Text: Anonymous, “Mr. Poe's Lecture [on the Universe],” Literary World: A Journal of American and Foreign Literature, Science, and Art (New York, NY), vol. III, no. 2, February 12, 1848, p. 30, cols. 1-2


[page 30, column 1, continued:]




THE subject of this gentleman's discourse at the Society Library was, the Cosmogony of the Universe. He began by reading a letter which had been found enclosed in a bottle drifting upon the sea, the date of which was two thousand eight hundred and forty-eight. The letter was quite an original and brilliant affair; being an attempt to show the folly of the philosophers of the nineteenth century, in that they reasoned entirely upon the Baconian method. It argued that no certain knowledge could ever be acquired in that way; and no discoveries of the laws or law of the universe could be achieved. The à priori method was pronounced to be the only satisfactory one, the mind in every case inevitably falling back upon axioms and impressions. The letter contained many very amusing historical blunders. The Baconian system was named after Hogg, the Ettrick Shepherd, who was its inventor, &c., &c.

Mr. Poe having thus taken out a license to present a theory of his own for the construction of the universe, proceded [[proceeded]] to give one, the substance of which is as follows: Matter, by

a single volition of the Deity, was irradiated from himself, and universally diffused throughout space. It was, therefore, originally contained in the Godhead. When irradiated it was endowed with a power of attraction. As soon as the diffusion ceased, that is, when the single volition of the Deity had ceased to energize, matter strove at once to return again to its — unity. The larger atoms, acting according to the general law of gravity, attracted to themselves the smaller; everywhere the process of agglomeration proceeded until matter was collected into systems of monster-atoms, called planets. These, in their revolution, threw off satellites, and sometimes themselves burst into fragments or asteroids. These systems themselves tend to unity; after unnumbered cycles shall have passed away, each collection of stars will consolidate into one mighty mass; and yet again, these masses [column 2:] still struggling towards unity, shall unite in overwhelming globe, and that globe will merge and disappear in the Deity. This vast process of ingathering of worlds is now going on, and when it shall have been completed, the diffusion may again take place in a modified and yet more glorious form, to be followed by the same agglomeration and ingathering. Thus may the alternation be continued through eternal ages. It might be said that the nebular hypothesis had been exploded by the telescope at Cincinnati, and the instrument of Lord Ross; but on the contrary such results only confirmed the theory. Indeed, were any nebulæ to be found, it would be a perfect refutation of his theory. The diffusion of nebulous matter was instantaneous, and the precess of condensation commenced immediately, so that, of course, no nebulosities would be found at this late period. The common notion, that each planet was made and moulded, and then rolled to its place in its system, was unphilosophical and awkward.

This is, of course, but a meagre exhibition of the idea of the lecture. It occupied two hours and a half in its delivery, and consequently, notwithstanding the highly intellectual character of the audience, might have been deemed rather long by some who found portions of it too much condensed, and too abstruse for apprehension. The freedom and boldness of the speculations, together with the nervousness and vivacity of the reading, made the whole performance in the highest degree entertaining; and its publication will be anticipated with much interest by the many admirers of the author.







[S:0 - LW, 1848] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Bookshelf - Review of Mr. Poe's Lecture [on the Universe] (Anonymous, 1848)