Text: Margaret Alterton, “Chapter 01,” Origins of Poe’s Critical Theory (1925), pp. 7-45 (This material is protected by copyright)


[page 7:]


Although British periodical literature was well known and accessible to American readers during the period of Poe’s critical work, and Poe’s interest in the “brief article” coming from the mother country was, therefore, by no means an interest peculiar to him, yet a study of what may be said to be his rather unusual familiarity with the text of the foreign magazine, reveals him as being a more serious reader than he has perhaps been generally considered.(1)

One of the earliest influences on Poe’s conscious method was his knowledge of Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine and other British periodicals. Evidence points to the fact that he was an indefatigable student of their contents. In the first place, he testifies himself to his habit of “poring over foreign files.”(2) In the early days of his editorship of the Southern Literary Messenger,(3) he published [page 4:] reviews from contemporary foreign magazines. From his own remarks it can be seen(4) that he was following the trend of British criticism.

He condemns the general tone of criticism written by British reviewers. He thinks that British critics were too apt to discuss the subject-matter under review rather than to weigh the merit of the article according to any standard of criticism. Of the review of Article XIV, “The Mythology of Ancient Greece and Italy,” by Thomas Keightley, in the Westminster Review,(5) he says:

“This is an interesting and able paper, but has no pretensions to the name of Review. The position of the Bacchanalians in Greek and Roman History, and their progress, together with the dangers and impediments encountered in their course, forms the subject of the Essay — for it is an Essay, although an admirable one.”

The Westminster Review of the same date errs, he considers, in having the greater part of what was supposedly a critical article, taken up in reviewing some of the leading features in Scottish history.(6) He finds the same fault with “The Memoirs of John Napier,” by Mark Napier, as reviewed in the same magazine. He considers that British criticism has adopted an arrogance of tone that is by no means justifiable; and he defends Coleridge against the abuse of the Edinburgh Review, saying how little different in spirit that abuse was from the “cold and brief compliments with the warm regrets of the Quarterly. If there be any one thing more [page 9:] than another which stirs within us a deep spirit of indignation and disgust, it is that damnation of faint praise which so many of the Narcissi of critical literature have had the infinite presumption to breathe against the majesty of Coleridge.”(7) Occasionally, however, Poe expresses himself as pleased with a British review. He commends a criticism in the London Quarterly(8) as being “one of those exceedingly rare cases in which a British critic confines himself strictly to his text.”

Poe likewise appears to have been in the habit of comparing the opinions of different reviewers on the same subject. In the case of the “Journal of Frances Anne Butler,” which was the subject of comment in the whole round of periodical literature, Poe thus compares two reviewers on the merit of the work, adding his own opinion to the others: “The tone of this Notice(9) is very similar to that of the Article on the same subject in the Edinburgh for July. . . . The Reviewer is of the opinion that ‘Master Fan-ney ‘s Journal’ was from an early period, if not from the first line, intended for publication, and that the entire thing is arranged for stage-effect. Both these suppositions are highly probable. Indeed, for our own part, we never had a doubt about the matter.” He also compares the Edinburgh and the Quarterly Review in their handling of the “Memoirs of the Life of the Right Honorable Sir James Macintosh.”(10) [page 10:]

In the second place, Poe shows that he is familiar with the contents of British periodicals other than their critical matter. He speaks of Boz, the author of “Watkins Tottle and Other Sketches,” as being a “far more pungent, more witty, and better disciplined writer of sly articles than nine-tenths of the Magazine writers in Great Britain — which is saying much, it must be allowed, when we consider the great variety of genuine talent, and earnest application brought to bear upon the periodical literature of the mother country.”(11) And, again, showing his familiarity with the British periodical press, he says that the English as far excell us in writing the “brief article” as “Hyperion” does a “Satyr.” He would recommend British stories as models to those who turn their attention to magazine writing.(12) Poe apparently “pored over” files of early foreign periodicals as well as over those of contemporary interest. In a critical essay written in May, 1835,(13) he mentions a review in an Edinburgh magazine of an early date. He would gladly, he says, appropriate the introductory remarks of the article were it fair to do so; but “honor among thieves!” And in his famous review of Hawthorne’s “Twice-Told Tales,” he refers to the existence of good tales of effect in “the early numbers of Blackwood.”(14)

Poe’s stories likewise prove him to be a student of foreign magazines. In “Lionizing” he asserts that he placed no confidence in their critical power,(15) characterizing them in the following way:

“As I felt within me the divine afflatus, I considered this accident rather fortunate than otherwise. I resolved to be guided by the paternal advice. I determined to follow my nose. I gave it a pull or two upon the spot, and wrote a pamphlet on Nosology forthwith.

“All Fum-Fudge was in an uproar.

‘Wonderful genius!’ said the Quarterly.

‘Superb Physiologist!’ said the Westminster.

‘Clever fellow!’ said the Foreign. [page 11:]

‘Fine writer!’ said the Edinburgh.

‘Profound thinker!’ said the Dublin.

‘Great man!’ said Bentley.

‘Divine soul!’ said Fraser.

‘One of us!’ said Blackwood.”

Poe also gave to his story, “Loss of Breath,”(16) the sub-title of “A Tale neither in nor out of Blackwood.” But perhaps the most convincing proof that Poe was an ardent student of foreign magazines is in his sketch of “How to Write a Blackwood Article.” In this sketch,(17) whose satire we must disregard for the present, he gives the titles of several stories that occur through the pages of Blackwood. The tales which he mentions are “The Dead Alive,”(18) “The Involuntary Experimentalist,”(19) “Passages from the Diary of a Late Physician,”(20) and “The Man in the Bell.”(21)

Poe’s letters are further evidence that he had his attention fixed on foreign quarterlies. He discusses with Judge Beverley Tucker the value of the general tone of British criticism and the relative merits of certain of the chief English reviewers, Jeffrey and Wilson in particular.(22) He writes to Mr. J. P. Kennedy that by “Loss of Breath” he intended to satirize the extravagance of Blackwood.(23)

Christopher North, the editor of Blackwood, seems always to have been to Poe a type of the extravagant in critical commendation or blame. Poe maintained that North owed his tremendous popularity in the critical world more to his great exuberance of spirits and “dashing audacity” than to any very profound knowledge of critical principles.(24) In fact, he seems to be generally of the opinion [page 12:] that Judge Tucker was correct in deeming North arrogant in critical matters.(25) He intended, as has just been noted, to satirize in “Loss of Breath” the extravagance in Blackwood. He probably meant a satirical attack more particularly on Blackwood’s criticism, and in the figure of Windenough he designed a satire on Christopher North. The author of “Lights and Shadows of Scottish Life,” who was noted for his extravagance of critical judgments, for his caustic wit, who was elected to the professorship of Moral Philosophy in the University of Edinburgh,(26) may possibly be seen in the “gaunt, tall, and peculiar looking form” which Mr. Lackobreath drags from the tomb, saying:

“. . . here is a wretch entitled to no earthly commiseration. . . . Who indeed would think of compassionating a shadow? Besides, has he not had his full share of the blessings of Mortality? He was the originator of tall monuments, shot-towers, lightening rods, Lombardy poplars. His treatise upon ‘Shades and Shadows’ has immortalized him. He edited with distinguished ability the last edition of ‘South on the Bones’. He went early to college and studied pneumatics. He then came home and talked eternally and played upon the French horn. He patronized the bagpipes. Captain Barclay, who walked against Time, would not walk against him. Windham and Allbreath were his favorite writers; his favorite artist, Phiz.”

Of all the foreign magazines which Poe knew, Blackwood is perhaps the one with which he was most familiar.(27) He appears to [page 13:] have derived from Blackwood suggestions for his own work in regard to both subject-matter and technique.(28) Considering the probability of his indebtedness, first, in subject-matter, one is struck by the similarity of Poe’s tales of effect to Blackwood material. Both Blackwood and Poe agree, using very much the same phraseology, that the horrible and terrible is a legitimate sphere for effective work for the writer of fiction. Poe is of the opinion that impressions produced by the tales of effect in Blackwood were “wrought in a legitimate sphere of action and constituted a legitimate, although sometimes an exaggerated interest.”(29) Compare with Poe’s remark, that of a reviewer in Blackwood, commenting on “The Devil’s Elixir” by E. T. A. Hoffmann. The English critic makes the point that “the horrible is quite as legitimate a field of poetry and romance, as either the pathetic or the ludicrous.”(30) In fact, the English magazines are filled with discussions of the advantages of the terrible in fictional writing, and doubtless furnished Poe with many ideas on the subject.(31) The same Blackwood reviewer explains that we delight in being horrified, that “the earth does not at this moment contain one individual who has not a superstitious shudder when he passes a church yard at midnight.” He thinks that, this fact being true, the human mind will continue [page 14:] to receive a tragic pleasure from the skilful use made of these fears in fiction. The author of the story, “Le Revenant,” also in Blackwood, maintains that it is a human instinct to wish for a first-hand experience of the sensations that would attend the laying down of life. He considers that it is this strange desire to experience that greatest of all sensations that has led painters and poets to make the “estate of a man condemned to die a favorite theme of comment or description.”(32) A further critic sees in the strangely fascinating records of physicians good material for “polite and popular literature.”(33) The Edinburgh Review, — the writer in this case is Hazlitt, — is of the opinion that Shelley is catering to this taste for the horrible:

“He (Shelley) mistook the nature of the poet’s calling, which should be guided by involuntary, not by voluntary impulses. He ransacked his brain for incongruities, and believed in whatever was incredible. Almost all is effort, . . . subjects are chosen because they are repulsive: the colours of his style, for their gaudy, changeful, startling effect, resemble the display of fireworks in the dark.”(34)

The Indicator is of the belief that a writer’s purpose should be to satisfy this craving for excitement; Leigh Hunt, the editor, says in his “How to Write a Grim Story”:

“A man who does not contribute his quota of grim stories now a-days seems hardly to be free of the republic of letters. . . . If he does not frighten everybody, he is nobody.”(35)

Poe and Blackwood writers also agree in the type of terror. They both seem to make a distinction between German and English types of terror. Although much favorable comment may be read in Blackwood on the merits of German devilry, on the value of Hoffmann’s tales in particular,(36) there is yet a strong plea for a terror that arises from some real experience. One critic thus states the difference: “Fairy tales please; but (in England) they do not [page 15:] touch the soul. . . . the German terrible, besides that it wants this our national locus in quo, takes a course commonly that the English do not pleasantly fall in with. Almost all the northern legends set out with a man’s taking the bounty money of the devil; so that we guess pretty well, in the beginning, how he is to be disposed of in the end. And we feel but little interest about a man, after he has made a bargain of this sort. He is above (or below) our sphere.”(37) Another reviewer, although he is approving of the power of the German writer, Ernst von Houvald, to produce a “frightful sketch,” yet appears to base his commendation on the reality of the horror: “When this author published his first at-tempt — a frightful sketch, of which the scene was laid in a charnel-house, — we predicted that he would rise to eminence.”(38) A third critic, Sir Walter Scott in this case, also distinguishes between English and German types of terror.(39) He does not think the German school have handled the field of horror with any great appreciation of its power for effect.”Fantastic extravagances” bring down his censure. Indeed, he says, stories of fiends, ghosts, and prodigies produce not that “shuddering interest approaching to fear”; they impress by little else than their oddity. The English language contains, he thinks, but one example of this fantastic style, “The Bold Dragoon,” by Geoffrey Crayon. Translations into English, however, especially those from the German, he considers present many instances, and of these he names in particular “The Devil’s Elixir” by E. T. A. Hoffmann. But such pieces of fantastic extravagance, he says, are ill-suited to “English severity of taste.” He feels a more compelling power in the Scottish tales told by the Littérateur, who was at the same time a scientist, of the strange though apparently natural disappearance of a man into the depths of a mountainous wilderness; and more terror from the “night-shriek” than from any ghost or goblin.

Another reviewer stresses the power of the real experience to hold the attention. He gives it as his opinion that works on Medical Jurisprudence detail cases of unquestioned authenticity, the horror of which fascinates and haunts the mind of the reader. In a piece entitled “Hints for Jurymen” he comments on a book on Medical [page 16:] Jurisprudence by Dr. Paris, an eminent physician, and Mr. Fonblanque, a no less eminent lawyer, giving in the words of the authors the definition of their work. It is, he quotes, that “science by which medicine, and its collateral branches are made subservient to the construction, elucidation, and administration of the laws.”(40) And he suggests that in the next edition of this valuable work should well be included appalling examples drawn from the “facts” of M. Fodoré. Still another critic, also commenting on médicine légale, the theme of the work entitled “Elements of Medical Jurisprudence,” by T. R. Beck, M.D., asserts that he has found in the book real “tales of terror.” He considers that the horror in these sketches, many of them Scotch and American, have not their equal in power of morbid fascination.(41)

Poe as well as Scott and other British critics discredits for effectiveness the German tale of terror. Although it has been suggested that Poe, with Hoffman for a model, crossed and recrossed the boundary between the real and the supernatura1,(42) yet evidence points to the probability that he followed not Hoffman, but a “severity of taste” affirmed to be more strictly English; that he caught the idea from Blackwood writers, particularly from critics commenting on Medical Jurisprudence, that real horror arises from contemplating diseased conditions, both mental and physical. And, even where he seems to go beyond the bounds of the rational, he is still treating horrible cases of pathological interest, nervous diseases and insanity.

Poe denies that he has modelled his pieces after the “phantasy pieces” of the Germans. “The truth is,” he says in his Preface to “Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque,” a title which, by the way, he probably owes as Prof. Greuner and as Palmer Cobb suggest, to Scott’s essay on the supernatural, noted above, “that, with a single exception, there is no one of these stories in which the scholar should recognize the distinctive features of that species of pseudo-horror which we are taught to call Germanic, for no better reason than that some of the secondary names of German literature have been identified with its folly.” Then, apparently quoting the critic in Blackwood who had affirmed the “German [page 17:] terrible” to be incapable of touching the soul, he asserts: “If in any of my productions terror has been the thesis, I maintain that terror is not of Germany, but of the soul.”(43)

Added to Poe’s denial that the nature of the terror he sought to produce was German in its origin, is the testimony of the Tales. Perhaps in no way does the distinction between the fantastic and rational show itself more clearly than in contrasting “The Fall of the House of Usher” with its supposed prototype,(44) Hoffmann’s “Das Marjorat”; for the culminating point of terror in the German piece is undoubtedly the uncanny scratching on the bricked-up door by the spirit of the dead domestic; whereas in Usher, horror reaches its culminating point when one hears Lady Madeline, awakened from her cataleptic trance, knock on her tomb, and the madman’s shriek as he sees her standing, still enshrouded, at the door. And the distinction may be further noted when Poe presents the doctrines of personal identity and metempsychosis as hallucinations of some disordered brain. Thus, in “William Wilson” he tries to arouse horror by describing Wilson as the victim of hereditary insanity. A case in a medical journal might have had Poe’s wording:

“I am the descendant of a race whose imaginative and easily excitable temperament has at all times rendered them remarkable; and, in my earliest infancy, I gave evidence of having fully inherited the family character. As I advanced in years it was more strongly developed; becoming, for many reasons, a cause of serious disquietude to my friends, and of positive injury to myself. I grew self-willed, addicted to the wildest caprices, and a prey to the most ungovernable passions. Weak-minded, and beset with constitutional infirmities akin to my own, my parents could do but little to check the evil propensities which distinguished me.”(45)

And this case of incipient madness, developing with alarming rapidity, takes the form of the victim’s believing that his steps are dogged by a double. In “Morella” and in “Ligeia” Poe also explains metempsychosis as it might appear in the records of medical cases. Take, for instance, a case of insanity detailed in the Medico-Chirurgical Review for 1838. At least a germ of belief in this doctrine is seen in the delusion of a madman who thinks that the devil lives in the form of his wife and also in the form of his cat. Haunted by this belief, and irritated beyond all power of self-control, [page 18:] he puts them! both to a horrible death.(46) Of course it cannot be affirmed that Poe drew on the medical record for the horror that he worked out in “The Black Cat”; yet for certain reasons, one is tempted to put the two cases in juxtaposition. One can recall Poe’s familiarity with medical journals. He speaks of the “high authority and merit” of the “Chirurgical Journal of Leipsic.” He speaks, too, with more than ordinary interest of the London Lancet as being the most authoritative medical serial in existence.(47) He welcomes its republication in America, for it gives, he says, facts that concern not only the physician, but those concerning human vitality.(48) Moreover, the details of the cases related in the Chirurgical Review are strikingly similar to those in “The Black Cat.” The insane man in Poe’s story maltreats his cat whom he has named Pluto, deliberately cutting one of its eyes from the socket. Then, irritated beyond endurance by the continual reproach of its presence, he kills the cat by hanging it. A growing belief takes possession of his mind, a belief for which he tries to offer rational explanation, that Pluto returns to upbraid him, and, in a fit of more than usual madness he attempts to kill the second black cat; but, instead, he buries the axe in the brain of his wife. Poe’s story is, as the medical case, a horrible record of insanity.

Besides agreeing in the type of terror best adapted to the purposes of effective writing, the authors in Blackwood and Poe also work out specific themes in common. Blackwood has an interesting treatment of the life-in-death theme, a theme which includes the attendant horrors of suspended animation and premature burial.”Buried Alive” reads in part as follows:

“I had been for some time ill of a low and lingering fever. My strength gradually wasted, but the sense of life seemed to become more and more acute as my corporeal powers became weaker. I could see by the looks of the doctor that he despaired of my recovery; and the soft and whispering sorrow of my friends, taught me that I had nothing to hope.

“One day towards the evening, the crisis took place. — I was seized with a strange and indescribable quivering, — a rushing in my ears, . . . the power of motion had departed. — I heard [page 19:] the sound of weeping at my pillow — and the voice of the nurse say, ‘He is dead’. — I cannot describe what I felt at these words. — I exerted my utmost power of volition to stir myself, but I could not move even an eyelid. The world was then darkened, but I still could hear, and feel, and suffer.

“When my eyes were closed, I heard by the attendants that my friend had left the room, and I soon after found, the undertakers were preparing to habit me in the garments of the grave. . . . The day of interment arrived. . . . The hearse began to move. — Dreadful was the effort I then made to exert the power of action, . . This is death, thought I. . . . I heard a low and undersound in the earth over me, and I fancied that the worms and reptiles of death were coming.”

“Hints for Jurymen,” the title of the review on Medical Jurisprudence, likewise makes suggestions on the theme of life-in-death:

“We shall now pass on to a subject . . . which must always command the most lively interest — that of Suspended Animation. . . . ‘hence it is, as Cuvier has remarked, that the poetic fictions best calculated to insure our sympathy, are those which represent sentient beings enclosed with immovable bodies; . . . there is a propensity in the human mind to believe in these horrors, because between credulity and fear there is an inherent affinity and alliance ‘.”

And again from “Hints for Jurymen” is the same theme developed; in this instance a living man actually showing all the symptoms of death:(49)

“On the following morning, the patient was examined by M. Battaglia, who found the integuments of the right arm almost entirely detached and pendant from the flesh; . . . and on the right hand, the part most injured, mortification had already commenced. . . . A short time previous to his decease, M. Battaglia observed with astonishment, that putrefaction had made so much progress that the body already exhaled an insufferable odour, worms crawled from it on the bed, and the nails had become detached from the left hand.”

And, further, in the “Diary of a Late Physician”:

“All these circumstances, — which terrified the servant who was shaking at my elbow, and muttering, ‘ She’s possessed! . . . Satan has her!’, convinced me that the unfortunate young lady was seized with Catalepsy; that rare mysterious affection, so fearfully [page 20:] blending the conditions of life and death — presenting — so to speak — life in the aspect of death, and death in that of life!”(50)

Let us see in what way Poe reflects this Blackwood background.

He calls one of his stories “Life-in-Death”; he gives also his opening sentences somewhat in the manner of the commencement of “Buried Alive,” from Blackwood.

Buried Alive

“I had been for some time ill of a low and lingering fever. My strength gradually wasted, but the sense of life seemed to become more and more acute as my corporeal powers became weaker. I could see by the looks of the doctor that he despaired of my recovery; . . .”



“My fever had been excessive and of long duration. All the remedies attainable . . . had been exhausted to no purpose . . .”

In “The Case of M. Valdemar,” Poe makes the patient bear a striking resemblance to the patient of M. Battaglia, as detailed in “Hints for Jurymen.” The unfortunate man is, with the help of mesmerism, kept seven months from total extinction, even though his body manifests the conditions that only death can produce. One recalls the former loathsome case in the following:

“For what really occurred, however, it is quite impossible that any human being could have been prepared. As I rapidly made the mesmeric passes, amid ejaculations of ‘dead! dead!’ absolutely bursting from the tongue and not from the lips of the sufferer, his whole frame at once — within the space of a single minute, or even less, shrunk — crumbled — absolutely rotted away beneath my hands. Upon the bed, before that whole company, there lay a nearly liquid mass of loathsome — of detestable putridity.”(52) [page 21:]

Premature burial, as Poe treats it, appears likewise to follow Blackwood’s development of the Life-in-Death theme. In his article entitled “Premature Burial”(53) he agrees with the author of “Hints for Jurymen” that the subject they have chosen lies in a legitimate sphere for fiction. He says:

“To be buried alive, is beyond question, the most terrific of these extremes which has ever fallen to the lot of mere mortality. That it has frequently, very frequently, so fallen will scarcely be denied by those who think. The boundaries which divide Life from Death are at least shadowy and vague. Who can say where the one ends and the other begins? We know that there are diseases in which occur total cessations of all the apparent functions of vitality, and yet in which these cessations are merely suspensions, properly so called. They are only temporary pauses in the incomprehensible mechanism.”

The Life-in-Death theme in Poe’s stories is an essential part of the plot; sometimes it occurs as suspended animation, sometimes as premature burial, and again, as a combination of the two. Poe seems to have used it as a foundation upon which to build a more extensive story, weaving around the horrors of the theme almost equally great attending horrors until the effect was one of overwhelming terror. For example, in “Berenice,”(54) the horror of the cataleptic trance and premature burial are intensified and more fully developed by the peculiar disease to which the character Egaeus was a victim. This disease, a sort of monomania, which consisted in a mad desire to stare at Berenice’s teeth, and, after her trance and interment, to obtain them, adds a gruesomeness to the already gruesome and horrible theme. As can be seen, neither Blackwood nor Poe has depended in the least on the supernatural for the effect of horror from the Life-in-Death theme. Coleridge, on the contrary, though he, too, is dealing with life-in-death, presents the theme from the supernatural standpoint. Leigh Hunt is of the opinion that the most appalling personage in the “Ancient Mariner” is the Spectre Woman who is called Life-in-Death. He explains this awful character, however, as Death-in-Life, and there [page 22:] seems to be a diminution in the effect of terror. He says, in his Indicator:

“He, (Coleridge) renders the most hideous abstraction more terrible than it could have otherwise been by embodying it in its own reverse. Death not only lives in it; but the unuttered becomes uttered.”

In the same way, re-animation as Coleridge gives it in the “Ancient Mariner,” implies a supernatural element, and, in spite of what Leigh Hunt considers its power to terrorize, it does not appear to equal in power of producing horror the power of Blackwood’s more realistic method. Leigh Hunt, himself, though he speaks in favor of Coleridge’s development of re-animation, yet testifies to the power of re-animation to terrorize when by a galvanic battery a dead body is made to undergo contortions. In the main, however, he considers the supernatural element necessary for the production of terror. He says in his article “How to Write a Grim Story”:

“A ghost-story, to be a good one, should unite as much as possible objects such as they are in life with a praeternatural spirit. And to be a perfect one, — it should imply some great moral sentiment, something that comes out of the next world to remind us of our duties in this; or something that helps to carry on the idea of our humanity into after life, even when we least think we shall take it with us.”(55)

It seems reasonable to think, therefore, that Blackwood, rather than Coleridge or Leigh Hunt, suggested the realistic method that Poe adopted for working out this theme. It is necessary to add, however, that Poe’s “MS. Found in a Bottle” appears to embody somewhat Coleridge’s method, and therefore does not seem to be dependent on Blackwood, as does the realism of the life-in-death theme in the other tales.

A second theme that Poe and Blackwood have in common is the galvanic battery associated with the knife of the anatomist. A discussion on the subject in Blackwood gives several cases where they have been used as efforts to resuscitate a supposed corpse. “Philippe Peu,” says this article, “relates himself the case of a woman . . . where the first incision betrayed the awful fallacy under which he operated.” And the same article adds:

“With respect to the instance of Vesalius we would make the general observation, which will probably apply to most of the cases on record; that the movements which have been observed on such [page 23:] occasions are not to be received as demonstrations of life, they merely arise from a degree of muscular irritability which often lingers for many hours after dissolution, and which, on its apparent cessation, may be even re-excited by the application of galvanic stimuli.”(56)

Among the stories in Blackwood that develop this theme are “Buried Alive,” “Diary of a Late Physician,” and “Le Revenant,” all of which have a strongly realistic tone; for example, consider the following from “Buried Alive”:

“Presently I felt the hands of some dreadful being working about my throat. They dragged me out of the coffin. . . .

“Previous to beginning the dissection, he proposed to try on me some galvanic experiment — and an apparatus was arranged for that purpose. The first shock vibrated through all my nerves; they rung and jangled like the strings of a harp. The students expressed their admiration of the convulsive effect. The second threw my eyes open, . . . But still I was as dead.”

A third theme in which both the writers in Blackwood and Poe concur, is the coupling of beauty with disease; the viewing of the horrors, often the repulsive forms of diseased conditions, as they work to the final destruction of some beautiful young woman. It may not be too much to say that from passages from “The Diary of a Late Physician,” in which Blackwood exploits this idea, Poe caught the suggestion which led him to choose as “the most poetic topic in the world,” the death of a beautiful woman. In order to show that Poe was indebted to writers in Blackwood for this theme on which he built the dread disease and beauty of his Berenice, Ligeia, Madeline, Eleanora, it may be well to add to what has already been noted in regard to the fascination for the reading public which lies in a physician’s records detailing diseased conditions.

Poe doubtless knew(57) that the series created a sensation among London readers, since the articles are prefaced by remarks which [page 24:] show that they touched a chord of interest. He announces that, in his opinion also, “Passages from the Diary of a Late Physician” holds fascinating material. Dr. Warren, he says, in choosing bodily health as the basis of his series of articles, has touched on a topic which comes home to the bosoms of all humanity; that he has, in fact, opened up a vein of universal interest.

In the second place, Poe apparently sees that if the element of beauty is added to the details of the diseased conditions, a greater fascination will result.(58) Both Blackwood and Poe appear to be striving to produce a morbid pleasure through analyzing the effects that disease has worked on the beautiful woman before them. Dr. Warren tells of his visits to a young woman of rare physical beauty who is stricken with the dread disease of cancer. The physician notes details of her condition, apparently with an almost morbid pleasure. He says himself that “the interviews were long and painfully interesting.”

“I (the physician) found her, one morning, stretched on the crimson sofa in the drawing room; and though her pallid features, and gently corrugated eye-brows, evidenced the intense agony she was suffering, — on my enquiring what sort of night she had passed, she replied in a calm but tremulous tone, . . . . her pale features irradiated with a smile — sad, however, as the cold twilight of October. . . . Her hair was light auburn, and hung back neglectfully over a forehead and neck white as marble. Her full blue eyes . . . were now lighted with the glitter of a restlessness and agitation, . . . . Indeed, an eminent medical writer has remarked [page 25:] that the most beautiful women are generally the subjects of this terrible disease.”

Again, in “Thunder Struck” from the same series of articles, Dr. Warren notes the fascinating effect resulting from coupling beauty with disease. In this case the disease is catalepsy and the physician is now concerned with the changes that this fatal affliction has worked. The face that was, but a short time ago, of such rare beauty, now presents a fearful spectacle. You feel the artistic effect as you read the record of this interview:

“As it was now nearly nine o’clock, and getting dark, I ordered candles . . . . ‘Beautiful, unfortunate creature!’ thought I, as I stood gazing mournfully on her, with my candle in my hand, leaning against the bed-post. ‘What mystery is upon thee? What awful change has come over thee? — the gloom of the grave and the light of life — both lying upon thee at once!’ ”

And elsewhere in the story:

“Heavens! can I describe what I saw! Within less than a yard of me stood the most fearful figure my eyes have ever beheld. It was Agnes! — with both arms extended, as if in a menacing mood. Her hair was partially dishevelled. Her face seemed whiter than the white dress she wore. Her lips were of a livid hue. Her eyes, full of awful expression — of supernatural lustre, were fixed with a petrifying stare, on one. Oh, language fails me — utterly! — Those eyes have never since been absent from me when alone! I felt as though they were blighting the life within me . . . .”

Various other reports from the physician’s diary are equally detailed. In “The Scholar’s Death-bed” the disease is consumption, and there the analysis of the disease and its symptoms is so carefully made that the effect is one of morbid terror.

Poe, as well as the physician, seems to be attempting to produce a morbid pleasure by analyzing with much care the changes that disease is working in the beautiful woman. The beauty of the surroundings he also stresses. He sees Berenice, stricken as she was by the fatal disease “not as a thing to admire, but to analyze; not as an object of love, but as the theme of the most abstruse although desultory speculation . . . .” “But uplifting my eyes, Berenice stood before me. . . .

“I remained for some time breathless, and motionless, with my eyes riveted upon her person. Alas! its emaciation was excessive, and not one vestige of the former being lurked in any single line of the contour. My burning glances at length fell upon the face.

“The forehead was high, and very pale, and singularly placid; [page 26:] and the once golden hair fell partially over it, and overshadowed the hollow temples with ringlets.”(59)

And from “Ligeia”: “The wild eyes blazed with a too — too glorious effulgence; the pale fingers became of the transparent waxen hue of the grave; and the blue veins upon the lofty forehead swelled and sank impetuously with the tides of the most gentle emotion. I saw that she must die, and I struggled desperately in spirit with the grim Azrael.’(60)

Poe appears to be following Dr. Warren not only in the similarities just noted, but in his critical explanations in “The Philosophy of Composition,” to the effect that he has designedly chosen the death of a beautiful woman as the topic that will be of universal interest to humanity. He explains the idea in the following way:

“Now never losing sight of the object, supremeness, or perfection, at all points, I asked myself — ‘ Of all melancholy topics, what, according to the universal understanding of mankind, is the most melancholy?’ Death — was the obvious reply. ‘And when,’ I said, ‘is this most melancholy of topics most poetical?’ From what I have already explained at some length, the answer, here also is obvious — ‘ When it most closely allies itself to Beauty: the death, then, of a beautiful woman is, unquestionably, the most poetical topic in the world. . .’(61)

In a further consideration of Poe’s dependence on Blackwood in subject-matter, a similarity of several of Poe’s plots with. those in Blackwood may be noted. In one case a Blackwood story furnishes part of a plot. Comparing Poe’s “Fall of the House of Usher” with the story “Thunder Struck” in “Passages from the Diary of a Late Physician,” one finds many points in the two that are almost identical. One notices —

1) Identity in theme:

A beautiful young woman falls into a cataleptic trance.

2) Identity in plot:

Granting that the idea of the gloomy house of Usher is the symbol of the family being destroyed with the destruction of the surviving members, — granting that this idea does not appear in “Thunder-Struck,” and that these points do appear in Hoffmann’s “Das Marjorat,” as Palmer Cobb has pointed out, the outline of the incidents that develop the theme may be seen to be identical in both, e.g.

(a) The action takes place in a storm.

(b) Detailed analysis of the disease is made in both cases.

(c) Both Lady Madeline and Agnes P — are placed in coffins. (This point is applied to the latter only in the dream that the physician has.)

(d) An apprehensive waiting for sound.

(e) The listener could not sleep — he leaps out of bed.

(f) A wild shriek is heard. (In Blackwood this was suggested.)

(G) A faint knock at the door.

(h) A death-like figure comes to life and, in Usher, appears at the door, and in Blackwood sits up in bed, presenting, however, in each case a horrible spectacle covered with blood.

The plot of Poe’s “Pit and the Pendulum” appears to be gathered from several Blackwood stories.”The Iron Shroud,” published in the twenty-eighth volume of Blackwood, details the horrors of a dungeon; the iron walls and ceiling of which, working by secret machinery, day by day close closer upon their victim.” The Blackwood material reads thus:

[The dungeon] “had the semblance of a vast cage, for the roof, and floor, and sides, were of iron, solidly wrought, and spaciously constructed. High above there ran a range of seven grated windows, guarded with massy bars of the same metal . . . . he surveyed his gloomy dungeon . . . . he noticed two circumstances . . . . The other circumstance which has attracted his notice, was the disappearance, as he believed, of one of the seven grated windows that ran along the top of the prison. . . . The remaining four windows looked as the seven had originally looked; that is, occupying at irregular distances, the top of the wall on that [page 28:] side of the dungeon. The tall folding door, too, still seemed to stand beneath, in the center of those four, as it had at first stood in the center of the seven. But he could no longer doubt, what, on the preceding day, he fancied might be the effect of visual deception. The dungeon was smaller. The roof had lowered — and the opposite ends had contracted the intermediate distance by a space equal, he thought, to that over which the three windows had extended. . . . Some frightful purpose — some devilish torture of mind or body — some unheard of device for producing exquisite misery, lurked, he was sure, in what had taken place. . . . Another morning dawned upon the wretched captive, and the fatal index of his doom met his eyes. Two windows! — and two days — and all would be over! . . .”

“The Man in the Bell” details the sweeping from side to side of the ponderous bell within an inch of the face of the helpless victim.”Every moment I saw the bell sweep within an inch of my face;” . . .”To look at the object,” he said, “was bitter as death”; but he could not prevent his eyes from following it instinctively as it swung.”The bell pealing above and opening its jaws with a hideous clamour,” seemed at one time “a ravening monster raging to devour” him: — “In the vast cavern of the bell hideous faces appeared, and glared down on me with terrifying frowns, or with grinning mockery, still more appalling. At last the devil himself, accoutred, as in the common description of the evil spirit, with hoof, horn, and tail, and eyes of infernal lustre, made his appearance, . . .

Poe’s story, “The Pit and the Pendulum,” seems to embody points from both of the tales quoted above. —

“The vibration of the pendulum was at right angles to my length. To the right — to the left — far and wide — with a shriek of a damned spirit! to my heart, with the stealthy pace of the tiger! — I rolled my eyes nervously around on the barriers of iron that hemmed me in. Something unusual — some change which at first I could not appreciate distinctly — it was obvious, had taken place in the apartment. . . . although the outlines of the figures upon the walls were sufficiently distinct, yet the colors seemed blurred and indefinite. These colors had now assumed, and were momentarily assuming, a startling and most intense brilliancy, that gave to the spectral and fiendish portraitures an aspect that might have thrilled even firmer nerves than my own. Demon eyes of a wild and ghostly vivacity glared upon me in a thousand directions, where none had been visible before, and gleamed with the lurid lustre of a fire that I could not force my imagination to regard as unreal. . . . There had been a second change in the cell, and now the change was obviously in the form. As before, it was in vain that I at first [page 29:] endeavored to appreciate or understand what was taking place. But not long was I left in doubt. . . . The room had been square. I saw that two of its iron angles were not acute — two, consequently, obtuse. The fearful difference quickly increased with a low rumbling or moaning sound. In an instant the apartment had shifted its form into that of a lozenge and now flatter and flatter grew the lozenge with a rapidity that left me no time for contemplation — the closing walls pressed resistlessly onward.”

A suggestion for part of the plot of “The Raven” likewise seems to come from Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine. Poe gave, according to the poem, his raven the eyes of a demon and made the ill-omened visitor, arriving in a storm at midnight, symbolize remorseless destiny. Moreover, it is known that he connected his raven with witches. Dr. Mathews, it seems, was discussing with Poe a play he had just written called “Witch Craft,” and Poe suggested to him the introduction of the raven flitting over the witch’s head.(63) “I seem to hear,” Poe said during the conversation with Dr. Mathews, “the melancholy of its croak as I used to hear it in my boyhood days at school in Stokenewington; I seem to hear the sordid flap of its wings in my ears.”

Poe’s “Raven,” associated in his mind as we have seen with witch-craft, seems to echo the raven of a critical review in Blackwood of “The Witch of Edmonton.” The raven in the English review alights in a storm at midnight with the croak of a demon. And the reviewer says that the bird of ill-omen is no more, distinct than are Shakespeare’s witches. The review reads:

“Shakespeare’s witches are in a class by themselves. They are neither sorceresses nor old women . . . Shakespeare has created our witches for us, . . . Neither their characters nor their forms are distinct, . . . No more does one see distinctly the raven that alights near his feet during some stormy midnight, and on some wild moor — with sughing wings and the croak of a demon.”(64)

What points in literary technique, as well as in subject-matter, did Poe learn from Blackwood? Barine, the French critic, is of the opinion, it will be remembered, that Poe owes at least a portion [page 30:] of his technique to “des romantiques allemands,” and to Hoffmann in particular.(65) Professor Gruener likewise considers Poe indebted to Hoffman for stylistic suggestions.(66) Palmer Cobb, it will also be remembered, denies Poe’s dependence on Hoffmann and other German story writers on any ground except the borrowing of subject-matter.(67) I shall try to show, however, first, that Poe followed Blackwood tale writers as they applied critical opinions to their work, mainly those of A. W. von Schlegel; secondly, that Poe, on his own part, drew Schlegelian criticism from Blackwood; thirdly, that he derived the idea from Blackwood that the detailing of sensations arising from experience produces effective writing; fourthly, that the method of the sensation story among Blackwood writers, in all probability suggested to him a psychologic search for a further comprehension of the principle involved. In a later chapter I shall try to point out that he found a basis for effect proceeding from sensations in a study of Locke’s psychology.

In order to demonstrate the first of the above points, namely, that Poe followed Blackwood tale writers as they were influenced by A. W. von Schlegel’s critical opinions, it will be necessary to attempt to say to what extent Schlegel was known in Blackwood’s magazine. According to Mrs. Oliphant, the author of “William Blackwood and his Sons,” Lockhart was largely responsible for bringing German criticism to Blackwood.(68) Lockhart went to Germany, it appears, to complete his knowledge of the German language and literature, Mr. Blackwood furnishing the funds for the journey. In return payment, Lockhart translated Frederick Schlegel’s “Lectures on the History of Literature.”(69) A. W. von Schlegel was also known to Lockhart. An attack on British reviewers, intended chiefly it seems to arraign the method of Jeffrey of the Edinburgh, appeared in Blackwood(70) and was at first attributed to A. W. von Schlegel. Baron von Lauerwinkel, described as a famous German critic and a friend of Schlegel’s, was afterwards [page 31:] credited with the piece; but Lockhart himself was finally, according to Mrs. Oliphant,(71) known to have been the author. A. W. von Schlegel was also known to Scott, since Scott in his “Essay on the Drama,” had greatly depended on Schlegel’s lectures on Dramatic Art and Literature.(72) Scott took an active interest in Blackwood and contributed to the magazine.(73)

In fact, indications point to Schlegel’s being well known to Blackwood critics.(74) The following passages may be said to represent the general trend of English opinion concerning the German writer:

“They [the Schlegels] are the first aesthetic writers of our age; and they are in that comprehensive passionate sympathy with everything that is noble in antiquity, and everything that is beautiful in art — in all that marks them out as the genuine, universal, and unbigoted lovers of excellence — in the whole breadth and beauty of their theory.”(75)

Again, another critic refers to A. W. von Schlegel as being, with his brother, the head of the literary sect in Germany known as the “Romantic”;(76) and, in terms equally complimentary, another writer refers to him thus, showing his deference for his critical opinion:(77) “ ‘La Devocian de la Cruz’ is not exactly the tragedy [page 32:] of Calderon’s which our own unassisted taste might have selected, but it is one generally ranked among his best works. The highly-esteemed German critic, A. W. von Schlegel, has thought it deserving of the dedication of his time and talents to translating it into his own language.” Another Blackwood critic, signing himself H. M., and writing on the “Early English Dramatists,” also expresses the same feeling. He is referring to a criticism in the Edinburgh Review which, he says, displays on the part of the critic “all the philosophical eloquence of a Schlegel.”(78) Other Blackwood reviewers, however, deplore what they term Schlegel’s philosophical criticism. There are not always, one asserts, “deep predisposing causes for everything that occurs in the history of literature, and of all cants, the cant of philosophical criticism is the most contemptible. The Schlegels are the most critical canters of modern Europe. They account for everything.”(79) Another reviewer maintains, likewise, in a contemptuous tone, that no matter what blunder may have been committed by an author, “Two or three hundred years hence, no question, some new Dr. William Augustus Schlegel will arise to justify them all in a course of lectures.”(80)

Schlegel’s principle of effect comes into Blackwood. Critics in the English magazine begin to take into account not only the idea of an effect or impression that a reader or spectator will feel from the printed page or the acted drama; they appear also to recognize a conscious method on the part of a writer to produce that impression.(81) Dramatic critics, in fact, make effect the standard of excellence [page 33:] for a play. Certain reviewers speak with enthusiasm, in a series of articles entitled the “Acted Drama in London,” of what Schlegel calls “stage effect,” which apparently has the meaning of some strong excitement, extraneous to the main thread of the piece.(82) Miss Tree, in “The Maid of the Mill,” says the Blackwood critic, introduces Moore’s ballad of Young Love, and he is of the opinion that he has never before heard it given with a more “delicious effect.”(83) Mr. Kemble, according to the Blackwood reviewer, played the first scenes of “Fazio” with considerable spirit and effect.(84) Another series of articles, entitled “Modern British Drama,” discusses the same principle. The actress in “The Fatal Unction” gives the mad scene, the critic says, with “distracting effect.”(85) And in still another instance a reviewer speaks in high praise of the “electrical effects of sympathy in the theatre.”(86) Other dramatic critics deplore attempting to produce an impression by stage-effect alone; they contend that a drama is telling in its effect only when the main idea of the piece is forced upon the mind of the spectator from every part working together for that end. One reviewer, in the series on the acted drama, considers that although Marlowe in “The Jew of Malta” may not have given the variety of character and the moral purpose he did in his “Edward II” and in “Faustus,” yet he was able to engender and sustain the same kind of effect throughout the piece. He also states it to be his opinion that the oneness of effect he mentions is due to “that rare, and when judiciously applied, most important quality, which we have called dramatic unity, . . .’(87) Another reviewer in discussing the drama “Virginius,” speaks of the high state of interest produced on the spectator by all “collateral circumstances” of the play being so arranged as to “bring out and heighten the interest excited by the principal event.”(88) [page 34:]

Still another critic warns against “writing carelessly forward.” Effect will not result, he contends, unless consistency is kept from beginning to end:

“Shakespeare, certainly, . . . did not upon principle, always take the easiest path to effect; and the consequence is, that there is almost the same difference between his plays and those of his contemporaries, as there is between the poem “Don Juan” and the novels of the Author of “Waverley,” whose most singular attribute perhaps is, that he constantly contrives interest.”(89)

Critics of the written drama, of poetry, and of the novel likewise, judge of excellence in proportion to the effect or impression produced on the mind of a reader. In an article from a series entitled “Horae Germanicae,”(90) one writer maintains that the faculty required for producing an effective novel or play is one of rare occurrence. It requires, he says, a “cool, cautious, artificial mood of mind, akin to that of the mathematician or the algebraist.” In another article the critic considers in the piece that he is reviewing,(91) that the author has excelled in forcing horror into the reader’s perceptions by weaving into a chain every direful incident, the effect of which forms a spell that one can not escape. And the inevitableness of this effect was ascribed, not to destiny alone, brut to other “principles which carry along with them all the force of reason and conviction.”

Not only was Schlegel’s principle of effect known in Blackwood, but English tale writers appear to be influenced by Schlegel’s criticism. An examination of literary reviews appearing in Blackwood through the first thirty-five volumes, reveals several points, indicating it would seem, that the authors of “Buried Alive,” “The Involuntary Experimentalist,” “The Man in the Bell,” and of other sensational stories, constructed their tales with effect in mind; in other words, that they wrote “not carelessly forward,” but with a conscious intent to impress. In presenting these ideas, the following points may be seen: first, that a growth in the English critic’s appreciation of effect is plainly visible; second, that the period when effect became an accepted principle marked too the period when the sensation story was in greatest vogue in Blackwood.

Critics in the early reviews are silent on the question of effect. [page 35:] They evidently do not think of an author’s writing with the intention of producing conviction in his readers’ minds. Although they sometimes use the term effect, they appear to give it a loose, or indefinite meaning; occasionally they seem only to be quoting criticism, not applying it. Reviews of “Lalla Rookh” in volume I illustrate this point.(92) Passages in the same volume from a series of articles on Greek tragedy show the same critical spirit.(93) But it seems that from the third volume to about the thirteenth or fourteenth, many critics begin to take the principle into consideration. Some openly oppose effect in general; others lay an emphasis on stage effect alone; and still others take part in a controversy over the relative merits of a conscious method of criticism as against an uncritical attitude. One reviewer, in volume fourteen, opposes the whole idea of effect:

“To artists, the ‘metaphysic’ has been a down right Will-o’-the-wisp. . . . It has led them only into bogs. . . . The single word ‘classical’ has destroyed its thousands and ten thousands. How many acres of canvass have been barbarously ruined by ‘effect!’ How many poets have broken their backs in straining after ‘dignity’ and the ‘heroic, according to Aristotle!’ If Parliament were to pass a law to cause these terms to be proscribed and forgotten, . . . it would be a public benefit.”(94)

Another reviewer in volume three, obviously hesitates between a conscious recognition of rules in criticism and a mere critical opinion, and seems, in that respect, to be in doubt as to the advantages of a writer’s conscious intent to impress. —

“We have seen Mr. Elliston in the Duke Aranza, and in Archer. [page 36:] We were so much accustomed to receive unmixed pleasure from this gentleman’s acting, before we were either capable or desirous of judging of its merits, [In the beginning of the article the writer calls himself no critic], that we are quite unable to think or even talk critically about it now. But we may yet be permitted to say that his return is truly delightful to us. It gives us back an image of the very springtime of our play going: a time that we thought nothing could have restored even the resemblance of. It is, indeed, only an image. . . . Criticism is a good thing enough in its way — but one hour of that time was worth a whole eternity of it. Then, what did we care how the magazines or newspapers thought or spoke of the last new play? What was it to us whether it was a good or a bad one? . . . It was a play — and that was enough for us. It made us happy — and what could we wish for more? . . . We have learned better since then; and we are heartily sorry for it. We have pryed into the arcana of nature and of art, and have paid dearly for our curiosity. We have acquired just skill enough to take the kaleidoscope to pieces, and find that its beautiful and ever-varying forms are composed of nothing but beads and bits of broken glass. But why should we complain? In learning to take the machine to pieces, we have also learned to put it together again: so that the delight we receive in looking through it is only changed in its kind, — not destroyed.”(95)

Instances of an emphasis on stage effect occur as we have seen, in vol. 3, p. 208; vol. 6, p. 386; vol. 4, p. 718; vol. 7, p. 183; vol. 4, p. 68.(96) After about the twelfth or thirteenth volume, as the term is used in the sense of dramatic unity, effect becomes an accepted principle. The volumes in which effect is thus treated are:

Volume 12, p. 35.

Volume 12, p. 39.

Volume 12, p. 78.

Volume 17, p. 728.

Volume 18, p. 119.

Volume 18, p. 238.

Volume 18, p. 240.

Volume 20, p. 559.

Volume 21, p. 214.

Volume 21, p. 465.

From the foregoing evidence it would seem to follow that the principle of effect had a gradual growth in the pages of Blackwood. [page 37:]

It may now be observed that the period marking an interest in the sensation story coincides with the period when effect became a recognized part of a writer’s method. From the list which I shall present, it will be seen that the sensation story does not appear in the early volumes of the magazine; that it does chiefly appear about the thirteenth volume:

Buried Alive, vol. 10.

Man in the Bell, vol. 10.

Confessions of An English Glutton, vol. 13.

Le Revenant, vol. 21.

First and Last Crime, vol. 25.

First and Last Sacrifice, vol. 26.

Diary of a Late Physician, vol. 28.

Involuntary Experimentalist, vol. 42.

In addition to what is apparently an unmistakable identity in time, there is, moreover, the fact that certain authors testify to their intention of creating an impression on the reader. Dr. Samuel Warren takes a great pleasure in knowing that his “The Man About Town” is exciting a sensation about the Clubs. He enumerates in a letter to William Blackwood the various effects the story is said to produce: “Horrible!” “ghastly,” “frightful,” he says are some of the expressions to which he has listened.(97)

Poe appears to have found in foreign magazines many suggestions both for theory and practice. During the course of his literary life, he formulated two statements of his method of effective writing. In 1842 he presented in his review of Hawthorne’s “Twice-Told Tales” one of these statements. In 1846, in the “Philosophy of Composition,” he further elaborates the explanation. He considers, he says, that an author should be able to point out step by step the processes by which any one of his compositions reached its completion. In fact, he asserts it to be his desire to have it thoroughly understood that no one part in any of his writings comes either from accident or from intuition; that (in this case he is speaking of the “Raven”) the work proceeded step by step to its ending with “the precision and rigid consequence of a mathematical problem!” It will be interesting, therefore, at this point, the period of his early study, to attempt to say what English magazine writers suggested to him for his method as he later described it. [page 38:]

Poe himself seems conscious of a connection between the method of the English writer of the sensation story and Schlegel’s criticism as it was reflected by Blackwood. In favor of this supposition is, first, Poe’s knowledge to which we have already referred, of the sensation stories, “Buried Alive,” etc. Secondly, he knew the manner in which Blackwood critics discussed effect. We have already seen that he was familiar with the review of the “Devil’s Elixir” and he could, therefore, have read the use that was made of the term. Hoffman, according to this review, owed the “unrivalled effect” which his work “as a whole produces on the imagination, to nothing so much as the admirable art” with which he has “married dreams to realities.” It is then reasonable further to suppose that Poe would, have known effect as we have noted it discussed throughout the magazine. Thirdly, he combines these two points just mentioned, in his statement that good examples of tales of effect were found in early numbers of Blackwood. Poe could likewise have observed the method of the Blackwood story writers. We have already seen that the type of terror dealing with the real experiences, as that type was analyzed in Blackwood criticism, appealed also to Poe. He could now have observed that Blackwood stories dealt, too, with a background of real experience. The physician in passages from the “Diary of a Late Physician,” maintains that he has simply described what his eyes have witnessed.(98) The prisoner in “Le Revenant” asserts that he is “in a situation to speak from experience, upon that very interesting question — the sensations attendant upon a passage from life to death.” He further assures the reader that one has little impression of the sadness of the reality of a criminal’s last visits from his friends.(99)

He could have observed, too, that these real experiences were always those of terror. The Blackwood writer placed his character, usually a solitary figure, in some awful situation; he made him the victim in some terrible predicament. For example, the involuntary experimentalist, who it seems was a physician, finds himself, while attempting to be of help in a great fire in Dublin, trapped in a huge copper boiler which becomes like a fiery furnace. The “Man in the Bell” details the sensations of a man who, having [page 39:] climbed up to a tiny loft to unmuffle the ponderous iron bell which had been muffled for tolling at a burial, is caught under the bell just as it is about to swing out from the sides of the small belfrey.”It was a dreadful situation. Over me swung an immense mass of metal, one touch of which could have crushed me to pieces.” Le Revenant tells of a miserable prisoner alone in his cell, who expects to be hung in the morning. The “Iron Shroud” day by day closes closer and closer on its unhappy victim.

Poe could doubtless have followed the Blackwood writer as he described the growing sense of terror that overwhelms the unfortunate victim. In “Le Revenant” the steps of the increasing horror can be definitely traced.”The shock of my first arrest was very slight indeed; indeed, I almost question if it was not a relief, rather than a shock, to me. . . . I do not believe I showed — for I am sure I did not feel it — either surprise or alarm.” In the same dreamlike condition, the prisoner hears the charge of guilty, and the Judge’s voice saying that he should be hanged by the neck until he was dead. The state of stupefaction, however, gives way, later, to an insane fury. He jumped up and tore at his iron bars with a force that bent them. Finally his terror became so great that he sinks again into a benumbed condition, but in this stupor his senses are keenly alive. Experience keeps on registering sensations, and he notices the merest trifles as though they were things of moment:

“I noticed the lamp which the turnkey had left on the floor, and I thought to myself — even at that moment — that it had not been trimmed since the night before. And I looked at the bare, naked, iron bed-frame that I sat on; and at the heavy studs on the door of the dungeon; and at the scrawls and writing upon the wall, that had been drawn by former prisoners; and I put my hand to try my own pulse, and it was so low that I could hardly count it: — I could not feel — though I tried to make myself feel it — that I was going to die.”

In “The Man in the Bell” the fears were first, as the sufferer says, mere matters of fact:

“I was afraid the pulleys would give way, and let the bell plunge on me. . . . but these soon gave way to fears not more unfounded, but more visionary, and of course more tremendous.”

Poe could also have been aware that the victim of the predicament in the Blackwood stories records his sensations with a minuteness of detail; that he appears to be desirous of relating his experience with an almost scientific accuracy. We have already indicated the [page 40:] morbid pleasures with which the physician in the “Diary of a Late Physician” seems to note the symptoms of his patient.(100) The same idea may now be viewed in the light of a technical method, as an effort to make the experience become again a real experience. The involuntary experimentalist who, it will also be remembered, belonged to the medical profession, even in the midst of his agony takes care to make records of his case:

“These tablets I have now before me; I have preserved them ever since, as a memorial to moments such as I trust have fallen to the lot of no other human being. I transfer the memoranda verbatim. It will be seen that many of the words are but half written, and that in some places entire words have been omitted; but if any one would try the experiment of writing in such a situation, I dare-say his composition would be scarcely more correct. I began thus: ‘I am Doctor ——— of ——— St. If anyone finds this, come to the copper in the new building, where I am burning to death for want of a ladder. Half-past 12 o’clock. Haste! Haste! (Two such memoranda as this I had already flung out by weights attached to my suspenders, but they seem to have fallen in the flames.) . . . I am wrapped in a cloud of steam from my wet clothes. The thermometer stands at 130°. It is now 26 minutes to 1 o’clock. The air is suffocatingly hot: I am drenched in perspiration. I will note all I can. 15 m. to 1 o’c. Therm. 137°.’ 13 m. 139°. 10 m. 153°! This is horrible. I can see the mercury mounting in the tube. The moisture from my clothes has all exhaled. They are now as dry as tinder, and hot and hard to the touch. 5 m. past 1 o’clock. Thermometer 170°. Have taken off both my coats and laid them over the hole — the rush of air from it agitated the hot atmos[phere] & made it intolerable.’ ”

In the tale Le Revenant the prisoner likewise makes a record of [page 41:] his sensations, those arising from his present experience in his cell and, as far as he can, those coming in anticipation from the death he expects to die: —

“I sat down again on the bed, and tried seriously to commune with myself, . . .: I recalled to my mind, that I had but a few more [hours] to live. I tried to recollect all the tales I had ever heard about death by hanging — that it was said to be the sensation of a moment — to give no pain — to cause the extinction of life instantaneously — and so on, to twenty other strange ideas. By degrees my head began to wander and grow unmanageable again. I put my hands tightly to my throat, as though to try the sensation of strangling. Then I felt my arms at the places where the cords would be tied. I went through the fastening of the rope — the tying of the hands together: The thing that I felt most averse to, was the having the white cap muffled over my eyes and face. If I could avoid that, the rest was not so very horrible!”

Poe finds in foreign periodicals further help for technique. He gives it as his opinion that the proper length for a poem, stated in figures, is about one hundred lines; stated in the time necessary for perusual, about half an hour. Although there is no evidence that from Blackwood he derived any philosophical basis for determining on the length given, a basis which it will be shown he found both in the drama(101) and in a study of philosophy,(102) yet the numerical limitations in the foreign magazines were doubtless suggestive to him. A reviewer in Blackwood counsels poets to write poems no longer than twenty to one hundred fifty lines. Most of our living poets, he says, will be remembered after their death either by their short poems or by particular passages from their long ones. He thinks that Wordsworth has made a great mistake in writing at the length he has.(103) Another writer discusses the advantages of brevity in written and spoken language. He advises limiting the length of a speech to something like forty minutes, and he says that the most effective and accomplished orations are always the briefest. He thinks that even the longest of the political speeches of Demosthenes were “spoken as they may now be read, with sufficient slowness and distinctness, in less than one-half hour.”(104) The following bit from the “Noctes Ambrosianae,” though given with the usual satire of the series, shows in all probability [page 42:] that brevity in writing was a question for discussion with critics. The speaker is commenting on the Periodical Press:


“. . . For my ain pairt, I never peruse what’s ca’d the leadin’ article in a newspaper — and to speak the truth, I’m gayen shy o’ them in a magazine too — but I devoor the adverteesements, which beside lettin’ you ken everything that’s gaun on in a kintra respectin’ the sellin’ and nifferin’ o’ property, baith in hooses and lawns, are to my mind models o’ composition, without ae single unnecessary word, for every word’s pay’d for, and that gies the adverteeser a habit o’ conceese thocht and expression, better than a Logic class.


“Writing in Magazines, and speaking in Parliment, have an opposite effect — making the world wordy.


“An’ preachin’s warst of a’


“A sermon should never exceed twenty-five minutes.”(105)

Evidence points strongly to the fact that from a British periodical Poe derived the idea that an epic may be considered a succession of brief poems. He maintains, in the “Philosophy of Composition,” that the “Paradise Lost” is necessarily made up of short poetical effects, interspersed with parts essentially prose; he also announces it to be his belief that the Iliad was originally composed of a series of ballads: An article entitled the “Origin of the Homeric Poems,” appearing in the Quarterly Review of 1831, advances the same theory.(106) The reviewer outlines three distinct points of view in which this collection may be placed; one of which is similar to that set forth by Poe.

Poe, on his own statement, admits that he expects (as did Blackwood critics, influenced as we have seen by Schlegel) to force an effect into the perception of his reader. The writer, he says in his review of Hawthorne,(107) chooses a unique or single effect which, [page 43:] when “wrought out,” will leave its impress on the reader’s mind. He obviously agrees with the criticism of the Blackwood reviewer and apparently with the practice of the English story writer that the best means by which this effect can be “wrought out” is by preserving consistency of tone and incident. The Blackwood critic had said, it will be remembered, “. . . every agonizing mood of mind, every direful incident, is forced on the reader’s perception with all the vividness of reality, forming a spell from which he cannot escape.” And the inevitableness of this effect was ascribed, it will also be remembered, not to destiny alone, but to other “principles which carry along with them all the force of reason and conviction.” Such a passage, and others of a kindred nature, may have been in Poe’s mind when he advised the inventing of just such incidents and the combining of just those events; the writing of just such words; and moreover, the combinations of just that tone which would aid in producing the effect he had chosen.(108)

It will now be seen that Poe, as well as the Blackwood writer, bases his method on experience. In Poe, especially in his early work, one meets again the solitary figure in some horrible situation; the growing terror; and the same method of analyzing and detailing with precision the flood of sensations that overwhelm the unhappy sufferer. As in the case of the physician, in the “Diary of a Late Physician,” and of the medical man who was the involuntary experimentalist, Poe makes Egaeus in “Berenice” and the writer of the manuscript in the “MS. Found in a Bottle,” record the sensations that arise. He gives the text, too, the form of a systematic record, separating by stars, groups of sensations that differ strikingly from each other.

From the evidence which this chapter has presented it seems reasonable to conclude that Poe has found in British periodicals, particularly in Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine, the genesis of many principles governing his work. In the nature of the horror he wished to produce, and in suggestions for a technical method he seems to be particularly indebted to his British source. In matters pertaining to themes and plots, he likewise shows considerable dependence. He appears, however, to have considered the method, as a whole, inadequate for effective writing. In favor of this supposition, is first, the fact that he expresses himself aware of a [page 44:] certain absurdity in the over-use of sensations; in a footnote to a passage in “Loss of Breath” as the story is printed in the Southern Literary Messenger,(109) he says: “The general reader will, I dare say, recognize in these sensations of Mr. Lackobreath, much of the metaphysicianism of the redoubted Schelling.” The passage in “Loss of Breath” to which he refers reads thus:

“I took delight in analyzing my sensations. Memory, which of all other faculties should have taken its departure, seemed, on the contrary, to have been endowed with quadrupled power. Each incident of my past life flitted before me like a shadow. Then . . . . **** Rapid changes were now taking place in my sensations. Confusion crowded upon confusion like a wave upon a wave. ***The night came, and with it a new set of horrors. The consciousness of my interment began to assume new distinctness.”

In the second place, and intimately related with the above point,

is the fact that he satirizes over-emphasis of experience in story writing. It is difficult not to believe ,that he is even directing satire against particular Blackwood stories. For example, the following passage from “Loss of Breath” is apparently a “takeoff” on “Le Revenant”:

“I forbear to depict my sensations upon the gallows; although here, undoubtedly, I could speak to the point, and it is a topic upon which nothing has been well said. In fact, to write upon such a theme it is necessary to have been hanged. Every author should confine himself to matters of experience.”

This passage seems to have reference to that part of the Blackwood story which reads thus:

“Now I am in a situation to speak from experience, upon that very interesting question — the sensations attendant upon a passage from life to death. I have been Hanged, and am Alive. . . . I read in the daily newspapers an account of my behavior at the scaffold — that I conducted myself decently, but with firmness . . .”

The “Predicament,” the sequel of “How to Write a Blackwood Story,” may possibly be intended to satirize the “Man in the Bell.” The belfry with the pendulum may be the belfry with the bell. Furthermore, although of course, one may be idly speculating, the city of Edina may be Edinburgh; Dinah may be the Edinburgh [page 45:] Review; and Pompey, the small and grotesque negro servant, may be Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine, or even, Mr. Blackwood, the Ebony of the critics.

Again, as a further indication Poe considered the Blackwood method inadequate for effective writing, is the fact that he revises his tales of effect and deletes many passages that relate sensations. He cuts from “Loss of Breath” the passage just given on sensations from the experience of hanging. He also removes from the version of “Berenice,” as it was printed in the Southern Literary Messenger,(110) a long account of Egaeus’ sensations, beginning, “With a heart full of grief, yet reluctantly and oppressed with awe, I made my way to the bed-chamber of the departed. The room was large, and very dark, and at every step within its gloomy precincts I encountered the paraphernalia of the grave. The coffin, so a menial told me, lay surrounded by the curtains of yonder bed, and in that coffin, he whisperingly assured me, was all that remained of Berenice.” Poe had, it would seem, in this deleted passage, attempted to push the sensation method to the utmost limit. The deleted passage continues: —

“. . . with a sense of suffocation I dragged myself to the side of the bed. Gently I uplifted the sable draperies of the curtains.

“As I let them fall, they descended upon my shoulders, and shutting me thus out from the living, enclosed me in the strictest communion with the deceased.

“The very atmosphere was redolent of death. The peculiar smell of the coffin sickened me; and I fancied a deleterious odor was already exhaling from the body.”

And, finally, Poe’s continued study to improve his own writing, a study which it will be the purpose of the following chapters to present, may be cited as further proof that he thought the Blackwood method, though worthy of imitation, as his early work attests, was yet not wholly adequate. It has already been intimated that an emphasis on sensations apparently led him to study Locke’s psychology. That his study led him into other lines as well, is doubtless the case. One of these, and it would seem to have been one of the first, there is reason to believe, was a study of law methods for producing conviction. The following chapter will attempt to present Poe’s legal interests.



[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 7, running to the bottom of page 8:]

1.  Republishing of British periodicals in America was carried on extensively. Advertising notices for publishing foreign magazines occur frequently in the North American Review. See vol. 18, p. 219; p. 438; vol. 19, p. 484. Allen and Ticknor of Boston “propose to republish Blackwood’s Edinburgh, and the London New Monthly Magazine, at a cost so moderate, as to bring them within the reach of a large class of readers who cannot afford the expense of importing the English copies.” — New York Mirror, 1832, vol. 10, p. 190. Lilly, Wait, Coleman and Holden, also of Boston, were said according to the New York Mirror, vol. 10, p. 159, to be “conferring a favor on literary circles on this side of the Atlantic by their American editions of the Edinburgh Review and the London Quarterly Review.” Foreign periodicals, in addition to being reprinted in America, had also their contents republished in part. Charles Bowen of Boston planned to give in the Select Journal of Foreign Periodical Literature a selection of the most interesting articles and the most important information contained in the principal foreign literary journals.” New York Mirror, vol. 10, p. 254. The “intelligent conductor” of the Albion also ‘’reflects from his columns, with peculiar taste and skill, the wit, eloquence, information and general spirit of the British periodical press.” — New York Mirror, vol. 10, p. 222. Littell’s Museum, published in Philadelphia, 1835, planned, according to the Southern Literary Messenger, to reprint in the same way: — “The plan of the Museum is certainly most excellent. It is to select and republish from all the British periodicals of high reputation, everything which is either of present or permanent value, omitting the vast mass of [page 8:] matter which is local to Great Britain or not interesting to an American reader.” — Southern Literary Messenger, vol. 1, p. 251. The Living Age, Boston, 1844, speaks of “feeling bound to give all that is very good in the foreign Magazines and Reviews.” Littell’s Living Age, vol. 1, p. 130. Foster reprinted, according to the Messenger of August, 1835, in cheap and valuable form, the London, Edinburgh, and Westminster Reviews. Cf. Southern Literary Messenger, vol. 1, p. 651.

2.  Broadway Journal, vol. 1, p. 349.

3.  Poe seems to have had various connections with the Southern Literary Messenger. Thomas White, the editor, apparently employed him as purveyor for the magazine since Poe’s letters of 1835 reveal that he was securing contributions. He writes to White, June 12, 1835: “I suppose you have rec ‘d Mr. Calvert’s communication. He will prove a valuable correspondent.” — Harrison, James A., Complete Works of Edgar Allan Poe, (New York, 1902), Letters, p. 7. Cf. also Letters, p. 18. He was likewise useful, it appears, in increasing the circulation of the Messenger. Op.cit., p. 6. Hereafter S. L. M. will denote Southern Literary Messenger; Harrison’s edition will be referred to as Works or Letters.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 9:]

4.  S. L. M., vol. 2, p. 139. Publishers Notice. — Poe was criticized for printing reviews of reviews and discontinued the practice. In the Supplement to the S. L. M. that Poe issued containing complimentary notices from various magazines concerning the success of the Southern Literary Messenger, occur the following strictures on his printing the reviews of foreign magazines. The Norfolk Beacon says: “The critical notices in the present number of the Messenger, particularly of the North American and the British Reviews, are in bad taste.” The Lynchburgh Virginian makes much the same comment: “Too much space is allotted to ‘Critical Notices’ in the December No. of the Messenger.” The critical department, in the opinion of this paper, should not “be occupied with reviews of Reviews — a dish of hash newly warmed, and served up, in all its insipidity, to an already palled appetite.”

5.  Ibid., vol. 2, p. 61.

6.  Ibid., p. 59.

7.  Ibid., vol. 2, p. 451, June, 1836. Review of Letters, Conversation and Recollections of S. T. Coleridge.

8.  Ibid., p. 62.

9.  Ibid., vol. 2, p. 61. Review of London Quarterly Review.

10.  Ibid., vol. 2, p. 63.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 10:]

11.  Ibid., vol. 2, p. 457. Review of Watkins Tottle, and Other Sketches.

12.  Ibid., p. 458.

13.  Ibid., vol. 1, p. 520. Review of I Promessi Sposi. Poe speaks of the review being one which welcomed Waverly as a new type of novel. He may be referring to the review of Waverly in the Edinburgh Review, vol. 24, p. 208.

14.  Graham’s Magazine, vol. 20, p. 299.

15.  Lionizing was one of the tales submitted for a prize by Poe in 1833 to the Baltimore Visitor. An account of Poe’s winning this prize with his story, The MS. Found in a Bottle, appears in Works I, pp. 101-106.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 11:]

16.  S.L.M., vol. 1, p. 735. As the story appeared in the Messenger, it was entitled Loss of Breath, a Tale à la Blackwood.

17.  American Museum, vol. 1, p. 375.

18.  Later it will be shown how similar Poe’s tale is to the Buried Alive in Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine, vol. 10, p. 262.

19.  Ibid., vol. 42, p. 487.

20.  Ibid., vol. 28, pp. 322, 474; vol. 32, pp. 279, 42, 248; vol. 29, p. 105.

21.  Ibid., vol. 10, p. 373.

22.  Letters, p. 23. Professor Trent gives an interesting account of Judge Beverley Tucker’s correspondence with aspiring men of letters; of his interest in Southern literature, especially as that interest touched William Gilmore Simms. Trent, William P., William Gilmore Simms. (Boston and New York, 1896) p. 176.

23.  Letters, p. 30.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 11, running to the bottom of page 12:]

24.  Graham’s Magazine, vol. 20, p. 72. Review of Critical and Miscellaneous Essays by Christopher North. Also, Broadway Journal, vol. 2, p. 136. Review of Wilson’s Genius and Character of Burns. [page 12:]

This opinion of North was, according to Mrs. Oliphant in her work William Blackwood and his Sons, the general opinion of all readers of English periodicals of North’s time. She cites as an instance of his tremendous wrath his expression of disgust at Henry Mackenzie’s unfavorable criticism of his Lights and Shadows of Scottish Life. Oliphant, Mrs. T. K., William Blackwood and his Sons, Edinburgh and London, 1897, vol. 1, p. 269.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 12:]

25.  Letters, p. 23.

26.  Oliphant, op.cit., vol. 1, p. 259.

27.  The popularity of Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine is attested in the columns of American periodicals. The New York Mirror speaks familiarly, though in a critical vein, of the Noctes Ambrosianae, saying that the absence of notes and explanations in that series of articles makes the meaning not always apparent to the American reader. — The New York Mirror, vol. 10, p. 198.

R. Shelton Mackenzie also testifies to the popularity of Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine in the United States: “For one reader of Blackwood’s Magazine in the old country,” he says, “there cannot be less than fifty in the new.” — Noctes Ambrosianae, by John Wilson (New York, 1863) vol. 1, p. XVI.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 13:]

28.  Palmer Cobb, in his work on the influence of E. T. A. Hoffman on Poe, quotes the French critic, Barine, to the effect that a distinction must be made between Poe’s indebtedness to sources for his subject-matter, and for his technique. Cobb, Palmer. The Influence of E. T. A. Hoffman on the Tales of Edgar Allan Poe. Published under the direction of The Philological Club of the University of North Carolina, 1908, p. 11. Barine, it seems, had said that Poe owed his Idées générales to Coleridge and his technique to “des romantiques allemands; adding, “IL [Poe] possédait son Hoffmann sur le bout du doigt.” Palmer Cobb, however, is of the opinion that Poe owed many of his themes to Hoffmann, but as far as technical method of writing is concerned, he does not, in his conclusion, state that Poe has any debt to pay his German source. He says, “Finally, Hoffmann’s influence on Poe did not extend to the latter’s style. It was solely a borrowing and adaptation of motives.” Ibid., p. 104.

29.  Graham’s Magazine, vol. 20, p. 299. Review of Hawthorne’s Twice-Told Tales.

30.  Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine, vol. 16, p. 55. The Blackwood critic of Popular Tales of Northern Nations recommends the “doing into English” of little German stories of diablerie. Vol. 14, p. 293.

31.  Both Palmer Cobb and Professor Gruener are doubtless right in thinking that Poe must have read Walter Scott’s essay on the Supernatural in the Foreign Quarterly Review for July, 1827. Cobb, op.cit. [[op.cit.]], p. 7.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 14:]

32.  Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine, vol. 21, p. 409. Le Revenant.

33.  Ibid., vol. 28, p. 322. Passages from the Diary of a Late Physician.

34.  Edinburgh Review, vol. 40, p. 495.

35.  The Indicator, December 15, 1819.

36.  One critic exclaims enthusiastically: “We like to be horrified; we like The Devil’s Elixir.” Kemperhausen, in the Noctes Ambrosianae, approves of Washington Irving’s intention of giving “us a German Sketch Book.” Blackwood, vol. 13, p. 610. Another critic later expresses bitter disappointment that The Tales of a Traveller have nothing characteristically German about them. Blackwood, vol. 16, p. 295. Letters of Timothy Tickler, Esq., to Eminent Literary Characters.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 15:]

37.  Ibid., vol. 14, p. 641. A Chapter on Goblins.

38.  Ibid., vol. 13, p. 3. Horae Germanicae.

39.  Foreign Quarterly Review, vol. 1, p. 72. On the Supernatural in English Fiction.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 16:]

40.  Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine, vol. 13, p. 673.

41.  Ibid., vol. 17, p. 352. Review entitled Beck and Dunlop on Medical Jurisprudence. T. R. Beck’s work was published in Albany, 1823.

42.  Cobb, op.cit., p. 8.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 17:]

43.  Works, vol. 1, p. 151.

44.  Cobb, op.cit., p. 8.

45.  Works, vol. 3, p. 300.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 18:]

46.  The Medico-Chirurgical Review, and Journal of Practical Medicine, vol. 28, p. 245.

47.  Broadway Journal, vol. 2, p. 275.

48.  Ibid., vol. 1, p. 210. Compare, too, his appreciative critical comments on the American edition of the British and Foreign Medical Review. S. L. M. vol. 2, p. 785.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 19:]

49.  Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine, vol. 13, p. 675. The example here alluded to is drawn, according to the reviewer of Medical Jurisprudence, from Podore’s more extensive work on the same subject. It also appears in Beck’s book, already referred to, vol. 2, p. 87.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 20:]

50.  Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine, vol. 32, p. 283.

51.  Graham’s Magazine, 1842, p. 200. The title of Poe’s story Life-in-Death was later changed to The Oval Portrait. The dropping of the title Life-in-Death and the taking of a more realistic one appears to be quite consistent with Poe’s idea of the power of realism as he attempted to work it out scientifically; see Chapter V below.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 20, running to the bottom of page 21:]

52.  Works, vol. 6, p. 154. George W. Eveleth writes to Poe that he believes this condition, i.e., “the crumbling, rotting away into a loathsome liquid,” consistent with fact, and cites Bell’s Anatomy, p. 245, as his authority. Mabbott, Thomas Ollive, The Letters from George W. Eveleth to Edgar Allan Poe, p. 12. Poe may have known of the work of which Eveleth speaks, since, as Mr. Mabbott says, it was a work often reprinted. Moreover, another treatise, also by Bell, Essays on the Anatomy of Expression in Painting, reviewed in the Edinburgh Review, vol. 8, p. 365, may have attracted Poe to the subject; but the Blackwood case I have cited may doubtless be judged the most likely [page 21:] source, since the passage from Bell’s Anatomy, as Eveleth quotes it, gives only a slight general statement, while Hints for Jurymen enumerates, quite in Poe’s manner, a list of loathsome details.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 21:]

53.  In the text of his story, Poe gives the Chirurgical Journal of Leipsic as his source for the cases he cites. Palmer Cobb doubts that Poe ever saw this magazine. Op.cit., p. 28.

54.  S. L. M., vol. 1, p. 333.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 22:]

55.  The Indicator, December 15, 1819. Leigh Hunt, “How to Write a Grim Story.”

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 23:]

56.  Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine, vol. 13, p. 679. Hints for Jurymen.

57.  Poe’s knowledge of this series of articles is testified to not only by his reference to the series in his How to Write a Blackwood Article, and the similarities between them and his work already alluded to, but also by the fact that he mentions them in several reviews. In one instance he says they were “shamefully ill-written”. Review of “Ten Thousand a Year” by the Author of “Passages from the Diary of a Late Physician,” Graham’s Magazine, vol. 18, page 252. In another instance he considers that there is strong evidence in the series of a straining for effect and that this blemish disfigures what would otherwise have been admirable. S. L. M., vol. 2, p. 287. Review of Georgia Scenes.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 24:]

58.  Poe may have caught added suggestions for coupling beauty with disease, or, as he expresses the same idea elsewhere, for the conviction that the “imagination is exalted by the moral sentiment of beauty heightened in dissolution,’‘ from Archibald Alison’s Essays on the Nature and Principles of Taste, Edinburgh, 1825, vol. 1, pp. 16 and 17. (Alison was reviewed in Blackwood, vol. 13, p. 385; vol. 45, p. 142; vol. 25, p. 542; vol. 27, p. 819; vol. 30, p. 94.) Alison makes the point that “the beauty of autumn is accompanied by . . . appearances of decay;” appearances leading “to the solemn imagination of that . . . fate which is to bring on . . . the decay of life.”

Quite as probable a source, may be Edmund Burke’s A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of our Ideas on the Sublime and Beautiful, London, 1798, p. 204. Burke is here of the opinion that a beautiful woman in distress has “much the more affecting beauty.”

Prof. Prescott has already noted that Poe may have been influenced by A. W. von Schlegel’s “Several inquiries . . . have placed the essence of the northern poetry in melancholy.” Selections from the Critical Writings of Edgar Allan Poe by F. C. Prescott, New York, 1909, p. 327.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 26:]

59.  S. L. M., vol. 1, p. 333. Berenice.

60.  American Museum, vol. 1, p. 25.

61.  Works, vol. 14, p. 201. The Philosophy of Composition.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 27:]

62.  Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine, vol. 28, p. 364. The Iron Shroud, by the author of First and Last. The story is signed M., and is by Mudford. Mudford’s stories seemed well known to American readers of Poe’s time. The New York Mirror says in noticing Sharpe’s London Magazine: “There is also a tolerable article by Mudford, though somewhat coarse, as is usual with him, entitled ‘Confessions of a Suicide’.” New York Mirror, vol. 10, p. 299, 1832. Prof. Campbell has already pointed out that Griswold found the original of “The Pit and the Pendulum” to be “a tale in Blackwood’s,” but he does not specify the tale. — Nation, vol. 90, p. 625.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 29:]

63.  The information for this latter point is from an account published in the Minneapolis Sunday Journal, July 10, 1921, copied from a New York paper. Frances Aymar Mathews, niece of Dr. Cornelius Mathews, Journalist, sent to the New York University Archives, it seems, the story as told by her uncle of how Poe wrote The Raven.

64.  Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine, vol. 6, p. 410. Review of The Witch of Edmonton.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 30:]

65.  Cf. note 28.

66.  Publications of Modern Language Association, vol. 19, p. 24. Notes on the Influence of E. T. A. Hoffmann upon Edgar Allan Poe, by Gustav Gruener.

67.  Cf. note 28.

68.  Oliphant, op.cit., vol. 1, p. 184.

69.  A long review of Frederick Schlegel’s Lectures on the History of Literature, Ancient and Modern, with copious extracts, appears in Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine, vol. 3, p. 497.

70.  Ibid., vol. 2, p. 670. Remarks on the Periodical Criticism of England.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 31:]

71.  Mrs. Oliphant suggests that Carlyle may have derived his idea of Teufelsdrockh from Lauerwinkel, one of Lockhart’s “apocryphal German Professors.” Op.cit., p. 195. Lauerwinkel’s name frequently appears in the early numbers of Blackwood. One of his articles, Remarks on the Poetry of Moore, is found in vol. 4, p. 1. Letters to Professor Laugner from Lauerwinkel was printed in vol. 3, p. 689.

72.  Scott’s Essay on the Drama appeared in the fourth through the eighth editions of the Encyclopedia Britannica, 8 ed., pp. 133-169. The following note appended to a long article entitled On the Dramatic Powers of the Author of Waverly, (Blackwood, vol. 19, p. 158), indicates how welcome Schlegelian criticism must have been to Blackwood critics: “I must beg to say, that Mr. North would confer a very great obligation on his readers, if he would insert in one of his Numbers, the latter part of Sir Walter Scott’s brief but admirable Essay on the Drama, contained in the Supplement to the Encyclopedia Britannica.”

73.  Oliphant, op.cit., vol. 1, p. 156.

74.  Blackwood was by no means the only periodical feeling the influence of Schlegel. The Edinburgh Review had in vol. 26, published a long review by Hazlitt entitled Schlegel on the Drama. The Quarterly Review also has many references to Schlegel.

75.  Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine, vol. 15, p. 620.

76.  Ibid., vol. 17, p. 674.

77.  Ibid., vol. 18, p. 83.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 32:]

78.  Ibid., vol. 2, p. 30. Cf. also vol. 30, p. 360.

79.  Ibid., vol. 10, p. 731. Review of Lyndsay’s Dramas of the Ancient World.

80.  Ibid., vol. 13, p. 541. Remarks on Mr. Barry Cornwall’s New Poems. There are also, dotted here and there, chance references showing how familiar a figure A. W. von Schlegel was in Blackwood’s Magazine, e.g.”Madame de Stael’s ‘Germany’ is in every hand; and Professor Schlegel’s Lectures on Dramatic Literature are at least in many.” Blackwood, vol. 14, p. 381. A passage that has apparently no particular reference, occurs in the Noctes Ambrosianae, No. IV. Ibid., vol. 12, p. 108: “Odoherty: ‘Would your lordship [Byron] wish to hear a Sanscrit ode I wrote to A. W. Schlegel?’ ”

81.  Schlegel had expressed very much the same idea: “The object proposed [the object of the drama] is to produce an impression on an assembled multitude, to rivet their attention, and to excite their interest and sympathy.” Schlegel, Augustus Wilhelm. Bohn Ed., London, 1894, Black’s translation. Lectures on Dramatic Art and Literature, p. 37. Schlegel carries the idea of effect throughout his volume.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 33:]

82.  A. W. von Schlegel, op.cit., p. 41.

83.  Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine, vol. 6, p. 54. Acted Drama in London.

84.  Ibid., vol. 2, p. 669.

85.  Ibid., vol. 10, p. 60. Modern British Drama.

86.  Ibid., vol. 1, p. 516. Review of Modern Greece, by Mrs. Hemans. Other instances of stage effect are found in vol. 6, p. 386, Acted Drama in London; vol. 4, p. 718, The Opera; vol. 3, p. 208, Acted Drama; vol. 7, p. 183; vol. 2, p. 660; vol. 1, p. 392; vol. 4, p. 68.

87.  Ibid., vol. 3, p. 209. Acted Drama in London.

88.  Ibid., vol. 7, p. 308.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 34:]

89.  Ibid., vol. 14, p. 560.

90.  Ibid., vol. 21, p. 214. Horae Germanicae, No. XXII.

91.  Ibid., vol. 21, p. 465. Werner’s Twenty-fourth of February.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 35:]

92.  Ibid., vol. 1, p. 509; vol. 1, p. 505. Vol. 1, p. 383. Review of Fragment of a Literary Romance.

93.  Ibid., vol. 1, p. 40; vol. 1, p. 593.

94.  Ibid., vol. 14, p. 249. On the Sources of the Picturesque and Beautiful. The passage refers to Aristotle. Blackwood critics may have had a first-hand knowledge of Aristotelian criticism. North refers to Pope’s and Twining’s translation of the Poetica. Ibid., vol. 31, p. 156. Review of Sotheby’s Homer. Other references to Aristotle are: vol. 13, p. 539; vol. 19, p. 220; vol. 20, p. 559; vol. 24, p. 885. Vol. 18, p. 238: “Banim has the power of managing his story very well. In his first tale, Crohoore of the Bill-book, it is impossible to anticipate the event; and yet when known, it is seen that the whole progress of the story tended to it. This in novel-writing is a great merit. We have the authority of Aristotle; and though Mr. Dugald Stewart and other learned people undervalue him, I should take his word in these matters for a thousand pounds — that the invention and ordering of incident is a higher and rarer power than even the delineation of character.”

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 36:]

95.  Ibid., vol. 3, p. 329. Acted Drama in London.

96.  Volumes 1 and 2 also contain references to stage effect, but the term is not used. Volume 2, p. 660.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 37:]

97.  Oliphant, op.cit., vol. 2, p. 31.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 38:]

98.  Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine, vol. 28, p. 921. Passages from the Diary of a Late Physician: the Man About Town.

99.  Ibid., vol. 21, p. 409.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 40:]

100.  The Edinburgh, in various numbers, gives instances of diagnoses of diseased conditions which Poe may have resorted to for technical method. A review of the Récherches et Expériences Médicales et Chimiques sur Diabéte Sucré, by Nicholas and Guendeville, contains the critic’s lament that specific facts are often lacking in a diagnosis. He says: “This rash mode of generalizing is too frequently adopted in medical inquiries. . . . It is worse than a false hypothesis, because it extends farther; and, by habituating the mind to mere terms, it may lead us to mistake new words for real knowledge.” Edinburgh Review, vol. 3, p. 422. Another critical piece quotes a passage of some length from a work, Traité du Goitre et du Crétinism, by Fodéré, which presents the detailed method commented on by the former reviewer. Edinburgh Review, vol. 2, p. 169. A third article in the same periodical, again with the method under discussion, details observations on a surgical case, that relating to the growth and development of tumors. Edinburgh Review, vol. 5, p. 168.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 41:]

101.  Cf. Chapter III, Unity in the Drama and the Fine Arts.

102.  Cf. Chapter IV, Unity in Terms of Philosophy.

103.  Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine, vol. 22, p. 376. Review of Moore’s The Epicurean.

104.  Ibid., vol. 19, p. 582. Prodigality of Words, signed D.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 42:]

105.  Ibid., vol. 22, p. 127. Noctes Ambrosianae. James Hogg was the Shepherd of the Noctes; and Robert Syme, the uncle of John Wilson, the North of the dialogues, was Timothy Tickler. (R. Shelton, op.cit., vol. 1, p. xii.)

106.  Quarterly Review, vol. 44, p. 124.

107.  Graham’s Magazine, 1842, vol. 20, p. 299.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 43:]

108.  Ibid. vol. 20, p. 299. Review of Hawthorne’s Twice-Told Tales.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 44:]

109.  S. L. M., vol. 1, p. 735. Loss of Breath, as well as others of the Tales of the Folio Club, was reprinted in the Southern Literary Messenger. As it first appeared, when presented in the manuscript form to compete for the Baltimore Visitor prize, and when printed as one of the Tales of the Folio Club in book form, it probably did not include this critical note.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 45:]

110.  Ibid., vol. 1, p. 333.






[S:0 - OPCT, 1925] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Articles - Origins of Poe's Critical Theory (M. Alterton) (Chapter 01)