Text: Killis Campbell, “Self-Revelation in Poe's Poems and Tales,” The Mind of Poe and Other Studies (1933), pp. 126-146 (This material is protected by copyright)


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[page 126:]

SELF-REVELATION IN POE’S POEMS AND TALES

I

THE chief sources of first-hand information about Poe’s life and personality are his letters.(1) These are regrettably few, scarcely more than two hundred in all, and a good many of them are perfunctory in nature. Only one letter to his wife survives; and only four letters, I believe, to his mother-in-law, his “more than mother,” Mrs. Clemm, have come down to us. But there are letters that conveniently furnish us with the genealogy of the poet, that give information about his relations with his immediate family and about his home life;(2) letters that reveal his poverty, his pride, his impulsiveness and rebelliousness, his moodiness and vacillation, his misanthropy; that tell of his bickerings and squabbles, of his occasional philanderings, of his indulging — alas! too often — in intoxicants, of an attack of insanity (as he alleges), [page 127:] of an attempt at suicide, of the physical deterioration that marked his closing years. We have a volume of letters called out by his ill-starred friendship with Mrs. Sarah Helen Whitman,(1) letters so intimate and so impassioned as to beget doubts as to the wisdom of their having been confided to the public; and another and more important volume, the so-called “Valentine Letters,”(2) covering the most eventful years of his life, that were unwisely, one must think, withheld from the public until very lately, letters that tell of his early life in Richmond and Baltimore, about his career at Charlottesville and at West Point, about his momentous quarrel with his foster-father in 1827, about his life in the army, about the mysterious years that followed his expulsion from West Point.

Much may be learned, also, from his book-reviews [page 128:] and his critical essays, — first of all, with respect to his creed as critic and as to his reading, but much also as to his intellectual powers and attainments, his interest in science and exploration, and as to his concern about the industrial and economic problems of his age. In an early review — to mention a few of the more personal of his critical papers — he recalls his delight as a boy in poring over the pages of Robinson Crusoe,(1) in another he confides to us that the reading of certain of the Elizabethan and Caroline lyrists made his “blood tingle,”(2) in another he tells of his acquaintance with Chief Justice Marshall and of his admiration for him,(3) and in still others of his attitude to the Negro and to slavery. Here also are displayed his prejudices as a critic, his hobbies and his crotchets, — as his mania for exposing literary theft, his impatience with literary puffery and with subservience to foreign tastes and fashions, his abhorrence of didactics.

A good deal may be gleaned, too, from his miscellaneous prose essays, — from Eureka as to his interest in metaphysics and philosophy and as to certain transcendental leanings, from sundry papers in Graham’s and other Philadelphia periodicals as to his interest in puzzles and in secret writing, from various hack articles in Burton’s Gentleman’s Magazine as to his interest in mechanical invention and in sports and pastimes, from a series of articles in the Columbia Spy as to his acquaintance with the gossip [page 128:] of the streets of New York City and as to his readiness to capitalize such odds and ends for journalistic purposes. In other papers he admits us into his workshop, and imparts to us the secrets of his craft.

His letters and his essays are, then, autobiographical throughout. Whether there is much of autobiography in his more imaginative work, in his poems and tales, is by no means so clear and has long been a matter of debate among the poet’s critics and biographers. Some have held that he reflects but little of himself in his poems and his tales. This is the view, for example, of Camille Mauclair, who insists that Poe was extraordinarily objective in his writings, and that this is among his distinguishing traits as an artist.(1) So, too, Professor Napier Wilt warns us against reading into “every detail of [Poe’s] writing some conscious or unconscious expression of his inner life.”(2) And Professor William Minto, as far back as 1880, declared that too much had already been made of the personal note in Poe’s writings.(3) On the other hand, there have been those who have held that the poems and tales of Poe are exceptionally self-revealing. Such, in effect, was the view of Poe’s English biographer, John H. Ingram;(4) such was the view of the poet and critic E. C. Stedman, who held with respect to Poe’s tales that the “central [page 130:] figure” there, “however disguised, is always the image of the romancer himself ”;(1) much the same view has been advanced by the lamented Mr. W. C. Brownell;(2) while the French critic M. Remy de Gourmont gives it as his opinion that Poe is the most subjective of all our poets: “le plus subjectif des poètes subjectifs.” The truth doubtless lies somewhere between these two extremes — but not midway, I am bound to believe. So sweeping a generalization as M. de Gourmont makes could surely not be sustained. Is Poe more subjective, for instance, than the author of Leaves of Grass, or than Lord Byron? But the truth, I am persuaded, lies more nearly with those who find in the poems and tales a large element of self-revelation than with those who find there but little of self-unfolding. In view of the clash of opinion on the subject, I have been moved to undertake a fresh examination of the matter and to go into it somewhat more in detail than has heretofore been attempted. I set down below the evidence as I find it. In the main, I have restricted myself to matters that are either obvious or (as I see them) readily demonstrable, but I have not been able to resist the temptation to indulge here and there in something of speculation. [page 131:]

II

In Poe’s poems I can find but few specific references to the objective facts of the poet’s life. There is, first of all, the explicit mention of his own mother, of his devotion to her, and of her early death, in his sonnet “To My Mother.” In the same poem we have also an avowal of his devotion to his wife and to his wife’s mother, Mrs. Clemm. Other poems are addressed to one or another of his friends: “To F ——,” “To F —— s S. O —— d,” and “A Valentine,” to Mrs. Frances Sargent Osgood;(1) the later “To Helen,” to Mrs. Sarah Helen Whitman; “To M. L. S —— “ and “To —— —— ——,” to Mrs. Marie Louise Shew; “An Enigma,” to Mrs. S. Anna Lewis; and “For Annie,” to Mrs. Annie Richmond; the impromptu verses “Elizabeth” and “An Acrostic,” to his cousin Elizabeth Herring, and the recently discovered valentine “To Miss Louise Olivia Hunter.” In two of the crudest of his poems he vents his spleen against two of his contemporaries, — against Henry T. Tuckerman in “An Enigma”(2) and against Lieutenant Joseph Locke in “A West Point Lampoon.”

But no student of Poe can fail to recognize in [page 132:] “Annabel Lee” a lament for the death of Virginia Clemm, nor will he overlook the allusion to the poet’s grief in consequence of her death in that strangest of all his lyrics, “Ulalume”;(1) nor will he miss the impassioned reference to himself in the closing stanza of “Israfel.” And it is difficult to escape the conclusion that a dozen of his early poems, including “Dreams,” “A Dream Within a Dream,” “A Dream,” “Stanzas,” “The Happiest Day, the Happiest Hour,” “ To —— “ (“I heed not that my earthly lot”), and the original versions of “Romance” and “Fairy-Land,” echo his own griefs and disappointments, his state of mind and his attitude to the world, during his years in Richmond and Baltimore after his return from London.(2) [page 133:]

There is every reason to believe that in “Al Aaraaf” Poe records his own faith in the divine nature of beauty, a conviction that he was later to set forth with fine earnestness in the best-known of his critical essays, “The Poetic Principle.” In “Al Aaraaf” also, and likewise in his “Sonnet. To Science,” he declares, in accordance with views that he expresses elsewhere,’ his belief that knowledge is sometimes a hindrance to mortals, and, in the second of these poems, that poetry and science are in some ways incompatible. We may be equally sure that “Israfel,” in its central thesis that the poet should sing from his heart, also voices his own conviction; 2 and that “Romance” in like manner expresses the poet’s abiding fealty to the romantic spirit. Whether we may read out of “The Haunted Palace” a confession of the poet’s belief that his own mind was at times unhinged, seems to me very questionable. But there can be little doubt that the poem reflects, though in all likelihood by an unconscious reflection, the poet’s own faith in his intellectual powers and in the acuteness of his sensibilities. There is at the end of the abysmally obscure lines entitled “Stanzas” a [page 134:] passage which may, I think, be interpreted as involving an acknowledgment by the poet of his own sense of imperfection in the eyes of his Maker, and likewise an expression of his faith in a Supreme Being.(1) In the same poem we have his most explicit reference to a trance experience of his youth, to which he attaches supernatural significance. In “The Happiest Day, the Happiest Hour” we seem to have a reference to the possibility of his being succeeded by some other heir in the household of John Allan; and in one of the rejected readings of “Romance” (text of 1831) he boldly declares his intention to make of himself a poet that the world must reckon with.(2)

Other poems that appear to shadow forth in some degree his own life are “Bridal Ballad,” in which we seem to have a reference to Miss Royster’s rejection of the poet in favor of a wealthier suitor; “Tamerlane,” which may plausibly be held to refer to his disappointment as a claimant for the hand of Miss Royster; and Politian, in which, it has been suggested, he utters through certain of his characters his own sentiments.(3) But that any of these poems are in reality autobiographical I do not feel certain. At best, one can only say that circumstantial evidence favors the assumption that they are. [page 135:]

III.

The autobiographical elements in Poe’s tales and sketches, some seventy of which have been preserved, are, on the other hand, both more extensive and more readily apparent than in his poems.(1) The most tangible piece of self-revelation that appears in his stories is to be found in his “William Wilson,” in which he describes under the guise of fiction, and not without fictitious detail and other bits of legitimate mystification,(2) his school-life at Stoke Newington. The building which he associates with the Manor-House School at Stoke Newington is, in reality, so his English biographer Ingram informs us,(3) not actually that of the school in which Poe studied as a boy, but that of a more manorial structure which stood on the opposite side of the street. But it appears that the poet gives a faithful description of the headmaster, the Rev. John Bransby, whom he mentions by name; he also identifies himself with his hero, to whom he ascribes the same date of birth as his own, at least in so far as day and month are concerned; and he reproduces faithfully, so Ingram assures us, the atmosphere of the town of Stoke [page 136:] Newington, — that of a “misty-looking village” and “a dream-like and spirit-soothing place.”(1)

Other stories in which Poe makes use of information drawn from his own experience or from personal observation are “The Gold-Bug,” “The Balloon Hoax,” “The Oblong Box,” “A Tale of the Ragged Mountains,” and “The Elk.” In “The Gold-Bug” and “The Balloon Hoax” he introduces reminiscences of his stay at Sullivan’s Island and in Charleston while a soldier in the United States army, and in “The Oblong Box” he makes use of information obtained during the same period concerning points along the coast of the Carolinas. In “A Tale of the Ragged Mountains” he evidently makes use of knowledge that he acquired while a student at the University of Virginia in 1826. It is safe to assume, too, that the particulars he gives in “The Premature Burial” concerning a hunting expedition on the James River involve a reminiscence of some similar experience in his boyhood. In “The Elk” he apparently draws on recollections of a pleasure-jaunt into the country around Philadelphia. In “Why the Little Frenchman Wears his Hand in a Sling” he gives as the address of his hero “39 Southampton Row,” the same as that of John Allan and his family during the latter half of their stay in London (1815-1820). Autobiographical also must be his facetious references to the Bowling Green Fountain in “Some [page 137:] Words with a Mummy,”(1) and his mention of Earl’s Hotel, Providence, in “Von Kempelen and his Discovery.”(2) Mr. Hervey Allen plausibly suggests that “The Man of the Crowd” is based in part on recollections of scenes that Poe became familiar with during his stay in London;(3) and the same is probably true of certain scenes in “King Pest,” — in particular, the reference to St. Andrew’s Stair, which was not far from John Allan’s place of business, 18 Basing-hall Street. Indirectly also “Ligeia” must be accounted autobiographical, if we may credit an autograph note by the poet (in one of the printed texts of the story) to the effect that the tale originated in a dream.(4)

In other stories — and here again we can be very sure of our ground — Poe gives expression, either in proper person or through some one of his characters, to his own prejudices and dislikes. Thus in “Never Bet the Devil Your Head” and “Some Words with a Mummy” he expresses his contempt for the Transcendentalists and his dislike of the Dial; in “Never Bet the Devil Your Head” he speaks with disdain of Emerson and Carlyle;(5) in a late revision of his farce, “The Due de L’Omelette,” he refers contemptuously to the city of Boston,(6) as he does [page 138:] again and again in his miscellaneous prose; and in several of his tales he expresses disapproval of Bentham and the Utilitarians,(1) of the “perfectionists” or “perfectibilians,”(2) and of uplift movements generally.(3) In the introduction of his “Never Bet the Devil Your Head,” to which he ironically gives the sub-title “A Moral Tale,” he records — ironically again — his dislike of a tale with a moral, observing in the same connection that the charge had been brought against him that he had never written a moral tale. There is animus in his references to Rufus W. Griswold and Henry T. Tuckerman in the opening paragraph of “The Angel of the Odd”;(4) and in his mention of “Clarke on Tongue” and “Prentice’s Billingsgate” in “The Literary Life of Thingum Bob, Esq.”(5) he indulges in a backhanded slap at Lewis Gaylord Clark and George Denison Prentice.(6) In other stories he airs his dislike of certain contemporary magazines, — of Blackwood’s in “How to Write a Blackwood Article” and [page 139:] “A Predicament” and in the sub-title of “Loss of Breath”;(1) of the North American Review (which he speaks of as the “North American Quarterly Hum Drum”) (2) in “The Literary Life of Thingum Bob, Esq.”; and possibly, also, of the Knickerbocker in his mention of the “Lollipop” in the same story.

So also it is reasonable to assume that he reveals ‘his own convictions when he satirizes in “Mystification” the ante-bellum custom of duelling, and when he pokes fun at puffery and excessive laudation of whatever sort in “Lionizing,” at literary affectation and sham in “How to Write a Blackwood Article” and “A Predicament,” and at fraud of various sorts in “The Business Man” and “Diddling Considered as One of the Exact Sciences,” and at the “tale with a moral” in “Never Bet the Devil Your Head.” I suspect that he airs one of his own prejudices in his ridicule of system in the earlier paragraphs of “The Business Man” (originally entitled “Peter Pendulum”), in which he perhaps had in mind the ways and habits of his foster-father. And it is highly probable that in “Mellonta Tauta” he echoes his own impatience with insincerity and show in religion in his reference (such as Emerson might have made) to the church of his day as standing for the worship of “Wealth and Fashion,”(3) and he is but voicing his own dislike of arrogance and brag in the later paragraphs of “Some Words with a Mummy,”(4) and of [page 140:] the bustle as an article of feminine adornment — to mingle great things with small — in his humorous allusions to that article of dress in “The Thousand-and-Second Tale of Scheherazade” and elsewhere.(1)

In yet other stories he records in one capacity or another sentiments which we know to have been his own. In “The Murders in the Rue Morgue,” for instance, he asserts that “the truly imaginative are never otherwise than analytic”;(2) and later in the same story that “by undue profundity we perplex and enfeeble thought.”(3) In “The Mystery of Marie Roget” he remarks that “a true philosophy will always show that a vast, perhaps the larger portion of truth, arises from the seemingly irrelevant”;(4) and in “Mellonta Tauta” that “the true and only true thinkers” are “men of ardent imagination.”(5) He utters his own convictions, in all likelihood, when he asserts in “The Black Cat” that “perverseness is one of the primitive impulses of the human heart”;(6) when he remarks in “Metzengerstein,” in true Frostian phrase, that “near neighbors are seldom friends”;(7) [page 141:] when he observes in “The Assignation” that “in the manner of the true gentleman, we are always aware of a difference from the bearing of the vulgar, without being. . . able to determine in what such difference consists”;(1) when he declares in “The Elk” that the “finest landscapes” in America are to be “reached only by bypaths”;(2) and when he maintains in “The Domain of Arnheim,” in the person of his hero, that “the four elementary. . . conditions of bliss” are “free exercise in the open air,” “love of woman,” “contempt of ambition,” and “an object of unceasing pursuit.”(3)

In a good many of his stories he depicts himself or reflects some side of his personality either in his hero or in his heroine. “Roderick Usher” in “The Fall of the House of Usher” supplies the most obvious illustration;(4) but “Ligeia” in the story of that title affords an almost equally obvious example. “Morella” and “Hans Pfaall” and the artist in “The Assignation” are other examples. Apparently he had himself in mind and his own youthful escapades in “The Spectacles” in the passage: “I touched upon my college indiscretions — upon my extravagances — upon my carousals — upon my debts — upon my flirtations,”(5) and probably also in “Berenice” when he writes: [page 142:] “I loitered away my boyhood in books, and dissipated my youth in reverie.”(1) In still other stories he pictures his hero (or heroine) as having, like himself, a high (or wide) forehead.(2)

There is, too, the very intangible but none the less significant revelation of Poe’s own interests and predilections: of his interest in secret writing, for example, as it comes out in “The Gold-Bug,” and in ratiocination as exhibited in the detective stories,(3) his fondness for metaphysical speculations as revealed in “Bon-Bon,” “Morella,” “Mesmeric Revelation,” and “The Power of Words,” and his curiosity about scientific discovery as reflected in “The Thousand-and-Second Tale of Scheherazade,” “Some Words with a Mummy,” and “Mellonta Tanta,” as also in his stories about ballooning and in his tales that deal with mesmerism and phrenology. His native propensity for mystification and hoaxing comes out in the tale entitled “Mystification,” in “The Balloon Hoax,” and in “Hans Pfaall.” There is, I dare say, a reflection of the man’s nature also in his display of learning in certain of the stories, at least in so far as such pedantic display was not deliberately indulged in for purposes of satire or for the sake of atmosphere. And in the sardonic nature of Poe’s humor there must also be a reflection of one side of the man. [page 143:]

Among stories that are less surely autobiographical but that may not improbably be so interpreted are “Three Sundays in a Week,” which apparently affords a reminiscence of the opposition on the part of John Allan to Poe’s marriage with Miss Royster; “The Business Man,” in which we have a farcical characterization of a “weak-minded”(1) old gentleman who placed his son at the age of fifteen in “the counting-house of what he termed ‘a respectable hardware and commission merchant doing a capital bit of business ‘” — in consequence of which he presently ran away from home;(2) and Arthur Gordon Pym, which in its opening paragraphs seems to echo some of the incidents of Poe’s life in Richmond in his boyhood.(3) There is the possibility, also, that his mention of the cousin relationship existing between hero and heroine in “Berenice” and “Eleonora” and “Three Sundays in a Week” is of autobiographical import, though the first of those stories must have been written in the early stages of his courtship of his cousin.(4) [page 144:]

I shall do no more than mention here that in “A Tale of Jerusalem” and “Four Beasts in One,” in various quotations and allusions scattered through his stories, and very explicitly in the style of his sketches “Shadow” and “Silence,” we have evidence of Poe’s acquaintance with the Scriptures; and that the color and the glamor of style that distinguish some of his stories are possibly a reflection of the Southern environment in which he grew up. There are, too, in his stories passages that suggest dissatisfaction on his part with the workings of democracy in America, though they do not, I think, indicate that he was entirely out of sympathy with a republican form of government.(1)

It may be, too, that his references in several of his stories to morphine and laudanum and their effects grew out of his own experience with narcotics;(2) and [page 145:] Mr. Brownell holds that we have in certain of his stories evidence of the effects upon him of inebriety.(1)

In a still more remote sense we have a revelation of self in Poe’s references to persons that he knew, — to Mrs. Annie Richmond (“Annie”) in “Landor’s Cottage,” to “Cornelius Wyatt”(2) in “The Oblong Box,”(3) and to John Randolph of Roanoke in “The Strange Case of M. Valdemar,” — and in certain names that he adopts for characters introduced into this or that story, as “Dubourg” (the name of his school-mistresses while he was a student in London in 1816-1817) in “The Mystery of Marie Rogêt,” and Andrew Thornton and Alexander Wormley, names of prominent families in Virginia with whom he was acquainted, in his “Julius Rodman.” The name [page 146:] “William Wilson” may also have been suggested in like manner by a name that he had probably heard his foster-father use, for it appears from the Ellis-Allan Papers that Allan had dealings with two merchants bearing that name, one a Quaker living at Kendal and the other a Virginian who was an agent for Washington College.

IV

There is, I dare say, a good deal more of autobiography in Poe’s poems and tales than I have been able to discover. More light will doubtless be thrown on the matter with the revelation of new facts about Poe’s life and about his habits of composition. But enough evidence of a positive nature has already been brought forward to demonstrate beyond any question that the poet, however objective he may appear to be in his imaginative writings, drew extensively on his own life for the materials underlying his art. In the case of the poems the body of self-revelatory material, though small in compass, is, in reality, comparatively large: it involves in some way virtually half of Poe’s poems; and though it is, for the most part, vague and cloudlike, this was entirely in keeping with the poet’s theory that the lyric should hide its meaning under a cloak of “indefinitiveness.” And in the stories the revelation of self is both abundant and, much of the way, readily evident.

 


[[Footnotes]]

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 126:]

1.  The bulk of these appear in the seventeenth volume of Poe’s Works as edited by Professor James A. Harrison (New York, 1902), but a good many others are to be found in the life of Poe by Professor George E. Woodberry (Boston, 1909).

2.  There is nothing that reveals to us more surely the human side of the poet’s nature than his letter of April 7, 1844, to Mrs. Clemm (Poe’s Works, XVII, 165 f.), nothing that shows more convincingly his essential manliness of character than his letter of December 30, 1846, to N. P. Willis (ibid., pp. 274 f.).

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 127:]

1.  The Last Letters of Edgar Allan Poe to Sarah Helen Whitman, ed. James A. Harrison, New York, 1909.

2.  Edgar Allan Poe Letters. . . in the Valentine Museum, Richmond, Virginia, ed. Mary Newton Stanard, Philadelphia, 1925. Among the most important of these letters are two written to John Allan after their quarrel in March, 1827 (pp. 55 f., 63 f.), and the long letter (pp. 253 f.) written to John Allan in January, 1831, in which the poet reproaches his foster-father for his niggardly provision for him during his stay at the University of Virginia and makes pathetic confession of his irregularities while there and subsequently. Of immense importance, too, for the story of his early life are the letters, letter-books, and other documents from the office of Ellis and Allan (now preserved in the Library of Congress, but not given to the public until more than fifty years after the poet’s death), a welter of old papers in which appear numerous references to Poe and which reflect very fully the atmosphere in which he grew up. See for these Modern Language Notes, XXV, 127-128 (April, 1910), the Sewanee Review, XX, 201-212 (April, 1912), and the Dial, LX, 143-146 (February 17, 1916).

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 128:]

1.  Poe’s Works, VIII, 169.

2.  Ibid., IX, 96 f.

3.  Ibid., IX, 114 f.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 129:]

1.  See Camille Mauclair, Le Genie d’Edgar Poe, Paris [1925], pp. 25 f.

2.  Napier Wilt, “Poe’s Attitude toward his Tales: A New Document,” Modern Philology, XXV, 101 (August, 1927).

3.  The Fortnightly Review, XXXIV, 74 (July 1, 1880).

4.  The Life and Letters of Edgar Allan Poe, London, 1880, p. 121.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 130:]

1.  E. C. Stedman, Poets of America, Boston, 1885, p. 261.

2.  W. C. Brownell, American Prose Masters, New York, 1909, p. 234.

3.  Remy de Gourmont, Promenades Litteraires, Premiere Série, Paris, 1904, p. 361.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 131:]

1.  Here also might be mentioned his punning “Impromptu. To Kate Carol,” which Mr. J. H. Whitty has shown to have reference to Mrs. Osgood, and the two poems, “The Divine Right of Kings” and “Stanzas,” which Mr. Whitty believes were also inspired by Poe’s admiration for Mrs. Osgood. I should not omit to mention, too, the very romantic account of a call on Mrs. Whitman in Providence which Poe vaguely describes in his later lines “To Helen.”

2.  In the phrase tuckermanities.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 132:]

1.  Whether he refers also to a new love — that is, to Mrs. Shew or to Mrs. Osgood — in this poem, as has been variously alleged, must, I fear, remain a matter of conjecture.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 132, running to the bottom of page 133:]

2.  If it be contended that the allusions to disappointed ambitions, to his wounded pride, to an unbridled will, and to joys departed that recur again and again in these poems are merely an affectation of the Byronic, one has but to look into the “Valentine Letters” to be disillusioned on the point: the parallelism both in mood and in substance is too close to be accidental.

On the other hand, we can only speculate as to how far the poet has himself in mind in the apparently personal poems, “Lenore,” “The Sleeper,” “To —— “ (“The bowers whereat, in dreams, I see”), “Bridal Ballad,” “To One in Paradise,” and in the uncollected poem “Serenade.” Mr. Hervey Allen holds, to be sure (see his Israfel, p. 134), that “To One in Paradise” refers to Miss Royster and that the scene depicted there is based in some measure on the “enchanted garden” near the house of the Roysters, in which, as he declares, the lovers frequently met. But the danger of drawing too confident conclusions from mere coincidences is well illustrated in the case of “To —— “ (“I saw thee on thy bridal day”), which by several of Poe’s earlier biographers had been held to involve a retrospective reference to Miss Royster’s marriage to Mr. Shelton, [page 133:] whereas, as we now know, the marriage did not take place until after the publication of this poem (see Ingram, p. 43; Harrison, Poe’s Works, 147; and Whitty, The Complete Poems of Poe, London, 1920, p. xxviii).

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 133:]

1.  See, for instance, “Al Aaraaf,” Pt. II, 11. 163 f., and “The Colloquy of Monos and Una” (Poe’s Works, IV, 202).

2.  Of like tenor is the second stanza of the final version of “Romance”; and see also his endorsement of this sentiment in his comment on Whitman’s “Art Singing and Heart Singing” in the Broadway Journal, November 20, 1845 (Whitman’s Uncollected Poetry and Prose, ed. Holloway, I, 104 f.), and in the closing lines of “Romance.”

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 134:]

1.  In his “Sonnet. Silence” we possibly have a very vague echo of his belief in the after-life, and so also, possibly, in the opening lines of “For Annie.”

2.  See in this connection his letter of December 22,1828, to John Allan (the “Valentine Letters,” pp. 88-89), in which he asserts that “ the world shall be [his] theatre” and that the time shall come when his foster-father will not be ashamed to own him as his son.

3.  Ingram, pp. 91 f.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 135:]

1.  In Poe’s Works, edited by the late James A. Harrison, they comprise five volumes.

2.  He asserts, for instance, that he spent five years — “the third lustrum” — of his life at Stoke Newington, whereas we know that he spent upward of a year of his five years in England at the school of the Misses Dubourg in London (see the Dial for February 17, 1916, p. 144).

3.  Ingram, p. 12.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 136:]

1.  Ingram, p. 11.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 137:]

1.  Poe’s Works, VI, 134. See Doings of Gotham, ed. Spannuth and Mabbott, p. 26, for his characterization of the Bowling Green Fountain as an absurdity.

2.  According to Woodberry (II, 284) he was a guest at Earl’s Hotel late in 1848.

3.  Israfel, p. 479.

4.  Ingram, p. 126.

5.  Poe’s Works, IV, 218.

6.  Ibid., II, 199.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 138:]

1.  Poe’s Works, IV, 201; VI, 204.

2.  Ibid., II, 38.

3.  See in particular “The Colloquy of Monos and Una” and “The Elk,” in which he deplores the rise of industrialism in America; and see also Doings of Gotham, p. 25.

4.  Poe’s Works, VI, 103.

5.  Ibid., p. 21. See, too, the mention of “Hewitt’s Seraphic. . . Oil of Archangels” in a rejected reading of “Loss of Breath” 357), in which he makes a thrust at John H. Hewitt, who had been awarded by the Baltimore Saturday Visiter a prize that had been first voted to Poe for “The Coliseum.”

6.  See also his reference to J. T. Buckingham and his mention of “the odious old woods of Concord” in “X-ing a Paragrab” (Poe’s Works, VI, 232, 233).

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 139:]

1.  “A Tale Neither In Nor Out of Blackwood.”

2.  Poe’s Works, VI, 5.

3.  Ibid., pp. 212 f.

4.  Ibid., pp. 133 f.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 140:]

1.  Poe’s Works, V, 206; VI, 101, 213.

2.  Ibid., iv, 150.

3.  Ibid., p. 166. Cf. also a rejected variant of “Hans Pfaall” 332), in which he raises the question whether “profundity itself might not, in matters of a purely speculative nature, be detected as a legitimate source of falsity and error”; and see his. statement in the “Letter to B — “ (VII, xxxix) that Coleridge erred by reason of his profundity.

4.  Ibid., v, 39; Doings of Gotham, ed. Spannuth and Mabbott, p. 66.

5.  Poe’s Works, VI, 206. The statement was made, in all likelihood, with-himself in mind.

6.  Ibid., V, 146.

7.  Ibid., II, 186.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 141:]

1.  Ibid., p. 119.

2.  Ibid., V, 158.

3.  Ibid., VI, 177. — See for other passages in which he probably speaks in proper person, ibid., XI, 154; V, 69, 298; VI, 43.

4.  Mr. Hervey Allen (Israfel, p. 445) characterizes the picture that Poe gives of “Roderick Usher” as the “most perfect pen-portrait of Poe himself which is known.”

5.  Poe’s Works, V, 198.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 142:]

1.  Poe’s Works, II, 17.

2.  Ibid., pp. 23, 32, 134, 174, 250; III, 279; IV, 103, 281; V, 163.

3.  Both “Dupin,” then, and the “Minister D — “ in “The Purloined Letter” are adumbrations of the poet.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 143:]

1.  Poe’s Works, IV, 123. Poe uses the same epithet in characterizing the father of William Wilson in the story of that title (ibid., III, 300).

2.  Ibid., IV, 124. It may very well be that the bill drawn up in clerk-like fashion in “The Business Man” (pp. 125 f.) and his mention of daybook, ledger, and journal reflect the experience, slight though it must have been, obtained by Poe in the counting-house of Ellis and Allan in the twenties.

3.  Augustus Barnard in the same story seems to be a reflection of Ebenezer Burling, one of Poe’s chums during his early years in Richmond.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 143, running to the bottom of page 144:]

4.  And shall I expose myself to the charge of dallying with false surmise if I suggest that Poe’s reference to gin as a fiend in “The Man of the Crowd” (Poe’s Works, IV, 144) and his exclamation, “For what disease [page 144:] is like Alcohol!” in “The Black Cat” (ibid., V, 145) actually represent his convictions, however inconsistent this may seem with his conduct? In a letter published in the Columbia Spy in 1844 (Doings of Gotham, p. 39) he characterizes saloons as “hot-houses of iniquity,” and asserts that “no one can entertain a doubt” as to “the direct benefits accruing” from the closing of the saloon.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 144:]

1.  See, for instance, Poe’s Works, IV, 203; VI, 136, 208. On the other hand, it should be noted that he remarks in “Hop-Frog” (ibid., VI, 217) that “days are rather longer at court than elsewhere”; and that he takes Fanny Kemble to task in a review of her Journal (ibid., VIII, 28 f.) for her animadversions on the workings of a democracy in America, remarking on his part that the laboring man is infinitely better off in a democracy than in a monarchy.

2.  See in particular a discarded passage with which “The Oval Portrait” originally opened (ibid., IV, 316 f.).

So, too, Professor Woodberry suggests (America in Literature, p. 148) that Poe reveals in his stories something of cruelty in his make-up (he mentions “The Black Cat” and “The Pit and the Pendulum” as examples) ; [page 145:] but I am not sure that this is a safe inference to draw from the fact that Poe frequently depicts scenes of frightful cruelty in his stories. It seems to me probable, as Dr. Napier Wilt has pointed out (Modern Philology, XXV, 102), that Poe was but catering to a contemporary demand and following a fashion set by inferior tale-writers of his day. It may be noted in this connection that Poe in his review of Longstreet’s Georgia Scenes (Poe’s Works, VIII, 262 f.) calls attention to and deplores the display of cruelty in certain rural sections of the ante-bellum South, specifically in the barbarous practice of “gander-pulling,” and that he also takes occasion in a late review (ibid., XII, 248) to complain of the excess of the horrible in the novels of William Gilmore Simms.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 145:]

1.  American Prose Masters, p. 230.

2.  He had collaborated with Professor Thomas Wyatt in the compilation of their treatise on conchology.

3.  Is it possible that in “Wertemuller” in a cancelled passage in “Mystification” (Poe’s Works, IV, 279) Poe has reference to William Wertenbaker, who was librarian of the University of Virginia during the year that he spent as a student there? And may it be that in his statement in the same story, “I have seen the protector, the consul. . . aghast at the convolutions of a weathercock,” he has reference to Thomas Jefferson and his well-known interest in mechanical invention?

 


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Notes:

None.

 

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[S:0 - KCMP, 1933] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Articles - The Mind of Poe and Other Studies (K. Campbell) (Self-Revelation in Poe's Poems and Tales)