Text: Anonymous, New Church Repository and Monthly Review, vol. I, no. 8, August 1848, pp. 508-509


[page 506, continued:]

3. — EUREKA: A Prose Poem, BY EDGER [[EDGAR]] A. POE. NEW YORK: J. WILEY [[G. P. PUTNAM]]. 1848; pp. 143.

A poet here enters upon profound speculations, shooting ahead of the Newtons, Laplaces, Herschells, and Nicholses, in the solution of the great problems of the Universe. He calls his work a poem, perhaps because, with Madame De Stael, he regards the Universe itself as more like a poem than a machine, and therefore to be treated poematically, Others might say it was because he had invested the subject with all a poet's imagination. But this would be, we think, to withhold its due meed of praise from the vein of real philosophic thought which runs through it. It is a book devoted indeed to a theory, but a theory by no means to be despised nor lacking in some of the higher elements of scientific probability. We might perhaps feel the want of a certain property termed demonstration as a buttress to his reasonings, but that the author has effectually estopped any such inconvenient demand in his case by the peremptory position that “in this world, at least, there is no such thing as demonstration” — that such affairs as axioms or self-evident truths are “all in my eye,” mere figments and phantasies. Waving, however, the application of this sweeping negatur to his own speculations, we refuse not to concede that the work before us does offer some hints towards solving no less a problem than that of the cause of gravitation, before which the grandest geniuses have shrank abashed. Of this we can scarcely make the barest statement in a manner which shall do full justice to the propounder's thought, but we may afford an inkling of it by saying that he assumes a created unitary and irrelative particle as the first principle or germ of the Universe, and supposes an internal force, identical with the Divine volition, to have radiated or projected all but an infinity of minimal atoms from this parent particle into the regions of space, and that the attraction of gravitation is nothing else than a conatus on the part of these atoms to return to the central unity. It would doubtless be easy to suggest a multitude of difficulties that weigh upon this theory in the form in which it is proposed by the poet-philosopher, but we may take the main position apart from all the accessories by which it is surrounded and give it the credit of at least a very plausible and sagacious guess. The hypothesis of the generation of the Universe from a simple monad — not however the monad of Leibnitz — plainly approximates, in several of its features, to the view given by Swedenborg in his philosophical works, of the evolution of all things from “the first natural point,” and Mr. Poe will recognize a striking analogy between his own theory and that presented in the following paragraph from the “Outlines on the Infinite:”

“Let us confine our attention still to the first and smallest natural principle, so that we may not disturb the worshipers of nature in their circles and spheres, but [page 509:] may keep them constantly attentive to their own principles, and allow no foreign considerations to interfere between their minds and the conclusion. It is granted then that the least natural entity derived its origin from the infinite, for we have already seen that no other origin of it was possible: the question now is, What are the distinctive qualities of this least natural or primitive entity? Is it the first seed of nature? Does it involve any natural predicate, like what we find in nature? Or is it only an analogue or simile of the substances, essentials, attributes, modes, &c., that we observe in nature? Here I will answer agreeably and in conformity to the principles of those I am reasoning with, that it has in it every primitive quality that there is in nature, and every simple also; that consequently It is the seed of all natural things; that it is their principle; that it is that out of which, by degrees and moments, ultimate nature is unfolded: in a word, that there is in it, as primitive entity, everything whatever that we can possibly conceive as existing in nature ; and that thus in this prime, or in an indefinite number of these primes or leasts, nature exists in her very seed; out of which, whether considered as one or many, she ultimately issues forth in her diversity, in all her manifoldness, with all her distinct and abundant series, mighty in the heavens, in the worlds, in the planets, in the kingdoms of each peculiar planet, elemental, mineral, vegetable, in the parts of all these kingdoms, and in the parts, of the parts; in short, with whatever can be predicated of her as nature, in her least or her greatest sphere. But as to what the Simple seems to have been, we have treated of this subject at some length in our Principia, in the Chapter on the Elements.”

Indeed, we have no doubt that Mr. Poe would be vastly surprised, upon reading Swedenborg's “Outlines on the Infinite” to see to what extent many of the prominent ideas of his own work had been anticipated in that masterly dissertation on the origin of the Universe and “the final cause of creation.” We trust too that if he should ever turn his attention to this work, he may feel the force of Swedenborg's reasoning in regard to the being and agency of a God distinct from nature, in which, if we understand Mr. P. he is disposed to sink the Universal Cause. Its pantheistic tendency is the worst feature of his book, and it is felt the more from the contrast between the passages where this is broadly avowed, and those in which he speaks of the Divine volition as if he regarded the subject from a Christian stand-point. With all abatements, however, the book will repay perusal.



The present short review appears under a column bearning the title “Notices of New Works.”


[S:0 - ALBN, 1848] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Bookshelf - Review of Eureka, A Prose Poem (Anonymous, 1848)