Text: Margaret Alterton, “Chapter 04,” Origins of Poe’s Critical Theory (1925), pp. 95-131 (This material is protected by copyright)


[page 95:]


Poe’s interest in philosophy was an added influence on his literary art. By this study he enlarged and strengthened his power of thinking, and, as a consequence his comprehension of the principle of unity — the principle which, as has been shown, he had found explained to a certain extent in Blackwood, and further elaborated in various writings on the drama.

Current literary criticism was doubtless one source from which Poe drew the idea that philosophy was an important factor in attaining excellence in writing. He may have been familiar with A. W. von Schlegel’s(1) suggestion that the principle of unity as applied to literature was best sought for in a system of metaphysics.(2) A fuller development of the idea there is reason to believe he found in his readings of both Wordsworth and Coleridge. It becomes, then, a matter of moment to conjecture to how great an extent Poe knew the critical opinions of writers of his time. First of all, is the testimony of his own references to Wordsworth and Coleridge. Professor Prescott has pointed out that Poe had an early knowledge of Wordsworth’s “Prefaces to the Lyrical Ballads.”(3) He shows that Poe, evidently in a spirit of hostility, quoted in the “Letter to B——”(4) certain passages from the “Prefaces.” A further investigation, however, reveals instances of Poe’s early indebtedness to Wordsworth that are of a more sympathetic nature. His early announcement that popularity is no test of literary merit bears a striking resemblance to Wordsworth’s long discussion of the subject in his essay “Poetry as a Study,”(5) for he took Wordsworth’s standpoint that the sale of a book was no proof of its value as a literary production. In his answer to Theodore Fay, the author of “Norman Leslie,”(6) the popularity of whose book he had ridiculed, Poe thus states Wordsworth’s argument: — [page 96:]

“Mr. Fay wishes us to believe that the sale of a book is the proper test of its merit. To save time and trouble we will believe it, and are prepared to acknowledge, as a consequence of the theory, that the novel of ‘Norman Leslie’ is not at all comparable to the ‘Memoirs of Davy Crockett,(7) or the popular lyric of Jim Crow.’ ”

Poe also appears to have found helpful a passage from Words-worth’s “Of Poetry as Observation and Description.” This passage deals with Wordsworth’s distinction between fancy and imagination. Wordsworth, praising the advantages of the imaginative or indefinite element in poetry over those of the fanciful, considers it a poetic excellence not to limit the range of thought by any definite imagery. —

“Having to speak of stature, she [Imagination] does not tell you that her gigantic Angel was as tall as Pompey’s Pillar; much less that he was twelve cubits, or twelve hundred cubits high; or that his dimensions equalled those of Teneriffe or Atlas; — because these, if they were a million times as high . . . are bounded.”(8)

Poe also sees the advantages of the indefinite element in poetry. Although at this time he does not, as does Wordsworth, free the imagination from any numerical bound, yet he so stresses its flight that one feels at least a note of Wordsworthian influence. For example,(9) in attempting to show that fancy and not imagination has prompted Drake in his “Culprit Fay” to employ definite imagery and that the poet has sacrificed much beauty by his choice, he says: —

“Their mistake [meaning the mistake of those who had admired the poem chiefly on the grounds of what they thought to be its imaginative quality] would be precisely analogous to that of many a schoolboy who admires the imagination displayed in Jack the Giant-Killer, and is finally rejoiced at discovering his own imagination to surpass that of the author, since the monsters destroyed [page 97:] by Jack are only about forty feet in height, and he himself has no trouble in imagining some of one hundred and forty.”

Poe’s very evident acquaintance with Wordsworth’s Essays, makes it not surprising, then, that we find him considering, with Wordsworth, their main thesis; namely, the connection between philosophy and literature. Indeed, nowhere is his attentive study of the “Prefaces” so manifest as in his agreements and disagreements with this point. His growing belief that poetry, in a sense, rises from a ground-work of metaphysics, a sense which this chapter will endeavor to explain, has at its start a positive denial of the connection. In 1831, in the spirit of hostility referred to above, he bitterly protests against Wordsworth’s doctrine that poetry is a study. He says: —

“As for Wordsworth, I have no faith in him. . . . He was to blame in wearing away his youth in contemplation with the end of poetizing in his manhood. With the increase of his judgment the light which should have made it apparent has faded away. . . . Against the subtleties which would make poetry a study — not a passion — it becomes the metaphysician to reason — but the poet to protest.”(10)

“Learning,” he adds, “has little to do with the imagination — intellect with the passions or age with poetry.” At this time he expresses his conviction that poetic fervor cannot be understood by the cool judgment of a critic. But in 1836 he appears to reverse his opinion, and in an article entitled “Genius”(11) he appears to [page 97:] agree with Wordsworth, first, that poetry is a study, and secondly, as a necessary corollary, that philosophy and poetry are indissolubly connected.

Genius, Poe says in 1836, is not wholly a question of natural talent or of strong inclination.(12) It is rather a “decided preference for any study or pursuit, which enables its possessor to give the close and unwearied attention necessary to insure success. When this constancy of purpose is wanting, the brightest natural talents will give little aid in acquiring literary or scientific eminence; and where it exists in any considerable degree, it is rare to find one so ill endowed with common sense as not to gain a respectable standing.” He quotes the words of many master writers that testify to their dissatisfaction with their first literary efforts and to their arduous attempts to attain greater perfection. Moliere, he thinks, gives testimony that speaks for the need of a writer’s painstaking effort. —

“Voila, s’écria Molière, en interrompant son ami á cet endroit, voilà la plus belle vérité que vous ayez jamais dite. Je ne suis pas du nombre de ces esprits sublimes dont vous parlez; mais tel que je suis, je n’ai rien fait en ma vie dont je sois veritablement content.”

Pascal, too, he describes as spending much time in “revising and correcting what to others appeared from the first almost too perfect for amendment.” And Gray was “never content with the polish which repeated revisions were able to give his works.” He cites the conclusion of Boileau’s Second Satire, saying it is appropriate to his purpose. “Un sot, en écrivant, fait tout avec plaisir . . .”

Thus Poe is apparently satisfied that writing is a matter of studied effort; that, to borrow in part the testimony of those whose words he was quoting, it needs “close and unwearied attention.” He, therefore, concludes that successful writing must be viewed [page 99:] with philosophic bearings, and to this end, it can be shown he sought help from various sources.

Not only from opinions of literary critics did Poe learn to connect philosophy with literature, but there is reason to believe that he was also indebted to his study of the writings of philosophers of his own time and of periods preceding. Twice in his article “Genius” he shows that he is familiar with Dugald Stewart. “The following quotation,” he says, in the article referred to, “is from the seventh chapter, sixth section of Stewart’s ‘Elements of the Philosophy of the Human Mind’,”(13) and in characterizing the composition of Robert Hall, he again has reference to Stewart. “ ‘I am tormented with a desire to write better than I can,’ said Robert Hall in a letter to a friend; and yet his works are said by Stewart (himself an admirable writer in points of style) to combine the beauties of Addison, Johnson, and Burke, without their defects, and to contain the purest specimens of English language.”(14) In an editorial note Poe also quotes from Stewart: —

“Dugald Stewart justly observes, that by confining our ambition to pursue the truth with modesty and candor, and learning to value our acquisitions only so far as they contribute to make us wiser and happier, we may perhaps be obliged to sacrifice the temporary admiration of the common dispensers of literary fame; but, we may rest assured, it is thus only we can hope to make real progress in knowledge or to enrich the world with useful inventions.”(15)

In another note to the same editorial article, Poe gives the “Philosophy of the Human Mind” as the source of the following quotation: “ ‘It requires courage indeed,’ (as Helvetius has remarked) ‘to remain ignorant of those useless subjects which are generally valued:’ but it is a courage necessary to men who love the truth, and who aspire to establish a permanent reputation.”

Poe, likewise, was familiar with Locke.(17) It has been already noted that he may have been guided to Locke from acquaintance with the Blackwood sensation story based on experience. Though a second-hand knowledge of Locke may have come to him through [page 100:] the pages of Dugald Stewart, whose work is filled with Lockian philosophy, there are indications that point to Poe’s first-hand knowledge of that philosopher. He says himself that he has read Locke’s “Essay on Education”;(18) and inklings here and there suggest a familiarity with Locke’s “Essay on the Human Understanding.” For example, in one instance he speaks confidently of Hazlitt’s being a just criticism of that work;(19) in another,(20) he claims a knowledge of Locke’s treatment of the Memory. A further indication that he knew Locke from a first-hand reading, is the fact that he gives Locke credit for the principle of personal identity which he makes the thesis of “Morella,” one of the tales of the Folio Club. In fact, he clearly copies from the pages of the Essay, the outstanding points in Locke’s presentation of the subject. “That Identity,” he says, quoting from Locke’s chapter, Of Identity and Diversity, “which is not improperly termed Personal, I think Mr. Locke truly defines to consist in the sameness of a rational being. And since by person we understand an intelligent essence having reason, and since there is a consciousness which always accompanies thinking, it is this which makes us all to be that which we call ourselves — thereby distinguishing us from other beings that think, and giving us our personal identity.”(21) He appears, moreover, in his article “Genius,” to summarize other passages from Locke’s “Essay on the Human Understanding,” and he definitely states that Locke has been the source of this material. The following parallel columns will show how clearly Poe gathers together the main points in Locke’s treatment of the origin of our ideas, and how obviously he is trying to see argument in its philosophic bearings. [page 101:]

Essay on the Human Understanding — Locke

vol. 1, p. 78

“. . . Our senses . . . do convey into the mind several distinct perceptions of things, according to those various ways wherein those objects do affect them: . . . This great source of most of the ideas we have, depending wholly upon our senses, and derived by them to the understanding, I call SENSATION.

“Secondly, The other fountain, from which experience furnisheth the understanding with ideas, is the perception of the operation of our own mind within us, as it is employed about the ideas it has got; which operations when the soul comes to reflect on and consider, do furnish the understanding with another set of ideas, which could not be had from things without; and such are Perception, Thinking, Doubting, Believing, Reasoning, Knowing, Willing, and all the different actings of our own minds; which we being conscious of and observing in ourselves, do from these receive into our understandings as distinct ideas, as we do from bodies affecting our senses. . . . But as I call the other sensation, so call this REFLECTION, the ideas it affords being such only as the mind gets by reflecting on its own operations within itself. By reflection then, . . . I would be understood to mean that notice which the mind takes of its own operations, and the manner of them; by reason whereof there come to be ideas of these operations in the understanding. These two, I say, viz. external [page 102:] material things, as the objects of sensation; and the operations of our own minds within, as the objects of reflection; are to me the only originals from whence all our ideas take their beginnings. The term operations here I use in a large sense, as comprehending not barely the actions of the mind about its ideas, but some sort of passions arising sometimes from them, such as is the satisfaction or uneasiness arising from any thought.

“Would you have a man reason well, you must use him to it betimes, exercise his mind in observing the connection of ideas, and following them in train. Nothing does this better than mathematics. . . . For, in all sorts of reasoning, every single argument should be managed as a mathematical demonstration; the connection and dependence of ideas should be followed till the mind is brought to the source on which it bottoms. . . .”


Genius — Poe

S. L. M., vol. 2, p. 300

“Locke has sufficiently proved that all our ideas are originally derived from the senses. These first impressions form the basis of all human knowledge.


“General conclusions drawn from comparisons of such sensations are abstract thought. Reasoning and reflection on these abstract ideas thus obtained, constitute speculations of still greater refinement.


“Comparing and combining ideas in the mind, for the purpose of discovering relations as they exist in nature, is argument.”

Beyond question, Poe scanned the pages of Dugald Stewart and Locke.

This study which Poe made of philosophy apparently led him to consider not only the presence of the philosophic element in poetry, but also the relation which the two bear to each other. In other words, his study of philosophy appears to resolve itself into a consideration of the distinction between subject-matter and technique.

In the early days of his study, Poe disagrees with Wordsworth’s view of connecting philosophy with subject-matter. He understands Wordsworth to think that metaphysics in its connection with poetry means instruction.(22) Working from this basis, he began in 1831, an attack on didacticism — an attack which, it will later be shown, he kept up consistently throughout his literary career.(23) [page 103:] He likewise disagreed with Wordsworth in the view that technique springs from subject-matter. He did not comprehend, in this early period, the philosophical import of Wordsworth’s subject-matter chosen from “real Life.”(24) He says, in direct contradiction to the validity of Wordsworth’s experiment: —

“The dull scenes of real life can never be suffered to chill the ardor of a romantic imagination. And as the poet finds truth too plain and unadorned to satisfy his enthusiastic fancy, he is compelled to seek subjects and scenery of a more faultless nature and brighter hues than this world affords.”(25)

Though, as has been shown, he agreed with Locke that argument, or the combination and comparison of abstract ideas, is originally derived from the senses, he yet does not in this early period of philosophic study connect the point with subject-matter.(26) Instead, he stresses philosophy chiefly in its bearing on technique. Coleridge doubtless was one of the influences that led him to this view.

In favor of the supposition that from Coleridge came the suggestion of connecting philosophy mainly with the technical side of writing, is the evidence of Poe’s critical work of 1836. He speaks in his review of Drake’s “Culprit Fay” of the value in the production of a fine poem of the “powers of Causality,” and he is strongly of the opinion that Coleridge possessed these powers in abundance, this “metaphysical acumen.” Since he could not in any way have considered the subject-matter of “The Ancient Mariner” or of “Christabel” to be philosophical, he must have meant that Coleridge was metaphysical from the standpoint of technique. [page 104:] In the review of the “Book of Gems”(27) he again reveals himself a student of Coleridge’s attitude toward philosophy and literary technique. In this instance, he professes to see a distinction between the sense in which Donne and Cowley are metaphysical and that in which Coleridge is. With them, he said, ethics were the end; with Coleridge, ethics are the means. This distinction he explains in the following way: —

“The poet of the “Creation” wished, by highly artificial verse to inculcate what he considered moral truth — he of the “Auncient Mariner” to infuse the Poetic Sentiment through channels suggested by mental analysis. The one finished by complete failure what he commenced in the grossest misconception — the other, by a path which could not possibly lead him astray, arrived at a certainty and intensity of triumph which is not the less brilliant and glorious because concentrated among the very few who have the power to perceive it.”

And, further, with an apparent effort to comprehend more fully the bearing of philosophy on technique in writing, he launches forth into a study of the question from the pages of the “Biographia Literaria.”

In the first place, Poe’s reading can be traced to the place in the “Biographia Literaria” where Coleridge explains the idea of unity in variety. It has already been noted by Professor Prescott(28) that Poe’s definition of the imagination may, perhaps, be an “echo” of Coleridge’s definition of the same faculty. In idea, at least, as the following parallel columns indicate, the two appear to be strikingly similar.

Biographia Literaria — Coleridge p. 144

“The primary imagination I hold to be the living power and prime agent of all human perception, and as a repetition in the finite mind of the eternal act of creation in the infinite I AM.”


Review of Culprit Fay — Poe S. L. M., vol. 2, p. 328

“Imagination is, possibly, in man, a lesser degree of the creative power in God.”

Coleridge gave his definition, which we may grant Poe knew, to summarize(29) his previous explanation of a principle back of the [page 105:] working of this mental faculty.(30) It is reasonable to think that Poe, knowing the summary, would in all probability read the preceding pages leading up to the summary, and would, therefore, have been familiar with this discussion of unity. Another fact points to the supposition that Poe had an early knowledge of these pages in the “Biographia Literaria.” In his “Letter to B—” he quotes a passage that occurs in Coleridge’s discussion of the question.(31) Poe would, therefore, have been familiar with the principle of unity in variety as it was explained by Coleridge. Granting this knowledge on Poe’s part, one may with reason believe that he could consider with Coleridge the principle back of the imaginative faculty. He would have found it explained to be the working of two contrary counteracting forces; first, as an abstract idea suggested as Coleridge says from astronomical law, and secondly, as a fact in our mental life.(32) The significance of this knowledge that we are doubtless justified in attributing to Poe, will appear in the chapter(33) on science.

The application of this philosophical understanding of unity in variety to literary technique was, doubtless, a further point in Poe’s study of Coleridge. In the first place, he could well have found, during his study of the pages in question, Coleridge’s promise to explain the bearing of the principle on criticism in the fine arts.(34) He could, also, have read the fulfillment of this promise as it occurs in the chapter following these pages.(35) In the second place, [page 106:] certain indications point to the fact that Poe made original research for the purpose of enlarging his understanding of the relation of philosophy to the art of writing. There is, first, the testimony of his very probable knowledge of Coleridge’s incomplete explanation of this relationship.(36) Poe may, therefore, have wished to supplement Coleridge’s study. Another indication is the fact that a large body of material in the Southern Literary Messenger appears during the time of Poe’s editorship which bears evidence that a more or less systematic research had been made into philosophy. That the student conducting this research may have been Poe is a likely supposition, since the articles in general follow the line of interest which I have just shown to be Poe’s; namely, that of the relation of philosophy to technique. In addition to this reason is the fact that some of these articles are signed P., and one in particular has the editorial tone.

This original research shows itself in an evident effort, on the part of a student, to extend his knowledge of classical writers. A list of Greek authors,(37) chronologically arranged, appears in the Southern Literary Messenger in 1836. It is signed, “P.” and gives information concerning the titles and numbers of works extant of Greek writers, beginning with Homer. A second list, citing editions of the classics “fittest to enter a literary collection of the Roman and Greek authors”(38) also appears in the Southern Literary Messenger of the same year. Poe had, without a doubt, called for the compiling of this list, since a letter indicating that it was in answer to the editor ‘s request prefaces the article.(39) The student [page 107:] advances in his effort to acquire a knowledge of classical literature as is shown by a number of short contributions all bearing on the subject. One short piece, entitled “Greek Song,” bears the signature, “P.”,(40) and reveals an interest in versification which, as the following chapter will show, was preeminently an engrossing subject with Poe. Another piece, “Palaestine,”(41) signed “P.”, contains references to Tacitus. “Pinakidia,”(42) reveals Poe in his interest in classical literature. At least thirty-three of the selections in this compilation deal with classical subjects. Even the name of the collection indicates a leaning toward the classics, for Poe says: “We have chosen the heading Pinakidia’ or ‘ Tablets’. It was used for a somewhat similar purpose by Dionysius . . .” In addition to these pieces which from their signatures are unmistakably Poe’s, there are six other pieces(43) unsigned that, owing to their connection with the classics, might be considered as either revealing the Editor’s choice in contributed matter, or even as proceeding from his pen. We are in either case, it might seem, justified in naming Poe as the student who was investigating classical literature.

Poe’s interest in classical learning appears in this original investigation to limit itself to philosophy of the ancients. There is reason to believe that he wrote three articles entitled “Philosophy of Antiquity.”(44) In favor of this supposition may be cited Poe’s known tendency to philosophize on any and all subjects.(45) Of [page 108:] some importance, too, may be the fact that after Poe withdrew from the editorship of the Messenger, the last number of the series of “Philosophy of Antiquity” was made to occupy an insignificant place in the magazine. At this point a few words regarding Poe and White as they worked together may furnish a background that explains this disposal of the piece. Poe and White, it seems, disagreed in the nature of suitable contributions to the Messenger. White appears not to have been sympathetic with material Poe proposed. Half-heartedly White promises in a letter to Poe to “get more than the first portion of Pym in,” although he much fears that “that will be impossible.” If he had read “ten lines of Magruder’s manuscript,” he would never have had the type set for a line of it. And, with an especially vicious turn he adds: “It is all . . . bombast. He will have to live a little longer before he can write well enough to please the readers of the M.” Recalling this division of opinion between White and Poe, one may not be greatly in error if he thinks some connection exists between Poe’s withdrawal from the magazine and the extremely insignificant position that the third number of “Philosophy of Antiquity” is made to occupy; for Poe’s resignation from the Messenger and the uncomplimentary position of the piece referred to, occur the same month. Moreover, further points connect Poe with these articles. Their thesis is identical with that of Poe’s known work of the same period. In 1836, the year of their publication,(46) his critical reviews were largely occupied, it will be remembered, with the literary principle of unity. He had used Schlegel’s unity of effect and unity of interest as criteria for praising or condemning the work that came under his notice. The author of “Philosophy of Antiquity” also dwells on unity. It will be shown that he considers unity as a principle of the universe in the way that Pythagoras, Xenophanes, Zeno, and other ancient philosophers explain it. While he gives Schlegel, Tennemann, Tiedmann, and Lempriere as his sources, it appears from comparing the articles in question with Tennemann’s “Manual of the History of Philosophy,”(47) that that philosopher furnished him with practically all the [page 109:] material he needed. While verbal similarities extend throughout pages, I shall only indicate by short passages what the nature of the dependence is.

A Manual of the History of Philosophy

Tennemann — p. 55

“The starting-point of philosophy was the question concerning the origin and the elementary principle of the world.”

Thales . . . was the first Grecian who discussed, on principles of reason, the origin of the world. Water . . . was in his opinion (formed in consequence of some empirical observations very partial in their nature) the original element, . . .”


Philosophy of Antiquity

S. L. M., vol. 2, p. 739

“The point de depart of philosophy was the origin of the world and its elementary principle.”

“According to Thales the principle of the world is water. He is said to have been induced to adopt this, in consequence of some partial experiments.”

The writer of the articles in the Southern Literary Messenger concludes that the point which these philosophers have in common is that of unity. However widely these systems varied, he says, whether they belonged to the empirical school or whether they came under the head of the idealists, they still saw unity as the elementary principle of existence,(48) a point which brings the writer and Poe, as has already been said, into sympathetic relations.

The thesis of “The Philosophy of Antiquity” agrees, too, with “The Classics” which we felt justified in connecting with Poe’s name; the latter article containing a long discussion of unity, philosophically considered. “The eternal spirit of the universe,” says the author in this article, “is a beauty and unity of design.”(49)

Another feature binds together the various parts of this research into philosophy and, it would seem, unmistakably presents them as the work of one person. This outstanding note is the need expressed for philosophic study. Indeed, such an argument runs consistently throughout the body of material under consideration. The general agreement seems to be that many advantages attend the concentration on the pursuit of philosophic truth. In the first place, several of the articles cite the need from the point of view of the limited time allotted to human life. The editorial article [page 110:] entitled “Selection in Reading” warns the reader that, owing to the brief space of his existence, he should “confine his ambitions to pursue the truth with modesty and candor.”(50) “The Classics”(51) discusses the same point at length. The ancient philosophers, says this article, understood that philosophic truth was the “most important and natural inquiry which would present itself to a being of limited powers of knowledge and enjoyment, and whose existence at most is brief.” In the second place, the pursuit of philosophic truth is said to develop the spiritual life. The value of our acquisitions in knowledge, says the editorial article “Selection in Reading,” is in proportion to their power to make us wiser and happier.(52) An elaboration of the same subject is in “The Classics,” the article asserting that ancient philosophies furnish the best means of attaining happiness. These means are rules of virtue, “cold, cautious inductions of philosophy,” but, the eloquence of Plato breathed into them, they become radiant and impressive arguments to exalt our spiritual being.(53) The opening words of the first article on the “Philosophy of Antiquity” may also have a similar import. Philosophy is there spoken of as a boon for which modern times have every cause to be grateful.(54) From the foregoing evidence, it may not be unreasonable to suppose that Poe was the author of the articles, the “Philosophy of Antiquity,” and that he was the student who was interesting himself in ancient philosophies.

I shall now try to show that Poe ‘s interest in classical learning was again narrowed, this time into what would seem a profound and concentrated understanding of unity; not unity in the general sense one might have inferred during the course of the proof brought forward to establish him as a student of ancient philosophy and the author of the articles mentioned; but unity in the sense of unvarying law, a law that governs the universe, by what may be called an approach to a scientific method.

It is of special interest to observe how Poe works out in this early period of study what seemed to him a reasonable understanding of unvarying law in the universe; for, at this beginning of philosophic [page 111:] research, he shows himself laying the ground-work for his later disposal of the matter in “Eureka.” In the next chapter it will be seen that the doctrine he now encounters among ancient philosophers he uses as, in his belief, did Laplace, for an hypothesis on which to build with as much scientific certainty as he was able.(55)

It will be remembered that Poe had already met Coleridge’s transcendent interpretation of unity in variety. He had found Coleridge placing most emphasis on these forces as they exist in the human intelligence; Coleridge asserting that they lie back of and explain the creative imagination, likening them, with terms borrowed from astronomy, to centrifugal and centripetal forces in nature. He had found, moreover, that Coleridge had declared his system came from that of Plato, but from Plato purified “from impure mixtures.”

Poe now transfers his study from Coleridge’s explanation, which as was said at a former point in this chapter he doubtless found unfinished, and considers the question, as we have seen his study of Tennemann shows, at first hand with Pythagoras, Plato, Leucippus, and other ancient philosophers. He is evidently impressed with Pythagoras’ doctrine that the world is an harmonious whole — that its very name means kosmos or order. This unified whole, however, he finds Pythagoras saying, is subdivided into imperfect parts, each revolving around a common centre and following harmonious laws. And the unvarying law displayed in this working of variety in uniformity is, he agrees with the ancient philosopher, fittingly described as the music of the spheres. He is likewise interested, he says, in the doctrine of Zeno. He quotes Tennemann to the effect that Zeno, the apologist for the Eleatic system, provides for the opposing forces of unity and variety, in that all entities are said to possess similarity and its opposite; unity and plurality; motion and repose. He considers also that the school of Leucippus is deserving of special notice, since its doctrine so nearly corresponds with the atomic theory of his own day. It will be seen in the following chapter that Leucippus had perhaps been strikingly suggestive to him- in the idea of all atoms in the universe tending toward an ultimate indivisibility; for in “Eureka” he seems to think, apparently following Leucippus’s doctrine, that this final indivisibility of atoms is a physical example of unity; and that the combination and separation of atoms in the course of their return [page 112:] to oneness, accounts for creation and destruction of worlds. But he speaks of Plato with most enthusiasm. “Plato was the philosopher,” he says, in “The Classics,” “whose beautiful conception of the spirit of the universe” was “at once so poetical and sublime.”(57) He dwells with apparent delight on the order and system that Plato sees in the universe; quoting from the “Republic,” in his story of the Coloquy [[Colloquy]] of Monos and Una, several passages on music as a method of Athenian education, and following the quotation by an explanation that, in his opinion, Plato meant by music not only its ordinary meaning, but creation in its widest sense; or, as he says in “Marginalia,” proportion and adaptation generally.(58) He is convinced that by giving the Platonic word the translation of proportion and not its usual meaning of music, the real sense of music of the spheres comes to light, and with it the Platonic sense of unvarying law that is working in the astronomical world. In the latter part of this chapter, it will be seen that Plato’s doctrine of the Many in One, a principle than which in Poe’s opinion no better example of unity could be found, was suggestive to Poe as a literary principle. As a summary of Poe’s appreciation of Plato, it may be well to quote his words from the “Classics.” Plato was “the author whose psychologic system presaged the Christian revelation as the morning twilight betokens the coming sun.”(59)


There is evidence pointing to the fact that the work of the so-called Christian philosophy also had an influence on Poe’s literary art. In the article on “The Classics” Poe strongly advises the study of Christian philosophy.(60) In another instance(61) he refers to Christian philosophy as the “truest of all philosophies.” There is some indication that he was familiar with the Cambridge Platonists. From Dr. Henry More he quotes an argument on “true miracles.”(62) Of Thomas Burnet, the author of “Theoria Sacra,” he appears to have some knowledge. He thinks with the critic in the Edinburgh Review that the continued misspelling of that philosopher’s name by the editor of the book in which it appeared, betrayed an ignorance [page 113:] of the seventeenth century writer.(63) Of Burnet, Poe doubtless had a better acquaintance than one might infer from the point just brought forth. He could have read in the Southern Literary Messenger of 1836, in a series of articles on fanciful theories of the universe, Burnet’s theory rather fully explained.(64) To Cambridge commentators, who have opened up the field of Platonist writers, especially to Porson and Parr, he acknowledges a debt of gratitude.(65)

Modern Christian philosophers were also known to Poe. Of Abraham Tucker, a Christian philosopher of the nineteenth century, he speaks with enthusiasm. Tucker is, he says, the one who of all modern philosophers best understands the meaning of Plato.” Of Dr. Thomas Dick he appears to have considerable knowledge. Referring the reader, as he does in one instance, to the “excellent observation of Dr. Dick, in his Christian Philosopher,” he testifies, it would seem, to a more than casual acquaintance with that philosopher’s work.” The Bridgewater Treatises likewise appear to have engrossed Poe’s attention. He outlines the plan(68) and conditions [page 114:] under which the Treatises were written. Paraphrasing Poe’s account of the plan, we find him saying in his review of “Roget’s Physiology,” that Francis Henry, earl of Bridgewater, who died sometime in the beginning of the year 1829, directed certain trustees mentioned in his Will to arrange for the publication of one thousand copies of a work On the Power, Wisdom, and Goodness of God as Manifested in the Creation. Eight thousand pounds were to be invested in public funds to be paid by the President of the Royal Society of London to such a person or persons as he, the President, should appoint to write, print, and publish the work. This work was to be illustrated by such reasonable arguments as, for instance, the variety and formation of God’s creatures, the construction of the hand of man, discoveries ancient and modern, in arts, sciences, and the whole extent of literature.

Apparently Poe followed with interest the series of articles(69) which this plan executed. On one occasion he speaks of the appearance of the “seventh Bridgewater Treatise,” in two volumes. It is by the Reverend William Kirby, the naturalist, he says, and [page 115:] treats of the history, habits and instincts of animals(70) In the same review he considers the treatise entitled “The Universe and Its Author,” “one of the most admirable essays ever penned.” He speaks critically of Dr. Roget’s book on Animal and Vegetable Physiology, giving as his opinion that he does not think it “the best of the Bridgewater series,” though he has “heard it so called. (71) He also criticizes the Bridgewater Treatises on the score of one of their fundamental tenets. They have failed to perceive, he says, that the divine system of adaptation is mutual.(72)

As ancient philosophy explained to Poe the principle of unity in the sense of unchanging law, so Christian philosophy came to have for him the same meaning. Let us examine this law as Christian philosophers conceived it, noting only the writings with which we have found Poe to be acquainted, and then pass on to the manner in which it entered Poe’s theory and practice.

Christian philosophers agree that God is the only creating power in existence. They conceive of the Supreme Being as governing the universe according to unchanging law, an idea which they explain with more or less elaboration in discussions on the intention of the Deity, on His premeditated design, on divine law seen in terrestrial and astronomical adaptations, and on reciprocity between cause and effect. In their opinion, the more one increases his scientific knowledge of the universe, the greater will be his comprehension of its Maker’s marvellous plan, and the deeper will be his appreciation of the Deity’s power and intelligence.

Amongst other sources, the Quarterly Review gives a definition of the term Christian philosophy. The writer of the essay on the “Universe and Its Author” there defines it to be information regarding the universe that proceeds from the researches of scientists as well as from the revelations of enlightened faith.(73) He says further —

“The re-examined and accumulated results of the researches of geologists, and of the combined labors of astronomers and mathematicians, cannot have been intended for the mere entertainment of those who have devoted themselves to such pursuits. They point to a higher destiny. The more successfully the sciences have been [page 116:] cultivated, the brighter and more numerous have become the signs, and we may add, the demonstrations of the existence of an Omnipotent Intelligence by whom all things are made.”

Terrestrial adaptations are explained in an article in the Edinburgh Review on William Whewell’s “Astronomy and General Physics.”(74) The reviewer comments on the point thus: —

“The first Terrestrial Adaptations which Mr. Whewell considers are those in which the structure of plants is adjusted to the length of the year, or the time of the earth’s revolution around the sun; and he maintains that these are so indicative of design that any change in the length of the year would throw the botanical world into utter disorder.”

And astronomical adaptations are likewise considered

“The invariable regularity with which the earth accomplishes its orbit is in itself a striking proof of the divine perfection with which that orbit was traced out. A difference of ten days at one time, or three weeks or a month at another, in the length of our year, would disappoint the labors of the husbandman, and render every attempt at chronology abortive. The dexterity, if we may use such a phrase, with which the earth preserves its path in space, without encountering any of the numerous comets which are perpetually wandering in all sorts of orbits through all the firmament, is the result of a provision that must have been made before one of those enormous masses was launched upon its course.”(75)

But perhaps the most concise statement of this doctrine of adaptation is in Dr. Dick’s work.(76) The section on the Wisdom and Intelligence of the Deity reads: —

“In surveying the system of nature with a Christian and a philosophic eye, it may be considered in different points of view. It may be viewed either as displaying power and magnificence of the Deity in the immense quantity of materials of which it is composed, and in the august machinery and movements by which its economy is directed; — or, as manifesting His wisdom in the nice adaptation of every minute circumstance to the end it was intended to accomplish.”(77)

Dr. Dick further brings out the idea that the more one studies physical law as it manifests itself in nature, the greater will be the understanding of God’s unvarying law. In order to understand [page 117:] “Almighty power,” he says in “The Christian Philosopher,” a definite train of thought must be pursued. One should commence with those magnitudes which the mind can easily grasp, and proceed through all the higher gradations of magnitude. One should fix his attention on every portion of the chain until he arrives at the object or magnitude of which he wishes to form a conception. By the “light of science”(78) one must endeavor to form a conception of the “bulk of the world in which we dwell.” He must contemplate “those magnificent globes which float around us in the concave of the sky.” From the solar system he must extend his view to the starry heavens, “those trackless regions of immensity.”

The idea of mutuality of adaptations is discussed in one of the reviews of the Bridgewater Treatises. The fitting of means to the end, the reciprocal adaptation of part to part, is explained by the article in question in the following way: Either our vegetables are suited to our year, or our year to them. “In either case we see a law of mutual adaptation which demonstrates the necessity of previous design.”(79)

What gleanings, one may ask, did Poe make from his readings in Christian philosophy, and in what way did he manage his source material?

It is not difficult to detect Poe’s indebtedness to his sources. In some instances, he preserves only the idea; in others, he practically reproduces the wording of his model; while in still other cases, especially when he is following Dr. Dick, he appears to carry over into his own writing a certain reverence of tone that is strongly apparent in that philosopher.

Let us now allow Poe to speak on the subject of God as the only creator. In this regard, he criticizes Coleridge for attributing to man’s imaginative faculty the power to create.(80) He was familiar with Coleridge’s assumption that the imagination in man was “the repetition in the finite mind of the eternal act of creation in the [page 118:] infinite I AM.”(81) But he considers, in opposition to Coleridge’s “dogmatism”(82) that it is the Deity alone who creates.(83) In 1836, however, he admits the possibility of man’s possessing this power in a “lesser degree.” In 1840, he decisively denies to man’s mind the power of creating. The fancy, he says, as nearly creates as the imagination; and neither creates in any respect, all novel conceptions being merely unusual combinations. He summarizes the point thus: “What the Deity imagines is, but was not before. What man imagines is, but was also. The mind of man cannot imagine what is not.”(84) In another instance he states that he adopts the Godhead as the starting-point in the scheme of creation;(85) and in “The Classics,”(86) he dwells upon the creative mind of God.

Poe is next of the opinion that God, the creating principle, manifests His power in the universe through unvarying law. Accordingly, as did the Christian philosopher, he explains his meaning in discussions on the design and intention of the Deity. “To look upwards,” he says in his review of Drake’s “Culprit Fay” “from any existence, material or immaterial, to its design, is, perhaps, the most direct and the most unerring method of attaining a just notion of the nature of the existence itself. Nor is the principle at fault when we turn our eyes from Nature even to Nature’s God.”(87) And anyone, he says, in his article, “The Classics,” who has trained his mind in Christian philosophy can understand how nature manifests God’s unvarying law; such a man “looks out upon the stars, ‘those isles of light’ which repose in the liquid blue of the vaulted heavens, and they speak to him of wisdom and love, of beauty and peace. He walks abroad amid the works of nature, and traces in all her hidden harmonies a beauty and unity of design which speak but of one spirit, and that the infinite and eternal spirit of the universe.”(88) Contrasting the perfect adjustment according to the divine plan, with that adjustment governed by human intelligence, he sees on the side of the human a receding from perfection — the [page 119:] presence of chance relations, and he says: “He [the Christian philosopher] compares the order and beauty of the physical universe, which submits all its motions to the divine will, with the moral government of man — at once the sport and victim of his own caprices.”

Poe affirms that scientific study of the universe will reveal to one the power of the unchanging Creator. He speaks, in his article on “The Classics,” of the need of studying “the great chain of truth.”(89) Each link which is discovered seems, he says, “in the enthusiasm of the vision, another step on that ladder by which man mounts from earth to heaven.” Each hidden harmony which is discovered in nature “is another thought of the divine mind,” for the knowledge thus discovered serves to bind one “still more closely in that communion into which the Creator permits” one to enter with Him. It serves to bring one closer to Him who is pure, perfect, and unnchangeable. On another occasion, he asserts that the love of scientific truth is a human instinct. From the contemplation of the wonders and beauties of the universe, man becomes possessed with the “unconquerable desire — to know.”(90)

Again, increase of this scientific knowledge of the universe, he thinks will result in increase of man’s reverence and veneration for the Creator’s power. In the first place, putting Poe and his source together, we find them both to agree that man’s disposition to regard the superiority of the Divine Being with veneration is a human instinct.

Chapter on the “Omnipotence of the Deity,” pp. 24-27 — Dick

“[Man] is every moment dependent on a Superior Being for every pulse that beats.

“Profound veneration of the Divine Being lies at the foundation of all religious worship and obedience.”


Review of Drake’s Culprit Fay, S. L. M., vol. 2, p. 328, Poe

“. . . we discover in all men a disposition to look with reverence upon superiority, whether real or supposititious[[.]] It has been . . . justly considered a primitive sentiment . . . .

In the second place, according to further parallel columns, both are seen to agree that this reverence for the Deity concerns itself with the wonders and glories of His work. [page 120:] It is, indeed, the instinct given to man by God as security for his own worship.”

Christian Philosopher, p. 25

“. . . we must contemplate him through the medium of those works . . . by which he displays the glories of his nature to the inhabitants of our world. I have already exhibited a few specimens of the stupendous operations of his power, . . . and there is, surely, no mind in which the least spark of piety exists, but must feel strong emotions of reverence and awe, at the thought of that Almighty and Incomprehensible Being, who impels the high masses of the planetary globes with so amazing a rapidity through the sky. . . . Even these manifestations of Deity which are confined to the globe we inhabit, when attentively considered, are calculated to rouse, even the unthinking mind, to astonishment and awe. The lofty mountains, and expansive plains, the mass of waters in the mighty ocean . . .”


S. L. M., vol. 2, p. 328

“Thence [from this sentiment] spring immediately admiration of the fair flowers, the fairer forests, the bright valleys and rivers and mountains of the Earth — and love of the gleaming stars and other burning glories of Heaven.”

Poe and the Christian philosopher are likewise of the opinion that reverence for these wonders and glories increases as knowledge of the Creator’s work increases.

pp. 25, 26

“But in order to reverence God aright, we must know him; . . . . in proportion as we enlarge the sphere of our contemplations, in a similar proportion will our views of God himself be extended, and a corresponding sentiment of veneration impressed upon the mind.”


“Mingled up inextricably with this love and admiration of Heaven and of Earth [is] the unconquerable desire — to know.”

There are some indications that Poe also made an original research into the doctrines of Christian philosophy. He appears to be endeavoring to find the same unity in the God of the Old and New Testament that he found in the God of the ancient philosopher. [page 121:] In “Pinakidia”(91) are over thirty passages which deal with the Hebrew Jehovah, or the Christian’s God. Several of these passages merely show an interest in subjects allied to Jewish history. Others seem to be attempts to ascertain an idea of the degree of acquaintanceship that existed between the Greeks and Jews in Biblical times. In Lucian, he says, is given the account of the Deluge that most nearly resembles the one given by Moses. “The heathen poets are mentioned three times in the New Testament. Aratus in the seventh chapter of Acts — Menander in the fifteenth chapter of I Corinthians — also Epimenides.(92) Dionysius, he says, mentions in a letter dated Heliopolis, in the fourth year of the 202d Olympiad (the year of Christ’s crucifixion), a total eclipse of the sun at noon. “ ‘Either,’ according to Dionysius, ‘the author of nature suffers, or he sympathizes with some who do’.” Josephus agrees with St. Paul in supposing man to be compounded of body, soul, and spirit. The distinction, Poe says, between soul and spirit, is an essential point in ancient philosophy. There are passages also which indicate that Poe was endeavoring to understand the Jewish conception of God as a unity. The full meaning of Jehovah, he says, is “the self-existing essence of all things.”

Thus Poe may be said to be gathering from Christian philosophy, as it was shown he did from the philosophy of the ancients, belief that the universe is governed by unvarying law.

The literary bearing of Poe’s interest in ancient and Christian philosophies may now be made apparent. There is reason to believe that his study was connected in his mind with the needs of literature. He is of the opinion that the study of philosophy is the great want of American letters.(93) He is so deeply impressed with this fact, he says, that he “could not help suggesting briefly the various points of view from which its importance may be viewed.” It has already been noted that he expressed himself strongly of the belief that study, — and in all probability by study he meant philosophic study, — would increase a writer’s chances for a permanent reputation.

Evidence points to the fact that Poe felt the art of rhetoric to be philosophic in its nature and bearings. From the principle of unvarying law which he found in philosophy, both ancient and [page 122:] Christian, he seems to have worked out a literary theory that included suggestions for both subject-matter and technique. From Coleridge, too, as the “Biographia Literaria” reflected Platonic doctrines, he may have derived help for his conception of poetry springing from philosophic truth.(94) In developing this idea, Poe maintains that he can recognize in poetry a double nature; it may be regarded in the light of its imaginative element, its ideality; it may also be viewed in its every-day acceptation, as the poetry of words. He states it as his opinion that these aspects are very intimately related to each other; that the imaginative element arises from and is a test of the latter; and that both views are differing sides of the same question. Nowhere does Poe seem more conscious of this difference than in the following passage: “A poem,” he says, “is not the Poetic faculty but the means of exciting it in mankind.”(95)

The imaginative element in poetry, Poe denominated the poetic sentiment. Christian philosophy, I have already noted, affirms reverence and veneration to be man’s natural instinct to worship superiority in the Deity, a state of mind which seemed to Poe a quality of the sentiment he deemed poetical. Plato’s Dialogues(96) appeared to him an expression in greater detail of the same feeling. Indeed, Poe’s known acquaintance with Plato’s writings, the frequent verbal similarities between his work and that of the Greek philosopher, as well as their striking parallels in ideas, all lead [page 123:] one to assume that he was recalling Plato’s doctrines for this aspect of literary art.

A comparison of these similarities suggests that Poe may have drawn his notion of the poetic sentiment from Plato’s discourse on love, put into the mouth of Socrates.(97) In both cases Plato and Poe agree that the soul by nature longs for true beauty. Socrates speaks “in a figure” which is “composite,” of the soul as a “pair of winged horses and a charioteer,” of the soul which “with exceeding eagerness” longs to behold “true being.”(98) From a natural impulse it tends to “soar aloft and carry that which gravitates downwards into the upper region, which is the habitation of the gods,” there to obtain the vision of heavenly beauty.(99) Elsewhere, in the same discourse, Socrates affirms that human souls, like the souls of the gods, long after the upper world and he goes on to say that “in the way of nature, every soul of man at one time has beheld true being,(100) and longs to recall the vision. Poe does not adopt Plato’s figure of the soul in the likeness of the charioteer with the winged horses, but he does stress the Platonic idea of the natural impulse of the soul to long for beauty. Man has, by nature, he says in his essay on Longfellow’s Ballads, a “thirst unquenchable” for the “beauty above”; this burning thirst belonging to the immortal essence of man’s nature. And in “The Poetic Principle,” he speaks of “the struggle to apprehend the supernal Loveliness.”

A further similarity may be the fact that both Plato and Poe consider this longing to be attended by dissatisfaction, even by depression and sadness. Socrates says that when the soul is separated from true beauty, it is oppressed, irritated, and uneasy, a state which he likens to “the irritation and uneasiness in the gums at the time of cutting teeth.” It “can neither sleep by night nor abide in her place by day.”(101) Poe expresses much the same idea in the following passage: —

“And thus, when by poetry . . . we find ourselves melted into tears — we weep then — not as the Abbate Gravina supposes — through excess of pleasure, but through a certain, petulant, impatient sorrow at our inability to grasp now, wholly, here on [page 124:] earth, at once and for ever, those divine and rapturous joys, of which through the poem, or through the music, we attain to but brief and indeterminate glimpses.”

The beauties of earth and heaven, both agree, encourage man to long for supernal beauty. In the first place, in reminding one of true beauty, the beauties of earth and heaven are the ambrosia which nourishes the poet’s soul. Socrates, in describing the godlike charioteer, makes him put up his horses “at the stall” and give them ambrosia to eat; he makes even the human soul feed on the divine nourishment. The hope of this nourishment it was which encouraged and kept alive all souls in their striving to find that “pasturage.”(102) Poe is likewise of the opinion that the beauties of earth and heaven, inspiring in man the true poetical effect, are the “ambrosia which nourishes his soul.” And in the following passage he enumerates these beauties: — (103)

“He recognizes the ambrosia which nourishes his soul, in the bright orbs that shine in Heaven — in the volutes of the flower — in the clustering of low shrubberies — in the waving of the grain-fields — in the slanting of tall, Eastern trees — in the blue distance of mountains — in the grouping of clouds — in the twinkling of half-hidden brooks — in the gleaming of silver rivers. . . .”

Moreover, both Plato and Poe agree that these higher beauties of earth affect the lover and poet(104) with a shuddering awe. Plato says that when one views the “earthly namesake” of the true beauty, if his “initiation is recent,” he feels running through him a shudder and stealing over him “the old awe.”(105) With perhaps the same meaning Poe speaks of “an earthly harp” producing in one a “shivering delight,” for its notes “cannot have been unfamiliar to the angels.”(106)

Both Plato and Poe also agree that this longing for absolute beauty is, on the part of the lover and the poet, a longing for immortality, and that therefore the soul struggles to create. The [page 125:] tale of Diotima in the “Symposium” unfolds to Socrates the natural instinct which the soul possesses to long for immortality. The instructress in love informs him that mortal nature seeks “birth in beauty” and that souls seek to perpetuate themselves in beauty as well. Such creators, she explains, are “poets and all artists who are deserving of the name inventor.”(107) Poe is also of the opinion that the longing for the beauty above indicates a longing for immortality. It is, he says, a consequence and an indication of perennial life. He considers that a necessary consequence proceeding from this longing for immortality is the desire to create. Poets, therefore, “struggle to invent novel combinations among those forms of beauty which already exist, or by novel combinations of those combinations which our predecessors, toiling in chase of the same phantom, have already set in order.”(108)

The theme in poetry is also discussed in a similar vein. In certain parts of this discussion one may even detect identities in phrasing. Love, the elevation of the soul, or true beauty, is, both Plato and Poe agree, the most worthy subject for the poet’s attention. “What a strange thing it is,” Eryximachus says in quoting Phaedrus,(109) “that, whereas other gods have poems and hymns made in their honor, the great and glorious god, Love, has no encomiast among all the poets who are so many . . . to this day no one has ever dared worthily to hymn Love’s praises!” Still quoting from Phaedrus, Eryximachus scoffs at some of the themes that have been thought appropriate for a speaker’s eloquence. Of one in particular he is especially scornful, saying: “What is still more extraordinary, I have met with a philosophical work in which the utility of salt has been made the theme of an eloquent discourse.” The company then proposes, each in his turn, to make a series of speeches, all in the honor of love, Phaedrus giving the first speech. Poe, without, however, using Plato ‘s story form, embodies the same idea in his criticism. Love is, he says, “the purest and truest of all poetical themes.”(110) He, as well as Eryximachus and Phaedrus, scoffs at certain themes that have been thought poetical. Take for example his strictures on the didactic themes in poetry. He gives it as his [page 126:] opinion “that Mr. Longfellow’s conception of the aims of poesy is erroneous.”(111) And he speaks with especial contempt of such a subject as “carious teeth” as a theme in poetry.(112)

But Phaedrus, it seems although choosing the best theme for praising love, has yet, in the opinion of Pausanias, spoken in an “indiscriminate manner.” He has not taken into consideration that there are two loves, one high and the other low; one Heavenly,

Aphrodite, the daughter of Uranus, the other, common, the daughter of Zeus and Dione. The daughter of Uranus, it is, who has “nothing of wantoness in her; but the love of the daughter of Zeus and Dione is such as the meaner sort of men feel . . . and is of the body rather than of the soul.” Pausanias contends that the poet should devote his praises to this goddess of love, the heavenly Aphrodite. Poe distinguishes, as does Pausanias, between the nature of the two loves. In identical phrasing, it may be noted, he expresses himself thus . . . “love — the true, the divine Eros — the Uranian, as distinguished from the Dionaean Venus.” He likewise agrees with Pausanias that the Uranian goddess is the love which elevates the soul, while the Dionaean Venus fills the lover with passion and keeps him bound to the earth. With Pausanias, he insists, too, that a poet should praise the heavenly love. In all probability, enough has now been said to make the Platonic elements stand out in the following explanation that Poe gives of the poetic sentiment: —

“Thus, although in a very cursory and imperfect manner, I have endeavored to convey to you my conception of the Poetic Principle. It has been my purpose to suggest that, while this Principle itself is, strictly and simply, the Human Aspiration for Supernal Beauty, the manifestation of the Principle is always found in an elevating excitement of the soul — quite independent of that passion which is the intoxication of the Heart . . . . For, in regard to Passion, alas! its tendency is to degrade, rather than to elevate the Soul. Love, on the contrary — Love — the true, the divine Eros — [page 127:] the Uranian, as distinguished from the Dionaean Venus — is unquestionably the purest and truest of all poetical themes.”(113)

Passing from consideration of the imaginative element in poetry, we come to the poetry of words, or the second aspect of literary form that Poe feels springs from philosophy. Poe distinguishes this aspect from the former in that it is the practical result of that sentiment. So evident is his conviction that a distinction exists between these two aspects, that he is of the opinion that one may even be found without the other.

“The Poeta Nascitur,” he says in explaining this point, “which is indisputably true if we consider the Poetic Sentiment, becomes the merest of absurdities when we regard it in reference to the practical result. We do not hesitate to say that a man highly endowed with the powers of Causality — that is to say, a man of metaphysical acumen — will, even with a very deficient share of Ideality, compose a finer poem (if we test it as we should by its measure of exciting the Poetic Sentiment) than one who, without such metaphysical acumen, shall be gifted, in the most extraordinary degree, with the faculty of Ideality.”(114)

From Christian philosophy he appears to have derived the idea of form in the sense of divine adaptation. How closely he followed Dr. Dick in this idea may be judged from the following parallel columns: —


The Christian Philosopher

p. 27

“In surveying the system of nature with a Christian and a philosophic eye, it may be considered . . . as manifesting his Wisdom, in the nice adaptation of every minute circumstance to the end it was intended to accomplish.” [page 128:]



S. L. M., vol. 2, p. 113

“. . . Thus its effect will depend, [he is discussing the poetry of Mrs. Sigourney] in a very large degree, upon the perfection of its finish, upon the nice adaptation of its constituent parts.”

In other instances Poe states practically the same thought, with a slightly different wording. For instance, in the criticism of “George Balcombe,” by Judge Tucker, he says: “Its interest is intense from beginning to end. . . . Its most distinguishing features are invention, vigor . . . and exceeding ingenuity and finish in the adaptation of its component parts.”(115) In the following example, in his criticism of Halleck’s “Marco Bozzaris,” he uses the term “circumstances” to designate the parts of a piece, a point similar to the Christian philosopher’s mode of expression. “Force is its prevailing characteristic — . . . a force consisting . . . in a well-ordered and sonorous arrangement of the metre, and a judicious disposal of what may be called the circumstances of the poem.”(116) In another criticism of this period, one can again see the influence of Christian philosophy. “In regard to the story, or that chain of fictitious incident usually binding up together the constituent parts of a Romance, there is very little of it in this book.”

From Plato he seemed to discover further ideas on technique in the explanation of “the Many and One in Nature.” He obviously sees in the myth of heavenly beauty, the same principles of art that Plato himself affirms that he found in it. Turning to Plato, we find Socrates explaining to Phaedrus that the myth of the longing of the soul for heavenly beauty really contained rules for the art of rhetoric. The myth had, in his mind, a serious meaning.(117) “In these chance fancies of the hour,” he said, “were involved two principles of which we should be too glad to have a clearer description if art could give us one.” These principles were first, he explained, unity of particulars in a single note; and, secondly, that of “division into species.” Socrates acknowledges that he is a “great lover of these processes of division and generalization.” And he goes on to say that they help him to think and to speak; that if he finds “any man who is able to see a ‘One and Many’ in nature” him he follows and he walks “ ‘in his footsteps as if he were a god’.” Socrates also speaks, in describing “the fourth kind of madness,” of this ability to generalize from particulars. He says that a “man must have intelligence of universals, and be [page 129:] able to proceed from the many particulars of sense to one conception of reason.”(118)

Following Poe, in his evident indebtedness to Plato’s explanation of the “Many and One in Nature,” makes it evident that the question resolves itself in his mind into a common protest against imitation in literature. Both Plato and Poe on the basis of this principle are determined to drive out the imitating poet.(119) They both agree with at least one identity in phrasing that exact repetition, as in a mirror, is not the highest type of art. Socrates, in his dialogue with Glaucon concerning the nature of imitation, ridicules the apparent creations of him who creates by repeating exactly what is before him. That way, he says, is easy enough. In fact, “there are many ways in which the feat might be quickly and easily accomplished, none quicker than that of turning a mirror round and round.” Such a method, he assures Glaucon, would soon make the sun and heavens, the earth, animals and plants.(120) Poe also maintained that exact repetition is not poesy. The “eyes of Amaryllis” being repeated in the mirror, the “living lily in the lake,” or the “forms and colors and sounds and sentiments” being merely recorded, while undoubtedly productive of pleasure, will not produce a true poetic effect.(121) The poet, therefore, Poe says in the “Landscape Garden,” will not concern himself with the details of Nature; he will not endeavor to “imitate the colors of the tulip.”(122) As a summary of his stand against exact repetition may be cited the following from the Review of “Longfellow’s Ballads”: “He who shall merely sing with whatever rapture, in harmonious strains, or with however vivid a truth of imitation, of the sights and sounds which greet him in common with all man-kind — he, we say, has yet failed to prove his divine title.”(123) In his article on the “Poetic Principle,” with the same intention of [page 130:] criticizing exact repetition on the poet’s part, Poe changes the phrase “truth of imitation,” to “truth of description.”(124)

It may now be seen that the idea of “The Many in One” presents suggestions that will help a writer to avoid imitation. Both Plato and Poe give the same remedy, which, if applied, Plato says, will permit “our sweet friend . . . to exist in a well-ordered State.”(125) The remedy suggested consists in proving his title to the name of poet,(126) not by imitating the world of sense, but by being inspired by the beatific vision, the interpretation of which myth, Plato explained(127) as involving an understanding of the principle of unity in variety.(128) Poe suggests the same remedy to the imitating poet. The poet, he says, using Plato’s words, must “prove his divine title.” To give this proof, the poet should not, as he shows that Longfellow does, fail to understand true beauty and content himself with exact repetition of the details of nature’s loveliness; but he should work from a basis which constitutes true beauty, that is, he should not “demur at the great labor requisite for the stern demands of high art.” He should not demur at the [page 131:] “unremitting toil and patient elaboration which, when soul-guided, result in the beauty of Unity, Totality, and Truth.”(129)

Poe has learned from philosophy to enlarge his understanding of unity. He has philosophized on unity as he had found it explained in the drama until it becomes a principle pervading the universe, operating as unvarying law. He is then seen to translate this abstraction back into a guide for the writer. Thus the Many in One, the philosophic bearings of argument, and the “nice adaptation of constituent parts,” help him, as Socrates testified to the first of the trio, to combine a mass of particulars under a single note, to imitate, by skillful contrivance of detail, the perfect design of the Deity. Indeed, with a slight variation in phrasing from the wards of the Greek philosopher, he has learned how “to think,” and, as a consequence, to write.

But, as with Blackwood and with law methods, Poe is again convinced that his study has not been final. Philosophy, he contends, does not bring to a writer all that his art demands. The further help that Poe sought in natural science will be discussed in the following chapter.



[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 95:]

1.  Cf. Chapter III for evidence of Poe’s knowledge of Schlegel.

2.  Schlegel, Lectures on Dramatic Art and Literature, p. 244.

3.  Prescott, F. C., op. cit., Introduction, p. xxxii.

4.  S. L. M., vol. 2, p. 501.

5.  Wordsworth, William. The Prose Works of William Wordsworth. Grosart ed. London, 1876, vol. 2, p. 129. The date of this essay is 1815.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 95, running to the bottom of page 96:]

6.  Theodore Fay was one of the editors of the New York Mirror. Poe considered [page 96:] Fay’s book, as he says, the very worst book ever published, and he doubtless thought its popularity confirming testimony of the truth of Wordsworth’s point. S. L. M., vol. 2, p. 54.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 96:]

7.  S. L. M., vol. 2, p. 340. Other references to Poe’s idea that popularity was no test of excellence: Review of Charles O’Malley. (Works, vol. 4, p. 86). Review of Dickens’ Barnaby Rudge. (Works, vol. 4, p. 40.)

8.  If Poe is granted to be the writer of the article on the Fine Arts, signed by a Philadelphian, discussed in Chapter III, he, probably, for this principle, is indebted to Lessing’s Laocoon. But he is apparently also indebted to Wordsworth’s Essay, Of Poetry as Observation and Description. (Cf. Wordsworth’s Prose Works, vol. 2, p. 141.)

9.  S. L. M., vol. 2, p. 332. Review of Drake’s Culprit Fay.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 97:]

10.  Ibid., vol. 2, p. 502. Prescott explains that the Letter to B —— was first prefixed to Poe’s poems issued in 1831. The letter is dated, “West Point, 1831.” Prescott considers the Letter to B —— a protest against Wordsworth’s contention that poetry is a study. Cf. notes to Prescott’s work, p. 324.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 97, running to the bottom of page 98:]

11.  S. L. M., vol. 2, p. 297, Genius. Dr. John W. Robertson, in his bibliographical study of Poe, suggests the probability of Poe’s authorship of the article entitled Genius. He points out that the Editor’s note appended to Genius is similar to that which follows The Letter to B —— , which Poe had published in the S. L. M. In both these notes, the editor apologizes for the opinions expressed, saying that of course he cannot be held responsible for them. Had the similarity ended with these notes, Dr. Robertson adds, it would be impossible to assign to Poe the authorship of Genius. But he thinks that he can see in it marks characteristic of Poe; the article dealing, he says, with the definition of poetry and containing “equally pronounced ideas as to its true object.” — Robertson, Edgar A. Poe, A Study. San Francisco, 1921, p. 251. But additional proof of Poe’s authorship can certainly be presented. In the first place, the article appears to mark a turning point in Poe’s attitude toward study. Poe’s work of 1831 maintained that a poet [page 98:] wrote only through inspiration; his reviews, beginning 1836, assert that a poet owed his excellence to arduous toil. — S. L. M., vol. 2, p. 330. Culprit Fay. It shows, too, an attitude toward Coleridge differing from that in 1831 and similar to that in 1836. — S. L. M., vol. 2, p. 330. Corroborating evidence is likewise found in Poe’s definition of the word industria. It has, he says, a more variable meaning than is usually given it, a mental rather than a physical exertion, and really signifies what moderns attach to the term genius. — S. L. M., vol. 2, p. 392. Review of Anthon’s Sallust.

12.  Ibid., vol. 2, p. 297. Genius. Poe gives Pope credit for the idea that genius is synonymous with strong inclination.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 99:]

13.  Ibid., vol. 2, p. 298.

14.  Ibid., vol. 2, p. 299.

15.  This passage coincides with Wordsworth’s suggestion. Cf. note 6. Ibid., p. 141.

16.  [[footnote omitted]]

17.  It is an interesting fact that Locke’s Essay on the Human Understanding was the first book published by Harper Brothers. The book, says the S. L. M. of September, 1839, vol. 5, p. 629, was eminently successful and thus afforded a happy prognostic of the future career of the publishing firm.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 100:]

18.  S. L. M., vol. 2, p. 388. This passage appeared during Poe’s editorship and since it forms a part of Verbal Criticisms and is unsigned, it seems only reasonable to conclude that Poe was its author.

19.  Ibid., vol. 2, p. 668. Review of Hazlitt’s Remains.

20.  Ibid., vol. 2, p. 505. Review of Letters to Young Ladies. By Mrs. L. H. Sigourney.

21.  Ibid., vol. 1, p. 448. Morella. This was one of The Tales of the Folio Club presented to The Baltimore Visitor in competition for the prize. What Poe says on personal identity is apparently drawn from vol. 2, p. 52 of Locke’s works. London, 1801.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 101:]

22.  S. L. M., vol. 2, p. 501, Letter to B ——.

23.  Cf. Chapter V.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 103:]

24.  It is suggested that a study might be made of Wordsworth’s indebtedness to Locke’s philosophy for the “experiment” in poetry. The language arising from experience, from a state of vivid sensation, seems to be Wordsworth’s meaning of a “philosophical language,” and seems, therefore, to explain his choice of incidents and situations from common life.

At the time of writing the first paragraph of this note Professor Arthur Beatty’s study of Wordsworth had not been read. Professor Beatty’s work treats of Wordsworth’s literary theory as arising from a basis of English philosophy, emphasis being laid chiefly on the philosophic ideas of Hartley. But the study of Wordsworth as a student of philosophy may, I think, be extended further than Professor Beatty has carried it, especially as it may be found to explain and develop a method of writing that follows natural processes of mental growth. Such a system might, from its genesis in scientific methods of observation and experimentation, be called a scientific system.

25.  S. L. M., vol. 2, p. 297. Genius.

26.  In a later chapter it will be shown that Poe came to feel that forceful and effective writing has no greater ally than the intent to depict real life.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 104:]

27.  S. L. M., vol. 2, p. 585.

28.  Prescott’s Notes to Poe’s Review of Drake’s Culprit Fay. Critical Essays, Prescott, op. cit., p. 326.

29.  Coleridge, Biog. Lit., p. 144. Coleridge prefaces his definition of the imagination with the following: “I shall content myself for the present with stating the main result of the chapter.”

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 105:]

30.  Ibid., pp. 114-144.

31.  Ibid.., p. 121. “J’ai trouve que la plupart des sectes ont raison dans une bonne partie de ce qu’elles avancent, mail non pas tant en ce qu’elles nient.”

32.  Ibid., pp. 134; 141.

33.  See Chapter V.

34.  Coleridge, op. cit., p. 128.

35.  Coleridge clearly expresses in the following passage the action of the two counteracting forces in terms of literary technique: “The office of philosophical disquisition consists in just distinction; while it is the privilege of the philosopher to preserve himself constantly aware that distinction is not division. In order to obtain adequate notions of any truth, we must intellectually separate its distinguishable parts; and this is the technical process of philosophy. But having so done, we must then restore them in our conceptions to the unity in which they actually co-exist; and this is the result of Philosophy. A poem contains the same elements as a prose composition; the difference, therefore, must consist in a different combination of them, in consequence of a different object proposed. According to the difference of the object will be the difference of the combination.” — Ibid., p. 147.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 106:]

36.  At the end of Chapter XII, Biographia Literaria, Coleridge announces that he intends, in his explanation of the imagination, “to go back much further than Mr. Wordsworth’s subject required or permitted.” At the end of Chapter XIII, he says he has been deterred by a very “judicious letter” (which he publishes in full) from giving all the explanation he had intended. He gives, he says, the “main result” of the chapter which he reserves “for that future publication, a detailed prospectus of which the reader will find at the close of the second volume.” The editor adds in a footnote: “Mr. Coleridge did not issue this prospectus.” — Biographia Literaria, p. 144.

37.  S. L. M., vol. 2, p. 301. B. B. Minor definitely assigns this article to Poe. Op. cit., p. 42.

38.  Ibid., vol. 2, p. 677. Classical Bibliography.

39.  Poe was Editor. The letter is signed, “E. W. J., South Carolina College.” The information contained in the list appears to be drawn largely from Brunet’s Manual, which is one of the sources mentioned in the article.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 107:]

40.  S. L. M., vol. 2, p. 38.

41.  Professor Harrison has admitted this piece into his edition of Poe’s Works, vol. 14, p. 1, saying in a note that the S. L. M., 1836, enters it in the index as one of Poe’s compositions.

42.  S. L. M., vol. 2, p. 5 73.

43.  Ibid., vol. 2, p. 737. Character of Coriolanus.

Ibid., vol. 2, p. 466. Story entitled Erostratus. B. B. Minor hints that Poe may have been the author of this piece. Op. cit., p. 4 9.

S. L. M., vol. 2, p. 93. Article on a translation of one of Horace ‘s Odes.

Ibid., vol. 2, p. 154. The New Testament.

Ibid., vol. 2, p. 159. Statius.

Ibid., vol. 2, p. 221. The Classics. B. B. Minor does not suggest the authorship of this last piece. Op. cit., p. 41.

44  S. L. M., vol. 2, p. 739. Philosophy of Antiquity.

Ibid., vol. 3, p. 33. Philosophy of Antiquity.

Ibid., vol. 3, p. 158. Philosophy of Antiquity.

45.  Graham’s Magazine. 1848, February-May, p. 130. Philosophy of Furniture. Works: Philosophy of Composition, Rationale of Verse, Philosophy of Point. Also Works, vol. 5, p. 27. The Mystery of Marie Rogêt.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 108:]

46.  The last of the series was published at the beginning of 1837.

47.  Tennemann, A Manual of the History of Philosophy. Translated from the German of Tennemann, by the Rev. Arthur Johnson, M.A., London, Bohn Ed., 1852. The preface to the edition 1852, which is stated to be the second, says that its basis was “the Reverend Arthur Johnson’s translation, printed at Oxford in 1832.”

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 109:]

48.  S. L. M., vol. 3, p. 158. Philosophy of Antiquity.

49.  Ibid., vol. 2, p. 221. The Classics.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 110:]

50.  Ibid., vol. 2, p. 141. Editorial Note Selection in Reading.

51.  Ibid., vol. 2, p. 230. The Classics.

52.  Ibid., vol. 2, p. 141.

53.  Ibid., vol. 2, p. 232. The Classics.

54.  Ibid., vol. 2, p. 739. Philosophy of Antiquity.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 111:]

55.  Cf. next chapter.

56.  [[omitted]]

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 112:]

57.  S. L. M., vol. 2, p. 232. The Classics.

58.  Ibid., 1849, Marginalia.

59.  S. L. M., vol. 2, p. 232. The Classics.

60.  Ibid., vol. 2, p. 232. The Classics.

61.  Ibid., vol. 2, p. 66. Review of Reverend D. L. Carroll’s Address.

62.  Democratic Review, April, 1846. Marginalia.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 113:]

63.  Works, vol. 8, p. 83. Review of the Edinburgh Review of July, 1836. The book reviewed by the Edinburgh critic which contained the misspelled word of Burnet, was the History of the Revolution in England in 1638, by Sir James Mackintosh.

64.  The articles referred to in the Southern Literary Messenger are entitled Hints to Students of Geology, by Peter A. Browne, Esq. S. L. M., pp. 162, 300.

65.  S. L. M., vol. 2, p. 223. The Classics. The commentators are the same as those mentioned in the Classical Bibliography for the compiling of which it has been noted Poe evidently called. Cf. note 38.

66.  Ibid., vol. 2, p. 232. Abraham Tucker’s book, The Light of Nature Pursued.

67.  The preface of Dick’s Christian Philosopher reads (Preface to second edition, 1824): “This work in its original form, has had an extensive sale, not only in Great Britain but also in the United States of America.” (Dick, Thomas, LL.D., Complete Works, The Christian Philosopher, vol. 2, p. vi, Cincinnati, 1855.) Poe’s remarks are from his review of Sacred Philosophy of the Seasons, by Reverend Henry Duncan. — B. G. M., vol. 6, p. 151.

68.  S. L. M., vol. 1, p. 716. Poe gives the London Quarterly as the source of his information, referring particularly to the article The Universe and its Author. This article is in volume 50 of the Quarterly Review. Poe’s remarks, however, as he outlines the plan, run almost parallel with the explanation of the plan as it is given in the Edinburgh Review, vol. 58, p. 423, in an article entitled Astronomy and General Physics Considered with Reference to Natural Theology, by the Reverend William Whewell.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 114:]

69.  The Edinburgh Review, vol. 58, p. 423, thus explains the issuing of a series of articles: “The late President of the Royal Society, Davies Gilbert, Esq., requested the assistance of his Grace the Archbishop of Canterbury, and of the Bishop of London, in determining upon the best mode of carrying into effect the intention of the testator. Acting with their advice, . . . Mr. Davies Gilbert appointed the following eight gentlemen to write separate treatises on the different branches of the subject as here stated.

On the Adaptation of External Nature to the Moral and Intellectual Constitution of Man — The Rev. Thomas Chalmers, D.D., Professor of Divinity in the University of Edinburgh.

On the Adaptation of External Nature to the Physical Condition of Man — John Kidd, M.D., F.R.S., Regius Professor of Medicine in the University of Oxford.

On Astronomy and General Physics — The Rev. William Whewell, M.A., F.R.S., Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge.

The Hand: Its Mechanism and Vital Endowments, as Evincing Design — Sir Charles Bell, K.H., F.R.S.

On Animal and Vegetable Physiology — Peter Mark Roget, M.D., Fellow of, and Secretary to, the Royal Society.

On Geology and Mineralogy — The Rev. William Buckland, D.D., F.R.S., Canon of Christ Church, and Professor of Geology in the University of Oxford.

On the History, Habits and Instincts of Animals — The Rev. William Kirby, M.A., F.R.S.

On Chemistry, Meteorology and the Function of Digestion — William Prout, M.D., F.R.S.’ ”

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 115:]

70.  S. L. M., vol. 1, p. 716.

71.  Ibid., vol. 2, p. 202. Review of Roget’s Physiology.

72.  Democratic Review, 1844. Marginalia. On this point see chapter on Science.

73.  Quarterly Review, vol. 50, pp. 6, 7. The Universe and Its Author.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 116:]

74.  Edinburgh Review, vol. 58, p. 422. Whewell, William, Astronomy and General Physics. The New York Mirror of 1832, vol. 10, p. 378, announces the publishing of William Whewell’s book in America.

75.  Quarterly Review, vol. 50, p. 24. The Universe and Its Author.

76.  Cf. ante, note 67.

77.  Dick, Works, vol. 2, p. 27. The Christian Philosopher.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 117:]

78.  Ibid., p. 18.

79.  Poe may have encountered this idea of mutuality of adaptation in Kant’s Criticism of the Judgment, for he may have been led to an investigation of Kant by the very warm praise that Schlegel bestows on him. Cf. Schlegel, op. cit., p. 69. If Poe read Kant’s work, he could have found in it the subject of reciprocity of action explained. Kant, Emanuel, Criticism of the Judgment, p. 277.

80.  B. G. M., vol. 6, p. 53. Review of Alciphron.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 118:]

81.  Biographia Literaria, p. 144. For the probability that Poe knew this particular passage in the Biographia Literaria, cf. ante. note 29.

82.  B. G. M., vol. 6, p. 53. Review of Moore’s Alciphron.

83.  S. L. M., vol. 2, p. 328. Review of Drake’s Culprit Fay.

84.  Ibid., vol. 2, p. 328. Review of Drake’s Culprit Fay.

85.  Works, vol. 16, p. 205. Eureka.

86.  S. L. M., vol. 2, p. 230. The Classics.

87.  Ibid., vol. 2, p. 327. Review of Drake’s Culprit Fay.

88.  Ibid., vol. 2, p. 231. The Classics.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 119:]

89.  Ibid., vol. 2, p. 231. The Classics.

90.  Ibid., vol. 2, p. 328. Review of Drake’s Culprit Fay.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 121:]

91.  S. L. M., vol. 2, p. 573. Pinakidia.

92.  Ibid., vol. 2, p. 580.

93.  Ibid., vol. 2, p. 233. The Classics.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 122:]

94.  The pages of the Biographia Literaria, which as has been shown, Poe knew, make the point that Dynamic philosophy is applicable to criticism in the Fine Arts. Coleridge states the point thus: “In the third treatise of my Logosophia, announced at the end of this volume, I shall give (Deo volente) the demonstrations and constructions of the Dynamic Philosophy scientifically arranged. It is, according to my conviction, no other than the system of Pythagoras and of Plato revived and purified from impure mixtures. . . . The science of arithmetic furnishes instances that a rule may be useful in practical application, and for the particular purpose may be sufficiently authenticated by the result, before it has itself been fully demonstrated. It is enough, if only it be rendered intelligible. This will, I trust, have been effected in the following Theses for those of my readers who are willing to accompany me through the following chapter, in which the results will be applied to the deduction of the imagination; and with it the principles of production. . . .”

95.  S. L. M., vol. 2, p. 328. Review of Drake’s Culprit Fay.

96.  The Dialogues of Plato, translated into English with Analyses and Introductions by B. Jowett, M.A. Oxford, 1892.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 123:]

97.  Plato, op. cit., vol. 1, p. 452. Phaedrus.

98.  Ibid., vol. 1, p. 454.

99.  Ibid., vol. 1, p. 453.

100.  Ibid., vol. 1, p. 456.

101.  Ibid., vol. 1, p. 458.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 124:]

102.  Ibid., vol. 1, p. 454. Phaedrus.

103.  Works, vol. 14, p. 290. The Poetic Principle.

104.  Plato, in Agathon’s speech in the Symposium, identifies Love with the poet (p. 566). “In the first place he [Love] is a poet, . . . and he is also the source of poesy in others, which he could not be if he were not himself a poet. And at the touch of him everyone becomes a poet, even though he had no music in him before; this also is a proof that Love is a good poet and accomplished in all the fine arts.”

105.  Plato, op. cit., vol. 1, p. 457. Phaedrus.

106.  Works, vol. 14, p. 275. The Poetic Principle.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 125:]

107.  Plato, op. cit., vol. 1, p. 579. Symposium.

108.  Graham’s Magazine, vol. 20, p. 249. Review of Longfellow’s Ballads.

109.  Plato, op. cit., vol. 1, p. 547. Symposium.

110.  Works, vol. 14, p. 290. The Poetic Principle.

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

111.  Graham’s Magazine, vol. 20, p. 249. Review of Longfellow’s Ballads.

112.  The American Quarterly Review for 1834 also discusses the propriety of “diseased teeth” as a subject for poetry. Although the criticism is entitled Decline of Poetry, the reviewer only mildly censures the poet’s choice of the theme. Op. cit., vol. 15, p. 463. The New York Mirror of Jan. 25, 1834, prints the poem to which the American Review refers. In the Mirror, Eleazar Parmly, dentist, has taken the trouble to add to Solyman Brown’s poetical efforts, “notes, practical, historical, illustrative, and explanatory.”

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

113.  Poe makes the same point in regard to Mrs. Welby’s poems. Works, Marginalia, vol. 16, p. 56. A passionate poem, he says there, “is a contradiction in terms.” Professor Prescott notes that Poe gives Coleridge credit for affirming Poetry and passion to be discordant. But as Professor Prescott says, the idea does not appear to come from Coleridge, who distinctly states that poetry always implies passion. Passages in Coleridge, however, Prescott adds, vaguely indicate that poetry arises in the control of passionate feeling. — Notes to The Poetic Principle, Poe’s Critical Essays, p. 345. From the above evidence, which I have just cited in the text, it seems reasonable to think that Plato and not Coleridge was Poe’s source for the idea.

114.  S. L. M., vol. 2, p. 328. Review of Drake’s Culprit Fay.

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

115.  Ibid., vol. 3, p. 58. Review of George Balcombe, a Novel.

116.  Ibid., vol. 2, p. 334.

117.  Plato, op. cit., vol. 1, p. 474. Phaedrus.

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

118.  Ibid., vol. 1, p. 455. Doubtless this explanation of the rules of rhetoric is what Plato means further on in Phaedrus where he speaks of the true rhetoric’s being that which is “acceptable to God.” He says (p. 483), “rhetoric has a fair beginning here.” In the closing pages of the Republic, Plato hints at the possibility of poetry attaining to this perfection. — Plato, op.cit., vol. 3, p. 322.

119.  Ibid., vol. 3, p. 322. The Republic.

120.  Ibid., vol. 3, p. 308.

121.  Graham’s Magazine, vol. 20, p. 248. Review of Longfellow’s Ballads and Other Poems.

122.  Works, vol. 4, p. 265. Landscape Garden.

123.  Graham’s Magazine, vol. 20, p. 248.

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

124.  Works, vol. 14, p. 273.

Coleridge expresses very much the same idea and doubtless drew on Plato for the point: “. . . images, however beautiful, though faithfully copied from nature, and as accurately represented in words, do not of themselves characterize the poet. They become proofs of original genius only as far as they are modified by a predominant passion; or by associated thoughts or images awakened by that passion; or when they have the effect of reducing multitude to unity, or succession to an instant. . . .” — Biographia Literaria, p. 153.

125.  Plato, op. cit., vol. 3, p. 322. The Republic.

126.  Perhaps the “ancient quarrel between philosophy and poetry” to which Plato refers, and which he cites as a reason for excluding the poet from the Republic, may be settled according to the remedy Plato himself suggests. — Ibid., vol. 3, p. 322.

127.  Ibid., vol. 3, p. 217.

128.  It is suggested that Plato’s allegory of the underground cave may have the same interpretation as his myth of the soul longing for the vision of heavenly love. In both the soul attains to realities, leaving the world of sense. — The Republic, p. 217. In both the soul ascends to the intellectual world and in both it attains the vision of heavenly beauty. — The myth in Phaedrus is explained as involving principles applicable to rhetoric. The allegory of the cave may then perhaps be said to have this meaning. On this supposition, Plato may mean that the imitating poet, if mindful of rules of true art, — these rules which are a part of human nature, which produce the many from one, or, in other words, which see variety in uniformity, — may be welcomed into a “well-ordered State.” — Ibid., vol. 3, p. 322. The Republic.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 131:]

129.  B. G. M., vol. 5, p. 227. Review of Longfellow’s Hyperion, a Romance.






[S:0 - OPCT, 1925] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Articles - Origins of Poe's Critical Theory (M. Alterton) (Chapter 04)