Text: Anonymous, Literary Annual Register and Catalogue Raison of New Publications, London: E. Churton, 1845, p. 163


[page 163, continued:]

TALES. By Edgar A. Poe. 12mo. 3s. 6d.

THESE Tales also are the work of an American. They are strongly tinctured with the peculiar mannerism of the author, showing an extraordinary bias towards the analytical, so much so, that had he been an Englishman, we should unhesitatingly have set him down for an Old Bailey lawyer. He is never so happy as when unravelling cyphers that, to any one else, would seem unintelligible, or in combining the various details attendant upon some mysterious murder, till, by dint of wading through the probable and improbable, he at length discovers the real culprit. On such occasions he exhibits a degree of ingenuity that would do credit to a Ballantyne or a Clarkson.

But though all these stories have the distinguishing mark of the same mint, they can not be called either monotonous or tiresome, embracing, as they do, a variety of subjects as opposed to each other as can well be imagined, but most of them exceedingly amusing. Thus the “Gold-bug” is a wild tale of hidden treasure; the “Black Cat” is a striking but improbable story of a murderer haunted by a cat with the mark of a gallows on her breast, and finally, by her agency brought to justice; the “Mesmeric Revelation,” the “Colloquy of Monos and Una,” and the “Conversation of Eiros and Charmion,” are somewhat vague philosophical speculations; the “Descent into the Maelstrom is a marvellous account of a fisherman plunged into the whirlpool, and finally escaping, after having for hours been whirled round and round upon the gyrating walls of the vortex; the “Murders in the Rue Morgue,” and the “Mystery of Marie Roget,” two stories admirably calculated for the purposes of melodramatic scribblers. The first of the two last mentioned, whether fact or not, has some very peculiar features about it, and might well occupy a page in the volumes of the Causes Célèbres. The mere outlines of the story are these. About three o’clock in the morning terrific shrieks are heard from the fourth story of a house in the Rue Morgue, known to be in the sole occupancy of Madame L’Espanage, and her daughter Camille. The police and neighbors break into the house, and, as they are rushing up the stairs, distinguish, as they suppose, a [column 2:] male and female voice; but when they have forced their way into the room, are surprised to find the windows fast, and no one there; but the body of the mother is at length discovered on the pavement below, the head nearly severed, while the corse [[corpse]] of Camille is found forcibly crammed up the chimney. How then did the murdered escape? for one voice, certainly not that of a female, had been heard; there was no second door to the room, the chimney, high up, was much too narrow to allow of any one passing out that way, and both the windows, as we have already mentioned, were fastened, and held down each by a single nail. Who then could be the murderer? and how could he have escaped after the commission of the deed?

It is now that the author exhibits in the person of a friend his own powers of analysis and combination. The first point of peculiarity, and it is for them that he looks out, is the in forcing the body of Camille up the chimney; the murderer appearance of the bodies; great violence must have been used must therefore have been singularly powerful. The gold that the old lady had received from the bankers the day before remains untouched; he could not therefore have been actuated by the love of money — Or had these ladies quarrelled with any one who was likely to avenge himself by assassination? nothing of the kind appeared, and therefore the necessary conclusion was that he had acted without a motive — how then had he escaped? a minute examination showed the enquirer, what had escaped the notice of the police, that the nail, supposed to hold one of the windows, had, in fact, long been eaten in two by rust, and that it was kept down solely by a spring, which might have closed itself by the falling to of the casement after the escape of the assassin; lastly, and most important of all, was the fact that no two of those who had entered the house at the breaking open of the door, could make out a word of what had been uttered by the male speaker, or could even agree upon his language. One swore that he spoke in English; a second, in French; a third, in German; a fourth, in Russian; a fifth, in Italian. Such are the facts, the various points of evidence, and we leave it to our readers to exercise their ingenuity in unravelling the mystery, or, what will give them less trouble, and more amusement, refer at once to the original for the solution.







[S:0 - CLAR, 1845] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Bookshelf - [Review of Tales] (Anonymous, 1845)