Text: Carroll Dee Laverty, “Chapter 12,” Science and Pseudo-Science in the Writings of Edgar Allan Poe (1951), pp. 306-354 (This material may be protected by copyright)


[page 306:]

Chapter XII


Eureka (1848) is the climax of Poe’s thinking, in astronomy and cosmology, and is his most ambitious literary work employing a considerable amount of scientific information. His almost lifelong interest in astronomy and other sciences might result in an attempt to explain the origin and functioning of the universe. His metaphysical bent would urge him to fill in by intuition the gaps left by science. His conscious knowledge of his powers as an author would demand that he perform better what several less skilful writers had attempted before him. Instead of being the anomaly in his writings that some critics have considered it, Eureka is in some respects the climactic art-product of this literary artist who took science as a source of material.

Nor is this rhapsodic piece of prose a thing incongruous in its own time. In the literature of the period from 1750 to 1848 there are many works on cosmology-each attempting in its own way to advance a scientific hypothesis, expound a metaphysical idea, or prove the wisdom and benevolence of the Divine Creator. Looked at in comparison with his own “The Gold-Bug” [page 307:] or with Lowell’s The Biglow Papers, Eureka may appear like the production of a half-mad man — as some critics have suggested Poe was when he wrote Eureka; but looked at against the background of the interests of the times and at his own personality, it appears as a natural culmination.

To understand Eureka, a reader must understand whence it sprang and what it tried to express. Much of the material in it Poe derived from the intellectual world in which he lived. Parts, on the other hand, are intensely individual, expressing his most intimate thoughts. Eureka deals with what its author considered the most sublime of subjects. Like Paradise Lost, it represents the writer’s attempt to create a great and noble work. The conception, the author felt, was sublime; the execution was necessarily mundane.

To appreciate Eureka fully, a reader must also see whither it tended. Since it contains guesses which express ideas like some held by twentieth-century scientists, it claims the interest of modern readers. That it inevitably missed the mark in some of its predictions proves that its author was human.

Although Eureka was first presented to the public on February 3, 1848, in a lecture at the New York Society Library and was published as a book some months later, the idea of it had been occupying Poets mind for a number of years. That he felt it to be an important work is suggested by the fact that he urged his publisher to prepare an edition of fifty thousand copies. The same conclusion is corroborated by the report of some of those who heard his lecture on the subject. The obvious fervor(1) with which he talked is [page 308:] testimony to his belief in his conclusions.

Eureka is a synthesis to which Poe applied his scientific knowledge, his poetic power, his ability to think logically, and his metaphysical speculations. It also is tinged with a subdued religious fervor, a fact suggesting that it is akin to the works of natural theology that preceded it. Eureka belongs to the family of Lucretius’s De Rerum Natura, Fontenelle’s Plurality of Worlds, Huygens’s Cosmotheoros, and Thomas Dick’s Christian Philosopher. It is akin to the Cosmos of Alexander von Humboldt, to whom it is dedicated “with very profound respect”; Andrew Jackson Davis’s The Principles of Nature, Her Divine Revelations, and a Voice to Mankind; and Robert Chambers Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation. It owes much to the science of Newton and Herschel and perhaps something to the history of that science by the Reverend William Whewell. And it is not unrelated in parts to the philosophy of Parmenides, Democritus, and Plato; Kant, Hegel, and Leibnitz; and the English philosophers, particularly Locke and Whewell. With such a varied ancestry, the wonder is that Eureka is as unified as it is.

A sympathetic critic could well say of Eureka what Sir Frederick Pollock said of Bergson’s thinking:

No philosopher can give you more than a world-poem. If he does not contradict experience or demand extravagant assumptions, and his construction hangs together, he has done all one can ask in reason. No system of the universe can be proved: there is nothing outside to prove it by.(2)

Poe called Eureka “a prose poem,” and asked that it be judged as a poem after his death, but one cannot help also considering the scientific lore [page 309:] it contains. Eureka is subtitled “An Essay on the Material and Spiritual Universe.” Such it is; and to the current knowledge of both subjects Poe adds a few original thoughts. To trace the thread of thought through Eureka for the purpose of showing where it is drawn from the learning of his time and where it is of his own origination will help explain the complex fabric into which it is woven.(3)


Poe’s own brief summary the main thought of Eureka may help one to follow it as i t is developed in more detail with indication as to the source or possible source of many of his ideas. The summary which follows, Poe sent to George Eveleth in a letter of February 29, 848:

The General Proposition is this — Because Nothing was, therefore All Things are.

1  — An inspection of the universality of Gravitation — i.e., of the fact that each particle tends, not to any one common point, but to every other particle — suggests perfect totality or absolute unity, as the source of the phenomenon.

2  — Gravity is but the mode in which is manifested the tendency of all things to return into their original unity is but the reaction of the first Divine Act. [page 310:]

3  — The law regulating the return — i. e., the law of Gravitation — is but a necessary result of the necessary and sole possible mode of equable irradiation of matter through space: this equable irradiation is necessary as a basis for the Nebular Theory of Laplace.

4  — The Universe of Stars (contradistinguished from the Universe of space) is limited.

5  — Mind is cognizant of Matter only through its two properties, attraction and repulsion: therefore Matter is only attraction and repulsion: a finally consolidated globe-of-globes, being but one particle, would be without attraction — i.e., gravitation: the existence of such a globe presupposed the expulsion of the separative ether which ‘we know to exist between the particles as at present diffused: thus the final globe would be matter without attraction and repulsion: but these are matter: then the final globe would be matter without matter no matter at all; must disappear. This Unity is Nothingness.

6  — Matter, springing from Unity, sprang from Nothingness — i.e, was created.

7  — All will return to Nothingness, in returning to Unity.(4)

Eureka, opens with an expression of humility and an announcement that its theme is reciprocally simple and sublime. In Poe’s time the idea that implicitly is a sublime or divine attribute was common in discussions of the Deity and His workings. The creation of the Universe and the fundamental laws of motion are part of that about which the author writes in Eureka., end in accord with scientists of his time, he emphasizes the simplicity and sublimity of his theme.

The subject of Eureka is announced: “the Physical, Metaphysical and Mathematical — . . . the Material and the Spiritual Universe: — . . . its Essence, [page 311:] its Origin, Creation, Present Condition and its Destiny.”(5) Such were exactly the subjects that the cosmogonists scientific and religious-of Poe’s time and earlier wrestled with. Such titles as Telliamed; or the World Explained(6) and System of the World(7) are common. Most or the astronomy books of the day contained a chapter on the origin of the Universe, or at least of the Solar System, and Sir William Herschel’s nebular speculations as developed and formulated by Laplace in his famous hypothesis were a topic of intelligent conversation everywhere.

Poe states next that “there is, in this world at least, no such thing as demonstration” of a theorem. Philosophers of his time, like Whewell, were examining the bases of scientific knowledge and were even questioning the validity of Euclid’s axioms. Perhaps in their challenge of orthodox knowledge, they were making possible the first vague preliminary explorations into the field of non-Euclidean geometry. Poe may have heard of such speculations by 1848, when in Eureka he wrote:

. . . we will select I say, no axiom of an unquestionability so questionable as is to be found in Euclid. We will not talk, for example, about such a [page 312:] proposition as that two straight lines cannot enclose a space, or that the whole is greater than any one of its parts.(8)

His assertion is a preliminary, probably, to his many later statements in Eureka that intimate knowledge is not based on mathematical demonstration but rather on intuition — a feeling of the soul.(9) Whewell makes the point in his Philosophy of the Inductive Sciences that certain propositions in mathematics are not demonstrable by experience.(10) Perhaps Poe had some such idea in mind, but he does not explain his meaning at this point. He merely asserts that he is trying to suggest a ruling idea not demonstrate a theorem. This is probably one reason that he wanted Eureka to be fudged as a poem.

He goes on: “My general proposition then is this: — In the Original, Unity of First Thing lies the Secondary Cause of All Things, with the Germ of their Inevitable Annihilation.” One can almost suppose that Poe answering a question put by Timothy Flint in 1833: [page 313:]

Is brute matter capable of sentient life and voluntary motion? Had it beginning de nihilo, or is it as eternal as the infinite Mind every where diffused through its masses? Will it exist forever, or having accomplished the temporary purposes of its Creator, will it be reduced again to its original nihility?(11)

Poe then carefully defines what he means by universe, distinguishing between Universe and the limited “Universe of Stars.” His distinction is closely akin to that of Andrew Jackson. Davis.(12) In Eureka Poe defines his Universe as “the utmost conceivable expanse of space, with all things, spiritual and material that can be imagined to exist within the compass of that space.”(13) Poe definitely believes that the Universe of Stars is limited. In judging so he has the authority of Whewell and Sir William Herschel behind him, even though Herschel seemed to hold it as his final opinion that man cannot see or logically deduce a limit for it. Here, as elsewhere, Poe confidently sets his own opinion against that of scientific authorities, as he states in the third paragraph of Eureka that he will do. In order to emphasize the purported uniqueness of his subject he then discusses the mental point of view necessary for considering the limited universes and concludes that one needs a mental spinning on the heel to get individuality of impression. Humboldt discusses the same problem, but comes [page 314:] to a different conclusion.(14) It is likely that his discussion, though, gave Poe some suggestions on the subject. In his discussion, Poe introduces his oft-repeated belief that intuitions are the greatest source of knowledge. He speaks of his aim as the conclusions — the speculations — if nothing better offer itself, the mere guesses which may result from it.”(15)

In the following ten and one-half pages Poe develops the idea of sublime truth such “guesses.” He does it in a letter unskilfully attempting to be serious under a guise of feeble humor, which impresses most readers as being out of accord with the serious — “august,” Poe says nature of his subject. He advances the idea that the ordinary methods of scientists induction and deduction — are restrictions, and that the important advances in science come “by seemingly intuitive leaps.”(16) He clearly implies that the truths he is presenting in Eureka, are the result of such leaps. Here, as elsewhere, he Identifies imagination and intuition.

In this discussion of the roads to truth, Poe writes of “the majestic highway cf the Consistent,” and declares “a perfect consistency can be nothing but an absolute truth.”(17) This idea of consistency as vital to [page 315:] truth was not uncommon in the scientific thinking of his day.(18) Obviously the concept of consistency as an element of truth is not held exclusively by any one man,(19) but Poe’s emphasis on it accords with the thinking of many scientific men of his age.

This section of Eureka, the burlesque letter into which are introduced his ideas of truth and the methods of gaining it, ends with a quotation adapted frees Kepler: “I care not whether my work be read now or by posterity. I can afford to wait a century for readers when God himself has waited six thousand years for an observer. I triumph. I have stolen the golden secret of the Egyptians. I will indulge my sacred fury.”

The preliminaries over, Poe discusses much in the manner of Humboldt and Dick(20) the best point of view for seeing the universe. “We may ascend or descend,” he states. adds, “Usually — that is to say, in ordinary essays on Astronomy the first of these two modes is, with certain reservation, adopted. . . .”(21) This reference makes clear that Poets work is indebted to other essays on astronomy and in a sense is one of a genre of literature popular in his day. Poe decides to combine both methods — a descent from the [page 316:] almost conceivable expanse of space to the earth and an ascent from the earth to the farthest distances.

He commences then with infinity and points out that it is not an idea but only “an effort at one,” or a “thought of a thought.”(22) Discussing the difficulties of conceiving of infinity, Poe refers to the impossibility annihilating matter as a thing inconceivable.(23) His discussion of infinity leads him to a consideration of First Causes, and here he simply steps beyond science and asserts: “We believe in a God.”(24) Almost all astronomy books and natural philosophy texts make reference to a First Cause of all things.(25) Again Poe is in one stream of popular discussion. He notes, as many natural theologians did, that the Deity did not design the problem of infinity to be solved byman.

Taking a suggestion from Pascal’s definition of a Universe,(26) Poe says that the Universe of Space he is to discuss may be taken as “a sphere of which the centre is everywhere, the circumference nowhere. Then leaving science, as he does when the need arises, he adopts the God-head as the beginning, and translates Bielfeld: “We know absolutely nothing of the nature or essence of God: — in order to comprehend what he is, we should have to [page 317:] be God ourselves.” This quotation is significant, for Poe returns to this idea at the end of Eureka and on it bases his ultimate conclusions — metaphysical — (28) poetic — ones. He then assumes that “out of Nothing, by dint of his Volition — at some point of Space we will take as a centre,” God created something. What? he asks.

Before he answers, he says that “only Intuition can aid us.” By “irresistible intuition,” then, he is led to conclude that Matter in its utmost Simplicity is what God created out of nothing. Earlier Poe quotes as a supposed axiom now disproved, the “ex nihilo nihil fit,” an idea current in literature from, at latest, the time of Lucretius.

Poe predicates Oneness of the originally created matte_ absolute Unity.(29) This alone, he says, “is a principle abundantly sufficient to account for the constitution, the existing phenomena and the plainly inevitable annihilation of at least the material Universe.”(30) Davis expresses essentially the same idea as to the source of matter: “The matter contained the substance to produce all suns, all worlds, and systems of worlds, throughout the immensity of space. It contained the qualities to produce all things that are existing upon each of these worlds.”(31) Poe speaks of “the primordial Particle”(32) originally created. Again Davis expresses the same idea: [page 318:] “This was the original condition of MATTER. It was without forms; for it was but one Form. . . . Particles did not exist; but the whole was one Particle.”(33)

The ultimate purpose of willing into being, Poe asserts, was the creation of the Universe. The constitution of the Universe was effected, he affirms, “by forcing the originally and therefore normally One into the abnormal condition of Many.”(34) Davis asserts: “In order that this Matter might assume forms, the action of the Great Positive Power was necessary to impel it to higher states of progression. . . .”(35) What Poe describes as “the condition of many” is the condition under which matter assumes form.

He then states, still on metaphysical grounds, that such an original forcing of the unparticled matter into a condition of many “implies reaction . . . a tendency to return to Unity.”(36) This reaction he identifies with the force of gravity. Such an identification may be original with Poe. But he could have derived a similar conception from Galileo. In his dialogues, the great scientist assigns to matter a kind of metaphysical tendency toward [page 319:] unity that is almost identical with Poe’s thought.(37) Most writers of Poe’s day asserted that gravity was a result of the first impulse given matter by God — not a reaction to the impulse.

Poe then describes the method by which the One became diverse. He supposes spherical irradiation of almost infinites rally small atoms in all directions to immeasurable but finite distances. Thus he obtains diversity out of Unity. But, asserting as he does often throughout Eureka, that “supererogation is not presumable of any Divine Act,”(38) he says it is not necessary that no two atoms be of the same size or form and distance from others. The condition of agglomeration will be brought about, he declares, by the tendency of atom to atom. Poets idea of the diversity in unity may well be derived from Plato, with whose works he is known to have had some acquaintance.(39) [page 320:]

Poe then conceives that some of the radiated atoms are of different form and not equidistant from each other. The tendency back to Unity — gravitation s immediate and perpetual after the withdrawal of the creating Divine Impulse. But in order to allow for attaining the ends of creation — “the utmost possible Relation,” the tendency back to unity must be delayed temporarily. Failure of some force to forestall this tendency to Unity would produce a result speculated about by many writers of Poets time and earlier.(40) To prevent the immediate return of all diffused atoms to their original unparticled oneness, Poe says, something is needed something which will allow the approach, but not actual contact of atoms, “up to a certain epoch,”(41) the time when the Divine purpose will be fulfilled by the return of everything to Unity. The something is repulsion, brought about by the interposition of God. Poe says, “I feel. . .that here God has interposed, and here only. . . . “(42) [page 321:] The repulsion that he describes is almost identical with that described by Roger Joseph Boscovich, a Jesuit of Italy, whose work was much oftener written about in Poe’s day than today.(43) In Poe’s time, the general idea of attraction and repulsion in matter was well known.

Poe then identifies repulsion as “that which we have been designating was heat, now as magnetism, now as electricity. In that identification he again is following thinkers of his time. Books of natural philosophy often name heat as the principle of repulsion.(45) Davy mentions the attraction and repulsion of matter as being related to electricity(46) and [page 322:] discusses heat, light, electricity and galvanism as the imponderables, about gash we know little.(47) Anyone interested in the subject,(48) as Poe was, would have found it discussed in technical journals, encyclopedias, books even in such non-technical magazines as the Edinburgh Journal, which carried a number of articles on scientific subjects.

Apparently Poe did not mean by electricity what we mean today; rather he thought it repulsion, a constituent of matter. writes: “The amount of electricity developed on the approximation of two bodies is proportional to the difference between the respective sums of the atoms of which the bodies are composed.[[”]](49) This thought appears to be original with him, and seems to anticipate modern theories of difference in electric potential, although as it stands the theory is not tenable today. The conventional statement in Poe’s time was that the amount of electricity is proportional to the difference in amount of accumulated electricity on each body which is different from the total, number of atoms. He was partially right though in saying that electricity is developed on the approximation of two bodies and that electricity (or electrical charges) is basic to the composition of matter.

His identification of light, electricity, heat, and magnetism with vitality, consciousness, and Thought is more startling but not unprecedented. Erasmus Darwin had speculated on the possibility that electricity or something [page 323:] similar was the very spirit of animation. Also extant among the practioners [[practitioners]] of animal magnetism, or mesmerism, was the idea that animation, feeling, end Intelligence are all of an ethereal nature much like what electricity was supposed to be.(51)

Many of the natural philosophers of Poets day were experimenting with electricity and suggesting the identity of light, heat, magnetism, and electricity. Poe boldly assumes the identity as an established fact. He then discards the terms “attraction” and “repulsion,” and, becoming metaphysical again, states: “The former is the body; the latter the soul; the one is the material; the other the spiritual principle of the Universe.”(52) He then says that since no principle but attraction and repulsion exists, they constitute matter — a very modern notion.(53) [page 324:]

Poe then summarizes and asserts that he has shown deductively that the tendency of diffused atoms to return to their original unity is the principle of the Newtonian law of Gravity. He reached this conclusion, be states, by considering Simplicity as the quality most likely to characterize an original act of God. Isaac Newton may have furnished him this idea. The great physicist wrote:

We are to admit no more, causes of natural, things than such as are both true and sufficient to explain their appearances.

To this purpose the philosophers say that Nature does nothing in vain, and more is in vain when less will serve; for Nature is pleased with simplicity, and affects not the pomp of superfluous causes.(54)

Poe then proposes to examine empirically the Newtonian law to see whether he can reach the same conclusions inductive states the Newtonian law of attraction, and reiterates his criticism of ordinary ideas of proof. He cites the experiments of Maskelyne, Cavendish, and Baily as inductive proof — knowledge of which he could have found in many places. Poe then reiterates his statement of the Newtonian idea that “every, atom of every body attracts every other atom both of own and of every other body” and emphasizes his opinion that unity in its universality of diffusion is the source of this phenomenon.(55) He then deduces from the universality of [page 325:] attraction the thought that even the influence of one mote of a sunbeam is felt throughout the length and breadth of the universe. This idea was not uncommon in his time. This tendency, he explains, is sufficient to account for Newtonian gravity. Since the atoms were radiated into spheres, the greatest number will be at the point of radiation, and all will ultimately tend there in seeking every other atom. Induction, he says, has arrived where his intuition had led him earlier. Next he tries to show that his explanation of gravity, taking the volition of God as the ultimate principle, is the only explanation detailing the modus operandi of gravitation.(56) He names Dr. Nichol, Newton, Laplace, and Leibnitz as men who saw the law but failed to grasp “the principle of the law.(57)

The next new step in the developing thought of Eureka is a discussion of the laws of radiation. In order to explain the method of the original radiation of matter which he has postulated,(58) Poe takes light(59) as an example of something radiated. He states that irradiation proceeds in direct proportion [page 326:] with the square of the distances and that conversely the drawing together of particles proceeds inversely as the squares of the distances, “exactly as we know force of gravitation to proceed.”(60) His contention that the law of inverse squares is fundamental in the motions of all bodies in the universe is considered by some to be his greatest thought in Eureka. He advances this idea in support of his hypothesis of the formation of the earth by radiation from unity. if he can shows, he says, that there proportion between centralization and the force of centralization, he will have demonstrated his theory. This he can do by showing the same proportion for radiation and its force.

But here lies a difficulty, Poe declares, which in accordance with his belief, actually will help his reason feel the way to the truth. The difficulty is that continuing irradiation from a cent-er demands the idea of an agglomeration about a center, resulting in inequable distribution. The difficulty resolves, though, Poe explains, because he has assumed no continuous irradiation, but rather a determined finite, discontinued impulse of the Divine Volition. The literature of Poe’s time contains many statements of a Divine impulse used to start the world moving and then withdrawn.

Poe supposes that at the creation a number of rhythmic impulses irradiated matter various distances into a eerie of concentric spheres. Thus he gets matter into a condition where the reaction will begin and act ac cording to the laws of gravity, the surfaces of concentric spheres being directly proportionate to the squares of their distance from the center, — a [page 327:] commonly known mathematical fact. That the distribution of matter would be equable under such circumstances of irradiation is Poe’s contention. The facts, as reported by Nichol and Herschel, seemed to support his position. poe explains the reaction metaphysically. The original particle created by God must have been normal, right. Therefore, after dispersal, everything must want to return to normal. Here he discusses wrong as merely a deviation from normality a condition of relation.(61) The tendency to return to normal in the physical world, Poe says, is gravity. Whewell also saw a correspondence between the moral and physical world as did Emerson.

To prove his point that the tendency toward the center is proportional to the force toward the center, Poe again appeals to a common metaphysical idea — that Omniscience will exactly proportion the means to whatever end It has in view. Poe then presents a discussion of principles, much like others current in his time. He states that the Volition of God is “the truly ultimate Principle,”(62) and that this primary act with its consequence, attraction and repulsion, is to be considered as “continuous volition.(63) Every natural agent depends on one of these two “sub-principles,” or natural laws, he says. Such is Poe’s explanation of gravity.

He then justifies his opinion by appealing to his assumption of simplicity. Again he attacks so-called axioms, contending that they are not valid because what seems self-evident to man at one epoch may not be so at another, and that what is obvious to one mind may not be obvious to another.(64) This [page 328:] idea seems not to have been common in Poe’s time.

After he summarizes that part of his discussion, he launches into an explanation of his belief that the Universe is finite, and he uses an idea found in many astronomy books of his day — if there were an infinity of atoms, there should be an equal number in every direction Pram any given atom and therefore a state of equilibrium.(65) Some men concluded on the same basis that the world is infinite because the universe apparently is in equilibrium, but Poets conception was that it is moving toward an end.

Next follows a summary of Laplace’s nebular hypothesis, which he could easily have found in dozens of books of his time. Having presented this theory, he asserts that most astronomical treatises refer the centripetal force to Gravity and are forced to suppose an intervention by God to give the planets tangential velocity. To suppose such an intervention after creation, Poe says, is unphilosophical. The laws of Omnipotence must be immutable and infallible, he states. God must have provided for every contingency in the divine creation. Then he adds an idea that was common in his day: “Each law of Nature is dependent at all points upon all other laws.”

Eureka next explains the heat of the central mass of the sun as a consequence of repulsion set up by its condensation. Heat, light, electricity, and magnetism, Poe repeats, are all “involute phenomena” of repulsion. On this theory also, he adopts a belief in the luminosity of all stellar bodies, an idea held by other men of his time.(66) On the theory that repulsion, acting as the solar mass condensed, had heated the sun to incandescence, Poe [page 329:] concludes that the planets nearer the sun should be more luminous than the farther and older ones, and cites Venus and Neptune as examples of brightness and dimness respectively. Generally, the closer planets are more dense.

Poe then injects into Eureka what seems to be an original idea. He asserts that just before a ring was thrown from the sun, there must have been a decrease in heat and light because of the encrustation of the surface. He then explains times of luxuriant vegetation on this earth, even in such polar regions as the Melville Islands, by assuming that they existed just after Venus was thrown off from the sun, when there would have again been a great access of heat available from that body. Although Poe may have got the idea of such periods of luxurious vegetation in earthly history from J. P. Nichol, Erasmus Darwin or others,(67) the explanation of the cause of them seems original with him.(68) He then wonders about other effects of such solar influence, suggesting new eras of ultra-tropical vegetation after the formation of another new planet, and even the creation of “a race both materially and spiritually superior to man.”(69) Thus he arrives at the proposition that “the importance of the development of the terrestrial vitality proceeds equably with the terrestrial condensation.” This proposition implies progress, because condensation continues, according to Poets theory, until the [page 330:] final end of all. The idea of the creation of a kind of being superior to man is mentioned by many writers whom Poe knew — Dick,(71) Herschel,(72) Davis.(73) In fact, most of those who held the common doctrine of a plurality of worlds contended that some of these worlds might well be homes of beings superior to men or of men in a superior state. Milton refers to this belief in Paradise Lost, VIII, 140-145. In urging his belief that suns are hotter near the center, Poe refers to the proportional increase in heat as one goes toward the center of the earth, capitalizing on a contemporary interest.(74)

Poe then asserts that Laplace’s nebular theory has been confirmed by Compte,(75) and again urges the proposition that although not pr d, his hypothesis is “the sole hypothesis by means of which the human intellect has been ever enabled to account for them astronomical conditions’ at all.”(76)

He advances next to the discoveries of “the large telescope of Cincinnati and the world-renowned instrument of Lord Rosse,”(77) and says they confirm [page 331:] — not disprove his contention. He holds that no nebulosity exists, for nebulosity was a state of original creation long passed in the development of the universe. In this opinion he seems original. In arguing against the present existence of nebulae, Poe mentions that the light reaching the earth must have left it a vast number of years ago. It would be hard to find an astronomy book of his period that does not state this fact.

In an aside, Poe comments that Laplace formulated his theory in spite of false notions of nebulae, which he confounded with “the true Epicurean atoms.”(79) Poe elsewhere(80) speaks favorably of the Epicurean idea of the atom — an idea transmitted to moderns by Lucretius in his De Rerum Natura, which Poe also mentions.(81)

By way of summary to this point, Poe mentions our solar system of six-teen planets and seventeen or more moons according to his statement) as a generic instance of the agglomerations resulting from the action of gravitation and repulsion. Five of the sixteen planets counted by Poe were discovered after 1845. [page 332:]

Advancing from a consideration of the composition of the solar system, Poe considers it “as in itself an atom” in the whole universe. This idea was also common in his day. Davis lets “one atom represent the whole Universe”(83) in the whole Univercoelum. Dick speaks of “systems of worlds revolving around systems of worlds,”(84) as Poe does of his “system-atoms.”(85)

Poe says the heavens corroborate his belief that gravitation causes systems of systems throughout the sky, and speaks of clusters of clusters, much as contemporary astronomy books did. He follows this with a description of the Milky Way, which is much like those available in his own time. He then is led into speculations about other universes, and advances his own belief in a plurality of worlds, much in the manner of Dick(86) and many others.

Poe then proceeds from a consideration of the relative grouping of stars to considerations of magnitudes in the universe. These are such as he could have found in dozens of places. The measurement of distances by the speed of a cannon-.ball or of light is found again and again in the astronomical articles and books of his day. In this connection he asks if Bode’s law may not be explained by his theory of the origin of the universe by radiations of rings of atoms from the center. Bode’s law also was widely cussed in the 1800s. [page 333:]

Poe’s discussion of parallax beginning on page 286 seems to be original, although of course the idea was commonly known. His discussion of the distance of the star 61 Cygni is found, essentially the same, in astronomical literature of the day,(87) as is the statement that it would take light three million years to reach the earth from some stars.(88) Even the statement that we are now beholding events that happened ten hundred thousand centuries ago”(89) is not unparalleled.

It is the contemplation of such immensity that leads Poe next to his conclusion that “Space and Duration are one.”(90) But even here, in expressing this modern idea, he was not alone in his time. Davis asserts: “The profound meditations on the infinitude of Space, induce upon the mind the parallel conception of infinite Time. For time and space are parallel and synonymous in signification.(91) Poe says they are identical because Time must be just long enough for the fulfilment of God’s purposes. He then again urges “the absolute accuracy of Divine adaptation,(92) an idea quite common in his day and earlier, held by such men as William Paley, John Ray, seventeenth-century zoologist, and others.(93) Poe emphasizes the mutual adaptation [page 334:] in Divine acts, causes and effects being interchangeable, according to one’s int of view. He makes use of this idea later attempting to prove that matter is mere attraction and repulsion. This perfection of reciprocal adaptation in the Deity leads Poe to exclaim that the perfect plot has perfect reciprocal adaptation of incidents and that “The Universe is a plot of God.”(94)

Poe next attacks the current astronomical speculations about clusters revolving around clusters, systems about systems, etc., all gyrating round “some orb, let us rather say, of infinite sublimity endlessly multiplied by the infinitely sublime.”(95) Such descriptions were current then, and they ended with the statement that this ultimately sublime central orb is the throne of God an idea Poe entirely omits in Eureka, but includes elsewhere.

At this point he shies away from the idea of the throne of God and instead argues against Maedler’s theory of the rotation around such a central point, purely on astronomical grounds. In passing he speaks condescendingly of Fourier’s reveries on the harmony of the universe which are praised highly by Davis.(96) As Poe said, much had been written in his time about Needier. Perhaps Poe got his ideas on the subject from Nichol, who attacked certain features of Needier’s theory,(97) but the theory was news in the 1840s and he could have learned of it in many places. [page 335:]

Poe accepts Maedler’s theory that a central sun exists, or will exist, but denies that all systems of the universe are rotating about it on the ground that such movement could no be ascertained by a human being, because the circle or orbit of such motion would be too great, “It would scarcely be paradoxical to say,” he writes, “that a flash of lightning itself, travelling forever upon the circumference of this unutterable circle would still, forever, be travelling in a straight line. In advancing his argument against Needle Poe quotes Humbold’s Cosmos — further evidence ad at least parts of that work.

He then refers to Sir John Herachelts reluctance to regard the Universe as in a state of progressive collapse, but says that such is precisely the condition in which all things are. “The tendency to collapse” and “the attraction o. gravitation” are convertible phrases, Poe declares. His whole theory is that ultimately “all would be drawn into the substance of one stupendous central orb already existing. . . .”(100) He says the idea springs from a seemingly gyrating or vortical movement of parts of the Universe. Thus, when Encke’s comet was observed to undergo a regular decrease in its orbit, Poe says, philosophers explained this in drawing by the hypothesis of an ether. But, he adds, Lagrange explained the apparent indrawing of Eneke’s comet without the supposition of an ether, which for such a purpose would not be compatible with Divinity. [page 336:]

Poe then asserts, however, that he himself has posited an ether for a different purpose — referring to it “the various phenomena of electricity, heat, light, magnetism; and more — of vitality, consciousness, and thought — in a word, of spirituality.”(101) Poe’s ether, he says, is not matter. But doing away with a material ether in no sense does away with the ultimate agglomeration of all matter. The Divinity sees an end in every beginning, and the end of the world is approaching “through the reaction of the originating act,”(102) Eureka says. Such is the condition of the universe now.

What of the future? Like many of his contemporaries, Poe declares that it will be the rushing together to one point of all matter. But he has considered electricity, the repulsive force, as created solely so that matter could exist in the diffused form. Matter, by reciprocity, may be considered as existing solely for the sake of ether. Thus through matter is ether manifested “is Spirit Individualized,” Poe declares.(103) He goes on to say that it is this ether through development that becomes, through sensitivity, Thought and Conscious Intelligence.

But anything created for an end, he argues, again entering the realm of metaphysics, must cease to exist when the end is accomplished. So the end of this process, when matter fulfills its purpose and returns to oneness, will actually be the extinction of the universe, its ceasing to exist.

Poe contends that attraction and repulsion, being the sole properties by which matter is manifested to mind, are logically matter. When all sinks [page 337:] into one, there can be no attraction and repulsion; thus the end of the world will be a sinking into nothingness, But such a creation and extinction of our universe, he says, is merely one heart beat of the Divine Creator. Following the “omniprevalent law of laws, the law of periodicity, he says that me are more than Justified in believing that other heart-throbs will the creation and end of other universes. Poe may have got his idea periodicity from Sir John Herschel, who wrote of “the great law of periodicity which, as we shall see, pervades all astronomy.”(104) In believing in he rhythmical creation and extinction of universes,(105) Poe applies the law of periodicity to cosmogony.

Then Poe asks: “ — this Heart Divine — what is it?” and answers, “It is our own.”(106) This idea seems to be his original variation of one of the metaphysical ideas of his time. He defends his contention by expressing the belief that man feels his divinity from his youth, in a manner suggesting Wordsworth’s idea in his “Ode: Intimations of Immortality.” Poe emphasizes the utter impossibility of anyone’s soul feeling inferior to another. “My whole nature utterly revolts at the idea that there is any being in the [page 338:] Universe superior to myself!”(107) he declares. This is a very personal note in Eureka, consistent with the author’s belief that the highest truths are felt. He says that the soul’s aspirations are parallel to matter’s desire to return to unity. God exists now only in the diffused matter(108) and spirit of the Universe, and the regathering into one will be but “the reconstitution of the purely Spiritual and Individual God,”(109) Poe declares. The argument is essentially that of the pantheists of his day, and his God is akin to the Over-Soul of the Transcendentalists(110) and to Brahma.

Poe then declares that “all — those which you term animate, as well as those to whom you deny life for no better reason than that you do not behold it in operation — all these creatures have, in a greater or less degree, a capacity for pleasure and for pain.” This pantheistic doctrine of the sentience of all matter was current in Poe’s time.(111) [page 339:]

On this theme, Eureka ends — the gradual merging of the individual in the general consciousness — Man into Jehovah. It is a religious idea. In a note added to Eureka later, Poe asserts:

The pain of the consideration that we shall lose our individual identity, ceases at once when we further reflect that the process, as above described, is neither more nor less than that of all absorption, by each individual intelligence, of all other intelligences (that is, of the Universe) into its own. That God may be all in all, each must become God..(112)

This thought is akin to pantheism, a belief fairly common in the nineteenth century.(113)

It is clear, then, that Eureka is a synthesis of the scientific, metaphysical, and personal thoughts of its author. He drew on the best astronomers of his day for information and scientific ideas and interpreted them in his own way. He borrowed from the philosophers, the metaphysicians, and even the practicers [[practitioners]] of Animal magnetism, who were often forerunners of the spiritualists and who therefore were partly in the realm of metaphysics just as they claimed a place in the domain of science. To these he added a few personal, sometimes religious, thoughts.

Eureka is not the anomaly that some have called it; rather it is Poets individual production of a kind current in his day. It is distinctive in [page 340:] being more compactly written, in spite of its many repetitions,(114) and in being more logical in thought and exact in diction than most of its forerunners.


Furthermore, Eureka does not stand alone among Poets works. Many of the ideas in it, some of them the most personal, ho had stated earlier. In short stories, essays, poems, and reviews he expressed some of the essential ideas that he synthesized in Eureka. It is not, then, in one sense, a product merely of his last years.(115) For although he molded it into shape in 1847 and early 1848, he had held some of the ideas ever since “Al Aaraaf,” published in 1829; and some of the astronomical information in Eureka he had obtained as early as 1835, when he published “Hans Pfaal.”

The general subject of cosmogony was in Poets mind years before Eureka. A comment in “The Murders in the Rue Morgue,” published in 1841, shows casual acquaintance with the subject.(116) In the same year in his review of T. B. Macaulay’s Critical and Miscellaneous Essays Poe again comments on cosmogony: “. . . the only conclusive proof of mants alternate dissolution and rejuvenescence ad infinitum — is to be found in analogies deduced from the modern established theory of the nebular cosmogony.”(117) Poe further states: [page 341:]

This cosmogony demonstrates that all existing bodies in the universe are formed of a nebular matter, a rare ethereal medium, pervading space; shows the mode and laws of formation, and proves that all things are in perpetual state of progress: that nothing in nature is perfected.(118)

And in “Some Words with a Mummy” (April, 1845), Poe shows an acquaintance with other theories of cosmogony besides his own.(119)

Other topics fundamental to Eureka appear in various earlier works. “The all-prevalent law of action and reaction, Poe mentions as early as 1841.(120) And Pinikidia, first published in 1836, contains a passage about attraction and repulsion,(121) which are basic to the thought of Eureka. His review of “The American Drama” of 1845 contains more ideas later used in Eureka — mutuality of adaptation in nature, the reciprocity of cause and effect, and the universe as a plot of God. In that review Poe writes:

All the Bridgewater treatises have failed in noticing the great idiosyncrasy which stamps the adaptation as divine, in distinction from that which is the work of merely human constructiveness. I speak of the complete mutuality of adaptation. . . . In Divine constructions, the object is either object or purpose as we choose to regard it, while the purpose is either purpose or object; so that we can never (abstractly,-without concretion without reference to facts of the moment) decide which is which. . . .

The pleasure which we derive from any exertion of human ingenuity, is in the direct ratio of the approach to this species of reciprocity between cause and effect. In the construction of plot, for example, in fictitious [page 342:] literature, we should aim at so arranging the points, or incidents, that we cannot distinctly see, in respect to any one of them, whether that one depends from any one other or upholds it. In this sense, of course, perfection of plot is unattainable in fact — because Man is the constructor. The plots of God are perfect. The Universe is a plot of God.”(122)

In “Mesmeric Revelation,” published in 1844, Poe rehearses some of his ideas on matter which went on stage in Eureka. For example, he states:

The atmosphere, for example, impels the electric principle, while the electric principle permeates the atmosphere. These gradations of matter increase in rarity or fineness, until we arrive at a matter unparticled — with-out particles — indivisible — one; and here the law of impulsion and permeation is modified. The ultimate, or unparticled matter, not only permeates all things but impels all things — and thus is all things within itself. This matter is God. What men attempt to embody in the word “thought,” is this matter in motion.(123)

Almost every idea advanced in “The Power of Words,” published in 184 was used in Eureka approximately three years later. For one example of several possible ones, the idea in the following quotation is exactly that of Eureka:

We moved our hands, for example, when we were dwellers on the earth, and, in so doing, we gave vibration to the atmosphere which engirdled it. This vibration was indefinitely extended, till it gave impulse to every particle of the earth’s air, which thence forward, and for ever, was actuated by the one movement of the hand. This fact the mathematicians of our globe well knew.(124) [page 343:]

“The Island of the Fay,” first published in 1841, contains material that foreshadows some of the ideas later expressed in Eureka. One passage refers to the universe as having the shape of a sphere, to the plurality of wads, and to the belief that all life is contained within the Spirit Divine. It contains astronomical allusions like some found in Eureka, for maple the “cycle within cycle without end. . .all revolving around one far distant centre which is the Godhead.”(125)

In March of 1842 in reviewing Longfellow’s Ballads and Other Poems, Poe advances another idea important to Eureka:

This burning thirst belongs to the immortal essence of man’s nature. It is equally a consequence and an indication of his perennial life. It is the desire of the moth for the star. It is not the mere appreciation of the beauty before us. It is a wild effort to reach the beauty above. It is a forethought of the loveliness to come. It is passion to be satiated by no sublunary sights, or sounds, or sentiments, and the soul thus athirst strives to allay its fever in futile efforts at creation. Inspired with a prescient ecstasy of the beauty beyond the grave, it struggles by multiform novelty of combination among the things and thought of Tine to anticipate some portion of that loveliness whose very elements, perhaps, appertain solely to Eternity.(126)

The thirst for knowledge is also mentioned in “The Power of Words.”

In a letter to James Russell Lowell, dated July 2, 1844, Poe outlines his fundamental ideas of matter, the universe, and the materiality of God essentially in thought as they later appear in Eureka. Poe’s letter asserts:

I have no belief in spirituality. I think the word a mere word. No one has really a conception of spirit. We cannot imagine what is not. We deceive ourselves by the idea of infinitely rarefied matter. Matter escapes the senses by degrees — a stone — a metal — a liquid — the atmosphere — a gas — the luminiferous ether. Beyond this there are other modifications more rare. [page 344:] But to all we attach the notion of a constitution of particles atomic composition. For this reason only we think spirit different; for spirit, we say, is unparticled, and therefore is not matter. But it is clear that if we proceed sufficiently far in our ideas of rarefaction, we shall arrive at a point where the particles coalesce; for, although the particles be infinite, the infinity of littleness in the spaces between them is an absurdity. The unparticled matter, permeating and impelling all things, is God. Its activity is the thought of God — which creates. Man, and other thinking beings, are individualizations of the unparticled matter. Man exists as a “person,” by being clothed with matter (the particled matter) which individualizes him. Thus habited, his life is rudimental. What we call “death” is the painful metamorphosis. The stars are the habitations of rudimental beings. But for the necessity of the rudimental life, there would have been no worlds. At death, the worm is the butterfly — still material, but of a matter unrecognized by our organs — recognized occasionally, perhaps, by the sleep-walker directly — without organs — through the mesmeric medium. Thus a sleep-walker may see ghosts. Divested of the rudimental covering, the being inhabits space, — what we suppose to be the immaterial universe, — passing everywhere, and acting all things, by mere volition, cognizant of all secrets but that of the nature of God’s volition — the motion, or activity, of the unparticled matter.(128)

Additional thoughts from his earlier works that he used in Eureka are numerous: that what the Omnipotent imagines is;(129) that the obtaining of the highest truth is a matter of intuition;(130) that there are other worlds than [page 345:] this earth with other beings on them, some of them superior to man;(131) that simplicity is a good intellectual quality;(132) that “mathematical axioms are not axioms of general truth”;(133) that a mathematician cannot reason so well as a poet-and-mathematician;(134) that the Deity, having set the laws of nature in operation, would not intervene in their functioning;(135) and that “a certain class of people. . . pride themselves on Doubt, as a profession.”(136)

Although Eureka was not published until the middle of July, 1848, it contains thoughts some of which Poe had been contemplating for more than a decade. It also shows the unity of Poe’s thinking. From ‘Al Aaraaf” to Eureka he thought about cosmogony, intuition, and the place of living beings on earth and elsewhere in the Universe. The perfect unity of the Universe as Poe interpreted it in eureka is a counterpart of the perfect unity he sought in his prose and verse.


Evidence that Eureka was not a unique kind of literary production can be gained from the reviews of it in Poe’s lifetime and in the following years. Professor Quinn mentions two of them in his biography of Poe.(137) [page 346:] Other comments show that Eureka, though not always understood, was often taken seriously. The issue of the Saturday Evening Post for July, 15, 1848, parries this note by Bayard Taylor: “The only forthcoming works I hear of, are . . . Poe’s prose-poem of Eureka, in which his new theory of the universe val be revealed. Whether the readers of the work will echo its title, on Perusal, is a question to be decided; but many, I have no doubt, will answer with the Raven: ‘Nevermore!’”(138)

The Literary World, III (July 29, 1848), 502, praised the scientific part of Eureka, condemned the pantheism and theology of it, and suggested that it was “an elaborate quiz upon some of the wild speculations of the day — a scientific hoax of the highest order which few men are capable of executing more cleverly than the ingenious author of ‘The Murders in the Rue Morgue.’” Poe objected to this review in a letter to Charles Fenno Hoffman, whom he supposed to have written it,(139) but the review is not entirely unfavorable.

The Southern Literary Gazette, I (Sept. 2, 1848), 122, reviewed Eureka briefly and gave a short summary of the thesis of it without comment. The Church Review and Ecclesiastical Register, in a review of January, 1849,(140) took Poe’s work seriously and attacked it as a scientific work helping to advance pantheism.

Moncure D. Conway quotes John Moncure Daniel, an acquaintance of Poe and a writer for the Southern Literary Messenger in 1849, as being favorably [page 347:] impressed with Eureka. Conway writes: “I said I had read him [Poe] and was growing, I feared, in love with Eureka, but I was surprised that in an article in the ‘Southern Literary Messenger’ he had called ‘Eureka’ the Parthenon of reason. ‘So it is,’ he answered, ‘with the assumption of intuition he makes’.”(141) Dr. W. Hand Browne discussed Eureka from the scientific point of view in an article in the New Eclectic Magazine as late 1869:

Eureka. . .has anticipated some of the latest and most important results of scientific investigation. . . . He [Poe] had, in remarkable excellence, the scientific mind: the imagination which reaches ahead, and seizes far distant results and relations, combined with the instinct of the intellect that catches at a glance the whole chain of consequences leading to them. Had other circumstances favored, it is more than probable that Poe would have been known to the world as one of its foremost men of science and brilliant discoverers.(142)

Dr. Browne comes nearer to accepting Poe’s own estimate of himself than any other reviewer.(143)


To understand Eureka, one must realize that it is one work of a kind rather popular in its day. But perhaps its full significance does not appear until one observes in what ways Eureka advanced ideas that were forerunners [page 348:] scientific thoughts held today. Like certain of his stories, Eureka does in certain respects seem very modern. One should keep in mind in this connection, however, a statement of A. S. Eddington:

The correspondence between some of his joets1 ideas and modern views is interesting, but, as bearing on his intellectual powers, one must view it with some detachment. Any one of independent mind, — a rebel against conventionally accepted views — is likely to hit the mark sometimes. That is particularly the case when it is a case of philosophical and spiritual intuition versus scientific progress.(144)

Probably the most startling twentieth-century idea that Poe advances is that of the constitution of matter. To him matter is only attraction and repulsion. The modern physicist considers matter as sources of radiation or. . .wave groups.”(145) Poe’s opinion that the universe of stare is finite is held by scientists today, although the question of the finitude or infinity of the universe is not yet settled, and in the very nature of things never be. Eddington states that “the whole volume of spherical space is finite; it is ‘finite but unbounded’.”(146) Eddington here is expressing Einstein’s idea of the finiteness of the universe. Poe writes of “the utmost conceivable expanse of space” and of “the really limited, although always assumed as the unlimited, Universe of stars.”(147) To him the universe is also spherical, a fact he emphasizes.(148) [page 349:]

His idea, implicit in Newton’s work, that every movement of matter affects every other — that is, the entire universe — is valid today. He writes: “If I venture to displace, by even the billionth part of an inch, the microscopical speck of dust which lies now upon the point of my finger, . . . I have done a deed which shakes the Moon in her path, which causes the Sun to be no longer the Sun, and which alters forever the destiny of the multitudinous myriads of stars that roll and glow in the majestic presence of their Creator.”(149) Sir James Jeans wrote in 1944: “Each time the child throws its toy out of its baby-carriage, it disturbs the motion of every star in the universe. So long as gravitation acts, no disturbance can be confined to any area less than the whole of space.”(150)

In Eureka the author asserts his disbelief in any material ether. stein thinks that no material ether exists. Under the Einstein theory the necessity for it vanishes. And one speculates as to whether Poe may have had hazy glimpses of modern notions when he stated that space and duration are one. Again the modern space-time conception is brought to mind. If he held any such thoughts, however, he did not develop them clearly.

Eureka is his one work which sho4s some conception of evolution. He sees the universe as developing and life as changing upon it, with the development of higher and higher minds in successive universes. Frederic Drew [page 350:] Bond wrote that the interest of Eureka “lies in the light it throws on its author and in the honorable place to which it assigns him in that long line of thinkers from Thales to Darwin.”(151) Speaking of Eureka, another critic asserted that “it is thoroughly evolutionary in spirit. . . .”(152)

Poe’s contention that axioms are no longer valid may also be an indefinite foreshadowing of non-Euclidean geometry. In truth, other men in his o day were working out systematically non-Euclidean forms of geometry, but it is extremely unlikely — although barely possible that Poe knew of them.(153) It is more likely that Poe was aware of philosophical rather than strictly mathematical doubts as to the validity of axioms. Nevertheless, the foreshadowing is interesting.

In his statement that the world will ultimately return to the uni the nothingness from which it sprang, Poe is expressing an idea somewhat like, though in detail not the same as, modern notions of the end of the world through the even distribution of energy throughout the universe what Jeans calls a “heat death.”(154) [page 351:]

In a few other respects, Poe held ideas similar to those of some reputable twentieth-century scientists. For example, his admiration of simplicity is held by modern scientists. A. N. Whitehead approves in words much like Poets beauty and almost divine gimp city of these equations .”(155) He also states, “The importance of the abstract idea of periodicity was thus present at the very beginning both of mathematics and of European philosophy.s156 Poe speaks of “that omnipresent law laws, the law of periodicit “157 Whitehead also states another idea parallel to one of Poe’s. The modern scientist writes: “These examples illustrate the danger of refusing to entertain an ides. because of its failure to explain one of the most obvious facts in the subject matter in question “158 Poe considered such an unexplained fact as an obstacle behind which might lie the gleaming truth.

In is conception of the st-infinite distances of astronomy, Poe was modern. And his theory of the of the beginning of the universe from one particle is not unparalleled in modern astronomical thinking.(159) [page 352:]

Eureka, though definitely scientific in many of its aspects, is also, Poe says, a poem — a religious one. It is a sort of hymn of pantheism, and this fact must be kept in mind in the making of a complete estimate of Eureka. W. M. Forrest has pointed out that Eureka contains philosophical ideas held for many centuries by Oriental peoples — especially the people of India. or example, he quotes the Upanishads as follows: “That which he creates he then takes back again, becoming one with the being of being, in order then to begin the work afresh.”(160)

There are also philosophical ideas in Eureka probably derived. from Plato and more modern philosophers. The tracing of them belongs to another study than this, but that they coexist with personal thoughts and scientific ideas in the seine work is noteworthy.

Eureka is the final synthesis(161) of much of Poets thinking on the subject of man, God, and the universe. It is the product of Poets eclecticism and his synthesizing power, guided and directed by his poetic instinct. It contains science, philosophy, personal conviction; it is indebted to the literature of Poe’s time and in some measure prophetic of future thought. Poe asserted that he was aiming “less at physical than at metaphysical [page 353:] order.”(162) in writing Eureka. He was appealing to the intuition of his readers, the Transcendental Reason, rather than to their Understanding. His title expressed his belief that he had found a great truth. Such a. supposed truth had to be expressed partly by means of scientific concepts. One such concept that he contended is fundamental to the operations of the universe is the law of inverse squares. His emphasis on the importance of that principle is one of his claims to respect as a scientific thinker.

As his most ambitious work using scientific material, Eureka can stand as a representative of the literary creations in which Poe used scientific facts and ideas. Its subject is large enough to challenge the most active mind, Like many similar works of its day, with its combination of scientific and philosophical ideas, it appealed to a popular interest. As an attempt to explain the beginning of the universe and as a work presenting many startling new facts, it is in the romantic tradition. And it gave its author opportunity to display his knowledge and wisdom. The materials in Eureka, as in his other works using scientific data, were gathered from various sources — lectures, books, magazines of his day and writings of the previous century. As in other of his works, several sciences are used: astronomy, physics, mathematics, and the pseudo-science mesmerism. As an artist Poe uses them in harmony with his genius. Eureka demonstrates his lasting interest in science.

This concern was partly, though not entirely, journalistic, Poe’s knowledge of science was wide rather than deep. It helped him to add beauty to [page 354:] his poetry; meaning, unified plot, and an air of reality to his short stories; an analytical approach and a multitude of curious faces to his other prose. It probably encouraged him in two underlying tenets of his literary theory and gave him additional vocabulary and new ideas on artistic taste. His active curiosity in marvels of science and his realization than readers might share the same eagerness to know led him to pioneer in the science-fiction story, and like modern writers he sometimes predicted developments of the future. His interest in fundamental problems of science entered into and influenced his philosophy as shown by Eureka. His entire literary production is richer and better because he knew and used scientific ideas and data as one kind of material.



[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 307:]

1.  J. H. Ingram, Edgar Allan Poe His Life, Letters, and Opinions (London, 1880), II, 138-139.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 308:]

2.  Holmes-Pollock Letters The Correspondence of Mr. Justice Holmes and Mr. Frederick Pollock — 1847-1932, edited by Mark DeWolfe Howe (Cambridge, Mass 1941), II, 76.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 309:]

3.  Since Poe uses many ideas that were current in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, it is often impossible to show the exact source of some of his thoughts. For example, whether he obtained certain suggestions from Kant or from Coleridge, who was in debt to Kant for ideas, it is im — possible to say. Professor Floyd Stovall sees in Coleridge the inspiration for much of Eureka (“Poets Debt to Coleridge,” University of Texas Studies in English, No. 10 (July 8, 1930), 119-127), but Poe probably read for him — self some of the German thinkers in translation. A similar problem arises in connection with ancient writers. Whether he got some inspiration from Leucippus, Democritus, or Lucretius or from a modern version of one of them it is impossible to say. Similarly the Fragments of Emmedocles and certain writings of Shelley express ideas that in general resemble some expressed in Eureka. Although the kind of source he used can be indicated only by citing specific possible sources, the aim here often is to demonstrate the kind of material he used in creating Eureka rather than to contend that a particular possible source cited is the source for his idea.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 310:]

4.  Quinn, 22. op cit., pp. 542-543. Professor Quinn’s brief discussion of Eureka is interesting and informative. — Ibid., pp. 539-560. He quotes opinions of some modern. scientists. Of Eureka as a poem, Professor Quinn says: “Poe’s conceptions of the relations of God and man, of the Greater for the created, is one of the important steps taken during the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries in that spiritual succession in which William Vaughn Moody and Eugene O’Neill are other figures. When that spiritual progress is fully understood, then perhaps at last Eureka will come into its own.”

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 311:]

5.  Works, XVI, 185. In a book Poe knew, Andrew Jackson Davis calls himself “a profound student of the whole material and physical Universe.” — The Principles of Nature, Her Divine Revelations, and a Voice to Mankind (New York, 1847), p. xv. For Poe’s mention of Davis, see “Fifty Suggestions,” Works, XIV, 173.

6.  Benoit de Maillet (Baltimore, 1797).

7.  J. P. Nichol, Thoughts on Some Important Points Relating to the SYSTEM OF THE WORLD. John Pringle Nichol (1804-1859) was a Scotch astronomer whose works were popular in the 1840s. He served as professor of astronomy from 1836 until his death and was best known for such works as The Architecture of the Heavens (1838), Phenomena of the Solar System (1838), and The Stellar Universe (1847).

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 312:]

8.  Works, XVI, 194. In the early nineteenth century, non-Euclidean geometry was developed largely because of efforts to prove or get along without Euclid’s fifth axiom, which deals with parallel lines. This axiom is suggested by Poe’s reference to the inability of two straight lines to enclose a space. Most thinkers held, contrary to this statement of Poe, that there are a few self-evident or universally accepted truths that at least can serve as axioms.

9.  Descartes, who also held intuition to be a source of intimate truth, might net have admitted the opposition of ideas expressed here. Poe may have drawn soma suggestions about intuition from the French philosopher. Descartes believed that deduction and intuition worked together, although intuition is more certain because simpler. For Descartes’s discussion of intuition, see his “Rules for the Direction of the Mind.” The Cartesian intuition is a more intellectual power than German intuition, Poe’s emphasis on intuition is in accord with Transcendentalism, too.

10.  I, 82. See also review of his work in The American Eclectic, II (Sept., 1841), 349.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 313:]

11.  Timothy Flint, Lectures upon Natural History, p. 253.

12.  One wonders whether Poe borrowed from Davis, some of whose lectures Poe heard and whose book was published in July of 1847, when he probably was finally formulating his theories for Eureka. See Mary E. Phillips, Edgar Allan Poe the Man, II, 902. Davis speaks of “the vast Univercoelum that fills all space,” and distinguishes it from the “Solar System,” “This World,” and simple “Universe.” — Op. cit., p. 159.

13.  Works, XVI, 186.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 314:]

14.  Alexander von Humboldt, Cosmos: A Sketch of a Physical Description of the Universe, tr. by E. C. Otte (London, 1849), I, 62-67. The first two volumes of this work were published before Eureka.

15.  Works, XVI, 187.

16.  Ibid., XVII 189.

17.  P. 196. The references hereinafter to Eureka by page number only are to Works, XVI, 179-315.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 315:]

18  Whewell states a variation of the idea several times; in his Astronomy he says, for example: “Another ground of satisfactory reflection. . . is to be found in the admirable order and consistency of parts, which we find to prevail in the universe as far as our discoveries reach.” — Astronomy and General Physics, considered with Reference to Natural Theology (Philadelphia, 1836), p. 181. See also Whewell’s Philosophy, II, 666.

19.  See Sir John Herschel’s statement: “. . .we learn to love all truth for its own sake; that is to say, whatever is faithful, simple, and consistent,” A Treatise m Astronomy (Philadelphia, 1839), p. 2.

20.  Alexander von Humboldt, op. cit., I, 62-63, and Dick, Christian Philosopher, Complete Works, II, 17-19.

21.  P. 198.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 316:]

22.  P. 200. Davis had discussed the inability of the human mind to conceive of infinity and stated that “The word infinity is one substituted in place of an idea.” — Op. cit., p. 141.

23.  The doctrine of the non-annihilat.on of matter was much under discussion in Poets time and may have been a forerunner of the doctrine of the conservation of energy which was just emerging then.

24.  P. 203.

25.  Whewell, Philosophy, I, xxxvi.

26.  Pp. 204-205.

27.  P. 205.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 317:]

28.  Speaking of Newton’s principle of gravitation, Poe calls it “the basis of all physical principle — to go behind which we must eater the Kingdom of Metaphysics.” — Works, VI, 205.

29  P. 207. The Oneness of original matter and its absolute Unity is a concept much like that of Parmenides, from whose works Poe may have taken a suggestion. But by the nineteenth century Poe could have found the idea in many places.

30.  P. 207.

31.  Op. cit., p. 121.

32.  P. 207.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 318:]

33.  Op. cit., p. 211.

34.  P. 207. Democritus, following Leucippus, rejected the One of Parmenides and turned to an atomic theory to explain the various forms of things much as Poe explains the heterogeneity of the Universe. One cannot be sure how much he drew on ancient Greek thought, but perhaps he did to some extent. In what is probably the earliest considerable poem by Poe which has survived, he refers to the philosophers “Heraclitus of yore” and “that queer philosopher, Democritus of Thrace.” — Jay B. Hubbell, “O, Temporal! O, Mores! A Juvenile Poem by Edgar Allan Poe,” University of Colorado Studies, Series B (Studies in the Humanities), II (Oct., 1945), 319.

35.  Op. cit., p. 124.

36.  P. 207.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 319:]

37.  Galileo states: “Now like as from the consentaneous conspiration of all the parts of the Earth to form its whole, doth follow, that they with equal inclination concur thither from all parts: and to unite themselves as much as is possible together, they there physically adapt themselves; why may we not believe that the Sun, Moon, and other mundane Bodies, be also of a round figure, not by other than a concordant instinct, and natural concourse of all the parts composing them? Of which, if any, at any time, by any violence Were separated from the whole, is it not reasonable to think, that they would spontaneously and by natural instinct return? and in this manner to infer, that the right motion agreeth with all mundane bodies alike.” — Quoted in Alfred North Whitehead, Essays in Science and Philosophy (New York, 1947), p. 232.

38.  P. 208. See Newton’s statement that “Nature is pleased with Simplicity, tAand affects not the pomp of superfluous causes.” — Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy and His System of the World, Book III, p. 398.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 319, running to the bottom of page 320:]

39.  A passage from Platols Philebus quoted in Whewell’s History of the Inductive Sciences could have given him the suggestion: “Whatever is said to be comes of One and of Many, and comprehends in itself the Finite and Infinite ‘ in coalition (being one kind, and consisting of infinite individuals. . . . One is at the same time One and Many. . . .” — II, 288-289. The idea of obtaining the Many from One and the One from Many was common one. Emerson held it. [page 320:] Shelley did, and many others. For example, Emerson wrote in his Journal, IV, 71: “God is unity, but always works in variety.” See also Shellepts “Adonais,” especially stanza lii: “The One remains. . . .” Poe may have obtained some of his notion of Plato from Shelley. This idea is akin to that of the Emersonian Over-Soul and of the Indian Brahma, both of which were known to Poe. He reviewed one work that discusses one aspect of Platonic philosophy, and although he does not show himself entirely in agreement with it, he does demonstrate his acquaintance with Plato.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 320:]

40.  Timothy Flint states much the same thought: “It supposes, that Creation has resulted from successive exertions of the divine volition; that. . .one of these volition caused our world to spring from nothing, to accomplish tem-orary purposes of wisdom and benevolence; and that having accomplished them, it will return to that original nothing, from which it sprang.” — Lectures upon Natural History, p. 154.

41.  P. 211.

42.  P. 212.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 321:]

43.  See Whewell, Philosophy, II, 415-416; The Works of John Playfair (Edinburgh, 1822), II, 386 and IV, 518; Roswell Park, Pantology, fourth edition (Philadelphia, 1847), p. 259. Poe most probably had read Park’s Pantology. A review of it in Graham’s Magazine, XX (March, 1842), 191, is almost certainly his. The following reference to conchologies identifies it as most probably by Poe: “To those Who have paid much attention to Natural History and the endless, unstable, and consequently vexatious classifications which there occur — to those, in especial, who have labored over the ‘Conchologies’ of De Blainville and Lamarck, some faint — some very faint idea of the difficulties attending such a labor as this, will occur.”

Boscovich himself again and again asserts that matter is nothing but non-extended points of attraction and repulsion and that the repulsive force must act to prevent the collision of bodies. See, for example, Roger Joseph Boscovich, A Theory of Natural Philosophy. From the text of the First Venetian Edition Published Under the Personal Superintendence of the Author in 1763 (Chicago, 1922), pp. 39, 77, 365. Boscovich is discussed in the encyclopedias of Poets time, and Humboldt links his “dynamic theory of nature and Kant.” Sir Humphry Davy also mentions him.

44.  P. 212.

45.  For example, A. H. Phelps, Natural Philosophy, new edition, revised and corrected (New York, 1848), p. 22.

46.  “Whether matter consists of individual corpuscles, or physical points endowed with attraction and repulsion, still the same conclusions may be formed concerning the powers by which they act, and the quantities in which they combine; and the powers seem capable of being measured by their electrical relations, and the quantities on which they act of being expressed by numbers.” — “Chemical Philosophy,” The Collected Works of Sir Humphry Davy (London, 1839), IV, 39.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 322:]

47.  Ibid., II, 386-409.

48.  Whewell discusses the theories of Aepinas and Symmer on the subject. — History, III, 22-26.

49.  P. 213.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 323:]

50.  Zoonamia, II, 66. See also Grab:), op. cit., p. 79. In Zoonamia the the [[sic]] author wonders whether the recent discoveries of Galvani and Volta “show a similitude between the spirit of animation and the electric fluid.”

51.  J. P. Dods, for example, says that electricity is the connecting link between mind and matter and that electricity is the body of God. — The Philosophy of Electrical Psychology, pp. 19 and 24. See also Chauncy Hare Townshend, Facts in Mesmerism, or Animal Magnetism, etc., first American edition (Boston, 1841), p. 502; “He beholds all life and intelligence at once connected and individualized — reciprocally connected in all its parts universally with God; and he has a glimpse at least of the waves of the great ocean agitated by thought eternal, and tending to thought again in the limited portions of intelligence which the Almighty has gifted with individual consciousness.” This book, as in this quotation, also may have suggested to Poe some of his notions of pantheism.

52.  PP. 213-214. Again on page 244 he reiterates that Attraction and Repulsion are the two principles proper of the universe, and calls them body and soul. “Thus,” he concludes metaphysically, “The Body and The Soul walk hand in hand.” — P. 244. Swedenborg declared: “Essence end Existence in God Man are also distinctly one, as Soul and Body. . . .” — The Wisdom of the Angels concerning Divine Love and Divine Wisdom, translated from the original (Boston, 1794), p. 11.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 323, running to the bottom of page 324:]

53.  Boscovich, from whose works Poe likely derived his notions of attraction and repulsion, was criticized because his theory makes of matter only [page 324:] points. Kant’s dynamic theory of matter also makes substance merely a product of the forces of attraction and repulsion. It is quite possible that Poe’s conception of matter as attraction and repulsion owes something Leibnitz’s monads. Poe refers to Leibnitz in a long paragraph in Eureka, pages 223-224.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 324:]

54.  Mathematical Principles of Natural, Philosophy and His System of the World, Book, III, p. 398.

55.  P. 217. Compare with Boscoviohls statement that one atom “will depend upon at least in some slight degree, the state of all other points that are in the universe.” — Op. cit., 91.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 325:]

56.  P. 215. See J. B. Stallo, General Principles of The Philosophy of Nature, etc. (Boston, 1848), p. 431: “Gravity is merely the tendency to centralization.”

57.  P. 223.

58.  P. 225ff. See also, Wheuell, Astronomy, p. 145: “Buffon came forward with the assertion that the force could not vary according to any other law than the inverse square. His arguments are rather metaphysical than physical or mathematical. Gravity, he urges, is a quality, an emanation; and all emanations are inversely as the square of the distance, as light, odours.”

59.  His discussion of radiation is orthodox. When he says “the number of light-particles (or, if the phrase be preferred, the number of light-impressions,) he shows knowledge of the two conflicting theories of light. Most of the scientific writers of his day in writing of light did exactly what he did — mentioned the two theories but did not choose between them — the undulatory and the corpuscular. The diagram in Eureka (p. 266) used to illustrate the law of the quantity of radiation is the same as those found in text and other books of the time. For example, see Dick, Complete Works II, 16.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 326:]

60.  P. 227.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 327:]

61. Davis discusses the idea similarly, but says right is known through a knowledge of wrong. See op. cit., pp. 199-200.

62.  P. 237.

63.  P. 238.

64.  Whewell expresses a similar thought in his Philosophy, I, 148.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 328:]

65.  Elijah M. Burritt, The Geography the Heavens and Class Book of Astronomy, etc., pp. 159-160.

66.  Humboldt, Cosmos, I, 97.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 329:]

67.  See J. P. Nichol, Views on Astronomy, Seven Lectures Delivered Before the Mercantile Library Association of New York in the Months of January and February, 1848 (New York, 1848), Lecture VII, p. 40, and Whewell, History, III, 565-568.

68.  See Nichol, System of the World, p. 214.

69.  P. 259.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 330:]

70.  For Poe’s description of the final end of the earth as he imagined it in one story, see “The Conversation of Eiros and Charmion,” Works, IV, 1-8.

71.  Solar System, II, 40; Sidereal Heavens, II, 45.

72.  Sir John Herschel, op. cit., pp. 355-356.

73.  Op. cit., p. 140.

74.  In his day many scientists were trying to measure the increase of heat toward the center of the earth. See Nichol, System of the World, footnote, p. 213; and Whewell, History, II, 481.

75.  In his Notes to Eureka. Poe corrected this misspelling. — Works, XVI, 331.

76.  P. 261.

77.  Pp. 211-21

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 331:]

78.  Lord Rosse’s telescope was in the news for years both before and after 1848, when it was first used — much as the 200-inch telescope recently installed at Mt. Palomar, California, has been. It was by far the most powerful of its time. The Cincinnati telescope, though less famous, was mentioned in some astronomy books of Poets time, for example, Elijah H. Burritt’s The Geography of the Heavens and Class Book of Astronomy, p. 321. Knowledge of these shows that Poe kept up-to-date on his astronomical knowledge — in this instance the discovery that the supposed nebulae of Orion had been resolved into a star cluster.

79.  P. 266.

80.  “Murders in the Rue Morgue,” Works, IV, 155.

81.  “The Folio Club,” Works, II, xxxviii.

82.  Humboldt, Cosmos, I, 74-76. Among the planets, Poe included bodies that are today classified as asteroids.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 332:]

83.  Op. cit., p. 130.

84.  Christian Philosopher, II, 91.

85.  P. 269.

86.  Dick, Diffusion of Knowledge, p. 197. See also Edward Hitchcock, The Plurality of Worlds, a new edition (Boston, 1854), P. 346. The plurality of worlds was a popular doctrine in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, to which Adam Walker, Olbers, Herschel, Davy, Fontenelle, Huyghens, Wheuell, Davis, and many others subscribed. Poe states that error gets into our philosophy because man considers himself a citizen of an individual planet and not “as a denizen of the universe.” — Works, XVI, 167.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 333:]

87.  For example, Nichol, System of the World, p. 255; and “Stellar Distances,” The Scientific American, II (Jan. 2, 1847), 114; Dick, Sidereal Heavens, II, 34.

88.  Humboldt, Cosmos, I, 144-145; Flint, op. cit., p. 138; Burritt, 22. 211., p. 157. Some books placed the figure at two million years or some other indefinitely large figure like “a million of ages,” but the idea in all is the same.

89.  P. 209.

90.  P. 290.

91.  Op. cit., III., p. 116.

92.  P. 291.

93.  Davis specifically mentions the mutual adaptation. See op. cit., p. 73 and 117.

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94.  Poe adapts this thought to his literary theory. The perfect plot involves perfect reciprocal adaptation of all elements in the story. In one place he defines plot as “that in which no part can be displaced, without ruin to the whole.” — Works, X, 117. Elsewhere he writes: “In its most rigorous acceptation, it is that from which no component atom can be removed, and in which none of the component atoms can be displaced, without ruin to the whole. . . . “ — XIV, 188.

95.  P. 293.

96.  Op. cit., p. 585.

97.  System of the World, p. 260.

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98.  P. 296. Dick states a similar thought: “a seraph might wing its flight with the swiftness of light for millions of years through the regions of immensity, and never arrive at a boundary. . . .” — Sidereal Heavens, II, 32.

99.  I., 136.

100.  P. 302.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 336:]

101.  Pp. 305-306.

102.  P. 307.

103.  See Davis, op. cit., p. 91.

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104.  A Treatise on Astronomy, p. 43.

105.  Dick, Whewell, the two Herschels, and Erasmus Darwin suggest other Universes. Norse mythology likewise tells of the extinction and recreation of the world.

106.  P. 311. The idea that man creates his own gods is referred to by Whewell in his Astronomy, p. 187. There he quotes Dupuis’s Origine des Cultes, as follows: “All these different pictures of the wonders of the natural order, displayed before the eyes of man, formed the great and magnificent spectacle by which I suppose him surrounded at the moment when he is about to create his gods.”

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 338:]

107.  John H. Ingram, Edgar Allan Poe His Life, Letters, and Opinions, II, 144. Also his statement in Eureka emphasizes “the intense, overwhelming dissatisfaction at the thought.” — P. 313. This may be compared with a note in Emerson’s Journal in July, 1855: “The blazing evidence of our immortality is our dissatisfaction with any other solution.”

108.  The materiality of God reminds one of the material nature of the angels in Milton’s Paradise Lost, V, 409-413 and 469-505.

109.  P. 313.

110.  See Flint, op. cit., p. 406. “In the evidences which he bears within himself, and to which all the voices of nature bear concurrent testimony, that he is immortal, and destined, having performed his assigned duties, as a link in the great chain of being here below, to be transplanted to another scene, to enter into higher relations, and become a part of another system of the Creator.”

111.  Flint asserts, for example: “The hypothesis of Pythagoras was that every thing in nature is sentient. From the recognized law of attraction, that every particle of matter in creation is attracted toward every other particle, to the doctrine that every thing in nature is sentient, the transition is easy and natural.” — Op. cit., p. 31. In “Al Aaraaf” (II, 60-67) is a passage suggesting Poe’s belief in the sentience of all things.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 339:]

112.  Works, XVI, 366.

113.  Davy, the chemist, for instance, wrote: “The most perfect and beautiful of the forms of organised life ultimately decay, and are resolved into inorganic aggregates; and the same elementary substances, differently arranged, are contained in the inert soil, or bloom and emit fragrance in the flower, or become in the animals the active organs of mind and intelligence.” — “Elements of Chemical Philosophy,” The Collected, Works of Sir Humphry Davy, IV, 43.

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114.  Poe purposely used repetition, consciously sacrificing brevity to gain clarity. — Works, XVI, 199 and 242.

115.  This fact, probably too little emphasized by most scholars, makes it less sensible to regard Eureka as a product of Poe’s madness.

116.  Works, IV, 155.

117.  Ibid., X, 159. Such a notion as this would afford a basis for a belief in metempsychosis. Poe was sympathetic to such a belief whether he held it or not.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 341:]

118.  Ibid., I, 160.

119.  There he has the Count Allamistakee reply to a question on the Creation: “During my time I never knew any one to entertain so singular a fancy as that the universe (or this world if you will have it so) ever had a beginning at all.” — Ibid., VI, 132. This is a reference to the theory of cosmogony held from most ancient times that the universe had existed from eternity. This theory is discussed in the first (1830) edition of the Encyclopaedia Americana, which also names two other theories, the third of which is most like Poe’s. — “Cosmogony,” Vol. III.

120.  Works, X, 208.

121.  Ibid., XV,

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 342:]

122.  Works, XIII, 45-46.

123.  Ibid., V, 245-246. In a letter to Chivers dated July 10, 1844, Poe wrote about unparticled matter: “Its agitation is the thought of God, and creates.” — “The Poe-Chivers Papers,” op. cit., p. 541. This letter is much the same as one written to Lowell on July 2, 1844, and expresses Poe’s doctrine of materiality and disbelief in mania perfectibility.

124.  Works, VI, 141.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 343:]

125.  Ibid., IV, 194-195.

126.  Ibid., XI, 71-72.

127.  Ibid., VI, 140

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 344:]

128.  Quinn, Edgar Allan Poe, pp. 428-429. Although Quinn prints sleepwalker, sleep-waker is the term Poe used. See Works, XVII, 183. See also John Ward Ostrom, editor, The Letters of Edgar Allan Poe, I, 257. Poe similarly explains his opinion of materiality and spirituality to Chivers in the summer of 1844: “There is no such thing as spirituality. God is material. All things are material; yet the matter of God has all the qualities which we attribute to spirit: thus the difference is scarcely more than of words. There is a matter without particles — of no atomic composition: this is God. It permeates and impels all things, and thus is all things in itself.” — “The Poe-Chivers Papers,” op. cit., p. 441. Chivers comments shrewdly on Poe’s material God: “If you mean by matter what I mean by spirit, then your matter is my spirit, and God is material; but if you mean by matter no more than is usually meant by it, then, my spirit is not your matter, and ‘God is a spirit.’” — Works, XVII, 185.

129.  Works, VIII, 283. Compare this with the opinion of Keats which it resembles. See page 34 of the chapter “Scientific Thought.” See also ibid., V, 249 and VI, 143.

130.  Ibid., IV, 261 and 266. See also ibid., XV, 194; XV 136; and 45.

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131.  “The Assignation,” ibid., II, 109; ibid., VI, 184-185. This may be compared with Poe’s analogous statement with respect to poetic singing in “Israfel.” There he speaks of angels who have greater appreciation of beauty and ability to create it than man. See also ibid., VI, 188.

132.  Ibid., V, 228.

133.  Ibid., VI, 44.

134.  Ibid., VI, 43. See also VI, 45.

135.  Ibid., V, 64. This idea was common among Deists. It is alluded to, for example, in Shelley’s “A Refutation of Deism.”

136.  Ibid., VI, 291.

137.  Op. cit., p. 541.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 346:]

138.  “Letters from New York, No. XII,” dated July 10, 1848.

139.  Works, XVII, 300-303.

140.  I, 548-565.

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141.  Autobiography Memories and Experiences of Moncure Daniel Conway, 2 vols. (Boston and New York, 1904), I, 80. Daniel’s article is “Edgar Allan Poe,” Southern Literary Messenger, XVI (March, 1850), 172-187.

142.  V (Aug., 1869), 191.

143.  Another article in the same magazine, though disagreeing with Poe’s conclusions, admires his knowledge. — S. P. Cutler, “Poe’s Eureka Reconsidered,” V Nov., 1869), 533-538.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 348:]

144.  Quoted in Quinn, pp. 555-556.

145.  Sir William Cecil Dampier, A History of Science and Its Relations with Philosophy & Religion, third edition New York, 1942 p. 470.

146.  Sir Arthur Eddington, The Expanding Universe (Cambridge and New York, 1933), p. 50. See also Dampier, op. cit., p. 482.

147.  Works, XVI, 186

148.  Ibid., XVI, 225, 230, and 244.

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149.  Ibid., XVI, 218.

150.  Sir James Jeans, The Universe Around Us (Cambridge and New York, 1944), p. 215. The same thought is expressed with a different emphasis by Eddington, who says: me whole universe, usually idealised as a standard uranoid, is a partner in every problem.” — Fundamental Theory (Cambridge, 1946), p. 13.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 350:]

151.  “Poe as an Evolutionist,” Popular Science Monthly, Sept., 1907, 274.

152.  Laurence J. Lafleur, “Edgar Allan Poe as Philosopher,” Personalist, XXII (Oct., 1941), 405.

153.  Karl Friederich Gauss may well have been known to him, but Gaussts work on the theory of parallels was not published in his lifetime. Nicholas Lobatchewsky published some of his work on the subject before 1848 — but in Russian, His “Geométrie imaginaire” published in Crelle’s Journal in 1837, Poe conceivably could have seen, but there is no evidence that he did. And likewise he might have seen a Latin publication of John Bolyai, a Hungarian mathematician, but there is no proof that he did. One of Gaussts books was in the University of Virginia Library when Poe attended: Arithmetical Researches translated by Poullet Deliale (Paris, 1807).

154.  Jeans, op. cit., pp. 284-289.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 351:]

155.  A.N. Whitehead. Science and the Modern World (New York, 1928), p. 91.

156.  Ibid., p. 55.

157.  Works, XVI, 311.

158.  Science and the Modern World, p. 70. See also p. 267.

159.  Quinn in his biography of Poe previously cited discusses the question of the modernity of Poets science in Eureka and cites some other instances of modernity not mentioned herein. This study, however, contains the most significant ones. Another article on the same subject is Clayton Hoagland’s, “The Universe of Eureka,” Southern Literary Messenger, N.S., I (May, 1939), 307-313. George Norstedt has discussed some aspects of the subject in “Poe and Einstein,” Open Court, XLIV (March, 1930), 173-180. One should note, perhaps, that Professor Woodberry apparently thought less highly of Eureka than Professor Quinn and the others cited in this footnote. See Woodberry, The Life of Edger Allan Poe, II, 137-164, and the Stedman-Woodberry, Works, X, 293-313. A different but interesting analysis of Eureka is found in Marie Bonaparte, op. cit., pp. 594-636.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 352:]

160.  Biblical Allusions in Poe (New York, 1928), p. 21.

161.  Lafleur’s estimate of Eureka is noteworthy: “His general outline is in many ways to be admired: written in 1848, it is thoroughly evolutionary in spirit, attempts to define matter in terms of its behavior alone, and insists on the coherence test of truth. Thus, his philosophy achieved something of the spirit of a biology, a physics, and a philosophy that came into existence well after ‘Eureka• was published.” — Op. cit., p. 405.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 353:]

162.  Works, XVI, 276.



[S:0 - CDL51, 1951] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Articles - Science and Pseudo-Science in the Writings of EAP (C. D. Laverty) (Chapter 12)