Text: Richard Bolton to Edgar Allan Poe — November 4, 1841


Pontotoc, Miss., Nov. 4, 1841

Dear Sir:

The November number of your valuable magazine has just arrived. To my great surpise [[surprise]] no notice is taken of my solution of the cryptograph poposed [[proposed]] to your readers in the August number. This I can attribute only to accident or over sight. As you had thrown the gauntlet which I took up, I >>must<< call upon you as a true man and no craven to render me according to the terms of the defiance the honours of a field worthily contested and fairly won.

About the last of August a friend lent me for perusal your magazine for that month. On the ninth of September, within a month after the arrival of the magazine my solution was mailed (postage paid) addressed to the “editor.” Accompanying it were certificates of two subscribers, Messrs. Glokenau and L. C. Draper (the latter assistant postmaster) that I had effected the solution, unaided by the key and that the September number in which the key was exposed had not arrived.

My solution fully agrees with your published solution except in two words about which I will soon take occasion to remark. I therefore claim to have fully complied with the terms of the challenge and to be entitled to all the rights, privileges and honours therein expressed.

My solution was as follows:

In one of those perpatetic [[peripatetic]] circumrotations I obviated a rustic whom I subjected to catechetical interrogation respecting the homonomial characteristic of the edifice to which I was approximate. With a volubility uncongealed by the frigorific powers of villatic bashfulness he ejaculated a voluminous replication from the universal tenor of whose contexts I deduce the subsequent amalgamation of heterogeneous facts (or fancy). Without dubiety incipient pretension is apt to terminate in final vulgarity as parturient mountains have been fabulated to produce muscupular abortions, yet the institution, the subject of my remarks has not been without cause the theme of the ephemeral columns of quotidian journals and of enthusiastic encomiations in conversational intercourse.

Notes (1) i, omitted in the cipher. (2) t, omitted in the cipher. (3) homonomial — a Greek derivative compound as in homologue and binomial. Ouovouos, according to authority [[Dvanyan ??]]” That have similar laws.” May well be used to designate architectural proportions and thus fairly apply to the characteristics of an edifice. Nouos is commonly anglicised into nomial whereas nomos, from Nomiso must be changed into comial as you have properly rendered it. But the cipher whbo supposing w erronously [[erroneously]] used in place of u spells mial not mical as you give it in yours. The character 5 is used but once in the cipher; it may therefore as well be mo as so. Also by analogy as 4 is to and 5, mo and 6, or again — it states also that he used these characters in lieu of various short words to prevent frequent repetitions, but neither so nor os is used except in whose elsewhere in the cipher, while mo and om are used in whom homo nomial from mountains encomation. There was therefore little reason to substitute a character for so, but great cause for substuting one for mo — especially as in the word homonomial it must occur twice. I am satisfied my translation agrees best with the cipher even though the word nosocomical was intended by the author. This word caused me more trouble than all the rest of the cryptograph. (4) t omitted in the cipher translated literally (5) c in the cipher erroneously used instead of e (6) context. The general series of discourse Webster. I prefer this to contents as more in character with the bombastic words commonly used. The same idea is conveyed by either word. (7) yet omitted in your solution. (8) spelled ephemeral. (9) a used instead of A in the cipher omitted in your solution. I am your obedient servant,

R. Bolton
Edgar A. Poe, Esq,
Editor of Graham’s Gentleman’s Magazine.



Bolton’s letter is reprinted here from the Commercial Appeal (Memphis) for November 15, 1925, where it was first printed. Some corrections have been applied from the notes of Thomas Ollive Mabbott, who checked the newspaper printing against the original letters about 1964, when they were in the collection of Frank Cleveland Bolton (of New York), a great-grandson of Richard Bolton. By that time, unfortunately, the last leaf of this letter had apparently been lost and that portion of the text must rely on the newspaper printing.


[S:0 - MS, 1841] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Misc - Letters - R. Bolton to Poe (RCL338)