticism is to be found in later reviews of Poe, e.g., in his 1845 critique of Elizabeth Barrett’s Drama of Exile, where he makes several changes in wording and imagery to “elevate the quotation [of five lines] into unexceptionability” (Pollin 3: 11). Thus he produces a “new” Poe “poem” which should be added, [page 184:] in a sense, to the canon.

n Gods, and columns] This is a close adaptation of most of lines 372-73 of Horace’s Ars Poetica: “Mediocribus esse poetis / Non homines, non di, non concessere columnae,” translatable as “Not gods, nor men, nor even booksellers have put up with poets’ being secondrate” (Oxford Dictionary of Quotations [New York: Oxford UP, 1980). Poe again uses this quotation in the October 1836 article on G. P. R. James’s book (note a).

o omitted in the present edition] This is the conclusion of the third stanza in the New York Mirror (9: 76, 10 September 1831), which Halleck had entirely rewritten. The Mirror of 23 January 1836 complained about the omission (13: 235), possibly thereby causing Poe’s remark.

p wert is not English] See this annotated in January 1836 - 1 at note c 1.

q no inconsiderable difficulty] The six “distressing” instances are from, sequentially, “Alnwick Castle,” “Marco Bozzaris” (2), “Burns” (2) and again “Marco Bozzaris.” For Poe’s insistence upon rigid adherence to a set rhythmic pattern, see January 1836 - l, note b 1. The last example demonstrates his marked preference for liquid or melodious effects coming from vowels rather than cluttering consonants-a basic element [column 2:] in much of his reviewing of poetry.

April 1836 - 4 Title: [Sir Francis Bond Head]. Bubbles from the Brunnen of Nassau. By an Old Man. New York: Harper and Brothers, 1835. SLM text: pp. 33940. The author was Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada, 1835-38; he wrote a number of popular travel books. This volume first appeared in 1833 when the “old man” was all of forty. Albemarle Street was the address of the London publisher John Murray. Brunnens in the SLM caption and title should be Brunnen. In a later brief notice of this book in the Broadway Journal (October 4, 1845), Poe again quoted from Head’s preface (Pollin 3: 267-68), but much more meagerly, giving only three brief paragraphs.

a copyism] Poe’s italics show his belief in his coining the word, given in the OED only for an 1814 Byron text and also a Ruskin 1846 text, neither of them with the implication of “plagiarism” as in Poe’s text.

b vacant-minded] Despite Goldsmith’s priority for “the vacant mind” Poe seems to be the originator of the adjectival form with a “first” for 1879 in the OED.

c laughter-moving conceit] Poe’s compound adjectival form is not in the OED.

 


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Notes:

None.


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[S:0 - BRP5S, 1997] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Editions - The Collected Writings of Edgar Allan Poe (B. R. Pollin) (April 1836 (Notes))