Text: Burton R. Pollin, “Hans Pfaall (Introduction),” The Collected Writings of Edgar Allan Poe — Vol. I: Imaginary Voyages (1981/1994), pp. 366-379 (This material is protected by copyright)


[page 366:]



As with every lengthy piece of fiction, dating the stages in its genesis or evolution is almost impossible, especially when the author is inclined to change his recollections according to his correspondent or his readers. Privately, in a letter of July 20, 1835, to Thomas W. White, proprietor of the Southern Literary Messenger, whom he was trying to impress with his prolificity and variety as an author, Poe wrote: “Hans Phaal cost me nearly a fortnight[’]s hard labour and was written especially for the Messenger.” This fully accords with his famous letter of April 30 to White, discussing objections to the grimness of “Berenice” and defending the popular grotesque and horrible stories of Blackwoods; Poe offers to add to these two “types” both “the burlesque” and “the strange and the mystical” as monthly contributions to the Messenger, “no two” of which would have “the slightest resemblance . . . in matter or manner.” He fulfilled his promise through a succession of new or drastically revised tales from April through September, by which time he had become established on the journal. There is reason to believe that this tale, his longest, represented a rather hasty attempt to frame, in a burlesque introduction and conclusion, a “strange” theme which had been germinating in his mind and probably on paper for some months, stimulated perhaps by a fantasy called “Leaves from an Æronaut,” in the Knickerbocker of January 1835 (see “Sources” below). Even by a liberal use of scissors and paste, Poe could not have accomplished so highly documented and yet so original a narrative over a fortnight. We could not expect any clear-cut or consistent statement from him about the source of his inspiration or the major objective of a work published as a creative piece of entertainment in the June 1835 number of the Messenger. Poe managed, as often, to complicate if not baffle the enquiry by writing discrepant reminiscences about the genesis of the tale. Similarly, John H. Latrobe, a prominent early commentator, offered unsubstantiated, contradictory assertions of 1852 and 1877 that Poe was working on “Hans Pfaall” in 1833. This theory is accepted by Hervey Allen in Israfel (1927), 1:350-51, and argued more fully but rather prejudiciously by J. O. Bailey in PMLA (June 1942, 57:513-35); it is properly refuted by William H. Gravely in Poe [page 367:] Newsletter (June 1970, 3:2-4), chiefly through Latrobe’s general unreliability and Poe’s statement of 1846 in his sketch of Richard Locke (Godey’s Lady’s Book, October 1846), that his reading of Sir John Herschel’s Treatise on Astronomy about six months before the tale was published marked the inception of it (see 71E). But Poe may have been oversimplifying, for the very early 1830s were rife with news about aeronauts, and Baltimore was a major center of such activities. In the fall of 1833, the demonstration-balloonist Charles F. Durant at least twice made ascents there, dropping Latrobe’s verses “The Aeronaut to the People” on his second flight (see Gravely), and promoted so much amateur and professional airmindedness as to cause an editorial debate over this public nuisance and even clanger, waged between the Baltimore Patriot and Gazette in 1834. The widely publicized ascensions of Richard Clayton in Ohio and, just before the writing of “Hans Pfaall,” of James Wise in Philadelphia become significant when we note that Poe claimed his aim to be a satire of ballooning.(1) This was via a review of “Hans Pfaall” placed by him in the Gazette (see below at n. 7). Subsequently, in 1839, Poe expressly added to the tale a statement about his intention to perpetrate a hoax in a “tone of banter” by contrast with Locke’s successful “moon-hoax” (para. 80), but a hoax that is not to be initially or continuously believed is none. Poe’s last sentence in the final paragraph (101) added to the note in the Griswold text (1850) vainly tries to take this into account.

Was there any other object of this banter? In a large sense it might have [page 368:] been a jesting about utter reliance upon science to solve our major social problems and, for individuals like Hans, such personal ones as debt and domestic infelicity. Without playing the psychobiographer, one can see in Hans’s flight the fulfillment of the dreams of escape and of worldly preeminence in the impecunious writer (see para. 14), almost crushed too by the thought of his new responsibilities for his “family,” now that the pension of Mrs. David Poe, his grandmother, was about to expire with her life (deceased on July 7, 1835). J. O. Bailey has advanced this biographical connection for the tale, but rather too analogically and totally (see Bailey, n. 92).

Poe was not writing a “parody of the romantic moon voyage” as Bailey, A. H. Quinn, and Marjorie H. Nicholson thought,(2) since the only prominent modern example of the genre was a novel by George Tucker of 1827, uncirculated and unread in 1833; it would be a satire without a target. To judge from the final paragraph (101), Poe’s conception of any possible satire via a moon voyage seems limited to the social variety: “Lunarian customs as compared with ours.” An attempt has been made to exploit as a political satire of Jackson the strange newspaper balloon of the introduction (para. 4), but this reading fails to cover the core of the story and distorts narrative facts.(3) More aptly, one could argue for the whole story as an obvious disparagement of learned pundits in institutions (“colleges,” q.v. in para. 79), inclined to believe, at least at first, the pseudoscience of a “braggadocio” like Hans, who applies his smattering of knowledge to the construction of a “plausible” space-craft (see 79A). David Ketterer begins to make this point, but then views the tale as a full allegory on the “human condition” according to a theory about Hans’s “transference to the afterlife, or the moon” that ignores major elements of the story and Poe’s expressed intentions in the Appendix.(4)

The tale is certainly ambivalent about the merits of science regarded as perhaps useful for soaring above the common reaches of humanity and also for deceiving and eliminating, through gunpowder, inconvenient creditors. It displays the mixed morality, the love of trickery, and occasionally the poetic sense of alienation or remoteness from the humdrum world typical of many of Poe’s tales. Its major contribution is to provide a method for simulating the recording of reality, along with his other two [page 369:] “voyages,” his several hoaxes, and even his detective fiction, and it leads the way for his numerous disciples in the field of science fiction.(5)


In the earliest of the three verisimilar voyages that Poe wrote in the 18306, he initiated his characteristic method. He was ever a harried writer, pressed for time and for copy and sufficiently bright and educated to know where to find specific and superficially expert information for use through précis-writing, paraphrasing, and outright copying. By changing and suppressing names and by adding his own vivid details, full of keenly felt sensations and overwrought emotions, he avoided detection and condemnation. Yet two of his major sources for “Hans Pfaall” were well-known. Beginning with the twenty-third paragraph, Poe levied heavily upon Sir John Herschel’s recent Treatise on Astronomy, a lucid and popular English work of 1833 (American edition, 1834). Indirectly he acknowledged it as a major inspiration for an intended moon-adventure as a sequel to the present tale (71E). Following the mere suggestion of Herschel’s role in shaping the tale, made by George E. Woodberry in his Edgar Allan Poe (Boston, 1885), p. 83, M. N. Posey in Modern Language Notes (December 1930, 45:501-507), began the collation of the parallel passages and also suggested that Margaret Alterton, in tracing details to a paper in the Royal Society’s Transactions had ignored its being included in the article “Moon” in Abraham Rees’s Cyclopaedia or Universal Dictionary (London, 1819).(6) J. O. Bailey (see above) greatly extended our knowledge of these and other sources, including those for the “Manuscript Notes” left by Poe for his post-Messenger editions (see the headnote).

In the incomplete final paragraph of Poe’s 1849 self-parody called “A Reviewer Reviewed” there is an allusion to a major fictional source or even model, which was about to be revealed by Poe. He has just given a number of poetic sources of his poems and then he declares: “Here I might safely pause; but it would not be quite proper to omit all mention of this critic’s facility at imitation! in prose as well as verse. In his story of ‘Hans Phaall’ published in his ‘Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque,’ but originally appearing in the first volume of the ’Southern [page 370:] Literary Messenger’ [. . .]” (Tales, 2:1386). The prose piece “imitated” in the early portions of the tale may have been “Leaves from an Æronaut.” by “D.” in the January 1835 Knickerbocker Magazine, 5:57-68. There is no difficulty in proving Poe’s early familiarity with this, the most popular and prominent New York City periodical (see Letters, pp. 102 and 183, and Sidney P. Moss’s discussions in Poe’s Literary Battles). There are enough parallels of situation and enough echoes of phrases to make it a likely source, never presented before. The following summary gives occasional indications of the pages in the magazine and the paragraph numbers of “Hans Pfaall.”

The narrator starts, as does Poe, with a four-line poetic epigraph, his being from Byron’s Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage (III, xv) however, ending with “To whom the boundless air alone were home” (italics inserted by “D”; cf. Poe’s italics for “and a horse of air” in the quoted “Song”). The aeronaut tells of his growing obsession with flight during his boyhood near the Catskills, his sending a cat aloft on a kite, his parachuting five storeys down, and his devotion to chemical experiments (pp. 58-59; para. 9) and also to the study of the lives of prominent balloonists, which fired him as would a “spark” on “a nitrous train” (cf. para, 17 for the “slow match” trick). In secret he purchases all the necessary “materiel” for a balloon ascension and the instructional books (p. 60), with his “scientific confederates . . . sworn to be mum about his name,” but he finally informs the newspapers of his projected ascension from Castle Garden, New York (p. 61; para. 4). His dream, on the eve of the flight, concerns a trip across the ocean to London where the Lord Mayor and other dignitaries greet him (paras. 3-4), but he proceeds to Paris where the balloon changes to a long horn, the small end toward the earth, and he drops out of his dream (p. 62; para. 4). Ten thousand eyes now watch the event with his careful preparations for rising into the cloud-flecked heavens (p. 64; paras. 2-3): the action of the acid on the iron (para. 15), the gas in the condenser tubes filling out the cloth of the bag, the checking of the ballast in the wicker-work car (para. 18), the cooling of the gas by ice to avoid conflagration (pp. 61 and 63; para. 15), the sounds of “Sweet Home” (p. 65; para. 4). As he rises, a swift wind gives a sickening “rotary motion” to the balloon (para. 18), but he recovers to see the ships below (para. 21) and the “long blue waves” checkered with masses of shadow, the land looking like a map (para. 36). He ascends to the five-mile level, where he has difficulty in breathing (para. 32) and he describes a storm underneath (pp. 66-67; para. 33). Like Hans, he has to force a reluctant “test” pigeon from the gondola (para. 38) and checks his rate of rising with tissue paper (Hans with feathers, para. 31). He has weird [page 371:] hallucinatory visions of a “double horizon” (p. 67; para. 37). Finally, he drops his ballast and safely descends.

It can be argued that many of these details are staples of aeronautical accounts, such as the use of pigeons. What makes this unusual and strangely like Poe’s account is the fictional tone and the many touches of graphic description of natural phenomena, such as the varying clouds and ocean and the attempts to show the development of an obsession with flight in an apt layman. It is surely one of the stimuli for Poe’s exploiting a growing popular interest and also a source for some of his specific details.

There is little doubt that Poe made use of the lengthy article on “Aerostation” and other articles on science in Rees’s Cyclopaedia, which are severally discussed in the notes to the text; M. N. Posey in Modern Language Notes, December 1930, 45:501-507, and J. O. Bailey (see supra) being the first to expose this borrowing. Another major source of ideas and some phrasing appears to be Professor Robley Dunglison’s long review, in the 1828 American Quarterly Review, of George Tucker’s novel, A Voyage to the Moon of 1827 (see 100B for a summary and Bailey, n. 50, for the author’s identity). A major source for the Appendix material is the French translation of Francis Godwin’s Man in the Moon (see 92A-99A); likewise, Richard Adams Locke’s newspaper hoax about telescopic discoveries in the moon, published August-September 1835 (see 80-89A) and used as a butt for disparagement by Poe in 1839 when revising “Hans Pfaall.” For the extensive appendix we should also cite ideas and short passages derived from Thomas Dick’s 1838 Celestial Scenery and his earlier Christian Philosopher, first pointed out by Margaret Alterton and J. O. Bailey (see 81A-90A).

Fewer than a dozen more sources contributed to Poe’s text. Irving’s Knickerbocker’s History of New York gave a few satirical details (3A and B): Disraeli’s Curiosities of Literature, his motto; Mother Goose, a name (711); the bible, two phrases (3611, 6411); Le Sage’s Gil Blas, a comparison (93A); Maginn’s “Daniel O‘Rourke,” a moon-trip example (100C); the novel Symzonia, a few possible details (1117, 55A, 56E); the newspaper publicity for Wise’s ascension, details about balloon construction (11C, 11G, 13D); and, rather doubtfully, works by Cyrano de Bergerac and Kepler, slight ideas (67E, 71D). An unfound account of the flight of Sacharof and Robertson provided Poe with a list of supplies (1611), and Nicholson’s British Encyclopaedia was used for a few of the “Manuscript Notes,” as Joseph V. Ridgely has informed me. All told, the number of sources is moderate and, in view of the special disciplines of astronomy and pneumatics needed for the tale, Poe’s use [page 372:] and handling of the major source materials should be considered as reasonable.


Poe expressed no displeasure over the fact that in 1835 the tale of Hans was judged only as a piece of fiction, admired for its use of science, its novel story line, and its whimsicality. It was only in 1839 that he claimed it to be a hoax, like Locke’s “Moon-story,” which had been presented as “true.” The first published comment on the tale came from E. V. Sparhawk, editor of the May 1835 issue of the Messenger, in an anticipatory “Editorial” paragraph (1:533). In its stress on the tales as a burlesque of ballooning and in its language it sounds so much like Poe as to suggest his writing it for insertion. If my inference is correct, it adds further confirmation of his basic theme, of his pride in the minute details, of the influence of his own impecunious state, and of the implied sequel:

Mr. Poe’s story of “Hans Phaal” will add much to his reputation as an imaginative writer. In these ballooning days, when every “puny whipster” is willing to risk his neck in an attempt to “leave dull earth behind him,” and when we hear so much of the benefits which science is to derive from the art of aerostation, a journey to the moon may not be considered a matter of mere moonshine. Mr. Poe’s scientific Dutch bellows-mender is certainly a prodigy, and the more to be admired, as he performs impossibilities, and details them with a minuteness so much like truth, and they seem quite probable. . . . There are thousands who, to escape the pertinacity of uncivil creditors, would be tempted to a flight as perilous as that of Hans Phaal. . . . We trust that a future missive from the lunar voyager will give us a narrative of his adventures in the orb that he has been the first to explore.

There were other press comments on the tale, which White could reprint on the paper covers of the journal for publicity purposes. In July a paragraph from the Richmond Whig called the aeronautical tale an “extraordinary production ridiculed by some” with “a great deal of nonsense, trifling and bad taste before Hans Phaal quits the earth,” but, out in space, “his speculations assume a true philosophical character, exhibit genius and invention . . . wonderfully approximating to truth, and penetrative of the mysteries of creation. . . . There is much sublimity in his conceptions and his narrative.” A full paragraph from the Baltimore Patriot spoke of “hairbreadth ’scapes and stirring incidents” and called [page 373:] for “an account of his ‘journey home.’ ” This may have been evoked by the last sentence of the “Editorial Introduction” (given above). Two items on the July covers are especially interesting since they emanate from Poe’s pen, having been initially inserted, by his arrangement, in papers in Baltimore where Poe had friends. Both are obviously based on the same “copy” provided by Poe:(7)

Hans Phaal, a Tale, by Edgar A. Poe, is a capital burlesque upon balloonings, which has [sic] recently been carried to a ridiculous extent, without much prospect of profit to the persons engaged in it, or advantage to the community. (Baltimore Republican)

It contains several stories of superior merit; that for instance, entitled Hans Phaal, is a capital burlesque upon the ballooning mania, which has recently driven a number of our good citizens beyond the confines of this nether world, to seek their fortunes in the unexplored aerial regions. The tale is a long one, but the sprightliness with which it is written, renders its length a recommendation. (Baltimore Gazette)

A third comment, also on the cover of the July issue, reprinted from a Charleston paper, is independent in wording but touches on one essential element in the others, namely, the humor of the tale:

The article entitled “Hans Phaal,” in which is narrated, with all the minuteness of detail which properly belongs to truth, a balloon voyage of a Dutch bellowsmender to the Moon, is one of the most exquisite specimens of blended humor and science that we have ever perused. (Charleston Courier)

On the August cover, White once again reprinted a comment on the tale drawn from the Charleston Courier, interesting particularly because it indicated the popular preference for Poe’s humor over his “romantic” strain:

‘The Visionary,’ by Edgar A. Poe, shows, we think, that he is not as good at the purely romantic, as he is, supremely, in the humorous extravaganza. ‘Hans Phaal,’ even though it may have sold him to the Dutch, has immortalized him — and it may be but the brightness of his own previous merit, that makes him now but seem obscure. [page 374:]

A few other reprinted comments show the widespread interest aroused by “Hans Pfaall.” The Richmond Compiler was quoted in the October 1835 issue: Passages in three tales and “also the vague speculations of Hans Phaal upon the scenery of the moon — with its shadow-stained lakes and sombre vegetation — are compositions of rare beauty. . . . I admire Poe greatly.” Again we find quoted a passage from the Baltimore Gazette, this one presumably not from Poe himself but touching on a theme that Poe himself was to elaborate later in his notes to the tale:

Coliseum, a Prize Poem, by Edgar A. Poe, evinces no inconsiderable descriptive talent. Indeed, we think the author’s fertile imagination can range the heights of Parnassus as well as the lofty mountains of our friendly and now highly interesting satellite. His Hans Phaal, published in a recent number of the Messenger, should be bound up in the same volume with the description of the sublime discoveries made by Dr. Herschell at the Cape of Good Hope.

Richard Locke’s “moon-story” and Poe’s tale are here viewed together as fascinating lunar hoaxes. Less focused is the comment quoted from the Petersburg Constellation: “Edgar A. Poe, who, say what the captious may, has given the most conclusive evidence of genius and talent of no ordinary cast as a writer, in his Hans Phaal and several other productions, before the readers of the Messenger.” Finally, Poe himself proudly reprinted a Norfolk Herald reference to the tale in one of the many citations comprising a “Supplement” to the second volume, second number of the Messenger (January 1836, pp. 133-140): “In the variety, and more especially in the originality of its articles it has no equal; and among other things we must not forget that the author of the Lunar Hoax is indebted to the Hans Phaal of Mr. Poe (a regular contributor to the Messenger) for the conception and in a great measure for the execution of his discoveries. Indeed several passages in the two are nearly identical.” (The last statement is unverified and untrue.)

Surely Poe must have been gratified by all these tributes in the exchange papers to his humor, scientific verisimilitude, and originality. Right after the first printing he had expressed approval of a comment which came from John Hampden Pleasants, founder and editor of the Richmond Whig, which has been cited above. Poe refers also to a private note from Paulding, as yet unfound, in the course of his letter of July 20, 1835, to White: “I am highly gratified with Mr Pleasants’ notice and especially with Paulding’s. What Mr Pleasants says in relation to the commencement of Hans Phaal is judicious. That part of the Tale is faulty indeed — so much so that I had often thought of remodelling it entirely. [page 375:] I will take care & have the Letter inserted in all the Baltimore papers” (Letters, p. 65).(8) Poe’s comment about the jocose introduction shows him as self-critical and objective, basically agreeing with modern criticisms of the impaired unity of the tale. In the same letter of July 20, he asks White about other possible comments on the tale, pointedly about the “Young Man’s Paper” (of Baltimore) and the New York Evening Star. The first merely mentioned it in a notice of the whole magazine, without comment (vol. I, no. 34, July 11, 1835). The second ignored the tale. Poe’s inquiry might indicate that he was seeking a wider response than that provided by the provincial and partial press of the South. He never showed awareness of the only public comment in the North that I have found concerning the first printing of “Hans Pfaall.” It was tacitly made by the New York Transcript in August and September when it published the tale in response to Locke’s “moon-story” with its own title and as written by “Baron Hans Phaal” without Poe’s name but indicating its provenance in the Messenger (see 80A for details). Poe’s later indication in the notes to the 1839 edition of “collations” between details in his tale and those in Locke’s was entirely unfounded.

The reviews of the Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque might be expected to furnish some insight into the evaluative response of Poe’s contemporaries. Of the several dozen, largely short notices that I have seen, not one singles out “Hans Pfaall” for any specific comment. This may be the natural result of the waning of interest in ballooning. However, contemporary opinion continued to find a source of admiration, if not entertainment, in the “elaborate scientific paraphernalia,” to use the phrase of Mrs. E. V. Smith in her October 1856 North American Review article on the four-volume set of his works (83:433).


The multiplicity of Poe’s tales in the Messenger for the major part of 1835 supports his statement in the July 20 letter that the writing of “Hans Pfaall” was the work of a fortnight, even though the accumulation of the data obviously required months. We are fortunate that the Pierpont Morgan Library has the manuscript of the fair copy of the [page 376:] work, used for the printing in the Messenger of June 1835. It is written in a very small neat roman script according to Poe’s usual practice, on ten leaves, paginated 1-20; the ninth and tenth are imperfect and a final leaf with the conclusion has been lost. One peculiarity, symptomatic of Poe’s haste, is the extraordinary number of gross misspellings: “dissapeared” (twice), “dissapearance” (thrice); “unnacountable” (twice); “ascenscion” (seven times); “accellerating” (thrice); and, once each, “accelleration,” “unnattainable,” “unparralleled,” “dissapointed,” and “agreably” with one misspelling of “Phaal.” The spellings, in general, follow British usage for such words as “labour” and “surprize,” and these have been changed to the more typical American style by the editor or the typesetter of the Messenger. (See the reproduction, which follows p. 386).

It is likely that Poe, in Baltimore, had no opportunity to check on the changes introduced into the Messenger text, but his preserving almost all of them in his 1839 version in the Tales indicates his full approval. In fact, the somewhat slack writing exemplified even in the final version of “Hans Pfaall” evinces an indifferent attitude toward his “sketchy trifle” (para. 80), as I must show. Poe’s constant efforts to achieve the publication of an edition of his tales, beginning with the “Tales of the Folio Club,” finally came to fruition with the two volumes containing his 1839 Tales, numbering twenty-five, although the lukewarm acceptance of Poe’s writings brought him no profit at all (Quinn, pp. 287-88). Still, it was an opportunity to issue “Hates Pfaall” in a more definitive text, especially since he had had time to revise it during the ensuing three years. In the body of the text itself we find remarkably few significant changes. For the sake of clarity or vividness, phrases are occasionally changed (para. 20) and a sentence is deleted (para. 66) or added (paras, 36 and 29, n.). The additions to para. 26, n., and to para. 69 are especially significant, for they prove that the “Manuscript Notes” were begun at least during 1839 and probably during 1838, since they come from paras. I-6 and 38 in the whole set of forty-two continuous items. Copied from two of the Rees’s Cyclopaedia articles, they were intended to furnish more of the data of “plausibility” for the journey (para. 101). The major change is the addition to the title of a footnote about the alleged comparison by newspapers of Locke’s highly successful “Moon-story” with Poe’s. Probably after reading Thomas Dick’s Celestial Scenery, published in America in April 1838, with its long note directed against Locke’s skillful deception (80A), Poe decided to elaborate his views in his “Appendix,” placed at the end of the second volume, since the tale itself (pp. 25-95) was probably already being set in type. (In the next revision, prepared for the [page 377:] Griswold posthumous edition, the Appendix became “Note,” placed directly at the end, and it absorbed the 1839 footnote to the title. Poe also had padded it out with a learned analysis of the French translation of Godwin’s Man in the Moon.)

Poe apparently gave the publisher, Lea and Blanchard of Philadelphia, a marked copy of the Messenger text of the tale. Whether it was a separate number or included in a bound volume is not clear, although George Woodberry says: “The leaves of ‘Hans Phaal’ were torn out and passed through the hands of at least three printers and have their ‘take’ marks; they were then skillfully replaced.”(9) My examination of the pages, now part of the so-called Duane Messenger (volumes I and II) through the courtesy of the owner, H. Bradley Martin, and the present repository, the Pierpont Morgan Library, fails to confirm the fact that they were ever “torn out.”(10) I surmise that the first two volumes of the Messenger, either in separate numbers or bound, were once owned by Poe and were sold by him subsequently to William Duane, a lawyer of Philadelphia and former secretary of the treasury. Four years later, in 1843, presumably wishing to study his Messenger articles again, Poe borrowed the first volume through the good offices of Henry B. Hirst and incurred much ill repute when, upon Poe’s moving to New York City, Mrs. Clemm sold the volume instead of returning it to Hirst or Duane (see Quinn, pp, 407-10, following Woodberry, 2:365-68).

After the publication of the Tales in 1839 Poe still “tinkered” with the tale. He changed the spelling of the surname of Hans, probably to emphasize the double-entendre of “fall” for a balloonist and possibly to avoid any “phallic” inference, and he made various stylistic improvements (see variant notes 2e, 4z, 7a, 8w, 9z, 10h, 18a, 19t, 28e, 34u). He removed the bit of discordant nonsense about the moon mans devil hoof (5h) and transferred digressive passages to other stories: one about truth to “Murders in the Rue Morgue” (April 1841) and a pastoral passage to “The Island of the Fay” (June 1841). He tried to reconcile his [page 378:] novel ideas about the convexity of appearance of the earth’s surface with its real concavity (see 37A, 43B, 51B) and finally gave up the idea of a sequel relating the adventures of Hans on the moon (31A). In general he strove for more verisimilitude in details through using accounts of flights (see 11o, 11t, 16s, 17z). While we cannot date these changes, it seems likely that all were part of his revision of the Tales, probably as early as 1841, when he proposed to publish the augmented collection as PHANTASY-PIECES. The second volume, containing “Hans Pfaall,” has not survived, but the table of contents in the first volume shows the new title with its “Pfaall” spelling of the surname (see my note to the title). Sometime later, after 1845, he again cast a revisionary eye on the text and added more corroborative detail concerning the “new” telescope of the Earl of Rosse (paras. 90-91). (The changes from British-style spelling, such as “labour,” prevalent in the 1850 edition, are as likely to be those made by the Redfield staff as by Poe; they can be ascertained in the list of variants.)

Despite Poe’s looking at the text repeatedly for improvement of the scientific ambience and, occasionally, for narrative clarity or consistency, he seemed indifferent to the technical quality of the writing. Having written it in haste, he seemed disinclined to polish it at leisure during the next ten years before leaving it as part of his literary testament to Griswold for publication in final form. This is surprising, especially in view of his embarking in 1835 upon the keen, incisive, and often acrimonious criticism that spared none of the authors being reviewed, even the most renowned, for their lapses in style, diction, grammar, or rhetoric. Poe’s capacity to perceive his own weaknesses is well demonstrated in the 1849 “Reviewer Reviewed” (Tales, 3:1388). “Hans Pfaall” was as carelessly written as Pym was to be three years later, but Poe never arranged for a second authorized printing of the novel. There are many clear and scarcely disputable instances of his lapses in “Hans Pfaall” — dangling participles and unattached elements, such as he highly reprehended: para. 8: “having a wife . . . my burdens became”; 22: “In this state of mind . . . the treatise”; 26: “on comparing . . . it appears”; 34: “upon passing. . . they seemed”; 39: “having pulled the bag . . . it”; 46: “In passing my hand . . . the sleeve”; 49: “By noticing”; 49: “having arranged . . . the rest”; 68: “upon coming. . . my attention”; 94: “being ill . . . the crew.” Questionable is the grammar in para. 11: “Equally as good”; 20: “Accumulating . . . and which”; and “their . . . channels”; 33: “series of dense cloud”; 57: “impeded” etc.; 67: “stupor and surprise.. . was”; 71: “who none of them”; 74: “these sort”; 82: the tenses; 91: “6 feet diameter” (compare para. 82); 94: “Gil Blas, and which.” Questionable are several [page 379:] items of diction or usage: para. I: “doubt on”; 8: “years, that”; 48: “at all” (see 48B); 66: “with which”; 69: “repetition”; 81: “As many”; 95: “when” instead of “whereupon.” Occasionally the sentence structure defeats comprehension as in para. 9: “I was vain. . . intuition” and 28: “Thus there was . . . displaced.”

Do these instances indicate that the tone of banter presupposes a fair amount of negligence in style, suitable too for an untrained bellowsmender telling his story? This hypothesis is scarcely tenable since other burlesques of Poe, such as his double tale of Psyche Zenobia (1838), “The Duc De L‘Omelette,” and “King Pest” are correct in style. Hans is selfeducated but certainly never presented as likely to be defective in such elementary matters. It would seem that Poe considered much more important the expository aspects of the piece, the science fiction details, the momentum of the narrative, and the sheer daring of the conception.



[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 367:]

1.  See Jeremiah Milbank, The First Century of Flight in America (Princeton, 1943), pp. 49-56. Mary E. Phillips, in Edgar Allan Poe, alludes to a legend about Poe’s announcing his intention to fly, April 1, year unspecified, from the Phoenix Shot Tower at Front and Fayette Street to the Lighthouse in Baltimore. Her information was contained in the caption to an aerial photograph of the “Water-Front, Baltimore,” which “Poe loved and dreamed in, and which locates the Old Shot Tower and ‘The Light-house Hoax,‘” (1:455) and in her back-cover end-papers map of the city, the locus of no. 41 being “Phoenix Shot Tower, 234 ft. high, whence Poe was to fly to the Lighthouse, Apr. 1 hoax.” (T. O. Mabbott believed her informant to be L. H. Dielman.) J. T. Scharf, Chronicles of Baltimore (Baltimore, 1874), records 187 feet to be the true height of the tower, built for Col. Joseph Jamieson, president of his company, and demolished in January 1845 (pp. 405, 514). Could the story have preceded the publication of “Hans Pfaall” with its April 1 date or been a direct consequence?

Durant’s second flight was on October 18, a few days after Poe called on Latrobe to thank him as a judge in the Baltimore Saturday Visiter contest, which gave him the prize for narrative (see Quinn, Poe, p. 204). Latrobe’s poem, later in Odds and Ends (Baltimore, 1876), p. 7, was likely to have come to Poe’s attention.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 368:]

2.  Bailey, pp. 523-26; Marjorie Hope Nicholson, Voyages to the Moon (New York, 1948), p. 241; Arthur Hobson Quinn, Edgar Allan Poe (New York, 1941), p. 215.

3.  H. Allen Greer, Emerson Society Quarterly, Fall 1970, 60:67-73.

4.  David Ketterer, Criticism, Fall 1971, 8:377-85; also, see his New Worlds for Old (New York, 1974), p, 72.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 369:]

5.  See D. Ketterer, New Worlds; also, Clarke Olney, “Poe-Science-Fiction Pioneer;” Georgia Review, Winter 1958, 12:416-21.

6.  Margaret Alterton, Origins of Poe’s Critical Theory (Iowa City, 1925), pp. 134-38.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 373:]

7.  My thanks are due to David Jackson who sent me a copy of the Messenger page and also presented the Republican review in Modern Language Notes, April 1935, 50: 251-56. Privately he has given me his expert opinion that the Gazette review is also Poe’s.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 375:]

8.  My search of the Whig for the period has not turned up anything relevant, nor has Ralph M. Aderman, one of the editors of Paulding’s letters, been able to fill out this reference, nor has any one found the material in the Baltimore papers, although no specific search has been made.

[The following footnotes appear at the end of page 377:]

9.  George E. Woodberry, The Life of Edgar Allan Poe (Cambridge, Mass., 1909), 2:368.

10.  While most of the changes made in the Messenger for the 1839 Tales [[Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque, published in 1839 but with an imprint date of 1840]] were shown on the pages of the Duane copy, others must have been given to the printer in separate notations (see the variants). Joseph V. Ridgely, having examined Mr. Mabbott’s preliminary record of the Duane marginal changes and my own more recent verification of them in the Morgan Library, concludes that Woodberry errs in speaking of “take” marks, which are more properly the printer’s bracket indications in the Messenger of the ends of the gatherings of the book. Unfortunately, not all the markings, made in pencil, have survived in the Duane copy, and other notations as well have rubbed away, in a few cases leaving faint traces, but not in Poe’s handwriting.






[S:0 - BRPIMV, 1981/1994] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Editions - The Collected Writings of Edgar Allan Poe (B. R. Pollin) (Hans Pfaall)